Monday, April 28, 2014

What's in a name

Yesterday my son was born.  He is perfect!  His name is Rees Phillip Johnson, and I love him so much.  He is the child that Danielle and I always wanted, but feared we would never have.  We had finally, after 6 years of marriage come to grips with the fact that God might have different plans for our family than we originally thought.  After years of trying to get pregnant and painful monthly reminders of our failed longing, we gave up trying.  We always talked about having adopted kids in our home, and God put a sweet little 12 year old girl, Tuyen, on our hearts and we began the adoption process to bring her home from Vietnam.  We started the process thinking all the red tape had been cut and she would soon be ours.  She had been adopted by a family here in the US and then that family had failed to live up to the adoption and loaded her on a plane and shipped her back to Vietnam, with no one waiting for her on the other end.  The Vietnamese  government didn't claim her because she had been adopted by the US, the US government didn't claim her because the family never signed the citizenship paperwork, and the previously adoptive family would not claim her because they should be in jail for what they did and it is in their best interest for her to remain overseas.  Everyone agreed that this girl deserves a family, and someone should do something to help her, but no one wanted to actually be the one to accept any responsibility for her, even if they would only be doing it long enough to pass that responsibility onto us.  After several years of fighting and advocating for our daughter, the agency told us that she was not going to come home, and our hearts broke for our daughter that we would never hold.  God worked on our hearts, both in healing the rawness and in dealing with the idolatry in our hearts over NEEDING children.  We found ourselves at a place of peace in our hearts over whatever God's plan is for our lives and our family.  We assumed that that plan might only include the service that He has gifted us with in serving the youth and families in our church, and we were more than OK with that, we were excited!  Then God flipped the script on us again, which gets us to my little man.
"Behold I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD." Genesis 4:1
We had always talked about naming our child(ren?) with family names.  When we found out that God had opened Danielle's womb and was giving us a son, it did not take long for us to decide on his name.  We thought about him immediately in terms of being a little me.  I am a fairly simple man with a fairly complex history of how I came to be the man that I am today.  You see, there are 3 men that have been chief influences in my life:

My grandfather, Lee Rees, has been a steady influence for me on what it means to be a Christian man.  I remember spending my summers with my grandparents.  My grandpa worked nights, so I got to spend days with him.  We would wake up early, before the sun made it too hot to be outside in Phoenix, to go mow lawns and take care of the elderly ladies in the church, we would go and do projects together at the church.  I remember watching him fight for his marriage when they were going through a rough time, always kissing his wife and loving her, even when things are hard.  I have watched him always give of himself for the sake of the gospel.  I heard what it means to be a Christian when we went to church together, but I saw what it means to love the brothers in Christ and lay down your life for the sake of the kingdom, by watching my grandpa Rees go through regular life every day.  I pray my son loves the Lord and serves the body like his namesake

My father, Phillip Hunter, means the world to me.  Though we haven't spent a ton of time together, because my parents got divorced when I was young and I moved away when I was 5, I am still amazed at how profoundly like my dad I am.  It has always amazed me how much we look alike.  I have his military picture in my dining room, and frequently get asked when I was in the army.  The way I smile and laugh and love are things that my wife was amazed to see when she met him.  My dad has the biggest heart I have ever seen.  I love to watch him laugh and love his way through life with my other mom Donnette.  They have so much fun together.  He can love so completely and wholeheartedly.  I don't think you could spend much time with us and doubt in any way that I am my fathers son.  I pray that my son loves people, and enjoys life and laugh like his namesake.

When I was 5, my mom married my other dad, Jim Johnson (or Homie, as we effectionately call him).  I have watched him love my mom and serve his family faithfully for the last 27 years.  By watching him I have seen what it means to love your wife well.  I remember watching the way he looks at my mom and having no doubt about his adoration of her.  I have spent my life wanting and waiting for a woman to love the way he loves my mom.  I thank God he finally gave her to me in Danielle.  Homie is a teacher at heart and has always taken time to teach me about the things he is passionate about.  He explained to me how a cluth works, coincidentally after I burned the one up in my car.  He told me all about motorcycles, cars, bicycle gearing and explained how a carburetor works exactly like a toilet.  He helped me prepare for spelling tests and learn math.  He taught me about love and a loving life, and a life worth living.  I pray my son loves his wife and patiently teaches his children like his namesake.

I pray my son will look up to me as I have looked up to these 3 men.  I pray when my son signs his name or looks at his father he will be reminded to love the Lord, serve the church, love people, enjoy life, laugh, love his wife and teach his children with patience and understanding.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight" Proverbs 9:10
"Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.  I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.  When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble.  Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, forshe is your life." Proverbs 4:10-13

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Man shall not live on bread alone...

This is week 2 of the Read-a-long through "Seven" by Jen Hatmaker.  This week's topic of food: 

I once heard a story from my mother-in-law about a medical missions trip to Africa.  She told a heartbreaking story about a woman who's little boy was dying of malnutrition.  The medical team informed her that her son would live if she could only give him one egg to eat per week.  She teared up and told them that she could not afford even that small amount, even to keep her baby boy alive. 
     Last weekend, while at dinner at my in-laws house, a conversation was started about some movie that all of them had seen involving something of an apocalypse.  They were discussing something about what would happen if our food supply were damaged or possibly what would happen if our water supply were contaminated.  They talked about the possible need for starting a garden in the back yard, so they could be self sufficient or maybe storing up food and water.  My first instinct on hearing about this was fear, followed almost immediately by the thought to shut down this thought train.  I have a lot of things that I am deathly afraid of, most of them totally irrational, like fear of going spontaneously crazy and feeling the need to run out of a room screaming at any given time (which my wife assures me isn't going to happen.  But you never know).  The last thing that I need is to allow myself to become obsessed with a possible doomsday scenario.  Then I got to thinking about what this means about us as a society that we spend time thinking and planning what if scenarios for unlikely food shortages in one of the richest countries in the world.   There are parents and children all over the world that don't know when/if their next meal will come from.  They worry for how they will feed themselves tomorrow, which is a very real worry.  And we go through the mental exercise of worrying about what we would do if a meteor were to strike nearby, our food supply were poisoned or zombie apocalypse and other such nonsense.  We worried about storing up months/years of food and water in case the financial system collapsed in Y2K.   We are one of the richest countries in the world and we have lost touch with reality.  We worry and prepare for a lot of things and yet we take for granted the things that are truly important.  It reminds me of Jesus' parable of the rich fool.  When I think about possible future catastrophe, I wonder what would happen to the church in America if Christians were to face fierce persecution, what if the Bible were outlawed and we did not have access to God's written word?  We worry about hypothetical food shortages and yet God says "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God."(Matthew 4:4)  How much Bible are we taking in?  How much of God's word are we storing up within ourselves?  I can live on much less food than I currently live on, but I starve myself from that which gives life.  Oh LORD, give me hunger pangs for your sustaining Word, let me feel the parched mouth of one who longs for your living water.  "As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God." (Psalm 42:1)  My heart longs to see my King Jesus, to feast with Him at the marriage supper of the Lamb.  God help me!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Right now story

Today Danielle and I are starting a read-a-long through the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker.  This week we read the introduction and I can already tell that we are in for a serious heart beat down.  Marla Taviano is leading us in the study.  This week she encouraged us to give our "right now" story.  I am not really sure where to start with this.  Romans 8:29 has been the heartbeat of our lives recently, and I am really tired of God conforming me.  Don't get me wrong, I want to be conformed to the image of Christ, but I am really worn out from Him chipping away at my stone heart.  We are studying the book of Psalms as a church, and I find myself echoing David's frequent question of why the wicked prosper.  I work as a mechanic, and try my best to honor God through my work.  But I get paid on a sort of commission system, and if I am not working on a car, then I am not getting paid.  Well we are in the slow time now, and we are all working to get as many cars as we can to work on.  I find myself constantly keeping track of the other guys and finding little sneaky ways that guys are cheating the system to be "up" for their next car sooner.  I find myself crying out to God about the injustice of it all and crying to Him as if I really wanted true justice to reign in my life.  Meanwhile, God has provided abundantly for me through my job, and as Jen so eloquently points out in her book "this white dude is rich!"  We are thankful for what God has given us, and try to live modestly.  But when I look around the shop and compare my hours, I never compare myself with the guys that make less than me.  Oh, the sneakiness of my wicked heart, wretched man that I am!  I hope that through this read-a-long and the subsequent fasts, that God will draw me closer to Himself and expose the sin in my heart.  "For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Ephesians 5:8 ESV).  Let the light of the Lord expose the darkness of my heart and bring it into the light through the power of Christ's finished work on the cross.