A Prayer Against Destruction

Hey kiddos, we met together last night — New Year’s Eve 2021 — and we made predictions and spent time as a family praying for each other for the coming year. Your Solomon Grandpa made a comment last night that had me thinking way past the evening about how I can and should pray for each of you this coming year. Actually, it is a prayer we should all be praying for ourselves and each other. Your Solomon Grandpa reminded us of the Lord’s Prayer: Jesus, leading by example, prayed, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” To be completely transparent here, I have rarely prayed that boldly for the Lord to keep me from temptation. I ask the Lord to give grace to us so that we make right and careful choices. I ask the Lord to give us strength to be God-honoring. I ask the Lord for protection, but I focus more on physical dangers than spiritual dangers. Solomon Grandpa encouraged us to be more bold in our praying. Be bold in praying for protection from sin’s destructive path.

Dear God, don’t let me, my spouse, or my children follow a path that leads to destruction. Place Your protecting hand on us so that we do not fall into sin. Keep Satan from deceiving our hearts. Deliver us from the touch of evil in our lives.

None of us should assume we are immune from sin, its deception, or its brokenness. Salvation does not vaccinate us from sin’s dangers here on earth. We have to be vigilant. We have to know and apply truth even when it’s not popular, convenient, or easy. To the degree we believe we are strong enough to fight sin on our own is the same degree we are susceptible to sin and in danger of falling into its destructive path.

So pray diligently as I will be that God delivers us from sin’s destruction. Don’t be fooled with worldly thinking…even when it is reasoned and spoken by well-meaning Christians. Don’t be deceived with temporal pleasures that defy God’s ways…when when they are presented and accepted by so-called Christians. Don’t settle for temporary “easy and popular” over God’s forever “peace and joy.”

God, deliver me and my family from evil in 2022. We need Your truth in our lives to protect us from the deceit of sin. May we make Your truth our priority this year. Amen.

Return of Day, a blackout poem

Commentary about poem below

Depression is no joke. It is suffocating, overwhelming, and debilitating. BUT depression is not without a solution, a balm. Truth fights depression and tells us, “we don’t fight alone, we have a God greater than our grief and depression, we will be okay, we can take one step at a time, we are loved wholeheartedly, we do not have to succumb to the feelings of depression.” Instead, we can savor the truth and strengthen our hope that God always wins, and we are on God’s side. Wanting to step out of the night and return to the day is a hurdle though. We can with God’s help. Step into truth and see the light. Just a step is a good start.

Coattails and Christians

Hey kiddos, I have a thought for you and a warning. They contradict one another, but they also play off of one another in an important way.

First, here’s my thought: “There is no such thing as a second-generation Christian.” We hear the phrase second-generation Christians often in our circles. In one sense, the phrase reminds us of our rich heritage, and you kids have been gifted with a rich, godly heritage. Your great grandparents and grandparents and parents have laid a deep and sincere foundation of biblical living in front of you. But, no Christian is a Christian based on the generation before him. You know this. But…don’t forget this when you begin a family of your own. None of us can ride on the coattails of our previous generation. Your children need you to remember this! Christians don’t begat Christians.

Second, here’s my warning: “Third-generation Christians are in danger of being overexposed and underdeveloped.” And here is the seeming contradiction. Yes, I said there is no such thing as generation Christians. You’re right. So I will re-phrase it. Any Christian is in danger of being overexposed and underdeveloped. No matter your heritage. No matter your parents or grandparents or great grandparents position on biblical truth and faith. No matter how you spin today’s culture in your mind and heart to excuse shifts in standards and beliefs. No matter what circumstance God ordains for your life. None of these thoughts and realities is what makes you decide how you choose today to live and believe. You kiddos happen to be four generations strong…at least for now. Time will tell whether you remain true in your faith, courageous in your beliefs, and fervent in the gospel. Time will tell whether you continue to apply truth to life’s choices or fall for Satan’s tactics and let your guard down by allowing bits and pieces of error in your thinking and home. None of us can ride on the coattails of the previous generation of Christians.

You’ve heard much Bible in your lifetime. Your education through college, home, church, neighbors, and community saturated you with Bible truths. I’m so glad you did get the saturation; but, kiddos, you have to do your part in developing. God grows you, but you water and weed in the process. Remember again, none of us can ride on the coattails of anyone or anything. You are adults now so whatever Bible saturation you continue in your life is your choice. I can’t make those decisions for you. (This blog doesn’t even count since you still have to make the decision to read it.)

My heart’s desire for you is that you continue to walk in truth. Not out of duty to your heritage. Not out of a desire to make the parents happy. I pray God’s truth becomes your mantra today and tomorrow and for your lifetime.

Floating Vapors

I added a new page to the site: https://vapormarks.com/gallery-of-blackout-poetry/.

It’s a bit more creative than my posts. As you kids know, I love old books. They can be found in almost every room of my home and every wall of my office. Old books inspire me in some strange way. (You should be proud of me though — I did some purging a year ago and got rid of a few shelves worth.) But, in the purging, I set aside a 1902 set of books that include compilations of old stories and biographies. I decided to randomly take pages from these books and try my hand at some blackout poetry.

Poetry is like floating vapors. You never really know where the words are going to land on the paper; but as they land, they form meaning and become a life of their own. I simply took someone else’s “marks” and made them do a bit of “floating” on the page to form new marks.

The result has been a fun activity. Being creative is healthy and challenging. As I do more, I’ll publish them on this page. Each post includes the poem against the original wording, the words in new poetic format, and some commentary about the poem at the bottom. Although not all of the poetry relate or are meant just for you kids, much of their message is put together with you in mind. I’ll post them in “My Marks” with a bit of commentary, and I will also place them in the gallery.

I love how you all exhibit creativity. Keep it up in your various ways. It makes me smile to see it.


Work and Rest

Your dad and I are about to enjoy a week of down time — vacation! In Europe, we would most likely be having a mini-sabbatical, for their “holiday” time is much longer than ours here in America. Nonetheless, we will enjoy a week of rest. I trust each of you — Jonathan, Peter, Olivia, Belle, and Summer — will see the value of rest as you live out the value of work. If there is one thing I hope you learned from watching your father and I working, it is this: work is a gift from God, not a curse from Satan. Retirement should not be about stopping work; it is more about choosing your work and your schedule. Vacation is not the reward from hard-fought work; it is the preparation to be able to work in a healthy and productive way. How do I know this? Genesis tells us.

God’s day of rest was our first day of living. God had Adam and Eve rest on their first day with Him, and then He tasked Adam and Eve with work around the garden. Both the rest and the work were in place well before the curse. I wish I knew what Adam, Eve, and God did during their restful time. I’m sure Adam and Eve had plenty of questions to ask God. But this I do know…God didn’t “need” to rest at all. According to Isaiah 40, God neither tires nor needs to sleep. His almighty power is never extinguished or reduced from weariness so that has us concluding that the day of rest was put in place for our benefit and example. It may also be a reminder that “rest” isn’t just about physical rest; it is just as much about spiritual, emotional, and mental rejuvenation.

In conclusion, rest well so you can work hard. Don’t have the mindset to work hard so you can rest well. Rest so you can work. The work will be demanding, and you will find yourself looking forward to the rest. That is okay. That is expected and natural. But get the order right — rest to work, not work to rest — and you will find yourself following God’s value paradigm.

My prayer is that all my children will not shy from a day of hard work whether that work involves physical, relational, emotional, mental, spiritual, familial, community, church body, parenting, stewardship, or personal development labor. But as valuable as work is, God set the example of rest so we are ready to do the work He has called us to do.

I love you all. MOM

My Solomon on Earth

This week is my dad’s–your grandpa’s–birthday. I’ve actually been thinking about his birthday for a few days, which is pretty unusual because birthdays have a habit of creeping up on me. I had leaned on your great-grandmother’s skills in remembering and planning birthdays so much that when she died, I realized very quickly that I had used her as my calendar reminder. She was much better than any Outlook reminder or smart phone alert! I will write more about her in the coming marks.

But my dad…your grandfather…is the topic of today’s vapor mark. As the title indicates, my dad is my Solomon on earth. I used that phrase to describe him to an audience years ago, and I wholeheartedly believe he is the wisest man I know. Wisdom can be intimidating to others, but I’ve discovered it’s only intimidating to the proud. The humble bite into, chew, swallow, and digest wisdom like their lives depend on it. Just as a side note, that’s a good test for whether you are proud or humble…how do you handle being around people who know more than you? Are you intimidated or hungry? Don’t be intimidated by your “grand-Solomon”; be hungry to listen and learn.

Another reason I call my dad my Solomon on earth is that he is a prolific sharer. By that I mean that he doesn’t hoard anything (except maybe his ice cream and pecan pie). The man enjoys sharing what God has given him. We tease one another because we get one another when we say we aren’t wordy people except on paper. Neither of us do much talking in group settings, but we can sure put down the words on paper…what can be written in ten words gets written in fifty. On the flip side, when someone asks your grand-Solomon for an opinion…what might take a hundred words to be said by another, he states it in ten words. He has few words to say and many words to write. Just like Solomon.

Your grand-Solomon is methodical. You probably see that in how he keeps his hobby shop, how he studies a project before tackling it, and how he stewards his talents and time. My dad has a reason for everything he does. I know because I’ve tested it: “Hey dad, why do you…?” Without fail, he gives me a reason; and it’s a solid, well-thought-out reason. Kiddos, it takes meditation to be methodical. It’s an intentional way of living. Grand-Solomon doesn’t “fly by the seat of his pants” as the idiom goes. His yeas and nays are measured. He has made a habit of counting the cost before making a cut. I’ve seen him measure and re-measure in his hobby shop just to be sure he cuts the wood in the right place. As in life, remember to measure and be methodical about your choices. Count the cost before weighing the comfort. What I mean by that is sometimes the best choice is the least comfortable choice. Your dad and I set some tight boundaries on our entertainment and music when you were young because your future was more important than our comfort. That’s the kind of choices you will be making your entire life. Your grand-Solomon has a knack for being able to see really far down the road to know what the cost would be for each choice. Be methodical. Be intentional. Count the cost. Ask your grandpa about his dating methods in college, and you will discover just how methodical he is.

Your grand-Solomon made one of the wisest choices in life when he married your grandma. He used shotgun shells back then to count the cost so apparently your grandma was well worth several boxes of shells. A virtuous woman is worth every penny you spend on her because you will reap dividends ten fold. I will write about your grandma in another post. The lesson here…you can’t see value if you haven’t learned what’s valuable. It’s definitely a learned, not-natural-to-us trait. Think of the bee and the fly. One is attracted to flowers, and one is attracted to dung. Naturally, all of us in our sinful nature are attracted to the dung piles of sin. Pleasure for a season. We have to learn holiness through God’s grace to learn that flowers are rich in nectar. The gospel turns our fly-infested heart into a bee-buzzing heart. Grandpa let the gospel teach him that godliness and virtue will outshine, outperform, and reap way more joy than all the boxes of shotgun shells he could have purchased in his lifetime. That’s Solomon wisdom and that’s your grandpa.

Your grand-Solomon rarely felt qualified for the path God led him down. Because of that, he devoured leadership and Christian growth books, he studied theology, and he practiced communication skills. I don’t think your grandpa would tell you that anything he accomplished came easy to him. He sat at the feet of Jesus and listened and learned. Unlike Solomon, Grandpa didn’t make a request and all of a sudden have wisdom. But like Solomon, I know he asked God for wisdom, and I believe God honored that request with grace to listen and learn and grow. Your grand-Solomon made his personal relationship with God his most important priority, and I spent a good portion of my childhood observing his desire to learn and grow through study and practice. Never think you have arrived; if you do, I pray the Lord finds a way to knock some sense into you.

I see my three children exhibiting some of my Solomon on earth, and it makes me smile. Jonathan, you have your grand-Solomon’s discernment and discipline. You can see ahead and develop a plan to reach it. It doesn’t mean you are never spontaneous because it’s fun to be purposeful in your spontaneity. With that in mind, being predictable is an important leadership trait: the steady guy, the quiet-strength guy, the loyal guy, the principled guy. And, like your grandpa, manual labor has never scared you. Peter, you have your grand-Solomon’s love for learning. You’ve always been a self-motivating person, and you rarely let an obstacle stop you. Like your grandpa, you are a problem solver, and that’s a great trait to bring into your marriage and work environment. Although you aren’t the avid book reader your grand-Solomon is; in today’s digital age, you are still quite a reader. And, truth be told, you got your grandpa’s emotions. Never be ashamed of tears. They say something beyond the words spoken, and that’s a gift. Olivia, you’re my expressive girl so you may wonder if you share any of Grandpa’s traits. I say you do. At the age of seven, you began asking me “why questions” that warned me I had a thinker in the works. You haven’t disappointed. I love how you look at all the angles, consider truth, identify error, ask for advice, pray for wisdom, and pursue what is right. That sounds pretty methodical to me! Also, you are passionate and compassionate. Grandpa would not have pursued by faith his ministry endeavors without being passionate and compassionate about people. Continue being a thinker and always evaluate the foundation of your thinking. Your job in the little things is much like your grandpa. He may not jump up and down like you, but then again, I’ve seen some pretty good hoopla when his Forty-niners were winning. As for Belle and Summer, all I can say is my sons picked some great treasures who, by God’s grace, will come alongside their husbands in the same way Grandma does for Grandpa. I. Am. So. Thankful!

One of the greatest gifts God has given each of you is the heritage of your grandparents on both sides. I don’t know if you know how rare it is to have such a rich, godly heritage. Lean in on the wisdom your grand-Solomon portrays and shares. Like a flower his wisdom-nectar oozes out with a beautiful scent, but only bees fly to it. Be a bee, not a fly. You won’t be disappointed. Happy birthday to my Solomon–your grand-Solomon! We are blessed.



Godlike Honor

I’ve been reading an epistolary novel by Marilynne Robinson named Gilead. I’m not sure I will read more of her, but epistolary writing appeals to me. Think C.S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. That is an epistolary novel…a book written as a letter. I’ve always thought that if I were to ever write a novel, it would be epistolary. I don’t know why; to be honest, I think mostly because I don’t feel creative enough in plot structure and character development. I’ve read too many high quality novels to think I could reach that level. (And please don’t think I could reach the level of Lewis’s Screwtape Letters either. His levels of thinking are phenomenal. And you kids know by now…since I was your English teacher…that I say to become a good writer, you have to be a good thinker. I’m working on the latter and dreaming of the former.)

In Robinson’s Gilead, the pastor-character writes this to his young child, “…it is godlike to love the being of someone. Your existence is a delight to us.” In context, the pastor-character was reminding his son to be honorable to people. He goes on to write, “…at the root of real honor is always the sense of the sacredness of the person who is its object.” I paused a considerable amount of time at reading those words. The cure for our own prejudice in others (this often is what justifies our dishonoring them) is to remember they are sacred, set-apart creations of God. No matter their filth. No matter their vulgarity. No matter their culture. No matter their ethnicity. No matter their poor decisions. No matter their political positions. No matter their education. No matter their faith. All mankind exist because God wants them in His story, and people and persons cross our paths because God wants them in our story, which is His story.

So Jonathan, Peter, Olivia, Belle, and Summer…every person you encounter today God is inviting you to honor as a person of value, no matter if he is living an honorable life or not. Value is not defined by action or a price tag but by meaningfulness of the owner or buyer. We know from Scripture that God loves each of His creations (John 3:16). We know from Scripture that God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34, Romans 10:12-13). We know that each person bears the mark of God’s image (Genesis 1:27). We know that God sent His Son to die for every person (1 John 3:16). We don’t own mankind so we can’t set the value. Only God. And He has set the value price of mankind quite clearly in Scripture.

The problem is we have grown up in a world that thinks we can set the value of certain people and persons. History tells us we have made grave mistakes in this area. Current news and missionary stories tell us we continue to devalue mankind through the injustice of bias, objectifying, and human trafficking. Prejudice sneaks in. Christians can get on their high horses and sound Pharisaical. Americans can hop on their stumps and sound quite entitled. We all make poor assumptions and assessments of others. If only we first see them as God sees them — made in His image, worthy of His Son’s death, loved by Him, and wanted by Him. Every. Single. Person. Meets. This. Criteria.

We all have people in our life who rub us the wrong way…I call them sandpaper people. They hurt. They are rough. They scrape. They cause friction. But think a moment, what block of wood doesn’t get better with a bit of sandpaper? In my 29 years of existence (go ahead, roll your eyes), I know I’ve been sandpaper to some and I’ve experienced some sandpaper pressure from others. Nonetheless, no sandpaper-person deserves our dishonor.

I’ll reserve another post to write about the little and big things of dishonor. For now, remember every word, joke, action, reaction, or no action are reflections of our value system. I want to be godlike in how I honor others. I want to align my value of others with God’s value system. I want to love the existence of others–not just their presence on earth, but their presence in my life. It doesn’t start by giving money to a homeless man; it starts by seeing that homeless man as a person of value. We could continue with the examples…prisoners, co-workers, children, politicians, unruly students, driver in the car next to me, etc.

What I do know is that your existence is one of my greatest delights. When I read Robinson’s words, I quickly thought of each of you. I love your being, your existence in my life. God honored me by gracing me with the five of you. Now, go be godlike in your honor of others.

Your name is a big deal!

When your dad and I picked out your names, we were intentional about flow and meaning. For instance, we weren’t going to stick with a family name if we didn’t really like it; we weren’t going to go with a fad name because those are made fun of eventually or these days can be hard to spell (and we were already behind the 8 ball in that respect because of our last name); and we weren’t going to use names that reminded us of people we wished we didn’t know. There were, of course, other basic rules to naming you. We chose to make the middle name to point back to some kind of meaningfulness to us and chose a first name that we simply liked and sounded good with the middle name. Although we looked up the meanings of the names to make sure we weren’t naming you something that meant the opposite of our goals for you, we didn’t place high value on the meaning. One more thing, we had to be able to spell your first name with less than ten letters because God only gave us ten fingers to help us count.

Through the years, your names have only become important because of the person behind them. When God says a good name is to be valued, He is saying a good reputation (how the person behind the name is known) should be treasured. I have often wished I was mature enough to know that before all those bad choices in my life started piling up. The fact is we build our name one choice at a time. Yes, your dad and I named you; but every day of your life, you are naming and re-naming yourself with your choices. Although I avoided giving you a name that meant foolish, I can’t guarantee that you won’t pick that name for yourself. I didn’t give you names that were synonymous with laziness, hatred, lust, selfishness, prejudice, or pride, but you may surely pick those names by our choices. That’s up to you.

Speaking of names, I get to name you again for the purpose of this blog. I would rather not call you #1, #2, etc. First of all, that might have you thinking of others things. Second, a name will take less time and effort to type. So, to my eldest son, I name you Jonathan. To my second son, I name you Peter. To my youngest daughter, I name you Olivia. To my first daughter-in-law, I name you Belle. To my second daughter-in-law, I name you Summer. No major rhyme or reason to the names…just a hint of a tiny bit of significance to me. You probably don’t like the names, but maybe they will grow on you. It’s not like you had a say in your birth names so why would I give you a say now? But feel free to give yourself a middle name. Either way, just remember, you already hold the power of your name in your choices. I hope and pray you make a name God would describe as GOOD. (Need to know what good really means to God? Look up Romans 8:28-29.)

I love you, kiddos. Always.


Anonymous Marking

Hey Kids, this idea has been mulling around in my head for a few years now. It took me a while to make the move and begin an attempt to leave a mark for you. I have no great plans for this site other than to leave with you truth from God’s Word, sprinkled with a bit (or a lot) of my thinking out loud about life, love, happiness, the world, and whatever else pops up in my brain. I have no desire to put my name to anything I do write, at least for now, because my only audience is you, my children. Apart from your father, you are the greatest gift God has given me or ever will give me. Family is a gift. I want to spend my vapor-marking energies on you in hopes that you will your vapor marks will affect your families for eternity. To make a vapor mark that lasts beyond this life, it has to have eternal value. I trust these vapor marks lodge into your souls. If they do, they will last forever because, kids, your souls are the eternal treasures I’m choosing to invest in for the rest of my vapor. In the next post I will name you. You will know who you are.