Among my most prized possessions is a picture that sits in my office. It hasn’t always been there. In fact, I’ve only had it on my shelf for a few weeks.  In that short amount of time, the visitors and staff who swing by will almost always ask, “Who is this?” or “What is this a picture of?” Inevitably, the comparison is made, “This looks like a scene from the Andy Griffith Show”.  Well, close. The Andy Griffith show stopped airing in 1968. This picture was actually taken in 1975. I was 4 years old.

FullSizeRender

It’s a picture of Dad taking me down to the fishin’ hole in Payson, AZ. It’s where I caught my first fish. It’s where we enjoyed some camping, rock collecting, hiking and exploring. We had campfires and smores and walked to natural springs of water where we drank straight from the stream.  There’s a lot of memories captured in that image. There’s a lot of emotions harnessed in that frame.

What’s most special to me about this picture, is that dad kept this in his office from 1975 to 2015–40 years!  I found it when we were cleaning out his workspace.  F-O-R-T-Y years?

I’d like to think it was dad’s way of remembering. I’d like to believe it was his way of unwinding. I would sometimes see him pondering while typing at his computer. He’d be facing his wall of shelves opposite his computer screen. I’d like to think he was looking at the picture. As if he was taking a mental break. As if the therapist was taking some therapy for himself. (he was our staff ‘counselor’) It was his way of being ‘out’ even while he was ‘in’.

My dad loved his job, but his greatest joy wasn’t in his WORK. It was in who he was OUTSIDE the office. He made great effort and took great joy in being a great husband, father, and grandfather. He recharged by continuously ‘reinventing’ himself through various interests over the years: photography, quad-riding, camping, hunting, astronomy, rocket building, shooting & reloading, etc. He even taught himself Spanish!  And…to top it all off…he even bought a boat two months before he passed away. To do more fishing!

As a transplant, dad always knew he was living on borrowed time. He was prepared to die. But he never waited for it. He was too busy living.

That’s how I want to live.  James S. Stewart said it best, “Let us live as people prepared to die, and die as people prepared to live.”

Since losing dad, I’ve found myself.  At least I’ve learned a little bit more about myself, what makes me tick & what matters most. I appreciate LIFE more. I value deeper RELATIONSHIPS. I seek out ADVENTURES and look for life’s STORIES to tell, no matter how big or small they are. I hoard MEMORIES and cherish RICH CONVERSATION. I know true FAITH is contagious. That most ‘ministry’ has nothing to do with what people see ‘on stage’.  I now trade QUANTITY for QUALITY. I’ve learned my FAMILY is my first MINISTRY and that being a pastor isn’t something you ever really ‘retire’ from.  And I’ve discovered that EVANGELISM isn’t something you DO. As a Christ follower, being an EVANGELIST is who you are.

And while I love my JOB, I understand my IDENTITY needs to be more about who I am OUTSIDE the office.

And speaking of the office, I now put more pictures of the kids on my shelves.  So they can remember. So they can discover. So they can find themselves.

I learned all of this…by finding dad.

 

One of my favorite Christmas films of all time is “A Christmas Story”. You know the one I’m talking about, with Ralphie & his Red Rider BB Gun. Apparently, I’m not alone. According to the web, it has been ranked as the 3rd most-watched Christmas film of all-time, and has been seen by millions of people around the world.

This past week, I learned that a man in Cleveland bought the house the movie was filmed in, and had it completely restored to it’s original appearance in the film. He also turned it into a museum, complete with several props used in the movie. But that’s not all…each year, a person can  bid on a 2 night stay in the house on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

Package (4 people) included:

  • Two night stay in the Christmas Story House
  • Bunny suits for your entire group
  • Secret Santa Decoder pens
  • A keepsake leglamp delivered in it’s trademark FRAGILE crate.
  • And a picture of you holding the Red Rider BB gun prop used in the film.

Interesting, huh? What was most interesting to me was that this year, the winning bid closed out at $8,700!!–and that did NOT include the airfare to/from Cleveland.

Some people will literally go to great lengths to insert themselves into the Christmas Story.

But God went to great lengths to insert himself into OUR STORY.

Over 1000 years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah foretold:

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (which means “GOD WITH US”)

God would fulfill his long-held promise to live with us when Jesus was born.  But Jesus was born with a PURPOSE…

John 3:16,17 (NIV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son. That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send his son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

This season, we remember not only HOW he came, but WHY he came. That is the real story of Christmas.

RB33 (2)

This year, we officially added two new members to our family. Meet Emanuel James and Juan Matthew Bloodworth.

Our journey through Foster Care and Adoption began when I was born.  My eternal family changed through the love of my earthly family and God has laid it on our hearts to help as many kids as we can.  We are strong advocates of Foster Care and Adoption.

 

bloodworth-46

(Pictured L to R = Manny, Zeke & Juan–Taken just after placement in Dec. 2013. NOTE: They’re each missing their two front teeth!) The boys each have “lofty” Biblical names.  Emanuel James = Manny was born on Christmas Day. He was born premature and will have some health issues for the rest of his life. Ezekiel Josiah = Zeke was adopted at birth. He was named after the prophet Ezekiel in the Bible who was called the “watchman of Israel”. And his biological mother chose his middle name, Josiah who was the “youngest king in all Israel.” The Bible says, “he turned neither to the right nor to the left and walked in the ways of his father David.”  Juan Matthew = Juan was named after the disciple.

For those of you who know my story, names are significant in our family. I was named after my dad’s best friend (Dennis) who was a missionary to the Philippines.

bloodworth-88

We love having a large family.  It’s awesome to see how the kids all just “fit” together.  The cool part about being a family is working through life’s adventures together.

IMG_6492This was taken at the Adoption Hearing at the courthouse. At the time this photo was taken, the boys were 6,7,8 and the girls were 16,17,18.

IMG_9036_editChristy and I continue to take life “one day at a time” as parents. We’re not sure how long we will continue to be foster/adoptive parents, however we know that we’re making an impact ONE CHILD AT A TIME.  Please continue to pray for all the kids “in the system”. Pray that God will one day raise up families who will commit to raise them in a godly home.

IMG_9033_edit2

jesus_crucifixion-nail-thru-wrist

This post needs no commentary. I only pray that you’ll allow this truth to change your eternal zip code…

From Max Lucado’s book, He Chose the Nails:

“Through the eyes of Scripture we see what others missed, but what Jesus saw. Colossians 2:24 NLT says, “He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.”

Between his hand and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins.

Dangling from the cross is an itemized catalog of your sins. The bad decisions from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. There, in broad daylight for all of heaven to see, is a list of your mistakes. … He has penned a list of our faults. The list God made, however cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by his hand; those down the list are covered by his blood. Your sins are ‘cancelled’.

This is why he refused to close his fist. He saw the list! What kept him from resisting? This warrant, this tabulation of your failures. He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you, and since he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, he chose the nails.

The hand squeezing the handle was not a Roman infantryman.

The force behind the hammer was not an angry mob.

The verdict behind the death sentence was not decided by jealous Jews.

Jesus himself chose the nails.

So the hands of Jesus opened up. Had the soldier hesitated, Jesus himself would’ve swung the mallet. He knew how; he was no stranger to the driving of nails. As a carpenter he knew what it took. As a Savior, he knew what it meant. He knew the purpose of the nail was to place your sins where they would be hidden by his sacrifice and covered by his blood. So, Jesus himself swung the hammer.

On Easter, remember:

The same hand that calmed the seas, calms your guilt.

The same hand that cleansed the Temple, cleanses your Heart.

This is the hand of God

And as the hands of Jesus opened for the nail, the doors of heaven opened for you.”

dad and den

A Heart for Kids. This story is about my dad’s incredible journey as a heart recipient, but it starts here. My parents have always had a heart for children, but were unable to have them biologically. I was adopted from the foster care system on Dec. 17, 1971 in Phoenix, AZ.   When I was 6, they would later adopt my brother, Ted (5) and sister, Samantha (2).  We grew up in a great Christian household.  Going to church was a part of our everyday life and our parents modeled Jesus everyday. Around my freshman year of high school in 1986, my dad started getting lightheaded when he would go on walks. He was very active, was playing soccer and walking regularly.  He went in for a routine physical and they gave him a shock: He was diagnosed with cariomyopathy (a degenerative heart disease) and was told to “go home and get your affairs in order–you have 6 months to live”. Needless to say, we didn’t believe the doctors. After all, he was very active and didn’t seem any different.  However, we were soon proven wrong.  In the months that followed, his health deteriorated rapidly.

dad's ER pic

He would soon be admitted into the hospital and would begin a fight for his life.  At one point, he was kept alive by every machine known to man. He coded 3 times. He saw visions. He couldn’t talk because of all the tubes running in/out of his body. He could only write stuff on a small chalkboard.

The Chalkboard. He was only able to eat ice chips and write on a small chalkboard to communicate. I’ve only seen my dad cry twice in my life. This would be one of those times.  His situation was dire. His health waning.  He was uncomfortable. He was uncertain.  Yet whenever a nurse, doctor, or someone from the medical staff would enter the room, he would motion for his chalkboard.  Did he want the bed raised/lowered?  Did he need his pillow adjusted? Did he want more ice chips?  No.  He would simply write FOUR WORDS: “Do you know Jesus?” That’s a picture I’ll never forget.  A dying man at the end of his life, trying a make a difference in the lives of others for eternity.

Sick Enough to Die, but Well Enough to Live.  The brutal part about transplantation is that in order to “qualify” to be put on the National Organ Transplant List, you have to be sick enough to die (from your condition), but well enough to live (through the surgery). For many weeks, my dad was too sick to survive the surgery.  The outlook wasn’t good. His health was failing fast. As he slowly deteriorated, we called the elders of CCV to come pray for him.  They prayed over him and anointed him with oil.  Soon, his body started to respond. He began to improve. Finally, he was deemed “well enough” to be put on the transplant list.

Don’t Pray for Me to Live.  While he waited for a transplant, he refused to let us pray that he would live. Because he knew, “in order for me to live, someone has to die.” Instead, he encouraged us to pray for God’s will.  So, we did. And we waited. I think everyone should spend time in a transplant wing of a hospital at least once in their lifetime.  Every patient in that unit knows that they will die unless people know that time is imminent. Every other patient in his wing died while waiting for a transplant.

Total Teamwork.  While we waited for word, so many people from Christ’s Church of the Valley came to our aid.  My mom moved to Tucson and got an apartment. Staff, friends and family helped act as a shuttle service, babysitters, and just hanging out.  My grandparents moved into our house and stayed with us so we could continue to go to high school.  On the day we got the phone call, Don Wilson drove me from track practice to UMC just as my dad was being wheeled into surgery.

A New Heart. On February 8, 1988  my dad received a heart transplant. He received the heart of a 43 year old woman who passed away in Tucson.  He would correspond with the donor family a few years later.  The first few weeks were precarious. We waited to see if his body would reject the new organ. Many times, transplants die of early infection or rejection.  In fact, every time we went to see him, we had to “scrub down” for 15 minutes with iodine and step into a sanitized “bubble”.  It was like something out of NASA.

dad post transplant

But my dad “took” to his new heart just fine.  Soon, he was walking and riding a stationary bike.  Eventually, the tubes came out. He was breathing better and more effortlessly than he could remember.  His color was better.  He had more energy.  He couldn’t wait to go fishing.

I’ll be there.  While my dad was recovering in Tucson, we would go to high school in Phoenix, then go visit on the weekends.  I was still in track and running became my ‘escape’ from the craziness of life.  As a distance runner, I had flirted with the 5 minute mile a few times as a freshman.  Now as a sophomore, I could feel this was ‘my year’.  In one of our early track meets, as I rounded the turn on lap 1, there were my parents!  They “snuck out of town” to see my race!  I honestly can’t remember the rest of the race, but it was one of the first times I broke the 5 minute mile.

Still Running.  Since all this, my dad is still running. He will celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary this June. He has been able to enjoy seeing all his kids graduate from HS, get married and start families of their own.  He is a grandparent 12 times over. He has worked on staff at Christ’s Church of the Valley for 32 years, and through his life and ministry, he continues to ask people, “Do you know Jesus?”  I am proud to call him my father.  This one’s for you, dad!  Happy 26th Anniversary.

Philippians 3:12-14 says, “Not that I already have obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”