Love never dies

“We found your wife, Melissa.”

13 years ago today (Sep 2, 2003), these words ended our agonizingly long 3 days of hoping & praying in Emporia, Kansas – that somehow Melissa would be found intact. She was found 2 miles from the freeway in a retention pond that had tripled in size.

“We need to ask you to identify her body as well.”

Following the deaths of our 4 precious children, these words sank my heart to rock bottom like an anchor on the ocean floor.

What was I to do? What did I have left to live for?

Sometimes when we hit rock-bottom, we discover that we’ve struck the Rock of Ages. I was utterly emptied and depleted of all that was me. I needed to be filled with all that is God – His Comforter, the Holy Spirit. I literally free-fell into the mighty Arms of Jesus.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

With my parents and siblings by my side, I embraced and tearfully kissed my beautiful bride of nearly 12 years goodbye. Some time later, I poured out my feelings for her into this song I composed entitled, “I Shall Always Love You.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9rdyyQTRnA

Love never dies. “Many waters cannot quench love, nor can rivers drown it.” (Song of Solomon 8:7)

Husbands, love your wives with no regrets and with all you’ve got…with zest, zeal, and passion…like there’s no tomorrow. After all, none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

[KNOW GOD – no regrets] -Robert

It Is Well With My Soul

“It Is Well”

13 years ago today (Sept 1, 2003), my heart felt amputated and hemorrhaging. Having identified the bodies of all 4 of our precious children the day before – Makenah (8), Zachary (5), Nicholas (3), and Alenah (1), and with my parents now at my side, we offered up our tears and prayers to God. We prayed that somehow Melissa would somehow still be found intact. I suddenly felt as though life had no direction or meaning. What did I still have to live for? What would I tell Melissa, if she was found alive? What do I do?

So many questions.

Amidst it all, my longing for some healing music led me to this hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.” I went to the chapel in the hospital and pondered its words at the foot of the cross. “When sorrow like sea billows roll, whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul'”. Written by Horatio Spafford after his 4 children drowned, the hymn met me right at my point of need.

Later in the day, the local police asked me to give a press conference in Emporia, Kansas – as the national news media had gathered to cover the story. I had never done anything like this and certainly didn’t feel up to it. I’ve never been comfortable in front of a microphone. Yet, once I faced the worst fear of all – death – the fear of microphones and cameras seemed minuscule.

“What do I say?” I asked my father. “Just share your heart, son. Tell of your family and share your strong faith.” Such wise words that helped guide me.

I took a deep breath and began with the words, “God is God, and I am not.” I had to surrender to God and place my trust in His sovereignty.

I ended with, “We will get through this. We will rise above this. And by God’s grace, good will somehow come from this.” (Emporia, Kansas – Press Conference, September 1, 2003) I felt it compellingly necessary to speak words of hope and encouragement amidst the utter sadness and dreadful tragedy. The hope of Christ was vital to us all as much then as it is now.

In the hands of God, all is well – regardless of the storm around you. Just don’t let the storm get inside of you. Build your house on the Rock of His Word – to withstand the worst tempest.

“So then, everyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like a wise man. He builds his house on the rock. The rain comes down. The water rises. The winds blow and beat against that house. But it does not fall. It is built on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

[KNOW GOD – no regrets] -Robert

Why? Why do bad things happen?

“Why?”

We all ask it.

13 years ago today, I heard the words every parent dreads. “Your children are dead. We need to ask you to identify their bodies.” The officer and chaplain in that Emporia, Kansas hospital led me down a seemingly endless hallway to face the impossible. Only by the sheer grace of Almighty God could I even stand uprightly then…and still to this day…as I vividly recall those dreadful moments.

The chaplain later shared some sacred Scripture with me that helped bring comfort. This verse helps address the question we all ask: “Why?”.

“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die”. (Isaiah 57:1-2)

Knowing that “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” gave me peace beyond measure at the worst of times. My family is safely tucked in God’s Mighty care.

Surrender to God’s will, no matter how difficult the journey. All is well – in His Hands.

There in the hospital room, as grief and tears swallowed me, I placed my hands on a little keyboard that a kindhearted nurse had brought me. I needed to find some way to express my overwhelming grief. This instrumental song I composed there in the Emporia hospital, “Behold, My Family” attempts to scratch the surface. I pray it blesses you.

[KNOW GOD – no regrets] -Robert

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9ZkkF8E7r8/

13 Years Ago – My Life Changed Forever

13 years ago today – my life changed forever – as our family was literally plunged “Into the Deep” in the 2003 Kansas Flint-Hills Flash-Flood over Labor Day weekend. I never could have fathomed what ultimately happened that day, nor the grace and strength from Almighty God that pulled me through.

http://www.legacy.com/…/melissa-makenah-zachary-nic…/1369668

To this day, I am still humbled by your prayers and God’s grace which have brought me safe thus far. “Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come.” We can all relate in some way, can’t we? Where would we be without Jesus and His Comforter, the Holy Spirit?

People often say to me, “I couldn’t get through that like you.” Indeed, “Neither could I,” is how I typically respond. In my weakness, God is strong. “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) I still cry. I still grieve. I still miss my Heavenly family. Yet, I still trust God. His joy is my strength.

Be encouraged by what God can do through a broken man like me over these past 13 years. As bleak and devastating as your situation appears, know that Jesus broke the chains of death on the Cross of Calvary. Greater is His power within you than any circumstance this world throws your way.

I encourage you to do your part and cling to Him. Abide in Him. Trust Jesus. Know God. In doing so, you will begin to Live a Life of No Regrets.

[KNOW GOD – no regrets] -Robert

https://www.mightyintheland.com/product/into-the-deep

Cherish your Family Intentionally…

13 years ago, I came home from work on a Friday (Aug 29, 2003). Our family savored our celebratory “pizza, popcorn, movies, and ice cream” Friday family fun night. Little did I know, it would be our last night together…

Cherish your Family Intentionally.

Moms, Dads, Grandparents…cherish every moment with your children possible. Turn off the TV. Tune into your family. Put down your phone, emails, texts, agenda, and endless work. Make the most of tonight with your family. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. Just be present with your family – as best as you can, given the swirling circumstances surrounding you. It may just be doing the dishes together, or a goodnight blessing at bedtime. Your focused family time means more than you realize. Don’t wait until “someday”. That day is today. You’ll never regret it.

“Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:13-14)

[KNOW GOD – no regrets] -Robert

A $23k grant for orphans (from Mighty in the Land FOUNDATION)

By the grace of God, we just granted $23,080 from the Mighty in the Land FOUNDATION fund to help care for orphans and special-needs children around the world! Thank you to all who have given to help make this grant possible.

https://www.mightyintheland.com/orphan-care/

This brings the total grants over 12 years to $430,846! Only God could do this. He truly multiplies the loaves and fishes a thousand-fold. Glory be to God.

These funds will help provide life-care, school, and health/safety needs to children in Uganda, Rwanda, and Haiti – through the Global Orphan Project (https://goproject.org/). Please pray that God now multiplies this grant another thousand-fold, to accomplish more than imaginable – in providing for children’s physical, spiritual, & educational needs.

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (James 1:27)

Words of gratitude from Global Orphan (GO) Project:

“We are so humbled and grateful that you would continue to use your ministry as a voice for the fatherless. We are thrilled with your generous gift.”

“On behalf of the church, the children in their care, and the entire GO Project team, thank you! Your faithful, generous support is an encouragement, an inspiration, and a blessing! What a privilege to serve Jesus with you, Robert, by caring for His children together!”

Amen.

[KNOW GOD – no regrets] -Robert

Let’s Play Hide-and-Seek!

“Daddy, can you play hide-and-seek with me?”

Our son, Leo, asked me this the other day – right when I stepped outside to tackle a long list of chores and yard-work. I hesitated for a moment – wanting to “get everything done” first. Then I remembered Makenah’s birdhouse (which she and I built just 7 weeks before her death in 2003…on a Saturday when I had a whole list of “to-do’s”).

“Okay, Leo. Let’s play!”

It only took a few minutes, but it made my day and Leo’s day. Thank God for a “no-regrets” decision. (I don’t always get it right. I’m still working at this every day, too…)

When you’re faced with the choice to “finish a job”, or to spend time with your family, make the “no-regrets” choice with your family. With life, there is always something else to do at work or home. That stuff will always be there. Our children won’t.

Redeem the time.
Cherish your Family Intentionally.

You’ll never regret it.

• “Teach us to make the most of our time…” Psalm 90:12
• “Make the most of every opportunity for doing good…” Ephesians 5:16
• “Don’t brag about tomorrow, since you don’t know what the day will bring.” Proverbs 27:1

[KNOW GOD – no regrets] -Robert

PS – As the youngest of 8 children, my mother often said that a clean house is a luxury. Until we get to Heaven, laundry, dirt, and messes will always be there. As a wise cousin said to me:

“Cleaning the house while the children are growing
Is like shoveling the snow when it’s still snowing.”

Happiness is…

Happiness is fleeting, temporary, and fragile.  Joy continues on – no matter what.

“I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:11)

“Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.” (John 16:24)

Happiness happens occasionally to us, but joy is an ongoing condition of our heart that comes from Knowing God through Jesus Christ. Joy can be continuous. It is more a perspective than an emotion.  The joy of Jesus’ Resurrection can infuse our hearts with inextinguishable joy – regardless of circumstance. We do this by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2)

After my wife and 4 children died in the 2003 Kansas flash flood, many people wondered how I could still have joy on my countenance and in my heart. This is my secret: I kept my eyes on Jesus and my heart full of His Hope of Heaven. It doesn’t diminish or remove the grief, but we can grieve with hope.  Joy RISES ABOVE life’s challenges, regardless of circumstances – as Habakkuk describes:

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD ! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

God wants you to ask, receive, and be filled with abundant joy, “so you will not grieve like people who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

Be bold in your prayers. Ask Him today. I know it works. You’ll never regret it.

[KNOW GOD – no regrets] -Robert

Steady E.D.D.Y

Great challenge I read in one of my daily devotionals about reading God’s Word daily: “Going steady with EDDY.”

E: Early
D: Daily
D: Diligently
Y: Yield

E: Spend time with God and His Word “Early” in the morning, for at least 30 minutes or so. Feast on Sacred Scripture and feed your soul, even before you feed your body.  Before you fill your bowl with Fruit-Loops or Frosted-Flakes, fill your soul with the Bread of Life.

D: Read God’s Word “Daily”. Make it more than a “habit” every day. Do it out of eager love to spend time with your Beloved Redeemer – the Lover of your soul.  (“Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night…” – Joshua 1:8).  (“…find joy in obeying the Law of the Lord, and …. study it day and night.” – Psalm 1:2)

D: “Diligently” search the Scriptures. Don’t just breeze through to ‘check it off your list’ before plowing into breakfast. Seek God more deeply. He rewards those who diligently seek Him. (“I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.” – Proverbs 8:17)

Y: Be willing to “Yield” to God’s commandments in His Word. Say “yes” to God. Obey God unconditionally. (“Loving God means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome.” – 1 John 5:3)

In other words, “No Bible – no breakfast. No Bible – no bed!”

 

“Ignorance of Scripture is Ignorance of Christ” (Saint Jerome). Fall in love with God’s Word and you’ll fall in love with Jesus.

You’ll never regret it.

[KNOW GOD – no regrets] -Robert

Turn off the technology, tune in to your family

“I know! We’ll all snuggle in bed, and you can read the Bible, and it’ll be fun!” Our daughter, Estellah Eve, had our nighttime all figured out the other day. What a joy – that this is what thrills our children: family time, snuggle time, Bible time.
 
Amid all the gadgetry and near-unavoidable technology of our day (and this upcoming Holiday Season), do your best to intentionally emphasize some simple things – without electronic interruptions. Read together. Play a board game. Put a puzzle together. Pop some popcorn.
 
Look your children in the eye and let them know they matter to you. They crave your affirmation and your presence – no matter their age. Let them know they are deserving of your time and attention – even more than the phone in your hand (or the ball game on TV).
 
Ten years from now, none of us will remember who won the football game on Sunday. However, your family could likely remember it as the one time Dad spent 3 uninterrupted hours just playing Uno and eating popcorn with us – without once looking at his phone. Give it a try.
 
As someone urged me the other day from an upcoming Ministry Visit next month, “Please, Robert, when you come – encourage parents to put their phones down and pay attention to their children!” Amen.
 
Turn off the technology and tune in to your family – while you can. These minutes and moments are precious. They’ll be gone before you know it. You’ll never regret it.
 
[KNOW GOD – no regrets]
-Robert