Sunday, March 29, 2009

Happy Birthday to You, Tony!

Happy Birthday to my . . .
  • best friend
  • counselor
  • companion
  • supporter
  • husband and love of my life, Tony Redfern!

First of all, I need to know, how did you get to be 60 years old so fast?
Wasn't it only yesterday . . .
. . . I watched in disbelief as you and Bobby Elliff, Mark Hanna and Glen Plowman messed around in the back row of Children's Church at Lakewood First Baptist?
. . . I saw you drive up to volleyball in your sporty white MGB-GT, with leather interior?
. . . You literally swept me off my feet (quite another story) on our first date at the Hollywood Bowl?
. . . You sent me 2 dozen red roses, paid for a window table at the Gate of Spain Restaurant on Santa Monica Bay to ask me to marry you?
But in reality, you were born in the first half of the last century, and that was six decades ago!

We have been together almost 40 years ~ 4 years of dating at Biola, and 35 years as husband and wife this coming July. We have enjoyed sunny times and weathered many storms.
Happy 60th Birthday!
I love you.
I cannot imagine how my future would ever have been
so redeemed without you by my side.

Come and grow old with me . . . the best is yet to come.
Robert Browning

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Redecorating the Future with the Past

Scott loved tools from a very young age and to build something with his hands was his ultimate form of play. If there was a job to be done, and he could use his tools, he would beg to do it. If he stayed home from school sick, I knew he would complete some "fix it" job around the house while I was at work.

During his sophomore year, Scott was very excited to help Dayn, his youth pastor, remodel the old barn our church used as its youth center. It turned out to be one of his last projects before his fatal accident.

When Scott died two months later, the youth group decided to rename the barn, Scotty's Place. It was a thoughtful way to remember Scott and also acknowledge the hole left in their midst by his absence.

Age and weather eventually took its toll on the old barn, and it became a safety hazard. The leaders of the church told us about the situation a few years ago, and graciously asked for our input. From a logical position, a decision was not hard to make; the building could not remain standing if it could collapse on someone. But from an emotional perspective, the choice to demolish it was complicated; Scotty's Place would be no more. We gave our vote to have the old barn taken down, but we asked to keep some of the old window frames as a memory of Scott and his work on the place.

The day for demolition finally came. Just before the bulldozer moved in, some friends gently removed three window frames from the sides of the old barn. Then, in a matter of minutes, we watched as Scotty's Place became a pile of rubble.

We recently did some painting and redecorating in our house. (Scott would have loved to be there - especially pulling the old built-in bookcase out of the wall!) We gave a fresh coat of paint to one of the window frames from Scotty's Place and decided it looked great as an accent piece hanging by our dining room table.

Like the youth group, there will always be Scotty's Place in our hearts and home. Now, there is a window in our home; to provide a glimpse of the past and to remind us to focus on the future, when we will experience a blessed reunion one day.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Baby Eli

Will you join me in praying for our dear friends again? Eli has shown slow but gradual progress for the past 3 weeks. Today was the day to extubate him, to try to take him off the respirator.

Here is the report his parents just posted:

"Eli was taken off the respirator this afternoon. That was about an hour and a half ago. He's struggling quite a bit, so there's very real concern that he'll have to be re-intubated. His voice doesn't work yet, but he's constantly crying... a silent cry, but his face still shows the struggle all too well. This is pretty hard to endure."

You may remember, Eli had open heart surgery at 2 days old to replumb his heart to a 3-chamber heart. He has been in PICU since he was born, 3 1/2 weeks ago.

Eli's parents, Tanya and Jason, ask for prayer that Eli will have the strength to breath on his own, and that they will know the will of God.

My own prayer is that Tanya and Jason will feel the everlasting arms of God holding them as they wait upon Him to reveal His perfect will.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion,"
says my soul,"therefore I will hope in him."
Lamentations 3:22-24

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Faith That Cannot Be Eclipsed

I remember the first time I saw a solar eclipse as a child. A total solar eclipse could be frightening for people who are unaware of its explanation, as the Sun seems to disappear in the middle of the day and the sky darkens in a matter of minutes. For me, it has since become a wonderful illustration of transformation in suffering.

While talking with a friend last week, I was reminded of this as our conversation turned to the suffering of Job, a righteous man, given so much to bear. My friend and I talked about the exchange of words between God and Satan recorded in the first chapter of the Book of Job. After some debate about Job’s commitment to trust God in all circumstances, God gives Satan permission to bring on the suffering!

I began to reflect upon a similar event recorded in the New Testament. Jesus declares to Simon Peter in Luke 22:31-32, that Satan has demanded permission to bring suffering into the lives of righteous individuals. Jesus says:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

To be totally transparent here, I am a bit uneasy by what Jesus does not say to Satan. I would prefer to hear Jesus say:

Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;
but I have told him “No.”

I am not a student of Greek, but there are times when knowing the original language can grow us. That is the case for me in these words of Jesus. A deeper look at Luke 22:31-32 helps me understand the power in Jesus’ prayer.

Jesus’ words, “that your faith may not fail” are really metaphorical. In the Greek, Jesus says, “I have prayed . . . that your faith may not Ekleipo.” Our word eclipse comes from this Greek word, ekleipo. It means to darken, obscure or diminish in importance; to surpass or outshine.

Jesus is saying to Simon Peter, just before His own crucifixion, and to us today, “I have prayed . . . that your faith may not be darkened, obscured or diminished from what Satan may bring into your path.”

And the image of that first solar eclipse I saw as a child comes to mind. Suffering, like the moon itself, seems to orbit around my life on a fairly regular basis because of choices I make that are not the best for me or Satan’s desire to sift me like wheat. Satan wants this suffering to darken and diminish my faith and hope in the Lord.

I don’t know about you, but the image of an eclipse is powerful to me. Jesus’ words indicate that it is possible for MY FAITH to be stronger, deeper, wider ~ to literally shine through SUFFERING. It is possible for me to not be destroyed, but rather transformed. These changes will not destroy me, but can give me a chance to speak of a faith that is firm and cannot be eclipsed!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

God's Economy

Part of the beauty of living in this agricultural area is the opportunity to observe truths about God in nature. The other day an orchard caught my eye as I was driving to an appointment. It just seemed to illustrate to me how God redeems the future!

It seemed to say, even in times of drought or distress, nothing is wasted in God’s economy!

The orchard pictured above obviously has seen better days. The farmer reduced his once thriving, fruit-producing trees to stumps. You can see the rows of white-washed stumps in the background.

When I had a closer look at these old stumps I saw new growth where each branch had been. The farmer carefully grafted small branches of a new tree (each with three or four buds) where the old branches were removed. The old, seasoned stump became the solid base for a new tree.

As the years pass, the new tree continues to grow out of the old stump; its long, healthy branches bringing life anew to this orchard.

It will not be long before the new tree has grown as thick and strong as the old tree had once been, and bears fruit.

As I stood in that field, I filled up with hope ~
God does redeem the future.

Some of us are like those old trees. Depressed economic times take the life out of us. Choices we make allow dead wood to grow. Bitterness chokes off our ability to bear fruit. But like this old orchard ~

Nothing is wasted in God's economy!

God creates a way for the trials and circumstances to be a place for transformation. We grow afresh to glorify Him and draw people into His Kingdom,even by the very things we thought might well destroy us.