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Family :: The pursuit of perspective and productivity


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For the last couple weeks I was on my own, a bachelor if you will!  My family was out of town. The first 4 of those days I was home alone and then for week or so I was touring around Southern California, trying to do some writing, thinking, dreaming with a good friend of mine. Not to forget the NT Wright conference I was able to attend. Which was amazing! 

Here’s a thought I had during this time. It was a surprising thought to me.

While sitting at home alone, family gone, a rush of excitement came over me — I was going to be so productive while my kids and wife were gone! I mean I love them, I’ll miss them terrible (eventually) but let’s face it, kids are work, full-time – attention demanding – energy draining – beautiful but hard WORK. Marriage is a bit different and consumes one differently but let’s be real, if you’re not working at it you’re probably failing at it. I don’t believe that takes anything away from the beauty of having kids or being married but confesses the reality that it’s work and all the other things on your to-do list come in behind this and rightly so. So when my family is out of town for 2 weeks and I think, “productivity here I come” it’s understandable. Right?

You see, the thought is that I’ll be able to read more than I normally do, write more than I normally do (I wrote most of this blog during that time), watch more, play more and sleep more than I normally do! Sleep was last on that list but maybe first in my heart! I have an almost 2 year old, come on now!

But as I sat to do some of that extra reading I realized something, productivity is great but in what area of my life do I really want to produce greatest results? The first thing that came to my mind was discipleship. I want to be a better and closer disciple of Jesus. But after that, the greatest “product” I can invest my time, talents, heart, soul and energy in is my family!

The health and vitality of my family will reflect my investment. The more time I give, the more energy I give and the more love I give to my family the greater and closer we will be. If I give my family the leftovers and the afterthoughts of my energy and “production,” the product that is my family will not be very fruitful itself. Is this not true of any relationship? The more you invest in it the more you will get from it and out of it, the more produce there will be to go around for everybody.

I don’t love the production / investment metaphor because this is not some economic – consumer system, it’s a relationship! Maybe we can think of that word “produce” in the same vein as the scripture talks about it. The organic produce or fruit that comes from a life connected to the giver of all life and produce. So it’s not, “what did you produce or make today?” but “What kind of produce did you gather from the crop or field that you have been working in during this season of life?” For me it’s important to remember that you can’t buy or earn this kind of produce, the only currency is your heart, soul and mind and a little blood and sweat or strength. The of Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 22.

// The best way to experience the most productive growth in your life as a disciple.

The other thought I had around this was that if being a disciple is truly the top priority on my productive desires list then the investment into my family is also the way to have the greatest growth and productivity in this area of my life.

There is no better way for a man to grow as a disciple then to serve his family and love his wife well!

A book I read once said that “the goal of marriage isn’t happiness but holiness.” I’ve found that to be very helpful. Nothing comes even close to growing me as a disciple of Christ in the ways I hope and pray to grow then giving myself to my wife and kids. They sharpen me, the stir love in me, they sand rough edges and kill selfish bents.

I would add that this is also the effect of a healthy, biblical community and close genuine friendships for those in different places and stages of life. To find a community that you can give yourself to and can receive others in can be vital piece in your life as a disciple. For the Christian, family can and must take on broader and more inclusive definitions. This is true for single people and married people but that would lead to a much broader conversation.

So, first and foremost I desire to daily become a better disciple of Jesus. My family is the best playground in which I will be the most productive in that aim.

Secondly, my family, it’s heath and closeness and love for Jesus is absolutely the greatest thing I can ever “produce” with my love and effort.

That is a really important perspective for me! It is something I don’t think I often have in mind as I work and wrestle with life. There is nothing I can produce that will every be more valuable than my family. And when I give myself first and foremost to that aim I will produce more and deeper life and virtue in my pursuit of Jesus. There is a beautifully tangled relationship between the two. So to have the perspective that family is a distraction to real creativity and productivity is a crime, one I have way to often committed. And It’s a perspective that many men I know hold as they think about work and family.

The real productivity will come when we invest in the most beautiful things we can ever co-created with God, our kids, our marriage, our closest community and primary community that we share life with. For me this is my wife and kids!

Jesus is always and already pulling back the veil and releasing the Kingdom into my life. Sometimes I just need to have the eyes to see it and a centered heart to experience it in the laughter of my kids and the kisses of wife.

Amen.

 

And just to show off my family! Here is a Mother’s day card / poster we made for our mothers. It’s show’s off my crew well. I love them!

 

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Rituals // Some Things Are Hard to Explain…


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Early in my spiritual life i came to an understand that rituals were an unnecessary and even negative thing. Something the Catholics and other people who didn’t have a real faith participated in. Things have changed…

#1. I’m an Anglican. And i’ve been reading A LOT of Catholics guys lately. Not quite Anglo-Catholic but ya never know.
So yea, rituals have become a big part of my life of faith. I really value them and see the beauty in their rhythm. So i apologize to my Catholics friends i either doubted and demeaned or attempted to convert when i was in High School. Sean, you specifically come to mind.

Now a lot of my evangelical friends might want me to explain this a bit more. I could give lengthy theological banter here but instead i’ll show you a picture and say a few things.

 #2. I’m a dad and this is my son Jack! Just about every Saturday we go on an adventure. This includes many different things that Jack is fond of; car washes, parks, finding big machines (backhoes, bulldozers, and the like), going to the mall so we can walk up and down every escalator in the place and play in the lego store, finding water fountain to play in. AND always, ALWAYS going to Starbucks to get some chocolate milk!

 

Our Saturday adventures are our father & son ritual. At least for me it’s a really deep and meaningful time for me to connect with my son and experience life and love with him. There might be times when he is over it and thinks our Saturdays are lame or times when he thinks there are better things that could be done with his Saturday mornings but i will always be here for him, waiting and wanting our lives to intentionally intersect, for us to have a beautiful rhythm that we share, a ritual that is ours. It’s still hard to explain but it makes more sense to me when i think of our Sat. AM ritual as the center of our ever evolving relationship.

My relationship with God is also ever evolving. Sometime it feels as if it evolving in negative ways but if St. John of the Cross is right and the Dark Night of the Soul is God’s way of purifying us for our journey into perfection then maybe even when it feel as if God is distant and your spiritual life is dry, when you feel like you could be doing something better with your Sunday mornings… maybe it’s then, especially then when the eucharist needs to be participated in and the Word needs to be heard and the prayers of the people need to be said. Ritualistic. Absolutely. Because maybe there are times when that is exactly what we need, a good ritual.

There are very few Saturday’s, actually i’m not sure there has been one yet, when i don’t think about my own father and all he missed out on because he wasn’t around. And i think about how badly i want to be there for my son and how badly i want him to know that i love him. That’s another thing that’s hard to explain. Growing up without a dad feels like i never learned this particular language and now i am learning it by inhabiting the land of fatherhood. It’s a foreign language but one i think i am picking up pretty fast and one that feel as though i was born to know, i think we were all born to know the language of love, especially as communicated to us by our mothers and fathers.

Here’s to living a life of ritual and rhythm. Because maybe it’s exactly what we need.

 

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The Pursuit of Happiness & my 14 month old son…


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Watching the last 45 minutes or so of this movie the other night with my 14 month old son in the other room absolutely WRECKED me! It was heart wrenching, tear jerking, and a slew of other things! I can’t imagine the pain and frustration, the despair and humiliation that he must have been experience as he walked his son through the line at the homeless shelter or as he locked themselves in a bathroom for shelter over night. GOSH!!!


If this doesn’t move you to help people and stand along side of those who are less fortunate and in need i don’t know what will.

The crazy thing is that i feel like i’m a few bad months away from being in his shoes.
And i’m also thankful that i am an amazing community away from every being in that place.

Those are 2 important things to think about i believe.


#1. You’re not to far removed from broke and bottom!

In the last few years i have met people and even have good friends who have pretty much lost it all, filed bankruptcy, divorced the love of their lives, and found themselves where they, where i never thought they would be! We judge the guy selling papers on the street corner and assume bad choices have gotten him their and we mock the lady sitting along side the curb with her cardboard sign asking for spare change but my guess is that many of those people never thought they would be their either. Your circumstance don’t make you a better or worse human being. You just are a human being and we should treat people like it no matter the circumstances or the choices they have made.

#2. I am thankful that i am an amazing community away from ever being homeless.

Yes i have family that in a worst case i could get too and live with. But even right here in Nashville i have a community of people whom i’ve chosen to follow Jesus with that would never let me live on the street or wait in line at the homeless shelter. And when i take in a story like the one portrayed in the movie The Pursuit of Happiness i am overwhelmed with gratitude for that fact. And i am challenged never to take that for granted!

I’m also reminded about how much i love my son and that fact that i would do anything for him! I just pray i can faithfully father him and follow the way of Jesus in protecting and providing for him.


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Grace and peace

(from a ragamuffin father who is thankful for the people God has placed in his life!)

erik

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Labor Day…


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Well i actually labored on labor day. Many of you know  i work at the Cheesecake Factory part-time. It’s a good gig. They are super flexible, i hardly worked at all this summer and they were cool with it. Admittedly i’m ready to be done with the side gig but for not it’s perfect. I did have to work labor day however! Boooo… i know, know! But the perks were, #1. i met Keith Urban & Nicole Kidman. When i say meet them it was more like this; Nicole,  “Ummm. i was suppose to be getting a salad?”  Keith, “Yea, i got my food and she didn’t get hers. We thought it was weir they didn’t come out at the same time.” (is an amazing Australian acsent of course) Me, “Oh, so sorry about that. It would be on it’s way but i will double check for you.” As i was walking away the salad got their and kept us from becoming best buds. But we hung out non-the-less.  😉  #2. the dude from Orange County Chopper was in as well. We didn’t to hang out but it’s cool seeing a non-music semi-superstar. Other than that it was a crappy day to be stuck inside!

The real fun of was had on Sunday afternoon / evening. The fam and i met up with some friend at Arrington. It was amazing. I have posted a photo album of the day on Facebook and Flickr but thought i would share a few of them here as well because they are Aaaaa-mazing!

Here ya go!

flying babiesthe fam

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All photography credit goes to the one and only Cody Springs (nick name… Well i can’t tell you)

Great day, with some great friends. I need it!

Until next time labor day. PEACE
erik

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Pacifism and parenthood…


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I’ve had this blog brewing for a while but just haven’t taken the time to flesh it out. It’s some thoughts from a while back but my first fathers day stirred them up again. So I thought I would finally share.

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I was sitting down with a good friend and another dude (friend / acquaintance), the other dude happened to be a CCM musician guy; trendy, hipster, semi-famous, and of course wise! Somehow we got to talking, I had recently gotten married, he had recently had his second kid. We were talking about family stuff, the joys of being a father and challenges of being a husband, at least a first year husband. At some point the conversation shifted and we began to talk about politics, faith, and then pacifism. And then the trendy Christian rocker stated, quite matter of fact, “Well I used to be a pacifist until I had kids.” Followed by a “you’ll understand someday.”

In case you didn’t know, I’m a pacifist. As I read the scriptures, especially the words of Jesus I think it’s fairly hard not to be. I mean if your going to take the words of Jesus seriously, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Don’t resist an evil doer.” The list goes on… just read The Sermon on the Mount. So for me it’s hard not to be a pacifist when i read these words. Now I respect people who have differing opinions than me but for me, I think it’s hard to read these word of Jesus and then pick up a gun and go kill people to protect the things I love; God, country, family, etc. That’s a hard move for me to make.

But like my trendy, wise, Christian rocker friend stated, “You’ll understand when you have kids.”

Well now I have a kid. And to be honest what my friend said has really stuck with me. I understand the difficulty with even the IDEA of being a pacifist, especially in our world. I really do. And when I’m honest and people ask me if i’m a pacifist my response is, “Well, I want to be.” I say that because I know in reality I am bent toward violence and reaction. I understand that about myself. But I also feel like I understand that the most faithful // Faith-Full thing to do is to follow Jesus and that’s isn’t always easy or the way i am naturally bent.

Now I often tell people who roll there eyes at me for even suggesting the idea of pacifism that, “non-violence isn’t necessarily non-action.” I think that is an important caveat to the conversation, but another conversation altogether.

As I reflect on my stance as a pacifist and my now status as a father I’m trying to decide if my wise rocker friend was correct. Does the love I have for my son negate my ideological position as a pacifist?

For the first few months of Jacks existence (Jack is my son) I would take him when he was crying into my office and play a few of his favorite tunes. The 2 songs that seemed to calm him the most were, 1) The Hope That Lies Within 2) Oh How He Loves – both recorded by The Glorious Unseen. (great album, you should get if you don’t have it). But I would blast these songs and sing them into my infant sons ear and he would, miraculously, calm down. And almost every time I would sing these words,

“He is jealous for me (I would sing you)
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy
When all of the sudden I am unaware of these affliction eclipsed my glory
I realize just how beautiful you are and how great your affection are for me

O, How He love us so
O how he love us
O, How He love us so”

…almost every time I would sing these words I would think about that comment, “You’ll understand once you have kids.” As I would sing those songs into Jacks little ears, telling him how much God loves him, I would realize how much I love him and how I would do anything for him and to protect him. And I would think, “was he right? Do I now understand?”

But in the midst of those thoughts I would realize that my love for my son can’t be stronger than God’s love for my son OR God’s love for his son. And in the mystery of the Trinity God’s love for God’s self which, more often then we are aware of, is turned in our direction and lavished upon us. This infinite and incomprehensible love that’s exists within God’s self and is poured out on humanity with undeserved regularity. This love that I can’t even fathom is directed from the heart of God to my son Jack every second of every moment and in the same way it was directed toward Jesus in every line we read of scripture, every space we ignore, every pause we skim over, and in every possible way we don’t even think of, God was in constant Love for his son. Even when his Son was hanging on a tree, bleeding and hurting, being killed by the enemy, LOVE WAS THERE. I don’t understand that but I pray God would fill me with the faith to embrace that moment of divine love that we witness in the crucificition of Jesus and I pray even harder as a father that God would gift me with even a small portion of the love I witness in that cosmic even of the cross for my son Jack.

And if I can receive that gift, even in part and as feebly as I am capable of, I believe I can continue to be faith-full to the words of Jesus, living the way of a hopeful, aspiring, would-be pacifist father. Which might be the only way any of us are capable of doing it anyway.

So was my friend right?
I don’t think so. Not if I believe in the power of the resurrection and the hope that lies within! I don’t think he was.

Grace and peace
from a would-be pacifist and an awestruck father!

erik

PS :: if you would like a resource to further this conversation here is a REALLY good one!

What would you do if? This little book entitled :: What Would You DO is a great resource to help you think through the challenges and questions of being a pacifist. It’s a great read from a few voices, put together by John Howard Yoder. Who is a stud and somebody you should read! Without a doubt!
:: Politics of Jesus
:: The Original Revolution
:: Body Politics
// TO NAME A FEW…

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A birthday DAY!


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Well today is the official Willits family birthday!

I am (gulp) 31 today.

Jack is 5 months old!

So i thought i might post some pictures and see if you can see the family resemblance.

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little e 2 Jack Square Hipp

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little e 3

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Life, holding patterns, and blogging


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My life seems to be flying by… And standing still…

All at the same time.

Have you ever been here before?

Jack's headI look at my son Jack, he will be 4 months old on Wednesday, HOLY CRAP! It seems like yesterday we brought him home from the hospital. Maybe I will say that for the rest of my life but especially right now, it just seems like time is flying by. And I am almost 31, holy crapole!!!

Then there are the million other things I want, hope, and dream to do. And these things don’t seem to be coming my way fast enough. In so many ways life seems to be in a holding pattern. And yea, I get frustrated (really frustrated, just ask my patient and loving wife) about the lack of time I have to do just about anything I am passionate about. It just seems like I’m in a holding pattern when it comes to ministry and projects I dream of doing and churches I dream of planting. But instead of getting these things done I am waiting tables and hold reflectors. Jobs I’m thankful for (or try to be) but I really wish I didn’t have to do them. I just wish I could do what I do and preach the Gospel every chance I got. I’m ready to just do the things i’m passionate about again!

Maybe time will never be abundant again, after all I am now a parent and that isn’t changing anytime soon, EVER! But it just seems like so many things I want that aren’t happening like I want them to and instead I’m just having to wait and inch toward my dreams instead of running toward them. Bla bla bla!

But there are also many things to be thankful for! I do feel like things are finally moving in a really positive direction when it comes to ministry. I have a little son and every time I look at him (when he’s not howling or puking on me) I am filled with gratitude, and even when he is howling and puking I’m pretty thankful!

I am pretty thankful that God blesses the B team and is on the side of those who struggle and don’t have it all together. That’s me for sure. Maybe one of these days I will be more consistent with my blog, or I will wake up at 7 to work on my book, or I will make sure to read for 2 hours everyday. But until then, I will continue to try and follow Jesus, to be filled with His Spirit and be lead into a more fully human life day by day.

“Holiness is moment by moment.” John Wesley

Amen!

I do have some fun things to blog about. I’ll try and get to them soon!

Grace and peace
Erik

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Having a blast // Smiling baby!


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Well Andrea and i are having a blast with Jack!
It’s kinda crazy, you love this stage and don’t want him to get any bigger but at the same time you can’t wait for him to grow a tad bit and start responding more and interacting more, even crawling and walking… all that good stuff.

For now, we’ll take a smile!  PRICELESS!

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My boy :: Jack Ellsworth Willits


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Well there he is!
Jack Ellsworth Willits | born @ 2.47pm December 28 | 7.52lbs : 20.5in

I continue to say he’s perfect (cause he is!) but Andrea, my lovely wife doesn’t want us to turn into those crazy “my kid’s better than yours, let me prove it” parents so she always gives me the stink eye when i say that to anybody.

But just so you know… he’s perfect!

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Dad’s little dude!
We’re so happy he’s here!

And if you want to see more pics i’ve posted some on my facebook and some on my flickr account. flickr.com/erikwillits
More to come, no doubt!

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Blogging from a train


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Last time I blogged from a train I was on my way to Chicago to meet up with my 12 best friends in the world. We were all gathering to hanout and celebrate! I was getting married! And for those who know me well know how much celebrating was in  order, a miracle was about to happen, Erik E. Willits was about to get married!

This train ride isn’t as eventfull, I’m just heading into Boston to meet up with an old friend and them catch a Red Sox / White Sox game.

But this blogging train ride has me reflecting on my last. I remember the emotions and crazy thoughts swirling in my head. It was on that train into Chicago that it really sank in, “HOLY CRAP, I’m getting married.”

But it was a great train ride of prayer and reflection. And the following 4 days in the city with friends and then family and THEN my wedding were probably the best 4-5 days of my life!

Tomorrow I will fly back to Nashville, where my wife is. I haven’t seen her or her big beautiful belly in a week. I can’t wait to kiss her (my wife) and rub her belly (my son).

So this train ride has me remembering but also pondering what life will be like come December when a new little Willits is hanging out with us.

Life keeps happnening…
And I’m thankful!

Grace and Peace
Erik

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