Yes, it's my birthday so please, indulge me. I figured, why not reflect on some things I've learned over the years. I stole the idea from SI's Peter King who includes a "Ten Things I Think I Think" each week on his blog, and it's usually fantastic. So, I thought I'd have some fun.
If, at the end of this post you can surmise my age, then I'll send you (you being the FIRST person to guess it correctly in the comments) and your small group copies of my new book due out with Thomas Nelson April 29th, Home Behind The Sun: Connect With God in the Brilliance of the Everyday. I've included one major clue to help you.
So, here goes.
Ten Things I Think I Think ...
1. I think when you're a kid, focus on being a kid. And adults, let that happen.
a. All I remember about growing up in Florida is jean shorts, bike races, and kissing Lori Jones. When did we get so caught up with getting our kids into the right "Pre-school?"
b. I think churches that let children be children, and encourage imagination and play are on the right track.
c. As a dad to three little pixies, I see how important it is to be a kid with them; to romp on the floor and play; to leave the TV off, and keep the laughter loud.
d. I think I miss how the Spanish Moss on the Florida oaks made the trees look like monsters.
2. I think I'm the man I am today because other men took time to build me up. Call it mentoring, apprenticeship, I call it good ole fashioned discipleship, and it's sadly missing in the church today.
a. I think I'm thankful for Tim Weaver pulling me out of 7th grade youth group to set me straight.
b. I think I'm thankful for a dad who was constant.
c. I think I'm thankful for Ken Keener who offered no-holds-barred discussions.
d. I think I'm thankful for Nelson Peters who told me, as a 20something, "Tim, you're Okay. Stop running."
3. I think a good teacher is worth more than we know, and certainly more than they're paid.
a. I can vividly remember my first grade teacher Mrs. Summerall, and how she taught me how to "feel" love bubbling up in my spirit. From American Political Behavior teacher Mr. Boyer to Dr. Lehy to Dr. Hugenberger to Dr. McGrath, I have been shaped by the minds and lives of teachers.
The academic voyage has taken most of my life, and each teacher played a vital role. From challenging me to think for myself (Mr. Boyer), to telling me to pursue writing full-time, to telling me my writing needed to get tighter, clearer, to encouraging me to pursue something most thought I'd never accomplish, a PhD.
b. Both of my sisters are teachers, and excellent ones at that--now, they collectively homeschool seven brilliant children. They've taught me so much, but mostly they've taught me how to be myself with kids, to let my imagination run, to challenge but always to love. I have the best sisters on the planet.
c. C.S. Lewis had an excellent teacher of logic and Latin and literature when he was a teenager. The great Knock (Kirkpatrick) was of tremendous influence in Lewis's young formation. Even the most brilliant minds among us are influenced and formed by another.
d. Some of the ladies I coached on the varsity volleyball team are now coaching and teaching. No greater reward than that!
4. I think experience is vital. If you can travel, do it. If you can climb it, get your harness, if you can chase your dreams, then why not.
a. Life experience must be mixed in with classroom learning. We're unwise to champion one over the other.
b. Dreams come to life with the support of friends who will love you no matter what.
c. Experience does not always look like a romantic dream-chasing. It hurts, it's hard, and it will leave you wishing you were home with family.
d. Nothing can compare to shooting the Lehigh River rapids in a canoe. That insane adventure gave me a doctorate in risk management and "sucking all of the marrow out of life."
5. I think there are four vital items in this life that you never skimp on and you always make sure you're never without.
a. Orange Juice (with pulp)
b. Fresh whole wheat bread
d. The Holy Spirit
6. I think bonfires are essential to forge friendships.
a. Most of my lifechanging decisions began and came to fruition around a fire.
b. Fires in the winter are best: the sparks can go high into the trees and blend with the stars.
c. Fires in the mountains near cliffs and waterfalls are preferrable.
d. Fires with your brothers are life giving.
7. I think music is essential to sustain life.
a I've talked to adults who, sadly, have lost interest in music; as if once you turn a certain age you're not allowed to head bang in your office or mosh in your living room with your children. Whatever.
b. I think everyone should get to Pearl Jam concert at least once.
c. I think worship music is wonderful, but the church teeters dangerously close to idolatry by hoisting it up as a "draw" or "lure' to convince guests that a certain church is "relevant" or "cool." Be who you are church ... and that is Christ himself.
d. I think Bach has to be the foremost musical genius ... ever.
8. I think the church is in desperate need of revival. The burning kind!
a. And by revival I mean a dynamic movement back to prayer, to yearning for God through fasting, to life swelling up in God's glory and beauty, and healing occurring in people's lives.
b. I think the need of most Christian leaders is true affection for God. Our once vibrant religio has turned into the marketplace of ideas, best practices, efficiencies, and glorified self-help.
c. Prayer marks all revivals. Ever wonder why? Where is prayer in our churches? Where is prayer in our daily lives? And by prayer I do not mean the liturgical, not to deny its benefits, but to point to an intimate conversing with the Lord of Hosts.
d. I sat backstage in a church once and heard the worship team laughing and joking just before it took the stage. There was no spirit of prayer, no spirit of humility. It seemed like a job to them. Has our faith become something we turn on like the television each Sunday morning?
9. I think your age doesn't matter. Do whatever you can to keep your heart vibrant.
a. I was riding my mountain bike around my parents house last summer and the neighbor said, "Hey Tim, aren't you too old for that now?" Of course I bellowed out a loud laugh to let her know how ridiculous that notion was and rode on.
b. Mountain biking keeps my heart young. I once had my lunch handed to me on the trail by a 60something who put the hammer down, as they say. I want to be that guy.
c. I once repelled off a 300 foot cliff with a 50something gentleman. He's bagged most of the 14er's in Colorado. I want to be that guy.
d. Each day, each dream, each opportunity is an opportunity to glorify God and to feel the joy he's infused into this life. Forget how old you are and do something that keeps your heart fully alive.
10. I think God gives us everything we need to be brilliant in this life. But we miss it because we're too busy with, well, whatever. Look around you, what do yo see? I'll tell you. It's not what, it's who.
a. My wife makes me brilliant because she digs past my muck and loves me still. My pixies wake each morning ready to hug the day. Today they woke me up, all dressed up in their best outfits and said, "Happy Birthday, Daddy." Brilliant!
b. I have been richly blessed with a quiver full of brothers. Blood brothers, brothers-in-law, and brothers of heaven. Peter tells us to love deeply, to love the brotherhood. I take that literally.
c. The Family of God should be a force to be reckoned with. And by reckoned with I mean a brilliant star of good ole fashion front-porch-love. What if we treated one another like a family rather than taking every opportunity to blast one another from our blogs, from our podiums, from our platforms.
d. I'm so sick of hearing about platforms. Think about the ramifications on relationships when every person is viewed for their network-ability, meaning how much their worth to your platform and network? I'm so tired of the ambulance-chasing (as my friend Jason calls them) bloggers who look for everything and anything to react to in the news. How about some blogs that praise, some that just offer poetry, some that offer thoughtful interaction with real topics--oh, right, those don't produce traffic. I get it. No, really, I do.
e. In this life, it's not about what you do as much as it is about who you do it with. I'm on a journey, an adventure in England with three vivacious daughters and a wife who fears nothing. We miss our family and friends but we're making do with what God has given us right here and right now. Beauty abounds!
So, today I'll head down to The Terf Tavern and do some writing. I'll walk the ancient streets of this beautifully bookish town and thank God for his brilliance, his glory, his wonder.
But then I'll speed home and hug my girls and we'll roll around and wrestle on the floor. I'll open their homemade cards and we'll laugh. Chris will prepare the cake and give me the biggest piece.
And when it's all said and done, we'll fall asleep in the peace of a love we can't explain.
The older I get the more at home in mystery I become.
In my twenties I wanted to argue and win arguments and fight. My writing read like rants.
But now I've settled into the poetry of my youth.
I began writing to woo the girls, because I loved sonnets, because I loved rhyme and language. And now I see language and writing as a means by which to step daily into the brilliance.
Sure there are times to pontificate and demand change and revolution. But more than anything I pray for a discerning eye and ear; when do I opine, when do I remain silent.
The poetry of age rises, I fall deeper into it and I long to wade into the waters of beauty; letting all the rest bicker and argue.
Give me a bonfire and a brother. Give me music and a good book. Give me life, this life.
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.