Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Twenty Feet Away

Not twenty feet away. Directly in front of me. I sat there reading a book, completely unaware that a child had struggled for his life. That a child was now dead.
The news would state he was in critical condition later that evening, but I knew the truth. It was too late. It was too late even when he was pulled out of the water.
A medic and a nurse happened to be at the pool but it was no use. He had been in the water too long.
I would later hear the nurse share to someone that she had seen how distended his stomach was when lifted out of the water. That it indicated he had been under at least 5 to 10 minutes.
The hanging question of course is how it happened.
I was earlier in the exact same spot with my sisters, youngest daughter, niece and nephew. On my knees my head still easily cleared the water. The deepest spot in the pool was 5 feet and at this spot it was only 3 to 3½ feet.
Though the pool was not packed as reported there were at least thirty some people present.
Yet we all somehow missed him.
Truth is we will never know what happened.
I don’t re-account this to make anyone feel bad. I share this to simply state the obvious. Watch the kids. Not just your kids but your neighbors kids. It doesn't matter if their your responsibility. We are in this village together and have to watch out for each other.
As a father I can tell you, children are prone to make mistakes. Often costly mistakes. The real miracle of childhood is that we survive to adulthood.
Sadly, this last Father’s day we came up one miracle short.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Loud and Clear

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
                                                                                                John 4:24 (NIV)

Friday afternoon. The church was having a special service and I had been asked to help with the worship music.
But I had misjudged my time horribly. What was normally an hour trip was taking more than two. The issue was not distance but traffic. I sat in stopped traffic on the Gandy bridge. Stressed and going nowhere.
Not only was I going to be too late for practice, but even making it in time for the start of service was highly doubtful. And how I hate being late. Especially when people are depending on me.
“Lord, it’s in your hands. I prepared. But here I am.”
It wasn’t always like this. No, not the part about me hating to be late. I have always been like that.
I’m talking about worship. Or at least worship as we now know it. The band or choir. The Lead musician. Sound systems. Power points above everyone’s head.
Each week can seem more like a mini concert than true worship.
It can be rough on those leading the music as well. Often so much heart, soul and work going into trying to “pull” people into opening their hearts and emotions to come into a presence or experience of God. Disappointment when feeling a flatness, a deadness to the service, or when it just seems forced. 
No, it wasn’t always like this.
People didn’t always need the “trappings” or to be “pulled” into worship.
Years ago I saw this movie “China Cry” which is based on the true story of young woman’s experience during the rise of communist China in the 1950’s.  I won’t tell you the story in case you decide to see it (which I highly recommend). But there is this one beautiful scene. She has been taken in by this group of Christians. They gather together, sitting in a circle in a hidden courtyard to worship. But they can’t sing or even raise their voices above a whisper for fear of being caught, for being a Christian often carried a high cost of loss or even death.
Yet this does not stop them. The leader of the group whispers the hymn they are going to sing, then as one they close their eyes and just sing…
But with no words. You see their mouths singing words that are not spoken. And on their faces the love and adoration they give God.
Without a sound their worship thunders.
Not many stories or movie scenes have touched me so.
Finally I made it to the service. Every bit late. And there was just three of us to lead the music. The young lady who would lead the singing, myself on guitar and another sister who sings.
But it was all okay. Being a Hispanic church we were on Latin time which means nothing had started. Didn’t even need the music I had pulled together. The young lady who was leading the singing had thankfully already put together a list of songs she would like.  
The worship began. I played the guitar. And with eyes closed I worshiped. Didn’t worry about the congregation. Their worship is between them and God.
But as for me, even if I worship in silence, it would be loud and clear…

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.”
                                                                                                Acts 16:25-26

And who knows what may happen.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014


4am. Simply awake. And no I’m not a morning person.
That said I’m not feeling particularly stressed. After weeks of stress, depression, homesickness, then naturally getting sick, I’m finally at place where I feel like I can somewhat breathe.
But then, January and February have finally almost passed. The ongoing replay of Carli’s last weeks, her last day, is no so before me. It’s there. Always there. Just not so there.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

John 11

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
 Jesus wept.
 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”  But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
John 11:32-37

It is easy to guess. The shortest verse in the Bible, yet so deep with implications.
In light of the fact that Jesus was clearly there on a mission. (If you are not familiar with the event surrounding this text I encourage you to read the whole chapter.)
He specifically waited for the death of his friend to make it clear to all his power and divinity.
And he knew the great joy he was about to give Mary and Martha.
He held all the answers.
And yet… Jesus wept.
For me this odd verse is the one that gives me the most comfort if not hope.
It keeps me from hating him, the omnipotent one could have “…kept this man from dying.”
Or this daughter.
He wept, because we weep and will weep again.
Because even believing we don’t see the whole story. Just the dark part of it in which we walk.
And in our darkness we stumble and fall and are scared.
He wept for our fears and our confusion. Because he understands that we really don’t understand. That we confess but don’t always believe.
He wept because there is no other possible response when those you love suffer and hurt.
Love makes the pain your own.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I had just finished a meeting when my son called.
“Dad, I have bad news.”
I could already feel my stomach churning. “What Son?”
“Sophie is dead.”
“Excuse me?”
“Sophie, she has passed away. Her spleen or something erupted.”
I really didn’t know how to process this. This was another part of Carli now lost.
Sophie was Carli’s dog. The sweetest natured beautiful German Shepherd. About 8 years old, my mother stated it well when she said Sophie was still like a puppy. “Whenever you pulled up to the house she would meet you at the gate with that ball in her mouth. I knew when she wasn’t at the gate some was wrong.”
Some people think of Sammy (a small Yorkie mix),as Carli’s dog because he was given to her while she was sick. But she really was not able to spend much time with Sammy. (We snuck him into the hospital when we first got him. Edith let him play on Carli’s bed and he promptly found a spot and peed.)
I remember when we got Sophie. It was Carli’s turn. When you have four kids, not everyone gets a new pet. Carli was finally getting a dog that would be hers.
When we went to see Sophie she was in a muddy fenced in side yard with her mother. Even muddy she was gorgeous. Still, I didn’t want a female dog and was going to turn her down but Carli begged for her. Since she was going to be Carli’s anyway, I really couldn’t say no.
I had no idea how much pleasure we would get from her, or how much our family would just fall in love with this dog. It was impossible not to love her.
Of all the dogs we had before her, none of them just loved to play like Sophie. And she was so gentle. Children would pull on her and she would just sit there and nuzzle them. Never ever heard her growl.
If you played ball with her you had a friend for life.
It seems Sophie, like Carli had cancer. Something tore insider her and began bleeding. Nothing could be done but to put her to rest. Pop’s held her, cared for her, cried over her as she slept.
My mother has asked the veterinarians office to cremate Sophie. Her ashes to be spread by Carli’s graveside.
Forever Carli’s puppy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


As I take Max (my dog) out for his morning and afternoon walk, our path takes us past one of the apartment dumpsters. Over several days I watched as someone’s life was poured into the trash.
Everything: dressers, tables, bed, couches and chairs, books, clothing, the knickknacks we fill our life with. Pictures, not boxed or well contained, tossed about  like common debris in the wind.
But it did not all stay in the trash. Each time I walked past I could see different items would be gone. Someone, people were picking through it taking what they want.
It is just trash. 
I don’t know what happened to them, evicted, just left, passed away? Don’t know who they are or what they were like. Yet still my soul ached for this person.
It disturbed me deeply.
And of course this was the week leading up to Carli’s birthday.
If something happened to me I don’t know that I have anything that anyone would really want. Max is about all I have that I would worry about. But as I thought about it, I thought about the things of Carli’s that I have in my closet. Not much, little knickknacks, figurines, gifts, games, DVD’s. Sitting there. Waiting for something to happen to me. And then they would be forgotten. Their meaning would be forgotten. The person they belong to would be forgotten.
This thought disturbed me. Deeply.
Why? I asked myself. Why am I keeping this in a closet? I am not the only one who loved Carli and this is wasted here. No different than if it was already in the trash.
There are people who Carli particularly loved, family who she would want to have different items.
So I decided for Carli’s birthday, since I cannot give any gifts to her, this birthday I would give gifts from her.
 I am still in the process, but each gift I mail, my heart fills a little lighter.
Not quiet peace. We are getting there.


Monday, January 13, 2014

You Shall Love the Lord Your God…

Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

                                                                                                Matthew 22:37-40

I do not sleep well. 3, 4, 5 in the morning I will lay in bed wide awake. And yet I’m always tired. Especially this time of year. Carli’s birthday and passing date stand before me like a physical presence. I think I have shared before that I no longer live in anger with God. But that said, from about thanksgiving till mid February I struggle.

My father made a comment that one day I would reach again. It is possible, though hard for me to see now. I enjoyed preaching. The process of creating the message. I misstated that. It’s listening to the message and then placing it on paper. Then the sharing of it. Nervous as you begin, yet almost high when you reach the end.  

I miss it. Not really the preaching. That process was work both physically and emotionally. But I miss the confidence I had. The sureness of who God was and how things worked. Connection. The feeling of an intimacy with him.

Without that intimacy true preaching is an impossibility.

It is not that I have stopped believing in him. No. I still believe that he is and in who he is. I even fear him.  
It is a problem of confidence. I just can’t say I trust him. Not like before.

If trust is broken, where does love stand…?
As I replay it all, Caarli’s battle with cancer which see wins, then this horrible unheard of fungus which she again wins, and then after struggling for over two and half years to lose the battle after a surgery to reconstruct and start some repair…like some sad tragic play.
How exactly did this work for the good of anything? I cannot see it.
When I think of Carli, even three years later, I find loving the God who allowed this very difficult. It is still beyond me right now.

I don’t say this boldly or arrogantly. And I certainly don’t want to encourage distrust in anyone else. This is not a treatise on why not to trust or love in God.
It is just a statement of my own brokenness and blindness.
I ask forgiveness that such things are in my heart, yet there it is…

 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
                                                                                    Mark 9:19-26

What hope do I have if my love is so scarred and my faith is so broken?
Thankfully I am not dependent upon myself. None of us do.
My hope, the hope of a wounded broken world is in His grace. In His love.

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

                                                                                                1 John 4:9, 10

Possibly my favorite picture of Carli. This was taken while she was at a church youth event at Celebration Assembly of God the summer before she became sick. This image of her looking over her shoulder back at us melts me.