Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Fallen Teammate

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55-57)

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail that my Little League teammate, Billy, had passed away. For the next few days my mind was filled with memories of our baseball journey together over 30 years ago. In our first year on the Senators, we landed on a miserable team that not only suffered through a winless season, but was the laughingstock of the league. It was a very difficult year for me personally; in my tee-ball years prior, I was on the dominant team in the league. We toasted two championships together, and in my mind, that success was going to surround me on every team I played. However, that first year of Little League brought me quickly back down to earth.

The following year found renewed hope; some new players were coming in, and the players that returned were determined not to repeat the dreadful performance from the prior season. Although we were a much better team that year, we were no match for the league’s dominant team, the Athletics, and finished a distant second.

In my final year of Little League, the Senators rose to a lofty position. We easily won our division, but sadly fell a run short in the 3rd and final game of the playoffs. As fate would have it, I wound up making the final out in that game, but I remember not one ill word said towards me - for the small group of us, like Billy and I, who had survived that winless season together, we were walking off that field as champions. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were also walking off that field as lifelong teammates. I haven’t seen Billy in well over 20 years and we haven’t played Little League ball together in almost 30, but I still feel like I lost a member of my extended family.

As it turns out, that Senators team would model my walk with the Lord in my later years as an adult. From the despair and lowliness of walking apart from Him, to the maturing process of learning His will, to the joy and peace of knowing Him that rises above any defeat or trial we could ever encounter here on earth. I pray that peace finds its way into the hearts of Billy’s family, especially during this time.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Save the Date

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)

A few months ago, I received a ‘Save the Date’ card in the mail from my cousin, Lori, to reserve August 22nd on my calendar for her wedding. Later that day, I felt led to lift up a prayer to the Lord that she would ask me to lead the grace on her wedding night, and that He would give me words to share that would have a positive impact on the lives of all those in attendance.

After I said the prayer, sadly, I remember having my doubts. I moved away from New Jersey almost a decade ago, and Lori and I have only had a chance to see each other maybe once every couple years since. Those doubts wanted to continue to grow as the days, weeks, and months went by with no call, but I knew if it was the Lord’s will, it eventually was going to happen. Sure enough, a week before the wedding, the invitation came. A couple things needed to fall into place, but indeed they did. It was a great reminder of the incomparable power of the Lord – there’s no request too big or too small for Him to answer.

The only great unknown at this point is the second part of that prayer. Hopefully, the grace I shared at the wedding will have a positive impact on all those who were at the reception hall that night, and more importantly helped draw each person one step closer to the Lord.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Lord's Perfect Timing

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27:14)

Over the past couple years, Dee and I have both started our own companies. Over a year ago, I entered the fantasy sports business by creating FantasyPostseason.com with a close friend of mine and his colleague. Over the past few months, Dee has been feverishly putting the finishing touches on AngelHeartsForJesus.com – in preparation for the launch of her first book: Angel Hearts for Jesus: The Fashion Show Birthday.

It’s been an extremely busy stretch for both of us, but the Lord has been working overtime in helping us out and opening doors – one after the other. Watching the master of His craft do His work is certainly a treat to behold – from the selection of an illustrator, to the selection of a publisher, the creation of the website, etc.

I can safely say that the Lord’s hand has guided us through every step of the process, even the delivery date of when we received the first shipment of books. We were expecting the first book to arrive on our wedding anniversary (July 1st), but for a variety of reasons, we were saddened to learn that the shipment was going to be delayed one or two weeks. As it turned out, the Lord had the perfect day in mind – the first book was going to arrive not only on the day Dee and I were going to be together with her parents, not only on the day my Mom was going to be in town from New Jersey, but it was also going to be the day of the 3rd anniversary of my Dad’s death (July 9th).

I just know my Dad was smiling down from heaven as we opened that first box together as a family. He always wanted one of his children to write a book, and I know he’d be extremely proud of his daughter-in-law for all of her efforts on this one.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Confirmed

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

It’s not every day you check your inbox and see a note saying that ‘Michael W. Smith confirmed you as a friend on Facebook’. I thought it was an April Fool’s Day joke for a minute, but after logging into my account, the proof was soon evident that it wasn’t.

It was certainly a pleasant surprise to be accepted into the circle of friends of my favorite music artist. Between my two home states of New Jersey and Minnesota, I’ve lost track of the number of Michael’s concerts I’ve been to over the years. The Lord's been known to have his concerts timed just perfectly, like the night he performed in New Jersey just a few days after my Dad’s funeral in 2006…that night went a long way on my road to healing.

But however joyous a moment as Michael’s confirmation of friendship on Facebook was, it paled in comparison to when I was eternally accepted into the friendship of the Lord Jesus. Unlike some, I can’t provide a day or the hour of when that exactly took place, but at some blessed moment in time I laid down my life before Him, and He quickly accepted the knock at His door.

It sure would have been nice to have received an immediate e-mail confirmation at the time (i.e. “The Lord Jesus Christ confirmed you as a friend in Heaven!”), but unfortunately that final confirmation is going to have wait until the day I stand before the judgment seat of God. I can see myself entering the courtroom, with the prosecution armed with papers stacked a mile high filled with every transgression I ever made. And just when it seemed the case against me would be insurmountable, my defense attorney, the Lord Jesus, will enter the room and put a swift end to the proceedings with: “Father, through his faith in me, all of Frank’s sins are forgiven. He is confirmed!”

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Will Rise

They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. (Psalms 20:8)

Dee and I went to a Chris Tomlin concert last night. We knew it would be good, but as the Lord has been known to do, He took the opportunity to speak directly to my heart. A few years ago during a Nicole Nordeman/Casting Crowns concert at the same arena, He took the opportunity to share with me that time was very short for my Dad and that the road ahead was going to be very difficult, but He’d be there. A few days later I found out that my Dad had Stage 4 cancer and that he only had a few months to live. The next few months were as difficult as foreshadowed - but as He promised, the Lord helped carry us through.

On this night, another one of those moments came right before Chris’ latest song I Will Rise as he shared that his grandfather had passed away three days earlier after his own battle with cancer. Chris had sung it for him a few months earlier, and his grandfather, his hero, asked him to sing it at his funeral (the following day). Chris mentioned that he didn’t know if he’d be able to, as he then proceeded to sing the song with a renewed meaning in both of our hearts. As I’m sure his mind drifted off to Texas in thoughts of his grandfather, mine drifted off to New Jersey in remembrance of my Dad, recalling all the difficult trials at the end, and yet being able to say “all is well” due to the incomparable work of the Savior.

Although the night was getting late, when I returned home from the concert I decided to turn on the computer and check out Chris’ Blog. I read all about Chris’ grandfather, and was saddened to hear that Chris had missed his viewing that night, and had only a few short hours to get down to Texas to make it to his funeral. I proceeded to lift up a prayer for Chris – in thanks for honoring his commitments that weekend, for safe travel to Texas, and to have the courage to sing “I Will Rise” one more time for his grandfather.

I was all set to call it a night, but at the last minute decided to click on Chris’ Little Rock video clip from the night his grandfather died. Towards the end, Chris mentioned how his brother turned on the radio soon after hearing of his grandfather’s passing, and “I Will Rise” began to play. Tears filled as I recalled the Lord doing a similar work for me a few years earlier when Father's Love came on the radio right before my Dad’s viewing. I knew it was the Lord’s hand then, and even more so now – as He picked me up from my lowest low, and helped me ‘rise’.