Thoughts on Kobe

Like so many other people all across the world, I was stunned when I learned about the horrible crash of the helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven other lives. Nine total lives were lost in the wreck and the ripples of this tragedy began to make their way literally throughout the whole world.

My own daughter texted a group of us to ask if we had heard. Sunday afternoon, relaxing after church & lunch, I began to search for news. Is it true? Can this be a real story? Hopefully this is just a bad case of misinformation. However, it didn’t take long to find that it was in fact true. Over the next hour, I watched news and details come in and my heart continued to sink.

The days that followed were difficult as close friends of Kobe began to share their reactions and memories of their time with Kobe. So many emotions shared by so many people who had been touched by his life in one way or another. There were many times when my eyes filled with tears as I watched and heard the pain others were experiencing.

The hardest emotional hit for me (a person obviously not friends with Kobe) was hearing his daughter was on the plane with him. I am a dad. I have a daughter. Seeing all the pics and videos of Kobe with his daughter just ripped at my heart. Knowing that his wife and three other daughters would be grieving and hurting so deeply was tough to think about.

So many athletes and people from the NBA, other sports as well, celebrities, public figures and random people who had interacted with Kobe in some way were sharing their thoughts and feelings. There was no shortage of proof that Kobe’s life had greatly impacted the lives of many people. Emotions were raw, heavy and real.

A beautiful part of it all was seeing just how many people bonded over their mutual respect and admiration of Kobe. His basketball prowess was one part, but the way he lived the rest of his life was celebrated to an even greater extent. Being a father and specifically a #girldad seemed to be one of Kobe’s most fulfilling roles.

Again, being a sports fan, a father and a #girldad had me often very emotional as I watched this all unfold. I truly felt for all those who were grieving and hurting so badly and I also felt some enjoyment seeing how much everyone seemingly cared about Kobe and his family.

However, being a person of faith, I couldn’t help wonder just how many people who were experiencing so much emotion over this loss of life actually had a grasp on what life after death means for us.

The truth is, all nine of those souls left this mortal world in an instant and found themselves in eternity. You might not believe in any kind of life after death, and I get that. Every person is free to believe what they will. But, I whole-heartedly believe in the Bible and the truths it contains. I believe that every human being will leave this earthly plane as their body ceases to live and either find an eternal reward or eternal suffering. I believe in a literal Heaven and hell as taught in the Bible.

The truth of the Gospel of Jesus is that he is the only way to heaven. He paid the debt for our sinfulness and secured for us an eternity in heaven with God. Our path, the only path, to an eternity in heaven is to believe in and accept Jesus Christ as Savior.

“there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”  Acts 4:12

No matter how good a person is in his or her life, and no matter how well they are liked or loved, the bottom line concerning life after death is whether or not their faith has been put in Jesus. Salvation through Jesus Christ is based solely on the grace of God, not on anything we can accomplish ourselves.

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”  Romans 5:8

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”  Ephesians 2:8-9

My prayer has been that Kobe, his daughter and the others left this physical world knowing Jesus as their Savior.

My other prayer is that this closeness many shared in grieving this tragedy will be used by God to bring many to a saving knowledge of Jesus.

Times like these are great opportunities for God to work in the hearts of people. When we stare death in the face, we are reminded just how fragile life truly is, we are primed to consider our own mortality. May you consider your own life and what would be your final resting place if you entered eternity in the blink of an eye.

No is not a bad word

 

Here’s a quick thought about the state of parenting in America today.

Maybe it was a specific time and place, or a particular worldwide event that sparked the change, but something has clearly shifted in the way parents raise and train their children. At times it almost seems that the keys to the kingdom have been flat handed over. Mom and Dad just hope and pray that their little heathen spawn do not take over totally and destroy everything.

Overstated? Maybe. But similar scenes play themselves out over and over in our society today. A scene in which mom or dad want the child to do something, but can not acquire even a modicum of compliance. The kid glares at the parent with a look of, “Did you just tell me to do something” or “You talkin to me?” Then the child continues to do exactly the opposite, and there are zero consequences…unless you count the pain and suffering the rest of us have to endure as consequences. It’s nearly impossible to make even a short trip to a store without witnessing parents at the end of their ropes, and kids screaming and yelling as they’re carried or dragged down the aisles.

While each child is unique, as well as every parent, there does appear to be a common thread that connects these awkward and chaotic parent-child battle scenes. The word “NO” has become a bad word for parents. Obedience and compliance to the wishes of the parents (who are supposed to be the ones with the wisdom) is nowhere to be seen. In fact, there are very few commands given at all in the new parent-child relationship. It’s as if parenting has become a daily exercise in bargaining. Parents ask questions of their little darlings, like asking permission to have them do or stop doing something, and then just hope the child will agree.

Ludicrous is the word that best describes this parenting practice for me. Even at times when the child’s safety is at stake, this same practice is prevalent. Seriously? A child stands up in his high chair at the restaurant, his head a good 4-5 feet above the concrete floor, and there is still this idea of, “Please sit down, Sweetie.” “Let’s not stand up, Bubba.” Parents need a grasp of what it means to parent with a loving, firm hand of leadership. Protecting your young children is at stake. Children need to have a very clear sense of who is in control, who is their authority, and who is there to help and protect them.

When they are doing something that they shouldn’t, you need to tell them, “No”, and they need to know without any doubt that you mean it. The same goes for when you tell them to stop or start doing something. Young children need to be taught how to obey right away. They’re young lives are shaped and molded by how they follow leadership from their parents. They are learning that life is not all about them. In fact, it’s mostly not about them, and they need to know that.

As they age, and learn to do things on their own, the percentage of their lives that belong to them grows. However, in years 0-4 or so, their young lives have little of that ownership. They live lives of “do this/don’t do that”, and these formidable years are crucial to them being able to understand life.

So, parents, teach your children the word “no”. Teach them that it is a good thing for them. Help them know that part of living life is understanding that we will have to hear “no” from time to time. Show them that the word “no” can be used with both kindness and firmness…that it is an important part of life. The younger they get a handle on this truth, the easier it will be for them as they grow and mature. And, the easier life will be for you during the early years of childhood.

One other quick note: mean what you say and say only what you mean. Take this principle from the Bible in Matthew 5:37. Let your “no” mean “no”, and your “yes” mean “yes”. Be an example of consistency and integrity as you lead your children. If you continually allow them to disobey as you repeat, “Stop that!” and “I told you…”, you are fostering in them a very real sense of confusion. Young children will ever push and search for the real boundaries that make them feel safe.

These words are shared in hopes of helping you in your journey of parenting. My hope is that you enjoy your children as you raise and train them to be God-honoring adults one day.

My Mom is Perfect…for me

 

Mom & Dad dressed upIt pains me to have to admit, although I think many of us might have experienced the exact same emotions and thoughts, but I wasn’t the easiest boy to raise. To say that I came by my childhood nickname honestly would be a gross understatement. My grandfather gave me the clever moniker of “iron head”, and somewhere inside my 3 or 4 year old brain, I think I began to do everything within my power to live up to it, and wear it like a badge of honor. Truth be told, I might have started that process straight out of the womb. As to whether or not I ever stopped, you’ll have to ask my mother.

So, Mom, Dad, & Methe childbirth pains that accompanied my arrival were most likely outdone by the pain that came from trying to raise a little iron head. For that, I am sorry, and I have told my sweet mother that on numerous occasions in my adult years. While some might think this a bit tongue-in-cheeky, it isn’t at all. I really am sorry, and occasionally l feel some real pain and sadness that comes from the realization that I simply did not grasp the beauty of my mother while I was a child.

That’s where I think many of us might find some common ground. That area of realization that we truly didn’t have the foggiest of ideas what exactly it took for our mothers to mother us. If you were like me, you ran through your childhood thinking life was mostly (if not all) about you. You expected your mom to be there for you no matter how she felt, or no matter what was going on in her own life. Her life, in essence, was to be what you needed, when you needed it, and for however long you needed. Doesn’t that seem like such a thankless, unglamorous, tedious job? Yet, she did it day in and day out…all because my mom loves me. I know I will never be able to repay all that my mother did for me, but I hope to love and honor her well the rest of my days. She is definitely worth it, and believe me, she earned it. Not only was I a mess, but my little sister came along when I was three and added to the fun.

Doing life with my own lovely wife, and being right by her side through all the details of kyleeandmichael2004raisiKym2ng our own children has helped me gain a greater understanding and deep appreciation of motherhood. Honestly, I do not know how moms do it! It is totally beyond me! God’s plan for raising children clearly is genius. The sweet bond that is clear to see between mom and baby could only happen because God put something special in the heart of mothers. Funny thing is, that bond only grows stronger and stronger over time. Ask a loving mother about her kids today, no matter the age of her children, she will brighten up and talk about her kiddos like they are the greatest. There will be a sparkle in her eye and a smile on her face as she discusses how her awesome her children are.

Early 70's Harper Family

It doesn’t escape me that some families have much different stories. Not everyone has a great relationship with their mom, and tons of fond childhood memories. If we’re all being honest, I can dig back and remember some of the things that weren’t the greatest as I was testing my mom’s patience and sanity. With that being the reality, let me leave you with some encouragement.

Learn from the past, live in the present, and look to the future. Choose to dwell on the good things you can remember, and do everything you can to make a better future. My relationship with my mother is better today than ever. God has a way of healing the hurts of the past, and giving all necessary grace for the now. No matter the pains of your past, and no matter how close you are to that past, God can do a work in your heart. Forgive the past, rest in the goodness of God, and treat your mom the way you hope your children will treat you as you age. The truth is, God gave you the mother you had for a purpose. Your mom was the perfect mom for you, for what he wanted you to learn. Let God continue to do the work in you that he began through your mom.

As children, we have one simple command that God puts on our lives, regarding our parents.

“Honor your father and mother”

This command is recorded in four different books of the Bible. God’s plan for children is to honor mom for as long as you have breath. There is no time in your life that you are allowed to stop honoring your mom. She is to be loved, cherished, treasured, and honored all the days of your life.

Remember this: Motherhood is a tough gig. It takes a fortitude that I’m quite sure I do not possess. Take time out to let your mom know how special she is in your life. Take the time to show her, the time to love her well. If your mom has gone on before you, live in the way she modeled for you. Honor her with your life.

For my mom: put me on the schedule. Lunch is on me whenever you want.

Sweet 16 for my BGP!

She entered this world and grabbed ahold of my heart with both hands. To this date, 16 years later, she hasn’t let go…not even for a minute.

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From the moment I laid my eyes on this beautiful girl, I was clearly, eternally wrapped around her finger. She entered this world and grabbed ahold of my heart with both hands. To this date, 16 years later, she hasn’t let go…not even for a minute. Being the father of a daughter was not something I was prepared for. Honestly, I have a few problems with some of you in my life that didn’t even give me the smallest of a heads up. But, seriously, I’m not sure anything would have prepared me for the realities of having a little, precious girl look up to me the way a daughter does.

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There is this overwhelming and intense pressure that I think never really subsides. The pressure from the responsibility to protect this gift of a girl that God has brought into my life. I now understand that God has used that pressure to help grow, stretch, and change me for His, mine, and her good. Frankly speaking, I couldn’t handle being a dad to a daughter (or a son for that matter) without God’s gracious hand guiding me.

And…that he did. This relationship between me and my sweet daughter is something very special and deeply rooted at the center of my big man heart. I’ve truly never melted so quickly as when I see a hurt or sadness in my daughter’s eyes. Those times when she has been pushed to her ends, and isn’t sure how to interpret or respond to this life…those are the times God has used to strengthen our bond, and severely deepen my understanding of his love for me.

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My daughter has always been a source of fun, excitement, and positive influence to all who know her. She has a sincere desire to work hard and do her best in most everything she tries. That hard-working discipline has actually rubbed off on the rest of the family here and there along the way. We each get real inspiration from her; even if we all don’t readily admit it. She also loves others just about as hard as she works on projects, and always seems to have room in her heart for another. Her smile is infectious, her laugh contagious, and her personality simply charming.

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It has been such a treat to watch as that little, dark-haired bundle of joy has turned into the very beautiful lady I see before my eyes today. I’m so glad that she still enjoys hanging out with me…in public…where other people see us. She is my favorite 16 year old in the whole world, and I hope and pray that her next 16 years are even greater than the first.

To any guys out there with ideas: I take that God-given responsibility to protect her and help guard her heart incredibly serious. I know God might have a good one of you out there for her one day, but just remember that until that time, I am the man in her life. If you want to get to her, and try to win her heart, you have to get through me. 😉

She will always and forever be my Baby Girl Princess.