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So I was asked to share about John.  That is really difficult because most of you know him better and longer than I and are much more capable. I thought about just “winging it” or starting 10 minutes late, in “John fashion” but I am not that good! I met John when we moved back to California 13 years ago.  Jim was teaching in BYKOTA and the 2 of them realized they both were youth pastors, trombonists and had the same sense of humor. I am thankful for your ministry to me and my family, especially as you walked a very dark valley with us as you helped me walk Jim home to heaven 8 years ago.

If I were to look in a dictionary and find the word pastor, I wouldn’t be surprised to find your picture there. John you are the very definition of a pastor!  And in true ministry style I came up with this acronym/acrostic for the word Pastor:

Pursuit of Godliness – John, your ministry has shown me the connection between faithfulness and fervor. You are always calling us to apply and put into practice what we have encountered in the Word. Your own pursuit of the Lord as a long obedience in the same direction is more powerful than all the words you have ever said put together (and that is a lot of words)! You have persevered and your time in God’s  Word and prayer is evident…

Available –Hopefully everyone is aware that the Bible does not really give a theological basis for retirement.  But that’s okay, because John is not going to retire anyway. Can you imagine him shuffling around in slippers and a robe waiting for God to take him home?  No! He will remain restfully available! John is going to retire from work as our culture deems it, but he will continue to listen and respond to the Spirit and minister as only John can!

Steward – John will continue pastoring and stewarding the gifts God has given him We are told in Scripture to be stewards of all God has given us all the way to the end. So now John will continue to steward your resources and your time in new ways. Even though there is no retirement from service to God, there are seasons of life that affect the kind of service we do! Thank you for modeling a strong work ethic, John.

Teacher – You can’t teach people what you do not know. And you know Jesus! John, your Joy and enthusiasm are contagious. I have learned so much from you! No matter what anyone says about your humor and your stories, I personally cannot get enough!

Ordained – John, there is No question that you are called to full time vocational ministry. You have strong moral integrity and character that is above reproach. We could talk about the fact that you are a character but everyone knows that too! A pastor is a servant leader who never stops leading and serving.

When  in 2 Kings 13, Elisha and King Jehoash have an exchange where the prophet instructs the King to shoot an arrow out the window as a symbol of victory over Syria. The king shoots 3 arrows and quits. Elisha said that if he had shot every arrow he had he would not see a limit to God’s intervention on his behalf against Israel’s enemies. John you are shooting all your arrows courageously all the way to the finish line, never settling for less and I for one am watching…thank you!

Renaissance Man – Do you know what a Polymath is? Well it is the technical term for Renaissance man. P didn’t fit into the acrostic anyway so we will go with Renaissance! In the western society  we usually reward people who capitalize on the determined pursuit of something with singular focus. We call them specialists and seek them out. A polymath is different. They manage to achieve mastery across multiple industries, arts and fields of studies. They are always willing and driven to learn new things. John, You are a polymath, better known as a renaissance man. We often hear jack-of-all-trades, master of none; and yet during the Renaissance, a man who could do whatever he put his mind to was the ideal of perfection, making him a master-of-all.   Your music, your love of youth, your intergenerational approach to life and ministry has given you a breadth of experience and expertise that flows like a flood, encompassing and saturating any field it comes across! Multidisciplinary polymathy is the sign of a true pastor according to Paul, who wanted to be all things to all people that he might win some! And John, you are winsome!

In closing, I am reminded of the story of Elijah and Elisha in the Bible. It is often used when someone retires, as the older pastor places the “mantle” on the younger disciple and passes on His responsibilities and calling onto the younger. The current challenge is often in the every day life at church the change of leadership is not so easy. People have a tough time transitioning –it is messy and disruptive and heart wrenching, even if it is inevitable.  The modern Elijahs are still around and called to do all the weddings and funerals! And besides some of the members are still stuck playing the comparison game; it seems that the new and younger prophets can’t begin to fill the old Elijah’s shoes. John does have size 15 shoes!  John’s mantle is heavy and his shoes are too big to fill and yet my prayer continues to be “Oh Lord, thank you for this mentor and may I inherit a double portion of this man’s heart and humor and ministry. Amen.

John and Jacque – I love and admire you both!

Miriam

Forty Years of Thomsens

I remember the day you got married. It was so fun and an honor to be there! There are not many who make it to 40 years; but even more there are not many who make it so well, so strong, so beautifully as you have.

Here are some of my memories (narrowed down to 40…) – your wedding – my wedding – our babies – Brittany – Chad – Emily – Clayton – picking berries – smashed pennies – Arizona trips – hikes – prayer – visits – making furniture – making games – playing games – sharing meals – Best.Custard.Ever. – “special” days and dates starting 7.7.77 – Disneyland – church – cancer – beach – bikes – making memories and sharing stories – weddings of our kids – grandbabies – Burney Falls – Alaska Cruise – Ketchican boat fiasco – Diet Dr. Pepper – Jesus – missions – Santiago canyon – sharing heartaches and loss – mexican food (without onions) – parenting our kids – Bible – late nights – heart treasures – stolen monitor in Chicago – sharing our friends – overalls – nativities – history – family – many more to come…

It is dangerous to make an analogy to an expert, especially when one does not understand all the details, but I am going to take the risk. (I am trusting that what I say will make sense and that you can see my simple perspective) I am not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say there are different styles and levels of quality pieces of furniture. There are the cheap, functional pieces made of pressboard or worse that don’t last but get the job done and there are well-crafted, solid pieces that are works of art and can be passed down and enjoyed for generations. Both serve a similar purpose; yet I don’t know many that would choose the cheaper if they can have the better. Most of us want the furniture that lasts and is passed down to the next generation.

I think marriage is like that. Think about what it takes to create a classic piece of furniture, choosing the design, choosing the wood, maintaining the tools, learning techniques, working backward and patiently. You two have created a beautiful godly marriage and family that is like a well crafted piece of furniture. You have made and used the right tools, cared for, dusted and polished it, buffed out the scratches and more to create a legacy that will last. Your relationship is a great example of the process: tacking the hard tasks first, working patiently, designing something useful and beautiful together that is pleasing, long lasting and a work of art. I love you both and I treasure you. I thank God for such a stunning work of art in your marriage. It is a gem of great value – a RUBY!

With admiration and joy – Miriam

Long Lost Friend

So in the seventies I met this amazing woman who would become the wife of Jim’s best friend and then she became my best friend! The 4 of us became family, in the best way possible, as we have traveled together, shared meals, raised kids, cried and laughed in a million ways. And I hope you know that you have impacted my life in more ways than you can imagine.

First let me start by saying Happy Birthday Janis Ruth Terry!

I would like to add that sometimes life gets ahead of me and our days apart turn to months apart and I am left wondering how time flies so fast. I miss you and I think about you all the time. One of the good things about social media is the way that it keeps people connected. One of the bad things about social media is the way people who should be connected in real time are only in touch virtually. I know we haven’t talked in awhile but I know that if we did, it would be like no time had passed and we were picking up in mid-sentence from our last conversation.

I know you are doing amazing things and loving your kids and grandkids well because I see glimpses on social media and it makes me so happy. I will always cherish our years of adventures, endless laughter, and the intentionality with which we have cared for each other. I look forward to making more memories in the future. But for today, in the midst of busy lives and work, our friendship remains an unbroken circle, a tale as old as time, and one of the best things in my life. And I cannot wait until we get our rhythm back and move “in sync” again! Until then, I hold you in my heart. I love you! With joy and hope, Miriam

Paris in the Spring

A place does not matter any more than the value we give it. There are many amazing places around the world, but the ones I love best are the ones with memories and relationships attached. Similarly, we can worship anywhere and we are called to worship the Lord daily (Rom. 12:2); and yet the places that I have worshipped in the past hold those powerful, reflective memories that continue to move me.  I have been to Notre Dame Cathedral. Jim and I went for our 20th wedding anniversary almost 20 years ago! I still remember the conversation we had and the prayer we prayed there.

Additionally, I know that God’s best plan was to live in us; we are the temple of the Lord.  We house the Lord Almighty and He is the portable God who goes with us wherever we go. But that does not mean that sacred places don’t exist. Of course they do. Some are famous and some are personal and obscure. Nonetheless, they are special for a variety of reasons.

There is something about a church building set aside for worship of God that occupies a clear space at the center of our lives (as well as the cities and towns they are in). I know the building is not where God exists and I have played my fair share of games in the meeting spaces where I have also worshipped. But there is a common recognition that there is holiness and beauty in the world when we see a holy site.  This week the world watched in horror as Notre Dame, an historic icon and a global treasure, burned.

Even in the midst of such an unnerving scene the glimpses of true beauty are there if we notice. People who have not worshipped the Lord in years were drawn in and grieved for the loss of a sacred space. People stood stunned. They wept and prayed. They sang. They stepped up to the “proverbial offering plate” and volunteered to help salvage and restore this monument that stands tall for God. The divine image that humanity bears revealed itself and will continue to do so. I am reminded of the stories of 9/11 that shined through the darkness, even though the twin towers were not places of worship, Or the worshipful moments at the town square in Disneyland, of all places.

I am reminded of a few things. First, anything can change at a moment’s notice so make the most of every day. Live gratefully and learn to not take things for granted.

Next, many buildings burn every day. People die. Most are not noticed except by those who love them, which is the point! Crying over a loved one’s death does not mean that the stranger at the back of the newspaper obituary’s life does not matter. Of course it does, but the personal, emotional connection we have with someone we know leaves us broken hearted. Similarly the familiarity of a cathedral in the middle of Paris is like an old friend.

Buildings, souvenirs and photo albums represent the deep connections we have for things and people in our lives. We are supposed to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Perhaps someone does not have any kind of attachment to a 1000 year old church in France, but someone else does, whether it is for the wrong reason or not. Notre Dame, though it does not house God, houses people who do. It points to God and reminds people that He is near, even to those who have not paid attention or forgotten or lost hope.

Lauren

When I think of you I think of a total messy (in a good way) kind of life that is ripped at the edges and colorfully spray painted with African rhythm in the background . There are purses and shoes that always fit and carry all the things.

You are loud and brave and kind and compassionate. Your life has a big huge welcome mat in the front and happy safe spaces inside where people who don’t believe in good things come in and find Jesus, hot tea and a hug. You are generous with your rainbow sprinkles, genuine, soft, and you are what I needed when I entered your space. I want a life like yours that is a big couch that people can crash on when they are too tired to drive, when they got their heart broken or when they just want company.

In the story of my life, you are one of my favorite chapters! You are big hearted, and you go deep as you hear even the things I am not saying. I admire that gift!

I love you and wish you you more happiness that a thousand rainbows on your birthday.

Blessings for the next year of adventures,

Miriam

Four is the year of flowers and fruit! And that will hopefully be the story of the rest of your lives! As you continue to cultivate the soil of your marriage and care for the seeds planted, I pray that you will continue to weed regularly, getting rid of the bitterness and roots that will destroy what is really meant to grow there.

We were made to love God – think about that! You both were given an open plot of land, God’s garden/vineyard, to care for. 4 years ago you committed to plant together a beautiful garden of love and intimacy that overflows with hope and joy so that others are refreshed when they step into your lives. It takes constant care and time to cultivate, but you know that.

I want to encourage you to keep those hedges of protection around your lives and relationship. Try not to get discouraged as you dig, weed, prune, uproot and plant because it is all part of the cultivation on the soul. Every good gift in your life comes from above as heaven shields, hovers over and enriches you, even the rain and the compost are necessary. This winter in Southern California is a perfect example as the rains caused the super bloom. Allow your marriage to soak in plenty of “sonshine” and and the quickening breath of the seasons.

I pray that the fruit of the Spirit will continue to ripen and others around you will benefit from the love, joy and peace of your life. As you work together to tend the garden of your lives and marriage, you will grow plenty of fruit and flowers to share. Nourish each other and allow God to nourish your relationship. No shortcuts. May the garden of your marriage keep growing beautifully – a piece of heaven on earth that brings forth produce for the Lord’s praise!

I love you both! Here’s to #5!

The first time I met you was at Disneyland and you were enthusiastically greeting my daughter! I had seen you prior to that because you were in Emily’s class at church, but that was my first official introduction to you.  Then when you came on staff as a lead, you seemed so young (and you were) but you matured very quickly.  You learned from your mistakes and you listened to your mentors with a gentle yet eager heart.  There has been no question that you are called to ministry; the Lord has blessed you in brilliant ways as you have yielded to Him. 

When Scott transitioned out of High School, there was no hesitation that you were the strong candidate to take over.  Age was not an issue. Your servant leadership and your genuine love of both students and the Word are only 2 of many qualities to admire. Then you married Annah and things only got better in your ministry and your life.

Recently you made a choice to put Annah’s career first and to allow her the opportunity to answer a call to ministry as well.  As much as I want to shout, “Don’t do it” because I selfishly want to keep you as my boss, I cannot begin to tell you how proud I am of you and of the choice you have made.  There are not many guys who would yield their dream job and personal calling for another, especially when the other is a woman!

While you did this for your family, the impact is stunning. Everyone is watching. Every girl in the ministry is looking on and hoping for a godly man who will value them in similar fashion.  Every young man is learning by observing how to be a  servant leader in their own marriage one day.  Parents are watching, some are humbled by your example and some with incredulity.

I am blessed by you and I am glad for the privilege to work with you for these few short years. I am reminded of Jim, my husband, who shared your view and made some similar sacrifices. It is a gift that is quite rare, but shouldn’t be. I will say, “May your tribe increase!”

May God bless you and honor you and your family as you continue to make a difference for the kingdom – wherever you are. I will be watching and cheering you on from my corner in the world.

With love and respect,

Miriam

PS – I will always remember the trip to Israel with happiness! Clarence the Camel. The Hezekiah tunnel. our hats….

Adulting and Deparenting

My kids are adulting and I must say I am proud at this bittersweet process, which includes deparenting too. Yesterday Emily went off of my family plan with Verizon and she and Connor, who dropped off His parents’ plan, are on their own plan. Clayton is doing his own taxes. Adulting is the modern term for the assumption of tasks, responsibilities and behaviors traditionally associated with normal grown-up life, yet the implication that the individual in question does not particularly identify as an adult and that acting as one does not come naturally. Deparenting is the process of letting go and working oneself out of a job, which also does not come naturally because it is one’s cherished identity!

Perhaps the reason for my kids not identifying as adults is pretty much my fault! I cannot even hold Jim responsible for this one – other than he was not around to prevent me from over-parenting when I should have been developing their independence. There is a difference between obedience and responsibility. One is immediate and the other is a process that develops slowly over many years and requires patience and persistence. Before you go all crazy on me, I will clarify that for the most part my kids did learn responsibility and I do not own all of the problem. That would be overthinking the over-parenting issue! Classic move!

I had very obedient children for the most part; perhaps I should use the word compliant. They did what they were asked when they were growing up, which is a good thing, even though sometimes the response time lagged. But, unfortunately, I joined the many parents who did not always do an adequate job at teaching my kids a sense of responsibility. There were some things that they were responsible with (and still are), but they were so “busy” with sports, music and being smart (both are bright and gifted – an old family trait!) that I took on some of the responsibilities that belonged to them that I should not have. In doing so I robbed them of a lifelong skill set and delayed their adulting. For example, when they were “uber” busy I did not require them to do their chores, make their own lunch or pick up after themselves. Hence, I short circuited their ability to see beyond the moment and initiate things that needed to be done to help each other and demonstrate their love and support of each other.

In my defense, I was guilty trying to be a mom, who overcompensated for their dead father, and work full-time. I was too tired, too hurried or too impatient to focus on the process or skill. Instead I focused on the task just getting done. Having said my rant on my poor de-parenting skills I would add that another huge piece to this is that I loved being a mom. I loved being needed. I loved serving my kids. I wanted them to stay little. It goes way too fast. The tension is constant in giving roots and wings at the same time when all I wanted to give them was extra play time, snuggles and give us all sweet memories.

This year the theme for Women’s day is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” Let’s!

In honor of International Women’s Day, I want to toss some gratitude toward many examples of fierce, brave, intelligent and compassionate women in my life. Collectively they have blazed the trail, created role models, challenged the status quo, caused me to think and stand tall. Because of women all around me and gone before I am who I am.

I want to give a shout out first to my mom who is fiercely independent and capable and godly. She taught me, perhaps without even realizing it, that my gender should never be considered a liability.

My sister is one of the most talented and beautiful people I know. She still teaches me so much; she is my thought partner, my mentor in motherhood and creative beyond belief.

My daughter is beautiful and creative and ridiculously talented. I know that it requires the wisdom of generations of women to love on a young girl and walk with her while encouraging her to discover who she is every step of the way. You amaze me and startle me and I am so proud to be your mom.

I have a cadre of women that I call friends. They come in all shapes, ages and bring so much to my life. They live all over the world and some even live in heaven. They model generosity and listening. They make me laugh, they make me whole and they make me wonder how I got to be so blessed to have them in my life.. They hold me accountable, they hold my heart, and they hold me up when I am weary. They keep my secrets, they keep me going and they keep on forgiving me. They pray for me. They remember me.

This day is for each of you. I salute you. I bless you. Thank you for making the world a stronger, happier and holier place. Here’s to the women who went before us and those walking along side us. Let’s keep the torch burning! I want to be like you when I grow up and most of all, I want to grow old with you.

Saved

50 years ago today Jesus saved me.

My Diary 1969

I was 9 1/2 years old and we lived in Calabasas. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Jesus Saved me from sin. from Hell. from falling. from myself. for good works. to be His His treasure. Forever. again and again. because I called on Him and asked Him to forgive me. because He loves me. to be His treasure. Forever. again and again. by grace. and to a Holy grace. and is my saving grace.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. I long to walk in a manner worthy and to be more like Jesus after 50 years than I was back in the day. I continue to lay hold of that for which Christ laid hold of me. A life long process. A sacred hope. A patient God.

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