Monday, March 22, 2010

Zoe's Birthday

I've started this entry three times, starting last night. And I've stopped and stared at my entry. It just wasn't good enough and I don't know. I don't know if I'm supposed to be happy or sad or if I'm supposed to miss her terribly or rejoice in her Heavenly home. I am all of those things.

But that's a lot of "I"s and that's what has made me stop writing.

This is Zoe's birthday, and from her first moment here, Zoe fought. Zoe fought and smiled while fighting. Zoe never said a word to me but I think if she could have she'd say that I'm supposed to be happy and rejoicing, and that I'm not supposed to quit. That she didn't quit. Her body was overcome by this sinful place but that, at best was a tie.

And now she wins.

I wish I could explain to you all of the things: the pressures and pain and temptations. The sadness that racks me almost instantaneously. The longing to look into her eyes. I wish I could explain how hard pressed I am at work, how Jen is staggering and stumbling - but bulling her way through her job.

But that's a lot of "I"s and it's Zoe's birthday.

Zoe lived simply and she loved completely and on her birthday, that's not a bad lesson for a mom and dad and family that are caught in a sea of stuff. Live simply and love completely. And smile.

On Zoe's birthday, she's given me a present.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

He Knows

God loved His Son as much as I loved Zoe. More. So the being that can create the Nile River and the Grand Canyon with a word watched as His Son died.

And He loved His son as much as I love Zoe. But for me, I yelled for someone - for God - to do something. But He didn't. Just like when His Son died.

God knows. This is something He knows. I've wrestled my whole life if God knows, really knows what it's like to be in a bad relationship like i've been or to be tempted like I am.

But this is something He unequivocally knows.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Two Things

These two broadcast commercials are part of a huge on-air buy by Mr. Neumann everywhere but the Milwaukee market in Wisconsin. The commercial I shoot soon will include Milwaukee. I wrote and directed them with my team. As anyone in this industry knows....what you see isn't quite what I wrote...but close. :)

Featured: three of my friend...mother in law...nephew...


Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. - Matthew 5:4

The sermon text last week was this verse, and the pastor went out of his way to explain that mourning might not just mean mourning a death, and that blessed doesn't just mean "blessed" but another word. 

If you google the above verse, you'll get more sermons and thoughts from very intelligent men who say things like mourning might be if you lose a tough game. 

I'm going to stick with the verse for mourn. I'm not the only man who has lost his father, and honestly, if the actuarial tables work right, many of us will lose one or both of our parents while we walk this earth. And you'll mourn. 

And...losing a child - hopefully most of you will never even have to consider that loss. But you're going to find an almost larger-than-it-should-be part of our world has experienced. 

So while mourn might mean a 3-2 loss, i'm good with leaving it mourning amidst death because that's where we live, you and I. In this terrible place where people leave every day. Every minute. 

And I think the Bible guys got pretty close with "blessed." To me, "happy" is a frail thin shell of "blessed." To me, happiness is fleeting and non-essential. But blessed is necessary and worth seeking. "Blessed" meaning God is near. Not an emotion, just a statement of truth. "Heavy are rhinoceroses." Heavy is just what they are. We could try to figure different words to mean the same thing but we might do just as well to understand what "heavy" means.

The part where there's bigger holes in the translation is "comforted." Mostly because I'm not sure we spend any time knowing what that means. Meaning that most of us don't stop and think of how we comfort or if we know how to comfort or if the things we think are comforting are truly comforting. 

Check this out: the verb is the same verb used in this verse in Matthew 18:9: "29"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.'"

The verb is the same as the part where the fellow servant begged him. 

Ok, instead of "comfort",  we have this verb that means to "call to one's side, beseech, to beg."

Who's doing the begging?

It says "they will be comforted." Me, the one who mourns. I am not the caller, not the one beseeching. Not the one exhorting. 

This God who catches each of our tears in His palm is coming to us and kneeling in front of us and calling us to Him. He's the one who's opening his arms and gently, emotionally, with great care, calling us to Him. Please, Greg. Please come here. Please, Greg. Come here and put your head on my chest and let me enfold you with the only thing that will make sense. Come.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


I'm using a cool iPhone app to try and read my way through the Bible. A lot stands out to me- a lot I thought I knew was slightly different than I remembered.

One of the most interesting parts is how early - by chapter 4 of the first book of the Bible - people are sacrificing to the Lord. And God's desiring it, even drawing conclusions about His people by their sacrifices. When Noah finally gets out of the Ark onto dry land, God makes his promise to never flood the Earth again - after he smells Noah's sacrifice. The way it's written, it's like God's promise was a reaction not to the severity of the flood, but to the sweetness of Noah's sacrifice.

Through all the stuff we've been through, I realize that our first reaction to tragedy is so childishly selfish, it's almost infantile. Jen called me last night. The van had a flat tire. I answered, "Oh...great." I was mad. we've had enough, haven't we? I don't want flat tires. When I found out about my father's tremendous decline, I was so angry. ANGRY. Is this the way God treats his servants? Lets them fall into terrible weakness? I was afraid. Afraid that in 30 years or so, that'd be me, and my kids would be struggling to deal with my weakness, and I'd be someone they'd be caring for.

Look, I don't want to sacrifice anything. I've been holding everything as tightly as I can. But the undeniable lesson is that what we're clutching isn't ours.

So it goes. I want Zoe back so I can hold her in her damaged body and feel her smiling face against my cheek. I want that. I want it so bad it breaks my heart. So does Nancy.

I never would have guessed life is this hard. But it's infinitely harder if we don't understand sacrifice, and how it pleases God and makes us somehow closer to the things He wants us to be.

The sacrifice He's asking for us us. To climb on to the altar and offer up our lives that we're so desperately trying to own and control. To learn the lesson that the earliest humans knew - that God loves a good sacrifice. It pleases Him. It draws Him close.

Take my sacrifice. I'm afraid I don't have much left. Make me new.

The Altar
by Nichole Nordemann

I'm at the end of myself, I just dropped out of the running
I don't recall when I last pulled the shades and said "here comes the sun, here comes the new day"
Someone remind me again that joy might show up on occasion
I'm sitting here with my hands on my head, and my eyes on the ground, wondering if I'll be found by You

Will you make me new? Will you take what's left of me?
I guarantee that it won't be a fair trade.
Will you set me free from what's keeping me afraid?
I know I've prayed it all before, but I'm back on the altar

I don't believe what they say about one foot in front of the other
If my life was a map, you'd see every last step just circling around, still lost, never found by You

So will you make me new? Will you take what's left of me?
I guarantee that it won't be a fair trade.
Will you set me free from what's keeping me afraid?
I know I've prayed it all before, but I'm back on the altar

Maybe last year I'd have made empty promises
Maybe last month I'd have tried to pull strings
But I don't have one single chip left to bargain with
The only thing left is me needing You to make me new

Will you take what's left of me?
I guarantee that it won't be a fair trade
Will you set me free from what's keeping me afraid?
I know I've prayed it all before
But I'm back
On the altar 


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