God In the Personal

Cancer.
Such an ugly word.  A word that is filled with fear and pain, hopelessness and loss.  A word in which the treatment is as bad as the disease, a word that contains no promise of a cure.
We’ve lived through cancer twice now in my close family.  Once in one who had lived a long and good life and who chose not to fight.  Once in one who had just begun her life as wife and mother and who fought with every bit of strength she had.  Both times, our cancer word contained death and loss.

Papa

Kristina

Perhaps this is why when someone I know learns firsthand of the horrors of this word, it stirs up something inside of me.   We all have causes and issues that make our hearts feel more weighty, that bring us to tears.  Causes alone, though, don’t have the power to stir us up the way an individual can.  I give money to causes, but a cause will not change me in the way that a person can.  God works through the personal to deepen our hearts in a way that a faceless cause never can.
Perhaps if I see pictures on the news or in the papers of victims of earthquake, flood, drought, I will write a small check for the cause of world hunger, and I may even refrain from meat on Wednesdays; but as long as I am responding to a cause it will not affect my entire life, my very breathing.  It is only when I see discrimination and injustice in all its horrendous particularity as I walk along Broadway, that my very life can be changed.  If it was necessary for God to come to us as one of us, then it is only in such particularity that I can understand incarnation…But a response to a cause will never change my life, nor open my heart to the promptings of the Spirit. ~ Madeleine L’Engle  in The Irrational Season
The differences in the pieces of life we each have lived allows different causes to stir each one of us to action.  Cancer, especially when this word contains a parent with children living at home, has become one of those for me.  One reason is that this word doesn’t have to end in death, you see.  Sometimes there is hope.  That hope, however, can be expensive.
May I introduce you to my friend, Mark?

Mark

Mark and I worship together and I know him best from making music together in the arts ministry at our church.  He is a musician by trade, performing and teaching in order to support his family.
Mark is a husband to Jana and a father of five beautiful children, three of whom still live at home.  His wife, Jana, is a self-employed speech pathologist who contracts with several different school systems.

Mark's Family

A musician and a self-employed speech pathologist don’t get very good health insurance.
Mark was diagnosed with cancer in 2007; his cancer word will not have within it a cure without also containing a bone marrow transplant.  He has not yet found a suitable donor.  Mark participated in a clinical trial that held the cancer at bay for several years.
Until this past December.  The cancer returned.  Mark still does not have a bone marrow donor.
He found another clinical trial, but this one requires that he live in Houston while receiving the treatments from MD Anderson.
A musician and a self-employed speech pathologist also don’t make crazy amounts of money.
He moved from hotel to hotel for awhile, living wherever they could find the cheapest price each week on Priceline.  He was finally able to find an apartment, but it is in a crime-ridden area of town.  He has been hassled several times when returning from his cancer treatments, and he can’t leave his windows open at night.  In Houston.  In the summertime.  He is trying to find work, but it is difficult to find teaching gigs in a new place when you are in the middle of cancer treatments.
So here they are.  Mark, living in a dangerous part of Houston all alone without his family to support him as he gambles for his life.  Jana, caring for their kids on her own while traveling hours everyday to and from work.  Both of them living 900 miles apart and trying to hold the fraying pieces of their lives together while living with the fear that their time together is slipping through their grasping fingers.
We can’t do much.  We can’t take away the cancer.  We can’t take away the fear.  We can’t take away the loneliness or the desperation of being a single parent or a distant parent.
We can do a little, though.  We can take away the one piece of their pain that has to do with their finances.  They are not big spenders.  They are frugal and they know how to stretch their paychecks.  And they will need a bit more while Mark is living in Houston.
I have never done this before on this blog.  I may never do it again.  But I know these people.  I have served with them.  And God is working through these individual people to change hearts and lives.  Will you join me in helping them?  You can give online at GiveForward.  (If the link does not work, copy and paste this address: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/4th4/mark-cornell-benefit-fund)
I know that we can’t do it all, that we can’t eliminate all hunger, thirst, suffering, pain.  This often frustrates me, but I am struck by the thought that Jesus didn’t do it all either.  He didn’t heal all of the blind while here on earth.  He didn’t heal all of the lepers or all of the lame, he didn’t feed all of the hungry.
I don’t know why He didn’t make all of the sad things come untrue immediately, but knowing this helps me to be content with not being able to help everyone but to, as Jesus did, help one beautiful person at a time.

The Day God is Dead

Holy Saturday.
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The day God is dead.
The day we lose God Himself.
Don’t miss this.  Don’t rush through it.  On the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, God is dead.
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One part of the Trinity, yes, but God nonetheless.
The Word of God is gone.  We can no longer hear Him.
Linger in this day.  Does the earth feel different?  Somehow vacant?
Elmendorf
There is, for this day, no possible way to reach God.
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.
No Most Holy Place where the high priest could meet with God.
It is finished.
He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.
No Word of God in whom we can see the Father.
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Garden Tomb Side
Remain in this day as long as you can.  I don’t understand how, but somehow this day exists on which we are completely isolated from God.
Breathe in the horror of this day.  God is dead.  He is, for this day, unattainable.  Can you catch even a glimpse?
The disciples did.  They lived it for what must have felt like an eternity.
We’d rather skip past this day, this Saturday that contains Christ’s body in the tomb.  Yet we must linger if we are to grasp the power of Easter Sunday.  We must dwell here awhile if we are to be allowed to hold the joy of Easter Sunday.
When the Son, the Word of the Father is dead, then no one can see God, hear of Him or attain Him.  And this day exists, when the Son is dead, and the Father, accordingly, inaccessible. ~ Hans Urs Von Balthasar (theologian and author)
Can you feel the terror of it?  Do you sense the incomprehensible void that stretches before us on this day?  What does it even mean?
Do not rush too quickly past this Holy Saturday on your way to the miracle.  You may miss the deepest part of the gratitude and joy that are to come.
Garden Tomb
The deepest gratitude and joy that come only when you understand what was absent, and understand that it was only for a day.

 

Art credits: Preparation of Christ’s Tomb by Vittore Carpaccio; Tomb of knight Philip Keerman in Flanders, Belgium; 1912 photograph of Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Dwight Lathrop Elmendorf; Side view of Garden Tomb by Deror Avi; Jerusalem Garden Tomb by Berthold Werner

The Dangerous Grace of Lent

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
I am only beginning to explore this journey that is Lent.  This season was not a part of my faith tradition growing up, but it seems to be growing more popular among evangelicals these days.
Lent
This long season of Lent is not a frivolous sort of giving up as it appeared to a fairly oblivious teenage self (fasting from M&M’s anyone?) but a giving up for the purpose of giving away.  It is a period of self-denial in order to become more unified with the Spirit of Christ.
It is a difficult thing to be unified with Jesus.  Gazing into the eyes of Christ for too long has frightening consequences.  When you stare at the cross, you find yourself looking at your own death, at your sin and its just consequence.  You come face to face with all of the spiritual deformities that are in your own soul and find yourself tempted to turn away from the harsh reflection.
Crucified with Christ
When you gaze at Christ crucified for these forty days that are Lent, you are pulled close to the grace and forgiveness of your death finished for you.  But it is a dangerous grace.  This grace is one that does not leave you unfinished.  It is a grace that purges and renews.
The purpose of Lent is to awaken in you a sense of your own sin, your guilt for your sin, and your sorrow over your sin.  The purpose of Lent is to awaken “the sense of gratitude for the forgiveness of sins.  To (awaken) or to motivate the works of love and the work for justice that one does out of the gratitude for the forgiveness of one’s sins.” (Edna Hong in Bread and Wine) 
Awakening
This grace can only be approached at the end of Lent.  It is a long journey, these forty days.  It is a necessary journey, one that fights the apathy and smugness of this world in which we often find it easy to spot deformities in the souls of others and find it also easy to turn away from the crippled places of our own souls.
Yet we do not travel this path of Lent alone.  God’s Spirit Himself travels with us, maneuvering us down this steep path that ends at the foot of the cross.  As we stand at the foot of the cross, stripped of our illusions about ourselves, we gaze at the battered and broken body of the One who came to rescue us.  This body of Jesus that is our grace.  This grace that brings fire.  This fire that purges and cleanses and does not consume but instead resurrects us into a new self.
Gaze at the Cross
It is beautiful, this amazing and dangerous grace.
Dangerous Grace
When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie
My grace all sufficient shall be your supply.
The flame shall not hurt you, my only design
Your dross to consume and your gold to refine.
~ How Firm a Foundation

Credit to Edna Hong and Walter Wangerin in Bread and Wine for many of the ideas in this post.

Two Years Ago

Two years ago this week, our beautiful Kristina left this earth.  As I take some time to remember her, I’ll dust off this essay that I wrote just after her death and share it with you again.
giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He had to do the unthinkable.  He had to bury his wife.
Mike and Kristina Wedding

 

I sat at the feet of this younger brother of mine as he said goodbye to his wife of four years, the mother of his then one-year-old son.
Family Photo
I watched him struggle through despair, depression, doubt as he faces a long road of raising his son alone.
I watched my nephew cry and cling to his daddy, looking for his mommy and feeling afraid that his daddy will leave him too.
Through this long struggle, through one piece of bad news after another, through the next days and months and years of memories, where is God?
When all pleas seem to go unanswered, when even let the end be peaceful is ignored, what are we to think?
What do I really believe about God in all of this?
The Word of Life
God’s Words tell us clearly that there is pain, there is heartbreak in this world.  We should not be surprised.
More often than not, God chooses not to save His people, chooses not to spare them sorrow and hardship.  Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who were killed or lost ones they loved, Jesus’ closest friends died martyr’s deaths, even His earthly father died without His intervention.
I have pondered long and hard this question of what I believe about God in the midst of “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”.  Here is my conclusion.
Ocean Waves
I know my God, His character, well enough to trust Him when I don’t understand, when I cannot see in the darkness.  I know, from what He has said about Himself and from what I have seen, that He is always good and always love.  I know that, if we only knew the reasons, we would adore Him for what He does.
God promises that we will have trouble in this world.  He also promises that if we are grateful to Him He will give us peace.  He doesn’t promise that He will take the pain away but that we will be at peace, that we will have joy.
Isn’t that a much bigger promise?
No matter what, God is still God.
Will I only praise and thank Him when He does what I like?  Will I only accept from Him what I deem to be good?
When I deeply think through the idea of declaring my circumstance to be bad, it seems incredibly arrogant.
How can I think that I know better than God what is good?  How am I more capable of naming something to be good than the One who is good?
Will I trust that God has a beautiful, amazing plan only when I can see the beauty of it?  Either God is God, and capable of having plans and reasons that I cannot comprehend, or He isn’t God, and I am silly for blaming a myth. There is not really any in-between place for the things with which I do not agree.
…if I go to Jesus, he’s not under my control either.  He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me.  But if Jesus is God, then he’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you can’t understand.  His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love…He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God–because he knows better than they do.  If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can’t understand.
King’s Cross by Timothy Keller
God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service.  I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurable, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot
Aslan
can trust God, trust in His nature.
Of course he’s not safe.  Who said anything about being safe?  But he’s good.  He’s the king. ~ Mr. Beaver as told to C.S. Lewis in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

 

Fiery Furnace
When faced with the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar that
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ~ Daniel 3
When Job lost all of his children and all that he owned and was himself in great physical pain, he declared
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. ~ Job 13.15
No matter what, I will praise God and offer Him my gratitude, my sacrifice of praise.
God tells us over and over in His word that He has a beautiful plan for humanity and creation as a whole.
And that he has a beautiful plan for each of our lives.
Sometimes I doubt this promise, this truth.
And then I look at Jesus, at His cross.
Bearing the Cross
I’ve been clinging to Romans 8.32 through all of this:
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
If God ever had to prove Himself, prove His love for us, prove that He is taking care of us, He has more than proved it all through the cross.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about Hezekiah.  In II Kings 20, he pleaded with God to “change his story”, to give him more life when God had told him (through Isaiah) that he was going to die.  God did change His mind that time, gave him fifteen more years of life.  And in that fifteen extra years, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was born.  This son that wouldn’t have been born if Hezekiah hadn’t asked God to change the ending of his story ended up as king and “lead (Israel) astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites”. ~ II Kings 21.9
Our desired story ending versus God’s desired story ending.
Perhaps, just perhaps, God really does know best.  Perhaps He does know which story will bring about a beautiful, redeemed, transfigured people.
Light Shines Through
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.
~ How Firm a Foundation, att. John Keith, 1787 (modernized)
credit for images: Lion photo, painting by Simeon SolomonCross photo

For My Friend

I lost a friend this week.
steph
Showers.Nursery 105
She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever known.
She has suffered for too many years, enduring pain and sorrow, kidney transplants and countless hours of dialysis. Ever since her second transplant failed, her agonies had seemed even worse.
Yet through it all, her heart remained fully God’s. She was selfless, compassionate towards others while she was the one in pain. Even when the limitations of her body sent her emotions spiraling, she still knew and would declare unequivocally that emotions can play you false and that Love was true regardless of how you feel.
When I got the word that God had taken her home, my first emotion was relief. Relief on her behalf that she is finally free at last. Free from her physical body that so limited her spirit.
Yet as I think about this initial reaction of mine, I wonder why I don’t feel this way with everyone.  Surely, as Paul said, to depart and be with Christ is better by far, so why did I feel such sadness when Kristina died, when my Papa died?
Sewell_118
Analise, Natalie and Papa
Surely I don’t want to bring anyone back here to this earth, to this broken world. Surely I don’t want to carry them away from God, away from being free from pain and sorrow.
I search my own heart and finally realize that what I really want is to join them.
I am not sad that they are not here, rather I am jealous that I am not there.
It is not a desire for everyone to stay here with me but a longing for everyone here to be there. With God.
What I really want is for God to come back now. I want Him to make everything right again. Perfect. New.
The Church often gives confusing messages when it comes to death.
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We seem to bounce back and forth between the medical view that death is an enemy to be conquered by medical technology and the Ars moriendi view that death is a friend to be embraced because it moves us from the hated physical into the desired spiritual.
It seems to me, rather, that the Christian view, the view that comes from watching how Jesus Himself died, is that death is an enemy, but one that has already been defeated.
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This allows for the reality of the sadness that we all feel when someone we love dies and at the same time acknowledges our hope for the future, our hope in the power of Jesus’ resurrection and in His grace that will let us share in that resurrection…that physical resurrection.
I am saddened by death. I hate death’s power to destroy and bring loss.
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And I long for the day when God will make our world and our bodies new again, perfect and free from pain, sorrow, and death.
Luca_Giordano_-_Resurrection_-_WGA09020
And so, as I mourn the loss of my friend, I embrace my weeping.
I weep for myself, for my brokenness and for the years in which she will not play a part in my story, and I weep with a profound yearning for Someday when all of our stories will finally reach
Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
Last Battle

Art credits: The Resurrection painting by Luca Giordano; final quote and illustration from The Last Battle written by C.S. Lewis, illustrated by Pauline Baynes

Today

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Today, our world seems darker.
Today, my heart is heavy and grieving.
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Today, I acknowledge my guilt and wrap myself around my shame.
Today, I try to fully take in the magnitude of this beautiful, amazing Love.

 

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 On this day, creation mourned and the sun hid itself in grief.
On this day, Jesus chose to stay nailed down, for His heart was full of love.
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On this day, Jesus took my guilt into His own body and gave up, for a time, His perfect closeness with God the Father.
On this day, God once for all proved His love for us.
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On this day, He proved His Word, that He truly meant it when He said
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
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He loves me. He came to rescue me and to make me perfect and holy. He came to conquer death and to make me alive.
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On this day, God proved through Jesus that He means to accomplish all of these things.
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And yet.
Is He able?
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Today, I do not yet know.
I suppose I’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out.
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art credit: Sketch by Rembrandt, The Three Crosses

When I Don’t Understand

It has been a beautiful time and a difficult time, this time I have spent away from this space.
Samantha
Breathing in the scent of my newborn, surrounded by the warmth of family and friends, secluding myself from the world while I both soak up and exude the love and joy of my little family.
Gram and Papa 1
Passing my baby on his way out of this world, my Papa said farewell to us and greeted his Father with joy.
Unable to travel long miles that soon after giving birth, I did much of my grieving alone.
Mike, Kristina and Ethan
My heart was reminded too often of our Kristina, of the thoughts and emotions of her loss only a year and a half ago.
Birth and death. Being and dying.
I often think of and long to know the meaning of this cycle of life and death.
in the light of love of the Creator, who brought them all into being, who brought me into being, and you…It is part of the deepest longing of the human psyche, a recurrent ache in the hearts of all of God’s creatures.
I am reminded once again of Love.
Of Love that wants the best for us, regardless of the cost.
Of Love that walked this earth with us and died for us and then showed us how to have everlasting life.
Of Love that promises that this is not the end, these dying breaths, that promises that we have life.
road to emmaus zund
cross
As I open myself up once again to loving another baby, to making myself vulnerable to the possibility of pain that loving brings, I wonder long about meaning and whether any of this is truly worth it.
Yet even as I wonder, I know. I know that love is always worth it. I know, even in the ugly and the pain, that this life is beautiful because we are loved by One who gives Himself with no hesitation, no conditions.
I know because even though I don’t understand our God, even though I don’t understand this life or the next or how any of this works and fits together, I find yet that I know what it is about. I know what HE is about.
As long as we know what it’s about, then we can have the courage to go wherever we are asked to go, even if we fear that the road may take us through danger and pain.
And there is where the joy and beauty lie.
In knowing what it’s about even when we don’t understand.

Art credits: quotes are by Madeleine L’Engle in Walking on Water; Road to Emmaus painting by Robert Zund; Cross photograph by Asta Rastauskiene

When My Heart Is Revealed

I am flying to Dallas this week.


No kids, no husband, only myself.


I am traveling to visit my Papa and my Gram one last time before this baby inside me places limits on how far I may travel.


This is very possibly the last time I will see my Papa this side of death and Jesus’ return.


This is a difficult journey. One that I wish I did not have to take.

I heard it said on Sunday that storms rip away the surface and the shallow and expose what is truly there.

In both the storm of Kristina and the storm of Papa, I find that I do not like what is revealed.

I desire comfort above character; I want my own plans to be fulfilled even though I know that God’s plan is so much better; I want to avoid pain, for myself and for those that I love, at almost any cost.

Only God can change me, can fix my broken heart so that I am able to desire what He desires. 

I am brought back once again to the realization that God does not promise that we will have pain-free lives. He, in fact, promises the opposite.

(Jesus speaking to His disciples) In this world you will have trouble. ~ John 16.33

Yet I read the entire verse and I cling to the last of His words. I cling to what God does truly promise.

I have told you these things so that in Me, you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world! 

Take heart!

Part of me is able to recognize that those are much greater promises. 

A large part of me, however, still seeks that life without heartache and pain. 


All I can do for now is to cling to Jesus’ words, to the things that He has promised, as I wait for the day when my heart will be whole and undivided, the day when I truly will understand and know that it has all been worth it.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~ John 14.27 

One day, John knew, Heaven would come down and mend God’s broken world and make it our true, perfect home once again… And he knew then that the ending of The Story was going to be so great, it would make all the sadness and tears and everything seem like just a shadow that is chased away by the morning sun. ~ The Jesus Storybook Bible

art credit: painting is Gethsemane by Carl Bloch

A Difficult Anniversary

He buried his wife one year ago today.

I sat at the feet of this younger brother of mine as he said goodbye to his wife of four years, the mother of his one-year-old son.

Over the past year, I watched him struggle through despair, depression, doubt as he faced a long road of raising his son alone.

I watched my nephew cry and cling to his daddy, looking for his mommy and feeling afraid that his daddy will leave him too.

Through this long struggle that still is not done, through one piece of bad news after another, through the next days and months and years of memories, where is God?

When all pleas seem to go unanswered, when even let the end be peaceful is ignored, what are we to think? 

What do I really believe about God in all of this? 

God’s Words tell us clearly that there is pain, there is heartbreak in this world. We should not be surprised. 

More often than not, God chooses not to save His people, chooses not to spare them sorrow and hardship. Hebrews 11 gives a long list of those who were killed or lost ones they loved, Jesus’ closest friends died martyr’s deaths, even His earthly father died without His intervention.

I have pondered long and hard this question of what I believe about God in the midst of “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”. Here is my conclusion. 

I know my God, His character, well enough to trust Him when I don’t understand, when I cannot see in the darkness. I know, from what He has said about Himself and from what I have seen, that He is always good and always love. I know that, if we only knew the reasons, we would adore Him for what He does. 

God promises that we will have trouble in this world. He also promises that if we are grateful to Him He will give us peace. He doesn’t promise that He will take the pain away but that we will be at peace, that we will have joy. 

Isn’t that a much bigger promise? 

No matter what, God is still God. 

Will I only praise and thank Him when He does what I like? Will I only accept from Him what I deem to be good? 

When I deeply think through the idea of declaring my circumstance to be bad, it seems incredibly arrogant. 

How can I think that I know better than God what is good? How am I more capable of naming something to be good than the One who is good? 

Will I trust that God has a beautiful, amazing plan only when I can see the beauty of it? Either God is God, and capable of having plans and reasons that I cannot comprehend, or He isn’t God, and I am silly for blaming a myth. There is not really any in-between place for the things with which I do not agree.

…if I go to Jesus, he’s not under my control either. He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me. But if Jesus is God, then he’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you go through things you can’t understand. His power is unbounded, but so are his wisdom and love…He can love somebody and still let bad things happen to them, because he is God–because he knows better than they do. If you have a God great enough and powerful enough to be mad at because he doesn’t stop your suffering, you also have a God who’s great enough and powerful enough to have reasons that you can’t understand.
King’s Cross by Timothy Keller

God is God, and since he is God, he is worthy of my worship and my service. I will find rest nowhere else but in his will, and that will is necessarily infinitely, immeasurable, unspeakable beyond my largest notions of what he is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot

I can trust God, trust in His nature.


Of course he’s not safe. Who said anything about being safe? But he’s good. He’s the king. ~ Mr. Beaver in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


When faced with the fiery furnace, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchadnezzar that

If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. ~ Daniel 3

When Job lost all of his children and all that he owned and was himself in great physical pain, he declared

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in Him. ~ Job 13.15

No matter what, I will praise God and offer Him my gratitude, my sacrifice of praise

God tells us over and over in His word that He has a beautiful plan for humanity and creation as a whole. 

And that he has a beautiful plan for each of our lives. 

Sometimes I doubt this promise, this truth. 

And then I look at Jesus, at His cross. 

I’ve been clinging to Romans 8.32 through all of this:

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

If God ever had to prove Himself, prove His love for us, prove that He is taking care of us, He has more than proved it all through the cross. 

I’ve also been thinking a lot about Hezekiah. In II Kings 20, he pleaded with God to “change his story”, to give him more life when God had told him (through Isaiah) that he was going to die. God did change His mind that time, gave him fifteen more years of life. And in that fifteen extra years, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was born. This son that wouldn’t have been born if Hezekiah hadn’t asked God to change the ending of his story ended up as king and “lead (Israel) astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the LORD had destroyed before the Israelites”. ~ II Kings 21.9 

Our desired story ending versus God’s desired story ending. 

Perhaps, just perhaps, God really does know best. Perhaps He does know which story will bring about a beautiful, redeemed, transfigured people. 

When through the deep waters I call you to go, 
The rivers of woe shall not overflow; 
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless, 
And sanctify to you your deepest distress. 

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, 
I will not, I will not desert to its foes; 
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, 
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake. 
~ How Firm a Foundation, att. John Keith, 1787 (modernized) 


a re-post from the archives for today, the anniversary of Kristina’s death
credit for images: Lion photo, painting by Simeon SolomonCross photo

Again

Our family has been struck again, less than a year after our Kristina died, and I am reminded of how much I hate cancer, of how much I hate death

To an outsider, it may not seem quite as much the tragedy as before. This is my Papa, after all, my eighty-six year old grandpa. He is not fighting for the chance to raise his children or wishing for a chance to grow old with his spouse after only a few years of marriage. He has lived a good and full life. 

And yet it is a tragedy. Death itself is a tragedy, and while I am tempted to rail at God against the ugliness of it all, deep inside my heart I know that it is our sin, our rebellion that let death into our world in the first place and it is God’s mercy that gave us life again.

Cancer and death are tragedy, they are ugly. For our family, this cancer is as ugly as any other. Yes, there is difference between a twenty-six year old and an eighty-six year old. And yet, I am greedy. 

I am greedy for more time. I want to yell at God, “NO! It is not enough! Thirty-four years with my Papa is not enough. I want more time! I want him to meet this baby growing inside of me. I want all of my children to know and remember him. You did not give me enough time!” 

All this while stomping my foot like the child that I am.

Yet my heart has been changed through Kristina’s struggle and death. I have learned a little more about Who God is and who I am in relation to Him. I have learned about obedience in the midst of the ugly

And I have learned that I have a choice in all of this. I can choose to blame God, letting my anger and grief drive me away from Him, or I can choose to be obedient and thank Him, clinging to Him and letting Him be all that I need.

So at least for today (I know I still have disobedience, some yelling and foot-stomping inside of me for another day), I will choose this:

Thank You, Abba, for the gift of my Papa and my Gram. 

Thank You for giving me so many years with them, years of such close relationship and of so many beautiful times with them.


Thank You for giving them so many talents and abilities and for giving them the desire to teach and share those skills with me.

Thank You for their wisdom, for all that I have learned from them, for all of the wisdom that I now have stored in my own heart.

Thank You most of all for making their hearts like Yours. Thank You for allowing me to see You in them, to see in their lives how You want me to live. Thank You for showing me through them how to live faithfully as a child of Yours, as a spouse and as a parent.

Thank You for the beauty that is their lives. 

Thank You, Abba, for Your grace.