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Another Note to Dad

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Hey Pop,

Remember in my last note how I asked you for more?  I told you that you opening your eyes was awesome, was an absolute God-send, but that I wanted more.  Remember that?  Remember that I told you that I was going to keep swinging for the fences in prayer, because I’m God’s kid, and I know He love us?

Well Pop, He answered.  He answered in a BIG way!

When I got to the hospital this morning, Mom and Stacy were already with you.  Nita and Becky were tearing up in the waiting room.  I was worried…I gotta admit.  But they smiled so big and said “He squeezed your sisters hand!!”

Well you know me…I had to see this for myself!  You did give me Thomas as a middle name, you know!  So I came back, suited up, and walked up to your bed. As soon as I picked up your hand, you looked at me!  When I asked you to squeeze my hand if you knew me, you did!  Dad YOU DID!!!  I asked if you knew me, and you nodded your head!

Then I asked if I could pray for you, you squeezed my hand.  Pop, honestly, I don’t know what I prayed, but I prayed, and cried, and prayed, and cried!  And Dad, you kept squeezing my hand through it all.  You’re in the hospital bed, and you’re consoling me.

You were still being my dad, taking care of your little boy.

Then we got more news from the doc that all the tests on you had come back clean.  Dad can you understand the miracle that THAT was?  Your brain was fine Dad!  That’s astounding!  That’s miraculous!  That’s God!  They took the respirator out, and said we could go see you.

Well Pop, I’d told everyone that I just wanted to hear your voice again.  I wanted to hear my dad talk to me.  And pop, you just gave me the best Christmas present I could ask for:  you touched my face and said “I love you.”  Man…as Ted says, it got a little dusty in there then.  It got a LOT dusty in there!

Dad, I haven’t told you this, but when I first got the hospital last Saturday night, and when I went back to see you, for some reason, the first 2 lines of Psalm 27 were on my mind:

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

Well Pop, I reckon I should have read the whole Psalm then, but you know me, I’m a little slow on the uptake at times.

Then Wednesday (man dad, Wednesday was a tough day), I woke up and had this on my heart:

“I would have lost heart, unless I believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” 

Guess which Psalm that’s in?  Yep.  27, verse 13.  You know what the next verse is?

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!”

Truly, God is good Pop.  I’ve always known it.  Now I know it just a little bit better than before.  Ok, a LOT better than before.  Thanks for giving me my Christmas gift a two weeks early.  It’s the best one you’ve ever given me.    I love you dad.

 

A Note to My Dad

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Hey Pop,

I was thinking about you today, and about how you love to get letters and cards and such.  Well, I’m not much of a letter writing guy, but I do blog (occasionally), so I thought I’d do this.  I really hope I can show it to you one day soon.  I just wanted you to know some things. 

I’m really proud of you.  I want you to know that.  I’ve often overheard you speak of how proud you are of your kids, well let me tell you, your kids are pretty proud of you.  You have no idea how awesome it is to have person after person come and tell you how amazing your dad is, how you make them feel like they’re the most important person in the world when you talk to them.  I’m like, “Yeah…that’s MY dad!”

I want you to know that people love you.  Dad, I mean they REALLY love you.  Tonight, we got home from sitting at the hospital, and you got a card from your friends at the gym.  It is FULL of signatures and prayers and well wishes.  From the GYM dad.  So many visitors coming by just to let us know how much you mean to them, to let us know how much they love you and that they’re praying for you.  Even the Firemen that came to the house to help when all this started have called to check on you.  You’ve got a lot of friends Pop.  Have you ever met a stranger?  Nope…that’s my dad.

I want you to know that there are people praying for you all over the place.  And I mean all over the place, Pop.  From Pennsylvania, to my church in Apex, to Oklahoma, to your church, through text messages, emails and more, prayers are going up on your behalf.  Today alone, we prayed at the hospital at least 4 times as a group, not to mention all the prayers we made individually.  So for me, it’s a privilege to pray for MY dad.  I know you pray for me.

I gotta tell you a funny thing.  I brought my guitar to play for you yesterday.  Amanda says it wasn’t loud enough, but I didn’t want to bug everyone on the floor.  Anyway, when we were done, we were trying to get you to respond if you liked it.  We asked you to wiggle your toe.  You didn’t.  When I asked if you didn’t like it, you wiggled your toe.  Always the funny man…that’s my dad!

Today, you made my day.  I needed something from you, dad.  Something bigger than anything I’ve ever asked for.  Something bigger than anything you’ve ever given me.  I needed my dad to look at me.  I needed to see your eyes Pop (You opened them for Ted, but we’ll talk about that later.  :-) I’d asked you to open them yesterday, but you didn’t.  I really needed this today Dad.  Really.

And Pop, like you alway have, you came through.  When you heard my voice and Amanda’s voice, you turned your head our way and opened your eyes.  That was the best gift you could have given me at that moment.  I will never forget it.

But now, I want more.  Just like a kid, ain’t it?  Give ‘em a gift, and they want more.  But hey, just like when we used to go to Red Lobster as a kid, and you told me to order anything I wanted (probably a statement you regretted later), I want to go big.

Jesus said  “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”  His Father is my Father, so I’m swinging for the fences dad.  I want to see you talking Pop.  I want to have a conversation with my dad, and tell you how much I love you.  I want you to squeeze my hand when I ask.  I want you to come home with us.

It’s a lot, I know…but my God is a great big God.  And I know He loves me and you.  So I’m asking.

I love you Pop.  See you tomorrow…

 

It’s Your Choice

IMG_3957One of the most beautiful things, and at the same time the most perplexing things about life is our ability to choose.  From the smallest things, like what you’re going to put in my coffee, to the biggest, like who you’re going to marry, we make choices everyday.  Our minds can grasp the difference between two or more ideas, concepts, paths…and we choose the one we want.

Which road to take to work?  Which place to eat for dinner?  Which song to listen to?  What show to watch?  What car to drive?  What time to go to sleep? What book to read?  What shirt to wear?

Do you ever stop and think about it?  I’m sure many of us sit and wonder what life would be like today if we had chosen some different things along the way.  Certainly, for all of us, we can say it would be very different than it is.

And yet, in all the choosing, with all the variety of choices we can face, some with hundreds of possibilities, there is one choice which is cut and dry, one or the other.  I’ll let Moses say it for me:

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may life and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess…I call heaven and earth as witness today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.”  (Deut. 30:15-16, 19)

Life and good.  Death and evil.  The One true God vs. everything that is false.  We all have this choice to make, and there is no choice that has greater consequences for us, both now and forever.

In the books of Chronicles, we see that each king that rose to power had this choice to make.  Many chose poorly, and chose to run after the false gods of the world, rather than walk in the ways of their father David, and serve the One True God.  Yet others chose well…they chose to follow after God.  As was written about one of these kings, Jotham:

“So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the Lord his God.” (2 Chron. 27:6)

Jotham chose to honor God, to obey His Word, to walk in His ways.  But after him arose another king, Ahaz, who did not choose wisely, but walked in the ways of the world, and worshipped false gods.

It hit me that not only do all of us have to choose, but (I know this is a shocker) my kids have to choose, too.  My son can go one of two ways:  the way of life, or the way of death.  God’s way, or the world’s way.  My choice to follow God will have an effect, I pray, and a good one, but one day, he will, he must choose for himself.

I pray he chooses wisely.  I pray I do my part to raise him to know and love the Lord, and he chooses to do just that.  But it will one day be his choice, just like Jotham and Ahaz.

So think about it today…what is your choice?

Thankful

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Every night, when I put my kids to bed, before we pray, we have a little routine we do.  We call it our “thankfuls.”  I alternate nights sitting on one of the girl’s beds (my boy is still in his crib…that would be awkward), and whoever is in the other bed goes first, listing their “thankfuls” for the day.

I don’t remember when we started it, but it’s a nightly event that can range from the grumpy “can I just say one thing?” to the itemized listing of every toy, every blessing, every possible thing from that day (and even days to come!).  My little man is in there with us from time to time, as we’re trying to get him involved…but a 22 month old isn’t much interested in anything except pouncing on his sister’s heads and jumping on the bed.  One day…

Today, my thankful list was a bit different.  Had a little mishap with my keys tonight when I stopped by the store on the way home, and indadvertedly dropped them in my car seat (I blame my friend with whom I was distracted conversing with on the phone…you know who you are!).  So I had to call Amanda and have her lug the kids all the way up to meet me with the spare key.

As I killed time wandering around the different stores in the shopping center, I finally got bored and ended up at my car.  It was a nice, cool autumn night, so I plopped down on my truck and proceeded to check emails.

Then my phone died.

So, what was a 21 century guy to do at this time?  Well, I decided I’d list everything I was thankful for.  And you know what I concluded?  I am a blessed man!

  • Thankful for a Savior Who loved me, gave Himself for me, took my sins on His blameless shoulders, and set me free.
  • Thankful for a wife who is beautiful, inside and out, and who has been the absolute epitome of grace to me in the course of our 15 years of marriage.  To say I don’t deserve her would be an understatement.  I married WAAAAAAAAY up!
  • Thankful for three beautiful and wonderful kids, two girls and a boy, who fill my life with laughter and joy.
  • I’m thankful for my entire family, both by blood and by marriage, who are such a huge blessing to me.
  • I’m thankful for my church family…the family I would not have if it wasn’t for Jesus.
  • I’m thankful for my “Taco Tuesday” brothers and the blessing of breaking tortillas and the Word with them every week.  They sharpen me!
  • I’m thankful for my “job”, if that’s even the right word to use for what I get to do everyday:  go to church and be blessed by the people I come in contact with.  It’s hard sometimes, but man, where else would I go?  Jesus alone has the Words of life!
  • I’m thankful for the amazing brothers and sisters who serve in the worship ministry, using the gifts they’re given to bless God and others.  They bless me!
  • I’m thankful for the gift of music, and being able to share it with so many amazing people.

But I realized I’m thankful for some things I wouldn’t have thought I’d have listed:

  • And I’m  thankful for the 2 kids we lost during pregnancy, who are with the Lord now, knowing no sorrow or pain.  I’ll meet them one day.
  • I’m thankful for the tough seasons of life.  The times when it seemed life was crashing down around me.  The times when careers ended, only to lead to new ones down the road.
  • The hard times of ministry when you realize God is making you stronger through them, equipping you and causing you to rely on him.
  • The tough times financially when you didn’t know how you would make it, but God got you through, sometimes in miraculous ways.

And those are just some of the things.  God knows, I could go on and on.  But it did me good to sit and dwell on these things tonight.

What about you?  You counted your blessings lately?

And oh yeah…that pic up above?  I’m very thankful for moments like that.  They fly by too quickly.

Remembering

(I originally posted this after a trip to NYC with my bride, celebrating our 10th anniversary.  I felt it appropriate to repost it today.  12 years since the world changed…do you remember where you were?  Do you remember how it felt?  America…bless God.)

Well, we made it to the top of the tallest building in NYC. And let me
tell you, it was worth the wait. A picturesque day, and view to match.
I chose this pic because of what you see, but also because of what’s
missing. This is a shot looking south toward the spot where the World
Trade Center towers stood. They should be dominating this scene.

We made it down to Ground Zero (after a lunch in Little Italy near
some mafioso, and an encounter with a less than corteous tour guide).
And while the site itself is nothing but a fenced off construction
area, little St. Paul’s chapel was almost overwhelming. If you
remember, this church sits directly across he street from Ground Zero.
It was turned into a rest area of sorts for all the firemen and
volunteer clean-up workers after the attacks. Now, it’s a memorial to
the men and women who served there in the days and weeks after 9/11.

Powerful is an understatement.

One of the oldest churches in the city stood ready to help at her
darkest hour. In the midst of all the destruction and carnage, an
oasis of hope. God only knows the hope that church gave to those
workers, and to the families missing their loved ones.

In the cemetery behind the church, looking over at the WTC site, there
at two graves side by side. Those graves are for two men who served in
the Revolutionary War, who fought the first war for our freedom. Their
graves are marked by two long rectangular stone slabs, side by side
and facing the WTC. I couldn’t help but think how they stand for the
two men that stood tall for us, and for the towers that were brought
down in opposition to that very freedom.

But that freedom is bigger than those two towers. It’s bigger than all
of us. And today, I remembered just how precious it is. I remembered
how I felt when I saw that second plane hit the towers that day. I
remember how they tried to take our freedom.

But today, I saw thousands of people come to that spot. I saw a city
bursting with people, a city that the terrorists had hoped to crush,
going about its business. Walking free.

And if that wasn’t enough, as another thumb of the nose to the
terrorists, the Freedom Tower, scheduled to be finised in 2011, ten
years later, will reclaim the tallest building title for the WTC,
standing a whopping 1776 feet.

1776.

While the significance might be lost on the enemies of freedom, it
will surely not be on us.

God bless America.

Stand Still and See

IMG_3738I’ve been thinking on a particular theme of late.  It’s a common thread that I’m starting to think sums up much of my generation:  we give up too quickly.

It starts with small things, or “disposable” items as we call them now.  Some of these are good things, like disposable diapers (hallelujah…thank You Jesus!), while others are just wasteful.  For example, on a recent remodeling project at home, my first instinct was to rip out all the moldings and buy new…but why?  Because I didn’t want to do the work to fill all the old holes and trim off old caulk.  It would have been easier to just replace it (I reused all that I could, just so ya know). But here’s the thing: ease doesn’t always mean “best.”  Can I get an amen?

These are small things, but I’m coming to realize this idea , to use a phrase from the politics of my childhood, “trickles down” into other areas of our lives.  Unfortunately, it  creeps into our relationships with others.  I read an article this morning about “leases” in marriage.  Huh?  Yeah…instead of a lifetime covenant between two people, you sign an agreement to stay married for a time, with an opt out clause at the end.  I’m serious.  You can read it here if you’d like (be warned, it’s not an easy read).

We are a consumer culture that figures, hey, if I don’t like it, I can exchange it.  But again, is that the best?

I think the root of it is impatience.  We want what we want, and we want it now.  Easy credit gets us what we want, materialistically speaking.  Why shouldn’t it be the same in the rest of life?  Not happy, then leave.  Not getting what I want, then quit.  We want our lives to be as conveniently wrapped up and packaged as the food we order in the drive-thru.  Drive up, place your order, get it your way, and go on.

But life is just not that neat, is it?

Sometimes, it requires that we dig in.  Sometimes, life requires that we make hard choices. Sometimes, life requires that we wait, and that we watch. 

I was reading in 2 Chronicles this week, and came upon the story of Jehoshaphat.  He was a successful king, one of those rare “good kings” in Scripture.  After a time of relative peace and plenty, the enemies of Judah were literally lining up to invade.

It didn’t look good.  Jeho knew he couldn’t defeat the army assembling to attack.  He knew that there was no where to run.  So, not knowing what to do, he did the best thing we could all do in these situations:  he prayed.  And this was the answer he got:

“You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the LORD is with you.” (2 Chron 20:17)

Stand still and see.  Do you think that was easy for him to do?  Probably not.  He probably thought he was going to get his tail handed to him by Moab.  But God’s Word was clear:  stand still and see.

How many times do we miss what God intends for us because we just won’t stand still and see?  We try to kick open doors that are firmly shut.  We try to make a way where there is no way.  We jump to conclusions about people, or jobs, or whatever, before the truth is known, or before the “battle” is really done.

Maybe God just wants us to hush, stand still, and see.  Maybe, just maybe, if we trust Him (like we say we do) He will do marvelous things, the things that the Bible we read clearly says He’s going to do.

Maybe we just need to take Him at His Word and stand still and see. 

Cause you know what?  As Yogi Berra said:  It ain’t over ’til it’s over.  And folks, until God says it’s over, let me tell you, it ain’t over.

IMG_3926I’ve been thinking a lot about “time” lately.  And not because it’s been 2 months since I last blogged, either.  And not because my last 30-something birthday is approaching this year.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking about what we do with our time, who we spend it on…how we redeem it.

I know this is horribly obvious, but we all have a limited amount of time.  We aren’t getting any more of it, and, for most of us, we don’t know how much we have left.  The Bible says in Psalm 139:16: “Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.  And in your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.”

Elsewhere, the psalmist wrote “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12)

How do you number something you don’t know the amount of?  You treat every day as if it was your last.  You make it count.  You try not to waste its preciousness, because we’ve all been given a set amount of time.  We’ve all been allotted a number of days.  And we’ve all been put where we are for a reason.  We’ve been given the things we’ve been given for a reason. What will we do with them?

As I’ve been spending time going through the books of 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles, I’ve been especially struck by the passing of the kingdom from one king to another, and how each man handled the time he was given.

Asa was one of the relatively rare “good kings” of Judah.  2 Chronicles 14:2 says that “Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord His God.” Read through the Chronicles, and you’ll find those are rare qualities indeed.

I’d say they are just as rare  today.

One of the things I believe we seldom give our awareness to is that, one day, we’ll be gone.  One day, my son will carry my name on.  One day, my girls will leave my home (oh Lord this is hard to write) and start one of their own.  One day, my grandkids (Lord willing) will be here, and I’ll just be a picture on a wall (or smartphone/watch/screen thingy).

What am I doing to prepare THEM for that day?  What am I doing to prepare ME for that day?!!!  Honestly, we all go through our days pretty much like we’re always going to be here, because we refuse to face (unless we have to) that we won’t.  We think we’ve got time.

But do we?

We are all here for a reason.  It may not be reigning as king over a distant land, but it will probably involve coming into contact with hundreds of people in the course of time, and leaving some kind of mark on them.  It may involve having and raising kids, and having part in that indelible mark on the world.  It may be loving our wife through a trial we never asked for.  It may mean having responsibility for the lives of hundreds of people, or more.

Whatever the reason, God knows.  And if you seek Him, He’ll show it to you.  It can’t be missed, because He’s not the author of confusion.  You may get 40 years for it, like David and Solomon did.   You may get more.  You may get less.

The question is, what will you do with it?  Who will you serve?  What will you do with your own little piece of time?

Me?  I hope that one day it will be said that I walked in the ways of my father, and did what was right and good in the eyes of the Lord…with my wife, my kids, my ministry…that I did it as unto the Lord.  Lord willing…

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