A Blog That’s Not About Life Insurance

I’ve written about some awkward things. I’ve intentionally made the decision at different points to share with the general public things that most people keep under wraps. I’ve done this because I think it is valuable, because I think there’s a lack of important information out there that could free many people if only they had access to it. So because of this you’re familiar with how I catheterize, I’ve shared about sex, about the deterioration of my body, about the effects of steroids, and even some strangely not often shared info about MRI scans.

Well today I’d love to share some stuff with you that makes me feel even more awkward than any of those topics ever did. I want to share some private stuff with you about life insurance. The reason it makes me feel awkward is because I don’t want it to come off as me patting Jess and I on the back, because the reality is that we were just blessed to be given good advice at a young age and we were just foolish enough to take it. My hope is that I can share a bit of this part of our story and it will invite you into, what I believe, is a really exciting way to live (and die).

Let me also say quickly that I’m not a money guy. I couldn’t tell you much about interest rates, investment opportunities, or anything like that. It’s not my world and I won’t even attempt to fake it. If you want to message me about better life insurance options or something of that nature…please don’t. What I can say is that at a very early age (I think I was 22 and Jess was 21) when we found out we were having a child we chose to get term life insurance for both of us. Because we were young and both very healthy it was an incredibly cheap route to get half a million bucks for each of us if we died. The amazing thing is not that we got life insurance at a young age, but that we kept it all these years. To be completely upfront, we’ve always been poor. We’ve grown very comfortable not having much money and it’s turned into a way of life that we are ok with. It has allowed us to engage in the work that we want to do (church planting) because we’ve been able to work for virtually nothing (or at times, literally nothing). It’s freed our imaginations to create what has now developed into Grassroots Conspiracy because money was not much of a factor/inhibitor in its creation. So the amazing thing isn’t that we got it but that we continued to pay it all these years! (thank God that we did right?!)

Some credit needs to be shared with Dave Ramsey and his Financial Peace University class. If you’re not familiar yet with Dave and what they’re all about…get familiar. FPU was huge in challenging us to live in a way that allowed this reality to exist, it gave us the tools to live off little, it provided the inspiration to buckle down, and…well…it’s just good stuff!

But this blog IS NOT about you getting insurance (though if you don’t have it, you need to…especially if you have kids. It’s too cheap not to). What I really want to share with you is to ask what you’re going to do with your life insurance money. I never really though I’d have to answer that question, but in reality we all will at some point. Most people view that money as their own, they view it as their way to care for their own. And it is. And it should be. But if you buy into the idea that money, stuff, and all that jazz are temporary. If you buy into that crazy idea that stuff (even the good stuff) will eventually rot, that you can’t take any of it with you, and that stuff is here to serve you and not the other way around–then I’d suggest you really question how your life insurance is not only practically used but realistically viewed.

View it as a gift. View it as an opportunity. View it as a chance to make a difference, to leave a legacy, and to partner with those you love in seeing the world be transformed into its original purpose and intended beauty. Money is not evil (as some people mistakenly believe), money is an opportunity–one that shouldn’t be missed out on! One of the ancient practices of the Christian faith that I love is one of generosity. Jesus invites his followers to give up everything, but as a framework, as something to hold onto Christians use the term “tithe”. Tithing is a concept continued from Judaism (of which Christianity is a part) and it essentially means that you give away ten percent of what comes in to God. What would happen if people started giving away ten percent of their life insurance monies to just causes, to care for orphans and widows, to build wells, or to support non-profits among other things? Yes that money is intended to care for your loved ones when you’re gone, but there’s more than just financial support that needs to be thought about! When you invite your children to prioritize giving away a piece of what you have to care for others you are teaching them something that cannot be caught from you in any other way. Outside of practicing it they will never learn generosity from you unless you are generous! It just doesn’t work any other way. In inviting your family to be a part of tithing off your life insurance you are inviting them to a holistic worldview that is larger than themselves and will shape them in incredible ways (not to mention shaping yourself). Talk about caring for your family right?

For a poor kid* it makes me giddy to think about being able to intentionally give away $50,000. I mean, seriously, what poor kid gets to do that? What a gift!? What an experience?! How much fun would it be for you and your spouse or you and your whole family to sit down and dream about how, who, and where you could give money like that? What services are you passionate about? What families do you know that could be blessed by that? What causes need championing? You’ve now got resources to dream with? Your imagination can run wild all because you ponied up $25 a month for life insurance!

So this post isn’t really about life insurance as much as it is about learning to give, to leave a legacy, and seeing beauty emerge in our world in more and more ways. It’s an opportunity that I hope none of us miss out on!


* OK, poverty is so incredibly relative. Geez, I use the term very loosely here and am mostly using it for affect than anything else. I do not feel poor and have never really embraced that term because relative to the rest of the world I’m in the top couple percent I believe.

Heavenly Thoughts…

One of the most important tenants of the Christian faith is the hope of resurrection. The Jesus message brings huge value for today because it invites us into a story that challenges how we do life: beckoning us to a way of life that is marked by compassion for the outsider, hospitality toward the stranger, mercy toward the weak, dignity for all, love to each other, sacrifice as a means to life, and so much more. But without resurrection these ways of living come to a violent end marked by death–and end that is not fitting with the story being told. Because the reality, clearly, is that our bodies and this world are decaying. They are. But in the story of Jesus there is a promise of new life, a promise of a restored and renovated creation where everything will be brought back to its original purpose and intended beauty.

This is the day I live for.*

That day…

I dream of a day where my body won’t hurt. Where going to the bathroom won’t be a chore (yes in that day I’ll still be going to the bathroom because…)

I dream of a day where everything I eat will be exquisite and deliciously fresh. Where the food that goes into my body makes my body and my tongue satisfied beyond belief. Food will forever continue to be the gift God intended it to be but without all this extra jiggly stuff added on.

I dream of a day where fighting will end, where peace will not even be something we fight for because it will be our one and only reality. There will be nothing outside of an existence where people are not stepping on other people to gain, destroy, and control. Peace will control us.

I dream of a day where we laugh a lot and laugh often. Where the tears that stream down our face are from good jokes rather than sorrow, pain, or grief. I imagine that we’ll discover that God gets more of our crass jokes than we ever gave him credit for–that’s the day I dream of. (cards against humanity anybody?)

I dream of a day where everyone is welcome around the same table to feast on the aforementioned food. There is no exclusion based on race, economic status, sexuality, or politic. We will all feast together because we have all been invited to the same exquisite table to feast around, because we all belong, because…because we’ve all accepted the dinner invitation.

I dream of a day where creation isn’t falling apart. Climate change, hurricanes, hail storms, they will all be relegated to a place of grief over our past rather than a worry in our future.** Creation will be what it was forever intended to be except it will be more alive now than ever before. New colors, new trees, new animals will fill the horizon as we experience life unabated.

I dream of a day where our choices are not marked by destruction. We will no longer make choices that destroy ourselves, destroy our bodies, and destroy our hearts. Instead our choices will be marked by exploration, by intrigue, and by love and fascination of self and otherness.

I dream of a day where I will be married to my wife forever. We will live and walk in unity, keeping the commitment to each other that we so desperately do not ever want to break. We will continue our exploration of life, romance, and otherness together as we journey deeper into eternity.

I dream of a day where there’s time to read–where there’s always time to read.

I dream of a world where reality television has been unmasked for what it really is: cheap programing.

I dream of a day where orphans and widows have a seat of honor and are cared for with extra respect and dignity.

I dream of a day where i can ride a bike again.

I dream of a day where we still have cars. Better cars. Cars that don’t break down as often.

I want to dream more. I want to dream lots of things. I want to dream bigger than what I’ve shared above. And I know, (I’m banking on it), that my dreams won’t even touch the amazingly beautiful reality that we’re going to be invited to enter into one day…now that’s something worth dreaming about!


*  Though, if you know me and my wife and my family and the lives we try to live I hope you’ll know that I have not fallen out of the boat on this side! I have not given up on the truth that in living for today we have the gift of truly seeing and experiencing every day as a glimpse into eternity. I truly believe that we can bring pieces of that futur reality into today. So lets not miss that when I say that I live for that day because much of that day can be brought into today! (talk about good news right?)


**  Yes, in my future dreaming there is still a place for some grief and sorrow. We cannot live a new existence if we’ve forgotten who we are or where we’ve come from!

New Cars Symbolizing Death

We bought a car yesterday. A nice car. A car that I’d never buy. It’s a 2012 Jetta Sportwagen diesel. Jess and I would never buy this car. But we just did.

We buy junkers. We buy used Hyundai Accents, we buy old Chevy minivans with 100,000 miles on them, we buy cheap older cars. That’s just what we do.

But things have changed. Our old minivan is done. At 200,000+ miles the AC doesn’t work, the windows don’t roll down, one sliding door is permanently shut (because it’ll randomly open on its own while driving on the freeway!), the gas gauge doesn’t work, the brake lights do not work, the cruise control does not work, it needs new brakes and tires, and-oh did I mention-it’s got some engine and transmission work that needs to be done. So we knew we needed something soon. We also knew that when/if I die Jess would cash purchase a new car with her life insurance money. But I’m not dead yet…

So to make a short story shorter, in the end we realized that now was the time for me to be able to care for my wife by purchasing a car together that she was going to have to purchase on her own–to buy her “my husband is gone, I don’t want to worry about cars right now or for the immediate future, I just want to care for my children and recover” car. That “car” has good gas mileage (we hope to keep her monthly overhead costs low if/when I pass), it’s got to have space for children and their bikes/toys/camping trips/etc., it’s got to be a good quality car that’ll last her ’till our kids are in high school, and it’s got to be a newer car that won’t be breaking down often and thus demanding more of her time. She doesn’t care about bells, whistles, shiny things–just those practical things. That’s the car that we realized we must buy now. This week. Today. Ok, as it turns out, yesterday.

There’s just one problem…

I’m not dead!

That life insurance money is not there to fork over in cash for her ‘ideal’ car! How do you buy a car that you can only afford if you die? To be honest we don’t quite have the answer to that question. I won’t go into details regarding the deal we got on the car (though we got a good one thanks to an important connection) and I’ll honestly say that we’re still figuring out what it looks like to be able to afford it–but what I will say is that buying this car is messing me up. It’s messing Jess up. (and this is where I really want this blog to land)

Purchasing this car feels symbolic. It’s the beginning of a new life: a new life for a single mother who has lost her husband and has a new set of needs that demands a new type of car. It’s symbolic of me being gone and of her being alone. I almost feel like by purchasing this car I have given up on living! ‘Cause lets be honest, I’m not sure we can afford this car unless I die! I had better fork over that cash at some point during the life of this loan. Ha. When all was said and done at the dealership and we both had a moment to reflect we found ourselves honestly sad. What had we done? It wasn’t buyers remorse. No, it was the symbolism. We had just taken our first giant and tangible step forward into a post-Ryan world…and…well…it’s weird. I should probably have a better word than “weird” as a descriptor here. I’m sure real writers would use better words but at this moment it feels right. It just feels weird. It doesn’t feel bad because I know that at its core this is a moment where I was able to care for my wife in a very real way: I just freed her of having to do this whole experience on her own (and oh what an experience it was at the dealership!!). No, there was something beautiful about this stepping out together–but it was is very hard and very…weird. It feels weird to drive such a nice car–we don’t drive cars like this. It feels weird not drive a minivan anymore–we love minivans. It feels weird to call it my wife’s car–it’s always been “us”. It feels weird.

It is weird to continually try to figure out what it looks like to live in the tension of reality as it is and reality as we hope it to be. I hope that we end up having to restructure our loan because I miraculously don’t die. I hope that reality as it appears is not reality as it turns out. I hope to live and I know that God can bring this about. but. But. BUT I feel invited to step out in faith, to let go of any semblance of control by being ok with death. By being ok with preparing my wife for my death. By being ok with purchasing a car in preparation of my death. I don’t like it. It’s weird. It makes me sad. It worries me. I hate death. Death sucks. Death is the ultimate enemy. Buying new cars sucks. Car dealerships are enemies sidekicks. But (and there have been a lot of “buts” in this post haven’t there?!) my faith is in Jesus–not in healing, not in an easy life, not in a life that I expect but instead in the story he chooses to tell in and through me. If a new Jetta Sportwagen tdi is a part of that story…cool. Weird, but cool.

So…all that is to say…my wife got a new car yesterday.

Blaming God for Cancer

One of the questions I often get is “do you blame God for making you sick?” My quick and easy (for me) response is “no, not at all.” I don’t blame God for making me sick, I don’t think he made me sick, and as a matter of fact I think he’s equally sad as I am that I’m sick.

Hold on.

Before I dig deeper here let me make sure you’re fully aware that in no way am I going to make an argument defending God, defending the idea that if God has the ability to heal me and does not he is somehow culpable and guilty of killing me, etc. Some of you are raising your hands, shaking your fists, and demanding that God be put on trial (rightfully so maybe). Others of you are standing up, shaking your fists, and are making a list of bullet points to absolutely prove why God is just in killing me ’cause he’s teaching me a lesson (or disciplining me or what have you). Well let me say that I’m not going to please any of you because first off I don’t want to attempt to articulately figure all this out. Secondly I don’t believe that it’s my job to defend God. He can do that himself if he so desires. Thirdly, I don’t know if I’m able to make an adequate argument.


I don’t believe that God made me sick. One of my most foundational beliefs, something that everything else builds off of is that God is good. The clearest picture I have of who God is, is in Jesus. My belief is that when I see Jesus I am seeing God. Therefore if I want to know how God feels about sickness I look at Jesus. If I want to know what God thinks about humanity I look at Jesus. If I want to know what God would do at a party I look at Jesus. If I want to know about God one of the most clear ways is to look at Jesus…’cause they’re kinda one and the same. When I look at Jesus I see a guy who grieved over the brokenness of the world, who wept over death (to the point that he occasionally reversed it), and who didn’t seem to be satisfied with sickness (and healed accordingly).

Cancer is a reminder that this world is utterly broken. Things have spiraled out of control and continue to do so. War, hatred, sickness, disease, addiction, abuse, lust, and greed (among so many other things) fight to control our world and transform it into what it was never intended to be. These things, as we experience them, remind us that things are not as they should be, things are not right! And in no way do I have space to believe that God is the culprit. Nope. Instead, my belief is that God is the source of all things good, of love, of hope, of peace, of beauty, of sex, of joy, of kindness, of generosity, of gentleness, and of fresh organic strawberries. Those things come from God because that is who God is–he is good. Cancer is not one of those things. It does not come from God. Cancer is in opposition to God–hell on earth, if you will. God hates cancer because it is in opposition to what he is all about: life.

So do I blame God for my cancer? Absolutely not.

The question, though, that we’re all obviously stuck asking is “But God, why don’t you heal me of it?” If he is able to heal me and does not isn’t he still equally culpable? Let me throw out some random thoughts here. This isn’t an attempt to defend things fully, but rather a random collection of my own musings about this question that obviously plagues me from time to time…

  • At some point every single person is going to not be healed. What I mean is that even if I get healed now, at some point I won’t be…’cause at some point I’m going to be deader than dead. Whether it’s now or later it’s gonna happen. Healing is the ultimate bandaid, it’s only temporary.
  • I have absolutely no idea why one person gets healed and another doesn’t. I want to know why my friends eight year old daughter didn’t get healed from the same cancer that I have. Of all people little Hadley deserved to be healed–more than me and more than you. She was innocent and beautiful in every single way; she deserved healing. But she didn’t get it. And I don’t know why. If Hadley wasn’t healed why should I think that I deserve to be healed? Most likely…it has nothing to do with deserving it…right?
  • I feel complete freedom to be pissed at God, to tell him what I think. I’m pretty sure God can handle my anger. Just because I don’t blame doesn’t mean that I’m not mad that I haven’t been healed yet. There are certain things where anger is a completely appropriate response…and I think cancer can be one of them. And in no way whatsoever do I think that God gets mad if I express anger. Actually, as a matter of fact, I tend to think that God is pleased (maybe not the best word choice) when I am angry about things that he’s also probably angry about!
  • I try to realize and remember that I don’t know jack. I mean, seriously, what kind of perspective do I have in the big scheme of things? I think about my kids at Disneyland. They kept wanting to buy those big giant suckers that look really cool. But the thing is, they taste like crap and my kids hate them. Every time they buy one of them they regret it and wish they had bought something else. I know better than them. I do. I’ve got more perspective, I’ve got a better memory, I have more information…I just know better. I’m the dad. Ok, maybe that’s not the best illustration, but the idea that God knows better is important to me because if he truly is good (as my foundational assumption tells me he is) then I can trust that he’s not trying to screw me or those I love over. All of his activity is first and foremost motivated by love. always. (more than I can say for myself as a father or any other dads I know).
  • In his time on earth Jesus didn’t heal everybody. We read some of the spectacular stories of him healing somebody while ignoring the fact that he stepped over one cripple to get to another who then walked away on his own two feet. At times it had to do with the request made by the individual–but the reality is that there were many in Jerusalem and the surrounding area who remained sick, who stayed dead, and who Jesus did not heal. I don’t know why. But it’s true. And don’t tell me that it’s just a matter of faith. Don’t tell me that the only reason some were not healed was because they lacked faith–try reading the rest of the Bible and tell me that Stephen, James, and every single other apostle and leader and follower of Jesus lacked faith ’cause guess what? They all died! Some of them even brutally and tragically!
No, God never made a promise to heal me. I hope he does and I’m going to bug the hell out of him asking him to do so. But he didn’t make that promise. He promised me that I’ll always be loved. He promised me a new body that doesn’t suck. He promised me a restored world that isn’t broken. He promised me that I’m created in his perfect image. And he promised me that he’s faithful and will keep his promises. And he chose to let himself die to prove it.
Why do I not blame God? I guess it’s because over the years I’ve come to trust him. If you’re new to faith or the idea of faith I wouldn’t expect you to trust him like that necessarily. Trust is earned right? But I hope that my story, as your seeing it lived out, is inviting you to give him a chance. Let Jesus grow on you a bit and see if he doesn’t earn your trust eventually. It’s a scary thing to open yourself up like that, but it just might be worth it.

How to Create Dying Memories

So you’re dying and you want to make every moment count, you want to create amazing memories over your potential last few months, you want to cross things off yours or your families bucket-ish list, you want every single moment to be special and memorable. So you go to Disneyland…or at least we did are.

First off let me say that we’re having an amazing time. But secondly, and this is where I’d like to dwell, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Disney isn’t the problem–it’s as backwards to what we believe in as ever and as amazing and fun an experience as ever. The problem is that no matter how much fun you want to have, no matter how many amazing things there are to do, no matter how many people (surprisingly and in painfully gracious ways) give generously to allow you to do whatever your heart desires…you’re still dying of cancer. And we all know it. I know it. My wife knows it. And my children know it. We are not necessarily talking about it, but it’s there like a dark cloud. In fact, there have been a few moments when my wife and I realize that we seriously only found out and told my kids that I’m dying just a couple of days ago! It literally JUST happened. What this translates into is that my son Jones’ anxieties are at record levels (if you know him and the fact that he has an anxiety disorder you understand what this means), Jess and I are emotional messes, and India can’t function unless she’s sitting on my lap (on my wheelchair). The intensity is painfully thick…painfully.

So what do you do? How do you live in the tension between reality and ideals? Here’s what our meager attempt to allow this trip to be what it needs to be while at the same time trying to make it an epic experience in and of itself is turning out to look like:

  • No pressure. None. If we don’t hit up every ride, if we don’t hit up the best rides, if we miss out on something “important” we’re trying to remember that it. does. not. matter. Not one bit. The point is to be together. Translation: headed into day three we’ve done all of one ride in California Adventure, we haven’t seen any shows, and haven’t hit up three of the ‘big’ mountains yet. It kills Jess and I (who happen to be professionals when it comes to sucking the marrow out of DL)
  • Pretend that money doesn’t matter. We’re not excessive here (I’m not sure we’re physically able to practice this one considering it goes against every bone in our bodies!), but part of the freedom we’re trying to give ourselves and our kids is that they/we can order what we want for dinner. That might be normal for you, but rarely in my whole life have I ordered whatever I want. You share, you buy the smaller version, etc. Stuff doesn’t bring happiness and doesn’t healthily fill a void, but it is fun sometimes! So we’re letting the kids buy a few extra souvenirs, an extra churro here or there, we’re letting them buy those expensive balloons that we know will still be deflated by the morning regardless of cool factor and cost, etc. Translation: we’ve spent more than expected and I’ve eaten well. But lets not lie here, no matter how much you’re willing to spend…a grumpy emotional kid with texture sensitivities and high anxiety will not like anything you buy for dinner! One direction that we’ve chosen to take is to spend a bit more money on memory-type souvenirs such as artwork and photography…and I don’t regret any of this one bit.
  • Pay attention. Probably more than anything it’s this one that matters. The kids need attention, they want it, they deserve it, and as witnessed through their occasional outbursts they demand it. When it comes down to it they could care less about the rides or the food; what they want is our presence, they want to know that even though dad might be leaving he is still here right now. Translation: cell phones haven’t been out much. My legs are raw and have scratches all over them from kids sitting on my lap. Jess and I are fighting being grumpy because while the kids need attention we want distraction more than anything else! 
  • Be Gentle. This is where the rubber meets the road. Stress, intensity, Disney, death, sleepiness, and anxiety amongst other things leads to a context where we’re each needing more gentleness and grace from each other more than ever and yet are feeling less equipped to dole it out than ever before. If this trip is going to work (and it is) it’s got to be on the back of a gentle and kind spirit toward each other. Translation: I’m failing here painfully! Or at the very least I’ll have segments at different points of each day where I come to the awareness that I’ve failed miserably. Jess and I are working together, however, on gently reminding each other of our own intensity and lack of gracefulness in our responses to others (namely the two little ones we brought with us).
  • Be flexible…but remember to eat. Flexibility has been a huge importance…but what we learned today was that it can’t come at the expense of taking care of ours and the kids’ actual needs. There have been times that we’ve all been having such a good time that we forgot to eat a meal…which is fine unless your emotional rope is already a twisted, knotted, and tangled mess. Flexibility has allowed us to make it this far; flexibility coupled with proper self care will get us home in one piece. Translation: I think I already made this one.
Don’t be fooled, though, this trip has been magical thus far. No joke. Staying at the Grand California Hotel has been one of the most amazing travel experiences of my life. No joke. My kids love it and would often prefer to hang out on the hotel’s premises instead of going to the theme parks. When we showed up on the first day and greeted my children by name at the door only to quickly give India a signed photograph from a handful of Disney princesses she not only beamed and giggled like a school girl but then turned to Jess and said in the most whispered and sacred voice that can’t be captured via blogging “…mommy…” it was if it was all she could say. Beautiful. Watching Jones go through Grizzly River Rapids with his incredible schemes for never getting wet (that at this point have worked 100% of the time) is so funny and so ‘Jones’. Jess and I keep looking at each other and wondering how we were able to go on this type of trip. We feel incredibly lucky blessed.
I guess what I’m trying to capture here is that I think the collection of ‘last moments’ that we’ll be experiencing over the next 3-6 months (though I’m eager to be completely off in these projections! I’m looking forward to being made a fool when 35 years down the line I’ve got to pay all of you back who are/have helped to make this trip happen) will not be defined based on context, money spent, food eaten, or any other externals. Don’t get me wrong, they are incredibly important. They are, they are very important, hence the reason we’ve got a growing list of places that we would like to go to over the next few moments. But that simply provides a memorable context, they DO NOT define it. It’s the raw knees from kids sitting on them, it’s in the moments of grace and gentleness, it’s in the conversations that happen, the games that are played together, the laughing and crying that happens together, and the “ordinary moments” that will in the end create the extraordinary moments that we are all craving.
Translation: I’m making all this up and I can only say that I think this is what I think. This is my first attempt at all this (my first attempt at having 3-6 months to live). I’m hoping that this is just a trial run and that I’ll get another shot at this later (I’m shooting for having 3-6 months to live in 30 plus years). But until all that’s made clear I’ll just keep trying and keep typing along the way.
Thanks for reading.