Marching Orders

April 8, 2017
Photo Credit: Angelo Amboldi

Photo Credit: Angelo Amboldi

I now have two adult daughters. Lydia turned eighteen a year ago, and Jessica turned eighteen three days ago. They are both spreading their wings in completely different ways. It is a beautiful thing to watch. I’m not going to get into the details of what they are both doing. Not because it’s a secret, and not because I’m avoiding comparing one to the other. I’m not going into details because there is really just one thing they both should be doing. There is one thing that they need to measure their lives by. It’s not how much time they spend in ministry. It’s not whether or not they are going to college. It’s not about what kind of job they have. It’s not even about what kind of relationship they are in. They need to take the following verse and spend every day living it to the best of their ability.

Matthew 22:36-40New International Version (NIV)
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus summarized the entire bible with this one statement. He was trying to communicate that the best way to follow the commands of the Bible is to love God and love everyone around you. Jesus didn’t make demands on church attendance. He didn’t make demands on ministry. He didn’t demand career success. He didn’t demand political affiliation. He wanted everyone to know that following Him was really about loving God and loving the people around you.

Lydia and Jessica, this is my only expectation of you both. Measure your success by how much you love God and how much you love those around you. I believe you both already do this to the greatest of your ability. In this next stage of your life, can you take it to the next level? I don’t care about your choice of political party. I don’t care how much money you make. I don’t care how much you go to church. I don’t care how much you volunteer. I don’t care how many missions trips you attend. I want to know if you are loving God and loving those around you. That is how you need to measure your life. That is the filter by which you judge yourself.

And one last thing. Please know that no matter what happens. No matter how bad it gets. No matter what you have done. You can always come home. You will always have a bed to sleep on. Until my final breath, I will be proud to be your father.

Grand Prix

My new job as a hospice nurse comes with the need for reliable transportation. Since starting this job at the end of this last January I have put a lot of miles on my 2001 Ford Focus. That poor thing has over 235,000 miles on it. It almost feels like a miracle when I pull back into the driveway after a day where I’ve put another 100 miles on it.

Several months ago we decided it was time to get a replacement. I’m a brand new graduate and spent the last three years in school. Due to financial restraints, we were worried that it would be impossible to save enough in a short amount of time. Julie and I refuse to ever have a car payment again. Our goal was to save enough to purchase something with between 110,000 and 150,000 miles on it. Hey, when you are buying with cash you have to temper your expectations. Originally, I wanted a Chevy Impala. I wanted something that was large enough for all six of us in case our LeSabre was broken down. After looking at an Impala last week, we realized that the interior design of an Impala would not easily accommodate our six-person family. That freed me up to choose an Impala that didn’t necessarily have a front bench seat.

I have spent the last two months looking for an Impala with fewer than 150,000 miles on it. I have watched Craig’s List daily for two months to get a feel for what something with less than 150,000 might cost. I’ve practically driven off the road checking out used car lots all throughout the city. I’m all over the northland and northeast Independence all week long. I’ve stopped into many used-car lots and looked in windows and opened unlocked doors on empty corners. Most days I didn’t have enough to even get the car I was looking into. I was okay with that. My goal was to get a feel for what was available at our target amount.

This last Wednesday, Julie decided she would help me out. Apparently, she had an opening in her schedule. She jumped on the Oak Grove Swap and Shop page on Facebook. About twenty posts down she spotted a 2006 Grand Prix in Odessa. She tagged me on the post and sent me a text message letting me know what she had found. What took me two months, she accomplished in five minutes!

To be clear, I never even considered a Grand Prix. I’ve never even seen one I thought was nice looking. Well, I never paid enough attention to find one I did like. Even after sitting in this one, I wasn’t head-over-heels with the thing. Logically, it was a smart purchase. It had just over 123,000 miles. Consumer reports had some nice things to say about it as far as reliability. It wasn’t on the “never buy this as a used car” list, which is good. What attracted me to the car was the color and tinted windows. Those were two things I wanted on the Impala, although I wasn’t convinced I would end up with those options. I wanted remote start above all else but had also waved goodbye to that since my overall goal was something with fewer than 150,000 miles on it. I was going to say no to anything over that and yes to anything under.

Lord Vader

This car has turned into everything I wanted and more. It has tinted windows, a nine-hundred dollar paint job and new tires. They just had it tuned up with new brakes and an alignment. When they handed me the key fob, I was shocked to discover it even has remote start. They even came down $800.00 on the asking price.

This wasn’t what I was looking for, but it was exactly what I needed. I couldn’t be happier.

I don’t want to work on character change tonight. I’m tired.

Said Julie

When Carl dies, I want some of his stuff. 

Said Lydia 

If anybody can rock ugly jeans, it’s you!

Said Julie about my cargo jeans

The One

April 4, 2015
Photo Credit: David

Photo Credit: David

In Luke chapter 15, Jesus does something unusual. He tells three parables in a row trying to make a single point about God’s love. He tells the story of a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son. These stories involve loss, celebration and, to a certain degree, neglect.

Jesus states that if one of a hundred sheep were missing he would leave the ninety-nine to find the one. He states that if He loses one of ten coins He would turn the house upside down to find the one. He explains that if He lost one of two sons He would fret over the missing one until he returned.

Nothing could be more opposite than how we behave now. We don’t leave the many for the one. I am reminded of the famous quote from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

Spock: “The needs of the many, outweigh…”
Kirk: “…the needs of the few.”
Spock: “Or the one.”

It sounds good in a movie, but it is completely different from how God treats us. God sees the needs of the one and He is bothered. He can’t stand to see one person lost. He can’t stand to see one person without His love and affection. He can’t stand to see one person lost without an overpowering desire to have them rescued. He was so bothered that He stopped at nothing to rescue the one lost person. He was so bothered that He gave his own son. He spared no expense. He gave it all.

That is how I am supposed to be as a father. If I have one child who is lost, I must do everything possible to see them rescued. This means that I need to be willing to divert all my energy to the one who is lost…the one who is in danger of destruction…the one who is at the edge of destruction. I need to be so committed to their rescue, that it almost looks like I have abandoned everyone else.

Over the last few years I have had to grapple with this principle in ways I never imagined. I have been forced to divert much of my attention to the one. In those moments of great inner turmoil, when I am struggling with how lopsided my attention must appear, I have had to face myself in the mirror and ask, “Am I making the right choice?” Often times I would go back to Luke 15 and remind myself of how God has treated me. When I was the least deserving, He pursued me. When I was the most lost, He pursued me. When I was in the most danger, God abandoned all else to see me safe.

In God’s world, there are only two categories. There is lost, and there is found. My world will emulate God’s world. In my world, I will do whatever it takes to see the lost one found. Even if it looks like I have abandoned everyone else.

“There are two ways to look at things”


Artwork By Jessica

Nine times twenty-one equals Jesus, because Jesus is the answer for everything.

Said Elaina

I couldn’t sleep, so I was practicing my fake crying.

Said Anjelia

Photo Credit: Kevin Harber

Photo Credit: Kevin Harber

Last Monday I took my first position as a Registered Nurse. I started at NorthCare Hospice and Palliative Care.

I have had a lot of different jobs in my lifetime. Half of them are in the medical field, and the other half are spread across construction, printing, self employment and retail. At no time during the last 24 years did I feel like any of those jobs had any spiritual significance until last week.

Hospice was on my list for a couple of reasons. The first reason was simply the schedule. I’m a family man, and I have no desire for rotating twelve-hour shifts like nurses work in the hospital. The second reason was because I was really interested in work that was more relational in nature. So many nursing jobs are too fast paced. The goal is to get the patient in and out as quickly as possible. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with this type of medical career. Short hospital stays are an essential component to healthcare. I had decided that I just wanted something different.

Over the last few months I have shared my interest in hospice nursing with friends, family and coworkers. I have received a wide variety of responses. People who have no experience with hospice just say that it sounds like emotionally draining work. When I talk to someone who has first-hand experience with hospice they usually get emotional, start crying and share about family or friends who received services from hospice. When I talk to someone who works in hospice they get a smile on their face and simply say, “Hospice is more than a job. It’s a calling.”

After a week of orientation at NorthCare Hospice I understand the designation, “Calling.” Before last Monday I understood hospice to involve helping people die as comfortably as possible. After a week of general orientation I understand that hospice is so much more than that. Hospice doesn’t just focus on keeping patients comfortable, even though that is an important aspect of hospice care. No, hospice isn’t only about death. Hospice is also about life. Hospice is about helping patients function at the highest possible level during their last months of life. Hospice is about empowering people to identify what is most important to them and helping them engage their last days in a way that is the most fulfilling to them.

Hospice is a calling because I will be a pivotal figure in the final chapter of someone’s life. I will manage their overall care. I’m responsible to make sure that my clients are equipped with everything they need to live their final days with dignity. I will be a central figure in the lives of immediate family as well. I will have at my disposal a team of professionals whose only concern is the care and comfort of my client. We will leave no stone unturned to make sure that our clients and their immediate families feel the support they need to manage the most challenging time of their life.

I have had a lot of jobs that I didn’t feel really mattered beyond providing for my family. For the first time in my life I feel like I will be doing something professionally that really makes a difference. For the first time in my life I feel like I will have a job that God has called me to do.