Monday, July 20, 2009

God is Good . . . No Matter What

Maybe it is just me, but at times I feel some tension when I hear people express their gratitude for God's goodness because things went well for them.

You know - the news camera pans the street of homes destroyed by a tornado in the small Midwest town, save one house left standing. The homeowner of the house spared by the twists and turns of the tornado, stands among the rubble of her neighbors' homes and tells the reporter, "God is so good. Our house was spared." Am I the only one thinking about all the families whose homes were flattened - was God NOT good to them?

I remember a coworker sharing with me about her grandmother who was very ill in a nearby hospital; she was so excited that her grandmother had made it through the night. With great joy she said, "Isn't God good? My grandmother is better this morning."

I rejoiced with her that her grandmother had not passed away. Then I gently and lovingly said, "Even if your grandmother did not make it through the night, God is still good."

When our son was on life-support for 30 hours in 1996, we prayed for healing. But there was no healing. Was God not good to us?

It seems so easy, so natural to speak of His greatness, His goodness, His faithfulness when we experience things going our way.

God is so good - our bid on the house was accepted.

God is so good - my cancer is gone.

God is so good - we get to go to Disneyland.
(I know that last one is lame, but folks, I've heard it!)

I don't want you to think I am insensitive when people recognize and rejoice in God's goodness. I know that every good and perfect gift comes from Him. I know that He is the provider of all that we have and the sustainer of all that we are. I am grateful for His goodness.

But I wonder how many of us look for His goodness, His greatness and His faithfulness in the disappointments and heartbreaks, and the griefs and losses in our lives? God is still the provider and sustainer of those individuals whose homes were lost by the tornado. God is still a good God even if our loved one dies.

This age of technology which allows us to warn communities of severe weather conditions, diagnose and treat major diseases, and in many ways cheat death, also gives us a sense of expecting the good . . . and only the good.

We are amazed when bad things come our way. How could a loving God allow that to happen? Where was God when that plane went into the ocean? Why did their son have to die so young?

And yet, in the midst of our pain and suffering, there is a GOOD GOD who is still the Blessed Controller of All Things. Proverbs 19:21 says,

Many are the plans in a man's heart,
but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.

This verse tells me that there will be times when things will NOT go my way. There are times when I will think God LET ME DOWN.

How do we see His goodness in the depth of our struggle? We train our eyes to focus on HIS purpose. He promises to bring glory to Himself and draw people to His Kingdom. He promises to one day reconcile all things to Himself.

The writer of Lamentations knew this. Have you ever thought about the life someone must be living to write a book called Lamentations? That fellow knew suffering and sorrow. He writes in chapter 3, verses 18-26:

So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD."
Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
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."
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

I am not advocating that we stop praising God for His goodness when we feel blessed. I am proposing that we look for His faithfulness, His goodness, and His mercies in all circumstances. They are there even when we do not feel or see them because our plans did not prevail.

God is good, and His mercy and faithfulness are new every morning, no matter what.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Seeing the Forest and the Trees

I'm sure you have heard it said that there are some who just can't see the forest for the trees. This idiom describes those who focus on the minutia of the present rather than the vista of possibilities. It implies that something can be gained by allowing our gaze to go beyond the present realities (the trees) to see what might be ahead (the forest).

As one certificated in death and grief studies, I companion people who often can only see the trees - the overwhelming sorrow, the enormous hole, and the indescribable loss. They are doing well to see the trees - to wake up each morning, feel the weight of grief, and make it through another day without the presence of their loved one.

To them I say - "Let's just sit here among the trees. The forest will be there when we are ready to see it."

This week I am with dear friends who have many trees growing on the horizon and the forest is becoming obscured as they deal with life and death issues.
(With: to make a conscious decision to carry in thought and prayer the burdens of another)

I have to say - these trees are OMINOUS, as trees go.

~ Not like the giant sequoias that display strength and stability; these trees are brittle and spindly, as if their branches would snap under the slightest weight.

~ Not like the mighty oak that beckons travelers to sit under the shade of her sweeping branches; these trees offer no relief, as their twisted branches reach out and snag passersby.

~ Not like the lush trees that flourish along the banks of a river; these trees are thirsty and dry, and suck the very life out of all who travel among them.

Even in this age of technology, there is no Garmin - no simple, lightweight handheld device to navigate through this rugged terrain. There are no guarantees that the medical procedures available on the horizon will change the reality that their precious “Little Man” may not survive.

As I sit with them in the landscape of their lives - the reality that their child’s life hangs in the balance - it is impossible to tell if the moans I hear come from the winds of change blowing through the menacing branches or the hearts of those who find themselves in this place.

But it is here we sit, in the dark night of the soul, waiting until God lifts our gaze to see the forest beyond this place among the trees.

Please join me in being with this dear family engulfed by the foreboding trees of reality that they may . . .

. . . Feel God’s presence in this darkness

. . . Hear His voice among so many

. . . Recognize His leading as He clears a path for them

. . . Know His peace as they wait with hope in His eternal will

For more information and to follow their story,
please visit A Heart of Worship

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Thirty Five Years

Thirty five years ago this weekend,
I married my best friend.

Can we really be that old -
to have been married for thirty five years?

As children I watched you play, never dreaming our two lives would someday become one.

And then, God placed you in my heart
and me in your heart, and on July 13, 1974
we began a journey as husband and wife - best friends -
trusting God to make known the path He had for us!

I remember a few years ago, you began telling me,
"You know we are living out the greatest love story ever!”

And I boastfully thought to myself,
“Wow! We must be pretty good at this marriage thing!”

Then you gently told me what you meant by this assertion.

God places such a high calling on marriage that He chose the greatest love story of all time to describe how a husband and wife should love and live together. How we live out our marriage
can show the world His greatest love –
wherein Christ laid down His life for His Bride, the Church.
Although WE have changed in our outward appearance as 35 years has left its mark on us, I can say that we are still
living out the greatest love story of all time!

So in honor of our 35th Anniversary, I say thank you . . .

Thank you for promising to travel together as one,
to live out our lives together.

Thank you for holding my heart so tenderly,
in times of great joy and deep sorrow.

Thank you for listening to the voice of God
over the many voices of this world.

Thank you for willingly and faithfully providing
for our family along the way.

Thank you for being a godly leader for me,
and our children, to follow with confidence.

Thank you for teaching and modeling
the pathway to peace for our family.

Thank you for remaining my best friend.

After all these years,

I would say yes

all over again!

I love you!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Crisis and The Beau

I have heard said . . . crisis reveals one’s true character . . . and I tend to agree. In fact, after the events of Sunday afternoon, I believe adding an element of crisis during any dating relationship may well make or break a relationship.

Sunday I witnessed a crisis and saw the true character of one’s Beau. Here is how the circumstances unfolded that led to the crisis.

First of all, you need to know that I am grateful to have some of Scott’s friends in my life. Spending time with these young adults helps me make deposits into my storehouse of memories – laughing about Scott’s love for practical jokes as well as sharing his compassion for others. It also makes me very aware of the stage of life he would be now, if he had not left us so very young.

A couple of weeks ago, one of his classmates made plans to come by with her special friend, whom I will call THE BEAU. THE BEAU lives out of state and was coming to town for the long 4th of July weekend. She wanted us to meet THE BEAU – someone she is quite fond of and wanted to see what we thought of him. I have seen pictures of THE BEAU online, heard about the gracious and loving ways THE BEAU treats her, and have personally witnessed the fact that she talks and texts THE BEAU day in and day out. But I really did not know THE BEAU, until this weekend.

I looked forward to the opportunity to meet THE BEAU, watching and listening for any red flags that may go up. My husband and I tried to think of questions to ask THE BEAU that would provide an opportunity for him to reveal something about himself – his values and his intentions – without sounding like future in-laws, which of course we are not (but at times we may seem like impostors).

We sat outside on the patio under the umbrellas, eating strawberries over vanilla ice cream while my friend’s seven year old daughter swam in our pool – a nice diversion that allowed us to talk mostly uninterrupted. Watching THE BEAU interact with my friend was great to see – he seemed to be patient, courteous and thoughtful. He seemed to genuinely care for her well being.

I was equally impressed when THE BEAU began interacting with my friend's daughter in the pool. He offered to toss her daughter in – you know, launch her from the edge into the pool. At first her daughter appeared a little hesitant but then decided to let THE BEAU toss her in. In a couple of minutes, her daughter was begging THE BEAU for more.

So THE BEAU gently gathered her in his arms and told her to count to three. One . . . two . . . three . . . and again she went sailing through the air and into the pool. As THE BEAU leaned to make sure she cleared the edge of the pool, THE BEAU lost his balance. With arms flailing in an attempt to reverse the forward motion, THE BEAU himself became airborne and landed in the pool! Shirt, jeans, socks, tennis shoes, watch and wallet, all under water.

When THE BEAU came up for air, his face displayed a wide grin as he laughed along with us and said, “This feels great! I haven’t been swimming in a long time.” THE BEAU tossed his wallet, shoes and socks on the deck, hung his shirt on the fence to dry, and dove back in – in his jeans! THE BEAU spent the next twenty minutes swimming and diving with my friend’s daughter.

I thought about THE BEAU’s reaction to what could have been a humiliating situation. THE BEAU knew he was there to meet us (i.e., impress us). THE BEAU could have come out of the pool and pouted, embarrassed that he had fallen in. THE BEAU could have blamed the daughter for not letting go soon enough. THE BEAU could have gotten upset that his clothes, shoes and wallet were soaked.

But THE BEAU was not undone by the crisis.

THE BEAU’s true character was revealed in this moment of crisis . . . and I, for one, approve!