LIFE IMPACT: MAKENZIE AND QUINN

Makenzie_hatThey didn’t know each other and we didn’t know her.  Yet last Friday, we all connected.

I opened up my email and saw one sent from, “Quinn.”  I don’t know any one bearing that name.  Spam had spammed me I thought.  As is my habit on these junky occasions, I hovered my cursor and right clicked – ready to send it to that folder for the abyss.  Yet, in my spirit, I was prompted not to hit ‘delete’ but ‘open’.

These were the words staring back from the screen:

“We have never met before or spoken, but I just thought I would let you know how your blog, or I guess how Makenzie changed my life. You see, this weekend I am getting baptized and the reason is because of your daughter. I came across your blog and found myself very intrigued by your family’s story. After reading about Makenzie and her love for Jesus, I found myself wanting to give my life to Jesus. I just want to thank you for putting her story out there. I know it changed my life for the better and I am sure it has done that for many others.”

Once again, God used my daughter’s short-well-lived life to change someone else’s for eternity.  Once again, I as the dictator of the story feel immensely humbled by it all.  Once again, I thank my Lord for Hope-lived-out and His eternity breaking into Quinn’s history.

Thank you, Quinn, for letting me use your email and for following the calling of Jesus!

(Update:  Quinn was baptized this past Saturday!)

Peace!

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I’M ANGRY AT DEATH

Matt Stefan and Family

Matt Stefan and Family

I’m angry this morning.

I don’t normally wake up angry yet today I am.

A friend of mine who has influence and has influenced hundreds of adults and high school students died suddenly on July 4th of a brain aneurism.  Young, brilliant, creative and physical death captured him as he prepared for his day.

Funny thing is, Jesus is angry as well.  In fact, the morning that my friend died, my devotional reading was the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  When Jesus saw what death had done to Lazaraus’ family, the original language says that he was angry at it.  Many translations use the words “deeply moved” but the Greek says that it was an indignant anger.  Like when a horse snorts, that is what Jesus did (so the original language says).

Get that.  Jesus wasn’t angry at Lazarus’ family.  He wasn’t angry at the real or hired mourners or even that he chose to wait to visit.  Jesus is angry at death itself.  Angry that death causes pain.  Angry that death stirs up emptiness.  Angry that death shreds the emotional heart of people.  Jesus is angry at my friends death as well.

Yet death is necessary for life.  Death is glorious for those who know Jesus.  In fact, God says, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.”

I need to sit on that for a bit.  As much as I am angry, more so God is rejoicing and meet us in our sorrow.  Join me as pray for my friend’s family as I let the comfort of God’s Spirit quell my anger.

Peace!

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I WANT A DIVORCE

Photo by K. Karnez

Photo by K. Karnez

I want a divorce.

I’ve been married to you for far too long. You control me.  You run my life and I have no freedom.  When I want to go one way you force me to go another. When I want something better, you pull me back down. When I want to help, give, support and love, you weave your way into the fabric of my generosity.

And so, I am leaving you behind.  I know you will chase me.  I know you will want to stay with me but I will have it no longer.  I am seeking to be made new, washed clean and given life.

You are known by many names and given to fits of darkness.  And so, Pride, I am divorcing you.  Self-centerdness, you are moving out.  Hopelessness, Depression and Grief, you and I are parting ways.  I have found a new love.  Someone that makes me come alive.  Someone that stitches Joy and Humility together to cover me in a blanket of Love.  Someone who gives me Freedom that comes from Heaven and opens up a vast new territory of Peace.

Her name is Grace.  Birthed from the heart of my Savior, Jesus.  Given as a gift unending.  Not earned, waged or demanded, but poured out to me despite of me.  A forever lover through whom I live forever.  Joy is mine.  Hope is mine.  Love is now mine.

Peace!

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LOVE IS AN OPEN DOOR

Sunday Presentation copy.002Yesterday, my 17 year-old daughter Maddie, dressed in her flowing pink and sparkling prom dress and led the singing at a “Frozen” party.  (“Frozen” is a wonderful Disney movie recently released).  25 preschool through second grade girls (mostly) dressed up in their favorite ‘princess’ attire, danced around and sang at the top of their little lungs- word for word – all the songs from the soundtrack.  It was delightful and my high school aged daughter was stellar.

As I was listening to one of the songs, it struck me that God wrote one of them.  Yup.  It’s right there in the title and verses.  Love is an Open Door.

Here are snippets:

I’ve been searching my whole life to find my own place
And maybe it’s the party talking or the chocolate fondue
But with you
I found my place…
I see your face…

And it’s nothing like I’veSunday Presentation copy.001 ever known before!
Love is an open door!
Say goodbye…
To the pain of the past
We don’t have to feel it anymore!
Love is an open door!

Okay, the surface intent is to express the love between two lovers, but this is exactly what God promises through Christ.  In Christ, we find our place.  In Christ, we see God’s face.  We say goodbye to the past and -inserting a verse from Revelation – He wipes away every tear.

In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Implication… “I am the open door through which all people everywhere have access to a relationship with God and a new address in Heaven.

Love is an Open Door, and His name is Jesus.

By the way, here is a clip of a couple singing the song to the radio in their car.  It’s my favorite:

Peace!

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Makenzie: Five Times Now, Today.

32638547100I’m up earlier than normal again.  The last few weeks have stolen hours of sleep from me, most likely because of today.

Five times now, I’ve endured the turning of this calendar page without my oldest daughter Makenzie.  Five times now, this day has kept me from work, from happiness and from others.  Five times is five times too many.

39437192100I spend this day, like the four before, pondering.  Like Mary in the Bible, like many others of whom I now know, I think deeply on the meaning of tragedy that befalls us.  Like my fraternity of other parents who’ve lost their children, I pace through the same pictures and videos that fib and tell me she’s still here.  I want more.  I wonder what life would be like if Makenzie had not died in the car accident.  Would it be a good life with her?  Would she be safe?  What would she be doing?  How many lives would she touch?  Would she be in love, married? Would I be called “Pops” by her beautiful child?  I wander the halls of these questions today and I miss her.  Random pecks on my cheek.  Goofiness. Snorty laugh.  Graceful dance.  I miss all of it.

Five times now.  And I have to.

Yet even in the cloudiness of this day, God meets me.  He flips through the pictures with me.  He laughs when a shot reveals Makenzie’s goofiness and He tears when He feels the hurt I feel.  Even five times now, He does the same.  And my sorrow is His sorrow.  My hurt is His hurt.  He endures with me and promises good from bad.  Five times now, He has been faithful.

Makenzie on Easter Day!

Makenzie on Easter Day!

So today, I will spend most of it simply with God, talking about my ballerina and foolishly asking Him what she’s doing in heaven.  I will find a corner in a coffee shop nestled in an old river town and buy Makenzie an iced Frappuccino – she loved those.  It will be the 5th one I’ll end up throwing away, un-drunk.  And in my ache, God will meet me as the clock digits 8:08 tonight, the time of the accident.  And I will be grateful that Makenzie is alive and safe, waiting with God who loves her more than I possibly could.

Peace!

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God Will Stop Your Traffic

traffic-jamTraffic normally doesn’t ruffle my feathers. That one day, it did.

I was late for an appointment and I hate being late. You know the drill. Rushing out the door. Grasping at anything. Bumping into everything. Feeling like your world is on the verge of collapse. You neglect the goodbye-spouse kiss and speed backward out of your driveway almost hitting the 5th grader walking to the bus stop.

That day, construction rerouted me and the rest of Minneapolis onto a side street that led to the convergence of 5 opposite streams of traffic, cramming into an immediate two lanes that was pushed to one further up the way.

There I sat, wondering if my Honda could handle a trek across mountainous terrain to get to my looming appointment. This was going to take me forever.

But then I made a decision. I chose to look out the window at the bordering forestry. I chose admiration over perspiration. A large black oval shape caught my eye. It was the 10 foot diameter of a bald eagle’s nest with it’s resident sitting on the edge. It was a sight that was majestic and it filled my soul with wonder.

God has a way of slowing you down to see the things He want’s you to see. He is particular in the ways He does it. He is intentional in His timing and He is planned in His purpose for which He gives it.

What if the momentary traffic jam you’re experiencing is urging you to look into the forestry of His beauty? What if that overwhelming feeling is calling you to instead be overwhelmed by His love? What if a cluster of problems draws you closer to Him?

It’s only traffic. You’ll get there eventually.

“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry?”  Jeremiah 2:25, The Message

(By the way, if you live in the St. Paul area and want to know where that nest is, click here)

Peace!

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Part 4: Getting Healthy – Can I Do This?

I-can-doBefore I decide to coach someone on getting healthy, I meet over coffee to discuss their readiness.  In that initial conversation, the question “Can I do this?” often comes up.  Usually it is based on trial and failure from the past.

The question is not a good question.  “Can I do this” immediately put’s doubt and negativity on the table.  “Can I do this” attaches a ball and chain to any positive effort you attempt.  In my meeting, the potential coachee has to get to a point of not asking “Can I do this?”  but saying “I can do this.”

It is not positive thinking.  It is not some incantation that holds a magic spell.  It is simply a decision that you make in your mind to follow through, with help, until a small goal is reached.  Results fuel belief which causes us to take more action and get more results.  

The Bible says to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Every intentional action begins in the mind.  Every positive life-change that you control finds it’s starting line in the mind.

My little book, “Break Through Weight Loss” has so much more to say on this including never doing this journey alone and getting your mind right.  This is why I get people started with my 10 day jumpstart.  10 days is all it takes to see results.  Watch for more on that as well.

Next Post:  Now is the Time!

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