Jul 25, 2013

Eugene Walked With God

One of the shorter verses of the Bible says; “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24). And we really don’t know a whole lot more about Enoch (other than his genealogy as recorded in several places in the Bible)

So let me tell you about a different man who walked with God and was not, for God took him.

My father-in-law Eugene “Gene” E. Ofstead died six years ago this week; his absence is still felt in my heart today even as I write this. He had lived on this earth from August 20, 1936 until July 23, 2007. The day he died was very similar to how he had lived most of the days of his life. He got up, ate breakfast, spent some time reading his Bible and some devotionals and set out for the day’s events.

Part of the day took him up to the family cabin which we, along with some other family members, built together back in the eighties. Neighbors at the lake tell me that they saw him doing some chores including caulking the chimney as well as seeing him taking a canoe ride. They also told me how he had stopped by their cabins and talked with them.

When he arrived home, he ate some lunch and was invited to take a walk with a good friend of his, who told me that Gene was mentoring in how to have a prayer life. During their walk they spoke and discussed a devotional they had read in; “My Utmost For His Highest” by Oswald Chambers as they walked on a narrow path on which they could only walk single file. His friend went on ahead as Gene followed behind.

At one point, the friend noticed that his questions were not getting answers from Gene so he turned to find Gene lying on the ground dead. Calls were made, medical and police arrived, and yet he could not be revived.

Because he had died in a public park, an autopsy was performed. We discovered that the cause of death had been a massive heart attack; which was unusual because he was in great shape, fooling many who would have not guessed that he was seventy years old. He was athletic, adventurous, and still loved to run, canoe, roller blade, work on relative’s homes, as well as playing with his grandchildren.

When we got the phone call with the news of his death, Psalm 90:10 came to mind which says; The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years...” (Psalm 90:10a) which is significant because Gene was seventy and a month away from being seventy one.

Gene loved life, loved people, loved God, and loved me! That day he went out for a walk with a friend to talk about the Lord and died before he hit the ground.

Gene walked with God and was not, for God took him…. What a legacy to leave!

Each of us can have a legacy like that. Psalm 90 goes on to say; Let Your work appear to Your servants, And Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90:16-17)

That we too can walk with God.

By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, “and was not found, because God had taken him”; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him..” (Hebrews 11:5-6)

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."



Jul 18, 2013

Long After You’re Gone

A couple sat next to me at the funeral for an older relative who had recently passed away. Their faces were somewhat familiar as though I should know them. We exchanged pleasantries and names; but he seemed cold and distant; looking down at the ground as though he was miles away.

She said to me; “I know you from somewhere…” I too wondered where I knew them from or at least why their names were familiar to me. And so I racked my brain trying to recall the seemingly lost information.

Now, it is not unusual to be at a wedding, funeral, or a family gathering of some sort and not really know everyone or remember their names. It’s also very common to hear a name or see a face and have a feeling as though you should know them so this shouldn’t have really gotten into my head, and yet I found myself distracted by who they were.

I kept glancing at them throughout the funeral as I noted that he seemed to be taking the situation very hard; because all during the service he had tears that occasionally would flow down his cheeks.

At one point during the funeral, an exchange of ‘peace’ was given one to another and I turned to once again extend my hand to this couple, hoping to discover where I knew them.

Instead, when I turned to greet them, I noticed that they embraced; or rather she embraced him as deep waves of grief overcame him. Another person came over and put his arms around the two of them and held them tightly as once again deep waves of grief overcame him. This new person looked at me and said; “I know you from somewhere…”

In time, I came to discover why I knew them; their names had been in the newspapers as part of a story about the death of one of their children due to suicide. It turns out it was his sixteen year old daughter who had died; the woman next to him was her older sister. I prayed for an opportunity to care for them both.

After the service I was able to talk with them and connect the dots. I told them when I saw him crying I had put together what was going on in his heart. I told them that I was so sorry for his loss and the pain that he was going through. I spoke with him for a bit more, hugged him, and went to greet others who were at the funeral.

The sister came up to me a little while later and said, “Thank for taking time to reach out to him today…” and told me what that meant to him. It was one month ago to the day when he had buried his young daughter. The funeral today had brought up deep wells of grief as the pain was once again raw.

I write this to say it was death through suicide that prompted me to write a blog this past May entitled; “Please don’t kill yourself!” And here, today, I saw the crop of what is sown when we give into despair to the point of taking our own lives.

Sure, our pain goes away when we kill ourselves, but it is our friends, loved ones, relatives, neighbors, classmates, etc. that have to try to deal with the loss. I watched as a bumper crop of pain was projected onto this man, this father who was once again trying to make sense of it all.

So once again, I plead with you; Please don’t kill yourself!



“Hope for the Hopeless” by Sheila Walsh

“I’ve seen so many people
Pass before my eyes
Like weary figures in a passion play
And I’ve watched them try to reach and touch the stars above
But all the stars are burning far away
I’ve seen so many stumble when the light goes dim
Crushed beneath the man to love the night
And do we hear their cries above all pounding hearts
All of them disappear from sight

Hope for the hopeless
Hope for them all
Hope for the lonely
Stranger who calls
Rest for the restless
Rest for the lives.. JESUS the hope for us all

And where are we when all the prisoners aim to find
Freedom for their lone defeated souls
And will we build a fire of hope deep in their eyes
Beyond their long forgotten goals
Hope for the hopeless
Hoper for them all
Hope for the lonely
Stranger who calls
Rest for the restless
Rest for the lives.. JESUS the hope for us all

Where would we be without your love
What would we sing without your song
Where would we go without your light to light our way
What would we feel without your heart
What would we see without your eyes
Oh Jesus we depend on you”

Jul 11, 2013

She Made Me Like the Rain

It was Tuesday morning and I had blocked out time in the morning for writing. I quickly took care of the tasks that ‘demanded’ my immediate attention (like emails) so that I could get to my scheduled time of writing.

Cathy when she was a young girl
And then the sky darkened and my schedule suddenly changed. I looked at the radar on my computer and it showed me that there was a heavy band of thundershowers heading my direction. I decide to shut all of the windows of the house so that I wouldn’t be distracted when the rain finally arrived.

I went back to my writing when all of a sudden the skies became as dark as midnight on a cloudy night and the winds began to howl interrupted only by the lighting that boomed its way through our neighborhood.

I decided that it was probably safer for me to not stay in my office on the third floor of our house so I shut off the window air conditioner and the computer and headed downstairs to get a better look outside.

I made a cup of tea and watched the rain through the screen door on the enclosed porch of my house; grateful that my lawn and gardens were receiving some much needed water. I was also grateful that the week before had been clear skies and hot weather as my family and I spent some much needed time at the family cabin on vacation.

The rain became (almost) as ferocious as a blizzard as the winds whirled in all directions dumping around an inch of water in about twenty minutes as it pelted ALL sides of the house (North, South, East, and West!). I was glad that I had taken the time to close all of the windows.

I looked at one of neighbor’s roofs and saw the intensity of the rain totally shoot the water past the new gutters that he had installed just the day before. I also pondered whether or not to bring in the recycling knowing that all of the newspapers were becoming statured as the tub filled up with water.

As I stood, drinking my tea and watching the winds and driving rain continue to pelt the house in all directions, I thought of Cathy. It was because of her influence on my life that I was taking time to watch the rain instead of writing. She had made me like the rain.

She is one who enjoys all of the seasons that we have in Minnesota; whether it is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. She enjoys when the skies darken and bellow out rain like an angry sea, or when the snow piles up and elements the landscape are no longer visible.

Through her delight in the multiple facets of weather that we have, I learned to also stop and watch and enjoy God’s beauty on display. I have learned to rejoice in whatever weather I find in my path; whether that be in the comfort of a house, a car, or even in a kayak on the lake as white caps fill the vessel with water threatening to capsize it.

As the Scriptures say;
Rain down, you heavens, from above, And let the skies pour down righteousness, Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, And let righteousness spring up together. I, the Lord, have created it” (Isaiah 45:8 NKJV)

Sing to God a thanksgiving hymn, play music on your instruments to God, Who fills the sky with clouds, preparing rain for the earth, then turning the mountains green with grass, feeding both cattle and crows.” (Psalm 147:7-9 MSG)

Seeing storms through her eyes I am learning over the years to rejoice in no matter what hits me, the 'storms' that pelt my life in so many directions and situations.

She made me like the rain and so I sat down in one of the wicker chairs on our porch and enjoyed this ‘interruption’ to my schedule as I drank my tea.

New King James Version (NKJV)  The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson



Jul 4, 2013

Giving Away Cars

A problem with getting vehicles given to you is that then you have to decide what to do with the old one. I would like to say that each time we sold it and made money, but that was not the case. Several times the Lord instructed us to give the old one away.

The first time that we gave away a vehicle was right after someone had just given us a new (used) van, I thought that we should sell the old one because we could use the money. I spoke with Cathy who stated that she thought that instead we should pray about who to give it to. So we did and the Lord gave the name of the same couple to both of us individually.

Excited, we plotted as to how to tell them the good news. We met with them after church one day and they joyfully took our old vehicle which still was in very good shape. Truly it does feel better to give than to receive!

About two weeks after we gave the vehicle to them, I heard that they had sold it for cash! I was a little bothered by this and complained to Cathy, and she reminded me that our part was to give it way, what they did after they got it wasn’t our concern.

On paper that sounds good, but I still felt as though my generosity had been taken advantage of so I decided to meet with the couple to get their perspective.

They told me that when we gave them the vehicle they were grateful even though they didn’t really need it. What they needed was money for a down payment for a house. They told me that he drove it to work for two weeks and then realized why we gave them the car. He had been witnessing to coworkers telling them that he believed that the Lord would give them the money that they need for the down payment. They in turn ridiculed and mocked his faith

When he drove the car to work, his coworkers inquired as to how he got the vehicle and how much he had paid for it. He told them the story and they were intrigued. He said that if he had simply got the money for the down payment, it would be hard to prove to them. But the vehicle, that was hard to dispute.

I had almost missed the bigger picture of the Lord using the situation to not only provide for two families but to prove His faithfulness to a bunch of coworkers who need to know who He is and what He has done for them through Jesus Christ.

Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-18 MSG)

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson