Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Today I turn 40.  I’m not too sure how I feel about that yet.  Plenty of people have told me that they thought I was younger, which is a compliment to me.  I’ve never necessarily been one to act my age and I don’t intend to start anytime in the near future.  Having kids later in life can have that effect on you.

I’m moving into a new decade, and frankly, I haven’t been too happy about the last years of this last decade.  My early 30s were good.  I was only a few years into my marriage.  We hadn’t yet started our family, so there was a whole lot of freedom.  We enjoyed each others’ company.  Of course, 3 kids later, we still have fun and enjoy each other, it just takes a little bit….okay, a lot of intentionality to find that time.  I love my kids, but I often wonder if I am competing to be the “Worst Dad Ever” when my patience runs thin.
My late 30s, on the other hand, have been difficult.  The last few years have not been kind to me.  In my late 20s, I struggled with Lyme Disease.  In my late 30s, I have struggled with some of the effects of Lyme Disease and the treatments that I had for it.  In some ways, I have felt that I have aged significantly in the last few years.  Somehow I made it out alive, but there was more than one occasion that it was in question.  I’ve not pulled any punches recently in telling people that losing both of my parents within 21 months of each other, shortly into their retirement, all before I turned 40 has been very difficult.  I was hoping to have had so much more time with them.

So, here I am, entering into this new decade.  I guess that I can look at it as a new start with new opportunities.  My hope and prayer is that some of the difficulties that I have experienced might be helpful as I try to assist others who may be in the throes of their own personal tragedy.  We will all have to endure losses, I have had my fair share of those that have given me a heightened sensitivity to others in the same or similar circumstances.

Someone asked me the other day whether I had any “Midlife Crisis” events planned.  I haven’t really considered it too much.  I don’t make enough money to go out and buy a fancy car.  I love my wife and family and believe that marriage is a lifetime commitment, so I don’t even want to consider some of the things that other men might consider.  When I say that, I’m certainly not claiming to be better than them, because God knows my imperfections, but I do want to strive to be a consistent Christ follower.  So, it’s down to things that are limited in their cost and which will have minimal impact and zero negative impact on my family.  While I have some things in mind, I guess I will reveal them when the time comes.

So, I guess I’ll just approach this birthday like I have approached so many before this, with little fanfare.  It will be a day for my family and those who love me to celebrate the day that I was born, and then I will move on.  May this next decade take me to new places and new heights, to places where fear is left behind and where I can pursue my passions with reckless abandon.  Stay tuned, we’ll see how it goes.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Thanks, Dad

Dear Dad,

I thought I would write you just to follow up on the conversation we had the other day.  I told you how much I loved you and how thankful that I was for you.  I also told you how I couldn't have asked for a better father.  I meant everything that I said, but even though I knew that you were leaving, I guess it always comes sooner than we expect, and that's just what happened.  So, let me say a little more that I didn't get to say the other day.

Thanks for being a model of a man of integrity to me.  You always showed me to be consistent and to always live as the child of God that I claim to be.  You were always honest and truthful, even when it wasn't the easiest thing.  People might have looked at you funny when you showed that integrity, but I was looking too, and you showed me a lot.  Thanks for standing up for your convictions.  While we didn't always agree, I am thankful that you stood for things and that you did it with grace and integrity.

Thanks for caring for Mom.  I know that you always struggled to find the right words to say, but your words were more right than you realized.  You relied on cards and letters to say things that you felt like you couldn't say face to face, and Steve and I have found more and more examples of just how much you loved Mom.  Thanks for always striving to be a better husband and for admitting your shortfalls.  I know that things at the end were hard, but you had been through an awful lot and I don't fault you for being tired.

Thanks for showing me that my call to ministry was from God and that people's opinions of me shouldn't sway that.  You never considered yourself an eloquent preacher yet you preached with determination and focus.  You never considered yourself a brilliant man, but the size of your heart made anyone forget that (even though I don't think it was very true.....Dr.!).  You pressed on despite the many obstacles that you faced all along the way.  Over the course of 40+ years in ministry, you took your fair share of licks, but you continued to press on.  Over the course of 9 years in ministry, I've taken my own share, but I am constantly reminded of you and it helps me to push on.

Thanks for being transparent.  You were always honest with me about what you saw as your shortfalls.  That's not something that you encounter every day and I have done my best to use you as a model.  While I never idealized you, I always thought that you were pretty special.  I remember the compassion that you showed when Grandma was sick and you broke down at the kitchen table because it reminded you of all that you had been through with your own mother.  Thanks for not hiding your tears, they spoke to me in volumes that have left an indelible mark on my life.  In fact, when we said "good-bye" to you at the cemetery, your grandsons and your other son came around me when I shed tears of my own.  Thanks for giving me permission to cry in life's difficult situations.

Thanks for being forgiving.  I remember when I hit the house with the car on my 15th birthday.  When I confessed that it was me and not Steve's friend, you simply said, "You're a jerk, go to bed."  That line has gone down in our family folklore and I expect it will continue.  I also remember when someone bought tainted grape juice from the CVS next to your church and some people got sick during communion.  Police investigations finally  discovered that the bottle was tainted by a disgruntled employee.  Instead of meting out justice on him, you offered him the same forgiveness that we have received through Jesus Christ, even calling the employee's mother and offering words of comfort and encouragement to her.  You were forgiving to a fault sometimes, even when Mom thought that you should have spoken up more, you took the same approach that Jesus did, humbly receiving what was thrown at you without opening your mouth in defense.

Last week, I read a note that you had written to me just a few months after my first son was born.  You said that you hoped that I would avoid some of the mistakes that you had made.  Considering all that you came from and all that you had been through, I think that you did a pretty good job.  Like I said to you, I could not have asked for a better dad.  You always showed me unconditional love and, even though it was slightly embarrassing, thanks for kissing me good-bye every time that you dropped me off at school, even into middle school and high school.  I can only hope that my boys allow me the same luxury.  I am so thankful that I never wondered whether or not you loved me.

Well, I could probably write a whole lot more, but I'm going to close now.  Thanks again for all that you did.  I look forward to telling my kids all about their grandpa and how much he meant in my life.  I did my best to always tell you how much you meant and you did the same thing for me.  Thanks for always telling me how thankful you were for what I did for you, especially towards the end.  I always wished that I could do more, but I thank you for understanding.

I will miss you until I see you again.  I'm glad to know where you are, but it's hard not picking up the phone to call you, hard to not be able to hear your voice.  I've got a few voicemails from you that will have to suffice for now.

Enjoy the rewards that you have earned and the gift that you have received by grace.  Give Mom and everyone else hugs for me.  I'll look forward to the day when I can tell you all of this face to face.

I love you!

Thursday, April 25, 2013


Wishy washy.  Ever changing.  Lacking convictions.  Flighty.  Fairweather.  There are many terms that we can use for those people who fail to hold to any beliefs or convictions with firmness.  Do we stand up for what we believe in, even when it is an unpopular view or we receive criticism?  Do our convictions disintegrate when we face opposition?

My parents were people of conviction, they held firm to their beliefs, and that stance was somewhat unpopular to those who held convictions opposite to theirs.  My parents and I would not always agree on everything, but there was a mutual respect there.  They knew what they believed, could support it with more than, "That's just what I believe," and they were consistent.
I had a conversation with someone yesterday who had struggled with my father's convictions.  From their point of view, I completely understood how this could be the case.  My father gave his life to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  His desire and passion was to see people come to know who Jesus Christ is and to allow the transformation that can only come about through Jesus Christ to invade their lives and take over, not in a creepy, "I'm possessed" kind of way but in a "I'm submitting to the One who saves me" kind of way.

Please understand me, my father was not perfect.  I actually lived with my parents until I was 28 years old.  It saved me lots of money and it also gave me insight into who my parents were.  I appreciated their honesty and transparency.  Of course, I was the "baby," so I probably never fully saw everything, no matter how old you get, if you are the baby, your parents will always try to protect you from something.  It can be both endearing and frustrating at the same time.

But my parents were consistent, a rare trait and quality in today's world.  How many of us have been frustrated while in public we observe a parent reprimanding their child with idle threats that they never carry out?  How many times have we heard someone stand up for something in the privacy of a conversation only to remain silent when in a public forum?  Worse yet, how many times have we heard someone decry beliefs or behavior in public and observed them committing the very acts that they had decried while they think that no one is looking?

While we didn't always agree, my parents were consistent, and I appreciated that.  I think that it is so important for us to hold to our convictions and to understand what we believe and why we believe it.  I can't force you to believe what I believe, although I would like to convince you of it, but I can certainly hold to my convictions and allow them to be lived rather than simply spoken.

There are plenty of people who speak as if they have strong convictions and fewer who actually live those out.  I would much rather have people know my convictions by how I live than by what I say.  Sure, it's important to speak your convictions, but if there are not actions to support them, are they really worth the air that we are using to utter them?

Mom and Dad have left a legacy for many people.  When one surveys the landscape of their life, a key question is to ask whether or not they left an indelible mark.  When I ask that question of my mother and father, I can answer with a resounding, "Yes!"  I am, as many others are, proof of it.  May my convictions be evident in both what I do and what I say.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Fuel For the Fire

Writing is therapy, at least it seems that way to me.  I find it interesting that my wife had prodded me to start this blog years before it really began to serve a different purpose.  Writing gives me the opportunity to thoughtfully express what I am feeling inside, to transcribe the raw emotions that I am experiencing, and to share with honesty and transparency.

My last two years have been incredibly difficult.  In the midst of losing both of my parents, I have had to finish my seminary degree, have had a third child, have been involved with a church split, have been part of a church plant, have been executor and keeper of my father's estate, and have had various other challenges that have faced me directly or indirectly.  The old adage that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger has seemed more true than ever.  Only by the grace of God can I stand.

All of this is just fuel for my writing fire.  I will continue to write to bring healing and restoration to my soul.  I believe that we are a storied people, and while we have lost much of the tradition and heritage of stories within our own culture, we still cling to the power of story as we watch films, read books, and seek out anything that seems interesting, inviting, and even similar to our own lives.  Story makes an impact on us, especially when we find that we can relate to the story being told.

My hope and prayer is that God might use my story for the sake of healing in others.  I am not the only one who has experienced difficulty.  I am not the only one who has struggled through hard times.  But when we come together and share our stories, we realize that we are not alone.  We realize that we are together in situations in which we thought we had been abandoned.

There is much more to write and I will do just that.  I will write as much and as long as it takes.  My father was always one to tell stories.  I always loved to hear him speak of his years of growing up or the trip that he took to Europe while he was in college.  He could tell stories and I loved them, even the parts that seemed so dated and hokey.  It was those stories that really revived him towards the end. 

One of the last times that he spent time in the hospital, I remember how one of the nurses and the chaplain spent about an hour with us as Dad just told story after story after story.  He loved having an audience and he would craft the telling of the story according to the reactions of his audience.  In that way, I am my father's son.  I do the same thing.  After Dad had exhausted himself by talking, I remember the look on the face of the nurse as she told me how amazed she was by the life that she had seen in Dad.  It had been missing for so long, but these two beautiful people had given him ear to weave his stories, they had shown him respect and love, they had given him the gift of presence and of time.

We all need to be loved and needed.  In so many ways, that's what I realized that Dad needed more than ever towards the end.  There were stories that I wanted to know more about, but I also knew that he just needed to be loved.  He had lost his companion and his partner amidst one of the most grueling journeys that he had ever been on, and he felt alone.  In the end, my prayer was that he would not feel that way when he died.  It broke my heart to think that he might die all by himself in his room with no one there with him.  What a gift from God it was to both of us that we were together when he passed through death into life everlasting.  I love you, Dad.  How precious it was to spend those last hours with you.  I can't wait to hear your stories again and to give you a great, big hug.  I miss you so much already.