Monday, June 24, 2013

25 Years

It was June 24, 1988, and Christina was 6 months old.  I was at Ocean Grove at a conference with my friend from Bible study, Gloria Fairchild.  The speaker was Bill Gothard and the seminar was Institute In Basic Youth Conflicts, and the Bible verse was Revelation 3:15-16:  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. I no longer wanted to be lukewarm but burning like a fire. The wind of the Spirit caught me up, like a hurricane, and transported me to a new place, never to return. I came out of a long dark tunnel, out into a beautiful light. I was born again.

It is twenty five years ago now.  As this anniversary approached, I was considering what it had been like, all these years.  How would I describe them?

It has been like a romance, where I suddenly wanted to know more and more about my beloved Jesus.  Through reading the Bible and memorizing scripture, it was like seeing Him for the first time, drawing near to Him, tracing His lovely face with my fingers, leaning back into Him and sensing His presence, smelling His fragrance, memorizing His smile. I began to trust that He loved me, He was trustworthy, His ways were good and true.

And that transformed my life.  Bad habits fell away from me, and things that I used to love to do, I discarded.  There were words I no longer said, places I no longer went, music I no longer listened to, movies and TV shows I no longer watched, books I no longer read.  None of this was a burden to me.  In fact, the more things I let go of, the better I felt.  I felt lighter, free, fresh, healthier the more things I gave up. It brought peace. Actually, it was not like giving up at all, it was like stripping myself of dirty smelly rags.

Of course there have been times of confusion, times of difficulty, times of sorrow.  There have been seasons when I allowed myself to enter back into another dark tunnel. There have been times when I have been faithless, but not Him, I thank God, when I was faithless, He has proved time and time again that He was faithful.  He has been patient, persistent, and merciful. Through His love, I have grown: like the sunshine and rain nurtures a flower, I have blossomed in His care.

Perfection is still far away, waiting for that day when I strip off my body like a garment and be given the white robe and join the multitude of heaven:

There before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” ~ Revelation 7:9-10.

I remember on the other side of this decision to follow Christ, I was afraid.  I did not want to give up control of my life.  I thought I would miss out on something, have to give up too much.  What a deception that was!  Instead I have found I have received everything.


Have you said yes to Jesus?  Have you invited Him into your heart?  He wants you too!  Looking back over 25 years, it was the best decision I ever made.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

For the Graduate

I wrote this for a friend but it has timeless truths I want to remember...

You have reached an important milestone in your life.  It is a wonderful time and frankly, I am jealous for all you have ahead of you:  college, starting your life, and the strength, vigor and freedom of young adult hood.  It is the best time of your life.

It is a significant time. Decisions you make now will have an impact on your entire life and alter its direction for good or for bad.  It is time a when you are making your own decisions, based on your own values and opinions. Many will be without input from mom and dad for the first time in your life. It is a season when you are trying new things, finding your own way, testing your wings.  That is a good and normal thing.

However, there a danger that pride, emotions, ambition, or fear can cause you to make a decision in the moment that can derail your adulthood.  Although this is a time when you can make your own choices independently, making decisions impulsively can lead to sorrow.

We all have faults.  Worse, we have blind spots.  Like cars have blind spots, so do we.  When we drive, we don’t just look straight ahead when we make a turn or switch lanes; that could be fatal!  No, we look left and right, over our shoulder, check our mirrors first, to see all around us before we switch lanes.  Life is like that too.

When making decisions, we need to stop and look around.  Especially at this season of life, that can feel unnatural, repressive even.  We want to try new things and enjoy life, relax.  But just like not looking in the mirrors before switching lanes can cause an accident in our cars, not reflecting and seeking wise council on decisions can cause a major derailment in our life.

So how do we do this?  How do we “look into the mirror” before making decisions?  There are several ways:

1.      Consider the consequences.  Play it out in your mind what will happen if you make a choice, into the next day, the next week, the next year.  I find even now my first thought, my initial response to a situation, is wrong.  And the more I want to impulsively jump ahead and do something, the more wrong it is!  Sometimes, just sleeping on it, letting time pass, waiting a bit, can lead to a much wiser decision.

2.      Consider what people who you love and care for you would think. If you would be ashamed if your parents, or others people who you are close to, knew what you are doing, it is a red flag.  Life is best when lived in the light.  If there is something you are doing in secret, in the dark, it is something that will cause you heartache.  Don’t go down that path!  If you find yourself there because you wandered there carelessly, get help quick! Don’t linger and don’t let fear or shame trap you further!  Confess to someone who cares for you.  That is always the first step.  Remember, there is always a way out, if you have courage, be a man, and take it.

3.      Consider God’s ways.  When Paul said “pray about everything,” he wasn’t kidding.  Pray about your decisions: invite God into the choice.  Wait on Him, allow Him time to speak to you.  Read His Word: a daily reading of scripture will be a surprisingly accurate guide in your life.  It will feel like God is reading your thoughts (He is!!) and He will speak to you and guide you through scripture in amazing ways. 

4.      Consider the counsel of godly mentors.  Mom and dad first, but also have other godly people who love you, can speak into your life, and are willing to tell you the truth, even when you will not want to hear it.  This is the relationship I have with your mom. We need this.  You will need this!  Have people around you who will see what is happening in your days and can speak to you when you are going down a wrong path.  You will always be rubbing up against people who will influence you in negative ways—it is just how life is.  Even at a Christian college, even at church, there are people who can lead you into situations that can be harmful or just distracting to God’s purpose in your life.  So to help keep you on course, keep godly friends around you and stay in regular contact with them.  They will be a life saver.

5.      Consider: “I could be wrong!” We all have unique points of view and opinions.  But it is a trap to get so stuck in our own ways that we never think we could be wrong.  When I find myself disagreeing with what someone else is thinking or doing, I have begun to ask this important question: Is it me, Lord? Maybe it not them. Maybe they are right—or at least right-er. Maybe they have another perspective that is valid.  Maybe I don't know all the facts. Maybe I have a part in the problem. Maybe the bulk of the problem is not them—maybe, just maybe, it is me.   Pride is the smoke that hides our blind spots.

Finally, as you choose your path, it is most important to remember our life is not just about us and achieving the life that we want.  Our story is about God's story that He wants to write with our lives. Therefore, in all things we should consider if our lives and choices honor God.  Are we about our glory or His?  Our prayer should be as the song:

Creator God you gave me breath so I could praise Your great and matchless name all my days. So let my whole life be a blazing offering, a life that shouts and sings the greatness of our King

Friday, June 14, 2013

My father was a successful man

In memory of Gabriel William Micchelli, devoted husband and world-class father, jovial brother and uncle, expert hairdresser, World War II veteran, Italian chef, amateur artist, wanna-be crooner, and Christ-follower 1925 - 2001

It was Monday, January 22, 2001 and I was just bringing in the bags from the Shoprite when the phone rang.  It was my mom and she was weeping.  "The nurse says dad is going to die today."  Thus brought on an hour of denial, as I tried to connect with the nurse and the doctor to find out what was wrong and what they could do for him as I packed my bag.  After my bag was packed and I was getting ready to leave, mom called one last time.  "Dad is gone," she said, "please hurry."

I drove down the parkway alone as I had done many times during the last eight years to visit them.  They had moved to the retirement community of my mom's dreams, but dad had already started drifting away to Alzheimer's disease.  They call it "the slow goodbye" and it was.  It was also a thief.  It stole my dad's vigor and good humor, his cheerfulness and wit, his mind, his language and eventually his life.  In the end, he would only have one or two phrases he would repeat.  One of them was "Louise, let's go home, Louise," he would say.  And as I was driving, yelling at the doctors in my mind, God reminded me gently of this phrase, and told me it was a prayer that He answered for him.  Dad was tired and wanted to go home.  So God took him home.

Later at his funeral, many of his family would say, "Gabe, he was so good!  This should not have happened to him."  And my father was good, no doubt.  But as he was just beginning to struggle with this disease, he would say to me, "Barbara, some people say: why me?  But why not me?"  Yes, he was afraid, frustrated, angry and confused, but he was also surrendered to God's will and confident is God's ultimate care for him.  I picture him now in heaven, at the table with Jesus and his mom, and his brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, having dinner, laughing, singing, joyfully, peacefully waiting for us to join them.

My father was a successful man.  He may not have had a big home, nor a fancy car, but he had a loving family and enjoyed his job.  He loved God and had the comfort of His love, and the confidence of salvation.  Dad believed what Paul wrote to Timothy: Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. [1 Tim 6:6-8]  Dad had us, his little brick house and he was content.  He wanted for nothing else.

My father was a powerful man.  He was not a corporate VP, he held no public office, he never wrote a book, or even a blog post.  Dad's power came from his servant's heart.  Dad believed and lived the words of Jesus when He said: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” [Matt 20:25-28]  Dad was always there for us and you always knew where he was and how to reach him, even before the days of cell phones.  During the day, he was at his hairdressing shop.  After that, he was home.  You could call him any time for any reason and he would come, no lectures, no strings, and he would help.  On Sundays he cooked dinner for the family and after dinner, Al would have to go straight to work, and I would drive home with two toddlers and the dog.  He would follow me home in his own car and carry the girls inside the house for me.  Dad served until he was physically unable to, and then he mourned because he still wanted to do more.

My father was a passionate man.  He was not one to give diamonds and furs, but he gave of himself.  He loved us passionately.  He enjoyed himself passionately.  He did everything passionately: cooking, sharing meals, taking us out to dinner, to the beach, taking mom out dancing and going on trips with her.  He loved to tell jokes and to sing, often making up nonsense songs, making us all laugh.  Dad never gave me any expense gifts, but he gave me the best gift ever, the gift that keeps on giving: his total, full-out, unconditional love.  And his love gives me confidence every day and I am still grateful for that.

My father was a good man.  But not because of the good he did, because my father was quite aware of his imperfections.  He knew he was not good enough and so he trusted Jesus to save him and complete him, to come into his heart.  During his long illness, dad's soul and spirit was hidden in the cleft of the Lord's rock.  Dad lived what David said: I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust. [Psalm 18:1-2]

Dad used to spend time with catholic nuns because he used to cut their hair.  He told me that they explained the sacrament of Confirmation to him in this way: In Confirmation God gives you a gift of salvation, and it is yours to have, to keep, and to enjoy.  But it is a wrapped gift and you must open it up or doesn't do you any good.  So many people keep this gift under their bed or in the back of a closet and never use it.  My dad opened his gift and wore it for all the world to see.  Dad's goodness came not only his own heart, but also from his Savior.

So dad would say to you today: OPEN YOUR GIFT! Do not wait or hesitate because life is short and uncertain.  Tell Jesus you know you are not good enough but you believe and trust that HE is.  And Jesus will save for you the white and shining robe that my dad wears today.
Dad with two of his favorite girls, sister Tillie and mom

To my family: please know that Dad would be very sad, passionately sad; if you did not because he is waiting for you to join him at the table in heaven.  But as sad as he would be, it could not come as close to how sad Jesus would be. 

Thank You Jesus for the gift of my dad.  Thank you for his love, encouragement, prayers and his example.  Help me to be more like him, more passionate, more trusting in You, more humble, more willing to serve others without expecting anything in return, because I can trust that in You, I have everything.