RSS

Tag Archives: Faith

Is Trust an All or Nothing Proposition?

Counseling-theoriesI reiterated to my grief counselor last week that I trust God for my eternal future and I trust that God will walk me through anything He allows to transpire in my life but that I don’t currently trust Him with my heart.

Ruth responded, “But is that really trust at all?”

I cocked my head to the right and looked her in the eye and proceeded to relate a very poor analogy in support of my position. You see, I knew I believed that trust, like faith, grows over time in every personal relationship, but I wasn’t really prepared with an answer to support my conclusion.

When my daughters were young, on occasion they would be afraid to go to bed fearing that they would have a nightmare. My husband, David, is pretty much a creative genius. He thinks fast on his feet (unlike myself). His immediate response the first time our oldest daughter told him of her fear was to tell her that it would be impossible for her to have a bad dream that night because it was “Free Dream Night”. I stared at him incredulously thinking, ‘What’s going to happen if she actually has a nightmare tonight?’

Free Dream Night was a security blanket of sorts for my trusting young daughters and the entire concept bloomed over time as questions began to surface such as, ‘How do you know it’s Free Dream Night?’ (Stupid they were not, but gullible . . . well, they wanted to believe in Free Dream Nights). My very creative husband bamboozled his way into a highly complicated and mysterious formula regulating Free Dream Nights by the common calendar. This concept was obviously way over the tops of my young daughters’ heads, but then it was nothing more than a fictional tale woven by a master storyteller; or more accurately by a desperate and misguided dad.

broken-trust-and-anger-will-close-a-heart-until-honesty-and-love-is-once-again-found-nishan-panwarYou have to know the day eventually came where David was confronted by one of his daughters who’d actually had a nightmare on Free Dream Night. David managed to successfully pass it off as an error reading that very complicated calendar. Fortunately, none of our three daughters were plagued by nightmares, but had that happened, their trust in their dad would have been damaged.

All of us trust in people and things to a certain degree. Sometimes we are not even aware of the trust we automatically offer others until it has been breached. Anyone who has lived for any length of time quickly learns that not everyone is trustworthy, and it’s devastating when we find the people we trust most have let us down.

A parent spends countless hours nurturing, caring and providing for their children – all normal everyday activities that build trust within our children unintentionally. We don’t feed them when they are hungry to teach them to trust us. We feed them because we love them, because they are hungry and we know nutrition is important for their health. And our children inadvertently learn that they can trust their parent to feed them when they are hungry.

Yet, the best cared for child still doesn’t fully trust their parents when fear is along for the ride. Picture if you will a young child standing on the edge of a swimming pool, his dad in front of him in the water encouraging the child to jump. For the young dare devil, this is no big deal, but for the timid child, it’s not hard to see the child doesn’t quite trust that their dad will catch them.

trust-bank-3And sometimes, we break trust intentionally. We need that young child to be safe around water. We need them to learn to hold their breath, to kick and paddle their way to safety should they fall into a pool. So dad, after catching the child multiple times without letting their face go under water eventually lets his child’s head fall below the surface immediately pulling them back above water. The child learns that dad will still catch him, but he also learns he’s not as safe as he previously thought he was. Has the child lost all trust in his dad? No, he still knows his dad will feed him when he’s hungry but he isn’t as trusting the next time he stands on the edge of the pool and his dad beckons him to jump.

This is the nature of trust. We trust in degrees. We trust but verify either by asking questions or by taking risks. We start out small and take increasingly more daring risks as any given relationship grows. But we really don’t trust anyone completely – not even the Lord.

bereavement-is-the-sharpest-challenge-to-our-trust-in-god-if-faith-can-overcome-this-there-is-no-quote-1

 

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart is an encouragement as much as it is a command. But that “with all thine heart” part trips me up a bit. I concluded on my own that it meant to the full degree of trust you have within you, but I imagine the more literal interpretation would imply that if you don’t trust fully, completely, 100% in the Lord, you will forfeit the blessing of having God direct all your steps. So, I turned to a John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible for clarification on that portion of Proverbs 3:5. After fully expounding upon what it means to trust in the Lord, Gill turned his attention to that one small but important phrase, “with all thine heart”, and this is what Gill concluded:

 

” . . . this trust in Father, Son, and Spirit, should be “with all the heart”, cordial and sincere. The phrase denotes not so much the strength of faith as the sincerity of it; it signifies a faith unfeigned. . . “

 

High five! Gill and I agree; he just said it better.

So yadda, yadda, yadda, after reading my analogies and checking in with Gill, I have to say, trust is not an all or nothing proposition. We trust with all the sincere faith we have within and the Holy Spirit fills in the gaps and directs our steps.

What say you in regards to trust?

 
7 Comments

Posted by on November 8, 2016 in Faith

 

Tags: , , ,

Spared for Salvation

Sunday morning, I opened my Facebook app and began to scroll through the posts that appeared overnight. My eye caught on two photos that included O’rane Williams, the young Jamaican international student who was with us the day of the accident that took Bethany and Katie’s lives.

O’rane spent his Christmas break with our family that year. He had had surgery in September, just a few months prior, for a fungus that had grown inside his brain. I understood his parents preferred he stayed in the states over his break due to the proximity to quality medical care should he need it. He was Alex’s roommate and best friend at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Alex was Bethany’s boyfriend of two years. So when Alex returned to Sweden to spend his Christmas break with his family, O’rane was invited to spend the holiday with our family.

While O’rane had been to our home before it was generally for a quick in and out visit with Bethany and Alex. He was a tall, slim, and quiet young man (at least around us) with a blindingly beautiful shy smile. He spent several days with us prior to traveling to the Kansas City area to celebrate Christmas with our extended family. David spent those days teasing O’rane and trying to draw him out.

O’rane missed the spicy food of his homeland and David set out to make him an authentic Jamaican dinner. The scales were tipped against David being successful in his endeavors as O’rane has a relative that works as a chef. The meal David prepared was not spicy enough for O’rane’s more desensitized and refined palette so David and O’rane ventured out to Slim Chicken’s for some super spicy hot wings the next day. David had so much fun visiting with O’rane and learning about his culture—we all did.

Prior to leaving for Kansas City, we had a small family Christmas celebration. It has become a bit of a tradition, not because we feel a need to have our own intimate time to open gifts together, but instead because we used it to open the bulkier gifts so that we didn’t have to make room for them in the car. (We are nothing if not practical)! O’rane received flannel lounge pants, a scarf and gloves that night. He seemed surprised that there were gifts for him at all and equally surprised Christmas morning to find that a Christmas stocking had been prepared for him as well.

I remember being crowded in at my sister-in-laws home on Christmas Day and seeing a O’rane at the outer edges of the crowd of young adults just after the extended family exchanged gifts. He looked a bit overwhelmed which wasn’t a big surprise since he was a virtual stranger amid a large, loud, family group, in spite of the fact that Bethany’s cousins made every effort to make him feel welcome.

And then came December 26th. We ate breakfast and packed up and left my in-laws house around noon that day. Since we’d had a late breakfast we opted to stop in Lamar, Missouri, (the halfway point of our trip) to get lunch, which we picked up and ate on the road. During our stop and for awhile after we got back on the road, Bethany, O’rane, David and I discussed evolution and creation theory. At the time, I thought O’rane was a fellow believer-but he was in fact a seeker. We also participated in a side conversation as we left the fast food restaurant about seatbelt use. O’rane had opted not to wear his seatbelt. I recall Bethany telling him that statistically, rear seated passengers who failed to wear seat belts injured belted front seat passengers in accidents because they were propelled forward. I was tempted to ask O’rane to buckle up but decided against it reasoning that he was an adult and I needed to treat him as such. I never would have guessed how important and ironic those two concurrent conversations would prove to be just an hour further down the road.

When our van came to a stop that day, battered, broken and torn, I found myself in a state of shock. As I made my way around the back of the van and turned to find my daughters, I didn’t immediately see Katie. She had a brown hoodie on that day and blended into the shadows cast over the van’s third row seat. I began turning around searching the waist high weeds next to the highway’s gravel shoulder looking for Katie thinking she might have been thrown from the vehicle like her older sister Bethany had been and as I turned O’rane popped up from the weed strewn hill. I remember thinking, “Oh yeah, O’rane is with us” before asking him to stay seated where he was so I knew where to find him. But O’rane, who had sunk back to the ground, stood back up and began moving. I’m sure he was in a state of shock just like I was and I turned back to check on Gracen and then found Katie still securely strapped into her seat.

The next time I saw O’rane, he was stretched out on a back board, neck collar in place, surrounded by a bevy of first responders. I helped a bystander locate O’rane’s suitcase so he would have his medications and that was the last I saw of him that day.

My husband, David, found himself loaded into the same ambulance as O’rane and related to me a humorous account of the experience. Apparently, the paramedic who was caring for O’rane had a thick southern accent. O’rane, himself, understandably had a thick Jamaican accent. David found himself serving as an interpreter to two English speaking individuals that day in the back of that ambulance. O’rane couldn’t understand the paramedics English due to accent and the paramedic was unable to understand O’rane for the same reason. Eventually O’rane was flown to Mercy Hospital in Springfield primarily due to concerns over his recent brain surgery.

As a myriad of concerns spun through my mind for my family, I was also deeply worried about O’rane’s physical well-being and anxious as I had no idea how to contact his parents. At that time I didn’t know exactly where he’d been taken to check on him and I didn’t even know who to ask.

Eventually I learned that the campus police department (yes, the campus has a full-fledged police department, not just a campus security department) had been contacted by the Missouri Highway Patrol and they contacted O’rane’s host family. It was with profound gratitude that I learned that Kim Hubbard immediately drove to Springfield, Missouri, to be with O’rane. Kim knew how to contact O’rane’s parents and she took O’rane back to Conway after he was released from the hospital.

I saw O’rane just a handful of times following the accident. He came to the hospital in Joplin with Alex, the hospital in Little Rock with his mother (who flew in from Jamaica) and Heather Hoyt) who became a very important person in O’rane’s life), and to the funeral. My niece, Christi, befriended O’rane, and he visited her in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and we saw him as we came through town that particular weekend.

 

img_1725

David and I were at a loss for how to handle, for lack of a better word, the young men and women who were so important in Bethany’s life. We cared about them but at the same time we didn’t want them to feel any obligation to us. And for O’rane in particular, we did not want him to experience survivor’s guilt. As a result we didn’t reach out to them much, but would “like” posts on Facebook and such.

So Sunday morning, October 30, 2016, I paused when I saw O’rane’s smiling face and read Heather Hoyts post with a sinking and shocked heart. Less than three years after the accident O’rane survived, he lost his life to the fungus that invaded his brain. He endured and survived six brain surgeries since September of 2013—each an attempt to eradicate that fungus.

My heart is broken.

The world has lost such a bright light!

Last year, on December 26, 2013, the second anniversary of Bethany and Katie’s deaths, I received the following message from Heather Hoyt. It is my consolation; my only hope in sorrow. The note begins with Heather’s initial efforts to minister to O’rane following our collision in December 2013:

“2 years ago…

I was sitting in front of my (then) boyfriend’s house on the phone with students with whom I had volunteered at UCA. I was in shock and silent. My mouth hung open and all I could say was, “Oh God no, Oh God, No…” I had just seen Bethany at a Saudi student celebration Day on campus and had recently met O’rane.

I had to do something, I could not sit and not help in some way…

I called UCA campus police, as I had a friend who was a UCA officer, and I was aware of protocol of notification of school officials in the event of serious happenings with students. All I could think was, “the Boxx family shouldn’t have to do this, and they don’t know me, but I have to try and serve them in any way I can.” I spoke with the police and the next day with a Dean.

Days after, I received a message, from Kim Hubbard, that a student needed a ride to NWA and I heard God speak to me and tell me to take him. It was O’rane and he needed to come back to your family. As I drove him I talked with him about the accident, I talked with him about his feelings and emotions. I told him that God had spoken to me and told me to take him to NWA. He looked at me and got silent. I asked what he was thinking and he told me how he had been angry with God for years. He told me that he tried to speak to God all the time but God never spoke back. He wanted to know what it was like to hear God speak. I told him what it’s like for me but it may be very different for different people, but communication is based on relationship. We began a friendship that day. I had no idea all that God had in store….

Days later I drove a car load of internationals to NWA for the funeral.

5 brain surgeries and 2 years later, O’rane is my little brother and I would give my life for him. I love he and his family so dearly. We had many many talks about Jesus, science, afterlife…etc.

In September, his host mom Kim had been diagnosed with aggressive cancer and in October O’rane was found to have another fungus growth in his brain. Surgery was needed immediately. Kim could not be there as she was undergoing chemo and so I took care of him in the hospital.

The night before surgery my family came to the hospital to bring us dinner and pray over O’rane. One of my sisters stayed late and asked O’rane if we could talk about his soul. He agreed and she proceeded to ask about his hesitations with Jesus. He laid out a myriad of thoughts, most very well thought out, and a few excuses. But he was taking all of the conversation in. He was not ready to make any decisions and went to take a shower. Upon returning from the shower he had a strange look on his face. I inquired and he said, “God spoke to me in the shower.” Just he and God having a powwow in the shower and on his own with no ones leading but the Holy Spirit, O’rane chose Jesus and gave his life to Him. He officially became my legitimate brother, in Christ!

Recently he told me how much he misses Bethany and all they had dreamed about and planned, she, him, and Alex. The best news ever is that he will, in fact, now see her again.

He deeply misses her and dreams about her a lot. He is just now becoming very verbal about it. The dearest thought to my heart about Beth and Katie is that their lives taken has resulted in life being given to O’rane. It’s not how anyone would want salvation to come but Jesus the merciful turned evil for good once again and redeemed our boy, saving his life. Your daughters helped save his life. He was very lost and now he is found.

The good work God began will continue on to the day Jesus returns and there will be a great harvest reaped, in the name of your family. I know where Beth’s head was landing regarding God before the accident and even O’rane had told me how Katie stood up to Beth when she spoke of atheism. He said Beth even made him mad when she did that, but in this I am confident… She was inscribed on the palm of His hand, her soul kept safe and protected having been made perfect by the blood of the Lamb. Her spirit, “mind, will and emotions,” was still being sanctified and in that place she suffered confusion but confusion and rejection even are no match for the unfailing love of the beautiful Savior who held her in his palm declaring, “there is none who can snatch you out of my hand”….not even yourself. She saw in part but now sees in full, praise the name of the forever gracious God- He is wonderful!

On Christmas Eve this year, O’ranes host Mom, Kim Hubbard, met Jesus face to face and celebrated her first Christmas in heaven. O’rane is aware and will be returning for school Jan 5. He spoke with her one last time a few days before he left for Christmas. He had just been given the results of his 3 month MRI, my text from him read, “there’s no more crap in my head” (best text I’ve ever received). He spoke with Kim for the last time. He has seen so much loss in the past 2 years, Beth and Katie, sheffy (best friend at UCA- car accident), cousin (committed suicide), and now Kim. He is wondering why not him…God is going to do something amazing with his life…we will watch and see!
So 2 years later and amidst the incredible sorrow and loss, life has been born. If O’ranes friendship with Beth, vacay with your family, the accident and Kim being his host mom, had not happened, things might look very different in his world- I know they would in mine.

My heart aches with your family. My heart rejoices in Salvation sweet and sure. It’s bittersweet and beautiful and I don’t mind saying so. You are so brave. I hear the words of Jesus to your girls,

“Arise my darling, my beautiful one, and come along. For winter is past and the rain is gone.”

-Song of Solomon

May these words bring some joy in the night season.

Much love,

Heather”

 

My heart aches for O’rane’s family. It crushes me to think about what they are suffering today.

It is too painful.

I know too much.

I wish I could shield them from it, and yet that deep, dark well of grief is filled in proportion to the love and joy they have for their son and brother. (By the way, I know I used the present tense in that last sentence. It was not an error or oversight).

Love doesn’t die . . . It doesn’t diminish or fade away . . . It is a gift that resides in the heart forever.

O’rane has a legacy that lives on in the lives of friends and family and acquaintances. His smile, his laughter, his thoughts, his actions touched and changed those around him every single day of his life without conscious intent. His very existence changed the world in immeasurable ways. And while he is separate from us here and now, that won’t always be the case. O’rane went to the house of mourning, too many times in my opinion. However, he took it to heart and pondered its meaning and learned from it.

“A good name is better than precious perfume,
And the day of one’s death better than the day of one’s birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning

Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that [day of death] is the end of every man,
And the living will take it to heart and solemnly ponder its meaning.

Sorrow is better than laughter,
For when a face is sad (deep in thought) the heart may be happy [because it is growing in wisdom].

The heart of the wise [learns when it] is in the house
of mourning,
But the heart of fools is [senseless] in the house of
pleasure.”

~ Ecclesiastes 7:1-4

I will probably never understand why young people die—why children proceed their parents in death. It overwhelms my heart with sadness and sorrow. I will never be able to explain it to another, and frankly, no explanation would ever be adequate to justify such a loss. A fellow bereaved parent shared these verses from Isaiah 57:1-2 at a recent support group meeting. I like how they are rendered in the NIV and NLT translations, so I am sharing both here and hope you will ponder the significance when you wonder why . . .

“The righteous perish, and no one takes it to heart; the devout are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” ~ New International Version

“Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to care or wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come. For those who follow godly paths will rest in peace when they die.”~ New Living Translation

And from the Matthew Henry Commentary on Isaiah 57:1-2

“The righteous are delivered from the sting of death, not from the stroke of it. The careless world disregards this. Few lament it as a public loss, and very few notice it as a public warning. They are taken away in compassion, that they may not see the evil, nor share in it, nor be tempted by it. The righteous man, when he dies, enters into peace and rest.”

I’m praying that God will bless, comfort and strengthen the Williams family in the difficult days, weeks, months and honestly, the years ahead. Praying they will be aware of His presence and love especially when they feel weary and worn; broken and lost, alone and lonely as they miss their son and brother.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

Tags: , , ,

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?

thegarden

 

 

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.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on October 26, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

Tags: , , , ,

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.

29244205505_6a35bbea50_b

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.)

29210434836_40ed1d0a7b_b

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.

29165955751_f937127318_b
29210471046_c7dde65c08_b
29210473186_29a6faa3b4_b

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?

28621161734_1c6a00f17c_b

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.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on October 19, 2016 in Faith, Links

 

Tags: , , ,

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.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on October 12, 2016 in Faith

 

Tags: , , ,

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.

 
9 Comments

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

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Questions I Ask & Thoughts I Ponder

The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21,

“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

I can in no way claim to be anything like the Apostle Paul, but I can relate to his statement – if not in whole, then in part.

For me, to live is to care for Gracen, and I desperately want to be there for Gracen, but to die . . . to die is gain.

In our day and age, no one wants to hear that sentiment expressed. Maybe it makes people fearful that I might harm myself, but I wonder if maybe it is more about an individual’s fear that at some point in their life, they might find they desire death over life.

I have an eternal hope.

Death is not something I personally fear.

And neither did the Apostle Paul.

And if . . . if God’s purpose for the latter part of my life is to care for Gracen . . . if that is my ministry and service for Christ, then am I not, in effect saying just as the Apostle Paul did, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”?

Is it spiritual to laud his statement and rebuke mine?

If we as Christians are to be Heavenly minded, is it wrong to long for our eternal home?

Is it wrong to desire Heaven more than we desire this temporary world we currently reside in?

Do we unconsciously believe Paul’s ministry, the ministry of evangelism, is the pursuit of Christ and His desires, whereas ministry to the members of our family or the sick really doesn’t equate to living for Christ?

img_1412-1Is that why my longing for my eternal home is met with admonitions that I must have hope? That it is wrong for me to desire the rapture in order to escape these earthly sorrows?

Is that really wrong?

Does my motivation somehow make my desire impure?

Does God care why I desire Heaven or just that I do?

Does not a longing for my eternal home reflect the deepest trust that I, in fact, have an eternal home waiting for me?

Does it not reflect true faith?

And should I lose it all—should I lose both David & Gracen—what, if anything, would be capable of anchoring my broken heart to this earthly prison?

I know what the answer to that last question should be. I certainly don’t need anyone to educate me with the “correct” response. But what “should be” and “what is” are often two different things. I know that my mind and my emotions will not agree if my worst fears are realized. I know they won’t. They don’t now.

These are questions I ask myself.

Maybe that last question is the reason people so adamantly attempt to cram the necessity of hope down my throat.

Maybe that’s their secret fear too.

Maybe no one knows what would hold enough sway in their individual lives to anchor their souls to this world if they lost everything they value most in this world.

Maybe—God help us all—maybe there is nothing strong enough to do that for any of us.

img_1416Maybe that’s where the Holy Spirit steps in and performs a supernatural work in our hearts that enables us to receive God’s all sufficient grace instead of rejecting it in our agony . . . instead of taking action outside of the will of God due to complete despair and utter desperation.

These are thoughts I ponder.

I’d love to know how you answer these questions—if you think these same thoughts.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on September 10, 2016 in Faith

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Trust, Works & Supernatural Power

Trust with blue marker

I came across a bit of dialog in some fiction I was reading recently. Within that dialog was a nugget — a small, small thought that struck a chord within. The male character was imploring the female character not to worry, but to please trust him instead. The author revealed the female’s thoughts more than a reply. The female’s internal response was that she could do that — trust him — for the time being, but also acknowledged that the time was coming when they would have to have a serious discussion about this issue in their relationship. The issue was the effect the male character’s abusive father played in their interaction as a couple.

The woman was afraid to blindly trust that the man had overcome the far reaching impact of abuse at the hands of his father; one of the two people every individual should be able to trust for unconditional and sacrificial love.

ca777683f74be57ee1436a610eb174a9The author communicated that the woman needed more than the male character’s word that he was trustworthy — she needed more information to feel comfortable that the emotional wounds inflicted by the abusive father would not result in destructive, self-protective responses when their own relationship hit difficult challenges. In fact, the entire story was built around the fact that the male character had run and shut the female character out, at an earlier point in their relationship.

Personal, painful experience had taught the female character to be wary. She desperately wanted to trust, but experience had taught her a painful lesson and her own self-protective instincts were screaming that as hard as the male character was trying, trust damaged is not easily, and without evidence of change or misunderstanding, rebuilt. Fear and the instinct for self-preservation demanded more than unchallenged trust. She needed to know her trust was merited.

And this is that small nugget — the thought that struck a chord within as I read this work of fiction: This need for more evidence in the aftermath of deep wounds is not only normal but wise. Isn’t that what you, as a parent, would advise your child to do — Trust but verify? Is it then so hard to comprehend that the broken believer needs the same thing from God? Is it sinful? Personally, I don’t think so.

Eventually every Christian hears these words, “Don’t worry, trust God.” There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that advice, unless it is offered to someone who perceives themselves to be betrayed or abandoned by the God they are being encouraged to trust. 08e8f8fff3f9e983cb822826a9feef30If that’s the case, the wounded Christian may very well be thinking, “Stop asking me to trust God while I’m still coughing up water from the last time He let me drowned!” Is it any wonder then that such advice is met with cynicism, anger, extreme frustration, ridicule or even abject terror? This biblical admonition heaps guilt and shame upon the struggling and broken believer.

The well-known phrase, Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!, comes to mind here doesn’t it? Self-preservation demands more than biblical platitudes. And lest that statement offends let me clarify before continuing. A platitude is defined as a trite phrase spoken as if it were profound or fresh. Synonyms for the word platitude include trite and cliché. The common theme in definition among all three of these words is the idea that a phrase has become commonplace and lost it’s effectiveness due to overuse. Can a Bible verse become cliché? Trite? A platitude? I think the answer is yes.

Oh, I can just imagine the hackles rising here, but please bear with me!  Maybe the definition of those three words above should be expanded to include misuse as well as overuse. From my personal perspective, advice becomes trite when it is offered in a flip manner, without adequate thought or as a quick and easy fix to a complicated problem. And honestly, I am smart enough to realize that just because a verse has been overused or misused doesn’t make it any less true.

The real problem — what makes Bible verses about trust (in this case) into platitudes — is the failure to acknowledge that from the believer’s perspective, trust has either not been adequately established or for the more mature believer, trust is perceived as having been breached.  Therefore, the admonition to trust God is both perceived as a criticism and an oversimplification.

Trust is developed over time. It’s the result of positive reinforcement — and damaged when it is betrayed or extended to someone prematurely or foolishly. I think, when a child is well cared for by its parents, trust is developed and the young mind assumes everyone is trustworthy. Life experience soon teaches the child that that assumption is invalid. Trust is eroded and less easily extended as we get hurt in big and small ways.

trust-God-01Yet the Christian faith appears to demand unconditional trust in the Savior we believe in but cannot see; cannot touch. It appears to demand that in the face of evidence to the contrary we hold fast to scriptures that seem to communicate the opposite of what life experience teaches us.

That word, appears, is really the key, don’t you think? Appearances are deceptive. Our culture is so driven by positive thinking that we gloss over the difficulties the Bible tells us will surely befall us and rush to the tail end of the verses that promise a positive outcome.

When we read Isaiah 40:31, ” . . . they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”, we focus on the positive outcome of waiting upon the Lord. But I fear that we fail to recognize what this verse implies as we desperately cling to its promises. What this verse implies, but doesn’t explicitly say, is that the believer will find themselves weak and weary. Our strength need not be renewed if it is never weakened. Yet somehow, we interpret this verse to mean that we will never feel weak and weary, only that we will triumphantly mount up with wings as eagles! Then when we find ourselves weak and weary we wonder why or believe that we have somehow failed to live out our faith.

Likewise, Isaiah 43:2 says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” When we read this verse we gloss over the fact that we will pass through the waters, through the rivers (fast moving current), through the fires. We overlook or maybe refuse to consider what it will feel like as we enter the waters and feel it quickly rising, threatening to overflow us and forcefully dragging us downstream. We fail to anticipate how it will feel when we feel the heat of the flames, smell singed hair and choke on the heavy smoke that surrounds us as we walk through the fire.

Instead we focus on the promise that God will be with us, that the waters will not drown us and the fires won’t burn us. It’s all stated without emotion as if fear, pain, discouragement and a multitude of other emotions won’t batter us in the midst of the flood waters and fiery flames of life circumstances. But the scriptures don’t promise that — they just promise God’s presence and protection from complete devastation as we go through those harrowing experiences. Ask the near drowning victim. Ask the individual who barely escaped without injury when a fire broke out in their home. Consider the Christian martyr; consider Paul who was whipped five times (39 lashes on each occasion), beaten with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times and spent 24 hours on the open seas (2 Corinthians 11:24-25) and imprisoned at least once. Were they unafraid in spite of the constant presence of the Holy Spirit? Doubtful, highly doubtful! More likely they were still terrified.

The Bible tells us to reason together with the Lord (Isaiah 1:18). To taste and see that He is good (Psalm 34:8). To try the Lord (Malachi 3:10), at least in regards to tithes and offerings. It doesn’t demand unconditional or unchallenged trust. God, by grace, gives us enough evidence to take that step of faith. *For further clarification on trying the Lord please read the notes at the end of this article.

trust-building-big-sizeWhen faced with a believer who is grappling with difficult circumstances, who is afraid or discouraged, I, like every other Christian I know, struggle with how to respond – how to support and encourage. We want to fix the problem and when we are helpless to effect change we point them to the only One capable of pulling them through. We encourage them to trust God. But I wonder if that is the very last thing the hurting believer needs to hear. They, like the female character in the novel I mentioned above, need something more; more than unchallenged trust. The trust they had has been shaken by circumstances. They need more information; more knowledge and evidence to boost their confidence that their faith is grounded on a firm foundation and not built upon shifting sand.

I wonder if what the broken believer really needs to hear from fellow Christians is:

  • A promise that prayers for either assurance or the restoration of their battered hope and trust in Christ will be lifted to the throne of grace.
  • I wonder if maybe that struggling believer needs an acknowledgment that trusting God in their circumstances is not simply a matter of the will.
  • That fledgling faith and perceived betrayal or abandonment results in shaky trust.
  • That supernatural help is required to trust God more fully.
  • That the believer’s need for more evidence that God is trustworthy is expected, entirely normal, and is no easy or simplistic feat.

And let’s be real here. The body of Christ is not strengthened when we refuse to acknowledge our doubts about God.

God is not afraid He will be found lacking. He’s completely confident that as we test our faith, as we reason together with Him, as we search to determine if He is good like He claims, we will discover He is all He proclaims Himself to be.

Life has taught me to expect disappointment, pain and suffering. It’s unrealistic to expect that I can simply ignore the lessons of days gone by and trust that God will not allow me to be hurt further. I need time to reexamine the evidence presented in the Word of God. I don’t think He is the least bit offended by that. And this is what I’ve discovered:

  • What I need from God is the supernatural ability to rise above the pain and fear; not to believe in vain that more pain and sorrow will not befall me.
  • That I don’t need encouraged to trust God more – I need to comprehend and make peace with what I can and cannot trust Him for.
  • And I need supernatural help to find the peace that passes all understanding so that I can endure what lies before me without discouragement and despair — undefeated by circumstances and Satan’s mechanizations.

I think grace believing Christians still get tripped up in works related theology. I know I do. We think we are responsible for our spiritual growth. That if we just do the right things (practice the spiritual disciplines – Bible reading and prayer), acquire the  right mindset (taking every thought captive, thinking on things that are pure and just, choosing joy) that we will overcome. And we are frustrated when we find that approach unsuccessful for ourselves and others. Intellectually we know we are dependent upon God to change us, but Satan’s deceptions woven into culturally ingrained messages have insidiously crept between the gaps in biblical knowledge within our hearts and minds. Truth has been perverted. Our beliefs have been infected with half-truths. And as a result . . .

We believe walking the walk equates to spiritual transformation.

We believe if we follow the prescribed formula, we will be successful at overcoming our problems. But that idea when boiled down . . .

Denies the very work and power of God in the lives of Christians!

That formulaic philosophy is grounded in works not faith. It disguises the truth that while we ascribe our spiritual well being to God we subconsciously restrict His participation as we try to solve our own problems; as we try to heal or improve ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, there is great value in practicing the disciplines of the faith, however, those practices are the means by which we cooperate with the Holy Spirit in spiritual growth and maturity but they are not, in and of themselves, responsible for spiritual growth. Here is the truth . . .

  • We cannot grow spiritually without supernatural intervention.
  • Spiritual growth requires the work of the Spirit.
  • Only the Holy Spirit can bridge the gap between our humanity and holiness in a process known as sanctification.

I don’t need encouragement to find a way to make myself do the impossible (heal myself).

I need prayer that God will do the impossible within me.

IMG_1212I need fellow believers to recognize and acknowledge that healing will not come solely from activity on my part.

I need believers to tell me that they are praying for God to step in and do what I can’t do for myself, what no man, regardless of how strong willed they are, can do for themselves.

And frankly, I need Christians to verbalize (well, after I’m confident that they actually believe this) that unfinished healing isn’t representative of a failure on my part to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Instead it means the Holy Spirit is still at work in my heart.

I wonder if those who read this blog think I might harp too much on the ill effects of the culturally popular positive thinking philosophy. But as my grief counselor pointed out to me Tuesday, the command to think upon things that are true and just, etc., is not at all a command to think positively or to dwell on only good things (which is exactly how I’d interpreted it). What’s true and just may not necessarily be good or positive. 

I find myself at war within — cognizant that I am waiting on the Lord to do His work within my heart as I cooperate in those efforts, but simultaneously self-condemning — believing the cultural messages I’ve been raised with — that are ingrained within. The messages that say I can pull myself up by my bootstraps, that if I just apply myself I will succeed, that choosing joy eliminates sorrow. And while there may be a kernel of truth hidden within each of those messages, the success they promise is all predicated upon my works, not the power of God!

bible-idolChristians reduce the Word of God to a mere idol when we attribute spiritual growth to following biblical precepts while excluding the God who empowers that Word from the process.

Is that what I do? Is that what the Christian community of our generation does? Do we serve God ritualistically without humbling ourselves to acknowledge our desperate need of His personal intervention in our lives? Do we subconsciously deny or rebel against the power of God in our lives? Are we modern day Pharisees?

“These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”

 ~ Isaiah 29:13

I can’t effect true and real transformation in my life by the practice of spiritual disciplines in the absence of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. At best, I can create an elaborate facade that gives the appearance of transformation. There are things only the Holy Spirit can do. He, alone, is capable of transforming my life, thereby, increasing my trust in Him.

I wonder how I would have felt — what difference it might have made — if just one person had said to me, “Janet, you are going to have to trust God for Gracen’s health and future. But know this: spiritually mature trust is impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Practice the spiritual disciplines to the best of your ability, but don’t beat yourself up when you find yourself afraid for the future, when you realize that you can’t force yourself to trust God by an act of your will alone. Understand supernatural intervention is required and it doesn’t happen overnight or even quickly.”

What would words such as those do for a broken or struggling believer?

What would they do for you?

 


 *Notes on Trying the Lord

There is a fine line between trying the Lord, as in searching the scriptures to see what He says about Himself and trying the Lord by demanding that He prove to us He is worthy of our trust.

Got Questions?.org has a great article that discusses the distinctions between the two. And while the article says of Malachi 3:10 “This is the only situation given in the Bible in which God tells His people to “test” Him.” It later concludes that “The Israelites at Massah tested God because they lacked faith in Him. The Israelites in Malachi’s day were invited to test God because they had faith in Him.” (To read the article in its entirety, click on the following link:  What Does it Mean to Test God?).

I am in no way advocating tempting the Lord. As a believer and disciple of Christ Jesus, I am coming to God from a position of faith. There’s an important distinction that must be drawn between coming to God doubting his power and character and coming to Him fully confident of his power and character yet confused because He didn’t behave as we expected. Are we not then trying our faith as opposed to testing God? (James 1:2-3)

 
9 Comments

Posted by on July 9, 2016 in Faith

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Philosophical Thinking, Unicorns & Rainbows

8 Great Philosophical Questions That We’ll Never Solve - Does God existOn my more philosophical days, I have been known to think that I am far more blessed than those around me who seem to live lives devoid of tragic loss and health challenges. Truth be told, I’ve not found myself terribly philosophical in the two and a half years since Bethany and Katie’s lives were stolen by the selfish and reckless actions of an unlicensed driver. But I remember those moments in what feels like the distant past.

Life is hard. Circumstances have driven me to my knees literally and figuratively. In fact, circumstances have led me to a full body prostrate position, the nubby carpet of my bedroom floor, imprinting my cheek as I’ve petitioned the Lord for the hearts, souls, and health of my children.

And I’ve lost. I’ve lost too many of the things I love most in this life. No great spiritually inspiring story to be told. Just loads of heartache, anger, and questions for the One True God of love and justice.

Loss and heartache translate into vulnerability and weakness. And in this day and age both are intolerable to society at large. We are a nation of overcomers. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and keep going. We deceive ourselves into believing that through sheer force of will and dogged determination we can overcome every challenge, every trial in life.

I-have-the-strength-to-overcome-the-impossible.

We perceive ourselves as strong when we ignore negative feelings and refuse to be beaten by circumstances beyond our control. We pat ourselves on the back (as do others) for moving forward while we are really undermining our future health and happiness by ignoring or repressing emotional needs all in the effort to meet societal expectations and exercise control over the chaos that has somehow infiltrated our lives.

images (44)According to John Powell, author of Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? the two major causes of anxiety are supercharged repressed emotions and unmet emotional needs. Emotional needs include the need to feel accepted, approved of, believed in, forgiven, listened to, needed, important, useful, respected, valued, supported, understood, in control, trusted, and worthy to name a few. The cultural demand to overcome, to turn every negative into a positive promotes and encourages the unhealthy practice of ignoring emotional needs and repressing negative emotions.

I fear this secular theology of overcoming against all odds, when boiled down reveals that we believe ourselves to be, or are bound and determined to make ourselves, God. And these efforts, are obviously in utter and complete opposition to the doctrine of the Bible.

The philosophy that enables me to believe that I am far more blessed than those whose lives appear to be filled with unicorns and rainbows, is grounded on the Biblical truth that I am NOT God. I am not capable of independently and self-sufficiently controlling and overcoming the chaos that surrounds and invades my life.

Tragedy, weakness, and suffering have driven me to work out my salvation. I’m constantly comparing my beliefs to the Word of God which reveals secular untruths I have absorbed, personal misconceptions or interpretations that don’t hold up under stress or simply an incomplete understanding of scripture.

I fear that the average Christian, myself included, doesn’t hold up the shield of faith in order to protect themselves from Satan’s fiery arrows but instead in an effort to hide their vulnerability and project an image of spiritual maturity to a watching and expectant audience of believers and non-believers alike.

Somehow we have interpreted the shield of faith as an impenetrable barrier of protection from pain instead of protection against Satan’s deceptions and lies than weaken and destroy the very foundation of our faith; trust in God Almighty.

Weakness and dependence are paradoxically the strength of the Christian faith. The beauty of weakness is the revelation of Christ’s power at work within us. A supernatural strength is inexplicably revealed through our weakness and humility that far exceeds the strength manufactured by force of will alone. Is this not why Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”? (ESV)

In my humanity, I desperately long for a life filled with unicorns and rainbows. I long for a life that is filled with nothing more than common everyday hardships; car repairs, defiant children, financial fears. Garden variety, everyday frustrations, and irritations.

Dark Clouds an Little Blue SkyGiven the opportunity, I would rewrite the story of my life. But in the recesses of my mind, the storm clouds of sorrow shift and briefly reveal the truth that hides behind; losses and sorrow have gifted me with things of great value. Empathy, compassion, and understanding poured out on others in an effort to help meet their emotional needs. The assurance of my salvation and an awareness of the solid foundation of my faith even as it is battered by the storm. The development of a more holy and heavenly perspective. And then the wind picks back up shifting the storm clouds once again obscuring those encouraging truths. And I am left frustrated and discouraged instead of philosophical; feeling more cursed than blessed, desperate to escape the suffering that plagues my daily existence and longing for unicorns and rainbows.

 
7 Comments

Posted by on July 2, 2016 in Adversity, Books, Faith

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Silence Doesn’t Serve Anyone Well

Silence Doesn’t Serve Anyone Well

thelifeididntchoose

One of the reasons I write is to share my grief experience with others.

I realized when tossed into the ocean of sorrow that of all the things I had heard about or read about, surviving child loss was never mentioned.  

Oh, someone might comment that so-and-so had LOST a child, but then the conversation quickly moved on to more comfortable topics.

But if we don’t talk about it, we can’t learn to live through it.

Silence doesn’t serve anyone well.

I agree with Mr. Rogers:

Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”
― Fred Rogers

spotlight3

During the course of my lifetime I have seen many topics dragged from…

View original post 370 more words

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 24, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

Tags: , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: