Hidden Daffodils

I was taking “the walk”. It’s that time where you walk around the yard, typically with one arm crossed and one hand slightly rubbing the chin, coming up with the plan of attack. Weeds are starting to fight for space, and a smattering of brittle leaves are hiding in corners. Yet, I hear the grass crying out, “Here I come! Brad, please make room.” And if you say you’ve never heard your yard talk to you, well, you’re not listening closely enough.

But then I saw it. Nestled between one of the bigger trees in my yard and the fence, a handful of daffodils had sprung forth. I was a bit surprised, as this is an area where there isn’t much sunlight or space. It’s an area where I wouldn’t expect to find this hidden beauty.image1

Now, I don’t know if you’re much of a daffodil person, and the more I write that word, the more I’m wondering when someone might come take one of my ‘man cards’, but I like them. Because of Mom. She loved daffodils. These early harbingers of spring would typically bloom right around her birthday, and Dad would always pick some and put them in a vase for her on her special day.

Next week is Mom’s birthday. This is the first since she went to be with Jesus last May. I don’t know what emotions to expect, but I know God will be there for us then as He has faithfully been all along.  But I know I was thinking about her when I saw those flowers.

Hidden daffodils. There were so many of those from Mom, and I’m still discovering them. Beautiful nuggets of love and wisdom that she planted in so many – in me – over the years. She was an amazingly wise woman. Many saw that, but I am privileged because I got to live learning from it my whole life. I can’t say that my younger self always appreciated this, but I can tell you that my older self definitely does.

And those hidden daffodils keep springing up. I keep hearing Mom’s words of wisdom as I walk through each day. She taught me more than I knew, and I count it a privilege and honor to be able to share those things with my children and anyone the Lord allows me to.

But why wouldn’t Mom have a life filled with these hidden daffodils?! She spent her life intimately drawing near to Jesus, and to His Word, the Bible. That’s the same ‘life instruction book’ I seek to dive into daily. And it is filled with more than most people know. It has so many ‘hidden daffodils’ that spring up in my life when I need them the most.

I still find it odd to write about Mom in the past tense, but I think that’s because so much of her love, her wisdom and her legacy is still so alive and active. Her birthday will be different, but she has left so many reasons to keep celebrating her, and the love of Christ that showed through her.

This year, I’ll be celebrating the hidden daffodils…

“How much better to get wisdom than gold,
to get insight rather than silver!” Proverbs 16:16


“Bells Across the Snow”

This morning, I came across a poem in the devotional book ‘Streams in the Desert’.  It says a lot of what is on my heart this first Christmas without Mom, and I pray it is an encouragement for any who may be missing a loved one this Christmas.  Even in the midst of missing Mom and some ‘hidden tears’, it does my heart good that the “thrill of Hope” remains…because of Jesus!  We can still celebrate God showing up in the form of a baby, sent on a rescue mission for us.  What an amazing celebration Mom must be having!


O Christmas, merry Christmas,
Is it really come again,
With its memories and greetings,
With its joy and with its pain!
There’s a minor in the carol
And a shadow in the light,
And a spray of cypress twining
With the holly wreath tonight.
And the hush is never broken
By laughter light and low,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
’Tis not so very long
Since other voices blended
With the carol and the song!
If we could but hear them singing,
As they are singing now,
If we could but see the radiance
Of the crown on each dear brow,
There would be no sigh to smother,
No hidden tear to flow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

O Christmas, merry Christmas,
This never more can be;
We cannot bring again the days
Of our unshadowed glee,
But Christmas, happy Christmas,
Sweet herald of good will,
With holy songs of glory
Brings holy gladness still.
For peace and hope may brighten,
And patient love may glow,
As we listen in the starlight
To the “bells across the snow.”

—Frances Ridley Havergal

My Painted Tree

We have a tree in our yard that is one of my favorite things.  Sure, a tree might be no big deal to some, but it means a lot to me.  I have always loved the changing of seasons, especially seeing the leaves change color each autumn.  I think it started with the story my mom and dad would tell me growing up.  They would tell us that the angels came out to paint the leaves at night when the weather got cooler.  That was always such a cool picture to me.  It didn’t help me ace my science exams, but still a memorable story from my childhood.

I love seeing the changing colors of the leaves, but I haven’t always been able to do that.

In 1996, I moved to where God called me – a Native American reservation in Arizona.  God said “Go”, and I went.  I lived there until September 2010.  These were absolutely amazing years with some of the most incredible people you’d ever meet.  But, if you know much about, well, the desert, you know tall trees with leaves are kinda tough to come by.img_5669

For almost 15 years, autumn came and went without seeing much color.  Sure, there were times I’d be driving out of state and see some of the leaves, but didn’t get to see the unfolding handiwork of the “angels painting”.

When God said “Go” again in 2010, my wife and I started looking for a house in a new place.  Having lived in other peoples’ spaces for many years, we definitely had a list of things we were looking for.  We had ideas about a yard (mowing lawns wasn’t a big business in AZ), a basement (moving to tornado country), and other things.  However, nowhere on the list was a tree.  Of course, we wanted trees, but we didn’t have specifics in mind.

A few weeks after we moved, the angels started painting.  The area around us lit up with color, and it was amazing.  But no tree was amazing as my tree…and that is true to this day.  See, even though we didn’t know it, God led us to a house that has a tree right next to it that turns an amazing red every fall.  Without fail, it’s one of the first to get ‘painted’, and one of the last to lose all its color.

As I drove out of my driveway the other day, I put the car in park and just looked.  It was stunning!  The way the sun was hitting the leaves, the bright red of the leaves.  Stunning.  And I was overwhelmed with God’s faithfulness.  I have seen His handiwork time and time again – in hospital rooms, in financial provision when funds were so tight, in bringing Sara and me together.  But I see it in what many would call the ‘small things’, too.

And I see it in my painted tree.  God knew how much that tree would mean to me.  We looked at some good houses when we were searching, but it was clear this was the one for our family.  God is so good.  He picked that house for us, and He grew that tree, and He sends His angels to paint those leaves year-after-year, bringing a smile to my face.

He’s faithful to me, He’s faithful to our family, and God – who created you, too – will be faithful to you. The Bible says it best: “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5). It might not always look like what you think it should look like, but God’s got a painted tree waiting for you, too.

When the Delivery Goes Wrong

17876728206_265c2e4acc_kComedians know about needing a good delivery.  UPS and FedEx have a business that rises or falls with how they nail the delivery.  And if it wasn’t clear before, the Army now knows firsthand how tricky it can be to land the delivery.

Just a couple of days ago, the Army was delivering Humvees – not on the road or by boat, but from the sky.  This Airborne Division was doing what they had done before, making the delivery of these heavy vehicles from above, dropping them with parachutes attached out of the plane, where they would float gently to the ground.  Or not.  This time, the delivery went way wrong.  Three of the Humvees broke away from their parachutes, plummeting to the ground and smashing into thousands of pieces.

For sure, the vehicles were needed, but the delivery was wrong.  The impact was fast and furious, and the result was clear.  An unintended mess.

I couldn’t help but think of those times in my life when I’ve had news to deliver – important news, life-changing news – but the delivery was wrong.  Whether it was because I hadn’t thought through what I wanted to say, or my heart was in the wrong place, it all ended with an unintended mess.

That happens a lot, especially in today’s world.  People who love Jesus, and have the most important delivery of all – the Gospel – wind up with a mess on their hands.  This can happen for lots of reasons.  It can happen because of fear, worrying about the anger that might come when we share God’s Truth.  It can happen because we don’t think through what we’re going to say, or haven’t had help in how to share the Good News about Jesus.

But, there are also a lot of times the delivery is wrong because the person carrying the message just doesn’t care enough to get it right.  “I’ve got something to say, and people need to listen!”  Sound familiar?

Let’s be clear that when we carry the Good News of Jesus Christ, it is the most important message.  It’s a life and death message.  And when we are trying to correct a brother- or sister-in-Christ who is living outside of God’s boundaries, that is a hugely important message, too.

We need to speak the truth.  In a world where “truth” is being redefined on an almost daily basis, God’s children must stick to His Word.  But, we need to make sure the delivery is right.   Ephesians 4:15 says, “…we will speak the truth in love.”

Step one:  Speak the truth.  Step two:  In love.

When the delivery is wrong, our words crash down like those Humvees, leaving holes – not in the earth, but in people.  And a big, unintended mess is left.

So, look to Jesus.  See how He talked to people.  Learn from Godly leaders you trust.  When we get the delivery right, it changes lives, and it changes us.  Don’t shrink back from fear, or because of previous messes.  Speak the truth, and speak it boldly!  Just make sure the love is there, too.

The Roller Coaster Church

I’ve been at this for a lot of years. People have all sorts of opinions on the matter. Some love it, some rail against it. Some view it as a regulation, some a privilege. For me, it’s always been a part of my life – church.

Almost everyone has a reaction to that word. Church. Joy, frustration, love, hurt, peace, defensiveness. So many emotions are tied to that one word. I’m not writing a lot of words here to defend church or everything various people in various churches have done over the years. And this isn’t me writing to tell you why you should go to church.

I’m just writing because it’s part of my story. It was part of the first half of my story, and it certainly is part of the second half. And honestly, it brings a smile to my face to write about this. Not because of a building, but because of the part it has played in me experiencing more of the incredible plan Jesus has for me.

I grew up in an area with plenty of churches around. The great things was, I felt the one my family went to was one of the best. They say hindsight is 20/20, and even looking back, I still feel that way. The biggest challenge? It set a high standard for other churches I’d attend in my life to live up to.

I went to a good church in college, where the pastor not only taught the Word of God but lived it. I’ve been to small churches while on the mission field that were filled with amazing people who loved like Jesus (and could host a mean potluck!). And I’ve found many friends at a bigger church, filled with people passionate about reaching those the world has forgotten.

Many great experiences, and I could write many blogs about what I learned along the way from each of those churches. And yes, I’ve also been to some churches that I didn’t connect with for various reasons. I’ve learned from those, too.

Now, we go to a churchroller coaster that used to have a roller coaster next to it. Yup, a real, wooden roller coaster. That’s kinda fun. It’s a church that feels so much like home to us. The worship, the teaching, the laughter, the overwhelming encouragement of marriages and families – it’s simply beautiful. I’ve heard some say that the closer they get to a church, the more they are turned off because of the “ugly side” they see behind the scenes. As we have experienced more of this part of the body of Christ, it’s been just the opposite. The closer we get, the more we love it, and the more we want to be a part of serving.

All of that said, this isn’t about one specific church. In fact, it’s about many churches, filled with people and experiences who have helped me live a life that gets more exciting with each passing year.

A good church should remind you of the early Church that the Bible talks about in Acts 2 –
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals…and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity — all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people.”

Maybe you’ve gone to a roller coaster church before…but not the fun kind. You’ve seen ups-and-downs that have caused you to leave church in the rear view mirror. I’d encourage you to pull over, turn the car around, and maybe give this all another look. There is no perfect church here on earth, and if you’re looking for problems, you will most likely find them.

But, if you’re looking for a place to belong, a place with people who will love you, and a place that can help you find pieces that seem to be missing, you can find that, too. It might not be the first church you check out, or the second, or the third, but when you find the right fit, well, you’ll want to tell others that part of your story. Don’t give up. It’s worth the effort.

When all is said and done, people could argue with me about an “institution” that has been flawed, but I know it isn’t about an institution. It’s about a Savior. It’s about Jesus Christ, and when a church has that right, you can’t wait for Sunday!

My Christmas Train

There are toys, and then there are trains. Toys are fun, but trains bring out something else. Maybe it’s the feeling of nostalgia, or maybe it’s the delusional thinking that I could just step on a locomotive and successfully operate it.  Either way, one of my favorite moments each Christmas is when we pull out the Lionel O-Gauge and set it up under the tree.

This isn’t anything new. Every Christmas back in New Jersey, my dad would set up his Lionel train, and it was always amazing. I remember early on just watching as he would operate it, making stops at the station or loading the plastic cows into the cattle car.

Then the big day came – he let me drive it! As I started lifting the orange lever that made it go faster, I noticed the black line that had been drawn about two-thirds of the way up the lever.  Dad had one rule: “Don’t push the speed past that line.”  “Okay, Dad.  No problem,” my prepubescent voice replied.

Of course, that didn’t last long.  As the days went by, I got mIMG_1772ore and more curious.  And the train started inching faster and faster. Then, as it was cruising at speeds I’d never attempted, the Lionel hit “Dead Man’s Curve”.  I call it that because I knew I was a dead man as the locomotive went careening off the track.

Dad and I talked after that. I believe I even got called to “his study” (let’s just say my brother was familiar with this place from bad grades he had received).

Did dad let me play with the train again?  Fortunately, yes. He believes in second chances (and third, and fourth, and…). But I knew not to push past the line the way I had.

I learned something important about Dad and his Lionel. He didn’t put the line on the controls to keep me from having fun. He put it there because he knew that pushing too far past the line would do damage to something valuable.

As I grew older, I pushed past the line too many times – in what I would watch, in relationships, in how I handled anger. And I wound up damaging something valuable – me.

My Heavenly Father has drawn out lines for me…for everyone. Some people just grumble and call these “rules”, and claim God doesn’t want them to have fun. But I have lived the reason for these lines. God didn’t put these in place to keep me from having fun. He put them there so that I can live a life without regret.  And “enjoy life to the full” (John 10:10). If I’ll live His way instead of mine.

I was pretty grateful that my dad helped me get the train going again, and gave me another shot to do it right. I’m eternally grateful that my Heavenly Father does the same.  Those mistakes I made growing up?  And the new ones I make? He has forgiven me and made me new. He’s right there to help me get back on track, to forgive me, and to help me get it right the next time.

The more I live, the more thankful I am for those lines.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

My DeLorean and me

There’s a part of me that still hopes to see a DeLorean in the sky someday. Sure, it didn’t happen on October 21, 2015, but maybe there’s still hope for a flux capacitor.

Like thousands of others in movie theaters and living rooms across the country, I sat and watched “Back to the Future II”. It was too surreal to not watch a movie from 1989 about the future on the actual day they traveled to in the future (sure, that makes sense) – October 21, 2015.

I expected to laugh, and have some “whoa, they got that right” moments, but I didn’t know what else was coming.

I found myself thinking back to the 16-year-old who first saw that movie in 1989. I don’t know how I felt when I saw “2015” on the screen, but I’m guessing it was something like, “Wow, that’s, like, forever from now.”

But forever came fast.

It seems like the blink of an eye since those days, yet so much has unfolded in my life. I went to college aimage1nd met the love of my life. I lived among incredible Native Americans for nearly 15 years. I’m the dad to three beautiful children.  I’ve seen my nephew need open-heart surgery at two days old, and my own son need abdominal surgery at three-days old. And, through it all, I’ve seen God do some absolutely amazing things.

Twenty-six years passed by. Just like that. It was filled with memories, challenges, and joys that I probably would have been freaked out by if Doc Brown had shown up and told the 16-year-old me all of it.

Finally, my thoughts turned to 2041 – another 26 years down the road. I don’t know what is on the road between now and then, but I can’t wait for the adventure.

And I’m so grateful that no matter what comes, I have a God who loves me, who has a  plan for me (Jeremiah 29:11), and who I get to spend forever with because of Jesus.

Who knows? Maybe there will be a DeLorean waiting for me in Heaven…