RIP Target: 21 years as a faithful feline friend

Target has been my faithful feline friend for most of my life. I picked her from a litter of kittens from another local farmer when I was 8 years old. She has been my responsibility and faithful feline friend for the past 21 years seeing me through grade school, middle school, high school, college, my move to Arlington, and my marriage to my beautiful Ngoc.

Today (Dec. 8, 2011), Target passed with both Ngoc and I present at 5:10pm. I expected her to pass earlier, but I always believed that God would keep Target in my life until I was with the mate He had destined for me. I’ve held this conviction for many years that He would grant this as a sign for me of hope, excitement, responsibility, and joy. God is so good; for Ngoc is my wonderful soul mate.

Target had notified us that she was ready to go by eating her last meal two weeks ago (Nov. 22, 2011). She continued to drink water every day, but refused to eat. When brought to the vet, we were told that she looked healthier than many 5-year old cats because nearly everything about her health checked out to be top shape (dental, organs, etc.).

Target’s attitude even until the moment she passed was positive and friendly. Here are a few memories that made her a faithful feline friend.

  1. Target and I shared a bed-time ritual for as long as I can remember. I would lay down each night and she would crawl onto my chest to sit there while I petted her and scratched her back and then her chin. She would turn around and lay on my legs as we went to sleep.
  2. Target wasn’t judgmental. Many times I would have friends over and she would be sure to meet anybody who stopped in (even in the frat house). I remember many weeks where I held Bible studies, feasts, parties, or other events at The Embassy where she would greet everybody with a friendly purr.
  3. Target loved to be nearby, particularly settling down on some paper. For many years, she would sit (or stand) between me and the monitor or settled on a nice cozy stack of papers. Of course, if I would get up for even a moment, she would jump into the chair to claim it as her own.
  4. Since being married, Target was faithful to help us rise in the morning. Around 5am she would arise, sit near Ngoc’s face, and watch intently until Ngoc moved. If she got impatient she would gradually purr louder and louder until Ngoc moved. Once Ngoc moved, she would purr louder, lick her face, and then walk over top of her and do the same for me. Ngoc thought it a joy to be awoken around 5am each morning. Maybe that’s why Ngoc so much enjoyed getting her back throughout the day (see video).

I’m sad to see my feline friend gone, but it’s been a great 21 years full of memories. It was much harder for me to say goodbye today than I expected, but I’m glad that I was there until the very end. And while she was only a cat, she was my feline friend. Ngoc asked me if we should get another pet because making these decisions and losing something we love is hard – my answer is an emphatic yes, because love is absolutely worth the heartache.

We’ll miss target, but we celebrate her life and the joy she brought us.

[jwplayer mediaid=”938″]

40 days – Until I’m Married

40 days, there’s something significant about the 40 days before a change. The number 40 is used throughout the Bible to indicate a period of probation or trial. The Israelites wandered for 40 years (Deut. 8:2-5). Moses was on the mount for 40 days (Exodus 24:18); 40 days of Jonah and Nineveh (Jonah 3:4). Jesus was tempted for 40 days (Matt. 4:2).

Nowadays, we remember Christ’s resurrection with Lent – a 40 day period of fasting and preparation before Easter. In following with the tradition to fast during Lent so that we can further focus on our Lord, Ngoc and I have chosen to fast from making out. While there is nothing wrong with making out, we’ve chosen this because we believe that it honors God and each other and is in alignment with the parameters which God had directed (see 1 Corinthians 7:5).

Additionally, while talking to a friend, mentor, and pastor, Pete Bullette, he provided a perspective that flies in the face of the sexual/intimate temptations couples face even more so as they get closer to their marriage. He gave the simple analogy of a bank account. Each time that we want to be physically/sexually intimate before marriage we have a choice – are we going to make a deposit into our marriage “bank account” by abstaining or are we going to draw against whatever is in the “bank account” and go into debt before we’re married? Personally, I think this analogy is very powerful for me because I can grasp the perils of debt and the freedom of compound interest.

So, as Ngoc and I enter the final 40 days before our wedding day, we are excited to continue to make deposits into our marriage “bank account” that we’re hoping lead to many healthy, fun, fulfilling, and God-honoring both sexual and non-sexual experiences through our marriage. Through this final period of 40-days, I will specifically practice various ways to love well – to love Ngoc well.

It’s not easy to love well (at least for me). How do I put aside my own interests for her? How do I regard her perspective above my own (see Philippians 2:3-4)? How do I forgive her again (see Matthew 18:21-35)? How do I have compassion and care for her even when I’m tired, frustrated, or have my own needs (see Matthew 14:13-14)? How do I lead her into who Christ calls her to be – since God will ultimately hold me accountable for her (see Ephesians 5:23-24)?

What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage)

Engaged by God’s Goodness

2010 has been another year of life lessons where God regularly humbles me with reminders that I’m not in control of very much at all. Several key changes serve as the reminder — I transitioned to a new role and environment at work; my small group for 4+ years, The God Lab, moved on; several friends moved away; I began my dating relationship with Ngoc; I am fundraising for Jesus Christ and clean water while prepping to climb a mountain; and I had some changes in my financial situation.

I’m reminded that God is sovereign and puts everything together according to His plan and His timing. I don’t realize His handiwork at the time, but when I look back on 2010 I can see His goodness shine through each life event. In particular, I’m reminded of the word “favor” that shows up throughout the Scriptures. For no good reason, God shows me favor; He grants goodness in my life.

Most notably this year, God has poured out his favor on me through Ngoc. Ngoc is everything I desire in a partner. Most importantly, everything about her compels me even more toward my savior, Jesus Christ. She is wonderfully trusting; she covers the many areas where I am lacking; she models love so beautifully; she is playful and doesn’t get upset when I make messes and break things; she loves God first; she’s pretty; she has noble and admirable character; and most of all she is with me.

Her and I spent the weekend before Christmas in Williamsburg where I proposed. Ngoc and I are ENGAGED! We’re excited about a lifetime together filled with many more stories of God’s goodness. We both know that God has divinely built us for each other and has now brought us together in His perfect timing. I’m happy to share the first story with you, A Sweet Beginning, with a collage of our engagement.

I look forward to sharing many more stories of dreams and visions fulfilled.

Jason & Ngoc - Engaged!

TLW Aconcagua: Donate, Give Water, Accumulate Experiences

I know that you’ve heard of the many needs around the world of those in poverty and those without clean drinking water (more stories). Is the problem too big for you to solve? Yes! But, can you solve it for just a few (starfish story), or maybe all of Liberia? Yes!

I am partnering with The Last Well (TLW) to provide safe, affordable drinking water to the entire nation of Liberia and preach the Message of Jesus Christ to those we serve (TLW Vision). I ask you to support me in changing the lives of hundreds of Liberians by donating to the cause.

Aconcagua Expedition: I will be climbing Cerro Aconcagua (Argentina), the highest peak in South America (22,841′ -the highest peak in the world outside the Himalayas), January 2011. This team has a fundraising goal of $5000/person toward providing water to Liberia by drilling or repairing wells. All costs of climbing the mountain are paid by the climbers (your support isn’t paying for our adrenaline highs or perils).

Engaging in something bigger than yourself: I recognize that going on an expedition like this isn’t for everyone, but we can all agree that having clean, affordable drinking water is. Why is this my current passion?

  1. Dream dreams destined to fail without divine intervention: Providing clean affordable water to all of Liberia isn’t something that I can myself, it’s not something this team can do, and it’s not something that our organization or church can do. This dream is something that can only be done if God is involved – What other type of dream would you want to be pursuing?
  2. Criticize by creating: Rather than criticize the big companies, massive charities or governments to solve Liberia’s clean water issues, I will point the finger at myself and ask, “What am I doing to leave a lasting impact on lives I can impact?”
  3. Accumulate experiences: There are many worthy causes, but for me this one provides an experience of a lifetime – with many stories to share and challenges to overcome. Aconcagua is an experience that will test my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual character.
  4. Share your best: Think of a time when you were excited about a deal you got, a song you heard, or a hilarious joke. What’s the first thing you wanted to do? Of course, share it with your friends and those around you.
    In the same way, I believe the best thing we can share is gospel of Jesus Christ. I can’t think of anything more exciting, more valuable or more appropriate. That’s why every community that receives clean water from your support will hear the gospel message of Jesus Christ.

Something rather than nothing: You and I are fortunate to not have been born in these destitute regions of the world, but that doesn’t mean we should fortunately ignore or forget those who are. It’s not fair that we have so much, which compels me to ask myself, “Is it true that when we choose not to help the poor, needy and thirsty that I’m actually robbing them?” We’re all in this together.

My Father – Deserving of Honor and Respect

Dick Lund 2009Every so often we’re hit with these moments where greatness is displayed. The thing is, greatness doesn’t show up in the midst of bright lights, crowds or power. I immediately think of our Lord Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane where he prays “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” It’s in Christ’s humility that greatness is revealed.

Christ’s dedication, love, humility and sacrifice are so clearly depicted that we respond with respect and honor. I want to share another similar moment witnessed with my own father demonstrating greatness.

My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer after 36 years of marriage to my father. During this highly taxing time, my parents were going to take a week’s vacation in the mountains of Virginia. However, my mom’s health took a tragic turn for the worse when she became very ill due to the compounded effects of the chemotherapy. Through this time, my dad would spend all day each day in the hospital with her while she was too weak to eat, move around, and even talk.

My dad and I drove home late one evening while leaving the nightly care of my mom (his wife) to the nurses. My dad was very drained and frustrated because there was nothing he could do about the situation except wait and hope. Of course, these health issues along with the many other life stresses were wearing against him physically, emotionally and spiritually. However, it’s these times (some call it testing) that our true character shines through. I tend to think that these “tests” aren’t for God to see how true we are to him, but for us to realize that our life experiences have moved the faith of God the 18 inches from our head to our heart.

So, it’s this evening of frustration and confusion that my dad makes this profound and heartfelt plea, “I just want my wife back. I don’t know, maybe God is trying to teach me how to love my wife better.

These are the words of greatness – words of a man filled with love and humility, but dedicated to sacrifice (similar to our Lord). It’s these moments that solidify what I’ve seen continually my whole life – a man of integrity, dedication, and relentless sacrifice.

As I reflect on those people who I look to as heroes, my dad is right there. There are a lot of weak men – losers – who live for themselves and aren’t worthy of any respect (no matter how successful they may be professionally), but then there are men like my dad who carry forth the torch of goodness in this world through pain and uncertainty. These are the men deserving of honor and respect. These are the men that the rest of us can admire, be proud of and model our character after.

Dad – you are a man deserving of much respect and honor. You continue to set a profound example of worthy character for me to follow. Thank you for being a hero and role model who stands far above many other fathers I’ve seen. I am truly blessed.

Celebrating Mom's Strength

I think te are a lot of things that we don’t share with each other for some reason or another. I hope that I don’t continually miss the opportunity to share. I believe that one of the tactics of Evil is to keep us isolated where we believe lies such as “they won’t understand” or “nobody really cares or knows me.” Community is radically healing and empowering for joy!

So, I admire my mom (not just today) for allowing her friends and family to be with her as she fought the good fight this past year. She continues to bring joy and blessing into our lives just as before. I was asked yesterday of one of the good memories of my mom and the first thing that came to mind was this:

When I was in grade school, my mom would come into my brother’s and my room (with me on the top bunk) to wake us up for school. But, she would take the time to make it fun. She had these little hand puppets that were such an expression of her being – fun and loving. She would poke at us for a bit and then have them talk to us in funny voices and they would sneak around when I rolled over as if these little animals wanted to play. I also distinctly remember many times waking up before she came in, but pretending I was sleeping hoping that it would be a morning of the little hand puppets.

So, I wanted to take this as an opportunity to share a bit more about my mom and consolidate some of the notes, activities and details of this past year for me, my family and friends.

  • My mom’s breast cancer blog that she updated throughout the journey (registration required, but free): http://www.carepages.com/carepages/strongtower
  • Pictures of a party celebrating the last chemo treatment: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2317991&id=1508003
  • Excerpt from my dad’s take on the journey (75MB): Dick’s Celebrating Strength Speech
  • My first publication about how I was dealing with it (not long after the news): http://www.jason1365.com/2009/05/03/i-trust-you-audioblog/
  • Finally, more than anything, my friend Abby absolutely was/is an angel. She jumped in as soon as she found out and called my mom frequently (having never met her before or anything); she sent flowers and packages to my mom with all the items that would make her day; she drove down to the farm to work and support my mom; she made a scrapbook for my mom; she reminded me about how to support my mom and she eased my own fears. I cannot say enough good things about her; she is probably the sweetest girl I know. She is a nurse and helps run Georgetown’s ICU. Finally, she has battled breast cancer twice and knows the difficult journey well. I don’t know how our family would have dealt with this without her. Was it divine intervention that I met her a few months before my mom was diagnosed? Or just coincidence?

Strongtower / Celebrating Strength Scrapbook

Continue reading Celebrating Mom's Strength

Dream Session – April 2010

When was the last time you daydreamed? Have you dreamed about life goals, ambitions and the full life?
Let’s dream dreams that are destined to fail without divine intervention.
Some of us have dreams that we never talk about or pursue. Some of us share the same dream and would go for it, if only there was somebody to go with us.

The Guidance/Input

  1. Guiding Deck: Dream Session 2010-04-24
  2. Book Highlights: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
  3. Men for Marriage (for men only)
  4. Living a Good Story, an Alternative to New Years Resolutions
  5. Let Story Guide You [MP3 Excerpt (2MB)]
  6. Facing the Giants [YouTube, MP4 (13MB)]
  7. The Best Motivation Video [YouTube, MP4 (3MB)]
  8. Lecrae – Go Hard [YouTube, MP4 (9MB)]
  9. Disney Pixar Up! – Married Life, Carl & Ellie [YouTube, MP4 (66MB)]
  10. Randy Pausch – Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams [YouTube, FLV (229MB)]

In Action

Results

We each leave the time with a list of goals, dreams, ambitions and new friends. We realize that wanting to have lived a good life requires intention throughout. We have looked at each other’s goals and have figured out ways to take the next step for each other. We are connecting our friends with other friends and colleagues; we are affirming dreams; we are coming alongside our new friends to pursue the same dreams – together!

Next next step is accountability. We’ll need to make sure that we all take the time to move on the next step:

  • Develop the plan
  • Call the friend, relative or connection
  • Do the research and move in the direction we know to be right

There seems to be some demand for another one of these sessions from some friends who weren’t able to attend. We’ll see what happens – who wants to spearhead the next one? Follow your dreams and make simple things like this happen!