Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cussing with David




“Daddy, want to know all the bad words I know?” asked my six-year-old son David.

We were driving home from school just the two of us, so I said: “Sure. Fire away.”

“Well, I know the S word,” he said.

“Really,” I said.

“It starts with an S-H actually,” he said.

“Really,” I said, gripping the steering wheel a bit tighter.

“You use it when you want people to be quiet,” he explained.

“Oh,” I said. “That is bad.”

“I know the F word, too,” he said.

I readjusted the rearview mirror to get a look at him.

“It’s another word for toot.”

“Yeah, I prefer using toot,” I said, which is true.

“Then, I know the D word,” David continued on his litany.

How come every NON-cuss word starts with a letter of a REAL cuss word? I wondered.

“It is the same as the other S word.”

“I wouldn’t use either of those,” I remarked.

“And the B word for when people throw up, and O.M.G…You can say that, but you can’t say the words.”

“You really do know a lot of bad words,” I said.

“Yeah,” said David with pride.

“Want to know something Dave Dave?” I call David Dave Dave.  

“Sure,” he said.

“I love you,” I said.

“Love is a good word,” said David.

“Yes it is,” I said.



Friday, December 18, 2015

ChristMAS

CHRIST-MAS


Heading north on Highway 21 near Elkin, you will pass what our family most affectionately calls “The Goldilocks Church.” There’s Baby Bear, a teenie church with its modest four pillars all in a row; then Mama Bear a grown-up church with its four pillars all in a row; and Papa Bear, the big daddy church, just like Mama Bear and Baby Bear with its four pillars all in a row.  

I guess as the congregation grew so did the church. It must have saved them a ton in architect fees to use the same design – just put the original blueprint in the Zerox machine and hit zoom.

It’s one of those churches with a sign in front of it. You know, the one with the letters. Like the sign that said: “Honk if you love Jesus. Text while driving if you want to meet him.” Or “Looking for a lifeguard? We know one that walks on water.” Or “Does your life stink? Well, we’ve got a pew for you.” Those kind of signs.

This church’s sign said: “Keep the CHRIST in Christmas.”

Hell yeah, I thought. He’s the reason for the season.

Actually, to tell you the truth, what I really did (and this may tell you a bit of my subversive nature) is I took the CHRIST out of Christmas…and what does that give you?

Well, it gives you MAS!

I don’t know what it was, maybe the fact that I had just eaten dinner at this Cuban Restaurant called TexMex (misleading, right?) – but the MAS really stuck out to me.

MAS…more…more of what?

I want more of a lot of things. Maybe you want more of a lot things, too.

But this Christmas what about asking for a little MAS of Jesus?

MAS CHRIST. More Christ.

I like the sound of that.

This ChristMAS, may you receive more of Him than you ever have before. Amen.






Thursday, December 03, 2015

Childhood Perspective

My parents recently celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary. You read that right. 50 years! That's incredible to me on about twenty levels. 

One level was the angle it offered me on my past - to see it through my parents' eyes. 

We don't always get this perspective. For the most part, my growing up was tables at eye level and Legos on the ground, food I ate because it was placed before me, a bed I slept in because it was in the room designated as mine. I didn't question these things. I experienced them. It was what I knew of life. 

It is the life we all remember. 

But having the unenviable task of putting together a slideshow for the party, I noticed something. Do you see it?
















How about here?



Or here?


Do you see it yet? My parents. They're not looking at the camera. They're looking...at me. They are treasuring me. 

I was treasured. I grew up knowing that I think. Knowing it without knowing it if you know what I mean. I never thought about the consequences, the implications. I never thought about how much that mattered. That I was treasured...loved...that I was the apple of their eye. 

But thinking about it now I can't tell you how much of a gift that was. 

I wonder, could they have given me anything better?

I don't think so.  

Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. 

Congratulations on your accomplishment. I know it hasn't been easy - which makes it all the sweeter. 








Sunday, November 22, 2015

Worm Eating

We were hiking at Bethania yesterday, a normal Erickson thing to do, when Anna Rose decided to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. 

Standing at a fork in the trail, she did not take it (a la Yogi Berra), she kicked up a rock and found a worm.  

She decided to eat it. "Can I?" she asked.

"As long as I get to video you doing it," I said. 

"Ok," she said.

In popped the worm.

video

Then, she attempted it again!

video

Anna Rose, you are so full of surprises. I love that you did this! You have given me a reason to laugh...and laugh...and I've watched these videos at least fifty times and I'm still laughing...



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Thoughts on Free Range Parenting






Thoughts on Free Range Parenting
  
In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

That’s the beginning of Richard Wilbur’s poem, “The Writer.” My friend Joan shared it with me. We were talking about parenting and wanting great things for our children and fearing that we will in all likelihood screw them up…

She mentioned this poem because The Writer has a daughter and like Joan and I, he also wants things for his child and fears screwing her up…

He wishes her a lucky passage.

I get that wish. That prayer. Whatever you call it. I want my kids to turn out “all right.” It’s what causes the impulse to protect them, to force them to take piano lessons, to drag them to church. I don’t know if any of this will work. After all, there is no guarantee. And whether you believe in luck or not – it’s going to take some for them to make it through unscathed…

He ends the poem with this stanza:

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.
 

The Writer remembers that raising a child really is a life and death matter. So what to do? How to parent? The Writer decides to pray a different prayer for his child. Not a different outcome, just a different way of getting there…

…for it to be harder.

There’s apparently a movement out there called “Free Range Parenting.” Some parents were trying it out in Maryland, letting their children walk the mile to the park. They got arrested. I don’t know whether they should have gotten arrested or not.

I do know that I love watching my children from far away. There is this mountain that we hike not far from here called Bluff Mountain. It’s this big beautiful bald in the middle of the Blue Ridge where you can see from the top every direction for miles. We’ve hiked it enough that the kids know the way. I let them run. The dogs go with them. I love to watch them climb to the top on their own. I love the little blips they become. So much of my parenting is from so up close.


I don’t know if I’ll subscribe to the Free Range Parent movement. But it does make me wonder how God parents us. We hear a story like the one Jesus told folks about the Prodigal Son and his Free Range Father. I wonder what that means.

What does it say about his love for us…his belief in us…his hopes for our future…

Does he not want lucky passage for us?


Yes. He may not exactly put it in those terms…but yes. Unequivocally yes. He wants us to make it through to the other side…the same wish, but harder.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Halloweeen and the Imaginary Quinoa



This year, Dave Dave decided to be an Ewok for Halloween. We had to patchwork his costume as the Ewok options online were lacking. I must say it helps to be shaped like an Ewok. We used Anna Rose's old puppy costume, some brown pants, my bear slippers, ears from the Great Wolf Lodge and a shawl from Lia. There you have it...Wicket's doppelganger. 



Anna Rose wanted to be a werewolf. We said sure as long as you are not scary-looking. That's the one Erickson rule for Halloween costumes. Online, we found this cute little werewolf costume for "tweens." Perfect. 

The scary part is that Anna Rose looks like a tween. The scarier part is that Anna Rose probably IS a tween. Yikes!

Lia loves Instagram. She follows these people she doesn't know. That didn't come out right. She follows a lot of people she does know. That didn't come out right either. She follows people. And of those people, she follows a few that she doesn't know. Like one based on Barbie. And this other one that her sister Cara got her hooked on called Imaginary Quinoa. 

Imaginary Quinoa has imaginary hipster children. 

After this picture of our children, 




Lia asked Cara what Imaginary Quinoa would say about it. This is what she wrote:



Her answers were SO GOOD...Lia and I are convinced Cara actually IS the Imaginary Quinoa! If anyone can help us find out whether or not our theory is correct, let us know!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Mission Emanuel - Child Sponsorship

One of the cooler parts of Mission Emanuel is their Child Sponsorship program. It's like Compassion International. You help pay for a child's education and basic needs. You get pictures and letters and good feelings in return. Over the years, we have sponsored two Compassion Children, and we will probably support more in the future.


The cool thing about sponsoring a child at Mission Emanuel, at least for us, is that we get to see the child. We plan to go to the Dominican Republic each year to do missions work. While there, we get the chance to spend time with this guy. 

Alejandro


Boy is he fun. And Lia can speak Spanish so we can actually talk with him and his family. Next time we are down there, Alejandro's parents plan to cook us dinner! 

Not only that, our kids get to know him, too. He is more than just a picture to them. I love that. I love how we have a young person in our life who we can support, pray for, and know!

A few weeks ago while we were there, Alejandro and his father came to church with us. Alejandro sat on my lap the entire service. We sang and giggled and did our best to listen. Afterward, just like David, he asked me to swing him around and throw him in the air. It was a joy. 

He nearly broke my back! He certainly melted my heart. 

to sponsor a child like Alejandro Click Here

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

20 Years Celebration at Mission Emanuel

Jack Larson - the Man, the Myth, introduce the Nairobi, the heroine and patron saint of Cielo

Lia and I had the distinct privilege of being present for Mission Emanuel's 20th anniversary celebration in Cielo on October 19.

There were many highlights.

One being the facility. A few short months ago, I was part of the cement bucket brigade. This time around I was in a first class facility! Check out these before after March/October photos:








 
Absolutely remarkable. 

The second highlight was watching the DR students and staff in action. They planned, produced, and performed the whole evening with professionalism and panache to perfection. Lots of P's there. 


The third highlight was watching beautiful Lia take the stage. When I first met her, she would not have been caught dead standing in front of 250 folks - I don't care what nationality. She now speaks with a passionate calm that both captivates and inspires. What an honor to be married to such a woman!


The fourth highlight was the tearful embrace she received afterward from Dr. Sarah, the DR Dr. that Lia has worked alongside the last couple years. These pictures do better than my words will - so I'll leave it to pictures. 



More on Mission Emanuel later this week!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Winston-Salem Fellows


Friends, I am thrilled to announce to you that I am embarking on a new adventure. I have recently accepted the role of Founding Director of the Winston-Salem Fellows Program. 

What is the Winston-Salem Fellows? 

The Winston-Salem Fellows Program is an intensely practical ten-month experience designed to help recent college grads successfully bridge the transition from college to career by preparing them to live seamless lives of faith.

We are now recruiting for our 2016-2017 Class. If you or you know someone who might be interested, learn more at Winston-Salem Fellows


This really is an exciting time in my life. Rarely have I felt more "made for something." 

The Fellows provides me the opportunity to coach, connect, inspire, motivate and dream big while making tangible impacts. 

Please get in touch with me if you want to know more. 

There are opportunities to volunteer, network and donate! So come on! Join the adventure!

Check us out: wsfellows.com





Friday, October 09, 2015

Mitzi

Eight years ago, Mitzi White’s life came unglued. She had been overweight as a child, battled weight for years; but after her boyfriend left her for another person two doors down – she lost the will to fight.

When she was invited to be a part of ABC’s reality show, Extreme Weight Loss, she weighed 262 pounds. (By the way, I learned she didn’t intend to sign up for the show. She had gone to auditions to support a friend and while she was there the producers convinced her to do the paperwork).



But in some ways that was the least of her problems. She was depressed, ashamed, and what we eventually learn on the show is that she had become a hoarder. When the producers interview her at the beginning of the program, she refuses to let them inside her house.

Heidi Powell, one of the coaches and hosts of Extreme Weight Loss, insisted on helping Mitzi pack for her trip. Again, Mitzi refused.

Heidi said: “If you are not ready to open up your self and your life to me. I can’t help you. So what’s it going to be? Are you going to let me in, or am I going to go?”

So Mitzi does it. She let’s her in. And it’s bad. There’s trash to the ceiling. These little tunnels she can walk through from room to room.

Heidi said: “When Mitzi opened up her door. I can’t believe any one can live that way. ‘Oh my goodness. Ok’ I had no idea it was as bad as it was…You own all this stuff – but really all this stuff owns you. If you want to take the next step and truly rid yourself of all of this weight, you found the right person. We can do this.”

Mitzi said:“It feels good that there is no judgment. And that she didn’t take the opportunity away from me.”

Later in the show, Mitzi had now lost 65 pounds and it was time to deal with her house. They had signed up Dr, Tolin, a clinical psychologist and hoarding specialist, to help her.

Mitzi was ready to tackle the problem – but instead of going inside and getting to work – Dr. Tolin took Mitzi to the backyard, which was full of twenty or so of her friends and coworkers – the friends she hadn’t let in for eight years.

“I have done more in the last six months than I have in the last six years. I actually lived life! It was so awesome,” said Mitzi with tears in her eyes.

Little did Mitzi know that the psychologist had brought her friends here for another reason.

“Why are we in the back of your house and not the front of it?” asked the psychologist.

“Because there is more to my story,” said Mitzi. And Mitzi let her friends know about her struggle, “In order to push people away – I started hoarding things…and it became like a physical barrier, just like my weight has been.”

“It doesn’t matter what your house looks like!” said one friend.
“We love you and your heart!” said another.
“We all have baggage!” said a third.

The psychologist then brought up the idea of letting her friends clean up the house.

“NO!” cried Mitzi. “They don’t need to be part of that.”

“They are your friends,” said Dr. Tolin.

Mitzi whispered, “Why did you do this, Dr.?”

“We love you Mitzi,” said a friend.

Then, Dr. Tolin said something that struck me to the core. He said:

“What’s more important to you right now? Keeping your secrets or letting your friends in?”

I have a friend named Mike. I really look up to him. He is the kind of man I want to be. He’s handy. He’s resourceful. And he is an amazing husband and father. Years ago, I was dealing with some serious shame, and I knew that if I wanted Mike to be the friend he wanted to be to me, I was going to need to let him in.

I was going to have to tell him my secret.

And I was scared.

So I planned out a time for us to talk. We would be outside, on a run. If things went sour, I could just keep going – run away and never look back.

He pulled up. Got out of the car. We started walking. And I started talking.

He stopped me.

“Ned,” he said. “I already know. That’s why I am your friend.”

What?

“You know?” I asked.

“Yes. And you don’t need to tell me a thing. But if you need to tell me – I would be happy to listen. I love you either way.”

I told him everything.

It was a most healing moment.

Mitzi had one too. She let her friends in, and everything changed.


Mitzi is speaking in November at a Faith and Fitness Conference in Tampa, Florida

Mitzi said this about her experience: “I feel like the most difficult part of my transformation journey has been the vulnerability. And just truly understanding that in order for me to really move past where I’m at, the comfort level where I’m in. There’s actually a quote that says that life begins where your comfort zone ends. It could never be more true. And even though it’s very uncomfortable to be in a physically unfit body, to live with disease and with pain – there’s comfort in that, cause it’s what you know. But once you get beyond that and allow yourself to truly live – there’s nothing sweeter. The best part of my journey was becoming uncomfortable, was letting myself be vulnerable, showing my transparency, and allowing others to help me.”

Did you notice that?

Vulnerability was the hardest AND the best part.

It is true friends.
The question you need to answer is this:

What’s more important to you? Keeping your secrets or letting your friends in?





Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Parenthood - Part 2 - Slushies



I don't think Anna Rose would mind me telling you this - she's the tougher of our two kids to parent. She actually prides herself in it. It's probably what will make her successful one day - and make me prematurely gray.

We were leaving the Back-to-School Bash last Friday when tears exploded from her face. "I don't want you to be my parents. I wish I was an orphan!"

What caused this declaration, you ask? Well, her father hadn't waited in line to get her a slushie. I had actually given her three dollars to get her own slushie, and to her credit she had given the money back after deciding she didn't feel like waiting in line.

After seeing the line, I can understand why she didn't feel like waiting in it. I didn't feel like waiting in it either. Which is why I didn't. Which is why Anna Rose was wishing she was an orphan.

"I don't know who you are. Because my real mom wouldn't be treating me the way you are treating me!" she screamed at Lia.

I held it together a good five minutes before I exploded: "I can't believe I spent thirty-two dollars to get two crying kids!" David was crying because he hadn't won the egg toss. "You know the one thing I have learned from all this? We are NEVER going to the Back-to-School Bash AGAIN!"

For better and worse, Lia and I had prearranged a babysitter to watch our kids so we could go out that night. It was a rough transition. By the time we got in the car, neither of us were in the mood to go out on the town.

But we did. It was worth it. I gave the babysitter a bit extra.

The next morning, Anna Rose was apologetic. "I was out of line, Dad." (Direct quote).

"Tell you what, Anna Rose, let's get a slushie this afternoon."

Which is what we did...right before we went to an Event for Cancer Research where there was a HUGE slushie machine...where Anna Rose got her second slushie of the weekend.

The next day, we went to a welcome-to-town party for a friend of ours, and before I had even put down my corn hole set, I overheard Scott Reed tell my daughter, "Hey, Anna Rose, want a slushie?"

Three slushies.

A three slushie weekend.

Unbelievable.

On the way back to the car, Lia asked Anna Rose, "How many slushies did you deserve this weekend?"

"None," said Anna Rose.

"How many slushies did you get?"

"Three," said Anna Rose.

"That's what grace is Anna Rose," said Lia.

"Tastes pretty good, doesn't it?" I added.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ahhhh Parenthood (Part 1)

Art by Dave Dave

Anna Rose blew us away last week. Her teacher had asked her class to write their parent's a letter for their parents to read that night at parent's night.

This is what Anna Rose wrote:


"Dear Mom and Dad, 

Thank you for being there when I need you. Thank you for being the best parent(s) in the world. Thank you for making the world a better place for me. You are encouraging and kind parents. I would pick you Mom and Dad. Here are some words that describe you awesome, kind, encouraging and many more.

Love, Anna Rose

WOW!

That's a framer!

Now, before you start thinking - man, Ned and Lia must be doing something right - keep in mind our car conversation the following day...

That's right 24 hours later. 

We were heading home from the Back-to-School Bash. Anna Rose had been running around with her friends and didn't want to leave, but Lia and I had another function to get to so we had to pluck her from what she was doing.

"Where's my slushie?" she asked.

"I gave you money to get one and you gave it back," I said.

"So you could wait in line for me," she explained. 

"The line was 30 minutes long!" I answered. 

"That's why I gave YOU the money back," explained Anna Rose. 

"Well, sorry. I don't wait in 30 minute lines for slushies," I said. 

"Well I wish you weren't my dad!" shouted Anna Rose. 

"Anna Rose, that is inappropriate," scolded Lia. 

"I would have been better off if I was an orphan," mumbled Anna Rose...

It actually got worse from there...but I'm committed to keeping this PG. 

Ahhhhh Parenthood. We can go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows faster than you can split a watermelon with a battle axe.


Yep. Rosie. That's what you've done. You've turned my world upside down.

...and I wouldn't trade it for anything. 

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Backseat Conversations






We were on the way to school, heading down Robinhood on the way to Silas Creek, when I overheard the conversation that was going on between Anna Rose and Dave Dave in the backseat. 

"Dave Dave," said Anna Rose, "what's the meaning of life?"

I turned down the radio so I could listen. 

"To be the me God says I am," said Dave Dave without hesitation. 

"No," said Anna Rose, "It's to become the person God created you to be."

Dave Dave kind of looked at her like isn't that what I said, which it was.

"We all have unique personalities. That makes us all one of a kind," continued Anna Rose, "so we need to be ourselves because no one else is going to do it."

"That's the meaning of life," said Dave Dave, "To be who Jesus made you to be."

I chimed in at this point and said to them, "Guys, those are about the best answers I've ever heard..."



I turned onto Silas Creek feeling about as proud as I have ever felt in my life. 


Friends, I have done a lot of things wrong, but could it be that somehow I did something right?



Anna Rose and Dave Dave - always remember to be the you God says you are - and I'll promise to do my best to do the same thing. 




Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Perseid Meteor Shower


Last Wednesday, Lia and I set our alarm for 3:45am so that we could see the Perseid meteor shower. As it happened we were in the mountains and it being a new moon, the conditions were about as perfect as they possibly could be for gazing upon shooting stars. 

We had learned earlier that day on NPR that meteors, at least the ones that appear as shooting stars on nights like the one we were about to witness, were only the size of sand. Can you believe it? Something that small shooting off something so magnificent? 

For whatever reason the thought reminded me of Jesus when he described how faith like a mustard seed could move mountains, and how he calls us the light of the world. To think that mustard size faith could shine off something as spectacular as what Lia and I saw that night. Wow! Maybe Jesus was right... 

I have to say there was one thing that bugged me. Now, it's hard to admit that I was bugged because we saw at least one shooting star a minute for a solid hour, but there was one thing that bugged me, and this is what it was: for that entire hour, not one of the shooting stars was anywhere close to the constellation Perseus. I mean, it's called the Perseid meteor shower for heaven sake! It bugged me I tell you.

It didn't bug Lia one bit, and eventually my whining or perhaps the cold got the best of her and she made her way back to bed. So it was just me, the great big sky, and the mustard seed size meteors for awhile - and eventually, as Ned is prone to do when he is staring up at the great big sky at night by himself, I started to think about how small I was and how big God is. The thought making me anxious and awestruck. 

I was getting cold. I pulled the blanket tight around me as I stood up out of my plastic Adirondack chair. And rising to full height, I sang the words I like to sing in moments like these: "Praise God to whom all blessings flow…" And as I finished the Doxology and sang "Amen," wouldn't you know it, the greatest, biggest meteor of the night goes shooting across the constellation of Perseus like an underline. 

It was just like the Lord was saying, "Take that!" Ha! No. It was more like he was whispering, "That was just for you."

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Liquid Stoopid



Recently, I had the privilege of roasting one of my favorite people. He is retiring from Young Life, which doesn’t seem possible as he is younger than me – that is, unless you have been on Young Life staff, which I have, and then you know it is possible.

Young Life has a way of making you both young and old at the same time. It’s one of those paradoxes. Like how I was so happy and sad for my friend’s retirement.

Well, let me tell you, it was very easy to roast my friend. His antics are legendary and his quirks abundant. Once, having lost a bet on his favorite college basketball team, he threw back a shot of hot sauce called Liquid Stoopid. One trip to the emergency room later, he survived to tell the tale. His line: “It came out hotter the other end.”

But what stood out to me was what eventually became the theme of the night. My friend’s honesty. His openness with his junk. His vulnerability about his struggles. One after another, guys, mostly guys, but guys and gals stood up and shared how my friend and his wife had lived exposed lives.

I love the NIV translation of Ephesians 5:13. “But everything exposed by the light becomes visible – and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.”

My friend had let God expose his dark places. As a result, God had made his dark places light. That is what God does. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Why? Because darkness cannot overcome it. Light always wins.  

Open honesty is my friend’s legacy. At one point, I thought it was his lunacy. But with patience and over time, he has shown me by example the healing that can happen when we live exposed lives…