Tag Archives: family

Just drop your work and play soccer

photo (7)I had things to do, but my oldest son suggested we play soccer. He’s almost 17, almost off to college where I won’t be seeing him.

When we were missionaries in Guatemala, I was almost always too busy to spend much time with him. The tyranny of the urgent destroys what’s truly important.

Sons and daughters need dad more than money. God wants me to win my family to Christ before winning others. If I am so busy winning others to Christ, if I am something of an absentee father, I will have failed in my mission in life.

So I closed my laptop and changed for a quick-moving game of futsal. In soccer there are piano players — those who have delicate touch and quickness — and piano movers — hulking player who bust through defenses. Rob’s both.

The teams are always my younger son and I against Rob. Even though we are two against one, Rob always wins.

Then a friend, Lisa, came along. Since we were losing, she came on our team. Still Rob was winning. But we kept fighting. My recent trips to the gym have helped me develop more leg muscles and I can keep up with Rob’s starts and stops, his spins, the jukes. Just stay goalside and block the shot. Don’t try to take the ball from him.

Hosea and I are playing better than usual. We are actually passing and combining nicely with Lisa. Oddly, we conjure some decent finishing. It is tied 8-8. It is growing dark.

Finally, another quick one-two pass and the ball slides through the chair legs (our goal). We are winning 9-8.

“It’s too dark to keep playing, Rob,” I say. “Let’s get dinner.”

Ha! This is how I win! I call the game off right when we are in the rare moment of being up one point! I take a shower and get ready for Spanish service. I am exuberant. I can’t remember the last time Hosea and I beat Rob.

Sons need a dad. Drop your work.

Jesus brightens families

The photo before I worked on it.

The photo before I worked on it.

Ok, so I’m just a beginner with photoshop. I guess I’m having fun. Maybe I can get a job at Target. They don’t seem to have very good photoshoppers.

fam2014revisded

I tried to lighten our faces.

Jesus does the best job of bringing light to our families.

If you’re facing criticism

facing criticismdon’t despair. You’re probably doing something right.

Consider Joseph. For having a call of God on his life, he was reviled by his brothers and rebuked by his parents. Eventually the brothers sold him into slavery, after very nearly killing him.

And in the end, God raised up Joseph to great leadership in Egypt. He was the catalyst for enlarging Israel in the incubator of Egypt. He was the man for the plan, but the plan was unrecognizably from God. How did Joseph not spiral in depression from such rejection from his loved ones?

Love always hopes

love always hopes

Naivete is not an attribute of love. So when 1 Cor. 13:6 says, Love always believes. Love always hopes, it’s not suggesting we go gullible or that we refuse to acknowledge when something is going wrong.

But there is a difference between naivete and cynicism. We might say: Love doesn’t stop believing in your spouse (after all, you fell in love with something good in that person), and Love hopes for the best.

None of this means crossing your fingers. Rather, you should contend for your marriage in prayer.

Of course, Jesus Himself provides the basis for divorce — adultery. And we might think of some other intolerable, similar sins (wife-beating comes to mind). The point here is not to enumerate all the justifiable causes of divorce. Nor is it to make you feel bad if you fell into divorce for any reason. As Jesus said, Moses granted humanity the divorce option because of hard hearts.

The point here is to encourage those who may be contemplating divorce to instead contemplate prayer. There are some practical things to do too, like get some marriage counseling. I recommend a Christian pastor but a secular counselor can be very helpful too.

Other marriage rescuers:

  • a support group (not your same-sex friends who agree with all your complaints).
  • be nice to your partner for once.
  • do the things you did when you were dating.
  • cut the criticism (harsh words are a marriage killer).
  • don’t argue in front of the kids.
  • talk over and come to agreement on child-raising techniques.
  • analyze objectively financial pressures and see how you can remove this marital strain.

There are many more. The point is to re-direct the course of your marriage today towards recovery. Love hopes for the best, believes that  a better marriage is possible. Generally, it’s not better to start over. You’ll get a new spouse with a new set of problems. Keep loving the person you loved.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love is not easily angered

love is not easily angered

Pic from Google Circles. I don’t own the rights to this photo, nor am I making any money on it.

Insignificant habits irritate us supremely in marriage. The she talks, the way he eats. She forgets your favorite spice, he forgets to tuck his shirt in.

1 Cor. 13:5 says: Love is not easily angered.

Dianna and I took a personality test before marriage at the behest of her church. I was angered that I had to take the test. Were they going to tell us we were incompatible and shouldn’t marry?

When the results came in, we were both surprised: You both have above average levels of anger. Honestly, neither Dianna nor I were aware. But as our marriage progressed, we crossed swords often. We had to learn to calm down, to defer anger, to analyze outside of ourselves, to negotiate, to accept each other and stop trying to change each other.

We’ve made it to 24 years, and we’re still devising strategies to get along We’re still working on being less angry.

Here’s every element of the series:

Love is kind

love is kindMarried couples fall into the trap of expecting their spouse to be kind and reserving any show of kindness until then. This is path to divorce.

Remember when you were in love? No mountain was too high, no sea too stormy. You spent time thinking up new and fantastic ways to be kind to your beloved.

People tend to “let their hair down” around family, which means they’re mean. Oddly, with strangers they’re nice. Reverse this and be nice to family. Be tender to your spouse.

If you will simply be kind (even if your spouse “doesn’t deserve it”), you could set your marriage onto a path towards renewed happiness.

1 Cor. 13:4 says: Love is kind.

Here’s every element of the series:

Mi café favorito es el color de sus ojos

cafe Because this is untranslatable it goes out in Spanish (sorry, I realize that only a few of my followers speak Spanish). I wish to encourage all the marriages to work on restoring romance. Don’t wait for your anniversary or Feb. 14. The devil wants to destroy marriages; that is how he is quartering American society.

Make the journey home

journey home

Jacob so longed to be in the Promised Land that he order his bones be carried there from Egypt, which was done — incredibly — 400 years later!

It’s time for you to go home. To your spouse and children. Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home — Proverbs 27:8 ESV. Happiness is NOT in the wild life, it’s in the hearth.

It may be difficult to work out lasting relationships. It’s easy to throw it all away and believe the the lie that you’ll find something better elsewhere.

Kids need mom and dad at home. That’s where the greatest joy is, not with the “guys” doing guy things in the world. Don’t think the settled life is boring. God’s design brings the greatest and most lasting happiness for everyone.

This holiday season, don’t just go home in your car. Go home in your heart.

Half throttle was to blame

dad and don

Dad and my brother, Don

My dad didn’t like football. He liked experimenting in Grandpa’s shop. He once tested if water conducted electricity and got a huge shock because he touched the metal water basin. There was no longer any need to put the second wire in the water to see if the light bulb lit up. Not only did the water conduct electricity, the basin did too.

One time he made model plane to fly. This was before the days of remote controls. You sent it up, it flew, and when it ran out of gas, it glided down. After days of laboring, he enthusiastically took his plane to an empty field in Glendale. He timidly set it at half throttle.

It took off and promptly crashed and broke. A plane, like the Christian, cannot get enough lift out of its wings without enough velocity. If you’re going to soar, you’re going to have to go all in.

Strawberry yogurt, chocolate and the Sabbath

Sunday sundaeI had forgotten how good strawberry with chocolate was. Fortunately, I poured dark chocolate chips, Snickers bits, and chocolate syrup over my yogurt last night. A treat like this is for once a week.

The sabbath principle is that human beings need rest. They also need a bit of fun. God gave us one day a week for that, and to seek His face. Sometimes Americans want to have fun every day of the week — hence our obesity.

frozen yogurt and God

My sweet wife eating sweets.

Sundays and sundaes

Personally, I’m a workhorse, a workaholic. Left to myself, I feel guilty if I’m not rendering some service to the Lord. Fortunately, my pastor exhorts me to take a break. Maybe you need a break? When was the last time you took a break from secular concerns to seek God’s face in a Sunday sermon?

Thankful for my son, Robert


With Thanksgiving approaching, I want to say things for which I am thankful to God. My son Robert wants to be an engineer. He plays club soccer, and he plays in worship at the church. What else could a dad want his son to do?


What are you thankful for? I encourage you to blog your gratitude. Let’s infect the web with gratefulness.

Hard to love

hard to love

image from truelovedates.com. I don’t own rights to this, and I’m not making any money on it.

Actually, it’s easy to love the Islamic State. What’s hard is to love your spouse.

As Christians, we are ordered to love our enemies. We may be enraged by their atrocities, but we can pray for them to get saved and wish Christianity for them.

The toughest thing is stomaching hurt from a person from whom we expect love. We don’t expect love from the Islamic State. Because we are surprised when a family member (or church family member) rejects us instead of loving us, it’s a rough road.

The lady who blackmailed me by falsely accusing me to the police is easy to love. I never expected anything from her. Her kid was in our school in Guatemala, and, desperate for money, she thought it would be easy to exploit the gringo. Despite her turning my life into a hellish nightmare for nine months, it was easy to forgive her.

But the people I love and expected to receive love from… Help me, Jesus.

Being liked

being likedCall me insecure, but I’m the type who wants to be liked by everybody. The reality is: not everybody is going to like me.

In fact, sometimes lots of people are disgusted with me. After all, I’m just a human being.

Jesus asks us to love those who hate us. Sometimes the people who are supposed to love us, pour rejection out. This is hard to handle. It requires maturity — more than I have. But it’s something I can shoot for. Christianity is not about being perfect but aiming for improvement.

Now she’s 18, and that’s teaching me about God

Now she's 18,Now that my eldest is 18, I don’t automatically get to spend time with her. I have to ask for time with her. I’m inviting her to coffee.

She’s in college, though still at home. But she has friends, new and old. She has homework. She has a job. It almost seems like she doesn’t have time for Dad.

No longer do I tell her what to do. She’s an adult. I ask her what she’s doing.

I just want to be with her, to listen to her, to joke with her. I don’t want to be shut out of Rebekah’s life. I long to be with her. This is teaching me about God.

God spent the afternoons walking around talking to Adam and Eve. Managing all the affairs of the universe probably took the morning. The afternoons He saved to be with His children. He yearned to spend time with them. This is not religion; it is relationship.

veinte java chip
But Adam and Eve shut out God by sinning.

He still longs to be with us. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are granted access to God, if we want it. Do we have time for Him?

>God is not a bunch of rules — He just wants to share a veinte java chip with you.

Don’t get frustrated with the people around you

frustrated with peoplePeople are either a blessing or a lesson.

That is beautiful because it almost rhymes and expresses profound truth. So we should not despise the people who are lessons to us — the frustrating ones. It appears to me that is generally cute to despise others: “I don’t hate people. I just feel better when they’re not around,” one T-shirt says. And thus we families that fall apart. Since we can’t get along with others (we are unwilling to work at building relationships and blame others, not ourselves), we wind up with loneliness.

This is my plea for you to work at relationships, to restore, to forgive, and to give without expecting in return. Demolition is much easier than construction. To tear down feels pleasurable. But the rubble left is no fun. It is better to build, even if it is costly. Build your family, your friendships, your church.

Holy Cannoli! Prayer’s good!

  • How do I pray?
  • Prayer of faith
  • Bible prayers
purple berries

Cousin Dave with freshly picked raspberries and purple berries, not as tart at the black, rasp or boysenberries. They’re official unscientific name is Royalty Purple Raspberries.

I discovered relatives are wonderful.

Disconnected from my East Rochester relatives by 16 years of missionary work and lack of funds, I haven’t seen them essentially since 1988. Now I have children. I wanted to take my kids to see Niagara Falls.

Genesee Country Village and Museum Civil War reenactmentThey saw much more than just that. They saw a Civil War reenactment battle. They boated down the Erie Canal. They munched purple berries and raspberries fresh from the garden. They drove a John Deere lawn mower. They ate cannolies, Abbot’s frozen custards, and red hots. The list goes on.

Abbott's

Mmm! Abbott’s habit-forming custard ice cream cones

My definition of relative: someone who loves you for no apparent reason and showers blessings down on you. S/he hugs you without having met you before and includes you a wonderful thing called family.

Holy cannoli! Prayer's good!

In front of the American Falls at Niagara

God is our Father, or in New Testament lingo, abba, daddy. When we look up to Him, we are not addressing a bot which indexes unfeelingly our merits and flaws to rank us to see if we deserve an answer. We are not before the stern judge, the contract lawyer, the boss who’s trying to exploit us and intimidate us. We are not before the school teacher who humiliates us publicly, the fake Facebook friend who’s always happy but ultimately uninterested in us.

How do I pray?We are in front of a father. Recently, I found out about a dad who spent $2 million trying to clean up his daughter’s past so she can go on to a bright future. The job’s not done, and he’s still spending. No limits to what he will do for his girl.

God does even more than that for us. Much confusion about prayer can be dismissed simply if we remember that Jesus begins the model prayer: Our Father. The marrow of prayer is love — God’s love. When he doesn’t answer immediately, it’s because He loves us and the delay is better. How do I pray? Know to Whom you’re talking: a loving dad.

Compulsive compilers of lists

how to pray?

Rebekah, the compulsive compiler of lists

My teenage daughter gave me the grocery list yesterday — with just one item.

Rebekah and my wife are passionate about lists. I am passionate about losing lists.

how do I pray?

Rebekah’s discipler in list compiling, my wife, Dianna

My wife grew up in a household where her mother put up stickies on cabinet doors, on walls, on regular doors, on the refrigerator. There were reminders to leave your shoes outside, turn off lights, take vitamins. When we got married, I threw these out when Dianna started posting them up. Tacky stickies.

Don’t get me wrong. I have my agenda with lists of things to do. But the loose papers? I lose them. Usually I go to the store (yes, I buy the groceries) reciting the 8 – 9 essential items and buy the things that strike my fancy. Haha! What a strategy! More often than not, I forget 5 – 6 of the essential items. Nevertheless, I’m stubbornly opposed to lists.

Michael Ashcraft

Me, the list-hater. I guess you could say I’m often listless. No, I’m not a cowboy, but I do steal people’s hats for pictures when I can.

Which is why I looked at the list yesterday and asked Rebekah, “Why?” Why a list with only one item. Seriously?

I lost the list and remembered to buy the item: canned refried beans. Hooray!

There is only one important list: my prayer journal. (Chances are, you’re in it because I pray for my followers by name — though I need to update it! If you want me to pray for you, just comment at the end of this post, and I’ll make sure you enter the list.)

Forgetting groceries is annoying. But forgetting to pray is a question of Heaven and Hell. So I don’t want to miss anyone or anything.

Which demonstrates a point: Do we pay more attention to our grocery lists or our prayer lists?

Too old?

Pastor Ralph laughed at me as he went off to the comforts of his own bed.

Pastor Ralph smirked at my fate as he went off to the comforts of his own bed.

I’m too old for this, right? I’m almost 46.

When Karina needed someone to chaperone her boys’ sleepover on Saturday, I volunteered. My son was one of the friends. Here were eight kids aged 10 – 13, camping out in tents on the front lawn of her suburb home for a birthday. The guys woke me up every 15 to 30 minutes until 3:00 a.m. with cackling at prepubescent jokes. I was afraid they’d wake the neighbors, who’d call the police for disturbing the peace. Yeah, my peace.

IMG_2673At 1:30 a.m. the 20-something-year-old girl across the street had some guy friends talking to her, leaning against the car. I crawled back into my sleeping bag on the porch because it didn’t look like any problem. Then at 2:30 a.m., two boys woke me up with hushed screams of terror. The guys, they said, had attempted to light the tent on fire (I think they may have thrown a cigarette or two in the street; from that, the imagined immolation). According to my boys, the guys were gangstas, hoodlums, “bad guys.”

IMG_2677Aw, shut up and go back to bed, I growled. It’s YOU guys who are the bad guys ‘cuz you won’t let me sleep. I curmudgeonly drilled my head into my pillow. Next thing I knew, the boys were putting their sleeping bags onto the cement driveway. I ask them why but, delirious with exhaustion, I comprehended nothing of their answer. I began to snore. The next morning I asked why they left the tent on the lawn for the bruisingly hard driveway.

“Because we were closer to you.”

This was Sunday. Hosea wanted to have a friend over. They handed out these lighted goggles at the party.

This was Sunday. Hosea wanted to have a friend over. They handed out these lighted goggles at the party.

A super-groggy, trying-not-to-be-cranky Christian camp dad attempted to crack the tent-packing code. (How does something so big fit into such a small bag? Where are those tent pegs sunk into the lawn?)  I dropped half the kids off at their homes and went to take a shower and gulp down 3-4 cups of coffee before church service.

“Thank you, Mr. Ashcraft.”

IMG_2679I tried not to grumble in response.

Kids need activities to make them feel special, to let them know how much God loves them. It’s up to us, the older generation, to help the younger generation know Christ. Today is Monday, and three cups of coffee have NOT achieved the desired effect. Through the haze of hangover-like sleepiness, I’m planning the next sleepover.

Are you too old to help kids?

Helpless, but not hopeless

Photo Pinterest

Photo Pinterest

Photo Pinterest

Photo Pinterest

You feel like an cornered animal. You want your parents to stop fighting, and there is nothing you can do. You want your husband to be the good father your kids need, and he continues unfaithful or abusive. You have cancer.

Americans love — no, need — to have everything under control. What do you do when life spins out of control? Frustration boils over. How do you keep sane in insane circumstances? How do you tolerate intolerable acts?

I was falsely accused by an extortionist in Guatemala. It was a “big bad gringo takes

Photo Pinterest

Photo Pinterest

advantage of a helpless Guatemalan” scenario. I was very much afraid I would be sent to jail, but since the accusations were utterly false, I would not capitulate to the extortion (If he pays $—-, I will drop the charges).

I fasted four days a week. I went to bed afraid the cops would come and get me. I woke up thinking the cops would pick me up.

369787819373451012_bQuSJOKx_bWell, I got a lawyer. God defended me. Innocent I was, and I was found innocent.

Don’t run away screaming. Don’t cut your wrist. Don’t intern yourself in a mental institution. You need something to hold on to when your world tumbles down like the proverbial house of cards.

We Christians hold on to God. He is a friend and a lover. When everything you always wanted becomes everything you always feared, God will sustain you if you flee to him. You may be helpless to change unchangeable circumstances, but hopeless you are not.

Reinvent yourself

When you open your mouth, do you burn those around you? Change, this year. Art thanks to =Culpeo-Fox

When you open your mouth, do you burn those around you? Change, this year. Art thanks to =Culpeo-Fox

Has life been beating you up?

Has life been beating you up?

I was something of a Christian cop. I actually believed it was my job to ease people back to the right path if they took one false step. I wasn’t really popular. More accurately, people were riled, and they almost expelled me from ministry.

I needed to change, to evolve, to retool. I didn’t need some computer-aided enhancements; I needed major plastic surgery.

Bring peace to your life. Photo thanks to EcoGreen

Bring peace to your life. Photo thanks to EcoGreen

Politicians reinvent themselves if they lose an election and reformulate for another try. It takes a lot of gut-wrenching soul-searching. Basically, you look at yourself and — instead of justifying your actions, which comes natural to everyone all the time — you look critically in the mirror. You take out a machete and begin hacking away. Then you CHANGE.

This metamorphosis makes every tissue in your soul shudder. This coming year — instead jotting down flimsy

Time is rushing on! Do what you need to do, NOW! Photo thanks to gisell chanden project

Time is rushing on! Do what you need to do, NOW! Photo thanks to gisell chanden project

halffull“resolutions” that get jettisoned shortly after takeoff — go from worm to butterfly.

Your marriage needs it. Your ministry. Your kids need to see a totally different you. Your boss is giving you just one last chance. You’re going to be responsible. Patient. Kind. Unselfish. Not angry. Whatever. You CAN do it.

Well, my popularity rating has shot up. I don’t think I’m the favorite person in the church, but I’m no longer the Mr Scowlface. I encourage you for 2013, make drastic change.

The real reason…

Photo thanks to PunkDrunkLove

Photo thanks to PunkDrunkLove

… you didn’t get so many gifts this year, is not the recession.

May the gift of laughter — as well as the gift of gratitude — be with you this year. Merry Christmas!

(That pesky NRA!)

 

No room in my home

WinpyChristianLast night at church, the pastor issued a plea for a new couple, Jose and Mary, who were evicted and needed a place to stay until they get back on their feet. They are just recently moved here, and she’s pregnant — nine months. Can you believe that?

Why would they get pregnant without lots of dough stashed away in the bank? They no doubt don’t have health insurance, so it’s a typical case of taking advantage of the system. People need to be more responsible and stop looking for handouts.

I am voting for our family to NOT pitch it. We can’t simply help every time there’s a need. The way I see it, every  dime that goes to charity is one less for my Christmas presents, and I’m hoping for the biggest haul ever this year!

Why don’t Mary and Jose go to THEIR parents. I’ll bet not even Santa Claus will give them anything. They probably didn’t behave themselves.

But the worst thing is that Mom and Dad talked about letting them stay at our house, at least on the couch. That’s creepy! Can you imagine running into the living room to open my goodies bright and early Christmas morning — and these strangers are there. What if they run off with the gifts during the night and disappear? Let them go to some homeless shelter to give birth there.

**** “Manual,” the fictitious persona of the Wimpy Christian, thanks the Wimpy Kid for his attitude and applies it to the church.

 

Once you start, how do you stop?

The man behind the MustardSeedBudget ravenously devouring Christmas cookies.

The man behind the MustardSeedBudget ravenously devouring Christmas cookies.

IMG_1727These cookies my daughter bakes are soooo good. I never eat them; I flee them; they’re dangerous. But she insists that I must try. Reluctantly, I relent. They have more than chocolate chips: marshmallows and crackly red and green sugar crystals. Needless to say, the exquisite ecstasy produced instantaneous addiction. I threatened to NOT stop with the broken cookies. I would need a 12-step program to break off gobbling them up

I bet my friends of the photo blogs could take a much better picture of these delights.

I bet my friends of the photo blogs could take a much better picture of these delights.

One menacingly look from Rebekah was enough to deter me. When she was younger, she obeyed me. It’s biblical. But now that she is 16 years old, I have to obey her. No one warned me this switcheroo would happen. She’s enough for anyone to go cold turkey. As Rob’s friends know well, you don’t mess with Rebekah.

IMG_1730Becky has been making me feel less Grinch-like. When I was missionary in Guatemala, I was a gringo. But now, I’m a Grinch. Making the transition from belt-tightening missions to spendthrift USA has not been intuitive. She plays Christmas carols incessantly and prevailed on my wife to get a Christmas tree. So the effects have been to put me in the mood. And now, I just wanna wish everybody a Merry Christmas! My Savior was born (probably not on this date), and He could be your Savior too!

I guess I had better read my morning blog about exercise, now that these tantalizing temptations are beckoning. Where's Rebekah? I need to sneak another one!

I guess I had better read my morning blog about exercise, now that these tantalizing temptations are beckoning. Where’s Rebekah? I need to sneak another one!

Maybe we should report those cookies to DEA. You might be dreaming of a white Christmas, but I’m dreaming about green and red sugar crystals.

Don’t pray small

treeOften, the struggling pastor goes only for subsistence. He prays for just enough to pay bills and keep the church open. It’s true that God takes us through years of skinny cows, but He never wanted us to succumb to unbelief. He tells us to pray believing for ever bigger things. We fail to pass the test when we scale down our prayer requests, as if we ask too much, or as if God doesn’t want to give us. Bigger is in His interest because His kingdom grows. So go for something outrageously huge next prayer!

Too many hypocrites

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Immediately, the Pharisees plot to kill both Jesus and the testament of his power, Lazarus.

“Hypocrite” in Greek simply means actor, so simply defined pretty much everyone in church is a hypocrite — and everyone outside of the church too. Who is not something a poser, a pretender?

If you want to befuddle a Christian, call him this bad word. If you want to skip Sunday worship, bandy about this word. BUT BEWARE: you are using the term too loosely. A hypocrite is NOT someone who flounders the high standards of God’s kingdom; he’s simply a human being.

Rather, a hypocrite is a person like the Pharisees, who in John 11 see Lazarus resurrected and orchestrate the Healer’s murder. A hypocrite is NOT someone who stubs his toe everyday but he who is deliberately evil and hides behind a pretense of righteousness.

In reality, you are NOT a hypocrite if you are sincere about your stumblings. The non-Christian is wrongly applying the word for imperfect believers (only Christ was and is perfect). If you catch me sinning, well surprise, I’m a sinner (saved by grace). I’m not excusing my sin.

My sin is inexcusable. At the same time, it is forgivable — if not by you, at least by God (most importantly, by God). Far from us to call ourselves holier than thou. We are sinners, saved by grace. Though we must strive for betterment, we inexorably flail and fail. Forgive us, but please don’t exclude yourself based on our imperfections.

Our warts are glaringly hideous. We just need a bit of tolerance.