Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Temporary suffering= Eternal glory

I have been remembering four years ago this week when we were in Delaware getting Anna's second liver transplant.  Sometimes I still question our decision to proceed that day.  There was so much pain after that surgery.  So many days in the hospital.  For what?  Why did she have to suffer so much before she died?  It has been easier for me to accept her death than to accept her suffering.
But then I read what God's word has to say about our suffering...

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  (2 Corinthians 4:17)
When you are in the midst of suffering it seems anything but light and momentary.  One day in the hospital watching your loved one struggle for each breath seems like forever.  But it's not.  Our suffering is temporary--and compared to eternity--momentary.  Even if it lasts a lifetime, our present suffering will be far outweighed by our eternal glory.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  (Romans 8:18) 
Lord, help me stop focusing on Anna's earthly suffering and  fix my thoughts instead on her eternal glory.  Thank you that our suffering is not eternal, but our glory is. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Divine Declaration

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  Romans 1:20

The heavens declare the glory of God;
       the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Psalm 19:1

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


While in OKC, I spent an afternoon in my friend's art room.  I told her that I would like to make something "Fourth-of-July-ish" to take to the cemetery.  I knew she would know what to do. She helped with the creative part--all I had to do was come up with the words.  
On Anna's I put her name and the words "brave and free".  
On some of the others I put the words, "Can you SEE?" 
The phrase is from the first line of the Star Spangled Banner, but it has another deeper meaning.  Steven Curtis Chapman's daughter Maria was killed in an accident 6 months after Anna died.  He desperately prayed for a sign that she was okay.

 "I remember just saying, 'We know it is true. We know she is with Jesus. She is safe in the arms of the God who made her. We know she is okay. We know it, but could we just see something?' The next morning we went back to our house to get some clothes for the memorial service. It was really hard to even go in the house because of the memories...
I walked into the kitchen and there is this little art table that Maria.. would sit at for hours. She loved crafts. She would cut out pictures. Scissors and glue were her favorite things. She would just cut and paste and draw for hours, and she often created cards for us. She would write the words she knew, "I love mom" and "I love dad" and then she would sign her name "Maria."
Everything was cleaned up at the table but there was one little piece of notebook paper lying on her side of the art table. It was a flower, a six-petal flower that was kind of her signature flower that she would draw all the time. Only one petal was colored in blue, and the rest of it was just the outline of the petals. It had a little stem and it had a little orange center of the flower and it had little leaves at the bottom of the stem. I had noticed something else kind of bleeding through the back of the paper where she had written something and I turned it over and it was a little butterfly and then she had written the letters S-E-E. She had never written that word before. All that she had ever written as far as we knew was "I love Mom," "I love Dad" and her name. Out of all the words that she could have written that day before the accident, she had written the word "see." I was already weeping uncontrollably and at that moment I just really, really believed that God gave us that sign and that was the gift that Maria left us to say "I know you are wanting to see something, but see I am okay and I am where you said. It is okay." That flower became so precious to us. It was my wife that looked at it and realized what we thought was an unfinished flower, was finished. Only one flower petal of the six was colored in. Then we realized we have six children there is only one that is colored in; there is one that is whole and the rest of us are still waiting for our color. It just became such a gift to us."
We took Anna's decoration to the cemetery and I put the others in the back of the car--not knowing who they were for.  When we got to Wichita my sister was telling me about her friend K who had a tough day the day before.  It was her first 4th of July without her daughter who died 4 months ago.  I immediately said, "I made something for her."  I showed my sister what I had done and told her the story behind the words.  Then we got in the car and went to go see her friend.  I gave her one decoration for her house and one for the cemetery.  We also gave her the words to the "SEE" story and the words to the "SEE" song.  She and I talked about our daughters and how hard it was to live without them then we encouraged each other to press on.  I am SO thankful for my friend Kay and our art day which gave me something to give to my sister's friend.  I am thankful for God's gift to Steven and Mary Beth Chapman in Maria's artwork.  I am thankful that there is more to this life than what we can SEE.

Right now all I can taste are bitter tears 
And right now all I can see are clouds of sorrow 
But from the other side of all this pain 
Is that you I hear, laughing loud and calling out to me? 

Saying "See, it's everything you said that it would be, 
And even better than you would believe. 
And I'm counting down the days until you're here with me, 
And finally, you'll see." 

But right now, all I can say is "Lord, how long 
Before you come and take away this aching?" 
This night of weeping seems to have no end. 
But when the morning light breaks through, 
We'll open up our eyes and we will see 

It's everything that He said that it would be 
And even better than we would believe 
And he's counting down the days 'til He says "Come with me." 
And finally he'll wipe every tear from our eyes 
And make everything new, just like he promised 
Wait and see, just wait and see, wait and see 

And I'm counting down the days until I see 
It's everything He said that it would be 
And even better than we would believe 
And I'm counting down the days 'til He says, "Come with me." 
And finally, we'll see. We will see. 

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good, the Lord is good 
The Lord is good. Oh taste and see that the Lord is good 

The Lord is good. 
(See, by Steven Curtis Chapman)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore....or are we?

One of our favorite places to go when we visit my parents is the Tanganyika Wildlife Park.  As you can see, you can get up close and personal with the animals.

This area of the park is called Lemur Island.

It's the only place in the US where you can feed lemurs.  They like craisins, but they are also very curious and will check you out whether or not you have food in your hand.

They thought Will was very interesting.  I do too.

Do you know how many bird pictures it takes before you get one with all three kids holding birds AND looking at the camera?  Answer: 24

My personal favorite--the giraffes.

We call my sister the "giraffe whisperer".

We call Jacob "gross".

Friday, July 9, 2010

The rest of the story...

On the second half of our journey I sat by a lady who had buried her 100 year old father the day before.  She told me, "I sometimes faint on airplanes.  The doctor says it's triggered by high altitudes.  I have a wet washcloth and smelling salts in my purse if something happens."    Lucky for me, she slept most of the trip--well, I think she was sleeping.  I checked a few times to make sure she was breathing and I never had to use the washcloth to wake her up.
 Later, after she came back from the bathroom, she whispered, "I'm really not able to go.  That's twice now.  I've got to get home and start drinking some water."  TMI !!!!!!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

God Speaking

Sunday, September 23, 2007 
What a treat I had tonight. I had dinner with Gracia Burnham. Gracia and her husband Martin were kidnapped in the Philippines in 2001 and held captive for over a year. When they were finally rescued they were caught in the crossfire and Martin was killed. I  prayed for them while they were in captivity and then later read Gracia's books about her experience.  I was just going to sneak into the dinner a local church was having for her tonight. My friend Shelley told me that she was praying that I would get to sit "shoulder to shoulder" with Gracia at the dinner. Well, I didn't know how that would happen because I wasn't even supposed to go to the dinner because I wasn't a member of that church. I knew ONE person who was a member and that person happened to be a greeter for the event. When I got there I found Jane and she said, "I have a seat saved for you." It was at the front table. There were four people on one side of the table and then four empty chairs. The chair Jane held out for me was in between two empty chairs. The man on the other side of the table said, "Are you sure you are supposed to sit there?" I said, "Believe me, I never would have chosen this seat, but this is where I was told to sit." Pretty soon a man and his wife came and sat on one side of me and I found out they were Martin's parents. Then Gracia came in and sat on my other side. Every good and perfect gift comes from God and he is the one who enables us to enjoy them. I was so thankful to God for the opportunity to meet someone who is living out her husband's last words to "Serve the Lord with gladness." (Psalm 100) Whether you are hiking a jungle trail, speaking in front of hundreds of people, nursing a sick child... whatever you do, do it as to the Lord. It is the Lord Christ who you serve.

We were waiting for our flight from Wichita to DFW when I saw a familiar face.  I told Richard, "That's Gracia Burnham."  (He never met her.)  I walked up and introduced myself and reminded her of when we met almost 3 years ago.  We talked for a couple of minutes and I introduced her to my family, but then it was time to board the plane.  Richard asked her where she was sitting and it was the seat NEXT TO MINE!  I said, "Well, God must want us to spend some more time together."  We had a lovely hour talking about her life, my life, and how nice it was for God to arrange our visit.

I was walking and listening to this song and crying.  I am so thankful for the times in my life when God "shows up" in unmistakable ways to let us know that he knows exactly where we are.  He can show his love for us in any way he chooses--even in an airplane seat assignment.

Have you ever heard a love song that
Set your spirit free
Have you ever watched a sunrise and
Felt you could not breathe
What if it's Him
What if it's God speaking

Have you ever cried a tear that
You could not explain
Have you ever met a stranger
Who already knew your name
What if it's Him
What if it's God speaking
Who knows how He'll get a hold of us
Get our attention to prove He is enough
He'll do and He'll use
Whatever He wants to
To tell us "I love you"

Have you ever lost a loved one
Who you thought should still be here
Do you know what it feels like
To be tangled up in fear
What if He's somehow involved
What if He's speaking through it all
Who knows how He'll get a hold of us
Get our attention to prove He is enough
He'll do and He'll use
Whatever He wants to
To tell us "I love you"

His ways are higher
His ways are better
Though sometimes strange
What could be stranger
Than God in a manger
Who knows how He'll get a hold of us
Get our attention to prove He is enough
Who knows how He'll get a hold of you
Get your attention to prove He is enough
He'll do and He'll use
Whatever He wants to
To tell us "I love you"

(Mandisa, "God Speaking")

Thursday, July 1, 2010

C.S. Lewis

While on vacation, I have been reading a book about CS Lewis and his life with Joy Gresham.  He married and fell in love (in that order) in his 60's.  His wife had cancer and they thought she was going to die, but she recovered and they enjoyed a wonderful year together before she relapsed.  I used to say that the only thing worse that getting cancer was getting it again.  Lewis wrote a poem that describes the experience of relapse perfectly;

...all our former pain
And all our surgeon's care
Is lost, and all the unbearable (in vain
Borne once) is still to bear.

After Joy's death, her son wrote of Lewis;
He overcame his grief to the extent that he could function again as a human being and as a writer--but there was never, ever, any time at which he wasn't conscious of his loss.   ---Douglas Gresham
That describes me and everyone I know who has lost someone very close to them.  We are able to function, but we are always conscious of our loss.... and that's OKAY. 

Finally I want to share something Lewis wrote to a friend who was facing surgery.  Perhaps you are struggling against fear today.  Trust.  Rest in Him.  If it's not the end, then make it a good rehearsal. 
Remember, tho' we struggle against things because we are afraid of them, it is often the other way round-- we get afraid because we struggle.  Are you struggling, resisting?  Don't you think Our Lord says to you, 'Peace, child, peace.  Relax.  Let go.  Underneath you are the everlasting arms.  Let go, I will catch you.  Do you trust me so little?'  Of course this [surgery] may not be the end.  Then make it a good rehearsal. ---C.S. Lewis