Sunday, April 24, 2011


I'll cut right to the chase. He isn't just another person who makes a positive impact on the lives of others. He didn't just hang out for a while to teach us how to love. He is God in the flesh. He died for us.

Jesus claims who He is (John 10:30). Jesus performed miracles (John 14:11). Jesus led a sinless life (John 8:46). Jesus prophesied (Luke 24:27). Jesus resurrected from death (John 2:18-22).

Jesus was punished for our sins (Isaiah 53:5). Jesus substituted His life for ours (1 Peter 3:18).

I'm amazed by this. Are you?

Friday, April 15, 2011


This was the message I shared at my sister Kathy's service on April 14, 2011. This is for you, Kathy. May you forever be at peace and full of joy.


Kathleen Elizabeth Altepeter: April 16, 1971 - April 8, 2011.


I loved Kathy’s smile. When left unhindered by her hand that often made its way to cover her mouth, her smile would slowly spread across her face, light up her eyes, and move its way out to our hearts. I loved Kathy’s smile. I think we all did. In fact, I know it.

Kathy seemed to hide that smile. She’d guard it and protect it, even to the point of seemingly being ashamed of it … even when there was nothing to be ashamed about. When she did, however, allow that happiness to infuse joy throughout her body, Kathy’s smile would erupt into a giggle and then a laugh that was unforgettable.

We owned a Vista Cruiser station wagon when we were younger. It featured that little third row seat that faced forward and added an additional tier of excitement for my brother, Jeff, me, and Kathy as we ventured both within and outside of our hometown in our stylish ride. Yes, a Vista Cruiser station wagon: An exceptional vehicle. Fortunate enough one day to be the first to gain access to this third row, My brother and I barked out some of our typical nonsense to our sister who was seated in front of us. It made her break a smile. The smile turned into a giggle, the giggle turned into a laugh, the laugh turned into a snort, and the snort turned into a thick, elongated stream of snot. This unexpected, and unwelcome, mucus made its way toward me in a painfully “slow motion” whip-like movement as I sat anxious about and then astonished with the final outcome: It had come to rest directly across my cheek. Disgusted as I was, Kathy and Jeff and I continued to laugh uncontrollably. I mean, seriously, it was snot, and if snot’s anything, it’s funny.

Yes, Kathy knew how to smile and she knew how to laugh, and she knew how to leave a mark. The mark was sometimes disgusting and sometimes disturbing, like the snot. But, it was also sometimes painful and sometimes sad. Yet, it was also sometimes absolutely joyful. And, it was always and distinctively, her mark.

We remember Kathy’s smile and Kathy’s laugh because it was uniquely hers. She was special in her own way. She loved for her own reasons. She felt loved for her own reasons. And, she was loved for her own reasons as well as our own. We also remember her smile and her laugh because we didn’t always see it much. As she grew older, it seemed we’d see it even less. But we all knew it was there. And, it would come out from time to time. Those moments were special. We all have them. Keep them with you.

“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

We do. Kathy did. You do. We do. Kathy wasn’t simply born with this ability to love, and she didn’t just figure out how to do this by the example we attempt to set for one another. We were given this gift and example from a single source. Kathy wrestled with God like the rest of us do. However, she received His ultimate gift, and that gift is love. We may have felt her love in different ways for different reasons. We may not have always appreciated how we received that love. We may be wishing that we would have experienced that love in a different way or for a longer period of time. However, the good news is that the love we gave her and she gave us isn’t from us or from her. It’s from Him. And it’s always available, exactly the way we need it, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s always there … always.

Dead and alive again … lost and found (Luke 15:32).

From the time our parents, Jim and Pat, brought Kathy home, to the time they adopted her permanently into our family, to the time she left us, now just less than a week ago, Kathy was lost. Kathy was searching for something she struggled to find. Kathy didn’t fully comprehend what was already hers. Kathy didn’t understand the gift she was waiting for would never come from her journeys, nor would it come from her return; rather, it was to come from what was directly in front of her the entire time. Kathy isn’t any different from me or from you. When she finally let go, Kathy was found, and Kathy received what was planned for her long before she came to be. Long before any of us came to be. Dismissing this truth doesn’t make it go away. Thank God. Yes. Thank God.

Sitting with us this evening are Kathy’s children: Matt and Kylie and Michael. They are their very own selves: Beautiful, unique, powerful, defiant, strong, resilient, loving. Those characteristics didn’t come from nowhere. They came from God. They came from their mother. They came from Kathy. Kathy brought her children to us, she shared them with us, and now she permanently leaves them for us. Entrusting their care to this body of people, let us not fail her. Let us not fail Him.

When Kathy was young, she would play a particular song on a record player in her room. Performed by Debbie Boone, it was titled, “You Light Up My Life.” I guess I should be clear here though that she didn’t just play the song on a record player in her room. No, Kathy would play the song over and over and over ... and over again, until nearly all of us in the house would plot ways of destroying that record, and forever giving ourselves an escape from its endlessness. Interestingly though, we never did. I think we never followed through because deep down inside we actually enjoyed listening to it. And, even if that’s a bit of a stretch, then we most certainly enjoyed the smile and the happiness it brought to Kathy. Her joy brought us joy.

I loved Kathy’s smile. I think we all did. And now, I believe, she will be smiling every single moment for eternity. In fact, I know it.

I love you, Kathy. We love you, Kathy. We always have, we still do, and we always will.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Kathleen Elizabeth Altepeter
April 16, 1971 - April 8, 2011

How do you measure a life, counting it important among us, and knowing it really happened, and truly mattered?

My sister led a troubled life. She yearned for a happiness she could never seem to find. Mental illness and addictions followed her wherever she went, and unfortunately where she went was seemingly always toward those people and places she should have ventured far away from. Abused by her boyfriend, repeatedly and violently, the steps she needed to take to walk away never got her very far. Until, that is, she was led to her death in a car driven by her abuser. Drunk behind the wheel, he sped along with Kathy as a passenger until he lost control and she met a pole at a speed and impact beyond what the car and her fragile little body could handle. As he walked away from the accident and left her to die, the footsteps heard walking and even running away certainly weren't hers. However, the quiet early morning enveloped her as God embraced her and led her home. A final and painful chapter in a troubled life. An opening of a door to a new and everlasting one.

I've been working to gather her belongings at the various places she has been. A little bit of herself left a trail of sorts where I'm beginning to both find her and lose her. Again. Sifting through clothing, clean and unclean. Sorting through papers, a written history with more gaps than bridges. Pictures, sorted away in various fashion, showing who she valued the most: The children she left behind. Matt, 19; Kylie, 13; and Michael, 9 (who celebrated his latest birthday on the day of her death) were dearly and deeply and passionately and eternally loved by my sister ... even though she couldn't always do it in the way most of us are used to.

So, we gather as a family this week, attempting to determine how to pick up the pieces, put them together once again, and create a collage bound not by typical means, and not by time. But, most certainly, by love.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).

Friday, April 1, 2011


I'm still hanging out on earth, I'm still loving Jesus, and I still believe I'm spending eternity with God because I've accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. All this, and I purchased Rob Bell's book, Love Wins, yesterday afternoon. Then, I read it yesterday evening and this morning. I haven't been struck down, my faith hasn't been shattered, and I'm born again. Even now. Still.

Here are my points ...

1. Read the book. Don't let others, including myself, tell you what it's about. Let Rob Bell tell you what it's about by actually reading the words he wrote and the Scripture he quotes.

2. Have an open mind. If you've made up your mind about what it's about and what's wrong or what's right with it, then you don't have an open mind.

3. Trust in God. He's bigger than Rob Bell and this book. He's bigger than you. He's bigger than everyone.

4. Be humble. Rob Bell doesn't have it all figured out. Neither do you. I know what I deserve, and I know what I've gained, and I know why. But, I don't have it all figured out either.

5. Love.