I’m Not Happy


“I’m not happy!” That’s what my four year old says when she doesn’t get her way. At first, Anabelle would say it in an angry tone. Nowadays, she sticks out the bottom lip, sadden her eyes, and softly say as she sobs, “I’m not happy.”

One of the first lessons I learned in parenting from those who have done it before is that you are not always going to make your children happy. One of my mentors taught me, “Happiness comes when you obey,” and I’ve found that it’s the same for children. Have you noticed that children who are obedient tend to be happier than those who fight every rule?

Anabelle says, “Daddy, I want to buy a baby doll.” To which I respond, “Do you have money?” She knows where I’m headed so she once again says, “I’m not happy.” I love going to the store with my daughter!

On a recent date night, however, my daughter surprised me. As “custom” would have it, she asked for a baby doll while we were walking down the toy aisle. We had our typical exchange where the final answer was “no.” At this point, I was ready with my “Holy Daddy Face,” prepared to give her the reason for why she doesn’t need another baby doll.

Then she answered with a good attitude and smile, “It’s okay, Daddy,” as she continued to play with the toys on the bottom shelf.

I must confess, I am guilty of spoiling my child at times. There was a time when I would always come back from the store with a little something for her (candy, coloring book, baby doll!) And I suppose part of her behavior was due to the way I showered her with presents. It’s a fine line that every parent needs to recognize.

But that night at the toy aisle in Target, my daughter’s trust and security in me, made me want to give her that baby doll! She was no longer concerned about her happiness but was simply content that we got to play (for free) with some of the toys.

Why is it we think that it’s God’s job to make us happy? We think that certain circumstances will bring about the happiness we so eagerly crave. And when the tough times come and the fires of life threaten the happiness we have, we look at God and ask, “Why?”

But may I ask, “Why not?” Why shouldn’t God allow these fires to come into our lives? Why should our happiness be dependent upon the happenings of life rather than the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ?After all, didn’t He promise that He will “never leave us nor forsake us?”

The fact is this: God is more concerned with your holiness than He is your happiness. Why? Because you can be happy and not be holy; but you cannot be holy and not be happy! God says you can have your cake and eat it, too, but the “cake” has to be holiness.

When my child obeys, she is much happier. When we obey the Lord, we are much happier.

So the question isn’t, “are you happy?” The question is, “are you holy?” Therefore happiness is not based on the happenings of your life but the holiness of your life.

It’s your choice.


Evil Cousins

I love the conversations I have with my daughter while we’re in the car. We have had some doozies! I’m not sure if something she sees outside the window or the music we’re listening to trigger these talks. Today our conversation caused me to ponder some things.

Anabelle: Daddy, do you know David?

Me: David who? You’re Uncle David (Dunham)?

Anabelle: No, David the Shepherd.

Me: The one who fought with the giant?

Anabelle: Yes. You know, he took stones and hit the giant…

Me: Okay…

Anabelle: You know the giant?

Me: Goliath?

Anabelle: Yeah. He said, “Your God can’t do anything for you!”  (that’s the Bible video version) And David said, “God can do everything for me!” (same version)

Me: I remember…

Anabelle: And you know Satan?

Me: Yes… (at this point, I’m wondering where this conversation is going)

Anabelle: You know the giant and Satan?

Me: Yes.

Anabelle: Well, they’re cousins!

Me: What?

Anabelle: They’re cousins because they’re both bad!

Me: Just because they’re both bad doesn’t mean they belong to the same family.

Anabelle: Yes it does. You’re suppose to act like your family. As a part of Jesus’ family, I need to act like Him.

Don’t you love the pure thoughts of children? My child is a sinner just like everyone else but to catch a glimpse of a challenging truth can frankly be convicting for me! How many times have I acted like Satan or Goliath were my cousins? What about the moments when I didn’t represent my spiritual family well?

The Bible tells us that “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” We chose to be Christians, therefore we chose His name. Are you acting like your name (which means little Christ) or are you the black sheep, hardly associating with the holy name of Jesus? Who do people think you’re related to?

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God… John 1:12


When They Ask “Why?”

Zarate Family 1346


Every parent who has older children knows that there’s that sweet age between 3 and 5 when children begin to ask “Why?” Every sentence, conversation, and explanation ends with the question, “Why?” For my wife and I, we are so there!

Whether we’re talking about food, the Bible and its stories, people, and various subjects, she always ends it with “Why,” or “But why?”

At first, I was determined to keep up with Anabelle. I looked at my wife and told her, “How else will she know? I need to answer her questions.” I even tried to smarten up (yeah, against a three-year-old) by answering her question with a question. But this “smarter-for-her-own-good” girl always somehow got back to asking, “Why?”

I’ll be honest, at times, it can get frustrating. I know that’s not her intention. Most doctors will tell us that much of the character development and foundational reasoning skills are developed between the ages of 2 and 7. Could it be that the reason she asks is because she’s trying to develop a sense of who she is?

If so, then it’s essential that I answer these questions right! It’s imperative that the reasons I relay to her stand the test of time. It’s important that she knows the mind of God on these matters, even if it may seem trivial to us.

She asked me the other afternoon, “Why do we always go to church?” We all know the popular answers. We can post them, preach them, and expect a good, hearty, “Amen,” in response. But have you asked yourself that question? Have you studied God’s Word to find out why you should go to church? There’s more than just Hebrews 10:25.

I know for a fact that asking “why” doesn’t stop when they go to school. Everyday, teenagers ask the same short question. Adults do, too. As a Christian, what do you say? How do you answer?

I am thankful for verses like 1 Peter 3:15 and James 1:5. They serve as promises from God that He can give us the answers to these tough questions.

I want to challenge you with the challenge I’ve given myself for a while but has gone to a new level since I became a Dad: Know what you believe and why you believe it – from doctrines to life principles to convictions and even preferences. When your children ask you “why” give them a good, solid, Biblical answer. They may not understand it at first but continue to rehearse that in their minds and hearts until they realize that the Author of these reasons is God. And the accountability one must have towards these commands is towards the Lord Himself.

On a somewhat connected note, as we mature, we don’t always ask “why” anymore. When problems come into our lives is when we may tend to ask that same question.

May I challenge you with this? Instead of asking the Lord “Why,” ask Him, “What? What do you want to accomplish through this trial? What you do want to do in me and through me during this process? What is your will in this matter?”

Though we can ask “Why” with a good attitude, I believe that asking “What” reveals a more submissive heart because now our concern is not the reason but the result. Whether we understand or not, God always, always, always requires our obedience.

I Want Him to Like Me

Zarate Family 1283

Our family has grown over the last three years. For nine years, it was just Amy and me. Then God gave us our beautiful baby girl, Anabelle Grace. Then came her two “brothers,” Chuck and Oreo – our dogs! Today, we are a happy and average, but far from normal, American family.

The other day, Anabelle wanted to play with Oreo alone. Chuck has, from the very beginning, been very good and very patient with Anabelle (see my Twitter and Instagram posts as evidence), which is why she spends more time playing with him than with Oreo. Oreo is also younger and very much still in need of additional training. Because he is a puppy, his attention span and patience leave much to be desired. So Anabelle and Oreo are like the siblings who can’t get along! But Anabelle wanted to give it a shot on this special day.

I told her that she could play with Oreo but she had to be gentle with him and that she needed to use soft tones when speaking to him. She was excited! She jumped from her seat and loudly exclaimed, “I’ve got to change!” Then she darted to her room.

Did I miss something? More importantly, did I just give her permission to do something she shouldn’t? She was more excited than I thought she should be.

I walked into her room and asked her, “Why are you changing your clothes just to play with Oreo?” “Becuase, Daddy,” she replied, “I want him to like me.”

My three year old daughter was concerned about her youngest brother liking her! Do we have some insecurity issues to work on?

We’ve had Oreo for over a year and they can’t seem to play as well with each other like she does with Chuck. But this time she thought looking good was going to get her a step closer to achieving that goal.

Do we care about how we approach God? Do we care about our appearance before Him? Do we even want Him to like us? That afternoon, Anabelle told me over and over, “Dad, Oreo likes me! He likes me because I dressed well for him!” Would to God we cared more about how we approach Him! And it’s not just about how we dress.

Make no mistake, God loves us unconditionally. He will not love us any more or any less than when He gave His Son to die for our sins. However, our daily fellowship with Him can be hindered by our attitude and appearance as we approach Him. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” It’s time to start caring about God’s perception of us more than what others think of us. Addressing the first will help take care of the second.

Growing Our Children’s Faith

Zarate Family 1347

Photographs have a way of capturing moments in our lives and preserving it for a long time. It’s a tool we can use to “freeze” time and remember with fondness the past. We “ooh” and “ah” over these pictures, allowing the emotion of the minute to come back to us.

There are times when I hold Anabelle in my arms that I just want all time to stand still. There are times I wish she would just stop growing (until her next immature act or attitude, then I can’t wait to rush her childhood) and just relish the present with me forever. But the fact is, they always grow up. Other parents tell me, “In the blink of an eye, they’re teenagers,” “It seems like yesterday they were just learning to ride their bikes,” “I remember the first time I held them in the hospital like it was yesterday.” Children do grow up and they grow up fast! My fear is that in the perceived speed of their growth, we are missing ways to develop godly faith in them. Continue reading

Why We Honor Soldiers

My family and I took an impromptu trip to our local town’s municipal center. Earlier in the day, I noticed a Blackhawk helicopter land on the lawn of the municipal center and curiosity got the better of me. I decided that when I picked up my family for lunch, we would stop by to see this gorgeous piece of military machinery.

When we parked the car, we noticed at least a few hundred people on the lawn as well as other military vehicles. It was obvious that we had stumbled upon a Veterans’ Day gathering of sorts. Continue reading

The Importance of Restoring Fellowship


Have you had those long “Battle of the Wills” with your children? Let me, first of all say, I am not an expert in parenting. What I know comes from the Word of God, the counsel of godly parents (especially those who have grown children and grandchildren), and the examples of bad parents (including myself). But God taught me something this past week during a battle I had with my daughter.  Continue reading