Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hoping for some prayer...

Quick post to ask for prayer. Today just seemed to be a busy Saturday of little stuff. A little cleaning. A little hanging out with dear friends. Just an average day. We intended to go down to Santa Cruz and hit Betty's Burgers but Jake seemed to be just not doing great. A lot of it is emotions - nervous over the pending MRI and subsequent surgery. That just seems to loom and cause anxiety. So if you could in the midst of all else - continue to pray for the thumb, the MRI on the thumb, the surgery on the thumb, the state of Jake's thumb. And with all that pray for his emotions - sadness, anxiety, fear. As a lot of us know it can pull us down and grip our heart - making it hard to move, hard to breathe. Pray for freedom - freedom of worry. Pray for hope - focus on God's hand.

Tomorrow we are going to share a bit of the story at FBC - Watsonville. It is a church that we served at for 5 years. It is a bit like going home. We went through a bit of a journey together as a church. There are a lot of people very dear to us. A lot of people that we love. It will be good - but it will of course be hard too. Pray that in the midst of the message there is hope, encouragement and of course love.

All of this I ask - knowing that I do not even need to ask for prayer. Knowing that so many pray if I ask or not truly, truly encourages us. For right now I must admit that I am tired. The burden is heavy but the load is shared. I thank my God for those that I know and those that I have yet to meet who consider us and pray.

In Hope,

Tom (Dad)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Love

Jacob had two appointments today: occupational therapy and physical therapy. He got a whole body work out. Focusing on getting his right arm stretched and moving - his hand doing more and not just being limp. He can do things but he is holding back - favoring his arm. It feels weird to touch things and try to use it. His thumb surgery is still to come - MRI on Monday. He is so overwhelmed by it all - such a mountain to climb. He does not have the advantage of seeing the mountains that he already has climbed. Yes we remind him, encourage him, empathise with him. But mainly what we need to focus on is that we simply love him. Remind him that we are right were we want to be. Loving each other is the most important thing to carry us through right now.

Love is not fluffy, clean, happy faces.

Love is gritty, dirty, tough.

Probably the most use verse at weddings has got to be 1 Cor 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

If we really took these verses to heart it would change what we have made love to be. Love gets dirty so that healing can come. It gets in there and cleans the wounds and wipes up the mess. It confronts wrongdoing not in pride and boasting but in humility and submission. Love desires that the other is moved toward wholeness - that sin is forgiven and cleansed - relationships are reconciled. Love is not easy - it is probably one of the three hardest things that we will ever have to face. Try to tell that to a young couple the week before their wedding. Try to tell that what they are about to experience will have times of filthy grime - of wallowing in mud. Patience is not easy, kindness at 4 am when the baby starts crying?

Love is dirty - I have seen love - I have seen it as Debbie changes the dressings on Jacob's injuries. I watched as she applied ointment to the skin graft on his head. I have seen love as friends sit with us at the hospital with bottles of water - every single night. I have seen love as meals are left for us, windows are cleaned, carpets given, songs sung, signs made, hugs given. I have seen the kind side of love - envy free, caring and not rude. I have seen love in simple, earnest, heart-poured out prayers. Non of this love is fluffy, clean smiley faces love. It is on our knees getting dirty sacrificial love. This kind of love leads to joy, strengthens faith, encourages hope.

Christ love is a messy, dirty love. It is a bloody mess hanging on the cross - murderous love. The cross is scandalous and beautiful; innocence was crucified; love was fully, wholly on display in messy, dirty beauty. Perhaps we (I) have a hard time seeing love in this way. I want love to be free of all problems, carefree, happy-go-lucky and innocent. True love is from God and removes sin, guilt, all accusations. Loves moves through the dirt and cleans it up so that there is freedom. If love does not get dirty, nothing is cleaned.

I am not so sure the rest of that chapter in 1 Cor is used at weddings:

Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I put childish ways behind me.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully,
even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Maturity grows from infatuation, me-centered affinity to get dirty commitment and trust growing toward perfection. And though things are not perfect right now - we through the love of Christ have the opportunity and blessing to move toward God as we move and grow and realize that our attempts at love are just a reflection of what is truly found in God who is love.
In Faith. In Hope In Love.
Tom (Dad)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Joy in the small(er) things

Hello all. I have a been a bit out of touch with the blog world, keep putting it off, but I just wanted to check in and share a few insights from my week.

It has been an overwhelming week. For one, because of a lot of things I have to get done. Also, I have been weighed down by hearing of so many other tragic stories in others' lives. So many little things that I would hear and shrug off, but now contribute to this weight of how much "life sucks." (I know I'm sounding pessimistic... bear with me. I definitely wouldn't call myself an optimist right now, though). I feel like the typical Christian response to all the "crap" in our lives is "I am so glad God is bigger than all this, otherwise I would get overwhelmed." But since "God is good," we should always feel happy and not worry. This response just doesn't sit well with me, because I feel like it causes us to gloss over issues rather than dig them out and work through the grief, the pain, the sorrow.

Yes God is "bigger" than all this... but he doesn't work by just letting us ignore the pain. I think that the greatest joys in life are to be had out of working through the hard things, finding meaning in sorrow. Somehow, for me, this manifests itself in small ways in my life. In deep, meaningful conversations where I can share my heart with somehow who also shares theirs with mine. When I can share my experiences with others, and it helps them work through something in their life. When I can call my brother in the morning and hear from him how he is doing. When I stop to enjoy a view. When I listen to a song that resonates with me. This is how I experience God, I think. Increasingly, I am finding that the typical ways that I am told to experience God aren't working for me anymore - in worship services, from sermons, in personal Bible studies... these are valuable things, to be sure. But I am experiencing God in everyday life. I seek to understand the Kingdom, to understand the presence of God as something that is wholly and purely with us, that saturates everyday living. I see him in the little things.

I am fascinated by the idea of the Incarnation, because it resonates this idea. The "Big" God of the universe manifested himself in a small and finite way. The Grand became Debased, the Transcendent became Realized. The whole point of dealing with this "crap" in our lives is not that the BIG God of the Universe pulls us out of it and takes us away from the pain... the point is that out of LOVE, the manifested Messiah, the Incarnate has chosen to stay with us in our times of trial and pain, and bear our burdens with us.

We don't serve a God who is the puppet master of the universe. We serve a God who sits next to us in the mud and mire of life, and whispers in our ears: "I love you." The way he did this was through Christ, through the Incarnation, through the death and resurrection... and the Spirit of this Christ-love-restoration lives on in Resurrection in our midst.

I can't get past what a joy it was to just chat with my brother Jacob on the phone this morning. It literally pushed me through all of the things I had to do today for school and the RA job. In this I rest... in the providence of a simple interaction. I feel Christ's Spirit whispering in my ear that he is with me in this. He is pushing through this right alongside me. That's what he did on the cross... and that's what he is constantly doing. Continuing this mission of restoration. There is hope. It is a hope that our world of brokenness desperately needs. Today in CVS, I overheard the cashier respond to a customer who was explaining some measures he took to prevent thievery: "I guess you have to in this world!"

Our world needs hope... a hope that doesn't condemn, but a hope that says: "I love you. I am with you. Even to the end."

-Rob (Jacob's brother)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

4ft Burrito and Rock Band

Jacob got to stay home today. No appointments! Just home assignments from each therapist. He and Debbie seemed to have a good day together. A bit more restful. Jensen made us buy Rock Band - Beatle Edition - it wasn't that hard. It comes with drums, guitar and microphone. It is fun to watch them "perform". Jensen and Jacob goofed around with it for a while. Then about 6 of Jacob's friends came up. Jake had gotten really excited about having a 4 foot burrito from UnaMas. Here it is in all it's glory. All but 1 foot got devoured. Jake loves having his friends up - and it is a huge commitment for them to drive up the mountain. It was nice for us to see Jensen enjoying being with Jake's friends.

Tomorrow is a day for specific prayer. In the morning is the meeting with the hand surgeon - third opinion. We have an MRI scheduled for Monday. It is nerve wracking for Jake. He told me tonight that he wants his hand back. All I could think to say is that we would get there. Big hurdles to get through. Big surgery to come. His right hand is still pretty useless - need to get through the surgery to get to the healing to get to the rehab to start getting the strength and see what he can really do with it.

Also tomorrow is an appointment with the speech therapist. Pray that he would feel more encouraged by her and that she would point out his progress instead of him feeling like she looks at what he can't do - she makes him feel stupid I think - like there is something wrong with him.

Loving acceptance is huge and takes little effort on our part. Good lesson for me too. I know that God is changing me too through this - noticing those that are easily looked over - finding a way to do something small without out expecting anything back. Just something little that can change a person for a moment. I think of the security guard buying Debbie a Diet Coke the first night at Dominican. He did not have to do it - did not get anything in return - or maybe he did. Loving acceptance goes a long way.

in hope and prayer,

Tom (Dad)

by the way, if you live in the Watsonville area we will be at First Baptist Church for their 10:30 worship service. We will share a bit of Jacob's Story with them. www.fbcwatsonville.com. And of course another thing to add to your prayer list.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Endure hardships...

Jacob was 3 years old when we packed up and moved to Ivory Coast in Africa. I quite my job at the bank and we were dorm parents for some of the most amazing high school girls. When we landed he announced quite proudly, "I'm four!" When explaining to him we were going to be there a year we had told him that he would have a birthday while we were there. We landed in early July he had just had his birthday in May. One of the hardest things for Jake was getting all the shots before we left and the weekly dosage of anti-malaria medication while we were there. Jake actually got malaria twice while we were there. His normal "never-sit-still" body was limp and so very hot - from fever and from the tropical humid heat.

14 years later I am reminded of that time in so many ways as he sometimes seems so down and out of it and how much he hates to have to get shots and give medication. Last night in helping him get to his bed his bottle attached to his pik line dropped. It stops about two inches above the floor and pulls on the stitches in his arm - freaks us both out. I remember crying in Africa holding Jake wondering why in the world I brought my sons to a place where their lives were in danger - that I had put them in danger. So much of my fear is more about me than about the one who is hurting - empathy that is. Jensen has huge amounts of empathy - he is hurting for his brother very much. I am so thankful that my boys are far more godly than I ever was or ever will be.

Compassion and empathy are powerful gifts from God that change our attitude. It is actually a powerful tool of realigning our attitude. Try wearing it the next time someone ticks you off when they cut in front of you in traffic. Instead of cussing them out calling them a jerk and inconsiderate fool - picture this...they just got a phone call from a friend of their son, he is in the emergency room at the hospital and they need to get there - urgent to get there - longing to be their with their child. Compassion takes over; empathy emerges and we hurt for them - some of you who overflow with this gift will even cry.

I imagine that is much of what is happening with so many and Jacob's Journey. We are so thankful for so many hurting alongside of us as it is our own worst fear for ourselves - to have devastating news of a family member: cancer, drugs, drunk driver, bankruptcy, lost job, depression...those are some of the things I just heard in the last few days.

I have said this before but am feeling it pretty strongly right now: our pain does not trump your pain. I have had friends say to me that they do not want to share their pain with me because it pales in comparison to mine. I disagree totally and I really think scripture is on my side. Each pain is real and challenging and unique. James says that there are "trials" or "hardships" of various kinds. We get way to caught up in comparisons. At the end of John, Peter even gets caught up in this when Jesus is talking about what he is going through. Peter looks back at John and asks Jesus, "what about him?"

In this community of Christ, this community around us we have opportunity to walk with each other through hardships. We strengthen each other as we allow our trials to be shared and as we share the burdens of each other. Our time in Africa though extremely challenging on many levels was an amazing treasure - is an amazing treasure. As I look back the greatest treasure came through the relationships that we made and how they helped us to grow as people as we grew closer to God.
As I look at Jake now it is hard to keep in the mindset that this hardship is a treasure. The devastating wounds are far from healed - the road ahead is rough. My prayer tonight is that my son in the midst of all of this would feel the scarred hands of Jesus rubbing his feet, rubbing his hand, and massaging his temple. I pray that Jake would be strengthened in his spirit just tonight by the prayers of saints and attending angels. And that in the midst of his hardships he would see Jesus, the greatest treasure of all.
Eph 3:16-21 is an awesome prayer...
"I pray that out of his glorious riches
he may strengthen you with power
through his Spirit in your inner being,
so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have power, together with all the saints,
to grasp how wide and long and high and deep
is the love of Christ, and to know this love
that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled
to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more
than all we ask or imagine, according to his power
that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church
and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations,
for ever and ever! Amen."
Love and Peace,
Tom (Dad)

Monday, September 28, 2009

School a go...

I met with the experts at Aptos High today and we registered Jacob for classes for his senior year. He is officially an Independent Studies student utilizing a new online system to complete his senior year. But most importantly he is an Aptos High School Senior. We are going to use his own table that he made us in wood shop last year as our desk - so tomorrow - big task for me is to find a couple of chairs for this table.


Yes it is perfect!


Tomorrow is a blood test and physical therapy. One day at a time.

Wow, this is the 200th post. It has been quite a journey - I started reading the first couple of posts and am struck again at the journey that God has brought us through - though we are not close to being done - there is not nearly the devastation that racked our souls as in early July. Yet still I find this to be powerful....

Your Cross

The everlasting God has in His wisdom
foreseen from eternity the cross
that He now presents to you
as a gift from His inmost heart.
This cross, He now sends you,
He has considered with His all-knowing eyes,
understood with His divine mind,
tested with His wise justice,
warmed with His loving arms
and weighed with His own hands
to see that it be not one inch too large
and not one ounce too heavy for you
He has blessed it with His holy name,
anointed it with His consolation,
taken one last glance at you
and your courage, and then sent it
to you from heaven,
a special greeting from God to you,
in alms of the all-merciful love of God.
- St. Francis de Sales -

Somehow these words are a little easier to swallow. Not done yet - more to follow - and yet God is still with us - all of us - in full grace and mercy.

Love and Peace,

Tom (Dad)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tomorrow

Praying for tomorrow as we begin our week.

Overall it has been a nice weekend. A bit of rest before a rather big week. Jacob wanted to make an appearance at a birthday party of a really awesome family - one Jacob really cares about a lot. We then to a drive along the ocean - a bit foggy and a lot cooler than the hot weather up at our place. Overall not a whole lot to report. I think today I am trying to focus more on tomorrow than yesterday. I spend too much time focusing on what I can't control - what has already happened. That is so hard to do - for we are shaped so much by what has happened in our past. I was rubbing lotion on Jake's burn areas on his right-side back, underarm, arm - heeling yes but oh so scared. There is still a lot of work for him to get that arm back to functional - a lot of rehab. Honestly - Jake did not know it - but I started tearing up a bit - thinking of how damaged he is and how much I wish this had not happened.

Dwelling on the past gets me know where unless I am able to apply the lessons God has for me. Not that I truly understand all the lessons but I do know that all this is all so shaping of who we are and who we are becoming. Jake is stressed a bit by the upcoming appointments...especially those that are talking about the surgeries. We have another one this week to discuss the thumb. That is a tough one - we know that many are praying and continue to seek God's peace and doctor's wisdom.

Praising God everyday that he has saved Jacob. Praying to God each day that he will continue to guide and direct and anoint Jacob for his purpose. We are blessed to be a blessing.

Thanks for blessing us.

Tom (Dad)