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Tim Tebow – A Reflection

I wrote this a couple years ago and for some reason never published it.

While I've come to appreciate and love Peyton Manning (I even have his jersey) it still isn't the same. Don't get me wrong, I love winning and I hope we win a Super Bowl with Manning but even if we do I don't know if it will surpass the emotion of that Tebow year.


As the news broke that the Denver Broncos were signing Peyton Manning I could not shake a feeling of sadness. Even as the whole process has played out for the past week a cloud has been forming and in a sensationalistic way seemed to announce impending doom. I know that sounds over the top but it was a feeling I had and a feeling I still have. I couldn't really explain it until now.

I've been a Bronco fan for most of my life. I grew up in the Denver metro area where the Broncos were revered. We had "Orange Sundays" where we would wear Bronco gear to church. We had Bronco days at my elementary school where we could where the team's colors instead of our normal dress code. In Jr High and High School because of a concern of gang violence our school district prohibited wearing clothing of any professional teams except for the Broncos. Sunday's in Denver revolved around the Broncos and the rest of the week was the build up to kickoff.

There are several moments in the Bronco's history that I can remember clearly. The earliest memory I have of the Broncos is watching the 1986 AFC Championship game which featured "The Drive." I don't remember a lot but I do remember thinking it must not be that much fun to be muddy and to have to kick a field goal with a bare foot in the cold. I remember going to my uncle's apartment to watch the Super Bowl that year and I remember that not everyone there was upset. I later found out how traitorous it was that my aunt and uncle were L.A. Raider fans living in Denver.

The most exciting moment without a doubt is when John Mobley knocked down Brett Favre's pass on fourth down to seal the Bronco's first Super Bowl victory. I was in my first year of college so I wasn't in Denver but rather at a friend's house in Creston Iowa. Thankfully my best friend from childhood was also there and we had to be careful jumping up and down because the ceilings in the basement were so low.

The next moment as a Bronco fan that I can remember being as close to exciting was not the Super Bowl victory the next year but rather a collection of moments when the Broncos and Tim Tebow played the Chicago Bears this past year. It was a string of miracle occurrences that just do not happen. From a onside kick, to a player running out of bounds, to a fumble in overtime topped off by two fifty plus yard field goals. Even though he didn't kick it, when that game winning field goal went through those uprights I was hooked on Tebow for life. Those moments would only be surpassed by the overtime touchdown pass against the Steelers where I would again find myself jumping up and down.

I think the reason I'm not as thrilled with the signing of Manning is because I was really looking forward to going through a career with a once in a lifetime player - a franchise player. I remember having a conversation with a friend this past year and we were rehashing all the highlights and improbable victories and the media attention and I said to him - "and he's all ours."

Tim Tebow was ours. He was a star. He was a phenom. He was a national story. He was a weekly trending topic on Twitter - and he was ours. I loved being able to cheer him on with my kids. I knew I could point them to a role model who was not just exciting to watch but was about more than football. I dreamed of the years down the road where my son and I with our Tebow jerseys on would sit down together and watch our quarterback win games.

And here lies the dichotomy between Tebow and Manning. For all of Manning's greatness and even if he brings multiple Super Bowls to Denver he will never truly be ours. There is a special kind of loyalty that fans give to certain players. This kind of loyalty isn't given very often and in today's age of free agency is rarer. You don't often see fans give away their hearts to players but you saw it happen with Elway. And amazingly in just this short time you saw it happen with Tim Tebow.

I gave my heart to Tebow and the Broncos ripped it out of my hands.

Asking for Fake Forgiveness

I often stop and pause after reading posts on Facebook. Most of the time its to shake my head at the utter ridiculousness of it all. Very rarely do I ponder for long what was written. But this morning a particular short bit caught my attention and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it all morning. Maybe its because my morning was a little rough.

Either I didn't set my alarm or I shut it off in a groggy stupor but we all woke up late. I assume its like this in most houses but anytime we wake up late its a recipe for a lot of grumpiness.

In the all excitement words were exchanged between father and daughter, some of which were not pleasant, and in the end the daughter asked for forgiveness and the father didn't want to grant it because he wasn't sure if it was genuine.

A couple things my wife and I have tried to be very conscious of is to first ask forgiveness ourselves from our kids when we sin (which is a lot...) and we stress in our house is that "we don't do sorry," meaning that when we wrong someone we don't say a quick "I'm sorry" but rather we ask the offended person for forgiveness about the specific sin that was committed.

This does a couple things. First it makes the offender think about what they did specifically and it helps them identify where they were wrong and what needs to change. Most of the time a heart attitude is identified, and yes sometimes it takes a little coaching from mom or dad to get there, but in the end we try and reach the deep level of where the problem is at.

The second thing it does is it brings the offended person in relationship again with the offender. Even if they are mad they must acknowledge the request for forgiveness and in that way a small bridge is built to begin repairing the relationship.

The biggest problem I have personally, is granting forgiveness to my kids when I suspect they are not genuine. Sometimes I take my involvement too far and try and replace the Holy Spirit by trying to make my kids feel the conviction and depth of their sin. While I think I need to help them understand what true repentance is, its not my place judge the nature of their repentance.

And this is where a timely reminder from friend and pastor Pat Nemmers hit me hard.

He asked the the question "should I forgive when I doubt that someone is sincere?"

The answer according the Bible is absolutely yes. Jesus instructed his disciples in Luke 17:4 to forgive even if someone returns with the same sin over and over and over.

The reason we forgive over and over is not because we want to or even feel like it. We forgive because we have been forgiven by Jesus for everything we've done.

Pat then wrote "the ultimate test in forgiveness is whether I can trust the God Who sees hearts to deal with the sincerity of the one seeking forgiveness."

I need to trust God to work on the hearts of myself and my kids. I need to model Jesus for them and forgive even if they don't deserve it or act like they're sorry.

The Calling

A couple months ago I faced one of the hardest decisions of my life. If I followed through I would leave a church that I helped start with some amazing friends. I would have to say goodbye to a youth group full of the best students in the world that my wife and I led for almost 5 years. We would need move out of a small town community that we had involved ourselves in. I would need to tell my daughter she was going to a new school and would be leaving her friends. And I would be leaving full time job that I loved with awesome coworkers, paid well and had every opportunity for advancement.

I left all of this to be a pastor at Willow Creek Baptist Church.

Most would say I was crazy. But in that moment while being insanely difficult, the decision was also easy.

Why?

Because I know this is what I was meant to do.

I was called.

Traditionally throughout church history pastors have been identified in two ways. First through an internal call, which is the person's own desire to be a pastor and secondly through an external call which is the affirmation of those around him.

The apostle Paul in a letter to Timothy told him, "If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position."

This inward call was described by Martin Luther as “God’s voice heard by faith.” Charles Spurgeon described it as “an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.” Basically those called sense a growing compulsion to preach and teach the Bible, and to minister to the people of God.

This is a compulsion I've had for a long time and while I've been able to dedicate part of my life and work to satisfy this desire I've always wanted to have the opportunity to take my passions, talents, and gifts and use them full time to work in a church.

Spurgeon famously warned those who asked his advice to avoid working in the ministry at all costs and to only continue if they could do nothing else. “If he cannot help it, and he must preach or die, then he is the man.”

I love to teach and preach and I desire nothing more than to communicate the Bible in ways that people can understand.

So with that the people at Willow Creek recognized my desire and affirmed the qualities for a pastor and asked me to join them.

I am so grateful for my brothers and sisters at Lakeside and you all have done so much to help me grow. I'm also grateful for the people at Copyblogger. You gave me an amazing gift of being able to do things I loved, have a ton of fun doing them all while being at home with my family.

I can't wait to see how this next chapter in my life unfolds.

Moments to Live For

Its the small things really that matter. As a dad a lot of "those" moments come when I'm playing with my kids. Sometimes I can recognize them as they happen and for a second its as if the world stops and everything seems right. Today was an anomaly this Spring which is to say we could play outside without coats and the fear of runny noses. After sessions of catch and keep-away soccer I found myself giving both the older kids surprise underdogs on the swings. I say surprise because I wouldn't let them look back and when they would least expect it I rushed forward and accelerated them high in the sunny sky. To them it was a rush of terror and excitement to which they both screamed in delight.

As I came around to face them I closed in on my four year old son and allowed him to swing his legs right into me. I immediately flew backward and feigned tripping over the slide. The laughter that exploded from both kids was so joyful I had to repeat my Academy Award winning performance each time coming up with some new "three-stooge" way of getting hurt.

I'm not exactly sure what's so hilarious about a kid swinging into someone but I remember doing the same with my brother who is six years younger. The grass at our house growing up was a bit thicker so it didn't hurt to go down in a heap but he loved every minute of it and would beg me not to quit.

These are the moments I need to tuck away and remember. Each time they come and ask to play and I answer with, "in a bit daddy's working," I need to hear their laughter and joy.

It's these moments I need to live for, not the next perfect pixel.

Idolatry and Anger Management

Its really not a big surprise this realization that I'm an idolator but rather what I've come to idolize. I'm a father of two awesome kids. They are an incredible gift and I'm reminded every day to cherish life through their wonder, innocence, questions and love.

I love them to death and can't imagine life without them and yet that I fear is the problem. Because even in my desperate love for them I find myself angry at them more often than I want to admit.

I'm a fairly laid back person and as I've examined my life the only times I get worked up to a vocal level is when I'm playing and watching sports or when my kids do something I don't approve of. I've noticed recently that it doesn't take much for me to get angry with them. One minute we'll be playing and having fun and the next second I'll be yelling because one of them didn't obey what I said right away. It frightens me sometimes to hear myself and I'm frightened by the image that I know I'm implanting within them.

Most people would say that I need to "manage my anger." I need to count to ten, walk away, take an anger management class or do something to change my behavior. But I believe it goes much deeper than that.

I want more than anything for my kids to love me. I want them to look back on their childhood and believe they had the best dad in the world. I want them to run to me. I want them to always look to me, to need me, to respect me. This is the desire of my heart.

And while all of these are good things, I've turned them into idols.

Abraham saved from his Idolatry 

This all became crystal clear to me as I read through Tim Keller's book Counterfeit Gods. In the first chapter he recounts the story of Abraham and how God gave him the ultimate desire of his heart - a son. Most people are familiar with the story and know that when Abraham's son Isaac reached a certain age God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, to give him up and back to God.

As a father the idea of this makes me sick and I could never imagine being asked to do this let alone going through with it. The moral ideas presented actually are a big stumbling block to a lot of people and is one of the reasons skeptics say they could never believe in or follow the God of Christianity.

But as Keller points out it was not unloving for God to ask Abraham to do this. I know, it sounds absolutely crazy but when you read and think all the way through it makes perfect sense.

One of the reasons it was not irrational for Abraham to participate was because in that culture the life of firstborn son belonged to God. The firstborn represented the family and because of the sinfulness of mankind and specifically the family, the life of the firstborn son was considered forfeit. God had a right to the life of every family because of their sinfulness. Because God is holy sin cannot be tolerated in his presence and if He is to have a relationship with human beings there has to be some form of atonement for the sin. This was be realized in the sacrifice of Abraham's firstborn son. Because he represented the family his death would cover their sins.

So how could Abraham do this? As Abraham walked his son up that mountain he believed that God was holy and that he owed Him a sacrifice but he also believed in God's grace and believed that God would provide a way for his son to live. This is why in Genesis 22:5 he told his servants that "we will come back to you." And in this Keller says:

Abraham was not just exercising blind faith. He was not saying, "This is crazy, this is murder, but I'm going to do it anyway." Instead he was saying, "I know God is both holy and gracious. I don't know how He is going to be both but I know He will."

If he had not believed he was in debt to a holy God, he would have been too angry to go. But if he had also not believed that God was a God of grace, he would have been too crushed and hopeless to go.

The story continues with God stopping Abraham from sacrificing his son and God providing a ram in his place.

As Abraham walked back down that mountain with his son he understood that God had been testing his love and Abraham was able to see that he treasured God more than his firstborn son.

If God had not stepped into Abraham’s life and had him go through this very difficult time Abraham would have most likely ended up idolizing his son and would have ultimately ended up destroying his life because of his idolatry.

Many years later God had his own Son walk up these same mountains and sacrifice his own life as a substitute for the sins of every family in the world.

When God saw Abraham’s sacrifice He said “...you love me because you been willing to give me the most precious thing in your life.” But how much more was God’s love to us when He gave us his Son Jesus?

When I look at the cross and see what God did for me and all that He gave me I am in need of nothing else. I need Jesus. I need the cross. I need nothing else.

my Anger is Because of my Idolatry 

So what does this have to do with idolizing my kids and managing my anger?

I’m realizing that I treasure their response to me more than anything. If they do not respect me and talk to me in a honoring way I feel that I am not getting what I deserve.

This is pride taking over my heart. I feel I’m entitled to this and if I don’t get it my life is not complete.

When I get angry, I’m not really angry with my kids, I’m angry at the love I have not received. Its my selfishness that is driving my response.

I need to realize all the love I need has been provided by Jesus at the cross. When I understand this I don’t need the love of my kids and I can respond to them with love and correction rather than selfishness and anger.

Doing What I Love

I've had the rare or seemingly rare privilege the last few years to be able to work at what I enjoy and support my family. Its a privilege and grace I've not taken lightly and one that I've thanked God for many times. This quote rings true:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

I've experienced that first hand. It happens when I think about my job constantly because I'm excited to solve the next problem. Its when I look forward to Monday because another week of possibility and discovery lie ahead and its being totally satisfied to roll out another project and start on the next.

So why would I change what I do?

In short because a better opportunity has presented itself.

Starting today I become a full time employee of Copyblogger Media specifically working with StudioPress. To say this is an incredible opportunity is an understatement. StudioPress in my opinion is the leading company when it comes to WordPress themes. Other companies may put out more themes or boast of a bigger community but nobody combines a rock solid framework, the quality of themes, and incredible support like StudioPress does.

Through a series of circumstances I had the opportunity to form a relationship with Brian Gardner the founder of StudioPress a couple years ago which led to us collaborating on WordCamp Chicago and several WordPress theme development projects.

I respect Brian immensely as does the WordPress community at large. If you know Brian at all you know what a genuine and good guy he is. To have the opportunity to work with him on a day to day basis is awesome. I owe a lot of my success as a freelance developer and designer to him these past couple of years and I can't wait to see what we are going to be build in the future.

The team that Copyblogger and StudioPress has put together is incredible as well. To be able to work with talented folks like Nathan Rice and Rafal Tomal and a number of others will not only be a ton of fun but a great learning experience as well.

Thanks to Brian Clark and the other partners at Copyblogger for giving me this opportunity!

What is changing?

I'll no longer be freelancing and taking on personal projects through my company Red Letters Studio. The blog and portfolio will stay online but for posterity only at this point.

I'll no longer be selling themes individually but rather making them for StudioPress.

As I posted about yesterday - I'll be writing more on this blog and looking to share my story and thoughts on a consistent basis.

I'm super excited to finally be able to announce this and I can't wait to see what the future has in store!

New Beginnings

The season of life that I find myself in is one that is ever changing and bringing new things. For one, its my birthday so its the start of a new year of life. As a family we just made had our first major Vacation and first trip to Disney World. As I’ll write about Monday I’m starting a new season of work in which I leave behind what I’ve done for the past ten plus years and start down a familiar, but new path.

I’ve also entered a new season in which I’ve decided to make a concentrated effort to write more. For the past few years I’ve written very sporadically on this blog and mostly about family. While that will continue I’ll be purposefully writing more about the books I read, the ministry I participate in, WordPress development, design and about other items which catch my fancy.

I’ll be shutting down my blog at redlettersstudio.com to any new entries and while the content I’ve written in the past will stay there, any new content I write about WordPress or design will live here.

I’m commemorating the occasion with a new design and as I looked back at the previous iterations of this particular blog the design changes have always been met with some sort of major life change.

Lastly, I am a follower of Jesus and my entire life and worldview revolve around that and are seen through the lens of Christianity. I make no apology for that.

I will hold nothing back. What you’ll find here you may not like or agree with but it will always be honest.

I hope you’ll enjoy the new content and join on the conversation as I write.

The Snow Tunnel

For as long as I can remember one of my fondest memories growing up was playing in the snow and building snow tunnels with my dad. In actuality though, I'm not sure how often this occurred and in fact the only real memory I have is based on a photograph that my mom took of the two of us sitting outside a tunnel. So maybe it only happened one time but the memory that the photo provides is good one and something I've always enjoyed. Its probably just part of being a boy but I've always loved to build tunnels whether it was the in the sandbox, the dirt by a pine tree or in the snow. So I was excited (kinda) when we got absolutely dumped on last week here in the MidWest. Supposedly it was the worst single snowstorm in a couple decades. We got almost 2 feet of snow at our house, school was closed for two straight days and the company I work for even closed up shop for a day (which never ever happens...).

After the wind had subsided a bit I took Mia outside and we promptly began work on a giant tunnel that would stretch the length of our driveway, have several chambers, and...well, ended up being about 5 feet long because digging snow is hard work - and it was cold out.

At first Mia didn't quite comprehend what was going on - she was just excited to be not in school and outside playing with her dad. But when I finally broke through and connected the two ends at which I had been digging her face stretched into a wide look of disbelief - you would have thought we had dug through to China she was so excited she could see me on the other side. So that was pretty cool.

The first tunnel ended up getting somewhat filled in from clearing the massive driveway but a couple days later we dug the tunnel out again and that night received some freezing rain ensuring that it will be there until June. At least we'll have time to build those other chambers...

Bedtime Stories

Mia has reached another milestone in her short life - the ability to listen to a longer book with chapters. About a year ago we tried to read Charlotte's Web one chapter a night and while she loved to read it every night she didn't always remember what had happened the previous night or seemed interested in seeing the story progress. More often than not she wanted to go back and re-read bits that we had already read.

 boxcar-children

So, while perusing the library a little over a week ago I found myself in the older children's section and noticed that the library had several books sitting on top of the shelf that were being featured for the week. One of the books was The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I don't remember the first time I read this book but I loved it. I always had a fantasy about going out and living on my own, making cool and useful things out of common objects and who wouldn't want to build their own swimming pool?

I checked the book out and told Mia I had a special story to read her that night. We got home, Mia got ready for bed and we settled into our big comfy recliner and started the book. And from the first page she was enthralled. She was so interested to know where the children had come from, what was going to happen at the bakery, and why they didn't buy any donuts...

As we neared the end of the first chapter I was very curious to see her reaction when I stopped reading and it was exactly what I had hoped for. She was very disappointed that we had to be done for the night but she was excited that we would get to continue the story the next night. This also served for her as a very good motivator to get ready for bed quickly because we wouldn't read until everything was done.

Well, Mia loved the book and we ended up finishing it in about a week (Mickie read a couple chapters during the day when Mia couldn't wait to see what would happen next). So now I am really excited to be able to share some of my favorite stories with her - the only question is what story will be next? I'm thinking of Matilda by Roald Dahl but we'll have to see.

Putting Up the Pool

Summer time is here and it was time to put up the pool. My awesome bargain hunting wife upgraded our pool last fall to a 12' wide, 36" deep, 1800 gallon, container of joy. The pool's original price was over $100 and she got it for $15. Score! Unfortunately it was missing the pump and filter so the good deal has turned into a bit of a hassle but hopefully we'll get it resolved. I also wanted to note that the brand name of this pool is "Easy Set" because it is very "easy to set up." Interestingly enough they felt a need to include a dvd of instructions. Somehow I don't think it would be "easy" to run back and forth from my living room to the pool... The booklet of instructions that came with it worked just fine.

Update:

Not only did we get it resolved but we came out even further ahead then we already were! I took the pool box back to WalMart not expecting much since Mick bought the pool over 8 months ago (note: it was on clearance but not because it was missing parts - it was out of season). But the people in Customer Service were very helpful. When they determined that they did not carry the same model of pool anymore they had me pick up a separate pump that they sold. I was thinking they would give me a discount on it or something because it was a $70 pump but they gave it to me outright! That was very cool and a great customer experience.