Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fighting Ebola Empty-Handed And A World Away

Imagine a world where you can't leave your house because death lurks outside the door. Imagine a world where the body of your neighbor rots in the stifling heat and gathers flies inside her door and no one comes to take it away for a proper burial because surely they would die as well. It's hard to imagine because we can't. It's virtually impossible for us in America to take our mind to a place where life is truly but a vapor, a visible wisp of matter that can be extinguished seemingly in an instant.

This is life across a wide swath of West Africa, where the ebola virus has brought death to the doors of thousands of families in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. We've all read or heard the reports of ebola through media, with the latest alarming news that more than 1 million people could be afflicted with the virus by early next year. My personal knowledge of ebola comes through Rev. Samuel Kargbo, a minister in Sierra Leone who we have been working with in TEN3 (I am communications manager for the Transformational Education Network, or TEN3) to establish one of our computer training outreach classes at his school. Those plans have been put on hold as the ebola crisis deepens in Sierra Leone.

Last week, I received an email from Rev. Kargbo, who thanked me for praying for him and his family. It is a very terrible thing to see neighbors around you dying from a disease, he wrote. So far, he has lost three close relatives who live nearby. There are many dead bodies lying in houses -- four, more or less, in some houses, he wrote.

Rev. Kargbo continues: "The sad thing that has happened is this: since as I told you last the government could not meet the needs of the affected cases, quarantined families, the wife of my relative who died yesterday, his 22-month-old daughter, and two ward children have left the house without being quarantined. Who knows what may happen to the people they come in contact with? We pray that they never contracted the virus, but if they did, then it is obvious they will definitely pass the virus to other people."

Rev. Kargbo describes how the surviving relatives scattered to different parts of the city and country the morning of Sept. 23. He also describes what has transpired over the past two weeks. "Five people have died in connection to the same first victim that died on Wednesday, September 10," he writes. "Two of the women are neighbors who took care of the corpse before burial. We called the 117 number that is given to us and the burial team's number but nobody came to bury the first corpse.

"We (my wife and I) have discussed about how we could intervene but we could not because the lady had left the house this morning before we could send food stuff there. We have called her to come back to the house as soon as possible so that we could share from the little that we have. That is what the Bible says is true religion, taking care of the orphans and widows. As stated earlier, due to several factors, the citizens’ needs could not be adequately addressed in this crisis time, except friends and relatives step in to alleviate the suffering and deaths. One corpse that is said to have died four days before the burial team came to collect it and one infected person were collected three days ago close to our house. We do not want to do that but we have restricted the inflow of children into our compound to play. One way that we could be further involved in helping to save lives, especially lives of those relative who have left for the village, the wife and the baby is by assisting them with food items and restrict their movements for three weeks and see if they will report sick. If any one of them reports sick we will guide them going to the hospital for the test to find out if it is ebola. According to the teaching we receive, early detection and early treatment gives hope to the affected victim to survive."

He closes the email by saying he has temporarily closed his school for three weeks to assess the situation. At that point he will reassess the crisis and determine if the school should remain closed. So far, three of his students have fallen ill, Rev. Kargbo wrote. None of them have ebola, however.

I have asked him how I can help but the situation is so dire and chaotic in Sierra Leone that it doesn't appear there's anything I can do. Except pray. This week, my supporting agency for my mission work, Serving In Mission, has called for believers to have a week of prayer for the end of the ebola crisis in West Africa. Remember people such as Rev. Kargbo in your prayers. Remember the countries of West Africa. Remember Psalm 46:1: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

Monday, September 22, 2014

Faith That Matters In This American Life

Touch the Light

I was driving around Gloucester late last fall on a stormy day and spied this lone tree in a field. I actually stopped in the middle of a busy road and gazed for a few moments. Eventually I parked my car and walked around in a smattering of raindrops before finding the right angle for a photo.

There's just something that draws my eye to this old, gnarled and scarred tree set against the storm clouds and rising above the line of distant woods behind it. It's a lone sentinel in a field, surrounded by farm ground that's planted every spring and harvested in late summer. I'm not sure why it was left standing because it seems that everything else in what was once thick woods was chopped down and cleared away long ago to make way for ground to till and grow crops.

If you spend enough time in ministry you can relate to this tree. If you spend enough time in a relentless pursuit of God perhaps you can relate to this tree. Sometimes it feels as if you stand unprotected and vulnerable. Sometimes you take some blows. You can be buffeted by storms. You can feel alone.

All those things are what drew me to this tree. After all these years in that field and through all the changing seasons and the relentless onslaught of storms, the tree has endured. The tree is still standing. Sure it's beat up and gnarled and when you get up close you can see it's rotting in patches. But I like how, as I gazed at it from the base of a low knoll, the tree rises out of darkness and above the line of trees behind it, seeming to touch the light in the parting dark clouds.

It reminds me of our hope in Jesus. There's things that go on in within this Christian life, in faith, in ministry, that are trying and difficult. There's discouragement and at times despair. I'm reminded it always occurs when my eyes are focused on circumstances. I'm reminded to fix my eyes on Jesus. My hope and faith is in Him. And I'm reminded that in Him I'm never alone.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Life Is A Bowl Of Soup. With Sausage.

Getting prepped for soupalicious.

It's hard to explain my love affair with soup. I just really like making soup. Perhaps it's the very nature of a good soup; taking disparate ingredients and blending them together into something beautifully tasty. Which sounds sort of like our family. We have some legit kooks (a butternut squash or wild rice), some very sensible and level-headed family members (that would be corn), some who would be described as "normal" (a good chicken broth) and then there's one who's fairly whacked (that would be me, the onion).

A key ingredient for some of my favorite soups is sausage. A good smoked sausage, like your kielbasa, is an absolute delight in a soup. Why am I drawn to sausage? Maybe it's because I can relate. Making sausage isn't real pretty, I understand. Family life isn't real pretty sometimes either. But you throw sausage in the fire -- or at least a frying pan -- and oh, what a delight. Life for a big family can feel like sausage making and then you get thrown into the fire. The end result through all that trauma and fire is quite delectable. If you're eating sausage that is. For a family, at least our family, if you can survive all that squeezing and grinding and refining fire, then it's a beautiful picture of how all these different parts can work together and come out good. Or something like that.

The real back story to this blog post is I'm trying to wax poetic about making soup so I can post a blog post. (Did I just use the word "post" three times in a sentence? I need an editor.) So I'm going all symbolic with soup and sausage and family life ... let me know if it isn't working. Before you make any more fun of me, I'll just quit and offer up the recipe for Emeril Lagasse's smoked sausage, butternut squash and wild rice soup. It appears that Mr. Lagasse is pretty handy in a kitchen. (Editor's note: Matthew! Saying Emeril Lagasse is "pretty handy" in a kitchen is like saying Monet was "pretty handy" with a paintbrush. Author's reply: Oh. Well, then I'll say that Mr. Lagasse can cook good.) 

Here's the recipe, courtesy of the Food Network. Enjoy: Le soup extraordinaire

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Succeeding In One Thing That Really Matters

Succeeding in something that matters. A Thanksgiving Sabo family soccer match.

I was walking down the hall tonight to say bedtime prayers and saw my 10-year-old son reading his Bible. No one had asked him to, it's simply a legacy handed down from his older siblings that was started by Brenton when he was a lad. Every night, without fail, I can see Abram, now 15, reading his Bible. It's always one of the highlights of my entire day. The thought struck me that my kids are doing something that matters. Francis Chan has a fairly famous quote that sums up my thoughts this evening: "Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter." 

I've thought about this quote a lot recently as I survey the landscape of American Christianity through the lens of parents. And I'm pretty darn sure we're succeeding at things that don't really matter. So many people I've known over the last several years who had been churchgoers are partaking of the youth sports elixir. They spend their Sunday mornings at the soccer, baseball, field hockey, or any number of other athletic fields, watching their kids play. And the message they are sounding loud and clear to a generation of youth is that sports is more important than church. And we wonder why Millenials and others are walking away from the church? I  would suggest one factor is that it's not important to parents.

Look, being at church for the sake of being at church -- treating it like a club -- is a whole separate subject. In our family, going to church isn't optional and subject to whichever kid's travel sports team -- or any other event for that matter -- has a game or match that morning (Disclaimer: None of our kids are on travel sports teams). But neither is it this legalistic rite we do every Sunday. Going to church on Sundays is our time to corporately and individually worship the Lord, as well as pray, study and learn Scripture and fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ. It is vital. We look forward to it. We desire it. We are strengthened and encouraged by it. We are equipped by and through our worship, prayers and Bible studying on Sundays to navigate the travails of the week. We are also able to encourage our church family on Sundays.

At our church, Calvary Chapel Gloucester, even our young kids are studying through the Bible at their level. In the church, we study through the Bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book. Last week we studied Acts 4:1-12. Next Sunday we'll pick it up in Acts 4 verse 13. We have seen a tremendous amount of fruit in our lives and in the lives of our children in the systematic study of Scripture and prioritizing what we do on Sundays as a family. When our older kids leave the house, they choose to find a church in which to worship. It's vital to them and I thank the Lord for that. They have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They are firm in their faith. 

I truly believe that we are succeeding in something that matters.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Things Kids Say, And Sing, Are Simply The Best

Judah deep in thought on where to find faith.

To me, age 3 is right about the golden age of childhood. At least from a parent's perspective. The child's vocabulary is expanding by leaps and bounds, they've cleared the diapers stage, there's an uninhibited glee they often express over the seemingly littlest things and their personality blossoms. Judah is our resident 3-year-old and he has a way of putting things that is just so, well, Judah.

For example, one evening a while back he came to me with a very serious question. "Dad," he said, "can you keep an eye on me?"

After suppressing a laugh, because he was quite earnest, I told him I sure could. Then I asked why he wanted me to keep an eye on him.

"I might be up to something," he said.

I told him I appreciated the heads up and then went and kept an eye on him.

The other morning after getting up and playing for a while he came to me while I was in the kitchen. He had some news he wanted to share with me.

"My tummy tells me I'm hungry," he said.

I told him it's good to listen to our tummies when they tell us they are hungry.*

Another thing about Judah is that he loves music. He loves to sing and is always busting out in song. His current favorite is King and Country's "Fix My Eyes." Part of the chorus goes, "Fight for the weak ones, speak out for freedom, find faith in the battle, stand tall but above it all..."

The other night Judah was singing at the top of his lungs his own version of "Fix My Eyes." The chorus went like this: "Fight for the freak ones, find faith in the bathtub."

I love it. I actually like his version better than the original.

*Unless you're like me and have listened to your tummy tell you it's hungry way too much. There are times you shouldn't listen to your tummy when it tells you that it's hungry.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In A Big Family, Communication Is Very Important

Letting people know they are too close to the edge would be a good form of communication.

In a large family, having open lines of communication are very important. For example, say you were on a road trip across the country and made a quick pit stop off of I-80 in Nebraska. It would be very important to have open lines of communication between the passengers and the driver when one of the passengers noticed a brother or sister running out of the restroom and sprinting to catch up as the van headed back out to the endless cornfields freeway. In this case, it would be very important to say something. You know, like let the driver know there's a child left behind. Or maybe something like this: "DAD! STOP THE VAN! WE FORGOT _________ (enter the name of any of 10 children you might have accidentally left behind)!

On any given day in the Sabo house, there might be three dentist appointments, two separate soccer practices, picking someone up from school and dropping that someone off at work, then later picking that person up from work, a shopping trip in order to feed a small army our family, a night Bible study and an emergency late-night run to the store for ice cream. To achieve maximum efficiency in the Sabo house on days like this it requires the ultimate in communication. Husbands, read closely here because what I'm about to say may revolutionize your marriage: The key to communicating with my wife is that I need to "talk" to her. Yes, actual conversation that goes beyond grunts and "yes" or "no" or other primitive forms of male communication. I have discovered that it's often good to "talk" to my wife in the morning to achieve the previously mentioned maximum efficiency. Alas, sometimes I fall short. I still believe Julie has the ability to read my mind and it's not uncommon to get a phone call from her asking what I'm doing. That's usually a good sign that I should be doing something else, which typically involves a matter of importance in the Sabo household. And apparently I believe Julie is not the only person who should be able to read my mind.

On Sunday afternoon I left for Charlotte, N.C., to spend a week long retreat with my co-workers in the Transformational Education Network. I was dropping off Ethan in Richmond on the way so he could pick up his car and head back to Hampden-Sydney College in Farmville, Va. Monday morning got off to a great start with my colleagues until I got a text from one of my kids. Here is the text I got from my 17-year-old daughter Evie: "So mom just told me you went to North Carolina for a week ... I just thought you had decided to stay a night at Farmville when you dropped off Ethan. I asked mom when you'd be back today and she said, 'Oh...about a week.' "

Although I love to communicate with my children by texting, sometimes even when they are in the next room, that was not a text I enjoyed receiving. In fact, I was horrified. I should have my `Dad' card pulled. How did one of my kids not know I was going to be gone for a whole week? I extended my profuse apologies to Evie and am still kicking myself. When I get home I'm going to ground myself. After I make it up to her somehow. Like sharing my calendar with her on Google+ maybe? Would that qualify as good communication?

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Gloucester Game-Changer: `Pocahontas Lived Here'

Gloucester: The view ain't so bad. Neither is the history.

When I tell most people I am from the lovely, photographically enchanting enclave of Gloucester, Va., they give me a blank look that says, "Where's that?" Or a blank look that says, "I thought Gloucester was in Massachusetts." Often I've aided the geographically-challenged by saying the Virginia strain of Gloucester is across the river from Yorktown and Williamsburg, or an hour east of Richmond on Chesapeake Bay, or 2 1/2 hours south of Washington D.C. and a light bulb goes off above their head. But I've been scrapping all that lately and just saying, "Pocahontas lived here." Eyes light up at the mention of Pocahontas.

Just this morning it happened. I am in Charlotte, N.C., for the week for a retreat/conference with my co-workers in TEN3, Transformational Education Network (www.ten3.org). We are here at the headquarters of Serving In Mission (most notably in the public eye recently because two of SIM's doctors contracted Ebola recently while serving in West Africa) from literally around the world. From California to Zambia, 10 of us TEN3 missionaries are here  from around the globe to talk strategy, plan, pray, encourage and exhort each other on our mission to provide transformational Christian education materials and technology skills to disciple and equip young people in Africa and the Caribbean.

This morning I met another missionary who is here for a separate conference. This missionary serves in Ethiopia but is from Australia. When she asked where I was from I told her Gloucester, Va., and explained roughly where it was. Then I mentioned it's where Pocahontas lived. That was the game changer. She had seen the movie. You know, the Disney animated film "Pocahontas." Even though the scenery in the Disney flick is utterly and completely lacking anything remotely close to what you'd find in Gloucester -- for example, the next waterfall someone stumbles upon in Gloucester will be the first -- and I have yet to meet a animals or trees that can talk, it's one of those things that's made Pocahontas famous.

Beyond the Disney flick, I asked the missionary what she knew about Pocahontas. She was an Indian princess, she said. That appears to be part of the fascination with Pocahontas; other fascinating things include that she was an Indian princess, saved John Smith's life, conversed with animals and traveled to England, among other things. In May, when I was still working as a reporter for the Daily Press, I attended an event in Gloucester in which the Virginia governor, Terry McAuliffe, paid a visit to the historic site of Pocahontas' village, called Werowocomoco, on the banks of the York River. He hopes the site will become a national park, something that would truly put Gloucester on the map. Historians and government officials say that around the world, Pocahontas is more well-known than George Washington and other iconic American figures. They say that if Werowocomoco received a designation as a national park, visitors from around the world fascinated by the story of Pocahontas would pay a visit.  I bet I won't be explaining so much where to find Gloucester if that's the case.

Here's a link to the story I wrote for the Daily Press about Pocahontas' old stomping grounds becoming a national park: Werowocomoco story

Oh, and one other thing. We look forward to you paying a visit to see us in historic Gloucester.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Birthdays, Birthdays...So Many Kids, So Many Birthdays

Unlike most people, my first thought when I wake up isn't, "Coffee! I need coffee!" As a father of 14 children my first thought each morning is, "Is it one of my kids' birthdays today?" Now I usually can't make that determination until after I've had my morning cup o' joe, but quite often the answer is, "Yes." Today is one of those days. Our son Abram turns 15 today. So join me in wishing him a happy birthday.

Birthdays in the Sabo house are pretty cool. For one thing, we don't have to throw a big party because, well, it already is a big party. He already has 13 of his closest friends, in this case brothers and sisters, at his party. Our birthday tradition runs like this: We let the birthday kid pick out where he or she would like to eat dinner or lunch and the treat's on us. We have a cake, typically a fairly big cake, open some presents, -- our parental expenditure budget on birthdays is around $20; if those in the Sabo house who have a regular income choose to get a present for the birthday kid, then that's their prerogative and often times they do -- sing the birthday song and generally enjoy the festivities.

I distinctly remember Abram's birth. Now that I think about it, I distinctly remember the births of all the kids. I remember Eli was born at night when I was trying to watch the women's gymnastics competition during the Olympics in 2004. The U.S. women were going for the gold when Julie got serious about. I politely asked her if she could hold on just a little longer because the U.S. women were going for the gold ... just kidding! I said no such thing. May not have even thought it ...

In September 1999, I was commuting from Prineville, Ore., to Corvallis, Ore., after taking a job over in the Willamette Valley as a correspondent for The Oregonian. It was a three-hour drive and I would leave Prineville on Monday morning for the lovely cruise over the Cascade Mountains and come back Friday evening. Julie was due right around Labor Day, Sept. 6, and on that particular day I remember giving her something of an "ultimatum." I explained to her that if she didn't have the baby soon, I would be leaving for Corvallis first thing in the morning. So, you know, things needed to get going.

So Julie took matters into her own hands. Or womb. I remember going for a brisk walk around the block with her when she started going into serious labor. It was late in the afternoon and our midwives -- Abram was among the stretch of Sabo wee ones born at home -- we're having trouble making it to Prineville on time. So I started boiling water, cutting sheets and doing things doctors do. Just kidding! I believe I prayed fervently that the highway traffic would part like the Red Sea for our midwives.

They made it on time and Abram was born late in the afternoon, a whopping 8 lbs., 13 oz. and the chunkiest Sabo on record. It was a difficult birth and Julie hemorrhaged and I remember feeling helpless. The midwives were able to slow the bleeding with doses of Pitocin before we had to rush her to the hospital, which was literally a block away. I thank the Lord that Abram and Julie were fine.

Fifteen years later Abram is a wonderful son. He is kind, gentle, helpful, responsible an amazingly skilled Legos contractor, a faithful servant at church and very good with our little ones. One thing in particular I love about him is that every night I can find him in a quiet spot reading his Bible. At 15 he is one of the wisest people I know.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Party In A Jar: Canning For Dummies

This summer I have returned to my roots. I started canning again. Oh canning, how I have missed thee. The day after we arrived in Oregon in July, I ran out to a local farm outside of Canby and bought two flats of berries. One flat of Marionberries and one flat of boysenberries. These two types of berries are large, sweet, delicious and addictive. As any self-respecting Oregonian will tell you. I promptly made 30 pints of jam and they are delicious, if I don't say so myself. Superior, far superior I tell you, to what you can buy in the store.

Back in the day when we lived in Oregon we had easy access to berries. Raspberries, strawberries, boysenberries, black raspberries, Marionberries ... some of that was due in large part to our good friends Mark and Bob Webber, whose family had a berry farm on the outskirts of Canby. They would actually give us flats berries. You just can't find friends like those anywhere.

Anyway, things changed when we moved to Virginia and the berries, peaches, pears, cherries, apples for applesauce, cucumbers for pickling and other produce are harder to come by, depending on where you live. I have very fond memories of canning quarts of peaches in Oregon and opening a jar in winter and savoring every bite. If you've never had home-canned peaches, why I dare say you haven't lived yet.

I had fully planned to can green beans from our garden this year but we were in Oregon for the four weeks that our pole beans were producing ... so that didn't work out so well. Home-canned green beans are simply exquisite, my friend. Trust me. Anyway, we had friends give us oodles of tomatoes recently so last night I canned up some pints. I plan to buy another box today from the local farmer's stand and can up some more. These will go in chili, soups, sauces and a multitude of other dishes. In addition to having a superior taste to what you fetch from a store in a can, they are healthier without all the preservatives, additives and other dangerous chemicals and whatnot that are added. My jars of canned tomatoes consist of tomatoes, water and a little lemon juice. Basically it's nutritious and delicious in a jar.

Here's the deal with canning though. Maybe there's a stigma to it. You think of canning and something like this old photo from the Oregon State University Extension Office comes to mind:

Nothing could be further from the truth. Real men are canning produce. In their big boy jeans and t-shirts. The big hangup for men in canning their peaches, tomatoes and jams might be one thing: Following directions. Most men are born without the `following directions' gene. We don't need no stinkin' directions. We don't even need maps. (Which, truth be told, is how most of the known world was discovered. Men were heading in a certain direction in or on their boat, ship, camel, horse, wagon, Jeep, or whatever, refused to consult their map, or follow the stars, or read the compass, or check Google maps -- or use whichever navigation tool that was supposed to guide them -- and they ended up completely lost. Rather than admitting they were lost, however, they "rebranded" their journey, to use a marketing term. Suddenly they "discovered" a new land while on an "exploration" and labeled themselves as "explorers." Sure is a better label than going down in history as the "dude who got totally lost," eh?)

Men, when it comes to canning you have to follow directions. Look at it this way, great men follow directions. Case in point: Noah. Imagine if Noah hadn't followed God's directions to build the ark. We probably wouldn't be here because Noah would have "known how to do this himself" and he would've cobbled together some sort of raft made out of old wood pallets with a bed sheet for a sail and called it good. Now the sheep probably would've walked right onto the "ark" because, well, sheep are dumb. But I imagine the elephant would've looked at the monkey and said, "Um, no." The genius of Noah was his faithfulness, commitment, perseverance and, wait for it, ability to follow directions.

Trust me, if you follow directions when it comes to canning, you will not be disappointed. It's easier than you think and I never have thought after enjoying the fruits of my work, "Instead of canning that unbelievably tasty jar of jam I should have wasted my time surfing the Internet." Directions are a click away on this thing called the "Internet" and here in Gloucester at the moment you can get a box of tomatoes for canning at amazingly affordable prices. You can use them for straight up canned tomatoes, or salsa, or spaghetti sauce ... options aplenty! Go forth and do some canning men!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Top-Ten List: Books That Have Been Required Reading

For some reason I was tagged by someone on Facebook in a post about 10 books that you've really connected with over the years. (Thanks Sean Buckout!) You know how it works. Someone tags you and you're supposed to then do essentially the same post but with your own touch, flair, explanation, words, or ice, water and bucket. I guess there's been some sort of "challenge" making the rounds of the Internet and Facebook this summer involving ice, water and a bucket? Did I get that right? Anyone know anything about that?

Anyway, here's my list of 10 books. Don't everyone get on Amazon at the same time after reading this to order off my list of books. You might crash the website.

Bible. Quite simply, required reading. Every day. I prefer the New King James Version, but there's some other solid versions out there. It has everything you'd want in a book: Divine inspiration, God's plan explained, a guide to daily living, great literature, drama, agony, love (Song of Solomon baby!), flawed characters, heroes, stories of the miraculous, prophecy, history, amazing genealogies, in-depth character development of Jesus Christ as the Messiah and our savior, the words of Jesus, including some of his prayers ... I'm thankful I can freely read it every day.

Goodnight Moon. Pritnear book perfection. Oodles of Sabo children have sat on my lap and read this story with me. We're on our fourth copy of the book, I believe. I like it so much sometimes I read it to myself at night.

Go Dog Go. I absolutely love this book. Have for decades. And I don't even like dogs! I'm allergic to them! We were at a stoplight a while back and it was a a red light. The light turned green. Judah called out: "Go Dad go! The light is green now!"

Radical. David Platt nails it in this book. An instrumental book in my Christian walk and one that helped me inspect how we spend our money. Ultimately we were led by the Lord to significantly downsize our home and cut our monthly costs by hundreds of dollars, freeing up more capital to use for the Kingdom of God.

Not A Fan. I've read this book by Kyle Idleman a couple or three times. Are you a completely committed follower of Christ? Or just a fan? Idleman breaks it down for you. I hope you'll walk away a follower of Jesus and not just a fan. We have way too many fans in America, especially in the South.

Revolution In World Missions. Warning: If you read this book your life may be radically altered. And that's a good thing.

Stories Jesus Told: Favorite Stories from the Bible. There's just something about this children's book for me ... it's simplicity, it conveys Biblical parables taught by Jesus and I love the illustrations. We've worn out two copies already.

Love: The More Excellent Way. Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, defines love and details its elusiveness. The book had a profound effect on my life and a prayer of mine over the years is for God to give me a love for people. I'm a work in progress brother.

The Tower Treasure. Every good book list must have a Hardy Boys story on it, right? I believe this is the first Hardy Boys book I read as a young lad around the second or third grade -- I taught myself to read at the age of 4 -- and I became addicted. The books fed my love of reading, an excellent passion to have.

Crazy Love: Overwhelmed By A Relentless God.  "Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter," Francis Chan writes. Boom!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Three Key Things For Husbands I've Learned In Marriage

Twenty-four years ago today at a little church in Canby, Ore., I exchanged marital vows with my lovely bride, Julie Young, who wore the same dress her mother wore on her wedding day 24 years earlier. We were 21 on that lovely September day, when I became a dad to her little boy of 16 months. We wed on Labor Day weekend at the start of my senior year of college at the University of Portland, launching an adventure that at this point is nearly 9,000 days long, includes 13 more kids and has endured approximately 90,000 diapers and a move across the country. We've had plenty of struggles but the sweet memories we've made together are incalculable. Here's a few things I've learned about marriage.

Surrender. I am at my best as a husband when I can surrender my selfishness and my desires and serve my wife. My model in this life is Jesus, who came to earth to serve and not to be served. I freely admit it's a constant battle fighting selfishness. But my wife, and then my children, should be assured by what I do -- and say -- that I value and treasure them. Quite often that plays out simply in how I spend my time. Is it to fulfill my wants and desires or is what I'm doing showing them how much I love them? Too often I've chosen to do things I want to do ... I'm a work in progress! Here's the thing though: My fondest memories are times I spend with my wife and family and when I'm participating with them or knowing they are doing the things they enjoy, even though it's not always the way I wanted to spend my time. Essentially, my relationships are elevated when I take the lesser position.

Serving. This plays out in how much I contribute to the family operation, which at its core is serving my wife. Husbands, serve your wives. It's that simple. ("Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her..." Ephesians 5:25) There are certain tasks I've taken on over the years as a way of serving my wife and contributing to the operation of the family, such as grocery shopping, cooking and, yes, even changing diapers, to lighten the load on Julie. I've fallen well short in many other areas, however. I'm working on them, including taking the 2 littlest ones with me when I haul older kids to soccer practices and games to try to give her more free time away from the demands of wee ones. She's earned it after years of sacrificing her desires for our family and I'm committing to serving her more.

Relationship. To me, the most important relationship in our marriage is my relationship with Jesus. My marriage works best when I am spending time with the Lord by reading His word, by praying and in meditating on Scripture. It's a way to learn to model this earthly existence after my savior's. The word used to describe Jesus the most in the New Testament is `compassion.' If I bring compassion to my marriage, it entails numerous actions: Love, tenderness, empathy, humility, sensitivity, kindness and so much more. A compassionate husband is a good husband.

I still have so much to learn about Julie and marriage. I am learning how to get things right, how to submit, to be quick to apologize, to surrender and serve and have compassion ... I could go on and on. My prayer is that God will give me the wisdom, selfless love and heart to be a loving husband who treasures his wife.