Favorite Tweets for December

Life is short. Eat dessert first.

It was a busy month for all of us, right? But especially so for the Espinosa family: 2 birthdays, 1 anniversary (15 years!), Hanukkah, and Christmas.

Let's celebrate a wonderful month, and a exhilarating year, in which we saw God provide for us in everything.

Here were some of my favorite Tweets (@EspinosaJoey) from the past month:

From Others 

@ValerieHulme "Seek to heal what is broken. Lead with love. Follow love w/ compassion. Listen. Learn." Great words from .

@Elloh_L:  "The only thing I know to do is partner with God the Father to teach people to be color blessed, not color blind."   

@ElizabethEsther"I can sincerely BELIEVE I'm not racist while still BEHAVING in discriminatory ways." //

@MillVillageFarm:   Thanks for awarding our Mobile Market $10k to help extend our work to additional communities!   

@FallonTonight:  Microsoft is ending Clip Art for Word. It's a small inconvenience for Word users, and a devastating blow for church newsletters.

@CSLewisDaily"In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.” ~   

@PopAtomicStudio:  I'm not saying renewables are bad - they are an important piece of the puzzle, but can't go it alone & do have limitations.

@LecraeSick to my stomach about the killing of these NYPD officers. More people dead, more families hurting, more division. God help us.

@BobGoff:  Wise men set out to find a baby who God sent to find us. 

@ChrchCurmudgeon:  They call it a "selfie" because "narcissistie" is too hard to spell.

IJM:  "Two pre-requisites for churches doing justice: courage + humility. They seldom coexist."

From Me

The verdict in the case explains & validates the frustration of the black community in .

Bought beer. Got carded.

If you want to see how a church body can bless families who have children with special needs, watch this:

You can be a part of life-change & community transformation in .  

Just had a job interview where the interviewer prayed for me before I left.

"The key to understanding masculinity is Jesus Christ." Mark Driscoll (in Real Marriage)...  

College-access programs assist students who grow up in . (via )

"You sit on a throne of lies!"   

Chinese food DOES sound good right about now... "Chinese takeout on Christmas"

"Hey, Sender"

After we watched Run DMC videos, this happened.
Two months ago, my wife and kids walked into a high school, and she heard a group of teenagers called out, "Hey, Sender!"

A few weeks later, I walked into an elementary school with my kids, and some children called out, "Hey, Sender!"

As a family who is homeschooling, our kids do not attend either of these schools. And yet our youngest child is known by students at these schools, and many others. What in the world is going on here? 

The teenagers and children who spoke to him are his leaders and friends, respectively, from our church. Getting to know people like them is one of the main reasons he proudly proclaims that Sunday is his favorite day of the week. (The other reason is, "We get to learn about God.")

There is no doubt that Sender Philip, who turns 8 years old today, is our family's social butterfly.

A Pure Extrovert 

"Outgoing" doesn't begin to describe Sender. He thrives off of being around people. He gets energized by being with others, which is the complete opposite of his Dad and brother. He's happy to play with one friend, but the more people the better!

His best friends are the seven year old boy who lives across the street, and puppy that lives next door. He could play with either of them for hours each day. Yes, the puppy that has given him bruises and scratches all over his body. All over. Seriously.

We have been to three First Lego League robotics competitions. Sender has never been on a team officially, but he makes the most of it. He connects with children from other teams, and collects more buttons from other teams than anyone else I see, despite the fact that he has little (or nothing) to offer in return.

Sender doesn't just enjoy being in a crowd. His energy tank is filled by it. He could survive all day at one of those robotics events -- sustained by a few pieces of candy and 200 points of contact with children and adults. Man does not live on bread alone, . . . and Sender needs relationships. 

And he doesn't just seek to get things from others (although he struggles with selfishness, like any boy his age, or like his Dad, for that matter). He uses his innate relational skills to bless others, too.

Last month was my wife's birthday. One Sunday at church, he had some extra time and decided to make his mother a birthday card. Nothing special there, right?

Well, not only did Sender present Joanna with his handmade card on her birthday. . . . He also gave her a half-dozen others, made by his classmates at church. And as much as I know him, I'm sure he didn't beg them to make cards for some lady that most of them have never met.

I think they made cards for Joanna because they love and enjoy Sender. His relational influence extended beyond the circle of his own self.

Controlling the Energy

Besides his extroversion, we also know that Sender needs to exert physical energy regularly. If the weather has been bad, and he's stuck inside for a few days, he gets especially ornery. He loves to wrestle, run, and roll on the ground, inside or outside. (I prefer him to do the latter.)

Of course, playing outside with friends (or being on the baseball team in Allendale for the past three years) combines the best of both worlds -- exercise and friends. He is looking forward to playing on the baseball team in the Greater Sullivan Neighborhood next spring!

We love that he has lots of energy, and that he loves to be around people. Our challenge is to help channel his physical and social energy.

He needs to learn to calm down when needed, to not roughhouse so much, and to be aware of who is around him before he does something in play. (Like when he didn't notice his Mom was behind him when he swung a stick. Congrats, Sweetie -- your first black eye!)

And he needs to learn that the goal in his life isn't about getting people to like Him. So we regularly have to talk to him about not trying to be the "star of the show."

Of course, we are thankful for how he reflects the image of God. When he shows energy, he reflects God's nature of action. When he sings and draws and builds, he reflects God's creativity. And when he engages with others in love and friendship, he reflects God's desire to be in a relationship.

We are thankful for this boy today and everyday.

Happy Birthday, Sender!!

"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."  Ephesians 2:10

Related Links: 

Defending the Innkeeper at Christmas

Last week, Family Matters published a guest post of mine, called Don't Despise the Faithful Innkeeper. In this last weekend before Christmas, I figured it was worth promoting again.

Why? Because despite most of us being on vacation from school and work, the days are about to get busy. Really busy, and really hectic. And if you are hosting family and friends, you'll probably feel like an overworked and under-appreciated innkeeper.

Remember the innkeeper from the Bible, in the Christmas story? Of course you don't, because he's not in there. There is only an allusion to him in Luke 2:7.

And yet we look down and despise him in all our Christmas plays and stories. And it's time we stop.

Let's look at the innkeeper in a new light. And let's remember that just as he was faithful right where God had him, God has you in a very important role, too.

Read Don't Despise the Faithful Innkeeper, and be encouraged.

Related Links:

Preparing for Christmas

In case you don't follow 80 (seriously?) blogs and news sites like I do, here's a compilation of some great resources about Christmas:

Let Us Adore Him (David Mathis).  "Christmas is not first about witness, but about worship... But beware your standard of who can come in worship. At Jesus’s own birth, it wasn’t the squeaky-clean, religious elites of biblical faith who bowed the knee in worship."

Christmas Generosity (Dave Bruskas).  During the Christmas season, I must remember to be generous to my family, my church, and the world.

Make This Christmas Unforgettable for Your Children (Christine Hoover).  A great reminder for all of us who feel the pressure to perform and make things "perfect" for our families.

Rethinking Santa (Tony Rienke).  John Piper strongly cautions parents to not include Santa Claus in their Christmas traditions, and I think he gives good reasons why. (However, we have had great friends that do include Santa, and I think they have good reasons why, too.)

A Stress-Free Christmas: 5 Ways to Keep Santa in the Season (Christy Thomas).  On a lighter note about Santa, please read this with the understanding that it was written with tongue-in-cheek!

5 Ways to Love Your Neighbor During Christmas (Ryan Kearns). 
  1. Listen
  2. Draw near
  3. Take the first step
  4. Be inconvenienced
  5. Endure
Advent: The Need (Paul Tripp).  What makes the Christmas story so wonderful is the extent and depth of our brokenness.

The Presence of Advent (Jeremy Writebol).  "As we increasingly consider God with us, we must ask ourselves are we displaying this reality to the world? Are we showing lonely people God with us by our presence with them?"

Goals and Skills: Year-End Reflections

I'm not going to dwell (yet again) on how I did not fully accomplish my goals in 2014. Which is odd for me, since I'm naturally pessimistic and a perfectionist.

So, let me do this. Let me celebrate all that I was able to accomplish this year in my goal of learning new skills:
  • I made it almost through two years of Rosetta Stone Spanish material.
  • I learned how to play the ukulele (on a basic level). 
  • I learned to solve a Rubik's cube in under 2.5 minutes. 
  • My son (Elijah) and I learned some basic computer programming. 
  • I focused more on Bible memorization. 
I didn't master any of these things. But even the little bit I learned was fun, and it was beneficial to me. The processes of having to learn new skills is good for your brain (including language learning).

What's Next?

I'm not sure yet what goals I'll have in 2015. For now, I'm thinking about being more strategic in my journaling. I've kept a journal since I was in college (I think I'm on #30 or so now). But I'm now in the middle of a 31-day journaling challenge, and I plan to do this semi-regularly in the future.

If you want to start journaling, or do it more regularly, I recommend you follow a plan like that to help you get going. Also, check out these articles by:

Also from Art of Manliness, I've been eying this Ben Franklin's Virtues Daily Record and Journal. I don't like the high price, so I may just order the replacement journal inserts. I do not agree with the philosophy that I can just work harder and automatically make myself a better person. But this may be a good exercise for me. At the least, it will remind me how much I need a Savior and how futile it is to earn favor with God.

Not only do I want to journal with more intentionality, I also like Franklin's idea of spending time at the end of each day reflecting on that day's high and low moments.

Thanks for journeying along with me this year. I'd love to hear from you:

What accomplishments from 2014 can you look back on with positivity? And do you have any goals for 2015?

**first image courtesy of Wolfgang Staudt via everystockphoto
**second image courtesy of Art of Manliness

Father to Son

Help! He's getting closer to being a teenager!

Dads -- Do you have father-son talks with you boys? Do you pass on bits of wisdom through a few extended conversations, or do these nuggets of truth come through more regular but smaller talks?

If you are like me, you do both. You have some main topics (such as about salvation, sexuality, education, and leadership) that you cover in detail. But you still sprinkle in brief insights and guide points along the way.

And if you're like me, you are never really sure how much of it sinks in. But that's not the point. Our job is to keep leading our families, to keep training our children, and to keep passing on wisdom.

My Son

Tomorrow, my son Elijah has a birthday. We have had lots of conversations over the past 11 years. I've made my share of mistakes, and have said and done some damaging things. But I know that God has given me much wisdom to pass on to him.

I'm thankful for the resources I've had, so that I can be a good father to Elijah. I've had access to books, parenting classes, friends, mentors, and (most importantly) God the Holy Spirit. But all the resources don't make a difference until I put them into action. And I'm always looking for more parenting ideas and help.

I enjoyed this article from Nick Batzig, Father-to-Son Talks. He explains that the book of Proverbs gives at least 10 father-to-son talks, which can provide a framework for all of us parents:
  1. 1:8-19 -->  Be teachable; resist temptation 
  2. 2:1-22 -->  Seek God's wisdom, and avoid evil
  3. 3:1-12 -->  Trust God (godly counselors, with wealth, in His discipline)
  4. 4:10-27 -->  Pursue righteousness and truth
  5. 5:1-23 -->  Avoid sexual immorality 
  6. 6:1-35 -->  Work hard; avoid sexual immorality
  7. 7:1-27 -->  Avoid sexual immorality
  8. 23:19-35 -->  Avoid drunkenness
  9. 24:13-22 -->  Seek wisdom; avoid wicked rebels
  10. 27:11-27 -->  Be careful who you associate with
(Of course, breaking down the book into 10 talks may not be biblically-accurate, especially since the chapter breaks are a later addition. But this is a good place to start.)

I've never specifically taught my kids these passages, but it looks like something worthwhile!

Some of My Own Words

Here are some things I've talked to Elijah about, over the past year. I hope a fraction of these have sunk in, or at least shaped him in a small way:

As a man, we are called to make things better. Anytime we walk into a room, we should be thinking how we can make it better for others. 

When you elevate yourself and your skills above others, you are elevating yourself above God, who created everyone in His image.

Manhood is when you produce more than you consume. You are called to be a provider.  (HT: Art of Manliness)

Like you, I have doubts sometimes. But we can't get stuck just thinking about them. We have to take action in faith, and then let God verify Himself. 

When you ignore or reject authority over you, you are rejecting God, who gives all authority. When it comes to your leaders, you are not equal in roles. 

When you make the world and your community better, you reflect the image of God, as He is working to restore this broken world.

One day, you may have to fight. But don't fight for yourself. Be ready to step in between an aggressor and someone who needs protecting. You may get hurt shielding that person, but God will reward you, and so will I!
God has wired you up to do something. There will always be things you have to do which you don't enjoy. But there will be some things that you know that God made you for. As much as you can, move towards those things.

(You may be wondering how I remember saying these things to him. I keep a journal for each of my kids. I write in each one a couple of times per month, about what is going on in their lives.)

The Blessing of Teaching My Son  

More than anything, I'm glad that I get to be my son's primary discipler. (Of course, my wife is involved heavily, too, but in this case I feel the burden lies on me.) I am glad that God has entrusted me to disciple my son, and to "train him up in the way that he should go" (Proverbs 22:6).

It is a blessing to teach my son.

Happy Birthday, Elijah!!
"A wise son makes a glad father, 
but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother."  
Proverbs 10:1

Related Links:

Life Decisions: Pick Two

From the Doghouse Diaries. Can you relate to these life decisions?

One way out is to have an army of children who you then could put to work. Hmmm...

My Commentary:  In this context, shouldn't picking "children" count as two picks?

Perhaps Doghouse Diaries answered their own question with this illustration:

Or this one: Why I have no free time.

What Are You Doing for Advent?

I've been trying to figure out what our family will do for Advent this year. More specifically, I want to know how to lead and disciple them in spiritual formation, as we worship the Lord together.

We have used a number of different materials over the years, for family devotions and my own personal devotions. Some of you have traditions that are meaningful for your family.

In my process of figuring out what we will use, I came across this Gospel-centered Advent material from Austin Stone. For a low price of $5, it was a worthy purchase!

The material has two parts:
  1. Personal devotional material for adults (and teenagers).
  2. Family devotional material to lead your children.
    • BONUS: They also give you coloring sheets to make ornaments. 
    • Negative Bonus: I can't stand when illustrators distort the Bible's descriptions, as in the case of these coloring sheets. Our children need better than a tiny Noah's ark and wimpy angels.
I just finished reading through the Bible chronologically, so I may use this personal devotional material. (However, since I've also been writing in my kids' bibles, I may not cover all the Advent material here). And the family devotional material in this book looks great!

Edit: Apparently it's free now. Lucky you!

Other Options

Before I came across this material, I was considering teaching my children about 31 names of God, for the month of December.** However, I can always do that another time. Remember, Don't Be a Seasonal Christian Parent!

And just after I wrote this post (and bought the other advent guide), I learned about the Grace Church Advent Guide. This looks great, and is in a simpler, 5-week format.

Really, anything you use (for the most part) will be beneficial. Just do something!

What will your family be doing for Advent devotions? Is it something traditional, or new?

And if you haven't started yet, it's not too late to catch up!

** If you're curious, here is the list of 31 names of God that I was going to use (and will probably still use in the future):
  1. Theos (New testament) – supreme being
  2. EL, ELOAH: God "mighty, strong, prominent" (Genesis 7:1)
  3. ELOHIM: God “Creator, Mighty and Strong” (Genesis 17:7) (Genesis 1:1).
  4. EL SHADDAI: “God Almighty,” (Genesis 49:24; Psalm 132:2,5)
  5. ADONAI: “Lord” (Genesis 15:2; Judges 6:15)
  6. YHWH / YAHWEH / JEHOVAH: “LORD” Exodus 3:14; (Deuteronomy 6:4)
  7. YAHWEH-ELOHIM: "LORD God" (Genesis 2:4; Psalm 59:5)
  8. YAHWEH-JIREH: "The Lord Will Provide" (Genesis 22:14)
  9. YAHWEH-RAPHA: "The Lord Who Heals" (Exodus 15:26)
  10. YAHWEH-NISSI: "The Lord Our Banner" (Exodus 17:15)
  11. YAHWEH-M'KADDESH: "The Lord Who Sanctifies, Makes Holy" (Leviticus 20:8; Ezekiel 37:28)
  12. YAHWEH-SHALOM: "The Lord Our Peace" (Judges 6:24)
  13. YAHWEH-TSIDKENU: "The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 33:16)
  14. YAHWEH-ROHI: "The Lord Our Shepherd" (Psalm 23:1)
  15. YAHWEH-SHAMMAH: "The Lord Is There” (Ezekiel 48:35)
  16. YAHWEH-SABAOTH: "The Lord of Hosts" (Isaiah 1:24; Psalm 46:7)
  17. EL ELYON: “Most High" (Deuteronomy 26:19) (Gen 14:18-20; Heb 7:1)
  18. EL ROI: "God of Seeing" (Genesis 16:13)
  19. EL-OLAM: "Everlasting God" (Psalm 90:1-3)  
  20. EL-GIBHOR: “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) (Revelation 19:15)
  21. Other names in Isaiah 9:6. . . .
  22. Word – John 1:1
  23. Lamb -- Rev 5:16; I Cor 5:7
  24. Immanuel  -- Isaiah 7:14
  25. Son of David – Matt 1:1
  26. Son of Man – Matt 8:20
  27. Alpha, Omega, Beginning, End – Rev 21:6; 22:13
  28. Ancient of Days -- Daniel 7:9
  29. Teacher – John 13:13
  30. High Priest – Heb 3:1; 4:14
  31. Redeemer – Job 19:25
If you want this list (and some other notes I had) in email form, just contact me.