Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Walls of My Imagination

I did something Sunday morning that two weeks ago I would have thought impossible. I have never been a runner. In high school we had to run around the 1/4 mile track. That was it for me. I do like to walk for exercise and to push myself I occasionally run for a half-block at the most and dislike it. Well, a week ago I felt the challenge to run farther and ended up running for 13 minutes. I was amazed. In the last week I had two more runs, longer each time. This morning I ran farther than the 5k distance. Went 3.25 miles. I found out I could do more than I thought I was capable of. Who would have thought that I could run? I don't plan on being a runner but I hope to break through more walls of my imagination.

Here is a look at it:
Run to Harvey Park 

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Letters I've Never Sent


I love to put words on paper. I like a good, not necessarily expensive, pen for the job and appropriate paper rounds it out.

Sometimes the words go from my head, through a keyboard and into the digital world.

What is most important is that the words get out and do their job. It may be thanks or encouragement or standing on the soapbox.

I love when something I write helps someone.

But there are a lot of letters I have never sent. Therapy writing.

Many letters burning with anger have been written with no intention of another human reading them. I have made convincing arguments to people who I know would never listen. I have shared pain or passion. And then in the trash they go.

Do you have letters that need to be written? Letters that will let the depths of your heart and soul escape. Letters that are for you and God alone. A letter that is bursting with anger, passion, pain, or even joy.

Write it, read it, tear it up. Freedom.

Philip

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Why I am a Proud Dad

I have 8 children. I am proud of each of them for different reasons. I see that each of them have worked very hard to get to where they are.

It's not because of what they have accomplished or the awards they have received that makes me proud but because they have expended incredible effort, many times having to try and try again.

It seems that through the years each of them have been in the spotlight in our family for a time, some accomplishment or event having put them there. But it was hard work that brought it about.

I thank God that I am blessed to be the father of each of them.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

4th of July Mourning

Last night according to family tradition, we watched fireworks at the city of Glendale. As the fireworks were going off, I was thinking of how fast our country is moving from freedom and liberty to bondage. Christian liberty is being eroded so fast. Of course, most of us have not experienced the effect yet so we go on with life as normal while the walls around us are falling down.

I think of the oath that soldiers and others take to "support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

I have a son entering the military who will support and defend in one way and a son who is a police officer who will support and defend in another way. The rest of us can be involved in the political process and support and defend through that. That said, I don't have great hope in the political process but we must still work through it.

My sadness comes from the realization that apathy and ignorance are so thick; like sludge around our feet, they keeps us from doing the important things.

I mourn that we have people in high office who seem to be domestic enemies. Their vision to fundamentally transform America is fulfilling the 60's radicals hope to destroy America.

I pray for God's mercy on this country. I wonder if that mercy may come through judgement of the Christian church; a church that for the most part has become irrelevant to the surrounding culture as it has lost it's salt and like a chameleon has become so much like the world.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Your Sh*t Doesn't Stink?


Last night I watched a movie called Ragamuffin which is the story of Christian musician Rich Mullins. The movie was real which means it didn't gloss over the sins that Rich struggled with. The movie showed him smoking cigarettes and getting drunk. There was a time in my life not long ago when those things would have been enough for me to write him off as a Christian.

A friend of mine made this comment about the movie: "His music was amazing but this movie brings out a side that he needed serious counseling and discipleship?"

My dad had an expression he used to describe people who think a little too much of themselves: "They think their sh*t doesn't stink."

So Rich did need help in his life; he probably knew that. But what about us when we look at the reality of his life but fail to apply the same judgment to ourselves?

One of the themes the movie presented very well was how Christians go around with masks on, acting like we are perfect. We pretend we are okay or at least more okay than the person we think needs counseling and discipleship. We judge Rich for smoking and getting drunk (which maybe we should) but minimize our own arrogance, pride, selfishness, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, sloth, lies, etc. Somehow we think our stuff is not as bad as the other guy. Rich may have turned to alcohol to numb the pain of his life but what about what we turn to? Food, work, hobbies, pets, TV, movies, isoloation, we all have something; some things just seem more acceptable than others. What do you do when you are anxious or afraid? What do you do when you are lonely? What do you do when you are angry? What mask do you reach for?

The real problem with this is that we don't get the help we need. We pretend we are okay or are afraid to tell the truth about ourselves. Our secrets destroy us.

Most of the time we are blind to our own faults. If we had real authentic community we could see the truth about ourselves and tell the truth about ourselves But for the most part we don't. We play the game of confessing things like being grouchy on occasion or being a little impatient with our kids. Do you have someone who tells you the truth? If they tell you that you are a very godly person then they are probably afraid to tell you the real truth.

Each one of us is broken in some serious ways and we all stink - present tense! Or do you think you are perfect? Because if you are not perfect then the little crap you do is just as bad as the big crap someone else does. It all misses the mark and is therefore sin.

I have become less judgmental about others as I have become more judgmental about myself. I am not soft on sin, I've just become more focused on mine rather than other people's.  I have become more aware of the big and small crap in my life. I also have given up on self-improvement. I don't make promises to change. I can't do it myself. I recognize that Jesus is the vine and I am a branch. Apart from him I can do nothing. I do the work to be connected to him and change comes, change that I can't take credit for; change that seems slow to come much of the time.

I highly recommend the movie Ragamuffin. If you let it, it can help you see yourself in a different light and maybe others as well.

Philip

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How do I know that God is good?


Do you ever wonder if God is good? Does he have your best interests in mind? Does he just want to make you do unpleasant things? Is he distant because he doesn't really care?

I'm not a philosopher or a theologian. I've been a Christian for 42 years; most of those years I have read Scripture every day. Every day a battle goes on of who will rule my mind. It's either me, the world or God. Sad to say, God lost out many times as I didn't put into practice what I read.

As I thought this week about how do I know that God is good, I had to go back to the foundation of Scripture. It says God is good. But that doesn't mean his followers had it easy. They had plenty of trouble and heartache. 

Then I thought about my life. Because of what I read in Scripture, I have chosen to believe that God is good. But that is not based on what has happened. There has been plenty of tragedy and trouble. Some people know that I have eight children. Most don't know that four other children died before they were born. Our son Nathaniel died weeks before he was to be born. In that horrible time, I experienced the goodness of God. 

It's somewhat a mystery. It would be hard for me to try to prove to you that God is good. But here is what I do know. Because I have a foundation built on God's word and I renew that daily, I have a pair of glasses that enable me to see God's goodness and his care for me. 

If you are having trouble believing that God is good, examine the things that are shaping your mind. If you don't have a daily renewing from Scripture then maybe the goodness is there but you just can't see it.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Profile of a Patriot Warrior

My son Micah left this week to join the Army. He will go through Basic Training, Airborne School and then seeks to be a Ranger. He has chosen a very hard path for very good reasons. I do not have words to say how proud I am of this man. A few weeks ago we had a going away party with family and close friends. He shared these words with us:

Why Do I Choose to Serve?

My thought processes, understanding, and maturity have evolved gradually as I have prepared myself for this chapter of my life.

I will start by telling you of the first time I can remember having the idea of joining the military. It was post 9/11. I would have been in junior high when I saw a picture in the newspaper of a solider walking in Iraq with a wounded child in his arms. This solider had a look of anger, compassion, and heartbreak combined. Through the blood and dirt on his face, I could see a man who wanted justice, a justice that could only be settled through violence. That image has stuck with me ever since.

So flash forward to 18 years old. I am a young dumb punk who knows it all and all of a sudden, I found myself lost in the selfish pursuit of my personal pleasures and satisfactions for the next couple of years.

Those wants and desire are not always wrong but when you are put on this earth with a higher calling, a calling that demands the sacrifice of your own personal freedoms and first world pleasures, I found myself discontent and joyless surrounded by what my generation would call “happiness”.

When I started to recognize this inner struggle, I couldn’t motivate myself hard enough at the beginning to fully pursue it. It was a slow process that took changing priorities, changing friends, and changing habits.

It wasn’t until the idea of joining the military became compromised that I had an extreme change in my priorities because having something whenever you want it lacks drive and it is hard to desire, but having to work for the chance to have something is a powerful motivator.

There are people in my life that have stood by me and helped me overcome obstacles that have had the power to bring me to my knees and without these people's help, on my knees I would still be. For these friends and family members I am truly grateful.

My understanding of why I have chosen to serve in the military has taken time to become clear. It is not a simple desire anymore. It is a burning passion that keeps me up at night and has proven strong enough to finally push me to the point of taking the leap into the unknown called my future.

I want my last words before I embark on this journey to motivate and make uncomfortable those in this world who would choose to take for granted this amazing country and the men and women who sacrifice to ensure we are able to maintain the blissful lives we currently live.

I will speak to some of the values held by the Army that I now build my life around. The Army has seven core values and several of those stick out to me and speak into my personal life.

The values are:
•    Loyalty
•    Duty
•    Respect
•    Selfless service
•    Honor
•    Integrity
•    Personal courage

Of these values, loyalty, duty, honor, and integrity jump out to me in my personal life. These values stick out because through my life I have been let down by countless people and I myself have let down countless people as well. So I have learned from both the mistakes of others as well as my own and it has brought a better understanding to me of these values.

Loyalty: what does it mean to be loyal? To me it means sticking by your friends and loved ones even when they turn their back on you. Life is so shallow these days and society teaches us that the minute we are not getting pleasure and instant gratification from a relationship that we immediately back out and give up on the person.

If my closest friends, meaning the people in this room had that attitude towards me as I stumbled through life with my head in my ass, I would be by myself right this moment. I am thankful to everyone in this room for helping me learn the fundamentals of loyalty and I challenge everyone in the room to continue to be the loyal friend that is not always appreciated but is always respected.

Bearing true faith and allegiance is a matter of believing in and devoting yourself to something or someone; this is loyalty

Duty: the most basic military definition is to voluntarily assume your share of the workload, serve as a member of a team, and assume leadership roles when appropriate. Duty speaks into my life in the form of hard work: having a job, being a friend, being a citizen. These are all things that take hard work to be productive and noticed in. Society and especially my generation likes to have the idea that you are the center of the universe, that you are the only person you should be looking out for, and that you are more important than the person standing next to you. I don’t know when the old-school, hard-working Americans who cared about their country and the men and women in it, turned into the self-absorbed, overly opinionated, spineless men and women that stand for nothing of moral or ethical depth.

So the challenge is: stop taking the easy way out. You are not a victim of your past, or a victim of your choices, or a victim of the choices of others. The only thing you can be a victim of is your own laziness and inability to move on from adversity and truly live your own unique life. So get off the bandwagons, grow a pair, and stand up for what is right, because this is your duty.   

Honor: when you talk about “living up to something” we are talking about being worthy of that something. Honor is a matter of carrying out, acting, and living the values of:

•    Respect
•    Duty
•    Loyalty
•    Selfless service
•    Integrity
•    Personal courage in everything you do

Noticing a situation and deciding to take action to assist another when it benefits you nothing: this is honor. So the challenge is to go out and live that honorable life. Be the helping hand to the person you don’t know, show respect to people of different mindsets and values, be loyal to your beliefs even when they go against the popular opinion, be selfless at least once a day, and allow integrity to speak for who you are.

The final thing I want to speak on is integrity:

When people talk about integrity, it should be as simple as this: you should be counted on as a person to do the right thing. Live honestly and relate to others without playing games or having false agendas.

Integrity is a quality you develop by adhering to moral principles. It requires that we do and say nothing that deceives others. It is integrity that requires us to pay our bills on time, turn in a wallet we find on the road, and follow the rules laid out by the law or in the most basic way: to follow the code of human ethics and morality.

This comes full circle, to when I talked about duty; the truth is we are not the center of the universe and we are not the most important person on earth. We are Americans and we are family, and we are friends. So stop looking for your next instant gratification and look for a way to make a difference in the world, whether that means joining the military, being  a good wife or husband, standing up for someone who can’t defend themselves or simply being an honest and humble asset to this country.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone in this room for the impact you have had on my life, for the lessons learned, for the family-like bonds, and for giving me something I love so much that I’m willing to go fight for it. I truly consider it an honor to serve you and this country.

Rangers Lead The Way,

Micah Faustin


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Grief Denied

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I was married in 1978. A little over six months later, we were expecting. About five months after that, right after finding out we were expecting twins, the two boys were born premature and died. I was 24 and my wife was 20. I was young and immature.

In some ways, the experience seemed in slow motion yet it happened very fast. The doctors unsuccessfully tried to stop labor. I remember going into the delivery room and soon there were two tiny lifeless bodies on my wife's lap. And way too soon, they were gone.

Soon a nurse had a paper to sign. I was relieved as there wouldn't be the cost of a funeral and they would take care of the bodies. This was my first big mistake. I had no idea how valuable a funeral would have been.

The second big mistake I made was thinking that because we were Christians, we had to show strength. Tears and sadness would somehow have conveyed that we didn't trust God, so I didn't allow my wife or myself to grieve.

Being young and immature, I didn't know what I didn't know. It seems like it would have been nice for someone with some years behind them to have stepped in and provided some wisdom but it's not anyone else's fault that it didn't happen.

Because I didn't allow my wife to grieve, that pain stayed inside. It hurt her in ways I don't know about. It probably still does.

I know there is nothing I can do to reverse the hurt caused by these mistakes. And there are plenty more that followed. I think everyone of us can probably look back and see the wake of damage done by our foolishness, stupidity, stubbornness or lack of experience. The really honest person doesn't have to look far as they see what they did yesterday.

Sometimes we can fix or at least make amends for what we have done; sometimes not. And sometimes, in this broken world, it just goes from bad to worse.

Philip

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Father Forgets - A Classic Poem about Shortcomings

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I came across this yesterday. I know I have been guilty of it in the past and I know I will be in the future.


Father Forgets. A Classic Poem about Shortcomings.

Listen, son: I am saying this as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a stifling wave of remorse swept over me. Guiltily I came to your bedside.

There are the things I was thinking, son: I had been cross to you. I scolded you as you were dressing for school because you gave your face merely a dab with a towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when you threw some of your things on the floor.

At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a hand and called, “Goodbye, Daddy!” and I frowned, and said in reply,

“Hold your shoulders back!”

Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the road I spied you, down on your knees, playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your boyfriends by marching you ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive‐and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father!

Do you remember, later, when I was reading in the library, how you came in timidly, with a sort of hurt look in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the interruption, you hesitated at the door. “What is it you want?” I snapped. You said nothing, but ran across in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God had set blooming in your heart and which even neglect could not wither.

And then you were gone, pattering up the stairs. Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. What has habit been doing to me?

The habit of finding fault, of reprimanding‐this was my reward to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected too much of youth. I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.

And there was so much that was good and fine and true in your character. The little heart of you was as big as the dawn itself over the wide hills. This was shown by your spontaneous impulse to rush in and kiss me good night. Nothing else matters tonight, son. I have come to your bedside in the darkness, and I have knelt there, ashamed!

It is feeble atonement; I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours. But tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh. I will bite my tongue when impatient words come. I will keep saying as if it were a ritual: “He is nothing but a boy‐a little boy!”

I am afraid I have visualized you as a man. Yet as I see you now, son, crumpled and weary in your cot, I see that you are still a baby. Yesterday you were in your mother’s arms, your head on her shoulder. I have asked too much, too much.

-W. Livingston Larned

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Most Important Things

In 2015 I rode my bike 50 times for a total of 1026 miles. I walked 226 times for a total of 906 miles. On weekends I do a couple of specific routines to maintain flexibility and fight older-age muscle loss. My most important rituals are daily Bible reading and prayer. I also do a lot of reading to try to understand why I am the way I am inside and what I can do to change things for the better.

Every day is filled with many small decisions that decide whether I will improve or lose ground. But the decision itself is not enough, it has to be followed by action. Will I actually do what needs to be done or will magical-thinking convince me that skipping "this one time" is okay or that I can do it tomorrow.

I don't make New Year's resolutions. I ask God to show me the small, sustainable things I can do this year.

This morning started a different Bible reading schedule. By the grace of God I will read each morning so that I have fuel to fight the messages this corrupt world hurls all day long. The reality is that my mind will be transformed one way or another; I want it to be towards the good.

I have a huge prayer list. It is not a burden to go through but a joy. I believe in the power of God and miracles. All year long I will see amazing things happen and I will know that in some mysterious way my prayers were a part of the outcome.

Every day I will make decisions and take actions that will fight addiction, anger, apathy, and indifference. By the grace of God I will have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

With gratutude,

Philip

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