Thursday, April 21, 2011

Death is a Door

My daughter is 8-months pregnant with my first grandchild - a joyful and wondrous time for all of us as we watch the miraculous formation of new life.

But that joy was seriously shaken this week when one of my daughter's friends gave birth to a precious baby boy, Nathan, who lived only one hour. I'd like to share with you an excerpt from a poem Jessie wrote for his mourning wife Anna (names changed for privacy) and read at the baby's memorial service.

Please open wide your heart and pray for this grieving young couple who, right here at Easter time, can truly comprehend the grief of our Heavenly Father upon the death of his dearly beloved Son.

Little Did I Know

Little did I know ...
That one day in a doctor's office, I would see my wife fall to pieces,
all the hurt and all the pain without any reasons.
God did not ask, and God did not tell, that days ahead would seem to us like a living hell.

Why us?
Why him? she asked.
But not twice, not even once did she beg for it to pass.
To be a husband and to be helpless is one thing I will never forget.
But to be married to my wife is something I will never regret.
We cried, and we prayed and looked to each other for protection,
but before long we knew that's why God sent his Son in our direction.

Little DO I know
why, on April 15th, we would see ourselves begging at His feet.
The anticipation of the unknown was so hard to bear,
some would ask did God ever hear us or did He even care?

The day was here and the time had come for us to give back our little son.
As she held him in her arms, and touched his little face, there was not a sound in the room,
Beloved son, Nathan
only peace in that place.
An hour went by as we enjoyed his short life,
and I stood by amazed at my beautiful wife.

Everything I know tells me all the prayers and late night calls were not in vain,
Because God still prevails, God is still our ALL.
We might not ever know the reason for Nathan's death,
but rest assured it was not his last breath.
We will stay strong in our faith during the days ahead
because we know that our God is alive and our God  is not dead.
Nathan only had a few breaths of life, but his last here was his first with our
Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Everything I know still won't answer why
Our faith was put through this test,
but I never doubted once that He gave me the best.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Heart's in the Arts

My daughter Cricket
I had a rather disturbing conversation recently with a co-worker in children's church. At least it was for me, although he seemed unfazed.

I was preparing to show a clip from the overtly Christian movie, Facing the Giants, at the end of a David and Goliath lesson for over 100 elementary-aged kids. When I mentioned how the last football scene in the movie always gave me chill bumps and misty eyes, Sean (name changed), my "co-host," abruptly stated that he'd never seen the movie and probably never would.

"Why not?" I asked, astonished. I knew he had a son and daughter who were the perfect ages to benefit from the tremendous application message in the film about honoring God in sports (and life) no matter what - win or lose.

"Because," he stated rather smugly, I thought, "the acting and directing are reportedly sub-par. As an actor myself, I can't abide movies or plays that don't achieve the highest standards."

"Oh, I see. So you've never been to your children's school plays? Or any church productions?"

"It's not the same thing. They're not professionals."

"But what is their end goal - their purpose (as believers) for performing?"

"To glorify God, of course."

"And what is the purpose of Christian producers, directors and actors in the mainstream arts?"

Sean paused. "To glorify God, I suppose." The irony of his answer seemed to sink in as his face colored slightly. "But when I'm spending money to see a film, I want to spend it on something that will edify and challenge me. Not something that I could have done better myself."

"I thought you said you'd never seen it."

"I haven't."

"Then how do you know God wouldn't use it to touch your heart, or edify and challenge your wife or your children through a movie that was completely created and dedicated to His service? The first time I saw it, I thought some of the acting could have been better, but in the end, it didn't matter one whit. I was so caught up in the story and the wonder of God's miraculous intervention in the lives of the characters that I was intensely moved, more than by any movie I've seen in a long time. In the Bible, God speaks through donkeys and chickens. Why would you assume He can't speak through arts created by gifted people who love Him?"

Sean shrugged and turned away, but I noticed later while the clip was playing he was riveted to the screen along with every other eye in the room.

I feel very strongly about supporting faith-based arts. I'm not saying we have to pretend to like them all, but I feel that we owe it to our brothers and sisters in the Lord to support their efforts to use their talents and abilities in His name. After all, He intentionally gave them their talents and abilities for just that purpose.

I want my money to speak for my choice to dwell on things that are true and honorable and right; things that are pure and lovely and admirable (Phil.4:8). I want Hollywood to know by my attendance - numbers ares the only way to speak their language - that I support movies that make me think about that which is spiritually "excellent and worthy of praise."

And I'm willing to plunk my Andrew Jacksons down as proof.

I haven't yet seen the newest big screen phenomena, Soul Surfer, but I plan to as soon as Spouse emerges from tax week and we can manage to carve out a date night. I've heard good things about it, but even if I hadn't, I'd go to make a moral statement. And I hope you will too.  


Monday, April 4, 2011

Even the Rocks Will Cry Out!

Had a wonderfully uplifting weekend worshiping, learning and just plain goofing off with a delightful group of ladies at an international Free Methodist women's conference.

Representatives of three cultures were there, with interpreters simultaneously speaking during my talks. That was a first for me.

One group had headset translators, with a male translator sitting in the back of the room doing his best to translate unique Debbie Coty terms like "joy-sucking dully-funks" that are sprinkled throughout my presentations. I apologized to him afterward for my girls only talk that included the three B's: boys, boobs and babies. Thankfully, he had a robust sense of humor.

The other translator spoke aloud to her group, which created an interesting echo whenever I paused for breath. After the first twenty minutes, I got (sort of) used to focusing on what I was saying instead of standing mesmerized like a deer in headlights watching her lips fly. I'm quite sure I never got the hang of speaking slowly enough, and want to take this opportunity to express appreciation to hard-working, under-appreciated translators everywhere.

The sing-along songs were a real hoot. I almost always include one of my original funny sing-along songs in my presentations, and it was quite an experience when half of the group could't read the lyrics (in English) and therefore couldn't follow the gestures either. It was really hilarious watching everyone do their best to copy the hand motions of their neighbors without knowing what in the world they meant. The Haitian ladies did an especially good job ad-libbing.

But I'm telling you - there's nothing quite like singing spirited praise songs in a room full of simultaneous languages. Everyone came together in a unity of spirit that was incredible. God must have been smiling. I know I was.