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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Is This My Invitation?



I don't know what my life is all about -
So I get stuck in my head
Trying to figure the mysteries I live -
In wandering thoughts I lose sight of today:
I miss sunshine's warmth, the glistening dew,
Morning's fresh glow and 
The wonder of each moment.

Getting lost in my head I cannot hear
The chorus of nature - the whisper of peace.
Is this an invitation to lay to rest
Big, un-earthly questions?
To be still and sit before the busy bees, working ants
And bullfrog's rhythmic tempo?

Is this my invitation to gratitude,
To feel the Breath of life
Inspire, and respire
The sluggish spirit in me?
To receive this Breath - this intimate infusion,
This communing of my flesh-embodied spirit
With the Heavenly, Gracious,
Soul-stirring, Life-Breathing, Divine 
Spirit?

The wind blows and reminds me once again
That this power and force is only seen or known
In feeling, movement, 
Impact and effects.

I am moved, Breathed-upon,
Invited to feel and be known,
To receive and revive:
Enter the moment unhindered
Un-distracted
And enter the peace
That comes from breath,
Wind, and communion with the Divine.

Big questions will sit - floating in my cluttered mind -
Remaining as brain-chatter
Like a tornado captured inside.
But the sun rises and sets,
The birds fly south and return;
The rhythm and choir of life
Sings its original song
Each new day.

And I hear a Greater Voice
Hints of a knowing and responding:
"I do not give answers,
Because I have given Myself."

And I AM in that moment
Is Enough.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Living in Shadows


Living in shadows becomes my habit
To shelter from life in murky grey
I feel the in-between -
Seeing visions of day I still prefer
The hidden space, a comfort from blinding light
Seeking to uncover, reveal, unravel
Inner workings that would widen my sight
Perhaps too far
Too broad
Beyond what I know.

Bravely I step away from hiding -
Boldly embrace the light of day -
Cast off fear and donning courage
Open my eyes and see there is more...
A work to undertake,
A journey to make -
The pathway is for the bold, daring, foolhardy.
All caution disdained I set my face like flint
Embark to see, to know, to discover
How light shall not frighten
How Truth is a person
How I can become free in the light
Known in love
Embraced in Truth.

Living in shadows has its time, its space
But its work is to shield what can't be seen
Until such time as vision grows, heals
And light invites the courageous to enter.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What the Queen taught me of baptism

Three weeks ago, Caleb and Priscilla were baptized. I was privileged to share a few thoughts beforehand. Here is what I said:


Two words sum up what I am about to tell you: Legacy and Royalty.  Each of you getting baptized today has been handed a legacy of spiritual commitment. None of you were born with faith in Christ, but you were taught it: shaped by it.  This is your spiritual legacy.  But mere exposure does not make a Christian.

The Queen of England was eligible for her role because of her royal birth.  But sometimes one who might become King or Queen decides to go after something else – they choose to step away from the calling to the throne, and pursue their own desires.  It was over a year between the time the queen became officially queen and when she was publicly crowned in a coronation ceremony.  You have been a child of God since the day you put your trust in Jesus.  But today you are making it public – you are dedicating yourself to your calling as His child.

Much like a marriage, with lifelong vows, the queen commits herself to a life of selfless service and dedication to guarding the Christian faith, and devoting herself for the rest of her life to her country with special attention to fostering unity and stability.  One part of the coronation ceremony caught my attention:  She takes on a white robe, and then is anointed on her head, both hands and chest.

“But wait,” I hear you say. “I am not a queen. What does this have to do with me? I am not royalty!” 

 Oh?  BUT YOU ARE:

Listen to these words from 1st Peter: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The queen received and embraced her anointing.  Today the water will go over your head, your hands, and your heart.  You are recognizing yourself as wholly, fully, completely belonging to God: that your thoughts, your actions and your desires – what you love – are set apart for Christ’s kingdom.  Today you embrace and solidify your commitment to walk asroyalty the rest of your lives. You enter these waters freely because you have been drawn into God’s kingdom – you have come to know Him as your Father.  And by doing so you proclaim publicly that you embrace this calling; that you welcome this process of being set-apart for whatever He has for you the rest of your lives.

I want you look on this day as a turning point in how you see yourself.  That you will move forward in your spiritual life with a different outlook, with the identity of ROYALTY. Today this ceremony – much like a coronation – or crowning, is where you publicly assume the identity you have already received.
Today you are marked with a new identity.  You areroyal children of the King.

Unlike marriage, where commitments can be broken by both parties, you have entered a secure relationship with God Who promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 

It is a bold, daring and audacious thing to say, “I identify with Jesus Christ for the rest of my life.”  Yet you have every reason to do so – drawn by His amazing love, to fellowship with Him, to receive His ongoing grace, forgiveness, friendship and presence in your lives, you say, “Count me IN! Sign me up!”

 It is the most wise, obvious commitment to enter – because you are KEPT by Him, LOVED and WELCOMED as His precious child. He KEEPS you.

LEGACY.  And ROYALTY. 

You have been given both.
Don’t forget who you are. 

You are His child, clothed in royal robes, a precious possession, so very loved.

Walk as His children. 

Walk as royalty.

  And know that you fully belong to Him.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

3 Words in Retrospect on 2016

This is what I wrote just a week ago, on Dad's 77th birthday.

Tuesday, 3rd January, 2017

Today Dad would've been 77 years old - and he would tell me that he had attained perfection eleven times over (7 being the number of perfection)!  The grief and missing him comes in waves - tears cannot be restrained and emerge when I'm alone, driving to pick up kids or wishing I could watch him blow out candles on the traditional Crutchfield birthday cake.

Last year I decided to form my year around 3 words - to orient me, to clarify where I was at or what was/were going to be my theme(s).  I found myself with an uncanny (and unusual, for me) drive to clean - toothpick clean - and found cleaning to be both therapeutic and frustrating at the same time.  The word "CLEANING" emerged for me as a picture of much needed backlog of internal soul-work that had been left untouched. I had prayed for God to lead me to the three words I needed for the year.  And on the threshold of last year I entered a cleaning-binge-phase and was given a clue.  Because in scrubbing and bending and stretching and moving in uncomfortable (even unnatural) ways (to reach hard to clean places) I discovered more dirt and dust-bunnies needing attention.  And the work and progress seem so hidden - not tangible or provable.  And I meditate and see with new eyes how much dedication it takes to clean - how much grit, strength, determination and flexibility it will take - and I am defeated.  I quit, complain, give up, brawl in bed and declare my own lazy nature to myself.  Cleaning of soul and house takes far more than I've got to give.  So often I literally (in the proper use of the term) want to throw in the towel.  And in the non-literal, metaphorical sense, the same applies.

  Cleaning seems absolutely pointless - you can never stay on top of it.  It feels like trying to wash a mud-caked elephant with a toothbrush - a monumental and daunting task only the fool-hardy, ridiculously ambitious types would dare to tackle.  But cleaning has been my calling - and though I've no real evidence to show for it (our house too often resembles a pig sty!), I will continue to work towards physical and emotional cleanliness - heart-hygiene that becomes a habit.

My second word for 2016 was knitting.  I wasn't looking for great profundities here.  Just concepts to help me identify myself - what I do, think, and am - in essence.  My inner self escapes me at times.  She runs off to hide and I feel only a shell of a person.  Knitting is repetitive, pointless, boring, cathartic and forgiving (all what I need).  It is hypnotic - can lull me into a trance where I see, know, feel and think absolutely nothing - and everything - at the same time.  It is mind-emptying (not in the dangerous, mystical sense, but in the 'leave room to hear God's voice' sense) - a great pause - "mental-margin," I call it.   I have had a great backlog of need for mental-margin.  Mental-margin is where as a child Id gaze out the window on a bus ride and see trees and rocks and people and cars and clouds and sunshine and children in school jogging-suit uniforms with Filipina maids hustling them along.  Mental-margin is watching sparrows flock to crumbs fallen on the pavement and pick a fight over them.  It is day-dreaming in the rain and welcoming the endless hours of downpour - yearning for the sky to release its weight of liquid cleansing so the soul can be both glad, sad and free of the tumult churning within.  I have missed mental-margin.  You don't get it when kids bicker in the car or when one of them has his umpteenth meltdown of the week.  There is no mental-margin in days taxed with the needs of heel-nippers all around.  I had been depleted - lost any sense of grounding - couldn't tell who I was, or what I cared about.  Knitting forces and creates mental-margin.  It seems like an utter waste of time - any item could be gotten far cheaper at a thrift store I suppose.  But the point is not in what is made.  The point, for me, is creating mental space for rest, catharsis, imaginings and reflection.  God made me to have busy hands, for that is where my mind becomes free.  So He gave me the word "KNITTING" to shape my year.

  The third word took much time to come to.  It wasn't until halfway through the year that I saw it  emerging on the landscape of my life.  'Cleaning' and 'Knitting' came quickly, and obviously and were so simple I almost discarded them.  "Surely not, Lord," I thought - "Don't you have something more profound, biblical, theological or purposeful than these?"  But these kept echoing in my thoughts, habits and heart.  So I just said, "Okay, whatever. Makes no sense to me... But what's my third word?  What about 'hope' or 'joy' or 'peace' or some virtue I can grow in?"  (Couldn't He lead me to one of these words to somehow redeem the mundane and ordinary words of 'cleaning' and 'knitting'?)

  In March I experienced the most awful, gut-wrenching event of my life.  My Dad was suddenly gone from this world to his eternal home.  My heart was torn in two - I could not take it in.  I kept waiting to wake up from the nightmare.  I was introduced to a kind of grief and loss I'd never before encountered.

  As the weeks and months unfolded I entered an unfamiliar realm: the descent into the desert of grief.  Only now is the reality setting in - the dull, pulsing ache of sorrow.  Each month takes me farther from when I last saw him, hugged him, heard his voice.  Each change is clouded with missing his involvement - a birthday, an achievement, a kid playing in a recital, a performance at Christmas - all of these feel sad because I won't be reporting to Dad how they went.

  Grief is like a river - sometimes slow, sometimes turbulent, sometimes dangerous and scary.  But it always moves.  It is always carrying me along to somewhere.  At times the movement is imperceptible, but beneath are steady currents that are strong and powerful.  The stillness on the surface is deceptive because deep down torrents are raging and moving to a place of explosive power.

  And my third word for 2016 crashed onto my life, an unwanted guest whose imposing presence intruded on me without permission.  This guest, "GRIEF" has come to stay - not as a guest, or even an unwanted intruder - but as a companion, a counselor and an invitation to communion with the Divine.

Cleaning.
          Knitting.
                      Grieving.

All take time.  All can be frustrating.  All require strength, grit, patience and reflection.

In 2016 God invited me to reflect and re-acquaint myself with Him in His work - in me - patiently stretching me to find pockets of unreached, untouched junk, giving me space and time to weave pointless projects (a hat, a scarf, a blanket - though it wasn't the thing that was the point of it), but mostly to re-discover mental-margin and His voice that is heard in such stillness.  And He drew me into the work of grieving, to engage with Him in my sorrow and loss and journey into the reality that He binds up the brokenhearted.

  He gave me my 3 words in 2016.  And as I open the book on another year, I wonder what 3 words will anchor, define and clarify life for me this year.  I'll ask God to show me, and open my ears for His response.  I am confident He'll show me His words for me.  How can I be so bold, so confident?  Because He defines Himself as the WORD - and has said He will never leave me nor forsake me.  The living WORD gave that promise to His own.  So I will boldly trust that He will walk with me into this New Year.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Story of the Stream

One day the Streammaker decided a certain mountain needed a stream.  He opened up the heavens, poured down the rain and soon enough a great torrent was rushing down the mountain.  As it was a new stream, things were not as they should be, as far as streams go, that is.  The water was dark and murky.  The stones were very sharp.  Big clumps of earth and mud and roots and grass got in the way of things.  No matter.  The Streammaker knew how to make His stream, so He did.

At first it was very exciting.  The stream was exuberant at all the new adventures and discoveries to be made.  Each day he welcomed the sunshine with glad splashes and a happy rush - the flow itself disbursed its own joy of simply being, of moving, of reflecting and of singing.

But as the new stream needed to be settled, some things were rather disturbing.  Once in a while, a big clump of leaves and dirt would dislodge and go tumbling away.  The stream felt he was losing part of himself.  "You didn't need that - you can let it go.  You will be sparkly clear without it," encouraged the Streammaker.

Quite often the stream admired the sparkly stones in the flow of water.  He noticed, with a twinge of sorrow, how the sharp edges were becoming dull.  "I liked it when it was sparkly!" he gurgled to the Streammaker.  "Can't you do it some other way?"

"Those sharp edges could hurt someone - perhaps a child will come to play in you someday.  Do you want your sparkly stones more than you want to be a safe place for others?"  The stream quieted and trusted the great wisdom of the Streammaker.  Surely, he knew what He was doing.  But sometimes it didn't feel good at all.

"I thought being a stream was going to be so much fun.  Turns out there is so much change and turbulence, and smoothing of stones, and washing away dirt - I'm afraid my flow will never be the exciting thing it once was," thought the stream.



Once in a while a bigger rock or boulder would tumble into the stream.  The whole course would be affected then.  The stream would have to adjust and begin to wear away the hardness of those huge stones.  This work seemed endless - little progress could be seen, but over time the edges did become smooth - and these bigger stones even served a purpose.  People could now come and sit on them, dangling feet in the water and the stream could feel his purpose in providing comfort to those who sit in streams.

Most people never had time for such things.  They rushed about doing the things people do.  They might let their children splash in the stream - after all, children didn't always see the need to rush.  The stream delighted in children.  They seemed unaware of the joy they brought the little stream - they splashed and soaked and even dislodged a few stones.  Sometimes they would play so long and so devotedly in the stream they might actually change the course of the stream forever.  They might build a dam and the stream had to work up enough flow to overcome it.  They might walk in the mud and dirty it up and the stream would just have to endure the muddiness for a while, until enough time and water flowed to make it sparkly clear again.  Oh how the stream loved children, for it reminded him of how he once was - happy to be dirty, unconcerned for anything but immediate pleasure.

But it also made the stream glad to see that he was moving away from childhood.  He was being taught his purpose - he was learning how to flow.

Sometimes the stream felt his life was utterly boring.  It was the same thing every day - this or that bird would swoop by, this or that deer would come for a drink, this or that reed would wave and dip with the gentle breeze.  But the stream knew nothing else to do, but to flow and reflect, to gurgle and sing, to wash and renew.  Sometimes the Streammaker let time go by with no changes at all.  And the stream would wonder what He was up to.

Sometimes those times of stillness would lead the stream to be impatient.  So he would muster his power and strength and push his water to a boulder he wished to move.  He would nudge it a different direction, and more often than not this led to it landing in an awkward spot.  "I didn't like it where it was, and now I've forced it to an even worse place. I wish I'd asked the Streammaker for His help," he bemused.

Streams are like that, you see.  They can get restless just like the rest of us.  And when something impedes their stream, they might try to nudge it away, not knowing that if it sits and they watch and wait, that stone may become a resting place for some weary traveller.

That isn't to say the stream had no business in wishing it away - no, the stream had a life within his flow that bore its own sorrows and joys.  But trying to fix things without the Streammaker's help was simply inefficient and tiresome.

The Streammaker was delighted with the little stream He'd made.  Often He would send a cool breeze to rush through the leaves of the surrounding trees.  Or He would clear away clouds to see the sunshine glisten on the water.  And then He would invite the children to come and play.

"My life flows on in endless song,
Above earth's lamentation
I catch the sweet, though far off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

What though my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth,
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night He giveth.

The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing!
All things are mine since I am His!
How can I keep from singing?

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that Rock I'm clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heav'n and earth,
How can I keep from singing?"

-Robert Lowry, 1869




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Friday, May 27, 2016

I'd like to Guess about Jonah

At Church we are doing a series on Jonah.  And so my mind has wandered, straight to the text, of course, and I have begun to think I can be just a bit inside Jonah's head.  With smug arrogance, I often (too often, I admit) have told my kids I can read minds.  And here I am, centuries after Jonah lived, and thinking I can somehow get inside his mind.  So, pardon my over-confidence here, but I'm just going to take a stab at what was going on with him.

I'm going to use some sanctified imagination, and go out on a limb and fill in the gaps with my musings.

I imagine that Jonah was raised by godly, somewhat rigid, well-meaning, devout, circumspect, righteous people.  He was probably a first-born: cautious, wanting to please, high-achieving, with keen insight and greater burdens of responsibility.  He took his upbringing well, I suppose, as we can guess because he went on to invest himself in full-time kingdom work as no less than a prophet.  I'll bet he was an inspiring leader.  He probably gave himself fully, seriously, and courageously to his work as God's appointed spokesperson.

When the book of Jonah opens, however, he isn't in his most stellar moments of life.  The biblical record has left us with more questions than answers, and gives us little of the details of who Jonah really was.  And isn't that just like God, to make it really not about the glorification of super-hero kingdom ministers, and more about the glory of His name and the spread of His good news to the farthest reaches of creation?  Because, I'm sure Jonah would have liked to go down in history as a faithful guy, who executed his spiritual obligations with grace, obedience and joy.  But we jump in on the story after what I imagine would have been his dark night of the soul.

I say this because as the book opens, he isn't interested in doing God's bidding anymore.  I wonder if some deep tragedy or disappointment with God had struck - perhaps a loss, a rejection, a failure.  I don't know what it might have been.  But whatever it was - and I think there was something - he seems to be confronted with what he had held to be true for most of his life.  Perhaps he was stuck in some linear thinking that if he just did everything he was supposed to do, God would fend for him and make his life peachy good and downright comfortable.  Maybe I'm being a little harsh.  But he strikes me as one who struggles with self-righteous legalism.  I think he thought pretty good of himself until his life started to fall to pieces.

I wonder if he had some reckoning with God and when God sends him on the next mission, he just throws in the towel and says, "No way.  And I'm not shy about saying it.  I'm so through with this - and I'm putting feet to my words - I'm heading the other way."  And without hesitation he sets off on the opposite path than what God told him to.

Now, usually we stop there and talk about how bad it was to do this.  Disobeying God is not recommended and we see where God has His way and still gets Jonah to do what He wants, not what 'he' wants.

But I'm tired of sticking with that storyline - plus, it doesn't take us inside Jonah's mind - or God's for that matter.  And who can know the mind of God?

Jonah is so sick of living life as God dictates and he's so mad or heartbroken or disappointed or despairing - of some conflagration of all these - that he is suicidal.

You read that right.  You thought that wasn't til chapter 4.  Think again.

Because right there in chapter 1, we have Jonah willing to have his life ended, rather than to repent.  He is on a ship with godless men - and God is still having His way with the weather and all - and Jonah is napping and basically like, 'I don't care.'

But the men gripped with fear won't allow Jonah the luxury of a nap below deck.  Prayers are demanded and Jonah is still not on great talking-terms with the God he is running from.  He would rather drown than bend his will to the God of the wind and waves.  Jonah's heartbroken despair, rage, and eventual disenchantment with life led him to this point - the point of not even caring about the living of life: a total rejection of the sovereign rule of God in his life.

I'm thinking many of us can relate to this.  I understand the shock to the core, the devastation, the realization that God does what pleases Him, and though it is the best, it doesn't often feel like that.  As hard a rap as Jonah gets from us moralistic relatives of his, I soften a little when I wonder what kind of painful emotional upheaval he might have faced that brought him to such a deeply tragic place of wanting to cast his fate to the deathly waves on what seemed to be the end of his earthly journey.

Let's cut him some slack, shall we?  Probably most of you learned your Jonah lesson well in Sunday school and would never dream of defying the orders of the Most High.  And, I truly hope that is the case.  But chances are, if Jonah wrestled with God in this way, there might be others of us with that honest, fighting spirit who find an awkward dissonance when faced with inner turmoil and just wonder if life is worth the living anymore.

Oh dear Jonah.  I think I get you.

But the main character in the story of Jonah isn't Jonah, but God and all that God does - how He acts, and shows up in the oddest of ways.

And while we think Jonah was wrong to disobey God, isn't it just like God to unfold a purpose even in the wrestling-poor-choices that are made, even in rebellion?

Because you see, Jonah was still a missionary of sorts.  And while not on speaking terms with God, God seems to work around that and use Jonah to bring His presence to the ship-crew who knew Him not.

After hurling Jonah to the sea, they made sacrifices to the One True God and made vows to Him.  Sounds an awful lot like conversion to me - worship and commitment and acknowledgement of Who God is.  And these were people outside the fold.  Though they had feared for their lives, and early on regretted having such a nuisance of a passenger, I'll bet that was a voyage they never forgot.  It was their day of salvation.

So, while Jonah flailed about in angst, rage and sullenness towards God, God still had the upper-hand (of course) and used Jonah to introduce the ship-crew to Him.  Seems in running from God, He just landed Jonah with an extra preaching mission which he unknowingly served, and probably didn't know the results of, while taking what he thought were his last gulps of air this side of glory.

Sometimes I wonder if honesty with God about our disappointment with Him borders on rebellion. Perhaps it does.  But apparently God can handle it, and continues to use His servants, even in their despair and flight from Him.

And that, in a nutshell, gives me hope.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sheldon Crutchfield, Through a Daughter's Eyes

Once upon a time there was a girl and she loved her father very much.  That girl was me, and I'd like to tell you about the man I called, 'Dad.'

But, what can I tell you about my Dad?  You know him - have heard so much already.  But you can tell something about a person by what moves him - to tears, to anger, to action and where he finds joy.

You know about Dad and his work - the stuff he did 'out there' (and sometimes it was way out there).  But let me peel back the curtains a bit for you now - a behind-the-scenes peek into what it was like to be his daughter.  To many of you he was 'Sheldon the missionary' or, as I like to say, 'Sheldon, the pillar of Hong Kong' or 'Sheldon, Mr. Beautiful' (as he often introduced himself this way)!  To me, he was simply my Dad.  As a kid, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the stuff he did outside our home.  It can be tempting to over-focus on ministry to the neglect of family; thinking the grand importance of gospel-work is greater.  Dad always made us a top priority.  He drove us to school each day - to our lessons and activities and took time to be with us in the ordinary things.  He made each of our children feel that they mattered specially and specifically to him.  He generously gave his resources - often beyond his means - to those in need in far-off places - and then would go on and give even more to us, his family - spending his last few dollars on a milkshake.  He was extravagant with us and with anyone he saw in need.  Sometimes I'd be concerned for his needs and he'd say, "The Lord will take care of us.  He always has."

So, what moved Dad to tears?  Only a handful of times did I observe Dad weep.

  • He wept hard when learning of his brother's death, and when he lost each of his parents.  He did not shield his tears, but wept like Jesus did on hearing of Lazarus.
  • When I had hard times during my teenage years, he would weep over me, and pray asking God to forgive him for not being a better Dad.  He would pray for me, but not to preach at me.  His prayers were honest, humble and at times, desperate.  My heart was like ice during these times, but his tears spoke to me and melted my resistance, though I didn't let on.
  • Once, on July 4th we watched a T.V. special and during the singing of 'America' I saw him with tears streaming down his face. 'You okay, Dad?' I asked. 'It's so beautiful, it makes me weep.'
  • When Caleb was born, he was with us, and he wept tears of joy at the birth of his first grandchild.
  • When my sister lost a baby in early pregnancy, Dad wept hard.  He wept.  His heart carried our sorrows.  His tears for his hurting children were an outward expression of his deep love for us.

But there were also things that made Dad angry:

Our life had many crazy events - one of which was when neighbours clobbered me on the head with a brick.  Dad expressed such anger and outrage that Mom had to hold him back from going over and doing damage!  (It wouldn't look so good for the missionary to do in the neighbours).  At the time, I only saw his fury - but later it dawned on me that this outburst came from a place of fatherly protection.  His anger in this situation was a reflection of his heart that deeply loved me and couldn't stand the thought of harm coming to me.

But I also saw Dad express anger when he observed injustice and oppression.  These stoked his anger.  And in ministry, he had ample opportunity to witness this kind of abuse.

It seems that Dad understood social justice long before it was a 'thing.'

Injustice bothered Dad so much that he spent the better part of his life driven to action for those who lived under oppression.  Yes, this was his ministry, but even more, it was his life's passion.  And in daring greatly for the cause of God's kingdom, he instructed me in what God is like.  The God Dad showed me is not one who merely cares for us with passive sentiment, but One Who takes action - Whose care translates into presence and help.  Often Dad would whistle the tune:
                         'O God our help in ages past, 
                         our hope for years to come.  
                         Our shelter from the stormy blast 
                          and our eternal home.'
Dad lived taking refuge in God, his help, and sought to bring the message of this eternal refuge to those who had not understood this.

Dad took so many trips that in recent years we would try to gently encourage him to consider the idea of retirement. "What would I do?" he would say.  "You would lead a quieter, simpler life and travel less and spend time with the grandkids."  "That might get old quickly," he said.  We couldn't argue with that.  Compared to gallivanting about the bush in the Philippines, or hiking in remote regions of Vietnam, the idea of staying put did seem somewhat anticlimactic.  He was honest about the life he wanted to live.  Some people say, "Shop 'til you drop." But Dad lived the opposite - he lived to give, and he gave to the very end.

I have mentioned weeping, anger, and action.  But not for joy.  Most people would have described Dad with words such as jovial, funny, lighthearted, quick-witted.  One friend, on hearing the sad news of Dad's homegoing commented: "The laughter in heaven just got a lot louder."  On the surface, we could say Dad was funny and jolly (when asked to play-act as Santa for poverty-stricken kids, he gladly did so and fit the bill perfectly!).  But he also had a much deeper joy.  Dad used humour to put people at ease, to make them think and to build bridges.  I was amazed how he could even use his corny jokes to draw students to be curious about the Bible.  A friend was recently reflecting on his ministry and how he so naturally used humour.  She said that often it is a foreign concept to many: the idea of a God Who laughs, Who is delightful, joyful - a happy God.  This is far from the rigid, religious ideas of what God is like to many people.

He would be embarrassed that I say all these nice things about him.  He'd be embarrassed because he didn't view himself highly.  I have never known a more humble man.  Dad admired and was proud of his family heritage: there's even a book that chronicles his lineage.  Many were high academics and great entrepreneurs and had talents in music and verse - or even public office: one cousin became U.S. Ambassador to China.  I know that while God uses and calls many to serve Him in business and academics, that His calling on Dad's life, uniquely used Dad in his gifting to the bearing of eternal fruit.

I can say, with confidence, that self-giving characterized his life, knowing it isn't to his own glory, but to God's.  And here's why: I only knew Dad for the 39 years of my life.  His earlier years weren't so great.  When he would talk about his life post high-school, I got the impression that he shrunk back from doing much of anything.  He had been a poor student (which was always a great encouragement to me), and was directionless in life, until he met my Mom.  He thought of all the great people in his family and just felt he couldn't measure up.  But in my estimation, though he never climbed corporate ladders or dwelt in halls of academia, his life's work in investing in eternal things, was no less remarkable, and possibly more so.  Later in life, he recognized, in great humility, that only by God's grace had he become such a willing servant in God's kingdom.

Dad often talked with pride of his own father who had been president of the Florida Citrus Commission - and there were pictures of him with various U.S. presidents.  I like to think of my Dad being welcomed by the King of Kings, as having served in His vineyard, as a cultivator of spiritual life and fruit.

So, how does one become such a willing and fruitful servant?  How did Dad become the treasure that he was?  I'm not sure I can adequately answer that.  So let me direct you to something that came to mind as I was thinking about Dad.  He loved to point out these verses in John 15:

"I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business.  Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit - fruit that will last - and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.  This is my command: Love each other."

These verses talk about being a servant, and being a friend.

In Dad's life of service I know he faced many challenges - often feeling weak and much in need of God's sustaining help.  Knowing his own weakness, he lived in full dependence on the Lord Who loved him so much.

The greater identity, however, I believe is that of friend.  Dad's servant's heart flowed from a soul deeply rooted in the love he found in Christ and the desire to worship Him with his whole life.  Dad found joy in a very personal friendship with the God He served.  I think one reason 'Jesus loves me' was Dad's favourite song was because of its profound simplicity - but especially because he could relate so well to the words, "Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong."  He drew strength from knowing how much he was loved by God, and he taught me to do the same.  I know he felt so unworthy of God's love.  But he took refuge, joy and hope in it.  Worship - being with God's people, meditating on God's word, expressing love to God in prayer - this drew him close to God, and was never a chore for him.  It was something he was eager to do.  He always looked forward to meeting with God's people, and often I saw him tear up during worship or when he would share thoughts at the Lord's table.  God's love came through and reached me through my Dad.  Often he would pray, with deep gratitude and tears, thanking God for loving him and saving him.

Dad's greatest joy was introducing people to his best friend - the Lord Jesus.  He knew that there is no greater way to live than as a child, dependent and perfectly loved by the God Who made us.  His life is a testimony to what the love of God can do.

Often Dad referred to the prophet Isaiah, chapter 58, when he saw oppression - he knew it was incompatible with the life of faith.  He had no respect for lip-service Christianity.
Let me close by quoting one of his final facebook posts, as I think it speaks for the life he lived:

"It seems to me that the emphasis in fasting for most people is something passive, such as not eating or going without some other activity for a time.  Isaiah 58 makes it clear that God considers fasting to be much more active than passive.

'Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself?...
Is it to...spread sackcloth and ashes under him?
Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?
'Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,...to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house;...
Then shall your light break forth..., and your healing shall spring up speedily;...
The glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'
If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickeness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday...
and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."

Isaiah 58 (portions) (ESV)

At the last memorial service we held for Dad in Hong Kong we closed with a song that Dad introduced to his home fellowship in recent months.  It communicates a message, and a call that Dad lived and longed to see fulfilled.  As we grieve his homegoing, the question remains: who will step up to the plate and fulfill God's mission on earth?  Who will dedicate themselves to living for what matters in eternity - the Word of God and the souls of people?  What investment are you making in eternity - in what will outlast the days you live in this earthly vessel?  How are you bringing God's love to a hurting world?  Dad has gone on to his eternal reward, but we are left facing a task that remains still, quite unfinished.

Facing a task unfinished that drives us to our knees,
A need that, undiminished, rebukes our slothful ease,
We who rejoice to know Thee, renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee, to go and make Thee known.

Where other lords beside Thee hold their unhindered sway,
Where forces that defied Thee defy Thee still today,
With none to heed their crying for life, and love, and light,
Unnumbered souls are dying, and pass into the night.

We bear the torch that, flaming, fell from the hands of those
Who gave their lives proclaiming that Jesus died and rose.
Ours is the same commission, the same glad message ours;
Fired by the same ambition, to Thee we yield our powers.

O Father who sustained the, O Spirit who inspired,
Saviour, whose love constrained them to toil with zeal untired,
From cowardice defend us, from lethargy awake!
Forth on Thine errands send us, to labour for Thy sake."

- Frank Houghton