New Directions

One of the hard things about a person close to you dying is that you don't really know what comes next. Everyone tells you to sorta "get on with your life," but who the heck knows what that means? If it means just trying to make money and do my job, that's not really what I care about. If it means doing what I care about (church stuff), right now there isn't enough of it to really fill my empty times. Being married certainly helps, because there's a lot more going on in your life, but even so it's hard to know what comes next.

Recently, though, I am feeling that God may be taking me in a new direction. I am reading one of my wonderful Puritan books, entitled "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment," by Jeremiah Burroughs. In this book, he teaches how we can have a more godly perspective on what God has given us in our lives, and how we can use that to find joy in times of sorrow or pain.

God is using a remarkable confluence of events to prepare me to learn some new things;
-Reading "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment" is teaching me more about contentment, humility, and patience.
-Contemplating my mom's life has shown me her humility, her love, and her commitment.
-Dealing with her death is teaching me contentment.
-Preparing to teach the Beatitudes and the book of James is showing me more about what it means to be "poor in spirit."
-Meeting some people with amazing humility and being impressed just to spend time with them.
-Preparing for Seminary
-Being impressed by my dad's humble use of his money and influence.

I think I'm about to come to a time where God is going to try to show me what it means to be more content with the many gifts he has given, and to use that perspective to be more humble and joyful in my life. I can only pray that I will be open to His teaching. I'm a bit nervous, because I've so easily rejected Him time and time again. Keep praying for me!

Speaking of which, thank you so much to all my dear friends who have been praying for my family and I. It has been quite an experience to see God answering your prayers, and quite wonderful for me to feel the love and support you have offered. Many times in the quiet of the night, a person worries that their life has no impact, that their friends don't really care. You have shown me that when I have those fears, they are completely unfounded. I love you dearly.




This is the eulogy I gave at my mom’s funeral today. Over 500 people came! We were expecting less than 300, so it was a great turnout. The funeral was beautiful, and it was an excellent portrayal of who she was and what she stood for.

How do you measure one person’s life?

How do you measure one person’s life? As my family has watched my mom deteriorate over the last few months, each of us has been forced to consider her life and to come to grips with what she means to us. We have to ask ourselves who this person was, and we have to define and clarify why she was important.

Well, was it because she was successful in the world’s eyes? There’s certainly a case to be made there. She was a simple girl from Canada, without any major achievements in academics, athletics, or music.

However, after catching my dad’s eye and becoming his wife, she became half of a very important marriage (and let’s be honest… she was the by far the more attractive and conversational half). This marriage would move up the corporate ladder, would attend inaugurations and important business trips. Together they would become a key part of their church community, bringing all kinds of support and leadership. This marriage would parent four kids, each of whom would distinguish themselves in various ways. Together they would go on mission trips, support missionaries, and become involved in Michigan Theological Seminary. By sometimes supporting my dad in his pursuits and sometimes dragging him along behind in hers, my mom had what anyone would deem a successful life.

The thing is, she would never have seen it that way. Her humility was too great. Yes, my dad was successful in business… but he hesitated to tell her when he got bonuses or raises, knowing that she would complain that he made too much money.

Yes, she went to all sorts of places for missions… but she would prefer taking on the dirtiest and hardest jobs when she did so, caring more about seeing people served well than she did about being proud just for having gone.

Yes, she had four pretty decent kids… but she challenged us constantly, never content with having “just” good kids. She made it a priority to stretch us in every way possible; if you were smart, she wanted you to learn compassion. If you won, she wanted you to learn grace. If you lost, she wanted you to learn character. If you got out of line, she wanted you to learn about the loving hand of discipline, helping you get back IN line.

You see, my mom hated the idea of seeing oneself as successful. Something much deeper and stronger drove her, and it would be dishonoring if we only remembered her as a successful person.

So, then, how do you measure one person’s life? Do you measure it by their general goodness, by their acts of service?

Again, my mom can make a great case for this. Her list of acts of service would be a mile long. Consider these things:

If you know what is meant by terms like Air Force One and The Beast, you know my mom was a servant. She spent countless hours driving my siblings and I in those stupid vans of hers to a multitude of friends houses, church events, and sporting events. Just imagine trying to juggle four schedules that include gymnastics, tennis, basketball, soccer, band, ultimate Frisbee, youth group, Awana, school projects, plays, birthday parties, movies, and so much more. THEN try to imagine throwing in kids who forget their lunchboxes, picking up 10-12 high school kids to be thrown in the van for youth group each week, driving to camp and back every summer, teaching kids to drive, running errands to the church, shopping for the family, finding Christmas gifts every year, and visiting friends and family. That gives you a small taste of how my mom served others with her van.

If you have ever seen her at the front of the room, you know she is a servant. She didn’t like being an up-front type of leader, and yet she put the Awana program at Lake Pointe together, acting for years as its “commander” (an apt term if I ever heard one). She also put lots of effort into mission trips, leading kids from all sorts of locations in singing songs about Jesus, hoping desperately that the lessons would sink in and that the kids would come to know God. She wasn’t a great speaker, but nobody who has heard her lectures can deny that she had a force of personality that would make itself heard, even if words and their technical meanings were more of an obstacle than an ally.

If you have ever seen her cry for others, you know my mom is a servant. Her love for people was so deep that it would bring her to tears on a consistent basis. She loved everyone. She loved her family, even when that involved heartache. She loved every high school kid she ever met, even when they would turn away from God and pursue their own path. She loved families, patiently teaching parents how to be better parents, while simultaneously gaining a reputation as one of the top “baby stealers” Lake Pointe ever had.

But the thing is, I don’t think my mom would want to be defined by her good works either. While they were an important part of who she was, she didn’t do those things because they made her feel good, or because she was trying to “put a little love in the world” or anything like that. No, my mom’s motivation went much deeper.

How do you measure one person’s life? At the end of the day, my mom could only and would only measure herself by her faithfulness to God’s calling. She and I fought quite a bit, and when we reached a point of high frustration she would always say, “Before the Lord, I can only make this choice.”

She wanted to honor God with every part of her life. Everything about how she interacted with people and loved them and served them was designed to reflect Him. She loved her family, but we all knew that if God had called her to be a missionary, she would have gone. Nothing was more important to her than what her Savior wanted.

My mom’s life was a terrific success. She radiated God’s presence, even in the times when she hurt our feelings, crushed our ambitions or challenged us when we thought we were doing the right thing. She taught us all to love others more, to examine ourselves more carefully, and to desire God above all else. She showed us that just living out our comfortable lives doesn’t make sense if we say that we believe in a God who has redeemed us. She showed us that no matter how hard WE think we have worked to love God in our lives, there is always more.

We love our mom. She was a mother, a friend, a prophet, and a martyr. Her love and sincerity were intense and unrelenting. We love her not because she helped us relax, but because she would never let us relax. As so many have said to us, her life made a deep impression, and we could never be who we are if it weren’t for her.

I want to close by sharing the words of an old hymn that reminded me of my mom.

Have Thine Own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou are the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and Make me, after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine Own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master today!
Whiter than snow, Lord wash me just now,
As in thy presence, humbly I bow.

Have Thine Own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power surely is Thine,
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine Own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see,
Christ only, always, living in me.


Her Time Came

It was about 6:15 this morning when it happened.

My dad woke me up and asked me to get my sister. I did so, while he went and woke my brothers. The five of us sat together and watched my mother's life slip away.

The tears were hard, but subdued. We certainly couldn't complain of having no warning. We cried for a while. Eventually my dad had to go and call someone to take the body away.

After that, we spent a few minutes “wandering,” just dealing with our hurt. We then prayed together.

Now we’re just trying to think about the next step. It’s amazing how much the loss of one person can change your outlook on things, even when it’s someone you interact with only every other week or so.

I love my mom. Today is going to be a hard day.


Preparing for the end.

Today my mom asked if I had any requests for her funeral.

How do you answer a question like that?

I was sitting on the sink in my parents' giant bathroom. I knew it would be a hard conversation, but I had planned on finding sneaky ways of keeping it smooth and pleasant. For instance, I wanted to ask her if she had any advice for the future, or to find out what being a parent is like. I wanted to ask what kind of person she wanted me to be, or to laugh about how many people have been offering forms of comfort that are less than theraputic. I wanted it to be nice because I still have a hard time being emotional in front of most people.

That stuff wasn't on her agenda, though. She wanted to know if I can handle representing my siblings, or if I had preferences on being a pallbearer or not. Oh Mom, how can I possibly think about that now?

She started to describe some of the things she and my dad had already worked out, like having one viewing day rather than two and not being creamated. I lasted for all of 10 seconds with that kind of talk, and "strained" into tears (the term "burst" never felt right for that particular action with me). Of course, being a mom, she had to come and hug and comfort me. How do you like that for backwards?

As I sat there, patting her bony back and avoiding her swollen stomach, I struggled to understand the sheer ugliness of the whole ordeal. I feel horrible about it, but there have been a dozen times I've wished that she'd been hit by a car rather than this. Has anyone ever deserved it less than her?

Of course, I don't know that I would have been forced to confront what my mom means to me if it hadn't been this way. Rather than avoid the guilt and frustration and anger that characterized my understanding of her before, I've been forced to deal with them head-on. I've had to cry through hating myself for the things I've said to her, had to forgive the things she said to me, and had to come to terms with the fact that our relationship isn't the gem it should have been if I was a better person.

This journey is a needed one. Without it, I'm just a kid who managed to get away from home. With it, I'm taking one more step toward being the man she would have wanted to see. God has given an opportunity far purer than one of "saying goodbye" or "a painless death." Instead, he's given the gift of cleansing to a relationship that needed it so desperately.

So with clogged throat and leaking eyes, I will lift up the name of the God who loves my mom more than I ever have or could. I will wait for the time when thoughts of my mom are full of reverent joy rather than immediate sadness. I'll cry out in pain knowing that it's a piece of the "life to the fullest" that Christ has offered. I will wait. And I know my God will answer.