A friend of ours died this past week.
Mike Pineda. In his sleep. February 14. 65 years old. Healthy.
It’s been a couple of years or more since we’ve seen him, but his sudden and early passing has left us stunned and clinging to God for comfort and hope.
I didn’t know Mike (or Julie, the love of his life) until 2016. There was an email of mine, in 2009, that got forwarded to him for counsel about a TCK (third culture kid) issue (we were living in North Africa at the time). Just found that email today…don’t remember the situation now.
Dave had actually met him years before. At a pivotal time in Mike’s (and Julie’s) life. Mike then showed up in our lives at another pivotal time.
In 2015, he asked Dave to work on a leadership project with him and a small group of other professionals. In 2016, I, too, entered the story. Mike was inclusive of spouses, and it was a super satisfying experience for me to be a part of these conversations. It was then I got to also meet Julie.
Sometimes, you don’t really get to fully know a person (married at least) until you see them engage with their spouse. They clearly loved and enjoyed each other. When Mike told stories, Julie would add her own color to it. Both of them, telling and listening, showed pure delight with each other’s adds…even with stories you know they have shared for years. Sweet.
Mike is one of the wisest men I know. It was a joy for us that he, Dave, and others got to put their heads together for a larger cause. In fact, until a book is written, here is something that Mike said about teaming:
“There were seven of us on the most effective team I’ve ever been on.
I had been asked to do something that I could not do. It was above and beyond me. I didn’t really even understand the problem, much less have a clue about the solution. What could I do, except to surround myself with people smarter and more gifted than me?
We were as different as any seven people you could find. We fought and we challenged, and yet together we were a team. We developed something that was good.
The Body of Christ is made up of many parts. 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 tells us this:
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
It is natural to desire all the gifts, to need no one, to overcome challenges alone. That is not the way the Body works, though. Yes, the Lord has gifted you, but He hasn’t given you all the gifts needed to accomplish what He has given you to do. He has put others in the Body with the gifts you lack.
It is also natural to seek comfort by working with people just like you. And yet, what do you gain by working with people who know what you know, act like you act and have gifts that you already have?
You need others who are not like you. You introverts need extroverts. You task-oriented folks need the people-oriented. Jethro Leroy Gibbs needs Ducky, Jean Valjean needs Cosette, the Skipper needs Gilligan, Reddington needs Keen, Andy needs Barney, and Paul needs Barnabas.
The Lord has put around you those you need to accomplish the task He has given you. You will have vastly different passions, gifts and callings. Cast aside the temptation to follow only your ideas and processes. Listen to others. Develop something together with people who are nothing like you. Work with others in a diverse Body of Christ. And rejoice.” – Mike Pineda, Facebook, November 21, 2020
I hope a book is written one day. Mike was much more about relationships and not renown. He was an excellent story-teller. What a way with words! Each year, he published an April Fools’ email. We only started receiving them in 2016, but they are funny, biting, and brilliant. I hope they are published…so fun just to think about reading every single one.
The most beautiful writing he completed was daily emails to his sons for 15 1/2 years. Every single day.
When his oldest son, Sam, went off to college, Mike began writing him. He would share what he was reading in the Bible that day, and what he gained from the Scripture, a prayer for his son, and a bit of news from his and Julie’s life. Every single day. In Mike’s funeral, Sam shared how many emails over the years – 5662. Every day.
In fact, this is exactly how the family knew something was wrong the morning of February 14. Julie was out of town, so she didn’t know yet that Mike had died sometime early morning. The email that had arrived every single day for the past over 15 years…didn’t arrive. That sounded the alarm for the kids… something was terribly wrong.
I hope the video of the funeral service for Mike stays published. We were able to watch from Virginia, unable to make it down to Tennessee for the service. It was beautiful. So God-honoring…and so like Mike’s family and friends – telling stories about him and about his faith, wisdom, and humility. His priorities of his wife, his family, and the Lord. His determination to major on what matters and let go of the rest. His joy in the simplest things in life.
If I had been there, my story would point to Mike’s courage in the face of adversity. We knew him best during a very difficult time. You know those times when things seem so muddled up that you start wondering if you’re really understanding what’s going on. Something so wrong, but it’s like the Emperor with No Clothes. Where you see something but it seems others do not (blind spots of a sort), so are you crazy or what? Without malice, Mike could name the what of what’s wrong, and did not flinch when confronting the what’s wrong. Whew! He was a modern day Daniel and we were blessed to know him.
I would have loved to hear all the stories told around the room before and after the funeral. All the stories of this week, since Mike’s Homegoing, told to comfort and reassure each other.
Mike would have enjoyed those stories, and especially the ones about his Jesus. He wouldn’t have chosen to leave his wife, kids, and grandkids so young (65, so young). However, he was one who chose to obey God in every circumstance of his life. He knew his family would be ok…in fact, better than ok.
So for us, his death seemed so early, and yet for Mike, he had finished his days…and his life’s work.
…in Your book were written All the days that were ordained for me. – Psalm 139:6
When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people. – Genesis 49:33
We will glean from the stories he has told us through the years, and those told in his funeral – especially those from his three sons. Thank you, Sam, Ben, and Caleb. Also Mike’s old friends, Daryl and Elbert. You helped us get through what could have been a very hard day.
It is not too late for us to set our eyes on Christ and love well and live large… like Mike did.
Obituary – Michael Stuart Pineda – January 31, 1958 – February 14, 2023