Saturday, March 19, 2016

My son gave a cop the wrong name. Here's what happened next.

Call me "Seffers"
The other night we pulled into the driveway from soccer practice and Sabos started spilling out. I got out of our sporty 15-passenger van and spotted a Gloucester County Sheriff's Office car driving slowly down the road toward us. Olivia, Ezra and Eli bolted into the house while Abram and I helped Seth and Judah out of the van. The sheriff's deputy car was almost to our house so I walked out to the road to chat and see what's up.

I introduced myself to Dep. Tim Knight, who recalled me as the former Daily Press reporter. We had a nice chat and as he watched Abram take Flopsy out of her rabbit tractor I told him how she is the neighborhood mascot. I told him how she tries to make her escape occasionally but our neighbors bring her back. He was intrigued by the rabbit tractor and I told him we just move it around all day and she eats the grass and leaves behind some organic fertilizer. It's a win-win.

Seth and Judah were in the driveway watching with curiosity. Dep. Knight opened his door and called them over. As Judah ambled over Dep. Knight reached up into the visor and grabbed what looked like business cards or something. As Judah reached his door, Dep. Knight asked him his name and Judah told him. It's not a common name so I repeated it and then Dep. Knight handed Judah a card for a free Chick-fil-A kids meal. That was pretty sweet. Judah was stoked.

Then he called Seth up to his car. The conversation went like this:

Dep. Knight: "What's your name?"
Seth: "Seffers."

Hmmm. My kid just gave a wrong name to a cop ... but it's all good! He's 3!

I laughed and told the deputy that his real name is Seth, but that his brothers and sisters call him Seffers. So I guess it's Seffers. Seth got a Chick-fil-A card also and Dep. Knight had one card left in his hand. He recalled that he had seen another of my kids out with the rabbit. Actually, I said, I have 14 kids. Then I smiled.

He shook his head, looked at the card in his hand and then looked up in the visor real quickly. I laughed and told him not to worry about it. He handed over the third Chick-fil-A card and we chatted for a while longer then he was on his way. Kudos to Dep. Knight and the Gloucester County Sheriff's Office -- and Chick-fil-A -- for great community policing.

But about that 3-year-old of mine and Seffers ... I checked around in the house to get to the bottom of why he calls himself `Seffers.' The story goes something like this: When he was young Seth was, let's say `solid.' And not much has changed. He's always been the wee Sabo with the most chunk. His brothers and sisters picked up on that and started calling him "Chunko" or other names associated with being chunky. Julie didn't want him to grow up as "Chunko" or "Chunkin" or some such and started calling him "Sethers." Which morphed into "Seffers" and he gets called that all day long. Remember, there's a fair number of people in this house so he hears a lot of "Seffers" throughout the day.

We don't know how long `Seffers' will stick. But we have a pretty good story now that goes along with it.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Copycat kids and what that says about us as parents

`Follow Me...' -- Jesus
I'm not sure how it started, or why, but Judah, our resident 4-year-old, started this practice of whispering when he wants to tell one of us something really, really important. He will get up close to you and put his hand between your ear and his mouth and whisper so no one else can hear. Usually it's something like, "Can I have chocolate milk?" Or, "Can I play a video game?"

I'm guessing he's hoping that whoever he whispers that to will assent to his request, but if he said it loudly someone within earshot might remember that he just had chocolate milk or that it's not video game day -- for him those fall on Wednesdays and Saturdays -- and pull the plug on his request.

What's interesting is that Seth has noticed this whispering trend and so he is starting to whisper. Except at 3 years old he doesn't quite understand the mechanics or gist of it. So it's pretty much whatever is on his mind he'll whisper. Whether it's watching Sprout, or if he can have a sandwich, or watch a show on "Neckfliz" -- technically it's Netflix but we like the kiddieized version of Neckfliz better and that's pretty much how it's known in the Sabo house -- or whatever else is on his mind.

It's an interesting study in copying. The younger sees the older do something and follows suit. We see it all the time in this house and I'm sure you do as well.

But here's the thing. The whispering is just a small, innocent thing. Harmless and entertaining and actually kind of fun. I smile when I see one of the little boys whispering a request to someone else.

What are the big things kids are copying?

I was thinking about this just this morning when I was reading in the book of Matthew. It's in Matthew 8:18-22 where Jesus is talking about the cost of discipleship. To one person he said how He was essentially homeless, living a life of faith. Another wanted to go spend time with his father and care for him to his death -- in other words he didn't want to follow Jesus quite yet -- and Jesus responded that the time to follow Him is now.

Our kids are watching us all the time. They are watching what's important to us and copying that.

What are we as parents putting ahead of following Jesus? How are we hindering developing faith in our children and showing them that the most important thing we can do is make Jesus Christ not only our Savior, but our Lord?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Of kids, parents and life lessons about peace

The lads.
The lasses.
We are less than two months away from having Taylor and Ethan graduate from college on the same day and they are in full-blown job-hunting mode. I fully admit it's a bittersweet time for me. I'm excited for them to start this new journey in life but wondering what it holds. They are literally looking across the country for jobs, having interviews and praying about the Lord's direction.

We've been through this once already with Brenton. He spent two years going to Calvary Chapel Bible College in Southern California and then three years after that as a youth pastor at Calvary Chapel Corvallis in Oregon. It was hard on all of us to have him so far away and we're so thankful to have him back here in Gloucester. He's doing most of the teaching at Calvary Chapel Gloucester (To hear the messages go here: CCGloucester messages), leads our prayer meetings and the Lord is doing great things through him in our church. He is also an assistant manager at a nearby Starbucks so we're thankful he's able to work and live here.

We obviously hope that Taylor and Ethan will find jobs nearby and want to have them close to the family. But we trust completely that they will be led by the Lord in whatever they do. And it's just beginning for us ... Evie will be a sophomore next year at Virginia Commonwealth University and just signed a lease on an apartment up there that she is getting with a few friends. Claire expects to head off to a four-year college next year and MerriGrace expects to start classes in the fall at a local community college. Abram is now 16 and just got a job at McDonald's ... there's a lot going on around here on a daily basis, you know?

We were able to Skype with Taylor and Bethany on Friday night and it's exciting to hear about how they are nearing graduation and all the things in play for their next step. They're such a sweet young couple and are people who brighten whatever room they are in.

Ethan was home for a few days over spring break and had spent the first part of the vacation up in Detroit with some friends as part of a ministry team serving people in need in the Motor City. We were exchanging texts throughout his time up there and he texted me something I found quite interesting. He was talking about young adults having a relationship with the Lord and how that looks and how parents can cultivate that in their kids.

He said something I find quite interesting and it's a tribute to Julie. Ethan was one of those teens who was definitely a work in progress. There were many battles, a few scars, but we fought hard for him. I remember particularly Julie and Ethan having long "discussions" late at night about various issues. What I always appreciate and love about Julie is that she doesn't give in and always comes at life's situations from a Godly, Biblical perspective. She's also very intent on ensuring that our children own their faith so that when they leave this house and go out into the world they are prepared to deal with whatever comes their way from a position of strength as a follower of Jesus.

Ethan was reminiscing about growing up in his texts and wrote: "I remember growing up Mom used to make me make things right with the Lord before I came and apologized to her." You can't have peace with the world -- or parents, for that matter -- unless you have peace with God. Peace with God means peace with the world. Jesus said in John 14:27 (one of my favorite verses), "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Peace is a treasure and it's a gift from God, especially in this season of change in the Sabo house.

Friday, March 11, 2016

When homeschool education becomes outdoor school

Daffodilius spring breakius -- The Latin name of the "Spring Break Daffodil" that bloomed in our yard this week.
A few days after it was bone-chilling cold -- seriously, I nearly lost some of the kids on my soccer team I'm coaching to hypothermia at last week's practice -- something wonderful happened. Global warming happened. In Gloucester, Va.

The mercury shot up to the upper 70s/80 degrees range and that's when Julie called a homeschool audible. It was spring break time.

One of the beauties of homeschooling is the flexibility.  School happens pretty much year-round in the Sabo house because we account for weeks like this one when it is just too nice to stay indoors and do school. Everyone has been working hard in school and had earned a break.

So Julie took the education outside, where the learning involved a family working together in the yard and making it fun. I came home from being down at the office earlier this week and found Julie and half the kids in and around one of the big garden beds in the back yard. There was serious weeding going on. And raking of leaves, worm catching and two of the filthiest little boys you could imagine. It appeared to me that Seth and Judah had actually bedded down in the dirt and become one with the soil.

Madeline and Gabe were down in the dirt weeding, Eli, Ezra and Olivia had actually made an obstacle course game out of raking up leaves and putting them in a garbage bag and Seth and Judah were "lovingly" playing with the family of worms they had found and named, "Rudy," "Babe" and "Lovie." Let me tell you, those worms had never felt so "loved."

Our back yard garden of daffodils, irises, tulips and other bulbs is starting to spring forth in its springy loveliness and after being relieved of the weeds clogging it, the mulch is ready to spruce it up. I'm guessing that's a project that's going to start today, when the homeschooling "outdoor school" resumes, Sabo style.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Is your Christianity fueled by passion or emotion?

Tides ebb and flow but waves are unceasing. It's like the difference between emotional and passionate faith.
Hey Christian. Is your faith fueled by passion or emotion?

Are you seeking an `experience' during worship? Then it's emotion and not a passion to simply worship an awesome God and glorify Him.

Are you seeking to feel good at church? Then it's emotion. A passion for Jesus is being broken by our sin, being convicted by God's word and desiring to repent and be restored by a God who loves each one of us so much that He sent His Son to shed His cleansing blood for us.

Do you not have joy in any circumstance? Then it's emotion. A fruit of the Spirit is joy, which is deeper than an exciting experience or an enjoyable set of circumstances. It's not centered around things on this earth that bring us pleasure. The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said about a believer's joy: "Believers are not dependent upon circumstances. Their joy comes not from what they have, but from what they are; not from where they are, but from whose they are; not from what they enjoy, but from that which was suffered for them by their Lord."

Do you believe that God is in control until things don't go the way you planned? Then it's emotion.

A passionate follower of Jesus Christ believes that God created the universe (Genesis 1) and set the stars in the sky and knows them by name (Isaiah 40) and knitted you in the womb (Psalm 139) and sent His Son Jesus to redeem the world (John 3) and is fully in control of the world and does as He pleases (Psalm 115) and believes that all things work together for good to those who love God and are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8). Or you don't.

Passion is fueled by desire. It's a product of desire. Passion and emotion or excitement are not the same thing. Emotion is centered around feelings. But emotions can fool us. Our emotions ebb and flow.

Contrast the emotional experience with a passion for Jesus that is relentless. Passion keeps going when there's no emotion or excitement. Passion is a choice. It's choosing Jesus in all our circumstances, through all our circumstances and above all our circumstances.

Don't confuse passion with emotion and excitement. Zeal without knowledge is excitement. Zeal with knowledge is passion. That passion is fueled by knowledge of God's word. Read God's word to know God and be passionate about Him.

I was moved to write this post after a teaching Brenton gave a couple of weeks ago. It was a very powerful message and I really encourage you to listen to it because he does a much better job than I can of conveying the difference between passion and emotion. It's the Feb. 28 message in this link: Feb. 28 Romans message

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Sunday morning, a Psalm, a text and renewal

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  -- Psalm 51:10

This morning I woke up and it was just blah. The Sunday morning blahs. It's very rare I feel this way on Sunday -- definitely on Mondays, often on other days, but rarely on Sundays -- and it felt strange. I look forward to Sundays, to the worship, the word and the fellowship at our church, to see lives elevated by the love of God through His son Jesus.

I reached for my phone to check the time and then pulled my hand back. I knew if I checked my phone I would get lost in it. It's precisely not what I needed in my state, to drown myself in the abyss of social media and become further entrenched in blah.

As I pondered the day and what it held and my condition, I confess to just a general bad attitude. About getting out of bed, about getting ready for church, about getting little Sabo kids ready for church, about going to church, about serving at church ... I could go on but you get the idea.

My heart was in a bad place. Dark, I guess you'd say. Ever had one of those mornings?

As I looked up at the ceiling the Lord gave me a word: Renew.

Okay, renew. And what do I do with that?

Get up, that's what. Go out to the living room and open my Bible. Then look for the word renew. The Christian life is sometimes just one little step of obedience. Followed by another. Then another.

And I landed upon Psalm 51:10: "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." A word precisely for me, a gift from God on this morning. The idea of this verse is that "create" is only something God can do.

I can't get it anywhere else, from any other source, from any other activity. This verse in its context is a plea from David to ask that his heart be renewed, restored and transformed. God is the only source of this renewal.

It was a word for me this morning. A word that a prayer of repentance is the renewal I needed and the renewal I received. Blah dissipated, eclipsed by the power of renewal unique to God.

But something remarkable happened later in the morning. After I had gotten Seth and Judah dressed, after I got Olivia and Ezra breakfast, after I loaded our music equipment in the van, after I helped set up for church and fetched the crackers and grape juice from Farm Fresh for communion.

I got a text from Ethan, who is up in Detroit with a group of students from his college serving people in need in the Motor City. The first text I received from him said that he realizes he says this every time he finishes a book in the Bible, but Hosea might be his favorite. Here's the exchange:

Me: "I am very partial to the minor prophets. Hosea was a tough, Godly man."
Ethan: "14:5 says that God is going to be like the dew and Israel is the lily. This is after 14 whole chapters of the people of Israel rejecting the word of the Lord and disobediently intermingling with the surrounding pagan tribes. Moreover, that image is so beautiful! The lily is a desert flower which means that the only source of water it ever gets is each morning when the coolness of the desert night condenses into a dew that rests on its petals and soaks it to its roots. When in bloom, the desert lily is a beautifully vibrant flower full of color. He is telling Israel that if they soak in his word and goodness and allow it to strengthen the roots of their soul, they will be beautiful amidst a spiritual desert. A good word for me to return to the dew each and every morning."
Me: "That's a really good for me as well son. Needed that this morning. Love you."
Ethan: "Love you too! I'll be praying for church this morning!"

One more thing about this morning of renewal. God answers prayers. Don't ever doubt it. This morning a gentleman who had grown up in the church, but had cultivated a hard heart to the Lord over the years, has been coming to church faithfully for nearly a couple of years. Today as we studied through Romans 10 he had scales fall from his eyes for good. He repented of his sins and gave his heart to the Lord.

He is renewed.

Friday, March 4, 2016

My foolproof plan to save America from Trump & other bad outcomes

And you think this is a lot of Sabos. You ain't seen nothin yet!
I've said it many times lately and it bears repeating. In a country of 330 million, it absolutely boggles my mind that at this point in 2016 we're looking at an election of Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. How on earth is this possible? These candidates are beyond flawed, let alone qualified to lead our country.

Trump in particular leaves me utterly bumfoozled. I live in a county that in Tuesday's Republican primary easily nominated Trump, despite my family's best voting efforts. What that says to me is that the people of Gloucester -- and many other places around America -- who voted for him are angry, like bullies, identify with narcissists, don't give a whit about family values and think it's great to cheat on your wife and then dump her, are sexist, appreciate a businessman who is a complete failure over and over again with four bankruptcies to his name, appreciate racists like the KKK, like casinos and strip clubs and appreciate someone with absolutely zero qualifications for the job he is seeking.

We are headed for a train wreck. There's no other way of looking at it. Which is precisely why it's so important for Christians to keep our eyes on Jesus. We are not of this world. We are mere pilgrims and our goal is eternity. That said, it is vital in these times to be people of humility, compassion and love -- qualities that emulate our Savior, Jesus Christ, and are in such short supply of the men and women seeking higher office in this country.

I've come to the conclusion that to take this country back, I have to take matters into my own hands. It's time to get serious. I started doing some math this morning and I have a plan. So Sabo kids, all 14 of you, listen up. We have a duty to this country. It's restore America time. It's time to produce. Literally.

Here's the plan: We're going to become a super-duper voting bloc. If things go right, we could become the most powerful voting bloc in the country. Forget unions and special interests and all that jazz. The Sabo voting bloc is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

If each succeeding generation of Sabos steps up to the plate, we can turn this country around. The only question is if the Lord will return before then -- I'm all for it! -- or if we'll run out of time and the Trumpification and Clintonification of America will be entrenched.

The plan works like this: If each of our kids has 14 kids, then their kids have 14 kids and on down the line, do you realize that within six generations there could be 16 million of us? Yes, I said that correctly. Sixteen million Sabos ... that's more than the current populations of Kansas, Wyoming, both of the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Nebraska and Utah, with Delaware thrown in for good measure -- combined.

American maps could someday show a huge swath of the West, plus a little outpost on the East Coast,  that reads simply, "Sabo Territory." But there's the thing. With just a little bit of help, we could accelerate this process. For example, my man in Lebanon, Ore., Brian Murray and his lovely bride Tonia Murray, announced they are having twin boys. So cool! These are the 9th and 10th Murrays and as crazy as it sounds, this puts them on the same pace we were at their young age.

Brian, are you with me? Do you want to put American on the straight and narrow? Let's "Restore America!"

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A big family teaches kids something they can't get anywhere else

It's all about teamwork. And fun.
I admit, I'm biased. I am biased toward our big family. A big reason is this idea that we're a big team. I was telling a friend the other day about a team I was on way back in the day in Bend, Ore., that was the best team I've ever been on. In my senior at Bend High School our cross country team had the fastest runner in the state transfer out before the season started. It could have been a big blow.

But we had a couple of freshmen -- Brent Westfall and Jimmy Robertson -- come in and join the varsity and along with Dave Williams, Scott Nyden, Chris Hamilton, Jared Anderson and yours truly, we ended up winning the state championship by 69 points. What I loved about the team is that it was a bunch of guys from different backgrounds -- a few of us also ran track but we also had a golfer, a couple of baseball players and a national-class cross country skier on the team -- who worked hard and enjoyed being together. There were also races where one or two guys may not have the best day, but other guys were there to pick up the slack. It was simply a great team.

A family should be many things. One of those is a team. I like to think our family operates like a team. It's cool to see kids fill different roles naturally. We have a couple of them who often do the dishes without being asked. Talk about a blessing!

Some of our kids, before serving themselves at mealtime, dish up the youngest kids at dinner. Without being asked.

We have some kids who are comedians. They make us laugh. We have kids who take care of Flopsy and even organize the search parties when she makes her frequent hops to freedom.

We have kids who pitch in with the cooking. And man can they cook! We have kids who organize family games of soccer or capture the flag or hold family board game nights.

Brenton sprung for four large pizzas on Sunday and is notorious for making late-night family Taco Bell runs. Those are MVP type of performances.

Seth loves to snuggle. Ask Evie how valuable that is when she comes home from college. Last time she was home I walked into the living room and she had both Seth and Judah snuggling with her on the couch.

Kids help other kids get dressed and ready for church. They all help pick up the toys. MerriGrace cleans the bathrooms and no one asks her. Is she an angel?

What the kids learn is that part of being family can entail sacrificing your own interests for the good of the group. Certainly the kids could always look out for number one and not help out their brothers or sisters, or do dishes, or clean bathrooms, or take care of pets, or spring for pizza and all the other stuff that they do.

But they love being a part of this team. This family.

I am so thankful.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Our rabbit keeps escaping. Our neighbors keep bringing her back.

Flopsy is home safe. Again.
I've learned a few things through our experiences with our pet rabbit, Flopsy. A lot of things exactly. She really likes the wild chives that grow in our yard. I like to find them, pick them and feed them to her and she gets all hoppity and her rabbit teeth really go to town on the greens when I hand them to her through the mobile "rabbit tractor" where she spends her days.

I've also learned that Flopsy also seems to yearn for freedom. A lot. Sort of. To a point. Yesterday Flopsy got loose from her rabbit tractor but just hopped a bit around the yard until one of the kids "found" her. It was hardly a mad dash for freedom in the nearby woods. I actually think Flopsy likes the attention she gets from a whole host of Sabo kids. Which is probably better than the attention she might get from a fox or the raptors she would encounter in the woods.

She's also, near as I can tell, the neighborhood's favorite pet. She occupies her little rabbit tractor cage by day and we move her around in the yard and she munches on grass and leaves behind organic fertilizer. It's a mutually beneficial relationship we have but all the neighbors who walk and drive by like to see Flopsy. On more than one occasion when she hasn't been in her rabbit tractor for whatever reason I've had a neighbor ask if she's alright.

Last Friday, I returned home late in the afternoon and would soon learn that Flopsy had, once again, escaped. This time she had made a legitimate effort to hop to freedom and a search of the surrounding area turned up no sign of Flopsy. I learned that Flopsy escaped not from one of the kids, but when I answered a knock at the door. See, I learned something about our neighborhood: We have great neighbors. Even ones I don't know.

It was an older gentleman who asked if our rabbit was missing. I turned to the kids and they informed me that Flopsy had escaped earlier in the day and that there was no trace of her. Our guest at the door, whose name I didn't catch, then described how our rabbit was all the way down at the end of our street in a yard. Munching away on the grass.

As he was telling me how cute our little bunny is and how he likes seeing her in the yard when he drives by another car pulled into the driveway. I didn't recognize the car or the people in it but a young teenage girl got out and lo and behold she was holding Flopsy. She handed the rascally rabbit to Gabe, we thanked her profusely, the older gentleman left smiling and all was good in the neighborhood again.

Who has neighbors like these? What a great place to live. I'm also glad we can provide some G-rated community drama and entertainment. And finally, I have a message for Flopsy.

You can run, but you can't hide.