Friday, October 21, 2011


Investments have been on my mind lately. As my family begins to grow I am faced with decisions often of how to take care of them, how to provide for the future, & how to make investments that grow even in this economy.

Investment is a deep word that can mean so many different things. One of the ways that Webster describes it is "to use, give, or devote (time, talent, etc.), as for a purpose or to achieve something." This thought has monopolized my mind lately...what am I investing in?

Every day we spend time doing things. We go to work, we talk with people, we run errands, we pay bills, we watch tv, we play with our children, and some of us even spend time with God. In the end though we are all investing into those things. The Bible talks about where your treasure is there your heart lies also. We don't invest time & energy into things that we don't have a vested interest in...or do we?

Every day only has 24 hours. We can choose to do what we want with that 24 hours, but typically we let it decide for us. We sleep during this time, we eat during this time, & we work during this time. Some of our decisions are made for us & some are not. At the end of the day though you can feel like a hamster on a wheel working your butt off & going no where fast. The hamster has no investment into that wheel. No matter how much it runs on that wheel it will get nothing back from it. That wheel is simply something to do to pass the time away.

When I honestly stopped & put value to everything in my life I realize how out of balance I can become. If time is money, then what am I putting my "money" into? Am I taking time for my kids & not just time but quality, devoted, "the best part of me not the leftover of me" time. Am I taking time for my wife & romancing her the way she deserves? Am I taking time for extended family & supporting them in their journeys & championing them into their dreams? Am I taking time for...& the list can go on & on? Now for me, my investment analysis is even harder. I invest into the youth of Western Mennonite School every day. I hear their problems, I hear their dreams & I invest my heart & soul into them, but I find myself left with nothing at the end of the day.

Everyone is like a bank account. If all people do all day is withdraw from you, the you will eventually go bankrupt until you refill yourself. We all need to be deposited into to keep a healthy balance. If something is constantly withdrawing & never depositing then you need to evaluate if you need that in your life. Investments yield returns. Some high returns, some moderate, & some low, but returns is a must. Now some investments can be risks where you'll show a loss for a while, but eventually a return on the investment comes. If you have been in a job, a relationship, a friendship, or involved in a hobby for longer than a year & it is still only taking from your bottom line then you need to evaluate your investments.

Now I am not here saying "If someone doesn't add to your life remove them." What I am saying is how much of an investment are you giving them? If I have a friend who sucks me dry & I am spending 5 hours a week with them then wouldn't 1 hour be better & give the other 4 hours to someone or something that deserves that investment? I see too many people going through the daily routine of life & hating every moment of it. I don't understand why they stay stuck in the mud? You hold the cards. You hold the "money" to invest!

Change your investment portfolio. Switch to a low risk, high reward system. Cut the fat out of the budget & give your time to things that give back to you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Recovery & Strength

I could sum up how things have gone recently as...(insert long pronounced sigh here)! Not bad, but not great either. Sara & I work at a school & so our year is based more on the school calendar then the yearly calendar. That being said, this "year" has been incredible. So many joys & exciting moments coupled with so many moments of sorrow & struggle. I feel as if God is taking our family through a refining process. All I have to say is I hope I look good & polished after this!

For all of you who are wondering, my surgery went incredibly well. The doctors were very pleased with the outcome. It appears that it is going to stop the problem & prevent cancer as they were hoping. The surgery is the easy part though for the patient. You're out cold & you have 6 people all working on you. The hard part is the recovery process. This recovery has brought with it many ups & downs. The pain I have felt through this process is hands down the worst I have ever felt. If you take the pain I felt when I blew my knee out the first time & times it by 10 you may be at the level I felt. My first two weeks were incredibly painful, but I worked through it with the sweet help of my loving wife. Pain medication & me typically don't mix very well so I did most of this without any medication which I'm sure intensified it even more. Currently I am doing very well. I am way ahead of schedule in my recovery process & learning how to eat again. I started with blending everything & am eating almost normal once again. However, I have to eat smaller & take much longer or things get stuck. I have had food stuck numerous times & let me tell you this...IT IS NOT FUN! It's a process of recovery that won't be complete until around Thanksgiving. I am so thankful for the surgery though. I have none of the pain I used to have & for the first time in over 10 years am able to sleep through the night without pain. I didn't realize how sleep deprived I really was until this surgery & I began to sleep normal again. What a blessing sleep is!

As Sara & I were reflecting on this "year" it amazed me at what has transpired. We lost our only Grandpa, we lost a Father, & we recently lost a family friend & someone who Sara was particularly close to. She suddenly passed away from Pancreatic Cancer (I know...been there done that before). We had numerous changes in our work, personal life, social network, & future planning (more on this in weeks to come). We also had a baby, won a state championship in basketball & many other big things, but minor considering everything else. I remember going to Disney World last July knowing that we were pregnant with precious little Jordan & not having too many cares in this world. WOW, what a year has changed. I am sitting in my office looking out into the bare & empty hallways of our school & reflecting on the year it has been. Sometimes things don't fully hit you until you slow down enough for the impact to happen. Now is that time for Sara & I. We are reflecting. We are reminiscing. We are giving thanks for the journey. We have had no choice but to grow through this process. One way or another we were going to be different through this year. It was just a matter of strength & joy or bitterness & sorrow.

The one thing that I keep hearing from my family, friends, co-workers, & my students is that they have been amazed at how I have handled everything this year. They are impressed with the strength that I seem to posses. Let me first start with death. I have this perspective on life of it being a journey. Everyone has their own journey & no matter how hard we may try we simply can't replicate anyone else's. It is unique to us. Along this journey we will all have times of great triumph & times of great sorrow & struggle. However, the main constant of it all is not how we get down this road or how fast or slow we travel it, but rather how we embrace it. The one common denominator of every ones journey though? They all end. In one way or another every ones journey comes to an end. Some seem like tragic endings, some seem to soon, & some seem like poetic justice to a life well lived.

The one thing I think I hold onto is not settling for my sorrow of missing someone, but rather contending for the memory of a life well lived by them. If life is a race that we are all running (Hebrews 12:1), then wouldn't you think Jesus is our biggest cheerleader? He is that over joyous dad at the finish line that is simply ecstatic when his kid crosses the line. He's that dad that bulls his way through security & embraces his son or daughter on finishing the race. So if life is a race that we are aiming to finish & finish well & Jesus is cheering us on then I imagine that meeting in Heaven would go something like this: "Well done! You made it. I'm so proud of you." Our rebuttal may be: "But Jesus, I ran an awful middle 100 meters & I stumbled around the final corner." "But you finished! You made it. All that work & you made it. I am so proud of you. Let's go out & celebrate!" I also figure that if are races aren't the same then some are made for different races. Some of us are made for sprints (100m), some of us are made for a mile run (400m), & some of us are set up for marathons. Why is a baby lost to some & a old man is lost to others? It's all about the race you're designed for. The greatest tragedy is not dying in my eyes. The greatest tragedy would be not effecting people around me by my loss.

Sara & I have gone through 3 deaths that shook us up pretty good in 8 months. However, how can I sit in sorrow when I think about where they are? A.W. Tozer said, “I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.”  Whether it happened as small children or whether it happened late in their life, the three deaths happened at moments of worship. They happened with the individuals ready to embrace their God. A great family friend of ours put it this way on Saturday: "When you die you begin to go on a walk with Jesus. You begin to talk about what just happened & talk about life. Before you realize it, you look back & can't see home anymore. That's when Jesus says 'We're closer to my home then yours. How about we just go to my place.'" I thought that was a beautiful portrayal of what I have witnessed over the past year.

It is always easy to be strong when it's easy to be strong. "To hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart...that is true strength." I told our students in our last chapel together that growth is all about tests. You never know if you truly grew unless you test yourself. If all I did with my basketball teams was practice, we woul never know how much we've grown. You have to put yourself into situations to grow & to test growth. I have been tested this year & I feel I have grown because of it. Life is just simply a bunch of choices. I woke up every day saying "This is the day that my Lord has made & I will rejoice & be glad in it. I Trust you God & I know you have plans to prosper me & not to harm me. Today I choose joy!"

“How can I get away from your Spirit? Where can I go to escape from you? If I go up to the Heavens, you are there, If I lie down in the deepest parts of the earth, you are also there. Suppose I were to rise with the sun in the east and then cross over to the west where it sinks into the ocean. Your hand would always be there to guide me. Your right hand would still be holding me close.”

As Paul said, I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Strength is within us all. It is nothing great inside a few small people. It is within each of us. I do not want to be happy some days. I do not want to have it all together. Many times I have crumbled in Sara's arms & just cried. I will tell you this out of my journey though...Joy is so much sweeter than sorrow. It's hard to choose joy & then to have to choose it daily. Sometimes you have to choose it many times throughout even one day. It is worth it though. God is good & his blessing is amazing. Even through this year, He has been so faithful to provide all of my needs & open new doors of blessing.

As I close this year up, I summarize it by a quote from Max Lacado's 'Outlive Your Life'. "It’s not enough to do well. I want to do great. I want my life to matter. So, I'm living my life in such a way that the world will be glad I did." What do you choose today? My advice...choose strength & joy. You never know what it'll do to those around you, but you can count on it rocking your world!

My precious kids. I love them both to pieces!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Winds of change

I had everything at this point in my life that I wanted. I had a beautiful wife. I had a daughter that was full of joy. I had a son who is so sweet. I had a job as a campus pastor which was incredibly fulfilling. I had a job as a basketball coach. Life seemed so full & so incredibly satisfying. Then came news in February that felt like a punch to my gut. The news was vague but clear...I had growths on my esophagus & they feared cancer. I have undergone numerous tests that have been unpleasant to say the least. It has been a roller coaster of emotions that has left me feeling fine to feeling impending doom.

You have to understand the feeling that this gave me. My grandfather just died from esophagus cancer & my dad just died from cancer. I was in disbelief! I'm 25 years old! How in the heck does a 25 year old guy get something like esophagus cancer? It felt like the very things around me that I thought were fine & harmless were attacking me. It was as if this tornado of events was hurling things into my life at neck breaking speed & I was left to absorb the blows & still keep my head up.

After many tests the good news came back...NO CANCER! I was thrilled! The bad news? I still have big growths & severe scarring in my esophagus. Comments like "You are so young. We never see this in anyone under 50!" became the norm. To explain my condition, everyone has a valve at the bottom of your esophagus that remains closed. The only time it opens is when you swallow or vomit. Well mine is always open roughly 80% of the way. Acid & stomach bile constantly spill into my esophagus, scarring the inside lining. This leads to scarring & scarring in turn leads to abnormal growths which is what I have. With constant interaction to acid these growths quickly turn into cancer & without repair I was told I am two years tops away from having cancer.

My emotions now are a mixed bag. Part of me feels anxious & excited to fix the problem. Another part of me is nervous & annoyed I have to go through this.

I will be having a surgery called laparoscopic nissen fundoplication done on May 16th in Portland to repair my problem. They will be taking 20% of my stomach & wrapping it around my esophagus to strengthen it & to stop any further damage from happening. The surgery is quite invasive & will require me to be on a liquid diet for quite some time. It will be a little bit of a recovery, but it will fix my problem which I am thrilled about. I am at my wits end with my condition. Every time I eat, I constantly throw it up. I have intense heartburn that feels like someone is stabbing me. I have open wounds in my esophagus that hurt as I eat some foods. To get this fixed will be such a blessing. The good news is I should lose quite a bit of weight. The bad news is I will have to forever change my diet & will never be able to do any heavy lifting as it could ruin the surgery & they'd have to go in again.

After weeks of processing this information, I feel at peace. I know I don't have a choice about this surgery. It's not something I can elect to have or not have. I need it to remain healthy. I feel a calm about this surgery. I'm nervous, but I know that my God is bigger than any storm I may be going through on Earth. The one thing I do wish is that my Dad was here to talk with. He was always a rock for me & a sounding board for issues like this. He also went through some of these same issues.

What I do know though is I still have an amazing wife. I still have amazing kids. I still have an amazing family. I still have an amazing job. Life is good. Instead of wallowing in self pity I am praising in the storm. This too shall pass & at the end of the day I know God has a plan for me in all of this.

For God did not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, love, & a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7