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Dying Brings Clarity

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In April of 2016, doctors wheeled me into a cardiac ICU. My breathing, more and more labored over several months, had become even harder. My blood oxygen level had fallen. What I thought was allergies turned out to be blood clots filling up my lungs over several months. On that day, I was dying.

Every breath I took was difficult. Raising my arm left me out of breath. Concurrent to this, doctors from the Mayo Clinic called my wife to tell her they thought she had lung cancer. Politics and the 2016 campaign were the last things on my mind. At the time, my children were seven and ten. They were all I could think about.

If I died before they woke, what would I want them to know about me, my life, God, family, and how they should navigate the world. Thankfully, God gave me a reprieve. I wrote a small piece that caught the attention of a publisher who asked if I would turn it into a series of love letters to my children. "Before You Wake" comes out this week.

Not only is it letters to my children, but it contains our family's favorite recipes as well. After all, if I die before my kids wake, they need to know how I smoke the turkey and make the gravy at Thanksgiving and how I make their favorite cinnamon rolls on Saturday morning.

My children, most likely like your children, need to know how to navigate a world increasingly hostile to their faith. The world is going to do what it can to lure them away, tempt them, and encourage them to break the faith in the name of popularity. They need to know they have self-worth by being made in the image of the living God. They should not place their worth in the number of likes they get on Facebook or Instagram or the number of YouTube subscribers or retweets they get.

Above all else, my children and yours need to know that they are loved, even if sometimes they are not liked by others. They should always do what is right and understand that increasingly what is right is not going to be liked. The things of the world do not like the things of God.

I want my children to memorize 1 John 2:15-17, "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world -- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions -- is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."

They must also remember they are part of a real community. As I write in the book, community is that which is around us and that of which we are a part. We may belong to an online community, but that online community cannot nourish us, does not provide ties that fully bind us, and is more abstract than the real community around us. As people become more and more fixated by the online, our communities are breaking down around us. Fewer people know their neighbors. People who used to sit on their front porches or the front stoop of their building are now in front of glowing screens absorbing them.

Next door to you is a person called a neighbor. That person may very well be willing to look after your pet or your home when you go away. Your Facebook friend cannot do that. Being willing to know our neighbors and be neighborly is a lost art. The world has gotten so tribal, we now identify with causes, not communities. The cause becomes our community. But the cause as community gets monotonous and swiftly one can find oneself kicked out of the community for deviating from the orthodoxy of the cause.

If you would like a copy, "Before You Wake" is now available for order.

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