As I have recently returned from my dad’s funeral and have been reading through different letters in the New Testament, I have been wondering what it would be like to write a letter to my girls about what mattered most to me. I hope this letter is simply a reminder of what they’ve seen in me. This is my legacy to them:
From Dad, changed forever by the grace and goodness of God, who foresaw all that I needed to draw me into relationship with himself and provided.
To my girls, whom I am forever grateful for each of you, even though you aren’t boys. 😛 🙂
May God give you all that you need to know Him, as well and fill you with his peace, joy and goodness, that you may live a life worthy of his calling. I pray for you, as oft as I do anything in hope that you may know God and the depth of his love, that you will live in that love and share it with others.
As you know, my life has been changed by the gift of God, by Jesus, Himself. For once, I did not know Him at all. I only knew hardship. I only knew change. I only knew one way of life. Now, I know a perfect, incredible, indefatigably loving Father. I was given a family, with which I wish I had not known. One that was filled with hardship, with overwhelming challenges, which I would wish on no one. I asked God before I even knew Him, “Why was I given this life?” “Why do I have to endure such difficulties?” Why did I have to lose so much?” I wanted nothing more than a new – a different family.
Then, I met Jesus as a young adult in Marine Corps boot camp and my life turned upside down. I was filled with peace and joy that I had never known before. God had forgiven me all my sins – my lack of forgiveness toward my dad, my pursuit of ungodly pleasures, and my selfishness. And he began to change me. He cleaned up my mouth and gave me new language. He filled me with wholesome talk and words for building others up and encouraging them. I hope my words to you have been the same. I know I haven’t been perfect with my words, but I hope they have left you feeling better than you had before you heard them.
He also helped me learn how to forgive my own dad, who I hated with a passion as a young adult. My dad hurt me for many years, even up to the very end causing me mental and emotional distress. I realized that I didn’t hate my family, but I hated my dad who pretty much dominated my family. But, God taught me about forgiveness. He showed me that I was far from perfect myself and that he forgave me. He showed me that He loved even the worst of sinners and that if I wanted to know his love and forgiveness, I must extend it to others, even my own dad. If I wanted to be like Christ, I must forgive even in the face of great pain. God showed me that our responsibility as His followers is to simply love people, not because of anything they do to deserve it, but because they are people – created in His image for His family. He not only changed my mind about this, but He filled me with a love by His Spirit for my dad that could only have come from Him. I felt it deep in my soul.
While my dad had done plenty to me to need forgiveness, one thing I have learned over time is that no amount of knowledge or wisdom or effort can make us perfect parents and we need the forgiveness of our children. I hope that I have done much to make you happy, healthy and holy, but I know I have fallen short of perfection and appreciate your forgiveness and love despite it.
Recently, coming home from my dad’s funeral, I remembered how I used to wish for a new family. And I was reminded how God gave me one!
First, God gave me His family. When I came to Christ, he made me one of His sons. He made me one of His children. He gave me His inheritance and all the privileges of being one His own. When I walked into my homechurch at High Street Nazarene, I knew those folks were family.
Second, God gave me a new family in YOU! He started that family with an amazing woman whom I love deeply: your mother. My dad used to be the most important person in my life (for good and bad.) Your mom became that person to me! She fills me with so much love. She forgives me for falling short. She supports me. She helps me. She serves me. She does so much for me and I know that I do the same for her, but it doesn’t really seem like it compares. She does way more for me than I could ever do for her. Mom has been the number one blessing in my life. She is my other half, my partner, my teammate, my lover and my friend. I cannot imagine life without her.
She gives so much, and then she gave me you! Each one of you, unique and such a blessing! You are my favorite. You are my children. You are my family. I used to dream about having a family like one of those 80s sitcoms. And now I have one. We have such fun together, laughing and enjoying life while learning through our challenges and becoming larger as we add new members.
Third, God gave me a new biological family, even. While my mom has always been a Christ follower, she hasn’t always been “allowed” to do so. Now, she is. I have three brothers and a sister who have professed their faith in Christ. I have another brother and sister, whom I pray will someday know God and His Kingdom. But, even in that, my biological family is new. We are not the same. God has changed us in so many ways.
I no longer wish I had another family. I love my biological family. I love you (my family.) And I love my family In Christ, for all those that know Jesus as Lord and Savior are my brothers and sisters. I love my family.
Now for you and your lives, I pray one thing the most: that you would know, love and follow Jesus with your lives. I wish nothing above this. This is simply all that I care about: that you would know, love and follow Jesus. You can have six kids, three kids, one kid, two dogs, and/or a parakeet. You can live in Alaska, New Mexico or Ohio. You can live in a big house or a tiny apartment. You can be a surgeon, a dental assistant or physical therapist assistant. You can drive a Jeep, an Audi or a Beetle. You can marry or be single. I don’t care. Choose whatever you will, but choose Jesus over all. He is our only hope.
This life is temporary and we will enjoy it or hate it or be confused by it or lost in it, but it is temporary. We have an eternal home and we get to live in it forever thanks to Jesus. And we get to start today. Eternal life with Jesus begins in the here and now. It begins when we trust Him, day by day, moment by moment. Eternal life begins when we put Him and His kingdom first and foremost in our lives.
Hell is literally separation from God and His blessing. I pray that because of my life and how I’ve lived it, because of my words and how I used them, because of my influence and what you want for your lives that you desire and pursue God and His kingdom so that you do not have to experience Hell.
Hell also begins in the here and now. When you choose self over God, when you choose hate over love, when you choose the world over His kingdom, you experience a portion of that separation. I pray that you know God and His kingdom above all.
“God so loved the world that he gave us his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
I pray that you would know that God is absolutely crazy about you. He loves you, He loves you, He loves you. He gave up his only son for you. He paid the price that you deserved. That we all deserve. He only asks that we trust Him. Put your faith and trust in Jesus and you will experience this eternal life today and forever.
Don’t trust in your good deeds. Don’t trust in your ability to follow his rules. Don’t trust in your church attendance. Don’t trust in wealth and things. Don’t trust in your profession. Don’t trust in your spouse. Don’t even trust in yourself. Trust in Jesus.
Jesus is the only perfect one, who provides the way to eternal life. Trust His words. When he tells you how to live, trust his teachings. When he tells you how to experience joy, trust his words. When he tells you what to do, trust his guidance.
Jesus is our Comforter in time of need. He is our perfect, heavenly Father who reminds us how much he thinks of us. He is our Counselor when we are unsure of what to do. He is our Rock, who gives us strength and foundation. He is our Leader who will show us where to go. He is our Boss who gets to call the shots. He is our Servant because he loves us. (He served us long before we ever served him.) He is our Everything, because he provides everything and everything is for Him.
That being said, we are to live lives worthy of Him. Lives worthy of being His children; lives worthy of His calling. We should be quick to forgive. Quick to give grace. Quick to show mercy. We should put others first. We should love each other. We need to put Him first and foremost in our lives and express that by the way we love each other. By the way we love the unlovable.
If you want to know more about how to do that, sit down and listen to Him. Daily. Spend time reading His word and talking and listening to what he might say to you, as you reflect. He. will. speak. if. you. listen.
Be. still. and. know. that. He. is. God.
(leave space for God)
I’ve written all of these things because I want you to know and experience all that God has for you. Nothing in life is more important. I love you and I wanted to leave these words as my legacy to you. They seem more important now, than ever. May you experience the grace and goodness of God. May you share it with others.
In my own words,