Dear Adrianna, Dad, your then three year old sister, Samantha and I welcomed you into the world on April 24, 1997 at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak. Your spectacular … Continue reading Adrianna, a.k.a. Ana, My Heart is Attached
Dear Samantha, Born on a Wednesday in 1993, a very early morning Wednesday; 5:08 AM to be exact, you arrived into the world weighing eight pounds, thirteen ounces and you … Continue reading To Samantha – My Love For You Is A Perennial Love
When I was a young woman, I heard a well known psychologist on the radio say that when a woman considers marriage she should contemplate whether or not her future husband will be a good dad. That made sense to me and so I did examine your attributes, in that regard.
The decision to marry you because I loved you wasn’t a stand alone reason. You have proven your devotional love for me for over thirty five years with unceasing loyalty. I have been the recipient of care and dedication to my needs and joys. But, the grateful heart lies also and equally in your steadfast commitment to our children.
You have worked tirelessly all of your life to ensure the well being of your family. The pressure has been off of us while you have taken the helm of responsibility for each one of us.
You are the unsung hero when we shine; the behind the scenes contributor of love and support that requests no glory. For all you do for our lives in motion, I wish you the happiest Fathers Day, Dearest Brian.
Dear Daughters, In a previous letter, I explained that I would not be emphasizing my intense love for you because I had determined that my undying love for my beloved … Continue reading Final Hours: Jesus Didn’t Say “I Love You”
Mix your knowledge with your love. Search the scriptures to know of God and to examine yourself. Be humbled by the Word and apply it to your lives.
The author of Hebrews is resolute when speaking to Christians who may have been considering a departure from their faith, due in part to their immaturity. The force of the direct point could not reasonably be mistaken.
“There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers for so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Hebrews 5: 11-14
Earlier in Hebrews (4:14), the listeners are asked to hold firmly to their faith. And it does follow that if you are to hold firmly to your faith, you should know what constitutes your faith. God seemed to have breathed into the Word here and elsewhere that, as followers of Christ, we need to have both the knowledge of the scripture and signs of life from the scripture. The two essentials are essential to one another.
That is, knowledge of the Word is fundamental but that knowledge without intent of application to one’s life is futile. The Bible isn’t intended to be read mechanically. When it is read without purpose, it becomes on equal plane with any secular subject. And even so, when studying a secular subject, let’s say… photography, you would be diminishing your experience if you didn’t mix your knowledge with function. It’s one thing to read about the technicalities and artistry of taking photographs. With certainty, you could dialogue about your understanding of the process but without a camera in hand and the actual act of making pictures, there will be limitations to your growth. Likewise, if you buy a camera but learn nothing about exposure settings and editing, your proficiency can remain dull.
Combine compassion and truth. Study the time Jesus engaged with the Samaritan woman at the well. There you will find an exemplary example of the blending of compassion and truth. At that time, also, Jesus made a profound offer. If we drink His water, we shall never thirst and we shall be sprung into everlasting life. How can we read something that compelling in a perfunctory way? Or, for that matter, how could we express our zeal for this life from God, life anew, without studying from where it was written?
Being a follower of Christ is not a mindless walk down Lollipop Lane. We must make time to examine ourselves and grow in the wisdom we have achieved through the study of the Word and apply, apply, apply.
In Romans 2:17 – 29, Paul speaks about the hypocrisy of having knowledge of the law and scripture but not living accordingly. He emphasizes that a change of heart produced by God’s spirit is above adherence to ceremony. It’s important to know scripture but unless it has taken root in your lives, it is a book on the coffee table.
Christmas is when God chose to make Himself known to us through a human being. That is what I hope you can reflect and meditate upon this year and during every subsequent year around this time; that Jesus is the supreme revelation.
There really never were smiling cows at the scene. You’ve seen a wide range of depictions. We know, though, that the circumstances were direr. Joseph, the father of Jesus, did not have the money or the clout to get his wife, Mary, a decent room at the Inn. Jesus was born in a feed trough where dirt and the smell of urine permeated.
How are you impacted by this? What does this do to your mind? What does this do to your heart? God, the God to which scripture tells us cannot be directly looked upon for the intensity of His glory would kill us. So, His Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
He did not come to us born into a grand palace; there was no majesty to His life here. God stripped His brilliance. That is Christmas. During His ministry, He was broken, rejected and betrayed. The circumstances around the birth of Christ point us toward humbleness.
We live in a post Genesis 3 world and that means our lives are filled with struggles. When you feel as if the ice under your feet is cracking, turn toward this historical account; the detailed retelling of the birth of Jesus and study His life and his teaching. Your head could explode from the gift of all of this. He came so you could have permanent citizenship, interwoven in the glory you can not now withstand, eternally.
Of course, we celebrate Christmas in ways that are far off from the message of meekness from which it began. We are in this world so please don’t complain and moan about how off track we have gotten. Take the opportunity of the time to really love people. And take time for you, to express gratitude to God for becoming the Word on our behalf.
In the midst of the activity of Christmastime, keep your eyes on things above. Honor the pace of God in the lives of others and in your own life and join others in their merriment with your grounded heart; one filled with humility and love.
I pray for you both to churn your spiritual knowledge into wisdom and to remain grateful for the incarnation of God on earth. Merry Christmas to my beautiful daughters.
Dearest Samantha and Adrianna,
The grand artist, God, created us in His plan with free will. People often question that formation of us and protest the results, as well. I suppose in some peculiar sense, life here would be more manageable if we could be programmed but God didn’t envision robotic creatures in His design.
The difficult consequence of the gift of free will is that people can choose to misalign themselves from the light. However, without choice, how could we love? No question, we can easily look around and see heart wrenching evil and wonder, “How can God allow this?” Children and adults in private households are being abused. Cold and calculated acts of hate and murder make up the daily news. Genocide of religious and ethnic groups is taking place around the globe, not just in history but right now. With intention, there are charlatan characters ready to pounce on unsuspecting victims with no remorse. We steal, lie, cheat and destroy. Why would a good God permit the mayhem?
When you were both growing, I would instruct you. My aim did not always match the outcome. I may have asked you to clean your room and you may have chosen to not do the task. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t want you to clean your room. It means that you chose to not follow my instruction. God, likewise, instructs us. It is his desire that we will follow the teaching of Christ. If we choose not to do so, it doesn’t mean that God is not good. It means, with our free will, we chose to not oblige Him.
Of all the precious gifts given to us by God, I do find I am most grateful for my free will, albeit it is also the weightiest gem of all. It was this very element that twisted an angel into a fallen angel. I struggle, like most of us do, with this prize. Yet, I can’t ponder the possibility of any creativeness, joy, fellowship, desire or empathy that could even exist without it in any of our lives.
Daughters, as you go on, we know one thing for sure. You will have days of happiness and days of despair. Look around in your closest circle and you will find varied spirit circumstances. Life is that way for you, too, day to day and year to year. We know that days of laughter can be as unpredictable as days of despair. And, there will be times when the world at large seems to have just gone mad. These things will not change as long as free will is given. There will be disasters you can’t even process, not just done by man but by nature that we can’t explain, at this time anyway. God directly tells us in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” Perhaps not until we are with Him will we have full discovery about all matters. Thus, my prayer is that your heart has been changed now at its root.
Let the Word dwell in you so richly that your feet are firmly planted amidst the myriad of chaos. Read Colossians 2:7 – “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”
There is so much about me that is not like Christ. Grace. We all go up and down spiritually and encounter competing loyalties. Remind yourself, every part of you belongs to Jesus. Rely on that power to maintain your peace through it all. If you really believe that Jesus is who He says He is, know of Him. It’s not all just some cognitive concept but it is a reality that affects lives. Read the Word. Pray on the Word. Confess and adore the Word until it starts to catch fire and relaxes your beautiful hearts.
Hand on heart, I love you!
Dearest Samantha and Adrianna,
I look forward to living for at least another couple of decades. I just have no prophetic gift to know that I will. If I do go home unexpectedly, I don’t want you to depend upon your best guesses about what I would have wanted to say to both of you.
Possibly surprisingly, I’m not going to concentrate on my full-scale love for my daughters. You already know about that part. If I were to describe its span, the words would only diminish its scope. So, I hope, at the very least, you have always been assured of the love of your mother. Central to my purpose in writing you, then, is to give you some of my insights for life, mainly reflective. And I begin my first writing to you. If it is God’s will, there will be more.
The Word unfolds the reality of our perpetuity. So, first, let’s rejoice. We were chosen by Christ and have accepted his gracious promise for eternal life. We know we have a permanent citizenship in heaven and that your brief separation from me will pale in comparison to the glory together and forever.
Until we do meet again, my expectation for you both is that you examine the Word daily. It is my strongest desire for you. The Bible broadens your intellect and purifies your heart. Manifest the wisdom of the peerless instruction. Never take for granted this gift. In my death, my confidence for my daughters comes from your faith. Isaac Newton said, “We account the scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatever.” And with that God breathed account, comes light and a clear path to Christ, our bridge to God.
Please don’t stumble over the simplicity of the gospel. It’s the resurrection of Jesus on which history turns. Read the Book of Acts again and understand that the apostles preached the resurrection, not signs and miracles. Those miracles, signs and wonders were necessary for validation. Please don’t pray to activate God in order to get the desires of your heart. And that kind of challenge was going on even when Jesus was alive. Remember when the crowds were looking for Jesus after they had eaten the bread and fish that fed five thousand. They asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Even after they had witnessed the event, they grasped for more physical and temporal benefit. Don’t forget, ever, how Jesus responded. “You have seen me and you still do not believe. All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I will never drive away.” He did not oblige the request for further signs and wonders. The miracle is that we will be raised and have eternal life. We don’t need to test God. He gave us the Word.
Although God does tell us that He is not going to tell us everything (there are secret things that belong to the Lord…Deuteronomy 29:29), what has been revealed to us, belongs to us. Jesus gave up his life to have a relationship with us. He directs us to love Him and one another. That’s not highly complicated. That is the new covenant.
So, be relational. Love people in your walk. Deepen your relationships to the point of accountability. As you grow in wisdom (and the prayer for wisdom is good), you will be able to discern motives. You can still give love under thorny circumstances but friendships should not be all of this self consciousness, drama and intrigue. The problem lies in the human heart. I pray for you both to have the clarity to gauge the difference between authentic fellowship and cultural, superficial friendship. I never want you to become the type of person that believes everyone has a double meaning to what they say. You know, there is no hidden cryptic meaning in much of life. I was actually asked by a friend just the other day, “Now, what did you really mean when you asked me what my day was like?” But, indeed, there are dishonest questions. A genuine question comes from a desire to know the answer. And then, there are questions designed to create pain or argument. Paul instructs Timothy on this if you can sit down and read that one evening.
It’s better to have a few genuine, weighty friendships than many empty connections where you do not know each other. Study the rightly famous friendship of Jonathon and David. Read the passages about friendship in the Book of Proverbs. We can’t develop closeness with God without knowing Him. Thus, He gave us the Word. Likewise, we can’t create meaningful relationships with our brothers and sisters if we know nothing about them or vice versa.
You were both born with gifts; abilities enhanced by the Holy Spirit to build up the common good. For His glory, use those gifts. Develop and grow stronger in your walk and the ways in which you can best contribute will become clearer and clearer. We’re all flawed instruments and we need not offer ourselves only when we believe we have become perfect in our purpose. Our involvement in contributing to the kingdom will always be a humble mess to some degree. God knows our secret hearts and if your intent is righteous, you can more easily admit that we are all striving more than living the truth. Our failures, though, don’t extinguish the love of God.
Regarding spiritual gifts, I want to just caution you in this way. If the joy is in your gifts and not in your salvation, you’ll end up falling into a pagan mindset. People can exhibit gifts and become very busy serving without changed hearts. Look back at how Paul rebuked the Corinthian Church in concerning their spiritual gifts. He speaks about the inadequacy of gifts without love. And, in fact, the people in Corinth had strong gifts but there was enormous jealously, division, pride, disputes and proneness to sin. Think also about Mary and Martha. Dr. Luke describes how Martha essentially believed Mary should be looked upon unfavorably because she wasn’t busy serving. “Lord, Martha asked, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to what He said. Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” That is, of course service is good. Mary and Martha both loved Jesus. Please just don’t become so busy serving that it becomes self serving or ever a source of pride. Make certain you are spending time with Jesus and loving others.
Daughters, it’s not your job to tweak the message of the Word to make it more palatable. Throughout the Bible there is an unremitting counsel to not accommodate false teaching. There is a unique confidence you will have if you continue to examine the Word for yourself. Please know that there are people out there counting on you being biblically illiterate. Bid them speedy riddance. In a quest to bamboozle people, their preaching may sound as if they are in the orb of sound doctrine. But, it’s about the cash. It is Christian merchandising and I pray you never find yourself at the feet of their teachings.
The false teachers will come as angels of light. They are not going to deny God. In fact, they may claim to have a direct link to Him. You don’t need to stick to a false humility when you spot the wolves in sheep’s clothing. The Word does warn us to not judge hypocritically but it does instruct us over and over to show discernment for false teachers. We are absolutely called to judge false doctrine. It is not an option. It’s a duty. It’s a mandate.
We have seen the miracle of conversion in our lives. The mountain has been moved. We have been transformed and our hearts have been restructured. I hope that never stops profoundly amazing you. God loves you because he loves you. Grace. When you truly figure out the impact of that, you will have no motive to not find delight in the Lord in gratitude.
Expect that you are going to run into disapproval in your life. Know that you will suffer. Your goal in this life shouldn’t be to be pain free and happy all the time. If those are your desires, you’ll be miserable. The key is to learn to suffer well. We’re in a fallen world. There will come a time when there will be only light and no darkness. That is your future. God is Light. So, as Paul instructed, be transformed now by the renewing of your mind. Don’t take the forks in the road that take you away from the light. Your mission now is to love, through joy and sorrow. The thing is, a by-product of the restructured heart is joy and peace, even in the face of your greatest struggles.
My spiritual eyes are so proud of both of you. You have equally developed poise and courage to subdue emotional reactions in others and to not allow difficult circumstances to make you bitter or to make excuses. You love people and want to serve. You have empathy and beautiful hearts. With my soul on my knees, I thank God for you both. Samantha, I remain grateful that you had the great wisdom to marry Natalino and Adrianna, I pray you also may one day enter into a marriage with a man of the same caliber. Know, dear daughter, your worth and walk in the glory you deserve. I love you both with all of my heart and all of my soul.