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A Eulogy in honor of My Dad

I wrote my Dad a letter to serve as his eulogy and read it at my Dad’s memorial service last Saturday.

Dear Dad,

I miss you. But I’m so proud of the life you lived.

You were raised on a cotton farm in Ennis, TX during the middle of WWII. Your Dad was a sharecropper and you were one of 7 kids. That’s all pretty cool stuff from a previous generation’s world. I was always proud of your heritage. I loved hearing stories about your childhood. I wasn’t there but I felt like I was.

I sometime imagine you, your 4 brothers and 2 sisters running and playing in the cotton fields occasionally taking breaks to lay in a pasture covered with bluebonnets. I picture a farm house surrounded by a large covered porch shaded by big oak trees. I’m guessing you sometimes embellished when you told the stories because you talked as if it were always a happy Tom Sawyer-like adventure! But I loved those stories because it connected me to more of you.

But it wasn’t always a Tom Sawyer-life adventure was it? Your body gave it’s first indication that it was broken when you were a little boy when a bicycle accident resulted in you developing epilepsy. You’d have seizures or fear seizures the rest of his life.

A few years later when you were only 17, you were diagnosed with tuberculosis. You were sent off to the TB Hospital in Carlsbad for a few difficult months. Eventually, one of your lungs was removed but then God healed you . . . temporarily.

A few years later, you made a life-changing decision that changed the trajectory of your life. It began when a pastor of a local church drove out to the farm to pick you up and take you to church. When you were re-telling me this story a few weeks ago you said, “for some reason I just kept going every Sunday”. You told me the pastor was nice and fun to be around. He and his wife would sometimes have you over to their house after church for lunch. God was using them to draw you to Himself.

You eventually made the decision to surrender everything and follow Christ. Your decision to follow Christ must’ve felt private and personal but it would impact so many other people in your lifetime and beyond including your kids and grandkids. I’m so glad you made that decision to follow Christ Dad.

The pastor in became your mentor and before long you were teaching a Sunday School Class and eventually you made a decision to spend the rest of your life preaching. The sharecropper’s son who’d dropped out of high school was going to be a pastor. At the time, you must’ve felt so overwhelmed. You must have had so many doubts and fears. Your decision must’ve seemed so personal but your decision to preach would impact thousands of other people in your lifetime of ministry. It obviously influenced me. Dad, I’m so glad you made that decision to preach.

Soon afterwards you met and eventually married my Mom. While you were engaged, your body showed its brokenness again as you were diagnosed with Brights disease (the same kidney disease that had taken your Dad’s life at an early age). The doctor said you may not live past the age of 35. I can’t imagine how that diagnoses must’ve shaken you and challenged your faith. However, it seemed that God healed your body . . . again temporarily.

Then in 1967 at the age of 24, you married my Mom. You and Mom would be married for more than 46 years. When describing your marriage to me last week – you said, “I was always happy with her.” You and Mom’s unconditional love for us created a solid foundation from which we kids would feel the freedom to dream big and take risks.

A couple of years into your new marriage, your body began acting up again. A spot was found on your lung and you were diagnosed with cryptococcosis – an often fatal fungal disease. Mom was worried how long your body would last. You must’ve been worried too. However, once again God healed you again . . . temporarily. Soon God gave you your first child Marci and your attention was back on your future. Along came me and then Amy.

Interestingly, this is where God provided our family a special 17-year window of health grace. When Mom was pregnant with Amy you had your last epileptic seizure. Then for 17-years you had no health problems. This was the largest season of health you would ever have. Mom was given a healthy husband and we kids were raised only knowing a healthy Dad. You told us about your epilepsy, tuberculosis, bright’s disease, and cryptococcosis but to us it was all something in the past that didn’t seem relevant to our present. We only knew a “healthy” Dad.

I’m so grateful for these 17 years of healthiness during our childhood. During that time, we watched you enjoy the simple joys in life. I liked it when you would go swimming with us in the lake in a pair of cutoff shorts. I liked it when you’d take us on a long drive in the country and along the way we’d stop for a coke. You enjoyed going out for breakfast on Saturday mornings. Even your favorite meal was simple: cornbread, pinto beans, fried potatoes, cabbage followed by a bowl of ice cream. Simple joys.

But what you really loved was being a pastor. It was what you were created to be! You were an encourager. You loved going to church and preaching God’s word. In a typical week you would preach/teach 4 times-a-week, clean the church, mow the lawn, make hospital visits, do funerals and weddings, counsel people, and whatever else needed to be done. You were born to be a pastor. I liked it when you’d let me tag-along for a hospital visit or a men’s prayer breakfast.

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I remember watching you. I was so proud of you. You were my dad & my pastor. You were so positive and encouraging to people. I loved that about you. I wanted to be like you. At the age of 12, I surrendered to preach and I prayed that God would let me encourage people like you did.

I remember you letting me preach for the first time at the age of 12. I’ll never forget unzipping my Bible as I stood behind the pulpit. I was so scared. I was unzipping slowly hoping Jesus would come back before I had to speak. I didn’t want to say anything. I remember thinking if I could somehow just whisper to you, “Daddy I’m scared. I don’t want to do this.” So I looked over at you hoping to tell you I was too scared to do this. But when we made eye contact you smiled and gave me a nod of encouragement. I was still scared but your subtle encouragement gave me the confidence to at least try. So I preached my entire sermon . . . in 5 minutes. I could tell you were proud. That made me feel good.

It’s funny how all of us kids loved to get that nod of encouragement from you. I can’t think of any major decision I’ve ever made when I didn’t seek it.

It turns out that my childhood felt like my very own Tom-Sawyer like adventure. I’m still thankful for those 17 years of good health. But like your illnesses . . . your good health was temporary. Eventually, your kidneys began to fail. Your health declined. You retired. You and Mom moved to San Angelo so you could do dialysis full-time.

Interestingly the timing coincided with me just beginning my ministry in San Angelo. Suddenly you were in the congregation as I led worship and as I preached. I was often scarred to death. I would look out in the audience and see your smile and see your nod of encouragement. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me! I could tell you were proud. Eventually, through a kidney transplant, God healed you . . . again temporarily.

As your health bounced back, you became pastor of Berean Baptist Church. On your first Sunday, there were literally 3 people (you, the worship leader, and the treasurer). I asked you, “Why would you go there Dad?” You said, “It’s an opportunity to serve the Lord, preach, and share the Gospel!” That’s what you were created to do. The church is now flourishing numerically and financially and most people say you that you saved that church. It’s so appropriate that we’re having your memorial service here today.

But then your body began to decline again. This time there would be no recovery or healing. Your body surrendered to cancer, diabetes, cardiac failure, and many other ailments. Due to your dogged determination, discipline with your diet/medication/routine, you somehow milked 70 years out of a very broken body. I’m so glad you did because all of us kids got to introduce our kids to you.

But it was time. Last Monday morning, your broken body finally quit. And this time God didn’t heal you temporarily. He healed you permanently. To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord where there is no more epilepsy, tuberculosis, kidney disease, cryptococcosis, or heart disease. You are fully and permanently healthy! You are reunited with the God you spent your life serving.

You wouldn’t agree with this Dad but you actually left a legacy. One that I’m so proud of.

Two of your grandkids now bear your name but it’s our faith that reveals your legacy. Because you chose to make God the ultimate priority in your life, you made a deep impact in us all. A legacy isn’t about doing something magnificent it’s about being ordinary and dependable for a long period of time while loving those closest to you.

So I’ll miss your smile, laugh, the twinkle in your eye, our weekly phone calls w/your encouraging voice, and I’ll miss your nod of encouragement. But, I am so grateful for the certainty of Heaven. I already anticipate being with you again Dad.

In the meantime, I’ll always be proud of the life you led for God. I’ll always be proud of the risks you took for God. I’ll always be proud of your faithfulness to God especially during the difficult days. I’ll always be proud to carry on your legacy.

I love you Daddy.

Your proud son,

Mark

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Stop comparing yourself. Sing your song.

I compare myself to others. “Does he have more than me?”, “Are they better off?”, “Are their kids smarter?” are just some of the questions on my exhausting comparison treadmill.

Do you constantly compare yourself with others?

I’ve recently discovered that I’m not the only person who struggles with comparison. One of my friends Laurie shared some of her story with me. I asked if she’d write a guest post for us today.

In addition to being a committed follower of Christ, gifted musician, and creative, Laurie is blessed with three kids, seven grandkids and has been married to her best friend Gary for 48 years.

laurie mccoy

Let me just begin by saying that this is a work in process for me. I don’t want to sound like I have this all figured out – or that I think I have it all together, because I don’t. But, I will tell…

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Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint by Ben Reed

Ben Reed (small group guru) just released his first book in which he shares his own wisdom on leading small groups. It’s relevant for group leaders and group pastors. Here’s a quick overview:

ben reed book graphic

Chapter 1: Introduction

Ben starts off sharing why he’s passionate about small groups.

“My story was forever changed through healthy community. I was different because God used intentional relationships in a small group to bring change in my heart in a way that was much faster than other ways.”

“If you don’t know where your story intersects with small groups, it’ll be hard for you to lead others to get excited.”

Chapter 2: The Why before the What

“Without relational connection, the church isn’t the church. The church isn’t a building to be occupied by people once a week. You don’t believe that, and neither do I. The church is us, the people. We are the ones for whom Christ died. Not our buildings. Not our hymnals. Not our pews. It’s the people who are the church. And without relational connection, you don’t have a church.”

Chapter 3: No Failure to Launch

“Warning: This strategy is dangerous. You may get someone who’s absolutely unqualified and unequipped to be the leader. But Rick Warren once told me, ‘You can structure for control, or you can structure for growth, but you can’t structure for both.’ And he’s right. Do you believe that God is in control? Do you believe that God is the giver of gifts? Then He’s the one who’s given them that leadership ability.”

My favorite insight from Ben for Group Pastor’s is found on pg. 25. When someone approaches you and says, “There’s just not a group that works for me.” Ben’s response is wise and super helpful. Gotta buy the book to read Ben’s response.

Chapter 4: Planning Connection

Ben shares his early challenges in small group ministry then provides some practical insights on the key for a successful group launch, pro’s/con’s of common group launch options, alternatives to group launch, and how to build momentum leading up to the launch.

Chapter 5: Keeping a Good Thing Going

In this final chapter Ben shares the “#1 marker of success in a small group”. You’ll have to get the book.

Finally, Ben shares how you (the group leader) can help create an atmosphere for a healthy group.

Overall, this book uniquely targets group pastors and group leaders. An easy read that I’ll personally reference again many times. Click HERE to pickup your copy.

Ben’s bio:

ben reed picBen is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow, a multi-site church in the Nashville, TN area. In addition to pastoring, preaching, and writing, Ben has a great passion for coffee. Good coffee, that is. And CrossFit. But not at the same time.

You can journey along with Ben at BenReed.net

The Danger of Thanksgiving

Our kids are usually pretty grateful. Which made what Lincoln did on Monday night a little surprising and disappointing.

I was returning from work. As I walked into the house, my 8-year-old son was the first to see me so he immediately ran up to me. I smiled and intuitively began to open my arms for the on-coming hug. Instead, Lincoln stopped just in front of me, looked up, and in his little 3rd grade voice asked, “Dad can I play on your iPhone?” What? No hug? No, “Hi Dad.” Only a desire to spend time with an electronic gadget in my pocket.

Not gonna lie. That stung a little. I told him, “Not right now.” He slumped his shoulders and walked away. Still no hug. No, “Welcome home Dad.” Ouch!

Now, I love watching my kids smile when I give them something they enjoy. It makes me smile. But when they pursue the gifts I give them more than they pursue me that hurts . . . a lot.

I’m guessing God feels that way.

Ginger and I believe we have more blessings for which to be thankful this Thanksgiving than ever before.

danger

Did you know that turkey fryers are not the only danger of Thanksgiving? The more subtle danger of Thanksgiving is to measure God’s love for us by His blessings to us.

This may be a difficult Thanksgiving for you. If your measuring God’s love for you by His blessings to you, you may question God’s love.

So I want to be grateful for God’s blessings this Thanksgiving; however, I want to keep reminding myself that an all-powerful God created me, redeemed me, and is continuing to shape me all because He passionately loves me. I’m so thankful for that. It will remain true every Thanksgiving!

BTW, Lincoln is now limited to two 30-minute sessions with the iPhone each week. He helped me create that system later Monday night. But we’ve played a lot of Nerf football the last two nights. I sure enjoy my time with that little guy.

Losing My Religion Releases Today

lmrLosing My Religion, Chuck Bomar’s latest book, releases today.

How authentic is your relationship with God? Losing My Religion is your self-assessment test.

I met Chuck last week and got to spend some time getting to know him and hear his heart.

If you’re like me, reading his book will create tension as you read it. I like that because I need to be challenged. I would describe Chuck’s writing style as “prophetic”, unapologetic but not mean-spirited.

Read this book with a friend and you will benefit from the energetic conversation that will follow.

bomarWho’s Chuck?

Chuck Bomar served almost nine years at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California with Francis Chan before planting Colossae Church in Portland, Oregon in 2008. Today Chuck releases his 7th book, Losing My Religion: Moving From Superficial Routine to Authentic Faith

Chuck and his wife, Barbara, have three beautiful daughters: Karis, Hope and Sayla.

Follow Chuck on twitter or facebook.

Wanna help me write a book?

Yesterday I signed a contract to write a book with Rainer Publishing in Nashville, TN. It will be a practical book focused on how you can forgive. My deadline to finish the book is April and it will release late Summer/early Fall.

Write a book

Wanna help me write it? Seriously?

Here’s how:

Email me (markariggins@yahoo.com) your greatest personal story of how you forgave someone else. (Obviously, I won’t be able to use all stories and I won’t use your story without your permission.)

Help me help others experience the freedom of forgiveness.

Are you celebrating with churches or competing against?

With not against.

I remember as a kid, my Grandpa (also a pastor) telling me the reason he stopped going to pastor’s conferences. He said he grew tired of pastor’s greeting each other with the same old question: “How many are you ‘runnin’?” Immediately, every pastor felt value (or lack of value) based on their attendance numbers.

church vs. church

Are you celebrating with churches or competing against churches? With or against?

This illustration demonstrates beautifully our two options:

From John Ortberg’s When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in The Box:

“Balloon stomp is a zero-sum game. If I win, you lose, Anyone else’s success diminish my chances. I must regard everyone else as someone to overcome, someone to be pitted against.

Balloon stomp is a Darwinian contest, the survival of the fittest. Some ten-year-olds are pretty Darwinian, and they entered into the spirit of the thing vigorously. Balloons were relentlessly targeted and destroyed. Some children pretended to be enjoying the game but were secretly afraid of losing. A few of the children hung shyly on the sidelines, but that didn’t help them. Their balloons were doomed just the same. The battle was over in a matter of seconds. Only one balloon was still inflated, and of course its owner was the most (secretly) disliked kid in the room. It’s hard to really win at balloon stomp.

Then a disturbing thing happened. A second class was brought in the room to play the same game, only this time it was a class of developmentally challenged children. They too were each given a balloon and the same instructions. The same signal began the game. ‘I got a sinking feeling in my midsection,’ said one of the onlookers. ‘I wanted to spare the kids the pressure of the competitive brawl.’

Only this time the game proceeded differently. The instructions were given too quickly to be grasped very well by these children; out of the confusion the one idea that sunk in was that the balloons were supposed to be popped. But instead of fighting each other off, these children got the idea that they were supposed to help one another pop balloons. So they formed a kind of ‘balloon stomp co-op.’ One boy was getting frustrated because the balloon he was going after wouldn’t hold still enough for him to pop it. So the little girl to who it was tied knelt down and held her balloon carefully in place, like the holder for a field-goal kicker, while the little boy stomped it flat. Big smile. Then he knelt down and held his balloon still for her to stomp. On and on it went, all the children helping one another in the Great Stomp.

And when the very last balloon was popped, everybody cheered. Everybody won.”

Students stopped keeping score against each other and starting keeping score with each other.

I love that church leaders seem to be more and more with each other.

Churches = With not against.