Everything we needed to know we learned from Grandpa in Michigan

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Our family shapes us and molds us. Their fingerprints are on the very fabric of our souls. George Campbell Brotherton was a leader in his family, his church, the community, a successful businessman, but to me and 15 others, he was Grandpa. Three years ago today, he passed away after succumbing to a brain tumor. Today as I stand in northern Michigan a place rich with family memories I want to share him with you.

Michigan was a place that held many precious memories for Grandpa. From family vacations with his own parents when he was boy to his honeymoon with Grandma, loading up the station wagon and camper, taking his children, then grandchildren and great-grandchildren on Michigan adventures, celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife and children…what Michigan meant to him was magical, indescribable. With grandpa we have camped, boated, and biked our way across most of the state. This legacy is one that he has passed on and now even his great-grandchildren have come to know and love. And so it was, on Saturday night, three years ago, as we neared the cabin in Michigan, that we received the news that Grandpa was gone. His chains of illness no longer bound him. He had been set free and he was home with his Lord, and Savior. Walking into the cabin that night I was surrounded by reminders him, his voice in my head, and his things just as he had left them, blissfully unaware the year before.

Grandpa taught us, his family and his friends so many things. The following are some of those lessons.

Everything we needed to know we learned from Grandpa in Michigan.
Family matters.
Nothing made Grandpa happier than having his family around him.

Share everything.
His cabin in Michigan served as a vacation spot for many families and he loved being able to share this spot. He felt it a privilege to be able share this place.

Appreciate the finer things in life…like a good meal.

Work hard and play hard.
Grandpa was a hard worker and a perfectionist. Growing up with very little he understood early in life the value of a hard days labor and made sure each of us understood that as well. He also understood the importance of rest and took time to enjoy the fruits of his labor, be it boating, camping, or relaxing on the back porch of the cabin.

Take risks.
It was only last year (now an unbelievable four years ago,) at 79 years old that Grandpa was in a kayak battling the Sturgeon River and playing tour guide.

Compete.
Everything in life is a competition, mealtime is no exception. And along those lines, always pick the fastest go-kart and show no mercy.

Plan ahead, as in dinner.

If its worth doing, its worth doing well.
Grandpa spent countless hours sanding the back porch of the cabin and then applied at least 7 coats of sealant. If one if good, 7 is better.

Take good care of your stuff.

Ivory soap floats.
You will never feel as refreshed or sleep as well as you do after a night swim in Lake Michigan and Grandpa always remembered the soap.

Enjoy a good laugh, even if it’s at yourself.
Try as hard as he might Grandpa wasn’t always the smoothest. Once he welcomed a new cabin visitor to his “humble commode” and on New Year’s Eve just as the ball was beginning to drop he decided to change the channel and find better reception. Needless to say, the group huddled around the tv missed the entire thing. He always enjoyed a laugh afterwards though. Grandpa was also the victim of a practical joke or two. As easy as he was to rile up it was often difficult to pass on the opportunity to stir things up. Whether it was a spoon with fake melted ice cream left on his prized piano or a geo-cache with the cache actually hidden by his barn, he was always a good sport about being on the receiving end of a joke or two.

Finally, the greatest lesson is this. Be strong in your beliefs and don’t apologize for them. Grandpa’s faith was fiery and he shared it with anyone, any chance he got. You never know when something you have shared will make an impact on someone. It may be years later but it’s important to plant a seed. It’s okay to be afraid but hold fast to your faith. Know that God’s hand is in everything and when the waves of life come crashing down, we may not understand why but we know that God is in control and He has a purpose and a plan.

A remarkable man, a remarkable legacy…

Heaven stands

imageI have unanswered prayers
I have trouble I wish wasn’t there
And I have asked a thousand ways
That You would take my pain away

When my world is shaking
Heaven stands
When my heart is breaking
I never leave Your hands

I do have unanswered prayers and I can’t tell you how many times I have prayed that God would take the pain, physical and mental away. But what a comfort to know that heaven, God and a host of angels, are standing for us, behind us, beside us, as our world is shaking. And even more, to know that when it does shake and our heart is broken in the process God never let’s us go.

George MacDonald says “Trusting even when it appears you have been forsaken; praying when it seems you words are simply entering a vast expanse where no one hears and no voice answers; believing that God’s love is complete and that He is aware of your circumstances, even when your world seems to grind on as if setting its own direction and not caring for life or moving one inch in response to your petitions; desiring only what God’s hands have planned for you; waiting patiently while seemingly starving to death, with your only fear being that your faith might fail – “this is the victory that has overcome the world“; this is genuine faith indeed.”

Have you been there, feeling forsaken and unheard? Are you in the place where you faith is thin and if it fails, you know with certainty that you will crumble under the weight of all that you carry? I understand, I have been there. As I faced a future with Takayasu’s Arteritus I was afraid, and I prayed over and over that God would rescue me and He did. Maybe not in the way that I thought He would or should but He has given me more strength, more sanity, more of Him, than I ever had before I was sick and I wouldn’t trade any of that for the busy that I had before. I have come to a place where unanswered prayers begin to take on a different meaning, a place where I can begin to see the good in Romans 8:28. (Read When The Last Thing You Need…)

This is where heaven stands…

More than a Sunday morning Christian

20130721-095555.jpgI need a Christianity that is more than Sunday morning pomp and circumstance.  My desire is for a Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday love, real grace and mercy for when we need it most.  I believe this is what the world is looking for as well. The challenge is to be more, to live a real Christian life. The Word of God is unchanging, immovable, the same today as it was yesterday and it will remain just as rock solid tomorrow.  God is not swayed by the changing social culture, the current president, or the wayward winter winds that blow.  But it’s easier and less confrontational to just go with the flow.

John Piper explains it this way. “…it’s the lack of a sense of desperation for God that is so deadly. If we don’t feel desperate for God, we don’t tend to cry out to him. Love for this present world sets in subtly, like a spiritual leprosy, damaging spiritual nerve endings so that we don’t feel the erosion and decay happening until it’s too late.”

“This environment can be deadly to faith. It allows false faith to masquerade as real faith very easily. And its power to dissipate zeal and energy and mission-focus and willingness to risk is extraordinary because it doesn’t come to us with a whip and a threat. It comes to us with a pillow and a promise of comfort for us and our children. The former makes us desperate for God. The latter robs our sense of desperation.”

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
(Casting Crowns, Slow Fade)

Welcome to Sunday morning Christianity. Aren’t we called to be more?

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

What does a miracle look like?

20130716-074832.jpgJust after being diagnosed with Takayasu’s Arteritus, I kept telling everyone that I felt like I was awake for the first time in a long time.  Why?  My Christianity was in hibernation, only to be awakened in crisis. I have learned that if we don’t use our “faith muscles” everyday they will be sluggish and sleepy when we need them. We will have to dust off our Christianity like a long-forgotten tool and hope that we remember how to use it and pray that it
will “start on the first pull.” I see so many people in the same place that I just was and want to scream at them to wake up! I have come to think of the Holy Spirit as caffeine for a drowsy spiritual life. Today, I am living my life steeped in God’s word and close communion with Him. But it’s only because it took a crisis to wake me up.   The problem that I know I struggle with is that I get too easily complacent and self-sufficient. It becomes a slow fade from utter dependence to “Oh yeah, hey God I could use you today.”
Let me break down my walls of pride and tell you that God isn’t interested in my eloquence as a speaker or a writer. He is only interested in my surrendered life. I am no good to Him, my message holds no weight, unless He, and He alone, is the author of it. And if I am brutally honest, with myself as well as the rest of you, without a diagnosis of Takayasu’s Arteritus, and the continuation of battling an incurable disease (which means no miracle) my pride and self-sufficiency would still be running my life. And my fear is that with a miracle, those worldly crutches would begin to eventually, over time, creep back in to their supreme position.
Life hurts sometimes, no doubt about it. When it does I have learned that I need to step past my pride and self-sufficiency and have the confidence in my weakness to ask for help when I need it and then have the humility to receive it on God’s terms so that his perfect strength can be displayed. I don’t need to understand it, I don’t need to agree with it. In fact, I don’t have much choice in the matter if I am going to be obedient.

Helplessness and weakness…I used to hate them but God loves them and because of them God is able to use me. Maybe this is my miracle…

Still Moments

20130716-071131.jpgMoses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today…The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:13, 14 NIV)
Moses is telling the Israelites as they faced the Red Sea on one side and the advancing Egyptian army on the other side, do not be afraid, stand firm, don’t give up, just get out of the way and watch God work. I love that! Do you feel caught between an army and the sea today? Quiet your battling mind, hand over the struggle to God, no matter how big or how small, believe He will fight for you, and then get out of the way and watch Him work!

Cease Striving…Be still…Know God (Ps 46:10) Sounds peaceful, right? Peace-filled is more accurate. "Still" has little to do with activity and everything to do with state of mind. Welcome to my crazy life!