Open letter to God
Number one. Help me to stop my negative narrative both verbal and mental that makes me become a “Debbie Downer”. Please replace this negativity with a grateful heart. May I count my blessings-daily.
Number two. Help me to not always have to be right and correct and perfect. Please break me of the habit of thinking I need to be correct all the time. Help me to give others the benefit of the doubt. Help me to give others Grace– as I need it as well.
Number three. God, please help me to not rationalize my own narrative. Help not to always “buy” my own story, perspective, and narrative. Please help me realize that others have their own truth and are seeking their own answers in the way they know best. Teach me to see that my narrative is not always the correct for them. How can I know about their lives unless I walk in their shoes? Teach me empathy and compassion.
Number four. Help me to forgive. Help me to not to carry around meanness– but rather kindness and forgiveness. Help me to see unkindness and a critical spirit as the cancer of the spirit that they really are. Help me freely forgive those who have harmed me. Help me to be open to how a relationship can actually grow after there is forgiveness. Teach me to forgive as I have been forgiven.
Number five. Help me Lord to lose my universal expectation of you and others–how not to always expect perfection of myself or others. Help me to not always expect to be served. Help me to see that I cannot always expect that my way is the best way. Help me not to expect MY best outcome all the time.
Number six. Help me to not always rationalize my correctness. Grant me the ability to understand that I can’t possibly always be right, be correct, or know it all. Help me be an open and a lifelong learner. Help me see that I don’t have all the information. Help me to understand that you always add more information to the narratives that are true about life, people, and me. May I withhold judgment.
Help me for I am blind. I get blind to the way I relate to people and my own thinking and practices. Forgive and help me to not be mean, or shortsighted or belligerent with those around me. Help me to practice kindness and love for others as you do with me.
Father, take my heart and make it right. I can only throw myself on the throne of grace and there is nothing that merits me to you but your Son. Please make me in His image as you see fit. Help me to freely give myself to you moment by moment so that I can become loving man that you want. Teach me and help me to be thankful. Please write for me the narrative of my life according to the story that you want told. I love you. In Jesus name, let it be so amen.
1. A FATHER–Who daily oversees my struggles, needs, flaws, and life anf who still enables and helps me to be more and more like Jesus.
2. A FRIEND who speaks to my weakness, sin, and depression, and tribulation a Word of Hope, encouragement, and trust for a future with Him.
3. A SAVIOR–Who I can trust to forgive all my sins; Past, present, and future and remove my guilt and condemnation if I will walk in Him.
True Story….Gabriel Hammond’s Birth
This is our true and heartfelt story of turning pain into passion. This is a true story of our beloved son, Gabriel Hammond.
It all started with the ultrasound at the local Mad River Community Hospital. The ultrasound revealed the possibility of Down syndrome. Gabe (our unborn son) had a one in three chance of having the condition. Did he or didn’t he? That question haunted us until Gabe’s birth.
My wife Joni was assigned a month’s bed rest and then gave birth to a mostly-healthy baby boy. Joni and Gabe were flown overnight to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, where Gabriel was to have surgery to correct an intestinal blockage. After the surgery, both mother and son were fine.
The two-dollar question was did Gabriel have Down syndrome?
Meeting with the doctor, she told us that yes, Gabe did have Down syndrome and that we had less than one year left in our marriage. Her point was that parents of special-needs kids have huge marital challenges. The doctor was not very delicate in the way she told us. What a great nugget to drop on a couple in such a vulnerable time!
No one prepares you for the disappointment, loss, fear, and many of life’s potentials forfeited when you learn that you have a baby who has Down syndrome. The feelings of new parents of kids with Down run from anger to depression to frustration to resignation. It is like the six phases of grieving. It feels a bit like a death within the context of birth in that it is a death of a vision. A parental hope and dream of what could have been most likely will not be now with this new twist of having a “special need”. It is a feeling, ultimately, of being lost in a world of unpredictability and not having a map of where you are going. This is truly “uncharted water”. That feeling of fear and sense of loss will be forever ingrained in my heart and mind. We knew nothing of Down syndrome or special-needs kids. To this point, we’d had six healthy children and had never met anyone with Down syndrome or any similar disability.
As we learned that our Gabriel had Down, we really had to dig deep and see if we could find the upside of Down syndrome. But, fear ruled the day.
Who is our boy? What will he be when he grows up? Can he play football? Will he go to college? Will he be “normal”? Will he get married? Will he have children? Will he have to undergo heart surgery?
These and other questions raced through our minds as we try set about discovering who it was we were dealing with and what his needs would be going forward. The initial sense of being lost without a compass or any bearings is truly an emotion to which words cannot do justice. When advised of our Gabriel’s condition, the well-meaning but blunt doctor told us that most special-needs parents divorce within the first few years. Well, she just added to our devastation.
On a subsequent trip back to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, California, years later, that sense of being lost is what I remembered the most. That sense of not knowing what to do, where to go, or who to turn to, other than God. We made the decision to learn to love and raise Gabriel and come to terms with what, or rather who, we were given.
How did we move forward? What were the metrics of measuring progress with Down Syndrome? What will Gabe’s needs be? How different will he be? How can we get help and resources? What about school?
The darkness, disbelief, and doubt that swirl around new parents, who discover their child has Down syndrome or any other life-altering disease, birth defect, or condition, are real and profoundly devastating. Not having a map or a compass to consult, not knowing which steps are needed is truly a frightening, debilitating process. Faith in God becomes paramount at the moment and going forward.
It’s a hard thing to realize and come to grips with the disappointment of a loss of a child diagnosed with something as long term and life-changing as Down syndrome. Down syndrome is not “cute” as some blithely observe. Kids with Down syndrome, while they are special, are still a challenge, especially for the parents upon first discovering their own child’s special needs.
The unknown twists and turns, trials, stress, surprises, fears, and heartbreak are all part of what it means to be a special needs parent.
The ensuing questions, heartbreak, prayer, and walks around the UC Davis campus, crying out to God, will always be etched in my memory. After days of genuine soul searching, I decided to dedicate Gabriel (and our raising him) to the Lord. Although he would never be a professional football hero or a brain surgeon, his life would be both personally fulfilling and enriching to those around him. We were ready to move on and raise our son no matter what!
The shame, embarrassment, and guilt that parents of children with special needs share is one of life’s dirty-little-secrets. Although not rational, logical, or reasonable, these feelings are very tangible.
The feelings of sadness and gloom often come at unexpected, strange times. Perception is reality. The pain is real. In addition to this we discovered Gabe had autism as well. This was a family shock to say the least. Now our son had a double challenge…so did we.
The times of reality hitting home when the Costco gawkers stared at us and our son Gabe only served to remind us of our frustration, pain, and anguish. Every so often, the reality check of Gabriel’s special needs of Down syndrome (and now, autism, as well) come crashing in on us. Gabe’s episodes of dysfunction or meltdowns pull us out of our times of denial, where we have to admit, acknowledge, and again decide to go forward as parents.
We have learned to be honest with our feelings and with each other. We’ve chosen to redeem benefits from all the pain as a couple and as a family to achieve love regardless of the “return on investment”. The lessons learned have to do with my deciding to have the right perspective, attitude, actions, and behaviors. The decision to love unconditionally is ours alone. This unconditional love, stemming from the decision to love Gabriel, has transferred some of my pain into a long-term perspective which is surprising, refreshing, and very interesting.
Walk Your Talk with Your Kids—Living with Spiritual Authenticity
Train a child in the way they should go….“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”– Proverbs 22:6, King Solomon of Israel.
This is a great concept, promise, principle, and protocol for fathers. “Training up” has the idea of a parent graciously investing in a child whatever wisdom, love, nurturing, and discipline is needed for him to become fully committed to God. It presupposes parental emotional and spiritual maturity.
“In the way that he should go” is to do the training according to the unique personality, gifts, and aspirations of the child. The idea here is to, equip, resource, and be a catalyst for your child’s gifts, skills, and natural abilities. We must study our kids and know just what their strengths and weaknesses are.
The converse is to help the child avoid whatever natural tendencies she might have that would prevent total commitment to God. For example: a weak will, a lack of discipline, a susceptibility to depression, etc… Knowing where our kids are prone to weakness will help us to help them avoid the pitfalls of poor decision-making, lack of character, immaturity and more. This is as important as knowing their strengths and gifts and facilitating those.
The promise is that proper development with great parenting ensures the child will stay committed to God and love people… the two basics of the 10 Commandments. May we stay focused, diligent and intentional in this key role!
Tools of Effective Legacy: Grace. How Do We Use Our Authority?
When I talk about fathering, I think of how God the Father deals with me. And then I realize His kindness, patience, and love and see how short I fall as I deal with others.
God doesn’t always use a stick to beat us when we make mistakes, so why are we as fathers so quick to apply the stick of punishment to those around us, especially our kids? It’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay to not like injustice, disobedience, immaturity, and some of the zany things kids do in their selfishness.
But what gives you and me the right when we are tired and frustrated to dole out law in the spirit of anger? Our Lord never modeled that type of authoritarianism. He did everything in love, including correction, chastisement, teaching, and encouragement.
You and I as men need to re-learn authority. We need to not get caught up in the disciplinarian model and playing the heavy, which is so common in our society. We need to learn the authority of Jesus, based in love, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control.
We need to re-learn the father heart of God, and how that applies to our leadership and authority over those for whom we have responsibility. We must be intentional and incremental in learning this model, as it will transform our parenting, and indeed, our lives. So, the next time you’re faced with someone’s shortcomings, or your own, for that matter, what’s going to be different?
Will it be grace or law? Which have you been given more of?
Grace versus law- means that we translate His heart to those around us in how we use our words, authority and actions. How can we successfully use godly authority in a way that shows His heart and love and kindness?
How do you personally dole out correction and discipline? Do the following mark your approach?
• Cussing and swearing
• Yelling and raising your voice
• Withholding your favor in some way
• Silent treatment
• Launching out in anger
• Physical violence
• Verbal violence
How do these mirror the Father Heart of God (see Appendix B.), and how he’s treated you? Does God do any of the above as He has occasion to correct and admonish you? In your walk with God, has He ever treated you with anything but kindness, love in the heart of a father? The answer is God corrects and chastens us in great love and patience and kindness. His encouraging and teaching Spirit reminds me that the kindness of God leads me to repentance… every time.
We get caught up in stress and with our authority; we often default to become the great disciplinarians. We get hard, mean, and even cruel—often with those we love the most.
This is wrong, and an incorrect application of authority. We do need to have courageous conversations, and even dole out consequences as needed, but if our default is dictatorial we’ve missed the mark in the Jesus example.
The authority that Jesus wielded can be learned, applied and given freely, but we need to be intentional…. How will you discipline, correct, and encourage someone who is under your authority the next time? Will you default to a baser form of handling authority, or will you be intentional and model the kindness and encouragement of Jesus Christ? Next time, what will be different?
Prayer From The Greatest Salesman In The World … by Og Mandino
Oh creator of all things, help me. For this day I go out into the world naked and alone, and without your hand to guide me I will wander far from the path which leads to success and happiness.
I ask not for gold or garments or even opportunities equal to my abilities; instead, guide me so that I may acquire ability equal to my opportunities.
You have taught the lion and the eagle how to hunt and prosper with teeth and claw. Teach me how to hunt with words and prosper with love so that I may be a lion among men and an eagle in the market place.
Help me to remain humble through obstacles and failures; yet hide not from mine eyes the prize that will come with victory.
Assign me tasks to which others have failed, yet guide me to pluck the seeds of success from their failures. Confront me with fears that will temper my spirit; yet endow me with courage to laugh at my misgivings.
Spare me sufficient days to reach my goals; yet help me to live this day as though it be my last.
Guide me in my words that they may bear fruit; yet silence me from gossip that none be maligned.
Discipline me in the habit of trying and trying and trying again; yet show me the way to make use of the law of averages. Favor me with alertness to recognize opportunity; yet endow me with patience which will concentrate my strength.
Bathe me in good habits that the bad ones may drown; yet grant me compassion for the weaknesses in others. Suffer me to know that all things shall pass; yet help me to count my blessings of today.
Expose me to hate so it not be a stranger; yet fill my cup with love to turn strangers into friends.
But all these things only if thy will. I am a small and a lonely grape clutching the vine yet thou hast made me different from all the others. Verily, there must be a special place for me. Guide me. Show me the way.
Let me become all you planned for me when my seed was planted and selected by you to sprout in the vineyard of the world.
Help this humble salesman.
If I had a nickel for every concert I have been to….I’d be a rich man”…..so goes the adage…
In my case I would have a few bucks!!…maybe a lot of money actually.
I am not sure if my Rock Concert List below is a badge of fame or shame in that it cost me in money, brain cells and hearing!
I am sure at 50 years, my hearing has suffered at the hands of Foghat and Black Sabbath and more.
This I am confident: these guys were the best of all time in an era of Rock and Roll Renaissance.
My experience with music is that simple worship songs on an acoustic guitar are more profoundly moving to me than a
multi-million dollar music extravaganza.
Time with music in worship of the Living God is definitively more heart-changing than a lead guitar solo by Jimmy Page or Jimmy Hendrix.
Well, here is the list and you may have one as well. Here is to guys who are just humans who still need God, love ,and people and are not the heroes to whom we wrongly attribute stardom and idol status…..Just another human on the Bus of Life. Many have perished in a life of questionable meaning and legacy. What will your legacy look like? Just asking…
Some of the Shows and Bands I have enjoyed as a young man mostly in San
Diego in the 1970′s—-
- Rod Stewart
- Leon Russell
- Black Sabbath
- Keith Green
- Lynard Skynard (Pretty sure)
- Emerson, Lake and Palmer
- Led Zepplin
- Jethro Tull
- Bachman Turner Overdrive
- Ted Nugent
- Peter Frampton
- Moody Blues
- Neil Young
- Alice Cooper
- Steve Miller Band
- Steely Dan
- Elton John
- Bruce Cockburn
- Eddie Money
- Edgar Winter
- Earth Wind and Fire
- The Grateful Dead
- Merky and the Martians
- T Rex
- Many more…..the best were forgotten in the Fog of….the moment.
Some of the bands I missed…..would have loved to seen:
- The Who
- The Stones
- The Beatles
- Pink Floyd (gave my tix away!)
- Many others….
All my heroes have changed and some are still alive.
Funny how we define meaningful lives and legacy.
Weird how we value what is art by artists of nebulous character.
Who are your heroes and what do they stand for? Better–what are you standing for?
Do we compromise ourselves in some way by enjoying art of those who may be real life monsters?
Vision and Mission
They say to follow your dream, but first you have to wake up.”–Bill Cosby
It is not hard to make decision when you know what your values are.”
Start with the big picture—put first things first.
Experts in the fields of psychology and personal effectiveness now recognize it if you feel upset or an uneasy about your lack of personal time, it’s not because you have too much to do. It’s because you not satisfied with most of what you do. Determine what’s most important in your life.
1. Ask such questions as what’s most important?
2. What gives your life meaning?
3. What do you want to be and to do with your life?
Clarity on these issues is critical because the answers to these questions affect everything else in your life—your goals, the decisions you make in the way you spend your time, and so much more.
The need for a balanced life—
If you don’t think balance in your life is vitally important to your happiness, success and health. Consider this: there is considerable evidence showing that mishandled stress at home interferes with work performance, and mishandled job pressure creates and magnifies problems at home. Research shows that the quality of your personal relationships strongly influences job productivity, disease resistance and longevity. Conversely, people who have value power over family and friendships appear to have a harder time fighting off disease and sickness.
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Can success in one area of life compensate for failure in another?
2. Can success in your profession compensate for a broken marriage or ruined health?
3. Can success in the community justify failure as a parent?
Important: success or failure in any role you have contributes to the quality of every other role, and your life as a whole. Keep balance in your life. Identify your various roles and keep them right in front of you so that you don’t neglect important areas such as your health, your family, your community involvement, or personal development. Evaluating your various roles and attaching a new level of priority in each is another important step in becoming balanced and aligned and a whole person.
The matter what your circumstance or how uncertain future, you can still be filled with enjoyment, humor, and a good attitude. Don’t let fear or anxiety keep you from experiencing the happiness that life has to offer. Go to a local park, enjoy the fresh air, and have fun. Have friends over for dinner. Spend time with family. Think about what activities you enjoy and go do them!
SPIRITUAL LEGACY—GOD STUFF
We know that God works all things for good for those who love him, for those called according to His purpose.” St. Paul
Where do you start with on the spiritual stuff?
Much of this subject has been debated by brilliant minds for centuries.
How does one translate ones faith to their children or loved ones without some fundamental disconnects in communication? How do we talk in a common dialect? What is the commonality? What are the common assumptions? There aren’t many…. We are a post-Christian nation with a mishmash and hodgepodge of spiritual and not so spiritual values and beliefs systems. These often contradict, are illogical, and sometimes patently nonsensical. These belief systems are almost always adopted in the name of diversity, tolerance and usually some measure of self-serving accommodation to what we really desire in their own self-made religion. We therefore create God in our image. We create God in an image that we like and accommodates what we believe is true. This is spiritual and intellectual hypocrisy in its highest form. It negates what is known about God, and seems to be the new religion of the masses.
It is all so over talked, used, abused, and mishandled so that it’s a tough subject to treat with any hope of non-bias, open-mindedness, possibility thinking. It seems that everybody has their own spirituality of one sort or another. To address anything spiritual seems to attack individuals on sort of a personal level. This defensive position precludes any positive or open dialogue that might lead to new information or even new awakening.
Kind of pathetic, wouldn’t you say?
A relationship with God—
Relationship with God is premised on spiritual values in truth, which encompass common purpose, foundation, priorities, and truth.
There is such a universal misunderstanding of God, spirituality, Christianity, and anything religious in our society. That makes it tough to translate one’s faith into a positive dialogue of understanding and mutual comprehension.
Let’s give it a go anyway…
A relationship with God begins with an understanding of grace and mercy and receiving his love for genuine faith and belief. It begins with forgiveness, freedom restoration and healing of the wounds in the hurts of life. What follows is that we can begin to understand that we’re forgiven and free. This is a bona fide sense of restoration and refreshment.
A walk and friendship with God—
A quiet time of devotion, usually in the morning, is a great venue to learn about God and to begin to hear truth in the context of quietness, faith, hope and love. Childlike faith and innocence are key here. Having daily communion with God in prayer, and having a relationship, which promotes a rapport with Him is where it all starts. To begin to get a sense of God’s direction for your life on an inner heart level is the beginning of this friendship. To know the father heart of God is love is to begin to understand what He is after in our lives. This relationship is based on a response to His love and kindness as opposed to fear-based relationship of dominance or heavy handedness.
One can then focus on growing in their faith. This is way beyond simple knowledge or information download of facts and figures and data. What we are talking about here is a relationship based on a friendship with God in the context of a relationship with spending time in prayer, meditation, quietness and listening. Grace is paramount as the foundation; God loves and honors you…just because. Bible study becomes more than a daily chore or download with the Holy Spirit making the pages of the Bible alive and living— change/transformation becomes possible.
Translating this love of God to our kids—
1. How do I translate something as intangible as love and faith toward God to my kids?
2. How do I adequately model and live with this belief/faith/paradigmto those that love the most?
3. How do I properly translate the God to my children?
4. Who’s up for such a task is this?
5. How do I not make the same mistakes as so many fathers before me, who failed or ignored the mandate to show their kids the true love of God?
I have a mandate and an inner compelling to want to give my kids at least a small vision of the father heart of God and to show them his heart/kindness through my actions, words and deeds.
How can I get connected enough to God to genuinely be a conduit of his love for His purpose?
Once I have that connection, how do I then form a lifelong relationship with by children? Then I can pass along more than to spiritual values—a true life-changing relationship to the God of the universe who truly loves us all?
This is the stuff of Spiritual Legacy. This is the deeper stuff of life and parenting. This is the core of fathering and parenting. Fail at this and fail as a parent.
Tools of Effective Legacy: a Relationship with God
The most important “tool” is a genuine relationship with God, both as an individual and as a family.
Writing about our relationship with God is extremely difficult. So let’s start with what it is not.
It is not:
1. About attending church
2. About giving money
3. About being” good “
4. About being religious
5. About being condemning, condescending, or arrogant about one’s faith
6. About religious activity, service, or lifestyle
What it is about:
1. Knowing and understanding God’s Word–the Bible and reading and meditating on it regularly.
2. Understanding and having a genuine salvation/saving relationship with God by faith in Christ.
3. Being a person who prays on a regular basis, who has two-way conversations with God.
4. Being a person who’s quick to repent, be humble, and truly make things right, admitting it when you are wrong.
5. Being a person who’s willing to serve others, even at your own expense.
6. Living an obedient life, not out of obligation, but out of thankfulness and deep gratitude for all God has done for you.
7. Allowing God’s full expression in your thoughts, deeds, words, motivation, attitude, resources, and so much more.
8. Being a person who puts her walk with God as the number one priority in life, through prayer, Bible study, praise, worship, sharing my faith, serving my church and community and all fellow humans.
9. Obeying God in the small stuff, being sensitive to details and doing the right thing even when no one is looking….even when it hurts.
10. Relaxing, taking deep breaths, simply appreciating the life and the love God has given you, realizing you cannot add to this love. You can only respond to it by living in the moment, and being the obedient son/daughter He’s asked that you to be.
11. Utilizing the gifts and the resources He’s given you in the way that He leads you.
12. Having a heart attitude and disposition that seeks to glorify God in every aspect of life.
Much of this has to do with what I call a “heart attitude”, the core belief system/personal disposition that governs all behaviors, words, deeds, and attitudes.
It stems from the realization of all that God has done for me, is doing, and will do in the future. It comes from a heart of deep gratitude, which seeks to please, not repay, or pay penance, to the God who loves me and has given his all for my life and eternity.
It’s just this: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness, and self-control… against such there is no law.” These are the heart attitudes which demonstrate Christ’s likeness. They only come with a genuine long-term walk with Him.
Be careful to understand that we’re not speaking about perfection. We are all human, fallible, frail, weak, and prone to making all manner of mistakes. The giant difference is having a heart of repentance. It’s quick to humble, turn, pray, and make course corrections when we discover we have sinned against God or people. We need to be good “repenters.”
This doesn’t mean that everything is a bed of roses; in fact Christians suffer as much or more than others. The difference here is:” God works all things together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.” This means that even the worst challenges, problems, and disasters are actually blessings in disguise as we trust God to work it all together for good. When a person can live this way, in a faith walk with God, all of life takes on a brand-new adventure and excitement, knowing that no matter what happens, I’m going to become closer and more like my Father in each and every situation.
This is the foundation for a great life, marriage and family. It makes for stability, a joy, and the love that permeates a family and a marriage with the sweetness and a sanity that is rare and precious.
To call this Walk with God a “tool” is to misrepresent and underestimate what’s being written here.
This Walk with God is the life-giving, dominant feature of the dedicated Christian family and individual. With God at the vanguard of our lives, life really becomes worth living.
The fifth and most important “tool” is a genuine relationship with God, both as an individual and as a family.
Writing about our relationship with God is extremely difficult. So let’s start with what it is not.
It is not:
- About attending church
- About giving money
- About being” good “
- About being religious
- About being condemning, condescending, or arrogant about one’s faith
- About religious activity, service, or lifestyle
What it is about could take up several pages .
But we’ll start with the following:
- Knowing and understanding God’s Word–the Bible and reading and meditating on it regularly.
- Understanding and having a genuine salvation/saving relationship with God by faith in Christ.
- Being a person who prays on a regular basis, who has two-way conversations with God.
- Being a person who’s quick to repent, be humble, and truly make things right, admitting it when you are wrong.
- Being a person who’s willing to serve others, even at your own expense.
- Living an obedient life, not out of obligation, but out of thankfulness and deep gratitude for all God has done for you.
- Allowing God’s full expression in your thoughts, deeds, words, motivation, attitude, resources, and so much more.
- Being a person who puts her walk with God as the number one priority in life, through prayer, Bible study, praise, worship, sharing my faith, serving my church and community and all fellow humans.
- Obeying God in the small stuff, being sensitive to details and doing the right thing even when no one is looking….even when it hurts.
- Relaxing, taking deep breaths, simply appreciating the life and the love God has given you, realizing you cannot add to this love. You can only respond to it by living in the moment, and being the obedient son/daughter He’s asked that you to be.
- Utilizing the gifts and the resources He’s given you in the way that He leads you.
- Having a heart attitude and disposition that seeks to glorify God in every aspect of life.