Monday, October 27, 2008


I can still remember Brehm’s first, major night terror.  It was Halloween night, 2003. 

I was on the road (I can’t remember where) and my phone rang.  

It was Laura.  

She sounded frightened. 

You would be too.

She was a fairly new mom, her husband was traveling for work, it was Halloween, and that’s when the screaming began. 

This wasn’t the normal, “I’m scared” kind of scream. 

This was the “Freddy Kruger is real and he’s killing me” kind. 

When she called me, she was holding Brehm in her arms, his eyes were open but they didn’t see her, and he just kept screaming. 

I felt so unbelievably helpless and so did she. 

So we prayed. 

It was a real, desperate, scared, prayer.

Brehm started to calm down, his eyes focused on Laura’s face and then he fell back asleep. 

I wish that I could say that that was the last time he had a night terror. 

It wasn’t. 

Fortunately, the next several times, I was home. 

It was actually worse when I was home since there was an expectation that I would be able to help our poor son.  I couldn’t, and that just made us both feel like failures as parents.  We should be able to make our son feel safe.  Right? 

Well, as soon as Brehm started talking, we began teaching him to pray.  That way, if the monsters came at night, he could ask God to make them go away. 

This, of course, resulted in us running around our house “chasing” monsters and telling them to leave.  If he thought he saw one, we would ask God to make it go away and then, we’d chase it out the front door. 

He isn’t scared anymore. 

Now it’s Elijah who’s scared. 

He doesn’t have night terrors, but he sees monsters everywhere. 

They’re in his room.

They’re in the half-bath.

They make appearances at school like guests on a monster version of David Letterman. 


The problem is that he is our little pragmatist/materialist.

Brehm quickly understands abstract concepts.  Elijah wants the “hands on” approach. 

So here is a real conversation we had the other day. 

“Daddy…I’m scay-ahd…monsters.”

“Well, buddy, do you want to pray and tell the monsters to go away?”


“I really think that would help.  Jesus can make the monsters go away.”

“Flashlight.  I want a flashlight.”

“Jesus is better than a flashlight.  The Bible says that he’s the ‘Light Of The World’.  Doesn’t that sound brighter than a flashlight?”


“Flashlight it is then.”

He is, after all, only three.

But I’m not.

Yet I still pick the flashlight sometimes.

I still pick the temporal band-aid instead of the eternal solution.

Sometimes I still close my eyes and hope the monsters will go away instead of squaring my shoulders, allowing Jesus’ light to shine in my life, and never being scared again. 

I would rather live life with a glow-stick than flip the switch and let the whole room be flooded with light.

God’s been teaching me to let His light shine in all areas of my life, especially the dark closets where the monsters live.

He’s been proving to me that, whether it’s the literal devil or the monstrous potential of sin in my own heart, He is the ultimate monster killer.

The reason I don’t just tell my kids that there’s no such thing as monsters is that I would be lying.

And they would know that I was lying. 

Whether they’re the invisible kind, or the kind my friend’s FBI neighbor puts away, monsters are real. 

Saying otherwise would just be me, trying to make myself feel better.

Believing in monsters won’t hurt my children.

Believing that monsters can’t be killed will. 


Monday, October 20, 2008

Presents and Presence

About a month ago, Elijah turned three. 

When he woke up on his birthday, he found the whole living room covered in signs that Laura and I had made.  They declared things like: “E Is 3!” and, “E: The Three Year Old, The Legend.”

He couldn’t read them but he knew they were for him. 

Brehm, however, turned into a green-eyed, jealousy monster. 

He was annoyingly persistent at reminding Elijah that, tomorrow, it wouldn’t be his birthday anymore. 

Ah…brotherly love. 

This event also kicked off “birthday conversation” season. 

For those of you not familiar, this is more anticipated than football, baseball, and hunting seasons combined.  

It’s the season of seasons.  

And Brehm is quick to make sure we know it.  About once a day he asks when his birthday is, and then tries his best to calculate the months, days, minutes and pico-seconds until his big day. 

But here’s the problem. 

His birthday is two days after Christmas.  

Thus, no matter how hard we try to separate the two events, his birthday is, inevitably, eclipsed in the public consciousness. 

What's weird is that he doesn’t get envious about Jesus’ birthday the way he does with Elijah's. 

That may have to do with the fact that HE gets presents at Christmas. 

Or, as I choose to believe, it’s because he’s a budding theologian. 

Here's a conversation we had the other day.

“Dad, when is my birthday again?”

“In a few months, Buddy.  First, it will be Jesus’ birthday, and then yours is a few days later.”

“I think we should sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus….like this (he sings his adorably off-key version of the birthday song.)”

“I think that’s a great idea, Buddy!  Maybe we can make Him a cake too.”

(Brehm looks at me very seriously)

“But Dad, he won’t be able to eat it!”

“Well…um....we can eat it for him.”

(Brehm, almost in tears)

“But then there won’t be any left for Him!” (He recovers), “Can we give him presents?”

“You know what he really likes, Buddy?  When we love Him and walk with Him.”

“I think he likes toys.”

“I think He likes toys too.”

Strangely, this conversation got me thinking about some of the silly (and un-Biblical) things that I say as a Christian. 

Nothing will streamline your theology like trying to explain it to a four-year old. 

The particular phrase that came to mind is, “Lord, we ask you to be present with us as we (fill in the blank)”

The reason that's silly, is that God is omnipresent. 

He’s everywhere...all the time.  So how can He be “more” present? 

What I really mean, and what I ought to say, is, “God help ME be present to you.” 

At Gordon College, it’s a graduation requirement to go on  a two-week, wilderness trek called La Vida.

One of the first things they tell you is to “be here now”. 

Be present with what God is doing right now. 

That was the first time I realized that I've lived as a shell most of my life. 

My body is here...but I’m not.  My mind is thinking about the future, replaying the past, wrestling with some issue, or making other plans. 

Those were two very hard weeks for me. 

Even though most people view me as someone who loves experiencing all the details of the moment, the truth is that I’m almost never here. 

Increasingly, God has been healing me of this.  He’s been helping me be present with my wife, with my kids, with Him. 

That is what I was trying to convey to Brehm when I said that the best present for Jesus is for us to love and walk with Him. 

That being present TO Him is a present FOR Him. 

As I wrote last week, I’ve been reading the Christmas story during my Bible study time.  This, obviously, has had me thinking about the mystery and miracle of the incarnation.  God with flesh. 

One of the things that’s so amazing about it, is that God, as the great initiator, is actually present with me first so I can be present with Him. 

So what can we give  “God-with-us” (Emanuel) this Christmas?

To start, we can give Him, “Us-with-God.” 

And, if we’re like Brehm….maybe a toy too.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Last week was a hard week and so today’s post won’t be funny.

There hasn’t been much laughing in the Moritz household for the last seven days. 

It’s been there for sure (with kids it always is) but it’s been more like islands in a big ocean. 

Truth be told, we, and lot of people we love, are feeling disappointed with God.

I know this may seem like a shocking confession, but it’s an honest one. 

The stories, if they had happened to a single person, would add up to a modern-day Job.  From our friends who are dealing with addiction, cancer, a miscarriage at 32 weeks, and infidelity, to our own unexpected job news and bleak financial forecast, it has been, as I’ve already said, a hard week.

This past Saturday I realized that I’m actually part prairie dog…or some other burrowing rodent.  All I wanted to do was find a hole and hide from the collective weight of the prior week. 

The universal sentiment expressed from everyone has been, “I thought my life would look different, God.”  

Depending on the day, Laura and I have felt the same way. 

Not coincidentally, during all of this, I’ve been preparing for Christmas. 

For any of you who read my Facebook status, you’ll know that this has been another point of contention between God and me this week. 

Fall is supposed to be cold.

Not 83 degrees. 

But I digress. 

So, this morning, as I sat down with my coffee…in a t-shirt….I began reading the Gospel of Luke.  And that’s when I realized something. 

I was reading the Christmas story with full knowledge of the ending.

I was forgetting that the people who lived through it had no idea how things were going to turn out.  And so for them, the greatest expression of God’s love seemed like the greatest disappointment. 

They expected a messiah who would come and free them from Roman oppression. 

They got a baby in a feeding trough. 

They expected a scholar. 

They got a carpenter. 

They expected prosperity. 

They got a homeless man. 

They expected handsome. 

They got mildly, “inoffensive-to-look-at” at best. 

They expected someone religious. 

They got a “friend of sinners”. 

In short, they expected everything they could ever dream of, and instead they got……


What a disappointment.

The amazing thing is that, through all the devastation of past week, through all our disappointment, God, just like he did that first Christmas, has been initiating greater intimacy with us. 

I’ve been praying more than I have in a long time.

Everyone, whose stories I mentioned, has been. 

And all of us are learning that God is not a God of expectations. 

He is God. 


You see, for the brief moments that I’ve been able get my head above the waters of fear and disappointment, I’ve seen that God is still working. 

I just don’t know the end of this chapter yet.  

Monday, October 6, 2008

Supermarket Cannibals and Wolverine

Cute babies do strange things to people. 

Most notably, they tend to turn them into Hannibal Lecter. 

True story. 

We’re at the supermarket waiting in the checkout line and Alanna is looking around with her big, blue eyes.  A woman gets in line behind us and starts making faces at our daughter.  So far, that’s pretty normal. 

We start to chat.

“She’s a cutie!  How old is she?”

“Eight months.”

“Ohhh she’s a pretty one.  I could eat her up.  Yes I could, yes I could!”

The last part of that was said in a high-pitched voice and directed at Alanna.

Wait…did she just say that she wanted to eat my baby?

If I look at the conveyer belt and see fava beans I might just run away.

“No you couldn’t”, I said. 

“Couldn’t what?”

“Eat my baby, sicko.”

I held my daughter tighter.

Ok….that last part isn’t true but I wish it were.

For the present, it’s filed in my brain under, “things-I-wish-I-had-thought-to-say-but-didn’t-think-of-until-later-but-probably-wouldn’t-have-had-the-guts-to-say-anyway-but-man-it-would-have-been-funny”

Anyway…point is, I have an incredibly cute daughter.

I’d venture to say, “cutest ever” but that assertion of fact would just give other kids a complex.  But come on, “cute enough to induce cannibalism” is pretty cute. 

She should have come with a warning label. 

Also on that warning label should have been a caution about baby nails. 

Allow me to give some history.

When I was a kid I liked comic books. 

One of my favorite characters was a hero named Wolverine. 

This superhero, amongst other abilities, had his entire skeleton molecularly fused with a fictional substance called adamantium rendering it nearly indestructible.  As a part of the process, the Canadian government (who had done this experiment on him) also gave him retractable adamantium claws.  The only substances stronger than adamantium are adamantium itself, Captain America’s shield, and, apparently, my daughter’s fingernails. 

As adorable as Alanna is, her nails can do some damage. 

We try hard to keep them cut but, despite their paper-like appearance, our little wolverine has taken a few chunks out of daddy’s face. 

You see, she’s always looking for me and then, whenever she sees me, she gets really excited and reaches for my face. 

If I’m holding her, this involves her carving her initials on the inside of my bottom lip.  But that’s not the point. 

The point is the seeking and reaching. 

She’s always looking for her daddy’s face, and then, upon finding it, she reaches and clings to it….with adamantium fingernails. 

Seeking someone’s face, in the Bible was always the same as seeking the person. 

Not just their presence, but a relationship with them. 

Here are a few examples:


“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”

-1 Chronicles 16:11 (which David quotes in Psalm 105:4)


“My heart says of you, ‘Seek His face.  Your face, Lord, I will seek.’”

-Psalm 27:8


After one of my recent adorable (yet bloodletting) encounters with Alanna, I was really struck by the question, “How intently do I seek God’s face?” 

Alanna is always seeking her daddy’s face. 

When she’s eating, she’ll look up until I look back, then flash me a messy, baby foody grin. 

If she’s cruising around the coffee table, she’ll look for my face and say “dada”. 

No matter what she’s doing, she always stops to seek my face, not out of some obligation, but because she loves her daddy. 

These past few weeks have found Laura and me being forced to stop and seek our Father’s face for both rejoicing and comfort.  It’s been wonderful and difficult.  But once our gaze is locked, I pray that I grab on with all I’ve got and don’t look away.