Life is Like a Track Meet

About a month ago, I attended my very first track meet ever. I honestly never paid attention to track except for watching some of the Olympic events on TV. Even in high school, I gave no thought to our school’s track team. I couldn’t tell you whether we had a good team or a bad team or even if we had a team. I was a wrestler and running and jumping and stuff like that wasn’t my thing.

Jacob passes the baton to another runner in a relay race.
Jacob passes the baton to another runner in a relay race.

But now that our twins, Jacob and Joshua, are running as freshman on the track team, Jen and I have been introduced to a whole new world.

If I had to describe a track meet in one phrase, I’d say it’s “organized chaos.” Unlike team sports like soccer, basketball, football or baseball, a track meet features multiple events that are all happening at the same time. Runners are racing while jumpers are jumping and pole vaulters are vaulting while discus throwers are throwing.

Though it seems like each event is disconnected from the rest, in actuality, each event can earn team points toward the overall team score. So even though the distance runners aren’t aware of what’s happening with the sprinters, and the sprinters aren’t aware of what’s happening in the field events, each group within the team is working toward scoring points for the overall team score in an effort to win the meet.

I thought about how life is like a track meet. We all have many different areas in our lives that often feel disconnected. We have work, family, friends, neighbors, church, youth activities and school activities, not to mention our personal hobbies and online communities.

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The 100 meter sprint ends in a photo finish

Like a track meet, it’s easy to see each of these areas as distinct and separate from the others. John Ortberg, in his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, says that the great quest for people today is to achieve “balance” with all of the disparate segments of our busy lives. But the problem is that this desire for balance often leads us to compartmentalize our faith. We think of a pie chart with 7 or 8 slices that each represent different areas of our lives. This paradigm encourages us to think of matters such as “finances” or “work” as non-spiritual activities. It keeps us from realizing that God is interested in every aspect of our lives, not just our “spiritual” activities.

The idea of “balance” implies that we’re trying to make our lives more manageable and convenient and lacks the notion that my life is to be given to something bigger than myself, just as the track meet is more than the individual events but the larger team goal.

The goal as Christians is not “balance” but integration – what Ortberg calls a “Well-Ordered” heart. As we work with Millennials, our desire is to help them see that Jesus wants to be completely integrated into every aspect of their lives. We want to help them live for Jesus and express their faith in every area, whether it’s at work, or with their friends, or with their family, hobbies or finances.

Instead of seeking “balance” which sees our main problem as external – a disorder in our schedule or season of life, living a well-ordered life sees that our main problem is internal, and we need Jesus to be actively involved so that we might experience true transformation from the inside.

Thank you for your part in our chaotic lives and for enabling us to pursue a well-ordered heart while encouraging Millennials to live in such a way that Jesus is fully integrated into every area.

Women's Long Jump
Women’s Long Jump

The Trabuco Hills boy’s Track & Field team is currently ranked #1 in Orange County.

Check out this link from the Orange County Register: http://bit.ly/1UTwxX5

2015 – The Year in Review

Well, 2015 is officially in the books! It’s been a challenging year in many ways as we started out with Jen being in the hospital for a week. But God is good and we’ve been blessed in many ways. Jen has been slowly improving since her condition was stabilized in February and there are many fun memories to revisit – from the boys starting high school and excelling at Cross Country, to getting our first family pet, the boys flying on a plane by themselves for the first time, to seeing friends & family members we hadn’t seen in a while.

Here’s a 2 minute video glimpse of 2015 for the Lowe Family. Have a Happy New Year and here’s to hoping for a blessed 2016!

Cheering from the Sideline

What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, Jen was at home recovering from an 11 day hospital stay as her doctors struggled to stabilize her Vasculitis condition.

In January, Jen had another flare and spent another week in the hospital as doctors blasted her body with high doses of Prednisone in an effort to get her Vasculitis under control.

This last year has been filled with unknowns and uncertainties, along with anxiety, worry and plenty of discouragement. We’ve been sustained by the prayers and words of encouragement from our many friends and family.

I remember getting a hand-written note in the mail from a friend who’s also on staff with Cru. Her husband had been dealing with an unusual spinal condition that had been hard to diagnose and treat for over a year. She wrote me a note as a fellow care-giver encouraging me to continue trusting the Lord and praying specifically that by the same time the next year, our situation would look much better and we would be well on the road to recovery.

I was very touched by the thoughtfulness of her note but admit that it was hard to imagine what things would look like in a year.

Things have been steadily progressing for Jen and our family since we began seeing Pulmonary and Rheumatology specialists at UCLA in February. By getting Jen on an immunosuppressant that her body can tolerate, Jen’s condition has become stable, allowing the doctors to begin slowly tapering her off the Prednisone drug which has caused so many negative side effects. In fact, by God’s grace, Jen will be completely off Prednisone on November 20th (two days after she has her 2nd Prednisone-related cataract surgery)!

This fall has been a new season in the life of our family. Jacob and Joshua have started high school and are running on the Cross Country team. Jen and I are taking steps to establish our ministry to Millennials & Jen has resumed her role as part of a team that oversees a leadership development training program for leaders throughout Cru.

Jen (2nd from the right) with the 4 Cru Leaders who will be a part of her Process group for the next 2 years.
Jen (2nd from the right) with the 4 Cru Leaders who will be a part of her Process group for the next 2 years.

In fact, we experienced a small milestone of sorts in early October. Jen boarded a plane for a week-long conference in Orlando related to her Leadership Development role, while I drove a group of 7 unruly freshman and sophomore boys to Clovis to compete in a Cross Country race. It marked the first time in 18 months that either of us had traveled outside of the Southern California basin. It was a significant step for us and our family as we’ve journeyed on the road of recovery.

Yesterday marked the conclusion of Jacob and Joshua’s first season running Cross Country in high school. It’s really been a great year for them and they capped it off with their best race of the season at the league finals. Joshua finished 4th and Jacob was 5th (1/10th of a second behind Joshua) among freshman boys. Their excellent finish earned them both freshman all-league honors.

As I was sorting through the plethora of pictures I took at the meet, I came across one that caught my eye that I wanted to share with you. Unbeknownst to me, Jen was in the frame of pictures I took of Jacob and Joshua sprinting toward the finish line. In the pictures, Jen can clearly be seen cheering Jacob & Joshua on.

Jacob and Joshua fend of a Dana Hills rival as they sprint to the finish line in the league finals race. Jen is on the left cheering them on.
Jacob and Joshua fend of a Dana Hills rival as they sprint to the finish line in the league finals race. Jen is on the left cheering them on.

To me, it was an accidental bonus to get Jen in the picture of Jacob and Joshua sprinting to the finish. But more than that, this picture illustrates what we’ve experienced in our lives as a family these past 18 months. As we’ve struggled to move forward, experiencing obstacles and barriers that might discourage us, you, our friends and our family, have been there cheering us on, encouraging us to press on.

Thanks for encouraging us to keep pressing on, and please continue to pray for us and cheer for us as we keep sprinting toward the goal!

Embracing New Vision

It was my junior year of high school and I was at an all day wrestling tournament. As I sat in the stands between matches, I looked across the gym to the other side at the many butcher paper posters that were hanging on the wall cheering on the various teams that were competing. Only, I couldn’t read what they said. I turned to my mom and asked, “Can you read those signs on the wall over there?”

“Yes, can’t you?” she replied.

“No, I can’t see them clearly.”

That was it. The next week, I went to the optometrist and I’ve been wearing glasses ever since.

I often wonder what people did before the invention of glasses. There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to see things clearly.

Up until last year, Jen had always had perfect vision. Reading up close and seeing things far away had never been an issue, that is, until her long-term Prednisone usage caused cataracts to develop in her eyes. She suddenly found it difficult to see her computer clearly and things at a distance were out of focus.

At first, her eye doctor didn’t want to give her prescription glasses, thinking that her vision would correct itself after she reduced the amount of Prednisone she was taking. But after several months with no change, she went back to the doctor and finally got prescription lenses. The glasses definitely helped, but not as much as we expected.

After several more months of fuzzy vision, Jen went back to the eye doctor and learned that her cataracts had grown and she was going to need surgery.

Two weeks ago, Jen had cataract surgery on her right eye and it’s made a HUGE difference. She no longer needs the glasses that she was using for distance vision. She’s still having difficulty seeing things close up though. We’re not sure if that’s just the normal vision adjustment that we all go through as we age, or if it’s a result of the cataract in her left eye causing her vision to be blurred.

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Jen can see more clearly now that she’s had cataract surgery in her right eye. Joshua (left) and Jacob and seeing more clearly on the trails now that they are wearing contact lenses.

The same day Jen had cataract surgery, I took Jacob and Joshua to see the optometrist.

Joshua started wearing glasses in elementary school while Jacob’s vision seemed to be fine until last fall, when he complained of not being able to see the board in class clearly. A quick eye exam revealed that he too needed glasses for distance. But his vision changed and he recently has complained again about not being able to see things at a distance clearly, even with his glasses.

The eye doctor confirmed what we had suspected. Both Jacob and Joshua needed new lenses as their old prescriptions were no longer adequate.

Because they’re active in running, we decided to let them get contact lenses so they would be able to see, not only in the classroom, but out on the trails as well. This past Saturday, they were able to run in their first invitational with contact lenses.

It’s amazing how much clear vision can affect our perspective and our demeanor. I was reminded of that recently via a Facebook video that went viral showing a 6 month old baby’s reaction to getting glasses and being able to see clearly for the first time. You can check it out the whole story on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/cI1jBVD1OY0.

I’m finding that having a clear vision in ministry is important as well. For the last year and half, our vision has been impaired by the circumstances of life. It’s not that we don’t know what we want to see the Lord accomplish or even have some ideas about how to go about it, but it’s more like the circumstances of life have acted like a cataract, creating barriers out of our control that made it difficult to focus.

But the good news is that with Jen’s condition more stable than it’s been in the last 18 months, we are finally beginning to see things more clearly and with more focus.

We’re excited to move forward on the journey the Lord has us on. There are still challenges and circumstances that are making our journey different than we had imagined but we are anxious to see how the Lord will use us to impact Millennials in Orange County and the surrounding Los Angeles area.

Thank you for journeying with us and for being our eyes even when we were not able to focus clearly. We are extremely grateful for you!

Starstruck

Waiting at UCLA to meet with the Rheumatologist
Waiting at UCLA to meet with the Rheumatologist

This last week marked the one year anniversary of the current health journey that we have been on. I remember vividly being in Nashville when Jen began experiencing sharp pains in her chest that landed her in the ER. I remember my friend Mark Short, who was a student years ago during our University of Arizona days and who also happens to now live near Nashville, adjusting his schedule on a moment’s notice to come and visit us in the hospital. I also remember my fears and anxieties being relieved when the doctor told us that he believed that Jen was suffering from walking pneumonia.

Of course that was just the beginning of the journey. There have been 5 hospital stays, countless doctor visits, chemo-therapy infusions, biopsies, endless tests and procedures and enough blood drawn it seems to fill an empty blood bank.

After Jen’s last flare in January landed her back in the hospital for a week, we were advised by our Pulmonologist to seek more advanced medical care and treatment from experts at a teaching hospital. We ended up setting up some appointments at UCLA and that has been very helpful for Jen in the course of her treatment.

Last month, we had two appointments at UCLA that were helpful and encouraging. The first appointment was scheduled during the first day of spring break so it became an all day family event. We made the best of our time in L.A. by spending a day at Universal Studios, which the boys were pretty excited about.

Joshua (left) and Jacob in front of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine at Universal Studios.
Joshua (left) and Jacob in front of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine at Universal Studios.

The next week we were back at UCLA for a full day of tests followed by a consultation with the Pulmonologist. Jen got a CAT Scan of her lungs and also had a Pulmonary Function Test.

When we met with the doctor, he showed us the image of the CAT Scan and compared it side by side with the image of her lungs when she was in the hospital in January. The difference was noticeable. Her lungs now look more clear.

However, Jen’s Pulmonary Function Test results showed that there is still some kind of restriction. The doctor said that could be the result of some lingering inflammation or it could be the result of nearly a year of being pretty inactive and sedentary. We remain hopeful that Jen’s lung capacity will increase over time.

Near the end of our appointment, we met with the head of the Pulmonary group, a doctor named John Lynch. Apparently, Dr. Lynch is one of the leading experts on Vasculitis in the United States. He told us that Vasculitis is pretty rare, with only 3 to 7 cases per million each year. That means there are probably only about 1000-2000 cases of it each year in the U.S. Because of that, he said it’s good to get treatment from doctors who are very familiar with the disorder.

He also told us that based on his observations and Jen’s test results, he thought she might be in remission. That was certainly good news – probably the most positive news we’ve heard in the last year!

Later in the week, when Jen met with her local Pulmonologist, he seemed star struck when Jen told him that we had met with Dr. Lynch. His comment, in an excited tone was, “You met with John Lynch! Wow! I spoke with him at a conference once!”

After our appointment, Jen and I went to dinner at a local mall in hopes of avoiding the rush hour traffic on our way home.

Dave & Jen pause to take a picture with Millhouse from the Simpsons at Universal Studios.
Dave & Jen pause to take a picture with Millhouse from the Simpsons at Universal Studios.

As we were exiting the restaurant, I walked right by Bob Newhart, who was walking with his wife into a different restaurant. Jen had already walked past him without noticing. Starstruck, I caught up to her and in an excited voice exclaimed, “Jen, we just walked right past Bob Newhart!” I guess it’s just a fun footnote of our trips to L.A.

Jen is continuing with her current treatment and continues to lower her dosage of Prednisone, which is now being reduced at a slower rate. She is now taking 9 mg per day.

The main issues now are continuing to build lung capacity, while hoping and praying that the many side effects of Prednisone will begin to subside. Among the side effects we are hoping will dissipate are blurred vision, bursitis in the knees, water retention and weight gain, and loss of hair.

Please pray with us for Jen’s continued recovery. Pray both for increased lung capacity and also that her body will be healed of the many negative side effects of Prednisone. Pray especially for perseverance as the recovery process often feels like 2 steps forward and 1 step backward.

Please pray for healing from a minor surgery Jen had to remove a skin cancerous mole as well as a tooth extraction and permanent implant that will be coming up in the near future.

As always, we are grateful for your continued prayers, support and many notes of love and encouragement!

Click here to read the pdf version of The Lowedown.

Stripped

Last month we learned that our insurance company had been victims of a massive data breach and that the personal information of everyone in our family has been compromised. Of course our worst fear is that someone might use that information to commit identity theft.

In this age of technology and social media our identity is more important than ever. We go to great lengths to ensure we’re protected financially from those who would steal our vital information for their own personal gain. We also want to protect our reputation. I have a doctor friend who has a very low profile on Facebook simply because he doesn’t want anyone else creating a false identity of him online that might negatively affect his reputation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about identity recently. I’m not talking about the ethnic and age demographic information that seemingly everyone wants to know these days. I’m talking about where we get our value – where we get our identity and sense of worth from.

For most men, value, worth, identity often come from our jobs or our achievements. It might be a diploma from a prestigious school that is proudly displayed so that everyone can see it. Or it might be a car that represents a certain financial and social status. Or maybe it’s a house in a certain neighborhood that projects a certain status to others. Regardless of what it is, many people gain their sense of worth and value from external things such as our family or our job or some other material things.

I think this last year has been a refining period where the Lord has been slowly stripping me of the things that have tended to give me value and self-worth. I don’t have a fancy car or house and that chiseled physique seems to continually elude me, but for the last 25 years I’ve had a ministry that has enabled me to feel productive and fruitful and therefore valued. There was never a shortage of stories of someone who had trusted in Christ or who had experienced some radical life transformation.

This last year, with the challenges we’ve faced in our family and struggling to get a new ministry off the ground, I’ve found those stories harder to come by. It’s forced me to reflect more deeply than ever and ask myself where my identity lies.

I’ve been reading through the New Testament and in Mark chapter 1, Jesus goes out to the desert to be baptized by John. When He comes up out of the water, the Spirit descends on Him in the form of a dove and the Lord speaks, “You are my Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.”

I find it comforting to realize that the Father spoke these words before Jesus had performed any miracles, or healed any sick people. Jesus hadn’t cast out any demons yet, taught to any large crowds or paid for the sins of the world. Jesus had done NOTHING. And yet, the Father affirms His identity (You are my Son), affirms security through unconditional love (whom I love) and also affirms value (with You I am well pleased).

As it turns out, the best story of transformation we have to offer these days are examples from our own lives.

Thank you for the part you have played and are playing in our own transformation. Please pray that as the Lord continues to strip and refine and prune our character, that it would result in lives that are more fruitful and glorifying to Him!

Jen’s Health Update

Jen is tapering down on her dosage of Prednisone and so far it appears that this new immunosuppressant she has been taking is working. Please pray that there would be no complications and that many of the negative side effects of Prednisone (blurred vision, bursitis, muscular atrophy, water retention, etc.) would begin to subside.

We have appointments the next two weeks with doctors at UCLA. Pray for wisdom and clarity and that the treatment plan would help stabilize Jen’s condition and help her get back to feeling normal again.

Other Family News

It’s hard to believe that Jacob and Joshua are in the midst of registering for high school. They are filling out their schedules now and requesting their classes and electives. Wow! It’s gone by too fast and is almost surreal.

Jacob and Joshua after receiving their certificates for California Junior Scholastic Foundation (CJSF) for 8th grade.
Jacob and Joshua tie for first place in the Los Alisos 2 mile run.
Jacob and Joshua tie for first place in the Los Alisos 2 mile run.

Jacob and Joshua are doing quite well in school and are involved in various activities. They are involve in a running club at school where they tied for first in a 2 mile race that took place yesterday. They are also enjoying their last season of flag football.

Please pray for wisdom as they choose their classes, apply for sports teams and prepare themselves for life as high schoolers!

The Ups and Downs of Dealing with Medical Issues

 

Dear friends,

HumeLake1
Jacob and Joshua prepare to head up to Hume Lake with their youth group!

Jacob and Joshua are at Hume Lake this week with their church youth group so Jen and I are spending the week alone! We are praying that they would have a great time in a great environment and that this week will be pivotal for them in their own spiritual growth and development!

It’s been two weeks since I sent out any significant update on Jen’s health status. We want you to know how grateful we are for you during this time in our family and we wanted to give you an update so you can continue praying for us.

The last two weeks have been filled with more doctors visits, more lab work and even a trek to UC San Diego for consultation with another rheumatologist.

What we know for sure is that Jen has a lung disease known as Non Specific Interstitial Pneumonia (NSIP). In layman’s terms, it means that her lungs are really inflamed. The doctors have been working for months to isolate the source of the inflammation. We know for certain that it’s not viral or bacterial. She doesn’t have an infection that can be treated with antibiotics.

ScrippsSign
The “new” Rheumatology offices at Scripps are located in the basement. Ugghhh!

Instead, it’s been determined that Jen has a vascular disease known as Vasculitis. This is a rheumatological condition, meaning that it is being caused by her own immune system, which is not functioning properly.

A few weeks ago, Jen’s rheumatologist prescribed a steroid for Jen to begin taking in order to deal with the inflammation in her lungs. Though it has really helped Jen to feel a bit more back to normal, there are side effects. For one, the steroid makes it more difficult to maintain your blood sugar level, which is very critical for a diabetic. Jen is working very hard to manage her diabetes. We are really thankful that she has an insulin pump, which has helped tremendously.

The other noticeable side effect is that the steroid has made it more difficult to go to sleep and to get good rest.

So one prayer request is that Jen would continue to maintain her blood sugars while on the Prednisone and also that her sleep would be minimally affected.

The goal is to treat the vasculitis and to get it into remission. To do that, Jen’s doctor wants to prescribe a chemo-therapy grade drug (Rituxan) that has proven to be very effective. We don’t know when Jen will begin treatment because the doctor needs to get approval from our insurance company before administering the drug since it’s quite expensive.

Scripps1
Jen checks in for her appointment with the Rheumatologist at Scripps. Her diagnosis and proposed treatment plan were confirmed.

The good news is that this drug has shown to have minimal side effects compared to other chemo-therapy drugs. We’re told that most people adjust rather well to the drug, allowing for a more normal lifestyle during treatments.

Please pray that we would get approval from our insurance to cover the drug and that by taking this drug, the vasculitis would be put into remission.

The drug is given intravenously at an infusion center, so no hospitalization will be required. That’s good news for us as we’ve encountered a number of problems with our insurance covering the two different hospital visits that Jen has had over the past few months.

Honestly, one of the biggest prayer requests right now for us is that we would be able to get some of the insurance stuff straightened out. I can honestly say that dealing with insurance and some of the medical bills that they don’t seem to want to cover has been far more stressful than the medical issues themselves.

Pray for us to continue to trust the Lord during this time. Pray for healing and please pray that our insurance would cover the hospital visits for which they are currently denying coverage. I probably don’t have to tell you that the amount for those two hospital bills is quite obscene.

We are so grateful for your prayers, cards and notes of encouragement. It has been so comforting to know that we are not walking through this alone.

God Bless!

Dave & Jen

For the PDF version of the newsletter, click here.

 

The Year in Review

A Year of Transitions and Graduations

It’s been said that the one thing that is constant in life is change. 2013 proved to be a year of transitions for us. Some were expected and others were quite unexpected.

One of the expected transitions we experienced this year was Jacob and Joshua graduating from elementary school to bona fide junior highers. It’s amazing to think about the growth and development of our twin boys, who are truly a gift from the Lord. We are so proud of the young men they are becoming. They excelled academically in grade school and have transitioned well to junior high. Even though the amount of home work has increased dramatically, they’ve persevered and continued to excel in all of their coursework.

BoysAtFive

FirstDayBoys12Left: Joshua (left) and Jacob at 5 years old. Middle: Joshua (left) and Jacob entering the school yard for the very first time. Right: Joshua (left) and Jacob at 12 years old.

 

Jacob and Joshua continue to develop spiritually as well. A highlight for us was when the boys decided in October that they wanted to get baptized. See my November 13th post on lowedown.com to read more.

An unplanned transition for us occurred over the summer when we officially “graduated” from the mini-van stage as a family. After 12 years of faithful service, we decided it was time to retire our mini-van. An interesting factoid is that we sold our mini-van to Michael Jordan. No, not THE Michael Jordan, but a guy like the one in this funny SportsCenter video:

 

Left: our old ride we sold to Michael Jordan! Right: Our new ride!

MazdaMPV

Highlander-Low

 

 

 

 

Our hope was to raise enough money to purchase a new vehicle outright. While we fell short of that goal, the Lord did provide for a down payment on a reliable used vehicle that we hope will serve our family for many years to come. Thanks to those of you whose contributions helped to provide a newer vehicle for us. We are grateful for how the Lord constantly takes care of our needs.

Finally, we experienced an unexpected transition when, after 25 years of working with the Campus Ministry of Cru, we transitioned to a new ministry and new endeavor with Cru City. We’ll be working to establish a ministry among Millennials, those who are 18-30 years old in our culture and who have been described as the least churched group within our society. I guess you could say that we’ve finally graduated from working with college students to ministering to those in the post-college age group. I guess we’re all growing up! You can read more about our transition to Cru City by visiting our website and reading our October newsletter.

Thank you for praying for us and partnering with us through all of the transitions life brings. We are excited to see what 2014 brings!

Click here to read the pdf version of the Lowedown.

 

We want to be Baptized!

Jacob and Joshua - October 20, 2013
Jacob and Joshua – October 20, 2013

Recently, I came across a picture from 2006. Jacob and Joshua were holding up a Good News booklet after they both had made a decision to trust in Jesus.

Jacob and Joshua proudly hold up their Good News booklet after having received Christ.
Jacob and Joshua proudly hold up their Good News booklet after having received Christ.

Over the years, we’ve had a number of conversations about their decision and whenever our church had planned a baptism time at the beach, we talked to them about it. But they were always a bit hesitant to take that step to publicly identify themselves as followers of Jesus via baptism.

A few weeks ago, unexpectedly, they both came home from their Wednesday night youth group meeting and announced that they wanted to get baptized.

So that Sunday, after the service, they both took the plunge, literally, to identify to everyone their desire to follow Christ.

It was an exciting moment for us as parents to see our boys growing spiritually and desiring to live for Christ.

We wanted to share that moment with you and say thanks for your prayers for us and our family. It has meant a lot to us to have dear friends and partners in the gospel praying for our family and our boys and their spiritual development.

Please keep praying for us and our family. And don’t hesitate to share any prayer needs you might have with us!

Love,
Dave & Jen

Jacob baptism
Jacob being baptized!
Jacob baptized!
Jacob baptized!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joshua being baptized
Joshua preparing to go under!

 

 

 

 

 

Joshua baptized!
Joshua is baptized!

 

 

Bracing for the Future

Not long ago, we heard the words that no parent wants to hear from their dentist.

“Your kids need braces.”

When we broke the news to our kids, understandably, they were not very happy.

I can sympathize with them. I remember having braces when I was in junior high and high school and it was horrible. It was bad enough that I had all of this exposed metal in my mouth, but the orthodontist told me I had to wear these little rubber bands that went from my top teeth to my bottom teeth. I couldn’t figure out what they were supposed to accomplish other than getting me to keep my mouth shut! Maybe it was a directive from my parents!

Dave - freshmen year
Dave – freshmen year

The orthodontist also gave me this contraption that he called “head gear.” It was basically a big metal bar that connected to the braces in the back of my upper teeth and attached to a strap that wrapped around the back top of my head. It looked kind of like an old school football helmet, with that bar sticking out in front to protect the kicker’s face. (Some have referred to it as a Halo)!

The purpose of the “head gear” was to put tension on the upper jaw, pulling it back to correct an overbite. The orthodontist instructed me to wear this thing “at all times”, including when I was at school.

“No Way!” That’s where I drew the line. I remember one person from school who wore a “head gear” and it permanently ostracized her from the rest of society. It was like having leprosy or some nasty skin rash. If you’ve seen the movie “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, wearing a “head gear” at school was equivalent to having the “Cheese Touch”. I wore it to bed and that was it.

During my freshman year of high school the inside of my mouth got so cut up from wearing braces during wrestling season that we referred to the inside of my lips as “meatloaf.”

Jacob with braces
Jacob in the 4th grade with braces

One day, my dad asked the orthodontist if he could finish what he needed to do without the braces. The dentist agreed to take the braces off if I would wear a retainer every night. It seemed like a good trade, so I enthusiastically agreed.

When the dentist took the braces off, I had nice straight teeth. Man I looked good! At that point, I was glad that I had invested over 2 years in braces. At some point though, I stopped wearing the retainer every night. It just didn’t seem completely necessary. I didn’t see the point.

One day, years later, I came across that retainer. When I put it in my mouth, I realized that it didn’t quite fit anymore. It turns out that my teeth had shifted. Slowly, they were drifting back to the state they were in before I had braces.

The concept of braces is simple: you put a wire around the teeth and slowly tighten the wire to straighten and align them. Once they’re aligned, you wear a retainer in order to keep the teeth from drifting back to their crooked state.

It seems to me that spiritual disciplines are a lot like braces. In my heart, I’m prone to sin and wander from what’s right and what’s true. I read God’s word, pray and practice other disciplines in order to stay on the right path.

God’s Word transforms me and helps align me to Him and His purposes. So spiritual disciplines are like braces in some ways.

Joshua - 4th grade with braces
Joshua in the 4th grade with braces

And it turns out, that once I stop applying these disciplines to my life, I’m prone to wander back to my sinful, selfish state, just as my teeth, without that retainer, will slowly drift back to being crooked and unaligned.

So when I question the purpose of reading my Bible, praying and meditating, I think about braces. The benefit may not be immediately apparent, but it’s the end goal that motivates me—to become more like Jesus.

Now if I could just think of a way to help my 9 year old boys to see the “benefit” of braces now. Because at this point, the motivation that “you’ll look good for the ladies” isn’t quite working. I’m guessing though that by the time they get their braces removed, they’ll have a much greater appreciation for “the ladies”!

Please pray for our kids and us to be constantly “aligned” to God’s purposes!

Click here to read the pdf version of The Lowedown!