Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The week that followed

About a week after yesterday's post, mom was still on the ventilator, though improved and actually came off either that day or the next (at least briefly), I found myself reading Psalm 80...

80:2- ...Show us your mighty power, come to rescue us
     3- Turn us again to yourself, O God. Make your face shine down upon us. Only then will we be saved.
     5- You have filled us withe sorrow and made us drink tears by the bucketful.    
14-15- Come back, we beg you, O God Almighty, look down from Heaven and see our plight. Watch over                 and care for this vine that you yourself have planted.
16-17- For we are chopped up by our enemies, may they perish at the sight of your frown. Strengthen the one you love.

I pray God, that you do what only You can do and cure mom, that you will rip away this cancer and sickness so it may never return. I pray that when you do it, it will be done in such a way that those who experience it, will never be able to doubt, and will have no choice but to know it was you. I pray that you you do it for your glory, to bring us back to you...

-- This was the first time I prayed this prayer. It was over the coming months, while mom was still in the hospital, bouncing around the ICUs, that God began to really work on my understanding of His healing. I came to understand the difference between what I was asking for and what I truly desired. I was praying for a miracle, defining it as only a healing on this earth. It took quite a while, and a lot of conversations and prayers with my wife, to come to an understanding that my defining the miracle of what God would do was completely leaving out the reality of who God is. I was in no place to say that I deserved a miracle, and even less of one to define how that miracle would take place. I had placed God conveniently into a nice little box. Stored Him away in one of the compartments of my life, allowed Him to come about like a magic genie. When things were tough and wrong, I would open that box and make my requests... I had no concept of His Lordship. It was some time later, much later, that I was fully broken on this point, around the third time that mom really should not have lived, about the time that Zenobia expressed her willingness to move into my parent's house to help take care of my mom when she came home... about that time that I started to see and understand how God was using all of this to perform a greater miracle than something as simple as physical healing. I came to understand that mom's physical healing was sealed and ready for her, whether it happened this side of glory or not, the more pressing matter was trusting God in all circumstances to do exactly what God does... watch over us, protect us, love us, for His glory

This was the last I wrote in that particular book... I've never been good at keeping a consistent journal... but as I find more past writings, I might pass them along. I've really enjoyed revisiting this particular week of my life. It was the beginning of a most trying and crucial portion of my life, and looking back at it, it was only by the grace and mercy of God, and by His provision alone that I was able to come through it without simply shutting down and turning away from God. I came to understand that God works through pain, sorrow, even buckets of tears... He will use our circumstances to help us seek Him. It wasn't mom's healing I needed to be most concerned with in these times... her's was promised already, and as I had seen earlier in the week, a promise from God is eternally sealed in His hand... no, the healing I needed to be seeking at this time in my life, was to piece back together my understanding of God, I had shattered it by my pride, and reluctance to follow Him.

These few posts really have formed the basis of my belief, first to die to self, and allow Christ to live through me... second, enjoy and use the gifts and blessings God has provided... third, run from evil, and run to God. This was followed by coming to an understanding about the faithfulness and unconditional love of God, that not only does He promise, but also, He seals us for eternity. The week continued then with an understanding of a growing peace as we release the burdens of our life, and trust in the eternal seal of God, and His desire to take these all on, and release us to love. It finishes today with the realization of understanding our fractured view of who God truly is, and our hope for reconciling these truths lies within trusting Him wholly.Its a promise of a continued process of sanctification, that will continue from here to death...

He continues to call me to Him, and I hope I continue to respond... I hope the same for you

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Starting to grasp peace

Another day along mom's initial journey while I was writing in this old sketch book... this one the day after the last, in between the two posts was the first time that mom got to experience the wonder of the code blue. As a complication of the length of her initial surgery (>8hrs) she developed some clot issues that brought about a pulmonary embolus. The night in between reading and writing about the promises of God and the security we have in believing in His faithfulness, and this next day was the first time in this process that I nearly lost my mom...

"But Moses told the people, 'Don't be afraid! Just stand where you are and watch the Lord rescue you' ... 'The Lord Himself will fight for you. You won't have to lift a finger in your defense.'" Exodus 14:13-14

Not only can God take care of all the junk that happens in our life, but He also wants to take care of it. He desires to be Lord of our lives, He desires to be our provider and sustainer. He asks us to stand firm, trust Him, and allow Him to demonstrate His love and power as He willfully and completely handles the things in our life that are far beyond our scope of understanding.
The God who created it all wants to help. I can't get past the implications here... His desire is to be exactly who the Bible says He is.

"When I sit and think of all that You created, and still, You choose to think of me" Offering- Third Day

--- What a truth in time of great need... we get caught up in our circumstances, we even say cliche things about everything happening for a reason, or that God is in control, and so on... but we miss something very important when we trivialize who God is, and what His mission is. God's mission is the advancement and expansion of His glory, part of accomplishing such a mission is that He must remain in a place that is worth glorifying. The only way we can hope to achieve keeping God in such a place in our own lives is to truly trust Him as Lord... and part of that is relinquishing control to Him in all circumstances. As Moses told the Israelites, God does not need anything from us to rescue us, or to defend us. Combine that with the truth of yesterday, as a firm grasp of the security of God's hands, and we begin to see and understand at a deeper level just how sufficient God is to be exactly who God is... Let go, and let God defend you, rescue you, and seal you in His hands... in that you will find greater peace than this world could better offer.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A promise in the hand

More from the sketch book today, this one from at least a few days after the first...

"...His agreement is eternal, final, sealed. He will constantly look after my safety and success." 2Samuel 23:5

The promises of God are like God, unfailing, never ending, infallible. Or to put it as we see here, they are sealed. This sends feelings of elation throughout my self... the thought that all the things that God has in store for me, all His plans for my life, as well as His promise of my salvation, as well as those same things He holds for so many of the people I love, that all of these things are sealed in His hands, that thought is amazing. It puts me at peace in the light of my current circumstances and a midst current events to know that all of my stress, anxiety, and worry are unnecessary, the outcome is in God's hands, and is sealed.
Why is God so good to me? How is He able to love not only me, but also all of those who seek to dishonor Him? God loves them all, yet I have problems loving anyone. It makes me feel  a little like Judas (not in the betrayal of Christ really) in that Judas never could grasp how Christ could love him. Even after what Judas did, after he sold Christ to the Roman's, Jesus loved Judas. I think it was this irreconcilable fact that drove Judas to his own death. I wonder how much it saddened Jesus when He learned of Judas' suicide... Though I may not have ever sold Christ to the Roman's or kissed Him in betrayal, I have spit on His cross and shunned His love. But the beauty of God's love, and it's very nature, is that it is a promise and a guarantee... it is sealed
God, help me to let go of the things that are sealed in Your hands,and help me to understand how You love us so unconditionally... put my mind at ease.

--- We are promised in scripture that once something  is sealed into God's hands, He never lets go... it is the assurance of our day-to-day life to know that the agreements that God has made with man are eternal.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

3 Truths

Doing some cleaning this past week, I came across an old sketch book, had some artwork in it... some ok, most of it not. It also had in it some things I had written down, scriptures, prayers, other thoughts, from the week that my mom was diagnosed and had her first surgery. I thought I might go ahead and get some of them transferred over into a better format, add some commentary, and just take some time remembering the great comfort that was provided in those first days of figuring out what was going to happen... as blissful ignorance turned to painful fear, turned to a deepening of my understanding of who God truly is.

I don't have a date for this one, but its the first page, and if I remember right, this was the morning before her first surgery:

"Do what is good and run from evil- that you may live! Then, the Lord God Almighty will truly be your helper, just as you have claimed He is." Amos 5:14

"Enjoy what you have instead of desiring what you don't have. Dreaming about nice things is meaningless; it is like chasing the wind." Ecclesiastes 6:9

"I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in the earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

---Looking back at this day, preparing my mind for what ended up being the first of 90 days in the hospital and the first on numerous surgeries, the first thing that comes to mind is, how GREAT is our God? I didn't know what He was preparing me for, but I can see now how He was working to bring my mind right, and to get my focus back to the important things. These three verses in combo remind me who I am in Christ, focus me into my blessings, and remind me how to go about living life... I no longer live, but Christ lives in me... enjoy what I have instead of focusing on what I don't... run from evil and to God for help...

This is where my life began to change once again, and when I started to dive much deeper into the love of Christ in my life... I look forward to the next few postings, there were only a handful of days I wrote anything down at this point, and thumbing through it, God did some strong, foundational work... I look forward to looking through it again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sometimes I fail as a writer

I am asked, somewhat frequently, by a handful of people about getting some of my writings published. They are trying to be encouraging and helpful, and I appreciate their belief that anything I write would be considered worth reading by enough people to warrant a publication. I do have thinly-veiled aspirations to someday be a published author and I hope that I will eventually find a topic to write about that would bring out my writing talents in a way that would be marketable. Ultimately I meet up with this particular rub: When I start writing with the thoughts of publication racing through my head, I've lost my intentionality for my writing all together...

We are called to keep our eyes on the things of above and not the things of this earth, and we are called to do all things not for the glory of man, but to the glory of God. If I keep my eyes upward, my writing is about me expressing my love of Christ and my desire to increase the depth of my knowledge of Him... but as my gaze shifts to those around me, and seeking their praises, I express only my desire for self-actualization. My ego begins to run wild as I write, as I put down words that sound good to my ears, I hear the familiar voice of self begin to whisper about my own greatness, about all the good and wonderful things I could accomplish... whats worse, as I focus my writings on myself, I begin to believe that voice. I hear it twisting through my brain, using the true desires of my heart, my desires to delve deeper and deeper into the love of Christ, and to understand as much about Him that He will willingly allow me to know, it begins to twist my desires to allow other to see this same love, and to reach out to those who long for it... the selfish sin-nature within me twists those desires and places focus back onto me. I begin to think about how I can reach people for Christ, how I can achieve to work of Christ, how I can stand for Christ... but never once do I begin to consider how I can submit my talents to His will and allow Him to work through me to achieve each of those things... to some that might seem to be splitting hairs, but to me, its huge. My intention when I write must be to present myself as a submitted and humble servant of God, that He might use that talents He gave me to reach out and reveal His glory to those who stumble across these words. To rattle through some thoughts of Paul, I am to write as though I truly believe that it is not I who live but it is Christ who lives in me... I need to be submitted to that same level, that I might join with God in His mission and His work to bring glory and honor to Him, as He along is worthy of such things.

If I ever do become a published author, my hope is that it will be because of a dependence on God, and His desire that the words I have put down on paper are ultimately pleasing to Him. In the meantime, I hope to continue to use this space as a conduit of my thoughts and musings as I continue to explore the depths of His great mercy, grace, and love. I hope to continue to better understand the gifts and talents He has bestowed on me, with which I am to glorify Him.

If you read my blog at all, I want to thank you for that... pray with me that more and more people will understand the purpose of their gifts, and will use them to bring about the changes this world needs.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Something I think we, as Christians, often forget as we continue our lives in Christ is that at no point did we do anything worthy of our salvation. We did nothing apart from God to gain our relationship with Him... we never did anything... We didn't even pursue God without Him doing the work, we only pursue Him because He pursued us first, we only love Him because He loved us first... we are fully dependent on Him for every little thing in our lives. We forget that and start to become arrogant in our faith, we judge and condemn others because they are not in a relationship with God... rather than remembering that we wouldn't be in our relationship if God had not chosen to pursue us into the relationship to begin with! Our job in reaching out to these people is to point them in the direction of God so that they might recognized the pursuit, and to be available resources of love, hope, and encouragement through the process.

The other thing we often to forget is that God is not afraid of our circumstances, He will pursue us through a literal Hell in order to bring us to Him. He would rather not, I'm sure, but His desire for us to experience His glory is such that He will do whatever it takes... He will use our circumstances, our struggles, our sin itself to pursue us if necessary. I am reminded of this point anytime I listen to Brian Welch's song "Washed by Blood"... a narrative of the internal conflict that he was feeling as he attempted (and failed many times) to change his life for his daughter. He pursued religion, and Christian-flavored religion, but continued to fail in his attempts until one night while reading scripture and praying he was reminded of who he is... a drugee fighting addiction, wrapped in a world of lust, pride, and self-service, and reminded that he needed to submit to Christ first, and allow Him to clean his own life... he wrote it lyrically like this:

I know you've tried
To satisfy 
Your appetite 
For too long 
You wonder why 
You are alive 
You've lived a lie 
For too long 
So now you're done 
Life isn't fun 
What's this life for? 

These are not 
Only words to a song 
Come to me 
You're forgiven now 
You're washed by Blood 
From deep inside 
You're not a prisoner of your old life 
Washed by Blood 
A brand new start 
It's time that I rebuild your heart 

I paid your price 
I sacrificed 
My human life 
All for you 
Come to the light 
You will shine bright 
You'll never die 
That's the truth 
Cuz I have sworn 
You'll be reborn 
If you choose 
What's there to lose? 

Wash away 
All the pain 
With the blood 
No more shame 
Who you are 
And what your life is 

I am Taking over from now on 
You can't escape don't even try to run 
I can't just sit and watch you die no more 
You will begin to learn what life is for 
Chosen this Time 
To change your Mind 
So you will Find Your Way Back Home 
Where you belong 
Your heart of Stone 
Will start to Feel Love From Now On 
Live for me and you will see your life will be so worry free 
Say goodbye to your old life give me a try 
Be Alive 
There shall be no more Death Nor 
Sorrow Nor Crying 
There shall be no more pain 
For the former things have passed away 
You're washed by Blood 
From deep inside 
You're not a prisoner of your old life 

Come fly away With me 
You know I love you

Saturday, March 16, 2013

a little about my dad

For one of my classes this week we have to write essays on heroism, one of which has to be a hero from your family. I chose to write about my dad... I may not have gotten all the dates right, and I am sure that remembering things through my child's eyes probably skewed some of the facts, but what a humbling experience to write out everything that this man has done for me over the course of my life, and everything that he did before then to ensure that I might be able to be here today, having the life I do... so, I thought I'd share a few excerpts from that essay today, as a way to say thank you to him, as well as to praise God for the gift He gave me in a great earthly father. Through the love and sacrifice of my dad, I am able to see the reflected beauty of my eternal father...

Some things about my dad:
He is a 55 year old small business owner... in his field, he is widely respected... He is a widow, and a father of 3, grandfather of 6, and the constant male role-model in several other lives. He is brilliantly simple in his view of the world, and believes in a healthy trust in the goodness of others...He graduated high school in 1976, was married in 1978, a father in 1979, 1983, and 1984...among the fond memories of his early years is a cute girl that lived a couple houses down. He spent many days after school, and through the summers, tormenting the girl, shooting birds out of the trees in her front yard. Bart graduated from high school in 1976, and while he was trying to plan the next phase of his life, he learned that his girl down the street was going to be moving to California... so, he followed her... and then, on her 18th birthday, they got married... The following few years, he continued to work hard and he became a father for the first time. Things were progressing well through his life... Then he was faced with a decision. His wife was pregnant with their second child, he had been offered a higher level job with a larger company, but his wife’s mother was ill in southwest Missouri. His father-in-law was not in the best of health either, and the cancer that was destroying his mother-in-law was too much for him to take care of... he declined the job offer, opting instead to head into the unknown and help care for the ailing in-laws. He became a father for the second time not long after getting settled in to this new life. His mother-in-law passed away...followed by his father-in-law...The added responsibilities of home, and the extreme hours at work... he found a new job...This was quickly followed by the birth of his third child, me... At the ripe, old age of 29 he bought the company he was working... With just some formal education beyond high school, using his natural gifts and intelligence, Bart was a 29 year old, married, father of 3, guardian of 1, small business owner, and in position to continue living his life...until he lost of his father, again... Even with the stress of owning and operating a business, working 80-100 hours most weeks, he never missed a beat as a father. He would get home in time for dinner nearly every night, even if it meant going into work at 2 or 3 in the morning. After dinner was always play time, throwing a ball around, shooting baskets, or playing board games, it didn't matter, as long as his family was together....He pushed himself this hard for years, always advancing and always putting his family above himself, serving through tireless sacrifice for our happiness... he had always hoped on an early retirement, by age 50 if possible. As he was approaching that goal, at the age of 49, life reared its unpredictable head once more. His wife, his darling from down the street, was diagnosed with stage IV ovarian cancer, just like her mom, and so many women before her. Millions of dollars in medical bills led to thousands of dollars in out of pocket expenses over the next 4 years, as the cancer exhausted far more than their bank accounts...Dreams of a retirement spent traveling, and enjoying the rewards of a hard fought life, went up in smoke as she surrendered her battle at the age of 51, leaving him a widow at 53... he has had to, again rebuild his life around his family, and start the climb back towards the relaxing rewards he has hopefully earned. At 55, just this week, he again eyes retirement on the horizon, it just looks different from what he was expecting all those years before.
            My dad’s life shows immense heroism, through the dedication to family and the betterment of himself. His steadfast loyalty to the promotion of his values and priorities is an inspiration to me as a husband and father. The single biggest attribute that I see as an overarching theme through his life has been sacrifice. We are taught, by the words of Jesus, in the gospel of John, that no greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friends. Whereas my dad has never laid down his physical life, he has laid down far more than most people would dream, all for the betterment and promotion of others’ happiness. He is far from perfect, and he would scoff at the notion of being a hero at all. But I hope to have shown the pattern of behavior in his life is one that is steeped in the honorable work of heroism in a beautifully simplistic manner.
            Through the daily work of sacrifice, and a focused desire to always seek the best in people, he has given us a solid example of heroism. His life works as a lamp post to aid in understanding that sacrifice is worth nothing unless it is for others. He has taught me more about being a father and husband than anything else in this world. His flaws and imperfections are balanced by his often humble affect. I count myself lucky to have him as such a direct source of encouragement. I pattern my life on so many of the principles he shared with me, and he has brought me up in a way to allow me to be the man I am. When he does fail, he chooses to do what he feels he must do to make it right. It would be nothing short of hyperbole to say that he has never let me down or disappointed me, but it would be fully inaccurate if I said that those times were not more painful for him than they have been for me.

Be thankful for you father... both the one here on earth, and the one whom bestowed that title from Himself unto those which He burdens with the task.