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I grew up hearing my mom tell me the story below. This event significantly shaped my mom’s young faith. Just three weeks before her death my mom wrote this story down in an email so that it could be shared at her funeral (which it was). I hope this story can encourage you, reminding you that God hears you, cares for you, acts for your good, and is able to do anything.
When I was 17 God taught me a huge, life changing lesson about faith through an incident with my contact lens. In high school because of the ministry of Young Life, I heard the gospel and began my relationship with Jesus. I was in Switzerland on a Young Life European tour and realized, to my surprise, that many of the people on this so called “Christian” trip didn’t even believe in Jesus. I had just been discussing with one of the leaders of the trip whether Jesus was real or not (he was mocking my young faith) when we exited a mountain tram on to a gravel road back to our chalet. This road was about 1/2 mile long and was shared by people in hiking boots, cattle, and cars. Suddenly the rain and wind caused my contact lens, which had come out, to fly away…….somewhere on this road. We could not find it anywhere and the trip leader I had been speaking to 10 minutes before said, “Where is your God for you now? Will your faith in him get you your contact lens back?” It was an impossible situation. I couldn’t see out of one eye. Later back in my room I wrote about this experience in my journal, which I still have.
The next day I was walking back to the tram area on this gravel and dirt road while talking with God. I had read in my Bible that if we have faith as tiny as a mustard seed, mountains can be moved. Here I was in the beautiful Swiss Alps and I told God I didn’t know how to have that kind of faith. It wasn’t an audible voice, but I heard him suggest in my mind, “Joany, it’s not that you must have faith in what my WILL to do is, it’s that you have faith that I am ABLE to do anything.” I answered back in my heart that of course I believed God could help me find my contact, that he was able and I’d really love that, but I didn’t know his will. Immediately I felt a very strong sense to bend down and as I looked into a puddled tire track I saw my contact lens! Unbelievable! It was unscratched, perfect, and I was able to see for the rest of the trip. When I told Steve, the trip leader who questioned my faith in Jesus, he was speechless. Months later he called me from his college back east to let me know he had begun his own relationship with Jesus and was greatly influenced by that experience in Switzerland.
So during my cancer journey I’ve always believed in God’s ability to heal me……never questioned it……but his will I don’t know of course. His will is perfect and I trust him and HIS timing of when I’m supposed to go home to Heaven.
I want you to do something. Make a list in your head of the marriages you’ve seen that you actually like. How many married couples can you think of that have a thriving marriage—a good, happy, alive marriage—the kind of marriage that makes other people want to get married?
How many marriages did you think of?
I’ve tried this question on many people. Most people can come up with only one or two examples of strong, lively, and attractive marriages. This book aims to change that. Things don’t have to stay the way they are.
You know the statistics. Marriage is broken in our world. If your marriage isn’t broken, the marriage of someone you know is. At the very least, your marriage isn’t pulsating with the life and power it was meant to have.
But it’s not too late. There’s still hope for marriage—for your marriage, for your neighbor’s marriage, and for marriages that haven’t happened yet. Marriages can be jump-started; the sacred union between a husband and a wife can receive new life and power. I don’t care who you are, who you’ve been, or what your marriage has been through—everything can be made new. It’s harder and easier than you think.
Men, it starts with you. You and I and the men we know want something more. Perhaps you’ve settled for a marriage that looks like most other marriages. Perhaps you now look like most other husbands—ordinary, nice, confused. But what you really want is a marriage that feels like a mission, a marriage that’s moving forward toward something exciting, mysterious, and grand—kind of like the way dating felt.
Men, this book is for you. Pick it up and read it.
-From the preface to Date Your Wife, a great gift for Valentine’s Day.
Yesterday I preached a sermon in honor of my mom who died on Friday. I started talking about my mom during the final 10 minutes of the message. I titled the sermon after the final words my mom spoke to me, “See You in Heaven.” If interested, click here and give it a listen.
Below is the obituary I wrote for my mom, which appeared in The Sacramento Bee yesterday:
Joany was born 9/20/1953 in San Francisco and died 2/7/2014 in Elk Grove, CA. Joany loved Jesus, her family, her friends, and the many people she encouraged and helped as both a Marriage & Family Therapist and as co-owner of Liberty Bell Alarm Inc.
Joany lived her life to the fullest, happily pouring herself out to help others. After a 14 year battle with cancer, Joany is now at home with Jesus in heaven. She is survived by her loving husband (Ron), sons (Justin & Mark, and their wives Taylor & Jessika), six grandkids, and her sisters Lonnie & Paula. Joany’s Funeral/Celebration of Life service will be held at First Covenant Church on 2/15/14 at 2pm. 10933 Progress Ct, Rancho Cordova, CA, 95670.
I wrote this on my Facebook page earlier today:
My beautiful mom died this morning. I am going to miss her so much! She’s been the most influential person in my life. What I feel most right now is gratitude. For 35 years I’ve enjoyed the love, encouragement, pursuit, nurture, and care of a very rare mom. My mom made a huge impact with her life. She lived her life to the fullest. I’m excited that she’s now cancer/pain free, at home with Jesus. I loved my mom’s final words to me: “See you in heaven.” Man, those words pump me up! Jesus changes everything, he knocks the sting out of death.
This is a photo of our family taken on my mom’s 60th birthday, just 4 months ago. I’ll post funeral details later… Please pray for me, for my 3 sons as they process this news, my brother, and above all for my dad who has just said goodbye to his bride of 36 years.
It’s been a while since I’ve written an update about Garden City. Things are exciting around here. God is on the move, growing and using our church. Here are a few updates:
-Garden City is now 2 years and 4 months old! It’s thrilling to watch how God has grown us from a handful of people to who we are today. When we started this church with three people and $3,000 I never imagined we’d be at the stage we are at right now. God’s hand has been on us.
-This Sunday we launch a second service. You can now gather with Garden City on Sundays at either 4pm or 5:30pm (note: right now Kids’ Ministry is available only at the 4pm service).
-We’ve made three big hires: An Executive Pastor, Family Pastor, and City Coordinator. Click here to check out our growing staff team.
-We continue to give 10% of every dollar we receive to church planting, both in the Bay Area and internationally. Right now our international partners are Redeemer Dubai and Igreja do Redentor in Rio de Janerio/Restore Brazil.
-We now have 20 Neighborhood Groups spread throughout Silicon Valley.
-Lives are being saved and forever changed here. Disciples are being made. Leaders are being trained and deployed.
-According to new Barna research, our church is located in one of the least Bible minded cities in America. We have exciting work to do here.
-In Garden City people are discovering good news to enjoy, a family to belong to, and a mission to live. We’re also having a lot of fun along the way.
Thank you for how you’ve prayed for Garden City in the past. Please pray for us now as we navigate and steward this exciting season of growth.
I posted this on my Facebook page yesterday, figured I’d also post it here:
My beautiful mom is getting dramatically weaker as her cancer advances. This week she begins hospice care. Please pray for my mom, Joan Buzzard, as she navigates this final chapter of her life on this side of the grave. Please pray for my dad as he serves and says goodbye to his wife of 36 years. Pray for my brother, Mark, and me as we say goodbye to our amazing mom, and as we help our kids say goodbye to their grandma. This is the strange gift of this cancer, you have time to say goodbye.
I am sad, yet so excited for my mom to be with Jesus, her first and greatest love. She has a bright future. I’m excited to join her one day in a land where: “He [God] will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” My moms life on earth is ending. Her eternal life is just beginning. Anyone can get in on this. All you need is need–to recognize you need for the undeserved love of Jesus. Heaven is about to get more awesome because Joan Buzzard is headed there.
Photo: My mom, my younger brother, and me 20+ years ago.
Christ of the Abyss is a bronze statue of Jesus placed in 1954 at the bottom of the sea off the coast of Italy. This may be my favorite piece of art depicting Jesus.
This statue reminds me that Jesus came down into the pressurized abyss of our lives, that he moved towards the deepest, darkest, neediest places. I don’t know the unique make up of your story, sin, and mess, but whatever is down there know that Jesus’ passion is to deal with your abyss. He came to know you and love you in the deep dark sea of your struggle.
What is your abyss? Jesus goes deeper. He meets you there. He loves you there. He’s with you there. He saves you there. A deep, dark abyss is no problem for Jesus.
You may or may not have a list of resolutions for the New Year. Whatever goals you’re chasing and whatever you’re facing this next year, I want to make a suggestion: simplify things this year.
Instead of trying to do a lot, what if you focused your full attention on just one exciting objective?
Here it is: Enjoy grace.
Grace is the undeserved love of God. This undeserved love is extended most climactically in the substitutionary life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, a historical reality that changes everything about your reality. And, this undeserved love comes at you every single day of your life. Everything you will enjoy in 2014 is grace, pure gift from God: the oxygen you breathe, the relationships you enjoy, the food you eat, the shelter over your head, the laughter of your children, those amazing sunsets, etc.
“What do you have that you did not receive?” -1 Corinthians 4:7. Everything you have you have received. All is gift. All is grace. The screen you’re reading this on is a gift, as are the fingers you’re using to scroll through this post. Enjoy this grace, this great gift of having fingers, exploring screens, and learning.
Enjoy grace! Focus your full attention and energies here, and everything else will follow: love for God, gratitude, joy, love for others, and good stewardship of the life, talents, resources, time, and opportunities God has given you. Nothing sucks the life out of things like entitlement, thinking you deserve a certain kind of life. And nothing gives life like grace, recognizing that your life and everything about your life is pure gift.
Though it feels like you’re sitting still right now, you’re sitting on a planet that’s hurling through space at roughly 2.7 million miles per hour. This wild orbit and the wild adventure of your life is sustained and empowered by the grace of God, undeserved love that holds the galaxies in place, feeds you breakfast, and puts a fresh fire in your heart.
Happy New Year!
Here is my Best Books of 2013 list, in no particular order. This isn’t a list of books published in 2013. This list is of the books I read in 2013 that I enjoyed/benefited from the most. See last year’s list: Best Books of 2012 (and links to past year’s lists).
The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. This book changed how I approach my week, as a “sprinter” instead of a “marathoner.” Very helpful. I had my whole staff read it.
Resolving Everyday Conflict by Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson. I don’t think this book is even 100 pages, but it’s loaded with simple, biblical wisdom. It’s one of five books we encourage every member of our church to read.
Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier by Tom Kizzia. I found this book fascinating because my wife and I briefly met this family during a road trip to McCarty, Alaska nine years ago. When we met them something seemed really “off.”
Buffett: The Making of An American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein. Fascinating biography full of leadership (and investing) wisdom.
The Pastor’s Justification by Jared Wilson. The truths in this book are the truths that should be singing in every pastor’s heart. If I had to pick one book on pastoral ministry for every pastor to read it would probably be this one.
Conquistador: Hernan Cortez, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs by Buddy Levy. Incredible writing. Captivating history/story. Full of hidden and not so hidden leadership lessons.
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller. My mom is dying of cancer right now. This book is helping me. I haven’t finished it yet. I’m reading it slowly.
The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio by Alexander Green. If you had to read only one book on investing (you should read several), this is your book. I don’t follow this model completely, but I mostly follow it.
The Freedom of a Christian by Martin Luther. This book re-woke me to the wonder of the gospel.
Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This book is really strange and really good. I like how Taleb stretches how I think.
One Way Love by Tullian Txlkjdaoiuoijalkjoiunluijnoain. I was so hungry to read a fresh treatment of the grace of God that I asked my friend Tullian to email me the unedited version of this book this summer so I could read it months before it was published. My wife and I both devoured the book in several days. Tullian, sorry, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make fun of your last name.
Jack: Straight From the Gut by Jack Welch and David Byrne. I loved reading about how the culture of an organization can change through determined, wise leadership. Don’t read this book for tips on how to have a good marriage. Welch was a good businessman, but not a good husband.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. I love learning what other people do to spark creativity and productivity. Everybody is so different.
Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne. Every leader I talk to who has read this book agrees: the wisdom here is golden. One of our elders quotes from this book so often we now make fun of him for it.
Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. Short, spot-on, practical, actionable. We bought copies of this book for all of the deacons in our church.
The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papsan. Read this book along with The Power of Full Engagement and Crazy Busy and you’ll have plenty of 1) reasons to see why your schedule is out of whack and 2) plenty of help for re-prioritizing how you manage your priorities and time.
Each year’s end brings with it a bevy of lists–best albums, best films, best books, etc. Some quickly dismiss such lists; some eagerly await their release. I’m part of the latter group. I find that year-end lists help me to move outside of my typical cultural sphere, challenging me to enjoy and find merit in things that I might have otherwise overlooked.
Among those who compile lists of the year’s best Christian books, there is perhaps none more respected or frequently referenced than Christianity Today. This year’s Christianity Today Book Awards features a number of great volumes that are worth your consideration, but for our purposes today, we are excited to announce that Stephen Um and Justin Buzzard’s Why Cities Matter has received the “Award of Merit” under the category of “Christianity and Culture.”
Here’s what Gene Edward Veith has to say about the book:
“The Bible says a great deal about cities, from Babel to Babylon, from Jerusalem to the New Jerusalem. Christianity spread in cities, and the early church was an urban phenomenon, as was the Protestant Reformation. More recently, we’ve tended toward a rural, small-town, or suburban emphasis. But the cultural significance of cities is increasing. This book shows how to proclaim the gospel in today’s cities. The authors combine sociological research and biblical insight to create promising new paradigms for ministry.”
Congratulations to Stephen, Justin, and all the other award winners. I’ve certainly got a number of new volumes to add to my reading queue.