Today my brother, Roger has travelled down to Lake Jackson by himself to visit us. (We’ve been in this house for close to 15 years and this is his first time to see it.) I’m grateful for the time we spent going to church, watching football, going out to eat, and just hanging out. He is not out of the woods yet, but he has come a long way. Today, he a different man than he was just a few months ago. He has a renewed faith. We are able to carry on great conversations.
Today, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for my brother. I’m grateful for our new relationship. I’m grateful for his effort to come down to see us. I’m grateful to God for progress and for hope. Today, I praise God for all He has done and for His promise to be with us through all of our circumstances.
Matthew 28:20b – (Jesus speaking) – I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Romans 5:3-4 – . . . we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
“What if church planters quit planting churches and instead planted church “practices?” Like a doctor’s practice, I believe the church shouldn’t be about building some institution, but about practicing the faith that has been given to them. It should be about “being” the church – not about building the church. The analogy breaks down in the sense that at a doctor’s practice, the only one “practicing” is the doctor. The church should be a place where everyone is “practicing” – maybe more like the imagery of the doctor’s “clinic” on Patch Adams. Everyone was a patient (in need of something), but everyone was also a “doctor” who helped others – sometimes he helped by listening, or by picking up trash, or whatever, but he contributed to the health of someone else and that made him a “doctor” by Patch’s definition.
I think these are important ideas for church planters. If a planter begins his ministry working to build/grow a church, then things are going to get really confusing – think about it – everyone has a different idea about what a church should be. And everyone has a different need that they want to see met by the institutional church. Instead, if the planter works to “be” the church and works to equip others to “practice” their faith, then won’t that church naturally become whatever it’s supposed to be? If each member is doing the ministry that God has called him to, then when they are assembled, it wouldn’t be about building the institution, but simply about celebrating the things God has been doing throughout the week.
This was just a random thought I had in the car today. I thought it was worth sharing.
Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God transcends all understanding. I don’t understand it either, but I’ve experienced it. First of all, you should know that the Hebrew/Jewish understanding of this word “Peace” ultimately comes from their understanding of the word “Shalom.” It was a word used as a greeting, but it was so much more than “hello.” (Shout out to my “Cardinal Rise” friends – they wrote a song called “more than hello”). Anyway, “Shalom” was not just “peace.” It was all-encompassing. It was like saying “God be with you!” – May God Himself, in all His glory, shadow your every move granting you His favor and blessing throughout your life. “Peace” was huge!! It was a colossal concept of walking in the constant blessing and favor of God.
OK – on with the story. Sept 11 was normally a happy day for me. Sept 11 is my birthday!! But Sept 11, 1996 was different. (So was 2001) That day I received a call from my mom wishing me a Happy Birthday, but there was another message too. She also said that my dad had been diagnosed with leukemia. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good. I soon discovered that it was the most aggressive type of leukemia and that dad would be going through radiation and chemotherapy. They weren’t sure how long they could deter the disease. That year was strange. I lived 5 hours away but got to see him quite a few times. He was always the same dad I had always known except he didn’t have quite as much hair. Although I know he had his down times, he had a great attitude about it around me. He even wore a baseball cap with dreadlocks hanging out when he’d go the the hospital. Mom said the nurses always laughed.
The doctors arranged for dad to be on an uphill swing during Christmas break so we could take a ski trip together. We had a great time – like normal – but not so normal either. There was always something sort of hanging in the air. It seemed harder to breathe during those days – not just for dad, but for all of us. In June of 1997, my sister and I were with a bunch of youth on a houseboat in the middle of Lake Texoma, when the boat rental people radioed to us with the message to call mom. Dad was on his deathbed. We immediately drove to the hospital in Ft Worth.
When we arrived, dad was on the breathing machine. He had contracted pneumonia and they couldn’t treat it because his body was so weak. They had also given him medications to paralyze him so his body wouldn’t fight the breathing machine. We wouldn’t be able to communicate. . . well. . .we could talk, but he wouldn’t be able to respond. Over the next 3-4 days (It’s a blur – I don’t know how many it actually was. Some of my facts may be wrong, but this is how I remember it.) we took turns going in and out of his room – telling him the things we should have said long before or just sitting with him in silence. I spent lots of time in the hospital chapel. There were lots of tears, little sleep, phone calls from friends, and something else. Something surprising. It was peace. What?!?!? at a time like this??? Peace? Yes. . . .peace. Peace that passes understanding. I cannot describe it. I only know I experienced it. . . . well, I experienced Him. Jesus was with us – in the midst of the tears, the sadness and grief, Jesus was present.
Eventually the doctors came and said the time had come to turn the machine off. It would be his one last chance to fight and breathe on his own – a chance to live. I can still picture the scene so clearly (and it’s been 12 years). I stood at his side and held his right hand. I told him that I loved him and that this world had not treated him well. (There’s another long story there.) I told him that he should go and be with Jesus ’cause this world was just not worth coming back to. I said goodbye. And. . . . something I never expected. . .dad squeezed my hand. Overpowering the paralyzing medication, he squeezed. He heard me! He knew what I had said! He loved me back! He agreed! Dad was still with us. . . . moments later . . .
Today, he is still with me. As I father my children, I do so by the examples I learned from him. As I love my bride, I do so in ways that resemble his ways. My dad was my Indian Guide leader, my little league coach, the parent who yelled the loudest at the swim meets. He took us on vacations and spent hours teaching us how to play sports, how to build things, or just simply playing with us. He loved us by being with us. I want to be that kind of dad. One who will truly invest in the lives of his family.
The words “Rest in Peace” resonate within me in new ways today. Dad has found ultimate “shalom” – I hope to follow his example. I hope to find it too.
I’ve been learning a few things over the past couple of days. We had to bring Kesleigh, our 4 week old baby girl, into Houston to the Texas Children’s Hospital last night. She’s was already on antibiotics and was running a fever of 101.5. By the time we got to the hospital, it was 103.1. Scary. . .they rushed her in to a doctor and began the process. I hate emergency rooms, ’cause I hate waiting in them – this time we didn’t wait, but it was still worse than any other time I’ve been in one. (I’d rather have had to wait ’cause that means it would have been a more minor thing.) Anyway, I had a moment last night, and a few times throughout the day today where God seemed to be speaking to me. He has been showing me over and over, that there’s nothing I can do. I’m her father. I’m supposed to cherish her, and protect her, and lead her, and keep her safe. But I’m no good – the bottom line is that I can’t do anything. Prayer is all I’ve got. God is all I’ve got. Ultimately, it’s completely in God’s hands. I trust Him and have tried to do so throughout my Christian life, but it never gets easier. Trusting Him with my baby girl?!?! That’s too precious. I don’t think I can do it. I can’t let go of her. I’m responsible. I’m her father. I’m supposed to protect her. I confess. I’ve probably held on too tightly to both she and my son Kasen. Maybe this whole experience is something God is gonna use to remind me that they’re really better off in His hands than mine anyway. He’s the one with all the power to actually do something. What can I offer? Ultimately, very little. . . . Unless I’m praying. Then I’m offering Him. Then I’m offering power. . . ultimate power. . . healing power. . .redemptive power!!
OK so now, we’re waiting. Kesleigh has had blood, urine, and even spinal fluid drawn. They are keeping her temperature down with tylenol and we’re waiting . . . 48 hrs for the tests to come back. We’re 24 hrs in and the cultures are all negative so far. (Thank you God!) Another 24 with clear cultures, and a few hours with no temp without tylenol and we might be on our way home tomorrow. That’s our hope. That’s our prayer. . . . I’m scared to even type this. . . .but I have to. . . . can I do it? . . . .
I trust You God and I know that You know my heart in this, but I’m also smart enough to know that I don’t know everything. My prayers might not be what’s best for Kesleigh. Or maybe You just want to use her situation to glorify Yourself in some other way. . . so God. . . . with fear and trembling. . . and faith . . . I’m praying for You to do whatever You want to do with her. I’m gonna do my best to trust and to stand by You no matter what the outcome. I’m placing her in Your hands. She is truly Yours anyway and I know she’s better off with You. Help me to understand my role and to be the father that You’re calling me to be. Help me to truly represent You to her. AMEN.
PS – I wish I could communicate the number of tears shed in praying that prayer – in letting go of my baby – and the truth is, even with my tears and all my sincerity, I know there’s more “letting go” to do. I’m still holding on. Maybe this is a good first step though?
I figured it’s time to post a few more pics of Kesleigh. These are the ones taken by our friend, Jenny. She’s an amazing photographer. You should check out her stuff or even set up a sitting of your own – she’s really good. Anyway, you can find her at www.jhintze.com. You won’t be disappointed.
Just click the “pictures” tab to get rid of the filmstrip and then click the “right arrow” button to move through the gallery. If you want to see the whole image, click the lightbulb in the center of the pic.
The trembling hands awkwardly grasped the air. . . faithfully reaching into the unknown. I stood there again, behind the cold glass, looking in on my precious new baby. Kesleigh Anne was born last night around 11:03pm. It was now about 2:30am. The hospital halls were silent and I just watched. I watched my baby girl tremble. Her tiny hands grasping the air. . . groping for something. . . something she didn’t know or understand. It was a new world to her. Just hours earlier she had been protected within her mother. . .floating effortlessly in a forever nourished state. Now she was breathing with lungs which had never tasted air before. Her skin was drying and she was missing the touch of her mother as she lay in this cold plastic box. Unable to see yet, she reached out. . . . longing for a touch. . . . longing for something to comfort her.
I watched behind the glass. I felt so proud. Proud to be her father. Proud of her mother. And yet. . . there was something else underneath. . . something which took the edge off the pleasure of the moment. I was scared. Scared of responsibility. Fearful of what it would be like to have a 2nd child in the house. I imagined brushing her hair as a little girl and tucking her into bed at night. I imagined the day when I would one day walk her down the aisle and give her away. I wondered if I could do it. I wondered if God would give me the strength to be the father that she would need?
As she grasped the air, so did I. Trembling, I awkwardly stretched out my arms and decided to reach into the unknown. . . . longing for a touch. . . . longing for something to comfort me.
Patch Adams is a great example of leadership. He is determined to chase the dream/vision of helping people. When he fixed a cup and was called “Patch,” he realized he could help people. This identity gave him the confidence to chase after this vision and propelled him into all kinds of circumstances. He thought outside the box that medical school gave him and challenged everything he was taught in regards to professional distance. He learned to look beyond a problem to it’s solution from a man in a mental hospital and imagined a new kind of hospital by playing with a napkin dispenser and ketchup bottle. Vision and new ideas just flowed out of him because he was always on the lookout for them. These things were more than just ideas though – or as Andy Stanley would put it – they were more than dreams that “could” be, they were visions that “should” be. And Patch was the kind of guy who really worked to make them happen. He was also good at relationships – people wanted to be around him – They could get behind his vision for helping people because they trusted him so much.
Patch is a leader. He was a man of character and skills, who was good at relationships and had a vision that they could get behind.
It was just a tap on the glass, but it was so much more! Yesterday, is a day I’ll never forget. My beautiful bride gave birth to Kasen Mathew (our first child) at 5:08pm. He was 20.5 inches long and weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces. It had been an incredibly long day as she worked her way through labor, but when it came time to push, she was great. I saw his head the first time she pushed. He has lots of hair. After we had a little time with him, they took him away to the hospital nursery for a couple of hours. The nurse took me there so I’d know how to find him. As she winded her way around all those hallways, my mind wandered about whether I could find him even though she had taken me there. I wasn’t allowed into the nursery, so I stood outside watching them check him over. It was a quiet hallway, and the first time I was alone – away from the crowd of family and doctors. I looked at him through the glass and imagined the future. I imagined playing football and chasing him around the house. I watched him play with the dogs in my mind. I dreamt of Christmas and taking him camping. What would it be like to sing him to sleep? Will my lifestyle speak to him about Jesus? How will I care for him when he’s crying? What will I do? How do I. . . .? How. . . Oh no! I don’t know the first thing about raising a child. How could God give such an incredible gift to someone like me? What am I gonna do? I’m not ready for this. Tap. Tap. The nurse tapped gently on the glass calling me back to the present. Beckoning me out of my imagination and into reality. She mouthed something about giving him a bottle and I answered.
I realize now that I don’t have to know everything. I just have to be ready to love him in the present. I’ll figure it all out as I go along. I’ll trust God to help me be the father He’s called me to be. It was just a tap on the glass, but it taught me something. . . . something profound. . . . .something important about living in the present and about trusting God.