Tag Archives: lessons

A letter to my son about rocks.

Little buddy,
I know how much you love rocks. Since you were a toddler, you’ve been picking them up, feeling them, putting them in your mouth (ugh, glad those days are gone), studying them, collecting them and admiring them.
Before I go any further, I want to apologize. I want to apologize for hurrying you. I want to apologize for throwing back some (many) of the rocks you find. I want to apologize for thinking these are unacceptable toys. There are so many times (seriously, so many) that we were on our way somewhere and you find a rock. I’ve dragged you through parking lots, fields and streets with you crying or upset that we don’t have enough time to pick up every single rock. Your mother and I have pulled rocks out of the washer and dryer and (occasionally) we catch them before they even make it that far.
Here’s the thing, I’m actually really fascinated by what interests you. Geologists get excited when they find a rare fossil in a rock, preserved for thousands of years. You get equally excited when you find a rock from the parking lot. You don’t see the thousands of rocks around you. Instead, you see the one rock that caught your eye. I love that about you.
I want to make you some promises.
  1. I promise not to stifle your exploration of the world. There is so much out there and I want to show it all to you. I want to slow down and be able to look at all the rocks, the trees, the stars, whatever it is. I want us to see it all.
  2. I promise to join you as you learn. Together, let’s read books about rocks. Let’s study the differences between metamorphic and igneous rocks. Let’s go find some examples of each. Whatever it is that drives you, I’ll be by your side.
  3. I promise to tolerate whatever it is that you collect. I collected weird stuff as a kid. For a while, I collected beer bottle tops. I didn’t care at all about what was inside the bottle, I just thought the logos and designs were really cool. My mom tolerated that phase and she even dusted my desk around where they all were kept, organized by brand or color or font or however I had them organized that week.
As I write this, I’m on a personal sabbath – a time for spiritual retreat and renewal with the Lord. I spent time walking around a lake tonight and I found a rock for you. It’s not a spectacular rock, but it’s your rock and I’ve got some thoughts about it for you.
  1. One side of the rock is bright white. Let this be a reminder of the purity of our savior, Jesus Christ. Through his blood, we are washed clean. Our sins are forgiven and for that, we should be eternally grateful. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” I found this rock because it was in the middle of a patch of dark leaves and soil. The whiteness of it stood out amongst the darkness behind it. The contrast drew me in. Be that light. Show the world, your friends, your classmates, girls you might one day date (a loooong time from now) that you are different because you are in Christ.
  2. One side of the rock has been darkened and stained by the earth. Let this be a reminder of Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” At one time, this entire rock was all the same pure color. But, over time and exposure to the earth, dirt and red clay from the ground, part of the rock was made impure. It’s unlikely that me, or anyone else, would have picked up this rock for the beauty of the stained side if it were facing up. If I asked you if this rock were clean or dirty, you’d probably answer that this rock were dirty because one of the sides was dirty. That’s just like we are. Because there is even one ounce of sin within us, we are tainted and stained in God’s eyes. But, the good news is that we do not have to remain that way. I can bleach this rock and make it as white as snow. And Jesus does that for us.
  3. This rock can be used for good. Along with thousands of other rocks, this one can make a walkway or path to a lake or resting spot. It could be stacked on top of others to form a wall or shelter. It can hold down papers when it gets windy. It can be studied and appreciated. Let your life have function. Let your life be used for good. By itself, this rock doesn’t do much. But, when added to many other rocks, it has potential. Sitting next to a lake, this rock has no influence over the water. But, if you exert some effort and throw the rock in the lake, the ripples would be great and they would extend farther than the eye can see. Be a ripple-maker for the Lord. Be a leader. Be a teacher. Be a listener. Be an explorer.
  4. This rock can be used for evil. This rock, though small, could break a window on a car or house with enough force. It could be deadly if thrown at someone with enough force.  This stray walk on an otherwise solid ground could cause someone to roll their ankle or trip. Don’t be that rock. Be thoughtful of your actions. People are going to follow you. I’ve seen it in you already. But, will they follow you for good, or will they follow you into mischief? Align your will with God’s and your path will be straight.
  5. This rock is solid. It would take an immense amount of force to break it. Know that your family is just as solid. I love your mother with all my heart, but I love Jesus more and your mother is okay with that. Your mother loves me (even when I don’t deserve it), but she loves Jesus more, and I’m perfectly fine with that. We both love and adore you and your sister. Our family is rooted in the Lord, therefore we are strong. The Lord is our strong tower, our refuge and our strength. Our love for you and your sister will not falter, even though your actions and obedience might. We will always be waiting for you. Patiently. Lovingly.
  6. This rock sparkles. There are specks of minerals and crystals in this ordinary rock that sparkle and shine. I hope you know how special you are. There are special pieces inside you that sparkle and shine as well. You are so creative. You love to design, build, draw and create. I can see your heart. Not figuratively, but I can see how compassionate and caring you are. I can’t describe it, but I can see my heart in you. The things that make you tick are the same things that make me tick. It’s in the way you look at things. It’s in the way you interact with your stuffed animals. It’s in the way you want to help. But, I know that one day you’ll do things far greater and inspire far more people than I ever could.
As a son, I thought I understood the intricacies of a father/son relationship. Now, as a father, I realized that I’ve barely scratched the surface. I am so proud of you. I am praying for you. I look forward to our adventures together. I will dream about the rocks we’ll find together and the ripples we will make. I love you, little buddy.
Thumbs up,
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10 Life Lessons from the Movie Big

You know the scene.  Josh and Billy are walking down the street after a busy day of being kids.  They start singing –

The space goes down, down baby, down, down the roller coaster. Sweet, sweet baby, sweet, sweet, don’t let me go. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop. Shimmy, shimmy, rock. I met a girlfriend – a triscuit. She said, a triscuit – a biscuit. Ice cream, soda pop, vanilla on the top. Ooh, Shelly’s out, walking down the street, ten times a week. I read it. I said it. I stole my momma’s credit. I’m cool. I’m hot. Sock me in the stomach three more times.

I have no idea what this song is, but I know that I’ll never forget it.


Big came out the day after my 7th birthday in 1988.  If you’ve never seen this movie before, immediately stop what you’re doing and head to Netflix.  In case you haven’t seen this piece of cinematic wonder in a while, here’s a brief summary.   The movie is about a 12-year-old boy, Josh Baskin, who wishes to be ‘big’ in order to fit in and win over a lady.  The morning after he makes the wish, he wakes up a 30-year-old man (Tom Hanks).

I have no idea how many times I’ve seen the movie, but it’s somewhere around 174 (just guessing).  Here are 10 lessons to apply to your life immediately.

1. Be happy with who you are…and when you are.

Zoltar Speaks

Zoltar Speaks

Josh was so frustrated with being a small 12-year-old and he just couldn’t stand it any more. After dropping a coin in the Zoltar Speaks machine, he wishes to completely bypass the most important years of his young life and skip right to being an adult just to fit in.  While you’re ‘growing up’ you have a lot of milestones to look forward to.

  • 10-years-old – double digits!
  • 13-years-old – you’re a teenager!
  • 16-years-old – you can drive!
  • 18-years-old – you can vote / you graduated high school!
  • 21-years-old – you can drink!
  • 25-years-old – you can save on insurance!
  • 30-years-old – you can kiss your youth goodbye!

After a while, there’s not a lot of personal milestones to anticipate.  Soon, you start getting excited about those milestones for your own kids.  No matter what age you are, you’re going to feel somewhat unfulfilled, too young, too old, too early, too late, too awkward, too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall, too carefree, too worrisome, too too too.  If we spend all our days waiting for what’s next, we’ll forget to pay attention of what’s going on now.  In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

God made us in his image.  He planned for our existence at this very time.  He didn’t plan for us to be around in 1730 or 600 or 300 B.C.  He chose for you to be here now.  He chose the way we look.  He chose our skills.  He chose our weaknesses.  When we try to force changes or wish upon a Zoltar, we’re telling God that we think our plans are more important.*

*(They aren’t.)

2. Don’t forget about your friends.


As we get older our circle of influence grows wider and wider with the people we work with, go to church with or parents of the friends our kids hang out with.  But, I think over time our inner circle of really close friends thins out.  Graduation, relocation and reproduction all pull us away from the friends we used to see all the time.

During one scene, Josh and Billy are arguing because Josh’s job is consuming all his time.  Josh tells Billy that job is important.

Billy replies, “I’m your best friend. What’s more important than that, huh?”

We need to embrace our friends, both literally and figuratively.  Take the time to call people.  I struggle with this.  I get selfish with my time.  I might be on a three-hour drive across the state, but I just want to zone out and listen to music.  I truly miss several of my friends and I love that I can pick up where I left off with many of them.  It’s been hard moving to a new city and having to build my friend base over again.  I miss cutting up with my friends.  I miss serving my friends.  I miss being able to give them an actual hug (my man-card says I can do that from time to time.)

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

3. Realize that things are temporary.


Greatest.  Apartment.  Ever.  What kid (heck, what adult) didn’t want this bachelor pad.  Josh had a Pepsi machine (mine would have been Coke, but still…) in his apartment!  He had ridiculously high ceilings and a massive trampoline outfitted with rubber balls.  He had a basketball hoop.  Inside.  He had bunk beds (“I get to be on top!”)  He had a 6′ godzilla-blow-up-thing and pinball games.  This place was awesome.

But, Josh started to fall in love.  As he did, more and more of his time was spent at his girlfriend’s place, or out on dates.  Eventually, he started realizing how out of place he was and how much he just wanted to be back home as a kid.  His things became less and less important.  You could walk in his apartment and think he had the world on a string, but inside Josh was insecure and scared.

Who are we once you strip away all our belongings?  How much do we rely on our things for joy instead of relationships with God, family or friends?

4. You’re never too old to have fun.

This is probably the most iconic scene in Big and one of the most timeless scenes ever.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…”

5. Speak up if you don’t understand something.

A co-worker and I have created our own term.  When a vendor is trying to explain something to us and we just don’t quite follow what they are saying, we say that we “Tom Hanks it.”  Simply, this just means that the value proposition or main point is not being clearly communicated.

In this scene, Josh doesn’t understand how anyone could have fun with a building that turned into a robot.

6. You don’t have to blend in.


For the record, I believe that everyone should own a great piece of thrift store formal wear.  I have a couple of pretty stellar suits that haven’t been in style since Big came out.  I quite enjoy wearing them when I get the opportunity.

Josh made a heck of an entrance when he showed up to a company event dressed in an all-white tuxedo.  He didn’t blend in with all the other traditional black penguin-style tuxedos in the room.  If we were all preoccupied with being someone else, no one would be themselves.

7. Do things on your own terms.


Josh Baskin’s first paycheck working for the toy company was for $187.30.  Josh went to the bank (this was way before auto-draft) to cash his check and the cashier asked him a profound question.  “How do you want that?”

“Three dimes, a hundred-dollar bill and 87 ones.”

We should do what we want every now and then.  God still wants us to have fun.  He kinda invented it.  We have the physical ability to feel fun, excitement and spontaneity.

Ecclesiastes 3:13 reminds us that God wants us to have enjoyment, “Also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”

8. Do what you love.

Billy: So you got a job, where you play with all these toys.

Josh: Yup!

Billy: And they’re gonna pay you for that!

Josh: Yup!


Colossians 3:23-24 tell us, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Whether we are working in ministry or in secular careers, we should be working to benefit the Lord and we should love doing it.  Not everyone is called to work in ministry.  Some are called to serve in other industries that keep the world moving.  We need doctors, teachers, farmers, assembly line workers, white collars, blue collars and volunteers.  We need to prayerfully consider how our career could impact the church body and how our own personal ministries can penetrate the workplace.

9. Throw thermal pod.


Early in the movie, Josh is playing an old-school computer game and he can’t get past a certain level.  He is standing among slain ice dwarfs and has to defeat the evil wizard, but has no idea how.  Eventually, as Josh’s life experiences influenced him and gave him wisdom, he revisits the game and conquers the evil wizard with the command “throw thermal pod.”

We need to intentionally pray for wisdom to overcome our current and future dilemmas.  Solomon prayed and his “wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt.”

There are over 200 references to wisdom throughout Scripture.  Job 12:12 says, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

10. Hug your mom.


For heaven’s sake, hug your mom.

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Sometimes life gives you fish.

Sometimes life gives you things you don’t particularly want. Today, life gave us two fish.

We had a fun afternoon at a local splash park celebrating a friend’s daughter’s birthday. The birthday party was Elmo themed and featured a lot of Elmo’s favorite things. So, as a party favor, we got a bowl with two goldfish. Real fish. Living. In a bowl. With water.

This presented a variety of problems. The first (and most obvious) problem – the fish didn’t have names. Rylan quickly named one of them Devo. We named the other one Siggi after a friend of ours who is also small and orange.

The second problem was that we had to transport the fish all the way home without spilling the water or the fish. This dovetailed nicely with the third problem. We weren’t going straight home. We were going to “outside church,” as our son calls it. Our church has a Saturday evening service under a tent in the middle of 200 acres of land that will one day be built upon. We weren’t going home for several hours.

Do we take the fish to the service with us? Do we crack the windows in the car? Will these things boil?

On the way to church, in the midst of me showing people next to us at stoplights that I had a bowl of fish, we realized our fourth problem. We had to feed these things. Or euthanize them. OK, we decided on feeding them. We stopped on the way home and Elizabeth bought some fish food. I learned something today. Walgreen’s sells fish food. And, it costs $4.25. That’s like…a dozen goldfish. We could just not feed them and keep replacing them…OK, we decided again to feed them. Don’t call PETA.

Now, here’s the fifth problem. The fish WILL die. At some point, we are going to have to tell our not-quite-three-year-old son that his fishies died or moved out or went to the store. I’m not ready for that yet.

On the way home tonight, I was thinking about unexpected responsibilities. I thought about when the Samaritan woman ran in to Jesus at the drinking well in John 4. She had no idea he would be there. In fact, she wasn’t expecting anyone to be there. When Jesus approached her, he asked her to get him a drink. She tried to politely point out that Jews and Samaritans didn’t typically hang out. Jesus began to tell this woman about her own life. Jesus knew she had five husbands and was living unfaithfully. At this point, the woman thought he was just a prophet, but he was so much more.

(v. 25) The woman said “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us. Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

This lady was simply out to get some water. She was thirsty. Maybe she was going to make dinner and needed water for the pot. She never would have guessed that she was about to encounter the Son of God. She never would have thought that she was going to have her life changed that night. It was supposed to be another ordinary walk to the well, just like the last one, or ten or fifty.

The woman had a choice to make. She could have gone about her business and not have spoken to the Jew that she normally would have avoided. She could have left the well and ignored the conversation. But instead, she was so overwhelmed and convicted about what just happened that she immediately went back to town to tell her friends. She was so overcome that she actually left the water jar behind – the whole reason she was there to begin with.

I’m 164% sure that when I woke up this morning I did not think I’d be coming home with more pets. Our fat, loud cat, Gilligan (who is immortal), is enough. But, now that we have Devo & Siggi, we can embrace the teaching moments. As soon as we got home, we put the fish on the table and we showed Rylan how to feed the fish. In the morning, pending these things are still alive, we will do the same thing again. He will start learning how to care for others. One day (maybe Monday), these fish will die and Rylan will learn a lesson about death. I’m not looking forward to Rylan being sad, but I am looking forward to explaining more to him about God’s love for us.

Until then, meet Devo & Siggi.

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