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finding meaning in the mundane

The Passing of Mr. Bear

Love from our heavenly FatherMr. Bear, a.k.a. MaBear, a.k.a. Crusty Bear, a.k.a. Crunchy Bear, is my youngest daughters absolute favorite stuffed animal.  This past weekend my wife Tiffany headed off with a friend to the Whatever Craft Weekend leaving me home with our three kids.  My goal this weekend was to brush their hair, make sure their teeth were perfectly clean, and that they house never once got messy.  My goal this weekend was to have an absolute blast with the kids.  I was determined to have the kids brag to their mom when she came home about me.  I was on my way to accomplishing that, until I found out that Mr. Bear was possibly gone forever.  I took the kids to see Paddington that night and I’m pretty sure that Mr. Bear came too.   While tucking Leah into bed she said to me,

“Dad, I need my Crunchy Bear before I go to sleep.”

And all of a sudden, that’s when I realized, Mr. Bear was no where to be found.

UGH.  What in the world was I going to do?  I panicked.  I ran to the car to find he wasn’t there.  I searched under every cushion, and shook out every blanket on the couch–he wasn’t there either.  I called the movie theater and left three voicemails just in case they didn’t hear my number the first time.  I called the movie theater until someone finally picked up.

“Yes, hello.  I have a bit of an emergency.  Mr. Bear is gone.  I was in theater 3, seated in row H, seats 1,2,3,4.  Did anyone find a tan bear, he responds to Mr. Bear, Ma Bear, Crunchy Bear, and Crusty Bear.”

Okay, so I left off the “responds to bit”.  But calling the movie theater was my final straw.

“Sorry sir, all I’ve got here is a my little pony.”

My heart sank into my toes.  How was I going to look in my little girls eyes and tell her that her bear was gone?  My heart was broken for her.  I didn’t even want to tell my wife about it when she checked in with me that night.  It was all too much for me.

But then I remembered—the kids had been playing in the basement.  I flew down the steps and scanned the room to find Mr. Bear sitting up with his well worn, well loved neck flopped over still sipping on tea, just as he was earlier that day.

God's LoveI sat on the couch that night thinking about how a stuffed bear caused me so much emotional heartache, and how this small cotton creature was able to captivate so much of my time.  It reminded me of how my love for my daughter, and for each of my kids, is so strong that it would cause me to tear apart my house for a small stuffed animal.  It reminded me of how much I love being a dad, and what a privilege it is to hold these kids hearts in my hands.  It reminded me of how the smallest things often matter the most.

But I went to bed that night thinking about how much my Father in heaven loves me.  If I love my kids that much, it is unimaginable for me to think about how much God loves me, and them!  I thought of this verse,

You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead?  Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not!  So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.

Matthew 7:9-11

If God loves me more than I love my kids, than that is pretty incredible.  And the same goes for you!  You are loved by God more than you’ll ever know and He delights in providing even the smallest things for you.  Sometimes it’s the small things that count far more than the big ones.  And don’t you forget it.

~Peter

Why I’ve given up on New Years Resolutions

New Years ResolutionsIt’s 2015.  How’s it going?  Let’s have a quick check-in…  How are those resolutions that you made just a few days ago? I’ll tell you what, it’s tough isn’t it?  Here we are less than a month in, and it seems like they are already slipping too far out of sight.  I bet by now that you’ve eaten someting you resolved you wouldn’t, called someone you said you were done with, or you choose your couch over the treadmill.

I don’t do resolutions.  In fact, I’m done with resolutions.  They alwasy feel like I’m trying to boil the ocean.  Someone once told me that we shouldn’t try to boil the ocean, it will never happen.  So, I’ve given up trying.  I’ve given up because I hate the way that it makes me feel when I fail.  I’m pretty sure that I have failed nearly every resolution that I have ever made.

That’s because I’m a broken, imperfect, flawed, human.  I am trying to figure out how to go through life and become all that God desires for me to be.  I’m trying to find my way, and help others.  My guess is that you are very similar to me.  Our stories are similar…

Eventually we burn out at the gym.

Eventually we stop eating paleo, vegan, natural, clean, or whatever variety of eating is the current rage.

Eventually we go back to whatever makes us feel good even though it hurts us.

Eventually we go back, we give up, we give in.

And that is why I’m so thankful for grace!  Grace is the unmerited, unearned favor of God.  The beginning of the year always reminds me of my need for grace and my constant struggle against grace.  I’m reminded of my need for grace because of all of the times that I fail my resolutions.  But I am also reminded of my struggle against accepting grace because my resolutions make it seem like I can accomplish something on my own.  If I check off all the boxes on my list, I will be successful and happy.  It makes me feel like it’s possible to be a self made man.

That’s why I gave up on resolutions.

But I haven’t given up entirely, just on resolutions.  In the beginning of the year I set goals, not resolutions.  Goals allow breathing room for grace to squeeze in.  I’ll share my goals with you later, but for now, how’s it going?  Just remember, you are human, and you are going to make mistakes, and slip up.  Don’t worry.  There’s grace for that.

~Peter

 

Will You Ever Be Enough?

One of the most frustrating things that there is in life is the feeling of inadequacy.  We run through life trying to consistently gauge, “Am I enough?”  It applies in all areas of our life, in every relationship, and in every circumstance.  Am I good enough, smart enough, funny enough, good looking enough, fast enough, smooth enough, skinny enough, productive enough, and just plain old enough?

It isn’t limited to our relationships with others around us.  We often ask this exact question of our relationship with God too.  Am I good enough for God to love me?  Am I spiritual enough?  Have I gone to church enough?  Have I memorized enough scripture?  Have I prayed enough?  Have I given generously enough?  Have I done enough for God to love me?

None of us can do enough to fix our own brokenness, or get rid of our sin.  We can’t try hard enough, do enough, or go to church enough to patch ourselves together.  There is no amount of enough that we can do to make God have a relationship with us.  There is only one thing that ever was enough for that, and that is Jesus.  Jesus was enough.  Ephesians 2:8-9 says,

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so that no one may boast.”

We have been saved from our brokenness, from our lack of being enough, and from our sin by God’s grace.  It comes by our faith in God’s Son, Jesus.  The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4,

“Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.”

There is no room for you to do anything in that process except for believe.  We add so much to what we think God wants us to do.  We try to say the right things, and do the right things.  And it can leave us feeling like we aren’t enough.  It’s not that you have to be good enough, or that you have to be religious enough, or that you have to be spiritual enough.

You just have to believe.

You just have to be.

Just be.

Be.

You aren’t enough.  But Jesus is.  Rest in the comfort of that today.

~Peter

Are You Hearing the Voice Of God?

Spearfishing NJIt is no secret.  I love to fish.  I love to be near the water and enjoying time in creation.  Even more than throwing a line in the water, I love to actually get under the water and chase after fish with my speargun.  That is my absolute favorite kind of fishing-spearfishing.  Between my son and I, we have four fishing rods, 20 lures, countless hooks, and every variation of weight imaginable.  For spearfishing, I have 2 wetsuits, 1 spear gun, 1 pole spear, a dive knife, a weight belt, a float, a stringer, and several other pieces of paraphernalia.  All of these things help me catch fish.

None of these things guarantee that at the end of the day there will be a fish in my cooler.  These things are all neatly stowed in my garage just waiting to be used.  They will not catch fish by themselves, and they certainly won’t do that at my landlocked home.  Each of these items need to be near the water in order to be effective.

Too often we approach God in the same way.  We gather all of the necessary gear, we wear the Jesus paraphernalia, and we think that by the end of the day our spiritual cooler should be filled.  But too often we walk away feeling disappointed.

Could it be that just owning the gear doesn’t mean that we will actually accomplish the goal? There has to be more to it than just possession.

There has to be action.

God has made Himself known to us through His Son Jesus, through His creation, and through His written word the Bible.

Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”

All of creation is speaking of God’s glory and majesty.  All of creation is pointing us to our God.  Yet there are times when we wonder why we haven’t heard from God, or feel God’s presence in our life.  Could it possibly be that you haven’t put yourself in a posture of listening?  Could it be that you own all the gear, but you haven’t put it into use?

On a recent clean water trip in Nicaragua with a group of people from my church, I challenged our team to do two things each day.

Look for God and Listen for His voice.

I believe that God wants to speak to each of us daily, and that God is waiting to be found.  I don’t think that God is playing a game of spiritual hide and go seek.  He is in plain sight, the question is do we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear?

Today, spend some time looking for God in the world around you.  Ask yourself, where is God trying to get my attention?  What could He possibly be saying to me?  If you are willing I believe that you will hear God’s voice, and you will see God’s presence in your life.

Here’s to getting out of the garage and closer to the water.

~Peter

4 Ways to Intentionally Parent Your Kids

Intentional ParentingThis past week I had the privilege to travel down to Leon, Nicaragua with a team from my church to drill a clean water well in a remote village.  It was an incredible experience which I will share more about later.   Our trip had us out from Saturday to Saturday.  This was the longest time that I have been away from my family in a long time.  You know the old saying “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”?  Well I think it is absolutely true because, man, I missed this clan.  What a privilege it is to be their parent.  We are a crazy bunch, but we do know how to have fun along the way.  I’m so thankful for my wife and kids.  Throughout the trip I had plenty of time to slow down and think about what it means to be a dad.

In my book “Empowered” (available on Amazon for all you Kindle readers) I shared this thought about the American Life and one of the dangers that we face…

When we scurry through life at the maddening pace of the culture around us, we run the risk of losing out on what is most important.  We walk dangerously close to missing out on the sole purpose for why we are still breathing.

Mom’s and Dad’s, in this season of life God has tasked you with the incredible responsibility and privilege of loving, shaping, & leading your kids.  Don’t miss out on this!  The one thing that I hear consistently from parents farther ahead of me is that it goes by incredibly fast.  No one ever says, “Parenting dragged on for years and years…”  No, they ALWAYS talk about how quick it went.

So if it goes by that quickly, shouldn’t we be intentional with every moment?

Here are 4 ways that we can be intentionally shaping and pouring our life into our kids.

1.  Laugh

We are huge fans of laughter in my house.  We are always laughing, sometimes it’s at my antics, I’m not afraid to say that.  And other times it is over a good book, a funny movie, or a card game we are playing.  I want to hear my kids laughing, and I want them to hear me laughing.  Laughter is good for the heart and good for the soul.  I tell people all the time that Tiffany and I survived the early years of marriage and parenting by laughing our way through it.  And yes, more often than not we were laughing at our kids, and recently we have been laughing with our kids.  They say some of the funniest things.  Right now my 3 1/2 year old is calling all of those festive orange globular shaped gourds “punknicks”.  It took me a moment to figure out what she was saying, but then I realized she was trying to say pumpkin.  If children don’t make you laugh then you aren’t listening hard enough.  Lean in and listen, and have a good belly laugh.

2.  Be Fully Present

We have become amazingly good at appearing to be focused on those around us while we process a ton of other content at the same time.  We split our energy all the time.  We give some to the person we are talking with, while we give some to our iPhone, to the music in the background, or to whatever other thought is running through our mind at that moment.  Give your kids your full attention and presence.  I have to be honest, this is one that is difficult for me.  It is hard for me to sit on the couch and watch “Pippi Longstocking” and not check email, or scan through the news of that day.  I need to fight against that urge, and chances are I’m not alone in this.

3.  Play

I’ve said this before publicly and I will say it here as well.  We need to play with our kids.  This means getting down on the ground, and wrestling with our kids.  It could mean building lego’s, playing clash of clans, learning mine craft, or having a tea party with all the dollies.  Kids long to see you step out of your work uniform and into the role of mom and dad.  They want to know that you understand them, and playing shows that you do.

4.  Listen

Typically I would say that we need to listen to our kids, and I think that is true, but I am becoming increasingly convinced that we need to be listening to ourselves too.  We need to listen to what voice is directing us in that moment.  Are we speaking from the voice of one who is frustrated?  Are we speaking from the voice of mercy?  Or is it the voice of justice, or Grace?  Our conversation with our kids will change dependent upon the voice that is directing us.  Listen and figure it out.

Time with our kids goes by too fast for us not to be intentional with it.

~Peter

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