Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Turning 35.

Happy birthday to me.  Today.  February 10th, 1981, my mom gave birth to a beautiful little boy named, well, me.  Ha.  She always seems to call me on this day after dinner and says, "happy birthday papito!  I love you and am so proud of you."  Words I will never tire of hearing.

I don't know what makes 35 so reflective but it makes me stop and think.  I'm halfway to 40.  Wow.  I still feel like I'm 18 in so many ways.  My body tells me otherwise after a game of pick-up basketball.  I just wanted to take a minute on the morning of my 35th birthday and tell you a little bit of what I've learned...

These are some things I've learned in 35 years:

My dad taught me the most valuable lesson.  Use your ears more than your mouth.  I tell my children this everyday before school.

My mom taught me to love no matter what.  It doesn't matter what they do to you or say.  Love them.

My wife taught me to be patient.  The hardest lesson to learn so far.

My children have taught me to laugh.  Their laughter is better than money in the bank.

My father-in-law taught me that hard work pays off and that there are no short-cuts in life.  If you do see a short-cut, don't take it.

My mother-in-law taught me that love trumps any negative thing someone could say to you or about you.

My sister taught me to keep pushing, keep asking and don't give up.

My sister-in-law taught me to love my family and how important they will always be.

My brother-in-law taught me to be humble, quiet and work hard no matter who is looking.

The Holy Spirit has taught me that he's with me no matter who distant I feel.

Jesus has taught me that he loves me no matter how I feel that day.

The Father has taught me that He doesn't condemn me no matter what I've done.

These are just a few things I've learned.  The greatest lesson I've learned so far in 35 years is to know that I'm loved not because of what I can do or say or how hard I can work.  I'm loved because Jesus made me lovable.  That's the best thing I know today.  Resting in the truth of Romans 8:1.

-ricky g

Sunday, June 21, 2015

I'm exactly who you thought I am...

My heart is heavy at the moment as I just heard the news of my favorite preacher, Tullian Tchividjian,  pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Florida, resigned his position this weekend due to a marital failure.  I do not know all of the details but because his granddad, Billy Graham is world-famous, it is all over the news.  I think more than that it's because he's a christian and a pastor.

I quote Tullian all the time as his preaching (by the power of the HS) has set me free in many areas of my life.  He preaches the unadulterated good news that Jesus came to do for sinners what sinners couldn't do for themselves.  I've read (or am reading) all of his books and his am an avid listener of his weekly podcast.

I thought it was odd that over the last few weeks CRPC was having guest preachers as Tullian was in the middle of a series on the book of Acts called "Unstoppable" which I was very much enjoying.  I knew he had taken some kind of sabbatical but thought it was only for some time for him and his family to get away as he does most summers.

As I walked through Target waiting for the kids to look at toys I saw someone on my FB page post "tell me this isn't true..." and a blog titled "The age of the unknowable Pastor" with Tullian's picture.  My stomach sank into knees.  I began to read the words in the blog and the dread words "extra-marital affair" appeared.  My heart was broken.  But why?  Why did my heart ache for Tullian and his wife?  Why did it become surreal at the moment I read it?

Idolatry is why.  John Calvin said, "the heart is an idol making factory" constantly fashioning idols and replacing them with each other.  Our hearts are dark and sinful and should not be listened to, no matter what your sunday school teacher says.  Tullian had become that in my life.  This is why when you hold someone in such high esteem, it's like they die.  It's like someone takes the ground out from underneath you.  God does these things because He loves you.  He does this because he deserves to be number one, not someone you just call on when things get bad.

Tullian is exactly who I thought he was.  He is, as Paul says in Romans 7, "oh wretched man that I am, who can save me from this body of death?"  Thankfully this isn't where Tullian's story ends.  This isn't the last we have heard from him.  Why?  The world is watching.  How do we forgive one of our own?  How do we love our own when something like this happens?  How far does our grace really reach?  The breath of fresh air comes after the statement Paul makes at the end of Romans 7 into Romans 8.  So we stand and say to you pastor Tullian, "There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, Tullian.  You are exactly who I thought you were...a wretch like me."

Monday, December 8, 2014

Beautiful Boy Part II.

It's been an adjustment, to say the least.  Meetings, talks with family and some nights of restless sleep.  I think the hardest thing, to be complety honest is the label that comes with Autism.  The night my wife told me that the school psychologist called, I called my mom.  Sometimes, all I need to hear is her voice.  Calming, reassuring me that it would all be ok.  That Elijah was perfect and it was all in a sovereign God's will for him to be Autistic.  You may think, "how can she say that?", and I'll get to that.  As I told her what the school psychologist had said, I began to sob.  My heart was broken for my little boy.  My beautiful Elijah.  "I know baby.", she said.  "I know it's hard..."

I think God has our best intentions at the very root of what He allows to happen to his people.  The very overly-used-in-most-graduations-verse, Jeremiah 29:11, says, "I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you."  But, what if harm is good for us?  What if what looks like God is killing us is actually him saving our lives?  What if like Hosea said, "the breaking of bones" is the best thing at that time?  Sounds like God is mean and that's not what Joel Osteen would preach or write about.

As I sat on the other end of the line with my mom that night and wept, speechless to say the least, I remember her saying, "this is good."  Good?  My son being disabled is good?  She said it with no hesitation in her voice.  You see, my mom knows that Romans 8 says, "and we KNOW that ALL things work together for GOOD...".  All things.  So yes, the good, the bad and my son's autism.  Suffering and the worst news possible should set you free.  If it is not followed by the best news imaginable, then it's only news.  I could sit and wallow and fear the worst for Elijah, but...the best news is that God has good news for me.  

The most liberating part of this whole story with Elijah is me dealing with the label of him being disabled.  We've had some hard days and we've had some days where him and I just talk.  The truth is, I am slave to a facade I want people to see.  I wear a mask of always being fine, when in reality, my heart is broken for my baby boy.  That's freeing, though.  I don't have to hide who I want him to be anymore or try to suppress the fact that something was different about him.  I'm free of faking it for him.  We had to come out and tell everyone the truth and I've come to realize that I was locked in a cage that was open the whole time.  Opened by the best news imaginable.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Beautiful boy.

This is my son, Elijah.  Some of you may know him, some of you may not.  He is distant at times and awkward in social situations.  He has temper tantrums and loves legos.  His rationale is not that of a "normal" 9 year old but loves with all of his heart.  We have always known Elijah was a little different.  I remember when he was about 18 months old and he threw the biggest fit and it took everything Kallie and I knew to get him calmed down.  After about an hour and half of struggle, we got him out of that furious mindset.

A few years ago, Kallie approached me and asked if I thought Elijah functioned like a normal little boy.  It took me back as it opened pandora's box of thought and emotion.  He wasn't normal.  She began to research the word I always dreaded to hear..."Autism".   I remember thinking to myself, "I can't have an Autistic little boy."  Selfish in so many ways but Kallie always reminded me that God made him exactly the way He wants him.  Good news in the midst of a punch to the gut.

Today, after much testing and many meetings and years of pleading with the school district, we received the news that Elijah is on the Autistic spectrum.  The call came in today, thankfully to Kallie and not me, that they will diagnose him with an Autistic disorder.  Kallie said, for her, it is a weight off of her shoulders.  To me, it is almost a weight I cannot bear.  In fact, I weep as I type.

I must be honest that I want the best for Elijah.  I want him to succeed and want him to lead a normal life.  I want him to get married and have kids of his own and to work a job he loves.  I want all of this for my beautiful boy.

As you read this you may think of ways to comfort me or think "I know some pretty high functioning autistic people and they are fine."  Thank you in advance.  It's hard though.  I have a son who has a disability.  Freeing in some ways to write and overwhelming as well.  In a lot of ways I take this as bad news.  But, here's the good news...

Elijah walked up to me when he was 5 years old and asked how to be saved.  He had just got out of the bath and put his pj's on.  I still remember his damp hair cold on my neck as he hugged me and prayed asking God to save him.  This, Elijah understands.  God loves Elijah and Elijah knows this.  He understands the price that was paid at calvary for what he's done to offend God.  Elijah understands.

This is good news to me in the midst of a punch to the gut.  It may be a long, difficult road with my son ahead of us but one day, well, we know the rest of Elijah's story.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Farewell, Pastor...

My phone rang last night.  It was my dad.  Pastor, dad, friend.  You see, my dad has been struggling lately.  He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a few years ago.  I saw a man with Parkinson's at work today and someone had to hold his drink for him due to the shaking of his hand.  It has to be embarrassing.  Humiliating for something invisible to rob you of the life you once lived.  Your life is changed forever.  I don't think we have a whole lot of time left with him and as we talked last night he said, in his words, "I've asked the Lord to take me home so I can be with him."  Hard.  Very hard.  Even just to write.  Hard.

His call was unexpected but his calls always have purpose.  My dad has been a pastor of a church for as long as I've been alive.  As long as my sister has been alive.  It was his calling from day one of his new birth.  He was good at it.  He (is) was always a good preacher and at times it seemed like he was on the verge of calling fire down from heaven.  I long to preach like him one day.  All this to say, my dad decided to retire.  He said he has peace about not being at the church anymore.  Something I never thought I would hear my dad say.

Change isn't easy, but it's coming.  It's weird that I'm "there" with one of my parents.  To know that his time with me is slipping away, until death separates us for a little while.  I'm going to let you in on a little secret.  I want to be like my dad.  So, I decided to write him a letter.  A kind of "open letter" since those are all the rage now a days in the evangelical community.   So here you go.  A letter to my Pastor dad.


You may never read this but I hope you know it.  I love you.  I miss you.  I pray for you.  The hardest part of growing up has been not being around you as much.  I miss the days I would wake up afraid and you would sit by my bed and read the bible to me and those words would comfort me into a deep and peaceful sleep.  I got to do that with Elijah the other day.  You would be so proud of him.  He's smart and reminds me of you in so many ways.  The words he uses and how he loves to read.  He tells me all the time that he loves Jesus.  It's the only thing I hoped for, dad.  You are leaving a legacy of Jesus being loved.  Thank you for telling me the greatest story ever told.  The only story worth telling.  Kyle is so bright and reads so well.  He smiles like you and laughs so much.  Annabella is like mom.  She loves to be loved but keeps you at an arms length.  She gets so excited when I come home and throws herself into my arms.  I remember greeting you like that when you would get home.  You should see Kallie now.  She has grown up so much in the faith and has lots of questions.  I hope I can pastor her the way you pastor-ed mom.  Don't lose heart, dad.  You may not be the pastor anymore but you still have a ministry.  You minister to me.  I love you dad.  I hope you believe that.  I know I caused you lots of heartache as a kid and even have as an adult but your grace has been evident in the fact that you took me back every time.  Your grace got me to where I am.  A pastor once said, "Law makes the wayward run and never come back.  Grace may make them run but they always come back."  I came back, dad.  I love you.

your son,
Ricardo J.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"I'm coming home..."

As many of you might know, I'm a LeBron James fan.  I love the guy.  I grew up loving Michael Jordan in the 80/90's and the championship Bulls over those years too.  I know, I know, I sound like a bandwagon fan.  In a lot of ways, I was more a fan of Michael's shoes than his balling and still am a fan of his shoes.  

That's beside the point but I think ultimately I was a distant fan, more than a true fan.  No other person in sports makes me feel like LeBron makes me feel.  In the summer of 2009, my wife and I watched as Lebron sunk a 3 pointer to win a game against some team (haha) in the playoffs.  That sealed it for me.  I don't know what it was but it made me feel accomplished and I wasn't even playing the game, or a fan of the Cavs or LeBron.  As soon as I heard that he made the decision to play in Miami, I switched teams with no qualms.  It felt even better to see LeBron win that elusive ring and almost rub it in Dan Gilbert's face as he held the MVP trophy and championship trophy.  

But, in reality, this post isn't about championships or revenge or leaving the big three.  This is about something bigger than basketball.  

While we were on our vacation in Colorado this summer, the news broke that LeBron was making his way back to Ohio.  I was shocked in many ways because I never truly saw reconciliation between the two parties.  My wife read the letter LeBron wrote and tears filled my eyes.  LeBron said something that struck me.  He says in the letter, "this is bigger than basketball."  He goes on to say that if him being in Ohio makes someone go to school and come back and start a business, it's worth it to him.  Don't get me wrong.  I know money talks.  I'm not naive to the fact that LeBron wanted a max deal.  On the other side of the coin, I think he could of gone to many other teams for way more money.  That's why I say it's more than basketball.  LeBron realizes that for some people, he gives them hope. He knows that some kid in Akron who doesn't have the ideal home life might take up basketball because of him and stay off the streets.  He knows that people will unite under a team they can be proud of.  He knows Ohio needs hope.  

We all need hope.  Colossians tells us that all these things now are but a shadow and Christ, He's the substance.  He's the one that truly gives us hope.  He reminds us to long for a home that He has prepared for us.  There will always be a void that LeBron or basketball or championships can't fill.  Only Christ can fill that void.  All things point to Christ and the hope He gives.  Even a kid from Akron.  

My favorite pastor and preacher Tullin Tchividijian writes about this from another interesting point of view here:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A view from the front pew...

About 6 years ago, I started writing a book.  At the time I was calling it, "Confessions of a Pastor's kid.  A view from the front pew.".  Well, I promised myself that after a week long speaking engagement I had this summer I would pick it up again.  I have set a goal, loose goal, that I will have a manuscript by January 1, 2015.  So, this is me telling you, I'm writing again.  It's scary in a lot of ways, that big of a project.  I don't expect to be at the top of the NY times best seller.  Maybe I should rethink the title to "Victory in your life everyday and millions of dollars are yours if you just believe.".  Nah.  I'll wait to see what the publisher says.  This time, on the real though, I will keep you updated.  I actually posted an excerpt here of a chapter a few years ago.  Look back and you'll find it.

So, here it goes.  Going to pour my guts out in a book and sell out all my friends and family.  Just kidding...kind of.

Ricky G