Five Ways My Mom is Ordinary

Mothers DayMy mom is really ordinary.

No, seriously. She is!

A middle class lady who grew up in Wisconsin, she eventually married an introvert from Georgia (my dad) and had five kids. We grew up in East Tennessee (one of the lovelier places in the country) living our ordinary lives. Now that I have children of my own, I can clearly assert that my mom is extraordinarily ordinary. Let me give five examples.

5. She Did Not Murder Me in My Sleep

Most mothers don’t murder their children so my mom is very normal to have not murdered me as a teenager. Despite my efforts to be a bull-headed and argumentative child, I never once feared for my life. You may say that failing to kill your eldest son is easy, but I beg to differ. She had many an opportunity to take a look at the arrogant boy in front of her and wonder what terrible mistake she had made in bringing me into the world.

Instead, she loved me. She discussed and talked and pushed and cared through many difficult years. She tolerated my lack of respect and laziness and foolishness patiently. She loved me well.

4. She Sacrificed Working to Stay at Home with Us

Mom chose the life of an ordinary house-wife. Life would have been easier for her had she worked and sent us off to school. The pressure through the 80s and 90s was constantly valuing the working woman and demeaning the homemaker. But mom stood firm in her ordinary-ness. She stayed home with us and ignored the fad of the day that said women must work.

3. She Pursued an Education for Us

My mom homeschooled us. We were one of the earlier families in our area to be homeschooled but certainly not the first. She had that very ordinary notion that her children should be educated and she worked to make that happen. She dealt with the ordinary pressures felt by the homeschooling community of the day such as the heavily over-blown notion that we would be unsocialized. By the time I graduated High School there was a thriving homeschool community in East Tennessee.

I have a particularly fond memory of going to Roane State Community College with my mom to start my first classes. I had no idea how this college thing worked and mom went with me and talked to the staff and basically held my hand through it. I wonder if she hadn’t been there that day how differently my life would be today. But, you know, this is ordinary mom stuff.

2. She Worked Hard for a Strong Marriage with My Dad

Mom and Dad have been married for almost 35 years now. They haven’t had the perfect marriage, but a sweet one. They are very dedicated and sweet with each other. Their marriage isn’t flashy. You won’t see Dad get up on a stage and sing some Sinatra to my mom. It is just a steady, kind relationship. Very ordinary.

Of course, half of marriages don’t make it at all in the first five years, so you could argue that 35 years is an accomplishment. You could even remind me that even those couples that “make it,” some of them don’t like each other. Mom and Dad clearly like each other. But I’ve never known anything different from this so I will confidently assert that their marriage is also quite ordinary.

1. She Showed Us Jesus

We attended church throughout my childhood. This is not an easy thing to do with three young children as I am discovering when I bring my four young children to church. We regularly listened to the music of Steve Green, Michael Card, Keith Green, and Patch the Pirate. The music in our home dripped with mentions of Jesus, grace, forgiveness, and the cross. All of these things were not unusual for a homeschooling family growing up in East Tennessee.

There is a particular song that has stuck with me named Answer the Call by Steve Green. As I look back on this song, it is the journey of my adult life.

I answer the call, I take my stand
I choose to live my days on Earth a faithful man
And to that end, I give my all
And in the strength and grace of God, I answer the call
The call to dedicate our lives to nurture our children and love our wives
A call to guard our heart and eyes, to press toward the goal
To win the prize!

Far from living up to these words, I see my own strange and difficult journey. A journey I may never have started but for reminders like this song.

As I look back at a childhood of a million ordinary things my mom did for us, I still know they are ordinary. There will never be a news broadcast saying that a mother fed her children dinner every day for twenty years, but just because a thing is ordinary does not mean it is not a very hard thing, even a commendable sacrifice.

The fact is that a million ordinary things over many years adds up to an extraordinary sacrifice that will pay off for myself and my siblings The debt that the generations of will owe my mom will grow to become incalculable in the decades and centuries to come.

So today I don’t Thank God for the several extraordinary things my mom did because those things had more impact in the moment, but less in the long run. Far more powerful is the endless tide of ordinary things. The legacy of my mom’s life cannot be adequately described by simply hanging onto the flashiness of the extraordinary but in the real power or a lifetime of hard, steady, and ordinary things.

I love you mom. Thank you for the ordinary things.

-Chip

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To the Mole in My Backyard

moleDear Mole,

I was cleaning my yard yesterday and I noted an unwelcome sight. On the northern side of my yard, beside the fence, there are two mounds of soft brown earth. Clearly you have been working your nefarious deeds in my yard.

Now I understand you selecting me as your target. You clearly have done your research and have been looking for a weak target for your subterranean exploits. You scouted for a homeowner who lacks the skill, wisdom, or desire to stop you. Well you found him. I do lack the strength or desire to drive you from the northeastern corner of my property. You may feel you have won even before you started.

A mole of your obvious skill and foresight should also be aware that while I lack the ability to kill you or starve you out of my yard, that does not mean I am helpless. You must respect what careful planning and a well selected attack can do. Of all creatures, you must respect that.

So consider this letter the first volley in a war that you cannot hope to win. I may not be able to drive you from my yard, but I can make you the most infamous mole in history. My strengths do not lie in a passion for my yard, but in the power of the written word.

Imagine this for a moment. You arrive at one of your mole parties where you eat grubs and discuss the yards you have conquered. As you look around the room, you see many moles turning their backs on you. After they heard that rumor that you had made friends with a cat and may have been using the cat to eliminate your enemies, you may be less popular. Soon mole fathers won’t want you dating their daughters. You will be isolated from every mole in the area.

Sure, you can pretend you are a loner who does not need the company of another mole, but I know you better. Your little rodent heart quakes at the thought of my great rhetorical powers being expended on you. You know that every mole in a yard with wifi will be following this blog, wondering if these creepy rumors about you are true.

Speaking of rumors, I heard that you once turned on a waterhose and flooded the hole of another mole who offended you.

You see how easy it is for me. You see how all I have to do is suggest you did it and you must then spend hours and days telling your version of event. It sounds messy. What if there were a more equitable solutions?

I would be willing to keep all of your indiscretions to myself if you would simply leave my yard alone. That’s it. Just move your furry rodent butt out of my yard and we can go on with our lives. Understandably, you thought my yard was easy pickings. Now that you see the cost, I’m sure you can find someone else’s yard to dig your filthy tunnels in.

Thank you in advance for accepting this offer. I think you are a wise mole to bring your little dirty mounds somewhere else.

Respectfully,

-Chip

Photo by J Marsh and used with permission

Learn to Babysit Your Kids

613px-Father_with_childGuys, I’m talking to you.

Take a look at your wife. She is the lady you chose to spend your life with. Your soul-mate. The love of your life. The apple of your eye. You chose her to be the mother of your children. Your companion through thick and thin.

Now I know she is hard to understand sometimes. She wants to talk a lot about feelings and relationships. She is not quite happy with that thing you “fixed” last weekend. I know it’s functional, but she wanted it to look better than that.

At times, it can be difficult to know how to please her. She seems to want “time with you” and “your attention.” You spend lots of time with her. You can listen while playing Angry Birds, really you can! But she doesn’t see it that way. There is something mysterious about that femininity that pervades her. The movies make it out to be mysterious and seductive. It really is just odd. Why can’t she be more like a guy?

I don’t have all the solutions for you. I too am perplexed by my own wife. She is so pretty, so smart, and yet so very dedicated to the concept of sweeping the kitchen every single night. I don’t get it either.

But one complaint that the ladies have about us is legitimate. There are a lot of well-educated, competent men out there that cannot watch their children alone. How can this be? How can professional, organized men not be able to manage the adorable cooing poop factories they call their children.

To be honest, I really identify with the difficulty men have watching kids. They are complicated. It involves a lot of know-how from how to change a diaper to remembering when bedtime is and knowing how warm the bottle should be. There are actually a lot of skills to know to keep a little human alive.

In addition, there is the pressure. You can feel your mother watching with disapproval as you wash that baby’s bottom off in the bathroom sink. You know there are wipes, but you can’t figure out where they are. You are sure that if your wife, mother, friend, coworker, neighbor, mayor, mailman, evil twin, or dog catcher ever found out about this, you would be humiliated. The myth you believe is that they did it any better the first time.

To top it off, you wife seems to think that house should not be a trash heap when she returns. Seriously, where does she come up with all these expectations. Watching kids AND keeping the house clea…well…not filthy.

But in reality, every struggle you face in caring for you kids at home is one your wife is facing too. Have compassion on that poor woman and learn to take care of your kids by yourself. Ask your wife what you will need and talk with another guy who knows what he is doing with his own kids. Your wife needs you to be able to independently care for your children in such a way that they will not need therapy later.

You can do this dad.

-Chip

P.S. Get one of those removable shower heads for your bath. It makes life a lot easier. You won’t have to use the sink to wash them off anymore.

Photo by Barbara Murdter and is used with Creative Commons Permission.

Food and the Christian Guy: Part 1, My Idol

Raw-Meat-cat-food-natural-diet-1lI really like food. And I should be very precise by what I mean when I say food. Lest you believe that I am merely pursuing anything that is edible near me. By no means am I panting after all foods nearby.

By food, I mean meat.

You see, if a something at one point walked, swam, dug, or flew, it is probably delicious. God has created a world full of creatures that I am told to eat and will deeply delight in doing so.

But there’s a catch. More precisely, there’s an idol. To see more of how I came to this, read this post on my recent hermitage.

It is not that I love food too much. More likely, I don’t delight in it enough. The nature of an idol is not to say that I like something too much but that I love God too little. Food needs to be pulled into a correct place in my life. That is to say, my food choices should be God honoring ones and food should be delighted in as a gift from a loving Father.

There are a couple of reasons I feel food has become an idol. Some of them are a bit embarrassing for me to bring up, but like all idols, they whither a great deal when exposed to the light. So please pray for me and examine your own heart to see if you may be as foolish as I am.

One of the reasons I think food has an unhealthy hold on my life is that I am quite overweight. I weigh about 290 lbs. This doesn’t bug me too much except that I know I could look better for my wife (that really does sadden me) and that I am not setting a healthy example for my kids. I would not want them to gain weight like I have.

To be clear, we are obsessed with weight in our society. There are high metabolism gluttons and gym membership gluttons out there that are not fat. They go to the gym and work out so that can eat what they want but the sacrifice they make in time is paid for by their families. We worship at the altar of the fit body and not at the feet of a gracious God. Would I like a fit body? Absolutely! But why should I want a fit body.

  1. In our culture, being fit commands some respect and that can be used to spread the gospel.
  2. In the same way, a fat body can be a barrier to telling others about Jesus.
  3. I want my wife to be as delighted by my body as possible.
  4. A fit body has more energy to do good with (like wrestling on the floor with my kids).
  5. A fit body will likely come with a sharper mind that I need for my work and for better understanding God, my family, and my world.

Do I want a fit body for all of the reasons above? Probably not. But it would be tragic to successfully lose weight and feel better and have simply traded an idol of food for an idol of looking good. There is an epidemic of people who are fit because they idolize the praise of others. I don’t want to be that guy.

Back to the reasons I think I have a food idol. There are times that I am heading to bed and I am planning my meals for the next day. If you know me, I don’t plan much of anything. So if I am planning something, it is because I really like it. In my case, I think I am obsessed with it.

Often, I feel a sense of guilt while I eat and after I eat. This is not what God intended. Why is my conscience itching when I am eating? Probably because it knows that food is not holding its proper place in my life.

Finally, a strange thing I do. My wife doesn’t like to get gas in the cars. It’s one of her strange nuances (I think its actually cute). When I would go to the gas station, I would get gas and pay inside. When I paid, I would add two hot dogs and a soft drink. This way, I was getting the chili dogs and secretly using the gas budget to buy the chili dogs.

Now there is nothing wrong with buying hot dogs or even doing it as a treat when I get gas. So why would I secretly do this? Why would I hide that I was doing it? It’s not like I couldn’t use my spending money to buy a hot dog. It’s not a big deal.

But it is a big deal. It points to an evil living in my heart that wants to use the gas money to get more food so I can use my mad money on even more food. As I type this, I feel ashamed. How stupid does this sound?

Pretty stupid. But that’s because idols are stupid.

I have a problem. I want to address it. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Pray for me.

-Chip

Entitled to Nothing, Given Everything

man-prayingOn October 5, 2007 at 2 AM, I was afraid. Sitting in a car in Fridley, MN I prayed.

“Lord, don’t take my son. Please, don’t take my son.”

My wife was 28 weeks pregnant. We were in a strange city on a very stormy night. My wife is in labor and my son is in serious danger. 28 weeks is way too early. I didn’t know the exact risks, but I knew they were serious.

Sitting in the car and soaked with the pouring rain, I looked toward the upper floors of Unity Hospital. My wife was there and I was sure she was scared. What can I do to support her? If I were in some movie I would promise that everything would be just fine. But she and I both know that I have no power to keep that promise.

I got out of the car and ran through the rain. Hurrying back to the floor, we met with the obstetrician who was working that night. he explained that the baby was coming and that he was quite premature.

“Tell me the worst case scenario” I said.

“Well, the blood vessels in his brain are fragile and when he is delivered, if any of them were to burst, he could have serious brain damage.”

Oddly, it was good to know what the worst was.

Unity Hospital was not equipped to deal with a child that premature so they asked for Children’s Hospital to send an ambulance so that the baby could be sent to Children’s right away. Unfortunately, the ambulance was busy on another call. The staff slowed Sam’s labor in the hopes of putting off the delivery until they arrived.

It was over two hours before they arrived and Sam was allowed to labor. shortly thereafter, at 4:57 AM, my son was born. He let out a loud cry which to this day brings tears. He was gently put into what I call the Baby Baker (an incubator on a stretcher) and was whisked away to Children’s hospital.

We named him Chase after me. He was Charles Gruver IV.

I tell this story to ask a question: Does God owe me Chase?

We heard lines like “God wouldn’t let him die” and “just believe that he will be fine.” These were meant to be comforting, but they weren’t. We knew that throughout the Bible God not only allowed terrible things to happen, sometimes he commanded them. God could have stopped Herod from killing every child under two in Bethlehem, but he didn’t.

The fact is, terrible things happen to believers and to their children. God does not spare his children from suffering, even awful suffering. I recently was reading on the Holocaust and there is a picture of a Hungarian Jewish mother walking with her two young sons on their way to the gas chamber. Was God wronging them? He could have saved them from the gas chamber.

As heartwrenching as it is, the answer is that we are God’s and he can do with us as he pleases. That night, I knew that God could take my son and he would not be wrong to do so. Chase was not mine. He was God’s and I was begging for the privilege of caring for him.

Despite the months of fear, this story has a happy ending. Chase is alive and well today. God did grant my request and he spared my son. The happier ending is that Chase and I are believers, we will live with Jesus forever. One day he will not be simply my son, but a brother who will turn one million the same year I turn one million twenty-four.

As frightening as it is to know that God could take Chase at any time, it is also freeing. God is not random chance. If he takes Chase from me, he has a purpose. Far from being meaningless, God’s actions are deeply meaningful. That is full of meaning!

The heartbreak we feel should be felt. The pain in this world is because of sin but it is also in the hands of a Father who loves us. We are allowed to grieve, but we “may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” If God had taken Chase, it is in the end for my joy.

So brothers and sisters, do not hang onto your things, children, spouses, jobs, and friends as if God would wrong you if he took it away. That is a recipe for losing your faith when he does take it away. Instead give him everything. Know that it is his to start with and be thankful that he has let you enjoy them.

The strange part is that when I give them up, I am more thankful for them. Tonight is not just any night, it is one of the finite number of evenings I get to spend with my wife in this world. Maybe it is even the last one. How grateful I am for each one!

-Chip

With Dad, in the Kitchen

My son recently came up to me while I was in the kitchen.

“I want to help” he said, looking up at me. 

i considered that being that he is three, It is doubt any of the actual cooking is a good idea for him. 

“Could you put the bowls on the table for breakfast?” I asked. 

He ran over to the drawer where the bowls are. He grabbed a pile of them and walked to the table. Carefully and thoughtfully selecting the bowl that is the right color for the right person. He knew who would want a pink one and who would want a yellow one. He eventually finished getting all the bowls where he wanted them. 

He walked back to me, “I got the bowls!:” he said with an excited look on his face. 

“I don’t see one for me. Could you pick one out for me?” I asked. 

He then hurried to the bowl drawer again and selected the perfect bowl for me. Imagine a pink paint store exploded, this is the bowl he selected for me. It is most certainly the wrong bowl for me. 

He returns and looks up at me, delighted to be helping. “I got you a bowl dada!”

“Thank you. You are a big helper.” He then ran off to play while I finished breakfast. 

When i started this blog, I didn’t expect to learn how much I wanted attention. There is this thirst in my soul to be admired and thought wise. It was revealing in my heart when I would watch the blog so carefully for when the viewership is up an down. i am happy when it was up. I was disappointed when it was down.

Which led me to a question. Whose blog is it? When I introduce it, I always say it is my blog. But maybe it is my blog only in the sense that my son was distributing his bowls. He is not overly concerned with ownership of the bowls. He is concerned with my approval and sharing in the experience of making breakfast with me.

My son has a lot to teach me. This is God’s blog. The joy I should feel is the joy of working together with my dada in what he is doing. The numbers of visitors and the impact that the blog has on them, that is too big a thing for me. If God sent one visitor and that one visitor wasn’t even helped, it should be OK with me. Why? Because I am not in the kitchen to really make breakfast. That is dada’s job. I am in the kitchen to enjoy some time working with my dada and “helping” him make whatever he wants to make.

There is real joy in that. My son does want a breakfast out of it as much as I really want to help those struggling with porn. But it is dada’s job to make sure the work is effective. How cool is it that I get to help in the kitchen? He might even let me pick his bowl.

-Chip

Count Vicegrim’s Letters: Chapter 1 Transferred

The Count Vicegrim LettersThe Demon Mudpot’s Annual Review regarding the Temptation of the Patient in His 15th Year

Mudpot,

I would like to congratulate you on your transfer to my department and coming under my superior leadership. Few are privileged to be shown the path of darkness by one as accomplished as I am. You must feel so honored.

A little about me. I have a long and stunning history of outstanding tempting accomplishments. With this letter, I am including a copy of my autobiography, To Hell and Back Again: A Tempter’s Story. I expect you to read it immediately and follow my fine example. In my story you will find a recurring theme that I would like to remind you of. Keep the vermin away from the Enemy’s son. Do not allow them to talk about, consider, or even think of the son. Sometimes such conversation can be managed. More often, it ends in disaster!

Before moving on, I would like to review why you were transferred to me. It was rather sudden, though looking at the severity of the risk, this transfer wasn’t a moment too soon. It seems that your patient, a sixteen year old vermin male, has been labelled as High Risk by the Enemy Reconnaissance Unit.

Normally, when a new High Risk is found, the previous tempter is taken off the case and a more experienced tempter is found. Unfortunately, all of the best demons are tied up with other cases right now, so we will have to make do with you. Don’t be alarmed, I will walk you through this and I promise that no matter how this goes, I will be fine.

One asset you do bring is that you have been with the patient since birth. You know his history well. I would like you to prepare a thorough report of his history and send that to me at your convenience (by that, I mean I expect it on my desk tomorrow). We cannot let another High Risk loose on the world. Ever since the Ravi Zacharias disaster, the lowerarchy has been very keen on High Risks being managed.

Don’t be too alarmed that the ERU has listed your patient as high risk. Keep in mind that they only identified two of thirteen Apostles and failed to identify Martin Luther, John Newton (who was listed as extremely quite very low risk), Charles Spurgeon, and Billy Graham. Of course they will make excuses about how difficult the prediction process is and how wily the Enemy is. Those scouts (don’t tell them I called them that) couldn’t tell a kitten from a lion.

To be clear, you should be concerned. Your patient has one of the highest risk scores I have ever seen. The scouts sure think that he is a problem that needs to be dealt with. You may not know that there are certain incentives to being the tempter for a High Risk patient. If you succeed, you will be handsomely rewarded. Should you fail, well, I’m sure you can imagine the unpleasant consequences of that. So let’s get down to business.

I read over your annual report and I would rate your tempting as marginal.

What You Did that Was At Least Average

You have done a passable job of getting your patient away from some of the riskiest influences. Getting him heavily involved in sports was helpful as well. I have good intelligence from his coach’s tempter. He does a quite a job of both getting performance and dehumanizing all at the same time. Nothing cements a good vice like winning a football game with it (why do those vermin like football so much!).

It was very nearly thoughtful of you to arrange for your patient to mix with a crowd that vocally dislike church. It is so important to present church services as boring and useless. The only thing better than a vermin outside a church is a vermin who is in a church and hates it. I could sense your satisfaction as he sat not listening several Sundays in a row. This is risky and requires subtlety, but more on that later.

While it was tardy of you to not introduce pornography to him until this year, it is good that you have gotten it in. I don’t want to hear your excuses about the patient’s mother. It is your job to get those images into this home. As it is, you say he is being left home alone more often. Make sure this keeps happening. These are key to shape his sexuality (vermin sexuality makes me want to vomit!). Be careful that he is not found out. It could be disastrous if his parents knew.

Now for a few things that did not go so well.

Your Screwups!

Why did it take so long for you to get this vermin grub exposed to pornography?! We need to take the initiative on this and be the ones teaching about sexuality not waiting for him to hear something in church!!! As it is, he may have ingested some of the Enemy’s teaching. You have blown a very important opportunity by waiting this long.

But with that failure, don’t be too aggressive to make up for it. You must slowly and gently teach him how to look and enjoy this while not getting caught. It is key that he becomes good at deception. You don’t want so much exposure that his conscience overcomes his desire for those images (the human form is so disgusting, I’m glad you have to look at it and not me!). As it is, this can be the seeds of a double-life which I’m sure you can see can be endlessly enjoyable…for us!

Your report indicated that you are trying to get the boy to quit church. DO NOT TRY TO GET THAT BOY OUT OF CHURCH!!! It may seem counterintuative but it is key that you do not alert his family or local church leaders that he is drifting from them. They need to believe that everything he is experiencing is “normal” and that “things are OK.” If they ever suspected that he holds church in the contempt that he does, then they might act to help him. He must stay in church and be bored of it. Church needs to be irrelevant. It is your responsibility to make it that way.

You suggested encouraging a sexual relationship with a new love interest. Because he is in a more conservative family, deal carefully with having sex with another vermin. It can both serve us and work against us. It might alert his family of how far he is drifting if they discover it. It also could deeply root the double life we want in him. Be cautious and look for a good opportunity. Your report didn’t clarify if the parents are cautious with his dating. Clarify it NOW!

Do This or Else!

I am sending a copy of the book Tempting the Modern Human with Sexuality (5th Edition) by the Lord Screwtape. I expect you to read it cover to cover and to follow the plan inside to the letter. Lord Screwtape is a moron, but he can write a good book. For a young vermin like your patient, a quiet sexual perversion is often the way to neutralize him. Read that book and write me immediately upon completion.

Work closely with the demons of his parents and church leaders to make sure they do not see how far he is drifting. Set a strong sense of what is the patient’s private business with the whole family. Work with your patient so that he has practiced that excuse for his behavior so that he can use it at need. “Give me some privacy.” “Stop invading my space.” “I can handle this.” “Why can’t you just trust me with this?” All of these lines are good ones to through adults off his trail. Make sure he is ready for their rude questions.

Remember that none of this matters if you don’t keep away the Enemy’s Son. Remember the maxim, Anything that is not for the Enemy is for usThe more powerful the pleasure they love without the Enemy in mind, the better they will squirm under our thumbs. It is key that the Enemy’s stated feelings for them are never made clear. It is OK for them to say, “Jesus loves me” as long as they don’t really believe it. It is your job to keep your patient from believing.

You are a failure waiting to happen, but maybe I can make something of you.

Count Vicegrim

Image created by Cavin and used with permission