I’ve been blogging for a while and from time to time I hear from folks who want to know more about my background. So, for those who are drawn to the personal side of blogging, here’s my story. If you’ll give me a few minutes, I expect you’ll find it worth your time.
I grew up in a typical American family – mom, dad, brother, sister and a dog. I even had some fish for a while. My family was close. My brother and I shared a bedroom and would routinely laugh with each other into the night, at least until we heard our dad say something like, “Boys, don’t make me come up there.” We had a pop-up camper trailer and every summer we would go on long family trips. I guess that was one of the things that made us so close because when you cram a family of 5 into a small trailer, you tend to get to know each other better. My dad was fortunate enough to have a good job that allowed my mom to stay at home and, well, be a mom. She had a college degree in home economics and was doing what she had always intended to do.
One fall, though, our world changed. My mom went to the hospital with abdominal pain. The doctors thought it was appendicitis. However, when they went in to take out her appendix, instead of a bad appendix, they found inoperable liver cancer. They closed her up and told my dad that she had six months to live.
I only remember bits and pieces from those six months. My mom missed me being inducted into the National Junior Honor Society, but I went to the hospital to show her the new suit I had gotten for the occasion. When she came home from the hospital, her friends from a supper club that my parents had been a part of for years threw her a party. Her back would hurt so bad that she would sleep curled up in front of a small space heater in her bathroom. One night, we were all sitting together in our den watching TV. My mom wanted to watch some show – I don’t even remember what it was – but I didn’t want to see it. So I pitched a fit and went up to my room to do something else. That memory haunts me to this day because my mom fell into a coma the next week. What wouldn’t I give to have another opportunity to watch that no-name show? The doctors had given her six months. They were right. She was 38 years old.
Those events have colored a lot of the things I now think and do. When I got married, I realized that I had transitioned to being more than just a loved sibling and child; I was now someone that my wife was depending on being there for her. I became keenly aware of my health. In my early 30’s, when most of my peers still viewed themselves as young and invincible, I started going to an internal medicine doctor for routine checkups – EKG’s, chest X-ray’s, blood work, etc. – so that I would have a good baseline for any future health problems. I exercise regularly – mostly running and cycling. I don’t smoke, drink alcohol, eat lots of fatty foods or red meat, or take in much caffeine. I do drink lots of water, take vitamins and eat a good deal of poultry, fish, fruits and vegetables.
Then I became a father. Again, colored by the loss of my mom, I did something a little out of the ordinary. You see, when my mom died, I wasn’t really old enough to appreciate all the things that must have been going through her mind. Now that I am older and more mature, I have often wondered what she thought of me as I was growing up. What made her proud? What were her happiest moments? Why did she cry? What did she hope for me? What did she wish she could have told me during her last six months? When I found out that I was going to be a dad, I started a video letter to my child – telling her all of my joys and fears, my dreams, the things that make me proud, the things that I hope for her, and most of all, that I love her. She’s in college at Texas A&M University now, but I still continue that letter every time I get a chance. (update: My daughter is now happily married and a new parent herself. I had the privilege of digitizing that video letter and delivering it to her during her pregnancy. Four and a half hours sharing the inner thoughts of her daddy from before her birth, to giving her away at her wedding, to watching her become a new mother. To say it was a special moment would be quite an understatement.)
Another thing I did was to prioritize my life. You see, I have found that with the demands of work, I have a real tendency to get sucked in to the urgent and lose focus of the important. To help me guard against that big sucking sound, I wrote the following on a small slip of paper many years ago and hung it in my office.
In my life, my priorities are
- my God
- my family
- my health
- my job
The first three I can’t replace and I can’t live without.
Conflicts will be resolved in priority order.
Those words have caused me to miss job opportunities and even to resign what many would consider the perfect job. But the priorities have stayed intact.
I hold my wife’s hand every time we pray together – and we do that every day. I have sung to my daughter almost every night that we have been in the same place since she was born, even now when she’s home from college. I tell them both that I love them – routinely.
Then, on December 21, 2001, my world changed again. I woke up that Friday morning to chest pains. I was having a heart attack. For the next several hours, doctors and nurses aggressively tried to determine the cause but were not successful. As they rolled me up the hall to the Cardiac Cath Lab, all kinds of thoughts were flying through my head. What were the last words I said to my wife? Did I tell her I love her? Does she know it? Will my daughter be okay growing up without her daddy? Please let her find those video letters. Does my wife know where to find information on our insurance and investments? Will she be okay? God take care of them. Oh God, please let me come back down this hall!
I was blessed. I did come back down that hall. What they found was that all the preparation and attention I had paid to my health had paid off. My blood chemistry was perfect and my arteries were clean as a whistle. Some may say that this just goes to prove that it really doesn’t matter what you do. The view of those I have talked to, though, is that the preparation and attention may well have allowed me to survive and also to emerge with so little lasting damage. Interesting side note – like my mother, I was 38 years old.
The doctors still don’t know what caused me to have a heart attack. Cardiac enzyme tests showed definitively that I had a heart attack. Speculation is that I had a transient blood clot or a coronary arterial spasm. But I have been left with one inescapable reminder of two realities in life.
First, we must take care of today because tomorrow is not guaranteed.
The questions that flew through my mind as I went “up the hall” told me that, even with a life experience that has caused me to pay special attention to the little things, I had left things undone. I sing to my daughter every night – true. But at the time I had started cutting her short so I could get back to something else – a computer game or a movie on TV. Each night when I go to bed I kiss my wife but I had been just grabbing her hand and kissing it instead of taking the time to hold her in my arms and do it right. Just two examples, but you get the picture.
If you are reading this and you have things that need to be taken care of, take the advice of Nike – “Just do it!” If you need to ask someone for forgiveness, do it. If you need to forgive someone, do it. If you need to tell someone that you love him or her, do it. Been a long time since you spoke to a parent, told a child how wonderful they are, told your spouse you adore her, do it – intentionally – routinely. Been spending too much time at work, go home. Don’t wait until you go “up the hall” to take care of today.
Second, we must take care of eternity because we may be entering it at any time.
One thing that I am certain of is eternity – what happens to me when I die. Let me tell you why.
Throughout history, there have been a great number of gifted teachers and religious leaders. Moses, Paul, Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, etc. Only one of the recognized religious leaders ever claimed to be God. His name is Jesus. The fact that Jesus claimed to be one with God leaves Him in a position with no middle ground. If He is not God, then one of two things are true. Either He was an outright liar or He was a nut case. Either way, He certainly is not to be trusted, much less worshiped. If, on the other hand, His claims are true, then you are left with a decision. Will you accept Him or reject Him?
C.S. Lewis, who was a professor at Cambridge University and once was an agnostic, wrote: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.”
I suppose that some people view Jesus as a mythical character in some religious book. But that’s not it at all. Have you ever stopped to think what B.C. stands for? The world records its time based on one constant. Things that happened before Christ (B.C.) and things that happened after Him (A.D.; anno Domini, Medieval Latin for “in the year of the Lord”). Jesus Christ did live on this earth. He is the “Christ” in B.C. and the “Lord” in anno Domini. The question is, “Who was He?”
The Bible is broken up into two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament was completed nearly 450 years B.C. and was translated into Greek in 250 B.C. It contains over 300 references to the coming Messiah. The New Testament was not begun until after Jesus. It tells the most important story in history.
He was born how and where the Old Testament predicted.
“…she was found to be with child by to Holy Spirit. And Joseph…kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:18, 24, 25 also Luke 1:26-35
He came because we have a problem.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
In other words, we have all messed up at one point in our lives making us fall short of God’s perfection.
“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23
That means eternal separation from God – Hell.
“The Lord is not slow about His promise…but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” II Peter 3:9
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17
“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;” Romans 10:9
The perfect sacrifice, Jesus died in your place.
“And when they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him…” Luke 23:33
And darkness fell over the land.
“Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.” Matthew 27:45
And He was buried.
But what good is a dead Savior?
Jesus knew why He had come to the earth. He knew that He was going to have to die in order to become the perfect sacrifice. He also knew what was going to happen next. And so that there would be no mistake, He told those around Him ahead of time. He told them that He was going to die and that three days later He would rise again.
And He did!
“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightening, and his garment as white a snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen just as He said. Come see the place where He was lying.” Matthew 28:1-6 also Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-9, John 20:1-7
And just to leave no doubt, Jesus then met face to face with over 500 people.
That’s the story. The Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, were written with a primary purpose in mind.
“But these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”; and more important, “that believing you might have life in His name” John 20:31
Jesus Christ did live on this earth. That question still remains though, “Who was He?” Either His claims were false making Him an outright liar or a nut case. Or, His claims are true, and you are left with a decision. Will you accept Him or reject Him? As one who has recently experienced an inescapable reminder that physical life is fragile, I would ask you not to go another day without answering that question.
I told you earlier that one thing that I am certain of is eternity – what happens to me when I die. You see, through faith, I have met Jesus Christ. My personal experience is that He is alive and that His forgiveness is real. Because of Him, my eternity is secure. And it has nothing at all to do with how bad I was or how good I have been. It has everything to do with the grace God showed when He sent His Son to die on a cross as the perfect sacrifice and the simple faith I have in His resurrection.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
If you are interested in more information, I have outlined specific Old Testament prophecies and their New Testament fulfillment in a follow-on post on Prophecy Fulfilled. If after reading it you still want more of the story, pick up a modern translation of the New Testament and read the book of Luke.