From the monthly archives:

July 2011

The school of suffering graduates rare scholars

"The school of suffering graduates rare scholars."

The newbies fill the waiting room today.  They are talking across the room to one another not realizing that their energized voices do little to mask the fear they now are living in.  The stories they tell are new to them but sound so very old to me.  Each story plays the same basic cords, just arranged a little different.  Most of the stories include God somewhere.

Jan is in triage… blood draw, “how are you feeling?”, pulse and temperature, “any problems?”  Nothing much has changed in the routine of the medical mundane.  I’ve tuned out. Been there and got the T-shirt, as they say.  Instead, I’ve plugged in my earphones and listen to music while I write.

“Emmanuel, the beginning and the end.
King of Kings, healer and friend,
Jesus, you have saved us all.
To our knees we fall, you have saved us all.”

It has now been a year and a half since the transplant.  Slowly, Jan is healing.  The setbacks now remind us of how far we have come, not how far we have to go.    After 20 years of a slow but deliberate slide, she will be free to dream and plan.  Jeremiah quoted God, “I will give you a future and a hope.” Yes, He has.  It has been so costly, so achingly slow, draining to the place where we have realized just how little is needed to thrive… not just stay alive, mind you, but thrive in the goodness and mercy of God.

The Stem Cell Transplant

After all of the years being with her at every crisis I could not go through this valley of death with her.  The night before brought on my overflow of tears as well as the memory of the well worn paths that had brought us here.  Life was going to change, no doubt.  We just didn’t know how, had no idea whether it would be an end or a beginning.  The paths we had traveled were now behind us.  New territory was ahead and it would be either both or one of us that would now trek forward.

A week of chemo that could kill was followed by a tiny bag of funny colored liquid that they hung on her IV pole and dripped into her.  That was it.  No fanfare, just a big medical yawn.  Hard to believe that a little sandwich size baggy of stem cells was all the life needed to heal her of what had been killing her all of these years.

The chemo would stay active for months, releasing the poison continually while the new stem cells worked hard to combat it’s effect. It would be months before hospital rooms would not be her mainstay.  Thousands of hours, countless hospital staff, hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Every part of dying save the last breath was greeted with well honed faith.  Every assault against her person met with joy and trust.

An old preacher of the early 20th century wrote,

“To do and suffer God’s will is still the highest form of faith, the most sublime Christian achievement.  To have the bright aspirations of a young life forever blasted; to bear a daily burden never congenial and to see no relief; to be fettered by some incurable physical disability – to be able to say in such a school of discipline, ‘The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?’- this is faith at its highest and spiritual success at the crowning point.  Great faith is exhibited not so much in ability to do as to suffer.”  Dr. Charles Parkhurst

Yes, I know.  To be sick in today’s church is equal to not having faith. To be sick in today’s church means that Job’s friends line up with their reasoning and spiritual incantations to condemn instead of comfort.  But to those who have unreasonably suffered and not wavered in faith, the heart of God is shown.
Paul said it best,

“… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…”

There is no deep understanding of pain unless one has experienced the loneliness of a cross.  Once that has been accomplished, the first response to another is compassion and nothing else.

I have a friend who is preparing to meet the Lord.  Certainly, a Christian prepares to see Jesus from the first day forward but then there is that day when dying becomes a reality.  Don is without a doubt one of the people who has given so much to so many.  His ability to lead others in worship has touched millions, yet the real joy was in being with Don and Marian with a few friends and laughing together.  The piano was literally an extension of his enormous love of Jesus and His church.  His heart for worship could never be ignored.  When he leads, you are compelled to follow him to Jesus’ throne.

Even with modern medicine he has suffered a lot.  And we, his friends both distant and close, want him to know this… Don, you have done well.  Thank you for making us less afraid by watching you.  Thank you for teaching us how to rejoice in sorrow.  Thank you for being faithful to Jesus and to us.

“The school of suffering graduates rare scholars.”  For some like Jan and I, we now walk a path of victory on this earth.  For Don, he prepares to see the face of Jesus and to hear His voice say, “Well done.” And in all these things I am reminded over and over that the goal in life is so very simple that it can be captured in two simple words…  finish well.

For most, that means to live out the mundane with a heart overflowing with the eternal.  For others, live grateful for the extension of life that has been granted.  For some, look to the finish line that is promised over the final hill… and smile.  The race has been run, friend.  Your reward draws near.


Hot Summer Days

July 14, 2011

When the brook runs dry, faith becomes real.

It came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.  1 Kings 17:7


It is hot and dry in Texas. The reports are that this is the hottest it has ever been and still the heat keeps coming.  The talk is all about rain.  The ponds and stock tanks are long past dry.  The aquifer is disappearing by the day and the news is all about how far we have to go before we run out of it all.  But since that first mist recorded in Genesis that covered the earth, God alone will control the weather.  It is the finger of God that directs the clouds and the rain.  In our world of smart phones, IPads and computer “clouds” that we control, it will remain the one thing out of our control.

Elijah was a prophet of God, one of God’s other “fingers” that He used to set His plans in motion.  At God’s command, he told the wicked king Ahab that a drought would begin that would go on for years.  He was then sent to a little brook that slowly but surely went the way of every other bit of water in Israel until finally…

the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.

When the brook dries up faith becomes real.  When the promise is complete, when the end of the task is at hand, when the final breath of the vision exhales and the air grows still, what you do next says more about faith than all of the blustery moralizing that proceeded.

The bible tells the stories of people whose brooks have dried up. It also  describes both the failed and faithful responses that followed.  The stories are not white washed but are a record of the lives of people like you and me who act like you and me.  Take Abraham and Sarah.  The story begins with a promise from God unlike any before or since.  “You shall have a son,” God says, “and your descendants will be more than anyone will be able to count.”  But they do not wait on God.  Hagar, a slave brought out of Egypt during Abraham’s previous lapse of faith, becomes his second wife and births Ishmael.  Since that time, Hagar’s name has been linked to the flesh… do you know anyone who named their beautiful baby girl after her?

But Hagar was just a pawn of the faithlessness of two people who knew God yet went about rearranging His rough stone altar of trust and obedience.  The uncut stones of that altar were replaced with the new and improved hand hewed stones of a better idea.  Their idea seemed to fit better than God’s unmeasured plan for the future.  Thank God he is faithful even in our failings.

My story is no different.  I can always see how things can “work out” to my betterment, yet it is seldom God’s way that it produces.  Instead, putting all plans aside and patiently waiting reveals the secret steps of a faithful God that can be followed to His promised blessing.  Such a simple lesson…

God goes before me and I am to follow.

F.B. Meyers wrote,

“God often does extricate us, because His mercy endureth forever; but if we had only waited first to see the unfolding of His plans, we should never have found ourselves landed in such an inextricable labyrinth; and we should never have been compelled to retrace our steps with so many tears of shame.  Wait, patiently wait!”

Has the brook of God’s favor dried up before you?  Are you drinking what seems like the last cup of God’s goodness before the unrelenting heat bears down on your dreams?    Even God’s miraculous provision runs dry.  Sooner or later, we all face a stone that covers the grave of our greatest hope.  And when it does,

“Wait, patiently wait!”

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth… so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth.  It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace ; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, And it will be a memorial to the Lord, for an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”  Isaiah 55:10-13


Happy Birthday, America!

July 3, 2011

The writers of the Constitution were very aware that God had ordained and ordered the amazing document that had been written.  Here are some of their thoughts concerning the founding of our nation and the God who ordered their steps. James Madison “The great objects which presented themselves [to the Constitutional Convention] . . . […]

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