Monday, December 29, 2008

So Many Birthday Blessings

My dad turned 61 on Christmas Day. I wanted this year to be a true celebration of his life so I enlisted the help of many people whose lives have been impacted by him. I asked people to write about him in one of three ways; a favorite memory, funny story or how God has impacted their life through him. The responses ranged from his influence as a basketball coach, a shepherd, a mechanic, a raft captain, an evangelist, a father figure, a pastor and a man with a great sense of humor.

He recently told me that Kingdom work is about quality not quantity. The 40-some letters were evidence that he has influenced a great number of people but have also fulfilled the great commission in “making disciples.” I know that the book represents only a fraction of the lives he has touched simply by living life to the full, life filled with the Spirit. I entitled the book, "A Celebration of a Faithful Servant."

I continued to be amazed as the letters poured in. I simply cannot get over how many lives he has impacted. He has influenced men and women alike, family and friends and young and old. Almost all the letters echoed the same few points; he took the time to care and invest in the lives of others. If you visit him, perhaps you will have the privilege of reading part of it, hopefully to him as well. We only got through a few on his actual birthday!

Yesterday (Sunday), his old church that he planted in 1994, the Bridge, hosted "A Tribute to Pastor Jesse" for his birthday. One by one, individual people stood up and testified to God's goodness in their lives through my dad as well as many fun memories that they have shared together. I'll just share a few highlights...

Auntie Eileen Castillo shared about the 6 or 7 friends and members of her family that my dad lead to the Lord and baptized. Her husbands brother-in-law passed away from ALS in 1997. He performed the funeral. She wrapped up by saying, "though you can no longer say the words from your mouth, we can still hear the words coming from your heart" and "though your feet are weak, your faith is still strong."

David and Dan Cay shared about the many Sunday afternoons the youth group spent at the Morales house doing everything together and how Pastor Jesse always took time to invest in young people. Another highlight, was remembering the moonwalk that he did at Family Camp a few years ago when they announced the winner of "Jesse's Posse." David pointed out how he was instrumental in building a church that had very authentic family and a true feeling of belonging and fellowship.

Many others shared about how he picked them up for Bible Study or was there to walk with them through life storms. We mostly laughed, but also cried a little. I closed the time of sharing with the two verses that ring so true to me in his life.

The first is Acts 20:24, "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

The last is such an example of how the word of God is living and active, found in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Though these are tough times, he is continuing to fix his eyes on what is unseen and eternal. Thank you for all your prayers and also to those who contributed to the book! You have been an encouragement!

Can't Stop Him

His mercies are indeed new every morning! After his downer day not too long ago, dad had a much better week despite the progression of the disease. Dad was invited to a Christmas lunch at Trijay Flooring where he used to chaplain. At first he was hesitant to go, concerned that he would be a damper on the party, but mom played her "mom" card and off he went. Bruce picked him up at 11 and agreed to only stay an hour. Needless to say, the 1 hour stretched into 3 and they didn't return until after 4:30. Apparently, dad was busy chaplaining! He was laughing with people, praying and ministering despite his inability to walk or talk clearly.

A few days later, his caregiver that he had been sharing the gospel with accepted the Lord and since then hasn't been able to stop telling people about her newfound faith! After her 3-hour break that she caregiver provides on weekdays, Mom often comes home to find them doing a half hour Bible Study. She has been attending their church, The Pathway, faithfully for the last month. On her way out the other day, she said to me, "Your daddy's my hero. Because of him, now I know who Jesus is!"

My dad's heart continues to speak louder than his words.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Downer Day

Last weekend we had the wonderful privilege of visiting home again. My dad has his first boys night out with Mike and watched the pride of the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao defeat Oscar Dela Hoya in boxing. He was having the time of his life!

Not two hours later, I was helping him get ready for bed when I saw a new side of him. His eyes watered as he started to softly weep. "I just feel like I'm a burden to everyone." I choked back tears. My dad- my hero, a man made of steel with the softest heart was feeling absolutely helpless. He has devoted his whole life to service, whether it be fixing cars, sharing the gospel, doing the dishes or fixing things around the house. The man never stood still and now, it's all he can do.

I assured him that is was an honor for us to finally be able to serve him. It dawned on me that without all the acts of service he is used to performing, he may be tempted to feel like he has very little to offer the world now. Little does he know that though someone else can fix my car, share the gospel and do the dishes, no one else in the world who can be my dad. That by itself it enough.

On a lighter note (and with all that said) he shared the love of Jesus to his new caregiver last week! I just shook my head, smiled and said, "nothing can stop you, huh?" She requested to care for him 5 days a week because she was "so blessed by caring for him." This was a huge blessing as they were having a tough time finding someone who was a good fit and it enabled my mom to take a break!

There have been a lot of physical changes in the last month. He needs assistance with every day tasks and moves around quite slowly. Though two weeks ago, he said to Mike, "I want to run!" and clumsily proceeded to attempt to sprint to the door with his assistance. We all had a good laugh. We are trying to plan an "original" Morales family vacation sometime in the next month with dad and all his girls. There is a lot of family is coming up for Christmas. It's going to a be a great busy time! Will keep you posted!