Tag Archives: Suzanne Keller

Baptism ABC: D is for Dying

Our mortality is difficult to face. Even more difficult is to contmeplate the mortality of our children. Yet the ritual of baptism faces the reality of death head on.

When my daughter Suzanne was about two years old, she was diagnosed with mitral valve insufficiency, which means she had a small hole in her heart. The cardiologist told us that she would need open heart surgery to repair her heart. Such surgery required stopping Suzanne’s heart and placing her on a heart/lung machine while the surgeon closed the hole. Such surgery had become routine in the early 90’s, yet nothing is routine when it comes to one’s own child. The news rocked my world.

That night I stood over her bed as Suzanne slept. I prayed for Suzanne and her upcoming surgery. I prayed concerning my own fear and apprehension. Tears welled up.  Then I contemplated the promise God made to her in her baptism.

Baptism holds a bold declaration and even bolder promise. In his letter to Romans, Paul writes

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).

Paul uses the act of baptism by immersion, where the baptized person is completely submerged under the water. This immersion is a symbolic burial, just as Jesus died and was buried. In baptism we die with Jesus. Paul goes on to write that in baptism, “our old self was crucified with him (Jesus) so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6).” Baptism recognizes our mortality comes from our sin, our rebellion with God, and overcomes the power of sin by burying our sinful self with Christ. In stark terms, baptism declares us dead.

Christina and Suzanne at Jacks Baptism

Daughters Christina and Suzanne enjoy their nephew Jack at his baptism

But it goes beyond that declaration to a more glorious promise. Not only are we buried with Jesus, but, like Jesus, we are raised to newness of life. The central belief of Christianity is that Jesus rose from the dead. In baptism we are joined to his resurrection. Symbolically this is expressed in an immersion baptism when the newly baptized is raised up out of the water, breathing the new life.

As I stood over my daughter’s bed, contemplating her pending surgery, I remembered this promise. She was alive in Christ and was already experiencing the newness of life. Even if she were to die in surgery, she was Christ’s child and held by the promise of eternal life.

Her surgery went well and she recovered quickly (though, as with any trauma, she did have some emotional residue that was challenging for her and her family at times). Today, twenty years later, she is a vivacious, creative young woman who I deeply love. I am glad that she remains on this earth.

Lord Jesus, let me die to sin and walk in newness of life with you today.

Baker’s Vocation or Vacation

Vocation and vacation sound alike, but rarely overlap in meaning. Vocation means calling and is often used interchangeably with job or career. Vacation means freedom from occupation or time away from job or career. My trip to Coloraod was a vacation from my role as pastor, but it was also a chance to witness my daughter’s vocation.

Suzanne Smiles in Her Domain

Though she graduated from college with a creative writing degree, Suzanne’s current passion and love is baking. Two years ago she went to Estes Park with a college friend to seek summer employment. I remember the frustration in her voice when she phoned home to tell us, she could find no work in Estes, not even at McDonald’s or Subway. I was preparing to drive out and bring her home, when my friend, Michael Johnson, suggested she look at guest ranches in Colorado. A few phone calls later, she had an interview at Lane’s Guest Ranch. The interview led to a job as pastry chef and my opportunity to enjoy her baking and cooking.

Baking in the mountains was a challenge. The high altitude affected dough and the kitchen was often over 100 degrees. This summer they were short staff most of the season. Still I enjoyed her strawberry shortcake, whole wheat rolls, white chocolate Torte and blueberry pancakes. I also discovered a big secret to making delicious brownies is a cup of brandy in the batter (at least I think it was a cup; Suzanne is very secretive about her recipes).  Suzanne is now back in Minnesota, seeking a winter vocation.

On the drive home Suzanne reminded me of the significance of bread in the Bible. God told Adam that it would be “by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,” when God removed Adam and Eve from the Garden (Genesis 3:19). Thus the work for bread is part of the curse we endure as rebellious sinners. Yet God provided bread for the Israelites in the wilderness (Exodus 16) and for the prophet Elijah in his journey (I Kings 19).

Jesus transformed bread from Satan’s temptation in the wilderness (where it is a reminder of Adam’s curse) to the miracle of feeding 5,000 with just five loaves. Afterwards Jesus stated, “I am the Bread of Life” (John 6:35). Finally Jesus promised Holy Communion when we eat the bread that is his body (Matthew 26:26). To be a baker is to have a holy vocation.

How is your vocation a place for God to work?

Lord Jesus, thank you for all who sweat and work for my daily bread.

Hiking with Suzanne and with Jesus

I am looking forward to my two-week vacation, starting next Monday. The second week will be traveling out to Estes Park, Colorado, to bring daughter Suzanne home from her summer job as a pastry chef at Lane’s Guest Ranch . I am going out early to do some hiking and camping. The mountain trails in Rocky Mountain National Park stir my soul and challenge my heart, lungs and legs.  Mountain hiking is true Body/Mind/Spirit exercise for me.

Suzanne Climbing the Path

I often associate Suzanne with Rocky Mountain National Park, not only because she has worked there the past three summer. In 1996 my wife’s family had a reunion at nearby YMCA of the Rockies. Most of the week was cool and cloudy with frequent rain showers. One afternoon Suzanne and I took a special hike together. We climbed a small prominent peak near the camp and contemplated the vista. I remember the hike well, because I marvel at Suzanne’s ability to hike in spite of her open heart surgery five years before. She was a trooper and celebrated the climb with a shout of victory and a granola bar.

Climbing a mountain is one of my favorite metaphors for the Christian life. Our path in life is often uncertain and challenging. We may only be able to see the next few steps. We persevere through blown down trees or muddy streams. Life in Christ often has its challenges. The path may be steep and long. Still we trust the path will eventually lead us to our goal. As we climb higher our vista opens and we experience the joy and wonder of God’s creation and majesty.

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:7). The psalmist sang, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path” (Proverbs 119:105).

How would you describe your recent path with God?

Lord Jesus, be my guide this day as I seek to follow your path for my life.