I’m at home tonight and the house is pretty quiet. Olivia is sleeping and Jack Johnson is playing in the background over the blackness of 3am that’s coming through the windows. A small lamp lights half the room enough for me to wade through things that haven’t been touched in nearly 2 years. If you listen really closely you can hear the drops of tears falling on the wooden surface of my dresser top.
I’m going to guess that most of you are reading that expecting my tears to be for things lost. Yes, I have shed many tears for things lost…but tonight my tears aren’t for things lost at all. The tears I cry are out of an overwhelming sense of gratitude for how God is rebuilding my family; for what he is giving us, not what he has taken. See, I’m going through the remainder of Misty’s things and separating out some stuff that I know I want to keep for Olivia. Here’s what gets me though… Only a few days ago, I sat with Kristin (who I have been dating for a few months now) and she told me all the things she knew Olivia was going to really want when she gets older. Kristin, for all intents and purposes, lost her mom at age 8. A massive stroke left her unable to care for herself or even know her family. She grew up with a burning desire to know the character traits, the funny stories, the likes and dislikes, etc. of her mom. She knows exactly what Olivia will be feeling in the coming years. I’m in tears because God has brought someone into my life that could sit with me and tell me from first hand experience what will be most significant for Olivia.
Most people would think that my dating will in some way bury the memory of Misty. How incredible that God puts someone in my life that not only won’t hinder Olivia’s knowledge of Misty, but that will actually facilitate it. This was a prayer of mine. A prayer that God is answering in a way I couldn’t have imagined possible. As I see God’s hand so clearly in my life, I can’t help but be overwhelmed.
There were actually a handful of things that I put out to God as “criteria” for me to start dating. God has answered each of these very unique requests in Kristin and in more than one case, he has answered in a way that is better than I could have even dreamed. I wish I could adequately express how this feels…I guess it’s like, for the first time in many painful seasons; I’m seeing God’s hand so clearly in my life. He is so clearly making a way out of the hell we walked through toward a future of peace and joy for me and Olivia. God has brought someone into our lives that is absolutely perfect for where we are and where we are heading. And on top of that, I’m seeing that we are precisely what Kristin needs as well. And if that weren’t enough…we are totally unequivocally in love :)
I hope that your heart is happy when you read this, but I know that for a few of you this just opens a wound that struck so deeply last September when we lost Misty. I’m so sorry that this brings pain for some of you. God has really done something in my heart to allow me to be where I am right now. I’m so thankful for what he is doing for me and even more so what he is doing for Olivia. God is speaking so clearly lately; I promise to tell you more in the coming weeks.
I am not always on top of the little things in life. Like, paying bills, mowing the lawn, or putting gas in my car. A couple days back I had to steal Kristin’s jeep because it has a bit more space than my little golf cart (scion xa). I was helping my brother Justin move into their sweet new condo.
Anyway, Kristin took Olivia for a few hours but they found themselves out of gas stranded in the middle of a Walgreen’s parking lot. Luckily a few friendly folks pushed them into a spot where they decided to play pretend till the cavalry showed up with some unleaded. I’m a huge fan of voice recorders lately. I have 3 and leave them all over so I can record a little audio journal about experiences/ideas/prayers/revelations/etc. Well, Kristin saw the voice recorder in my car and decided to leave us a message. It was too cute to not post for you.
Now, I told her I was going to take a vote on who should be responsible for this mishap…but the truth is, she only drove like 3 miles and I guess I did leave a fat bag of m&ms on the dash covering the gas gauge. I’ll take the blame for this one :)
Listen to the voice message: HERE
PS- on a side note, a voice recorder (one that has a USB port so you can dump the files to your computer) is a really incredible journal tool. I keep one in my car so as I listen to audio books I can take notes without risking my life and typing the thoughts on my blackberry while driving :)
I’m excited to finally have a cut of the video to post for you all from this summer’s trip to Zimbabwe. I traveled with Ryan Keith (president of Forgotten Voices) and Steve Pilgrim (video editor extraordinaire). I had the lovely job of shooting the footage. Hope you enjoy it. Oh, and you can give money if you want…they are really great and obviously close to my heart :)
Visit them at http://forgottenvoices.org
I just read my post from a year ago: from Thanksgiving 2008.
Read it here
Thankful for Cancer
I’m still thankful today for what God has done in the hearts of the people closest to me. We know him in a different – much more real - way. There is a huge tension though as I consider the pain and loss that someone I loved so greatly experienced. It doesn’t seem fair.
There are still so many things that don’t seem fair. While God is blessing me more than I can explain each day, he also rips my heart out on a regular basis. Whether its death of someone I love, stage IV cancer diagnosis for a coworker, major financial struggles for a good friend or the loss of faith in someone I’ve invested so much in trying to encourage…and that’s just this month.
It’s normal for us to feel like questioning God on some of the difficulties we end up walking through. Job did right? He found himself questioning God as he approached the lowest time in his life. Now, to be fair…we all would probably do the same thing if we lost our family, wealth and health. But I love God’s response to him: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?’ – Wow. For me that’s quite humbling. It brings me right back to the place where I say:
God, no matter what you ask me to walk through, I will praise you. I will be thankful for the provision and blessing in my life, regardless of the trials you let me endure. The joy I have is from you and I am so thankful.
Job 38:1-7 (NLT)
1 Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
2 “Who is this that questions my wisdom
with such ignorant words?
3 Brace yourself like a man,
because I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.
4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
5 Who determined its dimensions
and stretched out the surveying line?
6 What supports its foundations,
and who laid its cornerstone
7 as the morning stars sang together
and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?
Liv and I spent a few hours this afternoon wandering the acres of land at Conover’s Tree Farm in Netpune. We did finally decide on one…and here she is :)
PS…no, we didn’t bring it home. We wait till Dec, then go back and chop it down.
I have some big news. A number of weeks ago, when I wasn’t expecting it at all, God made a drastic change in my heart. Literally overnight, I went from a place where I could not even imagine myself dating again to a place where my heart felt free to love and remember Misty, but also begin to dream about loving someone else. There was no explanation for how quick this happened. I met again with my counselor again to bounce my feelings off him to make sure I wasn’t crazy. This whole idea wasn’t easy for me to accept at first. After a while though, it seemed so apparent that God, in his timing, had done something uncanny in my heart.
Fast forward to today and through an incredible series of events and revelations, I am dating someone. She and I are committed to loving God, to setting an example of a Godly dating relationship and to honoring Misty and Misty’s legacy as Olivia’s mom. The story of how Kristin and I have begun dating is proving to be fairly incredible. Not more than a few days have passed without my eyes welling up and my heart crying to God in humility. God’s hand in my life is overwhelmingly apparent. Maybe someday over lunch I’ll get to share it with you :)
Anyway, I’m doing well. I wouldn’t have seen this coming…but I’m really happy. I mean, I will never be totally free from the sting of losing someone I loved so dearly, or even worse, the sting of remembering what she went through. But God has changed my heart to be able to love again and the person he has brought into my life right now is incredible. For that, I’m so thankful.
If you have ever worked with me you know that I am a big fan of professionalism in a product or an event. In college I was in charge of running all the big concerts (like Switchfoot, etc) and I was kinda obsessed with having everything planned out and looking professional. I would invest so much energy into creating a professional image. I remember spending over an hour on signs that were only for the band to know where the bathrooms were..I mean, seriously!!
I’m kinda in my element though this week. I have the privilege of spending the week at Harvard Business School for an executive leadership course. When I arrive on campus, the guard knew who I was and gave me clear directions. A short drive through the campus and I’m met by a group of porters who take my luggage and escort me to registration…then to my room. In my room I find a personalized messenger bad with the Harvard Business School Executive Education logo and all of my course materials neatly inside. Then to the classroom where all the seats have name tags and logo printed usb thumb drives. This was just the beginning, but needless to say I’m feeling comfortable here :)
Anyway, I’m away for the week…surrounded by 96 other leaders from 36 countries around the world. So for 6 days we are in sessions or meals together from 7:30am till late in the evening when I collapse in my room and try to prepare for the next day by reading all the case studies and such. So if I ignore your email this week, I’m sorry :) Be back soon.
For years reading the Bible was boring. I’d do it as an act of committment…and that committment was severely lacking for much of my life. It was hard to see the point when it seemed like so much of it was difficult to understand.
I’m really thrilled with how incredible my time in the Bible is at this stage in my life. I read most every day and its not a chore, but something I look forward to. I don’t say this to boast because if you know me closely, you know my life is lacking in many areas just as most of us are…I am simply trying to pass on some insight that has been helpful to me. Really, I am nobody…just excited that there are a few great tools to make reading the Bible a whole lot easier and subsequently, making getting to know God’s character much more within reach.
For me, I need a good Bible. New Living Translation (NLT) is probably the best translation on the block, though a few others are good. NLT is readable and quite accurate. I definitely need a study Bible….a good collection of notes on the text being read. The reason for this is pretty simple. I am not a university trained Bible scholar. I’m just a guy who has grown to love God and wants to live that way. So at times, there are aspects of the Bible that I may not understand. And when I say “at times”, I mean most every time I read. Study Bibles can really help bring light to the questions we have….or help guide us if we misinterpret something.
For instance: today I was reading 1 Corinthians 7:1 “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. Well, this is actually a Jewish euphemism for sexual intercourse. This is a classic example of something that is stated one way, but understanding the history and original language can reveal the actual meaning with more clarity. I generally read a section of the chapter then go back and read the notes to see what someone else thought. The notes aren’t a replacement by any stretch, but can enhance our understanding.
So…If I were buying a Bible for the first time, there are only two Bibles that I know of on the market right now that I would select from:
MacArthur Study Bible (New King James) – Incredible collection of notes, probably the best out there that I have seen. Book introductions are incredible and help with understanding why the book was written. New King James version is a great translation, and though slightly less readable than the New Living Translation (NLT) when coupled with the notes makes for a very understandable package. I own the imitation leather version and its my main Bible that I read almost daily.
>> Buy the MacArthur Study Bible
Transformation Study Bible (New Living Translation) – I recently bought a study Bible for a friend who preferred NLT. Understandable so as it’s clearly the most comfortable to read. I surveyed all the NLT Bibles that had notes…all the study Bibles. This was the clear winner in my mind. A great set of notes that were relevant and not cheesy or stupid. A really great approach to book introductions as well. Did I not get hooked on MacArthur, this would be my main reader. I purchased the bonded leader version, which is really nice, but they also have imitation leather and a fairly inexpensive hardcover option.
>> Buy the Transformation Study Bible
Now…if you really can’t bear the thought of lugging around a thick Bible everywhere, just pick up a small and thin New Living Translation like this one:
>> Buy the Compact NLT Bible
Lastly, if you are new to Bible reading, you might want to stay away from The Message. Even in my limited reading I have found a few clear errors in the way it is paraphrased. It’s actually not a Bible…technically just a summary or paraphrase. Still, in teaching I have used it often as it sometimes does a great job of beautifully articulating the meaning. Just read it alongside a real translation.
NOTE: I am 100% sure many of you will find doctrinal pieces of some of these study Bibles that you disagree with. There isn’t a human on the planet who has EVERYTHING figured out. That’s ok. In general, most of these differences though really don’t matter. And it’s a bit crazy to to think it would be better to not study at all than to learn from a great teacher who may have a difference of opinion on something yet totally agrees with the core values and teachings:)
The term “false teachers” isn’t one I use very often. It seems like a term that one of those “holier-than-thou” type Christians would always be using and I spend a great deal of time working on not being one of those folks. The truth though, is that I haven’t been able to get away from the term this last week. I read a good chunk of the new testament of the Bible in the last few weeks and I’m absolutely astonished as to how many references there are to false teachers. In fact, there are a few books like Jude or 2 John, that basically contain nothing but warnings against false teachers. Yup, entire books of the Bible dedicated to telling us to watch out for people who sound like they know the Bible but really aren’t on point at all.
If we subscribe to the common tennet of Christianity that God’s word is not only what God said 2000 years ago, but what he is saying today…well, its pretty hard to imagine that now in 2009, we suddenly don’t have to worry about this problem. So what does this mean?
I guess it means that we are needing to be wise in what we accept as good teaching. Perhaps it means that we need to study the Bible on our own and discern whether or not what we are being taught is true. I am no expert in this…in fact, over the course of my life I’ve been pretty bad at studying the Bible on my own. But I work on it. I’m just thinking out loud here.
I’d love to take the next few years and study the teachings of all the preachers on TV and radio and examine their doctrines…but I’m hardly qualified. I can tell you though, if your teacher tells you that Jesus wants you to have a life without suffering, or perhaps a life of financial prosperity…well, he isn’t reading the same Bible that I do :)
But seriously, I was just amazed at the frequency with which the net testament exhorts us to be careful about false teachers. I’m going to be thinking about that this week.