Thursday, November 28, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

Dear Family and Friends,

2013 has been an eventful year, and we are thankful for this rich season of life.

Jace started kindergarten this year, finished up a Tae Kwon Do program, and played on a soccer and basketball team. He rides a bike without training wheels, and can now keep his body above the water long enough to be classified as a “swimmer.” We are proud of our little man’s accomplishments and continue to thank God as he develops as a boy with a heart for God, despite the bumps and bruises he sustains along the way.

Gwyneth has a strong personality, yet her nurturing spirit has her playing mommy to everyone (much to independent Quinn’s dismay!).  She is learning to write letters and numbers and has taken some dance, swim, and tumbling classes.  She brings constant laughter and joy while keeping us on our toes!

Quinn is determined to keep up with her siblings and grows in her ability to motor around and form words. We can tell she is a persistent, purposeful, constant mover. She seems to have an infectious joy and openness to all. She is a bubbly and a little shy personality that we love to see sprout and come to life.

We visited family in KY and in IA on separate occasions and we hosted Sarah’s mother at our home a few times.  We enjoyed a camping experience in KY, while visiting John’s family, and a visit to the IA State Fair while in IA. We look forward to many more memories for our kids with their grandmas and uncles and aunts in the years to come.

Even though it had been difficult for John’s parents to visit because of health issues, his mother was able to make the trip for Thanksgiving this year. John’s dad passed away earlier in November after a long fight with cancer, so the family has been adjusting to life without him. The funeral and the days surrounding his death were incredibly meaningful and resulted in lots of thanksgiving instead of regret.  You can read John’s tribute to him in the blog entry before this one.
Dad enjoying a camping cookout, a few months before his death.

As you can imagine, there’s not a lot of time for relaxation for us. John continues to keep up with the kids and housework while Sarah supports the family as a veterinarian. We continue to enjoy church, hosting a small group from time to time, and providing care in the nursery as needed. John continues with a writing project and calling pastors and praying for them in a volunteer roll. Sarah strengthens her veterinarian skills by studying herbal medicine to  add to her acupuncture certification. Our steps are in God’s hands, so we continue to rely on HIM to guide us into all that He has for us as a family.

May you experience Peace and Joy this Christmas! Have a BLESSED time with your family and friends.

For Him,

John, Sarah, Jace, Gwyneth, and Quinn

Isaiah 9: 6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. “

Jace having some fun in the sand while in IA this past summer.
Quinn has a real attraction to animals, and she enjoyed this visit to Sarah's Uncle Jim, in IA.
Gwyneth is all smiles after reading with daddy.

Friday, November 8, 2013

My Tribute for Dad (Aug. 23, 1929-Nov. 3, 2013)

Read by Gary Knox at David W. Lee’s Funeral


As you can imagine, it’s a challenge to write appropriate admiration for a great father, and keep it within a few minutes for someone to read. That is what I’ll attempt. Since we are into the month of November, with the celebration of Thanksgiving on the horizon, I’ll honor my dad through giving thanks.

Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to gather here to honor my dad. By the grace of God his impact in the lives of his children, family members, ministries, and people for whom he prayed, is deserving of commemoration.

Thanks to my wife, Sarah, for giving me the nudges and the freedom I needed to leave for Kentucky on Friday morning, a week ago. It was a blessing to have people from our church’s small group take care of the girls and for one of Sarah’s clients to take Jace to his first basketball practice, while Sarah worked a half day on Saturday. Upon arrival, I hoped that dad would heal from the pneumonia in his lungs and miraculously revive for a great Christmas with my kids and the rest of our family before his passing, so I stayed obnoxiously positive. In the evening, mother shared with me that it was no longer pneumonia, but the cancer and disease was taking over his lungs. On Friday, after praying with my mom in her room, I remember praying for God to take dad and be merciful to him. Grief started to roll in with force at that point. Saturday morning I told him, “Dad, we aren’t holding on to you anymore. You are free to go, even though we’d love to have you healthy.” By Saturday afternoon they had decided to move him into hospice and his condition continued to decline. Sunday morning, about 8:40 a.m. we got a call from Esther, my sister, that she had been called by hospice to get to the hospital. While in route, enjoying the beautiful KY morning with black angus cows in the fields and leaves in full Fall colors, Esther called again. He was already HOME. When we got on the hospice hall a little after 9:00a.m., we were told he had passed away at 8:55 a.m. .

I’m so grateful for that weekend. I was able to say “I love you” multiple times to my dad, and even hear him faintly say, “I love you too.” I gave his last living, earthly shave. I got to wash his face with a hot washcloth to make him look better for nurses and visitors stopping by to see him. It was great to know I had filled a void for a sister and mother who had given themselves to the point of emotional and physical exhaustion.  And, I was able give him my own personal release of freedom to “go to heaven.”

I’m full of thanks for how the events surrounding his death affirmed my faith, in Jesus, His perfect timing, and the way He blesses through people who live by faith. For example:

-          That morning I had dreamed of my dad running up to my grandpa, grandma, his brothers, and loved ones in heaven.

-          The devotional mother and I read before receiving the call to leave for the hospital felt like it was for us, and I was positive death was imminent.

-          A former pastor felt led to call about David Lee’s condition. When the hospital answered-it was 2 minutes after his death.

-          Close friends texted messages, with dad in their thoughts.

-          Dad and mother were on the World Gospel Mission prayer calendar.

-          A former neighbor and a small group leader and his wife (Larry and Sherry McNabb) stayed up all night with dad until 7 a.m., before his passing, but returned to the hospital by 9:15 a.m. to see his body rolled out for preparation.

-          People were dropping off meals to cover for mother before the day was over. Neighbors assured me that the yard would be mowed, and person after person let me know that my parents had touched them in deep ways.

-          My sister’s high school Spanish classes have been covered by a competent teacher this whole week in her absence.

-          God’s sovereign, provident hand were present the WHOLE weekend, -other family members have more they could tell you.

I’m thankful for a dad who valued hard work and doing a project right the first time. I learned to swing a hammer, drive a nail, saw a board, paint a room, and dig a ditch from him.

I’m thankful for a dad who was organized- he had his whole funeral service filed away with all prearranged details ready with the funeral home in Carey. I hung a mirror for mother, and marveled as I went to the garage to look for a tack for the back of the picture frame. Tools were hung in perfect order, with all the types of nails and screws neatly filed in little, plastic, cabinet drawers for easy access. His garage looks more like a well- kept living room.

I’m thankful for a dad who modeled practical, authentic belief in Jesus, backed up with action. He was a faithful Sunday School teacher, Bible Study participant, and caring neighbor. I never heard him use an unwholesome word, and even though I know he was very human, his pursuit of holiness and his desire for the experience to be a part of each of his children’s lives was evident. Daily family reading of Scripture and prayer is the mode of operation in the Lee home. And you all know that he made his sacrifices, living thousands of miles away from his closest family, in ministry.

I’m thankful for a dad who gave me discerning, sound, biblical advice, yet expected me to make my own decisions.  I will miss the phone conversations when I need to talk to an older buddy.

I’m thankful to have had a dad who was a man of prayer, and the belief in its power in my family. Family members, he PRAYED for you, by name- ALL of you. If you are in these seats and you are a part of a mission/ministerial organization, he probably prayed for you too.

Organized and purposeful, authentic disciple of Jesus, discerning, man of prayer. I’d love to continue the legacy.

When I arrived home from the hospital I looked at the bags mother would unpack. I noticed his watch. I stretched it over my hand and onto my wrist- it looked pretty good. It’s on me today. I grabbed his walking cane, and made sure I put it in the Rav4, to head back to IN. That’s in my bedroom at home.  I passed his dresser and there were a few pocket knives on the dresser top. I wondered which one I’d inherit. But no, it wasn’t time now. I needed to bask in the thankfulness I was feeling for a faithful earthly father and in the healing that time brings before we rummage through possessions that evoke such strong memories.

Thanks so much, Dad… Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the hope of heaven.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The "Unloving Way?"

“Daddy, may we have candy for dessert?” This is a question I often hear from Jace and Gwyneth as they  labor over their last bites of potatoes or broccoli. Any anticipation of a food item they crave helps the last vegetable morsels go down like good medicine. Often my answer is “No,” and I explain to them that they had enough sugar for the day. Honestly, I sense pleasure seeing them enjoy candy. But out of concern for their health, their afternoon nap (and my relaxation too), I make the decision that it wouldn’t be prudent for them to fill up on candy.
As a Christian, I have faith in a God who interacts with me much like an earthly father who wants to raise healthy kids. As a father, I believe that I show love to my kids by giving them boundaries, and I think my heavenly Father has done the same for each one of us. It’s as if God has constructed a “way of refuge” for people who follow Him. It’s not a way without suffering, but it is a way of peace and purpose that He has fashioned for each person.
If you hold to a belief or a conviction that there is actually “a way” to do life that supersedes all others, you may be labeled unloving, intolerant, fundamentalist, non- progressive, a traditionalist, unbending, culturally blind, etc…. It’s like the cultural heart-cry of the day is “love has no boundaries and no discriminations.” In other words, if you are loving, you better accept my way of life, and don’t EVER disagree with me.  These attacks center on anyone who holds to a belief that there actually is “truth” about how to live life, and it isn’t just true for me, but rather for everybody.  And, it’s not that I don’t accept you, I just don’t accept “your way." Now because I don’t accept “your way” even though I accept you, please don’t label me or call me an arrogant bleepity, bleep, bleep….
Absolute TRUTH has been under attack through the ages, and especially in the last twenty years. But, the issue is evolving even more. I quote Pastor Mark Vroegop on the issue when he says, ”Before the advent of post-modernity, followers of Jesus might have been excoriated for believing something that non-believers believed was false. They would have been shamed for their ignorance. But now the categories are no longer 'true and false'; the new cultural categories are tolerance or arrogance. In other words, the problem now is not being 'wrong' but in thinking or saying that someone else is wrong. The issue then is that the cultural discussion has been framed such that Bible-believing Christians will be shamed for their arrogance of thinking that they are right and someone else is wrong.”
To be perceived as a person who thinks of himself as superior or uncompassionate, as a Christian, is antithetical to 'the way' the Bible, our authority, tells us to live. And just because we attempt to follow a written rule whole heartedly, does not mean that we are arrogant, unloving, bleepity bleep, bleeps.
“ I would suggest that we have an opportunity to present to the world the refuge of God’s way. Post-modernity will not last. Truth inside of oneself and morals chosen by public opinion will collapse, personally, and eventually, culturally.” Mark Vroegop
Yeah, my kids will continue to have limits. And, they seem to know I love them.  In fact, they tell me so!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


 "I'll have the 6 oz. sirloin, medium-rare, with the scallops.” A restaurant close to most of our group was the chosen locale. It was good to interact with high school and college buddies who have been there in significant points of my journey. Soon we were savoring food prepared according to our requests. Men leaned in as a few in the group shared about trials of recent days. It was good to be among friends that showed through attentiveness and nods of understanding that they cared about each person verbalizing personal and recent experiences.
Seated around the table that night was a CEO of a not-for-profit, a web-developer who sang at my wedding,  a medical doctor who has earned the respect of many patients on the west side of Indianapolis,  a pastor of a large multi-site church walking through a difficult transition in his own life, and an Eli Lilly engineer who was leading a team to eventually be able to implant a pump into someone’s noggin to  provide the brain with a medication to fight against a terminal disease.  Well, you know I was seated there too….  I change diapers well and keep my kids rash free most of the time, flip thin pancakes on Friday mornings, unload and reload the dishwasher daily, fold clothes on “leave a legacy” levels, and make sure Wednesday night meals are "to die for" when Sarah comes home from work.

As I listened to my friends converse, more potent than the taste of the food or rich camaraderie, to me that evening was the need for each one of us to feel that we were making a significant contribution. Engrained in most healthy, well-adjusted persons is a desire to be remembered for something good and noble by the next generation, and that desire must be managed well. 

All who know the men mentioned above discern they have reached a level others would immediately identify as “success.” And, they’ve made sacrifices for the attainments in their professions. I know the admonition that one is to never compare, but I came home that night not only encouraged from being with great guys, but pained because I wondered if I was leaving a visible mark anywhere -- feeling a little like I’m wasting away making sure I make it to the next Tae Kwon Do or ballet class, while warming up a bottle in case I need to feed a baby.  I told Sarah all about the feelings when I got home, and she listened….  My own little identity crisis….

I find these principles to be powerful when I struggle with my identity, and by no means is it an exhaustive list.

Be authentic…
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Dr. Seuss

 “Do not let your peace depend on the hearts of men; whatever they say about you, good or bad, you are not because of it another man, for as you are, you are.” Thomas a’ Kempis, The Imitation of Christ
Authenticity is strengthened when I embrace my current circumstances and responsibilities and tackle them with my own personal flair. I think I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my personal motto being, “What you see is what you get.” God didn’t call me to be anyone else, so as Kierkegaard once said, “And now, with God’s help, I shall become myself.”

 Be dead…
It’s not ultimately about my desires, my dreams, or constructing a personal destiny. Actually, it involves surrender to a higher purpose while striving to take the next obedient step. Even though I’d like to be the provider in our family, at present I surrender to fanning any flames of nurture and empathy that exist in my soul.

 Jesus died and lived this principle as well. “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

You and I must die well to live well. When I die to longings that are destructive for me, there is no telling what may multiply from the act of obedience. As a stay-at-home dad, I’ll need to die to some desires. But, I’d be dying to other ones if I were building my professional resume’ as well.
Be humble…

 A few quotes about humility that I like are…
“If you compare yourself with others, you may be bitter or vain, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Max Ehrman

 "All through history God has chosen and used 'nobodies,' because their unusual dependence on Him made possible the unique display of His power and grace. He chose and used the 'somebodies' only when they renounced dependence on their natural abilities and resources.” Oswald Chambers

I wish I were practicing more reliance on God while tackling the challenges of consistently offering guidance to three preschoolers that I adore -- just because they are my kids. Though it is a privilege to be with them a majority of the time, it is also humbling, based upon traditional and cultural expectations of a “man.”  Difficulty arises when I wonder why I’m not developing expertise outside the home when my buddies  are out achieving what I consider significant accomplishments.  So, I tell myself, “Swallow…. It’s OK for right now….”
Be connected…

Easy, right!? Nope, not even with all the gadgets we have to stay connected.  When a person benefits from rich conversation and interaction that boosts and undergirds his/her sense of worth, now THAT is a gift to treasure.

I would suggest that most important in a person’s sense of significance and identity is a devotion to God Almighty that results in a feeling of "belonging” or “connectedness” to Him. There’s a certain sense of completion in that.

Yet, often, love from God is expressed through people. There are plenty of needy people around each one of us. Someone has said, “If you don’t like your lot in life, build a service station on it.” If you find a place to serve, it will aid in helping to feel connection. If I’m not called upon to do what many would consider to be “important,” then I can volunteer at the VBS where my kids attend, hand out flyers at the church door to make people feel welcome, or even teach my kids’ Sunday School class -- it all serves to connect me with my kids and with others.
C.S. Lewis said, “I become my own only when I gave give myself to Another.” What I notice about that quote is the "Another" is capitalized. A sense of connection to others and life begins with God.

Be grateful…
Many would trade places with me in a heartbeat. Thankfully, I wouldn’t be so quick to trade my privileged position anymore. Life is often spent pining rather than accepting and finding internal gratitude in a season of life.

Two verses that come to mind about being grateful were penned by the Apostle Paul, when he was writing the Philippian church. He wrote, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6, 7) You and I are exhorted to take our heartfelt desires to God. When we express them, it tells us to offer the requests with thanksgiving, or gratitude. I find that giving thanks while I pray helps my perspective as I reflect on what God has already done. I also step toward the future in grateful hope that the Lord is working for my own good, as He has already promised.

 Can you and I measure significance, impact, or the size of a footprint a life leaves behind? I think that you and I will be amazed when we see what God considers to be significant. For now, I choose to be authentic, dead, humble, connected, and grateful.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No Regrets?

Face to face with my 9th grade biology teacher, her hands slightly raised from her short stature, choking my neck and her eyes bulging with a flushed face, was no way I had imagined the start of my eight a.m. class. I had even heard the warnings from my buddy Doland, “John, … John… Jo…,” then I turned into this wall of rage. And, in all honesty, she had every right to be livid. We had taken an exam the day before, and prior to the bell, I noticed the grade book open on her desk. For some dumb reason, I thought it would be informative and rather cool to read the results of the test, for any student who wanted to know their personal grade. After she released me from her firm, two-handed grip around my neck, the class sat in a hushed silence as I gingerly reported back to my seat. Needless to say, it was difficult to break the somber tone for the rest of the hour. I felt terrible, and it wasn’t a failure that I wanted to share with anyone who thought I was an upstanding teen.
I’ve never felt the sentiment of some of our cultural heroes, who boldly say of their lives, “NO REGRETS!” Are you serious!? That was a mild infraction for what many of us experience, yet I think my 40’s have been about the introspective journey of facing shame and embarrassment over segments of my past. Take for instance, just a few weeks ago, I got out my journal with plans to write out all that I still induced any type of regret or feeling of disgrace in my life. I thought the tiny writing exercise would go by quickly, but soon, I had jots that filled a whole page!
The causes of shame: things done to us (we are the victims), things we proactively did or passively didn’t do, and feeling like we fall short of some standard that others or God has set for us.
Rest assured your list won’t be my list. But, I’ll bet you have a list… An overheard conversation where you were cut to the core? A heart-rending end to a relationship? An abortion? A rape? Being caught red-handed? Saying something that ended up being offensive, you can’t take back(this can happen through written words that are often misunderstood, even with the best intentions.) Being fired? You can’t get control of your weight? An addiction? Oh my, the things that can cause us shame, embarrassment, and disgrace.  And oh how the enemy of my soul and your soul uses negative experiences to drive the stakes of shame into our beings and pin down our potential.
Here are four things I have been doing with my shame. Notice I’m still processing some of that journal page.
1)      Forgive-- God, others, and yourself. God gets the blame sometimes. Let Him off the hook and take responsibility for your happiness and internal freedom. Corrie Ten Boom, a Holocaust concentration camp survivor, explained forgiving others as a firm decision of the will. The feelings can continue much like a large bell that has been rung. The chime can be heard as the bell tolls back and forth. Eventually the sound diminishes, and the clapper comes to a resting position, as long as the bell rope isn’t pulled again.
2)      Grace-- get in touch with it. When I look at my list of shame, I SURELY NEED undeserved goodness. God offers it. Yet, just like God, you and I need to offer that same kind of love and acceptance to others. They are broken too. It’s sacrificial and crazy love that busts through barriers before it is a transforming agent for our wounds of shame and regret.
3)      Surrender-- when I don’t know what to do with the internal pain, I can surely surrender it to God. A few weeks ago in church, a song was sung by the Newsboys, called “In the Hands of God.”  A few lines caught my attention: “When our strength gave way to the weight of guilt,  Til we strain for every breath, Only One could lift our shame and make us well, And when all is finished and we face the fearsome power of death Only One has overcome the gates of hell. In the hands of God we will fall, Rest for the restless and the weary, hope for the sinner, In the hands of God we stand tall, Hands that are mighty to deliver givin' us freedom…”
That saying, “Let go, and let God…,” can go a long way.
4)      Truth-- when the pain is deep enough, any lie or destructive message about who I am must be replaced with a principle or message about myself that will help me cope with any reality that I face. I find that the Bible is full of principles that help me replace stinkin’ thinkin’ with TRUTH that is liberating. A verse that comes to mind is Philippians 4:8- “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Ps. 119:80- May my heart be blameless towards your decrees, that I may not be put to shame.