Friday, December 31, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty,
But the sight of peerless (matchless) worth.
Not the crushing of those idols,
With its bitter void (emptiness) and smart (pain);
But the beaming of His beauty,
The unveiling of His heart.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
This is just one of the many things I continue to learn on this journey, and although I am hesitant to keep writing about grief, it seems important for me to do so, especially during this holiday season because such seasons are often harder for those mourning the passing of a loved one. So here are a few morethings I am learning about grief with my comments.
- During the early stages of grief your judgment about your ability to make good judgments is not trustworthy! During my journey I have already found myself looking back at some early decisions when I was sure that my ability to make decisions was solid only to now ask myself in wonder, "What I was thinking!" Sigh... so I learned that during deep grieving, especially at first, we aren’t even able to decide about our ability to decide, no matter who we are. So what can we do? We can listen to other people, especially those who love us and know us well and perhaps especially when they disagree with us!
- So the common advice given to grieving folks not to make major decisions that will be hard to recover from if they are bad ones is solid counsel. But if you do make a bad decision, don’t beat yourself up about it. Come to Papa and ask Him to help untangle it. (But if you heed the first point, you won’t need this one).
- On the other hand, it’s normal to think about the future, including wondering about another life partner if that’s what God has for you, even while you are grieving. My thanks to my friend, Tony K., for reminding me of this early in my journey. I was feeling so guilty about thinking about my future instead of just being sad all the time, and his counsel that this was a normal way of coping with grief and part of the healing process was like water in the desert. On the hand, it’s probably not wise to start deciding much about the future because of numbers 1-2 above! Listening to God, listening to others, and waiting for Papa's timing seems a better option to me.
- Don’t put deadlines on your grief (thanks to my friend, Bobby B., for this one). The depth of the sense of loss seems to be closely related to the depth (quality and duration) of the relationship. Because Jettie and I had such a good relationship for such a long time, my grief has been, and may continue to be, deep and long. Ours was a rare love indeed, and we had been deeply happy for a long time (not perfectly so—I am tough to live with at times). So I am not telling Papa that I need to grieve a long time based on this, but I also won’t be surprised if I grieve a while longer than I would like!
- Understanding everything won’t help, nor is it possible. I am discovering that the reason I want to understand things is that I want to regain some sense of control in my life. This is a perfectly normal reaction to the total loss of control that has happened to me. I am finding that asking God to help me understand some things—the things I need to understand as He defines them—is good, but demanding to understand grows out of fear and a need to control things none of us can control. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a good passage to hang onto even (or more accurately, especially) when your world falls apart and nothing makes sense. Again and again as I have begun the "Why journey" Father has simply invited me to trust Him, rest in Him, allow Him to embrace me, and in His embrace whatever clarity I need comes. (Not that I don't find myself still resisting His embrace at times).
- As you progress through your grief, you will begin to hear God’s voice again (beyond His whispered encouragement and love, which for me at least, were always there). That has meant for me that I can now tell the difference between when I am feeling my loss and when I am headed into self-pity. Hearing God's voice helps me make better decisions about what to do with the powerful emotions associated with grief. None of us can control the fact that emotions come, especially at first, but as we progress through the journey we do become better able to make choices that keep the emotions from leading us the wrong way because His voice begins to be clear again. Thank you, Papa, for this one!
- I am finding that there is a lot of help out there for grieving people (as you know) and that the "common threads" among them are the most helpful. Whether the source is secular or Christian, there are some common observations about grief that, although worked out differently in each person's life, are true and therefore helpful. (Some of these reflections I am making had their beginning in such sources). Bottom line is again to seek the counsel of others. Grief was never meant to be experienced in isolation (although isolating oneself is often what one wishes to do!).
- Finally, I have discovered that grieving is highly visible and well modeled in Scripture. I wasn’t able to see that very well before. Perhaps in a later blog I will elaborate on this one.
Monday, December 6, 2010
A god who causes everything that happens is not the God of the Bible. The God of Scripture is indeed sovereign, but the fact that God is sovereign doesn’t mean that He makes everything happen! That blasphemous picture of God is called Determinism, and that’s the god of Islam, but not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So what does it mean that God is sovereign? It means that He takes everything that happens within the context of the freedom that He grants to His creatures and causes all of it to fit into His ultimate purpose (Ephesians 1:11, Romans 8:28-29). So we live in a world where bad choices (starting with Adam and Eve) have allowed a huge amount of evil things to happen. But it is also a world where God is always working redemptively (and usually invisibly) to cause all things to work out for His ultimate good purpose: the revelation of the infinite love and goodness which are His glory. How God does this is beyond understanding, of course, but the Bible tells us that there are lots of thing that happen that are not God’s will (it’s His will that no one should perish, but some will perish, etc.). Yet in the end even those things that are not His immediate will somehow will be fit into His overall, eternal purpose (my head hurts when I think about this too much!).
Why is it so important to understand this about God? A few things come to mind. First, we cannot have a relationship with God apart from understanding this. God’s desire for a relationship with us requires Him to allow us the freedom to make real and genuine choices. Relationships can never be coerced or forced. You may submit to a dictator, but you won’t enter into a loving relationship with him/her! But with the ability to choose relationship with God comes the ability not to choose that relationship and the evil that follows such a choice. You cannot have freedom without allowing for the possibility of evil, but real relationships require freedom.
Second, as common sense tells us, you cannot be in a loving and trusting relationship with a god who causes bad things! Thankfully scripture reveals that God is not like that at all. (Who could love a god who “hurts us for his glory” or who could do something but "for his glory" chooses to do nothing?). Understanding that God is good, absolutely and completely good, is a key to our trusting Him even when we don’t understand what’s happening around us or to us. I love how Pastor Bill Johnson keeps things simple in this regard: "God is good. The devil is bad!"
Finally, God’s desire for us to be like Him in His goodness requires that His creatures be free to make real choices. My friend Steve Schell recently helped me to see this. Only when we choose to be good are we really good (like our Father). Coerced goodness is not goodness at all. Love (the motivation behind true goodness) cannot be forced, and nothing is more like Papa God than love! So the very fact that we are created in His image means that evil is a possibility because free choice allows for it. But that doesn’t mean that God does or causes the evil, as I trust you can see by now.
Thus we find ourselves in a world where, because freedom is genuine, freedom results in a world with lots of bad things (like a beloved wife, mother and grandmother dying prematurely from cancer or like mass shootings by insane and evil people, or like a hurricane from hell slamming into the U.S. coast, etc.). But we also find that our loving Father, in some way we cannot comprehend, redeems everything so that it’s good in the end. I can love and trust a God like that!
I offer two final pictures that may help as I close. First, there is a discussion in The Shack that I think states the truth clearly. Papa says to Mack, “Mack, just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means that I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.” (p. 185)
Second, I personally picture God’s sovereign purpose as being like a huge river, flowing to a distant and beautiful destination. Everything in all of time and creation is being carried along on that river, and people (and other creatures like angels) on the river have complete freedom to do whatever they wish while being carried along in its flow. They can bump into one another, they can fight the flow, move with the flow, go from side to side, etc., but they cannot escape being carried along with the river to the final destination. This is not by any means a perfect picture, but it helps me, and maybe it will help you. There is a river of God’s purpose, flowing through time and eternity, that carries everything along to a good end even while it allows perfect freedom within the context of its flow. I choose to rest in that River, even when things bump into me or even submerge me for a while along the way.
Gratefully living in His River, looking for grace’s colors,
Tom, one of Abba's little children
Saturday, November 27, 2010
Papa, was it you this morning who whispered to me as my thoughts ran towards Jettie, “You need to let her go”? You have said that to me before, but this time the context made it make even more sense. I was headed into regret, as you know. Father, I know that you don’t mean for me to let go of the memories and the legacy she left for us, but I do know that it’s time to let go of regret and the sense of loss. I suppose that grief becomes selfish at some point if I don’t recognize that for her, things are better by far and that her legacy will endure forever. Papa, I wonder if I had known how badly she was suffering whether I would have let her go even sooner. I cannot imagine the stress she was facing as she fought so hard to stay with us, but much of that was her own choosing, I guess. Still, if I had known that we would fail to lay hold of her healing…I wonder. All along I said that I wouldn’t make her a guinea pig while I “learned faith.” So given all of this, why is it so hard to let go, I wonder? And yet I cannot deny the great sense of loss that hangs over all of us, and so I grieve until you lead me to a different place.
Papa, will I ever start hearing you again like I did before? It is rare that I write any words from you here, but perhaps that is a good thing since so much of what I thought I was hearing during the journey needs to "come under review." Yet I know you are speaking. I look to you as best I can.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
"Papa, I cannot disobey your nudge right after I wrote about you leading me in the grieving process, can I? Yet I am so broken when I look back one year (as I sensed you nudging me to do). Yet through my tears and fears I hear you reminding me of what I wrote in my blog about your promises and that makes me hear you say, 'It’s all still true.' “Nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, referenced in last year’s entry) is still true, even if we failed to lay hold of its full meaning for us with Jettie. This hurts a lot, Papa, and I am pretty sure you won’t lead me back too often until the rawness of my heart is healed, but it was good to obey you this morning (of course)."
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Friday, October 29, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
My dad also demonstrated love for me by involving himself in the things he wanted me to be involved in. Thus when I became a boy scout, I found my dad there with me, with him eventually serving as scoutmaster in spite of his heavy business schedule. Thanks, Dad, for loving me so well, taking time to be with me and showing me how to serve others in the process.
My dad also showed love for me by inviting me along on some of his trips, both business and recreational. It really made me feel special to be taken along on some of those business trips. My dad demonstrated a level of trust in me that built my confidence and laid the foundation for my own leadership later in my life. Thanks, Dad, for loving me so well.
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
Everyone in the village had full access to this amazing well and could draw from its rich supply of water whenever they had need. And because the people recognized that "life" was in the water, virtually family in the village was sure that the children learned to draw water (for themselves and for others) at a very young age.
Under this arrangement the village of Ekklesia prospered for many years, well cared for by their King and His abundant well. Each family delighted in drawing from the overflowing source, and laughter was a normal sound in the village as various people would gather at the well during the day. Drawing from the well became not just a part of fabric of the life but a part of the nurturing of the relationships in the village.
But one day, after a prolonged season of drought (even though the well flowed as abundantly as ever during the drought), some of the elders in the village became convinced that some regulation was needed as to how the well was accessed. Concerns began to be voiced that some of the families were not as careful about drawing out water as they should be and that some of the children were wasting the water as they played around the well. And so it came to pass that because of unfounded fear, the elders of the village decided to hire a professional “keeper of the well.” This well-keeper was especially trained to be wise and careful in the drawing out of water, and was put in charge of dispensing the water from the well. Villagers who complained about this new arrangement were assured that they lacked the expertise of the keeper of the well and that the best water could be had only if they allowed the keeper of the well to draw the water for them.
And so it came to pass that the free and spontaneous withdrawal of water by anyone at any time was replaced by regulated special times of the day and week when the expert well-keeper would draw out the water and distribute it to all of the villagers at once. The well was "closed" at other times (although a few brave souls continued to access it secretly from time to time!). In viewing this new arrangement, the elders of the village felt that they had served the others well: there would be no waste now, and over the ensuing years a succession of highly trained well-keepers was brought in to be sure that water was indeed dispensed in the “proper manner.”
But it came to pass that problems began to arise in the village. The limited access to the water resulted in poorer crop production and in sickness finding its way into many village households. This in turn led to strained relationships within the village. Even the atmosphere of fear surrounding the proper use of the well added to the strained relationships. Furthermore, the spontaneous gatherings at the well, whereby so many healthy relationship had flourished, disappeared, having been supplanted by the formal, rather stilted times when the well-keeper would perform his masterful work.
And so it came to pass that the village elders met to solve the problems that had arisen. They tried all kinds of solutions: they hired better-trained well-keepers, they adjusted the times and types of distribution of the water, they even tested the water to be sure it was okay (it was), and so forth. But the village still languished and failed to thrive as it once had. (Strangely enough, no one ever thought to explore the basic assumption about the well-keeper. After all, the well-keeper system had been in place for a long, long time, and people had long since stop questioning its effectiveness!)
But it came to pass that the great and loving King, becoming aware of this sad situation, sent a new well-keeper to town. And this person began to change things radically! He actually encouraged folks to access the well whenever they felt the need and even suggested that they train their children to do so! Many in the village were shocked and frightened by this, as you can imagine. But some of the families actually did begin to draw their own water, whenever they needed it, as much as they needed, and their crops and households noticeably improved. And some of these brave folks even took to gathering spontaneously at the well and found a joyful health returning to their relationships with the others who did so. The whole atmosphere of the town was beginning to change because of these courageous folks who dared to draw their own water. (They even discovered that they could train one another without the expert help of the well-keeper, and thus the movement of water increased noticeably as the months and years progressed...).
I deliberately leave this story unfinished! ☺