Sunday, 21 July 2013

Why is He Doing This to Me Now?

Sitting on the bench in front of the nurses’ station, I was sandwiched between my twelve-year-old daughter, Mia and my seventy-four-year-old mother, Joy. Words did not come, but we sat, three generations silently holding hands. I glanced down, surprised at how closely my fingers resembled my mother’s; Mia’s were still those of a child, round and unmarred, lacking the imperfections that come from years of hard work. I held on just a little tighter to both of them . . . a love chain of over a hundred years of service to God.

Geriatrics shuffled by, lifeless eyes staring straight ahead; where they were going, I did not know. Moments later the same menagerie appeared again, completing I surmised, an endless circle around the ward.

Feeling Mia fidget, I knew it was time to bring our visit to an end. I glanced over to the woman who looked like my mom, but whose eyes were distant, no longer reflecting the life and vitality that once brought meaning to her name.

“Well, it’s time for us to get home.”

Her fingers twisted harder around mine, as her other hand clutched my arm. Meeting my gaze, with steely vision she looked deep into my eyes and--but for a moment--my mother reappeared.

“The Lord’s been good to me my whole life . . . why is He doing this to me now?” No sooner had she finished her heartbreaking question and she was gone again. Vague eyes looked past me, studying the empty hallway, but her hands still hung on.

I turned to my daughter, mortified that she heard this deep, painful cry. Squeezing her little hand to give some assurance, I let go of tiny fingers to turn and focus on my mother.

“I don’t know, Mom. I just don’t know,” Gently, I removed her hand from my arm and gave her an awkward, one-sided hug. My words were more for me than for her as she had retreated back into her own mysterious Alzheimer world; but the question still hung in the air . . .

Walking out of the lodge that day, I was not the same person. A shift had occurred between the
Lord and I. Anger began to grow, its roots burying deeper and deeper into my soul. Strangling tendrils tightened around my heart, choking my faith.

She had been so faithful to Him.

Why did He do this to her?

What kind of God did I serve?

As the months went by, I wrestled with what would be the last coherent, articulated sentence I would ever hear my mother say. A woman of strong faith her whole life, a godly example of trusting the Lord . . . and then she drops this bomb. Shrapnel ripped into my heart, internal bleeding seeping into every crevice of my being as I attempted to continue to stumble through life . . . a silent walking wounded.

Why God? Why?

The visits to the lodge got harder and harder for me as each time I saw her, the question echoed back in my mind again and again. I would stay up late at night, sending out random emails to any man of faith I could find online; Priests, Protestant pastors, Rabbis. I just kept searching for the answer to my Mother’s question. It was a crazy quest to fill the void before she passed away. My faith was waning as I ran farther and farther from God with each email response. No man of God could give an answer. No book on any shelf could either. I would spend hours in countless devotions and in the Word, but it was all white noise as nothing could be heard over the drum of the unanswered question.

Life was becoming empty and meaningless.

With each passing season, the root of anger burrowed down.

My mother’s last days were peaceful and she passed after her seventy-fifth birthday and just before my forty-fourth. Since I was the only girl, and a writer, my brothers asked me to give the eulogy. It would appear I had even fooled them; they had no idea the pain and resentment planted in my heart.

The night before the funeral, I sat in the dark with my laptop; a word count of zero.

What could I say? All I could think of--all I had thought of--was the monstrous unanswered question.
A dark shadow appeared at the top of the basement stairs; it was my brother who was staying with me from out of town.

“How’s it going?”

That was all he had to say. A flood gate opened as I confessed my anger and shared our mother’s last statement.

“Oh, wow,” he said without pause, filling his glass of water, “that’s easy.”

That’s easy?

“What do you mean, ‘That’s easy?’ It’s so not easy. I’ve asked everyone and so far not one answer.” He plopped down onto the couch next to me, rubbing his eyes.

“You never asked me.” With a crooked, pained grin he continued, “You know, it’s kind of like when parents drop off their kids for Sunday School; some of them can just pass their children over the gate, give them a kiss and then leave. But others have to come inside, sit next to their little ones and play until they are distracted; then they scoot out unnoticed. Well, God knew how much we needed Mom. How much we ran to her for advice and how she was so much a part of our walk of faith. If He had taken her in her sleep, or with a heart attack, we couldn't have handled the shock. We needed her so much.

Instead, out of grace, He allowed her to sit with us, and colour for a bit. He let her sneak out of our lives slowly so we could adjust and learn to walk with Him on our own. He loved Mom and all of us that much.” Patting my knee, he took his water and headed for the stairs. “I’m so sorry you’ve struggled with that. I’ve known it all along; it’s how I’ve had peace. I wish you would have asked me sooner.”

Watching his back disappear down the stairs, the bright light from the blank, stark Word document was burning my eyes. Or perhaps it was the tears.

Finally. I could write my goodbye; or rather my ‘see ya later, Mom’. I had found the answer we were looking for; the question that had made me doubt my own faith.

The Lord had been good to my mother her whole life . . . and with amazing love and grace continued to be good until the very end.  So faithful, He gave the answer to our burning question just in time for me to share it with passion and new-found faith to all those who came to celebrate my mother’s life—with JOY!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

He is Near to the Broken Hearted

For those of you (all of us) who have ever sinned (all of us) and daily live with the pain of decisions and choices (all of us) . . . there is hope.

First of all, you are not alone, (see above).

Secondly, you are or can be forgiven.

I came across an amazing link that I will for sure save to read when I am feeling a bit beaten down. It gives different translations for Psalms 51:17 but even more than that, it also gives cross references and commentaries; many of which I needed to read, re-read and then read out loud today.  Here is a segment of one of my favorites by Matthew Henry:

"The good work wrought in every true penitent, is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart, and sorrow for sin. It is a heart that is tender, and pliable to God's word. Oh that there were such a heart in every one of us! God is graciously pleased to accept this; it is instead of all burnt-offering and sacrifice. The broken heart is acceptable to God only through Jesus Christ; there is no true repentance without faith in him. Men despise that which is broken, but God will not. He will not overlook it, he will not refuse or reject it; though it makes God no satisfaction for the wrong done to him by sin. Those who have been in spiritual troubles, know how to pity and pray for others afflicted in like manner."

While God is not pleased that we have sinned against Him, He does not reject us. He, as a loving parent, can and will redeem His children's mistakes. BUT, we have to stop flogging ourselves, pick ourselves up and despite our pain go out and minister to others . . . even if it may be uncomfortable at times. Yes, some days it is easier than others.

I wish that the forgiveness of sins meant no more pain, but as Ernest Hengstenberg noted, "The joy on account of forgiveness and restoration to favour does not exclude continued pain on account of past sin." The consequences of our sin will follow us; it's up to us however to choose.  Will we walk around in despair and defeat, buried beneath the guilt? Or acknowledge our desperate need for a Saviour and dance in joyful victory with the applied truth from Luke 7:47-48:

"Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

That verse explains why I love my Lord . . . A LOT!

But, what about those of us who are convinced that we are just too marred or stained to be of any use to the Kingdom?

I just want to love on you and let you know that we are usable . . . maybe even more so! First however, we need to come to Him with a true repentant heart (one that hurts beyond what you think you can bare) . . . there and only there are forgiveness and peace found.

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:17 ESV

Lord, thank you for not despising my broken heart. Please bind it up, forgive me and let me see myself through your eyes of grace . . . and then by your power and love that so blows away all of my understanding, help me to dust myself off and reach out to others.

Because you are a God of Wonders . . . and you are not done with any of us yet!


Friday, 12 July 2013

Recipe for Happiness

Wow. All these years lookin'. Little did I know that I would one day be able to buy happiness. A whole litre worth for a bargain basement price of just $2. Or a toonie as we Canadians say.

Now, before you go emailing me telling what a sucker I am to have purchased this, I must inform you that I sacrificed my hard-earned cash to see if it would work for you.

I twisted open the lid, put on a nostalgic Keith Green playlist and sat on my deck with my Bible and Crazy Love book.

Chapter 6 of the book is looking into love. Okay, the whole book is about love, but we're focusing on really crying out for God. Begging Him for his touch and to confess when we are dry and cracked . . . and during the times when we don't really 'feel' like loving Him.

The more I read, worshiped with Keith, and sipped on my water, the more broken I was. It was like a looking glass was placed before me; one that reflected what was in my heart.

I so want to want more of Him!

Tears flowed faster than the litres of Happy Water into my cup. Soon my cup was running over.

He is so good. He always does meet us, and fill us.

Curiously, I do feel happier. Somehow I don't think it has anything to do with the water.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

If the Shoe Fits

Sometimes the Lord tickles me.  He just does.

A few days ago I was asked to come up with a talk to help unify women and draw the younger generation. I read the email, mentioned it briefly in my prayers and then rolled over.

Fifteen minutes later I was lying in bed, typing out the ideas on my Samsung Note 2; (a cool tool BTW).

Just a few hours before the talk request came, I had ordered 100 little shoe beads. I had an idea to make up my own bracelets to raise funds for Engedi Refuge Ministries; the shoes were the only beads that I found on Ebay that ‘worked’. Little did I know what He had in mind; oh the giggles as I lay in bed writing up the proposal.

The chat is coming together rather nicely and I am shamefully self-promoting this to any church that is looking for a one hour talk for their women ministries. 100% of the speaking fees will go to Engedi Refuge and I am so excited to share!

If the message fits . . . book it!  :)

Walking a Mile in Her Shoes . . . Cinderella, the Old Woman & Dorothy!

A fun, interactive and prop-filled look at how childhood characters helped to shape our lives . . . and perhaps a few bunions!

Proverbs 16:9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

Lori Dixon is an award winning humorist with over 200 articles in print. 100% of her speaking fees for 2013 go to support the local ministry of Engedi Refuge.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Yeah, Yeah . . . In a Second

Nothing drives a parent more crazy than when they ask their child to do something and they respond with a slightly bored and definitely irritated response of, ‘Yeah, yeah, in a second.’

Often I will go check to see what they are doing that is so ground-breakingly important that it makes my task delay-worthy.

Nine times out of ten, they are doing nothing. Nada. Zip. Just sitting watching the dust layer on the side table in our living room. (That being said, our house was chosen by the local university archaeology department for a student excavation program. Years of soil accumulation allowed them to experience the Law of Superposition in the safety and warmth of my home. Unfortunately, the program was abandoned after the first project was started. It appeared that the dust was the only thing holding my archaic furniture together. Sorry about your hutch, Grandma!).

I am mulling this as recently I started to redo the book, ‘Crazy Love’ by Francis Chan. I say ‘redo’ and not ‘read’ as it’s to be experienced and applied, not just skimmed through. (Hmmmm, kind of reminds me of another book). Chapter 1 is about prayer. Well, it’s really about God. If you ‘do’ this chapter correctly, prepare to have your mind stretched and convictions magnified.

As I reflected on the accounts of John and Isaiah being brought before the throne of God, I closed my eyes and imagined being grabbed by the scruff of my neck and dropped at the foot of His throne. Whoa. God help me. There is no ‘down’ that would be deep enough for me to bow in humble adoration. Compared to His greatness and holiness, the awareness of my own sinful nature and unworthiness makes hot coals to the lips seem not nearly extreme enough.

Yet, Hebrews 4:16 tells us that in Christ we can boldly approach the throne of God. This is the verse I guess I’ve focused on throughout my whole life of prayer. I clearly have no problem doing that. He is my friend and He walks with me and He talks with me. I love and chatter at Him often throughout the day. But . . . do I fully grasp to whom I am speaking?

You see, often . . . and I mean OFTEN, the Lord has nudged me to do something. Not always in subtle ways either. And here’s the thing, sometimes it’s easy for me to be obedient and jump to the task. Kind of like when I ask one of my teenage daughters to go fetch some chocolate out off the fridge. On it!

Other times I respond with, ‘Yeah, yeah, in a second’. You know, like when you ask your child to go clean their room or pick up the poop in the backyard. Some jobs do not promise us any immediate earthly rewards.

And so we brush Him off with a ‘Later, Dad’. Ouch.

Having reapplied the study of the throne of God, His vastness and His Holiness, I am regrettably aware of my brashness as His child. Of my lack of respect for Him.

The Lord has called me to do something and I know the only way I am going to follow through is to spend time boldly approaching the throne of God but now with full awareness of Who exactly is seated on that throne. To bow down in worship is so much more than posture or emotion; it involves mind, body and spirit.

Father, forgive us for being such lazy, disrespectful kids. Help us all to see You as you really are. . . and out of loving fear answer without delay when you call . . .

‘Here I am, Lord . . . send me!’