Thursday, December 20, 2007

18 Years!

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Eighteen years ago today my life changed forever! It was a day that ranks in the top three most important days of my life, the other two paramount days being the day of my birth and the day of my re-birth! Eighteen years ago today, I took Maria-Luz Roda Bautista as my Bride. It wasn't an easy accomplishment! In the course of our courtship, she had turned me down three times! When she was finally convinced of my sincerity, we had to grapple with our respective governments, immigration, inoculations, her Mission Agency's approval, my seminary's approval, our families' approval and most importantly the certainty and conviction that we had the Lord's approval. Praise God, everything came together in God's timing and we were married just a few days before Christmas at Youth With A Mission's Balut Base in Manila, the Philippines, on a sunny and hot afternoon on December 20, 1989. It was a wonderful wedding. As the ceremony progressed it occurred to me that while I had given a lot of thought to marriage I had not given much thought to a wedding, but the wedding was just the kind I wanted - unique and personal, in an exotic location with a lovely woman who loved me and who was right by my side - all in the presence of the Lord and people who loved us.

That day, I took the beginning step of the adventure that is marriage with all it can entail - romance, passion, problems, insecurities, fatherhood, adult-childhood, triumph, failure, pride, shame, teaching and ever learning, laughter and tears. Luz and I have seen our family grow together, buried two parents together, and buried a child together. We have soared to tremendous heights, and trudged along life's terrible swamps. Marriage continues to be all I have hoped for and more than I can handle. When I look at what the Lord has done in and through Luz and me these 18 years, I am so thankful for seeing Jesus' power and mercy manifested in our lives. Without Him, our marriage would never have come to be, let alone survived 18 years after its beginning.

As Luz and I celebrate God's provision and grace over 18 years as a married couple, we will commit ourselves anew to asking the Lord to keep us abiding with Him. The marriage journey is a wonderful adventure, but a perilous one as well. We are as vulnerable as any other couple to the myriad of traps, pitfalls and obstacles that can undo any marriage, good, bad or ugly. We will not just be praying for ourselves, but for others who have embarked on this journey as well. Bringing a man and a woman together in the holy institution of marriage is a God-sized task. Our Almighty God is up to challenge and able to do more than we imagine or could ever hope for. Spend some time today asking the Lord to bless the marriages of people who are dear to you and please include Luz and Sam in your list. Continuing the journey in faith...


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Leave a Worthwhile Legacy TODAY!!

Last night, after finishing some everyday and holiday shopping,my wife Luz and I began discussing plans and strategies for the New Year. As we discussed our hopes and dreams for the approaching 12 months, we were careful to end our discussion with the prayerful refrain, "If the Lord wills." A number of recent events involving friends and family have humbled me and made me even more appreciative of life's unpredictability and brevity. One recent event in particular has given me pause to once again take into account that tomorrow is promised to no one.

One of my West Point Classmates, a wonderful woman named Jamie McCloud Perez, passed away on November 29 due to complications brought on by an autoimmune disorder. Jamie was an unforgettable person. Though I had not seen her face to since since my days on the plain at West Point, I had no trouble remembering her and had heard of her great success as an Army Officer and in life in general through e-mails and updates from others. She was a ball of energy, take charge, extremely witty and just generally "squared away". She never backed down from a challenge and had a can-do spirit that saw her through Desert Storm 1 and other challenges as well. When I read the Obituary and memorandum pages dedicated to her I was struck by how much she had crammed in to her too brief life - easily enough outstanding accomplishments for 2 ordinary people.

I don't think Jamie lived a life full of accomplishments for the accolades of others. I believe she did it out a a strong faith that gave her a sense of responsibility and purpose - that life is meant to be lived for today by doing as much good in each day as God can allow one individual to accomplish.

As you might expect, an unexpected passing leaves behind unexpected heartache and unanswerable questions. Jamie leaves behind a loving husband and a 2 and a half year old daughter who will not directly remember the kind of person her mother was or soon understand the legacy her mother left her. Nevertheless, the days will come when through the memories of others, pictures, videos and letters, she will become aware of just how wonderful a foundation was left to her by her mother.

The challenge for those of us who remain is easy to understand and important to reconsider every time a loved one or friend passes: We don't know when our time will come. A few of us will live extended long lives that will cause others to marvel at how we could make it for so long. Many others of us will live reasonably long lives that will see us into the senior years within the bounds of acceptable normalcy. A few of us - hopefully VERY few or none of us - may meet with untimely deaths that seem to leave dreams unfulfilled and missions unaccomplished. Whichever of these circumstances may befall us, let us endeavor to be the kind of people who do not leave the good we can accomplish today undone. Tell your family you love them TODAY. Make that donation to a worthy cause close to your heart TODAY. Kiss your spouse TODAY. Call your folks TODAY. Settle your accounts with the Lord TODAY. If tomorrow comes, do it all over again and keep repeating it until your final TODAY arrives. You may have heard this all before - I have - but the lesson of living for today is a lesson worthy of repetition.

Therefore, my tribute to Jamie's memory will be to follow her example of doing all the good I can and being a blessing to the greatest extent possible today and everyday the Lord gives me. If I am faithful in that task, perhaps I will be able to leave a legacy that someone else may someday find worthy of emulating. That's my desire and my lifelong prayer. What legacy are you trying to leave? Start working on it TODAY. Until next time,