Uncle George

In the summer of 2003, my wife Amy and I were living in a tiny apartment in the heart of Edinburgh, Scotland. In that same time period my dad’s older brother, my Uncle George and Aunt Laurelynne had plans to be in that same historical, and stunningly beautiful city for a conference.

Uncle George reached out to us to see if they could stay at our place for a few nights in order to see us and to save some money by not staying in a hotel. Amy and I were delighted to have some guests from America in our temporary home so of course we welcomed them in!

Some of my earliest childhood memories were of my uncle George. He was witty, had a great laugh, cared about others, was an excellent chef as he combined art and science, he was an outdoorsman, he was deeply knowledgable when it came to the arts and history, a coffee aficionado, a military veteran, and so much more. He was a handsome and approachable man, and in my memory he was the only person I knew at the time who had a beard and smoked a pipe. Uncle George passed away in 2011 and was loved and missed by many; his wonderful wife and partner in adventure Laurelynne, his children, siblings, in-laws, grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews and more.

I shared all of these things about Uncle George because I looked up to him so much, and just recently I benefitted from a gift he and Laurelynne gave to Amy and me as a thank you for allowing them to stay with us.

The gift was one bottle of French wine, given to us in 2004. It was not just any bottle of wine. It was a 96+ point 2000 Mouton-Rothschild, Pauillac. This wine has history dating back to 1853 and is one of the most highly sought after wines in the world, therefore priced accordingly.

When George and Laurelynne gave us the bottle they said to cellar it and then sell it on our 20th anniversary, then use the money for a trip to Hawaii. That was always our plan however no matter how good a plan is, it is subject to change.

With our pending move out of the country, we decided to enjoy this bottle with our dear friends Rick and Heather who are the most knowledgable wine connoisseurs we know. Rick and Heather have been extremely generous to us over the years with their time, love, friendship, as well as their wine cellar! If anyone deserved to try this wine it was them!

The wine lived up to its hype and we had an amazing evening savoring each sip. All evening I thought of this gift and was completely blown away by the fact that first and foremost it wasn’t even necessary! George and Laurelynne didn’t need to do this, but they wanted to. Just spending their time with us was sufficient. This gift was by far the most clever, fun and enjoyable gift ever given to me.

All of this of course leads me to the cross. A gift undeserved yet freely given. A gift that cannot be bought, nor paid back. All we need to do is accept it and eternity with our loving creator is ours.

Father God, you are the ultimate giver. Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice, for loving us more than we can comprehend. You bought our future, and I choose you and your ways today. Amen.

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-12)

Today’s other reading: Psalm 86

My Father, A Glimpse Into Our Heavenly Father

Today’s reading is 1 Timothy 5.

Please forgive me, as this is the 2nd writing in a row about my family. My family is far from perfect to say the least like all families, but I could not help but think of my Dad when reading this passage. This chapter specifically talks about the treatment of widows in 1 Timothy 5:3 and family 1 Timothy 5:8. For much of the last 15 or so years my Dad has cared for widows. Two of his aunts, who were my Grandfather’s sisters, were widows with no children who lived alone for many years and then transitioned into an assisted living facility and then eventually a nursing home. They have now both passed. My Dad picked them up for church each Sunday, insisted they come to every holiday, and even made sure they had a corsage like all the other women at church on Mother’s Day so they didn’t feel left out.  Not only did he care for their physical needs and managed their finances, but most importantly, he cared about the way they felt about themselves. He cared about their dignity. I can’t help but think of how proud my Grandpa must have been of my Dad looking down from Heaven and seeing his son care for his sisters who had no one else.

It doesn’t stop there though. My Grandma, my Dad’s mother-in-law, was also in the nursing home with dementia at and around the same time. My Dad would stop by mid-morning each day to pick up and drop off her laundry and check in to see how she was doing. Even though she didn’t know who he was and wouldn’t have noticed if he didn’t come by or that her glasses were dirty, he would stop by just to bring a smile to her face and to clean her glasses every day. I know how great this made my Mom feel seeing the love her husband had for her own Mom. I can only hope that I can make him and my wife Shannon that proud someday. Now, my Dad cares for a widow who has no living relatives and is in need of someone to help her after her sister passed. I heard someone once say you can tell the character and quality of a person by how they treat someone who can give them nothing in return. Come to think of it..isn’t that what God did for us when he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us? He gave us something we could never repay Him for and something he didn’t need to do. He wanted to do it though. 1 John 4:16 says, “God is love…” We will never be perfect and that is why we need Jesus. But, we are called to be a shadow of his image for others to see His love through our lives and actions.

I’m wrapping up my 17th unbelievable Annual Meeting in Milwaukee for my company, Northwestern Mutual, and I had the chance to hear Wheaton College legendary football coach Michael Swider speak for the second time in my life. If you ever have a chance to hear him..go! He has me crying and wanting to run through a brick wall for God, my family, and those I lead every time I hear him. He said, “Your reputation is what others think about you. Your character is what God and the angels know.” 1 Timothy 5:25 says, “So also good works are conspicuous and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.” Coach Swider said we all will have a meeting with God someday. We just don’t know when it is. He asked, “What if your meeting with God was tomorrow?” And it could be! What would He say to you? He knows your character and true heart. Although we only need to ask for forgiveness and believe in Him for his grace and good works cannot earn his grace and eternal life, I sure hope and pray that if my meeting is with God  is tomorrow he will say to me, “Well done my good and faithful servant!” I know He will say that to my Dad. What do you think he will he say to you?

 

Marriage and Family Advice

Ephesians 5 is rich with advice on relationships. At the center of all relationships are the marriage and the family. God established them in the beginning for good reason and in good and perfect design. I have heard them referred to as ‘just another place to walk your Christian faith’ and in the same breath ‘thee most important and challenging place to do so,’ which gives them the familiar simple but challenging label. Praise God for His Word that reveals the truth and guides us! Here is the simple recipe for a blessed family:

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. – Ephesians 5:18-21

So that is it, a simple four point checklist. There is a lot out there written on how to have a successful marriage and family. Let us quite all the noise for a moment and remember God’s recipe. Here’s a four point checklist that we use in our family. It is labeled the real issues to remind us that God’s word is the authority in our lives and our relationships. These are instructions on what each family member has in Christ.

The real issues of blessed family:

  1. Spirit filled; under the obedience of God’s Word
  2. Singing hearts of joy; speaking in psalms/spiritual songs to one another
  3. Saying thanks; ever thankful, ever grateful
  4. Submitting our will to the others’; going last, putting others first  

The image I used for this post is a heart that Jamie made to remind us of these real issues of a blessed family. It is placed on our fridge right next to handle, a little in the way but never out of place.

Today’s reading: 1 Kings 8; Ephesians 5; Ezekiel 38; Psalm 89

Extra Credit: free ~11 hour study resource marriage, parenting, and family: The Fulfilled Family

My People

Think about a time when you’ve not fit in, when you weren’t a member of a certain group and no matter what you did, you would not be accepted. Not a good feeling. What about times when you do feel like you belong? Not because you’ve earned it but because you were given love, given an opportunity, given grace, or you were just born into it. These thoughts crossed my mind as I was reading today’s scripture so I thought about where this might have occurred in my own life.

I spent some time recently with Amy’s mom Cari, and Cari’s husband Chuck (Charles Keever). While the fact that Chuck is married to my mother in law should imply that I’m part of Chuck’s family, and it is in Chuck’s best interest to treat me as part of the family, technically he doesn’t have to. Chuck has his own grandchildrenchildren as well as grandchildren. He has his own people. However, Chuck from day one has treated me, my wife and our children, and everyone else I’ve seen him meet as family. This man bends over backwards to include us, to serve us, to make us feel loved and cherished. Chuck is a dentist and you should see his team smile as they talk about how he treats them like family (and their smiles are nice too because of his handiwork!).

During the same visit to the Keever house I was given the opportunity to pray over a family meal (they lovingly call me “Rev.”), and in that prayer I felt compelled to ask a special blessing on Chuck. I mentioned something about how we’ve all been beneficiaries of Chuck’s special gifts, and this typically silent-during-prayer group of people made sounds of affirmation (someone might have even said Amen!) and that gave me great joy because I sensed their love for Chuck as well. Chuck loves us not because he has to, he wants to, he freely gives it to those around him.

 1 Samuel 11; Romans 9; Jeremiah 48; Psalm 25

They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are their ancestors, and Christ himself was an Israelite as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, the one who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)

Romans chapter 9 kicks off with Paul pleading for his people, his Jewish brothers and sisters to be saved. Verses four and five refer to the people of Israel as chosen and the recipients of much (covenants, the law, the privilege of worshiping God, and God’s promises). They were special and chosen. They were part of this promise by birth. Verse five reminds us that Jesus Christ was an Israelite from a human perspective.

Later in Romans 9, Paul references Hosea 2:23. The Jews are God’s chosen people, and so this verse is a promise for non-Jews, also known as the Gentiles that he will call them his people and love them.

I am not an Israelite nor was I born into a Jewish family, and therefore I’m not part of this special chosen group. However, God in his infinite mercy and grace had a plan for you and me, to call us to him, to call us his own.

Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea,

“Those who were not my people,
    I will now call my people.
And I will love those
    whom I did not love before.” (Romans 9:25); taken from Hosea 2:23

Thank you God for revealing your truth to us, for putting people in our lives who love us unconditionally. May we see these people and these loving acts as an example of your love for us. Thank you God for your ultimate act of love in sending your son Jesus Christ to live as a human and die as a sacrifice for our sin. Jesus defeated death and saved us from our sin through his resurrection; there is no one like him, and we thank you God for this sacrifice and the amazing grace for all who choose to believe. Amen.