Bob and Weave

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What Children Teach Us, Part II: Celebrate!

Posted by flyingbk on 11/23/2016

It had been a while. But when I was at my friends’ place on Sunday night, I highly anticipated it as my friend and I got beers and clinked our bottles together. We said “cheers,” which promptly sparked what I was hoping for. When I sit for food and/or drink at their place, their precious 2-year-old daughter will join us and shout, “Cheers!” as she extends out her drink (usually milk). She’s obviously observed us during our frequent imbibing of alcohol, and now follows suit, cheer-fully.

I smile every time I hear her exclamation in my head. We say “cheers” and unite our bottles and glasses as a ritual, stating that we’re glad to be enjoying something tasty (and perhaps tranquilizing) as one. But truthfully, every moment of life is meant to be celebrated, and celebrated together.

Let’s look at Philippians 4:4-5, both in the NIV and MSG translations:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (NIV)

4-5 Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute! (MSG)

Many of us know this passage in the NIV. But one reason I love The Message is that it functions as an elucidating translation. Often times in the past, I’ve read one translation and wondered what it really meant. And then I’d read the MSG, and find what I was searching for. And it would be accurate; Eugene Peterson really did a great job with it.

What I realized while reading the MSG translation of the verses above: Our rejoicing, our celebrating, our constant reveling in God and in life, makes us contagious. When there is a pure and ever-flowing wellspring of joy coming out of us, people take note. There is a clear connection between the rejoicing in the Lord of verse 4, and the gentleness that is evident to all in verse 5. Rejoicers and celebrators make for great witnesses of the truth of Jesus, who for the JOY set before him (read: you and me, his people), endured the pain and suffering of the cross. Taking time out to consistently celebrate softens others’ hearts and gives them a glimpse of the glory of God.

That’s one reason why we enjoy being around little ones: They remind us of the innocence and happiness of youth. They remind us that there is much every single hour and every single day to be enjoyed and celebrated. A few tips to celebrate well:

Be on the Lookout

I have a friend who finished a big project recently and would now have to wait for about 45 days on the results. When she finished, I texted her, “Let’s celebrate.” Her reply: “I’ll celebrate after the results.” And I’ve told her, that’s the wrong way of thinking! We need to take time each hour, each day, celebrating, savoring, enjoying any accomplishment, any moment of beauty.

I’ve always looking for any excuse to rejoice. When I finish a book. When I finish a chapter. When a student demonstrates that he or she actually learned something from me. When a student simply behaves. When the work day goes well. When the work day is simply over. When I see a bright blue sky. When I feel soft rain. When I enjoy good time with friend(s). When I get home safely from said time. When my sports team wins. When I don’t cut myself while shaving. When I sleep really well. When I listen to good music. You get the picture.

Find People

We are meant to celebrate together. It’s common knowledge among my friends that I love to celebrate my birthday (Countdown: 20 days!). It’s my birthday month, and I milk it as much as possible. I want to celebrate with each and every one of my family and friends, and I’d like to think I use my birthday as an excuse to catch up with all of them. Furthermore, I’m also celebrating each of them and what they all mean to me in my years of existence.

It ought to be that way as much as possible. I went walking around Storm King on Saturday, and I would’ve enjoyed the breathtaking views and perfect crisp autumn weather on my own. But enjoying them with friends made it even better. We’ll all be gathering for Thanksgiving meals tomorrow, and inhaling all the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, lasagna (a Koo Thanksgiving tradition), and apple pie tastes a lot better with family.

So, don’t celebrate alone. Find someone to rejoice with, to savor together, and to be jointly thankful.

Give God the Glory

Each celebration is actually a means to an end. We must remember that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17, NIV). God is the one that affords us each moment of rejoicing, and we best recognize the source.

We have come to the principal benefit of celebration: Each time we do so, it brings us closer to God. It provides a better lens with which to see what God is doing in our lives. It turns our gaze heavenward, when we’ve been keeping our heads down for far too long. The City of God becomes more of the reality that it actually is.

Life’s too short not to be savored and enjoyed and celebrated. And looking to do it, and then doing it, keeps us sane and keeps us level. It’s also a tremendous disinfectant against jadedness and disillusionment. So with Thanksgiving tomorrow and the homestretch of 2016 in front of us, let’s seek to celebrate, enjoy, and savor as much as possible.

*****

Here’s the intro and Part I of this “What Children Teach Us” series.

No weekend links this week, but here are a few good reads regarding Thanksgiving:

-Tim Challies on the link between thanksgiving and joy.

-Yes, we are broken, but we can be thankful still.

-Now’s a good time to evaluate our generosity: Does it come with expectations?

-If you’re struggling with ingratitude, read this.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone! Thankful for all of your support!

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What Children Teach Us, Part I: Carefree

Posted by flyingbk on 11/02/2016

A few months ago, I visited Brooklyn at the abode of a couple with whom I’m very close. They have a 3-year-old daughter who is an absolute joy to be around, and I’m not just saying that because she once scurried the full width of a 20-person dinner table just to give me a hug. (She even once told her mom “I love Uncle Bob,” punctuated with a happy sigh. No, seriously. I’m not making that up.) We finished our scrumptious pizza dinner, and were just lounging around in the living room. The little girl entertained herself by watching one of those Youtube shows in which these girls play with Barbie dolls. Here’s the video on that particular night:

After the video was over, the time drew nigh for her to go to sleep. However, she had one last surprise in store for us. Seemingly out of nowhere, she starts jumping up and down. That part is hardly surprising, but she then follows it up by looking at each of us and repeatedly imploring: “Everybody DANCE!!! C’mon!!!” She continued to lurch all over the place and make her demands even as we simply laughed and spectated. This joyous episode took place for about 10 minutes.

The first lesson I have learned from children (intro here) is the value of being carefree. One main shackle that holds us all back is the fear of man: Worrying and caring way too much about what others think of us. Therefore, we’ve all become much more civilized and dignified, and we’ve honed our words, mannerisms, even the way we smile and laugh. Our image is paramount, and we prevent ourselves from ‘letting go,’ lest others look or think of us as weird or different.

Certainly, there are times that call for professionalism. But I pity those of us who feel a need to hold back when we’re amongst family and friends. The daughter’s carefree dance routine reminded me of King David in 2 Samuel 6:12-23 (NIV):

12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God.” So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing. 13 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, 15 while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

17 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

21 David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.

We all have a Michal or two in our lives. The one who frowns upon us and even passes us some Haterade when we do or say something carefree or silly. (Pro tip: If you don’t know who the Michal is in your life… then you might be her. Just sayin’.)

King David was so excited about God’s goodness in his own life and his people’s lives. Thus, he can’t help but rejoice, he can’t help but dance with all that he’s got. He knows that many eyes were upon him, and it didn’t matter to him. He was carefree.

I watched my favorite band twice last week. I saw Red in concert at the famous Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ on Sunday, and at the Highline Ballroom in NYC on Monday. The Jersey crowd was much smaller, but the people were also much more lively. (My theory: NYC’ers are less adept at rocking out because of the need to always act so civilized.) I was so carefree on Sunday night, mainly because I went alone. I noticed the occasional glance at my jumping and headbanging as well as my boisterous sing-along attempts, but I didn’t care. There was such freedom in enjoying the music, the performance, the lighting, the rocking out of fellow men and women Red-heads.

2016-10-23_23-15-38_746-2016-10-24t13_51_04-878

(A photo by me of my main man Michael Barnes in Asbury Park.)

This article recently made me think, though (aside: Game 7 tonight!!! Doesn’t get much better than this!). Am I as carefree when I worship God? I used to be. But the older I get, the more prim and proper I am in worship services. I still lift my hands and sway to the music; I still worship. But if you juxtaposed me at the Red concert vs. me in Sunday worship, you’d see quite the difference.

Going forward, let’s seek to heed the command of my friends’ young daughter, and call to mind what King David’s epic display. Not just in Sunday worship, but throughout each day. Let’s throw off the shackles of the fear of man, and live our lives with loud and unabashed joy. Let’s not worry so much about how we sound or how we look. And let’s remember that we can be carefree and even be a spectacle at times because Jesus unashamedly loves us, even willing to suffer public humiliation at the hands of haters galore.

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What Children Teach Us: Intro

Posted by flyingbk on 10/24/2016

16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
-Luke 18:16-17 (NIV)

Back in the day, there was a season in my life in which I received many prophecies. Regardless of your views about the prophetic, I love that its main aim is to “strengthen, encourage, and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3).

I received one prophecy that I will never forget. A lady was speaking over me, and she said something like this: “Bob, I see you as a child moving into adulthood. (NOTE: I was already an adult, at least by age.) And I see you saying to God, ‘Well, I don’t want to give up those things.’ And God wants you to know that it’s OK. (Insert girlish giggle. No really, she giggled.) It’s OK to hold on those things. It’s who you are.”

I made a simple New Year’s resolution at the beginning of 2015. It was this: “Children are people, too.” I had been serving at a church where the main demographic was married couples with small children. And quite frankly, I loathed being around children. My posture stiffened, and I wanted to do nothing with talking to them, holding them, or even being a few feet from them. I cringed when I saw others talking to them in that baby goo-goo-gah-gah language. I have a close friend who was similar to me until he had his first son. So I figured I would be like him: When I have my first child, I’ll magically transform into a wonderful dad who loves being around the little ones.

But when I made that resolution, there was actually magical change (thanks God). I suddenly became more comfortable. I began playing with them more, and even being proactive in making up the distance between me and them. And yes, I learned to humble myself and try talking to them in their pared-down language. I even recently told a close friend that I missed seeing her daughter. That would NEVER have happened before. I’m still iffy about holding them; I still have this deathly fear that I’ll drop or crush them due to my poor form.


In the 22 months in which I’ve been better with children, I realize that I’ve learned so much from their words and actions. Like Jesus stated in the above verses, the kingdom of God belongs to them, and we miss out on being full participants of his kingdom when we do not apply the lessons they provide.

During Jesus’ time, children were considered worthless. So he was making quite the statement when he took them into his arms, and his words in Luke 18:16-17 would’ve stunned those in attendance. Certainly, today’s society values children, but I’m not sure that we’re listening well to what they have to teach us.

So I’m excited to start a new series concerning the lessons children give (I’ll be resuming my 103rd Psalm series on Wednesdays). Each lesson will start with the letter “C.” These lessons came to me during Sunday worship yesterday, and I feverishly scratched out notes in my Moleskine. Like children, we are to be carefree, celebrators, cuddlers, and contenders. And finally, it’s actually quite alright to be childish; in fact, we can only attain true love and community when we accept each other as childish. I’ll be supplementing each post with real examples from the children I’ve been around.

The church I’ve joined features quite the young demographic. I’m usually surrounded by people at least 10 years younger than me. At a lunch table last week, I was seated with three 23 year-olds (two in grad school, one working for a year). I’d like to think that being around them has re-brought out my childlike tendencies. Two have even said to me that they thought I was only in my late 20’s or early 30’s, and they were surprised to learn of my age since I’m so young at heart (No seriously, I’m not making that up). These young’uns generally possess a freshness and love for life that has proved to be a fountain of youth for me. They ain’t jaded yet, and I long to have any remnants of jadedness excised from my heart and soul.

I can’t wait to get started. In the meantime, go check out my friend Irene’s recent blog post about a lesson she learned from her child. And read John Piper’s 10 resolutions for mental health: You’ll be able to sketch the childlikeness in each one. Till next week!

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