Ember is God's blowtorch. She is the steam used to covertly open and reseal every glued envelope in my thought life. My inner sanctum of lust for power and personal peace is a WWII scene after the bombers sprinkle their offspring on the cityscape.
It was 1991, the year I bought my own present: a crisp skate deck with immaculate grip tape.
California has nothing on Michigan when it comes to winter weather. The clouds promise something but don’t deliver, like friends who mimic the “shaka” phone as they walk away promising to get in touch but you never hear back. Some wind offerred a mild nose-chill temperature, just enough to warrant a sweatshirt and beanie.
I snapped ollies over the parking blocks layed out like matchsticks on the dirty asphalt skirting the Lutheran education center a few blocks from the house.
I don’t remember Christmas with my family. Is it weird that I can remember the deodoarant I wore in high school but not a single Christmas with my Christian family throughout my life?
It happened in less than twelve seconds.
I was rolling alongside a six-foot brick wall behind-which I heard a dog barking in the yard. My skateboard wheels ticking over the varied cracks between soiled slabs of cement. In the third second of this saga, I realized the dog’s bark was travelling with me on the other side of the wall, then broke ahead, fading slightly like the police giving chase. In the fifth second, the sound bounced over the wall at the short portion hemming the front yard and I saw the source; the gray fur looking like a collection of dirty hair after a Baptist outreach for the penitent homeless. It launched over the stone wall and immediately it was at my side in pathetic protest.
Small and furious.
I was about to laugh, but instead I snapped up my board in defense. My roaring and flailing prevailed and it shirked back behind the wall the way it came.
I swore revenge as I rolled home with two small puncture wounds in my left leg.
"God is relentlessly determined to erase every suspicion that He is not good."
Lawrence J. Crabb, Jr., PHD, In the forward for Bold Love—Dr. Dan B. Allender & Dr. Tremper Longman III
This photo is a miracle in many, many ways. I'll begin with that and start telling you the stories as I go along. But, for now, I'd like to introduce my Dad, Alexandru Hotea. He's told me stories, matter-of-factly, where he chose bravery in the face of challenges that sound like fiction.
He was orphaned at the age of three. His dad passed away in his early 40's from health complications in Communist Romania. His disabled mom, my grandmother, raised him and two daughters—my uncles, his older brothers, were old enough to be out of the house, one in military service and the other married and working a job.
He recognized the vacancy in his life resulting from fatherlessness. It was a known issue. Something referred to throughout my childhood. But, until recently, I hadn't understood the full implications of it and how it affected my life, my approach and relationship to God as my Father, my way of relating to others in my life.
What we both needed long ago, and what I've come to believe every man needs, was the guidance and "fathering" of a man or men who have lived a life with God as their Father and who could pass on that life-giving "how-to". As I live and breathe, God is answering that longing and prayer through men who know him as Father. John Eldredge and his eldest son, Sam Eldredge have written a book documenting a conversation between father and son that climbs the hard miles of becoming and being a man Fathered by God.
I'm shamelessly promoting it. Shouting it from the rooftops. This is the book that men should read.