Saturday, June 27, 2009

God is in Control

Philippians 3:20-21
"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body."

Tammy really likes Twila Paris' music, especially this song.

Recently, a friend of mine has been going through some really difficult times. Some family issues have been stealing his joy. As we talk a couple of times a day, I try to remind him that God is in control. He is a believer, and he often beats me to it. When he's describing the latest issue, he'll say, "But God is in control." My prayer for him is comfort and peace, and as long as he remembers that simple truth, he will have that comfort and peace.

Sometimes when we go through difficult times, our minds will tell us that God is in control, but our hearts will forget and fret. All of us have struggles and difficulties of one kind or another. It is a constant battle to not let those times steal our joy.

Look at the words to Paris' song:

This is no time for fear
This is a time for faith and determination
Don't lose the vision here
Carried away by emotion
Hold on to all that you hide in your heart
There is one thing that has always been true
It holds the world together

God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
God is in control, oh God is in control

Tammy continues to improve. She's still in the three-steps-forward-one-step-backward plan. But the forward steps seem to be bigger. After battling high creatinine levels (which reflect dehydration and her liver and kidneys being overworked) for several weeks, the numbers are getting better. She went to the clinic on Thursday and didn't need fluids for the first time in several weeks.

Also, the nurse practitioner gave her permission to go to her parents' house for July 4 and be around family, even though the 100th day is not until July 10. She still has to be very careful, and can't love on her nieces and nephew too much, but to us it's a big sign of progress.

We're not out of the woods yet. The 100 days will not lift all the restrictions, but the fact that we're less than two weeks away is exciting for us.

And we're holding on to the fact that God is in control of the whole situation.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Father's Love

1 John 3:1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Today is Father’s Day and both Tammy and I have fathers to be proud of. We not only both look like our Dads, but they each had a huge role in making us who we are today. We were both raised in Christian homes, and our fathers each influenced us, and our spouses. They are a constant reminder of our Heavenly Father’s love.

My Dad, Ray, went home to be with the Lord January 23, 2005. It doesn’t seem like more than four years ago, and I miss him dearly. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him.

All my life I marveled at the fact that Dad could demonstrate a father’s love so well without a good example of his own. His father took off when he was 8 years old, and that was actually a blessing because of the way his father treated him and his siblings. He was a remarkable demonstration of sacrificial love to my brother and me.

My Dad was a straight shooter. You never wondered what he thought. He was tough, but we knew that the toughness was only to make us tougher. When we needed him to be loving or gentle, he was.

Tammy remembers that my Dad always spent time with the kids. When we had church picnics in the park, he always sat with the kids and laughed and joked with them. Tammy remembers that she often was the only girl in the group, so he made her feel special. When I asked Tammy to marry me, I think it was one of the happiest days of his life, as well as mine.

When I was in high school, when a lot of friends were trying to get away from their “old man,” many came to my house because my Dad was so cool. When he was a dorm parent at Manhattan Christian College, I had to share Dad with 60 college kids. At times I was jealous, because they were taking his attention away from my family and me. Then I realized that he was doing what God put him on this planet to do--minister to kids.

I have cousins who referred to my Dad as “Pooh Bear,” because of his loving, gentle spirit with them. At his memorial service, a friend came up to me and said, “I know where your Dad is.” I said, “I do too, Don.” He said, “No, I mean I know what he’s doing right now. He’s welcoming the new people to Heaven. And he’s making sure the kids feel welcome too.” It really touched me, because I knew how fond he was of the kids.

As I grew up, I knew my Dad was proud of me. He didn’t tell me face to face that often, but he didn’t have to. I could see it. And I heard often enough how he “bragged” to others about what my brother and I were doing. Like all kids, my goal was to make my Dad proud. I’m very thankful that I did, and I am proud to be his son.

Tammy’s Dad, Lynn, is very special to both of us. Tammy says, “My Dad is special to me because of a lifetime of sacrificial love. When my brothers and I were little, Dad showed us unconditional love. He would take us fishing, and he was great at making us toys out of wood or whatever he would find around the house. He was very imaginative and inspired us to make the most of our situations.

“We didn’t have the money to go buy a lot of new stuff, but he still wanted us to have some of the things our friends had. He took great joy in making those things, many of which my kids and my brother’s kids played with when they were growing up and even to this day. He did all these things because he wanted us to be happy.

“He sacrificed a lot of his own desires to make sure his three kids were taken care of. That hasn’t stopped, even though we grew up and he retired from work. As I go through my battle with leukemia, he and Mom are the ones who take me to most of my appointments at the Cancer Clinic, two or three times a week. They also stay with me while David is at work and David Lee is in class or at work.

“He also instilled in my brothers and me a desire to worship God. He didn’t just take us to church; he was a leader in church. He taught our Sunday School classes. He taught David and me in Sunday School in second grade.”

It was in that second grade class that I learned to appreciate Lynn. When I was baptized in the spring, I chose Lynn to help me prepare for baptism. It was the practice of the church at the time to have an elder help the men get ready and an elder’s wife to help the women and children. I said, “I don’t want a woman helping me, I want an elder. I want Lynn Young.”

When my family moved away from Kansas City after our fourth grade year, Lynn drew a big picture of my family for the entire church to sign. It hung in my parents’ basement for years. I remember being in the basement (rec room) and looking at that 8’ x 10’ sign and seeing Lynn’s name on it. I missed him and his family. And then I’d see Tammy’s signature and secretly think, “I sure wish I could marry her.”

Lynn and I have had a special bond for years. We share a love of sports, which is far less than our shared love for his daughter. Some of my fondest memories to this day involve sitting on his back porch or my front porch and talking about “guy things,” like we did today. Without my Dad around, Lynn is very much a father to me in the most special way.

Both of our Dads are great examples of God’s love. He lavishes love on us, even when we do not deserve it. There is no greater demonstration of this love than when He sent His Son to die for us.

Just like we want to do things to make our earthly fathers proud of us, we want to do things that make our Heavenly Father proud. That is why we love each other. That is why we love our kids. That is why we love our neighbors. It’s why we have traveled half-way around the world to serve in the missions field. All of these things bring great joy to us, just like loving us brings great joy to God. We hope that as you read this blog, you are blessed by it. We are serving God, trying to make Him proud by what we write.

We desire, more than anything, to hear these words spoken in Matthew 25:23 “Well done, good and faithful servant! … Come and share your master’s happiness!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Are We There Yet?

Philippians 3:12-14
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

Many of us grew up taking car trips. When families went on vacations, they usually went in the car. My Dad worked for TWA, so we flew a lot when I was a kid. But we still took the occasional car trip. Tammy and I and our kids took most of our vacations by car. Many of our fondest memories come from those car trips. How about you?

One of the most often-asked questions on these trips is the same, regardless of the destination, or the family: "Are we there yet?" We get impatient on the journey. While we're on the journey, it seems like it takes forever. But think about it, when you get to your destination, you forget the time and remember the fun of the journey.

We are at Day 75, the three-quarter pole for Tammy's journey. We're not sure exactly what happens at Day 100, but we know it will free her up to do more things. More importantly, it will mark the passing of the riskiest period of her recovery.

We've stated before that it seems like the time has gone quickly in some ways, and it's dragged in others. Tammy is doing pretty well, so it seems like she should be out of the woods. She's "not there yet," though, which is why they put the benchmark at 100 days, not 75.

Paul looks at life as a journey. We won't be complete in our conformation to the image of Christ until our journey is complete. But we are progressing. When we look back on all the things that have happened on this journey, do we remember the time it took, or do we remember the things that happened along the way? Do we even look at the big picture and see how the events that happened shaped the end result?

Recently, someone very close to Tammy asked her if she ever woke up and thought it was October (before she got sick). Her reply shows where her heart is. "Every morning when I wake up, I feel like it's Easter. God has given me one more day to live for Him. It's as exciting as Easter morning. Jesus rose; this is true. He has given me this day for Him."

Tammy has never asked God, "Why me?" She looks at this story as a way to bring glory to Him.

She’s not there yet, but she’s on her way.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 72, Even Par

Psalm 112:6-7
"Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever. He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD. "

First of all, I'll apologize for all the sports analogies I use. That's how I think. When a thought comes to mind, I generally relate it to sports. It's how I roll (sorry kids).

Today is Day 72. When I think of 72, I think of even par. The majority of PGA golf tournaments have a par of 72 for 18 holes. (Practically all tournaments are 72 holes too.) There's nothing glamorous about even par. It's dull, boring, uneventful. Professional golfers want birdies, not pars. They'll even take the occasional bogey as the payoff for taking the risk to get the birdie or even the eagle.

I once heard that if a pro golfer shot even par every round of every tournament, he would be in the top 10 on the money list most years, winning more than $1 million a year. Last season, even par would have been one shot off the lead at the US Open. While you won't get the headlines with even par, you'll do quite well.

We feel kind of like that golfer who is shooting even par. Tammy's progress is not flashy. She's not ready to take on the world, or win a golf tournament. She hasn't made that miraculous shot for an eagle, but she also hasn't knocked it in the lake and taken a double-bogey. Slow, steady, consistent improvement is the goal.

The last month has been slower. She got better so quickly that we expected her to continue on that rate of improvement. But there is a reason that the doctors tell us this is a 100-day trek. It will be 100 days from the transplant (or almost another month) before she feels ready to get out and start to get back to normal.

It reminds us of our spiritual walk. God is not looking for flashy--the good deed that grabs the headlines while we secretly live a life that draws people away from Him, not to Him. He wants consistent, honest, faithful followers.

I was in a Bible study this week studying 1 John 3:4-6. We spent the entire hour on those three verses. ("Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.") It's hard to come to grips with that last sentence. As followers of Christ, we still know that we sin. How do we justify this in our minds?

While not justifying sin, we decided that these verses are talking about a lifestyle of sin, where sinfulness is "ruling principle" of our lives. We should continue to feel guilty for sin. In fact, it's when the sin no longer bothers us that we are in danger of falling into the lifestyle of sin to which John refers.

We also talked about how our biggest need is the ability to accept the forgiveness Christ offers. Consistent, steady, even-par faith does not assume that we will never have a bogey (sin). It doesn't assume that we will never have a birdie (a good deed that brings glory to Him). It assumes that God is the center of our lives. As consistent, even-par Christians, we reach the end of the round right where we should be.

Happy golfing.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Philippians 4:11-13
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."

We haven't posted in a week. I'd like to say it's because I was busy, which I was. But really it's because there hasn't been much to report. Tammy's progress is slow and steady. Sometimes it's hard to think of something to write that's new.

Many times I'll get an inspiration from the sermon at church, and today was no exception. We had a guest speaker, a young man who is a missionary in Japan. He spoke on Philippians 3:12-21, where the Apostle Paul talks about not being finished in his Christian growth. He also talked about being content in our situations, and how our perspective affects what we see.

In one sense Tammy's recovery has gone quickly. We're 2/3 of the way through the 100 days, as today is Day 67. But when we look at it day by day, it seems to drag. We knew this would be a long, drawn-out process, but I guess we didn't quite realize how slowly it would go. We have to take a step back and think about where she was a week ago or a month ago to understand that she is getting better.

Tammy is doing well. She's gradually getting her strength back. Her blood counts continue to go up. Everything is going according to schedule. We're content in the progress.

We had a wonderful visit this afternoon from some very close friends from Oklahoma. They are in town visiting their daughter and they came over to the house to see us. We laughed a lot and told old stories that still make us feel good. One of the memories we talked about was when we took a vacation together to some remote cabins in Northwest Arkansas. It was so relaxing. We blocked out everything that was going on in our worlds. We were content.

Contentment doesn't mean whistling past the graveyard saying everything is great when deep down we don't feel that it is. Contentment really doesn't even mean happiness. It means being satisfied with where God has us at the moment. Remember that Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians while he was in jail.

The only way we can truly be content is to completely trust God. We know that He has a perfect plan, and we can't wait to find out the next step. We are helped tremendously by the support we have received from so many of you. You have helped us look at the positive side, at the blessings God has provided us through a difficult time. You have helped us be content.

We pray that you have an awesome week.