Friday, January 31, 2014


I spoke, albeit very, very briefly, about Grace in my talk.  Here's a little bit more about it, sung beautifully by U2.  Bono's words about Grace and karma that you see at the end of the video say even more.

"She carries a pearl in perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.
Grace finds beauty in everything.
Grace finds goodness in everything."

I'm looking forward to being that pearl in perfect condition.  I'm on my way...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Life: An Unexpected Journey

The following is the text of a talk that I gave on Thursday, January 16th at my school.  I am amazed and humbled to have had the opportunity to share a bit of my journey and hope that it will help at least one student or even one colleague in their own.  I saw the talk as an offering that I was giving to the Lord with Open Hands.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the

Life: An Unexpected Journey

First, a word about the prayer that you see on the screen. This is part of something that is commonly known as the Serenity Prayer. It’s probably most often seen at Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings where I believe they recite it together at the beginning of each meeting. It’s a prayer that is an admission by those who pray it that there are certain things that they cannot change or control (their addiction), and that there are also things that they can (their choices). But as is the nature of prayer, it is an expression of hope and faith that there is a personal and loving God who will hear them, and not only hear them but help them! During this past summer I came upon this prayer. And though I am not addicted to alcohol or drugs, I felt intimately connected to it. I felt that I could relate to the truth that there are things that I could not control and things that I could, and that there is a loving God that I believe in who will help me in my daily journey through life. I printed and taped the Serenity Prayer up on my bedroom wall and pray through it every day.

Speaking in front of a crowd of this magnitude is not something that I am accustomed to doing. But I do feel that I have some insights on dealing with the unexpected journey that life can be that I hope you will find helpful today or perhaps someday down the road. As a teacher, it is always my passion to pass along what I know to others that their lives might be enriched. If there is even one of you here today that either takes comfort in what I share or is positively challenged by it, then I will feel that this risk to share about a significant part of my life will have been worth it.

On January 1st, 2008, as we were coming home from a family gathering, the minivan that I was driving along with my wife, Midi, and twin 4-year old sons Lucas and Nathan, was violently struck on the passenger side by a drunk driver speeding through a red light. Midi died almost instantly. And my sweet boy, Nathan, after being declared brain dead and suffering life-ending internal injuries, died in my arms in the wee hours of the following morning. The pain and suffering that I have endured since that awful day are indescribable. The injustice of it all is profound. The magnitude of loss is beyond measure.

There is so much I can share about my life as it relates to this tragedy. But what can I tell you in this short amount of time?
  • ●  I could share with you about the pain of loneliness and isolation and struggling with the feeling that no one could possibly understand what I’ve been through or am going through.
  • ●  I could share about how insecure and inadequate I sometimes feel as a single parent and how I overcome those times
  • ●  I could share about how in the first two years of great instability I did damage to 7 different significant relationships in my life and how, thank God, they have all been restored.
  • ●  I could lead you in a discussion about how people deal with their brokenness and insecurities (whether conscious of them or not) by a variety of overcompensation techniques. And I could share with you how I do that sometimes and how I overcome it when I catch myself doing it.
  • ●  I could share about how I choose to forgive the man who killed them. And I could also tell you that forgiveness is hard and how sometimes you have to do it over and over. And then I could tell you about the power of forgiveness and how much greater it is than anger, resentment, and bitterness.
    ●  I could talk about how Grace is greater than Karma. That, as Aslan says in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “there is a deeper magic.”
  • ●  I could spend all day talking to you about how wonderful Midi was and how she touched so many lives because she had the gift of being able to see how every person was made in God’s image, no matter how messed up they seemed to be. I could share with you how I pursued her with steadfast love and eventually won her heart, though she was way out of my league!
  • ●  I could tell you about how much joy it gave me to be the father of my twin boys, how smart, sweet, and intuitive Nathan was, and how much I miss him.
  • ●  I can tell you about my amazing son, Lucas! I can tell you about how I and others marvel at who he is and who he is becoming. I can tell you how much joy it gives me to have him in my life and how much I love being his daddy.
  • ●  Icouldtellyouabouthowlovingbrothersandsisterswalk alongside me, suffer with me, cry with me, pray for me, and patiently love me. And I can tell you about how important it is to have community who you can count on like I do.
  • ●  I can tell you how dangerous an obsessive focus on yourself and your own problems is and how I believe that this kind of self-focus can lead to mental illness and profound darkness.
  • ●  I can tell you how I also lost a daughter - the daughter that we were in the process of adopting.
  • ●  I can share with you how I’ve come to peace with questions like, “How could a loving God allow this to happen?” or the general, “Why do bad things happen to ‘good’ people?”
  • ●  I can share about the illusion of control that we all seem to have about life. Though we are in many ways the captain of our own ships, to think that we can control the water or the wind is laughable.

    So what do I want to leave you with?

People often marvel at how healthy I’ve been and wonder how it is possible for me to be so strong, courageous, and hopeful after what I have been through. Well, the answer to this goes back to March 14, 1992. That is the day that I decided to accept the gift of life offered to me by Jesus. That is the day that I became a Christian while seeking something that I could build the foundation of my life on. While I understand that the word “Christian” can be charged with some negative connotations for some of you and perhaps some prejudice on your part, for me becoming one was the ultimate turning point of my life. So the answer to how I have responded and in some ways even thrived since 2 of the 3 most precious people in my life were taken away from me goes back to that critical decision and the relationship with God that has grown since then. You see, my life is built on something that won’t change no matter what the circumstances. My roots are deep. And so I cannot be permanently shaken or knocked off course.

If we are honest, we should all be able to acknowledge that we all depend on things, or people, or institutions that can change, even if they don’t intend to or promise not to. Even the people who you love the most can change or your relationship with them could change. So many of you are children of divorced parents whose affection and commitment towards each other changed. Many of you have experienced your own heartache already in relationships that have fallen apart. Many of you have even lost people you loved and who you thought would be in your life much, much longer. But you don’t really have to look far or even to things so intense to know how your own heart changes. You yourself make promises to yourself that you sometimes cannot will yourself to keep! You’ve all
broken resolutions you’ve made to yourself. You’ve all given in to some temptation to do or think of something destructive to yourself or others. So I want to challenge you to build your own life on something solid that will not change (i.e. NOT yourself or others), regardless of the crazy twists and turns your life takes.

Another thing I would like to leave you with to reflect on is Gratitude. Gratitude is so powerful. I am so grateful for the years I shared with Midi and Nathan. I am incredibly blessed to have been married to such an amazing woman and to have been the father of such a precious son. It is easy to focus on the injustice of what happened. And make no mistake: It was horribly unjust. But I choose to focus on gratitude. The only way that you can be grateful for anything is if you do not believe that you deserve it and that it is a gift. A sense of entitlement is the absolute enemy of gratitude. Midi and Nathan were gifts to me from a loving and generous God. I didn’t deserve them. But I got to have them anyway. They touched my life more than words can express. And because I know that I didn’t do anything to deserve them I can be grateful to the God who I believe gave them to me, even as they are gone too soon.

Finally I want to share with you about living life with Open Hands. This is my posture towards God. And what the posture represents to me is two things: 1. With open hands I offer everything to him. I offer my pain, loneliness, fear, sadness, insecurities, hopes, desires, passions, dreams. 2. With open hands I open my heart fully trusting to continue to receive from a loving father peace, comfort, security, joy, strength to forgive, strength to move forward, strength to love. Living with Open Hands is in contrast to living with Grasping Hands or Clenched Fists where one tries to grab and fill and take what they think they need to survive out of a place of insecurity and pain. And unfortunately, it is the easier and more natural path that we all consciously or unconsciously take.

Do not misunderstand my journey. It has not been all “pie in the sky.” I regularly experience and acutely feel the pain of loss and all that comes with it. And it’s not only my pain that I feel. I feel the pain of others more than I ever did before I experienced my own. But I’ve learned how to give and receive with Open Hands. That is how I have managed to survive as I have. I, like each one of us, am a work in progress. It’s not like I’m permanently in a place where I’ve moved past everything. I regularly have to make the choice to
● forgive rather than be bitter
● hope rather than despair
● live with Open Hands rather than Grabby Hands/Clenched 

While we cannot control everything around or even inside of us, we do have the power to make choices in the way we respond. So you can see why I put the Serenity Prayer up and why it means so much to me. I guess in some ways I need that daily reminder to trust and that daily admission that I need help and can’t do it on my own, but that God has my back!

Though I hope that none of you will ever experience tragedy, especially of the magnitude that I have, I sincerely hope that what I’ve shared with you today is a blessing to you all!

Thank you. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Glorious Unfolding

This song, the whole album really, has really ministered to me lately.  Thanks Steven Curtis Chapman!