An Unexpected Friend, Carl Seestedt (1954-2009)

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Friends enter into our lives in different ways. Many of our friends we have had since childhood, high school or college. Other friends come into our lives through work, church or some other organizations. Other friendships “seem” to come about by accident. Carl Seestedt entered into my life in a very unexpected way.

One day in 2008, Carl received a diagnosis of terminal brain cancer. I had known Carl only casually through playing tennis with him on rare occasions. However, when I heard about Carl’s diagnosis, I decided to visit him to show interest in him and to encourage him. He had a great desire to be assured of his salvation in Jesus Christ. I shared some verses with him and he received that assurance. At that time, I offered to do a weekly Bible study with him. He seemed quite pleased with this offer because he had a great desire to study God’s Word.

We spent every Tuesday studying the Gospel of John. Carl was quite enthusiastic to learn the Word of God. Because of his tumor, he would find it difficult to get his thoughts into words, but he made every effort to do so. He was almost always upbeat. He rarely talked about himself and his circumstances, but he continually talked of his love for his wife, Vicki and his two daughters Julie and Jana.

Every Tuesday after the Bible study, we would eat lunch together at Carl’s house. During our lunch we would talk about life and even death. Those were very special times of conversation for me. I soon could understand what made Carl a very special person.

After lunch, I would take him to his tennis lesson which he had with two of his close friends Jack Griffin and Doug Atkinson. During this time, Carl continued to play tennis. Yes, his skills started to deteriorate, but he was persistent. He still had a great time with these lessons as well as teasing his friends while playing. Yes, Carl had a way of living his life to the fullest even to the end.

As the months passed by Carl’s conditioned worsened. We would still get together for a Bible Study, but the tennis time had ended. As Carl was nearing his time to enter into God’s presence, he never lost his interest in the lives of others. His kind, friendly attitude never escaped me.

As I reflect upon my one year friendship with Carl, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to know Carl as a friend. His enthusiasm for life and people was a great inspiration to me. Carl taught people how to live their lives with enthusiasm and interest. Also, I am thankful that as Carl faced death, he taught people how to die because he knew that he would be with his greatest friend Jesus Christ.

 

 

What is a Dad?

Dads come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. Some dads have lots of money. Others don’t.  Some dads are quite handsome and energetic. Others are rather ordinary looking and a bit lethargic. Some dads like the outdoors. Others like to read, or watch television. Some dads make amazing things with their hands. Others don’t.

Every dad is different! The qualification for being a dad goes beyond being the physical father of a child. There are many men who are fathers but have never been a dad. A dad is a special title for a father who has graduated to the name “Dad”.

A dad is a person who takes you in his arm when you are born and has that special smile on his face that says: “I love you. You are God’s special gift to me.” He shows your photo to everybody he knows, because you are the most beautiful baby ever born.

When you get home from the hospital dad makes sure everything is ready at home.  He already has bought a sleeper for you of his favorite sports team.  He starts to dream of what you will be like as you grow up. He may avoid changing your diaper, or giving you a bath, but he is patiently waiting for the day when you can do fun things with him.

As you become a toddler, dad makes sure that you have the most important thing in life which is a ball. He teaches you what to do with the ball.  If you throw well, he sees you playing in the World Series. If you kick well, he sees you eventually playing in the World Cup.

When school begins, dad will tell you how important an education is.  He may even say: “You don’t want to grow up to be like me.” The funny thing is that if he is a true dad, you do want to grow up and be like him.  Dad sometimes embarrasses you when he cheers for you loudly at a soccer or a baseball game.  He means well, but you wish he would be a bit quieter with his cheering.

Dad may not only care for your physical, educational, financial, and emotional needs, but He may also teach you from the Word of God. Dad has found wisdom, guidance, and comfort from the Word of God, and he wants to share this aspect of his life with you.

In the teenage years, dad finds his role changing. You no longer look up to him as an expert in everything. Dad tries to adjust to this new role. He continues to tell you what is the best thing to do, but something has changed, and dad knows it.  He feels the pain of seeing you reject his wise counsel.  He may respond in anger, silence or in prayer.  In whatever way dad responds, he still loves you and longs to keep you from the pain of making bad decisions.

During the teenage years, dad is still willing to support you financially. Often, dad accepts the fact that you are not grateful. A dad’s love stays strong though you may not appreciate it during this stage of your life. Dad will love you no matter how many mistakes you make, because you are his child.

When dad says goodbye to you as you leave home as an adult.  It is a day of mixed emotions.  Dad is happy to see you able to make wise choices, but he will miss hearing his beloved child say: “Dad” every day. He will miss playing catch, riding bikes, the family vacations, and just those times of being together. Above all, dad will miss saying: “This is how you do it.”

As the years pass, and we become parents, we soon understand what being a dad is all about. When the time comes for us to say goodbye to dad, as he leaves this life. We think back upon all the things we wish we had said. We wish we could have one more day with him and say: “I love you” one last time. Now, we are left with our memories, photos and those famous words that we learned from dad that we now say to our children: “This is how you do it.”

Remembering Mom: June Solomon Booth (1923-2003)

Mom and I shortly after my birth.

Mom and I shortly after my birth.

June 9, 1923 was a very special day for me. This was the day that Annie Solomon gave birth to the last of the many children that she and Charles brought into the world. They would call this last child June Leona Solomon. June spent the first eighteen years of her life in the small coal-mining town of Patton, Pennsylvania. However, there weren’t many opportunities in Patton; so June followed her married sister, Frances, to Detroit.

Mom as a young child in Patton, PA.  She is the one in the middle.

Mom as a young child in Patton, PA. She is the one in the middle.

The big city was a contrast to the small laid back life back in Patton. She often spoke about working in the Guardian Building and living on Grand Blvd. In time, June would meet Arthur Booth and in 1950 they would become husband and wife. I would be the last child born to my parents in August of 1955.

Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.

Dad and Mom before I came on the scene.

In life, we can choose whom we marry, we can choose our friends, but we can’t choose our mothers. I am very grateful for the mother that God gave to me. She wasn’t a perfect person, but she was the perfect mother for me.

My mother was able to stay home with the three of us because my Dad sacrificed by working two jobs. Mom took her role as mother quite seriously. She took care of all of our basic needs. She always fixed our meals without complaints. She packed my sack lunch with loving care  She took care of our clothes. I still remember her ironing in the dining room as she would spray water on the clothes before she would pass the iron over them.  She also took us to all the places that we needed to go.

Mom did much more than take care of our basic needs. She loved us. She showed her love in how she sacrificed her time for us. She made it a point to give each of us special attention. Often, we would gather around the table with Mom and play Scrabble, Password or Jeopardy. The highlight of my day was bedtime, because Mom would tuck me into my bed and then read a story to me. She started with stories from Uncle Remus or Dr. Seuss.  When I was older she would read biographies and historical novels. She taught me to have a love for reading and history.

My Mom also enjoyed being involved in different community organizations.  She was involved in the Midland Elementary School PTA. She also was a den mother for the Cub Scouts for a couple of years. I still remember her working on the craft projects that her pack would do that day. Mom also taught Sunday School for a couple of years at the Highland Park Congregational Church. I was proud to be in her Junior High class.

Holidays and birthdays were always special to Mom. She would decorate our house special on each holiday. She enjoyed hiding the Easter baskets for Easter. She also was right there cleaning out the pumpkin for Halloween. Thanksgiving dinner was always a special treat. To this day, I can still taste her stuffing that would come right out of the turkey.

As for birthdays, she always prepared a big party. One year when Batman was popular on TV, she gave me a Batman party with Batman hats, plates, and cups.  She always invited our rather large extended family to the party as well as my friends.  She made each birthday like one gigantic celebration.

Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.

Mom enjoying hosting one of my birthday parties.

Mom also had a real gift of hospitality. She always seemed to have some family member at our house. She always welcomed my friends into the house. I never heard her complain about the noise that we made while we were playing.  She never said, “I wish you and your friends would go somewhere else.”

Mom was not always comfortable driving. She didn’t mind Woodward Avenue or Oakland Avenue, but the Davison and the Lodge expressways were off-limits in her mind. One day, Mom made a wrong turn and somehow she was driving on the Davison Expressway entering the Lodge. I was standing in my usual position in the back seat (Remember no seat belts or car seats in those days). I felt the panic of Mom as she asked me what to do?  As a seven-year old, I sure didn’t have the answer. Somehow, we made it off the Lodge Expressway. I never again remember Mom driving on one of the expressways. If she did, I am glad that I wasn’t with her.

The greatest contribution that Mom made in my life was that she taught me about God.  She didn’t read the Bible to me, but she did take me to church and gave me a prayer to repeat when I went to bed. She always told me not to put anything on top of the Bible because it was God’s Word. Because of Mom’s influence, when I was in high school, I started to read my Bible in search of God and how I could be right with Him. By the time, I was a student in college, I had placed my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior.

After accepting Christ, I took Mom to Coltman Memorial Baptist Church which was a small Baptist church on Hamilton near Puritan. The people in the church really loved Mom and she loved them. She would soon accept the Lord as her Savior and she was also baptized.  Being younger than most of the people in the church, Mom would have a ministry of helps to many of the older women in the church. She would learn much from the Word of God as result of the good teaching she would receive.

Mom with the ladies of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church

Mom with the ladies of Coltman Memorial Baptist Church

When we left to minister in South Africa in 1983, Mom found it difficult to adjust. She would miss us, especially as her grandchildren would grow up in another land. Mom would send us cassette tapes of her thoughts and memories, as well as having Dad read a story to our children. This helped the children to relate to family back in the States. We would visit every couple of years. This would be a special time for our children to bond with their grandparents.

In 1996, we would return to the States. Mom was finding it difficult to get out, but she still found a certain joy when we would come and visit her. She loved our three children. With sadness, we would say goodbye to Mom in July of 2003. It has been ten years since I have been able to kiss Mom and say: “I love you.” I probably didn’t do this enough in this life.  However, I thank God that I could call June Booth, “Mom”.

Render Unto God the Things that are God’s

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This week, I  read the account of the Jewish leaders trying to entrap Jesus with their questions. One question has to do with paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus responds by asking for a coin. He than asks whose inscription is on the coin. His questioners answer Caesar’s. Jesus than surprises them all with His answer: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21)

When I read this account, God convicted me about my life. I had always read these words with the understanding that we are to pay our taxes, but I never paid much attention to the second part of Jesus’ statement. God wants me to give all things unto Him because I belong to Him.

One question that comes to my mind: “Have I rendered unto God the things that belong to Him?” I realize that my answer is “no”.  I still am dealing with selfishness in several areas of my life. I often don’t recognize in my heart that belonging to God means I surrender every area of my life to Him. Surrender is the true essence of defining what it means to be a servant (bond-slave) of Jesus Christ.

“What are the things that I need to render unto God?” First of all, I need to render my life unto God. I often grab hold of my life and try to take it back from God. I can do this as I make decisions concerning my future, or the use of my time. I also have the tendency to allow my worries and anxieties to remain in my heart instead of giving them over to the Lord as He desires: “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

My reputation is an area in my life that I need to give unto God. It is difficult not to defend oneself when others may not agree with you or even worse when they oppose you or try to tear you down. Jesus Christ is the great example of one who surrendered His reputation to His Heavenly Father. God’s reputation is more important than my reputation.

A second area of my life that I need to render to God is my family. Marriage can easily bring out my selfish bent.  Instead of looking at my wife in the same way as Christ loved the church. I seek to please myself. A marriage surrendered to God demonstrates a selfless love that seeks the best for one’s spouse.

Also, I am grateful for the three children that God has given to us. Our two sons are serving the Lord in Portugal and our daughter and her husband are making plans to minister in England. When we give our children unto God, it is difficult when the Lord takes them to distant place to live. This is a great reminder that our children ultimately belong to God.  They are his gift to us to raise them to honor and glorify Him.

A third area of my life that I need to render to God is the church.  As a pastor of a church, I need to remind myself that Christ is the Head of the church. I am His servant, who needs to minister to those that God brings into our local church. Patience is a necessity in dealing with people.  The Bible reminds me: “that it is God who worketh in you both to will and do of His good pleasure.”  In myself I can’t make anyone grow spiritually.  I can’t  make anyone confess and forsake their sin. I need to constantly “turn my eyes upon Jesus.”

Almost every day, the Lord reminds me of some area of my life that I need to surrender to Him. He is my Lord and Master. He knows what is best for me. What keeps me from surrendering every area to my Loving Lord?

“Dear Lord, thank you for using your Word to show me my need to give every area of my life to you. I know that I attempt to grab from you some part of my life that belongs to you. Help me to see those areas of my life, my family and the church that I have yet delivered unto you.  Sometimes transferring the ownership of some area of my life is difficult, but I know that your peace, guidance and wisdom come when I render everything to you.  Thank you that I belong to you because your Son took my place on the cross, Amen.”

Parental Piety (An excerpt from a new book by David de Bruyn)

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Dear Readers, very rarely do I include writings from other sources in my blog; however, this new Kindle Book by David de Bruyn is a very worthwhile read for all parents and grandparents. The title of the book is: “Save them from Secularism: Pre-Evangelism for Your Children.”  This Kindle Book is presently being offered free.  Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BWRDT7Q

I have known the author since he was a child attending our church in Johannesburg, South Africa. David presently is the pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Sandringham, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Enjoy this one chapter of the book. It is my prayer and desire that you will download the whole book.

Chapter 2:Parental Piety by David de Bruyn

The first and greatest commandment is followed by a commandment to teach children to do the same (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Our goal as Christian parents should be nothing less than to help shape our children so that they will, by grace, become ardent lovers of God. We have said this happens not merely by telling our children to love God, but by shaping the child’s imagination.   Probably one of the first analogies the child’s imagination receives is the analogy of his parents’ piety. This provides him with a picture of what it is like to be in a relationship with God.

Before a child knows anything about justification, penal substitution, or the nature of God, he knows what a relationship with God is like. Or at least, he knows what his believing parents express it to be like. The religious imagination of child is shaped by being exposed to his parents’ piety, and it is their example that gives him his first introduction to how God is to be loved, and if God ought to be loved.

This is probably why right after telling Israel that they are to love Him with all the heart, soul and might, God tells them that these words about loving God ultimately “which I command you today shall be in your heart.” That is, these words are to be internalized and understood and practised by the parents themselves first. Following that, verse 7 kicks in. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

Certainly, this teaching will take the form of direct instruction. However, our concern in this book is how the non-discursive, non-cognitive faculty of knowing is shaped. Certainly then, part of the teaching is the fleshed-out example of love for God seen in the parents.

Loving God ultimately can be thought of as ultimate dependence, ultimate devotion and ultimate delight. When we love God ultimately, we regard Him as ultimately reliable, ultimately valuable, and ultimately desirable. We do not trust, commit to, or rejoice in anything besides God as an end. All else are means: He alone is the end.

In a family, this kind of love for God is seen in very tangible ways. When in the middle of a health or financial or emotional crisis, Dad says to the family, “We can be very thankful for what God has given us. Let’s turn to Him now in prayer, and ask Him for grace”, that lesson speaks to little hearts in powerful ways. Gratitude and contentment say more than 100 sermons. When Dad says, “We’ve barely got petrol in the tank, but we know God wants us to worship Him. We’ll trust that God will enable what He commands.” And do you know what God loves to do when those little eyes are watching that act of ultimate dependence? Provide. Supply. Protect.

When the child is groaning about a sore throat on Monday morning, and Dad says, “Get out of that bed, and get ready, you are going to school!”, he is teaching the importance of education. But when the child has the same groans about a sore throat on Sunday morning, and Dad says, “Well, just take it easy and rest this morning,” he has taught something else. He has taught that education takes priority over worship. He has taught that our devotion to education ought to exceed our devotion to God.

When Mom will drive from this side of the city for swimming to that side of the city for tennis or ballet, to the other side for extra maths, and back again for soccer, and finally home, racking up a good 100 kilometres in the process, the child might learn that Mom and Dad like him to have activities. But when they say, “We can’t go to the Wednesday Evening service, it’s too much driving, and petrol is getting more expensive”, he learns about priorities. Petrol costs and driving time aren’t an issue if it is extra-murals or education, but very high hurdles if it is church. He has just learned how committed one should be to God, and it is not an ultimate commitment.

Children know what we love. They see it when our eyes sparkle when we talk about what delights us. They see how we anticipate the things we really love. They see how we reminisce over the things we love. And they see how we connect those things to God, if we do. They see what our attitude is towards the things of God.

If Dad’s sighing heavily as everyone gets in the car on Sunday, but he’s cheerfully buoyant before the start of a rugby game on TV, he communicates which brings more joy. If Mom is humming away while she copies photos to Facebook and makes scrap-book albums, but looks like she’s eaten lemons during the singing of hymns, she communicates what brings her joy.

And make no mistake, those little eyes are on you in corporate worship – do you enjoy and understand those hymns, or do you just mouth them? Do you love God’s Word and read it with hunger? Do you communicate your relish for the Word before and after? They notice when you’re soaking in the Word, and they notice when you’re looking at your watch. And later on, they might remember that you don’t do that during a movie.

Before we tell them so, we show our children what we think is reliable, valuable and desirable.  God says there is only One who deserves that kind of love. That should be the day-in, day-out message of our homes.