Monday, May 17, 2010

The Big 3-0

In keeping with my tradition of writing a blog post for my birthday, (see here, here, here and here) I present to you the latest in the series. 

The Big 3-0.

Today I finally turned 30. Now for some people this milestone is a cause for weeping and gnashing of teeth, but not for me. I love birthdays because they provide a reason for celebration, and I appreciate them even more because they provide us the occasion to look back and see what God has done in the preceding year.  I've never really minded that I would be another year older, and in fact I always thought the 30th birthday was kind of special, since it was at this age that Christ started His public ministry.  Thirty seemed like a turning point, but not in a bad way. It was an age in which one can look back and see how far they've come, and look forward to all that God can still do.

This birthday though, as much as I appreciate the opportunity for reflection, it's hard to see past the last six weeks, when my life was changed by my father's sudden and unexpected passing. I never dreamed that I would be celebrating this day without him, and as it was always my dad who worked so hard to make sure my birthday was special, it was especially bittersweet. However, it was my dad who taught me that pretty much any situation in life was analogous to a baseball game, and as any baseball fan knows, when a batter is 3-0, that's a good place to be.  I pondered this, and I thought about the days and weeks gone by, as well as the days and weeks ahead. Here are my reflections: 

1) Don't be afraid to swing. When a batter is 3-0, they can risk going after a ball that they normally might be too afraid to chase. In much the same way, in life we have to recognize that as much benefit as caution can provide, it can also inhibit us from experiencing the unexpected. Look for those opportunities when you are up in the count, and get a little out of your comfort zone. It may not turn out how you desire, but that's o.k., you still have two more pitches to go. Don't let your fears drive your pursuit of God's plans.

2) Wait for your pitch.  The converse of the preceding point, is that when a batter is up 3-0, they can be picky about what pitches they take. You can't be afraid to swing, but you don't have to go chasing after anything that's close. In life, we tend to rush after a good opportunity, afraid to wait for God to present us with the opportunity He wants us to take. Don't go chasing someone else's dream, or try to walk the path that God intends for another. Wait for Him. Knowing that it's His desire for you to be great in His kingdom, not merely an average player.

3) It's o.k. to take the walk - A walk is a free base. It can turn into a run scored just like a swing for the fences can. However, it means that your teammates will have to bring you home. Build up a community of people that are on your team, that are working alongside you to bring about God's will for your life. Have godly people in your life that will cheer you as you run the bases, and who celebrate along with you when you finally reach home.

I'm looking forward to the rest of the game. And for the celebration when I join my daddy at Home.


A Tribute to My Dad

As family and friends know, my prolonged blog silence was prompted by the sudden and unexpected death of my dad on April 8, 2010. While vacationing with my mom in Maui, my daddy went home to be with his Lord. We miss him terribly, but are so grateful for the confidence of his salvation. Below is my tribute (from his memorial service) for a great man, and the best dad a girl could ask for. I look forward to seeing him again.

They say that experience is the best teacher. In the last week, I've learned a lot about grief. One of the first things you do is try to define what was lost. You think of words and phrases, memories and occasions that help people understand exactly what is now missing in your life. As we have grieved the loss of my dad, five words have come to my mind time and time again: faith, family, fun, fan and freedom. For me, these five words describe my father and help others understand the nature of our grief.

The first thing my dad would want people to know about him is that he was a man of faith. My dad loved His Savior and he strived diligently to do the things that God had called him to do. It pained him deeply whenever he faltered because he always wanted his life to be a great representation of Christ. My dad spent countless hours memorizing Scripture so that whenever he, or anybody else needed some advice he would be able to tell them what God’s Word said. He also spent untold hours in prayer. It wasn’t uncommon that when my dad was faced with a situation where he was unsure what his next step would be, he would wake up in the middle of the night, go downstairs, read the Bible and talk to God.

As his child, I knew that I was regularly being lifted up to our Heavenly Father’s throne. I know that this side of heaven, I will probably never know the effects of those prayers on my life and others. James wrote “the prayers of a righteous man has great power.”  Those words could have been written about my dad.

After my dad’s faith, the second most important thing to him was his family. The love of his family started with his love for my mom, his high school sweetheart and wife of 34 years. Recently I wrote a blog about my parent’s marriage in which I wrote “Growing up, I always knew that if I disobeyed my dad I would be in trouble. But if I disobeyed my mom and my dad found about it, my punishment would be much worse because in that case, not only had I disobeyed, but I had hurt my mom, and my dad was intent on protecting my mom from hurt. It was very clear that taking on my mom, meant taking on my dad too.”  My dad always had my mom’s back. He took great pains to set up a godly home for me and my sister to be raised in and that started with following the Ephesians 5 command to love his wife as Christ loved the church.

In another blog I wrote about How My Parents Made a Difference, I talked about perhaps my father’s least favorite part of fatherhood, the part where he had to discipline his children. My dad loved having fun with his kids, and it tore him apart when he had to punish us. However, he still did it. As I wrote about my parents, “I always knew they loved me, and I always knew that if I went against their directions, there would be consequences. That may seem counterculture in today’s world, but it wasn’t in my parent’s home. Regardless of how they punished me, it never diminished my understanding of their love. And because they loved me, they never shied away from correcting my misbehavior.” Perhaps that’s why my dad loved being a Poppa to Riley and Declynn so much. He got a lot of the joys of parenthood but he didn’t have to punish the kids. And even though my dad might not have always enjoyed all the responsibilities of fatherhood, he fulfilled them, and more, even welcoming his sons-in-laws as his own kids.

Upon hearing the news of my dad’s passing and friend wrote to me, “You had the best daddy in the world.” And he was. Another friend told me, “most people would trade a lifetime of their relationship with their dad, for a year of the type of relationship that you had with your father.” And she was right. And I think it’s a testament to the type of father my dad was that other people recognized this. It was a joy of my dad’s that as we grew older, he was not only my parent, the person that I turned to when I needed advice or insight, but that he was one of my best friends, and he could also share his joys and difficult situations with me. This friendship meant that many weekends you could find me and my husband hanging out with my parents, going to dinner after church, playing tennis or talking about our next Hawaiian adventure. My dad loved that we loved spending time with him.

It wasn’t only with his family though, that my dad liked to have fun. I don’t know anyone who loved to make anything a good time as much as my dad. He could take a simple dinner out and make it a riot. I have a tradition that on Friday’s I tell my students very silly jokes. No one appreciated these ironic puns as much as my dad did. In fact, I still owe him an e-mail compiling them all together. Whether it was playing on a softball team, a rowdy game of Spades, an impromptu trip to an amusement part, snorkeling, or working together to build something, my dad loved to have fun. My dad loved to have fun so much that sometimes it was to his detriment. He would play softball after pulling his back in bowling. One time he played fooseball so much that he got tendonitis. On the few occasions where my dad took a break from work, he loved to make the most of it. We were the only family I know that had a typed agenda sent out before we went on vacation. My dad wanted to make sure that we didn’t let any opportunity for fun pass us by. 

And my dad was generous with his fun. As many of you know, at one point my dad finally got the red sports car that he had talked about for nearly as long as I remember. Shortly after, the college-aged son of my dad’s best friend got Hodgkin’s disease. My dad took his Corvette keys and handed them over so that a kid that was suffering pain could experience the thrill of driving a fast car. Later when he and my mom were talking about the expense and maintenance of the Corvette, my dad said that it was worth it all to see Ben’s smile. My dad loved using the gifts, talents and things he had to make other people happy.   

Nothing was more fun to my dad they when he could get a group of people together to accomplish something. As one of our friends said, “Everywhere Brad went he built a team” and it’s true. It thrilled my dad to work alongside people to accomplish a goal. Perhaps that’s why my dad was such a fan of almost any sport. Whether it was the Saddleback Valley Christian high school football team or the Super Bowl my dad cheered just as hard for the team’s success. My dad was an unusual sports fan because he never really had a favorite team. He just wanted the players to do well, wanted it to be a good game, and wanted to be able to give his two-cents as to what the team should has done. My dad was so passionate about doing a good job and he was equally as passionate about encouraging others to do the same.  

Lastly, my dad loved freedom. As was mentioned earlier, my dad served 12 years in the Marines after being graduated from Anapolis, and then went to work in the private sector where he spent the majority of his working life at General Atomics. My dad loved that he got to spend his time doing something that helped both protect our freedoms in this country and provide freedom to people who were oppressed.  He loved telling the stories of how the Predator provided the video feed that allowed two missionaries to Afghanistan to escape tyrrany. Or how it flew overhead to help ensure the successful rescue of a solider. Whatever frustrations my dad experienced at work, they were outweighed by the fact that he thought he was doing something important. I recall once as he described to me with tears in his eyes the weight of responsibility that he felt for protecting our soldiers. He was so proud to be a part of it.

However, I would be remised if I didn’t tell you that my dad knew that true freedom could never come from any government, political treaty or even as a result of the work of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. Instead, my dad knew that any freedom experienced here on earth was a poor representation of the freedom that is found in Christ. He worked hard here on Earth but it wasn’t for Earthly treasures. He wanted his entire life to point others to Jesus.    

When you lose someone like my dad, it’s easy to ask why. Why would God take someone so soon who was so good? However, my dad did well to teach us that what happened here on Earth never diminished God’s goodness. As Job wrote “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” This is how my dad would want us to respond.  A favorite song of mine says “Questioning the notion that God is full of love is a tempting road to take when you forget about His blood. I choose to still believe Him – His heart is kind and just. I’m only seeing half the picture for the other half I trust ” My dad clung to the sacrifice of Jesus knowing that regardless of life’s difficulties and pain, God too had experienced pain when He shed his blood on the cross. And while I do not know why my dad’s Homecoming was so much sooner than I expected, I do trust that God was not surprised by it. He can see the other half of the picture and I know He welcomed my daddy with open arms.

Upon hearing of my dad’s passing, a dear friend who is a missionary in Budapest wrote to my mom, my sister and me.  He said “The hardest thing we trust the Lord with is who goes and who stays. I am glad for the sake of the glory Brad enjoys and that his dying wasn’t long and drawn out. I am sorry for your sake for the suddenness and for the who knows how many years without a dad or a husband….This is hard providence. That’s part of what it means to be God. To be able to exercise a prerogative so painful for others while still being perfectly good and wise.”

Our friend continued “Brad finished well. Your great husband and father is safely home. You will see him again.”

You did good, Daddy. I love you. I will see you again

A complete video of the service can be found at

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Pieces, Plans & Peace

You know who you are. 

When a friend asks you to do something, you immediately check your calendar and figure out when you can negotiate a social outing.

When there's a church event, school project, or t-ball party, you are put in charge of the festivities.

When someone mentions a vacation, you immediately check airline prices.

Planners of the world....Unite!

Ok, maybe the process isn't as dramatic as all that, but for a lot of us, maybe most of us, planning is something that we take refuge in. After all, a plan gives us the sense that we can ensure that what we want to happen, will happen. It's our way of exerting our imprimatur on the events of our lives. Sure, our very breath is dependent upon God's grace, but somehow we think we can look into the future and dictate what will face. We're given part of the puzzle and think we have the ability to figure out the rest.

But it rarely works like that

Instead, many of the times, maybe most of the time, God gives us a piece of the plan. He tells us "Do this; this is the next right thing" and our job is to follow Him in faith.  When He's silent, when He hasn't told us the next move, our job is to rest in His peace as the plan is revealed. We don't obtain peace by trying to figure out the remaining pieces of the puzzle, He's promised that peace comes from Him, not the plan. 

May we faithfully do whatever God has called us to today, and leave the rest of the plan, in His hands.

Question: In what area is it hardest to trust in God's plan for your life?


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

For Others' Sake

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles - Ephesians 3:1

It's not easy to give up what is rightly ours for the sake of others. It's even less easy when we can rightly determine that "they don't deserve it." It's human nature, perhaps, to cling to our privileges and prerogatives because they lead us to the mistaken impression that somehow we are important. We want to mark our territory, draw our lines, and dare anyone to try and cross them.

In Ephesians, though, Paul shows us a different way. Paul gave up status and prestige that were rightfully his because of Christ's work on the cross. Paul, the Jew among Jews and the Roman citizen, became a traveling missionary, ostracized from the people who once esteemed him, making tents (rather than teaching) for a living, all for the sake of a people that he once believed were unworthy of salvation. He followed the example of Christ in becoming "nothing" at least in the world's eyes, so that he could demonstrate the love of Christ to people who were lost. 

For many of us the story is so familiar that it's power has become dim, but let's not let it. Instead, let us recognize all that Paul had, all he gave up, and the reasons that he did so. Paul realized that his life was sacrificed to Christ and that Christ desired to do a work for others through him.  Paul was "Christ's prisoners" so that through his service, the Gentiles may come to know Christ.

Whose life does God want you to impact through your service to Him today?

Question: What have you been willing to give up in order that others may know Christ?


Monday, March 8, 2010

One Mind

Reading through the book of Ephesians, one quickly realizes that Paul has an inspired concern for the Ephesus church; namely that the Church reflect the unity that is proper for the body of Christ. After all, it is rare that the parts of an individual's body act out of concert with one another and when they do, it's time to call in Dr. House and his famed diagnostic team. Individually, our bodies were designed so that our feet, our hands, our heart and our mind would all be working toward a common goal, whether that goal is to digest food, or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.

In the case of the body of Christ, the same thing is true and in Ephesians 2:6-7, Paul demonstrates what this goal should be.  All believers should be actively demonstrating the abundance of Christ's grace.  In saving us, God desires to use our lives to draw others to Him.  Whether we are interacting with family or interacting with strangers, whether we are alone or in a crowd, our lives should be a constant reflection of God's grace to us, because we are constantly reflecting on His kindness expressed in grace. Demonstrating the abundance of His riches towards us is the singular goal of our lives, not to proclaim our own worth, but in acknowledging our unworthiness, to proclaim the magnitude of His kindness. In recognizing that our lives our worthless apart from His grace, we display the costly and incomparable sacrifice of His life.  God choose us to be a demonstration of His kindness and grace not by merely being kind and gracious to others, but by telling of His kindness and grace to us.

May we keep this focus in mind. And may this be the common focus of all Christians' lives.

How do you keep your focus on reflecting Christ? 

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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Death Sentence

The word of God has been so thoroughly tamed that as peddled in the churches there is nothing scandalous, strenuous, or revolutionary about it. It is not even difficult. It is easier to join a Christian church than it is to join Rotary. Whereas in some eras of its history, Christianity was threatened by persecution, in our own American culture, it faces an opposite threat which lies in its very success. Christianity is dying, not of persecution or neglect, but of respectability. W. Waldo Beach from The Christian Life, Richmond, Va.: CLC Press, 1966, p. 11

Shock jock radio hosts achieved their title and their notoriety because of their ability to say things that stretched people beyond their comfort zone. Often times these diatribes pushed not only people's boundaries but the standards of good taste. However, despite the outrage that they often precipitated, the hosts' fame and wallets grew. It became so that what they said was evaluated not by the content, but by the number of listeners that it reached, and because the best way to keep people talking is to say something shocking, good manners, facts, and society's standards were often left by the wayside.

In the quotation above, Beach suggests the church faces the opposite problem. Written almost a half century ago, the author posits that the Church, in an attempt to not offend anybody, accepts everything. Read that sentence again. It does not say that the folly of the church is to accept everyone, for we know that God wishes all to come to a saving knowledge of Him (See I Timothy 2:3-4). However, loving a person and loving their behavior are two very different things. In many cases, perhaps in an effort to demonstrate love, the church has ceased to preach the hard and difficult aspects of being a Christian. And because of this, the Church ceases to be the representative of Christ in the world, and instead, because a do-good organization bound by the standards of Christianity but void of its power. For just like the Word is the light onto our individual paths, so it is for the Church. Without it, the church no longer serves its purpose.

Much has been said about the need for individuals to find and live their purpose. This idea is intertwined with the often individualistic way of American life.  The idea is that if a person does not do that which they were created for, their life will be meaningless and vapid. It is the same for the Church. If we are willing to put to death all that God called the Church should be, both the provider of love as well as the proclaimer of truth, both the dispenser of discipline as well as the refuge for the recluse, then we should not be surprised when the Church too experiences a slow and stifled death.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Cry for Others

Somewhere in most of our childhoods, we have a recollection of a time where we were criticized for being who we are. (For the less fortunate of us, we may have several memories.) For me, this time came when a classmate was hurting, and in comforting them, tears welled up in my own eyes too. I quickly learned that this type of sensitivity wasn't received well on the playground of life, and that in order to survive the schoolyard jungle, I had to learn to deal with my emotions in a less public, less noticeable way.

Much to my own chagrin, I was very successful at accomplishing this task. However, the older I get, the more I realize the gift that it is to weep and rejoice for others. After all, I'm convinced, that a one sign of maturity is that I cry for others more than I cry for myself. For in doing so, I recognize not only how small my life is, but the greatness in helping others make their life better.  When I'm more concerned about the hungry, then I am about my inconveniences, when my care for the dying supersedes my concerns over traffic, then my life is more reflective of my Savior's  for He is the One who wept over the city He loved (See Luke 19:41)

May my cries for others always be louder than my own.

How do you rejoice and weap with others?


Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Prompting of Pain

If we're honest, most of us spend quite a bit of our lives avoiding pain. Of course, there's that whole "no pain, no gain" crowd, but really, most of us are striving for comfort over discomfort, peace over chaos. We like our lives to be secure, manageable, and hopefully filled with a little fun every now and then. If we are able to do this, then most would consider our days a success.

However,  the avoidance of pain has some downfalls. Ask a teacher whose student has always been protected by mom and dad and you'll quickly learn that if we never experience pain, we would never develop into a person capable of dealing with it. Even more aggregious, if we avoid dealing with the painful situations in our lives, we forgo the opportunities they afford us to look forward to the better things ahead. This doesn't mean we should go searching for painful opportunities; no, we should rejoice in the times of solace and rest that are rarely afforded us. However, it does mean that pain of any kind on this earth should prompt us to look forward to the place where pain is obliterated and Peace reigns (Rev. 21:1-7).  For in doing so, our pain is, in part, used to bring God glory, and we recognize that no earthly pain is greater than His provision for it. Also, as Pslam 23 reveals, it's in the valleys of shadow and death that God comforts us. When we are hurting, He is near.

May God grant us the fortitude to see pain not only as a trial, but also as an opportunity, and may every moment of life be used to demonstrate how great He is.


Monday, February 15, 2010

How My Parents Made a Difference - Part 2

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the things that my parents did right (at least from my perspective) as they raised me and my sister. What I neglected to mention though, was that not only were my parents great parents, there were unbelievable examples of a godly marriage. See, my parents made a difference in my life not only because of how they treated me, but because of how they treated each other. And this example, just as much as their parenting patterns of behaviors, was formative in my life. So, in honor of my parents and Valetine's Day, I'd like to share a few other ways that my parents made a difference.

One of the most important things I learned from my parents' marriage is the beauty of sacrifice. A lot of times when we hear about sacrifice, we think about the big heroic gestures. However, I learned from my parents that sacrifice was just as important in the day-to-day decisions. My favorite example of this is my mom's willingness to always eat the leftovers. It took me years to realize it, but I finally figured out that the reason she did this wasn't because she was overly infatuated with food that had already been prepared. Instead, she did it so that my dad didn't have to. It was a simple, yet incredibly sacrificial way to do something for him. She actively demonstrated her love, one reheated bite at a time.

Another way that my parents made a difference is that they always had each other's back. Growing up.  I always knew that if I disobeyed my dad, I would be in trouble. But if I disobeyed my mom, and my dad found out about it, my punishment would be worse because in that case, not only had I disobeyed, but I had hurt my mom and my dad was intent on protecting my mom from hurt. It was very clear that taking on my mom, meant taking on my dad too, and vice versa. I can not think of a single time that my parents bad-mouthed each other, gave conflicting instructions, or in any other way demonstrated that they weren't a team. If the world attacks, they are each others' defenders. If one of them has a problem, it is quickly "their" problem to solve. When one hurts, they both do; and when one rejoices, they celebrate together. It's very clear that "what God has joined together" will not be separated.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, my parents invest in each other. My mom is the world's best softball scorekeeper, and it's not because she loves the game. But my dad does and my mom loves him, and so therefore, countless afternoons and evenings were spent together at the ballfields. My mom is a teacher who loves to support her students, my dad goes to the students' activities, because he loves to support my mom. They do things that are the other's cup of tea because when they do so, they're together. The investment pays off in big and small ways. Watch my parents work on a project, and you'll see it's like watching a carefully choreographed dance. They anticipate what each other will do, the words that will be said, and what the other needs. Now the choreography isn't always perfect, but it can get pretty close, and regardless of how the project turns out, at the end of the day, they're together They've learned to love and appreciate the things that matter to the other, because they love and appreciate each other.

My parents were great parents, but they were also great examples of what it means to be a godly husband and godly wife. And while the world rarely acknowledges either of these things, I know that my own marriage is stronger for it. And I know that in heaven, their reward will surely be great.


A Muted Response

For the past 2 weeks, this blog has been silent. The reason for this is because last Monday, my father-in-law had an unexpected and completely unforeseen stroke. As you might imagine, in the midst of dealing with the medical issues and all the paperwork that extended hospital stays entails, writing a blog, while never far from my mind, has been relegated to the pile of "things I'll get to later." And when I finally did get to it, I had to decide whether to write about the incident or not. I decided to do so, for one very important reason; in the midst of this, God has graciously taught and reminded me of important things, and I want to share these things with you.

1. God's graciousness has nothing to do with our worthiness - When things are going well, when we are doing the things that we know we aught, and we experience God's grace, we sometimes act as if its disbursement makes complete sense. After all, even in our sinfulness, we find it easier to be gracious to those who we perceive as being "good." However, just like the rain falls on the wicked and the saint, so does the sun, and God's acts of grace are prompted solely by His love, and never by our worth.

2. The church is meant to be a community. When it acts as such, there are few things in this life more precious. - Although I've been a part of a church almost my entire life, never before I have understood so clearly why God formed it to be a body of believers. Upon sharing the news of my father-in-law's stroke, we were immediately afforded encouragement and support. People we did not know were praying for us and offering assistance, and this in a situation where everything has more or less turned out o.k. (I can only imagine the response of my church in a prolonged crisis.) The abandonment of this call is probably the reason so many churches find themselves searching for direction.

3. Never underestimate the power of prayer. - We may never know how God uses the prayers of His people to bring about His purposes. Even when we don't see the results, they have an effect. Don't neglect it, and don't be afraid to share with others what's going on, so they may bring your needs before our loving Father. The work He wants to do may be in their life, as well as yours.

4. We are forced to take one day at a time in a crisis. This is good advice for every other day too. - God demonstrates His faithfulness on a daily basis. Worrying about tomorrow does no good, for His work for tomorrow has yet to be revealed.

4. Always write blogs ahead of time.  - You may never know when a crisis will hit, and you won't be able to posts for a few weeks. :-)


Better Things Ahead

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Better Things Ahead