Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Midi's Encouragement

I came across a card that Midi wrote to me back in January 2007 when we were struggling with a lot of chaos in our lives. As I have been struggling so badly this year, her words offered some encouragement to keep praying and asking my loving Father for help. Here is some of what she wrote after first quoting a poem/prayer by Amy Carmichael.

"Before the winds that blow do cease,
Teach me to dwell within Thy calm:
Before the pain has passed, in peace,
Give me, my God, to sing a psalm.
Let me not lose the chance to prove
The fullness of enabling love.
O love of God, do this for me:
Maintain a constant victory.

I came across this poem by Amy Carmichael today and it seemed like a good prayer for us for these times. I love you. I hope you are able to find peace in God today... peace that comes from something stronger than the shifting ways of this world and the flighty words of man. Be strong and remember who the enemy is... he is not after our money; he wants our souls. Put your faith and hope in our good Father today, my love."

Her faith encourages me in my darkest hour - even as I have not seen or touched her in almost two and a half years. Oh, how I miss her.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Walk On

Lately, I've been seeking solace in music and, I suppose, finding some measure of comfort (though not much) in knowing that others are familiar with suffering and longing and the fight to remain hopeful. This U2 song used to be one of my favorites. The music itself is ringing with optimism and encouragement. It's almost as if the music itself is saying to the mourning listener, "C'mon. I'll help you get up. Let's go!" But now after my life got flipped over, I listen to it and my heart responds by saying, "I can't. Not right now. Bono, you say that you know it aches and how my heart breaks. But you can't know. No one does. I am alone." Now, I have a hard time listening to this song, even though I still love it. It is too challenging. Maybe I can't walk right now. Maybe I need to be carried for a while.

"And love is not the easy thing
The only baggage that you can bring...
And love is not the easy thing...
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can't leave behind

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it's a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can't steal it
No they can't even feel it
Walk on, walk on...
Stay safe tonight

You're packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen
You could have flown away
A singing bird in an open cage
Who will only fly, only fly for freedom

Walk on, walk on
What you've got they can't deny it
Can't sell it, or buy it
Walk on, walk on
Stay safe tonight

And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Home... hard to know what it is if you've never had one
Home... I can't say where it is but I know I'm going home
That's where the heart is

and I know it aches
How your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Leave it behind
You got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you feel
All this you can leave behind
All that you reason
All that you sense
All that you speak
All you dress-up
All that you scheme..."

I can only take so much.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Psalm 88

O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you?
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.

It has taken me over 2 years, but I think I may finally be where I need to be. The first 2 years, I tried so hard to make sense of why God could let Midi and Nathan die. I tried in some ways to fast forward to redemption and create a life that would reconcile me with the "why" question. I was knocked flat on my back when God revealed how much this proactive approach to redemption I was taking demonstrates my distrust in him. I didn't think God would do a damn thing so I took it upon myself to try to create a new life. Not that there was no genuine growth in my relationship with him and no genuine healing the first 2 years. But I didn't have the spiritual muscles to really wrestle with him. My understanding of him was of a passive God. It was all up to me to move forward and make the right choices and declarations. Now, I am pulling back - pulling back from this faulty paradigm. Now, I don't want to try to do a darn thing, except sit in my misery and wait for God to save me; to cry out to him; to question him; to not ignore the darkness.

As I read from a chapter entitled, "Waiting for the Morning During the Long Night of Weeping," written by Dustin Shramek for a collection of essays called Suffering and the Sovereignty of God, I compiled some quotes that resonated with me.

"...let us not so quickly go from the affliction to the deliverance and thus minimize the pain in between. God's promise of deliverance does not mean that he will immediately deliver us. For many, deliverance only comes with death."

"'You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep' (Ps 88.6). There are times when we feel so alone and cut off from everyone, even God, that we seem to be in the depths of the pit. No one else can possibly understand our pain, and there is no glimmer of hope. We can't see even a shred of light - surely the pit must be hundreds of miles deep. The darkness is so deep it feels heavy all around as though the darkness itself could be measured by a scale."

"Yet even in the midst of such great pain, he was not negligent in prayer. 'Every day I call upon you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you' (Ps 88.9). Every day he spread out his hands and called upon God because he expected God to answer. But he didn't receive an answer. His hands remained empty day after day. This was when the pain was at its deepest. Many of us can endure the worst kinds of suffering if God himself is filling our hands (and hearts) with comfort. But when we cry out for comfort and receive nothing, we are undone. Surely the Sovereign One who has ultimately brought about this suffering could at least comfort me in the midst of it, couldn't he? When this doesn't happen the suffering is magnified beyond our imaginings."

"Of course we know intellectually that God does not forget to be gracious and that he will indeed by compassionate. We know that he hasn't rejected us and that his steadfast love is forever. But there are times when our pain is so deep that truths in our mind just can't seem to penetrate the darkness that surrounds our hearts."

"This text (Psalm 88) is in the Bible so that when suffering and pain come and we are between the affliction and the triumph in the midst of the questions, pain, and clouds of doubt, we may see that what we are feeling is normal. It has all been felt before, and all the questions have been asked before. We are not the first. We are not alone. And we are not in danger of losing our faith (at least not yet)."

"Why is the depth of Christ's pain significant for us? Because 'we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin' (Heb 4.15). In the midst of our pain we may feel alone and believe that no one has hurt as badly as we hurt. But it isn't true. Jesus Christ has felt such pain; indeed, he has felt pain that would have destroyed us. He is able to sympathize. 'Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need' (Heb 4.16)."

"Could we abandon the truth and turn to some other religion? There is no hope for us there, for then we would have to save ourselves. Could we become atheists? There is no hope for us there, for then life would be futile. Could we turn to materialism? There is no hope for us there, for material things can't bring back our son, nor can they keep us from suffering in the future. There is no hope anywhere else because God alone is God and he alone is holy. So in our suffering we cling to God in his holiness. And quite honestly, there are times when we cling to him simply because we see that there isn't anything else to hold on to. But I think this is okay. God wants us to see that there isn't anything else to cling to."

I read this chapter as Lucas and I were flying back home after a week at Walt Disney World. It was such a bittersweet time. For Lucas, it was pure fun and hopefully something he remembers with fondness throughout his life. Lucas can experience sweet without the bitter. But for me it was wonderful and painful at the same time. Before Midi died, we talked about taking our precious boys to Disney World some day. So experiencing the beauty of it without her and without Nathan was unimaginably painful. We had many such dreams, including some day (maybe a 10th anniversary trip?) going to Europe together. Now, I see a movie about the beauty of France or I think about a trip to Germany to visit relatives and I cannot imagine those experiences without her. I am saddened as I realize yet again that everything good that I experience, like Disney World or today's Lakers playoff game, will always be bittersweet. Will it always be this way? Will anything good simply be just sweet without the bitter?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spurgeon II

"It may be of great service to us, before we fall asleep, to remember this mournful fact, for it may lead us to hold lightly to earthly things. There is nothing very pleasant in the recollection that we are not above the arrows of adversity, but it may humble us and prevent us from boasting like the psalmist that our mountain stands firm, that we shall never be moved. It may prevent us from making our roots too deep in this soil from which we are so soon to be transplanted into the heavenly garden. Let us keep in mind the frail tenure upon which we hold our temporal mercies. If we remember that all the trees of earth are marked for the woodman's axe, we will not be so ready to build our nests in them. We should love, but we should love with the love that expects death, and that reckons upon separations. Our dear relations are simply loaned to us, and the hour when we must return them to the lender's hand may be sooner than we think. (I hate that this is true, but how can I deny it?) This is also true of our worldly goods. Do not riches take to themselves wings and fly away? Our health is equally precarious. Frail flowers of the field, we must not reckon upon blooming forever. There is a time appointed for weakness and sickness, when we will have to glorify God by suffering and not by earnest activity. (I've tried to lessen my suffering and glorify God by earnest activity. It ultimately doesn't work.) There is no single point in which we can hope to escape from the sharp arrows of affliction; out of our few days there is not one secure from sorrow. Man's life is a cask full of bitter wine; he who looks for joy in it would be better looking for honey in a salty ocean. Beloved reader, do not set your affections upon things of earth, but seek those things that are above, for here the moth devours, and the thief steals, but there all joys are perpetual and eternal. The path of trouble is the way home. Lord, make this thought a pillow for many a weary head!"

-Charles Spurgeon, from Morning and Evening, specifically from a devotional reflection on Job 14.1

Friday, February 12, 2010


When the world my heart is rending
With its heaviest storm of care,
My glad thoughts to heaven ascending,
Find a refuge from despair.
Faith's bright vision shall sustain me
Till life's pilgrimage is past;
Fears may vex and troubles pain me,
I shall reach my home at last.

--Charles Spurgeon

Friday, January 1, 2010

Today - Day By Day

Thank you to all of you who continue to think of me, Lucas, and our families and lift us up to the Lord in your prayers. It was 2 years ago today that we suffered the loss of our Midi and Nathan. Lucas is a happy 6 year old now who, thanks be to God, is thriving and doing well. There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is at work in his life - not just in protecting his heart from despair and pain but also in building him up as a boy who is a living testimony of God's goodness. I thank God for him everyday for I know that I do not deserve him. I also am doing well. My faith in Him has never been stronger. God continues to provide for me in every way and is teaching me deep lessons. I am learning to abide in Him, which is, I think, the main challenge for all Christians throughout the course of our lives. Not that I didn't before, but I'm learning to abide in Him in the Present even as I look back to my Past and await my certain ultimate Future. Here is where God has me. And Here is where I am learning to be.

I'm reading and marinating in this passage tonight and I'd like to share it.

"Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, 'I believed, and so I spoke,' we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened - not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil."

2 Cor 4.13-5.10

What I am struck by in my times in the Word lately is how throughout the scriptures - Old Testament and New, Psalms and Proverbs, prophets and epistles - the focus is on the Present. For a believer in Jesus and one who has experienced communion with God through the Holy Spirit, the Past is meant to help us believe and live in the Present with confidence that the One who gave blessings and rescued us and taught deep truths in the Past is reliable, good, and true. The Future promises of eternal glory, resurrection, freedom from pain, tears and suffering, a new heaven and a new earth, being face to face with Jesus - these are also meant to help followers of Jesus live in faith and confidence in the Present, even if the Present is full of pain and sorrow. Neither the Past nor the Future are meant to distract us or keep us from living in direct communion with God through the Holy Spirit in the Present. He is Immanuel, God with us; not just in the Past or face to face in the Future, but God with us right now. So I exhort you fellow believers in Jesus out there (and myself, too) to grow in your walk with Immanuel.