For My Father-In-Law (On His Birthday)

I mentioned previously that my father-in-law passed away earlier this year. Today (Dec 7) marks what would’ve been his 70th birthday. In honor of his birthday, I wanted to share the full text of what I wrote for his memorial service.


I’m not holding onto You
But You’re holding onto me

These lyrics from a Casting Crowns song that remind me God is holding on and not the other way around have been a comfort during this sad and difficult time; the day I learned of Jim’s passing, those words kept playing in my mind while I was driving. I don’t cry very often, and I like to think the light rain falling that day was for the tears I felt unable to shed, but listening to that song and being reminded that God is holding on allowed me an opportunity to cry for Jim’s passing. 

The day I heard he passed, I knew I wanted to say something at his service, but I didn’t know what at the time. I only knew him for not quite three years before he passed, so I don’t have any deep, meaningful, or funny stories to share about his life. In the time I’ve known him, his health limited his travel ability, so almost the only time I spent with him was when Jaimee and I would visit Denton. The most meaningful one-on-one conversation we had was the day I talked with him about marrying Jaimee when I asked him about his life, but there were things I still didn’t know about him until Jaimee and I were sorting through photos for his slideshow.

Jim, or as I had started calling him “J-Pop” in recent months, was by no means perfect; he was a man rough around the edges. He was stubborn with a sarcastic sense of humor; we connected over that shared style of humor and a love for his daughter Jaimee. There’s a special place in his heart for Jaimee, being his only daughter, his only child. Both are strong-willed people, and they had their disagreements, but at the end of the day they loved each other. I know he wanted to see her happy and was glad he lived long enough to walk her down the aisle, even if it was only part of the way. 

Before we met, Jaimee was his primary caretaker, so he came to depend on her for a lot. I never said it before he passed, but there were times I felt as if I took her away from him, but sometimes change motivates growth. When Jaimee and I first got engaged and she was getting ready to move out, Jim went into denial that his little girl was growing up, but he eventually came to terms with what was happening. Once he accepted she was moving out and getting married, he started to do more things for himself for a while, which improved his demeanor, but at some point his health began to decline again. Because he had health problems, lived alone, and was a bit of a distance from us, we wanted him to think about living in a retirement community, but being the stubborn man he was, he didn’t want to leave his house or his cats. He loved those cats and took care of them, often at the expense of himself and his health. I’m not sure if he loved Jaimee or his cats more, but he didn’t have pictures of his cats around his house or in his wallet.

Since he didn’t travel much, there wasn’t a lot we could do together, but after Jaimee and I got married, we would go to Denton to visit every few Saturdays, spend some time together, and maybe play Spades or Farkle with Jim and Janet. You need four people for Spades, and Janet wasn’t very good when we started playing, but Jim taught her to become a much better Spades player and a more-formidable opponent. Even though we didn’t do much together as a family, those visits would brighten his day.

We also liked to joke around together. While playing games, he would jokingly tell me to watch out for Jaimee as if she was trouble. As we would get ready to leave for the day, he would jokingly tell her to take care of me like I was helpless, and we would tell him we take care of each other. We shared other jokes and sarcastic quips together over the last couple years. Jim may be gone, but his sense of humor lives on through Jaimee.

God’s timing is never our timing. Jim was months away from turning 70, a milestone we would’ve liked to celebrate together. He may not have lived as long as we would’ve liked, but he lived longer than even he expected and got to see his only daughter get married. We wish Jim could’ve lived a few more years, maybe one day get to see and hold a grandchild, but God had other plans. We may never know why Jim was taken from us when he was, but I am reminded that God is still here; he is in control and has His reasons, and He is still holding onto us, and this has brought me comfort as we mourn Jim’s passing. We’re told in 1 Thessalonians – which the pastor read for us– that we who are in Christ don’t mourn as those who have no hope; hope in this case is not a wishful longing, but an assurance of what is to come, that we will one day see our loved ones who have died in Christ; though we grieve now for Jim’s passing, one day we will see him again.

We may never plan for the day we lose a loved one, but that day still comes.
We may never expect to say that last goodbye, but those words will be spoken.
We think we’ll see someone tomorrow, but sometimes tomorrow comes alone.

If you love someone, don’t neglect to tell them so.
Always say goodbye when you leave the ones you know.
There will be a time you can’t, for tomorrow will one day come alone.

Jim, we love you and miss you. For now we say goodbye, but someday we’ll see you again.

jim

Behold, Resurrection!

Behold the Lamb!”
The words of John,
As he sees a dove descend

Look at Him
Who takes away sin,
He is the One you seek

Of Him I am unworthy
To loosen His sandal.
He is the promised Messiah.”

Offerings He makes
No sin He partakes
He is the Holy One

Death awaits
This is the fate
He will bear our sins


Christ the Savior
The unique God-Man
He must taste of death

Redemption’s cost
To save the lost
A price that must be paid

On the tree
His hands and feet
Are nailed to hold Him there

Sacrificed for sin
The spotless Lamb
Now bares scars on Him

Salvation secured
“It is finished!”
He breathes His last


Gone His spirit
His body remains
It is laid to rest

Rich man’s tomb
A stone is rolled.
Is this how it ends?

And those who followed
Now filled with grief
For the leader they have lost

Victory is taken
Their hearts are breakin’.
How could this have happened?

Emmanuel! God with us?
But where is He now?
Has He abandoned His people?


Secured by those in power,
Guards placed outside the tomb,
The body cannot be moved.

Three days later,”
His enemies remember,
“He said He’d rise again.”

Ointment and spices
Have been prepared
By those who were His friends

No one expects
Most don’t understand
The words they’d heard Him speak

Entombed the Messiah
Who gave up His life
Death has seized the day


Righteous for the unrighteous
Innocent for the guilty
The price of holiness’ demand

Israel’s Messiah
Resurrection and Life
He lies inside the grave

Sunday morning
Without warning
The ground begins to shake!

Empty the tomb
Christ has overcome
Death’s score is minus one

No more shall death
Hold Him bound
He arose victoriously


Behold, BLOOD shed
Behold, CROSS crucified
Behold, GRAVE buried
Behold, STONE secured
Behold, RISEN Savior

Behold, Resurrection!

behold_resurrection

AUTHORity of God

People love adventure stories: stories of good versus evil, of heroes and villains, and of conflict and resolution. In some ways, many of us dream of having the sorts of adventures we read or hear about as children. Though each story is different, serving its own purpose, each is created by a person, one who might be recognized and long remembered for his/her accomplishment. Within each narrative, characters perform certain actions as events unfold, but the author controls the story. So what if I said we are part of a story? If you think about it, life could be considered one giant story written by God, and when the story is over, He will be remembered, glorified in fact. Keep reading, and I’ll explain what I mean.

Off the top of your head, how many authors can you name who used the landscape of adventure for their portraits and are considered by many to possess good quality or excellence in their field? Perhaps J. K. Rowling, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, or George Lucas, just to name a few. Granted, they have their critics, detractors, or people who just don’t care for their work, just as we all have in whatever we do, but no one can deny they have the ability to grip readers and pull them into a world that is imaginary but at the same time can seem very real. To the reader, this world within the story exists within its own reality, constrained by its own rules and restrictions, troubled with conflict. Characters are created with their own personalities and quirks, stories are told, evil is eventually defeated, and who is remembered for all of this? The author. To those who finish a well-told story, they are rewarded with such satisfaction of having known what happens and how it ended, but something greater happens beyond that. More than just enjoying a story being told, readers often remember who wrote the story, the author’s name becomes a part of human history, and s/he is then recognized for outstanding work. Why shouldn’t they want or accept what they earned, even if recognition might not have been the purpose in creating the stories.

It should be noted that an essence of good storytelling requires some sort of conflict that is ultimately resolved, but a good author will not interrupt a story’s flow just to accomplish this. While characters’ actions move a story along, they must behave within certain parameters or be considered “out of character,” which can ruin the story. Yet if you think more closely about the concept of a story itself, you have to ask some philosophical questions. Do authors ultimately control stories in which characters take on lives of their own? In a story of good versus evil, if clearly-defined heroes and villains are known by the readers, is the author berated for creating such characters? When there is long-lasting conflict within a story that is ultimately resolved with the death of the villain and the end of terror that plagued the other characters, is the author blamed for including or allowing evil within the story? Though negative elements are part of a story, is the author’s ability to tell a story condemned for poor quality work by including them? Or is the writer more likely to be praised for creating something compelling, designing a work of art in which readers invested a lot of time and energy following to its conclusion? While the answers may be obvious, consider that there might be something deeper.

What am I getting at with all this? The Bible, our lives, and God’s glory. From Genesis to Revelation, we read a story. A story of God’s love and faithfulness. A story of how He created a perfect world, yet evil entered the picture, ruined everything, and continues to exist for millennia, but in the end, everything will be resolved, and the Author will have recognition. Now the characters within a normal story live their lives and make their choices, for good or for bad, in order to move the story along, all completely unaware of the author’s involvement, that s/he is really the one in control of everything. The characters are unable to interact with the author; that author doesn’t even cross their minds, as any interruption by the author to the story’s continuity would lessen its quality. But we exist in a different kind of story; it’s a story in which the Author is not visibly seen, yet the characters are allowed to know of His existence and even interact with Him, often pleading for such interruptions that would make other narratives become lesser quality. Sometimes we often wonder how things in our own lives will turn out okay; we may not like that problems occur, people die, or even that suffering exists, but we are part of God’s story, and that’s a story with a different purpose.

The purpose of human history is to bring glory to God, yet with all the evil that exists, we sometimes wonder how that can be accomplished. How will the fact that evil exists in the first place ultimately glorify God? With all the bad stuff that happens to us personally, how is everything going to work out for good in the end? Even more theologically, how do we rectify God’s sovereignty with human freedom of choice, while maintaining our sanity? If God is ultimately in control, do we really make choices? If we’re able to make choices freely, is God really in control? And if He is in control and evil exists, is God responsible for evil?

If you think about God as an author, you can begin to understand a dichotomy that often puzzles many people. As an author, God is writing a story, a story in which He created characters who essentially took on lives of their own. The characters (that’s us) live our lives and make our choices, for good or for bad. In some ways, those choices advance the plot of this narrative we call “life,” but it is really God, the one who is ultimately in control of the story, who is moving everything along. We don’t know the outcome of everything, but He does. The Bible tells us how the story ends, and while we know that all evil and suffering will eventually cease to exist, what then will be the result? When all this life is said and done, God will not be condemned for all the evil that ever existed, as many are want to blame Him for; on the contrary, just as other authors are noted for their skillful writing, He will one day be praised for His excellence, His ability to tell a compelling story.

Maybe you’ve never thought of it this way before. Authors create compelling stories filled with good and evil, and those authors are often remembered, maybe even revered, for doing so. They aren’t chastised for the bad that was included in the story but are recognized for the quality of their work, and although the characters still possess a freedom of sort, the author really controls the story. In much the same way, God too is an author, and He’s writing this story in which we exist and freely move. We may not understand how everything fits together, but in the end God will receive the glory. That’s what it’s all about anyway.

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