Dad. My wonderful Dad.

The last photo of my dad and I together. 1981.

Lessons from my dad (with some input from my sisters, thank you!), in random order:

How to polish my shoes.

How to take calculated risks.

How to provide for your family.

How to work hard.

How to sing with your whole self (especially “How Great Thou Art”).

How to trust others.

How to fix a flat tire.

How to mow the lawn and shovel the snow.

How to be a gentleman.

How to be a Good Samaritan.

How to serve God and honor God.

How to encourage and love your wife.

How to provide for your family.

How to fly a plane.

How to fix just about any broken thing around the house.

How to be a good son-in-law.

How to give good gifts.

How to be a creative problem solver.

How to use my common sense and good judgment.

How to tie a neck tie, a half or full Windsor.

Measure twice, cut once.

How to siphon gasoline out of car and into the lawn mower can (I can still taste the gasoline, yuck).

How to properly tuck in my shirt tail.

How to garden… even gardening and raising vegetables you don’t like yourself.

How compounding interest can add up to big returns.

How to use a slide rule.

How to balance a spoon and fork on the smallest bit of toothpick.

How liquid nitrogen turns a hot dog into glass.

How to put “English” on a pool shot or a ping pong return.

Why playing the lotto is morally wrong.

How to drive. How to drive a stick shift.

How to let the School of Hard Knocks teach me a thing or two.

How to camp. How to build and start a fire.

How to swim.

How to bargain for a car. How to bargain for a casket (now that’s a funny story).

How to give grace. How to laugh. How to love. How to live. How to die.

 

My favorite story about my Dad: He was a Gideon — best known for being one of those folks who place Bibles in hotels.  He was also a private pilot and he would go flying on Saturday mornings.  At his memorial service over 30 years ago, his good friend Lou — also a pilot and a Gideon —  produced a talley sheet from Dad’s pilot log book that included the names of many, many small airports in the midwest.  Lou explained that these were places where he and my Dad had flown to on many a Saturday and placed a Gideon Bible in the pilot’s lounge.  And it was something only he and Lou knew about.  He combined two loves, flying and the Lord, into something that blessed God and many unknown souls.

What lessons did you learn from your dad?

 

(First published on Father’s Day 2012…)

Little brother James tells the family story

JoyfulJesus
Jesus is my brother and my friend. (photo from the movie “The Gospel According to Matthew” with Bruce Marchiano as Jesus, distributed by the Visual Bible, 1993).

Throughout Advent, let’s look at the people of the story of Christ’s birth. Today: James, the brother of Jesus. Here is my take on a possible first person narrative from Matthew 1, Luke 2 and the book of James.

I’ll never forget the story my Mom and Dad used to tell about that night.  I wasn’t there. I’m the little brother. So, I have to rely on the memory of others.

My name is Jacob. You know me as James, the brother of Jesus. I called him Yeshua.

Our Dad’s name is also Jacob. But you know him as Joseph. Oh, the stories he would tell about those days. And Mom? Well, as any woman in her final weeks of pregnancy she was, according to Abba, “cranky.” Every little thing was a big thing.  “Do you have to hammer so loudly?” she would ask.  Dad’s hammering was always the same volume.

It was late in the day when Dad heard the news. Laws are laws.  Caesar commanded that everyone return to their hometown to be counted in a census.  Since our family is of the Tribe of David, that meant a four day journey to the City of David.   A four day trip?  With Mom in her condition? My Dad was such a gentleman, but how was he going to do this? Such an excursion with such a pregnant wife!  He says he found a couple of extra blankets to put on the back of the donkey.  Mom was the adventurous type, but I’m pretty sure this was just one journey she didn’t enjoy.  Dad’s plan was to keep a positive outlook saying that they could make the trip as quickly as possible, register for the census and get back to Nazareth in time for the baby to be born… in time for my brother to be born.

Mom says she was very quiet sitting up on the donkey for most of the trip.  Dad says he kept thinking about the son inside of Mom, and our family and our family’s future, and what the angel had said in two different conversations to both Mom and Dad.

Then it happened!  All of sudden everything changed.  Mom started talking and chattering in quick words and phrases.  The energy level changed and there was a rush of anticipation.  It was time!  Can you see them?  Not now!  Not on the road!  Not on a donkey!  This is not at all what my Dad had planned!

They got to the town of Bethlehem and there were people everywhere.  Not the usual empty, sleepy village.  It was night, close to midnight and Mom was holding on to her belly.  Dad told Yeshua and me years later that the sounds coming from her mouth rivaled the noise of that old donkey.  She needed a place, a bed, a clean room. The baby would be born that night.

So, with great fear Dad tied the mule up by a tree and sat our Mom down on the blankets by the side of the road and he ran off to find an appropriate place.  No one would help him out. Everyone was interested, but not a single person would offer assistance.

So he went back to where he had left Mom and the donkey.  He helped her back up onto the mule and they began wandering through the tangled streets and alleys of Bethlehem together.  Not sure how it happened, but the animal led them to a cave. It was smelly. Wet. Dark. Dank. Not even a nice place for animals. My gracious Mom assured Dad that it would be fine.  Dad felt terrible.  This is not at all what he had planned.  He would tell us years later, “I’m the carpenter, the one who makes solutions, not problems.  I earn a living fixing things!” He truly felt like he had let both Mom and my soon-to-be-born big brother down.

Dad laughs about it now, but, the next thing he realized, he was the midwife.  Dear Mom led Dad to a place where most husbands never venture.  Together they heard the first cries as the baby was born… as Yeshua was born!  Dad used his knife and cut the cord and handed the baby up to Mom.

Amazing!

Dad still says that as he watched Mom and Yeshua together, by the light of a single candle, surrounded by animals, that that moment was the most special moment of his life… the moment when his dear bride was the most beautiful.

Mom and Dad had other children after that night. I came along a few years later.

And yes, Yeshua is a special brother to me. While it took me a few years to understand the supernatural part of him — that he is God’s son —  he is still my brother.

We grew up together. We played games together. We fished in the Sea together. We helped Dad make furniture as he taught us how to build walls and homes with our hands. I always enjoyed conversation around a meal or a fire with Yeshua. He had a great sense of humor.

He was about as real a friend and brother as you can find.

As a big brother, he was always looking out for me. He was an incredible teacher. He taught me how to find peace in the midst of trials and that Godly wisdom means more than street smarts. He taught me about temptation and how to stay right and strong and pure.  He encouraged me to put my faith into action. He cautioned me often about the words I speak, for my tongue seems to get me in trouble regularly.  He told me to look for the best in others. And to be willing to admit my faults. And to pray for, and with, each other.

I saw some pretty incredible miracles walking along side Yeshua.

But mostly, I saw the greatest kind of love a brother can offer… unconditional and everlasting love.

Our mutual friend John said it best about him: Greater love has no one than this, than he who lays down his life for his brother.

(c) 2103. Rich Ronald.

From the dust of the manger… to our heart.

Available at amazon.com in paperback or Kindle.

Christmas Day is one week away… wow! Where does the time go? Wasn’t it just spring break? Or summer vacation?

In the midst of all that is wrong in the world today, as we think about the Christmas story, the one thing that we might perceive to have been wrong, was actually right. Yes, it was right for Mary to place Jesus in a manger.

From Chapter Five of Be Born in Me:

While they were in Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to have the baby, and she gave birth to her first son. Because there were no rooms left in the inn, she wrapped the baby with pieces of cloth and laid him in a feeding trough.[1]

She placed Him in a feed trough.  In the Ancient Days most feed troughs in caves were merely hollowed out logs or rocks sitting on the ground.  You can’t get much lower than that.  Jesus, God in the flesh. God who sits on the highest throne in the highest Heaven, squeezed Himself into a human form. And if that wasn’t low enough, He was then placed mere inches above the dirt and manure that was in that animal cave.  Why would God do that?  Send His son.  To the lowest possible place on earth?!  To a feed trough?

Think about the trough being in the dirt and mud on the cave floor. Like Adam from the Garden of Eden, we all began our lives in the dust of the earth and Jesus knows that we all have dirt and mud in our lives.  That’s where we need Him most!

“Jesus, be born in me!” 

The apostle Paul also notes that Jesus gave up His place with God in heaven and made Himself nothing (Philippians 2).  Why? Simply because He loves us.

He loves you. He really does. Even though you may be a little dirty. Even though you may be a lot muddy.  It doesn’t matter to Him… He has been there too.

Isn’t that incredible!?! God in the flesh has been where you are… only His love can pull you out of the pit you are in. He is uniquely qualified to be our Savior. He knows how messy our lives are… and it doesn’t stop Him from reaching out His loving arms to lift us up.

May I encourage you to make this prayer, your prayer: “Jesus. Be born in me!”


Be Born in Me is divided into five sections and includes discussion questions so you can use in a weekly small group, family devotional or class setting.

Here’s the link to the amazon web site: http://amzn.to/SNOkND.
And here’s the link to the Kindle site: http://amzn.to/RI7ODe.
(c) 2012. Rich Ronald.

[1] Luke 2:6-7 (NCV)