How to Change the World (as told by my three year old)

Below is a transcript of a conversation I had with Free, my three year old son, this evening while we were driving home. I’ve titled it “How to Change the World, as told by a three year old,” though I pondered the possibility of titling it “Maybe it Really is This Simple.” I’ll share no commentary after, as I believe the conversation is itself adequate, and Free can clearly speak for himself in this situation. So for anyone commenting (and please feel free to do so!), do so with the knowledge that a three year old will be hearing them 🙂
“Daddy I have teeth?”

Yes

“Daddy I have shoes?”

Yes…but not everybody has teeth and shoes buddy.

“Why not everybody has shoes?”

Because some people don’t have money to buy shoes.

“Oh…”

[pause]

“Daddy?”

Yes buddy?

“I have money.”

You have money?”

“Yeah. I have money in my piggy bank. Can I go buy shoes for someone have no shoes?”

You want to buy shoes for people that don’t have any?

“I think it’s a good idea.”

I think so too buddy.

“I think it make some people have no shoes happy!”

I think it will make them happy too buddy.

“Let’s go Target NOW!”

Target? Why?

“Let’s go Target buy shoes someone have no shoes”

And Then There Was One…

And then there was one.

It’s been a little more than two full years since we were a three-person family. This evening we dropped Angel off with his wonderful, loving grandparents, who will raise him. It’s a beautiful, heartbreaking maelstrom of emotion.  

I don’t think either Ira or myself realized how this would affect us. Angel is our success story. He is the front-page “the system worked for this one” poster child. But driving off from his grandparents house, tears filled our eyes and spilled down our faces.

Free didn’t understand.

Free doesn’t understand.

Here’s how a conversation went on our way home:

“Daddy crying…why Daddy crying?”

“Because Daddy’s sad.”

“Angel coming back?”

“No buddy, Angel’s not coming back. He’s staying with his grandma and grandpa.”

“No…Angel coming back. He come back when I miss him. Then everyone happy…make sense?”

Makes sense…

And I don’t ever want my son to think that this word makes sense. That him losing three brothers and one sister in an eight month span makes sense. That somehow at two and half the fact that he’s an only child makes sense.  

None of this makes sense.

And that’s ok. It doesn’t need to make sense. We love because we’re loved. We have love, our children have needed love, so we have loved.

Make sense?

Angel was our son. Is our son. He needed a mom and dad for five months. We filled that role. It’s that simple. And yet nothing about this is simple. 

We love our son. We miss him. We’re extremely happy for him. And incredibly sad.

Make sense?

 

730 Days

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Dates in time are interesting things. Each day is its own date, yet some carry more weight and value to people than others. We all have birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates that we hold close to our hearts. Outside the usual, I have a few special ones.

September 3, 1995 – I first stepped foot on Chinese soil with my family

September 2, 2009 – I met Ira 

May 16, 2013 – I met BenJi. 

When I picked him up and held him that day for the first time, he looked up and into my eyes, and from that moment, our souls were connected. 

Two years. Seven hundred thirty days ago we met BenJi for the first time. He was a tiny, beautiful, and incredibly loved boy. We met him that day, but we had known him for some time. You see, in late January that same year, God placed it on Ira’s heart to begin praying for a little boy. BenJi. She didn’t know it was him, but she began praying, faithfully, intensely, daily. 

For a little more than three months leading up to BenJi’s birth, as she tucked Free into bed, she would pray for an unborn, unnamed, unmet BenJi, for safety and health as he grew, grace and wisdom for his birth mom, and for all of our hearts as God might choose to intertwine our lives.
Shortly after BenJi joined our family, we learned that his birth mom had been actively using hard drugs when she got pregnant. She stopped using three months before he was born. BenJi was drug-free at birth, and we brought him home from the hospital. Ira’s prayers had been heard.  

Two years later, our family is broken. Yes, broken-hearted, but broken also in the truest sense of the word. The most simplistic of daily routines and functions have to be relearned. Meals must be eaten, chores must be done, bills must be payed. We each have our roles, our jobs, our responsibilities…life continues forward at the same pace as before, and does not wait for you to start wanting to live again. Time moves on. Life moves on. 

And yet…we are unable to. We are frozen in the same time that refuses to stand still.  

Had you shown me this picture years ago, and told me that this would be what my family looked like, I would have wept for joy. Now I weep, because no matter how many times I look at my family, and coach myself beforehand, I continue to look, and continue to look, and continue to look.

I’m trying to find BenJi. And he’s not there. He’s not here.

Ira looks for him. She still prays nightly for safety and health as he grows, grace and wisdom for his birth mom, for all of our hearts and that God might choose to intertwine our lives once more.  

Free looks for him. He asks where he is, and then asks why we can’t go see him at “his other mama’s”. He says “BenJi’s not coming home” and then looks at Ira hoping she’ll say he is. He ignores his favorite bedtime story books because they remind him of so many hundreds of nights that his brother would sit next to him listening with equal fervor to those same stories. He won’t sleep in his bed because he wakes up at night and BenJi is no longer across the room from him sleeping peacefully.  

 

One date. Two years apart. Indescribable joy. Earth-shattering pain. 

BenJi. 

My son.

  

Teach Your Children to Pray

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My eyes welled up with tears this past weekend, shortly after my just-turned-two year old son Free came bounding in to my room of retreat, closing the door behind him.

“Daddy sick?” He asked, a smile on his lips but his eyes filled with genuine toddler concern.

“Yes, buddy. Daddy’s sick,” I replied with a sigh. No hiding it from this one!

“Daddy, I wanna pay.”

“You want to play?” I said, gently correcting his adorable pronunciation.

“No,” Free stated emphatically, seeming annoyed that I misunderstood him. Seriously, dad, how hard is it to understand two year old English? “I wanna pay Jesus!”

“Ohhh,” I responded, finally understanding, “you want to pray! To Jesus?”

“Yes,” he said, folding his hands and bowing his head. There was a pause of silence and it seemed he was waiting for me to make the first move. One word at a time, he carefully repeated after me, “Dear Jesus, please help Daddy feel better. Thank you, Amen.”

The desire of his heart having been met, he leaned in, puckered his lips and gave me a kiss, before walking out of the room, leaving me speechless and in awe.

I absolutely love the fact that my two year old’s first and only response to hearing that I’m sick is to pray for healing. But my eyes weren’t filling with tears because I was moved by my child’s faith.

They filled with a deep and powerful sense of gratitude for my wife. My wife who prays daily and nightly with our kids, who prays for owwies and ouchies and sore tummies, who prays for healing while rinsing off a puke-covered child in the tub at 3am, who prays for forgiveness with the boys after making them apologize for assaulting each other with Lincoln logs or some other pain-inducing toy. Ira takes every possible opportunity to pray with our children. And despite all their flaws, all their moments of disobedience, all their screams and fights, Free and BenJi know and believe that praying to Jesus is the first and most important thing you can do in response to any situation. And they act on this belief because they have a godly mother who teaches them to pray every day.

I am proud of my son, and moved by his love for God and his compassion for people, absolutely, but I thank God for the wife he has blessed me with that invests her every day into our children, molding and shaping their hearts and leading them deeper in faith with God.

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Starting the Conversation

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“What matters isn’t so much whether or not you like the piece of art…what matters is that you are starting the conversation!” – Olli’s words penetrated my heart and rested upon my soul as she listened and responded to the anguish, confusion, and frustration I experienced while observing a particular piece of art at a Crossroads gallery during tonight’s First Friday event.

What matters is that you are starting the conversation.

What a powerful thought! What if we lived that out in our faith journey? If it didn’t matter so much whether we liked each other, or agreed with each other, or felt the same way about things, but we started the conversation?

As I allowed Olli’s words to soak in, I looked around, and saw my generation starting the conversation. Reaching out, drawn to what they didn’t recognize, something they didn’t fully understand. Something that meant enough to one person to create, and that value made it worth their time to observe, reflect, and learn from.

And in that moment, I gained a renewed, overwhelming sense of hope for my generation. A hope that we are a generation that desires to know the Unknown, to connect with the Abstract, to learn from the Mystery, and above all, to love the Artist.

Why We Do It

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During My City Matters last summer, one of the key components of the week was doing service projects around Kansas City. One day we weeded, painted, stained, swept, raked, and fixed up a small park and playground in the Ivanho neighborhood.

Daniel, one of our high school leaders, met a 6th grade boy from the neighborhood, and they hit it off immediately. Daniel invited Trayjon to “tag along for the day” and he jumped in wholeheartedly, serving alongside the very ones who had come to serve him. He shadowed Daniel for the duration of the day, and when the time came to leave, he asked Daniel…

“When will I see you again?”

All too frequently, inner city children and youth have a positive encounter with a Christian mentor figure, but it’s a “one and done” deal and they are left waiting on someone who never comes back.

Daniel was determined to not let this happen to Trayjon, and he stayed in touch with him throughout the year on Facebook, and visited Trayjon and his family on several occasions.

Here’s the exciting part: Trayjon is entering 7th grade this coming fall and is eligible to join My City matters 2013! He is ecstatic at the possibility of being able to join the team that impacted his life in such a dynamic ways last year! THIS is what My City Matters is about: touching lives that will touch other lives! Praise God for the love and faithfulness of Daniel to pour his life into Trayjon’s all throughout this past year!

In faith we have placed Trayjon on the roster to join us July 21-27, but we need to raise $200 in order for that to become a reality. Would you prayerfully consider how God might use you as a partner with Trayjon in this?

Contact: Timothy McMahon (816)399-9411
Website: http://www.mycitymatters.org

Day 92: Praying Reality into Existence

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Some people never cross paths with another soul that can make them come alive at their innermost core, one that can with a word rekindle their passion for life, one who is the David to their Jonathan.

For some people it seems to just happen. For others, it takes effort and energy to make it happen.

There are those who dare to pray it from a wishbone into reality.

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18 NLT)

Independence Day in the City

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I love the 4th of July in the inner city.

People go crazy – and I mean CRAZY – setting off fireworks, Roman candles, bottle rockets, fire crackers…anything that explodes and makes noise and bright lights! Is it safe? Maybe not, but life’s safety in general for many of us is a “maybe not”. Tonight, though, there is happiness, joy, community, family, and a sense of something that seems lost for so much of the year:

Hope.

Happy Independence Day, Kansas City!

Day 100: Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

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This requires movement. Action. Persistence. Resilience. Refusing to give up, even when you’re in the process of unintentionally moving in the wrong direction. Discipline. Endurance. Strength. Faith. Hope. Trust. Believing in something.

The result: you make progress.

The bonus result: you realize that what you acquired in the first paragraph are of far greater value than what you accomplished in the second paragraph.

Day 99: $9K

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Sometimes you just need nine grand. In a hurry.

Without sharing the details, I invite you to join me in praying that God will miraculously provide nine thousand dollars to some dear friends of mine by next Tuesday so that they can obey the call God has placed on their lives.

Pray big or stay home, right?