I can’t open anything!

Some thoughts on married life from my sorta newlywed daughter, Carolyn.

Lawfully Wedded Life

When I first got married, one of my close friends asked me if there was a moment I could point to when the reality of being married really set in. What was the answer, you ask? “When I realized that I cannot open a single jar or bottle in the entire apartment without help!”

And at that point, that was the number one thing I had noticed. It’s no wonder women always have to ask their husbands to open things, it’s because THEY close them to the point that it is impossible for any woman to get the dang thing open!

And, while that is still a true statement for me in our marriage (seriously, can’t open anything without help), I would say that there have been a few other things that marriage points out that I did not notice as a single woman.

Definitely Not a Servant

First off…

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One of the most difficult times of our lives.

My daughter-in-law, Lindsey, is writing a blog (here) about her son’s life and his genetic disorder called Citrullinemia. She is currently writing about his first few days of life. I wanted to add my perspective as a grandparent for the record.

My wife, Susan, and I were thrilled when our grandson, Caleb, was born.  We had plans to visit Louisiana a month later so we could meet him. We so enjoyed getting to see his pictures and talk with our son, John, on the day of his birth.  We didn’t know it but we were entering probably one of the most emotionally difficult periods of our lives. Things changed quickly when I got a call from John that Caleb was being transferred to an NICU about 60 miles away because he wasn’t acting right.  He was not eating and was lethargic. We were concerned and began to ask friends, family and our prayer team at Bay Community Church to pray for Caleb and his parents.  We were so glad Lindsey’s parents were there supporting them.

I can’t convey the sense of helplessness to have your son and his wife have their first child and things were taking a turn for the worst and we couldn’t do anything to help. So, we maintained contact receiving frequent updates via text and phone.  Most of the updates weren’t very encouraging. We got a call from my son after they had been in the NICU for a couple of days saying that Caleb was being transferred via helicopter to New Orleans Children’s Hospital.  His body had too much ammonia and he had to get dialysis immediately or he might not make it.  That NICU didn’t have the capability to do it.  That was pretty shocking news.

The transfer was on Monday night. I made reservations for John and Lindsey at a hotel near the hospital so they’d at least have a place to stay when they arrived in the middle of the night.  They were driving while Caleb was flying.  We talked with them while they were driving.  In the morning I talked with John and he said that they had arrived safely during the night. They used the room only to shower and spent the rest of the time at the hospital.  He said it was a hard night, but at that time they still didn’t know what the prognosis was.

I had a friend that had recently graduated from a seminary in New Orleans. I called him and asked him if he knew any pastors there that might be able to go to the hospital and visit John and Lindsey.  He said one of his professors was also a pastor and he’d give him a call.  God’s people are so good. The professor had an early class but went to see them right after.  He spoke with them and prayed with them.

Around 10:30 a.m. I text him and asked how he was. His reply to me was, “terrified!”  That put me into action. I thought to myself, “if my son is in a foxhole terrified, I’m jumping in there with him and we can be terrified together.” (I’m retired Army and he’s currently in the Army) I got online and bought an airline ticket from Miami to New Orleans.  I made ground transportation and hotel arrangements.  I also arranged for my wife to join me the next day.  I had great support from our congregation who urged me to go and took care of covering my preaching responsibilities for our church service on Sunday.  Susan arranged to leave her work the next day.

I didn’t tell John I was coming because I didn’t want him to be concerned about me in anyway.  He needed to focus on being a dad in a crisis.  When I arrived in New Orleans, I spoke with John and then I drove the rental car to the hospital.  He came down to the car to meet me. I guess the thing that struck me was how calm his demeanor was and how well he was handling the whole situation.

I came to find out that the reason he was terrified is that the main physician working on Caleb had told him that Caleb might not make it. She wasn’t sure he would pull though. That is hard for any parent to hear. I will tell you that being a grandparent in that situation is double hard.  You hurt for your child.  No one wants their children to go through such difficulties. But, you also hurt for your grandchild.  It’s amazing the automatic love connection you have with your grandchild.

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I remember walking into his room. I saw Lindsey near the bed and little Caleb with all kinds of wires, monitors and hooked up to a ventilator. I kept on thinking how difficult that had to be for these young parents. I was glad to be there with them.  I couldn’t do much for them. They were the parents and I was a bystander. But, I could just be there for them.  I went over to Caleb and rubbed his little body and prayed for him.

It was a blessing to see them be there with their son. Lindsey would read Bible stories to him. Of course, he was not conscious, but she knew he was listening.  I know God was pleased at this loving mother.

Psalm 71:18 (NLT) Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

Leadership Lessons: Mission First, People Always

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528th USAAG

When I was in the U.S. Army, I deployed to Turkey in 1982. I was assigned to the 528th United States Army Artillery Group.  The commander of the unit had a saying that I’ve found helpful in my life since that deployment about 30 years ago.  He regularly said that one of the organizations chief values was, “Mission first, people always.” You’ve got to accomplish the mission or you’ve got to reach certain goals and standards. But, if you don’t care for the people, you’re not going to be able to accomplish the mission because it is through the people that the mission is accomplished. So, you’ve got to care about your people.

I’ve worked for people that did not have that philosophy of leadership. They were the type of people who would just chew people up and out. They lead by intimidation. It was all about accomplishing their goals. Subordinates had to be forced to do what they wanted done, no matter the cost. Those kinds of people weren’t enjoyable to work for. I remember one in particular that I was actually afraid of. I did everything to avoid that person because I knew he didn’t care about me as a person. He would readily sacrifice me to do what he wanted to get done.

After I left that assignment in Turkey, I thought I had applied the lesson of Mission First, People Always. But, I learned later I hadn’t done so. I was a whole lot more career driven than I was willing to admit. My unspoken mission was to be a success in my career. I share this to my shame and I believe I’ve now changed. But, we lived in Guatemala for a time. My wife and I started talking about maybe adopting a child there.  After I thought about it, I said that I believed it might hurt my career having a child that was so different from us. So, we didn’t adopt.  I grieve my attitude back then. But, clearly it was more about the mission (my career), than about people (a little child whom we could have helped greatly). My wife later graciously and lovingly confronted me on that attitude, which helped me in the process of change.

Career is important. You’ve got to make money in order to live. But, it is not and should not be more important that people. That’s what I love about Jesus. He loved people. He put them above his wants and desires. It was about people…always. I think that’s what John, the Beloved Apostle, who experienced the love of Jesus first hand meant when he said, John 3:16 (AMP) For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world (that’s people; you and I) that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.

God always loves people; he puts them first by giving up his son for them. That’s a great example of how we should be.

I’ve been out of commission.

May 2013 was a very stressful time for our family. There were several health issues that popped up with family members thatImage we love very much. After that stressful time, I’ve not felt much like blogging. But, June has allowed me to recuperate. I’m ready to get back at it. 

At this point in my life, I’m a full time pastor/church planter. But, this hasn’t always been my vocation. I was a soldier in the U.S. Army for 22 years. No, I was not a chaplain. I was an Artilleryman or a “Redleg.” God called me into pastoring in my last years of serving my Lord while I served the country.  What I plan to do over the next several blog posts is take some leadership lessons I learned in my time in the Army and discuss how those lessons have worked out in the church world.

I will tell you. I’m not sure I would have been prepared for what I’m doing now without those 22 years of preparation in the Army. I’m thankful to God that he allowed me to grow and mature in him, before he called me into pastoral ministry.

I’ll publish my next blog post, “They’re not soldiers,” in the coming days. Until then, have a great Independence Day and always remember that “Freedom isn’t free.”

 

One Year: A Testimony

We are so grateful to have Rand as part of our family now. He and our daughter, Carolyn, married a year ago yesterday. He is a gifted writer, so I’m reposting a recent blog of his as a testimony to God’s faithfulness.

Are you good in a crisis?

Johnny Jackson ChurchillLife is full of crises. Most of them you probably are reacting to and are not the cause of; someone hits your car, a baby in the family gets really sick, a bomb blows up at the finish line of a marathon.  Most of those things you cannot prevent. You just have to deal with them.

How do you handle it when you’re confronted with a crisis? Now, you can freak out, scream, and run when you are faced with an emergency or you can react in a way that helps those around you through the situation too.  We certainly saw both reactions at the Boston Marathon bombing.

My dad was exceptionally good in a crisis. He didn’t lose his cool. He thought clearly and gave good direction or advice. He didn’t let the emotion of the moment get him. He focused on the task at hand…getting through the crisis as best as possible. He was a U.S. Army officer and had successfully dealt with crises.

The best way to do that is to process the steps you should take during a crisis when you are not in one. Emergency personnel have a checklist memorized as what to do first, second and third when confronted with an emergency. You can do the same thing too.

Take time alone to think it out. When you have some type of physical crisis, like a car accident, what are the first 10 things you should do? Make a list before it happens, so that when it does you’re ready. If you have an emotional crisis, like a close family member, you love very much, is going through some very difficult situation. What is the 5 things you want to do so you’ll be able to think clearly and support them.  What do you do in a spiritual crisis, like something has happened that you doubt God or your faith? Make a list.  What do you do? …Pray, seek God’s word to you in His Word, seek out trusted counselors etc.

I think Jesus was good in a crisis. During the torture before the cross and on the cross he was thinking about other people. He told John to physically care of Mary Jesus’ mother. He stopped to minister to emotional women who were crying because of the brutality. He cared spiritually for his torturers, which was evident when He asked God, the Father, to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. Now obviously the cross was physically, emotionally and spiritually brutal, but Jesus had prepared as best as he could. I think the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was part of that preparation. So, during the crisis he was able to stay composed and focus on others.

How do you take time to prepare for life’s crises? Please leave a comment and let us know.

Are You Smarter Than A Four-Year-Old?

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I was reading the book, If You Have a Hat; a Silly Rhyming Picture Book, by Gerald Hawksley, to my four-year-old granddaughter, Logan.  It’s a book very similar to the Dr. Suess Cat in the Hat books that I read years ago. She listened attentively as I read the book.  As I read, I asked her, “Do you see how the words rhyme?”  She didn’t get it at first.  But, then I showed her how mouse rhymed with house and how race rhymed with face and she got it. Now, her brother, Brody, is only two and he just didn’t want to sit and listen. He certainly wasn’t at the point in his life where he’d understand what a rhyme was.

As I had time to reflect on reading the book to her, I realized it must be the same way with us as we read God’s Word and our Heavenly Father teaches us. If you’ve read God’s Word regularly, you know that sometimes you read the same verse on one occasion that you’ve read many times and all of a sudden something jumps out at you; a word or an idea, that you never got when reading that verse before. That’s God teaching you “how the words rhyme.” Rather, He’s showing you something that you didn’t get before in that verse; a new truth or insight that you didn’t understand before. Now, you’re at a point in your life when you can get it. Before, if He showed it to you, you just didn’t get it.

To me, that adds a whole new insight into Jesus’s words, Luke 18:17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” When you approach reading God’s Word you must realize that the creator of the universe, the all-knowing God is trying to teach you. In many ways it like a grandfather, with many more years of education and experience trying to teach a four-year-old. We’ve got to really pay attention to what He’s trying to say. He’s showing us how the “words rhyme,” so we can understand what He’s trying to say to us at the place and time we are right now in our lives.

When you approach God Word, the Bible, try listening like a four-year-old. Allow Him to teach you. Be open to hearing and learning and applying His Word to your life.

I’d love to hear what God is teaching you right now. Would you please comment below and let me know?