Somehow that little boy I used to run around the yard with grew into a man and left home two days ago to begin his career in the Navy. After basic training, he’ll begin training for BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL). The picture below was taken a couple hours before we said goodbye.
As parents, there are many releasing moments through the years. Moments when you hope you’ve prepared your children for the next season of life. Moments you realize everything is about to change and there’s no going back to the way things were. Kindergarten is a releasing moment. So is getting a driver’s license. And going to high school. College is a big one.
None of those compare though to that moment when you release your child for good. It might mean releasing them to marriage or to move away to another city (or country) or to join the military. The relationship changes at that point. As a parent, you know you can’t protect them and care for them like you once did.
I will miss all those days I picked my son up from football practice before he could drive. I’ll miss making his lunch to take to school. I’ll miss going to Razorback football games with him. I’ll miss making him dessert when he was in the mood for something sweet. I’ll miss putting away his shaker cups he used to mix his protein drinks. I’ll miss hearing him say he’s going to hang out with Tommy and Xander. And I’ll miss a thousand other things.
Up until yesterday, I saw my son almost every day of his life. Sure, there were times I was traveling or he was away at camp, but I probably saw him 95% of all the days in his life. That changed yesterday. Over the next year, I might see him for a total of a week.
I wasn’t looking forward to him leaving. I knew it would be hard, but I didn’t anticipate it being this hard. The past few days have felt more like a death. I’m glad we’re giving his car away because I don’t think I could take seeing it parked at our house everyday. And I don’t think I can go in his bedroom again any time soon. It hurts to see everything looking just the way it was when he lived in it, but knowing he’ll never live there again.
We still have our youngest daughter with us while she completes raising her support to serve with Young Life in Germany. I don’t want to even think about putting her on a plane and saying goodbye. Not yet.
On Monday, March 23rd, I’m releasing my first novel. Monday is also the 10th anniversary of my father’s death, so I’ve dedicated the book to him. And Monday is also the day my son, Rob, will leave home to head to basic training for the Navy. To say the least, it will be an emotional day.
Like this blog, my intent in writing the book was to communicate truth. Only this time I would do it through a story.
As a reader or subscriber of this blog, I think you’ll enjoy reading “The Lakeside Conspiracy.” If you do, can I ask you to leave a positive review on Amazon? It helps to get the word out and I’d really appreciate it.
Max and Michelle Henry once had the perfect marriage and an ideal life in the small town of Lakeside, Arkansas where they live with their daughter, Sarah.
But can their love survive Sarah’s tragic death?
Max is angry with God and throws himself into football where he has always enjoyed coaching success. But he’s coming off two losing seasons and three is unacceptable at Lakeside High School. The pieces are in place for a championship run until his star player is killed in a mysterious accident…one Max discovers the police are covering up.
Michelle has been forced to grieve and cope with the pain of losing Sarah by herself. When she takes a trip to see her parents, she finds comfort in the arms of an old boyfriend.
Is it too late for Max to win her back?
Can he put together a championship run to save his job?
Will digging into the cover-up reveal secrets worth killing over?
That’s a picture of my dad, Robert Stutts, in 1950. He enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school and served aboard an aircraft carrier for four years. After the Navy, he went to college and became a teacher before transitioning to administration for the last twenty-five years of his career.
He was a great dad, especially considering what he’d come from. I never really knew my grandfather. He died when I was very young. My dad described him as “mean.” I was very blessed to have a dad who was anything but mean. He was kind, encouraging, loving and generous. He loved people and loved helping others.
On March 23, 2005, he died of leukemia.
Less than two weeks from now, on the tenth anniversary of my dad’s death, my son, Rob (named after my dad(, will leave home and begin his Navy career. After basic training, he will train to become a SEAL.
What I realized a few years ago was that in American culture, we see our children almost everyday of their lives from birth through graduation from high school. After that, we may see them a few weeks a year. It’s different if they choose to stay in their hometown, but I didn’t do that and neither did my wife, Robyn.
So I have just a short time left to walk into the living room and see Rob sitting there reading a book. Or looking in the refrigerator and saying, “We don’t have any food.” I only have a couple more opportunities to go out to breakfast with him.
I will miss working out with him, although it’s been a couple years since I’ve really been able to do that. I think the last time we worked out together was about a year ago. We were doing quarter mile sprints. On the first one, I started laughing when he got out to a ten yard lead before I even got moving.
I never really learned how to hunt, so I was not able to pass that on to Rob. That’s something I deeply regret. We did go squirrel hunting together a couple times though. What will always stand out to me is not seeing any squirrels. What mattered most though, was just being with him.
For the last six football seasons, we’ve lived just two blocks from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Rob and I have gone to about thirty games together. The picture below is from the Ole Miss game last November. It rained most of the game, but I sure had fun being with him.
My dad and my son have greatly blessed my life. I’m grateful for the men they are and the time I had with them. I hope my son gets to experience having a son as awesome as he has been. And I hope I eventually get to see him more than a couple weeks a year.
“Children are a gift from the Lord…” (Psalm 127:3)
I want to let those who read my blog or subscribe by email know my eBook, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage” will be free on Amazon from Wednesday (March 4) to Friday (March 6). You can get a free copy by clicking here. Feel free to let your friends know.
If you’d like to receive other free offers and be notified when new books are released, sign up for my weekly newsletter by clicking here. You’ll find the sign-up form on my marriage site.
I’ll confess that I do. I really try not to, but it’s an ongoing battle. It’s become harder recently since I was laid off in November. I got a month of severance pay and received my last paycheck on December 31st.
A few days ago, I was reading in Mark 12 where Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment. He said, “…you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.”
Part of loving God is loving Him with our minds.
This morning, I read Exodus 34:14, “You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.”
Ponder that for a minute. His name is Jealous and He is jealous. About what? His relationship with you and me.
As I was praying, I watched as two birds landed on a light pole outside the window of my hotel. They kept looking up to the sky. It reminded me of Matthew 6…
24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? 27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, 29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
Several things hit me from that passage:
1. We can’t love and serve God and money. We have to choose.
2. I’m to be like the birds outside my window who weren’t worried about anything. They weren’t planting or harvesting. They didn’t even seem to mind the freezing drizzle.
3. Material needs “dominate the thoughts of unbelievers…”
So let me see if I can tie all this together…
The greatest commandment is to love God, which includes loving Him with my thoughts. He is jealous for me. He doesn’t want me to have any other gods before Him. I have to choose between loving and serving God or loving and serving money. And money and material needs dominate the thoughts of those who don’t know God.
So if my thoughts are dominated by thoughts about money, how can I also be loving God with my mind? Practically speaking, it’s like I’m denying He even exists when I worry. Why? Because He promises if I’ll seek first His Kingdom and live as He desires, He’ll meet my material needs.
How about you? Do you worry about money? Or about something else?
God is jealous for the attention you and I give to these other gods who can never satisfy us anyway. When we choose to take our focus off money and put it on Him, it’s one way that we can express our love for Him.
On the other hand, when we choose to worry, it’s like believing God cares more about birds and flowers than about us.
With our first two grandchildren on the way this year, I’ve been thinking about what advice I’d give myself (if I could travel back in time) or my sons-in-law about the first year of being a dad. You can see it here.
Whether you observe the season of Lent or not, I want to make a resource available to you. It’s a 40-day devotional written to help strengthen your faith. Circumstances, feelings, discouraging news and negative comments from others can sap our faith. It can start to feel like God is far away and unconcerned about what we’re going through.
“I Believe God: a 40-day adventure” will help you reject the lies we’re told by the enemy and the world and replace them with the truth of God’s word. If you’d like a copy, you can get one by clicking here. The suggested price is $1.99, but I have it set up so you can name your own price. If you want to pay nothing, you can do that.
I know sometimes Lent is viewed as a season “to give something up.” So let’s give up believing our feelings and circumstances and start believing God.
As with any experiment, there’s a hypothesis. So here’s mine: if you and your spouse will commit to work through this book, at the end of the thirty days you will:
Know God better
Be more bonded to each other
Communicate more effectively
Better understand each others needs and how to meet them
Enjoy a more exciting and fulfilling sex life
I hope you’ll get a copy and work through it together. Can I also ask you to tell your friends? Forward this email, post on Facebook or good old word-of-mouth would be greatly appreciated! I believe this book can be a great help and want to get it to as many couples as possible.
I grew up in Brick, New Jersey, a beach town about ninety minutes south of New York City and ninety minutes east of Philadelphia. It was a great place to live. I had great friends and loved my high school experience.
What I didn’t love so much was church. At best, it was boring and irrelevant. For me, the best part was watching the old people try to park. It’s not that I didn’t believe God existed. I just didn’t think He had very much to do with my daily life.
We attended church fairly regularly as long as my parents woke up on time. I did my best to remain as quiet as possible on Sunday mornings, hoping they’d oversleep. Sometimes it worked and I got to stay home.
After high school, I went away to college at Cornell University. The first thing I did was stop going to church. I just didn’t see the point any more. And my parents weren’t there to make me go.
Some time during the fall semester after practice one night, a guy spoke to the football team I played on. I don’t remember anything he said other than if we wanted a free “Athlete’s In Action” magazine we could sign up for one. So I did.
A few months later, this guy named Bruce gave me a call. He wanted to meet with me. So thirty-three years ago today on February 4, 1982, he and I got together at the student union (that’s it in the picture). He asked me questions about my life, my family and church. After awhile, he opened this magazine and started talking about God.
Basically what he told me was this: God loved me and had a plan for my life, but because I (along with everyone else) had sinned, I was separated from God and couldn’t experience His plan for me. Then he got to the good news. He said when Jesus died on the cross, He was being punished in my place.
There was one more thing he said to me: I had to make a decision. It wasn’t just enough to know those other things. I had to decide whether or not to place my trust in Jesus. Forgiveness for my sin was a gift, but I had to choose to receive it.
In all my years of attending church, I’d never heard that before. I believed in God. I knew Christmas was a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I knew Easter was about his death and resurrection. But I don’t ever remember hearing I had to actually decide what to do with Jesus. In that moment though in the student union, it was like the light came on.
Bruce explained I could practically express my faith in Jesus by praying, by asking Him to forgive my sin and to make me the person He wanted me to be. There was a prayer written out in the magazine, which he slid across the table to me.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of what was happening, but as I looked down at that magazine, I knew what I was about to do was really important. And so I read the words to the prayer very slowly and thought about each word. When I was done, Bruce and I talked a little more and set up another time to meet.
As I walked back to my dorm that day, I knew something was different. Something inside me was changed. I actually remember the sky being more blue. And the craziest part was actually having the desire to read the Bible and attend church.
I met a lot of people in college. Just never expected to meet Jesus there.
“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:12-13)
In Mark 6, a huge crowd has been following Jesus. It’s now late in the afternoon. His disciples come to Jesus and tell Him to send the people away so they can buy food at the nearby farms and villages.
Instead of doing that though, Jesus says, “You feed them.”
Naturally, the disciples ask, “With what?”
That would be my question. Some of us with an attitude might have said, “Seriously? Seriously, Jesus? Are you for real? Come on, there are thousands of people here.”
Jesus simply replies by asking, “How much bread do you have? Go and find out.”
When the disciples return, they report to Jesus they have five loaves of bread and two fish. So Jesus has everyone sit down in groups, He blesses the food and gives it to the disciples to distribute. There was so much food left over they filled twelve baskets. Mark tells us over five thousand men and their families were fed.
I don’t know how much time has passed, but in Mark 8 there’s another large crowd gathered around Jesus. This time, the disciples don’t approach Jesus with the problem, He calls them and says, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”
I would have loved to be there to watch that scene play out. The circumstances are identical to last time. Large crowd. No food. What do we do?
It’s playing out like when a parent is helping a young child with homework. “Okay, let’s try it again. Two plus two equals…”
But the child isn’t quite catching on yet.
“Now think about it for second, if I have two apples and then I add two more…how many apples do I have?”
The parent stares hopefully at the child. The child stares cluelessly at the parent. The answer is so obvious. But still the child isn’t getting it. Like the disciples. Like you and me.
His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?”
Apparently, they don’t remember how things worked the last time. Not one of the twelve thinks to say, “Hey Jesus, You don’t have to send them away hungry! I have an idea! Do that thing You did last time! Remember? Remember that time You made all that extra bread and fish? Just do that again.”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t be too hard on the disciples. I don’t remember things God does either. It’s like I’m Lucy in “50 First Dates.” God may have done something great for me yesterday or last week, but I don’t remember it. All I can see is the unmet need today and so I get worried and anxious.
If it was a test, the disciples didn’t do so well. They didn’t remember what Jesus had done in the past, so they didn’t see He could be counted on in the present.
As He did the previous time, Jesus asks, “How much bread do you have?”
This time they come up with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. And as He’d done the last time, Jesus multiplies what they have and feeds the entire crowd of four thousand people. The disciples gather the leftovers and fill seven baskets this time.
Faith is a big deal to God. He wants to be trusted. He’s pleased by our faith. So don’t be surprised when tests come. Don’t get discouraged when the circumstances seem stacked against you and there’s no way out. God has been faithful in your past. He will be faithful in your present.