Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ups and Downs
Once again I am struck by the ups and downs, good and bad, even life and death that come our way.
With our blended family, we have had the privilege of participating in five family Christmas celebrations. While it is somewhat stressful and causes a lot of busyness, I consider it a joy. How can a "celebration" be a bad thing, right? Amongst these holiday gatherings, we have also been blessed to attend two weddings. One of them being my oldest daughter, Amy. Wahoo Amy and Pete. What a joy, a gift, to give my daughter's hand in marriage to a fine young man like Pete. As I've said many times in the last few weeks "it's all good".
In the midst of our celebrating, though, comes the reminder that this life is flawed, that this world is stained. On Monday, the 28th, it would have been Lisa and Phil's 25th wedding anniversary. Marking points such as those are still difficult. Despite all efforts to try to keep one's mind from "going there", it still does. Lisa and I had a meaningful evening of reminiscing. We watched a video of their 20th anniversary trip to Hawaii and also a video of Bryan's speech at his high school chapel during his senior year. It was a speech in which he remembered the day his father died and his journey since that day that has lead to a deeper faith in Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
Then yesterday, as we were preparing to leave for our last Christmas party of the season, we got a call from one of Carol's brothers. Bill and Susan were also attending this party, as it was a gathering of that arm of the family. One of Susan's sisters had been told that she had cancer just about one month ago. She was determined to fight it. Bill and Susan received the bad news that she had passed away yesterday afternoon, just hours before our party. Another young widow, another motherless family, another family missing a dear sister, aunt, daughter. It's so wrong!
That's why we need Christmas. That's why we need a Savior like Jesus. That's why we need someone with the power to save. . . someone to make it alright.
Please pray for the family of Susan's sister as they start the new year with very sad hearts and a hole in their lives that only the Holy Spirit can fill.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Oh boy! Our Shoreway house is almost complete. There are a few things that need to be done yet but for the most part ….
We can’t wait.
As with many blended families/households our housing situation has been in flux for too long. Lisa and I knew, before we were married, that we had to address the issue of housing. Thank goodness that God places people in my life with more wisdom than I have the horsepower to muster on my own. Lisa helped me see that the best situation would be to sell both of our homes and get something that we could call ours. To have one spouse move into the home of the other in our situation just did not seem like a long term, healthy situation. As many of you know Lisa and her family have moved three times since Phil died. When we move into Shoreway it will be their fourth. We have boxes that they have not opened since moving out of their Woodsboro home in 2006.
When we were married in Feb of 08, Lisa and Kelli moved in with me in the home I had owned for nearly 28 yrs. We began working toward fixing things up sufficiently for selling, but that took time. Understandably that time period was difficult for Lisa. It’s way past time for Lisa and her kids have a place that they can settle into, a place to call home.
Even before we were married we started going through open houses just to get an idea of what might be available and what we may like to look for in a house. At that time we never imagined building a new house. We continued to look throughout the first half of 2008 and in some houses we would like some things and other things in other houses. We never really found one that we really cared to pursue.
Through a series of events we decided to consider building. We found a lot in a nice, new sub-division that a builder wanted to sell, badly. He made us an offer we couldn’t refuse and … here we are. The process has been interesting, at times stressful. We have always been excited about the progress and now the move in date is very near! A new start, in a new home, built on love and grace, is a gift.
We have felt tremendous support during our sojourn from all of you who have kept Lisa and me and our families in your thoughts and prayers. We can not thank you enough. We ask for continued prayer that our new home, Lisa’s and mine, will be a home where the love of God is always present and all who walk through the doors are as blessed as we have been.
Psalm 127:1

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sometimes, it seems, life is full of so many questions. Lately I have been thinking a lot about grace. As a “lifelong” Christian I understand grace. I understand how “amazing” it is. I think I have a good grasp of the concept.
My question is why do I feel so “disgraced” at times? Why do I feel that at different times something quite the opposite of grace is at work in my life? Does grace ebb and flow, increase and decrease? Is grace given then reneged upon? What does it mean to “fall from grace”? Do things I say, do or think cause this (perceived) retraction of grace? If so then was it ever “grace”…? Do I have to earn grace? Is it right for a Christian to assume grace?
I’ve come to believe that grace, God’s grace, is very foundational to my faith. I am constantly aware that I cannot earn love, salvation, Kingdom consideration, without grace. So what happens to faith when that foundation seams to dissolve? Inevitably it gets shaky.
I remember a poster that I had on my bedroom wall as a teen. It showed a chess board with one of the king game pieces on its normal spot and the only other piece on the board was a pawn, many spaces away. The caption said “if you no longer feel close to God, guess who moved”. I know God is constant. His love is constant. I know He is the same one true God yesterday, today and forever. I know that throughout history He has loved and lavished grace on others just as reject able as me. That gives me hope.
Recently, I have come across the following excerpt from a sermon by Lewis Smedes.
“Well, what's so terrific about grace? I’ll tell you. I'll tell you one thing: for me, it gives me courage and confidence to know that the Maker of the Universe is on my side and that the Judge of the whole world accepts me just the way I am, with all my blots and blemishes. The bad with the good all mixed together. He accepts me, all of me, with no strings attached.
Without the grace of God, I think I’d be haunted by a brooding, guilty conscience about some of the harmful things I’ve said and done in my lifetime. But with the grace of God, I can look myself straight in the eyes and say to myself: "Nothing bad you have ever done can get God to reject you." And nothing can get God to accept you more willingly than he accepts you right now.
Some days when we get sick and tired of trying to be good enough to be acceptable to other people, fed up with trying to make sure people like us and accept us, God's grace just may slip inside our ears and whisper to our hearts: "You are already accepted. You are accepted. You’re accepted. And you will never, never be rejected." That, that is what is so amazing about grace.”

I know this is true. I will try to live as one accepted, never to be rejected, a “child” of God!
2 Corinthians 12:9

Sunday, March 01, 2009

“The Shack”
I had heard a little about this book titled The Shack and it sounded like something I would like to read so I included it on my Christmas list. Sure enough, I did receive it as a gift, and am now reading it. My guess is that many of you have already read it. It is very thought provoking, particularly regarding the nature of our triune God.
I am not a swift reader and am not able to spend a lot of time reading so I cover only a few pages each day. In this book, on nearly every page, I have found words that are profound to me. As I read them I find myself thinking that I would like to explore certain concepts the author touches on and possibly write about them. But these days, it seems, writing doesn’t come as naturally to me and there is simply less time to do that sort of thing (and that’s ok, I’m not complaining).
One thing, though, that I’ve read recently is kind of sticking with me. In one of the passages the character representing God the Father tells the main (human) character that “life is a process not an event”. For some reason that phrase keeps floating around in my head. I’m not sure why it hits me so profoundly. It may be because of all the “processing” (could make a reference to being in a food processor here but that would be a little melodramatic) that has occurred in my life in the last few years.
We sometimes think of our life, our time on this planet, as an event, I think. Maybe it’s that we look at our lives as a series of events. We merely go from one thing to the next as time goes on and “that’s life”. I have come to understand that a series of events does not equal a process. A process can be defined as a series of actions but with a purpose. A process implies a change or on going developments, with growth and improvement as a result. Maybe the wise among us learn this very early on in life. Maybe for some of us it takes a little more time, like a “process”.
I am thankful that we are not alone in this life long process. I am thankful that the creator of this universe is with us every step. I am thankful that He loves us unconditionally, even when we screw up big time. If we allow Him to lead us, if we will follow, if I will slow down enough to listen, the process of healing, of redemption, of sanctification can continue more effectively.

Monday, February 09, 2009

God is good! This Sunday, the 8th, is our first anniversary. Lisa and I have so much to be thankful for. Some time ago I wrote about how our lives are like jigsaw puzzles and we work throughout our lives to complete the picture that God intended when he created the pieces. Along the way we lose pieces so the picture has to change. In this past year, Lisa and I have been striving to make something beautiful from the “puzzle pieces” that remain in our lives. Some pieces seem to fit together more effortlessly than others, but, I believe, God is continuing to make a beautiful “picture” in our lives.
Thank you to all of you who have supported us in the past in so many ways. We ask you to keep lifting our family up in prayer as we continue to work at getting our pieces to fit into one, pleasant, and fulfilling picture.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Friday Night
Something that I think about often is how life all fits together. Maybe I am learning more about this as I age. Maybe I see things a little more in the rear view mirror (as my rear view mirror grows larger every day). I see how things from the past, choices, events, relationships, etc. continue to “ripple” into the future. Some of those things are not necessarily good things. Bad choices continue to have unwanted consequences. But there are so many good things that, by God’s grace, have happened to me in the past that I can still enjoy the blessings of them now as life goes on. One such time of enjoyment was this past Friday night.
Raidel is a young man from Cuba who came to live for a time with our family. He came to us in 2002 and continues to live in the area while attending seminary. I consider him my "Cuban son". He is married now and he and his wife look forward to working in God’s kingdom wherever they are called. Raidel had to basically leave his family behind when he made the decision to study in the US. He has been back to Cuba for visits but those are brief and few.
Because of the circumstances, I never anticipated that I would ever have the opportunity to meet Raidel’s parents. That has changed this winter as both Raidel’s mother and father are here visiting. This past Friday, Lisa and I had the pleasure of taking Raidel, Marcy and Raidel’s Mom and Dad to DeWitt to visit my Mom. She and my sister made a fantastic meal (as usual) and we had a great time. The blessing was in seeing my Mom and Raidel’s Mom bond. Even though they could not understand any thing the other was saying because of the language barrier, they seemed to connect as Godly, Christian mothers. Raidel’s parents were so happy to finally express their appreciation for our family’s care and nurturing of Raidel. His Dad made special mention of wanting to meet and express thanks to the family/parents of the persons that had become loving parents to Raidel. It was very moving. It was a meaningful, memorable, moment in time.
Anyway, I thank God for giving us the courage to step up in the past when maybe it would be easier to take a different path. To be bold in our faith, to step out of our comfort zone, to challenge our “laziness” is to allow God to work in such a way that years into the future we can still be blessed by the ramifications of our good deeds. I can only imagine what I have missed in my life by refusing to obey and follow in those circumstances where God has tried leading in my life.