Prayer For Alabama – And For Us

This is Tuscaloosa, Alabama a few hours ago. My wife has friends and family there, and the news isn’t good. The city is devastated, with several buildings simply gone. It only gets worse from there; the damage across the state, and all over the Southeast, is unspeakable. And it touches home in so many ways – our associate pastor’s wife has family in Cordova, Alabama and while her family is safe, she’s heard that her hometown has been obliterated. And the night isn’t over yet.

The storm line is moving rapidly into Atlanta, where I live, and the news reporters are all over the TV trying to emphasize just what’s coming our way. In some ways, it feels like a scene from an apocalyptic movie – people breathlessly watching the skies as an unknown and unstoppable force moves through the night devastating the people in its path.

I’m not the hysterical type – I tend to think that I’ll just go to bed here in a bit and wake up tomorrow like nothing ever happened. But for thousands of people tonight, the words I spoke to my students just an couple of hours ago seem freakishly prescient:

“Every day is life or death. We tend to think that everything is fine because we live comfortable lives with homes and cars and food. But for countless people all over the world, they don’t know when their next meal will come. Or if they get a next meal, whether or not that meal will kill them. There are places on earth where the next child born has a 99% chance of having HIV or AIDS and most likely won’t live past 16 years old. Life and death. We live with that reality every day. And God knows this. He knows and it’s why He isn’t content for us to come to Him; it’s why He left his glory behind and came to earth to take our sin on himself – and not just the sin of the people who would believe, but even the ones who would spit and cuss and deny God with their last breath. God died for them anyway because He loves them, and wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Life or death. We really do live on that edge. May God grant grace for those who find that edge too thin this evening, and may His people show compassion to those left behind.

My Son, The Mayor Of The Terrible Twos

Ladies and Gentlemen, His Honor - The Mayor of The Terrible Twos.

Jonathan, my son, woke up with a grudge against women this morning, which would be understandable if he were 21 years old and possessed of an oft-broken heart. But he’s only two, so the phenomenon was a little strange. Not only did he fuss at Ella when she tried to keep him trapped on her bed in a bizarre pink playworld I didn’t quite understand, but when he sat down with his mom on the couch to snuggle and watch a little CG (that’s “Curious George” for those not in the know) he began to fidget and kick her, until she finally booted him off the couch.

This is out of character for him. Then I remembered that he will be two years old on Sunday, and the behavior became obvious: the Terrible Twos. It’s sort of like Pittsburgh’s Terrible Towel, only it’s a child whose behavior is obnoxious. (Sorry, Pittsburgh and Steeler Nation. I still like your airport though.)

I remember Ella’s trip through this despicable little node of human development, and I remember thinking that procreation was vastly overrated because of it. But Ella soon grew out of it, and – to be honest – I don’t really recall all that much about it. Maybe it’s because her journey through the phase seemed so short; girls, as it was often pointed out with derisiveness to boys in high school health class, do mature quite quickly, so that even unpleasant milestones seem fleeting. Ella just cruised on through the Terrible Twos; Jon has apparently stopped and opted to run for mayor.

I bring this up only because my son is one of the world’s great huggers. There’s something unique about his little smooth arms shooting around your neck as he presses his little baby face into yours and squeals, “Da-dee!” It’s a great feeling. And while he’s selective about his hugging, he’s not discriminatory – if you’ve earned a hug, you get it: full-on, body-to-body, an NFL-perfect form tackle. Thus, when he doesn’t want to hug or cuddle, you know it’s going to be a long day. I pity my wife, who has to stay with him.

Of course, the Terrible Twos have added a new bit to his hugging repertoire: the head butt hug. This is when he comes running at you, full speed, arms spread as wide as his smile, and – just at the moment of hug impact – he rams his forehead directly into your mouth with the force of a ’78 Packard with bad brakes. There’s also the ninja hug, which is like the head butt hug, only he runs to you, hugs you, then flops onto his back and begins to pelt your groinal/abdominal region with series of swift bicycle kicks. It’s normally 50-50 whether you’ll get a good, make-your-tummy-warm hug or one of these new evil varieties.

Such fun.

There was some amusement to be found in the fact that, while the women of the house were persona non grata, I was his bestest friend in the world. We played trucks. We played tackle. We wrestled on the ground in a hug-o-war that seemed to last for hours, but was over in a few seconds. He laughed, I smiled, and the father-son bond grew stronger. It really increased in strength when I asked him what he wanted for breakfast (“CEE-MEN ROHS!”) and then gave him his heart’s desire – freshly baked cinnamon rolls loaded with icing. He looked at me as if I were the world’s greatest father.

With his birthday just around the corner, I’m coming to grips with the fact that my son is growing up. His vocabulary is expanding (as is his willingness to actually use it) and his intrepid spirit is flourishing as he tries more and more to conquer his two-year old world. It’s amazing to watch him, fearless, and to think that he is that way naturally; I have taken 35 years to find the courage to kiss my wife in private without first asking for permission. We seem to have different dispositions in that regard.

He may be the Mayor of The Terrible Twos now, but one day (I hope) he’ll be a confident young man with dreams and vision and the guts to go for what he wants in life. And if we have to put up with some headbutts and cold-shoulders during this brief period in order for him to become that young man, then so be it.

I’ll take an independent man who was a handful at two over a son who’s only ambition in life is to conquer the latest XBox game in the privacy of our basement, surrounded only by the newest additions to his Star Wars: Clone Wars collection.

Rage on, Your Honor – the time as Mayor of The Terrible Twos will be short lived, but my love for you will last forever.

Unless you ninja hug me when I’m not looking…