Thursday, December 31, 2015

Now in Print: Baptize Your Children Well

From my latest article in Christian Standard magazine:
A young person who is baptized as part of an integrated discipleship process will be less likely to question the validity of his or her baptism a few years later. 
When my own son was baptized, my wife and I wrote up notes about the process we went through to verify his readiness. We still have that record of his questions and comments and of our observations, in case he ever doubts the validity of his childhood decision. 
Another father in our church took that idea one step further and asks his children to journal about their studies, their sins, and their thought process as they consider the decision to be baptized, creating a record of their own.
Read more in the Christian Standard January 2016 issue

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The View From the Bus: Gray Christmas

It's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in 1991 and we're on our way to western Kansas to spend the holiday weekend with relatives. As we pulled off I-70 for a restroom break in Independence, Missouri, I pulled to a stop at the red light at the top of the exit ramp. When the light turned green, I stepped on the accelerator and the car inched forward like a turtle.

The transmission was shot. We spent the holiday in a hotel and then coaxed the car to crawl two miles to a transmission shop.

Thus began the most dismal holiday season of what has been a lifetime of holiday catastrophes for our family.

The repair shop took over a week to complete the repair.

After getting a lift back to Independence, I picked up the car and drove it 100 miles back to the exit ramp near my home. I pulled to a stop at the red light at the top of the exit ramp.

Stop me if you've already heard this.

When the light turned to green, I stepped on the accelerator and the car inched forward like a turtle: the transmission had once again failed. I coaxed the car toward the local shop of the same franchised transmission service.  They took another two weeks to do the warrantied repair, which then failed miserably during the test drive. The original shop had the car towed back to Independence, and then, after another two weeks, delivered it back to me, repaired.

So, from Thanksgiving through a few days after New Year's Day, we were without a car. I rode the bus every day to work and back. Our spirits were not merry and bright. Most of the things we would normally do to be out and about celebrating the season were called off. Our boys weren't happy campers.

One particularly wretched day in mid-December stands out to me.

Snow was falling when I boarded the bus at my workplace. The streets were already covered by the grayed and blackened snow leftover from previous snowfalls.

The windows of the bus were covered with a layer of the splashed-up dirty snow from the streets, quickly being topped by a coating of new-fallen snow. The only visibility to the outside of the bus was through the driver's front windshield, which the wipers were making a valiant effort at keeping clear.

A loose connection was causing the already dim interior lights of the bus to flicker on and off each time the bus hit a bump or shook. If you've ever ridden a city bus, you know that means the lights were constantly flickering, casting the scene with a surreal horror-movie atmosphere.

The interior heating system was also not keeping up, which meant that every rider sat bundled tight in their winter coats. Every time the doors opened for someone to board or exit, a gust of frozen air invaded the bus.

A young woman sat near the front of the bus with an infant in a car carrier. The poor child was doing what I and everyone else aboard wanted to be doing: he was cycling between crying, screaming, and whimpering in reaction to the nightmare surrounding him.

As the bus rumbled through the neighborhoods, we all sat staring out the front windshield, trying to keep track of where the bus was on the route. With darkness already upon the city and our view of the outside world constricted, I was more than a little concerned I would miss my stop and be stuck on this bus ride through hell for another circuit through its route.

Given the road conditions and the rush hour traffic, the ride took much longer than normal. The time finally arrived, though, when I saw the neighborhood of my bus stop past the driver's hunched shoulders.

I was almost late in pulling the cord to signal my stop, because judging distance was nearly impossible through the driving snow. When I did pull the cord, the driver looked up, startled, and began braking for the bus stop. The behemoth slid a few feet past its target, but finally found purchase among the snow and came to halt.

I was glad to leave the ghost of Christmas bus behind, but quickly discovered I was stepping into the gusts of Christmas present, with several inches of snow on the ground, more snow falling quickly around me, a bitter wind, and a two and a half block walk ahead of me.

When I finally opened our front door, my boys stared at me like I was the abominable snowman. I must have looked a fright, covered with snow, my body hunched down, and my face betraying the desolation of the long ride home.

From my point of view, though, the warmth of the house and the warmth of the welcome into my home was the greatest Christmas blessing I could want. And I knew full well that there were other people out there riding the bus on this dismal night who had much less than I. Did they have people to welcome them? Did they have a warm place to live?

God, bless them every one.

Originally posted 12/1/2014