1 Sam 20:3 “Yet as surely as the LORD lives and as you live, there is but a step between me and death.”

As the past week for our family has progressed, these words of David have been our reality. As our Brazilian matriarch battled for her life through the waging war of cancer and phenomena assaulting her lungs, there has been a looming shadow. This darkened cast shadow which carried with it the words, ‘there is but a step between her and death’ finally brought the curtain down on a life well lived like the ending of a magnificent theatrical play. Sadly, for the family there was to be no encore, however, Marlene Leonart has just stepped into the best ‘production’ of all time, with Christ the Lord being the Director of both her life here on earth and her new life in heaven. The stage is set and He has a new role for His daughter to play.

Marlene always had a proclivity to enjoy some of the more flavourful and fancy things of life. She liked things to have a hint of finesse and flair. When I first met Marlene I was a twenty-year boy that didn’t speak a lick of Portuguese and she never really spoke any English. I remember the day that I heard her say some English words for the first time in my presence. I had to ask Luiza to confirm that what I heard was indeed, “Let’s kick it up a notch”. You can imagine my surprise at hearing such a phrase come from the lips of someone I never knew spoke English. It was explained to me that she was a big fan of Emeril Lagasse. “BAM”, now it made sense. What I didn’t realize was that I was about to enter into a new epoch of time that was going to include the ‘renewing’ and ‘expanding’ of my palate. I don’t have enough room in this tribute to name all of the dishes she loved making for me, but to know that my father and I will not receive another fruit filled sponge cake, or that I will never again have the rump steak, stuffed with a large carrot and sausage has now become a disheartening reality. She knew the foods that I liked and she went out of her way to prepare them for me and she also knew the dishes I ‘highly discouraged’ her to cook for me. The family know which three dishes they are. (I say with a cheeky grin).

In recent years we have been blessed enough to travel together as a family. One of Marlene’s greatest desires was to be able to travel to Portugal. A couple of years ago this desire became a reality as we spent some time as a family in Libson, feasting, I have to gluttonously admit, on Pastel de Nata. Oh, how we enjoyed those sweet delicacies. I remember taking her to the North-East of England and seeing her fall in love with all the free roaming sheep on the undulating English hills. We would all have a giggle every time we would have to either slow the car down or completely stop so that she could get a better look at these wandering lambs. However, the greatest moment of laughter both for Marlene and us was in Venice. If you have ever tried stepping into one of these perilously teetering gondolas, you’ll understand that they are not the easiest to board. Add to that the fact that Marlene never learned to swim and you have created a situation that invokes plenty of nervous laughter. But oh how she loved being on the gondola. Holding onto her bag (one of many, but that’s another story) she was thrilled to be ‘chauffeured’ around the watery streets of Venice as she took in the unique environment and history that presented itself at every turn. When Marlene smiled and laughed you could see the little eight-year old girl shining through.

Marlene was also a woman of God and woman of the sanctuary. She had the utmost respect for the Holy ordinances of Christ. Church for her was a place to praise the Lord, receive from Him and a place to seek out healing. She lived her life ‘in the church’ and was always willing to open up her home for the ministry of the Gospel and of course cook a great meal for any guest. Such was her reverence for the things of God inside the church, she took it upon herself to bless I.C.I. church with its first communion platter. This was something she felt that the Lord has asked her to do. To this day the church still serves communion from these plates.

marlene-1After Jesus, her biggest love was her family. She loved her daughters unwaveringly and the bond that she created with her three princesses was strong. It is the strength of this bond which will make the process of her parting difficult for her daughters. Yes, they are losing their mother but they are losing a mother who stood by them in all that they did. She stood beside and loving served her husband, who at this moment in time will require our prayers as he navigates these new turbulent waters, and she also was a loving sister to her sister and brother. The void she leaves is large. But, dare I say, that nothing brought the light of life and joy to her eye quite like her grandchildren? What a grandmother she has been to all her grandchildren. They will forever have memories of pool parties, copious about of sweet treats and a plethora of kind and lovely words spoken to and over them. Being a grandmother was one of her greatest joys and the all the grandchildren will miss her dearly.

This week as we have walked this path together as a family we have been overwhelmed with memories of what once was and what now will cease. On my travels over the past few years I know that her prayers have sustained me, and even more so in some of my more recent ‘interesting’ travel locations. I will be forever grateful for those prayers. On my travels I started to collect ‘county wall plates’ for her and she would hang them in her kitchen. To know that she will not see in person the last plates I got for her and to know that this time of us collecting plates together has come to an end, is one of those ‘little-big-things’. Little in the sense that they were just wall plates, but big in the sense that it was ‘our collection’.

Now that the last grain of sand in her hour glass has fallen and her presence with us is no more, comfort is what we all seek. This week at OneHope we had our Half Day of Prayer and a line in a song that was sang ‘struck a chord’ in my spirit that I had to immediately text it to Luiza. The lyric was, “I am surrounded by the Arms of the Father; I am surrounded by songs of deliverance”. I felt that God was telling us that these were and are Marlene’s thoughts on her current state. God is so good. He knows just how to speak to us in times of need.

Knowing her love for the Lord softens this temporary sorrow and elevates our eternal joy.

Forever your Son-In-Law,


The Story of a Great Journey…

Matthew 2:10,11; “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshipped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh”. 

Don’t you just love starting a new journey? I remember as kids how excited we would be sitting in the back of the car playing our imaginary musical instruments as we waited for our destination. I have often wondered what the Magi were thinking as they started out on their journey to find a King. Full of excitement and a knowledge that something great was just ahead. 

After seeing the Star in the sky that would guide them to the birth place of this King we are told that they ‘rejoiced greatly’. What a great journey this was turning out to be for them. Although it was a long journey and many scholars suggest that Jesus would be around 2 years old when they arrived in Bethlehem; this must have been a journey where every step was worth it’s ‘weight in gold’. Surely the Magi could not be blamed if they had been looking for a palace to find this King, after all where else would a King be born. A palace of some grandiose proportion would be fitting, and yet, it seems that they find the Child with His mother in a regular Judean house. The place that they found the Child was obviously not important to the Magi, just look at what was really in their hearts when they eventually arrived at the birth place of Jesus. “They fell down to the ground and worshipped Him”. These wise men, were just that, wise. They weren’t bothered where this star led them, as long as it led them to the King. The Bible does not say that these men fell to the ground in the presence of Herod, even though he was at the height of his ‘royal grandeur’. Worship belongs to God and God alone. Man, angel or demon does not deserve nor warrant our worship. After worshipping Christ they presented their treasures. Notice that they humbled themselves and laid themselves down before presenting their gifts. It is the same for us. Every man must humbly submit himself to Christ first and when we have done this we will have no problem laying down our treasures before him. After all, the crowns that we receive when we move on into eternity will be most glorified at His feet. 

When was the last time we fell to the ground and worshipped Him and did what these wise men did? This should be something that we should do more often, not just at Christmas time when we are reminded of these scriptures, but throughout the year. We might be surprised at the dreams, visions and words that God will give us when we humble ourselves like the Magi. Who, let us not forget, also  received divine intervention from God about their journey back home. 

Never be ashamed to fall on the ground before your maker.

Soccer + Scripture #CloseControl (Part 6)

This post was originally featured on Experience the Story (xts.onehope.net)

I have coached my son on multiple soccer teams since he was 3 years old. As someone who loves the sport, the next greatest thing to playing yourself is teaching others how to play the beautiful game. Seeing faces light up as they discover and master a new skill is a thrill for any coach. One of the most important technical skills you can help a young player develop is how to have close control of the ball using both feet. Many players today rely on their dominant leg. When they are forced to use their weaker leg, their control falters exposing their vulnerability and often forfeiting the ball to the other team.

To build up control and endurance, I start every practice with the same two drills: “Walk the Dog” and “The Snake.” In “Walk the Dog” we set 4 cones in a 20×20 foot square and have each player run with the ball around the square—first in a clock-wise direction, and then the other way. Players are to turn each corner as close to the cone as possible without losing control of the ball. I call it “Walk the Dog” because running with close ball control while turning corners is much like walking a real dog. You keep your dog on a leash so he doesn’t run away. We do the same when running at speed with the soccer ball. The goal is to keep the ball as close to you as possible, like it is on an invisible leash, so that you don’t lose that which is the most precious to you.


These foundational skills are necessary to master “The Snake” as well. In this drill, several cones are placed in a straight line with a 3 foot gap between each one. Players then have to “slither” their way through the cones using the close ball control they have learned from “Walk the Dog.” They are forced to use both feet as they slalom from right to left. With every successful completion, we make the gap between the cones smaller and smaller to increase the challenge.

Some of the greatest dribblers in the modern game have all played for Barcelona: Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Neymar Jr, and Messi. All of these great players were able to run at speed and twist an opponent into something that resembled a human pretzel, all while maintaining the closest possible control over the ball. Neymar Jr.—in a game against the Argentine team River Plate—slalomed his way past 5 players before being cynically wiped out before he had a chance to shoot. In a game against Getafe, Lionel Messi went past several players at breakneck speed to score one of the greatest individual goals of all time. And it doesn’t take much YouTube research to find countless mesmerizing videos of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho manipulating the ball in close control mode while traveling the pitch at full speed.

Watching these phenomenal players guard the ball with exceptional skill drives home the point of “keeping that which is most precious close to me.” I am reminded of what is the most precious thing to me—Jesus. In his epistle, James states that if you “draw near to God then He will draw near to you and cleanse your hands and purify your hearts” (James 4:8). There is a great reward for keeping God close to us.


As we raise our children to be strong in the Word of God, we would do well to take the soccer drill of “Walk the Dog,” pivot it to spiritual terms, and teach our young that they must also keep Jesus close to themselves as they grow.

The human propensity is to keep that which you deem the most valuable as close as possible. The question is, will that be Jesus or something from the evil influences of the world? Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave us the Great Commission and capped it off by saying these words, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world, Amen” (Matthew 28:20).


Here are a few easy memory verses to get started:


**This was a guest blog post from the OneHope Blog. To see more excellent posts on raising kids to be strong in the Word of God, visit; Experience the Story

Soccer + Scripture #Giantkillers (Part 5)

This post was originally featured on Experience the Story (xts.onehope.net)

Over the last century, many terms have become a part of soccer’s unofficial lexicon; phrases that perfectly describe situations that any avid fan of the game would understand. For example:

  • “It’s a game of two halves” –if your team has played terribly in the first half, there is a chance of redemption in the second.
  • “He’s got chalk on his boots” – this particular player is an old-style winger who loves nothing better than to run the length of the field and cross the ball from the wide positions.
  • “Punching the Old Onion Bag” – this has nothing to do with vegetables! Soccer fans know this as a reference to scoring a goal.

The game is littered with colloquialisms, and one of the most recognizable is the term, “Giant Killers.”

This phrase has a special place in the vocabulary of soccer. When a “small” team beats a “big” team in a knockout style competition, news sources report the team as, “Giant Killers.” The papers and TV love nothing better than a good “giant killing.” Over the last century there have been many of these slayings for reporters to publish:


Everyone gets excited when the underdog pulls out a win.

Ask any “Giant Killing” team and they will tell you that, yes, they may have ridden their luck a bit, but what took them to victory was having a game plan. Most underdogs know that they can’t match their opponent’s strengths, so they devise a game plan that identifies their opponent’s weaknesses and plays up their own strengths. Knowing their identity as a team and being confident in their strengths allow them to stick to the plan and slay the giant.

Long before the game of soccer was invented, Jesus talked about the importance of having a game plan to succeed against unfavorable odds.

“What king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:31)

A game plan and belief in your own strengths are paramount in “giant killing.” The young shepherd boy David knew this. Goliath, the giant from the city of Gath, was a huge intimidating foe as he came out day after day for 40 consecutive hate-fueled monologues against the people of Israel. Dwarfed in size, the young David used what strengths God had given him to beat the giant. Confident in his slingshot skills, David exploited the giant’s weakness by drawing the giant into close proximity where he could more easily be defeated.

Just like any giant killing team and the shepherd David, we will all experience facing a giant. Only by knowing who we are in Christ will we truly be victorious. Even Jesus needed to know His identity to be prepared to do what lay before him.

The best way to help our children become “giant killers” is to bolster confidence in their identity by immersing them in Scripture’s truth. Surround them with verses declaring that they are loved by God, unique in His eyes and that they have been given specials skills and strengths that can overcome any giants they will face—with the help of the Lord.

**This was a guest blog post from the OneHope Blog. To see more excellent posts on raising kids to be strong in the Word of God, visit; Experience the Story