My Beautiful Wife

Yeah, I married up. She's been a means of grace for 7 years and counting.

My kids

The greatest challenge I face is raising these three well. How I love them.

My Passion

This is how I live out my discipleship.

My New Obsession

Getting healthy and making this part of my motivation.

My world

It's real and it's coming. My thinking and hopefully my living is built around the fact that He is alive.


You have been weighed...

For some people, this will come as a surprise; maybe even a shock.  For others, eh, not so much.  In fact for those folks, they can already recognize the caked on sarcasm with which i am typing.  Because, well, they know me.  Here it comes...hope i don't shut down the interweb...

...i'm a football junkie...

There, i said it.  i'm sure if i was actually getting something off my chest, it would feel like it right now.  i'm a football junkie, and even though the Olympics are happening right now, in fact USA is playing Canada in hockey at this very moment and the two other tabs i have open on this wonderful browser are related to the NFL Combine.  That's right...the event where 20-24 year olds are paraded across a stage and field and they are weighed, measured, probed...with questions you sicko, although it might happen that other way too.  they are timed, judged, tested and checked for strength, body-fat, speed, ability and brains.  In other circles it's called a beauty pageant, and still other circles something far worse...

...i was listening to sports radio yesterday, i'm not even sure who i was listening to.  i believe it was the guy filling in for Jim Rome, mainly because I wouldn't actually listen to Rome if it was Rome. No substance.  Anyway, he was interviewing someone who attends the combine and is connected to all the scouts and officials there who are trying to figure out who they are going to target for employment.  The guy on the radio talked about how this whole show starts with a guy coming on stage in his undies and maybe socks to be weighed, measured, and examined.  No questions...yet...just to be stared at and have people write down things on their little note pads about what they see.  And the man being interviewed said, "It's weird, it's awkward, it's ugh, I don't like it.  It's just uncomfortable really. It reminds me of...well, you know..."  And he left it at that; even the host left it alone.

What does it remind you of, i was saying to the radio, tell me, SAY IT!  i kind of wish he would have continued.  Because it reminds me of a few things. First, that scene from the movie Taken where rich well dressed men are sitting behind two-way glass bidding on bikini-clad drugged young women that want to 'purchase'. Also reminds me of the pictures in my schools' history books of slaves being brought onto the auction blocks where they are bid on based on their strength and ability to make the master money.  Don't get me wrong, the NFL Combine doesn't come close to comparing to those two absolute atrocities of humanity...these dudes are hoping to get a well-paying opportunity to play a game, albeit putting their bodies on the line for our entertainment (Gladiator anyone?).  But imagine with me, you are standing in front of 100s of people, note pads flipped open, and all that stands between you and complete vulnerability is the undies you chose to wear that day.  Your arms a spread so they can see if you are genetically created and fit to participate in their multi-may i say-billion dollar industry.  Sure there is hard work and dedication that sets you a part from those who excel in the industry, but it is very rare to have someone of a certain size and stature (that they are not in control of) excel in the game.  So after you have been weighed and measured, you may just be found wanting (Knight's Tale anyone?).

What message does that display?  What does that teach us about who we are?  What if God measured us by those kinds of standards?  Who could stand?  Who could survive? Not only that, what if we as the church acted like that?  what if we as the church chose to only trust those who fit a certain 'stature'?  What if the church only accepted those who fit into a certain mold?  What if the church only promoted/championed those who had a specific genetic make-up?  What if we looked at the outside and not at what God has created and stamped with His image? glad that doesn't happen...


That Song

Eli: Dad, can you play that song?

Me: Going to have to be a bit more specific buddy.

Eli:  The dying for a thousand years song.

Me:  Yeah bud.

We love that song in our family.  I first heard the song, not on the soundtrack for the teenage sci-fi drama about those adorable vampires and werewolves...but as a part of a Welcome Home Adoption special.  I'm a fan of Christina Perri...yeah, i said it, so what; she has a great voice...and as I watched the special and the images of families formed through adoption, tears of joy rolled down my cheeks.  What joy, what words, what a story and picture it paints of the reality of so many families created through adoption.  Of the longing of the parents to give of themselves and the longing of the children to know they are beautiful and made perfectly!  It encapsulates so much of the emotion Mandy and I felt as we waited on that couch for the boys to make their way downstairs to meet these strangers; these people that their loving Foster Parents had been showing them pictures of and calling them 'Mom' and 'Dad'.  So when I played that song on repeat so much, the kids asked us why we loved it so much.

We could barely get through it as we explained and listened to the song again.  The longing described and fulfilled in song is something that I know is possessed by all of us, not just those touched by adoption.  And while we continue to teach our kids the reality of our Father and King being the true fulfillment of that longing; I'm grateful that my 5 year old recognizes, appreciates, and feels the depth of love that went into creating our family.  He truly loves this song, we'll listen to it and he'll sing it the rest of the day.  This lil man understands the power that can flow from music.

So as I made the kids breakfast, listening to some of my music...let me tell you how much i loved hearing Eli ask out of the blue to hear this song.

"It's about becoming a family, Dad.  It's about loving and adoption."

Yeah bud.

"Why does she say she is dying?"

It's a metaphor bud.  She is describing how badly she was waiting and how much love she had to share and how she believes that the one she loves is the one she was always meant to love and now that they are together they can love each other.


Dad, I like this song."

Me too bud.


Ode to the Ox

"Absolutely not!" I stated.  She continued to plead, saying she really, really, REALLY, wanted a dog.  Plus, she needed a running partner, i.e. since you won't run with me, i need someone/thing to run with me.  And since we lived in a rather rough neighborhood...our neighbor at the time was definitely involved in dealing something...i was inclined to concede.  "I don't care, we aren't getting a dog."  She continued, she went into full on negotiation mode and I ended up conceding to these terms and conditions:

- had to be an adult
- had to be male
- had to be fully trained
- had to a boxer or a bulldog (not sure how she was going to run with a bulldog)
- had to be free

She agreed and I figured I was safe.  I believed my terms and conditions were stringent enough, that we would absolutely continue to be a family without a dog...

"Nick, come look at this," she called the very next day.  I went into our office and there on the computer screen was a beautiful beast of a boxer.  "We're going to see him this afternoon at 2," she said.  I've been hosed; at least, that's what I kept thinking.  And my suspicions seemed to have been confirmed as our 'going to see him' turned into 'bringing him home' that very day.  And just like that, Chance became a part of the family.

Quickly, her running partner turned into my study buddy.  But, after a run-in with a St. Bernard on a jog,
their running didn't happen as much...but every time I'd come home from class or work and sit down to read, ole Chance would curl up onto the couch and place his head on my lap and rest while I read about theories of atonement and different expressions of ecclesiology.   He was not even the slightest interested what I was reading...he was just happy to lay next to me.  That was his thing really.  He just wanted to be with us.  We'd come home and he'd bounce around the living room wagging his little nub of a tail that sent his body into this funky little shake that made us laugh.  He'd throw his full weight into my legs, almost knocking me over, while I'd pet him and scratch behind his ears.  Sometimes, when he was really in the mood, he'd jump up and wrap his front paws around my hips to give me some kind of hug.  We'd play tug-of-war all the time; it was our favorite game.  He wasn't much of a fetching dog, but he would give me one heck of a work out as we tugged on his rope together.

When it came time to leave Kansas City and make our way to Portland, we wondered how he would handle the 30 hour, 3 day move.  The  The dude climbed up into the U-haul, placed his head on my lap and killed it the entire way.  Turns out, taking a car ride was something the big guy loved.  Just the word 'ride' would send him into his hip shaking, tail wagging excited dance.  In fact, whenever he'd take off and run out the front door and through the neighborhood, no treat would bring him home...only the prospects of hopping in the car and going for a ride would bring him back.

Once the kids came on the scene, he'd still play tug-of-war but there was a very clear difference on how he would yank with me and with the boys.  He was very cautious and gentle with the kids.  They loved it.  They wanted him to play fetch so bad, but still not really his thing.  He wanted to play tug of war with the ball...but the kiddos weren't sticking their hands into his mouth to grab the ball out.  Whenever I'd lay on the floor with the kids, he'd lay right down next to us, making sure his body was touching somebodies...he loved being with us.  After a while we didn't play tug of war as much, but whenever I'd sit in the office he would come and lay on the office floor whether his bed was there or not.

As the years passed and he got older, he slept a lot more, but one thing never changed.  Whenever we would come home, he would still be looking out the window waiting for us.  He would still do the hip-shaking, tail-wagging bouncy dance whenever anyone came over or we would come home.  And he loved nothing more than to lay next to us, on our lap or by our feet.  I'd have to pick him up to get him in the car, but he would still look out the window for a minute before curling up on the seat to enjoy the ride.

So this morning, it was hard.  Watching him breathe his last here at home, where he would have wanted to be, was painful.  I didn't think it would affect me as much...but man.  This was hard.  I was thankful to be petting him as he passed, but picking him up to take him to the vet reduced me to a blubbering mess.  Our kids reacted in age-appropriate ways, as my wife states.  Mia couldn't figure out why everyone was crying, Eli wanted to see his bones...and then asked when he was coming back, and Dom broke down and cried in my lap with me.

They've already asked if we were going to get another dog, and of course the real answer is who knows...but one thing is for sure; there will never be a more loyal, happy, perfect dog for me and our family than Chance.  I'll miss ya, you big ox, RIP.


Jesus the Refugee

This morning at church our Gospel reading came from Matthew Ch. 2.13-23.  As we spent time in the passage, I got stuck on this...that Jesus, as an infant, became a political refugee.  Facing certain death due to an infant genocide, Jesus was scooped up by his mother and step-dad, and they fled...for their lives.  Instantly images of the refugees out of the Sudan or Uganda began to flood my mind, as did images of the Rwandan genocide; and after briefly determining between me, myself, and I that Hotel Rwanda was Don Cheadle's best performance...I was brought back to this; here, we had Jesus the refugee.  Sure, he was still Jesus the infant-King, Jesus our Emmanuel but, he was at the same time, Jesus the refugee.  One fleeing while children on all sides were slaughtered...going to live in Egypt as a political refugee.

I tried to imagine it...I tried to picture Joseph and Mary, clutching Jesus close as they gathered what little they had brought with them and throwing it on the back of their donkey and hightailing it out of Bethlehem.  Was Joseph certain of their safe passage, because you know, an angel had told him to leave?  Or did he doubt himself as they hurriedly packed and fled?  Was Mary still resting in the Magnificat she has sung?  Was she still 'pondering these things in her heart'?  Or did her sense of security evaporate as her betrothed awoke and said, we got's to go...

...and then i was left with this...

What an amazing God-with-us.  Not only would he become an infant child, but an infant child born into a politically unstable social environment whose birth would spark a genocide and force he and his family to become refugees in a strange land.  We fret over much.  The things that cause us to question, to doubt, that leave us wondering where God is, I am chastising myself now as I think the small things I've gone through in life.  Here was my Savior, choosing this life to give my life hope, meaning, and newness...

...thanks be to God.