Friday, August 30, 2013

γαρ δυναμις εν ασθενεια τελειται

No, your computer isn't malfunctioning.  The title of this post is a portion of II Corinthians 12:9 in the original Greek, and I've grown very fond of it during the last month.  What started as a meaningful summation of my dad's final months (see *LINK TO PERFECT IN WEAKNESS*) has become a bit of an obsession.  I looked up the verse a couple days after the funeral, and I found the Greek verbiage to sketch it into a tattoo design.

Quite honestly, the tattoo design was done as a catharsis.  I do this every few years when something major happens.  I've always wanted to have a tattoo, but I'm either too grounded or too chicken to follow through with having a piece of art permanently affixed to my body (it's probably the latter).  I'm also not much of an artist, so when I make the design, I usually end up with overly simple elements in overused arrangements that scream "cliche."

But something was different this time.  I played with graphical elements to represent II Cor 12:9, tried working "perfect in weakness" into the images, and even spelling out "II Cor 12:9."  I was spiraling into a cliche as usual when I found the original Greek.  Honestly, I first thought that using any kind of foreign lettering would add to the cliche, but instead it started to open my eyes to the meaning of this verse.

γαρ δυναμις εν ασθενεια τελειται

I started with Greek to English translations, but since this Greek was 2,000 years old, I didn't have much luck.  I tried searching dictionaries and lexicons for detailed meaning, then I came up with a transliteration of the verse.

For power in weakness perfect

A little nonsensical, right?  Well, the NIV translates this a little differently.  It says "for my power is made perfect in weakness."  I asked my brother (the Christian university graduate, twice over) for a little help.  He said he doesn't know much about ancient Greek, but he knew where to look.  The first thing he noticed was the absence of 1 word: my.

The Greek word μου represents the English word my, but it isn't included in the original Greek.  Apparently Biblical scholars don't believe this word was originally included in Paul's letter, and they even wrote footnotes mentioning the slight difference between the original Biblical texts.  Isn't this important?  This verse is supposed to represent God speaking to Paul!  He's talking about His own power, and isn't that the most important, most significant power out there?  But if we're talking about God's power, shouldn't the fact that it's His power be important?

Exactly.  The only power worth mentioning in all the universe is God's.  All other power is weakness compared to His.  Apparently Paul saw this so clearly that he saw no need for distinction.  But he did leave us another clue.

I found it in something that bugged me about the original Greek phrase for weeks: the final word, τελειται .  I know transliterations aren't an accurate representation of the original meaning, but something was missing.  The translation I found for τελειται was "perfect."  It's just a noun in the English language.  An object, even.  Sure, it could be used as an adjective, but even this leaves our sentence without a verb.  There's no action, no change, no moving forward!

Recently, I found the answer in a paper.  It was a short mention, only a couple of sentences in a footnote, in which someone defined τελειται a little more deeply.  The nearly anonymous author says that the root word of τελειται "denotes completion, accomplishment, or fulfillment."

Suddenly, perfect wasn't the right translation.  In my language, perfect is static, intangible, and superficial.  But Paul's intent was to shape what little power we have into completion, accomplishment, or fulfillment.

Paul's words, taken straight from the mouth of God, tell us that when we are weak, when we cannot persevere, and we have no strength left, we are transformed in to fulfillment!  He tells us that when our own strength fails, a greater power will step in and follow us to completion!  He says that in our greatest weakness, God will bring us to accomplishment.

In short, it's not about us, it's about what God's power can do through us.  (Thanks to Toby Slough for this sentence, which sums up my thoughts so well)

This phrase has meant so much to me during the last month.  I could spend hours reciting every moment that this verse has come to mind, and the myriad of ways that it has spoken to me, and I could spend days on my multifaceted theories of how these 5 words communicate nearly the entirety of the gospel.  Instead, I'll let you find your own meaning in these words.

γαρ δυναμις εν ασθενεια τελειται

Always moving forward,


P.S.: I have an artist picked out, and I plan to get the tattoo in the next couple months.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This is Your Brain on Lingerie

Before I get going, I want to make something clear.  You're about to hear me talk about how a women's actions can affect a man negatively, but I assure you I will not defend men's negative actions against women.  You will not hear me assert a victim mentality for men's crimes against women, or blame immodesty for the rape culture present today.  Before you read on, I ask that you suspend these thoughts from your mind, because they are some of the most insulting arguments on any topic up for debate in this age, and we shall not lend them credence.

The topic of the day is modesty.  Being raised in a big youth group who took summer trips that involved pools, water parks, or the beach, I was exposed to the topic more than most young men.  With a brother who works in youth ministry and a sister-in-law who spends a lot of time with the youth group girls, I continue to hear Christian advice on this topic regularly.

The argument I hear most often goes something like this: "Men/boys react to the way you dress.  It's how they are wired, they can't help it!  When you dress provocatively, it causes them to have desires they shouldn't have.  It's not that you're doing anything wrong, but the way you dress could cause the men/boys around you to struggle with sexual sin.  Wouldn't it be better to dress modestly and give them one less temptation?"

Honestly, within a church youth group setting, this is a fairly easy discussion.  When you're already talking about how to do good in the world, it's easy to make the argument that exposing too much of your body isn't the best decision.  Moreso, when your demographic is made up of high school and junior high church folks, the mere fact that sex is discouraged is almost enough to make the argument for you.

But that's not the case for the rest of the world.  We live in a society where sex isn't discouraged.  Whether good or bad, society has decided that sex a good thing, not just in theory, but in practice.  Presenting yourself as "sexy" isn't taboo, rather it's encouraged!  And in light of this societal choice, modesty has become a very difficult choice to make.

For those who disagree with the arguments for modesty, there seems to be a common response.  It says "why am I responsible for their temptation and their sin?  Shouldn't they just learn not to treat women like objects?"  To an extent, I think you're right.  Unquestionably, men, both individually and as a society, need to develop a healthier view of women, and every man should treat every woman with respect.  However, there's more to it than this.

Studies have shown that a man's response to provocatively-dressed women is more than their choices.  They have found an actual chemical change that happens when a man sees a woman in minimal clothing.  While shown pictures of women in various levels of clothing, men were given a brain scan.  The researchers looked at what parts of the brain were "active" in different scenarios.  Consistently, the pictures with less clothing invoked the part of the brain associated with tools.  I mean this literally.  Tools, like hammers, drills, and saws.  Even more, some results showed the part of the brain associated with empathy and human interaction completely shut down.  Researchers were astounded at the results, and I am amazed by the implications.

But the problem with women dressing provocatively isn't causing men to struggle.  That struggle is truly out of your hands.  The heart of the problem is that, while the vast majority of men don't respond to immodesty with any direct negative action (unwanted advances, predatory behavior, or worse), the unavoidable biological reaction still has an effect.  Like a "harmless" racial joke or a biased news report, that tiny grain of prejudice nudges at their thoughts.  The reaction might not be direct, but it leaves an impression.

So what?  Why should a woman care what men think of them?

I'm glad you asked!  Women should care, not because a random person thinks badly about them, but because society gets nudged a little further toward devaluing women.  Look at Victoria's Secret, a business who made millions through advertizing with underwear-clad models and now has an entire evening of TV dedicated to parading these women across a stage.  Look at the websites (not to be named here) which provide lists of actresses who have appeared nude on screen, right down to the timestamp on the DVD.  Look at the female pop stars, including one who has been given headlines from every major news network in the country this week, who gain popularity by what they wear on stage.

Would you rather contribute to this society, which continually devalues and objectifies women, or would you rather contribute to a society that gives women the respect they deserve, treats them like people rather than objects, and judges them by their character instead of their gender?  When we discuss modesty, this is the underlying question.  What would you choose?

Today's post was inspired by this article published by The Atlantic.

Always moving forward,


Monday, August 12, 2013

My Crisis of Faith - Part 4

Before I get to the content of today's post, I want to give you some reassurance.  No, I will not make every future post about my dad or his death.  Yes, I will soon move toward lighter content.  I know you don't need to think about this as much as I do, so I'll do my best to make my public musings more relevant to the rest of you.  This will hopefully be a bit of a transition piece to move in that direction.

Death is hard, although I don't know what it's like to experience it first hand.  We'll all learn that experience someday, but until then we can only speculate.  My statement is about the second hand experience: permanently losing contact with a loved one, being near them when they lose the ability to respond to those around them, and watching as moving and breathing becomes more and more difficult for them.  This is hard.

I've heard some very "traditional" Christians make comments about death that I still can't understand.  They have said (or implied) that death shouldn't be hard for Christians.  They have said that because we believe in life after death that far surpasses life on earth, we have nothing to be sad about.  To this, I call BS.  And this is where my crisis of faith begins.

The above statements are more of a half-truth, and the half isn't always easy to believe in the heat of the moment.  The other half is about a person being permanently absent from your life, and for me, the second half tried hard to overshadow the first half during the days after my dad's passing.

In the heat of the moment, when we went from a world with my dad to a world without him, I was flabbergasted by comments made by those around me (alternative reading: those with stronger faith than mine).  The comments seemed to ignore the pain of the moment.  As I knelt beside his hospital bed, unable to take my hand off of his arm, physically shaking from fear and sadness, they made what could almost be described as jokes.

I remember my aunt saying that dad is in Heaven dancing now (his legs hadn't worked well in over a year, and he hadn't been out of bed in over a month), and my mom's response that his dancing wouldn't be a pretty sight given his dancing skills.  She actually laughed just moments after he passed, saying how glad she was that he was finally done being stuck in this stupid, broken body that had held him back for so long.  I could not comprehend the joy that was expressed in this moment.

I remember my brother's commentary on watching his final moments.  We had both watched him after he took his final breath, and we saw the physical signs of life taper off.  He said that this was a neat thing to see, when I had watched it unblinkingly like a train wreck, terrified that his life would end yet knowing there was no other way.  I could not comprehend the sense of awe that was expressed in this moment.

I remember the following morning, just hours after he passed, right before we settled into my mom's living room for the skyped church service that had been set up for my dad just a couple months ago (the whole extended family would join in this time).  We disassembled the hospital bed and got it out of the living room, but there was a big "Happy Birthday" balloon still tied to the bed from my dad's 56th birthday celebration just 2 weeks before.  I remember vaguely hearing of an idea to use the balloon in some form of memorial, but I didn't fully understand until 2 big bags of helium balloons showed up at our door.  I watched as children, grandchildren, siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews wrote final thoughts of encouragement to my dad, then stapled their notes to the balloon ribbons.  I watched as everyone, young and old, brought their balloons into the front yard, and I watched as everyone released their balloons to the sky yelling a "Happy Birthday" to celebrate my dad's first day in heaven.  I could not comprehend the excitement that was expressed in this moment.

I did not comprehend what I saw, but I was glad I saw it, because in the hours and days after these moments, understanding finally set in.  While I was still filled with pain from the loss of my dad, I was encouraged as person after person shared their faith with me.  With each act of faith, my own was restored bit by bit.

I began to have faith enough to believe that dad was in heaven dancing and running, but hoping that he focused more on the running to spare other Heaven-dwellers from the sight of his dancing.

I began to have faith enough to see that signs of life on earth are fleeting, and that the end of your heartbeat isn't the end of you.

I began to have faith enough to celebrate my dad's new life in Heaven.

We talked a lot about the "cloud of witnesses" last week, as mentioned in Hebrews 12:1.  Others said that my dad joined the great cloud of witnesses and was now speaking up on our behalf, but that's not how I saw it.  As I saw the great acts of faith in the wake of my dad's death, and as I saw the sheer number of people who were so touched by his life that they took off work on a Tuesday afternoon (even rode a motorcycle 5+ hours each way) just to attend his funeral, I saw a great cloud of witnesses surround my family and me, and this cloud of witnesses has restored my faith.

Because death is hard, and because I needed so much support to get through this week, to everyone who surrounded us during this time, thank you.  You probably didn't know it, but you restored my faith.  I sincerely, wholeheartedly thank you.

Always moving forward,


Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Most people would say that Thursdays aren't all that special.  They would say that  Thursdays are just the day before Friday, another work day, and maybe the night they catch their favorite TV shows.  They would say that Thursdays mean nothing.  I wholeheartedly disagree.

12 years ago, I turned 15.  As most teenage boys in America, I was excited to start driving.  I even had my first car lined up.  It was a blue 1992 Oldsmobile Achieva, and it was awful.  The car was handed down from my brother, who started driving the car 3 years prior when he first got his license.  Before that, it was handed down from my cousin, who drove it from a rural town (and I mean really rural, with a population just in the double-digits), racking up plenty of rough miles on farm roads.  Before that, a pair of twin girls in the same area drove it as their joint first car.  I was the 5th first-time driver to use this car, but still I was excited to get behind the wheel.

I turned 15 in the middle of the school year, so it took some time to figure out scheduling driver's ed.  Instead of signing up with a corporate driving school, coordinating yet another ride to and from an after-school activity, and potentially losing all of my excitement about driving, we chose another route.  Dad researched homeschooling the driver's ed course, and realized it wasn't all that difficult.  He signed me up, and we started the course.

Our driver's ed plan was simple.  We sat down to go through the textbook every Thursday evening.  We started at home, but when we needed to avoid the usual distractions (lessons learned the first couple of weeks), we relocated.  Every Thursday, we drove to Daybreak Coffee Roasters to work through the course.  I would drink a Cafe Mocha, he had black coffee, and we shared a slice of Black Russian Cake.  If neither of us felt like cake, he would splurge and drink a Cafe Royale, a breve flavored with honey.

As you've probably guessed, this is where I first honed my love of coffee.  After a couple months, I started to experiment with other drinks on the menu.  There was the Caramel Machiato (the Starbucks type, not the traditional version), the Nutty Irishman (latte with hazelnut and irish creme), the Nirvana (cafe mocha with caramel), and the Mudslide (espresso shake - yes, it was made with real ice cream - with chocolate and hazelnut).  It wasn't until college that I learned to enjoy black coffee, but my first love was Daybreak on Thursday nights.

The more chapters we finished, the more comfortable we became with our Thursday routine.  Many weeks, we would finish the chapter early and burn some time at the coffee shop.  We found the chess board on their shelf of board games, and Dad and I would play a couple of matches.  Once I learned the game, we found that we were pretty evenly matched.  We would sometimes stay long enough to play 2-out-of-3, and it was always a 2-to-1 finish, the title always bouncing back and forth between us.

Driver's ed only lasted about 4 months, even when we only covered a chapter a week.  I don't remember ever discussing what we would do with our Thursdays when it was over, but Dad and I somehow made it back to Daybreak every Thursday.  When the curriculum no longer dictated our plans, we got more use out of the chess board.  We would sometimes make it up to 4 or 5 matches in an evening, and we still didn't have a clear winner.

While we played, we talked through our weeks.  I heard some of his work stories, and he heard all about school, band, and Katie (who I had dated for almost 2 years at the time).  There was never an evening that we didn't feel like talking, and there were never grudges between us (over chess or anything else) when we were at Daybreak.

As the months went on, we sometimes brought others into our little circle.  Mom would occasionally come with us, and so would Katie.  Daybreak felt so much like home to me that I started to go to Daybreak on my own time.  Most often I would take Katie after school, and we would relax, catch up on homework, and do that disgusting kind of lovey-dovey talking that young couples do.  By junior and senior year of high school, Daybreak had become the place to be for school projects, big research papers, and cram sessions before major exams.  But as many people as I met at Daybreak, Thursday was always the night that Dad came with me.

After high school, I left my hometown for college.  Schedules changed, visits to the coffee shop were replaced with phone calls, and we relied more and more on my weekend visits to catch up.  A few years ago, Daybreak closed the location on our side of town and rebranded the remaining location.  Years went on, and dad had trouble getting out of the house for coffee.  Thursday nights weren't Thursday nights anymore, and Daybreak wasn't Daybreak.

But the great thing about Thursday nights at Daybreak was that their effects continued long after Thursdays and spread far beyond the walls of Daybreak.  Thursday nights at Daybreak were the catalyst that started something great.  After Thursday nights at Daybreak, Dad was no longer just a parent or an authority figure.  After Thursday nights at Daybreak, Dad was my friend.

Earlier this week, I was let in on something Dad told Mom over and over during the last 12 years.  He told her that teaching me driver's ed was one of the best decisions he's ever made, because it started Thursday nights at Daybreak.  I wholeheartedly agree.

Always moving forward,


Sunday, August 4, 2013


This post was typed early Saturday while I stayed up to keep an eye on Dad. Just an hour or two after I finished, he passed on. I haven't edit the post except for the addition of this paragraph. It will be something I go back and read over and over during the coming years, but its personal nature may not be very interesting for my readers. I hope you all understand.

I'm not very good at expressing my feelings.  Wait, strike that.  I'm not very good at talking about my feelings.  Sure, I understand the purpose of those discussions, and I certainly know the importance of them, but when it comes down to it, I just can't get the words out.

Lately, this skill has been put to the test.  With all the highly emotional stuff crossing my path in the last couple of years (infertility treatments, pursuing adoption, the loss of my grandfather, and the apparent impending loss of my father), I haven't had any short of important feelings to share.  The problem isn't having these feelings, it's expressing them.

With infertility and adoption issues on the forefront of my priorities, I think a lot about the prospect of parenthood.  I think of caring for a baby, I fill my head with ideas of what I will do for fun with my son or daughter, I try to plan those little teaching moments that make all the difference, and I picture what he or she might look like the day our baby is finally placed in our arms.  I know guys aren't usually seen as the ones with 'baby fever,' but I'll admit to God and everyone that I'm infected.  In fact, I'll tell you just how bad my symptoms are.

1) My wife accuses me of being a baby hog.  You know, like ball hogs in basketball.  I get to the baby first, and I hold him/her too long.  More than once we've left a gathering, only for me to find out that Katie felt like she completely missed her opportunity of baby time.  And it's all my fault, because I'm a big, fat, smelly baby hog who can't share the baby with my wife.

2) My family says I'm the favorite play buddy for all of my young nieces, nephews, and cousins.  I don't know how true this is, but I see where they get it.  I just love playing with them, whether it's the 3-month-olds or the 5-year-olds.  They get so stinking excited when you do something stupid for their entertainment!  And with the younger ones, you can do the exact thing time 40 times in a row before they get bored with it and stop laughing.  I'm telling you, doing stupid stuff in front of kids is a huge opportunity for increased self-worth.  If you're not doing it, you're missing out!

3) I cry about really dumb things.  Seriously stupid, unimportant, virtually meaningless things.  My cousin asked to say the mealtime prayer?  Tears.  A 4-year-old stranger reaches for his dad after he yawns or stubs his toe?  Tears.  My nephew asked me to read The Little Engine That Could, but when he got bored his older sister wanted to listen from across the room?  Tears.  Yes, this actually happened today when I got to the "I think I can..." part.  She got the abridged version.

The last part is what gets me every time.  Increasingly over the last 2 years, when I get emotional, I get choked up, and when I get choked up, I can't speak without my voice cracking, getting squeaky, and sounding generally as far from manly as you can get.  It is a very real concern.

I've had the same problem more and more as I have to deal with sickness and death.  I'm way too macho to succumb to my pitiful squeaky voice, so when the emotions hit, I tend to say nothing.  Literally nothing.  I try to communicate my thoughts through implicit yet subtle nods, smiles, eyebrow raises, and any other movement that has no concrete meaning.

I have yet to figure out how to fix my communication issues, but I have learned to find catharsis.  When I can't express my emotions through the spoke word, I look for other ways.

The first method (and probably most obvious to this audience) is writing.  I fell back into writing the day after my grandad passed away.  I had seen him just a couple weeks before, and we didn't have anything left to communicate.  But, I missed his last day then heard details from the family about the closure they felt from being with him.  I wanted to find that closure, so I ended up writing about him.  I didn't have a medium in mind, I just wanted to write.  Since the Newtown school shooting had happened earlier in the week, there had been a comment that "those kids needed a grandad in heaven, so God sent them Bill."  It stuck in my mind so strongly that the amorphous, unplanned piece of work came out in the form of an open letter to the victims of the shooting.  I felt relief and peace, and the more I looked at the 'letter' the more I hoped it would reach one of these victims, that it might communicate directly to a parent of loss that my just sent a great guy to be a heavenly grandad to their recently deceased children.  I didn't have a blog at the time, so I posted it on Facebook.  I never heard whether it reached the intended audience, but the sheer volume of positive feedback pushed me back to writing.  This blog is actually my only medium right now, but now it's like my couch sessions with a shrink.

The second is running.  For a few years I've gone through seasons when my first response to stress is the need to go for a run.  I'm sure it seems counter-intuitive that a form of exercise that produces a constant form of stress and exertion would actually relieve stress, but it really works.  When I run, I get out of my head for a while.  Or do I delve deeper into my head?  It's hard to say which it is, but I think it's both.  There's a strange combination of meditation and distraction that happens during a run.  I occupy my conscious thought with the details of the run (how my legs feel, if I need water, how close I am to optimal training pace), but I'm left without the distractions of small talk and Facebook news.  My mind is left free to run through the real, meaningful topics of the day.  I start to salve problems relating to my personal relationships and internal struggles.  Quite often I come back from a run with a new outlook on a complicated problem.

The third is just plain and simple distraction.  It doesn't work well, and it's easily the least effective and least healthy on this list.  When I don't have the motivation to do anything else, I simply turn on the TV or turn to Youtube.  That's right, i turn to brain rot.  It doesn't help me solve my problems or express my emotions, but at least it lets my mind rest for a while.  I mean, who couldn't use a little bit of (literally) mind-numbing entertainment from time to time?

Maybe someday I'll master the art of talking through tears, but for today I think I'll just keep writing, running, and rotting.

Always moving forward(ish),


Friday, August 2, 2013

Perfect in Weakness

Right now I'm sitting next to a hospital bed in my parents' living room, my feet propped on the bed next to my dad's.  I keep looking over at my dad to check on him, reaching over to squeeze his hand or feel his pulse.  The hard truth is that he is on his last leg.

For the last 6 months, our family has been dealing with this difficult progression.  With each visit and each conversation, we delve deeper into the very real facts and emotions involved.  We talk through the pain, and we reminisce over great memories that will never be erased.

I keep remembering little things, like the way dad wrestled with us as kids or his food preferences.  We've laughed about his favorite movie (The Princess Bride) and re-told his favorite joke (Duck Food, see footnotes).  All kinds of anecdotes were revisited, and we relished the looks on the faces of friends and family who were hearing the stories for the first time.

There was the time he brought the wrong lunch to work.  My dad, the least picky eater in the world, was always happy to bring leftovers to work for lunch to save a buck.  He never complained about reheated meat loaf or spaghetti, but one day he accidentally grabbed a tupperware full of his least favorite food: lima beans.  Rather than making the drive home to trade them in for a real meal, or even eating out for once, he suffered through an entire lunch of lima beans.  Lima bean jokes followed him for years, pointing out his sheer commitment to frugality.

We recalled the planning session for my brother's wedding, which was to involve some level of fireworks.  We found sparklers and verified their legality within city limits, but a few artillery shells during their walk out of the church would've really made it special.  We made calls to the Fire Marshall's office to find out what we needed to do or who we needed to involve to make this happen, but the Fire Marshall wouldn't have it.  We sat down, a little dejected, to decide what to do.  My dad, the quintessential rule follower, gave the first response: "Let's do it anyway!  We can just run away really fast after we shoot them off."  This briefly debunked his goody-goody status and earned him the nickname "sparky," and yes, we did shoot off the fireworks in the middle of town (and yes, the Fire Marshall caught us).

There were plenty of funny quips to go around, but the real stories weren't funny at all.  While some people weren't in on the inside jokes, we all have clear memories of the great character my dad has displayed.

Everyone talked about his strength during the last few months while his condition deteriorated.  We were all impressed that, whether his weak legs forced him into a walker or his pain bound him to the hospital bed, he always tried to make his visitors at home.  He would let others choose the TV channel, minimize his own pain to avoid awkward feelings, and keep himself awake to keep conversation going.  His constant selflessness was like a shining beacon, and it repeatedly convinced others to pay it forward.

But what I noticed wasn't his selflessness during the last few months.  Instead, I thought of the time he spent with our family after a long day's work or a long week of school projects, and I thought of the constant positive energy he gave us no matter how tired he was.  I remembered all the times he pursued my interests instead of his own, just because he knew it would bring us closer together.  I cherished every time he told me he was proud of me, but more specifically the finish line of my marathon, when he stood by a rail between hundreds of spectators, watched for me to run past, and waited almost 30 minutes in the cold rain just so he could yell "YOU'RE MY HERO!!!" at me as I made my final sprint to the finish line.  After 27 years of knowing him, I knew these memories were nothing more or less than the outflow of his selfless character and his drive to be a great father.

Everyone talked about his godly pursuits during the last few months.  We heard of discussions over Romans 8, when my dad expressed his desire to find joy in suffering through his symptoms, yet we all saw this joy in his eyes every time his disease progressed.  We were told about my dad's laments that, once he was house bound, he might not be able to reach out to people in meaningful ways anymore, yet the fruits of his spiritual labor were never so prevalent as they were during his house bound months.

But what I noticed wasn't his godliness during the last few months.  Instead, I remembered the countless mornings I came to the breakfast table to see dad during his morning Bible study, taking notes for his next study group.  I pictured the missionaries he supported (by friendship, not only finances), who became lifelong friends in Brazil, and who became such strong friends that they made international calls just to let my dad hear their voice during what seem to be his last days.  I felt the ever-steady drive of his faith and morals, never bending to fads or compromising to meet his own desires.  I looked back on the 27 years of godly life that I have been blessed to witness, and I knew they were nothing more or less than the outflow of his faith.

Everyone talked about the last few months, and I heard over and over that they were extraordinary.  I knew there was more to the story, but they were right.  The last 6 months, even the last 4 years of my dad's life have radiated a good, godly, strong, faithful, and loving man, moreso than any other man I've known.  He has shown faith in fear, hope in despair, and love in pain.  I have been amazed at what I've seen, so I wondered what changed in recent months.

But then I remembered the last 27 years.  While the last few months have been extraordinary, they are no more extraordinary than every other month of his life.  He has always been faithful in fear, even when his fears involved the future of his kids.  He has always been hopeful in despair, even when the future reeked of suffering and loss.  He has always loved in the midst of pain, whether the pain of rejection or the pain of his disease.  Even more amazingly, he has always been humble, never letting attention to be drawn to his own good works.

Looking back at his amazing life, I want to say that he didn't deserve his disease.  I want to say that he didn't deserve the atrophy in his legs, the weakness in his hands and shoulders, or the pain throughout his body.  I want to say that the world would be better if great men like him didn't suffer, but I've learned better in the last 24 hours.

Through the suffering of his disease, my dad has been given the opportunity to display the fullest extent of faith, hope, and love.  Through his suffering, my dad has shown the light of the Lord.  It is truly brighter than he could ever reach by his own strength, more than any flawed person could attain.  This light is more brilliant than anything man-made; it is the light of perfect love, made perfect in human weakness.

As I contemplate the life of this great man, I delight in his suffering and the things he would call weakness, because he would tell you that these are the next-to-greatest gifts he has been given.  The greatest being the gift of pure love, killed on a cross to cover the cost of our imperfection.

II Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

Always moving forward,


*Duck Food:

A duck walks into a bar.  He asks the bartender "got any duck food?"  The bartender says "no, of course we don't have any duck food!"  The duck leaves, but returns the next day asking "got any duck food?"  The bartender says "I told you we don't have any duck food!  Get out of here!"  The duck leaves again, but returns again the next day asking "got any duck food?"  The bartender says "That's it. This is a bar, not a pet shop.  If you ask for duck food again, I'm going to nail your feet to the wall!"  The duck leaves.  He returns yet again the next day, approaches the bar, and asks "got any nails?"  The bartender is confused and says "no, we don't have any nails."  The duck nods, then asks "got any duck food?"