Short Story Saturday~Put the Superheroes Away by Andrea and Adam Graham

Perhaps I’m eating my words today. A while back I wrote a post about how the teen years didn’t need to be painful. Still true, (sort of) but today that truth is colored by an emerging revelation: I’m annoying. And smothering. Yep, somehow overnight I’ve gone from humorous to teeth-gritting irritating.

Now, I know this is a phase, and likely a normal one as our daughter moves from dependency to indepence, but it still hurts. And if I’m not careful, I’ll allow my heart to lead, turning into her friend rather than her parent. Only that would not be an act of love. That would be an act of selfishness. Love takes the hard route, does the hard things, says the hard things, regardless how the other person will respond.

This is especially true in parenting.  Oh, how we long to have special, giggly moments with her our children. How we long to be their friends. But we’re not. We’ve got a God-given responsibility to raise them with diligence and excellence. And at times, that may make us look like the enemy. But love looks past the present and the emotions involved. Love looks for the good of others and does whatever it takes to see that person succeed and grow closer to their Savior.

I found today’s story almost comical. It’s a snapshot into a father’s life where this friendship thing is taken to the extreme, but hopefully the humorous extreme will encourage us to evaluate our parenting. Are we doing everything we know to do to see our children grow, or are we seeking the path of least resistance?

Excerpt taken from Tales of the Dim Knight by Andrea and Adam Graham

Superman fell from the sky, collided with a skyscraper, and bounced off as it toppled. The action figure crashed into a green stegosaurus grazing at the foot of the sky blue leather sofa.

Mild-mannered janitor Dave Johnson set the cardboard skyscraper upright again in the model city erected on his steel gray living room carpet.

He tugged down his Spider-Man pajama top and sent a scolding glance at his dimpled nine-year-old. “Derrick, you shouldn’t have dropped him like that.”

Derrick scratched his head. “But, Dad, you said Superman got hit with a missile.”

When would his son ever learn?

At least Derrick still cared, unlike Dave’s eldest. “A missile isn’t going to knock Superman out of the sky, son. He’s invulnerable. He might be fazed, but he’d pop right back up.”

Derrick nodded. “That makes sense.”

“All right, so get him back in the sky.”

Derrick lifted Superman back above the cardboard model of Metropolis.

Naomi called from the kitchen, “Dinner!”

Derrick wrinkled his nose. “Aw, Mom—”

“—now, son.” Dave wagged a finger. “We’ve talked about this. You need to eat.”

“But what’s going to happen to Lois Lane?”

Dave mussed Derrick’s bushy hair, black like his own. “We’ll find out tomorrow, Champ.”

He glanced to their chipped oak entertainment center. The DVD player’s clock read 4:37 p.m. Time to get ready for work. He jogged into the master bedroom, stripped off his vintage Spider-Man PJ’s, and changed into the stone gray coveralls Naomi had laid out for him on her girly yellow comforter, which covered their Queen Anne style bed.

Where was his government-issued, navy blue baseball cap? He usually left it on the stack of red milk crates filled with the newer additions to his comic book collection. He spotted it atop his collection of every superhero DVD box set known to man. Grinning, he snatched the hat up. Aha. No lowly work accessory could outsmart Mild-Mannered Janitor Dave Johnson.

He set the cap askew on his head, patted his breast pocket, and hit thin plastic. Good. Not only would it be embarrassing if he lost his security pass a third time this month, he’d incur another $25 fine, and Naomi wouldn’t let him buy the Wonder Woman action figure he needed to complete his Justice League collection.

The door flung open. Naomi stood outside it in a perfectly pressed navy pants suit, her sharp, side-parted ebony bob curling a bit under her chin. Trouble brewed in eyes the same color as her favorite Starbucks brew: a half-caf, non-fat grande latte with sugar-free chocolate syrup and exactly four packets of Splenda. “Dave, we need to talk.”

Oh no. Mount Naomi was about to blow. “What about?”

She folded her arms. “How about our life and supposed marriage?”

Dave brushed past her into the living room. “I don’t have time for this.”

“You never have time!” She stomped up alongside him. “You get up after I leave for work. And you leave a few minutes after I get home.”

“Wait up for me, and we’ll talk when I get in.”

“At two a.m?”

“That’s as good a time as any.” Dave fled to the kitchen and sighed at the dining nook’s empty claw-foot pedestal table. Naomi had the boys eating dinner in their room again? Funny how that always coincided with the flow of lava. He grabbed his X-Men lunchbox from the stainless steel side-by-side refrigerator. He headed for the door to the attached two-car garage.

Naomi ran ahead and blocked his getaway. “We talk now.”

He looked at his silver bat signal watch. She was making him late. “Fine, two minutes.”

“I’m concerned about the kids.”

Dave stiffened. “What? You don’t think I’m a good father?”

“You’ve been great teaching them to be little boys, but you can’t play Superman with them forever. They need someone who can help them through difficult times. Someone who can show them how to be men.”

 “And why can’t I?”

“Look at yourself, Dave! You make me pack your dinner in the same lunchbox James used in kindergarten! You don’t buy all that superhero stuff for the kids.”

Dave crossed his arms. “I work hard for this family!”

Naomi flicked her index finger at Dave. “You’ve been at the same job a decade. You’re not twenty-three anymore. You need to grow up for the kids’ sake—and for me.”

“And for you?”

“Yes, and for me! Do you know how long it’s been since we’ve been together? Nine months. It’s like, all you wanted were James and Derrick, and, as soon as you got them, you forgot all about me.”

“I’m the same man you married. You’re the one who’s changed.” He glanced at her pink polished nails. A sandy-haired Mary Jane met him at the altar twelve years ago. So how did he end up married to Lois Lane?

“What’s happened to you?”

“I grew up, Dave.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

She took the hint and moved out of his way. “This isn’t over!”

Dave slammed the door behind him. Why couldn’t she understand? Superheroes did things he could only dream of. He wasn’t playing silly games; he was sharing his dreams with the kids. It wasn’t like his hobby kept him from working. He always brought home his paycheck, and he never complained about the tight hold Lois—er, Naomi—kept on the purse strings.

He climbed in his pick-up truck and backed out into traffic. He glanced at the empty seat. “You don’t want to talk.” He returned his gaze to the road. “You want to scream at me until I change into some boring Ken Doll in a suit who golfs and does all the things the big bosses do at your work. You say I don’t listen, but at least I let you talk. The only time I can talk to you is when you’re not here. When you’re here, I can hear you, but—”

Dave swallowed. He’d rather be beaten up by a tag team of the Rhino and Doctor Octopus. It’d be less painful.

A freckled little boy on a bike darted out in front of him. Dave slammed his brakes hard.

The truck stopped inches from the kid. Dave lowered his head onto the steering column. The boy cursed and rode away.

Calm down, or you’ll kill somebody.

“This looks like a job for Superman.” Dave pressed the play button on his CD player. The old time radio crackled over his truck’s speakers. From a crowd in Metropolis, a woman shouted, “Look, up in the sky!” 

By the time the narrator said, “And now for our story,” the pain had eased.

Order your copy of Tales of the Dim Knight now!

Their Hearts Cry Out

Last night I helped out at an area youth rally ran by the Fellowship Christian Athletes. Sweaty, giggling, bouncing teens swarmed the halls, filled the auditorium, and clamored around the concession stand, while others, faces hard with scowls, lingered on the outskirts. As I passed one couple in particular—a tall guy in high tops and a red jersey followed by a blonde at least two feet shorter, face caked in make-up—my heart rejoiced to see God’s grace trickle over these broken teens. Which is what they are. Sure, they look angry. They act angry, and their mouth may spew a thousand ear-blistering, hateful words, but that’s all a mask.

As adults, its easy to watch them from afar, lumping them all into one “rebellious heap”, but those who take the time to dig a bit deeper catch a different picture. A picture of isolation, of trying to fit in, of hearts broken from rejection or abandonment, of hearts crying out for a Savior.

Praise God that He sees past the exterior to broken heart hidden beneath. Praise God for His patience, as He woos these precious children to Himself, breaking through their defenses and winning their trust with His faithful love. Praise God that He not only sees the pain, but provides the soothing balm able to set them free.

Cultural Transformation From the Inside Out

Taylor Blunt, Lifebook President Carl Blunt, Northland Baptist Youth Pastor Joe Nelson, Lifebook VP Adam Malanga

If this post appears to be a bit scatter-brained, it is only because of my excitement. Bear with me, and if you see an occasional typo or a misplaced adjective, shovel a little extra grace my way. Hopefully you’ll be able to weed through all the “Wow, God you amaze me!” enough to get a jest of what I’m trying to say. And if not…I have a feeling God’s got this one covered anyway. He is pouring His transforming, healing, bondage-breaking love into our local schools even as we speak.  And if you listen closely, you just might hear Him ask, “Are you coming, child? Jump aboard.”

I just left a luncheon hosted by the president and vice president of the Lifebook Movement, an innovative evangelistic organization that is mobilizing teens around the world. These teens are saturating their schools with the gospel. And you thought teens were only interested in texting and playing video games. Ha! Hardly! All across the United States our youth are impacting their culture in a history-making way.

It’s amazing, really. Not so much what they’re doing, but how God is using their obedience to transform high schools–to transform lives. And the kids are eating it  up. Because they’re hungry. Starved, really. But not for MTV or the latest Wii game. They’re starved for relevance. They’re starved for truth. They want to matter, and to know that their life isn’t worthless. That it counts for something. And they want to belong to something bigger than themselves. In countless highschool halls and lunchrooms, these hungry youth are finding their answers in the Lifebook, a shortened version of God’s Word presented in a culturally relevant way.

What I find most phenomenal about lifebook is their ability to get into the teen’s heads. Okay, so that sounds a bit creepy, but what I mean is, instead of expecting the youth to adapt to them, they’re adapting to the youth.

Isn’t that what Christianity is all about–adaptation. Demonstrating the relevance of God’s Word to the listener, whether they’re a preschool student or a retired school teacher? Where would we be if God hadn’t adapted Himself to us. Wow, now that’s a scary thought.  Luckily it’s one we don’t have to think about for long because the Creator of the universe did adapt Himself to us, taking on human flesh so that He could meet each one of us right where we are.

I always find it funny how much time we Christians spend discussing politics, economics, and the depravity of society when the solution, the only solution, is staring us in the face. In fact, sometimes I wonder if those other things are merely distractions. I don’t want to get myself in trouble here because I know many of you are politically minded, and perhaps God is even moving you into the political arena. But what I do know is that God changes lives. If we want our country to change, if we want our youth to change, we’ve got to bring them to the only One who can truly change them. Everything else will just be a band-aide.

So how can you help?

1) Donate. These books cost money to print and Lifebook gives them to local youth groups for free.

2) Pray. For lifebook, for the youth involved and for the youth who will be receiving the books.

3) Spread the word.

4) Look them up and “like” them on facebook and invite your friends to do the same.

Visit the Lifebook movement’s website to find out more.

I’m jumping on this train and inviting you to join me.

Hopefully I’ll have more pictures after our church’s youth rally tonight.