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Category Archives: Faith

What Does it Mean to Suffer?

vodoodollI was recently shocked to hear a fellow grieving mother express that she had to explain to someone that the pain she was suffering was not treatable by the ingestion of a Tylenol or Advil. And that one comment flipped a switch in my mind.

You see, although my daughter, Gracen, has Muscular Dystrophy and suffers from migraine headaches, I don’t think of her as sick. I guess I define sickness as a temporary condition. One that prevents an individual from going to school or work. A bacterial or viral infection that results in fever, requires bed rest, leads to weakness, pain and digestive distress. A condition that requires hospitalization or chemotherapy and radiation. That’s how I’ve always defined illness.

But in truth, my daughter is sick. She’s been diagnosed with a degenerative disease. It is silently and destructively at work within her body while she attends school, goes to therapy appointments, hangs out with friends, etc. Just because her condition doesn’t keep her in bed 24 hours a day or require hospitalization doesn’t mean she is healthy. She is in fact very sick.

Our culture appears to live under the same misconception in regards to the way it defines suffering. We seem to  believe that suffering is not suffering unless it includes physical pain. Pain can be treated with medication, surgery, different forms of therapy and a myriad of other medical interventions. And although mental and emotional pain can be treated with pharmaceuticals, those interventions don’t eliminate the pain, they just enable the individual to better cope with the anxiety and depression that often stem from the heart and mind. Therefore, mental and emotional pain (and let’s not forget spiritual pain) is not perceived by society as pain at all and as such is excluded from the definition of suffering. Mental, emotional and spiritual pain have basically been redefined and reduced to nothing more than the practice of wallowing in self-pity.

From my personal perspective, mental, emotional and spiritual pain are better described as the bombardment of multiple feelings that coalesce into anguish and torment. Grief is definitely intense mental torment and emotional anguish. A lot of situations result in that kind of pain alone. Does the lack of physical pain mean an individual isn’t suffering? Does the Bible say that suffering is only physical in nature?

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We need only consider the example of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to His arrest to understand that biblical suffering includes mental, emotional and spiritual pain. In the garden, when Christ separated Himself from the disciples to pray, He literally sweat blood as He beseeched God to let the cup of His upcoming, arrest, betrayal, rejection, humiliation and fear of His impending beatings, crucifixion and separation from God to pass from Him. He was not in any physical pain at that point in time, but He was definitely suffering that dark night.

 

01afc9407cce38dbd431b2f53c8f6ba2It’s not unreasonable or hard to imagine that God the Father is also no stranger to suffering. Can you imagine the mental and emotional anguish God suffered as He denied His son’s request to have the cup of suffering pass from Him? How must He have felt knowing that His sinless, perfect son would take on the sins of the world and be separated from their intimate fellowship for the first time ever? How must He have felt knowing the excruciating pain that awaited His beloved son? He surely suffered as He watched as His son was arrested then abandoned and betrayed by His closest friends. It must have hurt to watch His son hit, spit on, taunted and mocked as He was passed from trial to trial throughout that long night.

christbeatenCan you imagine the torment as He watched as His son was whipped and struggle to carry His cross to Golgotha-His anguish as He looked on in horror as nails were driven through His son’s hands and feet, as He struggled to breathe hanging on that cross for hours and finally-finally hearing His one and only son cry out begging to know why He’d been forsaken by His father? Can you imagine the suffering? Could you willingly go through any of that with your child? God the Father was not Himself experiencing physical pain, but He was surely overwhelmed and tormented by suffocating anguish.

three-crossesNeither God the Father, nor Jesus Christ discount or belittle the anguish and torment that results from mental and emotional pain. They both experienced it. They both understand it at the most intimate level possible.

Feel free to gently remind the naysayers of that.

The sufferings of Christ included agony and torment far beyond physical pain and when we forget that, we minimize the extent of His suffering for our souls. We devalue His sacrifice. We make Him less instead of exalting Him to the extent He deserves. And we repeat that slight over and over again when we refuse to acknowledge that mental, emotional and spiritual distress is in fact suffering.

I would not wish for any bereaved parent to remain in that raw state of agony forever or even that bone deep ache that lingers as time marches on but your heart stands still in the quagmire of grief. And I don’t think we have to either. I believe we will always live with the awareness that someone of great value is missing from our presence. Their absence will always linger in our conscious and subconscious minds. Yet I also believe that God binds up and heals our wounds. His word tells us that is so. We live with the scars, but the intense minute by minute pain recedes like waves hitting the shoreline. The tide continues to rush in with birthdays, loss anniversaries, family gatherings and celebrations and other unanticipated events that trigger intense feelings of sorrow and loss. But the tide will then recede allowing us to catch our breath, to relish memories of living life together, to rest in the hope of reunion, and to enjoy the good things and people that still surround us. I experienced it after the death of my son 24 years ago. I know it can happen for me again as the Holy Spirit does His work in my heart. He can work that miracle (could any loss parent describe it as anything else?) in the hearts of every broken believer too.

wrestling-with-god-intimacy-webI think healthy grieving involves wrestling with God. As much as it is in your power to do so, ignore those who are blessedly ignorant and foolishly judgmental. Wrestle well with God. Don’t exclude Him from the process. Contend with Him! He is strong and loving and faithful and He grieves with us and for our broken hearts. He doesn’t condemn us for our anger and sorrow, instead He pulls up a chair and sits with us through it longing to draw us into His arms to comfort us. One day, I hope every broken believer finds themselves there, in His waiting arms, sobbing out their anguish and frustration and when the tears and shuddering gasps of sorrow release then I hope they will find their hearts to be safe in His care. That’s my hope for myself, for every bereaved parent, for every hurting Christian, for every lost soul struggling to put one foot in front of the other day in and day out after their cherished plans have been swept away.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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The Ultimate Decision

it-is-in-your-momentsI have found in recent times that I have begun speaking of Bethany and Katie, in the present tense.

It just feels right.

And the Bible tells us that we are all eternal creatures.

One day, sitting in the sanctuary of our home church, Pastor Wes George said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “We all spend eternity somewhere.”

This was before Bethany and Katie died.

And you know, he didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but the way he framed it, just seemed to boil it down to a profoundly powerful succinct message of truth.

We all spend eternity somewhere.

And let me tell you—that somewhere—that somewhere is absolutely the most important thing to a bereaved parent—spouse—child—friend.

All the things—every deed—goal—hope—expectation—ideal—every single thing that draws our attention in this life is reduced to one primary concern when you stare death in the face. Where will eternity be spent?

The body dies but life goes on; even for the deceased.

And what the bereaved believes about the afterlife is all of the sudden of utmost importance.

And frankly, it’s all about the bereaved at this point in time.

The deceased has lost the opportunity to figure out and act upon what they believe about eternity. The choice they made, or chose not to make, in this life is now their eternal destiny.

notmakingadecisionBut for the bereaved those beliefs have the power to extend hope or destroy the heart.
And that’s why the cultural belief that all roads lead to Heaven, that we all worship the same God regardless of what name by which we call Him, is so deceptively destructive.

It allows us to make light of the most vital question and decision every human must address. And the failure to make a decision is a decision in and of itself. The decision to postpone making a choice, and the decision not to choose, result in eternal consequences, just as making a conscious choice does. And that is why the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:2,

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting (or in some translations, the house of mirth): for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”

The loss of a loved one—the natural end of all men—forces those with hearts not already harden to seriously consider exactly what they believe about the afterlife and hopefully leads them to make a conscious choice—for the sake of their own eternal future.

Everyone spends eternity somewhere.

I have made my choice.

I have no question and no fear about where I will spent all of eternity.

It’s not a decision I’ve made lightly.

I didn’t just drink the Kool-aid, so to speak.

Twenty-four years ago, I took my first real trip to the house of mourning. As a result, I reexamined everything I believed about eternity—who got to Heaven and how. Then I reaffirmed the choice I made many years before when the need to make a decision seemed far less critical.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the priority of that choice, and that fact was never more evident than when I knelt by the side of the road frantically trying to determine if my oldest daughter was alive or dead. She was 20. Twenty years old, far younger than the average lifespan in our current day. And then I repeated that same assessment, dead or alive, for my 18 and 16 year old daughters.

That day, my 20 and 16 year old daughters lost the opportunity to make a decision regarding their eternal futures. The choices they made, or failed to make, prior to that day had already begun to be played out for the entirety of their days without end.

Consequences good or bad . . .

On that day, I wasn’t confident that my 20 year old had chosen the way I desperately desired for her to choose. Even in a state of shock, I knew . . . I knew the time for deciding was lost. My opportunity to influence—over. And ironically, just an hour before the accident that stole her life, we’d debated the issue of evolution and creation theory.

One short hour before her death.

And as I knelt at her side in stunned disbelief, my heart fractured in a way it had never done before. In my shock, during which I’ve been told my mind entered a state of disassociation, I stumble from her side in order to find my two other children. Now, when I rewind the tape of that moment, I literally see myself sitting back on my heals and keening out a desperate and despairing cry of, ‘Noooooooo!’ to the heavens, and collapsing on her still form. ‘Noooooooo, Noooooooo!, Please, God, Noooooo! There is no more disturbing and heartbreaking sound on earth than that of a mother keening out her sorrow over the body of her dead child. And there is no greater fear than being unsure of your loved one’s eternal destiny—unless you feel assured that their eternity will be spent in Hell instead of Heaven—and that’s nothing short of terrifying.

It was three long months later when I discovered a journal with only two entries that had been written four years prior to her death, that gave me any hope, any peace, that she might be spending her days dining with the Savior of her soul in paradise forevermore.

Three utterly agonizing months.

And, I won’t really rest easy until I see her again; face to face.

If you’ve not decided what you believe about the afterlife; I urge you not to delay.

My greatest frustration in regards to the topic of the existence of God and the afterlife is that our culture seems to endorse the concept that every resource, aside from the Bible itself, is a legitimate source with which to make such an all-important decision.

lifeisshortThose who encourage you to disregard the Bible are doing you a grave disservice along with manipulating you toward the decision they want you to make. I encourage you to choose the Bible in addition to any other resources you desire. And frankly, I can say that because God is not at all concerned with how His word stands up against any other source.

By encouraging you to research other sources including the Bible, it should be plainly evident that I’m not trying to manipulate your decision. Instead, I want you to compare and contrast what God’s self-proclaimed word says with what any other source you choose has to say. You will probably discover that every other source tells you what the Bible says. You may think that means reading the Bible yourself is unnecessary but that’s not the case because verses will be quoted, but taken out of context, and thereby the true meaning is warped or lost altogether. The Bible is the only inspired source revealing God’s character and His own declaration on every moral choice presented to man. So it’s important that you include the Bible in your choice of resources in order to make a non-biased decision.

Research and choose.

Don’t forfeit your chance to consciously decide where you will spend all of eternity; because . . .

Everybody spends eternity somewhere.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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How to Help a Breaking Heart Because You Have One & So Does Everyone Else

This post was written by Ann Voskamp. I copied it from her blog, A Holy Experience, as it seems readers don’t like following links within a blog post and I really want you to read this – to soak it in. The formatting is a bit different here. My blog doesn’t have as many bells and whistles. You can click on the link in red above if you’d like to read the post with its original formatting.

Ann Voskamp has mastered the art of capturing important truths in a single sentence and this article is chock full of them. It’s not an easy read for the deeply wounded — primarily because your heart might chafe at the hard truths it reveals. But those truths, when the time is right, might help a broken believer get back on their feet again. I hope you will read it, and maybe save it and return to it on occasion, in order that it might take root in your heart and ground you in truths that will sustain you when you need someone to get the saw. So buckle up; here goes. . .

 

Someday,

they say this is true like coming taxes and the grave —

Your heart will break.

You may not feel the the crack of it, but you may feel the bleed.

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Your chest may pain to the touch and you may want someone to break your chest wall down, to get to you, to not leave you alone in the ache pressing, the way it’s hard to breathe.

So, this is hard but true: you will need someone to get a saw.

You will need a fine, sharp blade and an oscillating saw and you will need to let them saw through the sternum of you, crack open your chest wall.

Sit with that a moment: Your skeletal armour will have to break if anyone is ever to get to your heart.

This is a hard thing:

You must surrender to a breaking that must happen if you want any of your brokenness to heal.

I hadn’t known this or felt this — but I have now and I cannot forget. 

You may need to let your right pulmonary artery be cut away and sutured directly to your superior vena cava. At least, that’s what the surgeon told us, told us what would have to happen to her little broken heart.

And this is a harder thing —  You have to trust that the breaking of your heart will heal you into a kind of stronger. 

The greatest strength can grow straight out of the greatest weakness. The universe is a beautiful place, made in the strangest ways. I AM knows who we are and what we need.

And the people who love you, right in the midst of the aching? They will need to be brave. (Sometimes the greatest courage is to trust enough to let go.)

They will need to hope that miracles can make a home right inside of broken peopleThey will need to believe that broken things can become new things.

(Sometimes your people may have to pace in waiting rooms, 8 hours, more, because broken hearts need time. When you’re busted and bruised… people around you may have to kill the clock. Because — broken hearts don’t heal on anyone’s timelines.)

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Please be gentle with yourself; grant yourself grace and time. Any kind of heart break will land you in a kind of ICU. It’s true: A heart has to be monitored if you’re ever going to survive. This too will take patient time, a quiet suffering of its own.

Listen to the beat of your own heart. Listen to what it’s telling you, to the rhythm it wants you to keep. Listen to the bravery of your beats — believe that your heart is pounding together something new. This is how He made a heart to work. Listen to this and rest.The way to recover is to cover everything with grace.

Take all the time you need to find out for yourself how this is the most proven kind of true:  

The best kind of intensive care for a broken heart is to let the words of Christ intensively care for you. 

This can be hard to swallow—- when we want easy serum for our veins, cheap comfort bought with plastic, quick fixes that cost little and let us be fine without refining anything. But if you let His Word wash your wounds, let His grace caress your pain, let His Truth touch your bruises, let His hope heal your ache, you can feel a kind of resurrection on earth. His promises are more than true — they are your resuscitation. 

Turn to the window and wait for the sun to rise, to keep always rising. Never stop being surprised that it does, never get over the miracle that you get to see it. 

It’s okay to let the tears come, to weep over all this pain, all this love, all this beauty, all this brokenness and the hard roads that we somehow find ourselves walking, forcing one step in front of the other.

It’s okay to let someone trace the scar down the middle of you and to touch your holy brave and bear witness that your fight is hard and sacred.

It’s okay for you to feel along your wounds wired closed and wonder why you have had to warrior through all of this.

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And it can happen that they find out in recovery, that when they broke open your chest walls to get to you, when they broke your broken heart in different ways so healing could happen in new ways, that somehow your lung’s collapsed —- and that’s why each breath hurts.

Even though you’re in recovery, you’re still in pain.This can happen. And somehow you still have to keep breathing through the ache. 

Sometimes you can’t experience full recovery until you let your pain be fully uncovered.

You have to be a willing brave, if you want more. 

And when you don’t know how? 

When you don’t feel brave? 

When it all feels too hard?

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Turn and look up into someone eye’s and let yourself be seen and touched and known.

Let yourself hear it, and let it reverberate through the hurting chambers of you and let yourself never forget:

Pieces of your broken heart mend when you make peace with what He gives. 

The healing has begun.

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Faith, Links

 

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It’s Personal!

its-personal-pt1-tm

When my son, Cole, died . . .

When Gracen and Katie were diagnosed. . . and every fear filled moment prior to that . . .

When Bethany and Katie died . . . and Gracen was in surgery, then the ICU . . .

When David and I sat in courtrooms. . .

Every loss, every painful moment. . .

Was deeply personal . . .

Between God and I.

Between me and Jesus.

Between us—the Holy Spirit who resides within and the old and new man (the human and the holy) battling within.

If I believe that God has plans for me—that everything that happens to me is filtered through His hands first—that He allows and disallows things in my life—that none of it surprises Him—if I truly believe that then . . .

It’s personal.

So, so very personal.

And that’s the hard part, you know, because I do believe all those things.

And while I immediately recognized those events as personal disappointments or tragedies, and I also recognized them as personal on a spiritual level, that truth (losses being spiritually personal) was a bit overshadowed by some well known scriptural references.

When we find ourselves in deeply personal situations we often try to step back so that we can see the big picture. Isn’t that our goal when we think about verses like Romans 8:28 and Jeremiah 29:11?

These are forward thinking verses. Verses that lead us to think far down the road; past pain and suffering. Let’s consider Romans 8:28 first:

“And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28

A common interpretation of Romans 8:28 is that tragedy will be redeemed by testimony. You don’t testify to yourself. You testify to others. And as such Romans 8:28 becomes a call to ministry. And all of the sudden my personal tragedy is no longer personal as a corporate expectation forms in the minds of men.

The first Sunday I returned to church I heard how my testimony was already at work in the lives of others. A number of people have mentioned ministry opportunities to me. And really, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I want to give back or I wouldn’t write a blog; among other things. It’s not a complaint. I’m just trying to use these examples as a means of helping you understand that the personal nature of my spiritual issues?, obstacles?, concerns?, frustrations? . . . whatever you want to call them, was lost and overshadowed to a degree as I considered God’s overall purpose for my disappointments and losses.

God’s purposes always seem to reach beyond a single individual. They are often His means of reaching the lost, conforming the saved into the image of Christ, gaining the glory He so richly deserves, and the culmination of all of those things in a multitude of believer’s lives leads us to the fulfillment of end times prophecy.

God’s purposes may be personal, but they are also corporate.

And Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11

Despite the individualized nature of Jeremiah 29:11, it somehow serves to depersonalize the events of life. Maybe it’s because I am fully aware that that verse was written to a group of people not any specific individual such as the biblical examples of God speaking directly to Moses or Joshua or the prophets. Jeremiah 29:11 was written to the Babylonian exiles promising the return to their homeland—after 70 years.

70 long years.

Every single exile suffered individual and personal tragedies. But the message was for a group. . . all those plans for God’s people . . . plans for prosperity, for hope and a future . . . plans that weren’t harmful . . . were plans for the overall group of exiles—and very few, if any of those exiles, would survive to see the fulfillment of God’s promise. The message would have been passed down from parent to child to grandchild as the 70 year exile played out.

We apply Jeremiah 29:11 to individual circumstances, but I wonder if, like the Babylonian exiles, those promises for prosperity, hope and a future—for plans that do no harm, won’t be realized by the individuals we try to encourage in dark days. Maybe the New Covenant audience for that verse is for the Bride of Christ as a whole, more than it is for believers individually.

And that is why I was shocked to find myself telling my grief counselor so emphatically that every issue I am struggling to overcome can be categorized as personal spiritual angst.

It’s not corporate.

The body of Christ may benefit from the tragedies of my life but they don’t share my tragedies. They don’t experience my suffering.

Those standing on the outside looking in . . .

Are not standing in the crumbling ruins of their lives.

And talk (biblical or not) is cheap—it’s easy—when you are on the outside looking in precisely because it’s not personal.

That’s not to imply that others don’t sincerely care.

It’s just so much easier to offer advice—to take advice—when it’s not personal.

But it’s devastatingly personal for me.

dominosIt’s devastatingly personal for the young father whose wife succumbed to breast cancer. . .

For the parent whose child has committed suicide. . .

For the family whose home has been destroyed by a fire.

And each of those things are a bit deceiving because each one is merely a domino in a line of dominoes. Financial strain, mental health issues, etc., always follow.

Adding insult to injury, the believer often finds that God is silent. It may be that we are so desperately grasping for answers that we are unable to hear His voice, but sometimes He just holds His peace. Job knew something about that.

God’s taken what you knew or had and seemingly abandoned you.

And beneath the layers of grief and sorrow and loss lies the apparent betrayal of your closest friend and ally.

It is so very, very personal.

And you are left to chose to take His hand believing that He has something good for you ahead. . .

While fearing more of what experience has taught you . . .

Or choosing to stumble around in the dark at your own risk.

What is more frightening to a broken believer? To a believer who has experienced great loss not everyday hardships?

And while outsiders look in from the safety of their own relatively stable lives expounding upon God’s goodness, His plans, His working all things out for good, we, the walking wounded, are reminded of John the Baptist and John the Revelator and of Stephen. Not every saint is set free from the prison they’ve been cast into. Some die there after they have been exiled and tortured mercilessly.

Is it any wonder that some choose to sit still in the darkness instead of stumbling forward on their own—instead of taking the hand that led them to destruction before?

It’s personal.

It’s not just about the circumstances or the situation you find yourself in, it’s about the personal nature of those circumstances—of that situation. It’s about knowing God allowed them, or didn’t prevent them from happening to you individually.

Talk to me when your world has collapsed around you. Talk to me when you are afraid. Talk to me when you can name your fears and when they are a vague Specter looming threateningly over your shoulder, unnamed but real nonetheless. Talk to me when you are afraid to take your Savior’s hand and when you are equally afraid not to. Talk to me when the ability to project a positive outlook has been striped from your arsenal of weapons. Talk to me when it becomes desperately and intimately personal. Then I will think you understand. . .

Because the fact that it’s personal . . .

That it feels like you’ve been blindsided by a betrayal of trust. . .

Makes all the difference in the world.

“God is good all the time” is not a flip statement you rattle off to project confidence in your Savior. It’s not a mantra you repeat hoping to convince yourself of its truth. Those six words are a sacrifice of praise that are torn from the depths of despair and lifted in defiance from the ashes of a life burned down around you.

They are costly and precious.

They are the widow’s mites.

They are absolutely all she has left.

“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”” ~ Luke 21:1-4

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” ~ Psalm 51:17

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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How Much Does God Intervene In the Lives of Men?

devineinterventionNow that’s a weighty question, isn’t it?

There are many who believe that God creates us and then stands back and lets life happen. I don’t currently count myself among those. I may later in life but I fear that might be because new wounds have been inflicted and I really don’t want to go there . . . But today, today, I think the Bible supports the conclusion that God is very active in the lives of His creation.

Hagar, a pagan (not to be mean-spirited here, just a factual description) declared God to be, the God who sees me, after her desert encounter with what many believe to be the pre-incarnate Christ in the wilderness when she fled from Sarah. In fact, Hagar had two separate encounters with God and He intervened in her life twice but also in Ishmael’s future promising in Genesis 17:20 that he would have a great number of descendants of which would come 12 princes. Take a look at Hagar’s first meeting with the Lord – I love the meaning of Ishmael- that was a new discovery for me!

Genesis 16:7-14

Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.” 10 Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” 11 The angel of the Lord said to her further,

“Behold, you are with child,
And you will bear a son;
And you shall call his name Ishmael [I.e. God hears]
Because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
12 “He will be a wild donkey of a man,
His hand will be against everyone,
And everyone’s hand will be against him;
And he will live to the east of [Lit before the face of; or in defiance ofall his brothers.”

13 Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees” [Or You, God, see me] for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi [I.e. the well of the living one who sees me]; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.

redseaAdditional examples of God’s intervention into the lives of men include:

A poor shepherd boy, David, who was elevated to warrior, hero and eventually king.

Let’s not forget Joseph, who, by most accounts was a spoiled brat before he was elevated to Pharaoh’s right hand man.

And for goodness sakes, the poor prophets. God intervened repeatedly in their lives in order to fulfill His purposes.

It should be noted God’s plans for Ishmael, David, Joseph and the prophets didn’t rescue them from difficult circumstances. In fact, His intervention resulted in a host of problems in every instance. Ishmael and his descendants fought with everyone and everyone with him. David may have been anointed King, but his path to the throne included being hunted by King Saul who sought to kill him. David was forced to run for his life! Joseph, prior to stepping into his pre-ordained role to save the people from starvation, was cast into a pit, sold into slavery, escaped a lecherous queen only to be falsely accused and thrown in prison, all before he was elevated to Pharaoh’s right hand man. And the prophets were sent hither and yon to issue verbal slap downs to kings and communities, and for their trouble they were hated and killed.

emptytombNeed a New Testament example?

God intervened in the life of a young Jewish girl making her the mother of His son, Jesus Christ.

Paul a zealous pursuer of Christians was met on the road to Damascus, made blind, later had his sight restored, and then became an evangelist.

Jesus intervened and changed a bunch of fishermen into church leaders.

And all suffered for their service. Every single one. Mary watched as her son was hung on a cross. Paul was beaten, chased out of town, imprisoned, and shipwreck in service to the Lord.

timesandseasonsAnd those fishermen who established the Christian church were martyred often dying horrifying deaths.

I can’t tell you exactly how often God intervenes in the lives of common men, but I do think the Bible clearly shows that he doesn’t simply create humans and cut them loose to fend for themselves in this world. He also doesn’t hide the fact that following Him doesn’t ensure easy passage through this life either. Keep in mind that, like those named in the faith hall of fame found in the book of Hebrews, many will die without seeing the fulfillment of God’s promises.

2014_08-god-intervenes-to-keep-israel-safeI’m pretty sure that since the Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today and always, that He continues to intercede in the lives of men today. We should take that to heart as the presidential election bears down upon us. We should keep that in mind as we see more and more signs of the end of the age revealed. God is God. Always has been. Always will be. His word will not return void.

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2016 in Faith

 

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Impulsive Decisions

dsc_0078I did something I probably shouldn’t have today.

It was impulsive.

I certainly didn’t consult the Lord before I acted. People rarely do when they make impulsive decisions . . . But maybe, maybe, I just wanted what I wanted and didn’t want to be told no—even if it was in my best interest.

 

I’ve seen a lot of doors closed in my lifetime and sometimes I just want to bust in, take what I want and live with the consequences. It’s not as if I deceive myself into believing I won’t suffer any consequences. Oh no, my eyes are wide open.

What’s one more set of consequences in this life of mine? At least the consequences I face will be of my own making instead of suffering consequences for the choices of others.

My impulsive actions weren’t sinful, but just because something is lawful doesn’t mean you should do it.

I thought I made peace with this last year, but today it just rose up and I executed a short internal debate then bit the bullet and placed the call.

Right from the get go things didn’t go smoothly. I encountered a determined gatekeeper. I should have just hung up but by this point, I was all in.

And there was no getting past this gatekeeper without explaining the full nature of my call.

And so I spilled it. . .

In frustration I rambled off something that went like this: ‘I want to talk to Roger Wilson because he was involved in a car accident on December 26, 2013, in which two of my daughters were killed. I’m not calling to place blame, I just want him to answer a question or two.”

And there it was . . .

And the gatekeeper?

His wife—who was also in the truck that day.

So I asked her my question.

‘At what point on the road that day did you realize the red truck had moved into your lane? It’s a hill. Did you see the truck before or after you topped the hill?’

I’m not really sure I got the answer I wanted because I’m still not sure I know exactly where they were.

dsc_0062What I got instead was a recitation of the driver of the red truck’s actions. I gather they had been aware, even concerned, about the other drivers actions before he pulled in front of their vehicle, into the passing or fast lane if you will, moving at a rate of speed significantly below the speed limit and slowing further has he applied the brakes to gain access to the turn lane he was so hellbent on getting to.

She told me she hated what happened.

Hated what happened to us.

Had prayed for us.

dsc_0079After I reiterated the question, I was told that there was no possible way they could have stopped, could have avoided the collision. That the officer who took their statement had said as much. She said the other driver was traveling about 35 miles and hour and people were passing him and that there was no way to stop when you are traveling at “65 miles an hour or whatever” and someone pulls in front of you going 35 miles per hour and braking.

She went on to say that the accident turned their lives upside down and more so for us.

She kept saying I hate it. What exactly does she hate? That it happened. That they were involved. That my daughters were killed.

I thanked her for speaking with me. Even thanked her for her prayers. Told her I appreciated it and said a hasty and awkward goodbye.

During the course of the call, a few things became apparent to me. Things that bothered me. Things which precipitated that awkward ending to the call.

She never acknowledged the fact that her husband was speeding at the time of the accident. It’s right there in the accident report and verified by the vehicle’s computer chip. In effect, she refused to accept any responsibility whatsoever, on her husband’s behalf, for the collision.

I’m not sure why.

There is no possibility of any further legal action against her husband, so it can’t be excused as an action to protect her husband or their assets.

Is she living in denial?

Maybe she’s actively trying to convince herself that her husband is in no way responsible for the deaths of my daughters. Maybe that allows her to sleep at night.

And because there was no admission of wrong doing, and because it became apparent that her goal was to advocate for her husband’s innocence, there was no offer of condolences. I never heard the words, “I’m sorry for your loss” let alone “I’m sorry for the role my husband played in the accident.”

Instead what I heard loud and clear was, ‘We were not at fault.’ That’s pretty much what I got out of her comments, but the unspoken message was, ‘We were victims too.’

dsc_0056All I really wanted was to know when the driver of the red truck pulled into the fast lane. The best I could hope for was an apology for the law he broke that inadvertently put him in the path of the reckless driver who cut into his lane. An acknowledgment of his wrongdoing. Remorse over the consequences his individual choice made in our lives. An expression of sympathy. I guess it’s just too much to ask to have people take responsibility for their actions in this day and age.

One of the things that bothers me most about the collision is that because both drivers were at fault to varying degrees, they can each point a finger at the other and excuse their own behavior. The driver most at fault (95% at least) points his finger at the other driver and says, ‘I would not have hit that van, those girls would not have died, if the other driver wasn’t speeding which caused him to rear-end my truck’. And the driver least at fault says, ‘This accident wouldn’t have happened if the other guy wasn’t on the road because he had no legal right to be since he didn’t have a drivers license. It wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t pulled out in front of my truck.’ And neither one has to look themselves in the mirror and admit that their actions contributed to the deaths of my daughters.

And that’s precisely why I probably shouldn’t have made that call.

I’m a floor mat.

I wanted so badly to say, ‘Your husband is not blameless. He was breaking the law too. He made fewer mistakes, but he is not innocent of the deaths of my daughters.’

But what would be the point?

Aside from saying it out loud, confronting her with the truth, I would have just initiated a defensive and defiant response further abdicating her husband’s responsibility and guilt.

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The Honorable Judge John LePage – McDonald County Missouri Circuit Court

I wonder if she realizes that because her husband was speeding there was no way to prosecute the other driver for the crime he was clearly guilty of: vehicular manslaughter.

I wonder if she realizes the rate of speed at which their vehicle was traveling determined the force and speed at which the red truck was pushed into oncoming traffic. Less speed equals less force.

I wonder if she realizes that because he was speeding justice was denied my daughters.

I wonder if she realizes that even the maximum sentence for the misdemeanor offense of careless driving was cut in half by the judge who excused the paltry $500 fine and six month suspended jail sentence because “the other driver was speeding”?

That in and of itself is all kinds of wrong as the defendant was being prosecuted for reckless driving. He should have been sentenced based upon his actions alone.

Her husband is responsible for much more than exceeding the speed limit. His actions resulted in the perversion of justice. His actions served to excuse everyone at fault.

Had he not been speeding the impact of the two trucks would have taken place seconds later and our van would have passed by that point of intersection unscathed. But no, this was the result of one unlicensed and reckless driver meeting up with one speeding driver . . .

 

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My daughters died but in spite of the fact that two drivers broke multiple laws that day, no one, not one person is held responsible? Say it isn’t so! But it is . . . because it’s the other guys fault.

And Wow, just wow! Am I suppose to feel badly because the speeding driver’s life was upended? Am I suppose to consider him an innocent victim? Did his wife expect me to pardon his behavior?

Before I made that call I could have convinced myself that at least this one driver accepted responsibility for his actions, but now, I will pay the piper. I will have to live with the knowledge that both drivers consider themselves guilt free.

Is anyone else nauseated by that fact?

We sing about the day the music died, but who really cares? The day integrity died is far more disturbing. The drivers, the prosecutor and the judge each demonstrated an appalling lack of integrity.

And because I so desperately wanted every single piece of the accident puzzle, I will have to cycle through the process of forgiveness one more time. I will have to make peace with more anger. I will have swallow another serving of resignation. I will have to surrender my right to see justice meted out yet again. And that’s all on me. I didn’t consult the Lord. I didn’t want Him to tell me to let it lie, that He’d take care of it, that knowing would only hurt me more. I just wanted answers in spite of the fact that it would change nothing. Nothing. So I’ll suck it up and shoulder the consequences my insatiable need to know demanded. I’ll suck it up because those pictured below are worth it.

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But this I know—of this I am confident—denial and excuses will not protect the guilty from the wrath of God. Grace is their only escape if their hearts aren’t already too hardened to receive it. Justice will be served; in God’s time, but it will be served.

And what I heard today can only be described as a deceptive half-truth. A sin of omission. It’s just one more sin to add to the cup of iniquity. One more sin adding to the cup of the wrath of God. One sin filling those cups drawing us ever closer to Christ’s return when God will proclaim the cup of iniquity full and the cup of the wrath of God will be poured out upon the wicked. It will be judgement day.

I’m in no way saying that the two drivers, the wife of this driver, the prosecutor or the judge are not saved. Only God knows the heart of man, but woe to the man who knows to do good and does it not, for that is sin. (James 4:17 paraphrased

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief

 

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When You Come Undone and Can’t Pull Yourself Together

I copied this article from incourage.me/blog instead of simply inserting a link to the site. It seems readers are less inclined to click on a link once they arrive at my home page and I really want people to read this article by Angela Nazworth. I love how she unfolded Hannah’s story. So, no link to follow today, just scroll down!


I have been pregnant three times. I have given birth twice.

Fragmented memories remain of the day I lost my first baby — the child whose heart thumped in my womb for only eight short weeks. I remember the horror I felt when I discovered the first scarlet spots alerting me that my baby was gone. I remember the weight of my husband’s hand resting heavy on my shoulder when my doctor confirmed our fears and tried to comfort us with statistics. I remember the coldness that swept through my chest when the nurse who assisted with the examination gave me a stern warning as I shakily made my way toward the exit.

“Now I know you’ve heard some unsettling news, but you need to pull yourself together,” she cautioned as I brushed tears off my cheeks and neck. “You’re young. You’ll get pregnant again in no time. There are women in that waiting room who are pregnant now, and they don’t need to be upset. So just get a hold of your emotions before you go out there.”

Then, with a pat on my back, she scurried away leaving me shamed by my grief.

My legs trembled as if I was walking a tight rope without a safety net. Through blurred vision, I forced a stoic expression, entwined my shaking fingers with those belonging to my husband and walked out of the building. With each step, one thought bounced around my mind.

Pull yourself together.

I’ve heard those words numerous times throughout my life in various situations. Sometimes they were spoken by well-meaning individuals. Other times, I whispered the phrase to myself.

A graveside vigil. Pull yourself together.

Job loss. Pull yourself together.

A loved one’s betrayal. Pull yourself together.

Saying goodbye to dear friends. Pull yourself together.

Overwhelmed by an infant’s colicky cries or a toddler’s 40-minute tantrum. Pull yourself together.

I’m sure that everyone who reads this post can add to the list above.

The expectation of pulling yourself together after life twists you undone is misguided.

Need biblical assurance that I’m sharing truth? Turn to the story of Hannah. Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel is a beautiful example from Scripture of a woman who mourned honestly before the Lord. Hannah didn’t pull herself together. You can read her story in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, but here is an excerpt from 1 Samuel 1:10-16:

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, ‘Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.’

As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, ‘How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.’

‘Not so, my lord,’ Hannah replied, ‘I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.’”

At that wall, Hannah unraveled the twisted, messy knots of her grieving heart before God. Passersby probably shook their heads. Eli mistook her agony for drunkenness. Hannah’s core was shaken. Her heart was broken. Her hope was nearly threadbare.

She wasn’t able to “pull herself together,” but she knew where to turn as her emotions were shred to bits.

The fiery pain of a personal loss is immeasurable. And each person’s threshold for heartache is different. There are times when we cannot keep going on our own. And God doesn’t expect us to pull it together and shine with glee when we’re busted up.

In the moments when torment throbs deep, God doesn’t bark “stiffen that upper lip, girl.” He instead whispers, “Come to Me dear one, come to Me.” He invites us to crumple into the comforting arms of Christ to pray or scream or to beg with abandon until we heal.

“For He has not despised or detested the torment of the afflicted. He did not hide His face from him, but listened when he cried to Him for help.” {Psalm 22:24}

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2016 in Faith, Grief, Links

 

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Down the Damascus Road, Again . . .

damascusroadI have found there are points in my life where I find myself completely unable to accept God’s obvious plan. Maybe you’ve found yourself in a similar situation? It’s what I refer to as my “Road to Damascus” experience. By that point in time I’m filled with frustration and anxiety and doing everything I can in my own power to change the circumstances I find myself in only to have God pull me up short and shine a painful, blindingly bright light of truth down, revealing that I am not just kicking against the pricks but actively working against His greater plan.

It’s hard to describe how it feels to know that the thing you least want to accept in your life is an irrefutable part of God’s plan. Oh, to be a two-year-old again so that the temper tantrum I want more than anything to throw, while not tolerated, is at least understood.

Harder still and completely beyond my human capabilities, is the ability to change the desperate desire of my heart, let alone make any attempt to surrender and embrace God’s unacceptable plan.

I firmly believe changing the heart and embracing God’s plan only happens at the point where a believer’s brokenness is met by the active work of the Holy Spirit in that believer’s life. Surrender definitely comes before embracing the plan.

In fact, embracing the plan may never actually happen and it may not even be something God expects from me — from any believer. Maybe all God really expects is for us to quit actively working against Him — not because we have the power to prevent His plan from unfolding but because the fight — the anger, fear, frustration, anxiety and bitterness exhausts and destroys us from within.

Maybe simple resignation, surrender to the inevitable, is a victory in and of itself. Maybe surrender, resigned or not, allows one the energy to take the next step, endure the next blow, and the next, until only the sorrow and quiet emptiness remain leaving room for the Savior to fill you from the cup of consolation and enabling the broken believer to receive the only remaining hope worth clinging to — an eternal future promised to stand in stark contrast to every aching moment the present reality reflects. Maybe that’s sufficient until the day we are made like Him.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief

 

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Feelings; The Bane of my Existence

Counseling-theories“How do you feel about that?”, Ruth, my grief counselor asked.

Tears filled my eyes and choked my throat as I desperately tried to prevent them from falling, to prevent a sob from escaping, while my mind grappled for words to define my feelings.

For such a wordy person I find it ironic how completely inadequate I find words to be.

“It makes me sad, incredibly sad”, I choked out.

Sad? What kind of word is that? It’s so shallow, so tame, so far from describing the intense wave of emotion that swells and rolls over my heart, that sucks the air from my lungs, pinches every muscle in my neck and shoulders, and shoots quaking tremors through my body as I struggle to maintain control.

I can’t speak without control.

I realized after I left my counselor’s office that I rarely cry. In the two and a half plus years since Bethany and Katie died, since Gracen’s health was irrevocably changed, I’ve not shed the ocean of tears I would have imagined had someone told me how things would unfold for our family that fateful day.

My therapy sessions are pretty much the only place I cry.

My counselors are the only people who ask me how I feel about anything. I’m not sure if everyone else assumes they know how I feel (based upon how they think they’d feel in my place) or if they are too afraid of the answer to ask.

And conversationally people in general use deflective phrases when we describe our feelings. “I feel like . . .” or “I feel as if . . .” are frequent precursors to deflective phrases.

“I feel as if I’ve lost everything.”

“I feel like hitting something.”

Where are the adjectives that describe the actual feelings in those sentences?

That’s how I talk to people. Those phrases distance me from the descriptive words for emotions we are often told are inappropriate or just plain wrong. They allow me to talk about facts instead of feelings. I can expound upon the events that occurred, the facts, all day long without shedding a tear. But don’t expect me to directly address my feelings because I can’t do that without breaking down.

Society seems to think it’s wrong to say,

“I feel betrayed,

abandoned,

unloved,

unworthy,

inadequate,

enraged,

sad,

despondent,

discouraged,

defeated,

diminished,

detached,

numb”

and so on.

Every one of those words deemed inappropriate and negative are really just replacements for this simple two word sentence:

“I hurt.”

We like to toss out the phrase, “No pain, no gain.” in relation to exercise, but that short sentence is equally applicable to emotional healing. It’s helpful to be able to put your feelings into words because we have an inherent desire to be understood and for our feelings to be validated. But understanding and validation are not enough. We have to experience our emotional pain in order to vent it, process it and find our way past it.

onlygrieving                    

 

                     

We don’t heal—we aren’t restored to full emotional health—until we work our way through our painful emotions. We can’t ignore them, hide from them, bury them, rationalize them, or intellectualize them away. Those are all avoidance measures. Our hearts must heave and keen out our grief in order to heal.

 

 

                     

 

Counting it all joy is fine, as long as we don’t expect the grieving to skip the passage from the onset of the trial to the spiritual maturity and inner peace developed as a believer’s faith is tested and proven. Read the verses below and it’s pretty clear that the benefits of having one’s faith tested requires passage through a process:

 

“Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4 (Amplified Bible)

I told Ruth recently, “You know how everyone wants you to find the silver lining around every dark cloud? Well I can’t even find the outside borders of the cloud. Have you ever looked at a dark and stormy sky and the clouds just stretch out before you covering every bit of sky your eye can see? You can make a 360 degree turn and still all you see are dark clouds stretching across the sky. That’s what it’s like. Looking at my losses and the prognosis for Gracen’s disease is like looking up and seeing a single sheet of dark, stormy, roiling clouds. I can’t get far enough away to see where the storm clouds begin and end. How am I suppose to draw a silver lining around the negative circumstances of my life when I can’t find the borders?”

experience.png

 

 

Regardless, the ability to find the positive in adverse situations doesn’t make difficult circumstances easier to endure or work through. Brené Brown, in her book Rising Strong said,

 

 

“Experience and success don’t give you easy passage through the middle space of struggle. They only grant you a little grace, a grace that whispers, “This is part of the process. Stay the course.” Experience doesn’t create even a single spark of light in the darkness of the middle space. It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark. The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.”

Apparently, as a result of my most recent trials, I have become extremely adept at the art of numbing hurt. Distraction and avoidance maneuvers are ways people numb pain. To top off Brené Brown’s list of emotional numbing behaviors which include alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, work and religion among others she adds:

“And just so we don’t miss it in this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.”

I find it interesting that the practice of religion and staying busy are included in Brown’s list of numbing behaviors, because those are two things that I’m constantly encouraged to practice. Although to be fair, I do believe she is referring to over doing any of these things individually, or completely filling your days with a combination of these coping behaviors.

As she said above, “We fill every ounce of white space with something so there’s no room or time for emotion to make itself known.” This is what I do. I read. I sleep. I think. I even write about emotions in order to avoid actually experiencing them. This is what the late great C.S. Lewis said in A Grief Observed:

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead. . . Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less? . . . Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?”

 

Maybe he [Lewis] tried to think and write his way around experiencing the emotions of grief too. Maybe his work, A Grief Observed, is the physical manifestation of his own efforts at numbing the pain.

brave_brokenhearted

 

 
I’ve been struggling for two and a half years to find a way to cope with the pain of death and degenerative disease. But maybe I’m doing little more than intellectualizing my grief as opposed to experiencing or feeling it.  Maybe I’m deceiving myself by thinking I’m confronting my feelings and circumstances in relation to God’s Word when really I’m just making myself a character in my own story as opposed to writing my story (see the manifesto on your left). Maybe I’m not “crafting love from heartbreak, compassion from shame, grace from disappointment [or] courage from failure.” Maybe I’m just chasing my tail instead of becoming one of the brave and brokenhearted and rising strong.
        

 

How does that make you feel?

Confused,

Scared,

Sad,

Ashamed,

Weak,

Weary,

And very, very broken.

Lost.

I’m still lost.

All those emotions, and many more, are shoved down and shuttled aside as I continue to struggle to find the courage to process my emotions. I need to find a way to experience my feelings or healing will continue to elude me.

If anyone has any sage advice to help me through my magical mystery tour of life, please share it. Otherwise, I think the book of Jude contains the answer in verses 20 & 21:

” . . . you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit, and await the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will bring you eternal life. In this way, you will keep yourselves safe in God’s love.”

And Jude tells us how we go about building each other up in verses 22 & 23:

“And you must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering. Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.”

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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Hunger Strike!

According to New Health Advisor, the primary purpose of nutrition is to fuel the brain and subsequently the body’s cells, muscles and organs.

Starvation is the process whereby the body generates fuel by progressively more destructive means until every fuel store has been depleted. Normally fuel is derived from the conversion of glycogen to glucose during digestion. When glucose is no longer available from nutritional input the body takes it from fat stores. When the body’s glucose has been expended it creates fuel from ketones stored in the liver. Once the body’s ketones have been consumed the body shifts to robbing protein stores starting with the muscles and moving to organ tissues. At this point death occurs as a result of illness due to the lack of vitamins and minerals that feed the immune system or the systematic shutdown of bodily functions known as a vegetative state. Muscle loss and a lack of energy along with a bloated belly are the hallmarks of starvation. The entire process takes approximately 70 days.

unknown-3This morning I realized that I’ve been on a hunger strike of sorts. It wasn’t a conscious decision on my part; well not entirely anyway. But I’ve spent a great deal of time trying to reconcile my circumstances, and my feelings about them, with what I know and believe to be true about the God who loves me. The thing I haven’t done is regularly sit down in His presence and let Him speak to me.

The truth is that I don’t really want to taste, chew and swallow what God wants to feed me. It’s a bitter, mushy, unpalatable meal that He has set before me, and so I’ve turned away from the nourishment I so desperately need. I’ve repeatedly refused to lift the fork to my mouth to taste, chew and swallow the bitter lessons of love, discipleship and suffering. And as a result, I’m wasting away much in the way a body dies of starvation.

In the absence of a steady diet of the Bread of Life (nutrition for the soul and spirit), I find myself weak and weary and more than likely my mind has become bloated with illogical thinking. (It’s hard to make a definitive statement on the state of my metal processing as it all makes sense to me)! Regardless, my spirit has been fueled by biblical nutrition from days gone by which leaves me vulnerable to the misinterpretation of scripture and misunderstandings about God—His character, will and purposes. It’s resulted in atrophied spiritual muscles and strength. Hence, I’m spiritually weak, weary, vulnerable and probably a bit delusional or at the very least misguided. Everything within me has shifted into self-protection mode.

I trust God with my eternal future. I trust Him to walk me through everything He will allow in my life; but I don’t trust Him with my heart. I don’t trust that He will protect me from further emotional pain—because life has taught me that He won’t. It doesn’t matter that He has a good purpose for my pain—the old the end justifies the means philosophy. It doesn’t really matter that He has provided comfort and consolation in my grief.

I think I have spiritual PTSD.

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But I know—I know I’m spiritually anorexic.

Renee Swope said,

“We can find the plans God has for us when we surrender our plans to him.”

Surrender—that’s the last thing I want to do! No, fear has left me grasping to hold on to the two people I hold most dear. I’m terrified to lose them too. I wish fear were as easy to conquer as simply reciting Bible verses. “Fear not for I am with you.” “When I am afraid I will trust in you.” “Be ye strong and courageous. . . ” I know these verses, and more. They are written upon the tablet of my heart. But it’s not enough for this wounded heart . . .

“Because God loves my kids more than I do, I must trust His plan for them.” ~ Lysa TerKeurst

unknownIf you search the Internet for articles about trusting God with your children you will find the majority of the articles revolve around things that, while not insignificant, are also not matters of life and death. A quote like Lysa’s can sound painfully trite, if not impossible, to parents of sick or special needs children; especially when death is dogging their every step, regardless of the truth of her words.

Spiritual maturity is a process that requires ever increasing trust in God. And trust is hard to come by when it’s been betrayed, or feels as if it’s been betrayed. Self-protection is the knee-jerk reaction. Resistance, cynicism and even rebellion often follow.

 

But there are things that can help overcome those common worldly responses.

 

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Romans 12:2 comes to mind:

 

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

And in this, I have failed.

Living on lessons learned in the past has limited ability to renew my mind let alone transform my heart.

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Psalm 34:4 “I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”

And I haven’t sought the Lord for deliverance from my fears, or my circumstances either. . .

Why you might ask.

Why would you deny yourself the bread of life?

Why deny the power of God to change your circumstances and deliver you from your fears?

God’s Word is filled with triggers that incite my fight, flight or freeze reflex. Verses that torment—that feel untrue. Verses about protection—about healing. Verses that reflect promises for the here and now—or maybe for eternity alone—or could they apply to both? God’s Word hurts!

Praise and worship music lifts me up then slaps me back down as it cycles through praise and thanksgiving followed by trials and victorious overcoming. But I don’t feel like an overcomer and I certainly don’t feel victorious.

Prayer—prayer is just plain emotional. Faith and fear, anger and resentment, trust and bitterness assault me. Prayer is an exercise in trust. It’s begging God to do that which I cannot do myself; which generates expectation—hope—within my heart. Prayer requires reaching for His hand, grasping it when it comes within reach, and trying desperately to cling to it as things continue to get worse—when it feels as if my prayers have gone unheard or worse yet—that my feelings have been disregarded.

I’m resigned to Gracen’s prognosis. Every request for the removal of the thorn in her flesh has been repeatedly answered in the negative (lest I dare hope His answer is ‘wait‘ instead of ‘no‘). Begging for a change in circumstance in the face of continued negative responses just sets me up for further disappointment. I don’t need my glasses to read the writing on the wall. Encouraging me to continue in prayer and have hope for healing leaves me feeling guilty and ashamed as if I’ve failed in my Christian duty—as if I’ve failed my daughter. However, even the Apostle Paul quit asking for his thorn to be removed after three seasons of prayer.

romans12_3And deliverance from my fears is beyond the scope of my faith . . . at this time.

My fears are all bound up in Gracen’s future, her prognosis, and deep spiritual wounds that remind me that I have trusted God for things in the past that He never promised. That’s not to say that He failed me, no, not at all, but I was still hurt by misunderstanding the promises He did make.

Sometimes I think it’s a cop-out to say I don’t currently have enough faith. Maybe you do to. But I ask you to return with me to Romans chapter 12. After Paul’s admonition to avoid being conformed to this world—after his encouragement to be transformed by the renewing of our minds—he went on to say this in verse three,

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

In the majority of card games, cards are dealt by the dealer either upon request or as the rules dictate. If faith and trust are living and growing spiritual fruit, I think it’s highly likely that at times God deals me a bit more faith when I request it, and at other times He deals me more because His plan dictates that I will need it. The well of faith is always sufficient; but faith still needs drawn out of the well!

uninvitedI recognize that my unintended hunger strike needs to come to an end. I’ve devoured every last bit of spiritual knowledge stored up in my heart and mind. I need a regular diet of the meat of the word in order to renew my mind and transform my heart. I’m sure I’ll miss meals on occasion, but I’m making a conscious effort to be regularly fed.

Right now, my diet consists of a Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study by Lysa TerKeurst called Uninvited. It’s subtitled: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out And Lonely.

It’s a start and it’s hard.

It’s hard because the foundation of the lessons are the love of God, as it should be. Yet, Lysa TerKeurst, points out that, “What we see will violate what we know unless what we know dictates what we see.” Did you get that? What we see undermines truths we absolutely believe about a God, and will continue to do so, until our hearts and minds are transformed. Then the truths we know will alter our spiritual perspective, thereby overcoming sight by faith.

Every time I look upon my daughter, I see disease reigning victorious over her physical body. Fear of losing her, fear of unbearable grief have created a living, breathing terror within my heart—terror of God almighty—of His plans—terror over how much His plans will hurt. And that terror undermines what I know to be true. God loves me. He loves me and I have nothing to fear from Him. But what I know to be true is not dictating what I see when I look upon my daughter. I don’t see her one step closer to complete healing. I don’t see her drawing ever closer to no more pain. I don’t see her through the eyes of eternity. The hope of eternity is obscured by the dimmest of mirrors reflecting and distorting what will be with the reality of what is right now.

And right now I feel less than—less important, less valuable, less loved than the believers who surround me with joyfully intact and healthy families. Right now I feel left out—left out of the blessings everyone around me takes for granted. Watching their children grow up, embark on careers, marry, have babies, and watching those babies grow. Right now I feel lonely—lonely for missing family members, lonely for friendship, lonely for the Lord because it’s so very hard to draw close to someone you know will hurt you, or allow you to be hurt, again—maybe even soon. Lonely because grieving is very much a solitary activity.

So I am trying with this online Bible study. My self-imposed hunger strike is over! And I’m hoping to find a way to live loved. To live in the full assurance of the height, width, and depth of God’s love for me so that I can be renewed and transformed—so that the image in my mind of the mastery of disease over Gracen’s body will be concealed—will be completely replaced—with a clear image of Gracen the way Christ will see her when she steps into His presence. That’s a pretty tall order; but I know that God is able. It won’t happen overnight; or quickly for that matter. But given time, it’s a possibility.

It’s a possibility.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Faith

 

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