Wednesday, April 28, 2010

truth in our hearts

Here's another Kevin Hartnett poem that is fast becoming a joyed over jewel in our lives. Isaiah loves getting to celebrate the Word as God's sword. I love dwelling on these words together with them while we go, while we live...


Honored be Thy Wondrous Word! -- K. Hartnett, March 1999


With Your Name supreme exalted,

Honored be Thy wondrous Word!

Safed from mankind's ill persuasion,

Has Thy truth thus been preserved.

Warnings sure, but comforts better!

One the witness from its parts;

Fire to heat the studied preacher;

Hammer cracking stony hearts.


Could there work a keener power,

Strong and sharp to meet its ends?

By it stand the stars of heaven;

With it, angels swift He sends.

Piercing down 'tween soul and spirit,

Finer than a two-edged sword;

Strength prepared to smite the nations,

Poised to slay the devil's horde.


Agent of the great Creator,

Moving surely through the earth;

Sowing seed that brings salvation,

Watering the souls You birth;

Daily feeding thankful thousands,

Earnest trust of those in need;

Faithful to fulfill Your purpose,

'Turning not 'til You succeed.


Light of Life dispelling darkness,

Lamp before the pilgrim's stride,

Let illumined truth resplendent

Richly in my soul abide!

Turn these eyes from worthless pastimes,

Teach me all Thy ways aright;

Open up Your wondrous statutes;

In Thy law is my delight!


a new friend

Last week I found a free gift online. A link from a link from a friend turned out to be a "new mentor" for me, as my husband so keenly understood when I showed him the blog. I've never met this sweet farmer's wife but I do call her a friend.

Ann Voskamp's blog " Holy Experience" is filled with Life substance of the Word told with rare meekness and a quality of beauty I don't think I've ever seen on a blog. Honestly, rarely seen in word form. I could try to list the posts that have stood out to me, but it's not worth listing. Every one I've read has left me delighted or nourished or challenged or stirred. My only tips: take a look at "Meet Ann V" label at the top (especially to enjoy her statement of faith) and the classic posts link on the left.

I am a deeply blessed receiver to have discovered such a gift of Grace. I hope, if you have a chance, you will enjoy it too.

holy experience



Saturday, April 24, 2010

at the close of the day

I've been reminded in this season of grief of how badly pain can make me wish I could stop time. How can the world go on when such tragedy strikes, like the death of our niece?

Honestly, we have been limping with grief aches these nearly 3 weeks. Sometimes it feels like these new wounds rip open again, and sometimes we feel less distracted to complete a task or conversation. Time just does not stand still. Still we urgently hope for rest- stillness for Greg and Heather's world. 'Selah' long enough to regain some healing, strength and encouragement.

I thought that I might not post pictures from our side of the world for a long time. But even months from now we'll still be missing Maelee. Maelee is going with us in our hearts forever now... the whole way forward our little niece, our kids' 1st Grether cousin, will be in our memory and in our hearts. So, to honor her, and the Lord she is with.... here's a few shots of some of what has filled these passing days.

biking to the park (I know... what was I doing snapping a pic when I should have been adjusting his helmet?!)

At the park... we really need to get it out of our minds, this idea that a park should be a nice open place for quiet play. Or at least we need to go on a Tuesday if that's the goal.



matching helmet heads on these two that I love
happy at preschool
out on a date.... classes got rearranged just right for this blue sky day
worm hunters- I still need to show you our herb garden. The herb beds have 6 new worms since these hunters' success after the last rain.

bathtime

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

hesed

I heard an excellent sermon from Dr. Michael Calvert  on Hosea 2:16-20.  He shared a "laymen's definition" of the Hebrew word 'hesed' that went something like this:
The unwavering, absolute, faithful loyalty of God 
to be tenderly affectionate towards his people.  
So grateful for that, Lord.  And we'd like a bit more please...  come to us and come to Greg and Heather as they mourn.

Praise and thanks to "the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Job Poem

I have been grateful for the writing and excellent poetry of David Gunner Gunderson at RAW CHRISTIANITY. I’m pasting a poem of his below that he wrote for a seminary professor whom he dearly loved, when he lost his daughter in a car accident. These words also now perfectly fit our family. I’ve replaced his professor’s name at the bottom with the name of our brother and sister.


JOB 1-2

by David Gunner Gunderson

There was a blameless man who was so godly he would pray

For the sins of all his children at the dawning of the day:

“Perhaps these ones I love have cursed the ever-blessed God;

So I slay this lamb and beg that You withhold Your gracious rod.”


Still, God saw fit to bruise them in His dark, mysterious grace.

But “behind a frowning providence He hid a smiling face.”

For the Lord is not so simple as to strike without an aim;

The brightly-burning furnace is a purifying flame.


There was a tested man who lost his all and then some more.

He buried his face into his hands and bowed upon the floor.

Then he cried, “Shall we receive so much that’s good from God above,

But reject His hard calamity that strikes with equal love?”


There was a weeping man who said that God was to be blessed

Both in poverty and riches, both in safety and distress.

So the Lord received his praises both in honor and in shame,

For this broken man found strength to say, “Lord, blessed be Your name.”


There is a lamentation that says “Blessed be the Lord,”

Whether skies be blue or black and whether grace or piercing sword.

There is a hopeful countenance that praises God for all,

Saying “Blessed be the Lord” both in the still and in the squall.


There is a throbbing man who is so very dear to me.

And just like the shattered Job of Uz, he’s picking up debris.

His life is now bereft of one that he had so adored.

Still, I hear him say with quivering voice, “Oh, blessed be the Lord!”


The Lord is always giving, yet He sometimes takes away.

But the Sun still shines as brightly in the night as in day.

Greg and Heather, please keep saying, as you feel the piercing sword:

“Oh, blessed be our sovereign God. Oh, blessed be the Lord.”



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Grether, it hurts us so much to think of how foolish our words must be when we desire to comfort you so badly. We know that all of our words fall so short of the peace and hope we long for you to have or the changes in time we wish that we could make! Still, we do trust that in time, you will stand firmer in the Lord, and be more full of precious qualities of His heart because you have suffered through and been refined in the furnace of this tragic loss. Although it sounds painful to exhort you so, it is still needful and good and right to encourage you with the last lines of this poem. We bless the Lord that we see and have heard it from you already. You are grieving well.




Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
– Job 1:20-22

“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
– Job 2:10


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Why Lord?

Our brother Greg has written about asking "why" the Lord would let his baby daughter die. They have blogged through this loss. It is heart-wrenching and, we trust, a good part of their healing process to write as they are. We weren't sure about linking to their blog, but since they have said that comments, even from people they don't know, have been helpful, we'll include it now. I feel like, after this darkest season of grief (and I do believe it will not be this dark forever), we will, they will, I will live more, live deeper for having suffered with Greg and Heather through this loss. They are sharing this journey so well.


This morning I was also thinking about two different questions WHY.

1) Why would God allow my baby niece to die? This I don't know- not a clue. But in the midst of our sorrow we can trust. Trust that God is still good, still faithful, still loving, still God. And we trust that God will use this for the good of those who trust him (Psalm 84:11, Rom 8:28) It is a sad, sad thing.


We know, "If Christ were not raised from the dead, we are to be pitited above all men." (1 Cor 15:19) And if Christ is not true and we are to be so pitied, THEN what do we have? Only worse despair. "But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead." (1 Cor 15:20) So, although we don't have this answer, we do have sure hope in our Risen Lord.

But for a different why, I think the Bible does have some clear answers.

2) Why would God decide NOT to mark His people's lives with every prefect blessing and joy? Why would God let this happen to a family that trusts him, that loves him so? Shouldn't God's people be blessed- really blessed and really happy (as many would say today)? Wouldn't that be the case if our God was true? Surely this is evidence that he's not real or true or good or powerful enough if he's not doing this for his people.


We are sinners. We do not deserve any good thing from God. We deserve Hell (Romans 6:23). That this Holy God would crush his perfect, only Son to rescue us, filthy sinful people, from eternal damnation is beyond good. He doesn't owe us a thing. BUT he is good, he is loving... so wouldn't he want to give such gifts to his people?

We know that he is good. We know that he does want to give good gifts to his children (Luke 11:11). We know his character is good, wise, kind, loving, holy, just and merciful. But this does not bind him to always, only give us good things.

I heard a sermon from John Piper recently where he used a powerful analogy.

The world does not glorify Jesus as their supreme Treasure because of our health, wealth, and prosperity. Those are the same treasures they live for. The fact that we use Jesus to get what they want makes it clear to them that we have the same treasure as they do—and it is not Jesus. He’s just the ticket. And tickets are thrown away when the show begins.

God is not out to exalt anything but himself, as what we should live for. To show his people as uniquely blessed in all the world would indeed make people come. But would they be coming for the treasure of Christ or for the stuff? Piper reminded, us what happens to tickets once the holders get what they want... And God is not ok with His Son being thrown away.

He's not ok with giving his children lesser good either. (Romans 8:32, Matthew 7:9) Would God send his Son to die- would he crush his own son- to obligate himself to give us anything but that which eternally satisfies? There are so many good things in life and God is glad to give them... but ultimately he does not owe us these things. Not even "because we're his children."

We do not deserve life. He is gracious to give life as he does, but none of it is because we deserve it. Yet, stil knowing his character and heart towards his children, we have every reason to pray and hope for his healing and, in time, his joy to return and abound to Greg and Heather.

God is set on giving his children and showing the world the treasure that he offers (in the analogy... "his show"): "an inheiritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (I Peter 1:4-5)

I love that that salvation is already "ready" and waiting. I believe Maelee is waiting too in that place of imperishable life for that day when she'll be embraced by the mother and father from whom the Lord first knit her together. As Alcorn infers from Revelation 6: 9-11 in the book Heaven (page 65-66), "People in Heaven know what's happening on Earth.... [They] have a strong familial connection with those on Earth." See the rest of his writing to fuller understand his context.

I think one of the things God is out to show the world is how he sustains his people, comforts, speaks peace, gives his Holy Spirit. John 20:19-23

So... this doesn't mean grief is the least bit less painful (rather it would seem right to say that it hurts more for a couple who so thoughtfully, intentionally loves so deeply?). But in asking why, and hearing from God's word I can see that God IS still good. He has not violated any of his faithfulness to his people to allow this tragedy. He is not a liar. God is not powerless to save. God's people will have trials of various kinds (1 Peter 1:6-7).

"I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." - Jesus. John 16:33

perspective

We just got back from a quick trip out of the country. The visa that we have right now- our permission from this government to live here- requires us to leave the country every 90 days. Just when we want to be instantly accessible to talk with or hear from our precious family, we had to be on the road. We took a 2.5 hour flight, a bus ride to the border, waited through a too many lines, filled out too many forms, and finally made it to Hong Kong. We ate lunch (3 pm) and turned back to plow through both borders again. We stayed in that city for the night and made it home smoothly yesterday evening.

Flying back home, I reflected on how grateful (and honestly, astonished!) I was for how well our kids did on the whole journey yesterday. It was a tiring day. And to look at it, I'm sure it made no sense whatsoever to our kids. They didn't see why on earth we would have to wait through so many lines or just keep walking, wandering, and walking like we did.

But they did it. And I really want to bless them for it! What precious children's trust to simply go where we told them to go.....

It wasn't without motivation though. Having no prize at the finish line would never have worked for our kids (for our big two, that is. For John, he's just sweetly along for the ride.) From the start of arranging this "visa run," Matt knew we needed to stay at a hotel with a swimming pool. He found the cheapest hotel online that had a swimming pool and booked it. The kids knew what was coming.

And it was worth it to them (and, as a result, well worth it to us too.)

Grief would be unbearable- really not worth recovering from- if it weren't for the prize at the end of our finish line. Jesus endured the cross "for the joy set before him." (Hebrews 12:2) We should follow his example and do as we've been commanded to: look up, look ahead... (Colossians 3:2)

Peter addresses his first letter to "elect exiles." We live here, but as exiles who belong to (are chosen for) another place. We are "looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God." (Hebrews 11:10)

Peter also tells those "elect exiles" to "live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear." Not as strangers who might be dropped off the back of the wagon. Not as strangers who are cared little for. But strangers here, who have been bought with an immeasurable price.

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish and without defect." (1 Peter 1:18)

Since God has already given the most lavish gift in the universe in order to rescue us- he crushed his own Son- He will not leave us abandoned now. "Shall I fear, or could the Head, rise and leave it's members dead?" (Luise Henriette of Brandenburg) No. Never.

In his book Heaven, Randy Alcorn describes Florence Chadwick (p. xx), who set out to swim from Catalina Island to the shore of California in 1952. She'd already been the first woman to swim the English Channel, surely she could conquer this task too. She covered almost the entire distance, but after 15 hours of swimming, she gave up. She was less than half a mile away. At a news conference the next day she said, "All I could see was the fog... I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it."

We are praying now for you, Grether, faith to know that past this fog is the shore- where Jesus is, with Maelee. You may not see it now, but it is there. We are praying for you to see it in time, and to have hope and courage to swim on. The Spirit of God dwells in you, and you surrounded by a crowd of heavenly and earthly witnesses to support you and love you for when you are ready to go forward (and that will NOT mean forgetting) from here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

solid

Job 1:21-22 "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

"Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation. Selah. Our God is a God of salvation and to God, the Lord belong deliverances from death." Psalm 68:19

Isaiah 28:29 “And all this also comes from the Lord Almighty. He is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.”

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies." 2 Cor. 4:8-9

"If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.... For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive." 1 Corinthians 15:19, 22

Praying this morning for more selah, peace- rest, in the midst of your suffering, Greg and Heather. Not that there should be less pain, because your pain displays your love for Maelee and your love is not small. But we are praying for rest and some lightening of the burden of your grief.... may your soul find rest in God alone, may your hope be found in him. Psalm 62:5. Even a small, flickering hope right now, because it's not the quality of your hope, it's where your hope is rooted. He keeps you...

"You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." Isaiah 26:3-4. Rock of Ages, let them hide in you now.

And so we hope with you, for you... though now, achingly. And we trust that the ache, just like death's sting, is not eternal, but will be exchanged for you, for us, because of Christ.

Monday, April 12, 2010

join me?

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Colossians 3:1-2

I'm glad this is what we are commanded to do, because to have to fill our minds with the stuff of earth would lay me low- too low to live some days. Just in daily ordinary things, life can feel overwhelming. How much more so in times of hard loss?

So, in effort to SET my mind on the things of heaven, the things of God, I'm setting out a specific scripture memory- meditation aim. I'm going to be dwelling on 1 Peter 1 in the next few weeks. I look forward to soaking my brain and my heart in this great chunk of scripture. Hoping, trusting that it will become a filter for thoughts and a screen for the eyes of my heart.

treachery

|ˈtre ch ərē|noun ( pl. -eries)betrayal of trust; deceptive action or nature
Our niece Maelee was 38 weeks grown in the womb when she died. We believe with confident hope that she went straight to be with Jesus and that her life in his presence now is very, very good. But loosing her, for those still here, is a way more painful blow than I think I would have even begun to comprehend had it not hit this close to home (and for sure, I don't get it all, but I think I've tasted it more truly now).
I have lost my mom. My grieving process for that is different from other women who have lost their moms. My mom, my whole family, whole past... my own mourning. Especially for that initial season, it was awful. 5+ years later, I still yearn for her and cry for her, though there is also a real healing now to that sorrow for me. But, that death was more of the natural order of things that we expect in this fallen world. (Death is still not what we were created for, but when we really face life squarely, who can deny that death is at the end of it, and usually not too far down the road?)
One of the things that marks this loss- a stillborn- as this exquisitely painful, is the timing of it. There is never a good time for death. But for it to strike right when the hopes are highest- 38 weeks of mounting hope, anticipation, joy, dreams all waiting for that first breath of life- that's one of the nastiest things to it. I HATE it.
Lowdown, filthy, scumbag, treachery of the worst kind. If I'm playing cards with a cheater, I'll call it when I see it. How much more for this?
Truly, every death qualifies as cheating, a grievous battle at least momentarily lost to the Enemy. This one, it seems to me, at least right now, to have more of a sting of treachery to it. But all death ought to make us wake up to the reality of what it is we live for, and our only Hope to live it well. Surely our only Hope to LIVE this life and live beyond it is the One who overcame death for us.
Simply belonging to Christ- that nail-scarred Man of Sorrows, Suffering Servant, Risen One- and him being my battle commander, emboldens my spirit to want to fight for life.... and I hope to fight well for his glory.
Heather put a few words together in an email this week: "Pray for me to not waste this, to learn to love the Lord more deeply through it."
Amen. We will be praying.

grievers, be embraced

Another web encouragement I found was Molly Piper's blog. She and Abraham lost their second child, a daughter named Felicity, in 2007. Her blog is good for grievers and its full of excellent tips especially for how women can love grieving women friends. There's really good stuff there... like some things to understand about grieving friends: "She's a scatterbrain, there is no timetable, ask her specific questions, cleaning her house is next to godliness." If you're interested: www.mollypiper.com then click the category for Grief. Here's a selection from her post on Feb 22 this year.

**********

I know there are other women like me, living without their only daughter. There’s a particular hole for a mom, a woman, who loses her chance to raise her little girl. So many hopes and dreams die with that little girl.

One thing I’ve learned on my journey is that if I take the time to listen to what’s going on in my heart, all this anger and frustration, and let God pull me deeper, past the self-protectiveness of the anger, I get down to the pain of it. If I will get honest with God there in my anger, he always shows me just how much I’m hurting. Somehow the wall of anger crumbles and I’m left in the rubble, weeping.

Because underneath the anger is always the pain. I can stay there in the anger and grow bitter and hard (trust me, the temptation is there), but God has helped me see that it’s always better to let myself feel all of the emotions (first the anger) and then search for what’s really going on in my heart. Pretty much 100% of the time, under the anger is pain. More pain to feel, more tears to cry, more aspects of the loss that I need to grieve.

Sometimes I don’t want to go there. Sometimes I just want to rant and rail against my situation. It’s hard and frustrating. Sometimes it feels like there’s nowhere to go from the pain–it can rise up anytime or anywhere. Grief is not just for grieving places, like the cemetery. It happens in other stranger places.

I suppose the other option would be to pretend like I don’t feel the anger. “No, no, no…it’s bad to be angry. God took Felicity away and I have to be happy and content with that.” If I decide on this option, I also miss the chance to grieve, just like I would have if I would’ve stayed hard and angry and bitter.

But Jesus doesn’t turn away the grievers. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I am called blessed. And I’m promised His comfort.

This is blessed assurance. It’s like a great big sign at the foot of the Cross that says:

“You Belong Here.”

Sunday, April 11, 2010

don't let this pain be wasted, Lord

When I first wrote about our niece Maelee's death, I thought I would not write here for a long time. But my mind has changed already. It's therapy for me too. Maybe it's because I'm "an open book" and share pretty freely about myself or maybe it's because I know so many of our dear friends are dearly concerned for our family, even though most of you don't know them at all (thank you for your care). Regardless, I've decided to share some of my and some of our processing for this loss on our blog.

At the time of my mom's death, one of the prayers that I felt my spirit greatly fortified by was that the Lord not let my mom's death or my pain at her loss be wasted. "Gain every ounce of glory you deserve from this, Lord. Change me in whatever way you want to. Speak of your goodness amidst this sorrow. Show Yourself as God. Provide for our hearts. Anchor us in Your Word. Help us to dwell on truth. Draw us to you."

I think part of my desire to write here is to record some of God's answers to that prayer in this time of loss and to testify to others that are grieving with us and grieving around us, that God is still God and he is still good. I know for our whole family, we all long that Maelee's death be used maximally for God's glory.

The first few days of this tragedy I spent a fair bit of time online looking for encouragement. I found George Mueller's biography- a talk by John Piper- to be excellent comfort for my soul. George Mueller was married to his first wife, Mary, for 39 years. Below is a section of Piper's talk reviewing how Mueller processed the loss of his beloved wife:

Mary's Death and the Key to His Life

We have the full text of the message at Mary's funeral and we have his own recollections of this loss. To feel the force of what he says, we have to know that they loved each other deeply and enjoyed each other in the work they shared.

Were we happy? Verily we were. With every year our happiness increased more and more. I never saw my beloved wife at any time, when I met her unexpectedly anywhere in Bristol, without being delighted so to do. I never met her even in the Orphan Houses, without my heart being delighted so to do. Day by day, as we met in our dressing room, at the Orphan Houses, to wash our hands before dinner and tea, I was delighted to meet her, and she was equally pleased to seeme. Thousands of times I told her—“My darling, I never saw you at any time, since you became my wife, without my being delighted to see you.”

Then came the diagnosis: “When I heard what Mr. Pritchard's judgment was, viz., that the malady was rheumatic fever, I naturally expected the worst. . . . My heart was nigh to be broken on account of the depth of my affection.” The one who had seen God answer 10,000 prayers for the support of the orphan, this time did not get what he asked. Or did he?

Twenty minutes after four, Lord's Day, February 6, 1870, Mary died. “I fell on my knees and thanked God for her release, and for having taken her to Himself, and asked the Lord to help and support us.” He recalled later how he strengthened himself during these hours. And here we see the key to his life.

The last portion of scripture which I read to my precious wife was this: “The Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory, no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Now, if we have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have received grace, we are partakers of grace, and to all such he will give glory also. I said to myself, with regard to the latter part, “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly”—I am in myself a poor worthless sinner, but I have been saved by the blood of Christ; and I do not live in sin, I walk uprightly before God. Therefore, if it is really good for me, my darling wife will be raised up again; sick as she is. God will restore her again. But if she is not restored again, then it would not be a good thing for me. And so my heart was at rest. I was satisfied with God. And all this springs, as I have often said before, from taking God at his word, believing what he says.

Here is the cluster of unshakable convictions and experiences that are the key to this remarkable life. “I am in myself a poor worthless sinner.”I have been saved by the blood of Christ.” “I do not live in sin.”God is sovereign over life and death. If it is good for her and for me, she will be restored again. If not she won't.”My heart is at rest.”I am satisfied with God.” All this comes from taking God at his word. There you see the innermost being of George Mueller and the key to his life. The word of God, revealing his sin, revealing his Savior, revealing God's sovereignty, revealing God's goodness, revealing God's promise, awakening his faith, satisfying his soul. “I was satisfied with God.”


pastoral prayer

We've been in our new town for almost three months and I've never been more grateful to have this church family around us here, than this morning. Our friend- whose house we meet at- prayed for our family at the beginning of our time together. A few things in the prayer stood out:

"Lord, please open their eyes to see and know you through this in ways that they couldn't have known otherwise."

"Be with them here, God. This is where their theology will be built. Build it well."

Just like our friend prayed over us- for Greg and Heather- this morning, we are asking that God be glorified and draw people- most especially right now Grether- but also others too, to Himself through Maelee's homegoing.

I can't help but think that Greg and Heather will be better off for all of eternity for being so stretched by this now. May you, Grether, see, know, trust, comprehend, be filled by, and even enjoy more of God in and as a result of this tragedy. May you be happier for all of eternity for having known HIM to this extent, to this sorrowful depth.

Friday, April 9, 2010

for Maelee's memorial

video
(C) Vineyard Music. "Yet I will praise" by Andy Park. Sung by Melissa Boraski.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

a great loss for our family

Our hearts are broken for our dear Greg and Heather (Matt's brother and his wife) whose baby Maelee Linn passed away Easter Sunday, April 4. She was born April 6, less than two weeks before her due date, and they will have a small memorial service for her this Friday.

Isaiah seems to have connected with this sad news. He loves that in the end Jesus defeats all the bad guys, even death. That's just what Christ did on Easter, when Maelee died. But sadly for us, his victory has only begun. When that victory is complete, we'll get to see Maelee alive with Christ.

Heather's status on facebook, that she posted early on Easter, was a line from a great song: "For God the Just was satisfied to look on him [Christ] and pardon me." There is life- true life beyond this one- because Christ died. He took the penalty of death for all who trust in him and he rose victorious. There is life in the end... but oh what grief today!

And yet, we grieve with hope. We are so comforted to know that Greg and Heather, even in this unspeakable anguish, are held within, upheld by this hope. Solid HOPE in Christ, the Ultimate Victor, who will make all things right. We know he has won the war of this age, but in that greater war, this particular battle loss is great. It's devastating right now. Would you please pray for this dear family with us?

We're going to be silent on the blogging-front for a while, till we can get through some of this wreckage in our own hearts too. Thank you for your love and prayers with us for them.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

rocket fuel

I just began reading Heaven, by Randy Alcorn. The first chapters have gone back and forth gripping me and seeming skim-worthy, but overall I think it is going to powerfully sharpen my faith and my joy in Christ- who has secured Heaven for me. And Heaven, as Alcorn labors to clearly explain, is NOT an eternal, (boring) church service....

These quotes stood out boldly for me:
"In AD 125, a Greek names Aristides, wrote to a friend about Christianity, explaining why this "new religion" was so successful: "If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they escort his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby." (p. xviii)

"Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, commissioned a servant to stand in his presence each day and say, "Philip, you will die." In contrast, France's Louis XIV decreed that the word "death" not be uttered in his presence. Most of us are more like Louis than Philip, denying death and avoiding the thought of it except when it's forced upon us. We live under the fear of death." (p xix)

Alcorn's point is that, as Christians, we shouldn't fear or dread death...not at all. We've bought into an absolute lie of our Enemy if we think that this world is what we live for, or that Heaven might be even the least bit boring. We can get so caught up in our lives here- thinking only of our comforts and pleasures- when really we know that our lives here are like a breath that vanishes in an instant (James 4:14). Why would we not prepare ourselves with a holy passion and attentiveness and action for the eternity to come?

And... in pressing toward eternity, clearly we've got to care about others' eternity too. And why not care not only about the ones that we love, but about the ones that he loves (the world)?

Here's another quote that ties in on this point. It's from John Piper's book "Don't Waste Your Life." This book is excellent. I've enjoyed reading it a few times and just skimmed lots of it again today. Having done so, I feel like my soul just filled up on rocket fuel. Oh that these words would be true of our lives! Much grace was administered to my soul as I read:

"I am deeply moved by the courage and carnage on Iwo Jima. As I read the pages of this histroy, everything in me cries out, "O Lord, don't let me waste my life!" Let me come to the end- whether soon or late- and be able to say to a family, a church, a city, and the unreached peoples of the earth, "For your tomorrow, I gave my body today. Not just for your tomorrow on earthy, but for the countless tomorrows of your ever-increasing gladness in God." The closer I look at the individual soldiers in this World War II history, the more I felt a passion that my life would count, and that I would be able to die well.
As rainy moning wore into afternoon and the fighting bogged down, the Marines continued to take casualties. Often it was the corpsmen [medics] themselves who died as they tried to preserve life. William Hoopes of Chattanooga was crouching beside a medic named Kelly, who put his head above a protective ridge and placed binoculars to his eyes just for an instant- to spot a sniper who was pepperin his area. In that instant the sniper shot him through the Adam's apple. Hoopes, a phamacist's mate himself, struggled frantically to save his friend. "I took my forceps and reached into his neck to grasp the artery and pink it off," Hoopes recalled. "His blood was spurting. He had no speech but his eyes were on me. He knew I was trying to save his life. I tried everything in the world. I couldn't do it. I tried. The blood was so slippery. I couldn't get the artery. I was trying so hard. And all the while he just looked at me. He looked directly into my face. The last thing he did as the blood spurts became less and less was to pat me on the arm as if to say, 'That's all right.' Then he died."*
In this heart-breaking moment I want to be Hoopes and I want to be Kelly. I want to be able to say to suffering and perishing people, "I tried everything in the world... I was trying so hard." And I want to be able to say to those around me when I die, "It's all right. To live is Christ, and to die is gain." (p. 124-125)

(* James Bradley, Flags of Our Fathers,(New York: Bantam, 2000)

Recently, my mother-in-law reminded me of the movie Schindler's list- most particularly the last scene. She described (I hope I get the details right) how the all the prisoners of war who had just been released were coming up to Schindler to thank him for being so instrumental in saving their lives during the war. And he began to weep. He was grieved and heart broken that he had not done more. "I should have sold my house, my car. I could have saved more." We could look and say "well done buddy," but he knew he could have done more. He did much, but not all that he could. I don't want my life to end like that. But it will, apart from major grace of God for which I want to be crying out to come! work mightily in me.

Piper continues... "Oh, that young and old would turn off the television, take a long walk, and dream about feats of courage for a cause ten thousand times more important than American democracy- as precious as that is. If we would dream and if we would pray, would not God answer? Would he withhold from us a life of joyful love and mercy and sacrifice that magnifies Christ and makes people glad in God? I plead with you, as I pray for myself, set your face like flint to join Jesus on the Calvary road. "Let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here was have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come" (Hebrews 13:13-14). When they see our sacrificial love- radiant with joy- will they not say, "Christ is great"? (p 128-9)

Come, Lord Jesus!


She Got It!

The prize at the finish line (once she got everything in the potty) got very, very sweet for this girl. With months of talk and preparation leading up to it, we had quite a load of rewards and promises made by the time that day finally came...

Day One: Skittles

Day Two: Skittles, a dab of lotion and chapstick, and this butterfly wings set

Day Three: Skittles and new shoes (she needed them anyway- I forgot to get a pic)

Day Four: More Skittles, lotion, and chapstick


Day Five: the Grand Finale of Potty School (it's the end of the skittles, and she seemed surprisingly OK with that). Gum- she's been looking forward to this for a long time- plus a trip to this "jump jump bed" (that's what the local words for it mean) and lunch from Kentucky Fried Chicken eaten at the park.

Matt's tutor went with us to the bounce house. I think he had lots of fun and it made the day all the more spectacular for Marian, who seems to have a bit of a crush on this guy!
Isaiah is growing so big so fast. We love this boy so much, just really wish he'd be a little more willing to let me get some pictures of him. I have to sneak them most the time these days!
All in all, we are just so glad and proud for how well Marian has conquered this! Way to go Darling! Thanks too, big bro Isaiah, for being a help and encouragment this week. We love you guys so much!!

Here's one more pic of our sweetheart little guy with the potty princess: