Remembering My Dad Ten Years Later

Today, March 25, 2018, marks the 10th anniversary of my Dad’s passing. It’s hard to fathom that ten years have gone by since my Dad’s death from the effects of a massive stroke. He had his first major stroke in the Fall of 2003. It was debilitating.

I remember standing at the end of his hospital bed back in 2003, realizing that he didn’t recognize me. He had no idea who I was, what our relationship to each other was, or why I was standing at the end of his bed. The stroke had robbed him of the ability to have any short-term or long-term memories. So everything he learned, he forgot immediately. Everything he knew, he no longer remembered. His death nearly five years later, while difficult in many ways, was a blessing in disguise.

 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness. 

Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

I’ve watched my Mom blossom and grow tremendously after she faithfully took care of him during his most difficult years. She modeled the harsh reality of “for better or for worse” during those years. Both Terri and I were amazed how well she took care of him and how valiantly she took on the challenges that my Dad’s initial stroke brought to her doorstep. In the ten years since, we have seen Mom bloom.

My Dad worked hard. He had lifelong friendships. He helped others. He tried to be the best Dad he knew to be. Living in the East Prussian seaport of Pillau, near the city of Königsberg during the Second World War, Dad grew up quickly. With his own father away at war, he found himself becoming the man of the house at an early age. He learned early in life what it meant to sacrifice and suffer as he and his mother fled his boyhood home a few weeks after Christmas nearly dying on a ship bound to Denmark in early January 1945. Dad had not yet turned 10.

Both my parents are survivors of a war that did not involve them yet changed the course of their lives forever. Dad never talked about his experiences during the war, with the exception of a few stories, like watching a headless woman running in the streets carrying her newborn child after a bomb had detonated near her. No doubt these early experiences changed how a once innocent boy viewed the harsh world he called home.

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I imagine these early childhood experiences shaped his disdain for war and his preference for reason in matters of faith. How could they not. He loved machines and math. He knew what to do with machines, naturally gifted in understanding what makes them tick. For him, machines were trustworthy in an untrustworthy world. He knew the Bible, yet had no real love for religion. He favored learning to make up your own mind over indoctrination. His childhood had taught him that life spared no quarter.

From the numerous people he influenced and mentored, I learned that he was generous in sharing what he knew once you proved to him you were worth investing the time to teach.  He wasn’t an easy man. He was exact. He was super-organized, always knowing if anything was the least bit out-of-place. Dad had no use for dishonest people.

When I was a young boy, my Dad was my hero. Somewhere along the way, we grew apart, not seeing eye-to-eye on nearly anything. Like him, I was and always have been headstrong. We never stopped trying though. Over the years, I grew to love my Dad. I think he grew to love me. I know that today, I miss him and wish he were here. I don’t know if he was a believer. I have no real evidence to say that he was. But I do know God’s grace is immeasurably greater than anything we can imagine and that with God all things are possible. Therefore, I look forward to seeing Dad in Heaven one day. I’m sure we’ll both be pleasantly surprised.

To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Philippians 4:20 (ESV)

 

God Remains Good

It is easy to focus on the evil in the world and miss the goodness. Evil sucks the light out of everything it touches, enveloping our lives in darkness, leaving us unable to recognize the truth. Yes, there is evil in the world. But the darkness has not overcome the light. The light continues to shine through it, piercing its veil. But instead of seeing the goodness, we focus on the darkness. That is just how we process a fallen world, in our natural state. Responding supernaturally amid excruciating agony is not our go to answer.

No doubt, evil works overtime to deface the image of God and destroy His reputation. Evil knows that if it can cause you to doubt the goodness of God, then it has won a victory in the battle between good and evil.  In light of heartbreaking tragedies, it is easy for us to be afraid and doubt the goodness of the Lord.

“In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.” Genesis 1:1 (ESV)

Typically, every time when our world faces tragedy brought upon us by a demented, evil madman (or perhaps it’s madperson in our Uber-PC age), shouts can be heard asking “Where was God?” or “Why would a good God allow this type of suffering?” as if the presence of evil someone discounts the power of God or worse, attempts to write Him off entirely, like He never really ever existed. But, evil acts happening in our world shouldn’t push us away from God. Rather, these horrific tragedies should cause us to pull closer to Him. Evil exists to counter the goodness of God. In spite of evil, God is good.

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God’s goodness is unfailing. God’s goodness is unceasing. God is truly good all the time.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1 (NIV)

God didn’t cause a troubled killer to walk into a school and murder innocent children. This blame game is not new or strictly true just of us. People have been blaming God for things He does not do for all of history. The Lord does not dish out a quota of misery every week. Yes, bad things happen. Evil walks among us. God’s heart breaks each time evil strikes like it did in Parkland, Florida last week and at Columbine over a decade ago. Our suffering pains God just as it does us. Jesus weeps for us like He wept for his friend Lazarus.

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About that time some people came up and told him about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die. And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you, too, will die.” Luke 13:1-5 (The Message)

In the midst of our suffering, we can trust that God is at work, bringing good out of that which the Enemy intended for evil. This is a foundational biblical principle. God is for us. He is not against us.

 

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

Don’t let the evil in this world blind you to the goodness of God. He truly is good. You can trust the Lord to deliver on His promises. You can count on God’s loving-kindness and His unending delight in us who delight in Him.

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The Trouble With Right and Wrong

I get up out of bed every day wanting to glorify God in everything I say and do.

Most days I fall short.

“Can a behavior be ethical but illegal at the same time?” my professor asked.

Interesting question, I thought. Ethics seem to be a tricky thing depending on what folks base their idea of right and wrong on. Ethics is simply a matter of right and wrong. The trouble is determining how to decide what right and wrong is and according to who.

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Legal and ethical behavior are closely related, like brother and sister. They continually cross paths, but do not always point us in the same direction. I am not sure how many behaviors are ethical but illegal. On the other hand,  I can think of several behaviors once considered unethical that are legal in today’s world.

The law condones some behavior, making it acceptable under the law, even though some people may consider it unethical. Conversely, something might be ethical but illegal. Same-sex marriage, abortion, legalization of marijuana, and euthanasia are current topics that come to mind when I think about what is legal versus what is ethical. I suppose that is where the standard we use to decide right from wrong comes into play.RBantau 2017

There was a time in our nation when it was perfectly legal to own a slave. Even so, that did not make it right or ethical.

In most States, marijuana is still illegal. However, there are studies that have shown that marijuana may be better in treating cancer than chemotherapy. If I had a loved one with cancer would it not be ethical for a doctor to treat them with marijuana if that is what helped them? It is certainly illegal.

Let’s take it a step further. Their cancer is terminal. Nothing will save their life. The only option left is easing their suffering. Would it be ethical for them to end their life if that is what they decided they wanted to do? Would it be ethical for someone to help them? It is illegal.

I think it is easy for us to answer these questions from afar; but we really do not know how we will respond until we face crossing that bridge.

We need a solid foundation for figuring out what is right and wrong. Our different government agencies dictate what is legal versus what is not.

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For me, personally, my faith provides me with a foundation of what God considers right or wrong. I believe God is the Creator and ultimate authority of the Universe. Therefore, it only makes sense that I rely on His standard for right and wrong (ethical behavior).

This may not work for you. You may rely on something else. Shrug. All I can tell you is God has worked faithfully for me even when I have not been faithful to Him.

I am grateful that whether I do right or if I do wrong God remains faithful in His grace and mercy toward me. He is faithful to love me even though I don’t always get it right.