17 May 2009

A Knight of Murder Mystery Dinner...at our home!

Tonight we shared with friends a mystery of 'who dun' it?' and had a blast!
We celebrated 2 birthdays as well...Merrilea's Dad's and John's!

07 May 2009

Lightning in Our Sky

Today in our evening sky, we had this wonderful spectacle!

06 May 2009

Misc Memories About Dad

Dad provided many great memories for us.

From tales of his upbringing in the Netherlands....to our own memories....

He and Mom would have their “Saturday Night Fellowship” … a house church in our home for years after Jesus transformed their lives. It was always encouraging to hear them pray, sing praises to God and to know they were doing right.

When we were younger...in grade school, Dad would always take us to the Dairy Queen in Weymouth or another place off Route 53 called ‘the Cows.’ I remember when Dad would work on a variety of projects like changing the oil in the family cars or on the lawn mower or some home-improvement job I remember getting in the car and running errands with him on Saturdays listening to Irish folk music on WROL and getting a soft-serve vanilla cone with 'jimmies' (chocolate sprinkles). He always used to say that if he could choose his profession again, he'd be an ice cream taste tester!

I remember, too, that we’d take trips to the 'Dump' in Braintree which is now a transfer station. I'd love to throw the trash down into 'the pit' with him and watch the big vehicles take the trash to the incinerator.

While we were still in elementary school, Dad made a go-cart for me and my siblings. I had fun while I made my brother push me around in it! (I was kinda mean about it! Sorry Bob!) We had endless fun riding around our dead-end street with it!

As my sister, brother and I got older, I realized Dad’s work consumed much of his time but he still provided avenues to initiate me to manhood, like allowing me to drive the family cars. One time, Bob and I were going for a ride near Nantasket Beach where Paragon Park used to be. We had just stopped in a shop for some candy and drinks. I had purchased a gallon jug of pink lemonade. As I was driving and drinking it, the gallon jug obstructed my view and I ran a red light...and totaled the car that collided into us. Luckily no one was hurt. Dad simply screwed shut the banged-up car door and let me drive it around! Thanks Dad! I loved taking rides going South along the Massachusetts shore line, playing my boom box in the back seat...Wayne Watson and Petra and a bunch of other Christian artists from the 80's. Dad’s permission and trust for me to do this will never be forgotten.

Dad got me hooked on classical music. He had dozens of records ranging from movie soundtracks to Hollywood musicals to symphonies, etc. We'd spend hours listening to them on our huge stereo system in front of our fireplace in winter, watching the snow fall while the chipmunks and raccoons raided our patio and trash cans.

He also got me hooked on driving around New England. We used to take Sunday drives going north through NH then west through VT then down through western MA back home. We got lots of maple candy, rock candy and real maple syrup. I'm hooked now on that stuff! We often took summer camping trips in the
KOA camp ground in the White Mountains of NH. Guess we won't see The Old Man in the Mountain any more! Dad took us up Mount Washington several times, too. We used to go hiking, too, up in NH around Franconia Notch State Park…like at the Flume!

When Bob and I were young teens, we'd go biking and fishing at
Pond Meadow in Braintree. One time we came home with 2 fresh water eal! Dad promptly cleaned and cooked them up. They were fantastic! I remember as a kid we'd also go ice-skating there when the pond froze over in the winter.

One thing that bugged us as kids was how Dad shortened his last name to “Akker” when ordering Pizza delivery. I FULLY understand his reasoning now, as living in Asia, our last name is not the easiest understand over the phone!

Dad’s involvement with the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International organization was another reminder of his life’s commitment to Jesus Christ. We’d go as a family, helping set up the meetings and listen to men whose lives were transformed by Jesus. His friends he hung around like Alex Canavan, Frank Dangora, Don Rocci, Fred Mayhue and others were a huge influence on him and on me. They were a constant reminder of what life is truly about…worshiping God through faith in Jesus…and the difference Jesus can make in one’s life. Dad’s generosity was evident as he and Mom had an open house…allowing several people to live with our family over the years….modeling for me that life’s possessions are the Lord’s to be shared.


Eating somebody's Easter candy....

One of the greatest memories I will always cherish is the fact that Dad let me take any of his tools down in back of our house to build a tree-house. Now I don’t actually know if he knew I took them or not! Our family land abutted some conservation land so there was a small forest behind our house, allowing us privacy and forest fun, like jumping off trees into piles of leaves and hammering boards on the trees to make the greatest hide-out a kid could have! Dad helped build the main 2 story structure of it but we 'remodeled' it year after year. I can still smell the brown dirt and forest - a clean, fresh scent.

Dad taught me about taking responsibility and having a good work ethic - not so much by saying things to me but by modeling them. Dad taught me how to take care of the pool in our back yard. I'd help him year after year until I ended up doing it on my own. We weathered lots of storms, too from that home...from ice and snow storms to hurricanes....I remember Dad taping up our sliding glass patio door during one storm. I remember how he'd spend some time at home working at the dinning room table on his work...writing math calculations...even writing the math on the table cloth!

I’m grateful for the many memories God provided in and through Dad.

02 May 2009

Dad's Gone Home - His War is Over

I write this to help me process Dad's death in hopes of reminding me of what's important in life...his and mine.

Dad was born February 7, 1935 and his earliest recollections were of the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands where he grew up. They took over the school he was attending. His own father fought in the Dutch resistance in the Air Force and Dad's childhood was unalterably shaped during those years. From what I gather, Dad's relationship with his own father was distant at best. Dad's immigration to the US in 1959 not only got him introduced to my mom but also to the Lord who snatched him out of the kingdom of darkness into God's own Kingdom. Yet, the war raged on. I guess that war motif really is an accurate word to depict life. I saw his battle, though for most of my life I was unaware of how that war tore Dad apart.

Over the last few months, I've read a few books which I recommend to you that speak about that war:
1. Francis Chan's "Crazy Love"
2. John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart"
3. Larry Crabb's "Inside Out"

All 3 of these books relate something very similar to what I've been reading in Scripture lately - as a man, my heart is meant to pursue loving God with all my passion and drive that God has given me...wherever that may lead whether it's in the work force, at home with the family, in ministry...wherever. I ought not to cower in fear over my weaknesses in order to retain some semblance of a noble public reputation. I am to be brutally honest with myself, my wife and others before God and to confess these things, recognizing I will be carrying around a real pain, a bundle of real problems that will not let go of me till I see the flip side of life in His presence. Even though Jesus Christ has set me free from the power and guilt of sin forever and I now operate by the Spirit of God at work in me, there is still something wrong that cannot be fixed till my life is over and I am in the very physical presence of Almighty God.

Yet how often do I - do we - remember or live this out?

In light of this, I still need to push forward with everything I have, letting go of childhood umbilical cords, letting go of my arrogance and self-centered wiring and the desire to 'act' life out instead of living it to the full. Embracing the gut-wrenching truth of who I am, who God is and forging ahead on the path laid out before me - pursuing loving God and others....all accomplished by His grace. As I pursue Him and love Him more, He gives more grace to love Him more and to love others more. It's a daily confession - a daily pursuit, not attained with one decision but by thousands upon thousands of decisions made one at a time.

Somewhere along the way - decades ago, Dad lost sight of this. He knew it but the lust of the flesh, the pride of life and the longings for the things of this world ravaged his soul. That war was evident to all who were close to him. Don't get me wrong, there are many, many good memories and real good times with Dad and I'm recounting them often these days with a deep sense of gratitude. There were times where he was able to rise above it and see the battle for what it was and pursue truth. Those times stand out brilliantly to me. I hope to add posts to this blog about some of them in the near future.

Yet, often, I think Dad saw himself as a defeated warrior who then lost his passion and drive slowly over the years so that what was left was a dullness. What pain must have carved away that passion and drive.

He actually had lived out the American Dream coming to the US with very little and built a life for himself as an accomplished electronic engineer. Yet in the late 80's and early 90's things began to crumble as the company he tirelessly worked for was bought out and sold leaving him struggling to make a living. His whole life's work blew away in the wind. I can't imagine what that meant to Dad.

Somewhere in this, he was still trying to pursue God but the internal war raged on unabated. By the mid 90's he had compartmentalized his life so much that he saved much of his energy for his public persona and almost shut off to those closest to him.

In those last few hours of conversation this month that we shared together, I believe he was able to articulate things in truth, though I know the weight of his predicament remained. I observed in him much regret along with the emotional struggle of losing the battle to cancer, making him dependent on others to do the very basic of life's activities. Though there was physical pain toward the end, it was not long. I'm glad it was short. Now his battles are over. No more regret, no more struggle. He can rest in his Redeemer's arms.

In his life Dad accomplished so much and taught me about life, about what it meant to be a man ...What I did not receive from him, I'm forced to ask myself questions so that I will remain a man who passionately pursues loving God and loving others...so that I will pass down to my son and daughters what God intended me to ...

I hope this will also be a motivation for you, too, who read this -

1. Who is it I'm living for?
Me, someone else or God
2. What am I living for?
My agenda, someone else's agenda or God's Agenda
3. What can I do today to demonstrate to God that I love Him?
4. What can I say or do today to add value to the people around me rather than tearing them down?
5. Am I settling for a charade of life, acting it out or am I truly living it with passion and drive? Where is that drive coming from?
6. Face the brutal facts of personal weakness, failure and sin with a gut-wrenching honesty and pursue God's redemptive plan that far supersedes these wrongs bringing a sense of hope that I can become more than I am today.
7. Don't go into battle alone.
Another man who can help me pursue the right with brutal honesty while continually offering hope in Christ that I can be better than I am now - inspiring hope for change; My wife to confide in, receive help from and to do battle in life together with (not at!).
These two are each a part of the Body of Christ. These are the best people-sources of real encouragement God has given.

A true leader recently shared a quote from Henry David Thoreau which sums up my thoughts, written 155 years ago that rings true today. It's funny, though as I look back at my public school education. I kept my English class notes on Thoreau as I felt there was some awesome truth he was saying I didn't quite understand. I think I get it now. It was literally 100 years after Thoreau penned these words that Dad was in the Dutch army, too.

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things... (Walden chapter 1)

... I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan- like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion. (Walden chapter 2)