Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Needy is sort of an ugly word. It usually makes people cringe... much like "clingy" and "co-dependent" do... makes you feel like you just walked thru a spider web and you've got that nasty stuff all over you and you can't get it off.

But I admit it... I'm needy.

I am feeling the anxious stress these days of the very unsettling times that we are living in. And I'm guessing that I'm not alone. No, I'm not worried about the big picture because I know that the future is in God's very able hands. You could call me, in the words of a fellow from Texas by the name of Buckner Fanning, a long-term optimist and a short-term pessimist. That would be accurate. That's me.

Long-term... there is no doubt in my mind or heart that God is ruling from heaven and that He is in control of things. He's not whincing or covering His eyes or hiding behind His throne or losing sleep or wringing His hands or wiping the sweat from His brow or experiencing elevated blood pressure and an increased heart rate or asking frustrated questions or finding Himself confused and surprised or asking out of the game. He's got things covered and there is absolutely no doubt about that.

Short-term... I wonder just how far we may fall and just how difficult things may get and just what it will take for us to realize how desperate we are for God and just how far we have drifted as a nation from the moorings that once anchored our thinking, guided our steps, ensured our security, and steadied our collective soul.

Our circumstances do nothing in the way of offering hope.

From Wall Street crashing to legislators bickering to emergency government bailouts to our crumbling infrastructure to radical terrorists who are hell-bent on killing to foreign leaders expressing their desire to destroy us and to wipe Israel off the map to our mounting financial debt owed to China to Christians being slaughtered in eastern India and all over the world to Russia's resurgence to droughts to rising gas prices to increased gas shortages to a pivotal presidential election to a devaluation of God's Word to a housing market that has stalled... [ please, forward some of the things you see in our country and around the world, things that are bothering you ]

Things don't look all that good right now.

Solomon was right, worry weighs a person down. (Proverbs 12:25) Not that that's new information, just relevant to us in a whole new way lately. For far too long, we have been stuffing our faces with the bread of anxious toil (Psalm 127:2) and we have fooled ourselves into believing that our busyness is not in vain. Like Martha, we are often anxious and troubled about many things... things that don't really matter. (Luke 10:41)

My Bible tells me to not be anxious about anything. (Philippians 4:6) Oh, come on, are you serious? Nothing? In this world? Do you have any idea what I'm facing? It tells me to cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you. ALL of them? Can't I just hang on to THIS one? What about THAT? I can handle it, really I can! No, you big dummy, you can't!!! (Sorry, sometimes I have to talk to myself that way... somehow it helps to get the point across.)

God help us all to pray, to open our hearts to You, to give You an all access pass into the backstage of our souls, to have the courage to tell You what we are really feeling deep within, to express what You already see, to approach You with a zesty boldness, to believe, to really believe that what You say is real and true and that we don't have to worry or spin ourselves into a dizzied frenzy. God help us to really give You our burdens, to throw them off our backs into Your strong hands, to believe in our gut that You care, that You have an eye on us.

God help us. We are needy. You are quite capable.

Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to all who come to Him for protection. (Proverbs 30:5)


Monday, September 29, 2008

Update : 92808


--No bites on the house; there will be an open house this coming Sunday, October 5. We will see what happens.

--More Summer funnies: at our friends place the other day she found a cow patty to be too interesting to just pass by and, while "examining" it a little to closely, she said to Nicol "that's a big, big one." ... then, on Sunday morning I was trying to read Nicol a really great story from The Ragamuffin Gospel and Summer was very irritated that she didn't have our full attention, so she kept saying "scuse me, scuse me, daaaaady scuse me" to which I responded "Summer, you need to wait until I'm done talking to Mamma" to which she responded "you're not listening" as she neslted into a chair with her sometimes-I-get-angry face on (she was seriously ticked at this point and, yes, that's a Barney song for those of you who recognize it... sometimes I get angry, sometimes I get sad...) so when I was done reading I said, "Go ahead Summer" and, not-so-predictably, she said, "May grace and peace [be yours] in abundance." We busted out laughing on that one.

--We learned today that Matt Bryant (the kicker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and his wife lost their son to SIDS last week... Wednesday I think. Thanks to Angie for letting us know about that today. I have prayed for them throughout the day as I've thought about them. Lord God, give them grace. Hearing the news and reading about the Bryant story has torn at the scabs on our hearts.

--What's up with the numbers? Like the one in the title of this post for instance, 92808. It's today's date. A few of you have asked about it or commented that you had figured it out. I know, I'm weird. There really is no point to it. [ :-) ]

Friday, September 26, 2008

Housing Showing : 92708

The house will be shown again this Saturday at 2:30pm. No more information at this point, but will definitely keep you posted!

Also, our realtor will be having an open house next SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5.

We continue to appreciate your sacrifice of prayer on our behalf!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fun and Memories Compliments of Summer

I have been meaning to post some of Summer's funnier moments and memorable words for a while now... so here they are.

Bet you all didn't know that Barney has a last name, did you? Well, he does. Summer told Nicol the other day that his name is Barney Sponberg. (Great.)

[ Her first prayer is below... she does some variable of it most every night... usually hitting on every family member and her favorite friends and the basic food groups of candy and pizza and fry fries and Sprite ]
Thank you for daddy and mommy
And thank you for mommy and daddy
And thank you for Daddy and mommy
And thank you for Uncle Rob
Ant Shawn
And Chase and Jordyn and Jenna
And Uncle Todd and Ant Angie
And for all the cousins
For Kate and Ellie and Abby
Bubble gum and water
And toffee (coffee, that is... that one's for daddy!)
And goff (golf... diddo)
And Barney
And Grammy and Grampy
Aaaaaamen!!! (she's very assertive with her Amens, especially when blessing a meal, which usually goes something like "Thank you, Aaaaaamen! She wastes no time getting to the point... or the food.)
[ Here are some Bible verses she's been learning... ]
Beginning God made heaven earth (Genesis 1:1)
Be stroooooong and 'rageous (Joshua 1:9)
Grace and peace in abundance (2 Peter 1:2)
Give thanks to the Lord (1 Chronicles 16:8)
[ The other night, as we were walking into the house, the following conversation took place... ]
she said "be strong and courageous" and I said "do you know why you can be strong and courageous Summer?" and she said "nope" and I said "because God is with you wherever you go" and she said "Thanks!!!" (Hilarious...)
[ We hear these, oh, six or seven hundred times every day... seriously ]
Ha, ha, ha! I get silly. Come on and laugh with me. Wiggle, waggle, wiggle, waggle, ho, ho, ho. If you're feeling happy let it show! (from Barney)
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, Jesus made a way to heaven, red and yellow, pink and blue, Jesus died for me and you. (from Miss Patty Cake)
[ the other night when we were putting her to bed, we could hear an ambulance driving nearby... she apparently remembered back to the night Luke died ]
Lukey go in the ambulance. (not in the funny category, but definitely memorable for us... and gut-wrenching)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Yesterday was a heavy. I felt out of synch. I felt out of touch. I wanted to accomplish something but I honestly don't think I did... except maybe for getting thru the day. I got up early and read and had a good time with God. I had a brief conversation with my mentor. I went to lunch with Nicol and Summer and Tyson. I came to the house, thinking I would do some packing, but that didn't happen. I tried to write, but nothing made sense... even though I knew what I wanted to say. We had dinner with Tyson and Renee and Ty and Jim and June and Griffin and Lawson and it was great to be with all of them. We stopped at Tyson and Renee's and had coffee and talked and watched Larry King interview Ahma-whatever his name is from Iran. We left their place and settled in for the night. I listened to a very encouraging sermon by one of my favorite preachers. The events of the day really were good. Still though, my heart was heavy. I laid my head on the pillow and my tears flowed like they hadn't in a while. Those tears were good. They were cleansing. They seemed to carry away some of the heaviness even as they streamed down my face. But I fell asleep with a heavy heart.

I miss my Luke. I cannot believe he is no longer with us and I don't want to think about a future that does not include him.

I see him every day. He is everywhere we go.

I see him in Summer's delightful smile and I remember his. I hear him in her innocent, pure, silly, joyful laughter and I want to hear his. I marvel at her remarkable ability to communicate and wonder about the things he would say. I see him in her precious blue eyes and long to see his. I see him in her development... her expanding vocabulary, her physical growth, her understanding of things, her care and concern when our pain is obvious, her interaction with others... and I'm reminded of all we are missing out on. I see him in her sweet personality and I wonder how he would be similar and how he would be different.

I see him at Walmart and the Chop House and Chick-fil-a, in the Odyssey that passes by and in the church nursery and in the mall's play area, on television and on my desktop's monitor and on the ball field.

I see him every day. He is everywhere we go.

I miss him so much.

And sometimes I feel guilty... that I don't miss him enough, or that I don't think of him every single minute, or that I can and do laugh and have good days, or that I don't cry every day. Maybe that's all silly and unnecessary. But it's real.

I miss him so much.

Every morning I place two things in my pocket that remind me of Luke. Every night I remove them from my pocket and place them on the counter. One is his ID bracelet from the emergency room from the night he died. The other is a piece of white linen with a scarlet ribbon tied around it. One reminds me of his heaven date. The other reminds me of the day we will see him again. One reminds me of the saints who rushed to the hospital that night. The other reminds of the saints who will return with him and Jesus in the clouds. One reminds me of the brevity of life. The other reminds me of Jesus and his sacrifice. One reminds me of his way-too-short 10 weeks with us. The other reminds me of eternity together. One reminds me of the mortality of his body. The other reminds me of the garments he will wear when he rides as a warrior in heaven's army. Both are becoming tattered and show the signs of wear and tear from being in my pocket. Both are precious to me. Neither should not be part of my daily routine.

These two things are in my pocket every day. They are not enough. My heart and mind are filled with the joy and memories of our 10 short weeks together as a family. Those 10 weeks were not enough. We have pictures that we look at every day. They are not enough. But these things are all we have... except of course for the expectation and hope that we will one day see him again. And, though it's not my plan, it is enough.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Update : 92208

The house...
was shown on Friday, but no offer... so we will keep praying and waiting on the Lord... the house is completely ready and staged and all that... God was so good in helping us get things done... we do have more packing to do this week, but don't feel the squeeze nearly as much as we did last week... we'll be boxing up the contents of the closests, attic, garage, etc. in the next couple of days... thank you so much for praying... we definitely felt your much-needed support!

The weekend...
Friday morning Nicol and Summer went to the zoo with friends and had a very good time... I came to the house and finished a few things before heading out to play golf with my buddy Tyson... Friday evening Tyson and I took our brides to Five Guys for burgers and good conversation (our idea), then we went to the bookstore (their idea), and we ended the evening at Starbucks (a no brainer, right?)... it was a lot of fun to get out after a long, long week... Saturday evening Nicol and I went to see Casting Crowns in concert with some friends... what a great time... we have been fans for quite a while but had not heard them live until that night... and we certainly were not disappointed... the thing that has drawn us to their music is the pull-no-punches, here's-the-struggles-we-all-face-in-life and here's-the-goodness-of-God REALness of their songs, if that makes any sense at all... do you know what I mean?... their lyrics are written from the circumstances of life and ministry that they face, and what they face does in some way and at some level connect with everyone... at least it does with Nicol and I... it was an awesome time of worship and, yes, entertainment (they really are a fabulous band!) and we both walked away saying Wow!... so thank you Crowns for your ministry... you blessed at least two people big time last Saturday night... and we know that you were a major encouragement to each of the nearly 4,000 who were in attendance... press on and stay close... I know you have no idea who I am, and I don't know if you all have been to this blog or not, but we would be honored if our paths were to cross one day.

we will keep you posted on things, as well as prayer needs as they arise, but one thing that is pressing on my spirit these days is the need to pray that we will see fruit from the decisions we have made, that God in His kindness will order our steps even as we are making our plans, and that He will open doors for us and protect us from walking thru those that are not ours to enter.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Update : 91908

This is going to be a FUN day. I'll fill you in on that later. Most everything at the house is done! Only a few very minor details to be taken care of at this point... minor to the extent that they aren't even worth mentioning! So thank you so much for your prayers. We got a lot done and the place looks great. The house will be shown at 4:30 this afternoon and we are anxious to see what, if anything, comes of it. We are trusting the Lord and thanking Him for his kindness in helping us the past 4 days.

Grace and peace.

We Are Hungry

Yesterday I woke up earlier than expected, slipped quietly out of bed with the hope that I wouldn't disturb Nicol and Summer's much-needed slumber, got ready for the day, and stepped out onto the front porch for a few moments of quiet. The night's darkness dissolved slowly as the morning's dawning light crept onto the scene. Thick fog had quietly draped itself over the landscape in front of me. Birds sang the day's new songs. Cows grazed in the distance, munching on grass that was dripping with a heavy dew. The crisp chill in the air made me wish I had a hoody nearby. It was still and peaceful. It was a refreshing way to follow up on a good night of sleep and kickstart another day that was already screaming busyness at me.

As I sat there I was reminded of a familiar tune... we are hungry, we are hungry, we are hungry for more of You, we are thirsty, oh Jesus, we are thirsty for more of You. (Jeff Deyo) Soon the words that were swirling in my mind and welling up in my heart began to spill off my tongue, having an affect on my soul that was not unlike the scene before me. Calm. Peaceful. Refreshing. Gentle. Much needed.

The melody of this modern song ushered my heart to the ancient poetry of the psalmist... as a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. (Psalm 42:1-2) I began to think about my friend, Dr. Bob Frederich, an 80-something husband/father/pastor. I recalled his trademark question which, if you or I were to see him today, he would no doubt ask of us at some point in the conversation. I looked at his face in my mind's eye, felt his firm handshake, his comforting touch, his warm smile, and let his oft' asked inquiry sink in... how's your soul? I've heard him say it dozens of times. Some have half jokingly told him that he ought to brand the question. It is his mantra. And he is genuinely interested in knowing the true answer. Not one of the all-too-quick responses we are most comfortable giving to such a question... things like "Great, how is your's?" or "Doing well, thanks for asking." He cares enough to ask the question and to listen for the gut-level truth we all feel deep within our soul.

How's your soul, Greg? I asked myself. Tough question. One that I'd prefer to answer with one of the glossed-over standard responses that allow me to evade the reality of the moment. I pondered the fact that Luke would have been 6 months old the previous day... it hurts so much to write that... would have been 6 months old... would have been. His loss tears at the very fiber of my soul. It is permanently etched on the walls of my heart. It is irreversible. It hurts. It stinks.

How your soul, Greg? I asked myself. My soul is hungry. My soul is thirsty. My soul pants - it huffs and puffs for the living God like the out of shape almost 40 year old that I am - for the living God.

I am hungry, I am hungry, I am hungry for more of You. I am thirsty, oh Jesus, I am thirsty for more of You.

Psalm 42

(1) As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
(2) My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
(3) My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, "Where is your God?"
(4) These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
(5) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation
(6) and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
(7) Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
(8) By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
(9) I say to God, my rock: "Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?"
(10) As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, "Where is your God?"
(11) Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Good News

Our realtor called today and said she spoke with a couple who would like to look at the house on Friday at 4:30! Very cool. Very much an answer to prayer. Thank you Lord. And thank you all for praying. We are grateful. We'll see what happens on Friday!

We still have quite a bit to do. This was another fairly productive day, but it seems like "things" just keep appearing that need taking care of. This in no time to panic... freak out a little bit maybe but not panic. :-) We will try to have everything ready for Friday afternoon but if it doesn't work out that way we're not going to stress.

We'll keep you posted.

A Father/Son Thing

diligent - hard working - selfless - a servant - loyal - faithful - steady - Godly - strong - under control - humble - organized - early to bed and early to rise
those are some things this son sees in his Dad
i wonder what my son would have seen in me

batting practice in the back yard - playing toss - pitching and catching - shooting baskets - playing H-O-R-S-E - playing one-on-one - playing Uno, cribbage, Yahtzee, checkers and more - snowmobiling - fishing on the banks of the Aroostook River - hunting one Thanksgiving morning - cheering for the Yankees - cheering harder against the Red Sox - taking karate lessons - playing pranks - spending the day at his job - coffee breaks - eating at diners - eating hot dogs at Rock's - watching the World Series, Final Four, and NBA Finals - going to the high school basketball tournaments
those are some things this son did with his Dad
i wonder what my son would have done with me

debating with childhood friends on the playground over whose Dad was stronger, faster, and smarter - betting that my dad was the best athlete
those are some things this son talked about at school
i wonder what my son would have talked about

he built our houses - he cut the grass - he trimmed the trees - he shoveled the snow - he trained our dog - he kept things together - he washed and serviced our cars - he worked hard every day - he came to my games and sometimes nervously paced the sidelines - he took on me and several friends at a time in wrestling matches and whipped us all - he fell while building our second house and injured himself badly - he cried the night his father died - he took us to church - he led us in family devotions - he taught Sunday School - he was the Awana commander - he taught Boys Brigade - he watched me coach - he did dishes and helped around the house - he loved and honored his parents and mom's parents - he has loved, honored, and respected mom - he sometimes suffered with migraines - he recovered from neck surgery
those are some things this son saw his Dad do
i wonder what my son would have seen me do

a slingshot - a bow and arrow set - slick new Nikes - a ball glove - a Louisville Slugger - a bat weight - a Daisy bb gun - an air rifle - a shot gun - a pellet/dart gun - a bunch of mini-bikes that wouldn't run (but he got a great deal on them!) - a Harley Davidson - a puppy
those are some things this son got from his Dad
i wonder what my son would have got from me

mow the lawn - drive a car - build a fire - change the oil in the car - wash the car - work hard - remember the things that really matter in life, namely my relationship with Jesus and treating others well
those are some things this son learned from his Dad
i wonder what my son would have learned from me


Update : 91708

[ Good morning! We've deviated from the original plan a little bit, but stuff is getting done. Yesterday was productive and we're at it again this morning. ]

--Nicol finished the guest room and cleared out some of the clutter in the kitchen (where does all this stuff come from?)
--I finished painting the laundry room
--Summer was content watching Barney and playing with her toys

--pack/stage office and dining room

--we have a plumber here for a couple of minor fixes; I tried to take care of it on Monday but water started spraying everywhere... don't ask :-(

--move boxes and furniture into the garage (Thursday)

--pack/stage living room and master b-room (Thursday)
--pack/stage kitchen (Saturday)

More later...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

"cutter inner" defined [ :-) ]

cut-ter in-ner - noun
(1) one who paints around the edges of trim, window, floors, ceilings, etc., and in corners
(2) one who "cuts in" during the painting process

--a job normally reserved for those with a steady hand, attention to detail, and much patience (...seriously)
--novice cutter inners should use painter's tape (...yup)
--novice and pro cutter inners alike should use an angled 3" good quality brush (...yeah, yeah)

[ read the "update and very random thoughts" post and you'll understand ]

Update and Very Random Thoughts : 91608

--Nicol finished Summer's room... did I mention she's amazing?
--I finished the "cutting in" part of painting the laundry room. It took 3 coats to cover the deep red/burgundy with "Huntington Beige"... which reminds me of a cup of coffee with plenty of cream in it. I may just be the worst cutter inner you've ever seen. But ptl that part is done. I just rolled the first coat and am waiting for it to dry so I can put the second coat on. Yep, it's going to take 3 coats too. Thought I'd update you while I wait.

--Nicol is working on the guest room and making good progress. We got a good start this morning... arrived at about 8:15 and started right in.
--I'll finish painting the laundry room.
--Somehow try to keep Summer occupied... she's watching Barney now so we're good!

--Given the state of the economy, the degree to which it has changed in the past year, record high gas prices, the poor housing market, the stock market's 500 point drop yesterday, the financial institutions that have been bailed out by the government in recent months with still others in deep trouble...

What might we anticipate for the future of our churches in these times?

In most places, giving has already been affected by the downturn in the economy. What should we expect if these trends continue?

I'm thinking of a number of places that have recently gone thru major building projects... I'm talking about places that have spent $90-100M, $30M, $25M, $8M... and one that I was told last week was beginning a long-term $50M capital campaign. That's a lot of dough and I wonder what will happen if our economy gets so bad that people can't continue to give at these levels... or even travel sometimes long distances to attend church, forcing them to stay closer to home.

Will we be looking at a bunch of very large, very empty buildings?

The church is the body, Your people. Lord Jesus, help us to remember that.

On a completely different note (I told you this would be random)...

--7 great questions for every husband to ask himself...
(1) Am I submitting to my wife out of reverence for Christ? (Eph. 5:21)
(2) Am I laying down my life for my bride as Christ did for His? (Eph. 5:25)
(3) Am I consistently sharing the Word with my wife? (Eph. 5:26)
(4) Am I looking out for my wife's needs and concerns like I tend to look out for my own? (Eph. 5:28)
(5) Am I united with my wife? (Eph. 5:31)
(6) Am I considerate and understanding with my wife? (1 Peter 3:7)
(7) Do I treat my wife with the respect she deserves as my partner and heir of the gift of life? (1 Peter 3:7)

A tall order. I wish I could say I have these things down. I wish I could say it all comes easy. But I can't.

Asking myself is one thing. Asking a friend for their observations would be another. Asking my wife would be to take this extremely seriously.

I have to go paint now... and ask Nicol a couple of questions.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Update & Prayer : 91508

Forgot to mention this yesterday...

When we met with our realtor, Suzanne, last Friday, she mentioned a family that is moving to the area and said that they will be here this coming weekend to look at homes. Our house is listed in their price range and it is close to where the wife/mom will be working. We are praying that they will be interested in looking at our house and that they will be able to see it this weekend. Please pray with us.

A quick update and some prayer requests...

We made it back to GA Thursday evening. It has been good to see our friends and spend time with them, but it is tough to be here. There are many reminders of a terribly dark time. We are staying at a friend's place and are at our house only to do the things that need doing in order to get it ready to sell. We met with our realtor on Friday morning and took care of all that. We have LOTS to do.

On a very funny note, yesterday at church the pastor, as he always does, invited the little ones to the front so that he could tell them a story before they were dismissed for kids' church. He started out by asking them, "What do you all call each other?" or something to that effect. He quickly moved on with his story when a little boy responded, "My momma calls my dad a jerk." Oh boy...

--safety while traveling back to GA
--fun times with our friends
--getting things settled with our realtor
--a group of ladies are planning to come on Saturday to help pack

--finish painting the laundry room on Monday
--pack up/rearrange/stage the guest room and Summer's b-room on Tuesday
--pack up/rearrange/stage the master b-room and dining room on Wednesday
--pack up/rearrange/stage the office and living room on Thursday
--have a FUN day on Friday
--pack up/rearrange/stage the kitchen on Saturday
--have everything staged by the end of Saturday
--have FUN evenings together
--Nicol told me today that it's all she can do just to be in the house... please pray for her broken heart
--grace and patience... especially for me

Love and thanks to all...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Sorrow AND Joy

"The Man of Sorrows is the fountain of all joy to others, and is the possessor of all the joys of heaven and earth, by virtue of his triumphs. He has experienced joys in proportion to his sorrows; as He once waded through deep waters of grief He has now climbed to the highest mountains of happiness. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross despising the shame, and now having sat down at his Father's right hand he enjoys pleasures for evermore." -- Charles Spurgeon, in his message "The Gladness of the Man of Sorrows", delivered on Sunday morning March 8, 1863, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London

A view from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon at Navajo Point

A few years ago, Nicol and I stood atop a viewing platform at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was breathtakingly beautiful... and cold. We found ourselves there the day after a concert that Selah had done in Phoenix. It was totally rad... to borrow a phrase from my SoCal (Southern California, that is) friends. We had rented a shiny black convertible Ford Mustang GT (unfortunately, it was too cold to put the top down) and zipped up the highway, stopping at an In-N-Out Burger for cheeseburgers, fries, and shakes (you seriously have to go to In-N-Out before you die... Five Guys is the closest in the category of 'Great Burgers' that I've found in the east, so go there if you can't make it out to the left coast); and in Sedona, for coffee (Sedona was beautiful and very cool, but also a little spooky for some reason... no offense Arizonians); and also at a gas station in the middle of nowhere for a much-needed, near-emergency bathroom break (and no, I'm not going to say who was in trouble).

Anyway, after nearly 4 hours of driving, we made it to our destination. We were greeted by three caribou grazing in a nearby patch of grass, freshly dusted with snow, adjacent to the parking lot. We met a wonderful couple out on the viewing platform, both American Indians, who were, ironically, headed to Chicago to check out Moody Grad School, where I was a student... what about that? We perused the gift shop, albeit very quickly, only to find that there was nothing there we couldn't live without. And we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery of one of America's most visited tourist attractions.

One of the things I remember most about the Grand Canyon is its rugged, jagged and terrifying vastness. Yes, it is a gorgeous and awe-inspiring site to behold, but it is also just plain scary to peer out into its overwhelming enormity. It is 277 miles long, ranges in width from 4 to 18 miles, and is more than one miles deep in places. While it is not the deepest canyon in the world or even in the United States, it is incredibly impressive. So I highly recommed it to everyone... and don't forget to stop at In-N-Out Burger on your way!
All that to say...

My mind and heart are afixed to the idea of thoughts that are at first glance incompatible: images that create both terror AND allure... terrain that is both jagged AND beautiful... depths that are both repelling AND appealing... swirling winds that both freeze your cheeks AND invite you to stay just a little while longer... rays of sunshine that both penetrate the frigid temps AND at the same time cannot find their way to warm the lowpoints below... a setting sun that both, for safety's sake, asks you to leave AND begs you to watch it slip behind the horizon.

My mind and heart are afixed to the idea of thoughts and activities that are at first glance completely incompatible: losing our son AND moving forward with life... having our hearts broken AND surviving the pain... feeling the sorrow AND laughing with joy... feeling the weight of heavy grief AND having the strength to rise in the morning... knowing God allowed this terrible thing to happen AND finding rest, comfort, and peace in Him... knowing God could have kept Luke alive AND seeing His grace in ways never before imagined... asking God all the hard questions AND thanking Him for sustaining us, for being with us in this.

My mind and heart are afixed to the idea of a Savior who is equally familiar with our sorrow AND our joy.

So said Spurgeon...
He has experienced joys in proportion to His sorrows.

He is the good news of great joy AND He is the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

He is seated on the throne AND He was born in a filthy manger. He ascended up into heaven as the risen Savior AND He condescended to earth as Immanuel, God with us, the God Man. He received the Spirit of God, the blessing of the well-pleased Father AND He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He was anointed by the Spirit of the Lord AND He was scourged by those who hated Him. He came to a world in need of good news, He sought out the broken, the downcast, the bruised, He opened blind eyes, set captives free, He came declaring a new Jubilee AND He was criminalized, exchanged for a thug. He brought forth justice, did not cry aloud or lift up His voice, He gently breathed new life into the lifeless AND He breathed His last breath, giving up His spirit, while nailed to a tree. He accomplished the will of the Father AND He suffered in the flesh. He heard shouts of 'Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!' as He rode into Jerusalem AND He listened as they later mocked Him and scoffed at Him as he carried His cross to Golgotha, the place of the skull. He poured out His soul as a humble, lowly servant of all AND He poured out His soul to death, was numbered with the transgressors, bore the iniquities of us all. He prayed 'I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do' AND He cried out 'Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani? ... My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?' He is exalted to the highest place, has been given the name that is above every name AND He was despised and rejected by men. He has been made perfect AND He learned obedience from the things He suffered. He sits at the right of the Father, crying out, living to make intercession for everyone who draws near to God through Him AND He watched and listened as religious leaders and political authorities conspired to kill Him. He is the lion of the tribe of Judah AND He is the sacrificial lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. He wears a crown of honor and glory, a crown of gold AND He wore a crown of thorns. He will give us the crown of righteousness, the crown of life, a crown of glory AND He wore our crown of guilt and shame. He will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost AND He was given for drink a sponge soaked with sour wine. He will crush the head of Satan AND Satan bruised His heal.

He is the good news of great joy AND He is the man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

He has experienced joys in proportion to His sorrows.

He is Jesus and He has been with us like never before, walking with us in this valley of death, ever present, ever near, ever familiar with the sorrow and grief we now share with Him.

He has allowed us to feel the sorrow AND the joy.

The canyon of sorrow that was carved out in our hearts the night Luke died is wide, long, and breathtakingly deep. Many others are viewing, some up close, some from afar, but there is a particular spot on the viewing platform reserved only for Nicol and I. We share it with no one, except our Lord. Perhaps Summer will one day step over to where we are. It is jagged, dangerous, and terrifying. It is slippery and utterly unappealing. Cold winds swirl. Darkness invades its space. Sunlight cannot always find its way in.

But that same canyon, with its enormous width and length and depth, has afforded us unspeakable joys as well. Its vastness does also now fill up with once-thought "simple" pleasures of life. We've had glimpses of beauty ne'er 'fore beheld. The pitter patter of Summer's little feet when they hit floor in the morning have never sounded so sweet. Pushing her on a swing has never been so fulfilling. The sight of her tummy rising and falling as she sleeps never more precious. Her deep belly laughter has never been so hilarious. Our own laughter has never been a better remedy on a day when we are ailing, never been tastier medicine for our hearts. Nicol's caring ways have never been so obviously sacrificial, never more intentional. Her voice never so soothing to my soul. An out-of-the-blue phone call has never been so eagerly received. A day on the golf course was never so peacefully enjoyed. A fender bender has never looked so lovely. Past offenses have never looked more miniscule and insignificant. The longing to be with people has never been greater. The anticipation of seeing loved ones again was never stronger.

The love and grace and mercy and peace of God has never been more apparent, more tender.

The sorrow AND the joy have never been deeper.

And all this is by virtue of the triumphs of our Savior. He defeated sin. He overcame the grave. By His stripes we are healed. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. He will make all things new. His dwelling place is with us. Ours is with Him.

He will guide us in our sorrow AND He will guide us into everlasting joy.

For the joy that was set before Him He endured the cross despising the shame, and now having sat down at his Father's right hand He enjoys pleasures for evermore.

Prayer : 9808

Anxiety level: ELEVATED

We are still in Nashville and have some things we would like to take care of here before heading back to GA. I just spoke with a realtor, Suzanne, this morning and we will meet with her on Thursday or Friday. In the meantime, she and our friend Linda and maybe Renee too will do a walk-thru at the house and let us know what needs to be done in terms of staging and also to determine a listing price.

I am stressed.

"Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." (Philippians 4:6-7, The Message)

...for soul-rest
...for peace
...that we would entrust our cares and anxieties to Him and not try to carry them ourselves
...for good, intentional times with the Lord, so that all the above can actually happen
...for our return to GA as it can be very difficult being at the house
...for strength as we paint, pack, stage and so forth while getting the house ready to list
...that our house would sell quickly
...that the Lord would go before us and prepare a place for us here in Nashville
...for strength to take the next step, and the next
...for fun times with our great friends in GA

...for guidance in thinking thru a suggestion someone made here last week; this person made the excellent suggestion to write Luke's story in more detail; as I told them, it is something I've been thinking about but just haven't really had the strength to do; pray for me as I think thru that and other possibilities, that I would follow the Lord's leading and do all of this in His strength and for His great name

Saturday, September 6, 2008

On My Mind : 9608

Well, first let me send out a huge THANK YOU to everyone who was praying for us yesterday. Nicol's recording session went great... and praise God her cold was not an issue! She was really incredible, if I do say so myself, which shouldn't really surprise anyone. [ :-) ] What amazed me was the vocal strength she had, considering that she hadn't done much singing since February... she had taken some time off because of the pregnancy and was planning to get back on the road doing dates in June... but then our lives were completely turned upside-down and that plan went flying out the window. Her emotional strength was remarkable too. We both had our "moments"... but God multiplied his grace and peace to us in ABUNDANCE (2 Peter 1:2). That and your prayers are the only explanations I have for getting thru that session. Thank you for walking with us. Thanks too to Jason and Rusty... you guys are awesome.

On completely different "note" (bad, I know, sorry)...

Earlier this morning I watched several newsclips on foxnews.com... footage related to the presidential election. I've been following this process with great interest for several months now. I'm sure many of you have as well... incidentally, even though my intention is not to see this morph into a political forum, I would love to know your thoughts on this year's presidential race. Anyway, I've tried to keep up with things consistently and intentionally, beginning with the primary races and, most recently, by watching as much of both conventions as time has allowed.

While I have my preferences politically-speaking, and while I do know the ticket I will "punch" in November, I am intrigued with several Scriptures that the Spirit seemed to bring to mind this morning as I watched clips on everything from Elisabeth Hasselbeck's thoughts on Sarah Palin to Newt Gingrich defending his side to Alan Colmes defending his to parts of Rudy Giuliani's speech at the RNC to Sean Hannity and Al Sharpton in a verbal fist fight to Bill O'Reilly offering his "no spin" assessments of the candidates to Sarah "Barracuda" Palin wowing her audience to parts of Barack Obama's acceptance speech to representatives from both sides defending their candidates to commentators and analysts who offered their insights and opinions to... you get the idea. It was a political highlight reel if you will, the presidential version of SportsCenter... which I need to go catch up on shortly. It's football Saturday!

The Scriptures? I'll list them below. No commentary. I'll spare you that. Just some interesting words to ponder... words that are neither "Red" nor "Blue"... words that seemed to be saying Hey Republicans, hey Democrats... you're both right... and you're both wrong... listen to Me, seek My face.

--The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. ... The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. ... Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned you rulers of the earth. (Psalm 2:2, 4, 10)

--My kingdom is not of this world... my kingdom is from another place. (John 18:36)

--Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)

--Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)

--The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or man during the next thirty days, except to you, O king, shall be thrown into the lions' den. ... Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (Daniel 6:7, 10)

--Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Proverbs 14:34)

--Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you. (Deuteronomy 16:20)

--Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (Leviticus 19:15)

--Do not deprive the alien or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. (Deuteronomy 24:17)

--May all the kings of the earth praise you, O Lord, when they hear the words of your mouth. (Psalm 138:4)

--By me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; by me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth. (Proverbs 8:15-16)

--The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases. (Proverbs 21:1)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Prayer : 9508

Just a quick thought here for you...

Please remember Nicol this afternoon as she will be recording... starting at about 1:00cst... we'll probably be at the studio for 4-5 hours. She started with a cold last Friday and it seemed to be pretty much gone by Tuesday or Wednesday, but she woke uo a bit congested again this morning. Please pray for strength (in every way, given the circumstances) and that this cold would not be a problem for her today.

Pray too for Summer... that she will have fun with her Aunt Shawn and cousins, Chase, Jordyn, and Jenna this afternoon... and, for Shawn's sake, that she will get a good nap! [ :-) ]

Grace and peace.
2 Peter 1:2

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Words We Won't Soon Forget

Yesterday I was thinking about some of the things people have said to us in the past few months since we lost Lukey. The power of words is incredible, and we have certainly found great and lasting comfort in what many, many people have communicated to us. As meaningful as words have been, I can't overemphasize the deep and heartfelt way that non-verbal "words" have touched us... a gentle touch, a caring hug, a compassionate look... or someone simply sitting beside us, saying and doing nothing... just being there. Presence is oftentimes as powerful as words and quite possibly more so.

You can keep checking this post every now and then if you find it interesting or maybe even helpful. I'll continue to update it as Nicol and I are reminded of some of the conversations, comments, emails, cards, etc. that have meant so much to us, and I'll also add new ones that stand out too. I'm including first names and a brief description of the context of each statement... hopefully that will add a little more meaning for you.

A tongue that brings healing is a tree of life... (Proverbs 15:4)
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. (Proverbs 15:30)
The tongue has the power of life and death... (Proverbs 18:21)

Lukey go? (Summer, shortly after she had woken up, at about 7:00am on Wednesday, May 28, the morning after Luke died)
Don't let this tear your marriage apart. Hold onto your wife and don't let her go. (James, the morning after, I called him that day to let him know about our crisis; ironically, we had talked just a few days earlier and he had to get off the phone very abruptly because he was "in the midst of a crisis")
I've been praying for you. (Aaron, my cousin, in a very meaningful conversation just days after Luke's death)
That's pretty disgusting. (Jeff, my longtime friend, the same day Aaron called; he just couldn't believe this had happened) ==========
I'm praying for you brother. Call me anytime and if you need me to fly down there you let me know and I'll be there. Anything you and Nicol need. I'm here for you. (DC, our wonderful friend from Washington, DC, a day or two into this dreadful ordeal)
Hold him!!! (Summer, at the church in a private viewing room the day of the funeral; it was the first time she saw Luke since the evening he died, and yes, she wanted his pacey!)
If Jesus himself walked into this room and explained why Luke died, it would not take away your questions and it would not ease the pain that you and Nicol are experiencing. (Clayton, my mentor and our friend, as he spoke at the funeral)
You can't blame yourself. It was his time. The Father called him home. Don't try to make sense of it. Don't try to understand it. We can't understand this. (Meeca, Nicol's amazing doctor and our wonderful friend, during a conversation in which Nicol was sharing her overwhelming sadness and guilty feelings)
I'm so sorry I never had the chance to hold him. (Gram, the first time I talked to her after Luke's death)
There are only two things I know to be true right now... the Cross and the Resurrection. (Al, our counselor and friend, during our first session together)
My experiences tell me that you're going to walk with a limp. You'll be okay and you're going to make it. But you'll walk with a limp. (Al, during our second session)
This is the saddest thing I've ever witnessed. (Meeca, during a call she made to check up on us)
I've always said that if anyone deserves extra grace it's everyone who faces what y'all are going through. (Phil, our friend and colleague, after church one Sunday evening, about 4-5 weeks after Luke died)
You will heal. The pain will lessen. The loss will always haunt, always remind, never go away. But it will lessen it's grip. Time and His great mercy will eventually overtake the pain where you see more mercy than pain. It will take a long time. Between now and then, the only things you can do is, "do the next thing," and cling to Him by faith. (Michael, our friend, in a very kind and compassionate email on August 8)
The only process you need to be into right now is the grieving process. (Clayton, after some well-intended but ill-advised words from someone who hoped we were "well and in the healing process now")
We just need to help each other make it to heaven. (Nell, our friend from Chicago, sharing her own heartbreak)
You know this; lead me through it. (Al, quoting The Royal Hunt of the Sun, affirming the fact that God is familiar with suffering and He can and will lead us thru the valleys)
Sink into the pain. (Jan, speaker and friend over lunch one day, encouraging us to not ignore or gloss over the intensity of the pain we are facing)

I just received news of your loss. My heart grieves and borders on anger for your loss. I have a rationale mind that finds it very difficult to find peace and rest knowing mysteries like Luke's death exist and good people endure the most tragic of circumstances.



Tears form even now as I type ...

May God grant you an un-explainable peace in the depth of your soul and mind ... as un-explainable as the mystery of your loss.

(Troy, our friend from San Diego, in an email on June 2, 6 days after Luke's passing)

Words We'd Rather Forget

On second thought...

A quick update on this post. I removed the list of comments today (5 Sept) that were orginally posted here. It was probably poor judgment on my part to put them there in the first place. I don't want anyone thinking, "Oh boy, did I say something I shouldn't have." Some of you have written and said things to that effect... "if I said anything that has been hurtful, please forgive me." Please, please know that you don't need to worry at all.

One thing that stands out to me in your feedback is that everyone has at some point been the recipient of those occasional or maybe all too frequent hard to hear words that we'd rather forget. So please, feel free to share your thoughts here, even if that means writing specifically about things that have been difficult for you to hear. I think that would helpful for everyone... yes? no?

[ original post below, minus the quotes ]

As much as we have been comforted by spoken words, we have also felt the sting of comments that were well-intentioned but ill-advised or ill-timed or not-so-well-thought-out. Honestly, 99% of what folks have said to us has been life-giving and truly meaningful. Unfortunately, we have on just a couple of occasions had our hearts wrung with words that shocked us so much that all we could do is ask ourselves, "Did you really just say that?" It would only be later that we would realize that, yes, that person really did say that. Those words are hurtful, penetrating, and sometimes hard to shake.

I really believe, though, that the "words we'd rather forget" come from good hearts, from loving and caring people who only want to help in any way they can. Sometimes in difficult situations we just don't know what to say (I've certainly been there before) and yet we feel obligated to say something. That's where the "don't say anything, just be present" thing comes in. Presence is powerful.

I'm not including names here, except for the very first statement. I am listing the approximate timeframe that these things were said, relative to Luke's death, just to give you an idea of how shocking they must have been to us.

I'm not really listing these things for any other reason than to let folks know what may be best left unsaid in those "what do I say?" moments. Again, and I can't say this too many times, virtually everything that has been said to us has been so very loving and kind and understanding. But sometimes the negatives are hard to forget... and hopefully I won't have any updates to make on this post!

The tongue has the power of life and death... (Proverbs 18:21)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sinking, Wrestling, Brawling, Fighting

On Monday (Labor Day) I sat down to write about one of the dozen or so thoughts that have been stored in the "Blog Topics" folder of my Yahoo email. The subject that I was thinking about was Why do we rush the healing process? Have you thought much about that? To be honest, I hadn't... not until we were faced with the loss of our little man.

Well, I didn't get very far on Monday. I'll come back to it later.

The past few days have been difficult. If you read the post on August 24, "Grieving With Hope," you may remember these words: sinking toward depression, wrestling with despair, brawling with anger, fighting our fears. They were part of the piece I wrote for Luke's service. They are more real than ever these days.

Sinking, Wrestling, Brawling, Fighting

sinking toward depression...
a terrible pit
so deep, so dark
a chasm of brokenness
jagged, vast
rescue us now
oh, great deliverer
hold us close
oh, one ever near
whisper softly
your mercy, your grace
lift us again
we need you today
wrestling with despair...
why our boy?
why our son?
why our little man?
why our Lukey?
why him?
how can it be?
who can know?
what now?
when will it ease?
whom shall we seek?
where shall we turn?
ah, to you
bind up our hearts
we need you today
brawling with anger...
this is not normal
this is not right
it seems so unfair
it seems so unjust
Nicol suffered with nausea 24/7
she had a c-section
the scar will remain
now her heart is broken
the scar will remain
no special dates, no worrying late
no first day of school, no first crush
no spoiling, no pampering
no singing, no writing
no mother should go thru this
Summer lost her brother
Summer lost her friend
no laughing, no late nights
no Christmas morns, no birthday parties
no bragging, no boasting
no protective big sister, no adored little bro
no daughter should go thru this
my son is not with us
I don't understand
no ballgames, no roadtrips
no popcorn, no pizza
no Yankees beat Red Sox, no Celtics beat Lakers
no me teaching him, no him teaching me
no father should go thru this
this is not normal
this is not right
it seems so unfair
it seems so unjust
soften us
we need you today
fighting our fears...
what if?
what next?
whispers, lies, irrational
how can we?
how can we know?
whispers, lies, irrational
are we safe?
are we alone?
whispers, lies, irrational
will it happen again?
will it end?
whispers, lies, irrational
can we avoid it?
can we escape?
whispers, lies, irrational
do you know?
do you understand?
whispers, lies, irrational
is there no mercy?
is there on grace?
ah, yes, yes, there is
calm us
we need you today

If you think of us today or whenever you read this, we would appreciate your prayers for...

-- deliverance from our enemy and his evil tactics... as one of my friends told me, "I'd like to say that the devil doesn't kick us when we're down, but he does."... true indeed... and he has been.

-- Nicol as she records this Friday... for strength, that it would be a comforting and soothing time... the songs are Home and You Are My God, both of which carry significant meaning for us... when we think of those songs we think of Luke... pray for Jason and Rusty too, who will be producing and engineering.

-- the sale of our house... we will be getting it ready to sell next week, which will be a difficult task in itself, with all the emotions involved with turning the page on this chapter of life... please pray that it will sell quickly... given the market, it's a tough time to be selling a house

-- a trip to Maine in the next few weeks... we haven't booked flights yet, but want to get up there to see my family... I think it will help us and them in processing Luke's death... also, we will see my father's mother, Nana... she's in her mid-80's and not doing very well at all... she's recently been place in a nursing home and her health has failed significantly over the past 6 months

-- housing in Nashville... we are considering renting for 6 months to a year... pray that the Lord would lead us to the perfect place, whether it be renting or purchasing

-- Summer... that she would continue to adjust well to all the change... she's done remarkably well and we are so grateful to God for that... but we also know it's possibly been more difficult on her than we realize... pray too for the day when she realizes the depth of her loss, that she would look to Jesus for help, that He would carry her

-- for help with the pain from the only One who can really help us... that we would depend on the the love of the Father, the tender care of the Son, and the comfort of the Spirit