Romans 12:1-2

The gospel is like a caged lion: you don’t have to defend it—just let it out of the cage.

Charles Spurgeon

Don’t Waste Your Summer

It’s the time of year when we are all going crazy with each sun ray that falls on our face. The joy of being outside, birds chirping, kids laughing, grass being green, and amazing cloud formations floating overhead.

It’s also the time of graduations and students moving into new phases of life, or pressing pause on education for a much needed summer break. Don’t Waste It

Don’t waste a single day with so many people around every part of our lives, who desperately need hope. They need the hope of the creator who makes every ray of sunshine we are basking in. Who set’s our lives in motion for a purpose…. to make much of HIM.

From John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life”
”I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider this story from the February 1998 Reader’s Digest: A couple ‘took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30-foot trawler, play softball and collect shells… .’ Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy.

”God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives.”

So, take time to carve out space to rest. To enjoy all the creator has made for us to pleasure in. To share with the ones we love and to bring into this pleasure all those who need hope.

But don’t worship the creation… Worship the Creator. He is the one who sent Jesus to rescue us from the ordinary, and call us to come and die for a life of extraordinary.

Happy Birthday Savannah

Today you turn 6. It’s hard to believe. Maybe it’s that I don’t want to accept it. My little girl is a year older and a year closer to taking off on her own.

You are an amazing little girl, with a strength and love of life that not only brings me joy, but terror as well:)

6thbirthday1

You just finished Kindergarten. What a milestone. Not only did you end the year reading at a level hard to fathom, but you also ended with the year with crazy thick callouses due to your voracious appetite for monkey bars!!

I think both of those truths encapsulate who you are at 6. You love to learn through books, and that will open up the world to you forever. There will be nothing you can’t grasp or accomplish if you keep this young passion for the written word.

If your 6 year old hands are any indication to your tenacity, then EVERYONE better get out of your way! You possess a toughness that is often masked by that bright, dimpled smile and that sweet way you cuddle your stuffed animals. Since you were barely walking, you would attack every activity and adventure with reckless abandon. There will never be an obstacle you won’t overcome or crash through:)

6th birthday 2

My prayer for you on your birthday, is that you will pursue Jesus with the same passion. The same drive that is in you to climb walls and dig into books, will bring you such joy when it drives you to Christ.

Take time to watch mommy. She is a woman who loves you with ever fiber, but she loves Jesus more. That’s the kind of woman you want to grow up to be.

Even though Eli sometimes irritate you, remember all the times he makes you giggle the loudest and all the times he looks out for you.

Don’t ever doubt your daddy’s love for you. There will be nothing in your life that will sway the unconditional love I have for you. I pray often that I’m a good father to you, helping you to become the woman God wants you to be.

Never forget that your father in heaven loves you even more than me. In God’s heart you find your esteem and all the joy you can imagine.

I love you my little princess. Happy 6th Birthday

Daddy

The Joy of Confidence

Today we will celebrate the life of my Grandma, Annabelle Berry. Last Wednesday night, she took her last breath on earth and her first breath in heaven.

On this earth, she was an amazing woman with a heart for hospitality that would put the best 5 star hotel to shame. Often my life, it came in the liquid sweetness found in a can of Pepsi. Joyofpepsi

It seemed that the flagship product of Pepsico could be found in her refrigerator regardless of season or time of day. As a kid, it was my reward for cutting her grass, or it helped wash down her famous sugar cookies. As a young adult, it was waiting for me after I’d moved something or shoveled some snow. As a man, her tupperware glasses that rivaled Si Robertson’s favorite hand ornament, would become filled with the sweet nectar for my kids.

kidswithgrandma

All of these memories pale in comparison to the most important thing about my Grandma.

She is a child of God.

This means that I don’t grieve her passing like someone without hope.

 “And you should not grieve as the heathen do who have no hope, because we have hope, based on the most assured promise, that as we have not lost our dear ones who have departed from this life but have merely sent them ahead of us, so we also shall depart and shall come to that life where, more than ever, their dearness to us will be proportional to the closeness we shared on earth and where we shall love them without fear of parting.”
 - St. Augustine

I will carry on the Berry name, not just because we are a long line of quick witted men and wives who put up with us. I will carry on the Berry name because it is a long line of faithful followers of Jesus.

He came to save lost sinners (Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15). He laid down his life, bearing our sin before the wrath of God, so that sinners like us might be set free and have the sweet assurance of relationship to him (Romans 5:9; Hebrews 2:14 – 18). The promise of God is that all the Father has given to Jesus come to him, and those who come to him he never drives away (John 6:37). To know him is to have eternal life (John 17:3). Our loved one’s reliance on Jesus Christ in the gospel is the certainty of their eternal home.

When this day is done, I will sip on a can of Pepsi. I will long for Amber to bake some of Grandma’s sugar cookies. I will think of the woman who helped me be the man I am today. I will pray with my kids. I will hold my wife. I will rest knowing that my family has been captured by Christ. My confidence is in one thing and one thing only…. The Gospel

 God’s holiness  
 Man’s sinfulness and deserving judgment  
 Christ’s perfect personhood and atoning work to save us  
 Our necessary response of repenting and believing in Christ  

What will you do at the end of this day?

I love you Grandma.
Raise a glass with the King and bask in the stories of his immeasurable grace and mercy. You are home where you belong.

The Milestone of a Haircut

I’ve been cutting my own hair for two years now. No more scheduling appointments. No more waiting in line for the barber who actually knows how to cut hair. No more walking into a salon and being asked if I’d like to try highlights to disguise my ever spreading “distinguished” locks of gray.

I just plug in the clippers, slap on the #2 guard, and go for it. #1 got me in trouble once:( but she forgave me. hair

The one thing I do miss about going to a barber is getting my neck shaved. cut

I remember sitting for years as a kid, waiting patiently for the walk-ins welcome line to dwindle. Waiting ever so impatiently to get my turn, while reading fishing magazines. I was quite oblivious to the conversations of sports, work, or projects. My own little world was a nice place to be. However, there was one part of the haircut routine that mesmerized me every time….. watching as men had a straight razor taken to their necks.

This part of the grooming of a man was both dangerous and compelling at the same time. I grew up watching my dad shave with safety razors, like most men today. Blades like the ones wielded by a barber are not safe. They appeared to be razor sharp and reminded my youth eyes like the drywall knives that were around the garage. Good for cutting wall board, insulation off of wiring, hoses for your fuel line, and the occasional piece of rope. But to cut tiny hairs for the back of one’s head…. that seemed barbaric and awesome!!

I always wondered what that would feel like, and longed for the day when I would almost have my neck sliced open by my friendly neighborhood barber.

Then one day it happened. My hair was sufficiently cut, and I was awaiting the standard brushing off of hair that was part of the ritual. But it didn’t happen.

The scissors were put away.
The thin, useless version of a x-ray shield covering my chest like a was ever so slightly pulled down.
The sound of a machine making magic behind me, as it warmed up the shaving cream.
The feeling of a warm pillow being spread across my neck and behind my ears.
The action of the razor being drawn back and forth across the strap to give in a fresh edge. The moment when that razor slid across my neck.
The creation of the smoothest space of skin since being a newborn.

In that moment……. I became a Man

This may all seem a bit silly, but just the other day, these thoughts flooded back to me. Eli is between haircuts and Amber noticed quite a patch of hair growing on his neck, just below the hairline. She was combing his hair for school, and asked me to get my beard trimmers to handle the situation.

I was giddy

My boy is growing more and more into a man. It seems like each day he exhibits more maturity, and his heart is filled with empathy for those around him. I’m not sure what God has in store for him, but I do believe it will involve helping others.

Eli’s neck hair milestone of manliness didn’t involve the slow anticipation that I encountered. However, I continue to be intentional in creating manly milestones in his life. I want him to understand that life isn’t about being a child . That there is a natural order to growth and growing. Too many boys are merely growing into larger boys who can shave. They may have jobs, wives, and kids, but they act like children.

One of my roles in Eli’s life is help him in his journey towards embracing the story of God and finding his role in it. Sometimes it looks like telling him to be the man of the house when I go out of town. Sometimes it’s letting him climb a ladder onto the roof with me. Sometimes it’s him seeing me love his mother with all my heart. Sometimes it’s getting him a swiss army knife. Sometimes it’s taking him along with me to visit someone in the hospital. Sometimes it’s a boys only road trip to the slopes. Sometimes it’s conversations about sin while driving home from school. Sometimes it’s firmly explaining to him why we don’t wrestle with girls like they are boys. Sometimes it’s correcting him in his behavior. Sometimes it’s praising him for his behavior.

Always….. it’s about showing him how much I love him and that it pales in comparison to how much Jesus loves him.

As a father, I have only a limited time of influence in Eli’s life. I must make the most of each moment. What else would I spend my life doing…… some selfish hobby?

Excuse me….. I need to go buy a razor and a shaving cream warmer:)

You’re Not That Cool

tetons

Over the last couple weeks, Amber has been diving into the home video footage archive of the last several years to create some pretty amazing projects. This all began last week when I offered the kids some end of the day, before bed time, movie watching, which resulted in an after diner decision to view home videos:)

Needless to say, taking some time to sit down and enjoy them has led to all kinds of emotions and thoughts.

AWE The looks on my face when I first held Eli & Savannah is filled with an awe and wonder that I want on my face more often. I don’t think in this day of instant access to EVERYTHING that I am in awe enough. Not just the kind of look when standing on top of a mountain or out across the ocean. I seek those all the time and cherish each and every moment that I feel really small and God feels so big.

What I mean is that look of utter amazement that only accompanies a jolt to the soul. The kind of moment where you don’t know if laughter or tears is about to explode from your face. The kind of moment where you see in every closing tunnel vision and possess a focus that only allows silence to be the soundtrack. I know some would describe this as “having your breath taken away” but that is a description of being punched in the gut…… it’s not as powerful as what I’m trying to describe. This look of amazement in the face of a parent meeting their child is more akin to being present when God made Adam from dirt.

Speechless, Can’t look away, Can’t move, Heartbeat in the throat, Soul bubbling over, Amazed at God’s handiwork, Overwhelming love life never felt before

Laughter That awe and joy was also clearly evident in the amount of laughter that fills our home. The giggles of our children during those marathon tickle times. The screeches as I would chase them on my hands and knees. The countless hours of bouncing up and down. All the silly faces and feigned falls usually followed by a pouncing on daddy’s back. There are not many things this man loves more than hearing his children laugh.

Action There isn’t much sitting around in any of the videos. Eli and Savannah are conduits of constant motion, and they are all smiles while doing it. Whether it’s Savannah kicking like crazy when she couldn’t even crawl, or Eli shaking in his seat as he devours a bowl of cheese dip. Running through sprinklers, jumping into leaves, kicking balls, bouncing on the bed, …. you name it, they are doing it. And mommy and daddy are right there too

Love You will discover in the course of watching home videos the amount of love that exists. Tender moments of cheek to cheek cuddling. Full on attack kisses, dripping with infant slobber. Blown kisses that appear to be deflected back into the face of the giver from the obstructed hand. Tender good night smooches. Hugs so tight that oxygen is deprived. That amazing attack hug as you walk into the house from work. Trading smiles of pride and joy between mom and dad. Every single one a window into the building of a family and the nurturing of young souls.

You know what I found most profound…….. I didn’t care that the camera was rolling.

In today’s culture of the selfie, amassing a following, constantly living a social life with no one by your side, food you just took a picture of, and becoming depressed as you see the staged awesome that your friends are living…… we are more disconnected than any people in the history of the planet.

Despite what that deep sense of self importance that our culture has tried to instill in you, You’re Not That Cool

Just take a long hard look at your last dozen Throwback Thursday posts. The hair, clothes, events, and look you had back whenever is ridiculous by today’s standards. The famous people will grow old and become irrelevant, the latest trend will be replaced, the must have item will become obsolete, and within two generations you will be forgotten. You’re Not That Cool

Being in that moment.
In that time. Living it with my family.
Writing a story with our lives, that will live on forever, as part of God’s story. That is not a realm for the cool. It is the land of reality. And It’s So Much Better

Study and Prayer

The Word, the Gospel, Talking to our Dad

God’s word rocks my mind and melts my heart more each day, and I’m convinced daily that my voracious reading habit needs to be refined to a few choices outside of scripture.

In Matthew 6, as with the entire Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is continuing to preach that our hearts must be changed. We can’t let the wicked idea that rules and appearance clense us of our depraved birth. Only Christ can free us from the cycle of self rule and self agendas.

“The death of Christ is the wisdom of God by which the love of God saves sinners from the wrath of God, all the while upholding and demonstrating the righteousness of God in Christ.”
— John Piper (Desiring God)

All over this Gospel in a Single Sentence, is the simple basic truth of our faith…… God is at the controls of our salvation and sovereign over our entire lives.

This is made so clear in the model of how we are supposed to pray.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Line by line, we are drawn into the correct way of thinking & feeling. God invokes awe at every thought. We long for his perfect kingdom to reign over the fractured world we live. He is the provider of everything we need…every gift, every talent, every skill.. he is the originator of it all. Our daily missing the mark is covered infinitely with Grace, which humbles us to show the same Grace to others. The Spirit living in the children of God is the only defense we have in the war against our temptations.

Such powerful truth to center on, and a reminder that we must draw near to God each day.

This prayer has been recited by billions for thousands of years, we pray it every week, but what remains the most clear truth after quite nights in study and prayer…… when we carve out time for God to speak above the noise, we are changed.

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’.

C.S. Lewis

Open Hands

Savannah has proven herself over and over again to be tougher than anyone her age. Her strong will is amazing …. And as her dad, sometimes scary:)

Her independence and passion for doing things her way is refreshing in a world of caring way too much about selfies and self gain. She works hard at school, loves to live in the moment, and longs for every adventure that comes.

My prayer for her as she grows older, is that she lives her life with open hands. Hands that are currently calloused covered from so much time on the monkey bars:)

Hands

I want her life to be filled with richness only found in Jesus, and to know that her life is His and to go wherever he takes her.

There is so much evil in the world aimed at girls. From marketing, to wicked boys who will want to take her heart away from Christ, to girl attitudes that bring a greater pain than any regimen of water boarding.

I pray that she continues to be rooted in her love of Jesus, and that she embraces her role in the big story of God’s rescue mission for the hearts of his children.

As her dad, I want the world for her, but more than that, I want her toughening hands to stay open to receive all that God has in store for her life.

High Altitude Solitude

I literally just got off a plane in San Diego. I’m here to work with some men who serve in various capacities in their churches & businesses, Harbor Ministries. It’s for leaders who exhibit a passion for the life giving truth of the Gospel to invade all areas of life. It’s a process I went through several years ago and was forever changed and now have the honor of walking others through it.

However, as I flew over thousands if not millions of lives to get here, I began to wonder if I need this more than the men who are coming from all over the country. Do I still have that fire in my belly for Jesus to roll off my lips more than the NCAA championship game? Do I still long for the life of Christ to inspire those on the ground who have never heard his name? In my prayers for revival, will I be filled with unending joy when it lands in the church down the street? Is my heart set on engaging as many as I can with the Good News, or do I just want to be left alone with my headphones on?

We must never forget that it’s all about Jesus. Our lives begin with Him, grow with Him, and end in His arms for eternity.

The gospel changes everything. It affects the way we go about all areas of life — the workplace, business, the arts, culture, serving the poor, everything. We are to live all of our lives in a gospel-centered way. When we are driven by the gospel, we act in God’s power and work for the peace and prosperity of everyone (Jer. 29:4 – 7). And God’s call on us is to do this through all kinds of work, not just ministry work. 1

Peoples lives are at stake. This isn’t a game or a club.
I needed to be reminded of that from 30,000 feet.

Is God for us, despite our sin? Joyfully the Christian answers, ‘Yes.’ But why is He for us? Simple indeed is the Christian answer to that question: He is for us simply because He has chosen to be.

He surely has a right to receive whom He will into His fellowship: and as a matter of fact He has chosen to receive us poor sinners who trust in Christ; He chose to receive us when He gave Christ to die. It was His act, not ours.

J. Gresham Machen

Super Berry Boys

This week was a big week for the Berry Boys.
Sunday, I introduced Eli to The Amazing Spiderman movie and in our 5–7am man times this week, we watched Captain America.
Super

There are several loaded facts in the above statement.

  • Is Eli old enough?
  • Did Mike share in the this joy more than Eli?
  • 5am!!??
  • Isn’t Eli 8.5…. what took so long?

Yes, Eli gets up between 5–5:30am most mornings. He’s been an early riser for quite some time. We used to fight it, and work systems of punishment for waking up his parents that early. Now, I just get up with him:) I am more interested and overjoyed with the prospect of many quiet mornings with Eli, sharing thoughts, bible study, books, and 80’s tv shows like MacGyver.

Eli has a very tender heart, which leads to some pretty terrifying dreams at night…. often from things he’s watched or more often from the thoughts in his ever active head. There have been countless nights over the years with him sprinting to our room at night, as if he were being chased out of his skin. We think his visual aptitude leads to some of this fear, along with some random occurrences of sleep walking like behavior.

As we try to guard his heart and his head, we don’t allow him to watch much of what his friends are exposed to at his age. Right or wrong, we know what’s best for our boy and pray the Holy Spirit leads us more than our own efforts.

So, with some trepidation, we sat down to watch The Amazing Spiderman Sunday afternoon. I was prepared to skip past the parts that showed The Lizard or just shut the whole thing down, but he did fine. Then, we picked up Captain America later in the week for his viewing of awesomeness!!

No nightmare images from either movie……. at least I don’t think so. He was woken one night, but with no recollection of why.

I share this, not as a cheap plug at my parenting prowess or awesome super hero knowledge, but as a cautionary tale for anyone who is raising/leading children. They are sponges who absorb everything we throw at them. They hear conversations mom and dad are having, they listen intently to every word a teacher says, they take to heart the barbs thrown at them on the playground, they remember visually every burnt image in their memories, and most importantly, each child is different.

There is no cookie cutter technique or singular book/method to follow. Chasing that perfect method will only make you as frustrated as the Yeti society.

Engage with your kids
Chase their hearts
Listen to their words
Hold them tight, but not too tight
Train them in truth
Show them how much Jesus means to you
Make sure they see you read your bible
Make sure they hear you pray
Teach them that God is for them
Show them that Jesus is better than everything else
Set them free to go into the world with wonder

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