Tag Archives: Musings on Life

Joy and Pain

“Joy… and pain… it’s like sunshine… and rain…” I can remember singing to the top of my lungs to this Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock song back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I always enjoyed the beat of the music in it and the, what felt to me like, upbeat idea of that chorus line. Though, I don’t think I ever really took the time to think about it for what that simple statement actually shows me.

Having my dad pass this past October I have really experienced joy and pain, the pain is probably pretty obvious. It has been sometimes hard and often confusing on what I should feel as I process the grief of him dying at a relatively young age, and unexpectedly at that. I have also wrestled with the joy and pain I have felt throughout life in my relationship with my dad, which adds to the complexities of this grieving process having now lost him.

Processing this recently with a friend, he talked about something he learned from a professor during his Master’s program that basically went like this: “to truly honor your parents, you need to learn to hold both the good and the bad together.” I think in the type of American culture that I grew up in, I have learned to hold a lot of shame over myself for noticing any of the bad in others or even myself for that matter. There was often this idea in my family, and I know it is the same in many others, that in order to respect your family you never talk about any of the shortcomings or bad things about them. “Get over it” is a phrase I’d often hear when wrestling with the bad I experience in others or myself. I know this idea comes from a desire to not tear those down that you love. To focus on the good, the positive.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Ephesians 4:29

In the Bible I think it can even stem from verses like the one above (Eph. 4:29) Or similarly here: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Col. 4:6) Or the many occasions where slander is specifically called out to be far from us as believers. But I think using these verses like this is swinging the pendulum too far the other direction. I think this because when I look at scripture, as I have read through the entire Bible, it is full of stories of these “heroes of the faith” as we can tend to call them in the church. Of all places to see only the good, I think this culture would have you believe it would be in the Holy Bible as it speaks of its “heroes”, but that is not at all what we see. We get the honor of seeing the whole story, the good and the bad, the joy and the pain. When we do, it somehow can make the joy feel that much more joyous, and it can also make the pain feel that much more painful. When Genesis tells us about Abraham’s horrible treatment of his wife Sarah in Egypt, or in Judges as we see how often Samson followed his own desires, speaking of following his own desires we cannot forget King David not just with Bathsheba but at other times throughout his story as well… do these stories of the bad things about these leaders in the faith ruin their story? Did it cancel out their place in history? No, it didn’t do any of these things, but instead allowed us to see that these were real people, that were not perfect just like you and me. They experienced both joy and pain, it wasn’t just roses and rainbows all the time for them, so why would it be that way for any of us today?

My dad as my soccer coach
My dad as my soccer coach.

As I continue the process of grieving the loss of my dad, I will continue to grow in allowing myself to hold the joy and the pain both of his loss, of the ups and downs of our relationship we had throughout his life, and honor him as the man he was, my dad. And I love him.

How about you? In what ways have you experienced the tension of the joy and pain in your life?

Joy in the Storm

“And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  But he (Jesus) was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” – Mark 4:37-38a

This has been something I have experienced spiritually and emotionally recently, that I’m in a boat and windstorms of life have arisen, waves have been breaking into my boat so that it has Christ Asleep In His Boat by Jules Joseph Meynierbeen filling and it feels like I’m in danger of drowning.  When I call out to God, it seems at times like He is sleeping in the storm much like Jesus was in this story, and I feel like the disciples did in the boat with Jesus.  I start to freak out and ask Him, “Do you not care that we are perishing?  Um, hello, Jesus, do you see me over here?  I’m about to drown, don’t you see this?  Are you gonna do anything?” Ever experience something like this?  I have before, and I have recently.  It isn’t easy or fun when you are in the midst of it and freaking out.

What is it that I’m forgetting, just like the disciples did in this story, in the midst of the storm?  I think I could say a lot of things here, but lets look back a few verses to what was going on in this story. Just before this storm rose up and the disciples started to freak out, Jesus had finished telling some parables and told the disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.”  Did you get that?  Jesus didn’t say, “Hey, let’s get in this boat and go sink out in the middle, for this is how we die today.”  No, he says, let us go across to the other side.  As in, everyone on the boat. Seems like Jesus had a plan and it included getting to the other side of this body of water without drowning.  And these were experienced fishermen – they have been in boats, most likely have even gone across this body of water before, and it is a high chance they have been in storms on the water before as well but they still freak out in this storm (must have been big).  In spite of their expertise, or maybe because of their expertise, they freak out about this storm and turn to Jesus when they don’t know what else to do.  Just like me at times, they have easily forgotten what Jesus has said and they were confused that their circumstances weren’t what they expected of their journey.

What is Jesus’ response after they wake him?  First He calms the storm with His words – which is incredibly loving of Him.  Then verse 40 says: “He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?'”  Jesus had told them they were going to go across to the other side, but how quickly they lost sight of what Jesus said and were overcome by their fear in the storm.  I do this.  I have experienced this recently, and there are many aspects to this current storm for me. But I am reminded that I am not experiencing joy in this time because I am so easily distracted by the storm around me.  Someone recently said to me that joy is: looking to Jesus first, then to others, and then lastly to yourself (Jesus, others, yourself = Joy).  It is kinda silly doing acronyms, I know, but really it made some sense when you look at the great commandments – to love God (seek His Kingdom) and to love others.  Instead of looking to Jesus first, I’ve often in the storm been looking to myself, my own needs, and my own desires. Like the disciples on the boat I start freaking out and saying “God, don’t you see me? Don’t you care that I am perishing?”  I easily forget promises He has made. I forget who He is.  Please pray for me to turn from myself – repent – and look to Jesus.  The disciples had to learn this lesson, so at least I’m in good company.

When I discussed this with someone the other day, what came to my mind is the Casting Crowns song – “Praise You In This Storm”, so I have included it from Youtube below.  I think it is fitting and pray that although my heart is torn, that I will praise Him in this storm.  I am reminded also that just because we can and want to experience joy in these storms does not mean that we act like our hearts aren’t broken and just put on a happy face. We can bring our brokenness to Jesus and that is how we experience this Joy.  By coming to Him, no matter what. Lord, help me in this even now!

It’s a small world… after all.

As we have been on this adventure, following God into full time ministry that He has called us to, I am seeing more and more all the time that it is a small world, after all (pun intended).  Starting back with our original connection to Kevin, the Cru staff person that we happened to live in the same town as and have some mutual friends in common with, who was the person lead by God to start this ministry we are called to… There are around 25,000 full time staff serving worldwide with this Cru in about 191 countries, and the one staff person God was using to do this ministry “just happened” to be right where we were so that we could be introduced to him when we were.  Then all the amazing stories of how God has connected us with ministry partners from so many different places, many people whom we didn’t know – nor did they know us – before getting connected through this time.  Even how God has connected us with places to live here in Colorado, two of those places are with people we never knew before being introduced to live with them.  But what is amazing in all of these connections, is how God moves through His body… the body of Christ… the body of believers.  That is what has made it feel like such a small world, which when you think of this world in comparison to the creator of the universe, or even our planet alone to the size of what’s around it (check out this neat flash video a guy put together that may help you understand the amazing size – big and small – of creation: http://htwins.net/scale2/), it truly is a “small world”.  But even on this small world, and with little ol’ me and my beautiful wife and kids, God cares specifically about me and the minute details of my life – it is AMAZING!

Our “Blue Marble” from space. – image courtesy NASA website.

Another neat story recently that is just developing involves an adventure my Dad is on in Europe.  About a month ago, he decided to go on a pilgrimage of sorts, if any of you have seen the movie The Way starring Martin Sheen (Tom – also my Dad’s name) who embarks on the historical pilgrimage “The Way of St. James” (a.k.a. El Camino de Santiago), well, that is where my Dad is now.  This trek is about a 500 mile journey starting in France and continuing all the way across northern Spain to finish at the Santiago de Compostela.  When we told the couple whom we are currently living with about this “walk” my Dad was going to do, they remembered when one of their son’s (also staff with Cru) was on a mission in Spain with Cru and helped work at a house that Cru runs along the path for the pilgrims.  Well, this got me curious to look into this place, and I hoped to see if I could find anyone connected with the house to be in touch with and get more information for my Dad to possibly stay there.  In this search, I have found and been introduced to a few people that have in the past been involved with the Cru house (called La Fuente del Peregrino – The Pilgrim’s Fountain – by Cru’s European arm, Agape), and even found one person that will be staffing the house around the time my Dad should be there.  Not that any of this isn’t small world enough, but it just so happens that the guy I found – or rather I believe God lead me to – participated in the Walt Disney World College Program in 2004-2005!  This just made me laugh… actually, it made me fall to my knees and praise God for how amazing He is and how He continually amazes me with the story He is weaving together for us.

As I write this post, we are sitting at almost 80% (around 77% to be exact, but who’s counting right? :-)) of our monthly need goal that we need to reach in order to report down to Florida… and I never could imagine the journey God had in store for us in just preparing to get down there!  The people God has brought in to our lives, and the people that He has planned for us yet to meet before we reach that 100% mark that will allow us to report to our ministry in Florida, have been nothing short of a blessing to us.  And this whole process just continually reminds me that God is Almighty, He is in control of the details of life for His good purposes and for the good of those who love Him, even when we don’t understand His ways at the time.  And all of this makes me extremely grateful for how He loves me.

The “Crazy Cycle”, make the first move

If you want to resolve a conflict, you need to make the first move. It requires courage and humility … you can’t wait for your spouse to meet you halfway. (Emphasis added)
The “Crazy Cycle” – FamilyLife.com

Isn’t it a Crazy Cycle indeed?  If you don’t know what the Crazy Cycle is, it is only because you haven’t heard it called by that name yet… especially if you are married or have lived in a house with parents who are married or even dating long term!  It starts with either the husband not showing his wife the love he has for her – especially if he doesn’t show it in a way that she would recognize it (ever heard of the 5 Love Languages?) and feel loved – or the wife not respecting her husband.  After this trigger, the Crazy Cycle starts with the opposite spouse reacting in the equally negative way… which continues on for as long as the couple keeps on reacting in this negative way not showing love or respect to one another.

I have to admit, even though we – my wife and I – have been through the Love & Respect book/series more than one time along with other similar studies that address the same issue, I still continue to find us giving in to this Crazy Cycle.  Just like the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:15 – “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  I hate when I don’t show my wife the love she really does deserve, even if I don’t think she deserves it for whatever reason at some moment in time.  I find it interesting how this part of scripture in Paul’s letter, comes immediately after addressing an “illustration from marriage”, curious for me at least!

I know when I find Michelle and I in the Crazy Cycle, that the “easiest” and “quickest” way to end that cycle is, as the quote from the Family Life website above shows, for me to make the first move.  Amazing how the up-and-coming wisdom of our culture so feeds this Crazy Cycle, and how easy it is to buy into that “wisdom” and get caught up in such a destructive and silly rhythm.  The world gives the example that a woman doesn’t need to respect a man if he doesn’t respect her first… Then it goes on to show men that women are there to meet a carnal need and we can be the emotionally checked-out guy who thinks love is only what happens in the bedroom.

This idea of making the first move isn’t just something made up, or being a “macho man” or something, but it is coming directly from the Bible.  When we look at Ephesians 5, the chapter that the Love and Respect series uses to discuss the idea of a husband loving his wife, and the wife respecting her husband, I find it important to note what exactly Paul is writing to the husbands here.  Paul writes, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), what I know about Christ’s love for the church is this: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  So what does this mean for me as a husband?  It means I need to follow Christ’s example, I need to first love my bride, I need to make the first move.

My beautiful bride and I enjoying a hockey game “date night”
during our DCC conference back in January.

In God’s Timing…

Chuck with the “Neighbor kids”.
We received a very encouraging message in the most recent newsletter from one of the missionaries that we support from our church.  Chuck McDonald and his wife Tammy have an amazing story, and God has given them an amazing heart for outreach to the impoverished and orphaned children of Kenya – I highly encourage anyone reading our blog to go check out their website (www.savedbygodsgrace.org) to learn more about how God is using them to reach these children and even to pray about how God could use you to help the McDonalds in their ministry. 

Michelle and I have often been encouraged by not just the words of Chuck and Tammy, but of the evidence of how God has been working in and through their lives – at times I have felt like I was looking in a mirror when I hear them talk of how God has changed their hearts and opened them up to the mission field that God has called them into full-time.  Even though we are both in different life places and will be serving God in different ways, the change that has taken place to lead each of us to where we are is very much similar.

This month was another example of how encouraged we have been through the McDonalds and what God is teaching them.  In the newsletter, Chuck talks about “God’s timing…why does He seem to wait until the last minute?…for our good!”  Right out of the gate one can assume where this lesson is going, but something that was stated later really hit home for me especially with the process that Michelle and I are currently going through of building our team of ministry partners.  I think that this can apply to most anyone, because I know it isn’t the first time I have had a struggle with my timing vs. God’s timing.  This is not the first time I have heard something on this topic either, and I am sure it won’t be the last, but for some reason the way Chuck worded it in this letter really struck me in a way I hadn’t thought of before.

The statement that really struck me was this: “What I have found out is the plans He has take time, He is working in people’s lives we don’t even know will be involved, but the waiting is for our benefit and for others He is calling to be a part of His plan…”  What an amazing thought!  What an amazing perspective of clarification to have on the whole “waiting on God’s timing” point of view we are to have.  Of course we want to get down to Florida to start reaching the students on the Walt Disney World College Program, but there is more to our ministry than that… not to belittle the incredible opportunity that the WDW ministry holds, because it is an AWESOME opportunity, but we shouldn’t rush out of what potential God has for us in reaching a ministry partner that He maybe hasn’t even introduced us to yet.  Reading through Chuck’s current example of how well God’s timing worked out for them in their urgent situation, it is amazing to think that if they would have had things happen a little faster – in their timing – then they might not have had the incredible work that has happened happen.  I won’t go into too much detail on their specifics, so that you can go to their site and find out for yourself, but it just made me excited to know that whatever God’s timing is for the process we are currently in of raising our support, it is for His glory that things will work out the way they will…  And thankfully, it is also for our good, and by our I don’t just mean the Patrick family – although of course it includes us – but I mean our as in what it says in Romans 8:28: 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

He is working in “our” timing for the good of all of us who love him and have been called according to his purpose.  I guess that again I need to remember that everything isn’t just about me and mine… but there is a bigger picture going on that we amazingly get to be a part of.

If you are curious to learn more about the amazing work Chuck and Tammy are doing to build a sustainable source of food and water for the orphans in Kenya, click here to read about their special project and consider making a Christmas gift to help buy farmland and drill a well for clean water.  God is blessing their ministry in Kenya and we know you will be blessed when you read more about it just like we have been.