Thursday, July 9, 2015

I'm a Man Now!

Taking the kids to Kennywood, a really cool and very manageable amusement park not too far from our area has become sort of a yearly tradition for my sister in law and me. So, even though summer weather in this neck of the woods has been almost nonexistent due to incessant rain…[insert disgust, impatience, eye rolling and grunts]…we were able to venture this past Monday. It did rain, but after, say, 2pm it kind of cleared up and we actually had a great time! Anyway…

This was Dylan’s first year being a boy over 52 inches, the minimum height requirement at the park to be able to ride whatever he wants. Since he was highly impressed last year by his big brother riding on the “Phantom,” one of the tallest rides in the park, as soon as he heard we were going to Kennywood, he made sure to announce that he was going to ride on it too this time…if he was tall enough…which he made sure he was by constantly having me measure him every day of the week leading up to the trip (or at least that’s how it felt like to me).

Once at the park, the moment came for the first ride which was a mixture of a linear induction-high, speed take off, straight up climbing unto a straight down weightless descend and what seemed like an endless succession of cork screw twits, gravity defying turns, and stomach churning zigzags. Dylan and I survived the ride and that totally encouraged him to imagine himself on the “Phantom”…but not yet…before, we rode, IN THE RAIN, mind you, on any imaginable sort of concoction that no soon-to-be-forty-seven-year-old person should be riding on.

Finally, we walked by the “Phantom” and I told Grant that if he wanted to ride on it, he should NOW since the line was very thin and the rain had given us a break. Dylan looked at the thing…said nothing…I looked at him…said nothing…Grant walked into the path to the ride…Dylan went to ride the swings with his cousins.

The day went by and Grant decided to ride the ridiculously scary and insane ride called “Black Widow”…I thought it should be more appropriately named “Mom’s Worst Nightmare” since every Mom standing behind watching their kids go on it stood there in terror, trembling-hand holding the camera while trying to fight back tears…anyway…Grant went on it while Dylan and I watched through the rain, holding our breath.

When Grant got off that thing, he expressed a mix of delight, panic and exhilaration that was rather contagious. So that motivated Dylan to request another go at the Phantom. Grant was game for it…so after a while, I finally said, OK. I couldn’t tell if Dylan was excited or just plain terrified that he was actually going to do this so I told him he didn’t have to go on it. As we were walking toward the ride he said: “I probably will cry, but I am going to do it anyway. I’m going to be a man.” I said, “you are probably going to grow chest hair if you ride it!” He looked at me and smiled in wonder.

The boys went on the roller coaster while I waited in anticipation of seeing Dylan’s reaction after riding it. I kept an eye on every coaster that climbed the metal mount trying to spot them, when finally, on the third one, I saw a tall, skinny kid sitting next to a speck of spikey black hair. My hands were sweating and my heart was pounding as I saw them speed downhill, swing by the curve next to me to then get lost into the unknown…

After they were done, I hurried to the photo booth to see their picture…and there it was, the two of them, mouths opened in fear and thrill. I waited for them and as soon as he saw me, Dylan came to me and said: “I’m a man!”

Yeah…what do you say to that?

I just hugged him and laughed.

I have been thinking about this whole thing and about the road to becoming a man…a man of God. It is not an easy road. It is filled with steps. It is filled with ups and downs. My two boys will soon find out how difficult it is to be a man in today’s world…how difficult it is to be a Godly man. Dylan will discover that being a man takes more than summoning up the courage to get on a scary roller coaster ride. But he will also realize that the roller coaster analogy is a rather accurate one for the job. He will see how sometimes he’ll find himself up on the top of the mountain, to then go deep down into the gutter. He’ll see that there are many turns and twists, and that sometimes he’ll even find himself up-side-down, but that it all constitutes the making of a man as long as he keeps holding onto His hand.

I also thought how my little boy is growing up…and of course, that thought squeezed my heart with the sting of “no-mores…”

As the day came to a close that evening, Dylan walked proudly and perhaps even a bit taller. He said again, “I’m a man!” Then I said to him, “yes, you are…so now you need to get yourself a job!” He looked at me puzzled, so I said, “that’s what real men have to do. They have to go to work.” After thinking about it for a second, he replied, “well, I just want to be a man, but stay like I am, like a kid.” I laughed and said, “I see, you just want to be a man to have fun, but you don’t want the responsibilities of being a man, huh?” To that, he said a relieved “yes” and skipped his way to join the other kids. I walked behind, relieved that my little boy is still, indeed, just a little boy...I also thought, O boy! There’s a lot of work still to do ahead. But in the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy my boy/man and rejoice in his accomplishments and in his presence…for as long as I have it.

BTW, Dylan ended up riding the “Black Widow” too!

Friday, July 3, 2015

We Are Waiting for You

I remember a good many years ago I heard for the first time someone stating how important it is for a Christian to know as much as possible about ancient Jewish customs and traditions. Such knowledge can significantly improve and increase our understanding of the Bible and of our faith in general. One of those ancient Jewish traditions that has always fascinated me is the wedding. After all, it is this sacrament the one that most clearly projects the relationship of Christ with His church…

Then the angel said to me, "Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!" And he added, "These are the true words of God." 
Revelation 19: 9

"The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son."  
Matthew 22: 2

However, to be honest, before I had a better understanding of the customs and traditions of this celebration during Biblical times, I had no real clue as to why the analogy was so important…I always wondered why the Bible used it so often to illustrate the bond between Jesus and His people.

Anyway… after reading a bit about it, here’s what I figured:

Apparently, there were three major steps in the ancient wedding:

1. Contract – also called Covenant. Here’s where the marriage is arranged. The Father of the groom made the payment for the bride and the agreement became sealed. The timing of this step varied. Sometimes it would be in the couple’s infancy. Some other times it would be in their teen years. But it was typically done in early youth. After the contract or covenant is sealed, the groom returns to his father’s house to prepare a place for his future bride and family to live. This could take years. Nobody really knew how long. It all depended on how early the contract was made. Another interesting aspect of this step is that the exact date of the actual wedding would be determined by the father of the groom and it was not truly known to either of them until the moment arrived.

2. Consummation – this is when the groom went to fetch the bride. Although the bride would have a general idea of when this would happen, she never knew for sure the exact day or time of the day that the groom would show up, so she had to be ready ahead of time. There would be ceremonial cleansing and a beautification process. She would be waiting with her bride’s maids who would be the ones holding the lamps to light the grooms path whenever he’d show up if it was night time. Of course it was expected that the bride was a virgin. No exceptions to this rule. This was the whole point of the consummation step. Once the groom finally arrived, the couple would take care of the consummation of their union right away and pure/virgin blood was expected. I know…

3. Celebration- then the real party began! The wedding feast! And it lasted for about a week.

Well…in case this doesn’t make you think a bit about this ancient ritual being a metaphor for Christ relationship with the church, here’s this chart I found online at: and partially reproduced here.
The three C's Marriage in the Bible:

Church is the bride of Christ
(Stage 1)
Initial salvation
We come into contract and covenant with Christ when we are saved.
Mk 16:16 believe and be baptized to be saved
Romans 5:8-10 While we were worthless sinners the blood of Christ made us pure virgins.
Ephesians 5:25–27 Christ offered a dowry for the bride in that He died for her and shed his blood.
(stage 2)
Second Coming
Jesus returns for his virgin bride after preparing a place for us to live together in heaven.
2 Corinthians 11:2 the virgin blood we lack is supplied by the blood of Christ. Our proof of virginity is the blood of Christ.
John 3:29 Joyful voice of Christ at second coming
John 5:28-29 voice of Jesus
(Stage 3)
Revelation 19:7-9 wedding feast in heaven
The rich imagery contained in God’s promise is meant to make it easier for us to understand who He is and what His plan entails.  It is up to us to dig in and, guided by the Holy Spirit, discover the revelation contained in such images.  May the God who created the universe and all that it contains illuminate our path and unveil the truth…the truth that will set us free!

Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers. 
Song of Songs 1: 4

Here's a song that I love and partly inspired me to write this post: Even So Come by Kristian Stanfill 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Brakes? What Brakes?

Summer is here…though rainy now, there were some days that were warm and somewhat inviting a couple of weeks ago…so my younger son Dylan, a bicycle enthusiast, pushed us to finally pull out the bikes from their winter confinement. We still don’t allow him to ride by himself, and given the fact that we haven’t gotten around buying a new bike for Grant, and that I am the only other person in the household with a ridable one…it is up to me to go riding with him. So I did, for a little while…which was obviously not long enough for Dylan, but he managed to be OK with that. As soon as Daddy came home in the evening, though, he began to ask us to go for another bike ride…Dan, however, doesn’t totally feel … how shall I put it…comfortable… riding my rain-forest-lime-green coaster bike, so the ride was even shorter. Anyway, we told him that he could ride his bike alongside us as we went for our afternoon walk around the neighborhood…he agreed…so off we went.

There is a substantial hill in the Weathervane Hills neighborhood, which we use as our major source of incline workout…so we decided that it would be best if Dylan didn’t have to climb that hill on the bike. See how smart and thoughtful we are? No…we thought it would be best if he would ride the hill down, instead.

We got to the top of the hill and reminded Dylan about brakes and stuff and how he had to take it easy down the hill, and whatever. He wasn’t listening, of course, and he took on the hill with his feet dragging…off the pedals…where the brakes are…

He started to descend, and very quickly he realized he would not be able to slow down the bike by just dragging his feet.

Dan started telling him to use the brakes… “use the brakes” … “Use the Brakes!” .. “DYLAN! USE THE BRAKES!!!!!!”

I just stood in the middle of the street, paralyzed, both hands on my head…watching Dylan as he was heading straight to a fast encounter with a massive mailbox. There was nothing we could do, but watch.

A million thoughts ran through my mind…mainly the fact that we were going to have to pay for that mailbox…as well as for the teeth that were going to be flying in a second, of course…

When the miracle happened…

At the very last moment, Dylan was able to maneuver around the mailbox to continue on his discombobulated descend. Somehow, he finally found the brakes and was able to slow down by the base of the hill enough to bend the corner and stop to wait for us…


What followed was a mix of yelling at him (Dan), asking him questions (Dan), and laughing uncontrollably (me). The poor kid wasn’t saying much. He was in shock. Finally, when we had all calmed down and he was getting ready to start pedaling again, he said: “I’m a little shaky.” I looked at him and his surprised face revealed how this was probably the very first time that he had had a real, honest-to-goodness, face to face encounter with a potentially very scary event…and the first time that this kind of terror had moved him to shakiness… so I walked up to him, gave him a hug and a kiss and said to him “that’s what happens when you are scared…but you are OK now.”

He got back on his bike and we forgot to tell Grant about the incident until the next morning at breakfast. We related the event, and I said something like, “God protects the silly” or something, I might have said, the dumb, can’t remember, and then Dylan pronounced firmly: “God protects dumb people!” I laughed at that, and thought…Praise Him for He does protect the dumb people that belong to Him.

He knows exactly what we need to go through in order to learn. Many times He spares us from disaster, but some other times He allows us to travel a path that may contain some mailboxes and hills. Then, He watches us. He tells us what to do. He places instructions in a handy Book for us to follow and He watches us…as we don’t listen. He watches us ignore Him. He watches us head straight to collision and He is there to help us find our way again. He is there even when we are dumb. He is there even when we have forgotten how to apply the brakes. He embraces our shaky bodies and He sends us back on the road to continue the journey until one day, He calls us home.

I’m pretty sure Dylan learned a lesson or two during that ride down the hill. Practical lessons that will stay with him forever, and that he will remember better than all the advice we might have tried to teach him otherwise. I’m sure next time, he’ll find the brakes, alright.