Family Joy

When I married you, Christie, I experienced a joy I never knew was possible. I found my soulmate, a love that has deepened and grown between us. I know marriage isn’t for everyone, but I can’t imagine my life without you.

You’ve challenged me to grow as a person; namely, to be loving. I’ve found after five years how much marriage exposes who I am, for better or worse. I wish I could say that I’ve never done anything that hurt you, but that isn’t true.

I am flawed and have discovered only how much I can grow to bless you. I am up to the challenge. Christie, you stun me by your beauty. You are worth the cost. I guess this is my public letter to you, to reflect on our marriage and on our ten-month-old son.

We have a strange world, don’t we? The whole world is in upheaval. By all rights we should be scared. I suppose I am. I worry about David’s safety. What friends he’ll make. What interests he’ll pursue. His choices, good or bad. Too many bad things happen every day.

But my hope is that David will find joy. I believe this is possible. Because it is possible. By the grace of God, I believe He’ll find his joyous Savior. Just hold on with me, Christie. It feels like we’re on the cusp of something. That the good things are just around the corner. That somehow we will discover our revival, and more.

I know we want the best for our son. Today he is ten months old. He’s changed, hasn’t he, since his birth? We’re starting to see his personality, and how wonderful he is in how he laughs and smiles at us and with us. How little he still is, but the great large joy he brings.

God will protect him, Love. We hope to not make too many mistakes as parents, but even when we do, and when the hard winter world caves in, David will be safe. That imminent success I am thinking about ultimately has its fulfillment in heaven—Jesus’s kingdom, which is what I’m giving my heart to. But I believe David will be safe in this world, too. I’m sure he’ll experience his share of bumps and bruises, but God loves him, and cares for him, and will use every little scrape to remind him that He is with him, drawing him near, drawing him home.

But it’s scary, isn’t it, Love? Uncertainty. Change. The unknown. What world is David waking up to? What will his future be like? We hope for the best. We hope that America will be stronger and safer than it is now, or even after we depart from this world.

There is no reason to think it will not, and no true certainty that it will. That fear I give to God. As for me, as for us and David, my one true hope is that we all rest in His arms.

God may seem distant and hard to understand at times, but that is only because I’ve failed to realize how close He truly is. He’s close, Christie. God is close. He’s close to you. And me. And David. And to all our friends and family. To the people around us. To our neighbors. God is unimaginably close. I think the one true joy in life is in discovering how close God is to each of us. I also believe that of all the joys we experience, this one is the most certain to happen.

I think of those times now since David’s been born how sweetly savory it is to hold him in my arms. My throat latches. My heart thumps. Our son, who is of us, created by God, using our flesh. Truly birth is a miracle.

And I think of how great a thing it will be to raise him, to teach him that God has His hands, and His arms, wrapped so tightly around him that it alters David—that David becomes warm, and his heart loosens. And his grand smile shines.

God is close, Love. He’s close to David. You don’t have to fear, nor I. That is our family joy.

“Always be full of joy in the LORD. I say it again—rejoice!” ~ Philippians 4:4

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On Fatherhood

Dad has taught me much about life. How to be responsible. The importance of keeping my word. Of doing good when duty calls. Thinking of others. Thinking of my family before myself. Remaining faithful to my wife. Being honest, so that I never have to remember what I said (one’s honesty will say it for you). Being a good friend. And rooting for the Seahawks.

I’m a neophyte in terms of fatherhood. My son is only 9 ½ months old. I have a lot to learn. And I know I’m going to make many more mistakes, as I have already. But I am determined to be a good father, the way my dad was to me. I am a flawed soul, but I am eager to give David a good childhood, and a good life. I want to be there for him. Hold him. Hear him.

I’ve learned that there is nothing more precious on this earth than a newborn child. David is delicate. Supple. Innocent. Needy. Honest. Beautiful. He laughs easily whenever I tickle his ribs or hold him upside down or put my face in his belly or simply when I act goofy around him. His little giggles warm the home. He is innocently trusting. Whenever I hold him above my head, he has no idea of the danger of falling but instead, he looks at me and smiles. Christie and I suffered a miscarriage before David came along, and now that David is here, we feel lucky and blessed. I had no idea that parenthood could be so good.

In my novels I approach the relationship of fathers and sons from different perspectives. How Well the Sailors Run addresses the rebellion of a prodigal son from his father. In Warm Gold two men, one older, one younger, are both looking for and trying to mine the love from their fathers and inevitably discover it in a father-son-relationship between themselves. In A Season for the Blessed, a PGA-wannabee golfer tries to make his way seemingly aimlessly on the golf course having grown up in foster care without a father, as he struggles to navigate marriage and fatherhood in his own family. By the way, my dad read this story and he said it resonated with him. He’s the first person to have read Blessed. And in my fourth novel, called Hope of Home, which is in the process of being published, a money-driven grandson wrestles with reconciliation with his grandfather, who wrote an entire novel just bring him home for Christmas.

Fatherhood is important to me. It is the singlemost issue, in my mind, which can help restore a culture more rapidly than any other method. I may be wrong about this. But I’m thinking of my own relationship to my heavenly Father—that restored relationship with Him can immediately improve any and every other area in my life, even the darkest and most painful areas in my life. He can fully heal them. As if they’d never been.

Just as my relationship to my heavenly Father can heal, I believe my fatherly relationship to my son can be one of perpetual health and healing, and a source of strength. This is exciting to me.

To be strong. To have a foundation. To hold up, rather than to push down. That is fatherhood.

I suppose even us weak men are the stuff of great courage—that even in our sins, in our mistakes, even in our dark thoughts—God can use them to turn shadows away and to beat back the cold with the warmth of our hearts. That is what fatherhood means to me.

Yesterday my dad celebrated his 65th birthday. He’s retiring from his law practice this year. I got to see him two days ago when Christie and I met him and Mom for lunch at Gandolfo’s. He told me that on his birthday he was planning to soak in his hot tub. And enjoy not having to work. Work is another one of the best things he taught me, the joy of hard work. My dad is one of the hardest working men I’ve ever been around, a man who exemplifies the spirit of diligence.

I hope to model that character trait for David, to show him that any and every good dream begins with hard work, sinks or swims by it, and that good solid work is a reward in and of itself.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my dad is perhaps the most important of them all—to be present in my child’s life. Simply to be there. There’s never been better proof of a good father than this, to be present.

My hope is the same for my son and me.

Happy birthday, Dad. May you enjoy the fruit of your labor in your budding retirement.

 

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Mining Fatherhood

I am lucky to be a dad. Little David Levi was born 17 days ago. The instant I saw him, I was flooded with joy. And when I held him, I told him over and over, “I love you, David. I love you.” I couldn’t think of anything else to say.

Even after only two weeks, my perspective on fatherhood has changed. I’ve realized the solemn duty of a father to protect and care for his son.  The joy in this. To love a baby whose life is much bigger than my own.

My novel Warm Gold is, at its heart, a story of men finding their fathers, and becoming one. I wrote it with this in mind because I believe the absence of fatherhood is perhaps the most important social dilemma plaguing our families. Without it, boys and girls grow up feeling abandoned. Unloved. Hopeless.

For Sollinger, in Warm Gold, he is on a quest to find his father, and is willing to travel across the continent on the slim hope that he might find him inside a mine. He finds something he had not expected—a young man named Arslanian to whom he is asked to be a father: the fatherless, choosing fatherhood.

Arslanian is also searching for his father inside a mine. He finds the fulfillment of him in an old convict with one eye: Sollinger. When they connect deep inside the Honey Rock Mine, their bond is instantly sealed. Their father-son love relationship carries them far deeper than any desire for gold ever could.

Their father-son-love is the heart of Warm Gold. Two brokenhearted, bedraggled miners looking for worth—in themselves, in others, in their fathers.

I’d like to share with you an excerpt from the novel where it touches on Sollinger’s quest. In Chapter Nine we find him in the care of the Davidsons’, a kindhearted family living in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. They take Sollinger in after he is attacked by a vigilante and then subsequently mauled by a cougar. At the Davidsons’, he begins to heal from his wounds—and tastes, for the first time, the sheer pleasure of seeing a father and son interact in love.

In this passage he steps out of the cabin for the first time and hears noises in the Dutch barn. He limps over to investigate…


 

Between the lake and cabin stood a Dutch barn nestled up against a cliff of granite, tall with a broad gabled roof extending low to the ground. He knew nothing of defense or military strategy, but he felt safe just gazing at the barn, knowing that the massive granite cliff lay behind it.

And there was another kind of thundering. It was coming from inside the barn—a harmony of sounds, of rich laughter and play, of voices lost in safety and innocence radically genuine in the scope of the mountainous landscape. He felt his throat and heart easing. He moved closer. Through the slats he saw, deliciously, that Michael Davidson and his family were together. At the back of the barn, the mother was playing horseshoes with two prepubescent boys, a young girl and a teenage son.

Just as he was about to step into the barn, his heart skipped, for he saw something that would alter his life forever. In the foreground on the chopping block in the slatted light, the littlest boy sat in the father’s lap. Michael was cuddling him, hugging and kissing him, holding him tight as the boy giggled. The large dark work hands cupping the body. The boy immune to the terrors of the world, nestled inside an immovable wall. Father, son.

It was this intimacy of father and son that made his thoughts turn white. He forgot, instantly, that he was hurting. He forgot that he had a body. Foreign, unmitigated jealousy rushed through his temples. He burned with anger. The hands at his sides, before opened to a violent world, now clenched tight as he watched this honest love spoken silently between father and son.

He saw himself flinging the whole barn into the sky, the family struck with awe, the father and son shaken, his own bony digit pointed at their heart, scalding them with words to shame them—anything to shame them. There shouldn’t be innocence between them. It was a lie. He shouldn’t want that. Those words of comfort. That nourishment of his being. This palpitation. This genuine warmth. He shouldn’t want to be hugged like that. He’d never had that. He’d had only bony fingers from the brothel sticking him, failing to rub out his fleas. Frozen now, he could not join them.

He saw a dark corner inside the barn door and, while the father and one of his other sons, the eldest, started a conversation, and while the rest of the family was preoccupied, backs turned, he snuck in and hid himself in the darkness of the overhanging hay. His body was shivering as he tried to convince himself he wasn’t afraid.


For Sollinger, simply witnessing how a father holds and embraces and cares for his son is too overwhelming, and he reacts perhaps in the wrong way, but a natural way—with jealousy. This excerpt highlights what Sollinger is seeking—more than gold. Just to be held, like that young boy. To be cared for and loved.

Unfortunately, in America there are too many Sollingers out there, who have been abandoned by their father, who are forced to grow up without anyone teaching them how to live and love like a man. So they substitute their lack of a father figure in their lives for destructive things, which devalues their own self-worth, which leads to a downward spiral into the next generation—to their own kids whom they abandon, because it feels like the right choice.

Fatherhood is a choice. I wrote Warm Gold because I wanted to inspire myself, and hopefully others, to believe that our father is out there. In a spiritual sense, I mean our Father in heaven. He never abandons his children. It is contrary to His nature to do so. He can’t. His faithfulness is more powerful than the death that comes from abandonment.

Life is very hopeless unless one looks beyond it—not to heaven, but to its Creator, who has created an answer to every imaginable hurt and pain we experience in life. He is the answer to our lack of fathers. He can heal. And restore. And bless.

My novel Warm Gold is a story written to that end. A story where one is loved like warm gold. Not to mean that we are stones, but that we have worth waiting to be mined. By Him. Our Dad.

I believe this downward spiral can be reversed—that we as men can choose to lift up our sons and daughters and hold them close. It’s simply a choice. I look at my son David and am terrified of that choice, because I know I am weak and vulnerable and capable of terrible harm. But I am also loved. By my Father, who daily cleans out my goop, who changes me, who makes David and me both fresh.

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The Joy in Life

So my wife and I are expecting a baby boy any day now, so I don’t have long to write before we may need to head off to the hospital. Today is Junior’s official due date; our doctor explained that for a first-time pregnancy, it’s typical to be about four days over the due date. Yet still, Christie is experiencing contractions. They’re getting more frequent. More intense. Like I said, I don’t have long. So I’ll be brief.

I just wanted to say that I am thankful for my wife and our new baby, for friends and family—for all the good things God provides. In those times when all seems lost (and I’ve experienced a few), I’m comforted by a God who does not give up on me, or on anyone I encounter during the day. I am fascinated that even the most distant strangers whom I pass on the street are, hopefully, the dearest friends I’ll share adventures with in heaven—persons who have had their ups and downs and who have not given up.

If I had given up, I would never be married to Christie, never experienced the joy of getting to know her, of courtship and that beautiful day we married; or now, with our baby boy on the way. What will he look like? What will he be passionate in? I can’t wait.

This little blog is for all the people out there who are tempted to quit—on their jobs, on others, on themselves, on God—to say that God loves you. He loves you dearly. He will not quit on you. That, in my opinion, is where the joy in life begins.

If nothing else, I hope I get to teach my son how to keep going, and keep fighting, no matter how dire the odds, so that one day he may experience the joy of a similar reflection, awaiting his child to come.

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Waiting for the Kingdom

Who knows what will happen in this Republican primary or with this presidential election? I’m not sure who I would vote for in 2016. Not to question the character of the current candidates (because I’m not better than them; no one is), but doesn’t it seem like our country is starving for something?

We all want a president with strong moral character, who is humble and wise – to lead our country through these troubling times. But the truth is, no president – no person – is capable of delivering on this.

Maybe it’s good, in a way, that we’re so scared. So vulnerable and in debt. Because without a crisis of character, we’d never realize where the comfort for our fears is found.

I am not a political person. I’m not glued to CNN for CBS or FOX. So I can’t speak with authority on the current events and say what we should do to stop ISIS and abortion and find a solution to immigration and improve our health care system.

I believe that the answer to our country is a spiritual one; not political.

I say this because the life – the freedom – in me has come not through a political choice, but through a spiritual journey. Politics help shape infrastructure; the only thing deep enough to shape the human soul is God’s love.

All I know is the spiritual love that has healed me. A peace that has changed who I am. I am sinful. So much of my life has been bound up in false wants. The most accurate word to describe my spiritual journey is the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.

But this waywardness has created a desire in me. For truth and understanding. Something higher than myself. Something no Republican or Democratic could give.

America is a great nation. I am lucky to live here. I am thankful for the freedoms I have – to work and raise a family and own a house and go to the park and conduct business. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

But we, like any nation, fall short of the ideal land we all long for. We have violence. Abuse. Addictions. The disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest is too broad. Our nuclear family seems to be disintegrating. Doesn’t it seem like we’re on the edge of something?

As a Christian, I know my home is in heaven, and I take comfort in this. I look forward to that time when He calls me home – to paradise. But as a Christian, I am called to be salt and light where He has planted me. To do good, foster positive change, help others, bless – until He returns.

I know I cannot give to others what I do not have myself. An empty glass cannot water a garden. My desire then, is to seek Him. And be filled. And if I am filled, then I can help, in some small measure, to ease the burden of another. Isn’t that how a nation, at its core, is made strong? Not in grand measures, but in intimate relationships founded on love?

So then, what about America? This land that I love?

We are a nation who knows how to speak Christianese. We know the story of Jesus. He’s studied in universities. Hollywood makes movies about Him. We know His words. The internet is filled with stories about being born again (like this one) and finding Calvary and the Scriptures. Whether we know Him or not, we know.

The answer to restoring this nation is not spoken in Christianese –  a superficial understanding of Him, or half-hearted responses to His call. I’m guilty of both. Hopefully, my first motive is not to restore a nation at all, but to be humbled, desirous to discover His unfathomable love.

I must have come to this point in my life not through wealth given to me, but through a dearth of joy, of pain. Spiritual drought. My soul calls for something deeper. A healing.

And to find healing, I cannot waste another day. So much of my life has been spent in a La-Z-Boy that it’s been stitched to my rear end. I carry it to work and to church and this is a burden I haven’t found a solution for.

What I mean is, only the proactive God who created me can change me. Can unstitch me from my turpitude. I mean He gets me hungry for Him. His love. His grace. His kindness. His deep, wide, impossible love. In one breath – one breath – He revives me.

It’s His words. His cross. That undefinable moment in time where we all were held. By Him.

Do I think the Kingdom is coming? Yes, I do. I believe Jesus is the Son of God. I believe He is King. I believe He knows what I’m doing. I believe He’s panting with desire to heal this country, one spiritual wreck after another.

I mean any mess you consider – bad debt – abuse – murder – hatred – jealousy – fear – doubt – disobedience – abandonment – fathers abandoning their kids – fathers abandoning their spouses – fathers abandoning themselves – fathers abandoning their duties – fathers abandoning their responsibilities – fathers abandoning their families – fathers abandoning their parents – is a washstroke of forgiveness, and gone. It is all gone. All that waywardness. Gone. Subsumed, man. Just gone.

He doesn’t want my permanent obliteration; he wants my momentary death, to this world, to bring me to eternal life with Him. I was born to be in heaven with Him. There is a whole eternity waiting. For each of us with Him. This is life. I can’t wait.

At the very heart of this country is a hope God is eager to heal. And He’ll do it. One lanced heart at a time – not to make America the greatest country or the strongest or the safest – but to make each of us ready for when He comes back.

I believe He is doing this wonderful work of preparing us all for that time.

I believe no one knows the day or the hour. It doesn’t bother me that I don’t know; what matters is that I know Him now, that I begin the journey now, in love, walking in love with Him, falling in love with my God in a way that is spiritually potent, that gives me significance and worth, and helps me heal from all the muck that I caused and was done to me.

The only balm for a fearful person is the live love of Him. I forget so easily to live free, unbounded by fear. Yet that is what His promise is – to free me. Not that I am unfearful; I struggle with it every day. But where once before fear ruled my soul, now I have a peace that conquers it. Thankfully, in Him I am changing.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~ Matthew 11:28-30

Samuel Cronin

Author Page

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Why I Wrote Warm Gold

I’ve been asked why I wrote Warm Gold. There are many reasons, and some of them carry more weight than others: To entertain. To tell the story of a place. To relive history. To lift up historical people. To encourage.  All of these are true.

But there is a deeper reason. I’m not sure I told it as I had wanted, and I’m not sure I ever will in any other book I write. My hope for this novel was to lift up, to extend and encourage us to believe that we have worth—that we are worth more than all the gold underneath a mountain.

In my life I’ve pursued many destructive things. Thinking that I would find my worth in them, I discovered only that I was imprisoned by them. It was as if I was stuck in a mine, deep below the surface, where the air was foul and it was extremely hot. Yet I was unaware of the dangers, that in a matter of minutes I would lose my oxygen and pass out.

While the whole world lived bright and high in the sunlight, I was stuck in the bottom of a shaft, hacking away at the rock to get the little speck of gold that I believed would give me life. I have been there, wanting something that would destroy me. I’ve been in that mine, so far down that I should not be alive.

Warm Gold is a story about discovering that a man does have worth—not by mining cold ore in the darkness, but by love. It is the power of love that saves him. This story rests in the heart of a hope that costs a man everything he owns. And frees him. It is the journey that begins and ends in love—how a broken man is healed and made whole. And how he mines, and is mined, and discovers his worth.

Love is the gold mine. What I mean is, I discover my worth when I discover how much I am mined. That I am loved is what drives me to love others. And as I age, I am fascinated by all the little mountains of gold ore pushing carts of groceries in the store—how rich they are, how humbled and rich and in need of someone to mine them.

In this terrible age, we struggle from hurts and bruises, from imprisonment and abandonment, from broken relationships. We are victims of abuse. Warm Gold is a story that looks at all that—the hurt and the loss, the suffering of a man—and tries to mine the deeper, better dream of his life. That he is full of worth. That he is loved. That even when he has been abandoned by those closest to him, even his father, he can be a father to someone craving the best of him—his unalloyed worth.

 

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Saeed’s Coming Home!

As you may have heard, Pastor Saeed Abedini was released from captivity in Iran over the weekend, and is currently in Germany undergoing medical treatment for his severe wounds; later he will return to the United States to be reunited with his wife and kids. After almost 3.5 years in notoriously violent prisons, he is coming home.

I’ve never met him, but he sounds like a gracious fellow—and tough, refusing to let go. He’s inspired millions of people both in America and across the globe to keep hoping, keep believing, keep standing strong in the face of oppression. No one should be tortured for their desire to uplift and encourage others.

He is an inspiration to me, personally, because of his hope. He stood strong even when surrounded by a darkened environment. The hope that I have is that one day both good men and bad will seize each other not for advantage but in joy. That time is coming. Perhaps it is here already. In the little decisions we make every day—to hold a child’s hand, to brace an elderly veteran, to tell someone silently I love you by listening openly to their heart—is evidence of Jesus’s words: “The kingdom is within you.” From my view, Pastor Saeed’s selfless hope inspires me to keep up my hope for that spring day.

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