Mother’s Day 2016

This week has been like no other in my life. What a ride! To cap it off, I have the privilege to honor one of the two best moms who ever mom’d. Two and a half years ago, I wrote a post telling the story of my mom, and my now-fiancee. My mom’s name was Sarah Jane, and the woman God has ordained to be my life’s partner is Sarah-Jane. The similarities only start there.

I was blessed with an amazing mother. By virtue of her example, I know an incredible IMG_6752mother when I see one. Sarah-Jane has two incredible boys. I am so fortunate to soon be the stepfather to these young men who love each other and their mom in such a special way.

I was a knucklehead when I was a kid. Though I had such an incredible mother who sacrificed so much for me, I didn’t appreciate her nearly as much as she deserved. Sarah-Jane’s boys are so far ahead of me in that department at the stages of life they are in.

I couldn’t be more proud of Sarah-Jane for the mom, and the woman she is. She is so loved and respected by so many people, and her sons know they were blessed by God with the woman he chose to raise them.

My mom has been gone since 2009, but her influence is alive in my heart to this day, and I know her seal-of-approval is etched in Sarah-Jane. They never met in this life, but the two women who have loved me most will one day meet in eternity.

Though I was slow in appreciating my mother, I was able to learn how important it is to recognize the special bond between moms and their kids. And because of that, I know just how wonderful a mom and woman I have in my life today.

Somewhere, pigs are flying

The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.

Thomas Paine

Two years and nine months ago, my life changed forever. I knew it then, and I know it now more than ever. That knowledge didn’t mean it came easily. It’s been anything but easy. That’s why the quote above has been one to which I’ve held closely for some time. In fact, I remember sharing it with Sarah-Jane very early on in, what was then, our long-distance relationship.

For those of you who know us and have been following our relationship in person, or perhaps on Facebook, you may know that the past two years have been fraught with challenges. We have always gotten along incredibly. But there were things we had to walk through together, and individually. It’s been a grueling process. But how glorious the triumph.

It is my profound pleasure and blessing to announce for the both of us, we are engaged to IMG_5388be married!

I know, right?

True to our personalities, there was no fanfare in the moment of engagement. After the road we have each taken in our lives to get to this moment, we just had a private moment when we mutually shared and agreed that it’s time.

God has taken each of us through something of a gauntlet in life, and in our relationship. But the conflict has never been with each other. It has been with wrestling with our individual regrets, disappointments and consequences in our lives before we knew one another existed. Those challenges really stressed us and our relationship significantly. There were stretches where we were essentially mere friends. But God never gave up, even when it was tempting for us to do so.

For those of you in Rhode Island, before you even ask, there is no ring yet. We shopped a little over the weekend, and we think she found what she wants. So it’s coming in the near future. I don’t know how guys do it, surprising their ladies and popping open a ring box. I wouldn’t pick out a top or a pair of shoes for her without her approval. No way I’m doing that with a ring!

So, with all that said, thank you to those who have invested in us. Those of you who have prayed for us. Those of you who have taken our phone calls and bazillion text messages when we needed our friends. We will be revealing more plans as time moves on, but we’re both too stinking excited to not share this all with you!

 

Mission Field: Facebook

I am a Christian. Hopefully this statement doesn’t come as a surprise to those of you who know me. Even if you don’t know me well, even if we haven’t had conversations about faith, church or anything else, I hope that the way I have presented myself, my speech, my character, and my behavior hasn’t compromised my identity as one who loves God and loves people. Hopefully I’ve made you laugh. Hopefully I’ve brought something of value to your life. Hopefully, if you need someone to talk to or ask for prayer, you’ll feel I’m someone you can trust. Hopefully our association has changed your opinion of Christians as they are characterized by Hollywood and those who think we hate those who aren’t like us.

My intended audience for this post is my fellow believers. If you’re not one who goes to church or considers yourself to be “religious”, please don’t feel that this means you need to stop reading. In fact, I encourage you to continue reading. I and my intended audience welcome you hold me/us accountable.

It’s easy to define the mission field as some far off foreign country. For over a century, yeah, that’s pretty much been accurate. People leaving the familiarity and comfort of their home, families and culture to go off to some impoverished people on the other side of the planet. Today, the world is quite literally at our fingertips. At any moment of the day, you have the ability to communicate with people all over the world.

Here’s where I’m going with this. In “real life”, how do we communicate? A conversation? Of course. Our words are a very important part of communication. However, it’s really only a fraction of how and what we communicate about ourselves. No matter where you go, no matter what you’re doing, you’re communicating with people you don’t even realize. How you dress communicates something. How you respond to stress, the music you listen to, the jokes you tell, the pictures on your wall or desk at work, your attitude, your work ethic. These are just some of the almost infinite ways we communicate who we are and what we’re about.

With that being said, I think of social media. Last quarter, Facebook reported over 1.19 billion monthly active users. One in seven people on earth use Facebook. My question to you is, what are you communicating to your mission field? I have to admit, I have been seriously disturbed by some of the things I have seen posted by Christians I know. I have seen vile profanity, I have seen sexually provocative and even perverse “shares” and “likes” of material that grieves the heart of God.

I am no prude, nor am I perfect. I have found things to be funny that I know God doesn’t approve of. I am human. You are too. I get it. But I am a child of the most-high God. I represent Him. I fail Him, but I am still His ambassador to anyone and everyone who I communicate with, both directly and indirectly. facebook

Just as I don’t walk around with a twenty pound bible with which I bludgeon people over the head, I don’t use Facebook as a battering ram of piety. I post videos of cats, I rant and joke about sports and pop culture. I occasionally share some of my political views as they relate to the direction of our country and current events. I am not fake. I really try to be as real as I can be. It does no one, including you and God, any good if you pretend to be one thing to the public, but you’re someone completely different when no one is looking.

My challenge to you, and to myself, is that our lives are a fitting and suitable representation of a life changed and perpetually influenced by the saving and unmerited grace of God. Be real. Be a human being. Laugh, cry, joke, rant. Be flawed, but be honest. People respect and identify with authenticity. When you miss the mark, share what God taught you through it. Testify of God’s mercy and abundant grace. Moses, David, Solomon, Peter, Paul and countless others in the bible failed God miserably at times. They all failed in what they communicated to others. But they also turned it around and brought glory to God and influenced those who were watching them.

We are to be in the world, not of it. The world’s standard is not God’s. We live by a higher moral code. Share your cat videos. Share your funny memes. But think carefully about the stuff to which you attach your name, your reputation and your associations. Be consistent. In real life as well as online, the things you say and do should not contradict each other. Out of the same mouth cannot come blessing and cursing. Whether people admit it or not, they want and need us to be different. They desperately need to see that we can walk through life right beside them, but we don’t fall into the same traps because God is alive in our hearts and lives. They need the hope we profess.

They are watching.

Re-membering

This week is the definition of bittersweet for me. Last Sunday would have been my mom’s 80th birthday, and today will be the first October 30th since 1935 without my dad.

The title of this post is not a typo. The word remember means bringing back that which is broken. Imagine one of your arms being broken from your body. The act of restoring it to your shoulder is re-membering. IMG_5453

For several years in the 1990s, my parents served on the board of directors of an orphanage in Mexico. I had the privilege of visiting and ministering in this orphanage. It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget. Being with these children, with whom I could barely communicate because of the language barrier, touched my heart in a way I never knew possible. We laughed, played and even cried together. This was my first experience in such a ministry, and it never would have happened were it not for my parents.

This past Sunday, the 80th anniversary of my mom’s birth, we had a special missionary guest. His ministry?

Orphans in Haiti.

On the day that held a special place in my heart as I remembered my mom, God sent a messenger who re-animated a chamber in my heart for those with no parents or blood relatives.

Re-membering.

Today, as I think of my dad, and for the first time, being unable to see or even call him to wish him a special day and tell him I love him, I re-member his unwavering integrity and character. An imperfect man, yes, but one who wouldn’t allow himself to knowingly do the wrong thing whether people would know or not. HIs example has served as an inspiration to me throughout my adult life.

Re-membering their love and devotion to one another. Re-membering their steadfast pursuit and love of God and people. Re-membering the laughter. Re-membering the tears.

My heart was broken on March 20, 2009, and again on August 5, 2015. But as I re-member the parents God blessed me with, and think of those who have no parents, my heart is restored and filled with joy, humility, and resolve. A resolve to make a difference in lives, just as my parents did. By any means necessary. Even if it seems crazy. Even if it seems impossible. Even if it seems too late. Even if it seems too expensive.

God showed me through my parents that all He needs is a willing heart, and lives will be changed.

It must start with mine.

Thank you Mom and Dad. I miss you. But you are part of me as I re-member you. May my life be a continuation of the spiritual heritage you began. I look forward to seeing you again, but first, there is work to be done here.

Beauty In The Breakdown

I admit, I am about the least mechanical guy you’ve ever met. However, in the first 12-15 years of having a driver’s license, I learned a lot about cars.

Involuntarily.

Up until 2005, when I bought my first and only brand new car, I was happy to have a car that was less than 10 years old and under 120,000 miles. Older cars that go through multiple owners are prone to breakdown. Yeah, those were the cars I had. My cars broke down just about everywhere. Sometimes conveniently located near home and familiar people and repair shops, and sometimes in very unfamiliar places, hours from home. Sometimes in the light of a week day, other times, late on a weekend night. Sometimes in the safety of a quiet neighborhood, sometimes on the narrow shoulder of a busy California freeway. And those days were well before cell phones. Some breakdowns are less harrowing and complicated than others, but no one ever says, “wow, that was a great time for my car to crap out on me.”

When the engine light comes on, it’s literally a signal that something is not working as it should. It may be something very simple, or it may be an indicator that something serious is happening. These signals should not be ignored, or your problem and the cost to fix it may become significantly worse.

Life is very much the same. The problem is likely something deep inside, beyond what the eye can see. You may hear a strange noise, smell something that isn’t right, or notice that things aren’t operating as they should. When things are going well, it’s easy to take things for granted. You think that changing the oil every 3,000 miles and the occasional filter changes are all you need. However, there are literally tens of thousands of parts, wires, bolts, belts, brackets, plugs…the list goes on. They can go wrong without warning. Similarly in life, there are a lot of moving parts. You can do the simple day-to-day maintenance, but there are a million little things that, if not taken care of, can leave you on the side of the road.

The big difference between cars and life is that when you’re stuck on the side of the road Woman-broken-down-carin life, your Mechanic is right there waiting for you. Instead of sitting on the roadside calling a tow truck to get you to a mechanic, God is right there waiting for you to call on Him. The thing is, He is not interested in just MacGyver-ing your life just to get you back on the road.  He also isn’t interested in restoring it to the way it was. He wants to make you better than you were before.

Unless you are a mechanic, nobody brings one with them everywhere they go. And even if you are a mechanic, there are certain things you can’t do without all the tools and parts necessary. And who knows how to fix what’s wrong better than the one who built it in the first place? In life, not only can God fix anything at any time, but He is always with you.

“and be sure of this—that I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  Matthew 28:20b

I find myself on the side of the road right now. I have been cruising along, singing a song. But God knows there are some things under the hood that need some attention. I could pop the hood and look around for fire, smoke, noises or leaks, but I wouldn’t know what to do with them if I found them. That’s God’s job. Mine is to let Him in there and do what only He can do. He’s ready to get His hands dirty. The thing is, it’s not enough to sit on the roadside fiddling with my phone while He does all the work. I’ve got to get my hands dirty, too. He wants to show me where the problems are. How to identify them. How to prevent them from becoming something catastrophic. How to get peak performance out of my life, beyond what I thought this old machine could even do.

Getting stuck on the side of the road is inevitable. Both with cars and in life. It’s not if, but when.

Maybe you’re not stuck on the side of the road right now. Here’s where it gets fun. You don’t have to be. Even if things are going well and humming along, let God in there to examine what’s under the hood. Let Him show you where things are misfiring. You may not even be able to tell that something isn’t operating as it should. You may learn about something you weren’t even aware of that exists in your life, just like I had never heard of a solenoid until my 1974 Pinto needed one. Maybe you’re missing something you should have, or maybe you have something you shouldn’t. Either way, Let God in to assess and change things as He sees fit to make you a better you. He knows just what to do because He is the one who made you!

73 “You made me; you created me.
Now give me the sense to follow your commands.
74 May all who fear you find in me a cause for joy,
for I have put my hope in your word.
75 I know, O Lord, that your regulations are fair;
you disciplined me because I needed it.
76 Now let your unfailing love comfort me,
just as you promised me, your servant.
77 Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live,
for your instructions are my delight.”  Psalm 119:73-77

My dad’s secret life

When we think of people and their secret lives, we automatically think of something scandalous. Jared from Subway and Josh Duggar are currently in the eyes of their respective storms for their secret lives. We are conditioned that secret lives are exclusively for those who are hiding their transgressions so they may protect their public reputation.

Then there are people whose secret lives conceal activities which would only magnify what people already think of them.

My dad was such a man. I was raised by a man who lived to serve and protect others. He was a former United States Marine. Some years after completing his service for our country, he became a San Francisco police officer. Following his career in law enforcement, he became an ordained minister, and with my mom, served at an orphanage in Mexico, then moved to an impoverished part of Costa Rica ministering to people in great need. I could easily list his accomplishments and achievements so you would be impressed.

My dad would be embarrassed by that.

I’m very proud of who he was. The secret life he led touched lives everywhere he went. IIMG_5451 remember when he gave our family car to a young couple who were in ministry at our church. They had a very young family, and on an associate pastor’s salary, they couldn’t afford to buy a much-needed vehicle to accommodate them. Dad recognized the need, and simply gave ours to them. No fanfare. Had there been Facebook then, you never would have seen it posted, and he would have strongly required that the family who got the car not tell the story in any other way than God provided it for them through by speaking to an anonymous servant.

To this day, I am so turned off by people who, by social media or in everyday conversation, speak of themselves and their every thought and activity. We live in a very self-promoting, self-centered generation.

While living and ministering in Costa Rica, my parents were ministering in a church. At some point in the service, the pastor inexplicably called a young, single girl forward to stand before the pulpit. It was then that he publicly spoke of how this young lady was pregnant and in sin. Apparently, this was standard operating procedure in this church. My dad, standing in the front row, moments before he would speak to the congregation, stepped forward and stood next to the young lady.

“I’m Ed, and I’m a sinner, too.”

My mom told me of this, because he never would.

Later in life, after they moved back to California due to my mom’s illness, my dad did so many other little things to bless people. On Fridays, he would go to Krispy Kreme and buy dozens of doughnuts. He would then drive around to their various doctors’ offices and deliver the treats to those who took such great care of them. He frequently gave boxes of candy to my mom’s hospital nurses.

Whether ministering to pastors and missionaries, or to hospital nurses and doctors’ assistants, Dad had a special vision and knew how to show appreciation and serve those who serve. Those who are expected to do extraordinary things, and who were easily overlooked for their service.

There are many, many things I can list here, but that would defeat the purpose of honoring the example and character of a great man. These things he did, and the many secrets he took with him as he entered God’s presence on August 5th, were not for his glory, but God’s.

What is your secret life? Is it one you want hidden so that people will not be disappointed? So that your reputation won’t be damaged? Or is it a life that is dedicated to honoring and revealing the love of God to those around us?

This week, as I had a private moment at my dad’s open casket, I quietly thanked him for his love and example. He showed me so much, yet told me so little. I share these things with you to challenge you, as I have been challenged. How willing am I to do something that would make a great Facebook or Twitter post, that would make people really like and respect me, but do it only out of obedience to God, and only for His glory, not mine? May I truly want only God and His beneficiary to know of my involvement.

May my secrets bless those who God ordains, and may they bring glory to Him, and Him alone.

Springing to life

Today is March 20th. It is the first day of Spring. It is also the sixth anniversary of my IMG_4600mom’s passing from earth’s winter, into her eternal Spring, the arms of Jesus. I didn’t realize until about a week ago that her death, and her new life, came on the first day of Spring. Maybe that’s because in California, the first day of Spring doesn’t mean much because the weather is Spring-like for a good month or two by then. But in New England, Spring means you technically survived a long, rugged winter. I say technically because it snowed today for the first time in weeks. Figures.

Life is so much like our seasons. Some years, it seems like varying degrees of Spring. Maybe you have a storm here and there. But nothing major. It goes about as quickly as it came. But then there are the long, grueling winters that really grind at your resolve to go outside and deal with all the stuff that has piled up around you.

When my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and told she only had weeks to live, she was completely at peace. Completely. She was not afraid to die. She knew her destination. She knew that what was ahead was much greater than what she was leaving behind.

This winter has been brutal. In every sense of the word. Physically, emotionally, mentally. Even native New Englander say this winter has been one for the record books. And I survived it. It didn’t defeat me. It didn’t send me packing for the relative comfort of California. There have been times, not just during the calendar winter, but the life one, that it seemed giving up was the answer.

It can be tempting, when the going gets tough, to pack your things and move to a more comfortable “climate”. But it’s those grinding winters that make Spring more beautiful. More rewarding. Life is challenging. It can be downright brutal. But I have survived it. When the Spring comes, I will bathe in its beauty. I will breathe it in. But can I maintain that level of appreciation when the storm seems to be trying to kill me?

My mom sure did. That woman went through the storms of life that would break a lot of people. But anyone who knew her never knew when there was a storm in her life, and never knew the storms she endured earlier in life. Not because she was fake. But because she had a strength, grace, and peace that passes all understanding. And because she was more interested in how others were doing, than herself.

She has been gone for 6 years. And yet, she is still teaching and inspiring me to this day. God blessed me, and countless others, with her influence. I fall so drastically short of her example. Of her legacy. But I press onward. May this long, grueling winter make me a stronger, better man. And when that day comes, that first day of “Spring”, when I am face to face with my Lord, may I not leave this world defeated by the winters. But let them strengthen me, give me an appreciation and longing for what lies ahead. There must be nothing in this world that is more significant than pleasing my Father in Heaven. When that’s the case, there can be nothing on this earth that can break me. No matter how hard it tries.