Dragon Slayer

~ On this Father’s Day I honor my father, a man who slew many dragons on my behalf. ~

More than seventeen years ago, I was blessed with a hope made real.

Joy, wonder, expectation, anxiety, laughter, uncertainty.


I became a father.


Never can I shed that role. Five children will always know me as ‘dad.’ My attitudes and actions and words and thoughts and choices and proximity cannot separate me from my fatherly call. For sure, many things will quantify the quality of my parental effectiveness. But inherent with the procreative and adoptive acts that have made me a father is the unrelenting, uncompromising charge to provide and protect. To serve and to lead and to model and to nurture.

As a dad, I’ve been tested, abandoned, tempted, and tired. Celebrated and commemorated. The butt of jokes and the recipient of respect. I’ve been asked to do things I can’t and done things I shouldn’t. I’ve see my hard work ignored as demands for ‘more’ flow unceasing. I’ve been silent when my words needed voice. And there’ve been times when I spoke – and said too much.

Fatherhood is no fairy tale. Sure, our world is fantastic with real and metaphorical kings and queens and castles and feasts. Games and celebrations. Wonderful stories. We live in a Kingdom that’s here in part – with more to come.

But in the Kingdom are dragons.

Hoards of dragons. Devious, dangerous dragons that titillate our senses with the promise of personal peace and affluence. Life-stealers clothed as sex, money, and power. Villainous monsters with no bias or prejudice. Their breath is discouragement. Their claws sharp, eager to plunge deep and infect with despair. In their wake tumble wounded souls left to whither and die.

I hate dragons.

And dragons hate fathers.

Authentic fathers. Father’s who accept their role with gladness. Dads who shield and sacrifice. Engage and relate. Laugh and learn and listen and cry. Fathers who thwart the diabolical thirst for a child’s tender heart and the rending of the marital union. Men who use truth and love to push back the poisonous blend of lies, deceit, and discontentment that seeps from our scaly foe. Manly men who fight and get dirty and bloody and scream at the evil that is the dragons.

I’m a father. And I love it.

Dragons hate me. I love that, too.

I’m eager to slay some dragons.

Are you? 


Adult life is not what I expected. I can’t define what it was I was looking for, but now that I’m here, I’ve been a bit surprised. For one, being an adult does not imply adult-like behavior. Next, no matter how great your eyesight was at 20, it will be worse at 40. Finally, the self image issues faced as a child haven’t really gone away.
My disillusionment with adult life was reenergized this week. In the course of conversation with a friend we each expressed a recent rough go of it. We were both wrestling the demons of fear, inadequacy, inability and smallness. The struggle was familiar. We’d been in this wrestling match before. Many times have we heard the sub-conscious shouts to give-up, tuck-tail and go home. This latest round of shouting was making us unsure, tentative, anxious and wobbly. As I wobbled, my thoughts drifted back to my growing-up years. Years of shyness and insecurity. Years of feeling…small.
Even though I’m all grown-up, at times I still feel small. Boyish, not man-ish. It’s a chronic syndrome that can be debilitating. Small feelings are like weeds in my thought life. A cold shadow on my demeanor. A fog over my marriage. An extinguisher of good parenting moments. Smallness shortens my temper while feeding emotional tiredness.
So what’s to be done when I tip toward thinking I’m small, second-rate and incapable – a little boy in a man’s body? Can I just fill my chest with air, cinch-up the boot straps and feign a John Wayne persona? Is looking big and manly the cure for small? Not really.
What I need is perspective. A reorientation that brings strength to my fragile moments. I need Someone who relates to my small with their big.
That big is God’s big. A big that engulfs, but doesn’t devour. A big that isn’t aloof or put-off by my self-centered fears. A big that is gentle, caring, comforting and available. A big that enters my small with understanding. A big that is personal, pursuing and gracious.
Here’s God, in all His bigness, entering our small.

Psalm 56:8-11

 8You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book?
9Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
   This I know, that God is for me.
10In God, whose word I praise,
   in the LORD, whose word I praise,
11in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
   What can man do to me?
So much for feeling small. When I toss, turn, fret and fear God settles, holds, calms and protects. He gives me safe shelter to stand, expand and face the lies. To embrace truth. To be a man. God makes me big – not so I look big, but so He does.
I’m grateful that God is big for me. That He patiently coaxes me out of my miserable corner thinking small thoughts. That He empowers me to be bold and risky for Him. After all, when my big Father cares enough to know the stories of each tear and the angst of sleepless nights, who or what can ever tell me I’m small?

This is War

I’m the proverbial “nice guy.” I don’t like conflict. I dislike delivering even slightly disappointing news. I can barely stomach telling cute, semi-toothless school age children that I won’t buy their chocolates, meat products, wrapping paper or magazines. If I wasn’t so Dutch (a.k.a. “Mr. Tight-wad”), I’d succumb every time to their wide-eyed, heart-grabbing salesmanship to avoid hurt feelings.

That said, don’t mistake me for a milquetoast man. I have passions. And convictions. And desire. At present, I’m purposefully engaged in a conflict that has nothing nice about it. In fact, it’s an all-out war. A life and death struggle that incites me to hot, righteous anger. It transforms this non-confrontational “nice guy” into a fierce warrior.

This war is fought over children – orphaned children more specifically. Here’s one author’s perspective: “The protection of children isn’t charity. It isn’t part of a political program fitting somewhere between tax cuts and gun rights or between carbon emission caps and a national service corps. It’s spiritual warfare.” (Adopted for Life, p.65) Caring for children is spiritual warfare? Absolutely.

This war is raging in my home. It boils in the bedroom next to me where two little girls sleep. Two years ago they slept in an Ethiopian orphanage. Warfare spills into in a bedroom downstairs where three boys are not sleeping (that’s a battle of a different kind). The battle simmers in my heart as I wonder at the wisdom, humor and mystery of God as day-by-day I cling to his sovereign care in melding my family of seven together. In the midst of this melding, the Enemy tirelessly hammers at a wedge, intent on cracking the oneness of my marriage and the unity of my family. I am at war.

This war is fought in hearts and minds. In streets and alleys. In mud huts and two-story homes. It’s a global scourge, with Truth and Love on one side, Lies and Deception the other. The Enemy of Truth seeks to disrupt and destroy families. To multiply fatherless children. To perpetuate suffering. To encourage selfishness. His mission is to keep orphaned children trapped in their plight by insulating and isolating us in perceptions of peace and affluence. He fosters the lie that the problem is “out there” and we can’t make a difference.

But we can. The problem is here. This is war. So I fight.

As I’ve fought, I’ve experienced some unexpected personal consequences. I’ve been led to face the deepest, ugliest, most selfish places of my heart. Over a number of years, God, with a tender fury, has kindly hacked and pulled at roots of pride – pride grown from seeds planted long ago by the Enemy. Roots that have strangled and starved my redeemed heart. The uprooting has been painful. But my Lord is gentle.

As the roots have come up, my heart is breathing again. It has warmed – warmed to risky obedience. Two years ago, obediently and with an anxious hope this riskiness led Katrina and me to a faraway place. There we looked deep and long into the wanting eyes of a fatherless child. Two, actually. Children made in the Creator’s image. Made with purpose, yet left alone. They were hopeless, yet hoping. Wondering, and wonderful. Homeless, but now home. Here.

Still, the spiritual battle continues. And in this battle God is revealing the state of my spiritual contentedness. How? By asking me to give without expectation for reciprocation. Giving exposes my tender soul to abuse and usury. Caring for children, particularly orphans, is high-level soul exposure. There is no immediate payback. No record-keeping. No settling-up. This type of one-way giving is fertile ground for growth in Christ-likeness. It is painful, thankless and sacrificial. It is an expression, in the words of the Apostle James, of “pure religion.” (James 1:27) God is using two abandoned children to bring a greater purity to my religion.

James also says that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Real faith is active. The war to reclaim orphaned children demands warriors who fight with their unique gifting. For some this means giving monetarily. For others it’s providing medical care, building an orphanage or digging a well. Others battle by petitioning our Heavenly Father on behalf of the world’s 140 million orphaned children. And for some, God opens their hearts to adoption.

No matter the weapon we wield, care for the orphan is an outworking of grace and obedience. It’s faith in action. A gracious giving back to God. A reflecting back of His sacrificial love for us. It’s what we must do. Let’s not forget that we all have an orphan’s heritage – lost and hopeless in our sin but for the rescue by Jesus Christ through adoption. (Eph. 1:5)

We are at war. How will you fight? November 7 was Orphan Sunday. November is National Adoption Month. Respond to God’s call to fight for needy children. Do it in through your unique provision, giftedness and circumstance – for His glory.