Sunday, June 16, 2013

This is my dad.

I always remember my dad as a patient and mellow man. I get my calculated, slightly perfectionist side from him. He is a carpenter and woodworker by trade and I've always seen him put a great deal of quality and pride in his work. (If you live in Eastern Iowa he's available for your finish carpentry needs. Gugel's Wood Specialties.) This work is who he is. Not that the work defines him or gives him his identity but rather part of his identity is displayed through his work. "Measure twice and cut once" is the common maxim in this profession and he epitomizes that value.

I remember it used to annoy me to no end when I would ask him a question and I would have to wait for his seemingly delayed response. He takes time to weigh the options and chooses his words carefully. I feel like his normal response time is somewhere between 5 minutes and 19 hours. I did often question whether he had even heard me. Like most children I always sought immediate answers and this was one of the ways he taught me patience. He has this ability to slow down, seek wisdom in his decisions and provide the answer needed, not necessarily the one desired, and that is one thing I appreciate most about him That ability is a derivative of his wisdom, which in turn has helped to cultivate more knowledge and wisdom in his life.

I respect my father as much as any man. He has always shown me love. He is patient and slow to speak but he is not timid and does not back down from truth. He was quick to speak that truth into my life. As a teenager I took the role of being a victim at the hand of my fun depriving parents. I tried to make my dad the enemy, one keeping me under iron rule. Nothing could be further from the truth of my father's character. Praise God for his wisdom later in my life that has reshaped my view of my dad into that of a loving disciplinarian who always had my well being in mind. Thinking back, the amount of freedom I retained did not correlate to my level of disobedience. Undoubtedly my dad's wisdom allowed me freedom while providing direction. He did not talk down to me and did not stifle my personality but he was there to course correct my character and endured the delayed manifestation of said character.

My dad is a man who has provided more answers to me without actually speaking words. I have seen him grow spiritually and in faith over the years. What an incredible blessing it is to have a dad who knows he must continue to seek God and grow as his son first. My dad is not perfect and that's what makes him so great. Dad, I love you. I am thankful for your example as a Spiritual leader, a patient learner, a follower of Christ and a loving father. I pray God continues to depart his wisdom on you and to give you vision of His Kingdom, leadership to advance that vision and strength to endure the trials ahead. God knew what he was doing placing you as my father. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

God Provides

As a Christian, God's provision is something I believe in. I was raised to trust in God to provide my needs. All to often we think this means God should give us this great job we want. Or He should give us this sweet car. Or He should help me win the lottery. (I promise God, I'll give a lot of it to people in need!) But God's provision doesn't mean any of those things. Do you need a huge house, a sports car or lots of money? If you do then I have to doubt your faith in God.

I believe any of us can examine our lives and see where God has been. See where He taken care of you in times of physical, spiritual and emotional need. I know I can.

Two months ago I drove over to San Antonio to see my friend Dustin graduate from Air Force BMT. I arrived at Lackland AFB just as they were praying at the start of the ceremony. There was a nice drizzle coming down but it wasn't too bothersome. The graduating flights were already set up on the parade grounds and there were several hundred soon to be Airman out there. All dressed alike. All the same hair cuts. All well out of range to identify. I found the "information" board, as I'll call it, and tried to locate my friends flight number. Is that last number a 7? Can't be, there aren't any ending in 7. Must be a 2, this handwriting is worse than mine. I still maintain that board did not have the correct squadron and flight numbers.

I watch the entire ceremony thinking several times I've spotted him but they can't wave back. At the end all of the flights parade in front of the grandstands. Ok, I think I know where he is. Nope, wrong again. Then they all line up again and the families are released to find their son or daughter. The Airman can't move until their families locate them. This is my chance. As all the families are reunited they begin getting on buses to head back to the BMT reception center. I stalk the buses to no avail.

Maybe I'll call him. Nope phone is turned off. I decide to walk over to the BMT so I head the direction the buses are traveling. The drizzle is a bit more persistent at this point and I realize I have no idea where this place is, could be a very long walk. I decide to go back to my car and drive. Hope there are signs. God, please help me find this kid. As I get back to the parking lot I really have to pee and there are restrooms there but for some reason I decide to wait until I get where I'm going. Trust me, this adds to the story.

I finally make it back to the BMT reception center and wander around for a bit trying to locate Dustin. God, please help me find this kid. I decided to finally relieve myself so I enter the restroom. As I'm waiting in line [I emphasize waiting in line so the next part is not weird] I look at the guy in front of me and he looks at me. We both look kind of amazed [see you would have thought that was weird if I had just said we were in the restroom] and he exclaims, "What are you doing here?" To which I reply, "Looking for you!" We waited to hug until we were outside.

Come to find out he was in the flight carrying the flags. The only flight to leave the parade grounds before the families were released. Sometimes, we need to be reminded that God takes care of the smaller things too. It wasn't going to do me any harm if I didn't find Dustin. [except the gas money] Sure it would have been a real bummer had I not been able to locate him but neither of us would have suffered greatly. Dustin would have just thought I pulled a no show. My pleas to God to help me find Dustin on a military base with thousands of people were sincere and He answered them. God knows our needs and he provides.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How do you love?

Love is often a word thrown around in today's society often leaving it an empty, hallow meaning. What comes into your mind when you think about the word 'love' often speaks to the condition of your soul. So how should we love? Probably one of the easiest ways to love is to show love through our actions.

This past summer I was able to have lunch with Grandpa and Grandma Marner. They weren't expecting me since mom had not told them if I was coming into town for sure. Of course Grandma was worried about not having food to feed me. (I think she still sees me as a growing boy and well, I may be, just not in the direction I would like.) I tried to reassure her the purpose of my visit was not to consume their food. I did eat lunch there and I did not leave hungry.

Often when you see someone for the last time you don't know it is the last. I wish I would have realized sooner in life how important time with loved ones is. I can say I always enjoyed family get togethers but that doesn't necessarily mean I always wanted to be there (or that I was there). If I learned so much in the time I spend with my grandparents how much more could have been learned? This particular example of love was especially wonderful to watch. The way Grandpa cared for her, helped her get around, helped her was a blessing to witness and undoubtedly loving. They joked with each other in their unmistakable humor, these are two of the wittiest people ever. I left there not knowing it would be my last normal visit to their house but I left there knowing their love.

How do you love?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Grandpa Marner

Often, wisdom is taught more through silence rather than words. Such was the case with Grandpa. He was soft spoken and thought carefully on the words that came out of his mouth. He set an example for his grandchildren in every facet of his life. He and Grandma always said, if there is one thing we want for you it's that you love the Lord. And they lived this out.
When you stayed overnight and Grandma and Grandpa's you knew what to expect in the morning. Cream of Wheat. And Our Daily Bread. He would read from that every morning, it was part of his consistency. Something not fully appreciated at the time by a young boy who could give them all the energy they could handle.
Of the hundreds of words I could choose to describe Grandpa the one I would use to represent them all is patient. As a child, when Grandpa would pray for a meal, you thought it possible to starve before he was finished. As an adult, it only exemplified his patience and desire to serve God and to be that example to his family.
He had a work ethic foreign to this generation. But he knew how to take time to talk with a friend. He would teach you to drive the tractor or stack hay and he never thought you took too long. After digging post holes I couldn't understand why he spent 30 minutes scraping the dirt off the post hole digger and shovel with a knife. Aren't you going to use that again tomorrow? I'm quite certain he only ever owned one shovel. He had no problem doing the tedious work. You would never find a stray rock or dandelion in his yard.
He was a fighter. His silent strength kept him going long after his body wanted to quit and he pushed through. He loved Grandma, that was always clear to me even when I wasn't aware of it. Over 62 years they were married. That's 22,807 days. 547,368 hours. 32,842,080 minutes. And I can tell you as sure as I'm standing here he loved her more every day of his life.
Not long ago, they were at a doctor appointment for Grandma. Grandpa had to kneel down and tie her shoe. He said, with that smile we all know so well, "While I'm down here I may as well ask you, will you marry me?" Beaming, Grandma replied, "I'm sorry, I'm already married to a good man."
I am fortunate to have had such a man as my Grandfather in my life. He is one of the greatest men to have ever lived, and part of what makes that true is that if he were here he would disagree with me.
As Paul said in his second letter to the Corinthians, "We know that when the tent which houses us here on earth is torn down, we have a permanent building from God, a building not made by human hands, to house us in heaven."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What is fair?

A few weeks ago I had the unfortunate opportunity to travel to Iowa for the funeral of Jason Marner. David (Jason's brother) was the one who called me on Thursday morning and told me of Jason's death. Sometimes there are no words, and sometimes that's okay. That overwhelming feeling of despair was instantly upon. Such things in life are not fair. They should not happen to one so young. I recall so many of my emotions from my 14th birthday when my cousin Shaun was killed in a car accident. We don't want to believe that this thing is actually taking place. It feels like a "cruel joke", our instant reaction disbelief.

When someone so young is taken from us we are left asking so many questions. So many questions that all point to the same big one, "Why?". It makes life seem all the more unfair. God, why was a life cut short?...Was it?

It is our instant reaction to proclaim such a tragedy, that someone at the young age of 22 (or 16) has been robbed of their life. I say, with the greatest compassion, that this is not so. They have only just began their life in Heaven with a wonderful God. Paul says in 2 Corinthians (5:1; 8) "We know that when the tent which houses us here on earth is torn down, we have a permanent building from God, a building not made by human hands, to house us in heaven. We are confident, then, and would much prefer to leave our home in the body and come to our home with he Lord." This does not take away the pain. It does not relieve the grieving in our hearts for those we love. But what joy and comfort we can find in knowing that our loved one is with God in Heaven. 

Life is more fair than we suppose. God has offered us a free gift of Salvation. A gift not without cost to Him, not without the pain so familiar to us. God sacrificed Jesus, His son, on our account. So life is not fair, not in the sense that bad things happen to good people, but rather that we are so filled with sin that we do not deserve the gift of Salvation, and yet it is ours. Jesus said, "And eternal life is this: to know you, the one true God, and him whom you sent, Yeshua the Messiah." (John 17:3) If nothing else, let the fact of eternal life drive you to share the gift of Salvation with everyone.

God knows our pain. God grieves with us. God is there to comfort us. God has made the fair, unfair. 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Is this the first time you've been back in a while?

Yes, I don't remember when. So many emotions flood back to me. The stinging cold is not noticeable. To be here in the darkness almost makes it more real. As I think on the 11 years, 5 months and 13 days I can't help but wonder what would have been. I can't help but to think of that day. How I wanted to have Faith but I let it slip away while I buried the remains of Trust. "God has a plan." Oh how my heart believes these words that my mind rejects. I could stand here all night. The details that even this place still brings. I consider it an honor when called by this name. How can I write words that I don't fully understand? My mind races with wonder. Who knows but He? As I fight for the answers that may never come. The pain may never be replaced. What if this was to bring me to this place? Why does a place, when in reality is empty, hold so many things? How can I still hide from what I know I am? We must be called home. Some things can never be understood as humans. But we are promised all will be revealed. Somehow my patience is not helped. It screams out. The Trust I have is not the Faith I want. The culmination of my turmoil is before me. To say I have come out of it would be a lie. My weakness is shown to me. The desire draws near. This fear is what holds me. To be caught up again would only hinder. The Grace is overwhelming. The Love is clear. To be great means there is not fear. For a page can tell you almost nothing. But a book reveals the plan. To know the promises will mean the end.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Take Some Time

I had the recent privilege to spend Christmas with my family. I haven't been able to do so every year since I've lived in Texas, so I consider it a real privilege. In the more recent trips back to The Hawkeye State I have tried to make it a point to spend time with my grandparents as well as some extended family members. (I don't really like the term "extended family". I understand its point but my entire family has always been close and it's one of the many blessing I remember to count.) It probably doesn't help being so far away, but it seems like my grandparents have aged faster and their health deteriorated at a more rapid pace in my five and a half years in Texas. For this reason, among others, I consider it a blessing when I get to spend time with them.

This Christmas was the first time all of my cousins and myself were in the same place in at least 6 years! One day we got to have lunch with Grandma and Grandpa Gugel and spend some time talking with them and learning more about them. Grandpa Gugel is 90, he has said for several years now it was his goal to reach 90 and now that he has reached that milestone he has reevaluated that goal to an even 100. :) I would say 2009 was especially hard for him with some ongoing health issues and stays in the hospital as well as finally giving up his keys and drivers licence.

We sat and spoke with him about his life, his childhood and Grandma Orpha. (Grandma Orpha died in 1978 and therefore I never knew her and have always known Grandpa's second wife as Grandma Gugel) My Grandpa is a quiet person, often reserved in his feelings and emotions but not afraid to speak his mind. I have only seen him emotional twice in my life. The first being when his grandson, Shaun, died and the second being just this past Christmas as he told us the story of the day Grandma Orpha died. He told the story in vivid detail, even pointing out where he had been working that day. He is at the point now where he will repeat things without realizing it and Grandma is gracious enough to let him speak without correction. As he told the story of that day for the second time it held the same emotion in his voice and on his face, as well as the same detail within that made it so personal. It's something I will never forget, at that moment, he was more true to me than I ever remember.

We also asked some other questions of his life some of which he could answer easily and some of which he could not and therefore responded, "My brain is full. There's just so much stuff in there I can't pull some of it out anymore." It was funny the way he said it, anyone who knows him can imagine him saying this. He was, for the most part, serious so we chuckled to ourselves and laughed with each other via eye contact. All in all it was one of my most enjoyable days home and I thank my mother for all the times long (or not so long) ago she "reminded" me to spend time with my grandparents.

What are some things you have taken for granted and where do you need to Take Some Time?