Posts Tagged ‘ Heaven ’

What Does “Gods” Look Like?

Friday, June 6th, 2014

3 years, 6 months.

Dear Jack,

After our routine prayer before dinner one night earlier this week, you asked Mommy and me, “What does ‘Gods’ look like?”

That’s one of those classic kid questions. I love it.

Yet I was so caught off guard by your sincere question of what God looks like, that now, I couldn’t even positively tell you how I answered you.

I mean, you’ve grown up with prayer in our house: In the kitchen before meals, in front of the house before we all leave for work and school, and in the car before we go on long trips.

You’re very familiar with the concept of our family speaking to someone we can’t actually physically see.

Just tonight, while you were holding hands with us during prayer, you began whispering the words to “Ring Around The Rosie.”

I thought you were attempting to pray.

Actually, I guess you were- the best way you knew how.

Still, you have the ability to understand that God is real and invisible; unlike monsters, who you know are not real and only visible on cartoons.

I love admiring the way you are attempting to understand God; because I’m in the same boat, just about 29 years ahead of you.

Of course, speaking of years, the way I see it, time only exists as we know it because of the rate at which the Earth spins and the rate at which it rotates around the sun and the rate at which our temporary bodies age.

That’s how we measure time here on Earth.

But beyond us, greater than us living on this planet, I wonder if time really exists?

Is it true that my Italian grandfather who I was so close to growing up is actually waiting to meet us in Heaven? Or in the “Heavenly Time Zone,” will we pretty much just appear there about the same time he arrives?

So many questions I have about God and Heaven and what life really is like outside of our version of life right now.

With that being said, just know that when you asked what God looks like, it’s something I wonder too.

I think a lot of people are going to be shocked if He doesn’t have a long white beard and a robe.

 

Love,

Daddy

 

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With Great Blessings Come Great Responsibility (And Stress!)

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

3 years, 6 months.

Dear Jack,

In my extremely limited ability to understand the concept of eternity and life after this, sometimes I subconsciously and erroneously tend to think of Heaven as a place where I could just exist in a state of unconsciousness and it not affect anyone else; void of responsibility or pressure to perform.

Sounds like I’m not the only one in that boat, after reading the comments on the Facebook page for Parents.com when they featured my story, “Daddy’s In His Quiet Place Right Now.”

Many fellow parents (understandably) laughed at the concept of a modern day parent having any escape from the overwhelming pace of life that kicks in once you become a parent.

I used to be extremely optimistic, like all the time.

But those were the days before… responsibility happened.

That was before I was truly feeling the pressure of what life (AKA “the real world”) actually demands from a person.

Of course, I also remember feeling lost, alone, and unfulfilled back when I was still single. Not a coincidence.

That’s because with great blessings come great responsibility; and therefore, stress.

A job, a wife, and child are all blessings. However, I’ve learned to begin equating the word “blessing” with “responsibility.”

Now, before I sound like I’m going off the deep end, I want to balance this with the other side of the story.

Earlier last week, I was at of one of my good friends’ house, hanging out with him on his front porch, while his family was out of town. We talked about how nice it was to be able to “unplug” for brief moments at a time like that.

Then we talked about how if life weren’t this chaotic, and if we as dads and husbands weren’t overloaded with responsibilities like we are, we would go crazy.

Without a regular dose of being stressed out, I get stressed out.

It makes me think of a line from one of my favorite Dave Matthews Band songs, “So Much To Say”:

I say my hell is the closet I’m stuck inside.

If in this exhausted (and limited) state of mind, a seemingly reasonable version of Heaven would be a state of unconsciousness, void of responsibility or accountability, then it makes sense that my concept for understanding hell would be a place where I was conscious, alone and bored out of my mind, with no responsibility or accountability.

I’ve heard the saying, “too blessed to be stressed.” Yeah, I’m not sure I agree with that.

Because the way I see it, if I am stressed, then I am blessed.

Otherwise, I would be searching for a life without responsibility, which is what I had before I had you, Mommy, a full-time job, and two part time jobs.

And back then, I felt incomplete.

These days, I can honestly say I never feel incomplete, or alone, or not needed, or unloved. I say stress is a good thing, if it traces back to responsibility and blessings.

 

Love,

Daddy

 

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Counting Random Cell Phone Keyboards, Like A Boss

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

2 years, 10 months.

Dear Jack,

Some things in life just can’t be explained. For example, why are there over a dozen cell phone keyboards in the parking lot of your school?

Since a couple of weeks ago when we started parking next to your teachers’ Mustangs, we discovered a strange array of cell phone keyboards as we got out of my car.

It’s so strange…

There are no other cell phone parts anywhere else around. Just the keyboards.

Are cell phone keyboards hot on the black market right now?

Did a cell phone keyboard bandit run across your school’s parking lot, carrying hundreds of them over his shoulder in a giant sack, that happened to have a slit in it, causing many of them to fall onto the ground?

That’s the best explanation I can come up with.

Needless to say, you’re pretty fascinated by the mystery (and possible government conspiracy?) of these cell phone keyboards.

Our new daily tradition is that every time we now get out of or into our car in the school parking lot, you like to get down and count them.

Today when I picked you up from school, your teacher Ms. Lauren updated me on the funny thing you said to her this time:

“Ms. Lauren, there’s cell phones in the parking lot. I counted them. There’s 10 of them!”

You’re right. You indeed count 10 of them each time.

It is because of the cell phone keyboards that I now officially know you can count to 10. Because you do it at least once a day now.

Even without meaning to, you found a way to test out what you learn at school.

I think it’s safe to say that cell phone keyboards may be the most peculiar thing you will ever use in the process of learning to count.

As for the mystery of how they got there, I guess we’ll just have to ask God when we get to Heaven one day.

 

Love,

Daddy

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Surprise! This Christian Dad Struggles With His Own Faith

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

14 months.

During my day job, I work alongside someone I consider a “friendly atheist.” Not the kind who has a passionate agenda of converting me out of Christianity or who is obviously mad at God for not existing. He just simply believes that when we all die… poof! That’s it.

He and I have the kind of mutually respectful relationship where we can curiously ask each other questions about the other’s belief system, without it ever turning volatile or even emotional.

Last Friday I told him, “You simply have more faith than I do; to believe we all just got here by random chance.”

He replied, “You know, Nick; I find it very surprising that you, of all people, believe in Jesus and the Bible and all that stuff. I know you well enough to realize you are a very logical, rational guy. It just doesn’t fit you.”

The truth is, he makes a good point. I have no trouble at all believing in each of the miracles told in the Bible; from God creating Adam from dust, then Eve from his side, to Noah being able to gather two of every kind of animal on the ark, to the virgin birth of Christ, to Him being the Son of God, to Jesus making wine from water, to Him walking on water, to Him dying for the whole world and then raising from the dead. No problem.

Why? Because it’s all miraculous. It’s impossible unless it’s true. That’s logical to me.

Sure, I definitely believe the Bible truly is legitimate and factual.

I’m not the kind of person who only believes the parts of the Bible and God’s teachings that I want to; the ones that are easy to believe and that make me feel good. That’s not me.

Instead, I am a Bible-believing Christian who trusts in Christ alone for eternal life and redemption of all my wickedness, yet with humility I am willing to admit, there are parts of the Bible and its teachings that I struggle with.

Notice I said “struggle with.” I didn’t say I don’t believe or won’t believe. It means there are certain things I have to sort out, by carefully reading the Bible, praying to God to help me understand, reading related commentary books and talking to other Christians about my concerns.

I have this theory that most Bible-believing Christians have at least one particular part of the Bible or Christianity they have always struggled with believing. Mine is the existence of a literal, eternal, fiery hell in which people can never be redeemed.

While I’ve never met a Christian who believes that babies go to hell, it seems to be a popular belief that basically everyone else born in sin who dies not knowing Christ as their savior goes to hell forever.

That includes people in other countries who never heard the Gospel. That includes people who were only exposed to judgmental Christians who condemned them. That includes people who have been abused by their earthly fathers and have a deranged idea of what a loving father actually is.

I simply don’t want to be in a position where I have to decide who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t. But I feel that if hell is the fiery place it’s perceived to be by most Christians and their agreed interpretations of Christ’s teachings, then I sort of am in that position.

This can of worms got opened about a month ago when I read the highly controversial book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rob Bell.

It’s not that I agreed with every thing he said, but he was willing to shed light on my lifelong concerns about the Church’s traditional interpretation of hell. He goes back to every use of the word “hell” in the Bible and focuses on the original Hebrew and Greek words used.

So should I believe that all unbelievers, except babies, go to hell if they don’t believe in Christ by the time they die?

I’m going to give a very unpopular answer:

I don’t know. I have no idea. Yet.

I know that I’m supposed to believe it as an evangelical Christian. But I can’t lie and say in my heart I believe it at this point in my Christian journey.

But I’m trying to figure it out as I reread the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. I’m also reading the book, Erasing Hell, by Francis Chan; which counters the ideas written in Love Wins.

Just for the record, I graduated from a one year Bible college called Word of Life Bible Institute and earned my English degree from Liberty University; the world’s largest evangelical Christian university.

I know the Bible very well. But I can’t stand the thought of believing heresy, whether it’s some trendy author’s flawed interpretation of the Bible, or even the Church’s flawed understanding of Scripture.

Nothing has ever caused me to read the Bible with such passion. As a believer of Christ, I want to know who He truly is.

This is real faith. It’s not about having all the answers. Nor is it being okay with not trying to find the answers.

So what does this have to do with being a dad? Everything.

I want to be able to teach my son everything I have learned about God. My faith is everything to me. As his dad, it’s my responsibility to be the spiritual leader my dad was to me.

So to not understand a major part of my faith is difficult for me to deal with.

Like my atheist friend said, I am a very logical and rational guy. I don’t just believe something because I’m supposed to. I believe because God helps me to.

So help me God for my lack of understanding.

Top image: Hands Statue from Hell in Wat Rong Khun at Chiang Rai, Thailand, via Shutterstock.

Bottom image: Marshmallow on a stick over the fire, via Shutterstock.

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Santa Claus and Other White Lies We Tell Our Kids

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

One year.

With good reason, I’ve never been able to legitimately process the double standard of leading a child to believe in Santa Claus while at the same time teaching them not to lie.

It’s interesting how far we have had to stretch the lies, just like with any outrageous falsehood, in order to keep kids believing.

“How does Santa fit down the chimney? How does he fit all the toys in his sleigh? How does he travel the whole world overnight?”

(Insert ridiculous answers here.)

Yes, the legend of Santa Claus was born of Christian folklore, so as a predominately Christian nation, we can rest assured knowing that jolly ole St. Nick has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He has been confirmed, baptized, and even has a tattoo of John 3:16 on his arm.

Yet we can’t deny that in the way John Lennon once infamously claimed that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, the fame of Santa arguably is greater than the actual reason Christmas came to be celebrated in the first place: the birth of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament.

But can we really get caught up in this particular double standard? Aren’t there other white lies we tell our kids to either A) comfort them or B) entertain them? Yup.

A very traditional white lie I’ve heard parents tell their kids is that when a loved one dies, in particular a grandparent, that person becomes an angel who watches over them in Heaven.

Sorry, the Bible doesn’t say that. I don’t know of any popular religion that actually does.

Besides, what does that even mean? How does Grandpa Murphy “watch over” your kid? Does he part the clouds, look down and see little Jaxon about to run over a stick while riding his bike, so Grandpa sends a few of his buddy angels to kick the stick out of the way just in time, saving Jaxon from crashing his bike?

Sure, the Bible says that there are guardian angels, but we don’t actually become them ourselves after entering Heaven. So it’s a white lie.

It’s a similar thing when a beloved pet dies. Yeah, all dogs go to Heaven, just like that movie that came out when I was in 2nd grade. Cats? Yeah, them too. The goldfish? That’s debatable. Now, let’s stop asking so many questions and finish eating this delicious Hamburger Helper dinner.

Don’t worry, we “helped” that cow go to Heaven quicker and meet all his cow family that were part of those burgers we grilled out last weekend.

Image: Traditional Santa Clause via Shutterstock.

Unexpected Bonus!

Want to read more on the subject? Today I am giving away a copy of the new book, Christmas is Not Your Birthday, to one lucky and curious reader. The book’s author, Mike Slaughter, is the lead pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio.

Through his church’s annual Christmas Miracle Offering, over $5 million has been raised for humanitarian relief in Darfur. If you ask me, this guy sounds like a real life Santa Claus. Not one that gives toys to kids, but instead someone who helps keep them from dying.

Just be the first person to A) leave a comment on this post saying you want it and B) send me an email including your mailing address to nickshell1983@hotmail.com

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