This is how I turned weakness into shocking victory– but first, understand this is a skateboard story that I wrote for everybody…
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about skateboarding. How I used to skateboard and the tricks that I used to practice and the time and effort that it took to do those tricks. Usually when I’m in bed trying to go to sleep, memories pop up and I start thinking about how much of my youth was spent skateboarding and learning new tricks. These thoughts start turning into introspective reflection. As I began to identify these key moments of intense failure and breakthrough, I start to see how much skateboarding impacted my life. There’s a clarity that’s starting to form with the connection between these events and how my character grew more defined and how my thinking has been shaped.
Here is one such moment.
I remember a local skate competition I had entered in my hometown in Sitka. There weren’t that many skateboarders, maybe around a dozen of us. For the most part, we all skated together at different times. We knew each others tricks quite well and would even try to teach other tricks that we were strong in. My strongest trick was the 360º kick-flip, or better known in the skateboard world as the“tré-flip.”
I recently discovered something about Jesus that broke my heart for him. It was during a time I was doing a personal study on the life, and in this case, the death of John the Baptist, I saw a connection between two narratives that I realized was actually a single flowing narrative. It was always there. I had read through it multiple times. But this time, I picked up on something different that gave me a new perspective that filled me with sorrow, but at the same time, it gave me a new lens to look upon Jesus with a sincere and reverent admiration.
My discovery started with the story of John imprisoned by King Herod because John had been telling him that it was unlawful for him to take his brother’s wife. Herod was so upset that he wanted to kill John but was afraid of causing a revolt because John had a lot of followers (Matthew 14:3-5). Later King Herod put his foot in his mouth during his very public birthday party by promising the daughter of Herodias, his brother’s wife, that he would grant her whatever she asked for. He did this because she performed a dance for him that pleased him greatly (Mt. 14:6-7). It seems that good old mommy dear found a way to circumvent Herod’s fear of killing John, and used that fear against Herod by preloading a request to her daughter, which was to have John beheaded and delivered to her on a platter. Because Herod had given an oath to Herodias’s daughter in front of everyone, he was pressured to follow through on the request. Instantly, John was beheaded and delivered to the girl on a platter, which she carried to her mother (Mt. 14:8-11). A horrific turn of events from very devious plotting in the background over the life of John the Baptist. In light of modern days media coverage, beheadings are modern day realities exposed in a global theater. This story becomes even more visceral.
Now in my previous readings, that’s where a story ended. And the next story, for me, was separate and unrelated. A byproduct of shallow reading unskilled study methods. But the bridge is verse 12, “John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus,” and this is where my understanding and emotions kick in. It continues on like this:
“13. When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
14. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
15. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.’
16. Jesus replied, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’” (Mt. 14:13-16, italicization added by me)
When I read verse 13, that’s when my heart for Jesus went out to him. It’s believed that Jesus and John were second cousins. They may not have been working together side by side, but there was a significant impact to Jesus upon hearing that his blood relative, John, was brutally murdered. A tragic loss. I thought about what I would do his situation. I thought about how I would feel. I know what it’s like losing someone and feeling helpless with what to do with that loss. It’s a very traumatic situation that Jesus is in. And so, he withdrew himself to try and find privacy.
It’s at this point that I recall the emotions that Jesus had when he went to see the body of Lazarus, who had died four days prior to his arrival. He was moved deeply by everyone’s mourning and wept with them. The people that saw him knew Jesus loved Lazarus. Even though he was about to bring Lazarus back to life, our God unveiled His heart to us, in our losses, through His son Jesus (John 11:17-44). And it’s beautiful to me!
Having this in mind, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine as Jesus withdrew by himself, the tears and grief that covered his face. How he sought after solace with his Father. I think about the anger I would feel and the justice I would want. I wouldn’t want to be around anyone else, I couldn’t be around anyone. I identify with Jesus, and join him in grieving. As if this just happened to him, I say sorry to Jesus with tears in my eyes. I’m there. Sitting next to him on his boat. His loss was real and I feel it with him. I can't help the gratitude that wells up in my heart and I thank Jesus for pushing through his struggles, where he inevitably conquers the grave and gives all people the potential to have direct, unrestricted access to the God of the universe through the Holy Spirit.
And I continued reading on and immediately, I’m struck by the realization that there are thousands of people on the shores waiting for him. It doesn’t say, “when Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he quickly turned back,” or,
“he yelled at everyone to leave him alone,” or,
”he said to come back and find him again in a month,” or,
”he told everyone of the murder of John, his cousin, and incited a rebellion.”
No. None of those. The second story starts off by saying, “He had compassion on them and healed their sick.”
Then, this is where I discovered a newfound admiration for Jesus. If there was ever a bottom-of-the-barrel emotional depletion that you would expect from someone, it would be the day after they learn about losing a family member in a horrific murder. And yet, there’s still a reserve in Jesus to operate out of compassion. He also heals the sick that’s in this giant crowd. He must of done this for hours, because verse 15 talks about evening approaching and the disciples are informing Jesus that there aren’t any 7-11’s or McDonalds around. As the story continues, I see something I hadn’t seen before in verses 17 to 21– a manifestation of what had happened in his heart, unfolding in his instructions to feed the thousands of people that followed after him, with the five loaves and two fishes that his disciples had in verse 19. Afterwards they collected twelve baskets full of broken pieces of food. It becomes evident to me that Jesus demonstrated the emotional miracle he had with physical miracles of healing and multiplying of food.
Not only does this inspire me, but it challenges my perception on my capacity. It challenges me to look at what I think I have and what I think I can give away, and do I carry compassion in my heart when I am sad, hurt, angry or feel empty? How willing am I to allow the needs of others come before my needs? My physical needs are easier for me to be open handed than with my emotional needs. I’m stretched way more thinking about allowing interruptions to my emotional well being when I desperately need soul nourishment, i.e. alone time or time to process, etc.. Jesus shows what a flexible heart looks like.
What I saw as two separate, distinct narratives, the death of John and the feeding of the five thousand (that number doesn’t include women and children, so an even more impressive miracle), I now see as one sweeping narrative that gives greater emotional impact and prompts me for a personal heart response. Of course, the whole Bible is one sweeping narrative of the love of God for His creation!
I’ll end with a summary of verse 22 and 23, that after everyone was fed Jesus immediately dismissed the disciples and the crowd. Then again, went off by himself to the mountains to pray that evening. He shows the urgency that he needed to take his time in solitude, on the same day.
I pray that this helps you see Jesus and his life in a deeper, more enriching way. I pray that the Bible opens up to you, if you’ve ever read it for yourself but haven’t understood, that you can see God’s heart in it and understand of His character. Amen.
My son is three and a half years old and he’s going to preschool. I had mixed emotions about that, like all parents probably do when realizing that their child is going to school for the first time in their life. I’d like to take a moment of vulnerability right now to share what it was like for me as a father to process this new transition in life. I’m fully aware that everyone has different experiences and even look forward to that extra time away from their child/children. I was dreading it.
I admit that I wasn’t looking forward to the day that Mateo would be going to school. Let alone this early in his life. From the day he was born to his first day at school, I have known first hand every source of input into his life. Looking at his education outside of our family influence was daunting and intimidating to me. Fearful even. It was a fear that came out of cynicism that my little boy was going to be exposed to different ideologies and attitudes from teachers and other children that don’t align with our values as a family.
Warning: this is about to get gushy.
Before he was born, I would always speak encouragement, love and identity. I literally would bend down and speak to Tessa’s womb. I would say things like, “you’re welcome and we want you,” and ,”I’m your daddy and I love you.” This was more than an important practice for me, but I genuinely believe that his soul and spirit needed to have this type of verbal affirmation from his parents. We wanted our baby (we didn’t know the sex until he was born) to know that they are welcome and love and acceptance waits for them when they’re born.
And so, we kept that attitude and we are doing our best to continue to cultivate that in our family. I’m always expecting change and do my best to orientate my mind and heart for transitions. I know that I am responsible for my son’s mental, spiritual and character development. Putting him in school, is me giving that responsibility to someone else. At the same time, I do want my son to have his own experiences and growth in an academic community alongside his peers.
My fears were that he would pick up bad attitudes from other children, bad words, violent behaviors, etc. I think on some level, every parent can identify with those concerns to some degree. I’m telling you, any new words, thoughts, phrases, questions and behavior that Mateo displayed, Tessa and I could tell you exactly what show, movie, toy, child or activity he picked it up from and when. We didn’t have baby sitters while we worked. Tessa and I would schedule our days around taking turns watching our son. We’re in a unique and special working environment that allows us to do that, and we are so grateful for it!
Just recently Tessa had to leave to fly to Australia and Papua New Guinea for three weeks. She went to Australia to attend a special gathering focused on collaborating with international groups that are involved or would like to get involved with medical ships. She then flew to Papua New Guinea to meet with our team that we sent to work on our medical ship called the Pacific Link. I mention this because she was going to miss Mateo’s first day of school. Some of you can probably imagine how sad she was but she did get back in time to take him to his 2nd day of school.
I was relying on Tessa to prepare Mateo emotionally and physically for school. So to realize that it would just be me solo mode, it was stressing making me stress hard. And in a way I didn’t know how to handle my sadness, it’s weird to admit but I just didn’t want him to go to school and was thinking of excuses that could justify him NOT going to school. Not just missing the first day, but delaying him going for another year or so. I didn’t want other peoples kids messing up my kid. I have come to realize that this is a toxic thought bred from fear and control.
Now this is going to sound really strange but a thought came into my mind that was foreign with my current process of thinking. I became attentive to it right away and it was this, “I understand how you feel. Imagine my heart when Jesus went to earth. Look at all he went through and look at what came out of his life. Imagine what my heart was towards mankind as my son was beaten, tortured, mocked and hung on a cross.” Immediately I thought of Jesus saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing,” as he was hanging on the cross (Luke 23:34). I think Jesus sensed anger and sorrow, and said what he said because what Father wouldn’t be angry and sad? Please don’t turn this into a theological spin where I’m saying that God has limits or that He struggled with fear or that God couldn’t save Jesus from a horrible death… no, no, no– to me it was a simple message, that God, the Father, can relate to me as a father.
Being a loving and releasing father, to me, means that I'm making my heart vulnerable to the good and/or poor decisions that my child can make or other people can make that can effect my child, either loving or unloving. Strangely, this process led me to a place of comfort and dependency on the Holy Spirit in my son’s life more than ever. If Jesus suffered through diverse temptations (Heb. 4:15) and went through ugliness that can come out of mankind and the fallen nature of the world, and he had the Holy Spirit and counsel of his Father, then I can have hope for my son! By no means am I taking this as a message to abdicate my responsibilities as a father. If anything, I recognize the need to become a worthy teacher and counselor to my son, to emulate and nurture that kind of relationship, and when the time comes, he can see that I am someone he can reach out to and speak with when things in life weigh too heavy on his mind and heart.
This gave me a unique perspective to step back when I need to, so that Mateo can move forward and have opportunities to make his own choices amidst the multitude of possibilities. So yeah, I did have a few tears and talked about it with God a few days before taking Mateo to school. Just a good time confronting my own insecurities while Tessa was away. I’m sure this will be something that I will have to re-learn time and again through Mateo’s different stages of life (going to elementary school, high school, going on a field trip, getting a girlfriend, etc.). Overall, I learned how to put my trust in God in a new way and to see his Father Heart in an enriching lens.
By the way, when I took Mateo to school he was crying when I dropped him off and when I returned to pick him up he was laughing saying, “daddy, I had SO MUCH FUN!” He really did shout those last three words over and over again. Now, it’s only been two weeks and he doesn’t cry when I drop him off and even get’s excited when we talk about school. He talks about his play time and friends that he made with so much joy. For now, I'm deeply encouraged!
This was taken right when I came to pick him up after his first day of school and he shared with enthusiasm how much fun he had!
Here's a testimony of something we saw happen during a ministry "giving time" in the Ships DTS.
I want to share a video clip of a discussion over the issue of miraculous healing in the Christian faith. Watching this has been greatly encouraging to me. I watch it frequently. It regards the question of: why do some people get healed? A common question, I believe, that we all ask or will eventually ask, especially when our family members or friends are struck with terminal illnesses.
There was a time I had felt like I had great security in not having an answer to this question because of my trust in the character of God. I discovered more recently how much doubt and anger I had in my heart (there are many elements that led to this, too broad in detail to share all in one post). This was exposed to me when Tessa and I abruptly moved from Tahiti to Seattle for 1 year to care for my mother who was recovering from heart failure. It felt like every prayer was unanswered and pulled my heart further away from God.
I recently recognized and responded to the damage in my heart that has adversely effected my relationships with my family and God. It was during a week of lectures on the DTS that Tessa and I are leading. The topic for that week was Holy Spirit and our teacher was Kevin Norris. I felt like the Holy Spirit had started something in my heart but it wasn't until I had "randomly" found this video clip while cruising YouTube that I felt full blown regeneration of my soul!
I encourage anyone reading this to watch this video if you feel like you desire to grow in your love for Jesus and faith restored and imparted!
Please leave a comment below with what challenged you, encouraged you, or what you may not have agreed with. Your comments are welcome!