Kelly and her Dad

Monday, May 4, 2015

My Dad, My Hero

This past Saturday was 50+ years in the making...

My dad, Jean Keck, was one of 88 veterans recently chosen to fly to Washington, DC to receive a day of accolades and honor, compliments of Honor Flight of Dayton, Ohio.   

Dad was in the Army serving his country during the Korean War years and returned home to a delayed civilian life without fanfare or celebration.  He never expected any thanks.  He did his job - going where he was sent, doing what he was told. 

Without giving away all Honor Flight's wonderful surprises I can tell you Dad got the fanfare he richly deserved this past weekend!   

Thanks to the inside information and encouragement shared by my dear step-sister Debbie (Bryant) back in Ohio and the good people at Honor Flight (Jan and Larry) I was able to join my dad part way into the trip, as a surprise for what would become a memory making day for both of us.

As the buses arrived I scurried into place, hoping to hide myself for as long as I could stand, documenting at least this part of the day, honoring my dad through my photography.  But I neglected to factor how much of a weepy, blubbering mess I would be.  I made myself known and my own dear father, my hero, on his own special day, pulled us aside to sit and hold hands.  In that moment he chose to forget about his own incredible wonders that awaited him as he offered special encouragement and comfort to a daughter who felt she might be an intruder.  We lingered so long holding hands and catching up that we became the rear guard of sorts.  I'm so thankful for the support staff who gently nudged us onto the adventures of the day!  

Part of the Honor Flight experience is taking these men of valor on a whirlwind tour to see the monuments erected in their own honor.  

What was unexpected was the many men, women and children who stopped to thank my dad for his service.  Dad was often asked to be photographed with young students as well as parents.  My heart was deeply touched and my world stood still as our nation wrapped the arms of their gratitude around Dad's own heart.  

But this was only a small repeat of the reception Dad and his compatriots had already received in both Dayton and Ronald Reagan Airport.  Even while I was sleeping at home then arising to drive, metro and walk my way into town from the more rural burbs of Virginia, Dad was being cheered for and thanked.  Hundreds turned out to shake his hand and women kissed him and the others vets, making what would be the most powerful impact on him of the day. 


For me, it was an awakening, as if even I myself was only now beginning to realize that thanks are long overdue to all our veterans - ones who fight in far off lands and ones who work in homeland offices, ones who stand where they're told to stand and ones who leave their beloved families and our revered soil behind.  ::Thank you::


All soldiers put what we might call "normal life" on hold as they work to serve us and our great nation.  For some, military life becomes the new norm.  For others it is a season of sacrifice.

Whatever the reason for joining and for however long and wherever they served, the logo printed on the back of their tee shirt says it all: 

If you can read this, thank a Teacher.  
      If you can read this in English, 
                  thank a Veteran!

Dad was well thanked on Saturday.  I pray he'll continue to receive the appreciation for what he humbly considers his normal duty.  I know he felt the honor that was (in my opinion) rightfully his and all his companions.  And whether Dad ever feels like a hero or not, he was mine that whole day and even more so today.  

See, it's not just because of what he'd done (without glory) so many years ago, it's who he is and what he does today...  

from making peace in our family by sharing tender love and compassion, helping to reconcile estranged sisters to honoring his wife of 50 years - Rosemarie Keck - as they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary merely one day prior to this trip.  

Dad - YOU are my HERO.  I'm so glad God chose you as my father.  I'm so proud of the man you were and I'm proud to tell everyone who you are now.  

As I hear your own sweet words 
                 I echo back to you...
                                 "I love you more!"  

As a father shows compassion to his children, 
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.  
Psalm 103:13 ESV

Friday, April 24, 2015

What is "Providence"?

Noted Christian blogger, Tim Challies, periodically reads through a Christian classic, reading a chapter a week then discussing it on Thursdays in an open dialogue on his blog. Starting with a posting on ch 1 on May 7, he'll be going through the Puritan Classic "The Mystery of Providence" by John Flavel. 

So...for those joining in, some may have a question, "What is 'providence'?" It's one of those semi-vague concepts that needs clarification if we are to understand what the book is about. Here's an article, taken from the Lexham Bible Dictionary, that may be a helpful starting point;

"PROVIDENCE (πρόνοια, pronoia). God’s plan and interaction with His creation. Usually discussed in association with sovereignty, foreknowledge, predestination, free will, and evil.

Ancient Societies
Most ancient societies and philosophers subscribed to some type of providence:

  •      Mesopotamians believed the gods assembled each year to determine the next year’s fate (Ŝīmtu) for each person and event. The gods themselves were controlled by whichever god held the Tablet of Destinies.
  •      Egyptians viewed the gods as controlling nature and events. They performed rituals to entice desired outcomes from gods.

Ancient societies perceived death as fate’s principal determinant—even the gods could die (Lawson, The Concept of Fate in Ancient Mesopotamia). Fated events could be affected by human appeals.

Pre-exilic and Exilic Judaism. Yahweh planned and controlled nature and nations throughout the earliest Jewish writings:

  •      Satan must ask permission to afflict Job with evil (Job 1–3).
  •      God delivered Israel from famine through Joseph’s slavery, and then prominence in Egypt (Gen 37–47).
  •      God delivered captive Israel from Egypt’s oppression (Exod 3–15).
  •      God punished Israel with famine due to Saul’s covenant-breaking murder of the Gibeonites (2 Sam 21:1, 14).
  •      God protected David from Saul’s relentless murderous pursuits (1 Sam 19–31).
  •      God punished Israel with drought due to Ahab’s sin (1 Kgs 17–18).
  •      God chose national leaders like Moses, Joshua, Saul, and David.
  •      God placed angels to assist and care for humans (Psa 90:11).
  •      Ruth credited God with her calamities (Ruth 1:20–21).
  •      God determines personal health or sickness and poverty or wealth (1 Sam 2:6–8).
  •      Though God is not mentioned in the book of Esther, the Jews’ rescue from annihilation is presented as providential (Esth 4:14).

Throughout God’s sovereign interaction with all aspects of life, the Jews retain individual freedom in action and choice (e.g., God hardening Pharaoh’s heart after self-hardening, Exod 7:13, 22, 23; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; Feldman, “Divine Omnipotence, Omniscience, and Human Freedom”). In contrast to Jewish understandings, these passages could be interpreted as God manipulating every human decision and action except evil (Leahy, The Hand of God).

Wilson, K. M. (2012, 2013, 2014). Providence. In J. D. Barry, L. Wentz, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair-Wolcott, R. Klippenstein, D. Bomar, … D. R. Brown (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press."

Monday, April 13, 2015

What Kind of Mother Was Hannah?

I have been enjoying a chronological Bible reading plan this year. I've been using it for a few years now and it's getting more interesting each year as the cohesive story line of the Bible plays itself out step-by-step. This year has been a little different. We started a group-read at our church with the idea that we would be encouragers to each other. Daily emails on what passages to read developed into a daily commentary/devotion. Writing the commentary has forced me to stop and consider, for each reading, what was going on and how it fit into the big picture. I'm not sure everyone is reading it - I have a tendency to ramble - but the exercise has been good for my daily reading and meditation and I've enjoyed the process. 

A few days ago, I came across the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel.  I love Hannah's story, a girl who desperately wanted a baby, living in a culture that saw barrenness as a curse. Hannah prays fervently, in front of Eli, a priest. God grants Hannah's request and gives her a son, Samuel. 

Hannah's vow to God was to give her son to the Lord, devote him to a holy life (1 Sam 1:11). In Israel, this meant taking him to the  tabernacle at Shiloh and leaving him in the care of the priests. 

Hannah was a good and godly woman. I can't begin to imagine what it was like to hold her baby in her arms, grow him, wean him, then give him away. 

The world would see this as foolish. Some might even accuse Hannah of being an irresponsible mother. Perhaps Hannah had some of the same doubts. Perhaps she wondered, incessantly, whether or not she did the right thing,
whether or not she should have done something different. Knowing Hannah was a godly woman but a human being, as well, it would not be hard to imagine Hannah, on the way to the Tabernacle to leave little Samuel, wondering if she had prayed correctly, second guessing whether or not God had answered her prayer or it was just a coincidence and she should keep Samuel. After all, who was better equipped to raise him, his mother or some old priest?

Hannah is no different than any of us who love our children and want the very best for them. It's always a guessing game as to what to do for them, how to help them, how to show our love for them without holding them back or hindering them. 

Ultimately, Hannah had made a vow, back in a time when vows truly meant something. So, she gave her baby to Eli. The rest of the story is an incredible tale of a young boy who would be called, by God, to anoint kings.

Hannah made the right decision. She released Samuel, not into the hands of Eli, but into God's hands (1 Sam 1:28. The Hebrew word for "lent" means "to dedicate").

I think releasing Samuel to God was one of the biggest struggles Hannah ever had. Still, she was a godly woman and did it as an act of worship (see 1 Sam 2). 

Likewise, releasing our children into the hands of God is probably one of the greatest struggles in our lives. It doesn't mean we are bad parents. It's actually the opposite. Hannah
got it right. She never stopped loving or caring for Samuel. He was still a large part of her life. We know Samuel was always on her mind, always in her heart when we read  about the gift she took to him every year, a "little robe", a reminder that he would always be clothed and warmed by the love of his mother. But Hannah knew Samuel was special. The "robe" was a little priestly robe, worn by young boys in training for the priesthood, a reminder that Samuel was in the care of God's hands, as well.

Hannah was a wise woman. She loved her son. She knew that love could watch over him, provide for him and protect him...for a while. I like to think that Hannah knew this as well: her love could not change him or mold him into the man he was supposed to be. Only God's love could do that. Once Hannah released Samuel into God's hands, God took Hannah's offering and did something far more amazing than anything Hannah could have dreamed of.  

It all started with Hannah, taking her fondest desire, the most precious thing in the world to her, and giving him to God. Once she did, Samuel was free to be who God would make him. The double blessings is that Hannah is free as well, free to savor what God does in Samuel, free to receive further blessing. None of it means she forgets about Samuel, he is always in her heart and thoughts. Samuel is blessed and his mother, for her faithfulness, was blessed in a mighty, mighty way (1 Sam 2:21).

What kind of mother was Hannah? The greatest kind of all. The kind that loved her children profoundly and trusted God completely.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Let's Talk About That Fleece!

I've heard it so many times, it's almost become a spiritual principal. I've even done it a few times myself, laid out a fleece before the Lord in order to determine His will and my direction in some matter or decision. 

The idea is supposed to work like this, we lay out a "fleece", a set of conditions that, if met by God, we will know what to do. It all sounds so simple! It's a foolproof way of staying on God's good side and avoiding some dreadful error.

Or is it?

The whole idea of the fleece comes from the story of Gideon in Judges 6. 

Judges 6:36–40
36 Then Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said,
37 behold, I am laying a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you have said.”
38 And it was so. When he rose early next morning and squeezed the fleece, he wrung enough dew from the fleece to fill a bowl with water.
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Let not your anger burn against me; let me speak just once more. Please let me test just once more with the fleece. Please let it be dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground let there be dew.”
40 And God did so that night; and it was dry on the fleece only, and on all the ground there was dew.

In short, Gideon was not totally sure of what God wanted him
to do, so he laid out a fleece, asking God to do something special to it. When God did, Gideon...just to be sure...did it again with a different guideline. God met that one as well and Gideon went forward.

It's a beautiful example of God giving guidance. Isn't it? Hmmm....perhaps we should look closer.  

Gideon, by his own admission, twice (vs 36 & 37), has heard from God! God intends to save Israel by the hand of Gideon. Yet Gideon hesitates. He's not sure. He wants more affirmation from God than he already has. He's really asking God to prove Himself before he goes forward. Gideon does not have enough trust in what God has told him to act decisively. 

This reveals much about Gideon. In Judges 6:11, the angel of the Lord calls Gideon and "man of valor".  In vs 34, we hear that Gideon is "clothed in the Spirit of the Lord". He is valiant, clothed in the Spirit, has heard from God, been given specific instructions and received the promise of victory. 

Yet, by the time we get to vs 36, we see that, in spite of all God has done, Gideon is still Gideon. This is not to say God's work has not been effective. It is to show that Gideon is not yet perfect. He has not been made immune to the weaknesses and flaws we all experience when confronted with the major battles and trials of life. Gideon has been blessed mightily, seen the power of God, felt His presence and knows His word. Still, he hesitates and is unsure. We can plainly see all this in Gideon. He is, just as we are, a flawed, fallen human being, touched by God and being made new with some work yet to be completed.  

We can see, just as plainly, that God is gracious and His grace flows abundantly and freely. In spite of the clarity with which God has spoken, in spite of the calling on Gideon, in spite of the promise he has been given....when Gideon hesitates, God is patient and kind. He never reproves Gideon, never chastises him. His blessings flow and His promise is made good, not based on Gideon's new super powers or even Gideon's (lack of) confidence, but based on God's faithfulness and His grace. 

This is the point of the story, God's grace. The author of Judges does not intend to show us a way for making good and godly decisions in life. We are not called upon to emulate Gideon's behavior or example in this passage. What we are called upon to do in these verses, is to give thanks to God for His grace and mercy when we are weak and doubtful, when we stumble and fall.

Gideon was not just a recipient of a calling and power. He also received a saving dose of God's grace. We see, in the story of the fleece, God, instead of crashing down on Gideon for doubt and fear, giving him...and us...a lesson on patience and grace. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

"I Am A Follower of Christ" by Scott Ferrell

I remember a commercial a few years ago that showed a string of people staring seriously into the camera saying, “I am a cancer survivor."

My mom was a cancer survivor who beat all the odds. She did so because she was well-grounded in her faith, she had a husband who deeply loved and cared for her, and because God had gifted her with a determination and grit that would make any Marine look namby-pamby.

But even with my front row seat to the fearful savagery cancer brought to my mom’s life, and her corresponding withering counterassault upon itI never really understood the full impact of what it meant to be a cancer survivor.

Now, I’m hoping to be one, too.

Tomorrow morning (March 26), I’ll go to Fauquier Hospital to have radioactive seeds implanted in my prostate to kill the cancer that’s there. My cancer is nothing compared to what my mom faced. Because of God’s providence and the remarkable knowledge that God has gifted us with in our country, mine was discovered extremely early, and it also happens to be one of the most treatable kinds of cancer, unlike my mom's. That makes me very confident that I’ll be able to say someday soon, “I’m a cancer survivor too."

Even as I say that, though,I hope that beating cancer, or living longer, doesn’t become my banner, my motto, my reason for being, a badge that I wear. That’s because as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, he is my reason for being, whether it’s to live or to die – "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). My goal in life isn’t to beat cancer, or even to live longer – it’s to live well for the glory of God.

What God has already done with this trial is to sharpen my resolve to do so, to spend the rest of the time the Lord gives me studying his word, preaching his truth, demonstrating the same love and grace to a lost and broken world that God has manifested to me – showing anyone who’ll pay attention how true is my hope in one who is far greater than beating cancer or living longer: My hope is in the one who is life – "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

My hope is the hope of every believer, an assurance that is faith (Heb. 11:1), a faith that convinces us through the testimony of scriptures that God is, and that he is sovereign, and that he keeps his promises through his only son, who gives us power to live well for his glory by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

In light of this I have nothing at all to fear, nothing, whether I live another day or another half century.

As we walk this walk that God is laying before us, Leslie and I have taken great comfort in your fellowship and prayers. We have never felt more loved and cared for in all our lives, and we are eternally grateful. Thank you for sharing our burden! May we all continue to extend that Godly love to each other.

I truly hope I can say that I’m a cancer survivor soon, and the prospect of that is excellent, thankfully. But who I am now is far more important, because it’s who I’ll be for eternity. I am a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ!