Tuesday, July 9, 2019

In The Words of a Father

Happy July!
     One thing I've learned along this journey is the importance of fathers in revealing aspects of God's character. So I've invited a fathers in my family to show us a glimpse of that, by sharing the most important things he tells his own children. I'm so excited to share his responce!

The Most Important Things I Tell My Kids
-David Mataya
As I contemplate the important things I’ve shared with Morgan and Riley over the years, I’m reminded that how I tell them something is nearly as important as what I tell them.  C.H. Spurgeon rightfully said, “When we have to do a severe thing, let us choose the tenderest manner”.  I remember this applying so often as a father. I always underestimated the impact of how I shared, and perhaps still do.  Whether in happy and fun conversations, or in discipline and correction, my heart and demeanor spoke much louder to my children than my words alone.  They would tell you today that I often got this ridiculously wrong, but hopefully their memories are full of examples of God helping me to get it right.  
With the how in mind, here are some key things I tried to repeatedly share:
“I love you”… This may seem like an obvious way to start, but these words can be absent too easily or devoid of true meaning.  Alongside my wife, Colleen, we would remind our children of the actions of love (1 Corinthians 13), love manifested as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and the ultimate picture of love in our Heavenly Father (1 John 4:9-11).  These three words should have meaning to any human child, but they can come alive in the Christian home and our kids knew God set a pretty high bar for what “I love you” really means.
“Please forgive me”… Or often, “I’m sorry”.  It’s so important to bring humility into the father-child relationship.  Nothing reflects humility more than seeking forgiveness, and I don’t know a parent yet who wouldn’t find opportunity to seek it.  There is a time for “I’m sorry” as well. As David Powlison once wrote, “Forgiveness is for sin, apologies are for accidents”. I found ample opportunity for both as a dad.
“Don’t tread on God’s grace”… Never take for granted the cost of His love and forgiveness.  Love Him more because of it, and never think sin doesn’t have a consequence. It put Christ on a cross.
“If someone gives you an inch, don’t be the kind of person who takes a mile”… Recognize the inch and be thankful.  Don’t create expectations that only serve to encourage entitlement or disappoint.
“Mom is more important to me than you are”… Ok, I didn’t really say this.  Or maybe I did! In any case, our kids knew that our marriage relationship was radically important and that we parented as one.  
“I appreciate that, but”… This one will make my kids laugh.  There was much eye-rolling when, after making their case on any given subject or request, I would reply with “I appreciate that”, then go on to tell them why it was a terribly bad idea.  However, even if my appreciation was tongue-in-cheek, it did mean that I had taken the time to listen before any rebuttal.
I could add many more, but in the end, I realize I have very little to say.  However, God has everything to say, and that makes my role as a father possible and valuable.  As a reflection of Christ, we as parents should be the most tangible evidence of grace in our children’s lives.  Hopefully our kids hear that loud and clear, no matter what we feel is important to share.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Father's Day Without Dad

     For almost 8 years, Father's Day has been the hardest day of the year for me. Birthday's and anniversaries can be acknowledged and then ignored, because few people in my life even know when they are, but Father's Day is all about the most important person who is missing from my life. Dad's are honored in church and on social media, and I think that's awesome, but it's hard for me because it reminds me of my loss. If this post caught your attention, then Father's day probably isn't your favorite day of the year either.
     I compiled a few ideas to make Father's Day less about the very real void in our lives and more about the blessings! I realize that not everyone of these will make sense for each and every one of you, but I hope at least one will help bring a little joy into your Father's Day!

#1. Celebrate Men Who Support You

      I posted the following on Instagram and Facebook last Father's Day:

     "Father's Day has been a difficult season ever since I lost my dad to cancer in 2011. Every year different thoughts go through my mind and I end up recognizing something new. This year I want to thank several men in my life. Here's why:  Ever since losing my dad I've had this faint hope of one day finding someone to be my 'father figure' and fill all the space my daddy left. That hasn't happened yet and even if one day someone seems enough like a father to me that I would ask him to walk me down the aisle at my wedding I know that even that man will never be just like my dad.  That said, there are several men whom God has brought into my life who have made an enourmous difference for the better! Some have given me the comforting hugs I miss so much from my dad. Some have prayed with me. Some have discussed my theology questions with me. Some have bought me ice cream or grilled delicious food for me. Some have been there to support and congratulate me at plays, concerts, tournaments, and my High School Graduation. Some have helped me with car and/or computer trouble. Some have helped me through anxiety and grief. Some have encouraged me in my strengths. Some have called me out and helped work on my weakness. Some even read to me as a kid, and they have all meant the world to me! So Happy Father's Day, [Insert names of like 20 incredible men, including my brothers, uncle's, pastors, and dad's of my friends]"
     Notice that no one of the men above replaced my dad, but they all had a profound positive impact on me in my "fatherlessness." If anyone has done this for you, I'd encourage you to let them know this Father's Day!

#2 Celebrate Good Memories

     If you have good memories with your dad, Father's day might be a good time to spend remembering them. Maybe look at old photos, cards, or gifts he gave you, or invite your mom or siblings to tell stories. It might be painful to remember, but I've found that looking back helps me to be grateful for the father I had and to appreciate the difference he still makes in my life!

#3 Celebrate Your Father in Heaven
     No surprise that a post on Never Fatherless brings it back to the LORD as Heavenly Father. I know the idea of God as Father can be challenging for some, but if it is an encouragement to you, spend some time this Father's Day thinking about and celebrating how God is a good father to you. Here's a post I wrote in 2016, celebrating God for Father's Day: The Best Father Ever

Thank you for reading! I hope these ideas encourage you and I will be praying for you this Father's Day!

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Face of Hope

     After I lost my dad, a lot of people would try to comfort me by telling me I would see him again in heaven. It was a nice thought, and it wasn't that I didn't believe it, but I wanted him to be with me on earth, to help me through High-school, to be at my graduations, and to walk me down the aisle at my wedding. I didn't find much comfort in dwelling on the fact that I would see him in heaven when I needed him on earth.
   It wasn’t until recently that I began to understand the significance of hope. This summer God called me to trust him to bring healing where I would otherwise have expected more hurt. I stepped forward in a faint hope that he would. The song “Seasons,” by Hillsong Worship, was a huge part of how God kept hope alive in me during that season. It has a line that really stands out to me now: "You could have saved us in a second; instead you sent a child."
     When Jesus was born, the world still had 33 years to wait for salvation, and longer to wait for the Holy Spirit. So why do we celebrate Christmas? Why not save the celebrations for Easter?  Was anything so different between the day Jesus was born and the day before? Death and sin still ran wild, and there was still no cure for either sin’s punishment or it’s power; yet, angels, and shepherds were overjoyed! Perhaps the difference was hope. 
     The promise of a savior had been made thousands of years before, but surely many doubted that it would be kept. Jesus birth was not the complete fulfillment of the promise, but when Jesus was born, hope became real. Hope was no longer built only on words passed down for generations. Hope was now alive in a baby boy with a star marking His birthplace. Hope had a name and a face! 
     It wasn’t until about a month ago, that I began to recognize the fruit of what was planted in the painful season I mentioned earlier. An open wound had become a scar and I realized what a lesson it had taught me about placing my confidence in the approval of people. If that hadn't happened before I went to college who knows how much more turmoil I would have experienced over the opinions of professors, roommates, and friends.
     That’s about the time I realized that hope mattered. Hope means believing it won’t always be this way. Having hope this summer meant believing God would both heal and bring something good out of that hurt. Still hope means believing I will see my dad again some day. In every difficult moment, hope is what stops pain from becoming despair!
      The hope first realized as a baby boy born in a barn, is the hope I cary of seeing my father again, the hope of every tear being wiped away from my eyes forever, and the hope of a perfect, unbroken relationship with our Heavenly Father! Looking forward with expectant confidence to these things is the reason I can keep moving forward after hard days, weeks, months, and years, because hope says there is something better ahead, and it’s worth waiting for.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

A 12-Year-Old's Perspective

Happy November!

     This time I want to share a poem I wrote for my Dad's memorial service. It's not an example of artistic excellence but it is a glimpse into my grieving twelve-year-old mind and heart. I guess I've been using creativity to process my emotions for a long time.
     To be honest, I typed it out from memory and it might not be the exact words I said at the memorial service. I know it's not an accurate description of every dad or even most, but it is an honest discription of how I saw mine and it points to the character of my Father in Heaven.
     I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my twelve-year-old heart:

"A father is someone who loves and protects
Our Heavenly Father's love reflects
A father is someone to always trust
A father's love will never rust
Though other father's I'm sure are fine
No other father is quite like mine."


Sunday, September 2, 2018

Unshared Glory

I wrote a poem! I don't do that often but I hope God's purpose really shines through my weakness on this one. Technically it's incomplete. The first part is a little too personal and way too poorly written for me to share on the blog but it was about some of the people I love and the expectations I have and how no one quite meets them. 

Then comes the good part:

But the one who made me
My Abba in heaven
He's loved me through every moment I've lived in
Not like a bystander who watches from distance
He's been present
fighting for me
In every instance

Still to all my false saviors I'm tempted to run
To beg them for just one more moment of sun

But Abba calls kindly and his voice grows louder
He reminds me that He is my one true provider
I run to him and he holds me tight
I know that this isn't the end of the fight

But I'm choosing today to seek first the LORD
My Abba, true Savior, I could never afford!
The God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead
Who bought back my heart with thorns in His head!

I will praise my Messiah!
I will seek His face!
His love is enough to fill all my heart's space!

My God loves me, He choose me, He calls me His child
Adopted forever, no matter how wild!

My sins fell forgiven
both future and past
My soul resurected
Only this love will last!

God, I praise you
help me love you
For you loved me first
You raised me up 
made me new
Entrapy reversed!

Now I dance with you
sing with you
A privilege uncompared
You reached down to hold me
Your glory unshared.

“The LORD is my shepard; I shall not want...”
-Psalm 23:1 (ESV)

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Child Sized Memories

    Hot pink, fuzzy, mouse ears that we're way too small for my head. I was slightly embarrassed even carrying them with me to breakfast in the hotel where my choir was staying. However, I had decided that if I was going to Disneyland again I was going to wear the ears my dad had bought me for my eleventh birthday.
     So in a mix of embarrassment and nostalgic joy I explained to people that I had gotten them when I was eleven, but left off the fact that it was a birthday gift from my late father (cause bringing that up leads to people feeling sorry for me and sometimes not knowing how to handle that and sometimes that's good but to be honest I didn't want to put in the energy). One response really got me though. "For an eleven year old, I think they're perfect." And then when I mentioned how the Disney princesses had fallen off, "maybe they were only meant to last for a couple of years."
     Now remember I hadn't mentioned the Dad part so I think this was all said thinking only of the very old, very bright, hat that I had for some unknown reason decided to take to Disneyland with me as an adult. But it got me thinking more symbolically.
     Maybe that hat (one of the last physical things I remember receiving from my dad) wasn't the only thing out of date and falling apart. What if my memories we're to?
     Although I didn't have any newer Disneyland hats, I could have bought one. Yet, I can't get new or updated memories of my dad. I'm bound to keep forgetting and even what I remember is like a fuzzy pink Mickey hat, right? I can still use them to remember my dad, but my dad years ago when he was the dad of an eleven year old. I don't know what it's like to have a dad as an adult or even as a teenager.
     But that doesn't mean that I've grown out of all my memories of my dad. In fact, there are some I haven't even grown into yet, like the Texas longhorns jacket he used to let me borrow. It's the one thing of my dad's that I really wanted to keep after he died. It's so big and comfy and I guess it reminds me of my dad's hugs and the way he always took care of me.
I made a list of some other memories of my dad that I hope to grow into:
His desire for me to study the Bible for myself (represented by the concordences and Bible dictionaries I inhereted and love.)
His familiarity with the Bible.
His humble apologies.
His honest prayers.
His respect and love for my mom.
These are just a few of the memories I want to hold onto and cherish. It's encouraging to think that I can let go of my childhood and still hold onto my dad.
    And one day, when my mouse ears and my dad's Longhorns jacket have  been left behind, I'll see my dad and my Heavenly Father and the three of us, we'll make memories that will last for eternity!
Happy May!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Daughter Part #3

Hello again!
     Happy March! I'm so excited to share this part of the story with you today because it reminds me of what we celebrate this weekend!

     When Jesus finally arrives at Jairus' house he finds a crowd of people weeping. They've given up hope for their precious twelve-year-old girl. She's dead but Jesus tells them that she's only asleep. They laugh at Him. He makes everyone stay outside. Then enters the house with her parents and a few of His disciples. He walks over to her bed, takes her hand and says, "little girl, I say to you, arise" (ESV). Then, the dead girl stands up and starts walking!
   Everyone is "overcome with amazement." but Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about it and goes home.

     There is so much to wonder at in this story. I didn't realize until now how little of it I saved for this last post, but I'm glad this was it because it's so profound. 

     I think in this season of my life I relate more to the people crying outside than anyone else in the story. When they laugh at Jesus' statement that she isn't truly dead, they remind me of myself.  When I've finally given up on a dream that seems impossible, however big or small it may be, and I seem to hear God hinting that hope is not truly lost, my tears turn to bitter laughter. Really? I ask, you're going to taunt me with that again? But then He comes through, raising my dream from the dead and I struggle to appreciate the gift because I am so ashamed of my lack of trust. But then He reminds me of His forgiveness and we carry on, with one more memory of His faithfulness and power. And the next time hope seems lost and the promise seems impossible, I hope I remember the little girl who was only sleeping, and chose to trust.