Monday, December 29, 2008

Made Up Words

My oldest son, Brehm, has always had an interesting relationship with language. 

Some of you may recall a previous post when I mentioned that he takes after his daddy as a “talker”. 

Because of his intense verbosity, he often tries and says things whether he knows how to say them or not. 

This was particularly troublesome when he was learning to talk. 

Some of my friends have had toddlers that sound like they’re speaking a foreign language when they’re learning to talk.

One such friend had a son who, I would swear, spoke perfect, emphatic German. 

Sadly, we were not so lucky.

Instead of sounding like 1940’s Nazi propaganda, our son said real English words. 

The wrong ones. 

Very wrong ones. 

I recall one incident at a playground where my, then 2 year old, son began calling his friend’s name from the top of jungle gym. 

“Nichole”, however, came out sounding like a racial slur and not the intended name. 

I realized that no amount of explaining would make the other parents at the park believe that he merely had a pronunciation problem.

Nor did I think that they would believe that he hadn’t learned that language from me.

Especially since I was wearing my “Bama” t-shirt. 

I scooped him up, shoved him in the car and drove away. 

Apparently, in my mind, looking like I’m abducting a child is better than looking like a racist dad. 

As he’s gotten older, his clarity of speech has improved but he still searches for ways to express himself.

Even it means making up words. 

Which brings me to the other night. 

He had just gotten out of the bathtub and was putting on his pajamas.  I had recently arrived home after being gone for almost a month and so he was being very affectionate.

I’d missed him too so I was happy to be snuggly. 

He asked me to help him put on his pajamas and, after I did, he said, “Dad, you’re very helpful”. 

It was classic Brehm. 

Very matter-of-fact. 

But then he said, “You’re goodful and niceful too.” 

I didn’t correct his grammar. 

In fact, I think that those are two words that should be added to the English lexicon. 

It also showed a shocking amount of linguistic insight on his part.  

If being “helpful” means that you are full of help, then, it stands to reason, that “goodful” would mean “full of goodness”. 

So, because I’m a big geek and love words, I started thinking about other “full” words.

And here’s what I found. 

They either describe their object or they describe the response the object invokes. 

So, for example, words like “beautiful” and “helpful” mean that something is full of beauty or full of help.  Whereas words like “wonderful” and “dreadful” mean that something inspires feelings of wonder or dread. 

Confusing, I know. 

Welcome to my brain. 

And, since I was thinking about “goodful” things, I began to think about whether or not I could use the word “goodful” to describe God.  He is, after all, full of all that is good.

But “goodful” still falls short. 

God IS good. 

That phrase doesn’t just explain his actions toward us (though it does that as well). 

It’s a definition. 

“Good” is defined by God and not the other way around. 

So I’ve been meditating on the goodness of God.

Maybe it’s because we’re all in a season that seems filled with uncertainty that it’s been so meaningful (full of meaning) to rest in the knowledge that God is good. 

Regardless…I’ve found it to be “goodful” and “encouragementful.” as well.  

Monday, December 22, 2008

Home For Christmas

Have you ever been away for so long that going home felt like going on a trip?  
That's the strange situation in which I find myself today as I double, triple, and, because I'm my mother's son, quadruple check my suitcases.  
You see, after 22 days away from my family, I'm finally going home.  
What makes it extra special is that, because of the above mentioned phenomenon, what will technically be a Christmas "stay-cation" will feel like a vacation.  
And a good one at that.  
And so, in the spirit of having a vacation, I'm taking a a break for this week.  
Of course, the grand irony is that I'm telling you that I'm not going to blog this week by writing on my blog.   
But that's OK.  
My generation likes irony.  
How post modern of me.
So...Merry Christmas to you all and I'll be back next week.  

Monday, December 15, 2008

Zurich and My Christmas Wish

I tend to be a big baby when I get sick. 

If have a cold or a sinus infection, I load up on over-the-counter meds and try to tough it out. 

Ok…that is, admittedly, a newer ability.

My wife will laugh when she reads this because she’ll know that “newer ability” means “within the past month”. 

I’ve never been a good sick person.

Laura, however, can wait until her sinuses explode the front of her face off before she goes to the doctor. 

She comes from hardier stock. 

Her father is hardiest of all. 

His advice is to drink a soda and beat the sickness into submission by sheer act of will.

My “will” is lucky if it says, “oh yeah?” to a sniffle, but against a heavy weight infection? 

It doesn’t even go one round. 

And, for me, nothing is worse than the stomach flu. 

Just typing the words (swallow) makes me (swallow) feel queasy (go lay on the floor).

Which is why, when my wife called and told me that the kids have been throwing up, she also said that she was glad that I wasn’t there. 

As it was, I was paranoid that the “bug” would become digitized and make its way to me via cell phone. 

Of course, the fact that I’m in New England and the kids are sick means one thing:

Missed work…

Almost a week of work. 

Missed work equals less money and less money results in worry. 

I’m not sure why we worry. 

God has been faithful to provide for us on countless occasions. 

Maybe it’s an attempt to control the uncontrollable. 

There’s a novel idea. 

Let’s worry about things we can’t change. 

And now, Johnny, tell them what they’ve won!  A beautiful, sunny trip to Ulcerland!

Sometimes I’m just not that bright. 

Anyway, in order to understand how puking kids and smaller paychecks show God’s glory, I need to back up one week.

Last Thursday, after we had a very non-spiritual phone conversation about our finances, Laura went and got the mail. 

There was a check in our mailbox.

From our friends in Zurich. 

Whenever I say “Zurich” and “check” in the same paragraph, I feel the need to explain that our friends are not spies, arms dealers, or stupidly wealthy American lumber barons hiding money from the IRS. 

They’re a musician and a frog doctor. 

For real. 

The memo on the check simply said, “Prompted by the man upstairs”. 

They meant God. 

Not Heinrich, the chain-smoking guy in the flat above them.* 

They had no idea that the kids were sick. 

They had no idea, nor did we, that Laura was about to miss a week of work. 

They were simply being obedient to what they believed God was telling them to do. 

And God knew what we needed. 

Before we knew we needed it.

But God, in His great love for us, saw fit to provide proactively. 

And yet, that pales in comparison to what God was up to in a Bethlehem stable. 

You see, while most people saw a baby in a feeding trough, God was entering our world to provide a way for us to have a relationship with Him again. 

Whether we knew we needed it or not.

Before I was born, or even aware of the depths of my own depravity, God was entering human history to provide for my redemption. 

And not just mine, but anyone who believes and accepts that free gift.

That’s really the gift of Christmas. 

Not gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Not ipods or a Wii. 

But Jesus. 

And so my Christmas wish echoes the words of the famous carol.

“Let every heart prepare Him room.”




* No offense meant to Heinrich. 

I have no idea if he’s a chain smoker. 


Or if he even exists at all.  

Monday, December 8, 2008

Zero and The Journey

Right now I’m staring at a blank screen. 

The empty, white rectangle hovering in its Microsoft Word window seems to taunt me, daring me to fill it.

You see, after writing for almost a year, I’ve finally hit a writer’s block. 

I’ve got nothing. 


It’s not that God isn’t doing anything in my life. 

He is. 

And it isn’t that I don’t have anything to share. 

I do. 

The problem is that I feel the pressure to take what God has been teaching me and make it humorous and entertaining to read. 

So, in the spirit of honesty, and since I don’t have a funny story for this week, I’ll just share how God has been challenging me. 

It’s no secret for most of you that my season with Osterville Baptist Church is coming to an end. 

This is bitter, sweet, exciting, and scary. 

It’s sweet because the amount of time that I’ve had to spend apart from my wife and kids has been totally inconsistent with what I believe about family. 

It’s bitter because I truly do love and care about the people I’ve been serving for the last year and half. 

It’s exciting because I know that God has something in store. 

It’s scary because I haven’t the foggiest idea where I’ll serve in ministry next. 

We’ve also been wrestling with our preconceived notions of what God’s plans for us might be.

I think that we always assumed that God’s plan would involve better health, more money, a bigger house in a safer neighborhood, and nicer clothes. 

No part of that assumption is Biblical. 

If God chooses to bless us with those things, then we’ll be grateful.  The challenge to us has been to remove that presumption from our minds so we can clearly hear God as we seek him for our next step. 

For anyone who has wrestled with these things, you know how hard that is to do.

And so, in the midst of this season of transition, Laura and I have been praying for peace.

A lot.

Not “peace”, as in, “everything is smooth sailing”, but true, Biblical peace…even in the middle of hard times. 

Even this morning, as Laura called to tell me that our youngest was throwing up, we found ourselves asking God for peace.  And as much as I’d like to tell you that this story has a nice happy ending, as you can tell by the tone of this post, I still feel unsettled and afraid. 

And I think that that’s an OK place to leave it for now. 

I don’t think it’s OK to stay here but I don’t think we should be afraid to visit.

Especially during Advent.

Because the whole idea behind this season is anticipation, longing, and tension. 

The fearful, difficult, but expectant journey to Bethlehem.



Monday, December 1, 2008

Apples, Chocolate, and Advent

I love apples.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for me to be seen munching away on a tasty Gala or Honeycrisp. 

This is not, as you might suspect, due to the fact that apples keep doctors away (though with my current co-pay and three kids, I wish that were true). 


I just love apples.  But, my favorite incarnation of the apple is my wife’s amazing apple pie. 

No one makes a pie like this one. 

Even though I’m more than handy in the kitchen, I tried to make the filling this Thanksgiving and botched it pretty bad. 

She even makes the crust from scratch with butter and lard. 

Yes, lard! 

There’s enough animal fat in that crust to stop your heart, but it’s flakey and tasty and I would eat two of them in one sitting if I let myself. 

And the filling…oh the filling! 

An exotic blend of cinnamon, clove, and allspice, vanilla, and rum…truly I don’t think a better pie exists. 

My love of apples might have a deeper root though. 

My name IS Adam and, in the same way I could eat my wife’s apple pie until my stomach exploded, I do recall a distant relative, with my same name, who had a problem with apples. 

Also, I grew up Jewish, and apples are pretty significant symbols in the Jewish culinary tradition. 

On Rosh Hashana, I used to eat apples dipped in honey to symbolize the hopes of a sweet new year.  But, since it’s so much like apple pie filling, the use of apples on Passover is my favorite. 

It’s a blend of apples, cinnamon, honey, walnuts and wine. 

Strangely, because of its consistency, it’s a symbol of the mortar used while “my people” were in slavery. 

Sweetness and slavery are a funny combination. 

This is what I was always told about that: The apples and honey remind us of how sweet freedom is, and how sweet the promises of God are. 

Which leads me to Trader Joes. 

For anyone unlucky enough to have never experienced this shopping phenomenon, let me explain. 

Trader Joes is everything you like about Wild Oats, Whole Foods and Fresh Market but priced for normal people. 

“Healthy food for real people” is the slogan I came up with. 

Joe, you’re welcome.

I’ll let you know where to send the check. 

So anyway, they finally came to their senses, and built one here in Nashville. 

Laura and I went to check it out, and came home with more than we planned. 

This included two advent calendars for the boys. 

Inside are all-natural chocolates for each day until Christmas. 

The boys were very excited when we explained it this morning.

If we use the words “Christmas” and “chocolate” in the same sentence, they’re on board.

So as I sliced apples for their lunches today, I started thinking about the connection between Passover and Advent. 

Both remember our bondage.

Both involve longing for deliverance.

Both find their ultimate, redemptive, fulfillment in sacrifice and a miracle of God.

Even more than that, there is the sense of hope that permeates both celebrations. 

We allow the remembrance of what God HAS done to give us hope for what He WILL do.

So, if you’re like my family, and will be eating a daily dose of chocolate to celebrate the season, let it be a reminder of the bondage we were in (or in the case of chocolate….the bondage we are still in) and let us thank God for the hope that we have because of Jesus. Chocolate and apples ain’t got nothing on that.