Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Great practical advice on time with God

The church staff is reading Desiring God by John Piper.  It's one of the five books that have deeply shaped my life and understanding of who God is and what He wants from us.  We discussed this yesterday in staff meeting and I cannot believe I haven't posted this practical advice here before.  It's a little lengthy but oh-so-worth-it.  This from George Muller, who cared for orphans in England...
While I was staying at Nailsworth, it pleased the Lord to teach me a truth, irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know, the benefit of which I have not lost, though now. . .more than forty years have since passed away. 
The point is this:  I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord;  but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished.  For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as it becomes a child of God in this world;  and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit. 
Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, as an habitual thing, to give myself to prayer, after having dressed in the morning.  Now I saw, that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it, that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed;  and that thus, whilst meditating, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord.  I began therefore, to meditate on the New Testament, from the beginning, early in the morning. 
The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord's blessing upon His precious Word, was to begin to meditate on the Word of God;  searching, as it were, into every verse, to get blessing out of it;  not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word;  not for the sake or preaching on what I had meditated upon;  but for the sake of obtaining food for my own soul.  The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that after a very few minutes my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication;  so that though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. 
When thus I have been for awhile making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next words or verse, turning all, as I go on, into prayer for myself or others, as the Word may lead to it;  but still continually keeping before me, that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation.  The result of this is, that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful if not happy state of heart.  Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, very soon after, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the Word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man. 
The difference between my former practice and my present one is this.  Formerly, when I rose, I began to pray as soon as possible, and generally spent all my time till breakfast in prayer, or almost all the time.  At all events I almost invariably began with prayer. . . . But what was the result?  I often spent a quarter of an hour, or half an hour, or even an hour on my knees, before being conscious to myself of having derived comfort, encouragement, humbling of soul, etc.;  and often after having suffered much from wandering of mind for the first ten minutes, or a quarter of an hour, or even half an hour, I only then began really to pray
I scarcely ever suffer now in this way.  For my heart being nourished by the truth, being brought into experimental fellowship with God, I speak to my Father, and to my Friend (vile though I am, and unworthy of it!) about the things that He has brought before me in His precious Word. 
It often now astonished me that I did not sooner see this.  In no book did I ever read about it. No public ministry ever brought the matter before me.  No private intercourse with a brother stirred me up to this matter.  And yet now, since God has taught me this point, it is as plain to me as anything, that the first thing the child of God has to do morning by morning is to obtain food for his inner man
As the outward man is not fit for work for any length of time, except we take food, and as this is one of the first things we do in the morning, so it should be with the inner man.  We should take food for that, as every one must allow.  Now what is the food for the inner man:  notprayer, but the Word of God and here again not the simple reading of the Word of God, so that it only passes through our minds, just as water runs through a pipe, but considering what we read, pondering over it, and applying it to our hearts. . .  
I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow-believers to ponder this matter.  By the blessing of God I ascribe to this mode the help and strength which I have had from God to pass in peace through deeper trials in various ways than I had ever had before; and after having now above forty years tried this way, I can most fully, in the fear of God, commend it.  How different when the soul is refreshed and made happy early in the morning, from what is when, without spiritual preparation, the service, the trials and the temptations of the day come upon one!

(Autobiography of George Mueller, compiled by Fred Bergen, [London: J. Nisbet Co., 1906], pp. 152-154].

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Encouragement on a Tuesday

One of our first graders in church was asked by her mom the other day what she was most thankful for this year.  Her reply, without a hesitation:  "I am thankful, mommy, for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Now, what's cool about that to me as a pastor is manifold...

We baptized both of her parents not too long ago.  God has done an incredible work in their lives, drawing them to Himself over a period of time and through the love of our church and clarity of His Word.

Her phrase, "Eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord," is straight out of Romans 6.  Where did she pick this up (as I don't know a 6-year old who talks like this normally)?  Our AWANA ministry is helping her memorize and retain the Scripture.

She's connecting that modeling from mom and dad and the teaching from the church to her life.  And she probably can't explain the depths of the Trinity (neither can I wrap my brain around such a mystery), but she can articulate and no doubt knows that the kind of life she wants comes through trusting Jesus.

"Truly, I say to you:  whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child cannot enter it." (Mark 10.15).

So be encouraged on a Tuesday.  God is very much at work all around us.  In little ones.  In families.  In places where we may not normally look.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dude: don't wear the shirt

My family spent a couple of days at an amazing resort over Thanksgiving, the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas.  We had a blast.  But that brings me to a story...

A guy had on this shirt...

The problem wasn't the shirt.  The problem was that he wouldn't get in the water to pull his daughter out when she had fallen off the lily pads.

Here's the story.  The Queen and Bear were off doing tube slides together.  I was playing with Peanut, practicing swimming while my Monkey (pictured above) was doing the lily pads.  My back was to the struggling daughter until a dad jumped in past me and I turned around with my daughter in my arms.  I saw T-Shirt Dad saying, "You can do it," from the side of the pool.  She wasn't doing it.  She was really struggling.  Jumping Dad grabbed the girl about 1 second before the Great Wolf lifeguard got there.

The girl was fine, but Jumping Dad and I exchanged a look and a couple of words that expressed our disbelief that T-Shirt Dad would call from the sidelines and not get in the pool.

T-shirts might be conversation starters or thought provokers.  But following Jesus isn't about either.  It's about doing the right thing when it needs to be done.  Do justice.  Act mercifully.  Walk humbly.  Don't sit on the side of the pool.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


My family.  My Bible.  Friends.  Neighbors.  Neighbors who are friends.  Cooler temperatures.  Cars that drive.  Giggles from children.  Generosity from others.  Church that's family.  Choices that matter.  Parents.  Parties.  A good night's sleep.  A great country to call home.  Projects that help others.  Precious moments with one of my kids.  Golf.  Gotcha Day.  Parents.  Parenting (at least most days).  An incredible wife.  A more incredible Savior.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking a few days off...

Dear Devoted Followers and the rest of you,

I'm taking a couple of days off from blogging to spend time with the family and do the Thanksgiving holiday, etc.  See you next week and a very happy Thanksgiving to you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Calling Evil what it is: Evil

David Brooks, a NY Times columnist of some renown, is interviewed on Meet the Press.  In the brief exchange below, notice how clearly he speaks of evil.

We need more of his ilk in churches and media.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

No sermon notes today...

I'm not posting sermon notes from this Sunday because it was our "State of the Church" message and not really a teaching.  Thanks so much for hearing God's Word and seeking to obey it along with me.  I'm grateful to teach and look forward to starting the Advent Season.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Jesus can get you stuff at Walmart

If you purchase the Jesus gift card, do you get some sort of bonus?

No words.  Absolutely no words.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PLAN to be generous

Here's a blog post from another pastor named Kevin DeYoung.  It's posted in its entirety.  Worth thinking about this morning...

P – Pray for a generous heart.  Make people a priority over prosperity.  Don’t think: “How much do I have to give away in order to be obedient?”  Ask: “Give me opportunities to sow.”
L – Lifestyle cap.  As we earn more, we should give more. If you are wealthier than you used to be, have you done more to increase your standard of living or your standard of giving?
A – Accountability.  Set goals and find someone you can trust who won’t be threatened by talking frankly about finances. Sex and money–we don’t talk about them nearly as much as Jesus did.
N – No less than a tithe. Whether the Old Testament requirement is a binding prescription or not, I find it hard to imagine that Western Christians who have seen the glory of God in the face of Christ and enjoy great prosperity, would want to give less than was required of the poorest Israelite.  Statistics consistently show that Protestants give less than 3% of their income to their churches. A tithe, for most churchgoers, would be a huge step in the right direction.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Environmental Hypocrisy

I had a funny moment with the Ninja today.  He has a wall at his school called the "footprint wall" that exhibits ways he can help reduce the environmental footprint of his life, etc.  I'm certainly not Al Gore, but we do recycle and so forth.  I do enough not to feel guilty, I suppose.

So Ninja wants to put a HEB bag on the wall.  He cuts out the plastic HEB label on the HEB grocery bag and then...

wait for it...

wait for it...

...he throws the rest of the bag in the trash.  And it struck me just how funny that was.

And then I thought about all the times I fully intend to try to do one thing and just flat out screw it up.  I set out to do the right thing and it doesn't go great.  And sometimes I have the wisdom of a 6-year old who doesn't think through every decision and the implications thereof.

God grant me wisdom to lead my life, my family, and your church and help me become who you want me to be.  Amen.


Did I just hear you pray that prayer too?

We all need it, don't we?

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Family Update

A bunch of you have asked, so first of all:  thanks for asking.  It's good to be cared about and cared for as a family.

I took the Peanut up to Dallas to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children this past week.  The Bear and the Ninja stayed home with the Queen and went to school and did things that kids their ages do.  Yes, they got to go shopping for new jeans and so forth too.  I know.  I know.  Excitement abounds.

But I digress...

The point of the visit to Scottish Rite was to have an MRI done to see what was up with Peanut's arms, her muscles, her joints, etc.  Some may not know that she was born with arthrogryposis and has complications pertaining thereto.  So the question that we were hoping the MRI would answer is whether or not the tricep-tendon transfer surgery would work.

I heard a phrase I've never heard before:  evacuated anterior cavity.  Peanut has no bicep.  Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.  Zip.

The good news?  The surgery is a go.  Can you call surgery good news?  I guess so.  And in this case, we're praying for a good outcome which will mean she gets a whole new level of function that she's never had before.

Now the question that haunted me throughout this deal was answered by my completely awesome, Doctor of Physical Therapy wife:  how can a tricep tendon help us out because it seems that the triceps muscle would work against itself when it fired.

Ready for the answer?  You're not ready.  Get ready.

This particular tendon is innervated by a different nerve.  The rest of the muscle has another nerve completely.  Peanut will learn to fire that nerve only and it will contract her triceps but flex her elbow.


When my wife told me that, I literally thought, "I know who made it like that.  I know who did that!"  I knew that when God wired the body together, He knew that one day my Peanut was going to need a functional bicep.  So a little extra wiring and booyah.

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Quick Devotional Idea

Just a quick family devotional idea that we pulled off last week around the dinner table.

Question 1:  What gifts have we been given that we think are incredibly cool?

Each person gets to share, talk about the gift and why it's cool, etc.

Follow-up:  Where did those gifts come from?

Again, each person gets to remember how the gifts got there.

Scripture:  James 1.17 - every good and every perfect gift comes down from above, from the Father of Lights.

Application:  every gift is from God.  So just as we tell others thanks, we can live as a grateful people because everything is ultimately from Him.

Question 2:  What have we worked for and bought that we think is incredibly cool?

Again, sharing.

Follow-up:  Where did our money to buy those things come from?

Again, sharing.

Scripture:  Deuteronomy 8.18 - the ability to make wealth is a gift from the Lord.

Application:  even when we get paid, it's a gift from God.  So even then, gratitude is an appropriate response.

Whether we earn it or someone gives it to us, everything is a gift and God deserves our thanks.

(You can also do this over two nights...)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sermon Notes from Sunday 11.13

Here are this week's sermon notes from Philippians 4.10-23.  We finished the book of Philippians and it was a tremendous study.  To hear the sermon audio and get these notes in PDF, visit  You can also get the sermon audio on iTunes via our podcast.

Contentment, Christ and Our Credit
Philippians 4.10-23

Contentment (v.10-11)
  • Defn:  State of satisfaction of the soul despite circumstances.
  • Everything in our culture pushes us away from contentment.
  • Satan continually feeds us lies to keep us from contentment.
  • The Truth:  we deserve hell and Jesus has saved us - everything else is bonus.

Christ (v.12-13)
  • The secret of contentment is Christ. 
  • In abundance:  Christ has strengthened me to work, earn, and save.
  • In need:  Christ is giving me strength that food and freedom never could.

Contentment can birth generosity (v.14).

Credit (v.15-23)
  • We provide for the ministry of others (v.15-16). 
  • We invest in eternity (v.17).
  • We meet practical needs (v.18).
  • We worship the Lord (v.18).
  • We receive what God supplies (v.19-20).

Friday, November 11, 2011

Snakes are Scary: I hate Xmas!

And yes, I typed "Xmas" on purpose...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Father's Heart

I recounted yesterday the story of an encounter with Child.  You can catch the backstory there.

The way the story ends (for all concerned, especially you grandparents) is Child making the choice to do the right thing.  But there's some good stuff that happened in between the cliffhanger yesterday and the sentence written above.

My heart was breaking.  It really was.  To think that Child could try to pay me back was both offensive and saddening.

It was offensive because I didn't give Child the backpack and lunchbox because I expected something in return.  I did so because I loved the kid.  How dare Child impugn the character of my love by thinking I can be paid back by money.  So I said, "The way you pay back love is love."  That's a quote.  You can write that one down.

It was saddening because I could afford to buy Child a thousand lunch boxes and backpacks.  But what I wanted was a confession, some humility, and the restoration of the relationship.  So I reached out and hugged Child, letting the tears from sweet cheeks that I've kissed many times fall on my arm.

And I think that's when the brokenness set in.  Smack in the middle of my embrace of someone who was so wrong.

And all the sudden, I knew what it felt like for God's kindness to lead me to repentance (Rom. 2.4).

In the embrace of someone who is so often so wrong, there's the Father's heart.


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Atonement by Sacrifice

I had a great lesson in parenting the other day which I will gladly share because I'm sure you can all learn from my parenting expertise.

I was in the car with one of my kids (who shall remain nameless, lest we trade this one for a player to be named later and shall heretofore be known as Child).  Child threw an absolute fit.  It happened because dad saw Child make a mocking face - think:  after someone says something and they do that parroting thing back with a sarcasm written all over their face.  Bad move.

After my comments about how ungrateful Child was being, it broke loose.  There were some things at work that went into effect immediately...

  1. The relational distancing between Child and dad.  Moving over in the seat.  Huffing and puffing.  Folded arms.  You name it.  Present and accounted for.
  2. The pride which won't let me admit I'm wrong even though I know I probably am and is keeping me from getting right with the person with whom I need to get right.
  3. The atonement by sacrifice of giving back my lunch box and backpack so dad can sell it and get his money back because it's better than me humbly saying thanks.
I don't know about you, but I recognized those immediately because I do them in my relationship with God.  I distance myself.  I soak in my pride.  I try to make sacrifices to get God off my back instead of humbly coming to Him.  


I recognize that presentation because I am that person.

And here's a great reminder for me (and maybe you too).  There is a sacrifice that makes me right.  But it doesn't come from me.  There's only one way to be made right with God and it comes through Jesus.  No amount of backpacks sold or lunch boxes sold will make up for the debt.  No amount of pledging to do better next time and trying harder will get it done.

Only faith.

Only faith in Jesus.

Only Jesus.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Review: Bohoeffer by Metaxas

Okay, another few words on a biography I read lately.

Eric Metaxas wrote a biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer called Bonhoeffer:  Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  Weighing in at a substantial number of pages, it's a long read but a good one.

The short:  Bonhoeffer was a brilliant theologian and professor and pastor in the late 1920's and 1930's.  As the son of a well-to-do family, he had access and the ability to stand against the rise of the Fuhrer and the Nazis.  He did so, even to the point of participating in an assassination plot.  He was eventually caught and executed in 1945 a few days before the camp where he was held was liberated by the Allied Forces.  In the midst of that, he had underground seminaries running and wrote two Christian classics, The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together.

Metaxas caught a lot of grief for this book from those who want Bonhoeffer to remain a more liberally leaning, neo-orthodox pacifist.  I don't know everything about the man, pastor, martyr, prophet, and spy, so you need to read what I'm about to write with that in mind...

I have no idea how the author caught so much grief.

Metaxas used multiple quotations from personal letters and other writings, including journals.  He had quotations from sources that knew Bonhoeffer.  It seemed every page had some sort of block quote from someone about something that was happening, and most of them were quite extensive.  Either he jerked absolutely everything out of context or others had Bonhoeffer painted in Impressionism instead of Realism.  If someone can prove something different, please contact me.  I'd love to hear it.

I don't think you can (or should) go to the ends that some would want, making Bonhoeffer a white southern Republican Evangelical.  He was a German.  He was more or less neo-orthodox.  But he sure didn't seem like a liberally leaning pacifist.

He was involved in a plot to assassinate a head of state, after all.  I don't see Gandhi getting in on that action.  And he didn't get swept up into it - he thought about it, prayed about it, calculated it, and participated in it.

The narrative did seem to get a little effusive at times.  I'll give the critics that.  But the rest of it was just plain good.  It was well-told.  It seemed to be well-researched.

I have a friend who is a Grade A history professor at Baylor.  I asked him about the book before I dropped my money on it.  He said, "Well, Trent, I'm sure you won't be the worse for reading it."

He was right.  I wasn't.  You won't be either.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Half the Sky - a worthwhile effort

My wife and I sponsor a child through Half the Sky Foundation, founded by Jenny Bowen.  Here is the video showing a brief clip of their ministry and work.  If you're looking to be involved with orphan care that's not direct adoption, HTS is a great option.

We owe a lot to HTS because they took care of our Peanut when she was in the orphanage and in need of a great amount of care.  We're fans.  You'll see why...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sermon Notes from 6 November 2011

Here are the sermon notes from this Sunday's sermon on Philippians 4.8-9.  You can find these notes in PDF and the sermon audio by visiting  You can also find the sermon audio on iTunes via our podcast.  Both sites should have the files by midweek.

Think and Live
Philippians 4.8-9

Transformation is an inside-out process.
  • Renewal of the mind is its method (Romans 12.2).
  • We are barraged with ideas, images, and information – but do they renew our mind?

Objection 1:  it’s not affecting my life because it’s only “entertainment.”
  • It’s hard to condemn what you enjoy.

Objection 2:  it’s not affecting my life because I can discern the difference.
  • But advertising works and Satan works even better.

Objection 3:  it’s not real life to go through my day thinking about the Bible.
  • Christianity is the most real-life religion on the scene.
  • In fact, Christ doesn’t want you to withdraw – you miss a lot and lose the mission. 
What you behold is what you become.
  • We discipline ourselves so that we dwell on Him.
  • When I encounter the opposite, I envision the good.

Practice what works.
  • Teaching:  what I have learned, received, and heard.
  • Modeling:  what I have seen.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Snakes are Scary: Press Secretary's and Misquotations

In the land of politics, all is fair game.  So when the President of the United States blisters the Republicans in Congress for passing a bill affirming the use of "In God We Trust" as a national motto instead of working on his jobs bill, you can expect some controversy.

President Obama said, "I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.

All fine and dandy, right?  Whether or not you agree with the approach, you can agree with the sentiment that God's not going to magically fix the economy without our participation.  We have some debt-slashing and spending-cutting to do.  There might even need to be higher taxes so our grandkids aren't crushed under today's decisions.  Whatever the solution, you get the sentiment.

Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, picked up on this theme in a presser later that day.  In it, he said, "I believe the phrase from the Bible is, 'The Lord helps those who help themselves.'"

Uhm.  Awkward moment here.

It's not in the Bible.  

Not anywhere.  Nowhere.  Not in Genesis.  Not in Revelation.  Not in any book in-between.  Nope.  Not present.

Present in culture?  Yes.  A "phantom teaching" of the Bible?  Yes.  Actually representative of anything the Bible has to say?  Not at all.

The message of the Bible is very clear:  God helps those who cannot help themselves.

That's what makes salvation so stunning and grace so amazing.  It's also what makes pseudo sayings like this one so scary.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cynicism and the Transformation of Others

A brief warning shot across the bow of all of us cynical types (me, the guiltiest of all - and that's no humblebrag).

It can certainly sound prophetic to speak, rail, fuss, preach, teach, declare, or narrate against emotional experiences in the Christian life and how they don't make up the commitment that Christ requires.  I will say from the outset that if you say such things, you're absolutely right.  But that's not the whole picture.

It's true that some "Christians" (whether or not they truly are is, at best, a guess of mine and certainly not a definitive statement) live like Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine.  In modern Christianity, they go from one experience (conference, camp, DNow, retreat, getaway, worship experience) to the next and live on the momentum provided by those things.  When the momentum runs out, they must quickly jump on the next vine to keep making "progress."  Again, whether or not they are is a question of the fruit of their lives.

But to throw out the baby with the bathwater is silly.  God has used and still uses and probably will use in the future experiences to shape and form us.  Indeed, the God we encounter in worship has ordained that worship to be a transforming force in our lives.  Yes, it might not be God we're worshipping but instead our emotions or desire for experience.  True.  But it might be.  And if it is, God changes the worshipper.

I've written an earlier blog about how the affections of the soul can promote the allegiance of the heart.  It is true.  We don't need to be cynical about it.  We can (and should!) rejoice in it and challenge people to bear fruit from it.

And always help those who are weak and in doubt, showing mercy without fear, snatching them out of the fire (Jude 23).

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Shopping Cart Consequences

Marion Salmon Hedges is a real estate agent in Manhattan, a wife, and a mother.  She's also in a coma.

She's in a medically induced coma (at least at the time of my writing) because two 12-year old boys thought it'd be funny to steal a shopping cart from Target and push it off a 4-story roof.  According to reports, they thought it was funny that they hit someone.  While working their way through the legal system, they were telling jokes and laughing.

And I read that story and thought about Paul to the Galatians:  whatever a person sows, that will he also reap.  Every action has a consequence.  There is no private sin.  Never.  Not ever.  Never.

The lie of the "private sin" is pervasive in our culture and is killing us, especially our men.  There are always ripple effects that touch places we never anticipated.  So see sin and kill it.  Don't entertain it.  It's never "just in your mind."  It may remain there for a while, but it's simply waiting to grow big enough to kill you (cf. James 1:  sin, when fully grown, brings forth death).

But that's just me thinking thoughts...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Steve Jobs' Eulogy by his sister

Posted in its entirety from the NY Times.  Original link is here.  I have no idea what his final words mean, but I hope they were for his good.  

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.
Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.
By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers. When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild. This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of a Dickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.
When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif.
We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers.
I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter.
I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco.
Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.
I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.
Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.
That’s incredibly simple, but true.
He was the opposite of absent-minded.
He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.
When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited.
He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day.
Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.
For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.
He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age.
His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”
Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.
He was willing to be misunderstood.
Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.
Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.
Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?”
I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”
When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.
None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.
His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.
Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children. Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.
Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.
When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”
When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.
They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.
This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there.
And he did.
Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning.
Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.
Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?
He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.
With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun.
He treasured happiness.
Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.
Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.
Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.
I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.
Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes.
“You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other.
He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.
I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.
Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.
One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbid everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially.
I told him: Steve, this is special treatment.
He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”
Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face.
For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to.
By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.
None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.
We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.
I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.
What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.
Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.
He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”
“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”
When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.
Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple.
Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.
His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.
This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.
He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.
Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night.
He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.
This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.
He seemed to be climbing.
But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.
Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.
Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.
Steve’s final words were:

Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on Oct. 16 at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University.