Celebrate Life with us!

Today is the day that we celebrate life. We celebrate the life of Tanzen who is adding another year to her life. And we celebrate the life of Crystal, who has received one more good gift from the Father above, the gift of breath, thought, feeling, and smile.

It was three years ago today that Tanzen entered this unprotected world, and it was three years ago that Crystal almost left it. But she didn’t.

So we celebrate. We pray a prayer of thanksgiving to the Maker for he has seen fit to give our family another year.

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We forgot!

We have been packing up everything over the past week in order to move to Europe. Tanzen has been in the middle of it all, putting things in suitcases and taking things out. That is her way of helping, keeping our minds sharp by mixing up our sell and save piles.
Last night we got home from church and Tanzen looks up and says, “Oh no! We forgot to go to Spain!”
Yes…We must have forgotten to go to Spain while we ran errands.

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Would Daddy Love Me More?

Here is a short board book written to relieve my daughter from the overwhelming burden of trying to earn her father’s love. That love cannot be earned. It is given.

I wrote the text and Andrew Nolan illustrated it for me. He did an excellent job, and it passed its ultimate review (Tanzen loved it).

Free PDF here: https://t.co/cQ8szmsoxV
Kindle book here: https://t.co/bwndJOxVqg

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9 Years Today

Nine years ago today, Crystal and I were married. Nine years is a not-so-long/really-long time.

Looking back over the past nine years is like looking across a mountain gorge. The distance isn’t too far, but to arrive at the other side can be quite the journey! Our path has led us through some fairly dark valleys and before some incredible vistas. As I mentally retrace the steps of our marriage there is much time there, but it seems like such a short distance. In my mind I can walk through moments and events, school semesters and pregnancy trimesters, early months and first years.

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In some ways I think I could have imagined standing where I am on this promontory. Our lives have followed a fairly defined path – school, marriage, international ministry, more school, ministry, child, international ministry. I could have guessed that. But as for the path we have walked, I saw no map before hand.

And that is good. God has graciously given us a vision for a general place he wants us to be, but he has given us himself and each other as we walk the sometimes steep path it takes to get there.

I am so thankful that I have had the not-so-long/really-long time with Crystal. God knew that I needed her for my good and his glory. This truth makes me even more excited for the coming years!

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The Marks of a Man: Habits of my Grandfathers

I have three grandfathers. Two had no choice in the matter because I was offspring, and the third would have stopped his granddaughter from marrying me had he realized I was from a John Deere family. Two have passed away, and one continues strong. I have great respect for each of them because they have finished, or are finishing, strong. That is not as much of a statement about them, as it is about their Savior.

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13:7-8).

So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come (Psalm 71:18).

The same Jesus who has kept my grandfathers is the Jesus who will keep me.

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As I consider their way of life, I see traits that they developed through the working of the Spirit of God. It would be difficult to list all their godly habits, and there are many that are not included on this list, primarily because I can’t handle drinking apple cider vinegar everyday, or tucking my pant legs into my socks when I am working in the yard. But those listed are the ones which continue to impact me.

My grandfathers sang. I have followed my Grandpa Jack around the yard as he hummed his personal soundtrack from before the time playlists were even invented. I have cringed as they sang robustly, caring not what their voice sounded like, but that it was heard.

My grandfathers drank tea or coffee with friends. I have sat with them in quaint cafes, across the campfire, or at their dinner table drinking from a steaming mug. I have seen them all sitting with their friends, drinking something warm, and talking.

My grandfathers laughed out loud. I have felt the joy that could not be contained. I have cried from laughter as they told stories of their blunders, my blunders, or just the humor spun through the tapestry of our universe.

My grandfathers read books. I have held the worn volumes of Louis L’Amour and Matthew Henry. I have read the highlights and notes in the biography of a king, president, or missionary.

My grandfathers kept a record of what God was doing in their lives. I have deciphered the scrawl of a 90 year old man as he penned his thoughts. I have leafed through a pile of stashed church bulletins and written sermons. I have read of the covenant-keeping God remaining faithful to an old man.

My grandfathers enjoyed the outdoors. I have walked behind the men who once carried me on their shoulders. I have sat in rafts, hiked the trails, and slept in snow beside my grandfathers. I have learned to stand beneath the expanse of the heavens and relish the feeling of insignificance married to love in the presence of the Father.

My grandfathers read the Bible. I have seen them read. I have held their Bibles. I have heard them quote the passages that they had memorized. I have sat and watched as they stood and told others about their great God.

My grandfathers prayed in my presence and in secret. I have bowed my head before the meal, or the trip, or the game, and heard them pray to their Maker that he would be glorified in what we were about to do. I have seen the effects of their daily prayers on my behalf.

My grandfathers never stopped loving the church. I have sat beside them, behind them, and before them as they attended, participated, and preached in churches. I have inherited the belief that there is no hobby, event, or illness that can keep one away from the church for long. I have talked with those upon whom the love of Christ flowed through my grandfathers.

My grandfathers sacrificed for what they believed in. I have listened to the voices of others as they recount the major difficulties, crisis points, and agonizing seasons in the lives of my forefathers. I have looked at the pictures of the times now past, the dreams now gone, and the loves now lost. I have recognized that the simple fact of me hearing these stories is proof that they did not abandon what they believed in – their God, their family, their work.

My grandfathers loved Jesus. He has kept them.

Memories for sale!

There is a standing joke with one of our friends every year at their garage sale. We line up all our stuff on tables and shout, “Memories for Sale!”

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That phrase gets to the heart of a battle between keeping and throwing, hoarding and giving. What should we keep?

It is a hard question to answer. About a year ago we went through a major move and eliminated a lot of stuff that we had been using or storing. We asked some difficult questions as we packed everything into bins, questions you can read here. But now we are entering into new territory. We have opened the “Bins of Memories” (cue Indiana Jones music).

Those sacred receptacles designated by the word “Keepsake” with the scrawling Sharpie marker are the target of our current focus. What do you keep that was from your childhood? What do you keep that has been past down to you?

We don’t have a perfect answer, and I am sure that at some point we will be disappointed for keeping, or failing to keep, something in particular. However, Crystal came up with two criteria which have been helping us to realistically evaluate what we think is important to us:

  • Will I display this?
  • Will I use this?

If it does not match either of those two, then it doesn’t have much significance for me. And if Tanzen doesn’t see us use it or display it, it won’t have much significance for her on the day she sorts through our possessions when we are gone. I have several things from my grandparents and parents that I will want displayed so they can become part of our daughter’s life as well, and can draw friends and visitors into our lives as we share the stories behind them.

I also have some memory laden everyday tools. I have a couple old butter knives from England, a coffee cup from my first official ultra marathon, a satchel from Perú. I use those knowing that I could accidentally break them, but that is a price I am willing to pay (There will be another post later to fill out this idea).

Disclaimer: There are some trophies, or projects, or horrid first attempts at sewing, or woodworking, that have great memories but would be embarrassing to put on your living room wall. One or two of those we may keep, but others we are taking pictures of and then “gently releasing them into the wild” (think trash can).

How do you determine what to keep and what to thrown?

Two years ago, today…

IMG_1018Today is “Celebration of Life” day. Maybe not on your calendar, but on ours. Today marks the 2nd anniversary of two very special lives. Our arms were first able to hold Tanzen, and Crystal was once again able to use hers.

We celebrate life today because, no matter how thorough your birth plan, it is God who gives life.

A car accident, a birth, and a stroke were all used to point us to our great God who holds us in his hands. He knew. He planned, He protected. We cried. We feared. We didn’t understand.

9E9A2005And we still don’t. We don’t understand why this happened, and neither does the incredible staff in hospitals around Minneapolis. We don’t understand the secret paths of the heart and brain, the sprawling stream of veins and nerves. And we do not understand the secret plans of our great God. And we don’t need to.

As Jon Bloom has said, “much of the Christian life is spent trusting Jesus now and understanding him later” (Bloom, Not by Sight, loc. 1496).

But in these moments of haunting fear and feelings we were able to keenly experience the giver of all strength. In the darkness of doubt the speaker of light shone brightly. I was not sufficient for her, but we rested on the one who is.

It was not easy but the significant times rarely are.

9E9A1994And for these reasons, we celebrate life today. Our days our numbered, and until we regularly remember that, we will squander them away.

So rejoice with us! Sing with us! Thank God with us! He has given us life today, let us live in light of him.

Final Edit - Project for Pastor Seth