Monday, April 4, 2016

A Grief observed: the one year anniversary

Today marks the one year anniversary of my Dad's death and in light of that, I thought it was time to write down some of the things I have learned about loss and grief on this long/short/strange journey. None of these are profound, some are even funny but for me at least, it was helpful to write them out for my own good and hopefully for the good of someone who will read this. So, here are my observations.

Grief is weird, or at least it is different than I expected it to be.  It's effects hit at times I least expect them.  Tears are one good example of this.  During my dad’s visitation and funeral I expected to be weeping but the tears hardly came.  I was sad, deeply sad, but only a few tears came that day.  Tears came later at random moments: on the drive home, walking through the grocery store, waiting to check out at the lunch counter, etc.  Even months later, sitting on a plane listening to the announcement of a serviceman who was being transported via our flight to his final resting place, I found myself welling up with tears.  Dad’s military experience was so important to him that the mere vision of this gentleman’s accompanying officer was enough to send me into a tailspin with the people seated beside me likely just thinking I was some great American.

Grief is different for spouses than it is for children.  This seems an obvious one but I hadn’t considered the ways in which my Mom losing her husband is vastly different than me losing my Dad.  She lost a daily presence in the home, a partner in life, a person whose whereabouts and needs she had considered for 42 years. I lost a guide, a Mr. Fix-it, a master directions to anywhere.  both relationships great, both relationships different, both losses deep but hers was hers and mine was mine and we needed different grieving paths.

You forget.  I think this was aided by the fact that I no longer lived in the same house as my dad but literally for months, even up to this one year anniversary, I have had legitimate moments where it was as if I could still call or see dad.  From my kitchen window you can see cars approaching our street.  One day while washing dishes I saw a black Chevy Colorado with an extended cab drive by; this truck was identical to dad’s.  I turned to Kari and said, “Hey Dad’s about to drive up…..never mind, no he’s not”.  I literally saw the car and for a moment thought he was coming to see us.  I have actually picked up the phone to call and tell or ask him something only to realize the number is disconnected, he’s gone, and it hits fresh in those moments.

I think about my dad every day.  I see things that remind me of him.  I talk about him in conversations.  I think about him every time I get in the car on the way home and can’t call to de-brief the day with him.  I think about him much more now than I did when he was alive and that is a bit saddening.  I think it is also important for others to remember that grieving people are thinking of their loved one constantly.  Before my dad died, I would approach others who had lost a loved one with the mentality that I needed to talk about anything BUT the person they were grieving. I didn’t want to bring up emotions that were painful or memories they were trying to keep in the background.  Those were all bad assumptions.  Talk about them, consider asking to hear stories about them and when they mention someone they have lost, listen and enjoy the story.  It’s not weird, its healing. 

I am drawn to the things he loved and find difficulty accepting the things he did not.  This is the funny one.  A good example is Chevy vs. Ford.  My dad taught me that FORD stood for two things Fix Or Repair Daily and Found On Road Dead.  He and I had some good conversations on this subject and he brought me around to the same conclusion.  However, now that he is gone, the thought of buying a Ford is not just a bad decision, it is "an abominable action that would mar my Father’s good reputation!"  It has moved from an opinion to passion!  I think this is a temporary one, but there does seem to be a palpable affection for things your loved one loved even if you really were never passionate about those things before.  

Our grief is temporary and hopeful. The greatest realization I have had is a reminder that our grief is temporary.  Dad passed away the day before Easter and the anniversary will likely fall near Easter each year.  I consider this a gracious reminder from the Father of the greatest event in human history of Christ paying the price I deserved to pay in His death on the cross and rising from the dead to defeat death.  This is a sweet reminder that death has been defeated and no longer holds any claim on us.  Grief is for a time but hope comes in the morning and more than ever I look forward to the morning!  

Sunday, October 9, 2011

India Part 1 - The Sovereignty of God

I recently returned from leading a short-term disciple-making trip to India. This is part 1 in a series of posts describing how God decided to use us for His glory and put His greatness on display before our team over a ten day period.

The training for our trip began in mid-July. We were introduced to our field partner and began going through material, via Skype, on Church Planting. The material covered a concept built around a passage in Luke 10. In the passage, a pattern for entering a town or village to share the gospel is given. The basic strategy is to identify a house of peace, be invited into the house and then use a mixture of listening and responding to query for whether the household would be open to hearing a story, a biblical story. If favor is granted, team members are equipped to share stories that tell truths about God as shown in Scripture in a way that communicates the entire gospel clearly.

About two months out, the game plan was set. A pastor was identified whose church was located around villages in need of being reached with the gospel. The team would travel to his area and hike into these villages each day in 2-person teams with a translator accompanying. The Luke 10 strategy would be employed and homes would be reached as long as houses of peace could be identified. Game plan set, just execute, right?

Wrong. Six days before the team's departure an earthquake hit Northeast India. At a magnitude of 6.9 the quake produced sizable damage and, having just emerged from the monsoon season, already saturated roads and mountainsides began to slide taking victims with them and blocking the very roads by which aid could be brought to those who survived. The roads to our goal location were impassible at best. While our field partners prayed and scrambled to find out what could be done, the team stayed home literally praying for an open road to share the gospel.

Plans changed throughout the week leading up to our departure and it was not until the team was on the ground in Northeast India that a skeleton plan had been devised. Once on the ground the team learned that we would be heading to one of the points nearest the Earthquake’s epicenter. However, there were a few barriers. First, the state where we would be ministering required a separate visa from the one we obtained to enter the country in Delhi. By God’s sovereignty, the original location we were scheduled to be in is located in that state and our field partner had already secured the correct documentation to allow us to get these special visas. Next, the area where the earthquake hit was closed to both foreigners (us) and nationals (our translators and drivers) because it was the sole possession of a specific tribe; much like an Indian Reservation here in the US. Again, by God’s sovereignty, our field partner was put in contact with that area’s District Councilman who was the only party with the right to grant us access to the area. The District Councilman insisted that the area needed medical care and that if we could provide that, he would provide us access. God’s sovereignty was again on display as our team had one paramedic and one physical therapist which in this area was more than enough medical expertise.

The process of collecting all of these visas and permits took about a day and a half and was grueling and a bit discouraging at times for many of us. However, by Tuesday we were on the road to an earthquake relief camp with full permission. We had gladly been given access to a part of India that was completely closed off to us as foreigners but, more surprisingly, to our national partners as well. We were literally walking into a place where the feet of gospel partners had most likely never trod.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Haze

Whenever I return from sharing the gospel in another context, there is always a hazy time period that follows. Of course there is a haze due to jet lag and/or lack of sleep but there is also a haze due to a war within me; a battle to decide how the time spent there will affect me and how the Lord wants to continue to affect a lost and dying world through me.

I begin running through a list of questions including, how did the time our team spent affect the people we worked with? Was the gospel clear? Was the gospel shared at every point possible and was it lived out alongside the words we spoke?

Then I shift to how my life should look going forward. How do I live in this American world where I find myself craving things instead of God and fighting to re-establish focus? Why does it seem different sharing the gospel at work than it does sharing the gospel with children and adults who do not even share my language? Where can I be most effective for the kingdom? The context I live in now? Another context? The house I live in now? Another house?

I wonder about my brothers and sisters that I left behind when I returned home. Were they encouraged by our partnership? How will they maintain what was built? How do I need to be praying for them going forward? What about the kids and adults who heard the gospel for the first time? Did they get it?

Such a haze of questions...but God is control of all of them.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

When Missions Gets All Over You

Missions has gotten all over me. In the picture above it was quite a literal thing. In this case, missions got right up in my shoe. That part of missions is the part you have probably experienced right here in the US. This is not the type of "getting all over" I discuss below of course but I thought this might be a good picture to start your brain in the right direction.

When missions gets all over you it is a beautiful thing to watch. When the reality of the gospel in your own life begins to morph into the reality that millions of people all over the world have never heard the gospel. It stirs a dangerous concoction. People you have never met from places you have never been in parts of the world that you have never thought about begin to invade your thoughts. People you have seen on the news from places you know are dangerous have read about in parts of the world you have dreamed about flood your mind. Money you had saved to do things that entertain gets spent on things that to the world seem worthless.

I haven't always had a heart for missions. In fact, just a few short years ago I would have told you that I was called to stay right here in the US and possibly never leave...certainly not relocate. I remember praying a pitiful but effective prayer for the Lord to give me a heart for missions. How laughable this was. I was missing the point that a heart for missions is the heart the Lord wants me to have all the time.....His heart. A heart to share the gospel with those who are just as lost as I was. Most of them with little to no opportunity to hear the gospel.

The result of this prayer was disasterous. The most dangerous parts of town started to look appealing because they housed people for whom the gospel was being twisted. Countries a world away became my "vacation" spots where I could use my company-allotted vacation to visit people who needed to hear that there is one true God who payed the price for their sins to bring them into relationship with Him...their greatest joy. I began to really see people and realized that we are all the same without Christ....Lost. It totally messed up everything I had thought life should be.

I watched these effects play out in a businessman who was reluctant to go overseas but followed out of obedience. As soon as his feet hit the ground it seemed his heart began to burn for the Guatemalan people and their physical and spiritual poverty. I watched as he loved each and every child even playing with them until he was physically exhausted continually saying, they just need to be loved!

I watched as a friend sold off a "luxury" in order to go to a people group in South America and was considering what resources it would take to go to yet another continent where the gospel was scarce.

I have watched as a mother readjusts her familie's schedule each week to drive into a drug-ridden area to reflect the love of Christ to a teenager.

I have watched as families pack up their children and go both short and long-term to places where the danger to Christ-Followers is so real that their location can only be known by a small group of close contacts.

All of this is considered by the world as idiotic. If you have one life, why in the world are you going to spend it traveling to much less living in places where there is only dirty water to drink or in low income locations where you or your children could be in danger. Why in the world would you live at less than your income affords for the sake of someone else? The answer is that this life is not all that we have. This is just the warm-up, the prelude, the pre-game show. We are looking forward to a day when we will be with our Savior but until then we will continue to tell others about Him so that they can be reunited with Him as well. So as we near that day, we live out the commandment to take the good news of the gospel into all nations; US and abroad. We must remember that iIn the words of David Platt, "You are the Plan of God, and there is no Plan B."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Easy Tortilla Pizza

Here is a recipe I got from a friend several years ago that Kari and I love! We had this tonight for dinner and so I thought I would share.

Easy Tortilla Pizza

Olive Oil
Tortilla/Wrap (any type; we prefer spinach)
Pasta Sauce
This can be anything you enjoy on a pizza. Some that we have tried are Turkey, Ham,
Chicken (already cooked), bacon (already cooked), mushrooms, pineapple, tomatoes.
Cheese (almost any type of cheese will work; we have used mozzarella, cheddar, and colby
jack..all worked well)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Coat each tortilla (1 tortilla per adult) with just enough olive oil to cover.

Place tortilla's in oven for 8-10 minutes. I forgot this tip in my first post: Use a baking stone as opposed to a cookie sheet.

Take tortilla's out and add sauce, toppings, and cheese in that order.

Place tortilla's back in oven for 12-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and edges are brown.


A filling and low-fat meal (depending on your topping selections). Some suggestions to keep it low fat are to use low fat cheese and tortillas. Look for cheese that is made with 2% milk instead of whole milk. This is often marked very clearly on the front of the package. Also, try to stay away from higher fat tortillas. Whole wheat and spinach tortilla's can be found at most stores. Finally, shoot for lower fat olive oil. Either way it should be a recipe the whole family can enjoy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Looking for a Miracle...

If you are looking for a miracle today I have some encouragement. Some of God's greatest miracles in our lives come in the form of Him fashioning circumstances together in accordance with His Will and for His Glory! Check out this quote from John MacArthur:

"Think about it. The vast scope and endless outworking of divine providence,
in which God draws together millions of details and circumstances to achieve
His will each day, is a far greater miracle than the relatively uncomplicated,
one-time, supernatural occurrences that we ususally term miracles."
MacArthur goes on to talk about how God's providence, this ability to draw millions of details together to achieve His will, is a great comfort as we go through trials. We can know that as His children He is literally working all things together for our good (Rom. 8:28). Take courage, the God is working a miracle in you today....and give Him glory for His providence not only in your own life but across the world to draw people to himself and show His glory.

Monday, August 16, 2010


While the rest of my computer was tied up at work, I decided to hop on the intenet and retool my blog...the blog I have not touched in several months. After a few changes here and there, I decided to write a short blog on what the Lord is doing in my life. I sat back in my chair, arms crossed behind my head thinking about the last few months and my eyes caught sight of a prayer by Sir Francis Drake that I posted beside my desk sometime last fall. Although I have seen this prayer every word day since I posted it, it just hit me that the Lord has been answering that praying in my life. He has been disturbing me. Read the prayer below.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
The Lord has been disturbing me. Breaking up my norm and pushing me out to the edge into the storms to show me His mastery. It has not been easy out on the edge but my prayer is that my thirst for the waters of life will continue to increase, God's glory will been evident, and that I will find the stars somewhere well beyond what my small mind could have imagined. Lord, continue to disturb me and let these storms show your glory.