He Would Have Been 28

John Robert and Claire

Today is John Robert’s birthday. Our family remembers him every day, but especially on this day. Each one in our family has distinct memories and relationships with him. I remember not only John Robert but also the impact his death had on his sister, niece and nephew, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, friends… all of us.

He would have been 28 years old. Still, I can only see him as 18. Occasionally I drift into a daydream of wondering what he would be doing today but I do not really indulge this for long. The truth is whatever I can imagine falls far short of the eternal life he now experiences. 

However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen,  what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” –  the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.  – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

I’ve looked back at some of the posts I’ve written on this date across the past years. I’ll link a few at the end of this post. Just as there are no new pictures to share, no new events to tell about, and no new updates to his life story … I have no new reflections. Just three words. We miss him. Beyond that, only faith and love have kept us moving on after this loss. 

And this is what he promised us—eternal life. – 1 John 2:25

Living in the promise of God among the people of God has been our strength. 

A few links from past birthdays:

A post from 2008.

A post from 2009.

A post from 2013.

A post from 2014.

John Robert’s friend A. J. Olivares wrote THIS Facebook remembrance on John Robert’s birthday in 2008, the year he died. I thought it was beautiful.

Thanks for reading. JD

More Wasted Days

coffee-2

I think I’ve read this story in several places. It originates (as far as I know) from Gordon MacDonald’s book, The Effective Father.

It is said of Boswell, the famous biographer of Samuel Johnson, that he often referred to a special day in his childhood when his father took him fishing. The day was fixed in his adult mind, and he often reflected upon many of the things his father had taught him in the course of their fishing experience together. After having heard of the particular excursion so often, it occurred to someone much later to check the journal that Boswell’s father kept and determine what had been said about the fishing trip from the parental perspective. Turning to that date, the reader found only one sentence entered: “Gone fishing today with my son; a day wasted.”

Now it could be that that was a happy reflection and written with a bit of wry humor. Or maybe he really did regard the day as wasted. But either way, we need more wasted days with our children.

It’s not easy. We live in a driven world with crazy schedules and deadlines that send our blood pressure soaring. For some of us it’s hard to remember when we wasted a day. As we all probably thought while reading the account above, that day was not truly wasted. It was the most memorable day in the author’s life.

In order to waste more days we’re going to have to decommit (is that a word?) to things that are really good. Are you in way over your head? Are you scrambling to keep appointments to appease other people? It’s really true that most organizations are invasive … they would like all the time, money, and work that you can contribute to the cause. For any organization to continue, it needs to believe it is the most important cause. How many of these organizations are really pulling your family together … and how many are pulling your family apart?

We need more wasted days like these…

Days that are centered around conversations with people we love most.

Days that create memories without having to do something spectacular.

Days that leave us relaxed instead of breathless.

Days that focus on activities that require the hands and energy of each other in order to complete.

Days that might result in no lasting evidence of the day itself…. there’s just nothing to show for it … at least nothing visible.

And we need Dads for Wasted Days. I know there are moms who are trying to be both mom and dad. Very difficult. But for those parents who are present physically, I urge you to waste some days with your sons and daughters.

For it is in a wasted day that your children will realize that for at least one moment nothing else mattered more than them.

I think that’s a feeling they’ll remember for the rest of their lives … and long to provide for their own children one day.

Thanks for reading, JD.
 

One Dozen Ideas To Make Marriage Work

7.14.14

In a few weeks Maggy and I will have been married for 27 years. I’m more blessed than I deserve. Ours is not a perfect marriage because those do not exist.  But I love being married to Maggy and I think I’ve learned a little about being a husband over the years. There are a thousand books on marriage written by experts. I can’t replace those with a blog post, but I can offer some words of experience to those who are about to be married, those who are newly married, and those who are struggling in their marriage.

1. The first year is really hard. The ‘in-love’ experience of dating and the romance of outings together with someone new is a beautiful experience. That’s not going to be the daily experience of married life.  You thought you knew this person you married, and you’re figuring out that you didn’t. Finding out who they are in the unguarded moments of daily  can be hard.  Tough it out – it’s worth the struggle.

2.  Rescue yourself from your own Great Expectations. Especially young people have grandiose ideals about what married life is going to be like. These usually do not involve self-improvement! They are focused on how great the other person is going to be at being your mate. We tend to extend a lot more grace to ourselves than our significant other. Turn that around. Expect great things from yourself, and give grace and room to grow to your spouse.

3. Get your money stuff straight. It took Maggy a few months to get my bank account straight after we married. I managed to skid along without balancing my account. I put money in, I took money out. Most of the time there really was money there when I thought there was. That worked for me, but not for her. Early on I relinquished financial management to her – a great decision for both of us.  But whatever your arrangement is, agree to it and stick to it. Nothing can divide a marriage like money troubles.

4. You are enlisted in a new war. Everything in this culture is at war against your marriage. Every image of marriage on television, movies, books, and song is about infidelity, loss of trust,  and how great life could be with someone else.  Divorce lawyers advertise on billboards, offering the low bids for your business. We win this battle by deciding to love our spouse through thick and thin.

5. You really did need those vows. You know those traditional vows you were barely able to say under your breath in front of all of those people? They mean something. When you said ‘for better or worse’, did you not realize there would actually be a ‘worse’? There would be times when you would have to help someone ‘in sickness’ or experience  ‘for poorer’? When you said ’till death do us part’, you did realize that it is most likely one of you will pass from this life before the other? Before God you swore to keep those vows. Do it.

6. Children change everything. This can be another area where idealism overshadows reality. Having children is an awesome blessing, supercharged with every emotion under the sun. But it does change a marriage to have have kids running around. Having children is not the way to shore up a shaky marriage. So if you are starting off with children – or have one on the way pretty soon – prepare for big challenges and give big love to each other.

7. You need some mentors. Every marriage faces challenges and every married person needs mentors – people who have been on the road longer than you. When young married people are getting their marriage advice from other young inexperienced married (or even unmarried!) people, there is trouble ahead.  Seek out some people who have been married a long time and watch, listen, learn from them. You are facing things they have been through. This is one place where the church can serve a grand purpose, in providing godly examples of people who are committed to one another because of Christ.

8. Don’t be afraid of professional help.  There are times when you can reach an impasse, and a third person could offer some input and help. Make sure your counselor is a Christian first. Otherwise you have no idea where they are coming from – or where they are leading you. And if you see a counselor (1) go together and (2) cooperate with them. Doing things your own way has gotten you into this office.

9.  Take time to communicate honestly. Especially when our feelings are hurt or our relationship has been damaged, communication disappears. Your spouse cannot read your mind, interpret your silence, nor guess what’s wrong.

10. Take divorce off the table.  Divorce is the nuclear threat that can be tossed about too easily. Stop talking about divorce and start talking about getting yourself back into shape as a great husband or wife. Besides being an instrument of destruction to your marriage, divorce can lead to further pain. Research demonstrates that second and third marriages have a much shorter lifespan. If you are divorcing to marry another person, you are most likely asking for more pain. If you are currently in a second marriage, don’t become a statistic. Beat the odds! This advice does not apply when there is abuse or infidelity – in those cases you have some big decisions to make.

11. Respect each other. This is implied in much of what I’ve already written, but I wanted to be specific. The person you married is someone who had qualities you admired. They are a real person with strengths and weaknesses. They have the capability to provide a great relationship for your life. Treat them that way. Do not play  out your marriage troubles in social media – that is just a way to bully your spouse and embarrass them in front of friends and family.  Don’t yell or scream at one another. Talk. Don’t try to get friends or family members on “your side”. Respect your spouse as a capable and lovable person with whom there could be many wonderful years ahead.

12. Keep Christ at the center of your marriage. In our culture of religiously unconnected people, there is a loss of the anchors that keep marriage relationships together. When each of us is following some inner voice, our ‘heart’, or just our own wisdom, the result is disaster. God created us and knows us best. He places believers into communities of faith and surrounds them with support systems. When you rob yourself of that system, you lose a great deal of strength that is needed to carry you through the hard times. The strongest family is one submitted to Christ, following His ways, and committed to His truth.

Even though I’m giving this advice, I’m not always great at these things. So this serves as a reminder to me, and I hope a help to you.  Thanks for reading, John

Check out:

Marriage Helper

Marriage and Divorce in America

What God Has Joined Ministry

Family Dynamics

Focus on the Family

 

Coffee Cup of the Day

Guest Post: You Ought To Be Teachers by Cecil May, III

teach, children, familyFor though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. ~Hebrews 5:12

At the most recent Monday night Bible class at the Detention Center, Melvin spoke. The Monday night class for men is held for a special group of men who are in a program called SAP – Substance Abuse Program. They spend all day every day in groups being lead through all kinds of material on over-coming substance abuse and breaking the drug cycle. So they learn things like the importance of making good choices, looking down the road at consequences for their actions, controlling their desires, the necessity to end friendships that carry bad influences, taking responsibility for their own decisions, and restoring valuable relationships that have been broken.

Look again at what these incarcerated adult men are learning: good choices, consequences, self-control, bad influences, taking responsibility, making amends. They spend months being taught these skills.

On Monday night, Melvin spoke. He is about to graduate SAP. He had some things to say to the Bible class before leaving. I will paraphrase what I heard him say that echoed Hebrews 5:12, but that gave it a new slant for me.

Fellas, we sit in here and pretend that we are learning new, important things. In reality, these are things that our parents taught us when we were five years old. We were supposed to learn all these things back then. But we did not listen. And because we did not listen and learn these things our parents tried to teach us, now we sit here in this jail learning these lessons, when what we should be doing is teaching these lessons to our own five year olds at home. We are here learning when we should be at home teaching.

Become a teacher.

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Cecil MayCecil May, III is the minister for the Parkway Church of Christ in Fulton, Kentucky.  His wife, Patti, is a school teacher. Their longtime service for Christ in that area is a blessing to many.