Saturday, May 4th, 2013
2 years, 5 months.
Today Mommy and I asked you what you want to be when you go up.
After 5 sincere seconds of contemplation, you came to a decision:
Mommy recommended you’d probably be happier if you were a king instead.
But then you changed your mind, anyway.
Your new hopeful profession? Butterfly.
Then, a horse.
(It was as bizarre as last Saturday morning when I watched you play at the indoor playground; wearing a dinosaur costume, pushing a baby stroller with two plastic building toys on the front, to make it look like a bulldozer.
I thought it was also an interesting choice that the baby doll in the stroller was face-down the whole time.)
Also, the unrehearsed answers you gave us today for your speculated career choice actually reminded me of one of my favorite songs in the world, “One Of These Things First” by Nick Drake:
“I could have been a signpost, could have been a clock. As simple as a kettle, steady as a rock. I could be here and now. I would be, I should be. But how? I could have been one of these things first.”
Your final answer at the end of the day was “monster truck,” by which I think you mean, “monster truck builder/driver,” like Frank the Monster Maker on All About Monster Trucks on Netflix.
Based on the way you were totally into watching a “how to build a monster truck” video on YouTube with me this morning, I’d say that sounds about right… that is, if you carry out your love for monster trucks for the next two decades.
I hope you have better direction than I did going in to college, not positively knowing what I wanted to do (and be) for a living.
Somewhat randomly, I ended up graduating from Liberty University with a degree in English, only to enter the work force in sales and recruiting; eventually to transition into now more of a customer service and human resources position.
It’s not something I could have planned, but it’s how I help make a living for our family.
Maybe life will make more sense to you at a sooner age. Maybe I can help with that… with all my clever wisdom and whatnot.
But if you want to build and drive monster trucks for a living, I think that could be pretty cool.
Or you could be a horse. Being a horse would be pretty awesome, I think.
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Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
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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Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
What does your “art” tell about what you value?
While earning my English degree at Liberty University, I was taught in my “World History of Art” class that artists honor what they value through the subject matter of their work: If a caveman etched an outline of himself clubbing a stegosaurus to death, it meant that he prided himself in his abilities to provide dinner for his village.
This “art equals value” concept can apply to many different areas in our lives; even without it officially being art. One of the most obvious examples is my desk at work. I keep things pretty tidy; not a whole lot of decoration. But the little bit of flare I do have points to the same central theme: my wife and son.
My computer’s screen saver is a picture of my wife holding Jack, as is the background on my cell phone. My coffee mug is one that my wife customized for me on Shutterfly, featuring Jack. Sitting on my desk is a small framed family portrait. Hanging on my “food shelf” is a paper-clipped wallet size of Jack when he was just a week old. On my other shelf is a framed “Happy 30th Birthday, Daddy!” certificate made with Jack’s inked hands.
So in essence, everyday is “Take Your Kid to Work Day.” No matter which direction I am looking while at my desk, I see my son. And of course my wife as well. Because obviously, they are what I value the most; always on my mind and in my heart.
The three of us are sort of like our own trinity; all separate entities yet paradoxically one in the same. I will always be a part of my son and he will always be a part of me; you can’t get the son without getting the father and you can’t get the father without getting the son.
The same goes with my wife; neither Jack nor I are complete without her. We are one intertwined family unit.
Even when I am physically away from Jack and Jill during the day, it doesn’t change the closeness we share. And I guard that closeness with all my time, all my heart, all my soul, all my strength, and all my mind.
So that neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, not even Facebook nor cell phones ringing during dinner time, may separate us from the love we share. Our family bond goes beyond a marriage covenant and shared bloodline. It’s literally out of this world.
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Thursday, December 30th, 2010
During my first summer teaching English in Thailand, I took a week-long vacation to the magical island of Koh Samui, as referenced in the movie Meet the Parents (“Jack speak-a Thai?”). While there, I went to a highly promoted (via hand-painted street banners) Muay Thai boxing tournament. Inside the dimly lit warehouse-style building on the outskirts of legitimate commerce, I felt like I was part of the movie Bloodsport staring Jean Claude Van Damme. Afterwards, as a souvenir, I cut down one of the street banners advertising the event and hung it up in my college dorm at Liberty University the next Fall. Everyone who saw it laughed at the poor English translation: “Super and Real Fight”. I mean, it was a real fight, and I would say it was super as well, but for the fight to be super and real in the same adjective phrase just sounds funny. And that is why I couldn’t title this entry as “Jack’s First and White Christmas”.
In preparing our move from Nashville, TN to Fort Payne, AL (which is located between Birmingham, Chattanooga, and Atlanta), my wife (who is from Sacramento, CA) had asked me if it ever snowed in Alabama. Though the words “snow” and “Alabama” seem like they don’t go together at all, though do. Just like a lot of people don’t realize that Alabama actually borders the Gulf of Mexico and has several beaches, like Gulf Shores. I told my wife to expect it to snow a few inches, up to three times a year. And sure enough, as we woke up around 6 AM Christmas morning to feed and change Jack, we looked out the window to see large snowflakes falling steadily.
A couple of hours later, we drove 0.7 miles to my parents’ house to spend the day with them and my sister and her husband. Turns out, the snow didn’t stop falling and the temperature remained low. So the seven of us ending up staying the weekend together, being that the roads were iced over. One of the gifts my parents bought for Jack was a really cool wagon; ideally for when he gets older. However, when we started getting ready for bed on Christmas night and we were deciding where Jack should sleep, since we hadn’t packed his travel crib, I said, “Well, what about his wagon?” Not many people can say that their first Christmas was a white Christmas and that on top of that, that they slept in a wagon. But I guess it’s not all that strange, being that we were celebrating a holiday where a baby boy slept in a manger. We didn’t have a manger for Jack, but we did have a wagon.
Jack is swinging Christmas morning before we left for my parents' house.
We got snowed in.
Jack's presents from his parents.
Jack's presents from the family.
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The Four Generations of Shells: Baby Jack is the only Shell boy to carry on the family name.
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