Saturday, November 21, 2009

Love, Part 4

If you haven't noticed, I have been thinking a lot about "love." I think that there are a lot of good questions about love to ask regarding discipleship. At what point do we rest in contentment, not striving to always "do," but relax and let others come around us? That has been one great lesson through all of this... humility to take in love. But that love is not static. We are "blessed to be a blessing..."
I think that Jake is coming more to terms with the long-term-ness of all of this. I think that the subsiding of the back pain really helped improve his demeanor. Yes he is still depressed... we all are... I myself do not see yet see a near end to what I am coming to grips with as a bleak/dark period in my own life... but there is a rest, a contentment, a resolve to go through what he must, to endure. In that there is joy... not a "happy" joy, but more of a "resolved, ruthless" joy.

If you can, read John 15-16... it will put what I have to say in more context. All throughout John, Jesus seems to be talking in abstract terms about his commandments for us, how he is connected to the Father and has authority, the reasons that we should be obedient, etc... but finally in 15:12, he says:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what the Master is doing... These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Love is the center of a dynamic cycle. We are called to follow Christ's commandments... following his commandments is showing our love to him... but the very central commandment that he calls us to is to love one another, as he loved us! Love is the command. It is also the means to following that command... and it is all centered around Christ, around the example he gave, around the scandal involved in a holy, perfect God becoming unholy and imperfect because he loves us. This is the paradox of the incarnation.

The reason I say all this is because I pray that this cycle be evident in the lives of my family members through this ordeal... that we would relax and take in love when needed, but that we would also be proactive in this awesome experience to share love! Looking at the way that this blog/facebook has connected so many people - just look at what it has done for people like Jessica Huse and Andrew Sinclair. It has become a way to connect more people to more stories. My brothers and sisters, this is the Kingdom of God at work. This is the Church.
And looking at how much Jacob will grow through this. I can only pray and dream about what God has in store for him in the future.

So, I have come to derive hope from two sources. One from the things said above. The other, that has recently become more important to me, is the promise we have in Christ of future restoration. That one day we get to follow in his action of Resurrection. John 16:33 -

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

Do you believe this? Do you trust this Word? If you truly do... not just if you mentally agree with these statements... but if you truly believe... then you live in a different world, and you need to get ready for transformation to happen. Belief is not a mental process... it is a holistic, real-life endeavor of living in a way that is backwards to the ways of our societal structures. No one has it perfect... which is why we trust and submit. I see Jacob, so vulnerable, so submissive, so humiliated... and in him I see the resurrected Son of God.

With you all in prayer,

Rob (Jake's brother)

Friday, November 20, 2009

How are you?

I wrote this late last night - I think part of it was in my sleep - so it does not all make sense but I tried to clean it up a bit this morning. I don't have as much time as I use to as there is always something - I need to replace a toilet seat right now but wanted to get this back on the blog....

A big part of life right now is navigating through the trips to the doctors. Today was 4 hours of testing on brain activity. Jake was pretty exhausted by the time he and Debbie got home this afternoon. There is a follow-up meeting with the doctor in a couple of weeks.

Our internet was up and down so there was very little "Farmville" activity nor school. We are looking forward to doing some school catch-up this next week. "Farmville" is an application in Facebook that many of Jake and Jensen's friends are into. They have some sort of virtual farm - Jensen wanted to hurry home so that he could harvest his grapes today. Maybe it is teaching responsibility? Although Jensen tells me that he will get to the dishes after he helps a friends with a cow or something.

One of my favorite questions that I am asked is "how are you doing?" It is such a normal question - one we rarely thing about when we ask it or answer it. I do not say "fine" anymore. I usually stop and think and answer honestly - the depth depends on who is in front of me. It generally will lead into a deeper conversation that also allows me to honestly hear from the other person on what is going on in their life as well. God continues to amaze me with the conversations available through this journey.

God also continues to amaze me in providing us funds to make it through this time. So many have given so much. We are starting receive statements showing what our insurance is actually paying verses what they have been billed. We have also started to recieve bills for our portion. You think it is all in since we have been out of the hospital for a while but the bills keep going and going like the energizer bunny - but this one is draining. Again it seems that God provides as we need it. So amazing. Bank of the West keeps copies for us of the deposits into the Jacob Journey account and the notes that come in from people. I went it this week to correct our address and retrieve a thick file of copies. I am just blown away how God provided these last two weeks specifically from friends that are parft the church where we spent 20 years - Calvary in Los Gatos. We continue to be blessed by the CHURCH at large through both individuals and local church communities. I am looking forward to hearing a song written by Josh Fox from Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz. The song he told me was inspired by Jacob's Journey. Amazing.

Romans 4:4-5
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
-> I keep coming back to this verse for a couple of reasons.

1. it is hard to not work and trust God to work things out

2. I am wicked. God justifies me. I cannot work out my justification. I cannot do enough to make up for my sins.

3. faith not works brings about justification.

4. My biggest duty right now is to help Jacob see and understand his own place of faith in this journey

So getting back to the question: How is Jake doing? Overall he is a little bit better each day - even if he does not see it, I see it. There are good moment and bad moments each day....just part of the roller coaster. He gets frustrated and depressed but each day is one of growth.

Love and peace

Tom (JK Daddy)

Thankful hearts

The touch of the creator is all about us serving to remind us that He is very near. We had an early start today getting Debbie and Jacob out of the house to an early appointment. In the midst of hurrying it is so easy to miss the beauty right before us. I pray that we keep thankful hearts in the midst of today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

love this incredible

It is late. I should be in bed as I need to be up again in the morning to get Jensen to school and then meet with Jacob's Independent Studies Teacher. Before I turn in - I just needed to write. Otherwise I know I will just lay there for a while. So much of this blog is about Robbie and I just simply journalling our hearts about this Journey that we found ourselves thrust into on June 28th 2009 - 5 months ago.

There are moments that just overwhelm me - not just moments regarding Jacob - moments of others. Jessica Huse & Andrew Sinclair pull hard on my heart as we lift them up in prayer. Pick up the paper you find another story far too easily. Several friends fighting cancer. Marriages falling apart. Teenagers rebelling. A father still abusing his daughter - still not caught. There is such tragedy all around.

Walking Jacob up the stairs tonight to his bed I had to pull back tears. Watching a movie with Jensen - a father lost his son - I wept. There is such a helplessness right now. Waiting for the 4 weeks of anti-biotics to be up. Waiting for head surgery. Waiting for Jakes back to get better. Plodding through simple exercises to stretch skin grafts and strengthen muscles. Not being where he wants to be is so hard for Jacob. Missing hanging out at lunch and going to dollar pizza with his friends. We have said all of the before - but it still hits him - pray for strength, stamina, gratefullness, HOPE...

The moment that we are given right now, right here is no accident. Even where Jake is right now, right here - though he does not fully understand nor like it - is exactly where God wants him today. It does not mean we cannot long for more - God longs for more too. That is why he gave us his son - that is why his holy spirit is available to us - to help us see that today is more than what we make of it. He gives us more than we can ask or imagine - do I make the most of my moments?

You have found me where I am
Filthy wretched shadow of a man
I was fallen - broken from choices made
alone and empty - You called my name
Love so incredible, love so true
Holds me in mercy, holds me in You

Crucified for me; Your holiness remains
Beaten and bloody treated with such shame
Holy, merciful, gracious redeemer
Your death spreads wide your holy fame
Love so incredible, love so true
Holds me in mercy, Holds me in you

In this moment I am given - no matter how hard
Fill me, restore me, Lord make me like you
That I might be thankful and let down my guard
With dancing and signing Lord I praise you anew
Love so incredible, love so true
Holds me in mercy, Holds me in you.
I think I am suppose to end with that - it is late - and this laptop keeps loosing it's WIFI signal - I have to press down on the computer with my left wrist to get a signal - dying laptop - already been fixed for the last time. Hand is cramping - eyes are drooping.

Where you are is no accident. Dwelling in God's strength, allow His grace to be sufficient.

In hope, love and faith

Tom (JK Daddy)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Love, part 3

I am seeing such a vulnerability in Jacob. There is a fear that his thumb graft may not hold... but from a conversation I had with him today, it is apparent that he is open to whatever happens. He is coming to grips with the fact that this is a long process... maybe he is learning a sort of contentment. Not a contentment that becomes lethargic and opposed to change, but a contentment that has the courage to let go of the things that you have no control over.

A huge blessing has been that his back pain as been much better since this last Friday. His spirits are up because of it. It is truly amazing to meditate on how I foresee Jacob in the future. He will have so much to offer others, and I believe that his life will be a fragile example to others of what the Incarnated Savior did on the Roman Cross, and what happened three days later. I have been so focused on brokenness, on seeing God work in the crucifixion, seeing God breaking us for his Kingdom... but I must equally be focused on the Resurrection, on Easter... the Eucharist (partaking of bread and wine as Jesus had his disciples do as a symbol for what he did on the cross) is fulfilled in Easter, in Resurrection. There is brokenness, and there is redemption. There is healing. But I am not sure that this healing will ever happen on our terms... we must release it to the Father.

I have been seeing love in Jacob's demeanor. He is starting to look outward and empathize with those around him, with what we went through this summer, and he makes sure that we know that he loves us. It is not a sappy love, not even a love that is happy all the time... it is a ruthless love, a steadfast love, a love that is willing to wade through the grime and get dirty (as my dad described it in a previous blog).

Paul says this about love in his first letter to the Corinthians:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries
and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains,
but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,
but have not love, I gain nothing.

This is a pretty radical statement. All of these things are great outward signs.... but if love is not present, they are utterly worthless. How does this translate do your life? What are the things in your life which you may do with passion and energy; even, what are things that you feel like you are "doing for God?" Well, those things are worthless if you are not loving as Christ did.

Christ loved the unlovely. The unlovable. Yes, Christ ministered to the homeless and the disabled and the prostitutes and the tax collectors. But there is another level to it too... who is it that frustrates you? Who is it that you are bitter toward? Love them. And know that loving them does not mean being nice to them. Just look at how Christ loved the Pharisees - he loved them by speaking truth into their fake piety. But loving takes energy. Lots of it. It takes a willingness to truly engage someone for who they are, correcting them, challenging them, and encouraging them. And it takes being honest with yourself, with who you are. I am seeing this type of love developing in Jacob and the rest of my family. When the time is right, I am praying that we can focus our energies outward.

Listening to Bob Marley,

Robbie (Jake's brother)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fractured faith is still faith...

Jake had an appointment with the surgeons who did the graft to his thumb. They took out the stitches from his doner sight and checked out his thumb and its graft. I was not there and when I got home I basically got a tearful report. The doctor is doubtful about the graft taking. We knew that skin on bone is the least ideal graft but we were willing to take the chance to get Jake's thumb covered. Debbie is going to have to change the bandage daily and continue to care for it. And we need to pray - pray that God would do heal. If we had not gone for this graft and done the more elaborate flap graft we would not have gotten in there until mid-December - they may not have discovered the infection - which would have been disastrous for the head surgery.

All in all it is not horrible news but it feels like horrible news. These are less than wonderful reports and we are longing for some incredible miracles. There is a weariness that is descending on us - a monotony and longing for forward motion. We dream of "normal" life which is beyond our grasp. Jacob is making goals to move toward and he and Debbie have been dreaming of going someplace exotic - Fuji, I think. oops that is an apple. Fiji. Hawaii. Yet that is so far from reality.

As Thanksgiving approaches rapidly with Christmas on it's tail, there is so much "family-wise" to be thankful for - and yet so easy to focus on what we do not have - what we want - what we wish for - what we regret. Is it just a matter of having a positive attitude - why is that even so important? It does strengthen the heart to dwell on dwell on those things that bring blessing. It is proven that ones attitude does affect our physiology an our health. We either guard our heart or we harden it. It is very, very important that we guard it - protect it in a way that allows it to stay soft, open, tender to the things of God. That is so very hard in the midst of suffering - in the midst of trial - in times of hardship.

Philippians 4:4-9 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Who we are is far more than physical - so whatever is happening in our physical reality - "Lord, please do not let that be what molds my heart - allow the spiritual reality to lead me to the treasure that you have for us. Though my faith is so we and hope continues to be shaken - allow me to stand on you, my God."

Fractured faith is still faith. Jesus told those that followed him that if they had faith the size of a mustard seed they could move mountains. He also complained of their little faith. A sermon for another time but there is a difference between having small faith and having little faith. Little faith gives up - small faith withstands being fractured and shaken but remains grounded in the hope that God is still in the midst of all of this - He has not abandoned us and will not forsake us - the righteous shall live by faith (Rom 1:17).

Thanks for listening - this helped me to renew my strength for today.

In fractured but intact faith,

Tom (JK Daddy)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My heart this Sunday

Jensen and I went to church today. It was the first time in a while I was in church just to take in and worship.

For over a year we have attended a service at Twin Lakes Church (TLC) in Aptos known as Genesis. We started going because Jacob had friends from school attending that service - Jake made me stay in the back while he went up and sat with friends. I had been a pastor so we never really ever chose where to go to church we just went where I was working. We seemed to fit well in Genesis - all of us. Charlie, the pastor for Genesis, recognized me from when we went to seminary together at Western Seminary in Los Gatos. So we started connecting on a weekly basis. He has become a valuable friend.

This morning Charlie announced that Genesis will officially end in December and in February they will start a video venue service at that time/location - live music and a pastor overseeing with the message by video from the main service. Charlie commented that after several months of conversation and prayer they feel like this is the best move for Twin Lakes Church.

I new it was coming because of my relationship with Charlie - and yet change is hard no matter what. And of course my first reaction was how most of us react - what about me? What am I going to do? What is the best thing for my family? Jensen is liking the youth group at our old church in Watsonville about 40 minutes from our house? Jake is connect to friends from The Coastland Church? We have amazing connections that continue to grow in other church. Corralitos Community Church, Santa Cruz Bible, Faith Community, Vintage Faith...etc, etc. There are some great churches. We have started connections at TLC but really see our own Church Community as the Church in Santa Cruz Bible. My mind began to spin.

Now I do not say all this to get everyone telling us what we should do. I go back to what I wrote a couple of days ago - this becomes all about me. It actually disgusted me as I realized how self focused I could be. The bigger question is: how do I move my mindset closer to the mindset of thinking of others first? How do I release things that are variable that I have made absolutes? We get so caught up in how we think things should be - instead of getting caught up first and foremost with the spirit of Christ. Jesus said "behold I make all things new." Change should be happening if we are following God - for we are always conforming and changing - renewing our minds and lives daily as we try to become more and more like Christ.

I try with all my might to control. Even in serving/sacrificing there is an element or small slice of winning the affections of others toward a positive view of me. Jesus calls me to follow him - pick up your cross - what you will be crucified on - pick it up, carry it with you and get behind me, Jesus, and follow me. Jesus calls me to release control that illusion that we hold no to. As I serve, releasing control, surrendering self I surrender pride, surrender payback and obediently follow the Spirit of God. Hope does not control - hope is about trusting faith.

David repenting of murder and adultery cries out: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love - according to your great compassion - blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. So that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge." Ps 51:1-4

As my friend and pastor said this morning God is moving. Am I following him?

As I write all of this Jacob and his friends are screaming at Rock Band (a video game with a guitar, drums and microphone). They are having a blast. My son who did not have control of the damage afflicted to him and lay helpless for two months in a coma is laughing, singing, screaming. His hand is still bandaged with pins coming from his thumb - the thumb we all prayed for. His head is growing hair except for the area of the skin graft on the left side of his head. His back is feeling much better and he is gaining strength and healing. So much he cannot, could not control. And yet there is something we can control. Each day we can control the attitude that we bring, how we treat each other and the choices that we make. Do we come into the world to be a blessing or to focus on ourselves and what we might get out of the day.

I pray daily for the Church of Santa Cruz County. That is the burden God continues to lay on my heart. That we would blend our praise to God and follow the model that Christ set up for us. The choices and decisions that we make can bring blessing to those around us. That is my prayer for Jake too. That God would continue to mold him to be a blessing for others. And we are seeing it happen.

Thanks for blessing us and continuing to walk this journey with us.

Tom (JK Daddy)