Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My father's death

Two weeks ago today, my dad died in ICU at a local hospital. I feel like I'm just now starting to come out of a dense fog. It all happened so fast, and yet it seems like it was months ago. He went to see his doctor on Tuesday, December 2, with difficulty breathing. His doctor thought it might be the beginning of pneumonia so he admitting him that afternoon. Two nights later in his room, his heart rate dropped so low that they intubated him and moved him to ICU. The next day, Friday, we learned that he had non-operable, 4th stage lung cancer. He was on a breathing machine, and the doctors were becoming more convinced that he would not be able to breathe on his own. After a long weekend wondering what to do next, with Dad sedated almost the entire time, we decided to get him awake enough so we could talk with him and ask him what he wanted to do. As we thought, he did not want to be on the machine, and knowing what that would mean, he asked to come off. He died peacefully in his sleep twelve hours later on December 9th, with four of us around him. I was holding his right hand when he took his last breath.

It was all very surreal. And looking back on it all, I couldn't ask for it to have happened any other way. He didn't suffer. He didn't linger in pain. We always thought he would die from a massive heart attack (his first heart attack was in 1985), but his heart was strong all the way to the end. Family came in from out of town, and everyone had a chance to see him and say goodbye. And Mom is doing ok, too. She's keeping busy, with good days and bad days.

This was my first big loss, and already I'm seeing things differently. The death of a close, loved one has a way of putting everything else in perspective. I'm so thankful for God's peace and mercy through it all. And all the prayers from friends and family were heard and deeply felt by all of us.

Dad's passing was far from an ordinary moment in life, but it was a necessary part of life. There have been plenty of ordinary moments since December 9th, though. Watching the raindrops hit the puddles on the patio. Seeing the happy little kid running through the parking lot at the mall. Working yesterday with few distractions. Decorating the tree. Eating free bagels last night. All of these ordinary moments seem a lot more vivid now.

So, I'm reflecting a lot on life and rethinking a lot of things. If you don't see anything posted here for a while - maybe a long while - that means I'm also rethinking this whole blogging thing. My Google Reader shows 311 unread posts, but none of them seem very important right now. And a lot of what I've written in the past seems pretty unimportant, too. I'm sure I'll come out of the fog more as time passes, but for now, I'm content to spend time with my family, pray, and try to watch for how God is working around me.

Until then...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

First Sunday of Advent

Today begins the Advent season of anticipation and expectation of things to come. We have expectations that God will do something unexpected and wonderful in our midst. We anticipate this with hope and faith.

Come, Lord Jesus. Come.
Fill us with your Spirit.
Bring peace to our hearts and rest for our souls.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving thanks

There is much to be thankful for in life. And on this day of feasting and celebration, a few big things rise to the top. Today, I am very thankful for:

  • God - my Creator and Redeemer without whom I am nothing
  • My family - without them I would be lost and empty
  • My friends - they shape me, mold me, and make me better in ways I never imagine
  • My health - my annual physical last week showed I was "completely normal" - despite what my kids say about me!
So those are the big ones, but there are some others that are little more "immediate" which deserve mention:
  • Rain last night - a nice and rare November thunderstorm overnight was the first significant rain we've had in months
  • Sunshine this morning - there are still drops of rain on the plants glistening in the sunlight
And last but certainly not least, I am very thankful for:
  • Progress on my paper - after two full days, I'm about 75% finished! Hallelujah!
May your day be filled with joy, great food, and thanks to God who makes it all possible!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tired and frustrated

The screen hasn't changed any from last Tuesday. My research paper is still "yet to come." And I'm tired. I got home late Thursday night (again) from working in LA (again). Had class on Friday night and Saturday morning. Went to the UofA football game Saturday night. Good game but Arizona lost it in the closing minutes. Bummer...

And then we had an important meeting after our church service this morning. With our continuing financial difficulties, our leadership team has proposed that we sell our campus. This was not a complete surprise, but it's real now. Several people asked good questions about what this will mean - and nobody really knows yet. In two weeks, we'll have the official vote on whether to move forward with selling. There is no buyer yet (not the best time to try to sell anything), but the location is pretty great. And you know what they say about real estate: location, location, location! So I don't expect we'll have much difficulty once we get serious about it.

Then what?

I don't really know. I've been a proponent for selling in the past. I hate the idea of those buildings (as with most other churches) sitting idle for most of the week. Seems like such a waste. But if this is just a move to continue to be an institutional church in a different location, then will it really be any different? Our two senior leaders talked this morning about the mentality of being a start-up. And there's validity in that. But I have to wonder if our core group is really a start-up core group. We were part of a church for a while that met in a movie theater. Setting up and tearing down every Sunday morning provided a good community-building opportunity. There was a lot of energy there. I haven't really felt that in our community in a long time. I guess time will tell...

So needless to say, I have some doubts. Certainly the sale will create a lot of startup capital. But what will be the plan to maximize that capital? Will we function differently as a startup in a school auditorium or a community center or a theater? How many more people will we lose as a result of this? How many will we gain? Is this truly the path God has set before us? So many questions...

Lots of memories there. My kids were baptized there. I taught my first Sunday there. My first ministry "job" was there. My wife worked there for 5 years. Even though philosophically I agree with selling a campus we can no longer afford to maintain, this will be yet another hard transition. My wife said this morning during the meeting, fighting back some tears, that we all need to remember that church is the people, not the buildings. I couldn't agree more, but it's still hard.

Ironic timing, too. The first Sunday of Advent is next Sunday. And again, we wait for God to do something remarkable in our midst.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Dreaded Research Paper

Ok, so I've got this research paper to do for my Systematic Theology class.


I just cannot seem to get started.

My subject is Jurgen Moltmann's theology of the cross. I like Moltmann - I think. He strikes me as a practicing theologian, not just an academic sitting in a tower somewhere making bold theological statements.

But, man, I just cannot seem to get started.

I have an outline. I have articles. I have two of his books checked out from UofA's library.

And in the time it's taken me to get ready to write, my wife has finished like 4 papers! She's a stud. I'm a ... non-stud.

(heavy sigh)

Sorry, I just need to whine a little tonight.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Advent Conspiracy

Thanks to Brad Brisco at missionalchurchnetwork.com for letting us know about adventconspiracy.com.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Besides being a day to remember and reflect upon all of our nation's veterans, it's a personal thing for me. My dad is a vet (fortunately never really left a desk job), I know a lot of veterans and active military through my job, and my sister is an Army Lt. Col currently serving in San Antonio. She spent time "over there" a few years ago, setting up a hospital and caring for whoever came in the front door. I'm very proud of my sis and the service and sacrifices she's made for our country.

She came home and we'll be forever thankful for that. But I know there are plenty of other sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, wives and husbands who did not come home. And to them and their families, I pray for peace and comfort...