Do You Pray for Your Political Rivals?

1 Timothy 2

1I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. 2Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. 3This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4for he wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

You may or may not know that Timothy was Paul’s “son in the faith”, which simply means that Timothy came to know Christ through Paul’s ministry. Timothy became one of Paul’s traveling companions, learning from Paul and being discipled by Paul.

Timothy eventually became the pastor of the church at Ephesus and Paul, knowing that he is nearing the end of his time on this earth, pens this letter to Timothy with many practical instructions designed to help him lead others.

In this section, Paul gives an exhortation concerning prayer.

Paul’s admonition is for Timothy to pray for ALL PEOPLE.

This was a pretty radical thought, since we as humans are typically inclined to pray only for ourselves and those who are closest to us. We certainly are not inclined to pray for those we don’t know, but that’s exactly what Paul tells Timothy to do.

What’s even more amazing about this passage is the fact that Paul commands Timothy to pray for kings and those in authority, “so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity.”

Given the state of our country these days, I wonder how many people are actively taking these commands to heart.

We are more divided than ever and much of our division is a result of our political views that are not embraced by those on the other side of the political aisle.  But if I’m taking this passage to heart and seeking to implement this wisdom that Paul gave to Timothy so long ago, then I need to pray for those in authority, EVEN IF THEY DON’T REPRESENT MY POLITICAL POSITIONS.

This means that if you’re a conservative, you should be praying for those who are more liberal, and if you happen to be liberal, you should be praying for those folks, leaders included, who happen to be conservative.

The reason Paul gives for praying for those in authority is “because it pleases God.”

Now I know what you’re thinking – you cannot possibly pray for the evil people on the other end of your political spectrum because they believe a, b, and c and they do x, y and z. How could anyone pray for “those” people?

Paul’s exhortation does not imply that you need to embrace the beliefs of those with whom you disagree nor are you required to condone their actions or their policies. You simply are commanded to pray for them. The reason, again, is “so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity.”

The intent and desire is to live in peace. Praying for those with whom you disagree often has the effect of enabling you to disconnect emotionally from the other person’s beliefs and policies and see that person in their humanity. It’s only at that point that we can begin to understand people and demonstrate love toward them.

Reflection

What has been your habit and/or practice in praying for “all people” and in praying for kings and those who are in authority over us?

What barriers keep you from praying for those who are our political leaders?

The reason Paul gives for praying for those in authority is so that we can “live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity.” What are some things in your life (people, habits, etc.) that make it difficult for you to “live in peace”? 

What are some things you can do that would help you to live in peace and quietness with others?

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

The Time God the Father Denied Jesus His Request

Mark 14

32And they came to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and Jesus said, “Sit here while I go and pray.” 33He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be filled with horror and deep distress. 34He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”

35He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground. He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by. 36“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.”

37Then he returned and found the disciples asleep. “Simon!” he said to Peter. “Are you asleep? Couldn’t you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? 38Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak.”

39Then Jesus left them again and prayed, repeating his pleadings. 40Again he returned to them and found them sleeping, for they just couldn’t keep their eyes open. And they didn’t know what to say.

41When he returned to them the third time, he said, “Still sleeping? Still resting?* Enough! The time has come. I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42Up, let’s be going. See, my betrayer is here!” (Mark 14:32-42, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

A few years ago I was counseling with a student who was having major doubts about God. Not only was this young man from a strong Christian home, but he was a missionary kid, so his family’s commitment to church and to ministry was greater than most. Given his background and family, it was a bit surprising to hear that he was doubting whether God actually existed.

As I probed further, asking questions to determine the source of his doubt, I learned that the seeds were planted way back in high school when he was part of an overseas youth group.

The group was planning to take a missions trip to a neighboring country during a scheduled school break but the trip ended up being canceled due to civil unrest in the other country.

The leaders and the youth were all aware of the dangers and they knew the possibility existed that their trip would not be allowed by the government because of political tensions. So the whole group began praying, EARNESTLY, that God would allow the trip to happen. They prayed that He would work out the circumstances and arrange events so that their small group would be able to take their trip and complete their planned ministry events.

When the event didn’t happen, this student began to question whether God existed. It didn’t make sense to him why God would not allow the trip. After all, wasn’t God concerned about these people who did not know Him? Wouldn’t He WANT them to take the gospel to those who have never heard? We’ve been commanded to GO, and they were planning and preparing to follow God’s command, so it only made sense to them that God would miraculously orchestrate events to make it happen.

But He didn’t. So this student made the conclusion that because God didn’t act in a way that made sense to him, then perhaps God doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is more common than we might think and it underscores a major misunderstanding of the purpose of prayer.

In Mark 14, after the Passover meal but before Jesus is arrested, He goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Jesus is in distress and His soul is in anguish as He thinks about what is about to transpire. Verse 35 says that,

“He prayed that, if it were possible, the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by.”

In the very next verse, Jesus tells the Father that He knows that “everything is possible with you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me.”

Jesus goes back to the disciples, only to find them sleeping. Verse 39 says that He went back and repeated His pleadings with the Father. Jesus repeats the cycle a 3rd time, each time finding the disciples sleeping before returning and praying and pleading with God the Father regarding His impending suffering.

Jesus is clearly troubled. He said, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” Jesus clearly pleads for a way to avoid this suffering and He appeals to the Father’s ability to do the impossible. Jesus KNOWS that God can do anything, yet Jesus’ request, is not fulfilled. We know how the story ends and Jesus does not escape the suffering that was so distressing to Him.

So why didn’t the Father honor Jesus’ request? Why does Jesus not get saved from His suffering?

The key to this whole passage is in the words that follow Jesus’ request. Jesus does ask for the suffering to pass Him by, but He follows that up with the words “Yet I want your will, not mine.”

Jesus, in His humanity, was looking for a way to escape what He was about to endure. But in His divinity, He humbly submits to the will of the Father.

The point of prayer is not to get what we want. God is not a genie who is bound to grant our wishes and requests. The purpose of prayer then is for us to align ourselves with God’s will, just as Jesus demonstrates. Sometimes this is difficult because we may not be entirely sure what God’s will is in some situations. But this just provides us with a greater opportunity to trust God for the outcome.

My student friend thought he understood God. He determined that God should act in a certain way in a certain situation. He (and others) even prayed diligently that God would respond in the way that made sense to them. When He didn’t, instead of determining that God must have other plans, or God is bigger than we are and we cannot see and understand all the details as He can, this student made the determination that God must not exist.

I want to be clear that I think it’s ok to ask God to respond to our needs and our requests. There was nothing wrong with the students praying earnestly that God would arrange circumstances so that their trip would happen. The error, at least for my student friend, was in assuming that God was obligated to act in the way he desired. He is not. These students, or at least this one student, failed to understand that while God invites me to be honest and to share my needs and preferences with Him, He is not required to give me what I want. Instead, He invites each of us to trust Him and to align ourselves with His purposes and His plans.

Reflection

When have you viewed prayer as an activity in which you try to convince God to give you what you want?

What do you think is the root reason why people approach prayer as if God is a genie who just emerged from a lamp, or as if He’s a gentlemanly Santa Claus, who desires to make us happy by giving us our most desired gift?

How does this passage where Jesus prays to the Father give you insight and instruction on how we should be approaching and thinking about prayer?

What are some other passages and Scriptures that inform your understanding of prayer and your understanding of the nature of God?

 

Photo by Arina Krasnikova from Pexels

Peter’s Bad Rap

Matthew 26

31“Tonight all of you will desert me,” Jesus told them. “For the Scriptures say,

‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

32But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”

33Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”

34“Peter,” Jesus replied, “the truth is, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

35“No!” Peter insisted. “Not even if I have to die with you! I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same.

36Then Jesus brought them to an olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go on ahead to pray.” 37He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he began to be filled with anguish and deep distress. 38He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.”

39He went on a little farther and fell face down on the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine.” 40Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay awake and watch with me even one hour? 41Keep alert and pray. Otherwise temptation will overpower you. For though the spirit is willing enough, the body is weak!”

42Again he left them and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away until I drink it, your will be done.” 43He returned to them again and found them sleeping, for they just couldn’t keep their eyes open.

44So he went back to pray a third time, saying the same things again. 45Then he came to the disciples and said, “Still sleeping? Still resting? Look, the time has come. I, the Son of Man, am betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Up, let’s be going. See, my betrayer is here!”

. . . . .

69Meanwhile, as Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, a servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.”

70But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you are talking about,” he said.

71Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said.

73A little later some other bystanders came over to him and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.”

74Peter said, “I swear by God, I don’t know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went away, crying bitterly. (Matthew 26:31-46; 69-75, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Under what circumstances might you deny Christ? What situation would cause you to abandon the faith and completely renounce Jesus?

If you said “Never”, maybe you should re-think your answer.

In this chapter of Matthew, Peter famously states that he would NEVER deny Jesus.

In fact, Jesus tells all of his disciples that they’re ALL going to desert Him.

Peter being the brash guy he is, responds by telling Jesus that even if EVERYONE ELSE deserts Jesus, He never will.

“You can count on me Jesus….I won’t let you down…I’m not like these other losers!”

We all know how the story unfolds after Jesus is arrested. Peter is confronted three times in the courtyard by different people who all believe that he is a member of the “Jesus” party and three times, Peter completely denies Jesus.

What I find interesting is that while Peter is famous for denying Jesus, there’s an oft-overlooked verse that demonstrates that Peter is getting a bad rap.

Verse 35 says that Peter was insisting that “even if I have to die with you I will never deny you.”

The text continues, “And all the other disciples vowed the same.”!

Peter takes the blame (rightly so) but the truth is that ALL the disciples vowed that they wouldn’t desert Jesus and yet that night ALL the disciples DID DESERT JESUS.

The only reason that Peter’s failures are highlighted over the other disciples’ is because Peter boldly declares his undying loyalty to Jesus in response to his prediction of desertion while the other disciples seemingly remain silent on the matter.

What can we learn from these insights?

For starters, we have to recognize our own capacity as fallen humans to fail in our devotion, regress in our spiritual development and to even deny Jesus among others.

If these disciples could desert Jesus after walking with Him for 3 years and observing Him perform miracles and healing people, then certainly we, as fellow broken humans who don’t have the benefits of personal interaction with Jesus, have the capacity to fail in our devotion to Him and possibly even deny Him in front of others.

Secondly, we have to be aware of the spiritual nature of our commitment to Jesus and the Christian life.

Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and prepare Himself for the ordeal He is about to experience. While there, Jesus urges the disciples to keep alert and pray as well so that they might not fall into temptation. But each time Jesus returns, He finds the disciples are sleeping.

Prayer is a spiritual activity that connects us to God. It’s not just for making requests and uploading our material wish list of needs and desires to God. Prayer is an activity that reminds us of the spiritual nature of life. It attunes our minds to the forces and temptations that may seek to derail us. In short, prayer is a means of preparation for spiritual warfare.

Peter and the disciples slept instead of preparing themselves for what they might encounter and so when the moment of truth came just hours later, Peter was not as prepared as he thought to take a stand for Jesus in front of a hostile crowd.

Prayer is an activity of dependence where we express and exhibit our need to God. If you don’t think you’re in need, you won’t be inclined to pray, or if you do pray, it is likely a meaningless spiritual activity.

Do you want to avoid the failure of Peter and all the other disciples who denied Jesus on the night of His betrayal and arrest? First you need to recognize your weakness and capacity to fall into temptation. Once you recognize your deep need, you’ll be driven to your knees, inviting God to strengthen you and empower you to follow through in obedience to Him, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane on that fateful night!

Reflection

When is a time you denied Jesus in front of others or failed to identify yourself as a follower of Jesus? What were the circumstances? What were the factors that led to your denial or your silence?

Prayer is vital as a spiritual practice in preparing our hearts and minds to avoid temptations and circumstances that might cause us to deny Jesus and fall away. What has been your experience with prayer as a spiritual practice? What steps can you take to make prayer more integral in your life in preparing you for spiritual conflict?

Prayer is a means for preparing for spiritual conflict. What are some things that tend to be a conflict for you spiritually? What tends to tempt you or distract  you from God?

Why do you think some Christians fail to acknowledge their ongoing need for Jesus? What causes Christians to believe as Peter and all the other disciples did, that they cannot fail or fall away?

 

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

 

A Covid Cave Prayer!

Psalm 142

A psalm of David, regarding his experience in the cave. A prayer.

1I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD’s mercy.

2I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles.

3For I am overwhelmed, and you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me.

4I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.

5Then I pray to you, O LORD. I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life.

6Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me.

7Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you treat me kindly.” (Psalm 142, NLT)

 

Like many people in our country, my wife and I have been locked down at home during this pandemic. We’re working from home, we don’t go out much and besides virtual meetings, we’re pretty much disconnected physically from others.

Our home has been what I call our “Covid Cave.”

Psalm 142 is a psalm of David when he was on the run and in hiding from Saul, who wanted to kill him. This psalm was of particular interest to me because he’s writing about his experience hiding out in a cave.

It’s not likely that the circumstances of your experience mirror David’s. Most of us don’t have enemies chasing us and wanting to kill us. And even though I’ve jokingly referred to my home as a “cave”, I at least have a working toilet, running water and internet streaming services, none of which David enjoyed in his situation.

Still, the circumstances surrounding this pandemic have been mentally traumatizing for many, and the resultant emotions may be similar to David’s. Just look at how David describes his situation:

He felt overwhelmed (Verse 3).

He felt trapped (Verse 3).

He felt disconnected and isolated from others (Verse 4).

He felt helpless…like nobody cared about him (Verse 4).

He felt like his life situation was too strong for him (Verse 6).

He felt imprisoned (Verse 7).

Can you resonate with these emotions? If so, you’re not alone.

How did David deal with these emotions?

First of all, David recognized his utter dependence and need for the Lord. He cried out to the Lord. He pleaded with Him for mercy. He poured out his complaints and told Him his troubles.

Secondly, David recognized that the Lord is the only one to whom he could truly turn. He recognized that the Lord alone is his refuge and the only person that he really wants or needs in life.

Who knows how much longer we will be in this situation. Hopefully, things will turn around soon. Until things change though, and life returns to some sense of normalcy, I echo David’s prayer to the Lord that He would bring me out of prison so I can thank Him!

Reflection

What personal struggles have you experienced during this pandemic?

What emotions have these struggles produced in you?

How can David’s “Cave Prayer” help you during your “Covid Cave” experience?

 

Photo by Ksenia Kudelkina on Unsplash

Faulty Earbuds?

My typical running gear includes dri-fit shirt, sunglasses, running hat and earbuds to listen to audiobooks or music.
Photo by Dave Lowe

A few weeks ago, I left the house for my daily run. I had my phone to track my route and also provide the tunes to keep me moving during the 6 mile trek.

As I was nearing the end of my run, I noticed I was not getting any sound out of my left earbud.

I tried pushing the earpiece harder into my ear, but that didn’t work. I wondered if maybe the earphone jack was not in all the way. No, that wasn’t the problem.

I jiggled the wire, thinking maybe there was a short. That didn’t work either. I started thinking maybe these earbuds had reached the end of their lifespan and I was bummed at the thought of having to buy new ones. I’ve been told I’m cheap that way!

When I finally got home, I thought I’d try one more thing. Perhaps it was a software issue. I figured a reboot of my phone would solve it if that was the issue. But that didn’t work either.

I had one more idea to determine if it was a problem with my phone or the earbuds. I decided to plug the earbuds into my computer and listen to some music. If the earbuds still only gave sound out of only one ear, then I would know it’s the earbuds and not the phone.

However, as I was getting ready to plug the earbuds into my computer, I looked more closely at the earpiece that wasn’t producing sound and I quickly realized the issue. There, in the small opening where the sound was supposed to come out, was a small glob of ear wax that was fully covering the opening.

The opening on these earbuds is small. It doesn’t take much to clog the opening, making it harder for sound to come through.
Photo by Dave Lowe

Yes, I know it’s kind of gross, but we all produce the stuff, and to be honest, I really can’t tell you the purpose. I just know that when I removed the small piece plugging the hole, I was suddenly able to hear perfectly again out of both earbuds.

I had a problem hearing and all of my initial thoughts were that it was a problem with something else – my phone, the earbuds, the jack, the wire, etc. The reality is that I was having issues hearing clearly because of me – something I produced and wasn’t even aware of.

I think there’s a spiritual illustration here. Often I’m wanting to hear from the Lord and He’s not responding, at least not the way I want. I wonder why He’s not answering my prayers or responding clearly to my requests.

Sometimes, the reason I’m not hearing from God is because of me. Sometimes the Lord IS wanting to speak to me but my attitude, or my heart blocks my spirit from hearing the Lord.

I’ve found that there are often several reasons why I’m not hearing from the Lord.

A primary way the Lord speaks to us is through His Word. Yet, it’s easy to get distracted by other things.
Photo by Nick Bondarev from Pexels

One reason I sometimes don’t hear from God is because of unconfessed sin in my heart. Psalm 66:18 says “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.”

Sometimes, I’m not even fully aware of my own sin, such as unresolved conflict or anger. This is why it’s so important to invite the Lord to examine our hearts and reveal to us any areas in our lives and hearts that may be keeping us from experiencing His presence (See Psalm 139:23, 24).

A second reason I may not be hearing from the Lord is distractions. Sometimes Jen will be telling me something important but my focus is on something else, like my computer screen or the TV. I find that when I’m not fully engaged in what she’s saying I often have to ask her to repeat what she’s just said.

I often do the same thing with the Lord. I read my Bible but my mind is thinking about something else. I’m spending time in prayer but distracted by notifications that are popping up on my phone.

I cannot always expect to hear directly from the Lord when I want. But as a follower of Christ, I can make sure that the airways are clear and that there are no impediments that would keep me from hearing His voice when He does speak to me.

What keeps you from hearing clearly from the Lord?

What have you found to be helpful in keeping you focused and tuned in to hearing the Lord’s voice?

We appreciate your continued prayers for us as we continue to wait on the Lord during this challenging season!

If you’d like us to pray for you, click on the Prayer tab and send us your request!

Adapting to New Realities

Jacob (Navy) and Joshua (Army) look on as their former team-mate races to the finish line of the 800m race!

One week ago, with my twins home for spring break, we went to a track meet where I took photos while my boys connected with former coaches and teammates. Everything seemed normal and life was good. We were making the most of our few days together as a family before the twins were scheduled to report back to their respective academies.

Within 24 hours, everything changed.

EVERYTHING!

It was announced that Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson had tested positive for the Coronavirus. At the same time, a member of the Utah Jazz tested positive and the NBA immediately suspended their season. Things escalated exponentially from there.

The next day, Jacob and Joshua were both informed that they were to delay their returns for 2 weeks and that online instruction would ensue shortly. Restaurants began closing and other large events were canceled or postponed. Disneyland closed for only the 4th time in its history. By the end of the week, all major sports leagues had been suspended, most schools had closed, weekend church services were either canceled or moved online and many people were told to begin working from home.

New terms such as “flattening the curve” and “social distancing” have become a normal part of our vernacular while crowded grocery stores and empty shelves have become commonplace. Who would have thought a few weeks ago that toilet paper would be more sought after than gold?

Long lines and empty shelves are the norm now at most grocery stores

What we’re experiencing is unprecedented….at least in my lifetime. How should we respond?

As you know, Jen has been experiencing her own health issues with her vasculitis flaring up recently. She’s been hospitalized, is back on Prednisone and has undergone two different infusions of Rituxan, a drug which is designed to suppress her immune system as a measure of stabilizing the auto-immune flare that is currently afflicting her.

A few weeks ago, Jen spent the day at UCLA, receiving a five hour infusion of Rituxan, a drug that is part of her ongoing treatment in combating her vasculitis flare.

While she’s not bed-ridden and she’s able to carry on most work responsibilities, she’s at increased risk for infections. As a result, we’re trying to be extra cautious and vigilant, but also doing our best not to panic.

From a ministry perspective, we’re still working and actively seeking to minister to Young Professionals. While many of our upcoming work trips have been canceled and events postponed, we’re still able to coach Young Professionals virtually. In fact, we already office out of our home and have been doing more and more of our coaching in a virtual environment anyway, so these latest measures have not been a major disruption to us.

One benefit of having the boys home is the dog gets more attention…but yeah, he’s already a spoiled pup!

Perhaps the biggest change for us is the fact that our boys are home and we are all sharing the same space and needing to get online for virtual classes or online meetings. Our boys are attending class as normal but everything is on East Coast time so they are having to get up at 4:30 a.m. in order to attend their first period classes.

Food consumption has also gone up, which means there are more trips to the grocery store, and more empty shelves and hunting for food and supplies to keep these guys from going hungry!

Though the nation is in crisis, we are trying to rest in the peace that Jesus is in control and we are His.

We would appreciate your prayers, though, mainly to stay healthy and for Jen’s vasculitis flare to become stable so she can begin to taper off of some of the drugs that have such negative effects. Pray too that we would find new and creative ways to minister to people during this time.

We know this crisis is affecting many of you in very real and perhaps devastating ways. We would love to pray for you. Please let us know how we can intercede on your behalf!

A Health Setback

I recently met a Young Professional for a coaching appointment over dinner and to my surprise, I saw another Young Professional who had attended a home group we hosted during the time in our lives when Jen was really sick.

Baxter (left), was involved in a Home Group we led for Young Professionals several years ago. I happened to bump into her while meeting another Young Professional for a dinner appointment.

Baxter had moved out of the area a few years ago to take another job but recently moved back to Orange County. Though we had exchanged some texts and engaged on Facebook, we hadn’t actually had an opportunity to connect personally since she moved back to the area.

Having been around during the time Jen was struggling with her health, Baxter saw first-hand the effects of the disease and medications Jen was taking. Naturally Baxter was curious about how Jen was doing.

For the past few years, as I’ve been asked frequently about Jen’s health, I’ve been able to share about how well Jen is doing and how the condition that afflicts her (Vasculitis) is under control, thanks to the care she’s been receiving by her doctors at UCLA.

In fact, early last year, I wrote about how Jen’s condition was considered to be in remission and her doctors wanted to take her off her medication completely, which they did in May of last year (see April 26, 2019 post on Lowedown.com).

Unfortunately though, I was not able to give such a positive and glowing response to Baxter in that moment, as Jen has recently suffered a setback in her health.

Jen sports her Navy spirit on Christmas day!

Back in December, Jen received the results from some blood work which indicated elevated levels in her kidney. Jen has only one kidney so this was very concerning to her and her doctors. Shortly after Christmas, Jen experienced elevated potassium levels which forced her to spend the night in the hospital.

Last week, Jen made several trips to UCLA to meet with her nephrologist as they try to figure out what is happening with her kidney. The good news is that the ultrasound and CT scan that she had showed no abnormalities in her kidney. However, some of the most recent bloodwork came back indicating that the vasculitis that has been in remission for the last four years has returned.

We suspect that this is the reason for the elevated levels in her kidney, as these same symptoms were present back in 2014 when the vasculitis first presented itself.

To say there is discouragement with this development would be a huge understatement. Jen is not looking forward to going back on Prednisone as the reminder of the damaging effects it had on her body are pretty painful.

Enjoying a Philly Cheesesteak tradition while in Philadelphia visiting our boys over Thanksgiving!

We are hoping and praying that because we know what we’re dealing with and Jen’s doctors are extremely competent that the path to stabilizing this “flare” will be quicker and much less traumatic than before.

We don’t know why we continue to be faced with these health challenges, but we know God is good and He has blessed us in so many ways. We would greatly appreciate your prayers.

Specifically, we are praying for the following:

  • We are praying that this vasculitis flare would be quickly stabilized
  • We are praying that Jen would not have to be on Prednisone for very long.
  • Lastly, we are praying that Jen would not have to be admitted to the hospital for ongoing treatment but that whatever treatments are prescribed could be done on an outpatient basis.

We are grateful for you, our friends, whose prayers and encouragement have sustained us. Thank you for your ministry in our lives!

Dealing With Disappointment

Life isn’t fair.

Things don’t always go the way you want.

You can’t control everything.

In the grand scheme of life, this is just a momentary setback.

We’ve all heard statements like these. But try helping a disappointed 16 year old to understand and embrace these truths.

Life can be a cruel teacher at times.

In the last 3 months, we’ve experienced a number of unexpected life events.

In July, while our family was in Colorado, I received a call to tell me that my grandmother had passed away. She was 96 so it was not completely surprising. Still, you’re never quite prepared for the news that your last living grandparent has passed away.

In August, I received the news that my aunt, the last living sibling of my grandfather, had passed away.

And just two weeks ago, I received the news that my uncle, who was in his early 70’s had died unexpectedly.

Jacob (left) and Joshua (middle) running with their team in Mammoth. Joshua’s injury occurred some time during this training run to Rainbow Falls. Check out the video of this trail below, or at: https://youtu.be/T1czVLdEyKA

The hardest issue though that we’ve been dealing with these last two months centers around our son Joshua, who has been dealing with a foot injury.

As a parent, it’s so hard to see your kids struggle and deal with setbacks and disappointment. Our tendency is to want to fix things and make things better and to shield them from hurt. But that’s not always possible and it’s not always advisable either.

In early August, Jacob and Joshua headed up to Mammoth with the rest of the varsity Cross Country team for a week of training at altitude. I (Dave) tagged along as a parent volunteer.

It was a great week of bonding and conditioning. Their team is really strong this year and is highly ranked, both in the county and even in the state. Expectations are high and the anticipation for this season has been palpable.

Towards the end of the week, Joshua started experiencing pain on the top his right foot. He was immediately shut down from running until we could get it checked out.

An MRI revealed a stress reaction in the 2nd long bone of his right foot.

A stress reaction is basically a pre-cursor to a stress fracture, and though it sounds less severe, the recovery time is the same.

For the last 7 weeks Joshua has been doing nothing but pool workouts, by himself, isolated from the rest of the team.

Twice, he’s tried to start running again, only to experience a setback with new pain in his foot.

There have been lots of tears and the frustration has come out in a variety of ways. Every night we pray. Joshua’s constant request has been, “Pray that my foot heals quickly.”

After spending many conversations trying to dispense my sage advice (see statements above), with varying degrees of receptivity, I decided that maybe I needed another approach.

After much reflection, I’ve learned that I need to be slower to react and give advice and I need to listen more.

Joshua’s (far right) season so far has been relegated to trying to be a good team-mate and cheer his team-mates when they race.

I realize that I need to be more patient and not get so easily worked up when the response and heart attitude isn’t what I want.

I need to let Joshua process his own disappointment and loss while communicating that I’m for him and that we grieve with him.

Lastly, I want to help Joshua process his circumstances and learn what he can from this situation.

I’ve found that some of the coaching training we’ve been going through has been helpful to just ask questions. Questions such as:

What is the Lord teaching you? What are you learning about your identity and yourself through this? How can this situation help shape you as a person and leader? What can you learn about being a good team-mate through this?

Sixteen year olds are not always ready to learn these life lessons. But then again, us old guys aren’t always ready either!

Thanks for your ministry in our lives as we navigate the ups and downs of life and seek to learn our own life lessons.

Please pray for wisdom for us as we parent our twins and seek to guide them toward Jesus!

If you think about it, please pray for Joshua and his injury. Pray that his foot would heal and that he wouldn’t have any recurrence of the foot issue. Lastly, pray that he would consider the lessons the Lord is wanting to teach him through the situation he’s been in.

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!

Overcoming June Gloom

Jen shares about her year-long struggle with health issues at our church's Sunday service.
Jen shares about her year-long struggle with health issues at our church’s Sunday service.

The weather in Southern California is great almost year round. While much of the country was under several feet of snow this past winter, we had almost spring like weather conditions here. It’s one of the things that makes Southern California such an attractive vacation destination and it’s also why so many people want to live here, which in turn explains why it’s so expensive to live here.

In June, however, most of the the Los Angeles and Orange County basin experiences a phenomenon that has come to be known as June gloom. I’m not a meteorologist, so I can’t explain all of the meteorological conditions that contribute to June gloom. I just know that for much of June, for some reason, a thick marine layer often creeps in off the coast and envelopes the southland, creating overcast skies in the morning that often burn off by late morning or mid day.

Because our house is located up against the Saddleback mountain foothills at about 800 feet elevation, we often will walk out of our house in the morning to clear, sunny skies. But as I drive down the hill to take the boys to school, it’s not uncommon for us to drive right down into that marine layer where it’s overcast and the sun is not directly visible.

This last year for us has felt a lot like June gloom. It’s as if one day everything was going great and it was sunny outside, but then we experienced some health issues that felt a lot like driving down into that thick marine layer.

For the last year, life has not had the clear, sunny outlook that we would want. Instead, it’s been overcast and even foggy at times. Life has been challenging and at times we’ve wondered if we would ever see the sun through the dark clouds.

These last few months have given us hope that perhaps the June gloom clouds are beginning to burn off and dissipate. We are beginning to see signs of the sun peeking through.

Several months ago, when we started seeing experts at UCLA, Jen was put on a new immunosuppressant that seems to be working. As a result, she has been able to slowly taper down on the amount of Prednisone she’s taking and that alone has helped her to begin to feel more like herself each day.

A few weeks ago, Jen was able to be on a conference call with a work group with which she’s been involved. That was a big step forward since she’s had to disengage with much of her work load for many months now.

Jen-Crossline4
Jen is interviewed by JP Jones, Senior Pastor of Crossline Church.

Last Sunday, Jen was asked to share in front of our church congregation a bit of her journey this past year with her health and how God has met her in the midst of the challenges of life. It was another key moment in her recovery, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. (You can watch the video interview online at: vimeo.com/130399778)

Things aren’t back to normal by any stretch but there is more hope now than anytime in the last 8 months that perhaps this disease can be managed and we can fully resume the mission to which we’ve been called.

We’re so grateful for your prayers and the way you’ve cared for our family this past year. Would you please continue to pray for our family and for Jen’s continued recovery?

Pray specifically for Jen’s blurred vision to clear and for her lung capacity to increase. Pray too that the side effects of long-term Prednisone use would continue to dissipate.

We continue to trust the Lord for this road we’re on and we pray that the Lord might find us faithful and fruitful as we follow Him and serve Him.