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The anecdote says that when Spurgeon was robbed while away from home that he came home and expressed thankfulness that a) his life was spared, b) the robber didn’t get much and c) “I’m thankful to God that I was not the robber.”

Last Wednesday, the second day of this year, I was working at my desk at school when Christie called me on my cell. She said a jumble of things [in my mind] but also something close to, “some men just came into our house…they put a gun to Karsten’s head….and put him in the closet.” She was also able to confirm that at least one item was missing and they had attempted to take the TV. I was her first call, so I ran to the car, raced home and talked to 911 the whole way there. I beat the police, and as I entered home, Karsten obviously had a jumbled dread of emotions on his face.

Karsten is our oldest. He is 10, and he was enjoying his last morning of Christmas break by playing with Legos on the living room floor when a knock came to the door. Christie was heading up the stairs to tend to the running water (a tub being filled for Bear’s bath), and she told him he could answer it. We live in a busy house with many guests and neighbors at our door throughout the week; sometimes even when I come home, I knock and wait at the front door. When the door was opened, a man with a gun presented himself and asked Karsten who was home. There were two masked and gloved men with him. Karsten told him that his mom was upstairs. He covered Karsten’s mouth, put the gun to his temple and marched him about 12-15 paces to a closet and deposited him inside. For 3-5 minutes, the three men (ages 17-20) went through the downstairs of our home trying to disconnect the TV, taking our iPod, and turning the radio on the docking station to a rap station.

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Karsten’s heart was pounding in the closet. He couldn’t hear the intruders, but he expressed very high concern that they would head upstairs where his siblings (ages 9, 7, 4, 3) and mama were. His emotions were racing. He described that time, not as primarily fearful for himself, but a strong sense of “I can’t believe this is happening here, happening to us.”

The men left with a slam of the door and raced to the car where a waiting 15-year old was in the rear seat of their car. The gunman drove away and out of our subdivision.

Just after I arrived home, the police descended on our subdivision. It was a harrowing time of details and shock, reporting and telling, fingerprinting and rehashing. And the police were great. Metro Nashville Police were highly esteemed in our eyes, but now much more so. They were kind and thorough and were gracious with our whole family.

Because of Karsten’s very detailed description of the men and a neighbor’s very exact description of the car, the four were caught within an hour, the iPod and gun (with a 33-bullet clip) were recovered, and have all admitted to being involved in some way. The DA is seeking a whole host of charges, perhaps including aggravated kidnapping for each of the four involved (TN law does not exclude the one who didn’t come in the house).

There is a definite gravity to this event in our lives. We were immediately and intensely thankful. We were thankful that God had spared Karsten’s life; our precious son still lives! God had kept our other little ones upstairs. He had kept the bad guys downstairs. He had allowed the bad guys to be consternated and leave sooner than they had to (they said they were not in the house that they meant to be in). We appreciate what sort of tragedy may have come last week and how different our lives almost were. We appreciate that there was a quarter of inch pull between life and death and that God controlled even that quarter-inch of space.

At the same time, we have slept well every night since. We have resolved together that God is King, even outside of church. In the moments after the police left, Karsten found his shoulders in my squeezing hands, and we were face to face with me telling him plainly and slowly that, “No one can hurt you. No one in this world can touch or harm you without God’s permission.” I quoted Spurgeon to him, saying, “The God who has been sufficient until now can be trusted to the end.”

We have been so loved this week. We have received encouragements and prayers and Scripture and texts and calls from the world over. In the midst of the trauma, we have received this very special dispensation of overt love that have made all the creaky pains seem lighter. Karsten has been fantastic. He has met two very competent, professional and compassionate District Attorneys, a wonderful victim advocate, an amazing arresting officer, a hilarious CSI, two of Nashville’s finest detectives, and a whole precinct (practically) of caring officers and sergeants. He has been prepped and sworn in for two different hearings already but has not been called to testify, though we are pretty certain he will need to do so in the future, perhaps many times. He has been interviewed on TV, and I’ve turned down two other interviews because that one was hard enough for him.

Today’s hearing was especially hard since it was a packed courtroom with the oldest two defendants present, many family members of the defendants, a news team, a whole gaggle of court crew and 15+ police officers waiting to testify. We were told he wouldn’t be needed and then were told in the middle of it that he would be brought in. He was calm (and a little bemused about the loose tooth that was hanging from his gums that he wasn’t ready to pull out today), but I was trembling for him today. In the end, the D.A. said she didn’t need him.

It has been a whirlwind, though, mostly of happy graciousness. That man did not pull the trigger. Those men did not go upstairs where our other three boys and little girl were. We are safe. We are warm in our home together. We can sleep in peace.

We are lucky. We live in this corner of the world where we can live softly with high birth rates, heated blankets, electronic amenities, soft-serve yogurt on every corner…. We live in a part of the world where crime still shocks us and calls us to the realities of a fragile and desperate world. I don’t deserve five healthy kids. They are a grace. I don’t deserve the Gospel love I’m shown each day either, but we have a good God with a perfect Son who made a perfect atonement for my trouble. He solved and healed my woes. And now I can’t look on these other things as my own. I’ve written this before, but Christie and I will recite on occasion what we know is true: “These kids are not ours; they are God’s. He gave them; He can take them. Nothing is too good or should be too close for our God to take.”

My sympathy for Vaughn, Birdsong, Kelly and Spears is high. While I want the judicial system to do its work on them and want them penalized, I want them to know the freedom that I feel. And the freedom is not a result of my lack of leg irons and handcuffs and steel bars. My freedom comes because I know the truth of the Gospel, and I believe the plain truths of Ecclesiastes, that you can have nothing in this world–no freedom, no people, no things–and life can still be rich.

I am fortunate; I have my child and my family is whole. The four defendants are fortunate–I was shopping for home defense shotguns 22 hours before they intruded my home; and, if I were home, I would have been steps away from a pistol. For this, I am thankful that I was not home. I want the gun, but the stories are so much uglier when the guns are used.

Unapologetically, this trauma has been good for our family. It’s not that we wish it on others, are glad it happened or want it to happen again. But it allows all of us to see God’s steady, close protection and care of this family. One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will declare His Lordship; and the excess and bounty will drip from our mouths and saturate our sight. May He preserve us to better declare His story to others.

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But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.

I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.

Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.

For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.
(Psalm 5:7-12)

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Karsten will be 10 next week. As a first-born, as a boy, as a son, he is a treasure to us. As much as Christie and I love kids, adore babies, and intensely love those early years, I am eager to watch Karsten begin tackling some of life’s issues and taking on more of life’s load. I think he’s ready.

He has an immensely thankful and thoughtful heart. He loves his siblings actively. He considers the lilies. He is becoming quite the proficient soccer and chess player. He is an astute student who loves the act of learning.

As we learn to honor and promote ceremony and milestone, Christie and I decided last summer to honor our children on their 10th birthday with an event to remember. I read Raising a Modern Day Knight to help with some ideas. Beyond the back story, Lewis had a lot of good ideas for making much out of the stages of life by acknowledging them and honoring them. We believe that our sons will never become men by accident. We need to purpose to actively and artfully teach them.

One of my favorite lessons learned from the book was the value of adding community to the event. We remember because of ceremony/pomp/surprise/magnitude. The act of enlisting community adds a whole synergism of values, sobriety, and depth. It takes lessons beyond, “that’s just dad talking.” It adds a depth of friendship that the lonely never know. It expands his spiritual and moral resources.

So Christie and I resolved that each of the kids will get a trip away on their tenth birthday, and we will do something else to honor them largely at their 18th birthday, perhaps. The goal of this event isn’t to be a vacation or a release. It’s a sort of initiation trip, not into adulthood or even into teenager-hood, but more of an initiation into higher expectations and capacities.

Karsten is turning 10 on May 4th, and we look forward to a simple party with him then. He doesn’t know the dates but we have tickets to fly to Boston and spend most of one week there together this summer. We arrived on Boston as a destination together over months of discussion (the second runner-up was Denver/the Rockies). We will be able to see a great storehouse of spiritual and historical sites in a small geographical area and will be able to even take in a Tigers/Sox day game at Fenway on Memorial Day! I’ve led tours in that area four times and am eager to show him what is there. He loves the Revolution, has learned much more about it this year in school, and he is eager to see so many of these things firsthand. As an honor and benefit, my dad will be joining us, too. [A super-added bonus is that we have free airfare and housing.]

As a way of adding community to the trip, I have asked Karsten’s uncles, Grandpas, pastor, and a couple of special friends who love Karsten to participate by writing a letter to him. I’ve assigned those twelve men topics to address, such as, A Man Works Hard, A Man Plays Well, A Man Serves, A Man is Pure, A Man Worships, A Man Treasures the Word, and A Man Does Hard Things.

My goal will be to disperse these letters for Karsten to find in NH and MA as we visit the sites. I am pretty sure that I can make it happen for him to find a letter in the steeple we will climb of Old South Presbyterian Church on the banks of the Merrimack River in Newburyport, MA (George Whitfield’s church). I think I can get a pilgrim or two to hand him a letter at Plimoth Plantation, that we can find one hidden in the grate at the monument at Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston from the South, one on his pillow every night when we return to the house and, well….I have lots of ideas and am fearless about enlisting help (I will even try to get the Governor’s Office to help). The surprise of finding them will heighten the effect.

I’m sure this collection is something that Karsten will treasure for life. I hope that the experiences of the trip as I craft them and encounters with these letters will give Karsten a keen vision of his life and especially that, from this point forward, life is going to be different!
Dostoevsky’s writes toward the end of The Brother’s Karamazov:

“I want you to understand, then, that there is nothing nobler, stronger, and healthier, and more helpful in life than a good remembrance from our childhood, when we still lived in our parents’ house. You often hear people speak about upbringing and education, but I feel that a beautiful, holy memory preserved from childhood can be the most important single thing in our development. And if a person succeeds, in the course of his life, in collecting many such memories, he will be saved for the rest of his life. And even if we have only one such memory, it is possible that it will be enough to save us some day.”

You and I will insert the Gospel into this and then, I think, agree wholly. Karsten has accepted the truth of the Gospel and is still learning about its power and reality. There is much that we can do together to influence and encourage the man he is becoming and add to his reservoir a history of happy and holy realities, remembrances and encouragements.

When we come home from the trip, Karsten will be presented with an album of the original letters from these men (he will be finding copies along the way). If you, reader, would like to include a letter of advice to a 10 year old, Christie and I would be happy to add it to the album. Karsten is young, but he has a keen understanding. I hope that these letters on the whole will not be over-simplified, but written to Karsten and the man is he becoming, not the boy he now is.  If you have no idea what to write, I have a list of topics that you could peruse. The soft deadline for these is May 20th.

Purposeful, Gospel-centered parenting is a hard plowing. Christie and I are still toddlers at it, but we do hope that by doing some planning (and sometimes some saving) we can well lead our four little boys and one little girl gracefully through the stages of life.

The big deal is that our children are not ours. They are God’s. Christie and I look each other in the eye and say this out loud from time to time. We get to oversee them for some time and then give them over to His service. If that time is 16, 18, 21 or whatever, we need to work to have them ready. If Jesus wants them now, we want to be ready for that, too. So we will keep reading, praying, planning and weeping over them, getting to know them better, seeking to hook their hearts to the glorious hope in Christ. The work is laborious [have you met Knox?], rapturous [if your little girl greets you when you get home like my little girl does when I walk in the door each time, you get it], intense, serious and rewarding. We are wholly inadequate and hopeless out of Christ.

So, we get back to it now…back to our counting stars and sand, little feet and little hands…counting joys.

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Merry Christmas, TBAP Family!

December 2010

 

“This baby would be like that bright star shining in the sky that night. A Light to light up the whole world. Chasing away darkness. Helping people to see. And the darker the night got, the brighter the star would shine.” — The Jesus Storybook Bible

December marks the beginning of our third winter in Nashville. After 2½ years, the newness and luster of the city is starting to wane as it gets explored and known, and we are getting down to the business of plodding along. Happily and joyfully, we are getting in stride and enjoying the pace and noise and excitement that comes with a healthy growing church, a still-new school, a household with 5 kids ages 8 and under, and a steady stream of friends and pilgrims. Just like this season last year, there has been hardly a day without day or overnight guests in the past month.

Karsten (8) is in 3rd grade and is our studious and responsible leader. Haddon (7) is a thoughtful and pro-active helper, often cheerfully going above and beyond his required load. Lincoln just turned 5 and is sweetly assuming a place among the big boys. He really digs having learned to ride his bike last month. Knox is almost 3 and is hilarious and chatty and is often quick to consider others. Claire (or Bear as she is almost always called) is 15 months and is fleeing infancy fast; she is running fast-forward toward girlhood as she dons the accessories, vocabulary, sweetness and obedience of a little girl. She is highly adored.

This has been a year in which we have consciously strived to know, understand and implement the Gospel better in our own lives and in our own home. Through thoughtful and truthful preaching, the helps of Scripture-soaked reading (especially The Gospel Primer) and other means of sharpening, we are better realizing our clear state of deeply and continually needing a Redeemer.  Our lives are hid in Christ on high, and they are full only in Him.

Feel free to swing by on your way through. We bid you a Merry Christmas.

Ryan and Christie

 

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We’ve had the joy of heaps of time in our home over the past three weeks with some of our favorite people. We have 4 boys and a girl. They have 4 girls and a boy. The oldest kid is 8. Eight of the kids are 5 and under. The 14 of us have a raucous time, punctuated by tickles, baby laughs and bumps/bruises and “when are we going to eat?”

When quiet adult talk can happen in the very late hours of the night, it’s easy to spend the time speaking of parenting issues, analyzing and examining issues we are facing, seeking sharpening, and reflecting on the labor and joys of our tasks and preparing for what is coming. Privately we perhaps are free to especially speak of the difficulties [read as: "overwhelming exhaustion"] of raising so many young children (all at once).

These words from John Piper are a balm to us. Here is an impromptu response to the common, secular “kids will kill the planet” talk that is common in the world,

“The kids I’m going to raise are going to lift a million burdens. Christian, you’ve got to believe that bringing kids into the world and being brought up in the Lord, makes them burden-lifters not burden-adders. They are in the world to lift the world, to save the world, to love the world. You’re not just adding dead weight to the world when you bring a child up in the Kingdom. You’re bringing up lovers of people and servants of the world.”

Source video

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Waking Up in Glory [Repost]

Tomorrow is the 2nd year anniversary of the death of Clair R. Hayward, my grandpa. I would have mentioned it here tomorrow, but since I’m getting such a positive pounding today of links from Challies’ recommendation, I would like to post my whole tribute again in hopes that more will be encouraged by the stature of a quiet, steady leader.

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Thursday morning my Grandpa woke up with new good legs, new strong arms, a new full voice, and newfound joys. He sees God in His glory. He’s singing again today and adjusting to his eternal home. His joy is beginning to bud and will always increase.

“But just think of stepping on shore and finding it Heaven,

of touching a hand and finding it God’s,

of breathing new air and finding it celestial,

of waking up in glory and finding it home.”

He was a wonderful, warm, generous, loving, gentle man of real, lively faith. He was a real example of “love with shoes on” in that he lived what he believed and it affected everything.

God laid him low three autumns ago with a stroke that limited his speech and slowed his body. Those days were arduous for us and him. In the hours after that first stroke, when his speech was starting to slur, he was offering me instructions for the moment and for life. I wish I could have understood all of his words. His clearest speech that day was the mandate to take care of grandma. I spent several nights with him in ICU, and he shocked the doctors and his family by surviving. He was mostly silent for the last three years, but we loved birthdays when we knew that grandpa would sing Happy Birthday along with the rest of us [singing and talking are generated in different parts of the brain]. In the waning years, as my boys were growing up, I cherished the way that he cherished them. Through his physical want, he always put on a happy, loving smile and gentle hands when my boys walked through the door. He lost his physical capabilities, but not his cheery, loving heart.

He was a teacher of the best sorts of things. He taught me how to read a map and be his navigator. From the backseat, I learned to give the best sorts of directions and location declarations. I think I traveled with grandma and him to Florida probably six times, Colorado twice and Grand Marais bunches.

He taught me how to spit like a man when I was very young sitting in the back seat of their Dodge Omni tooling down to Florida. Whenever he rolled down his window to spit, I was sure to do the same. I learned that to avoid a wet face, you had to spit hard from the back of your mouth when you were traveling 65 miles an hour.

He taught me to be faithful, steady and quiet. You always knew where he was going to be on Sunday. No questions. I always knew he would be working hard on every job he was given or that he gave himself. He was a first-rate mechanic, wise deacon, knowledgeable Sunday School teacher. He was always in his place. Grandma remembers that he only ever missed one day of work (the road was blocked both ways during a snowstorm). He was always where he should be. I knew to look for him in the barn when we arrived every Friday evening for spaghetti, Pepsi, popcorn and fudge.

One sunny Saturday, grandpa opened the barn doors and brought out the old ’73 Charger. He told me to get in. I remember the feel of the white vinyl and the stale smell of having been sitting in storage. He showed me she could still move fast. I remember holding on for dear life as we flew through the countryside. He looked over at me, saw my expression and slowed way down. He said, “We should put on our seatbelts. It would be really embarrassing if we were killed in an accident.” We did, and he was off again.

“A faithful man shall abound with blessings.”

He could be stern and calm at the same time. I found that out every time I was foolish with the motorbike, go-kart or BB gun.

One of the coolest days of my life was when, as a 12 year old, I flew from Kalamazoo to Chicago to Jacksonville all by myself. It was a ton of fun and part of the enjoyment was that on every leg of the journey, the stewardesses and the airport hosts were calling me Clair Hayward. I was using his ticket.

“No man was ever shot by a woman while he was washing dishes.” — Grandpa had this motto hanging at eye level by the kitchen sink

Some would travel the world for him. Grandma did. At 17 years old, she took a ship to England to marry him (he was stationed at Ipswich in the Air Force). Grandma was his faithful and dear wife who cared for him gently and respectfully in all his travails. She was a wonderful example of a sweet, patient helpmeet. They made a wonderful pair for 56 years.

Today was a wonderful day. Nearly 500 people gathered together and shared wonderful memories that made us roar with love. We sang heartily. We wept real sorrow. We belly-laughed. We were thankful together to have known him.

And now I live happy with my memories of him, glad that my oldest boys will remember him and that he was a man who loved his God, family and church entirely. I can unashamedly seek to emulate him and point my boys to his example and, like him, strive to be faithful to the end.

UPDATE: On 9/3/09, after four boys, Christie and I welcomed a little girl into our home. She is a sweet and precious gift. We named her Claire.

[Original post - with tribute comments]

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Cute is Costly

Getting a little girl dressed in the morning is not for the faint-of-heart or the lackadaisical. After a year of practice, it is hardly less intimidating or taxing.

Wide-ranging protocol must be considered. Sequencing procedures must be observed (tights do not go under onesies, for example). OSHA regs must be consulted (especially for policies concerning the navigation of the tiny digits as they pass through fabric sleeves and legging tunnels). Counsel must be sought betimes from the administrative departments. Certifications must be procured.

Abruptness is taboo. So is gruffness.

And…if all goes well…

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Linc’s Video Is Now Posted

…and did you see Had’s birthday video last Friday?

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