Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Take Away

Take Away
I think we are familiar with the scripture “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”. We sometimes tend to quote scripture incorrectly or without context. The full context of the scripture is Job’s response to the loss of family and possessions. He says-

20 At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship 21 and said:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I will depart.[c]
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

22 In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing. Job 1:20-22

I went through a period that in my life. Like Job, I daily tore my robe and cried out to God. Why me? Why my son? Where were you God? How can you ever work this tragedy for good? You see, all these responses are completely normal and understandable. Today, we may find ourselves asking the same questions. Any sort of personal loss requires a response that may seem irrational; loss does that. There is pain, fear, suffering and anxiety experienced when one suffers loss. Many people today find themselves at this crossroads. 

You see, once we have played the irrational card, we find ourselves at a crossroads; will we allow bitterness to set in or will we find a way to worship God? Worship always pays dividends. Worship allows us to abandon our irrational response and spiritually discern what our next step should be. 

I know what it’s like to lose a job, suffer financially, lose control of my physical body and loose a son. It’s all loss at the end of the day. Things will recover, things will return to normal; of this you can be assured. God gives and God takes away. This will never change until we are with Him for eternity. 

The key here is Job’s conclusion of the matter; “May the name of the Lord be praised”.
This season calls us to praise the name of the Lord. The name above all names

Monday, March 2, 2020

Trying to be Superman

I come from a long line of Supermen. My grandfather was an amazing man, a veteran, the father of 5 boys and a marriage that lasted 50 years. My father was equally amazing. He left shoes that I will never fill. Many of you reading this post knew my father and appreciate the caliber of man he was. I have many things in common with these great men, "things" not characteristics. Like my father and my grandfather, we outlived some of our children and experienced the loss of a son. I saw these men deal with their pain and loss while maintaining their family, work and their life. I stand in awe of how they were able to do that.

I am no Superman! I have struggled with being a husband, father and pastor. These lessons are learned the hard way; trial and error with emphasis on error. I so wanted to be a rock "Superman" for my family like my ancestors but I feel like I have not lived up to their example. Please understand that i'm not seeking your pity, I just know how to realistically rate my performance over the last year. I could have never imagined how hard this road could be and how lonely one can feel while walking it. Everything becomes difficult, every relationship become strained. I find it difficult to control my tongue, my emotions and perspective. The pain that I experience is no different then the pain my family is in. Just because I lost "My Son" is not a greater than their loss; it's just a loss. There are times in my mind when I error on making this a contest about who is hurting the most.

The lesson

The cool thing about Jesus is that He is the perfect example for me to follow. Making other peoples grief greater than mine is the secret. I cry out for people to feel my pain while I forget the fact that Jesus is the only person in my life who can care for me the way I need to be cared for. Think about how much dysfunction comes from our inability to cast all our care upon Him because He cares for us? Maybe what made my dad and granddad supermen was the fact they figured this out. There is only one Superman; Jesus my friend and my king. I consider myself a super failure but I have access to Super Love, Super Grace, Super understanding and Super Power!

Oh how blessed I am.

Monday, November 4, 2019

The Pursuit of Being Happy

The Pursuit of Being Happy

I am by nature a “glass is half empty” kind of guy. In fact, I am a “glass is half empty and it’s cracked at the bottom” kind of guy! I tend to focus on the negative when I consider things. It’s probably the Six Trials that I have endured throughout my life that that positions me to “wait for the other shoe to drop”. Don’t get me wrong, I know God is sovereign and has good in mind for me. I continue to weigh the goodness of God with the promise Jesus made when He said, “In this world you will have trouble”.

That “trouble” has often robbed me of my happiness but never my joy. You may be asking, what’s the difference? For me, joy is not an emotion; it’s a purposeful act of faith. Happiness is more of an emotion than a deliberate act. For years I have downplayed the importance of happiness because I have been preaching joy to my congregation. In my immaturity I have been unable to fully enjoy them both, joy and happiness.

I now find myself hungry for happiness, so where is it and how can I get some? Happiness that comes through circumstances should be cherished and valued. I can have continuous joy that is a biproduct of my relationship with God and happiness that is a result of circumstances.  The issue for me (and maybe you) is that I need to be looking for happiness in everyday situations and everyday life. I’m learning that its there; I just need to identify it.

Lesson for us all- Counting your blessings, being thankful in all things and being grateful are all ways that we can experience true happiness. I will see my glass as half full and on the rise.

Blessings to you and yours.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Timing is Everything

Last December I found myself at the end of my ministry rope. I have served as a bi-vocational pastor for the last 25 years and never participated in a sabbatical. The night of January 5th I went to bed with the excitement of my sabbatical that was due to start the following day. As you might have read in previous posts, December 5th was the worst day of my life. The death of my son Gregory was a devastating blow and a nightmare that has continued everyday since.

I attended church just hours after being woke from a dead sleep only to be told that my son was in a car crash and lost his life. I was determined to soldier on. I postponed my spiritual rest because I needed church more than anything. I needed worship, hope and fellowship like I need air in my lungs. The very thing that was driving me crazy brought clarity in the midst of chaos. I am very grateful for the people in my church that allowed me to be broken and continue to serve.

A lesson for us all; timing is everything. The time to take my sabbatical was not the time "I" had planned. God knows what is best for me because He loves me. I would have not survived without the very thing that I thought was making me miserable. There is a time and a purpose for everything under the sun.

Tam (my wife) and I spent a week Maui recently and God revealed to me the proper timing. The time is now. I addressed my congregation last week and announced my leave of absence from all ministerial duties. While on vacation, I sat by the beautiful ocean alone and realized that the dust had settled. There is a time to continue and a time to stop. This is my time to stop.

A lesson for us all; there is a time to mourn. You may think that morning is for those who are left behind when a loved one dies; that would be a mistake. All of you reading this now have suffered some type of loss that needs to be mourned. God reveals the time but remains silent on the process. It's not that He leaves us alone during this time, He just allows us the time to figure it out and faithfully holds our hand every step on the journey.

I have come to the realization that this season, though heart wrenching, will be productive, fruitful and purposeful. If you have been "soldiering on" there may be a time for you to take this journey as well. Timing is everything!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

An encouragement to all parents

An encouragement to all parents

Dealing with the loss of my son is by far the most difficult season I have ever experienced. I spend considerable time recounting how Gregory may have perceived me. I consider the way I disciplined him and how even days before he died, I expressed outrage about a poor discussion he made. I remember him saying to me “dad I know I disappointed you”. I wonder if he carried any frustration or anger within him because of our battles? We were very different men. Recounting these difficult encounters is very painful. I wish I had conducted myself in a manner fitting of my calling.

Being a father to a son is a very complicated calling. You always want your son to be a better man that you were. You want him to learn from all of your trials; this does not always happen. I am left with an image of my son that was still forming, I will never know how he turned out. Was he like me? Was he like my father? What kind of Father would he become? I think now you see how tortured I am.

My encouragement to parents is this- try and treat every encounter with your kids as the last. I realize that most people don’t want to think of these things because, in some way, if you think it, it may happen. I have considerable regret in the way I raised my son. I wish I would have taken more time to see his point; to consider his way of thinking. I cannot change what has happened, I can only endeavor to be a better dad to the eight that remain. I want all my kids to respect me but not fear me. I think Gregory leaned more to the fear side and for that I am sorry.

Remember, we are stewards. God has entrusted these lives to us, to protect, love and bring them up to know Him. They are his, they have always been His. Please stop and consider today the uniqueness of your child and your role as God’s steward. Be faithful to this call.

Friday, February 8, 2019

This is not Real

This is not Real
I’m trying to wrap my mind around the fact that my son Gregory is gone. What makes this so difficult is that I was just adapting to the fact that for the unforeseen future, I would see my son 2-3 times a year because of his service in the US Army. My heart has accepted the loss, tragic as it is, but my mind is not cooperating.
In my mind Greg will be home this summer and we have plans, good plans. I’m learning that my heart and my mind operate differently. My heart has accepted the loss in large part because it sees the pain in my family and Gregory’s friends. My mind has not been re-programmed yet. It still waits for the call or the face-time.
Somehow, I think this is God’s perfect plan in helping His people deal with tragedy and loss. My heart belongs to the Lord and trusts Him without wavering. My mind and intellect are cemented to the daily activities of everyday life. My mind will slowly accept the fact that Gregory will not return to me. There are many thoughts that come through my mind that help with the re-programming; It’s a very slow process.
I thank God that has He alone has the ability to accomplish both of these needs; ministering to my heart and ministering to my mind. My son Gregory has become the backdrop of my mind and heart. I never thought I would think of Him this way. I am grateful for this process, don’t get me wrong, but I was not prepared for this.
Silver lining- When I had children, I often thought to myself “I could never survive the death of one of my Kids”. Well I was wrong! I can survive and even thrive. I have experienced the love of God, the hope of God, the strength of God and the Will of God. I have tested these truths and found them to be evidence that He exists in me. How blessed am I.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Void

The Void
Blessings! I am learning just how different it is to lose a child in comparison to the other Losses in my life. The First trial (The death of my brother 26), The Second Trial (The Death of my mother 58) and the Third Trial (The death of my father 6 months after my mother). The death of a family member has its own unique set of thoughts and feeling. The death of my son is very different.
When Gregory turned 15 our relationship transformed in ways that I can only understand now. When Greg was a child, I worried about school, who his friends were and his overall development. When he became a young man, my worry began to grow. I was now concerned with his safety on the road, his future, college, girlfriends and his ability to be a productive citizen. When he enlisted in the Army my worry grew exponentially.
Since August 2017 I have experienced life without Gregory. For the first time in my relationship with my son I could not speak to him everyday when I wanted to. This increased my worry. After bootcamp we resumed our daily communication as usual. I worried about his emotional well being and how was adjusting to military life; we prayed together several times a week over these matters.
The Void- the worry has left my heart. I want it back! I loved being his father. I want to make an unscheduled deposit in his bank account because he spent money irresponsibly. I want to discuss the latest life lesson; I want to pray with him. All of this is gone. There were seasons of our relationship that were held together by this worry, and now it’s gone.
The blessing- I have 8 other children to worry over. Now I worry about how this loss will shape them. Please pray for my children by name- Lindsy, Jeremy, Grace, Daniel, Katie, Samantha, Savannah and Max.   

I have more to pour out- stay tuned 

Take Away

Take Away I think we are familiar with the scripture “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord”. We ...