The Story My Bookshelf Tells

Stack of BooksAs I sat in my reading chair, enjoying a quiet moment to read one of the dozen or so books in which I currently have a bookmark (reminding me again that I really wish I would find more occasion to enjoy sitting down to read…) I noticed the interesting tale that my book choices tell.

Looking at me from the front covers of their two books are the faces of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame quarterback, Jim Kelly, and the author of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson. Now, you might not think those two well-known men should be on the same shelf—let alone right next to each other!—but this is what I’m trying to say… they tell my story.

I am of course a big fan of the Buffalo Bills. From 1988 to the present I have cheered heartily and without wavering for the team from western New York state. Sometimes are more fun than others to do so “heartily”, nonetheless it is no surprise to find a book by a Buffalo Bill sitting on my Current Reads shelf.

(Of note regarding Mr. Kelly’s book: 1 – he signed it, 2 – it came as a gift from Jim’s wife (via a contest at her website) along with a signed copy of her book, 3 – and that book—Jill’s—is waiting to be read because it was already read and recommended by my wife. Did you follow all that? I think I did…)

The Jefferson book is just great because it follows on the heels of another book I recently finished by David Barton called The Jefferson Lies, which I just loved. (Well, while I loved it, I also found it infuriating. The book covers seven popular beliefs regarding Jefferson, and then logically and with a great deal of original source documentation eliminates nearly all plausibility in “what we’ve always known” about TJ. Very good read!)

We also got to visit Monticello just over a month ago. It is so interesting to experience history as close to the source as possible!

Also on my shelf are a few more autobiographies: Mark Twain (volume 1), Tim Tebow, and a work by Martin Luther King, Jr, which serves a bit as an autobiography. I really enjoy reading history in the first person.

Add to those a book on current government/political issues by Ron Paul, recommended to me by a friend who is also interested in such things, another book about American government that Jen and Ian and I are all reading copies of simultaneously. (The 5,000 Year Leap by Cleon Skousen, which I really feel should be “required reading” for every American citizen.)

I also just finished (this week!) the Eye Of Darkness by my friend Michael (Mike) J. Scott. Written in the fantasy genre, not usually something I’d read, but I definitely enjoy Mike’s books, and this one was no exception.

Funny that I say I don’t enjoy the fantasy genre, because also on my shelf is a lovely copy of The Two Towers by Tolkien. The oldest two boys and I are making our way through The Lord of the Rings trilogy. (Just about halfway through!)

Rounding out the collection I call my “current reads” are an assortment of styles and genres: a Brad Thor thriller (The Athena Project), a book on “spiritual warfare” (The Adversary), a book about current events (The Singularity is Near), and a couple biographies, both inspired by the two historical homes we just visited: Sacred Fire (George Washington) and The Fool of God (Alexander Campbell).

(Note: The interesting thing is, the last book there is one from my Bible college days, that I would be interested to read again. My interest was piqued again as it seems the Restoration Movement (in which Campbell played a major role) also apparently had a major impact on Thomas Jefferson… there’s the tie-in to our recent historical homes visits!)

So, it’s quite an assortment, I think. One thing that means more to me than to anyone of you who might be reading this is that many of the books were recommended by a friend here and there, so as I see and/or read the book, I am reminded of my friendship with that person. Bonus!

I hope your reading shelf is well-stocked currently. Take a moment and notice the story that it tells of you and the life you’ve lived so far. It really is quite interesting!

(PS, you can see many of the covers of these titles rotating in the right sidebar… for the full list of books I’m reading, planning to read, and have recently finished, stop by my library page.)

The Defeat of the Vile Black Sludge Monster!

The battle was fierce, lasting a few days, culminating with a full day of intense action. The Monster would win one battle, and then another. (And then another…) But I was resilient. I persisted, pushing through adversity after adversity.

At one point, after several humiliating defeats in the protracted fray, I began to feel my will to fight slipping away. It was then that I reached out to a fellow soldier who had passed through many such battles before me. He gave me just the tactics and inspiration that I needed for the final push.

In the end, through sheer power of will, I was victorious over the evil, vile, Black Sludge Monster and he was banished to that horrid place from whence he came; disintegrated into eternal oblivion!


I had a really bad drain clog in my bathroom sink. I finally decided to have a go at unclogging it. I fished a wire hook down the drain, only to come up empty. So I removed the trap under the sink… gross!! Bad smelling, cloudy water with flaky black stuff in it dumped out into the bucket I had there to catch whatever came out. I cleaned all that out and replaced the trap.

When I ran the water, it was still clogged. And, now, thanks to me moving the trap, the seals no longer held. Very bad leaking!! Ugh. Now I had two things to fix!!

It was too late to get to the store before bed time, so I just left the sink undone and instructed my fellow cohabitants to desist from any sink usage until further notice.

Then this happened.

So, after a brief health emergency break, I finally got to a hardware store for a new trap. I replaced the trap and… voila! Oh wait… It’s STILL LEAKING!!!

Frustrated, I decided that I had to get some office work done, so I left the still-clogged, leaking drain and reminded everyone to use it as little as possible. (At least it was leaking less?)

As I complained to my friend and co-worker over instant messages about my predicament, he suggested I try to focus on the clog first instead of the leak. Perhaps the leak was simply because the clog wasn’t letting the water go where it is supposed to go. Good thoughts.

So, properly inspired, I headed back for a final push.

I had read a blog post by his wife (she’s a famous blogger!) about drain care not more than a few days earlier, so what he was describing was familiar, and I had intended to do that after fixing the leak. As she describes in her post, I boiled a large pot of water, poured it down the drain (it SLOWLY drained down) then I dropped a good amount of baking soda down and poured vinegar in after it.

FUN! Do you remember making tiny volcanoes this way when you were younger?? I forgot how much fun this was! 🙂 And it sure did seem like it could eat/clean away anything in its path.

Sadly… our problem was a tad bigger than a one-trick fix.

A second pot of boiling water did not show any progress. (In fact, I think it was slower.) So I tried again. Baking soda/vinegar/boiling water. Still slow. Painfully slow. A third time… a fourth…


Finally, slightly exasperated, but still properly inspired, I filled the sink with regularly hot water and grabbed my plunger. I covered the air flow hole with my left index finger and began to plunge…

Three quick pulls later I heard a marvelous, wondrous sound! A loosing of the terrible drain demon and a pleasant sucking sound…


Oh, joy! Oh wondrous, fabulous joy!!!

Then I looked in the tub.


It seems that the Black Sludge Monster can not be defeated quite so easily! This horrible, awful (copious) abundunce of dark, thick, black sludge was sitting in my tub around the drain. Lots of it.

I ran the water in the sink to see if the clog was really gone, and the water disappeared down the drain immediately. That was good; one great victory one. Glancing again at the tub, though, I discovered that the water was being directly routed toward the tub drain. As the water entered the sink drain, it came up the tub drain. (Really! As fast as it went down it came up!)

Oh boy…

So, after sucking up the gross stuff with my wet/dry vac, I went to work with what remained of my baking soda and vinegar supplies on the tub drain. Boiling water (ridiculously slow drain—though the tub drain had been free flowing before I plunged the sink drain), followed by baking soda, vinegar (fun!) … short wait, then more boiling water.

Nothing. VERY slow drain.

OK… I’m done with this, Black Sludge Monster! BACK to where you CAME FROM!!!!, I screamed.

Grabbing my weapon (plunger), I filled the tub with a little more water, plugged the air flow with a wet rag and went to work. Slightly more stubborn than the sink, it took a few more aggressive plunges but…


That lovely sucking sound, followed by watching the stopped water flow quickly down a beautiful swirling spiral, through the newly sparkling clean drains (thanks to the massive amounts of baking soda and vinegar used on them!) and out of my house!

I tested both the tub and sink drains and they both performed marvelously.

The Black Sludge Monster put up a dastardly valiant fight, but… I was victorious!

Thanks to perseverance, good (smart, inspirational) friends, and …

My plunger!


First And Second Birthdays

Yesterday was my Mom’s birthday. January 26th is a circled day on the calendar that our family celebrates. Has been for as long as I have memories. All day long, we think of my Mom. We call, we video chat, we send cards… we celebrate the life she began on January 26th, 19xx. 🙂

(I don’t know that my Mom has any real problem with me sharing her age, but… just in case… since she reads this blog … Suffice it to say that this year her two-digit age ends with a zero! So in some ways it was an even more memorable/special year.)

I love my Mom and love celebrating her birthday! (Even if we’re not in the same location on the birthday day.)

At some point during that day I was reminded that the 26th of January is also the birth day of our good friend’s Mom. She, too was born on the twenty-sixth day of the first month of the year. If I recollect correctly, she was even born in the same state, not far from where my Mom was born. She too has children who love her, and many grandkids.

But she has another birthday.

A little over a decade ago, she was born into her eternal life. She is now with Jesus. So her birthday is celebrated at least a little differently than the way we celebrate January 26th here, where we can still show our love and see it received, and given back.

It’s better to be with the Lord. The Bible tells us so. But I’d imagine first birthdays are at least a little harder when the one birthed has had their second birthday already, and you’re left celebrating without them.

This week I’ve also been thinking of our friends who are coming up on the one-year anniversary of a second birthday. Tomorrow will be one year since our friends lost a Dad and a Husband and a Grandpa; and since we lost someone who was becoming a good friend.

Death leaves such an absence. It’s hard to celebrate the second birthdays. Again, it’s better to be with the Lord, but that truth seems distant when the life so suddenly changes, and the void is so clearly known and seen and felt.

I know it’s been rough again lately for our friend who lost her Dad. (And I know for many years our friend who lost her Mom has missed her so dearly on many occasions, more than just first and second birthdays.)

It definitely makes me value the days that I have now with my Mom, who’s still only had her first birthday.

The hope that we have runs deep. I know and trust that once we have both passed the threshold into our eternal life, I won’t have to live or think about living life without my Mom in my life. That is a great hope.

But I’ll say it again: for now, on at least some levels, I’m very glad my Mom is still only one.

I rejoice for the lives of the two parents I know, mentioned above, who are missed yesterday and tomorrow. They loved well and are still well loved. I am praying peace now for the kids who miss their beloved parents on their first and second birthdays respectively. But I already know they have hope. And in that I also rejoice.

This talk of “second birthdays” has a bit of a morbid undertone, but if you know our Jesus, it’s a wonderful thing when you turn two.

It’s just harder for all the one-year-olds who are still waiting for their own second birthday.

It will come. And then others will both mourn and rejoice on our two birthdays. And we will celebrate with all of the ones we loved who went before us.

What a birthday party that will be.

Note: This photo of my Mom is slightly dated, but it’s a good one, with several of our kids loving their Grammy. There are not many photos of my Mom in existence, and I’m nearly certain this is the only one published online! So, I might get in a tiny bit of trouble, but… I know she still loves me. Right, Mom? 🙂


You might think I write because I have answers. Or maybe that I think I have answers. Sometimes I guess I do have a certain bit of information I learned that I’d like to share, or a thought on something that might be worth your consideration, it’s true. But often I will write more because of questions I have, rather than answers.

Tonight is one such night.

I have been thinking about the way we relate to each other as a culture for quite some time now. (Search for “Relationship” in the search box to the right and you’ll see what I mean.) It has been important to me for a number of reasons. How we Christians relate to each other as the church, and also how our family relates to and with the people around us. Life is relationship, so it makes sense to me that this would be a common thought thread through many of my days.

Lately I’ve just been wishing there was another family or two with whom we could “do life”. People that we’d spend several days a week with, for varying lengths of time, sharing the important and unimportant things of life.

There are some folks we see pretty often, and whom I feel know us well and vice versa. These are all valued friendships. I’ve just been wondering why there isn’t more? (And by “more” I simply mean more time; more shared life; more relating.)

And I completely understand that part of it is the way we have chosen to do life.

We are not actually removed from life with other people (there are people all around, and we are glad to be with other people) but we are “removed” from the standard relational structures of our society. We home school our kids, so we are not part of the public school community. (That of course is a huge chunk of life for many people with families similar to ours.) We are not part of a “church with a name”, so though we have many great relationships with Christians whom we share our life with God with… well, we aren’t “part” of that “community”.

It seems to me that we Americans can only relate when we are plugged into a larger social structure. We don’t know how to stop over for tea anymore. We don’t know how to hang out on someone’s porch. (Not in the winter time, of course…) We rely on our busy schedules to keep us near to and connected with the people we know. (And that is how we know anyone at all: by being part of the same activities.) When you are not involved in the “activities” of the busy American life, it’s easy to feel “forgotten”.

Now, the weirdest part—and where I have the most questions—is that I know some busy people who have definitely not forgotten about us, and yet we rarely see them. For one reason or another, there’s just not enough time in the week (or month!) to find ourselves in the same physical space to enjoy some time together. But again, if we were doing the same things, we’d either (1) feel like we had “seen” them, and so met the invisible relational quota, or, (2) be reminded/encouraged to make sure to plan other visiting times, or even just drop by?

I’m really not complaining. Even just today a friend dropped in for a brief visit that was much appreciated. And as I said, God has placed some great people around us and we love being part of their lives and having them in ours.

I’m just so baffled by the way we do this. Trying to work out these thoughts!

Now, I think there are regions of our country, in our culture, who live this out differently. I think maybe the South is a bit more relational by default. We experienced this a little when we spent a week of vacation down south this past fall. Random strangers will begin conversations with you at any place or time, and not always just small talk. That is seems to me a bit “healthier” relationally, but I admit, it could just be a personal preference/personality thing. (But then, how is it nearly universally true of one of our American cultures?)

The point is, we are definitely made for relationship. God wired us that way. We’re not meant to be alone. But are we only meant to be together in order to put on, partake in, or attend some function? Aren’t we on some level just supposed to enjoy the company of each other?

I really love it when people just drop by!

(Is it just a structured vs. unstructured lifestyle question I’m really asking?? No. I really think it’s deeper.)

We are missing something. With all our busyness, we are missing each other. We see each other. And in that way we feel a part of a community, but too often keeping our schedules overpowers the opportunities to give to and draw from the people God has surrounded us with.

And, I will also admit to perhaps over-thinking this. I am definitely wont to do that. But something in my gut says there’s more here. There’s more for us. We have a form of relating but deny it’s power. (To twist a Scripture verse…) 🙂

I’ll keep on this and see what Jesus shows me over the next few days, weeks. Maybe you have something to add? Please do below.

Or, just drop by for tea.

What Matters Most: The Story of Jayden

Every day we have stuff to do. Things that are “on our plate”. At the time, they weigh on us, at the end of the day (or during the day) exhaust our energy, and they may or may not also leave us feeling fulfilled.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s work, it’s the kids, it’s bills, it’s errands, it’s house cleaning, home repair, auto repair, insurance squabbles, kids’ daily and weekly activities, your family’s social calendar, community and neighborhood events and/or responsibilities. Then there are all your relationships: family, close friends, neighbors, friends who need support, good friends who are far away, and so on. And don’t forget all the books you want to read, the shows you like to watch, the hobbies you don’t have time for, and plans for the next holiday’s activities and gatherings.

These things fill our days, and our weeks, and our years. And mostly they are good. They are the stuff of life.

But for the most part, they all completely fall away when death or serious illness makes its macabre appearance.

Last year seemed to be full of serious illness and death all around us. (And you can throw in divorce and other of life’s hardships, if you’d like.) And somehow, when the reality of the most certain thing in life came front and center, the rest seemed so silly. So trivial. So superfluous.

What did it matter if I was having trouble getting a certain plugin to work with a complex shopping cart installation? So what if I can’t really figure out how to get our family out of this current financial pinch? Who cares if the van has fourteen different things wrong with it at once? Why does my kids’ incessant refusal to keep their living space neat and tidy bother me so much?

None of it matters when someone we know and love is either already gone, or soon will be.

We have some friends who just recently lost their four-month-old baby boy. I wish I could tell you the full story here, but not only would it be long enough to fill a week’s worth of posts, I’m not sure I could do it justice. I do hope that someday they will be able to write it out for more people to hear and see God’s every great gift to them.

The video above is their story. Hopefully you already watched it. If not, please do. What was most inspiring and encouraging to me is that through a difficult pregnancy where they were told early on that their baby would probably have some severe problems when—if—he was born, they trusted God, and asked him for a healing miracle… and they watched him DO it! Baby Jayden was born perfectly healthy, with no sign of the expected difficulties. (And, they even got to watch them be removed through the long months of the pregnancy.)

But then, things again took a turn for the worse.

Instead of being angry with God, though, who had given them hope and then (it would seem) had taken it away again, they loved their little boy (their gift from God) and they moved forward completely trusting Father to take care of him and them, however that turned out.

Their complete trust in God’s goodness through all of the physically and emotionally tiring, exhausting, draining experiences of Jayden’s four months was what gave them a deep peace that was palpable when you were with them, and it has buoyed them still, in the few weeks after his absence from their family.

And during the time he was sick—gravely sick—other things faded away. Family became important, work less important. Daily “things” were pushed to the background, and life and relationships took their place. I know because I saw it, watched it, and I have lived it.

We have experienced loss, too. Far too many times, actually. We did not get to experience both the joy of knowing our babies for four short months, nor the pain of losing someone we knew outside the womb. But we’ve also known loss.

And every time, what the reality of that brings to the front is that nothing matters more than how you love, and being/living loved. Knowing that your Father loves you, adores you. And then loving other people because you know he adores them, too. Cherishing the other Image-Bearers that he has put in your life, and you in theirs.

That’s really it.


Thank you, Jayden, for the reminder. Thank you Jesus for giving us some time to be around him, to know him, and to be reminded of what you really made us for. What really matters.

No Comparison

I have this friend.

He’s pretty amazing at everything he attempts. He has a lot of the same interests and capabilities, and does a lot of the same work as me, only a lot better. He can build smarter web sites. He can code (well) in several web programming languages. He’s even a handyman kinda guy, who can build just about anything. (Wonder if he uses duct tape?)

There are days I think, “Man, I should just quit right now! My friend can do all this stuff I’m trying to do so much better than me. Sheesh!”

I have these other friends.

They have been in the hospital with their beautiful baby boy almost the entire 3 months he has been alive. (When they weren’t in the hospital with him, they were at home—not sleeping—just to make sure he would make it through the night.) It’s not looking good. There are people all over the world praying for this little guy (with God, all things are possible) who is suffering from a terminal genetic disorder. (Though, actually, adding to the difficulty is the fact that the doctors aren’t even sure what is causing all that is happening to his tiny body.)

There are moments where, when I look back at the very emotionally and physically and spiritually draining year (plus) that we have lived through in 2011, I am tempted to think, with my heart heavy for my friends, “Well, I suppose I should be thankful that all that I have been through can’t be as bad as what they are facing, and all they have been through.”

What is it about our hearts, our inner selves, that must compare?

Whether it is, “I’m not as good as him…” or, “I guess I’m better off than them?” … there is a strong tendency to compare.

It’s why we judge. It’s why there are prejudices. We are constantly looking at others lives in comparison to ours.

But there is no comparison.

I am me. You are you. You are the most perfect you. And quite likely, no… most definitely, you are not me. (And of course, I am not you.)

And, we shouldn’t be.

God made a world full of diversity. There is diversity beyond our imaginations in all the rest of his creation, and when we’re having a good day, we can see that there is beautiful diversity in Us: the Crown of His Creation.

I’m not sure why we do it. I am thankful that God keeps developing my trust in him to the point where I am doing it much less often. But I still do.

And I should not.

All we are meant to do is to stay connected to him, listen to him, be loved by him, and then live life with the people he asks us to: rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn. None of us is better or worse than another. We may make choices that are better or worse, but even in those, we are not the ones who are to judge others and mete out praise or punishment (unless we’re in some official capacity to do so).

[T]he Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

We’re not competitors in life. We are fellow pilgrims. We have the same Father, and the same Oldest Brother. And the same Spirit he promises to those who will follow. Life lived together with him is vibrant and deep and there’s enough to go around, through the highest and lowest we go through.

It’s a lie that we should be as good as that guy, or that we’re not as good as that girl. We can’t have it any better or worse than anyone else. We have it exactly as he wants us to. We’re right where we’re supposed to be, especially if we’re listening to—and following—His lead.

Then there’s no comparison.

On Being Thankful

This is the day we are thankful. All over our country we spend the day—even the whole weekend—thinking about the things for which we are thankful.

Sometimes we have cute ways of saying it. You know, like the annual “go around the table and say what you’re thankful for” exercise. Or maybe it’s a more tactile expression, written on paper or some other tangible medium.

Sometimes we are just quietly, introspectively thankful.

But on this day, we are Thankful.

And even though I have one of those brains that is always going, always thinking, always processing, always introspectively examining and pondering … and also despite the fact that I am wont to buck almost any tradition… I’m certainly not exempt from being in this frame of mind come late November.

In fact, there are quite a gamut of things I’ve dwelt on today, grateful that God has either been the Giver (James 1:17) or he has walked with me through it.

One of the first things I was grateful for today was a dinner that I got to prepare and share with some new friends one year ago this day. They were new friends to us, had known them only a few months. But they had already been so welcoming and loving toward our family that our kids readily adopted them as their third set of grandparents! I felt a kinship with Wayne, too, as he was a prolific writer (something I have aspired to be) and definitely marched to the beat of his own drum (something to which I also aspire).

The reason I am extra thankful for that one particular meal we shared together (besides the fact that I always love to make food for people, and visit with people) is that just two months later, Wayne would no longer be with us.

Ordinarily we would have been visiting with family that day. With Jen’s family, or perhaps my family … or both? In fact, that had been the plan: to join my parents who were with my sister and her family after the birth of their daughter. However, various circumstances kept that from happening … and when we found ourselves with an open Thanksgiving Day, we were delighted to find out that our new friends had found themselves in just that same spot!

Who could have known that there wouldn’t be very many more meals we’d all share together?

I think that’s a great reason for being thankful. I read a sign tonight, it was a picture of a sign actually. It said, “It’s not happy people who are thankful, it’s thankful people who are happy.” Indeed. Somehow it’s a truth that is at the core of our makeup. The “power of positive thinking” perhaps. Whatever it is that is behind it, there is a deep reality in the power of our perspective, our attitude.

I can go through my days worried about how I am going to pay our mortgage this month, or afford the repair work for our van (or really, the new van we need to be saving for!), or how I can better help equip my kids with the right tools they need for life, or even just spend my days being bogged down by the details of all the various projects I juggle for my work. Those things are indeed important, but perhaps not mine to struggle with.

When that is my focus, I might miss the chance to have an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner with someone whose presence I will not much longer share. I might miss an opportunity to see my wife’s beautiful heart in the way she expresses a thought she had or something Jesus is teaching her. I might miss (and sadly, have missed) the tender, loving heart of one of my sons or daughters so open and fully extended to their Dad (whom they often seem to view as so much more than I know that I am).

All because I was so focused on the things that seem to need attention—or change—rather than savoring the gifts that the Giver has already provided.

Like my beautiful, precious wife. Like our six amazing children. Like the family that God has surrounded us with: parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even non-blood family.

And how about a roof over our heads? All the crazy freedoms and luxuries we have in this country? (Though, perhaps that is not really always—or ever?—something that we should be thankful for, at least, not in the way we usually think we should be.) How about the incredibly difficult year that 2011 has been for our household? More importantly, the fruit that we’ve seen Holy Spirit grow in and around us as a direct or indirect result of that?

There is an unending list of things we can be thankful for. In fact, it’s really more of a reality to live in (a paradigm, or perspective) rather than a list to check off.

Jen said it best today when she commented, “I’m really not any more thankful on this day than I am any other day. I’m not sure how to be!”

When you can breathe thankful, that is certainly the case. “Always be thankful.” Not just a command to “do it”… or else! But an invitation to the fullness of life that can be known when we shift our focus from our own efforts and abilities (or lack thereof) to gratitude for his provision, his caring… and his extraordinary capabilities. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

So as this Thankful day comes to its close, I am thankful. For the day spent with nearly all of our close family. For a belly full of delicious food. For a quiet house full of Sleepers, without whom my life, even I myself would not be the same. I’m thankful for my Father who loves me, and even likes me. 🙂 That he wants to be with me, and me to be with him, still amazes.

And I’m thankful for Wayne. Glad for the very short time God crossed our paths. Looking forward to the rest of the path crossings God has in mind for me during the time I have left, however much that may be.

We can’t know. We only know now. We have now.

And for that, I’m grateful.

Realistic Expectations

It’s been a rough day.

It’s been a rough season. Not sure exactly how long that extends, but right now it feels almost like it’s never been any different than the way it is now. The main reason I know that is not true is this deep yearning in me for a return to something of “the way it used to be”.

Right now it feels like every single person I know has let me down. I really think every one. Whether it’s something they did to me (or failed to do), or some way I messed up and have not been allowed to restore the relationship… I’m pretty tired of most everybody right now.

So, what is it? I am ordinarily one of the more gracious, friendly, accepting, forgiving people you could ever know. Why do I have no allowance for people’s failings today?

One reason is the sheer volume of the troubles I am currently enduring. They are too many to list here. Maybe someday. Likely just in part. But, not now. Suffice it to say, the cumulative weight is approaching unbearable.

Now, don’t think I am naive. I know of several friends and some close family that I would not want to trade places with right now. (And many more complete strangers of whom I could say the same thing.)

But I don’t know if it’s possible to bear more.

So I know that’s a factor. But is that it? It’s just a bad time? A bad day?

Or is it something else?

I’ve been in a dark place all day, thinking about not only the things done to me (or, as I said, failed to be done) and even worse, I’ve been projecting into the future potential outcomes of these failures and actions. I find that I can get even more down, if that were possible, when I dwell on these things.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

Yes, I know. I know.

Why do I cling to these unrealistic expectations? Not that I think everyone will always be perfect. I do not. But perhaps if it wasn’t nearly every part of my life crumbling at once?

To be fair, though of course they have failed me many times (and will again) I have enjoyed the spirit of my family today. (Which is odd, and cool, in that some of them are the source of other griefs I am bearing today…) I am super grateful for that.

We are all broken. Every one of us. You, your friends, your family, and me. That means we’ll all disappoint each other, regularly. But the part I’m struggling with today is that I’m not seeing the understanding of that. I’m not seeing grace. (In some cases, grace directed inward.) I think that might be the heaviest part of my burden.

What can I do, but press on? I am responsible for my actions and choices. No one else. I can be hurt by others, but I can’t make them fix it, or want to fix it.

I do wish I could sometimes. But somehow, in his wisdom, God decided it was best to give us the full ability to choose, good or bad. He’s there in both cases, always adding his good.

I also know that what I am feeling (and writing) can not be true. Some of you out there reading this (if you know me, and almost definitely if you do not know me) have in fact not let me down. Thanks. 😉 And I do know that life is an ebb and flow of good and bad. I’m just definitely in the ebb of good and the flow if bad. Perhaps that means a reverse of that is in my future?

Who knows? We do not. Definitely do not. We have today, right now, and that is all we have. Thankfully, I know that my Father is here with me through all of it, and that he will not disappoint me. (Though it could seem that way if I beloved more in my unrealistic expectations than I do in him.)

For you are all children[m] of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. […] But when the right time came, God sent his Son […] to buy freedom for us […] so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything he has belongs to you.”

(selections from Galatians… a book that has encouraged me lately…)

Last one… “It’s always darkest before dawn.”

Must be just about daybreak.

Public Dormancy

This site has been almost completely dormant for quite some time now. There are many factors. Some of which may come out in future postings here, others that will not be shared publicly.

Suffice it to say there has been plenty of thinking, learning, growing going on during this period of public dormancy. I’ve been reading a lot more, as I have said on these pages before, and there has been much focus on figuring out who we are. Individually, and as a family. Not only does that take time, it takes plenty of energy as well. That certainly has limited my abilities to share all that I am learning and pondering on these pages. I have discovered over the past six to eight months that I do not have limitless energy.

(There have been those over the years—myself included—who entertained the possibility that this was indeed the case…)

There are so many stories to tell. God is good, and continues to be so to our family. I love seeing him through the tough stuff. Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds. Not just words. Truth. When we face trials, we first learn more about ourselves and more about life and, hopefully, gain wisdom along the way. But also, we’ve discovered that there is actually more real life to be found in the harder things of life. The “trials”, you might say. Somehow, going through those things with your closest loved ones, and any of those whom God has placed in your life for that season—somehow that deepens the bonds of relationship unlike the good moments that are also shared.

(Thankfully, the good moments become great memories, which also are the jewels of great friendships.)

I am learning to really find peace and strength and rest in every new morning God gives me. Actually, in every moment. When the pressures and stresses of life build up, cumulatively piling on the weight of every decision that has to be made… there is peace in knowing that God is right there with me, that we are going through this together. Trusting his goodness brings a deep peace that is truly beyond understanding. (There’s a neat song that someone once wrote on that subject using the verses in Philippians 4… check it out.) 😉

I know for a fact that it has been a very tough year for several of our close friends. Life is not always (as they say) “sunshine and lollipops”. Are you in a difficult season right now? Would you say you are “facing trials of many kinds”? I hope you can find the peace that our Father promises us. It is ours to have… but it’s definitely not always easy to “find”.

James says:

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

And, don’t forget, Jesus says:

Come to me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.

Life is full of chances to trust him. I think that’s one thing that we in the Campbell house are listening to and learning to live in these days. Even though it seems so backwards, I hope you are finding lots of ways that you need to trust him, to rely on him as well. What seems so hard, often produces such great things.

Consider it pure joy.

Life Suddenly Changed

A friend of ours passed away this morning. It was very unexpected, apparently very sudden (though I do not fully know the details) and… it just feels very final.

I have not known this friend very long. We met his daughter and her family a little more than a year ago when they moved to our town. They home school their children and had met some mutual home schooling friends who introduced us and we pretty quickly became good friends. Her parents moved to town shortly after her dad had a massive heart attack (about one year ago) to live in the apartment attached to their house. It was all very God-arranged.

We met Wayne & his wife shortly after they moved to town and, likely due to our good friendship with their daughter and family, they quickly became our good friends too. They were equally quickly “adopted” by our kids as their third set of grandparents. (Really! There was even a signed certificate created by our kids!) 🙂 They graciously offered an open invitation to us to watch our kids any time Jen and I needed to get out for some no-kids time. (And we have taken them up on that invite several times!)

The first time I met Wayne, I realized we had a shared love of words. Both reading and writing. Wayne has been far more prolific than I in both departments, to be sure. I am currently reading a book he recommended, and I had been talking with him about helping him publish some of his books. I hope to still do that for him.

It’s been a strange day. Death has not touched me much in life. Presently, I can only think of two people who were really close to me who have died. My Mom’s dad died when I was 12 or 13. I remember that, and remember thinking, “Wow… that’s weird.” But I didn’t realize till later that reaction was due (at least in part) to my Mom’s relationship with him—I had only been with him a handful of times. The other person is my wife’s brother, Jeff. My brother-in-law for only about a year. He died just before our first son Ian was born. (I remember it was really hard. Really shocking. Very sad.) That’s the reason that Ian bears his name. (Ian Jeffrey Campbell).

Otherwise, death has always seemed to be a couple relationships away from me.

But I know Wayne. He is my friend. I already miss him.

I was processing all of this with another friend in an online conversation when I said, “Life just changed suddenly.” I didn’t mean it to be profound, but the more I thought of it, the more I realized it was true. Life—my life—is now different, and quite suddenly so.

Now, I’m sure I don’t hurt nearly as much as our friends who lost a dad, a husband, a grandpa … and we will be asking God to fill the large void they now (suddenly) have in their lives. He can and I know he will…

But there is a hole. There is an absence. Life… is different.

Each of us is so much more impactful than we admit. (Or perhaps we really don’t realize, or understand it.) Every person we know, every place we go, everything we do … is part of the “fabric” of the lives of all those around us. So, the closer we are, the more time we spend with people, the more the void is felt. But all of us feel the absence. All of us.

So I will (and already do) miss him.

Although I am not as naive as to think that death would never touch me, it still nearly always comes as a shock. We are such hardy, fragile creatures. One moment it’s incredible what we can come through, and the next moment we can be gone within that moment. We just never know.

What that means—since we know that—is that each moment we have is precious. We can very easily get to thinking otherwise. Life’s daily details overtake (perhaps overwhelm) our conscious thoughts. But we just never know when we won’t have the people we love with us anymore. All we know is that we have them—we are with them—now.

Please take a moment today, after you read this, and remind the people around you how much they mean to you. Take a second to encourage some of the greatness you see in them. Maybe take more than a second. We can’t live everyday worried that we are going to lose those we love, but, we can certainly remember to let them know what they mean to us as often as possible.

I’m glad to have known Wayne Leavitt. I hope to see him again one day.

Until then, while I am still here, I am now reminded to enjoy the moments I have with the people whose lives God has intertwined with mine, and to let them know how glad I am that he has.

I hope you will do the same.