Friday, April 27, 2007

...I’m glad I’m not God...

In the book "A Tale of Three Kings" there is a passage that is one of the most beautiful and difficult quotes I have ever read.

Gabriel is giving out destinies to men that will one day become kings. To one, he gives the gift of power. He explains that the gift of power will not change the inner person but rather: "Outer power will always unveil the inner resources or lack thereof."

The second king receives an "inheritance". The angels explains: "A gift is worn on the outer person; and inheritance is planted deep inside - like a seed. Yet, even though it is such a small planting, this planting grows and, in time, fills all the inner person."

As the king steps up to receive his inheritance the angel goes on... "I must tell you that what has been given to you is a glorious thing - the only element in the universe that can change the human heart. Yet even this element of God cannot accomplish its task nor grow and fill your entire being unless it is compounded well. It must be mixed lavishly with pain, sorrow and crushing."

And, that is why I would never want to be God.

I watched my friends, an entire family, crushed under the grief of losing a brother, and a son. The sorrow etched upon their faces, in the recesses of their eyes was something I could never willingly place upon another human. It doesn’t seem right that a 25 year old young man has been taken from this earth. The gaping hole it will leave in the hearts of 12 brothers and sisters, in a mom and a dad, can never be filled. The reality of the loss will be part of them always and each will grieve in their own way.

While I know that the crushing and bruising of brokeness is what creates the beauty found in God’s children. That it is the the source of the perspective and the gentle grace seen in the faces of the oldest of saints It still seems so cruel to put a heart through that wounding.

And...if I was God...

As I witnessed the tears shed while this family looked at their soldier, lying in a coffin, I would have resurrected his body, shaken off their sadness and set their feet to dancing. I would orchestrated events so that they seemed "right" in my own heart and mind. Yet, in doing that, I would have stolen the beauty that will come only through this sorrow.

Soldiers who sat in church with the family, hearts softened at the loss, might never have heard the gospel. The family, in their grief, might not have leaned their ears so close to their father, seeing him as the spiritual head and protector of their family. Eternity, and the short breath that is this life, might may not have been so real. Hundreds of people would not have been praying for these children, these parents - this family. And so much more, that I will never see, would have been lost to eternity.

I heard a saying once, "Don’t sacrifice the eternal on the altar of the immediate". They are noble words, but, held up to the light of reality, it is so much easier as humans to live in the immediate. To take action with our feelings instead of trusting that there is so much more, of eternal value at stake.

While I would have done things differently in this boy’s life and would have spared the family this week’s agonies, God knows best. And while we only see a dim reflection of the big picture, I know His ways are perfect and what he does is eternal and excellent.

And for this family, for the days ahead, He is enough.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:3-7

I will bring (them)...through the fire,
Refine them as silver is refined,
And test them as gold is tested.
They will call on My name,
And I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are My people,’
And they will say, ‘The LORD is my God’”
Zechariah 13:9

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.
Romans 5:2-4

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 1but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1st Corinthians 13:8-13

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Blessing Heather

What exactly does one do when the doctor tells you that you have a brain tumor? When they begin predicting the number of years you will live? If you are Heather you step foward and face the challenge with the grace and dignity that only comes from a daughter of the King.

If you haven't heard Heather's story read here. Read her "Brain Stuff" links and then read about her cute Emma Grace. You will be moved to pray for her and her family and she will bless and challenge you with her transparency.

Today the whole of "Bloggetyville" is stepping up to bless Heather and help her with the many unforseen expenses they are about to incur through this cancer battle. As of 1:30 today internets far and wide had raised $5150.00 for her family already! God is good!

So... give if you feel led and pray if you feel moved. Its not everyday you get to be part of a miracle.

Friday, April 13, 2007

...poor reflections...

I’ve got a new obsession. Cleaning my mirrors. Well, really it’s as much of a cleaning obsession as a scatterbrained housekeeper like me could have. I was watching Martha one day when she showed the "PERFECT WAY" to clean glass with a damp cloth and a squeegee. The squeegee was the thing I was missing all those years and it is a key step to get a "streak-free shine". Having strange perfectionistic tendencies caused me to get frustrated with the old windex and paper towel routine and often I’d just not bother. But now I take pride in looking into clear pristine windows.
I like it that way.
We used to have an antique mirror that I bought it at an auction years ago. It had a beautiful frame but I couldn’t wait to replace the glass in it. The paint on the back of the glass had cracked and separated leaving a poor reflection. It was dull and no amount of cleaning was ever going to change that.
I like things clear.
All around me I have friends who have struggled with health issues. Cancers, sick spouses, dying loved ones. It would be easy to question God’s purpose when we can’t understand the big
picture. Poor reflections indeed.
Heather, a young mom in the blogging community has really been on my heart the past few days. She had been struggling with dizziness this past weekend thinking it was an ear infection. When they tested her further they found out that she had an inoperable brain tumor. And just like that her whole world changed. Her children, her family struggle to see what is still unseen and cling to the arms of a sometimes invisible God. Yet even in this short time glimpses of God’s grace come through. It turns out that the dizziness was not related to the tumor at all but because of it they found the tumor much sooner than they might have otherwise.

I’ve never been one to question God. I’ve always believed that He was good and He has it all under control. But I am guilty of always wanting my answers now. I don’t want to see a dim reflection but rather a clear view. To know the purpose behind the sorrow. To package life’s questions into a neat little box that I am comfortable with. But God didn’t call us to a life of comfort but rather one that will fulfil His purpose on Earth. If I am going to be fit to be a part of that I need to accept dim reflections for now. Knowing that what is seen is temporary and what is unseen, that which hides behind a veil of questions, is eternal.

I have been reading "A Tale of Three Kings" again. In the very beginning God is giving gifts to the kings. He gives one an "inheritance". The angel described it not as a gift worn on the outer man but rather something like a seed planted deep inside. As the king takes this as his destiny the angel explains that this is the only thing that can change the human heart. Yet, the angel warns, even it cannot grow or fill your being except if it is compounded well. And "mixed lavishly with pain, sorrow, and crushing."

The eternal, His inheritance, is what I choose. Even if the way is harder. Even if it costs me clarity and a firm footing. Even if... because I have glimpsed what lies ahead and I know nothing in this life can compare to that.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

...of marshmallows and boys...

It was a really cool game. The kids tossed the ball to another child in the circle and repeated “Jesus died for________” and filled in their name. What a way to personalize the story of what God had done during this Easter season. When the game was done we regrouped and I began to ask questions about how the children felt hearing that Jesus had died for them. One boy stated that he felt really sad. “Yes,” I explained “that is a sad thing that Jesus had to die.” We continued with the lesson and as I spoke about Jesus rising from the dead Kevin yells out “HE DID?!” Reality checked itself at the door of my heart. After all these years I take for granted so many times that the children have heard the basics of Christianity in North America. But Kevin had never heard.I re-told the whole story just for that little boy and as I spoke I heard it again through the fresh understanding of an eight year old. To him, it didn’t matter that everyone else had done wrong things. Jesus had died for his sins, on the cross and that was sad.We had a great snack planned and as the talk wrapped up we headed in to the kitchen to don our chef hats. The children wrapped a marshmallow with a crescent roll, sprinkled them with cinnamon and placed them on the baking sheet. I explained that we were going to use our imaginations and think of the marshmallow as Jesus being wrapped and placed in the tomb after he died. We would close the oven door just like the soldiers closed the tomb.Then we left.I have to tell you that it had been a really busy week and I hadn’t had a chance to try this snack out before so I had as much idea what would happen to our baked goods as the children did. Ever the professional, I went on to the next activity without a second thought. At the end of the night one of the leaders brought out the tomb confections and put them on the table for the kids to devour. Kevin took a bite and ran to me excitedly “Look Cheryl, He has risen!” The marshmallow had indeed melted and left an empty hole in the crescent roll, but in the eyes of that eight year old boy the stone had been rolled away and Jesus was no longer there.You see Jesus had not only died for Kevin but had risen and made a way for him to be forgiven…and that message was anything but sad!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


The title comes from Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, in which the world as we know it and other worlds like it are referred to as the 'shadowlands', because they are only a shadow of what is to come.
When I was a girl I loved babies. I had a few of my own. They were plastic, had long eyelashes and hair that easily tangled. They were my children, my students, my entertainment. I could imagine the future as I tucked each of them into toy strollers and cribs. Rocking them to sleep with bottles of disappearing milk-like liquid was pure bliss. When I grew up I wanted two things... to be a teacher and to have a baby girl, or ten.
I did not want a boy.
I was the oldest. The only girl and the caretaker of two little brothers. My parents separated and eventually divorced which squashed my dreams of ever having another girl in the family. But boys we had. Two of them...and I vowed never to have another.

For years I carried that dream close to my heart. I had plans. When I came up with baby names with my friends, they would be girl names. When I looked at baby clothes in a store they were always girl clothes. Together we dreamed of being mommies and pushing pretty pink strollers proudly down the sidewalk.

And then I found myself carrying a real live baby...kicking and turning and growing under my heart. I told people it didn’t matter whether we had a boy or a girl, but deep down inside I knew I wanted to put pink bows in this baby’s hair.

Barely a month before our firstborn’s arrival, my husband and I went to see the movie Shadowlands at the theatre. If you haven’t seen this film it is about C.S. Lewis and his wife, Joy Gresham. She is one of his fans from the U.S.A. and they begin to correspond. Eventually she comes to England to meet him and they become friends. Lewis helps her stay in the country by marrying her for convenience. They remain platonic friends until she is diagnosed with cancer he fears losing her. Lewis risks his heart being broken and allows himself to fall in love with Joy. They marry again in front of a priest and spend another year together before the cancer takes her away from Lewis and her son Douglas.
Near the end of the movie there is a scene where her son is sitting alone in the attic crying. Lewis walks over and sits down next to him and the two sob over the lost of their beloved mother and wife. As I sat watching that my heart broke for the little boy sitting their so forlorn and in my head I thought, 'that boy needs his mommy'. In that instant I knew, before I had seen his face, that I was going to have a son. A son that needed his mommy also. In those Shadowlands, the place where we glimpse what is to come instantly melted every bit of resistance I had and replaced it with a deep, abiding love for my boy.

That September, as the leaves turned crimson and gold, I finally met him face to face. Nestled in a blue blanket looking up at me was my son. All boy and more beautiful than I could have imagined. I made plans for motherhood but God had a better idea in mind. I am so thankful he changed my heart, for I could not imagine missing one day, one smile, one bone-cracking hug of this boy's incredible life.
The movie concludes with this quote that reminds me to risk the safety of my own plans for the unspeakable joy of trusting God with the reigns.
"Why love, if losing hurts so much?
I have no answers anymore. Only the life I have lived.
Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man.
The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering.
The pain now is part of the happiness then.
That's the deal."