This is the Day

exploring the soul's quest for joy

Tag: suffering (page 1 of 2)

Lessons From the Gorge, Part 2

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to turn the page on this calendar year and put an end to 2017. It has been an awfully painful year, hasn’t it? Five terror attacks in the UK. The Barcelona bombing. Mass shootings, car bombs, and suicide bombs in Istanbul, Baghdad, Kabul, Somalia, Pakistan, Syria and many other locations around the world. Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Nate. Two earthquakes in Mexico. And the Las Vegas massacre.

 

None of us is immune to the horror of these senseless acts of violence and destruction. We are stunned and grieved. Shattered. We all feel the anguish of what was lost, even if our lives were not personally affected by any one of these events. All of humanity shares in the pain and in the longing for recovery.

 

And we weep for those who have lost so much more than we have.

 

There are those who have suffered excruciating loss from the gut-wrenching events of this year. Some have lost loved ones. Others have lost homes. Some have found themselves suddenly alone in the world with no possessions and no family to depend on.

 

I cannot fathom their pain. It is bigger, more incomprehensible than the pain I have experienced in my life.

 

None of us is immune to suffering. We all experience our own private heartache and loss, smaller in scope for sure, but no less painful in our individual experience.

 

This year I lost my father. Then one month later, my mother followed her husband of 64 years. My daughter tore her meniscus, ultimately requiring knee surgery and months of rehab. My son’s health concerns have necessitated a leave of absence from college. And just this week we discovered a new problem in his eye related to his diabetes.

 

Years like this one are enough to make me just want to raise up my hands in surrender. Surrender to the bully holding me down. During years like this one, I long to shout UNCLE! to the forces in the universe that threaten to undo me. I have grown tired of the fight. Tired of reading of man’s depravity. I am unable to conceive of such hatred perpetrated against another human being. I have grown weary of the onslaught of medical crises. And my heart aches at each announcement of yet another natural disaster.

 

My heart cries out, Enough!

 

Maybe surrender is exactly what I need. Not surrender to the forces of evil that swirl and rage around me, flashing their jagged teeth poised to rip me asunder. Perhaps what I need most right now is to surrender to the creator God who is the force behind all that is good and pure and right in this world.

 

What might it look like if I opened my heart wide enough to consider that even amidst all the horror, God is still who he says he is – the God of love? Can I accept that even though horrors and tragedies surge unabated all around us, he is still enthroned over all the earth? What might it look like if amidst the firestorms of this year I would choose to look for the hand of God, still at work in his creation, still bringing new life where all had seemed hopeless?

 

 

I stand still before the mighty gorge. Quietly I observe all it has to teach me. The waters rage with great force tumbling over the solid granite slab. All is pounding. All is in motion. The water is relentless as it spills over the rock walls.

 

I catch my breath at the beauty and the majesty of the gorge. All I hear is the thunderous sound of the destructive water, powerful enough to move mountains and forever change landscapes.

 

Science teaches us that erosion continues in the gorge, not at the cataclysmic rate that was witnessed during the great ice ages, but at a slower pace that changes the landscape in less perceptible ways. Nevertheless, whether dramatic or imperceptible, forceful erosion is always a part of the experience of the gorge.

 

There is never a place of having fully arrived, where the gorge remains forever the same, forever placid, forever free of the forces that threaten to be its undoing.

 

At the gorge, the pounding of the relentless flow of water carries on undeterred.

 

And yet, even in the pounding flow of destructive forces, there are places of respite where new life can be found. Look closely. There settled in the cleft of the rock, new life does its own inexorable work of springing forth.

 

In our trials there comes a moment of surrender. Not the lifted hands that signal a giving up, but the lifted hands that declare, even in this, I will trust you, God. And in the surrender, we see new life.

 

In the atrocities of this year, I see new life when I observe the hand of love. I see the image of God alive in humanity in the kindness of strangers risking their lives to help and shield those fleeing a firestorm of bullets.

 

I see the face of God in those who give of their savings and their vacation to travel to help strangers rebuild their lives when disaster strikes.

 

I see the hand of God in those who log a ridiculous number of miles on foot or on the seat of their bikes to raise money to find a cure for type 1 diabetes, MS, and all types of cancers. There are warriors of love all around us, sheltering us, giving us much needed respite in the storms of life.

 

 

This is the place of new life. This is the place of hope.

 

And in this place, I am reminded that the promises of God still stand. Despite the evil all around, God is still love. Despite the chaos all around, God is still enthroned above the heavens.

 

And one day, he will make all things new.

 

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19)

 

 

The Gorge

 

I have recently discovered Ithaca, NY and must confess that I am smitten by its natural beauty. My visits began two years ago when my daughter committed to play lacrosse at Cornell University. Several times a year we would travel to Ithaca for her to attend lacrosse camps or clinics as she pursued her passion for playing lacrosse at college. This summer my daughter entered Cornell as a college freshman and those sporadic visits have now been replaced by regular trips for my husband and me up to the shores of Cayuga Lake as her fall lacrosse season has begun in earnest.

 

Spend much time in Ithaca and you quickly fall in love with the beauty of the place. The advertising genius who coined the phrase “Ithaca is Gorges!” could not have spoken clearer truth. With 150 waterfalls flowing across the town, funneling water through gorges carved out by glaciers a million years ago, Ithaca truly is gorges…and gorgeous!

 

Like much that is beautiful, the landscape of the Finger Lakes region was not always the stunning vision that it is today. Its breathtaking beauty was forged over years of deconstruction and reconstruction. To create something as magnificent as the gorges takes years in the making.

 

Years of chiseling.

 

Years of cutting in and chipping away.

 

Years of forceful, constant pressure from the source that seeks to recreate what once was a solid mass of rock into something entirely new.

 

In the Maker’s hand, the once solid, solitary mountain has been repurposed into a channel through which water can flow.

 

 

I long to live a life that reflects the strength and beauty of a mighty gorge, yet instinctively I know that this type of strength and beauty can only be created through adversity and challenging seasons. I don’t much like adversity and challenging seasons. I have experienced enough of them to know that I prefer the peace and stability of the solid, solitary mountain.

 

I know the pain of being chiseled away, because type 1 diabetes has forged its way into every fiber of my family’s life and is relentless in the pressure it places on my son, every single day of his life.

 

I know the heartache of being cut, because concussions and surgeries and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome have at times cut the joy and laughter and normalcy from my children’s lives.

 

I know the fear of being chipped away, having lived through a long season of family unemployment that chipped away at our security, our comfort and even our identity.

 

I don’t much like the work of being repurposed.

 

The work is painful. And it is scary at times when the chiseling lasts longer than we think we can hold on, and the cutting has cut so deep we think we might not survive this time.

 

The work of being repurposed into something stronger and more beautiful doesn’t happen overnight; it takes a long time. And it usually takes much longer than I would like.

 

But it is in the painful, intense pressure seasons of life that the Maker does his best work. It is in the excessively stressful seasons of life that my hardest edges get exposed and chiseled away. My fears and insecurities, my worries, my need for control, my jealousy and anger and bitterness – pressure forces them all to the surface, exposing them and leaving them unprotected.

 

It is only when my love for the one in need exceeds my desire for self-protection that I can say to the Maker, Come have your way.

 

 

Yielded, facedown, I release control. I release my stubborn view of what the Maker owes me. Going deeper still, I release my dreams. All that is not true strength, all that is not true beauty is laid bare and is chiseled away.

 

Going deeper, ever deeper, into the hard rock. The waters of life begin to trickle. Another cut, a little more pressure, going deeper still. I can feel the smoothing and polishing of my rough edges. Cool, life-giving water is flowing now, faster, mightier, filling up the newly hewn channel.

 

Until all that remains is what is strong and lovely in the Maker’s eyes.

 

I am no longer the same. I have been repurposed. In my Maker’s hands, I have become a channel through which his living water flows.

 

It Is Well

Last night I said goodbye to the man who taught me what love is, as my father gently stepped out of this life and into the loving embrace of his heavenly Father. He has always been my rock, my anchor, my safe harbor in every storm. In times of sorrow, in times of joy, my father’s faith was unshakeable, as his spirit would declare, “it is well with my soul.” 

 

 Through his love I discovered the love my heavenly Father has for me.

 

Wave after wave, my tears rise up and flow down, salty on my lips. Soon the tears will mingle with joy, knowing my father is with his Father, with Jesus his Savior. But tonight, I let the tears flow.

 

Tears of sorrow, for the ache in my heart.

 

Tears of thanksgiving, for the man who was my father.

 

Tears of joy, for the eternal life he now experiences with his Lord.

 

Tonight it seems fitting to share again this post from October 2015, which captures just a small glimpse of the godly man I was blessed to call my father.

 

I’ll love you forever Daddy. 

 

With inspiration from Psalm 106:1-5 and Psalm 71

 

I visited my parents today. My mom is 93, my dad 95, and they are both wheelchair-bound and exhausted. To say they have slowed down is a vast understatement. Our times together these days are filled with more quiet spaces than words; it’s hard to have real conversations with those who can’t remember where they were going with a sentence about ten words into it. I feel like I am a little girl again visiting my grandparents and not my once vibrant parents.

 

Just before this visit today, I was with a dear friend as she laid to rest her step-dad, also 95. The refrain I heard several times at his viewing was, “He lived a happy life.” A comforting epithet for his family to remember as they mourn his loss.

 

As I was driving home from these two events, my mind saturated with thoughts of life and death, I realized that my dad has his own constant refrain, one which he repeated several times to me again today. “The Lord has been very good to me. He has blessed me and our family tremendously.”

 

And it struck me afresh that my father never dwells on the adversity he has experienced, but rather, like the psalmist, declares, “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to Him for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

 

My parents are no strangers to heartache and adversity. Childhood and adolescence for them was not a carefree time, but a time of poverty as my father’s father endured years of unemployment during the Great Depression and my mother’s immigrant family struggled to provide her with basic necessities like shoes. Both experienced great loss in World War 2—my dad in Patton’s army losing many friends and witnessing atrocities no young man should ever be exposed to, and my mom suffering the death of her younger brother while he was serving in Italy.

 

But by far their greatest loss was the death of their firstborn and only son to type 1 diabetes at age 8.

 

And still, my father’s refrain is, “The Lord has been very good to me.”

 

I want to be more like my father.

 

My father has learned that the goodness of God is not dependent on the condition of his life. And he has learned that God’s blessings don’t always look like “good things” in human eyes.

 

Like the psalmist, my father can declare that God is his rock and his fortress. It’s not that he has been spared his share of troubles and distresses, but through the hard times he has found God to be faithful.

 

Like the psalmist, from the time of his youth, my father has made a practice of continually coming to God for shelter in the storms of life. And so he can declare that God is his hope, his confidence, his rock of refuge. There is no storm so great that God will not be for him a rock of refuge, nor any situation so grave that he will cease to praise the Lord and tell of His righteousness.

 

Oswald Chambers asserts, “Unless we can look the darkest, blackest fact full in the face without damaging God’s character, we do not yet know Him.”

 

If I’m honest with my response to Chambers’ statement, some days I think I barely know God at all. Isn’t it all too easy to tangle up our pain, adversity, and disappointments with what we think about God’s character?

 

My father knows his Father. He has looked many dark, black facts full in the face and lived through many dark, black seasons, and none of it has damaged my father’s view of his Father.

 

Today I visited my parents and my father struggled to put a children’s puzzle together. The man living in the shell of an aging body is brilliant and overwhelmingly kind. Valedictorian of his high school, he was top of his class at Penn’s Wharton School, where he had a full scholarship. He led men in battle, and led organizations to growth and success. He knows full well what his mind has lost and he lives daily with that frustration.

 

And yet, through it all, his constant refrain is this: “God has been so good to me, and has blessed me exceeding abundantly.”

 

Oh how I long to be more like my father; I have so much more to learn from him.

 

Jehovah-rapha, my God who heals

Psalm 16:6 “I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”

unnamed

 

God reveals himself by many names in scripture. Each strange, foreign-sounding Hebrew name reveals to us something of his nature, so that we can know him better. I have known him by many names that show him to be sovereign, master, teacher, and all-mighty. Now I know Him as Jehovah-rapha, the God who heals. Jehovah-rapha has healed my son.

 

He was 17 years old that day when he came home from school exhausted and went straight to bed. When he awoke, he was no longer the same. My vibrant, full of life son with the twinkle in his eye and the laughter in his spirit would not return to me for almost 2 years.

 
IMG_2416After weeks of languishing with fatigue and other symptoms, he was diagnosed with POTS – postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, a disease of the autonomic nervous system that prevented his blood from traveling against gravity back up to his heart and his brain. It affected everything from his ability to focus, to his ability to fall asleep or wake up and feel alert, to his internal thermostat, to his digestion, and required a cocktail of 7 different medications, as well as a strictly controlled diet of salt and liquid intake. Exercise was a key part of the wellness protocol, even though those living with POTS struggle even to get out of bed, let alone exercise.

 

Did I happen to mention that he also lives with type 1 diabetes?

 

About a month after his POTS diagnosis, I came across this passage from Ezekiel in the course of my Bible reading:

Ezekiel 37:1-6 “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. And I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin, and put breath in you that you may come alive; and you will know that I am the Lord.”

 

I knew the passage, and the promise of restoration that it has meant to the people of Israel at the time of its first writing and at various times throughout their history. I remembered that it was the scripture that the Jewish remnant had read at the Masada in 73AD when they took their own lives so the Romans would not be able to slaughter or enslave them.

 

But on this day, the words rang loud in my ears with a different sort of promise. A promise of healing in this life, not just in resurrection life.

 

I remembered that a friend of mine who is in the medical field had told me that the autonomic nervous system affected “just about everything that wasn’t the bones,” so when I read this passage about bones coming back to life because everything surrounding the bones had been restored, it caught my attention!

 

“Is this a word from you, God? Is this You speaking directly to me about my son through the pages of your scripture? Are You telling me he will be healed?” These were the questions that raced through my mind that cold December morning.

 

Over the following days and weeks as I prayed about what this might mean, God seemed to confirm to my spirit that yes, He would heal my son. I didn’t know when. Would it be in a year? In 5 years? During my lifetime? I didn’t know. Would my son be able to finish the school year? Would he be able to go to college? I had no answers to those questions either. But God seemed to be assuring me to trust Him in this.

 

unnamed-2And so I trusted. And I cared for my son as I waited and watched. And I cried when he couldn’t get out of bed. And I fought for understanding and for academic accomodations at his school. And my godly friends supported me when I could stand no longer.

 

And slowly, he began to heal. Yet, every baby step forward seemed to be followed by a giant step backward. Like the concussion he sustained just when he was getting back on a good academic footing. Or breaking his wrist, just as he was able to find the energy for greater athletic pursuits. Or eventually needing surgery on his wrist, resulting in many weeks of missed exercise and the fear of a return of symptoms.

 

In the fullness of time, God did heal my son. I don’t know why He chose in this situation to break through the veil separating heaven from earth and do the miraculous in the life of someone in such need of a touch from Him. Why did He heal this time and yet so many times it seems our prayers for healing fall on deaf ears?

 

We are taught to pray in faith for God to do big things, and yet we temper our prayers with small expectations, knowing that we deserve nothing from Him. This blessing of healing was not deserved, it was a gift of grace, a manifestation of the undeserved favor of God resting on us. But, whether God chose to heal my son or not bears no reflection on His love for me. Or for my son. That was settled once and for all on Calvary.

 

This healing was all grace. Pure grace.

 

And my heart sings with praise for Jehovah-rapha who has dealt bountifully with me.

 

 

God Has Been Good to Me

IMG_3189

Last year’s joint birthday celebration, Dad turning 94 and Mom a young 38!

Psalm 106:1-5; Psalm 71

I visited my parents today. My mom is 93, my dad 95, and they are both wheelchair-bound and exhausted. To say they have slowed down is a vast understatement. Our times together these days are filled with more quiet spaces than words; it’s hard to have real conversations with those who can’t remember where they were going with a sentence about ten words into it. I feel like I am a little girl again visiting my grandparents and not my once vibrant parents.

 

Just before this visit today, I was with a dear friend as she laid to rest her step-dad, also 95. The refrain I heard several times at his viewing was, “He lived a happy life.” A comforting epithet for his family to remember as they mourn his loss.

 

As I was driving home from these two events, my mind saturated with thoughts of life and death, I realized that my dad has his own constant refrain, one which he repeated several times to me again today. “The Lord has been very good to me. He has blessed me and our family tremendously.”

 

And it struck me afresh that my father never dwells on the adversity he has experienced, but rather, like the psalmist, declares, “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to Him for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

 

My parents are no strangers to heartache and adversity. Childhood and adolescence for them was not a carefree time, but a time of poverty as my father’s father endured years of unemployment during the Great Depression and my mother’s immigrant family struggled to provide her with basic necessities like shoes. Both experienced great loss in World War 2—my dad in Patton’s army losing many friends and witnessing atrocities no young man should ever be exposed to, and my mom suffering the death of her younger brother while he was serving in Italy. But by far their greatest loss was the death of their firstborn and only son to type 1 diabetes at age 8.

 

And still, my father’s refrain is, “The Lord has been very good to me.” I want to be more like my father.

 

My father has learned that the goodness of God is not dependent on the condition of his life. And he has learned that God’s blessings don’t always look like “good things” in human eyes.

 

Like the psalmist, my father can declare that God is his rock and his fortress. It’s not that he has been spared his share of troubles and distresses, but through the hard times he has found God to be faithful.

 

Like the psalmist, from the time of his youth, my father has made a practice of continually coming to God for shelter in the storms of life. And so he can declare that God is his hope, his confidence, his rock of refuge. There is no storm so great that God will not be for him a rock of refuge, nor any situation so grave that he will cease to praise the Lord and tell of His righteousness.

 

Oswald Chambers asserts, “Unless we can look the darkest, blackest fact full in the face without damaging God’s character, we do not yet know Him.”

 

If I’m honest with my response to Chambers’ statement, some days I think I barely know God at all. Isn’t it all too easy to tangle up our pain, adversity, and disappointments with what we think about God’s character?

 

My father knows his Father. He has looked many dark, black facts full in the face and lived through many dark, black seasons, and none of it has damaged my father’s view of his Father.

 

Today I visited my parents and my father struggled to put a children’s puzzle together. The man living in the shell of an aging body is brilliant and overwhelmingly kind. Valedictorian of his high school, he was top of his class at Penn’s Wharton School, where he had a full scholarship. He led men in battle, and led organizations to growth and success. He knows full well what his mind has lost and he lives daily with that frustration.

 

And yet, through it all, his constant refrain is this: “God has been so good to me, and has blessed me exceeding abundantly.”

 

Oh how I long to be more like my father; I have so much more to learn from him.

Older posts

© 2018 This is the Day

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑