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Better Stories Episode 7 :: World Traveling Mommy and Daddy

Dave and Erica Baker are professionally creative.  Filmmakers, photographers, global travelers and idealistic storytellers, they are out there on the front lines making the world a better place.  They are also brand new parents.  Enjoy this conversation!

www.bakerstories.com
www.bittersweetmonthly.com
www.bittersweetcreative.com

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Better Stories Episode 3 :: The Louisville Crew

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Better Stories Episode 1 :: Mike Masterman

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When a Nightmare Takes 7 and Turns it Into 2

I have a 7-year old daughter who is fearless.  Fearless.  She’s already asked me if she can skydive with me.  Seriously.  She kills spiders when her mommy is too afraid.

Last week, we headed to bed and just before we laid down we heard her crying.  We walked in the room and quickly found her in that half-asleep, half-awake stupor of bad dreams.  I asked what was wrong and all she could say through her tears was, “I had a bad dream…”  We stayed for a few minutes and my wife asked her if she’d like to come sleep with us for a little while.

She did.  And she calmed down.  Complete and utter peace.

Now, it’s been probably three to four years since we’ve ended up with one of our children in our bed.  Our girls all share a room, so they are rarely afraid before falling asleep because they basically talk each other to death until they fall asleep.  But on this night, my seven-year old’s nightmare turned her back into a two or three-year old.

There’s this statement the writer of Psalm 4 makes that I’ve thought about, but never really experienced until this night with our youngest daughter.  It says this:

“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
    for you alone, Lord,
    make me dwell in safety.”  (Psalm 4:8)

I think if I’m honest I know exactly what it means to have so much fear that my heart goes backward in age.  I know, and I bet you do too, how invasive and pervasive fear can be in my life.  I know the nightmares that become realities and the tendency my body and mind have to shut down and leave me living life half awake.

And that’s where I think this Psalm starts to make sense.

For my seven-year old, the fear in her nightmare was only consolable by the presence of her parents.  And for us, in our fear, at times the only answer for our fear is the presence of our Heavenly Father.

That night, I held my daughter and whispered that she was okay until her heart grew quiet and she was able to rest.  And perhaps, in our fear at this very moment, our perfect Father is whispering the same thing to us.

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My Day was Better Because of Boba Tea

 

Before last Friday I had no idea what boba tea was.  Turns out, it’s a thing.  Like, a big thing.

Last week my wife and I celebrated our 15-year anniversary (a couple months late) by taking a cruise out of California and then spending an extra two days in Los Angeles.  On Friday we found one of the coolest little farmer’s markets I’ve ever seen.

This market was an experience in sensory overload.  The smells, the colors, and the diversity of languages and cultures happening all around us were an overwhelmingly rich way to spend an hour.  From crepes made by a French family to authentic Italian pizza to fresh seafood hauled out of the Pacific that day, I was mesmerized by this place.

Then there was the tea shop.

It was a chilly morning, so I went looking for hot tea and found a sweet little Asian woman with over a hundred different types of tea.  I did the best I could to order two cups of what sounded good and this lady simply asked me the following question…

“Do you want boba?”

As with any legitimate Star Wars fan my mind immediately conjured images of a bounty hunter with a sweet mask and awesome gun, but that wasn’t who she meant.

Turns out, boba tea (or bubble tea) is a concoction of tea with “chewy tapioca balls and fruit jelly”.  At the point she asked if I preferred the boba(s)(?) in my tea, I didn’t know this.  All I knew was I was in the middle of one of the most diverse and eclectic places I’d ever seen and I wanted to show just how cultured I really was.

“Absolutely,” I said.

Boba tastes like I imagine fish eyeballs to taste.

I spent the remainder of my drink doing my best to siphon the liquid off the gelled tapioca and not let any of it touch my mouth.  The tea was good.  The other stuff, not so much.

About the time I finished my tea, I felt a tiny hand tap my shoulder.  I turned to see a boy of no more than 9 or 10 years old with skin a bit darker than my own looking in my eyes.  He asked simply…

“Excuse me sir, where did you find your boba tea?”

I pointed him in the right direction and watched as he was so excited to find the treat that I had been repulsed by.

This was just a moment.  A simple, nondescript instant in my day that really shouldn’t have stood out.  But for whatever reason, it did.  In fact, I haven’t stopped thinking about it.  That brief minute where I drank a tea I didn’t like and a little boy from a different culture than my own searched for a tea he loved keeps coming back.

It is next to impossible in recent days to access news of any sort without someone trying to convince us of which “side” is right, or more loving, or more just.  But, this constant cycle of shouting and persuasion is doing little except dividing and frustrating us as a humanity.

All that to say, this post has nothing to do with politics.  But it does have something to do with an understanding of God’s kingdom that, in the end part of Scriptures paints a picture of a land with open borders where the people of that land offer praise to Jesus the Lamb:

And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll

    and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
    and with your blood you purchased for God
    persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,

    and they will reign on the earth.”  (Revelation 5:9-10)

So here’s the simple conclusions this moment in a farmer’s market in California revealed to me:

My day was better because that little boy tugged on my arm.  And I didn’t agree with his opinion.
My day was better because of listening to the diversity of languages swirling in that place.
My week was better better because of the several staff I met on our cruise ship who had come from the Philippines, parts of Africa, Mexico, and Europe.
My week was better because I walked a street in Ensenada, Mexico and felt completely out of place.

And yes, my week was better because I even tried boba tea.

I guess I wonder what “better’s” we miss because we don’t feel comfortable with what’s around us.

 

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You Should Be Cheating Part 2

So, a couple weeks ago I started a series here called You Should Be Cheating.  You can read Part 1 to catch up.  The heart of this series is simply challenging leaders to consider the fact that we have a limited amount of time and a limited amount of resources, and when we live like we have more than we actually do we end up burnt out, overcommitted, or sacrificing the people we love for the sake of productivity.

I referenced Andy Stanley’s great little book called Choosing to Cheat, and began to lay out five principles that I think pave the way for healthy rhythms and rest and an ability to “cheat” on the right things in life.

The second principle of healthy cheating is simply this:

Live like Jesus owns your time, because he does.

There’s this passage of Scripture in Luke 6.  Jesus is carrying out his ministry in a culture that deeply understands rules, rituals, and expectations for productivity.  The Jewish world has a deep awareness that God set up rules when it came to Sabbath, and these rules spelled out a whole system that had been turned into legalistic assumptions.

So it’s in this world where we find Jesus making two conscious choices on the Sabbath–to eat grain they had just picked and to heal a man with a crippled hand.

Now, in my mind there is a certain beauty to these stories.  Imagine being in a small group with Jesus, taking a walk through the fields and grabbing a handful of grain kernels to eat and continuing your journey.  Then, imagine a man whose hand has been shriveled with deformity, and all at once Jesus asks him to stand up and stretch out his hand.  And it is healed.

And Jesus is criticized, by the religious elite, for breaking the Sabbath.  He utters these simple words:

“The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

Now, I don’t live today with a set legalism to my periods of rest.  I don’t mind doing yard work or cleaning up the house on my days off.  But you know what I do?

I live like my time is owned by me.  I live, week in and week out, as if my productivity is dependent on my management.  I stress when there isn’t enough time and I worry that I can’t get it all done.  I pursue efficiency and avoid interruption and run myself ragged until “rest” becomes a consequence rather than a condition.

The Son of Man is still Lord of the Sabbath.

In reality, our time does not belong to us.  It is not owned by us and we do not even deserve it.  We can continue to live and function as if our way of doing things is the best way possible and the only way things will work out; and time and again we will crash, burn out, and wear out the ones around us who matter most in this life because of our constant pace.

So, in choosing to cheat we must learn to learn to live like Jesus owns our time.

Because he does.

What would it take for you to surrender your time?  What would it mean for you to lean on his rhythm rather than your own?  What would happen if you reoriented your schedule to truly enjoy a period of Sabbath each and every single week?

As I’m sitting here, there is a beckon to stop blogging and return to what I was doing.  You see, in about 3 weeks I have my comprehensive exams for the PhD program I’m pursuing.  And in this pursuit, the beckon to keep reading, keep studying, keep driving is more endless than anything I’ve ever studied.  But this choice to reflect, to read the stories of Jesus and let him remind me that he’s in control of my time, has brought a greater deal of peace than I’ve had in weeks.  So for what it’s worth… my own shriveled hands (or over-studied brain) has suddenly found a bit of healing on this somewhat quiet morning… simply because I chose to cheat.

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You Should Be Cheating Part 1

Andy Stanley wrote a great book called Choosing to Cheat.  In it, he makes the assumption that we all cheat certain things in life to achieve other things.  We don’t necessarily think of it as cheating, but we do.  For instance, when we avoid desert in order to lose weight we are cheating our appetite.  When we choose to not spend money on something we want, we are cheating our desires for the sake of our budget.  In his estimation, the large majority of people are often cheating their families by giving more to work than it deserves.  We are overworked, tired, and often completely out of balance.

Another writer says it this way:

“Workaholism is the most rewarded addiction in our society.”

Not long ago, I heard someone make the following statement:

“Often, if things are good at work we feel like they’re not at home.  And if they’re good at home we feel like they’re not at work.  We always feel like we could do better somewhere.”

For leaders today, a great tension exists in finding a balance between work life and home life.  It can be taxing to try to keep everything moving, achieve success, drive an organization forward, and still be home for family dinner.  Believe me, I get it.  I love the work I do; the problem is, there’s just often too much of it.  Leading a church, coaching and consulting, writing and studying, and working with a Community Development organization are just a few of the things that I pour into and that give me life.

The problem is, sometimes I allow the things of work to become my life.  And so I come home at night too tired to fully engage my family.  I start to shut down when I hit the couch instead of the bed.  I may be in one place, but my mind is in another.  And the result?  I cheat those around me that shouldn’t be cheated.

So, we all feel this right?  We all recognize the need for balance and health and time management?  But what do we do about it?  I want to take a few posts to spell out five things that I believe can help us learn to cheat in better ways.

1 – BE, don’t DO.

Simply put, the first way we learn to cheat in healthy ways is to recognize that we are human beings, not human doings.

This is perhaps the most difficult element of bringing healthy balance to our time and energy, because we live in a culture that bases our worth on what we do and not always on who we are.  I constantly fight the pressure and feelings of inadequacy based on my own performance and status.  Here are just a few of the lies that build a “DO” mentality in me rather than a “BE” mentality:

  • If my church is bigger, I’m better.
  • If I make more money, I’m worth more.
  • If my kids don’t have any problems, I’m a successful dad.
  • If I work more, I’ll produce more.
  • If I hold it all together, I’m building a legacy.

The reality is these are just what I said–LIES.

We are made, created, and designed to BE.  God never in Scripture says He judges the worth of his creation on its ability to do stuff.  Instead, he calls us children, sons and daughters adopted and loved… embraced and healed to embrace and heal.  And we cannot DO these things as long as we’re caught up in our own doing.

The thing is, none of this is probably new thinking for you.  Most of us have heard this conversation before.  The question though, is how do we do it?  How do we rest in our being and not our doing?  Here are a few ideas I’m trying to build into my own life…

  • Let Sabbath become a rhythm and a discipline.  I’ll say more about this in coming posts, but the discipline of rest is a reminder that this world will go on without you.  You can’t learn to BE if you don’t learn to REST.
  • Play well.  Right in line with the idea of rest is an idea of play.  Find things you love, things that bring you joy, things that you can laugh at with your family, and make time for those things.  Yesterday I wandered the woods hunting for deer with a gun in my hand.  I didn’t stress, I didn’t plan, and I didn’t worry.  Because I was playing just like I did when I was 8 years old with a toy rifle in my hand.
  • Turn things off.  Disconnect.  Turn off your e-mail, your texts, your calls, etc.  I set my phone on do not disturb from 10 pm to 8 am, and the simple knowledge of that allows me to rest more than I usually do.
  • Invest in relationships.  Spend time and money with people.  Find ways to share meals with friends.  Learn to slow the pace of life by inviting others into it.  When you do this, you’ll be allowing other messy people to mess up your schedule and slow down your production, and while it may be stressful at first, somewhere in that journey you’ll realize you were made for mess and life is more full because of this slower pace.

I’m praying for you this week.  And I’m praying for me.  Praying that we all may learn to BE a little more than we DO.

 

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WE the People

“’The other’ need not be negatively different from us but could be a friend, one who shares our views, our life, but who is an “other” nonetheless. The other does not exist only in the opposite camp but is found within any given group be it religious (Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist) or political (conservatives, liberals, independent). THE OTHER IS AN INESCAPABLE REALITY OF LIFE.” –Theresa Okure

 
I’ve been thinking… listening this week. Clearly many are hurt, angry, fearful. Others are joyful and celebratory. Some are lashing out. Others are arrogantly reacting. It has reminded me in many ways of what I see on my children’s playground at recess. Emotions and energy run high because it is a time of day when freedom is exercised.
 
And yet these words… “We the people…”
“WE the people…”
“WE…”
 
WE are this country.
 
Some don’t feel as though they are right now. And to my friends experiencing that deep sorrow and fear right now… to the Muslim, the immigrant, the transgender, the African-American… please know that you are still WE.
 
And WE need you.
 
WE need YOU to be America.
 
To those who feel safer because Trump was elected… who feel like we will regain the glory that once was our country… who feel like things will finally be okay…
 
Please be cautious, because no man is a Savior save the One Man who defeated more than a political opponent but rather the hands of hell and death itself. Please be cautious because hope deserves to be pointed to the right things.
 
But WE need YOU too.
 
All of us experiences “the Other” every single day. We drive on our roads with people who are different than us. People who think differently, vote differently, pray differently, and even love differently. We all have “the Other”. And to others, we are “the Other.”
 
Some need to become a voice of humility in these next four years, quietly listening and learning.
 
Some need to become a voice of prophecy in these next four years, speaking out against injustice and calling the body of Christ to be hope rather than false governments.
 
But WE have to continue to be a WE.
 
Please rest.
 
To someone who is fearful, angry, or hurting… don’t explain why you’re right. Explain why you will continue to love them and why they are still part of WE.
 
To someone who is celebrating and feeling better about the direction of this country, please don’t label them as ignorant or filled with the -ism’s that divide. Instead, love them. Love them deeply and unhinge what feels like “the Other” to them.
 
Grow quiet, grow still. Give your power away. Become a hand and voice of healing.
 
And may WE become a better, more beautiful WE together.
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For the Parent(s) with Red Eyes on the First Day of School

This is another, older post I wrote when my two oldest daughters started 1st grade and 3rd grade.  I remember walking down the street seeing a mother who’s kiddo had just started Kindergarten.  She had clearly been upset, and was struggling through this life transition… 

All over our region, kids are ripping their parents hearts out today.
Actually, the teachers are doing the destruction.
Or maybe its the administrators.

Either way, I watched my kids walk into their school today and it hurt.

Every year it happens.
Two years ago was the worst.
We dropped our oldest off at Kindergarten and then spent the day like zombies.
Red eyes and muttering about how empty it felt.

I hate this day.

And I love it.

The protective part of me wants nothing more than to keep my kids close, hold onto them, and protect them from anything coming their way in those unpredictable halls of the school.  But I can’t, and I shouldn’t.

I love today because of the same unpredictability.  My kids are great kids.  Really great kids.  Probably greater than any other kid in the history of the universe.  (Of course I’m a little biased.)  They have so much potential and so much talent and so much to offer to the world.  And every year my wife and I drop them off on that first day I can’t wait to see what they’ll learn and grow into in the next year.

Plus, for the vast majority of our system, we have really great teachers.  This morning the staff at our school had superhero shirts on and rolled out the red carpet for my kids.  I LOVE THAT.  In my mind the teachers are working beside me in teaching my kids to dream big and pursue great things.  As much as I hate letting them out of my sight, I’m thankful for the people around them pouring into them.

With your kids there is always risk and opportunity.
The more I walk through it, the more I keep learning that parenting can never be about fear.
Parenting is about sendingencouraginginstilling courage, and daring children to dream.

The parent who parents in fear will be crippled for life.
There is a better way… and its called bravery.

May today be less about your sorrow of having your kids out of your sight and more about the hope of where God will lead them.

Praying for the parents and teachers today.