- 2013 Year in Review
- An Incomplete Kingdom
“…meant to be.” Such a phrase has pervaded throughout our society in almost any sphere of influence. You’ll see this phrase in novels and movies and hear it from philosophers and romantics. It can be a situation (i.e. it’s meant to be) or a relationship (i.e we’re meant to be). It’s said sometimes with hope by the romantics, with despair for the mourning, with contempt for the calloused, and with disbelief to the skeptics.
It makes sense why such a phrase has so permeated our society yet left us ambivalent towards it. After all, we love destiny, but we hate a predestined future. We like “meant to be” when it suites us: “you and I are meant to be,” “it’s as if this [insert good thing] was meant to be.” However we despise the destiny notion when bad things happen, particularly if someone dies before their time. We even say “This wasn’t meant to be.”
So here I am, contemplating this phrase upon my father’s untimely demise. Was this meant to be? Was his death meant to be? Of course this is not the real question. “Meant to be” implies someone meaning a situation to be the way it is. So who means it? Ultimately, the answer is God. And if God meant for a bad thing to happen, then the real question is why? Why would a good God mean for something bad to happen? Yet, I have gotten ahead of myself. For if God did not mean for said evil to happen, then the question turns into “Why did it happen if God didn’t mean it to?
It is that age-old question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Pretty much everyone has asked it at some point, and now I too am seeking answers. The unfortunate part is that I’ve yet to find a scholar, pastor, philosopher, or theologian to give a sound retort. Rabi Kushner places doubt on God’s power, purporting the Devine as unable to stop evil from occurring. In other words, his answer is “God didn’t mean for this to happen, and it happened because He couldn’t stop it from occurring.” Others claim that God is not good or loving. Still even more put together an ambiguous ensemble of possible responses to this question: it’s a test, it’s for His Glory, He will make good come from it, it’s persecution, it’s a sinful world, you’re sinful etc. etc. And of course, some just say it’s because there is no God.
So in short: either God can’t stop (lack of power), God won’t (lack of love), God shouldn’t (something of greater ambiguous importance took precedence over your well-being), or God isn’t. Not a great list of answers, but that is what humanity has come up with to try and answer.
Probably most commonly used in the Church would be what I’d call the “Ambiguity List.” Many times, “God shouldn’t stop bad things” turns out to be an appropriate answer. After all, God did test both Abraham and Job; Stephen was persecuted and it was for God’s glory; Jonah sinned and disobeyed; Joseph saved Egypt as a result of his brothers’ evil intentions. In many of our own situations in life, this applies. However, it is almost always in hindsight that these ambiguous possibilities become a realized concrete actuality. Joseph probably didn’t know why God let his brothers sell him, or why he was imprisoned until he was the right hand of Pharaoh. For decades he had to trust God knew what he was doing.
However, not all our stories turn out so clear cut as Joseph’s. My dad had so much to look forward to. He had his first grandson, my sister got married, he was finally publishing a book he worked on for half of my life. No matter what clarity hindsight brings to answer “why now?” no answer could fully acquiesce the thought of the potential life my dad could have continued to live.
Even more perplexing is the situation surrounding my dad’s death. Both he and my mom, along with the support of the whole family, prayed incessantly for healing. Every day, every church meeting they could go to, every pastor’s meeting, for the 3 months my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he always searched for healing prayer.
In the same church, a woman had been diagnosed with double-breast cancer. I am not sure if it was stage 4 like my dad, but she also sought prayer at the church. The week my dad died, she was healed to the amazement of her oncologist. Dad became a grandpa because God healed my wife so we could have our son, Hezekiah. I cannot doubt that God heals. But now I am left with the question, “Why not dad?”
Thus another question emerges “why do some get healed, and others not?” Now let’s dispense with unsound doctrine. From experience and study of the scriptures, cessationism (Miracles no longer occur) can’t be true and honestly waters the Gospel down. For some Pentecostals to say that my dad did not have enough faith for his healing is both unbiblical and an insult to his legacy of faith. The best theology here is what is referred to as “Kingdom now-not-yet” (what I call “the Incomplete Kingdom”)
Jesus came, but he’s also coming back. His Kingdom is on earth, but not on earth as it is in Heaven. Through the Holy Spirit we can receive the supernatural gifts of prophecy, discernment, words of knowledge, healing, etc.—i.e. Super-nature invading nature. However, our spirit has not permeated the flesh to the fullest potential. Jesus was inaugurated as King, but we are waiting for the Kingship to be fully consummated upon His return. This is Kingdom-now-not-yet theology.
It explains why healing happens to some (Kingdom now) and not others (Kingdom not-yet). You may think, “great, so there IS an answer.” Hold on. Even Kingdom-now-not-yet raises questions. Why did MY dad have to be “Kingdom not-yet” instead of “Kingdom now?” The root question though is “why does it have to be Kingdom now-not-yet?” Or in other words “why didn’t Jesus fully usher in the Kingdom in the first coming?”
With my dad’s passing, I realize things are the way they are—the Kingdom of God is both at hand and is to come—but now I also, as any human being, wonder why things are the way they are.
I wish I had an answer already, but I can only pray that God is as gracious to me and my family as he was to Joseph—revealing His plan, even if it’s only after His plan is accomplished. Between the trees (the cross and the tree of life), we live in this Incomplete Kingdom. I can’t say whether dad’s death was meant to be, but I do believe that good is meant to come
- My Dad, Clark Olson: a Eulogy
The earliest memory I have was with dad. I was 2 years old, and as any toddler who is on the road for awhile, I was getting restless on our way back from grandma’s, so we pulled over for a break. Dad took me on a walk on the dry Colorado terrain, and we saw a beautiful cactus flower. Seeing it, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the flower to mom. Before my dad could beat me to it, I reached for the flower and got a handful of cactus needles instead. And as with any little boy, this wasn’t the only time dad had to rescue me from my hair-brained schemes.
Fire-Ants: When I was 4, my dad and I were taking a walk again, this time in a floridian park. But instead of a cactus flower catching my eye, I noticed a large fire-ant hill. Being 4 years old I had not yet learned the traditional ways of torturing ants with a magnifying glass. Instead, I resorted to picking up a stick and jamming it right into the ant hill, following the foolhardy act by a leisurely (a bit too leisurely) retreat. Within seconds the ants had caught up to me, and dad once again came to the rescue.
The Dutchman Paradox: His protective nature was just a glimpse into his personality. A way to describe my dad, would be a dutch paradox. If you’ve ever known a dutchman, he can be very blunt, sometimes not having a filter or just “telling it like it is,” or at least telling you like he perceives it to be. The paradox here though is that despite his bluntness and passionate opinions and beliefs, my dad was quite reserved. With family and close friends he wasn’t so reserved in sharing his opinions and beliefs. But with others, the Dutchman only came out in cases of politics and evolution debates (he was a vehement Republican and creationist). Even then, he reserved his fiercest rhetoric in hypothetical conversations my dad had with himself, pacing back and forth while whisper-yelling to his imaginary opponent. I wouldn’t say this was a habit of his, but he did it quite often.
His Daily Routine: My dad did, however, have quite the habitual routine. Every morning, my dad would get up, put on his sealant-stained jeans, his velcro shoes (as he hated to tie his shoes), and a plead collared-jacket with a front pocket, and walk out the door with a thermos of sweet iced-tea.
He’d then go to Village Inn, where the waitresses would bring him a pitcher of iced tea. Without needing to take his order, they’d bring him his special-order huevos rancheros: a tortilla with one egg (over-easy), covered in green chili and cheese, and one pancake on the side, which he would drown in maple syrup. He then would drive, usually to Denver, to install replacement windows, listening to Rush Limbaugh or the Bible, and skipping lunch most days, working non-stop usually until dusk.
Upon returning home, dad and I would take rusted boat anchors to throw at the glass he had taken out from the windows he replaced—nothing like greeting your son when you come home than bringing him back something he can destroy. Then he would watch the Broncos if they were on TV, if not, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would fill the gap. He would also teach me chess, or help Shannon and I with homework if there was a project due. For dinner, if we couldn’t make it out to Chili’s, he preferred anything with meat, ranch dressing, or chocolate. He even tried ranch dressing with a brownie once… and liked it.
At the dinner table, while normal conversation ensued, my dad would almost always blurt out some random statement that didn’t have anything to do with the current topic. While sometimes completely random, it was usually something about politics or creationism.
Indiana Jones and Zip-lines: Though he worked a lot, he still found time to create a great childhood for Shannon and I. Growing up, my dad built us a wrap-around tree fort complete with a zip-line and tire swing. As a kid, the zip-line was my go-to “escape module” when playing as James Bond or Indiana Jones. Quite often he’d take us on the loveland trail with our Malamute dogs and rollerblades, which made us imagine we were in an iditerod .
The Christmas Tree Debacle: With the winter time came a special series of traditions and stories. My dad always wanted to put up the best lights in the neighborhood, get a good christmas tree, and, if weather permitted, make an unconventional snowman manger-scene complete with a kangaroo. For a couple christmases, we went up in the mountains to cut down our own Christmas tree. We had a 16ft. vaulted ceiling in our living room at the time, so my dad, of course wanted a Christmas tree that would almost reach the top. The first year, it was quite a success, as we found a 15 ft tree full of pine needles and in the perfect cone shape. However, the second year we weren’t so lucky.
Wanting to top the success of the previous year, he was only looking at the big trees. After a good while of searching, we came across a giant, distorted mangled looking tree. While the rest of us, particularly Shannon, could see that the tree would not fit into our house, my dad’s eyes were filled with delusions of grandeur. Barely able to cut it down and load it in the truck, we took it home. After probably 2 hours of trying to jam the tree through the patio door, trimming a few branches down in the process, the monstrosity of a christmas tree finally tromped its way into the living room. Still, after all that work, Shannon’s warnings were made realized when we stood the tree up.
Sure, the height of the tree didn’t surpass the ceiling, but the branches jutted so far from the trunk, it covered the TV and part of the couch, several feet away. But my dad, being the stubborn man he was, would not take defeat so easily. He resorted to sawing off the bottom limbs, shortening them, then drilling holes in the trunk to put them back in. For some of the limbs that he couldn’t put back on the tree, he made a monster-wreath to accompany his “franken-tree” creation. Needless to say, my dad never heard the end of that Christmas.
The Manger bargain that wasn’t: And that wasn’t the only thing. When my parents came to see my sister and I graduate from a missionary school in Jerusalem, he was set on on bringing back home a manger scene. Now, my dad was not aware of the terms “bargaining” and “looking around,” so at the first shop he saw a manger scene, he went ahead and bought it for $120. When Kayla and I found out about this, she went out and bargained that same manger scene down to $8 to prove it was a bad deal. Kayla never let him forget it either. But my dad was humble enough to take the never-ending jokes at his expense.
Mister Fix-it: Despite the fact that he did not acquire adept bargaining skills in his lifetime, if there was anything my dad was good at, it was in fixing and building things. Besides our zip-line treehouse, he also helped Shannon and I make the best science projects. One year he helped me (or rather, I helped him) build a 3D topographical map of the longs peak mountain area out of plywood and spray paint. Another year he took over my science project on how the Grand Canyon was formed. He also custom made his truck toolbox, made dog houses complete with a heater and dog doors with wind-protectors. At our old house, he built me a room in the Attic, and even when he had cancer, he directed me in “fixing” the way his food pump was positioned on his pole—he thought the way to plug the power cord in was poorly designed.
I wish I would have made more of an effort to glean the knowledge and skill my dad had in the “fix-it” and construction field, but I definitely learned a lot of other, more important things, from him, like having dedication and a good work ethic.
Himself Took, Forgiveness, and Love: Growing up, my dad would also frequently quote a couple of verses to us. The main one I remember was what he reffered to as the “Himself took” verse in Matthew 8:17, “For he himself took our infirmities and carried away all our diseases.” Whenever my sister and I would get sick, he would say “Himself Took” over us. However his personal favorite, was Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” It was these verses he particularly leaned on during his battle with cancer.
Two major themes that stuck out in my dad’s life was forgiveness and love. Before I was born, I remember dad telling me how some coworkers of his had cheated him. He was so angry, he cussed God out. Then, after he was done venting, he felt his burden lift off, and God taught him that if Jesus forgave his sins, which he many did against others, God also forgave the sins committed against him.
With these spiritual truths, he lived them out in practice and in love. He’d always say God does not want to use you, he wants to love you, and with this mentality, he knew the importance of being with God was greater than doing things for God.
No Expectations: As I am now a father, my dad taught me from his good example to not place expectations on my children. He was an avid proponent of owning your own business and quite the Broncos fan, yet he never persuaded or pressured me with career choices or in playing football growing up. He believed in me whatever I did or wanted to pursue, even if it was wanting to be a professional Lego builder growing up.
My dad wasn’t always candid in speaking his feelings toward us, but you could tell by the look in his eyes and consistent goodnight phrase “Good night, I love you.” Probably the 3 times I felt most loved from him was a few of the times he told me “I’m so proud of you.”—when I became a missionary, when I got married, and when I had my son.
Faith and the measure of Strength: Over the last 3 months from when dad was diagnosed with cancer, he taught me one of the greatest lessons I’ll ever learn—to have a steadfast and unrelenting faith. Right up to the last day, my dad had a faith that could move mountains. His first instinct upon hearing the diagnosis was not on finding treatment, but finding prayer, and lots of it.
His persistence and perseverance puts him in a worthy spot among the Heroes of the Faith in Hebrews 11. And like the heroes of the faith, my dad “died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that [he was a] stranger and exile on the earth.” as it says in Hebrews 11:13. I have learned before that the promises of God may not be fulfilled in mine or other’s lifetimes, but not in such a personal way. The reality is, not everyone who is prayed for gets healed. My wife was healed of infertility, but my dad died of cancer. How do I reconcile this?
I have truly realized that though the Kingdom is advancing “on Earth as it is in Heaven” it has not reached the full measure that will be realized upon Christ’s return. It is until He returns that the true and full extent of the promises will be realized.
Now my dad leaves behind his legacy to me and the others whom his life touched. He is now among that great cloud of witnesses that encourage us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and [telling us to] run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” The race marked out for my dad did not end the way he or any of us perceived. But, in seeing the strength and resolve in his character during his last days, I know that his wish to die like moses, “eyes not dim and strength not abated,” was realized in his spirit, though his body’s strength left him. At the end of his life, he taught me the true measure of strength.
A family legacy continues: His legacy does not end there. The greatest thing he ever did for me was leading me to the Lord. One night, my dad sat me down and told me of my brother Seth, who was in heaven. He told me that if I wanted to meet him one day, I would need to accept Jesus into my heart.
My dad and brother have been reunited in heaven, and one day, some years down the road, I will sit my son, Hezekiah down and tell him of his grandpa Clark. I will tell him about a man who could build anything, who would frustrate you to no end playing card games, and who had a love for flying, sailing, and the Grand Canyon. But most of all, I will tell my son how his grandpa’s life, with all his quirks and peculiarities, painted a unique picture of Jesus. Sometimes from the rough, rocky patches of our lives a beautiful flower can spring up. So it was with my brothers death that salvation was made realized in my life, so I also hope to one day have my dad’s death become a light into my son’s soul.
And so it is with a heavy heart yet also an encouraged spirit that I say goodbye. I love you dad, you were my wise counselor, mentor, friend—the best dad I could’ve asked for—and I will miss you dearly.
- “If you were to die today…” and other wrong approaches
In high school I was a youth group junkie. I literally went to 5 youth events a week and signed up for every event, be it winter camp, a mission trip, or Disciple Now. You name it, I was there. One annual event my youth group went to was a three-day evangelism conference. At this conference, there were dramas, teachings, and tons of movie clips to illustrate evangelism and get you fired up to go door to door and witness to people (which was on the last day).
When we were sent out, we got some brief training and some Gospel tracks. Our training was to go through a G.O.S.P.E.L. acronym. God created us to be with Him. Our sin separates us from Him. Sin cannot be removed by good deeds. Paying the price, Jesus died for our sin. Eternal life waits for those who accept Him. Life eternal means we’ll be with God forever (kinda redundant I know). Then of course we were also equipped with the too familiar question, “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven?” Finally we were sent out “to win some souls.” But instead of winning souls, we lost spirit.
No one we shared this question with turned to Jesus. If anything we turned people away. Instead what we all learned in my youth group was how NOT to share the Gospel. When coming back to the conference, we’d here some stories of people who did see people accept Jesus. However, the funny part was, when they were sharing their stories, none of them used the training! None of them explained the G.O.S.P.E.L. to people and no one asked the question “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven?” Today, I almost never hear of the G.O.S.P.E.L. acronym anymore, but still I still see the “if you died today” question being promulgated like its the newest idea since the Evangecube. It didn’t work back in high school, and it still doesn’t work today.
When we were going around, asking people this question, I still remember a few of their responses. “Heaven doesn’t exist, so no [I wouldn’t go to heaven],” was somewhat popular. “Sure [followed by door close, or quick walk-away]” was another. These answers made me realize this question has some fundamental problems in effectively sharing the gospel.
Primarily, the question “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven?” is a big assumption. The question assumes that heaven exists, and then implies (aka assumes) the person questioned would be exiled from heaven. We should know, of course, that assuming is almost always a bad idea, since once those assumptions receive a deserved rebuttal (“I don’t believe in heaven”), you have nowhere to go, except maybe argue. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, arguing hardly leads people to Jesus. And if they do believe in Heaven, chances are they don’t believe they’d go to Hell, which means more arguing. As the saying goes, “to assume is to make an ASS out of U and ME.”
Assuming jumps the gun. Did you find out if this person believes in heaven or hell? What do they believe in? What do they think about Jesus? By asking “If you died today”, the answer to these other questions are always “I don’t know!” You don’t know because you skipped the pleasantries and preliminaries and instead went straight for gold at the main event! You might as well ask people “will you accept Jesus into your life?” without explaining what in the world that entails.
In my experience, and in many others far more experienced than me, the “if you died” question closes off the 2 most effective ways to reach people for Christ: showing God’s love, and showing God’s power. As my friends in a certain Hong Kong ministry would say “you must give the Great Compassion in Matthew 25 before giving the Great Commission in Matthew 28!” In other words, feed the hungry, mend the broken, house the homeless and then share the Gospel. After all, that is what Jesus did, and he did so miraculously (like the feeding of the 5,000), showing both God’s love and His power.
In an attempt to bring back the reality of Hell, “If you die today” takes the Judgement seat of God as our point to preach the Good News. When “If you die today” is asked without personal conviction of sin, they will feel you are condemning them. Here’s a little secret, when God’s power is displayed, conviction soon follows. Sharing testimonies of God’s power, praying for healing (inviting God’s power)…these are the appropriate ways to lead to conviction. When Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord, he said he was a man with unclean lips—boom, conviction. Asking “if you died today” is trying to bring Reconciliation without any Revelation.
In my years as a missionary, I have had the tremendous privilege to lead people to Jesus and see others do the same. I have seen acts of kindness, prayers for healing, and sermons of the Cross and Resurrection go so much deeper and farther than an impersonal question. “If you die today” makes the Gospel out to be a “Get out of Hell Free” card, when it is so much more than that. Remember when Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full?” He wasn’t talking about heaven, He was talking about the here and now.
So instead of asking someone the question “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven?” ask yourself “When I die, how will I have brought heaven to earth?”
- Cloth Diapers!
We are very excited to announce …… That we got the grant that we applied for!
Back when we had just found out we were pregnant we decided to email about 6 different families that we knew we on the mission field. Since we will be a traveling always overseas kind of family then we felt the need to seek advice from families that were very similar! Advice that was very common from all of them was cloth diapering. It just makes since! Its cheaper and can easily fit in suitcases! Plus its cuter!
Now when I tell people I am cloth diapering they think Im crazy. A Lot of people don’t know how much cloth diapering has changed over the years. They think I am grabbing a big piece of cloth (like a rag type thing) and pinning it on my child. You can do that and it does still work but there are other ways! Basically you have a cloth diaper cover (what you see in the photo) and an insert that you put in it. Thats the kind that I am using but there are other options as well. Then you wash them! I make it sound simple but there are other things involved like how to wash/ dry…. But I will write a post on that later down the road when I have actually used them!
One missionary told us about the Diaper Grant that Cottonbabies.com offers. I checked into it and applied! We had to wait until I was 31 weeks pregnant until they decided if we got the grant or not. So out of the couple hundred that applied that thought we were worthy enough to have them, haha, I guess! But I am excited! Who knew I would ever be excited about getting a bunch of free diapers! They are now all washed and ready for Hezekiah to start downloading! Yippee