Tag Archives: Grandchildren

I’m Content

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6 WEB)

No matter what people may think, I’m content with my life, my family, my work and my faith; so, stop telling me I need something more. I was thinking about this while lying awake in bed one morning. When I look at things in my life and consider what I’ve done, where I’ve been and what I’ve acquired (physical stuff, experiences, etc.), I’m content. Unfortunately, sometimes, when my frustration over things around me percolates to the top of my patience, I might present a temporary persona that doesn’t portray a contented soul. But that’s another subject.

One of the first things I thought about was my wonderful wife quietly asleep beside me. It’s the precise planning of God that brought us together at the right place and time to embark on an amazing busy, full and fantastic life. Two-thirds of our lives we’ve been together and I’m looking forward with anticipation to undertaking together the next 40 plus years of life and adventure God has planned. Like most married men I know; I often wonder how my love tolerated me all these years. But I’m content knowing God was gracious to me and gives her lots of patience.

We’ve lived through raising four children, watching them leave the nest and start a life of their own with their own families. I like my children’s spouses. I love them all and I believe they like me. Our children are doing well in a variety of jobs. We’ve got service managers, restaurant managers, teachers and soldiers carrying on the family line. I’m proud of them all. They’ve had their problems, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as family we work through things. Thanks to them I have a number of grandchildren that I love dearly. I think they love me as well. I know why God gives us grandchildren. It’s to insure we still have that delightful spark of innocence to encourage us in life. They have good and bad days, they’re little children and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m content with my family.

I’ve spent the majority of my life serving and working with the same organization in various places around the globe. I’d like to say everything was rosy and delightful all these years but the truth is there were hard times along with good times. Still, I’m content with what God has been able to accomplish through my work around the globe. More than once I felt ill-equipped for the job. It was then I watched as God stepped in to show His grace and let me know that I can do all things through Him. I can’t say I never had doubts about what I was doing. They would raise their ugly heads now and then until I reset my vision on the one who gives me strength. I can say I never had doubts about God’s calling me to this life. I’m content in my work and ministry.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to God and asked, “Why?” Sometimes I found the answer. Some questions remain unanswered. I’ve railed at God in my frustration and anger and praised and worshipped Him at all times. Yes, even when I was furious I still worshipped God. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, some things I still don’t understand, but I trust in God in all things. I’m comforted understanding that I can come to God with praise, anger, questions and the small issues of daily life and He listens. He shows me grace, especially in my stupid times. He loves me always, even in my disobedient times. I’m content with my faith in God.

In all this I find myself wondering why I would consider not being content. I can stop and think and realize that this is a great life God has provided and like the verse above I have great gain. Sometimes people think I’m discontent because I’m frustrated with things or get angry over an encounter with massive stupidity. So I wonder if we’re not confusing contentment with emotionless living. Are they the same? I don’t think so. God gave us emotions to help us deal with life on this spinning rock. We can let them get out of hand but to dismiss them as ungodly just doesn’t ring true for me. There are some things, regardless of my godliness or contentment, which I suspect will always increase my blood pressure.

There are inconsistencies in the behavior and reliability of computers, an area I’ve worked with for over thirty years that make me want to test the aerodynamic characteristics of the device from any open window (which I have done). There are vehicle drivers who apparently didn’t attend driving school, forgot all they learned or had incompetent teachers. Some folks standing in line for ten minutes or more to pay for items wait until they reach the counter to fish through their fifty gallon purse looking for their credit card. Sometimes I just sigh and roll my eyes. Other times, for whatever reasons, I just get frustrated or angry.

Then there’s the modern church. As a faithful member of the congregation we’re never doing enough “for God.” We hear preaching about contentment and at the same time a message of “do more” which creates discontent because we’re not doing enough, in the eyes of the local church, to justify our claiming to be faithful believers. Rubbish! I’m concentrating on my walk in this world as a faithful follower of Christ. Just walking faithful with God through normal tivities of life is doing something “for God.” Where that intersects with a church ministry, such as being a full time missionary, I’m glad to go as God leads. I don’t doubt some future heavenly residents might need a little fire under their backside to get them moving but who lights the fire, God or man? Without getting into a pet peeve let me say I’m content with the ministries where God has place me and I’m not looking for more. If He gives more I’ll undertake it. Otherwise I’ll be content with the here and now.

That’s probably where contentment lies. It lies in knowing you are where God wants you to be. It’s understanding the abilities God has given for the particular task and being content that God knows what He’s doing. Does it remove all emotion so we can be like good southerners and just say, “Bless their heart” when they do something ridiculous. At times it might. At other times life boils to the top and we are reminded we are humans, designed with emotions, by a God with emotions, to live in an emotional world. I’m content to live here, with all my foibles, until He takes me to that perfect mansion. Are you content?

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How to Win a Grandparent’s Heart

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

When our children were young we told them we had a plan for their lives. This involved several steps and many years. First they were to grow up and leave home. We figured by the time they left home we’d taught them all we cold. Next they were supposed to find a loving mate, who didn’t give Beth bad vibes, and get married. Finally they are supposed to have children so we can spoil them on a regular basis. It’s a simple plan for life.

Things are going along right on schedule. We have four children, three of them married (with good vibes) providing us with four grandchildren. Our youngest is still in college but looking to continue his part of the plan. The only problem with grandchildren, at this time, is that they live in our homeland and we live on another continent. This makes regular visits, our part of the plan, a little difficult. So when we do have the chance to visit we’re more than glad to spoil them.

A while ago, when we were visiting, I was sitting watching some silly show while Beth and Sonya worked hard in the kitchen. They were in the midst of baking cookies, a favorite of mine, and had the able assistance of our grandson Hayden. He was almost two at the time. The preparation process was interesting. I could hear dishes clink and pots clank as I busied myself in the living room. Then I heard a loud yell from the kitchen, OPA!

Not so sure Hayden wants to be a viking.Hayden repeated my name a few times followed by,”Opa, come here.” Now I’m not the type of person to perform on demand but when my grandson calls, I answer. I found Hayden stirring water in a bowl. He pointed to another bowl, handed me a spoon and said stir. I stirred, and stirred, and stirred. We added water, we removed water. We stirred until we had to vacate the counter in preparation for the cookie dough.

Oma took over the counter spreading the dough evenly in preparation for cutting. Hayden worked alongside of her. He took some dough and smashed it, crashed it, squished it, and squashed it all over the counter, his shirt, the floor and just about anything within reach. He was very helpful. Even the most helpful can sometimes get in the way of progress. Then it happened.

In the middle of mashing another lump of dough onto the counter, with bits and pieces flying everywhere, he looked up at Oma and said, “Hayden loves Oma!” He smiled at Oma, she melted and decided he could make as much mess as he wanted after that heartfelt declaration. It doesn’t take much to win a grandparent’s heart. Just the right word will do the trick. The occasional hug, kiss and wiggling doesn’t hurt either.

When the cookies were on the tray and being cycled through the oven Hayden went back to his mixing bowls. I was quietly occupying myself back in the living room, just a stone’s throw away. Then I heard it again, “Opa!” I tried to pretend I didn’t’ hear it. Then it was repeated several times, louder and louder, until I couldn’t resist anymore and came to see what was up. There was more careful stirring of water in mixing bowls. There were wet pants and shirts. There was more fun for Opa and his grandson in the kitchen.

By the time the cookies were done, the kitchen was cleaned (thanks to Oma and Mama), it was about time for Oma and Opa to leave for the day. No worries. It was a great day. Just couple expressions of love and joy were all we needed to be won over, once more, by our grandson. Like I said, it doesn’t take much.

I suspect my heavenly father is the same way. Sometimes we think He wants us to show Him some grand work we’ve accomplished for Him. I think all He wants is for us to show our love and joy to him. Simple expressions, thanks, calling for help even in the smallest of tasks, these are just signs of our love for Him and our trust that He will respond.

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Almost Full

‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’ (Revelation 2:7 NASB)

As I write this Beth and I are only a few days away from celebrating twenty-seven complete years serving the Lord overseas. In all those years we took care to remember many of our homeland celebrations and introduce them to our children. There’s Independence Day, New Years, Easter and Christmas and there is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was and is a big event in our home. Last fall, during furlough, we celebrated Thanksgiving in our homeland for the first time in twenty-five years. It was great.

We were in Kentucky where most of our children live. Pies were made, turkey was cooked to perfection and almost everyone was available to enjoy the celebration. James and his family were conspicuously absent. He was overseas with the Army and his wife and their two month old daughter couldn’t wrangle the trip. We missed them. The place was definitely almost full but more would’ve been better.

A couple days before Thanksgiving we were at Ellice, Brad and Laurana’s for a pie day. Beth helped Ellice and one of her friends make a whole passel of pies. Laurana made comments from her seat on the counter.

On Thanksgiving Day Evan picked up some rolls and side stuff. Beth, Joel, Sonya, and Hayden cooked the bird in their apartment. Hayden is a hoot when it comes to helping in the kitchen. Maybe he’ll become a chef.

The family:Laurana, Ellice, Brad, Me, Evan, Beth, Joel, Sonya, Hayden.We gathered at the apartment with all the goodies and breathed deeply the wonderful smell of a perfectly prepared turkey turning a beautiful brown. While the bird was simmering in its sauces we enjoyed cookies and playing with our grandchildren. Joel has a nice big screen TV which provided a marvelous display of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

It’s been a long time since we watched a parade live on TV. Beth and I both remember those special Thanksgiving mornings watching the parade as children. Beth watched the parade and cried. I didn’t cry but it was a wonderful feeling to see old familiar floats wafting along with some of the newer renditions.

Meal time was a blast with everyone passing fixin’s and food around the table. Needless to say, we were very thankful to be in one place to share with most of the family. There were plenty of leftovers to be sure but they wouldn’t last too long.

After the meal, it was football time! I didn’t really care who won or which team played. It was nice to watch a “live” game and pick a side to cheer on without already knowing the results. Watching a live game on Thanksgiving brought a tear to my eyes. Beth didn’t cry. To each his own I suppose.

When the game concluded, we gathered everyone for some family photos and to divvy up the leftovers. It was a full day with full bellies and full schedule of events. How fulfilling is that? We were just about full up.

There was only one piece missing. That was James and his family. More than once my mother has commented on not seeing all her family in one place for many years. I’m beginning to understand this more and more. It’s all part of life I suppose and should be expected.

Me, I’m looking forward to a grand reunion one day.  It’ll be at an unbelievable banquet held at God’s dining table. The dining table won’t be in an apartment in Kentucky but in the Paradise of God. The main dish won’t be a succulent turkey but fruit from the tree of life.

Until then, I’ll settle for a great Thanksgiving celebration with as much of the family as possible.

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Living Legacy

Grandchildren are like a crown to the elderly, and the glory of children is their parents. (Proverbs 17:6 NET)

I remember sitting with my best friend, Doug, on the front porch stoop in Ohio. We would con20131128-thanksgiving-153-2template such deep conversations as, “Hey Doug, what do you want to do?” “I don’t know Bob, what do you want to do?” “I don’t know Doug, what do you want to do?” This could go on for hours until we gave up and actually went and did something. Occasionally we would think about other things like the changing of the century. We wondered if we’d be alive at the dawn of the new century. I’d be ancient at forty-eight. That just sounded so, so,  . . . OLD!

One year I was in the USA for furlough. Some fine folks think of it as a vacation. Since we work daily on relationships, support raising, travel a lot (13,000 miles) and share the ministry often (preaching 49 times in 12 weeks) I can’t see how this would qualify as vacation. But, that is another story. Well into my fifties, well past the turn of the century, the old conversations seemed so . . . dated. I had made it. So did Doug, by the way. And not only did forty-eight not appear so old being a grandparent required a new view on life and aging.

In our home assignment we were thrilled to see our grandson again and meet our two granddaughters for the first time. What an absolute delight to cuddle, hug and spoil my grandchildren. Near the beginning of our US assignment we, Beth and I, spent time with my Mom. My brother recently retired to the area and my other brother came to visit from the west coast. It was the first time in about 20 years we were all in the same place at the same time. A little family reunion was in progress.

Into this gathering my daughter, her husband, and their daughter came to visit. Ellice sat next to her grandmother, holding her daughter while I stood behind them for a generational photo. Four generations! I know there are families with more generations in a single photo but for me it was something new and exciting. I thought living to the turn of the century was dubious and here I was with four generations. I loved it.

Here I was looking at an example of a living legacy. My mother, and father, passed along their beliefs and views of life to me. I learned, modified and developed my own version tempered by the era which influenced my thinking. I passed them along to my daughter, plus our three sons, who modified them with into their own version tempered by the era in which they lived. And now she was starting to pass them along to her daughter.

One generation after another. As we watched our children grow, build their own families and lives, we hoped they learned the good things and not the bad. They did things differently than we did. That’s to be expected. But, regardless of differences we hoped our relationship was like the Proverb.

We knew our grandchildren were our crown as we grew older. Just think of all the photos we could share with the unsuspecting passerby. We never tired of beaming with pride as we inundate others with their cute smiles and rattled on about their adventures.

On the other hand, we hoped our children could take pride in us as their parents. We made mistakes, no argument there. We watched and prayed that the good of the Lord worked through us to shape their lives. So far, so good.

Jesus tells us eternal life is all about who you know (John 17:6). I suspect the present life is knowing your grandchildren. Watching a living legacy grow this side of heaven is what the present life is about. Thanks God for allowing me to experience this living legacy in my life.

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Bragging Rights

But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family, and to repay their parents, for this is acceptable in the sight of God. (1 Timothy 5:4 WEB)

 

My work with computers has definitely impacted my life. Learning command lines, file formats, software and hardware were just the tip of the iceberg. Discovering things like bugs, crashes and the innate ability of a machine to make one rip roaring mad came with time. There’s a human quality in a computer. They usually do what you tell them but sometimes they take on a mind of their own. This reminds me of raising children.

 

Computers provided a number of excuses to fly to the USA for meetings, training and development. On these trips I often took an extra day or two to visit my mother in Tennessee. One summer other members of my family arrived at the same time. My brother and his wife were visiting from Asia. My other brother and his son were visiting from California. It was a mini family reunion. The only ones missing were my wife and children. They were back on Guam and missing all the family fun.

 

My brothers and I may be older and gray but we’re still boys. To demonstrate our maturity we’d sit about the living room and talk about life, love, and the meaning of the universe. We had all the answers, just ask us. Eventually the conversation would escalate to a competition.

 

I remember John stating, while changing the subject completely and starting the challenge, “I can bench press 200 pounds.” He glanced from chair to chair waiting for the rebuttal.

 

“Yeah, well I can build a notebook computer from tin foil and old plastic toys,” responded Steve calling on his technical background.

 

“Oh yeah,” countered John moving to the edge of his seat. “I can build a beam antenna from tinker toys and erector set parts.”

 

This banter continued back and forth for several minutes as I silently considered my entry into the fray. This was no simple battle of words. This was a life and death struggle for filial superiority. As my mind worked through a series of exaggerated boasts I considered how to end this verbal banter with a crushing blow.

 

I cleared my throat. My brothers paused and looked my direction. Here sat their little brother. Here was the poetry reading, music playing, baby of the family attempting to enter the holy ground of verbal one-up-pence. I paused, in a polite southern manner, made eye contact and launched my attack.

 

“I maintain thirty computers, two servers, two networks,” so far they were not impressed. “Living on a tropical island I can go to the beach any day of the year,” a slight nod of their heads but the barricades of pride weren’t breached. “And . . . I have four children, and . . . I am taller than either of you!” I turned to look toward our Mom, Grandmother, and proud ancestor of my brood.

 

No response, just a look in their eyes conceding to my taller stature and larger family. The victory was complete. Single handedly I conquered their claims with statements only a mother could appreciate. Since it was Mom’s house that was the winning blow. Four grandchildren, what more could she want.

 

In truth, there was another grandchild to grace our family in the years ahead. However, at that time I was at the head of the pack. The battle won even if only temporary, the victory assured for the moment, it was time to move on to more important things, food!

 

Mom’s house was small and the kitchen was the favorite meeting place. My Filipina sister in law made great lumpia my favorite Asian delicacy. To sit, eat and discuss family life is one of the great pleasures of being in a parent’s home.

 

Fixing faucets, shutters, and trimming trees are a delight when we have the chance to be home and helpful to Mom once more. Since we’re spread across the globe this doesn’t happen often but we enjoy every chance to get together, boast, share and laugh with one another and see who gets the upper hand.

 

I’m reminded of the banquet table set in Heaven. Think about it. An eternal chance to sit, laugh, share, boast, (well maybe not in Heaven), and fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

We can make our claims and our accomplishments in the world known and then smile as we counter each other’s claims. Then, from his seat at the table, the Lord will clear his throat. We’ll all turn to watch and wait. After a short pause, a good southern tradition, he’ll make one statement.

“I gave my life as your ransom, for you.”

We’ll remain silent.

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Thanks

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

I’m sitting on a red couch watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade with my daughter and her family. I don’t feel the best as I’m trying to avoid the full fledged flu. One of our sons and his family will be arriving soon to add to all the noise and excitement. I think it will turn out to be a full day and lots of fun, noise and great food.

Throughout all this I’m thankful for more things than I can list in a short note. There is God at the top of the list followed closely by my loving wife and our children, children in-laws and beautiful grandchildren. I think of all the years God has provided all our needs. I think of the years of bringing God’s message of grace and love to the world in ways I never imagined.

It’s easy to get bogged down in illness, busy schedules or a plethora of other annoyances in life. I’m reminded of a phrase from a chorus which says,  “Give thanks with a grateful heart.” it always makes me think, “Can you give thanks if your heart is ungrateful?” I don’t think so. To give thanks, not just say thanks, requires a sense of gratefulness. We can give lip service regardless of the state of our heart but we can’t give true thanks unless or heart is grateful. Anything else is hypocritical.

Hypocrisy is just lying with fancy words. I don’t know about you but I’m guilty of saying thanks when that’s the last thing on my mind or in my heart. As I think of the pending turkey dinner, for which I suspect I will be truly grateful, I’m thinking I should be careful at other times to insure my thanks are real and not just hypocritical lip service. I don’t want to be impolite but I don’t want to be a politically correct liar.

All that said I thank God for his grace, love and salvation which has guided my life. I thank him for family, friends, beautiful days and good food. I could go on but I can smell the turkey and it’s distracting me from writing. I hope we can all be thankful from a grateful heart and praise God for his provision.

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Going Out a Winner

“Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise: (Ephesians 6:2 WEB)

I placed the phone in the cradle and sat staring at the wall. At thirty four I couldn’t make a decision. I couldn’t move! I didn’t know what needed to be done next! My resources were reduced and I lacked the ability to take the next step.

It began seven years earlier. Beth and I were raising support as full time missionaries. Dad had a massive heart attack. After several months of hospital care, bypass surgery, and recovery, he returned home weaker but ready to take on the world. We were uncertain how this would impact our missionary calling. God continued to lead us overseas so we departed a year later.

In the intervening years Dad became the best correspondent and confidant I could want. Regular letters describing family history flowed from his hands. Although he owned an early computer he preferred to bang away, in the basement, at an old Royal typewriter hour after hour. He didn’t work much longer because his medication and the stress disagreed with his delicate condition. With the extra time he indulged his sons with a detailed trip down memory lane.

During these years his health rose and fell. They were good years. Mom and Dad enjoyed their time together. Five years later we returned to the mainland for furlough from our first assignment. Living an hour’s drive from their home we made frequent visits. Dad lavished love and affection on his grandchildren at each visit. He didn’t spoil them but they knew they were special in his heart.

We enjoyed our final furlough days in their home. We relaxed and talked. The children played. When we departed it was the end of a good visit. It was time to resume the ministry from Guam.

The first week of January, 1988, I worked on the island of Chuuk. Repairing a radio station, meeting new people and experiencing a new culture was a mixture of joy and exhaustion. When I returned home I needed rest.

About 2:00 am I received a call. Half awake I answered the telephone. My senses sharpened as the voice informed me he was a police officer! My mind reviewed the day’s events to see if I had broken any laws. Nothing came to mind so I listened carefully. He said, “Your mother called. She cannot reach your telephone. Please call her back.”

I explained the call to Beth, wandered to the living room and began to call my parent’s home. I knew, before I finished dialing, what I would hear. Mom softly answered and informed me of Dad’s death. She told me, “We were playing bridge. Elton (my Dad) was winning. He arose to go into the other room and collapsed in the kitchen. He never woke up.”

Beth sat beside me as I asked about the funeral, about my brother’s and hung up the telephone. I was silent for a while and then began to cry. Beth asked why I was crying now and not when I heard the news. I said, “Dad wanted to be buried in his home back in Tennessee. He just wanted to go home again.” I don’t know why but that touched my heart. I never lived in Dad’s home but the stories of his youth, shared through his series of letters, filled my thoughts.

I wasn’t sure what to do next. This was Dad. This was my best correspondent. This was the one I always counted on for a bit of advice, technical expertise or just a good long talk. He was gone. He couldn’t answer the question or make suggestions on what to do next. But he went out a winner!

The simple fact, that Dad was winning when the Lord called him home, tickled my heart. He didn’t fear death. He knows the Lord. He always enjoyed winning. Why did Mom tell me he was winning? It seemed a strange comment. Sitting 7,000 miles from their home it was the first word God highlighted in my thoughts.

The days ahead were strenuous but the Lord made provision to strengthen my heart. As the mission helped me make emergency flight plans to Quincy I was almost cheerful. It wasn’t my effort, my cheery outlook on life, it was God who lifted me up and helped me step forward one event at a time.

The next two weeks in my parent’s home God worked through me to witness of His grace and love to my brothers, sister in law and other friends of the family. When I heard the news of Dad’s death I was in no mood to be a witness. I was devastated. But God had other plans in mind. He wanted me to be a winner during this time.

God taught me about his grace and love. The Father taught me, one of his children, how to trust in His provision. My own strength failed. God’s strength was all I had left. I needed this. God used this. God made me a winner in my grief. I recalled the Psalmist’s words, “The moment I called out, you stepped in; you made my life large with strength.” (Psalms 138:3 MSG)

I miss my father, his letters, advice and love. However, my heavenly Father is here with me, always in every situation. It took my earthly father’s death to teach me this important lesson. I want to serve the Lord with every ounce of my being. I want to go out winning . . . winning someone to Christ.

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