Osama Bin Laden Is Dead. Does It Matter?

I know this is shameful pandering to a current event, but I can’ t help but ask:

Does it really make a difference that Osama Bin Laden is dead?

Yes, for the families left devastated after 9/11, closure is a good thing. And for those who vowed to serve and fight for justice for those families, it’s a great day.

But after all that’s happened in the world the past 10 years, can we really say that this one man’s death will matter?

What do you think? Myself, I need to sleep on it. More tomorrow.

To My Son On His Birthday

This is you, Jon, at your second birthday party. You're waiting to demolish some cake...

Dear Jon –

I know it’s more common for Daddy to write about your sister, Ella, than you, and I hope that you don’t take offense to that. I do it for any number of reasons, most of which probably wouldn’t satisfy you in the slightest (I think the main one is she’s quite often hysterical), but today is your day, so I’m going to write about you. Today you are officially two years old, and I simply cannot believe it. I can’t believe you’re growing up.

Well, that’s not true. I can believe it, but I guess I’m just not prepared for it. I don’t want to accept the fact that one day you won’t be my small snuggle friend, or won’t have the softest skin I’ve ever felt, or won’t be the quietest but most strikingly intelligent toddler I’ve ever come across. I struggle with the fact that the you you have been all of your life is changing, but it shouldn’t; I’ve learned so much in the last two years.

When Mommy and I first found out that you were coming our way, I was scared. In fact, I believe I looked at the ultrasound tech and said, “Oh, crap.” Or something close. I truly wasn’t prepared for a son and the moment freaked me out. I know now that the fear was irrational, based entirely in my own insecurity, and had nothing to do with you whatsoever.

And I know this because you’ve become my little best friend.

I can’t tell you how much it lights up my soul to hear you exclaim, “Dad-dee!” everyday when I come through the door. Or how special it makes me feel when you round the corner, your little feet going like Fred Flintstone’s (Sidebar: it’s a really old cartoon Daddy used to watch where people pushed cars with their feet. One day, I’ll take you to a museum and show you an example of the primitive culture your daddy grew up in). Or how unbelievable it is to swing you up into my arms and cradle your face into my neck and feel your tiny fingers reach for the back of my head and rub my hair.

Maybe it was this way with Ella, too, but I don’t think so. There’s something special about you, dude, and I love you to pieces. Even when you get short-tempered, or when I get short-tempered, it doesn’t take long for me to see something in you that stirs up all of the love I have within me. Maybe it’s the bond between father and son; I know from experience that it borders on mysticism (your Poppy is a really good dad to me), so I can buy into the idea that somehow, someway, there’s just a connection we share that can never be duplicated with anyone else.

For instance, we celebrated your second birthday this weekend and you were a pill. You whined, cried, moaned, and flat out pitched an all-out hissy-fit for the first 30 minutes of the party. Then, as if a timer had gone off inside your head, you were non-stop fun. Watching you tear around the house, or drive your Thomas the Tank Engine up and down the driveway, or show off for your great-grandparents by pushing your new lawnmower (Note: a bubble lawnmower, not an actual one – we’re not that redneck) made the some of the most hellish pain I’ve ever known melt into the distance. Seeing you enjoy life gave me back one more piece of mine.

I’m writing this because I want you to know that I love you. I want you to know that I cherish our relationship and want nothing more than for you to grow up and be a good man. I don’t care if you’re successful by current standards; I don’t care if you’re valedictorian or captain of the team or the single greatest trumpet player in modern American Jazz. If you turn out to be those things, great – it will mean all the more because they will have been your vision for your life, and not one that I superimposed onto you. My father granted me that freedom, and I want you to know it too.

Be a good man, Jon, because in a world full of sorry, mediocre and great men, the good ones stand out. It takes people a hella long time to realize it, but it’s good men that make the world work. It’s good men who provide good homes and create good families. Sorry men and great men alike tend to think only of themselves and thereby rob everyone they claim to love. Good men put others first and thereby bless generations.

You’re only two and will probably never read this (and if you do, it really does mean the Internet is forever) but I wanted to break my routine (Daddy typically doesn’t blog on weekends) and sing a song of celebration over you, my third child and only son. Your oldest sister, Ruthanne, whom you don’t yet know about, broke my heart but showed me that I was capable of giving my heart completely away to my children. Your big sister, Ella, taught me to embrace who my kids were innately and to not worry about making them into something they were not. The girls taught me a lot.

But you have taught me to not be afraid, to embrace a definition of manhood that has long defined me yet defied tradition, and to pass it on to you as a gift. I hope that when you are old enough, you will one day be able to look back and say, “My dad may have had his faults, but not letting me be myself wasn’t one of them.” I hope you will always know, no matter where life takes you, that you will always, always, be my son and the recipient of all of my love. You will never be able to lose that.

Even if you choose to attend Georgia Tech.

I love you, Jonathan. And happy birthday, my friend.

All the best,


Princess Jones (Why I’m Glad My Daughter Watched The Royal Wedding)

Photo courtesy of Yahoo! and the fine print just beneath it.

This is Kate Middleton. Or, as she should now be properly referred to, this is Her Royal Highness, Princess Kate. She’s the prettiest British Royal bride I’ve ever seen (sorry to those who still fawn over Lady Di). In case you are the least connected person on earth (and if so, how’d you end up here???), Kate got married this morning to the heir to the British throne, Prince William.

Apparently, it was a big deal.

So big, in fact, that we here in America, who fought over 225 years ago to throw off the oppressive bonds of monarchy and establish a country devoted to the equality of every man (just men, and really, only white men) got up early to watch the proceedings.

My family slept through most of it. And we didn’t DVR it either. But we did wake up in time to see the commoners parade through Trafalgar Square and stand beneath the famous balcony at Buckingham Palace in breathless anticipation of The Kiss. My daughter, who normally watches Curious George or Jake and the Neverland Pirates at this time, was an engaged onlooker. Will and Kate came out to the cheers of their subjects, waved, and smooched – not once, but twice (and both times were far more convincing than the ill-fated smooch between Will’s parents some thirty years ago). Ella was enraptured.

“Is that a REAL princess?” she asked. We informed her that, yes, it was.


For a verbose child such as my daughter, understatement tends to catch one off guard. The incredulity in her voice – over the real-life version of a Disney moment – was both frightening and sweet. Yes, we have a Disney daughter, one who’s been stuffed full of corn-fed romantic ideals, and I’m actually kind of glad that she got to see this royal affair, despite the impact it might have on my future outlay for Ella’s wedding (I’m imagining she’ll remember this and want something similar; if so, you’ll definitely want to be invited – it’s not everyday you get to see a Royal Redneck Wedding).

I’m glad, because I want my daughter to believe that, sometimes, fairy tales do come true. I find of late a wave of cynicism (a wave which I all-too-often gleefully ride like Bhodie from Point Break) that washes away the notion of dreams coming true. Granted, dreams don’t often come true for a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean that we should stop dreaming, which cynicism most definitely suggests. I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world like that.

I want Ella to believe that she can marry a prince and be an astronaut and paint pictures and be famous and cure cancer and have two kids and be a great mommy and have a wonderful marriage and love Jesus too. I want her to think that, somewhere out there, there is a man who will give his life for hers and dedicate himself to loving her above all other human beings. I want that for her, because it preserves a sense of goodness for the world – not to get corny, but our dreams are the harbingers of possibilities, and when we cease to really dream (or when we fail to dream BIG) then the possibilities we have become smaller and meaner and ultimately more disappointing that chasing a big dream and failing to see it come true.

This morning, my daughter looked at a once-in-a-lifetime thing (or, if Harry gets married, twice-in-a-lifetime thing) and saw something magical that commended the world to her. I know her wanting to be a princess won’t last (at least, I hope it won’t last), but for now I see more good than harm in the dreaming of that dream and I won’t let my cynicism get in her way.

Which is why I’m glad she can’t read my Facebook status updates…

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…