The Sacrifice of a Father


This weekend we pause to pay tribute to our fathers. We remember them through the lens of our childhood and all the years after that. The lens may color those memories in all shades and colors because none of our dads were perfect. They were first of all men, born with a blend of each of their parents, seasoned with the family life they experienced, and mixed with their own skills, gifts, personalities, and interests.

Depending on how those things were stirred and combined throughout their lifetime, they became the dad we knew. We may have idealized them or berated them for the ways they disappointed us, wounded us, or abandoned us. We may never have even known them except through the stories and eyes of someone else.

Nevertheless, they became one who influenced our own selves and who we are today, whether good, bad, or somewhere in between.

My own father was born as the youngest of six children, one of only two boys. His older brother could have been his father since he was nineteen years older than he. In many ways, he became a model for my dad because his dad, my grandfather, died when my dad was only five years old. He was so young that he didn’t have any real memories of his dad.


He grew up on the farm where the family lived with a keen awareness of how hard his older brother, four older sisters, and mother had to work. He grew up with those values and that kind of work ethic. He also grew up with a considerable appetite for learning and education as well as a commitment to the Lord.

At age thirteen, something happened that changed the direction of his life forever. His older brother fell from the barn roof one day and was killed. With this tragedy came two very difficult things. My dad was needed at home to step into the role of his older brother to handle the farm and he would need to leave school and his love of formal education behind.

Since the farm he grew up on (as did I) was adjacent to farms of his uncles, they stepped in to help mentor him in the things he needed to learn for the survival of the farm and his family. His sharp mind and courageous heart soon became a hallmark of his character. Not only did his own family and extended family respect him, everyone in the community did as well.


His social life centered around his church and “the Grange”. I have more than a few memories of the stories he told about them and how he met my mother and postponed marriage until he could stop using his beloved team of horses to help him farm and purchase a tractor.

Even though loss had marked his life early, he never showed anger or embitterment. His gentle voice and quiet ways gave glimpses of the heart shaped by the Lord’s love for him who became the only father he would ever really know.

That heavenly Father would stand with him through the death of his first child a day after his birth. He would be there when his second son was born with several handicaps and disabilities. He would walk with him through job loss and the shame that clung to him as a result of never being able to finish high school.

Yet all these things he suffered forged his character and values that went deep into the soil worked up and fertilized by the Word he read daily. They created the unwavering commitment for me to be educated and go to college even when there was no evidence of the financial provision to do so.


His life was marked by his focus on his faith. His legacy is remembered as one of great integrity and considerable faith.

He was not a perfect man, but the One whom he trusted early in life paved the way for this fatherless boy. This One understood more than any of us can comprehend the meaning of the word “sacrifice”.

This Father’s Day I will remember his humor, the stories of an era long gone, the beauty of his singing voice as I stood beside him in church, and how he loved my mother. I will also remember the shape and feel of his hand when I held it and sought to memorize it as he lay dying more than twenty-seven years ago.


It has been said that a true hero cannot be measured by the size of his strength, but by the strength of his heart.

The strength of my father’s heart grew throughout his lifetime as the Lord he loved continued to put more and more of Himself into him. That will also always remind me of the sacrifice of the Father who is perfect and walks with and strengthens my own heart each day by sacrificing his own son for my sake.

“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.”

John 3:16 (MSG)


The Trouble with Time

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We never seem to be satisfied with time.

We have too little time or too much time on our hands. It is racing or moving at a snail’s pace. It eludes us as well as our hope to control its speed, quantity, or quality.

God set time in place at Creation to give us a sense of order and rhythm with day and night, sun, moon, and stars. Seasons help us measure it out as well and give us a sense of where we are in a year of days (especially if we live in an area where we experience all four seasons).

A new baby seems to have no sense of time except to know hunger drives each part of his or her day and night. No sense of time? Well, think about how often a baby can be convinced that nighttime is when he or she is to be awake and ready to play instead of the daylight hours we prefer.

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Milestones start to measure time − rolling over, first word, and first step − that moves on to first day of school and we are rolling along before we realize it. We are ever looking ahead to the next thing we want to be old enough or big enough to do, never noticing sometimes the precious limited gift that time is.

When each of us discovers that truth about time, we discover it varies by what course our life takes through time. If we need to be away from or say goodbye to someone we love, we become acutely aware of how precious and limited time is.

The trouble with time is that we never know how much we will be allotted to spend.

We become very conscious of time as parents. We want to get beyond diapers, teething, colic, and more. We want to see what all they can be and do and then look forward to when they don’t need us to drive them everywhere. With that first child we can’t grasp how quickly time will pass. Too soon they will no longer be a part of our daily life. Our home will no longer be their home base. We will plan all the celebrations as they head off to college, the military, or their own place and rejoice for them and with them while our hearts ache to see them go.

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Aging puts time in sharp relief. We finally see how quickly it has been passing. We are referred to as “elderly” when we often feel like the same person we were (not many years) ago despite the silver in our hair or the change of our pace. We long for it to slow down then. We want to see the places we were too busy to see when we were younger. We want to have the energy we expended trying to hurry up time. We come to value what we took for granted and the belief we would do something ‘later’ and recognize ‘later’ never came and now may be too late.

I have had sharp reminders about the trouble with time this week as I share in two very different seasons with people who are dear to me.

We prepare to attend our oldest grandson’s college graduation and look ahead to the time he will be in medical school many more miles away than college was. He is in another launching season and we could not be more excited for him. (We felt that way when our oldest granddaughter graduated from college two years ago and began her career as a nurse.) But we are wistful as well when we recognize launching into this new season means we will see him less often.

How is it that our children are now launching their children?

This week I also spent some precious time with my 93-year-old friend who is in her last weeks in this life. I savored the moments as I held her hand whether we were talking or just enjoying looking at each other. We talked about the truly important things − love for each other, thankfulness for our friendship, heaven, spiritual things − and she told me she was “letting go” and as I heard her words I knew it was true. We wasted no words or time in those moments.

We have all manner of devices that tell or remind us of what time it is, but they cannot tell us where we are on God’s clock. Scripture admonishes us to be aware of times and seasons. Matthew speaks of the times and seasons we are to attend to in Matthew 24.

32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

Matthew 24: 32-35 (ESV)

How well are we observing the times and seasons God has set for the return of Jesus?

Does it occur to us?

Do we see them clearly as we observe what is happening around us and in the world as a whole?

Jesus reminds us as He continues in Matthew 24:44:

44 “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Matthew 24:44 (ESV)

We do not know the hour and yet we are called to observe, pay attention, and be ready.

Perhaps the trouble with time and how little we comprehend is this:

“Time is so invisible, you never see it passing.”

Lisa Wingate

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The Truth of Our Story


Our stories are woven together one stitch at a time. Some stitches are tight, others loose. Each stitch adds a new color or shade, a new texture, or guide for the design.

Some would say that we are adding the stitches, but that would mean the patterns that develop are entirely of our own making. Some might say that others add the stitches or God Himself does, but that would mean we have no part in the creation of our stories.

Perhaps it is better said that our stories are actually an interweaving of stitches of our Creator, God Himself, as well as stitches that we also add to the fabric being created.

Though the patterns may appear random, they are made up of a collaboration of designs between God and ourselves. Some are purposeful and well thought out while others happen almost accidentally.

But all of them are important for it is our stories that we not only remember but also the stories that remember us.

We may think that others add stitches as well, but the fabric is always ours and it is our choices or lack of them that determine the weave.

Stories, true legends, begin in the midst of a setting, a context that tells us something about how the stories begin.

Some stories begin with “once upon a time”, but those are only the ones we call fairy tales, made up of imaginings.


‘Once upon a time’ stories seem always to have certain qualities and characteristics that pull us forward toward what we believe will be a certain end where the heroine of the story is rescued from the villain.

The trials of the heroine, the circumstances of birth, the twists and turns, which take her into danger, may vary from story to story, but the result we are looking for is always the same.

We look for the hero, the white horse, the one who makes all things right again.

Perhaps our own stories do not begin with those words because we have no belief we are royalty or that a prince has already rescued us. Therein lays the snare for us all, for the exact opposite is the truth.

We are indeed royalty, but have forgotten who we are (if we ever knew) or the truth has been hidden or stolen from us.

So our stories take us on paths that are often rocky and full of danger and we lose our way with no hope of any rescue. It is the tale the true villain of all our stories desires us to believe. It is the tragic fairy tale we come to believe is reality.

The true story is that we are betrothed to the prince, now king, who will come for us to lead us into the banqueting hall beneath his banner and celebrate his love for us and ours for him. The true story is that we will ride into battle together to defeat the villain whose lies we have believed once and for all and the end of the story will be grander than any fairy tale ever written.

Our stories are far grander than fairy tales for they are made up of real moments. Some are lavish and ornate. Some are dull and gray. Some are bold and dramatic. Some glitter and sparkle with life. Some are dark and foreboding. Some are airy and delicate. Together they become the history of us, the present of who we are, and the hope of who we are becoming.


Long Way Home

Most of us have a catalog of photos in our minds from an endless variety of things in our personal stories or iconic photos that we can “see” without even closing our eyes. Examples of the latter include scenes of military men and women leaving or returning from overseas duties. Most of us recall the iconic 1945 photo capturing a sailor kissing a nurse on V-J Day in New York City. It’s appeared multiple times on magazine covers and news stories. There are other photos as well that do not paint as much celebration and none of them really can capture the stories of those in the scenes on film.

Lynn Austin’s newly released historical novel, Long Way Home, gives us a sense of such stories from World War II as she writes a story of a medic whose heart of compassion and strong faith saved more than a few on the battlefield after D-Day, but suffered the impact of the horrors he saw on those battlefields and in the uncovered concentration camps.

Jim Barnett was preparing to become a veterinarian and join his dad’s practice until WW II came along. His actions impacted the lives of many, but the toll was to fall prey to what was then described as battle fatigue after years of those horrors and freeing those held in the concentration camp of Buchenwald including a young woman named Gisela. When he returned to his home in upstate New York he was a shell of his former self, lost in the darkness he had sought to fight against.

Austin’s research reminds us of the unseen wounds that linger in those who battle on behalf of others, reminding the reader that one out of every twenty soldiers returning from WW II suffered from what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder. At that time there was little understanding and treatment subjected veterans to electroshock, insulin therapy, water therapy and surgical lobotomies.

Long Way Home lets us see how Jim Barnett’s faith in God was shattered through what he saw as well as how Gisela’s Jewish faith was also deadened. But one young friend, Peggy, whom Jim had shown kindness to and led her to faith, refused to give up on Jim when the doctors seeking to treat him wanted to use the painful and negative treatments available at the time. “Peggety” as Jim had called her was on a mission to save Jim along with Buster, the three-legged dog Jim had once helped save.

Again, and again the story grapples with the question of why God didn’t intervene or choose to spare the Jewish people and the millions of others whose lives were destroyed in any number of ways, why nation after nation closed their eyes and doors to the atrocities happening in Europe to the Jewish people. And how the care and compassion and faith of some result in a better understanding.

“The war and everything else that happened is because of what people chose, not God. He put us in charge of the earth. We’re responsible for it and each other. Even before America entered the war, there were reports of what the Nazis were doing to the Jews, yet no one did a thing. God doesn’t control us like puppets and make us do what we should. Ever since Adam and Eve, He lets us live with our own choices.”

Lynn Austin

Long Way Home reminds us of powerful truths relevant for all of us today in a story that will capture your heart and keep you turning page after page to the end and offer many lessons each of us can glean from.

“If He was loving and all-powerful, why did He allow such suffering? Was He powerless to stop it? It was as if those bombs blew up our belief system when it clashed with reality. Of course, the spiritual realm is invisible. God’s actions behind the scenes are invisible. So all we had to rely on was what we were seeing. But our enemy wasn’t just the Nazis. Satan’s ploy is to spread evil throughout the world and let it drive a wedge between us and God. His evil is most painful and dangerous when it seems purposeless to us. When we can’t see how God can possibly bring anything good from it…

The only light we’ll ever have in this dark world comes from God, If we turn away from Him, we’re left with darkness and despair.”

Lynn Austin

Don’t Forget to Add This

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If we are going to kick the habit of complaining and grumbling (or at least subdue it more effectively), we need to look at what is missing in our thoughts and hearts to combat the habit. There is no question it will be hard to break this pesky foe because some of the times we fall prey to it are over small things. They are what Elisabeth Elliott calls “humdudgeons” meaning “a loud complaint over a trifle“. But other things are major difficulties that will not respond to a quick swat by us.

Facing a job loss, a terminal illness, chronic pain, or any number of things will be hard to live with and not express any frustration or angst. I also don’t think God intends we deny the immediate feelings we struggle with when we are dealing with life not going as we would hope, but rather to dig into the reserves within us to discover He has not abandoned us, and we still have things to be grateful for.

One of the things that can open our eyes is to begin writing down the frustrations we cannot deal with. Somehow owning them before God and seeing them poured out on paper takes them from inside of us to look at them more clearly and perhaps even see God moving in the midst. One thing we can sometimes do is compare our challenge or trouble to someone else’s, but that really doesn’t help us address it effectively. We can end up judging ourselves for what we feel instead of laying it out before God and asking for his help to deal with it.

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One of the things that feeds this habit that would seek to undo us is not owning the feelings of other times in the past and dealing with them at the point in effective ways. If we fail to do that, they provide a fertile environment for whatever is happening in the present and then be more likely to make even small things seem catastrophic. Facing things as they occur, owning them, and laying them out before God may not change the battle we face but can bring us contentment and peace during the battle as we recognize our Champion is in the battle with and for us.

“When Paul’s flesh was tormented by a sharp thorn, he naturally wanted it removed. He made his request known to God, but the answer was No. God didn’t change Paul’s physical condition, He changed his spiritual one. He gave him what he needed more than healing. He gave him the high ministry of heaven called grace. Paul not only accepted the answer, he learned even to be very thankful for weakness itself, for ‘power comes to its full strength in weakness’.

Elisabeth Elliott

It can be easy to respond to that by saying that we aren’t Paul and that is true. But what made Paul the great builder of the Christian church that we see? Have we forgotten who he was initially, what he did and what it must have been like to be struck blind on his way to persecute believers? Have we forgotten that beyond the thorn in the flesh how many trials and assaults and imprisonments Paul faced? If we keep his whole life on the screen before us, we must wonder with respect how much all those things he would have wished never to suffer were the very things that forged his character and the greatness we admire.

The enemy of our souls would seek to create hopelessness within us. If we are to defeat the weight that pulls us downward into grumbling, complaining, and more, we must use a wider-angle lens and add gratitude to the whole of what we see.

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Maybe it starts with something simple by taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly and looking around where we are. Don’t just scan, really look. If we pause to do this, we will see things we had missed that we can appreciate and be grateful for. We may notice the sun peeking through the clouds outside our window, the feel of a soft fabric on our skin, the other persons in the scene beyond us and what their expressions tell us about life for them, and even the awareness that if our eyesight allows us to observe all those things there is a reason for gratitude even if nothing changed before we started this exercise. In that moment we will see more of what God wants us to see and notice and often those things will remind us of Him in ways we miss when life is easy, or we are racing through it at a feverish pace.

Sometimes God will show you in a practical way that He is your provision such as when someone ahead of you pays for your coffee or picks up the remainder of the grocery bill that is beyond your means. I had one of those little things happen today when I was going to fill my gas tank. Everything in me was upset that the price was thirty-four cents higher than it had been when I passed the station yesterday. I was far from grateful at that price jump, but as I was putting in my credit card at the pump a message came onto the screen that reminded me, we were reward members of this brand and asked if I would like to take ten cents off a gallon with this fill-up. No question on that one – YES! The other thing I noted was that even though the price was still very high, I sensed the reminder of the Lord’s goodness and provision, and my heart was grateful. His love is always looking for little ways to bless us if our eyes are open to see.

“Love has bridged the high-rises of despair we were about to fall between. Love has been a penlight in the blackest, bleakest nights. Love has been a wild animal, a poultice, a coat. Love is why we have hope.”

Anne Lamott

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:1-5 (NIV)
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