Thursday, August 27, 2009

Made In HIS Image

Kimberly Claire, a former neighbor and childhood friend of our daughter Amy, is on staff at Scum of the Earth Church in Denver, Colorado. Interesting name for a church, don’t you think? The name comes from the passage in 1 Corinthians 4:12-14 (ESV) that reads . . .

. . . and we labor, working with our own hands.
When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure;
When slandered, we entreat.
We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world,
The refuse of all things.
I do not write these things to make you ashamed,
But to admonish you as my beloved children.

Mike Sares is the pastor of Scum. Recently he offered this post in their church newsletter, Rubbish (nice touch in keeping with the theme). Mike wrote:

It has been said that ever since God created us in His own image, we have more than reciprocated. It would be sad if it weren’t so humorous. We are ever prone to make God look, act and feel like a human, In the old movie, The Ten Commandments, they used Charlton Heston’s voice for the voice of God talking to Moses (played by Charlton as well). Perhaps they did that because that is how God sounds to people – just like themselves! Greek and Norse mythologies are about gods behaving like men and women complete with our own petty jealousies, capriciousness, and immorality. To this day, we all project our inconsistencies upon God; God likes the people we like, puts up with the ones we put up with, ridicules the ones we ridicule, and way too often tells us exactly what we want to hear, I am afraid! (The song by Mark Heard, Everybody Loves a Holy War, is all about this as well.)

The God of the Bible exhibits amazing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control toward a human race that not only distorts His image, but treats people in ways He would never intend. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, God intends to form that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in us through His Spirit (see Galatians 5:22). Be on the lookout for the times when this “re-creation” is happening. Allow God to make you into His image, not visa-versa.

I don’t know if those words speak to you, but Pastor Sares’ words shout to me. I think my own responses ~ in times of stress, disappointment or working with difficult people ~ make the image of God I display for all to see look more like an image from those House of Mirrors, where the reflections are bent and distorted. Oh, that I would reflect His true image laid out in Galatians to a world that needs redeeming.

I am reminded of the many passages where we are told ~ not suggested ~ but commanded to image God’s character. You have probably read the pattern of words in verses like . . .

Just as I am ____ (fill in one of God’s character qualities),
So be ____ (the same character quality).

We are told in 1 Peter 1:14-16 . . .

As obedient children, do not conform
To the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do
For it is written:
“Be holy, because I am holy.”

This passage, and the many others like it, do not offer some magical formula to reflect His character, His image. No hoops to jump through; no level of greatness to achieve. These passages simply say ~ just be like Him. The only requirement is a willingness to allow His spirit to transform us to reflect His image for the world to see.

I pray that I will begin to consider my attitudes, affections and aspirations. I pray that God will not sound like me and that I will hear His voice and reflect His image to those around me. I can think of no better way to Redeem the Future than to reflect the image of God who offers comfort, hope and a future to all who follow Him.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mixed Emotions

We spent a fun filled week at Hume Lake this summer. Amy and Jeff, along with Kaitlyn, Kyle and Jack,shared the week with us.

Tony and I have spent at least one week each summer at Hume Lake for most of our 35 years of marriage. My family vacationed there in the 50's when I was a little girl, and I went to high school summer camp there in the 60's. Hume Lake is full of memories and brings many emotions to mind.

Amid all the fun of making new memories with my grandchildren, there are many linking objects - a normal part of one's grief journey. There are so many things and places that remind me of the 16 years we had with Scott. Tony went to Father-Son and Father-Daughter Retreats many times with the kids as they were growing up. Scott made the decision to make Christ the Lord of his life at Hume during one of those times with Tony. He made a commitment to be a tool for Christ his last summer at Hume.

We are grateful for friends who allow us to stay in their cabin each year. It too is filled with memories - as we summered and wintered there with family and friends. Tucking Kyle and Jack into bed upstairs one night, I told them, "You know, Uncle Scott slept right here in these beds when he was your age!" Their big eyes and wide grins were precious. How I wish Scott was here to meet his nephews and niece.

We took Kaitlyn, Kyle and Jack fishing one morning. Even the lake weed they reeled in linked me to Scott. He and his buddies were given "lake weed duty" by Dayn (camp dean and future youth pastor to Scott and Amy). Scott spent his free time one afternoon pulling lake weeds from the boat channel as a consequence for some of his ingenious pranks.

One morning we drove up to Buck Rock. We climbed the 172 wooden stairs that cling to that huge rock that stands at 8,500 feet. It was Kaitlyn and Kyle's first trip to the top to the fire lookout station. Scott's ashes went off the landing at Buck Rock.

The pile of rocks, placed there 13 years ago as an Ebenezer, are still there - a testament that we do not grieve alone. It was precious as Kaitlyn and Kyle helped me pick wild flowers to place on the pile of stones that are a memorial to Scott and represent the emotions of so many friends and family.

Kaitlyn's eyes filled with tears as she laid more flowers on the stones. She has such a tender heart. I remember when she was about five years old and we met with friends at this Ebenezer to begin the memorial bike ride. I was holding Kaitlyn's hand as we walked to this pile of stones to remember Scott before the ride. As the riders took off, Kaitlyn turned to me and said, "But where is he?" "Who?" I asked. She replied, "Uncle Scott - I thought he was going to be here today." That was the day she began to understand how we often groan in these earthly vessels to be reunited with our loved ones for all of eternity.

And quite honestly, groan is a good descriptor. I always enjoy my week at Hume, don't get me wrong. I love making new memories, and savor the old ones. But several times during our week at Hume, I found myself fighting back many emotions - sorrow in Scott's absence, thankfulness for the years we had him, and at times - protest, that Scott should be here to enjoy this with us, to be present with his niece and nephews, to ride the Buck Rock ride with Tony one.more.time.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Please Don't Throw Up In My Car

I am going on a date with Tony tonight ~ just like I did 42 years ago today. We have gone out on a date every August 1st since our first date in 1970.

Growing up at the same church, Tony and I have known each other since we were young. But it was not until I was in high school that I began to wish Tony would ask me out. Since he graduated three years before me, I looked forward to the college group at our church because I knew Tony would be there. It was a wonderful surprise when he asked me out at our weekly volleyball games.

Our first date was somewhat of a group date ~ the college group was going to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert. I had not planned on going ~ until Tony asked if I would go with him!

Saturday night finally arrived. Tony picked me up in his very cool white MGB-GT with leather interior. We drove to the church where the college group was taking the church bus to Hollywood.

The weather was perfect for the outdoor concert and I was thrilled to be with Tony Redfern!

When the concert ended, we headed back to the parking area. I remember feeling funny ~ like I might be sick ~ so I turned to Tony, looked around for a restroom, and collapsed in his arms. Yep ~ real romantic-like, with my eyes rolled back in my head!

Don't even start laughing yet ~ it gets worse! With his date passed out in his arms, Tony very carefully laid me down on the sidewalk, right in the middle of the crowds of people walking to their cars. It didn't take long before I came to only to begin throwing up all over myself . . . in front of Tony and all those strangers!

A first aide nurse from the Hollywood Bowl came out to help move me over to some curbing where I continued to throw up. The nurse began asking Tony questions to determine what might be the matter with me. I will always remember one of her questions. She asked if I was pregnant, to which Tony answered, "No . . . I don't think so . . . are you?" Great! (The answer was NO.)

Needless to say, the ride home on a bus on the freeway was horrendous. When the bus parked back at the church, I threw up some more. When I finally stopped, Tony knew he needed to take me home in his very cool white MGB-GT with leather interior. He opened the back of his very cool white MGB-GT with leather interior. He took out an old beach towel. He opened the car door for me and helped me sit down. He tucked one end of the towel into the edge of the dashboard by the windshield. He tucked the other end of the towel in the neckline of my blouse, under my chin. Then he said, "Please don't throw up in my car."

Needless to say, he did not kiss me goodnight on our first date. And, I did not throw up in his car. It ended up that I had an inner ear infection and I was sick for weeks.

Thankfully, Tony did ask me out again . . . and again . . . and again.

So it is August 1st, again, and I look forward to going on a date with Tony (especially after the events of the past 16 months). I am so thankful he did not dump me after such a horrible first date. I am thankful we still love to go out on dates after all these years together.

And I guarantee as we drive off tonight, he will say,

"Please don't throw up in my car."

Seeking God in the Night

Today I share a post written by Jessica ~ one of my traveling buddies.

My traveling buddies are ladies who find themselves on the same journey as me . . . a journey with no up-grades, many road closures and a burden of grief. We are members of what I call, The Bereaved Mothers Club (BMC). I pray you will not ever become a member of BMC.

Membership requirements are weighty:
we have each laid a precious child in the arms of God.

I have been on this road over 13 years. Jessica entered this journey more recently ~ joining my travels about 2 years ago when her sweet son, Kade. passed away in his sleep on his two-month birthday.

This week, Jessica posted a glimpse of this journey and how this dark road can lead to transformation. I asked permission to post it here for those of you who follow my blog and look for the hope of redeeming the future. Her struggles are real. Her doubts are many. But her hope is secure. I am encouraged by her words.

Here, in Jessica's own words, is part of her journey . . .

I woke up at 3 a.m. from a nightmare that was all too real. I dreamt that we lost Tori and were struggling with the fact that we had lost another child. Obviously I was thankful to wake to find that Tori was sleeping soundly in her bed without a care in the world. While I breathed a sigh of relief, my mind went to Kade. I lost it. Poor Trav woke to me bawling like a baby, and quickly realizing I needed him, slid his arm under my back and pulled me close. We have spent many a lonely night this way. Night time is hard.

There's something about the dark that feels hopeless and overwhelming. The Lord has taught me much about the night. He speaks of the night throughout His Word and I've asked Him to give me His view of the darkness. He says that "the night shines as bright as day" and that "nothing is hidden in the dark" and "weeping comes in the night but joy comes with the dawn" which are some of my favorite passages to meditate on in the night watches. I'm still learning this concept but I have found great comfort in knowing that the Lord sees no difference between night and day and that as His child I can trust that He remains constant no matter the amount of light around me.

But last night as we lay together in the dark my faith was small. I asked Trav the hard questions that I know he desperately wishes he could answer for his wife. "How can a God who loves me give me such a precious gift only to take it back? Why would He allow something so tragic to occur in my life that I question His very existence, sovereignty and love for me? Why would He want me to doubt His love? Doesn't He want me to rest securely in it?" Trav just shook his head, unable to give me an answer that would ease the pain.

While I wrestle with these feelings, they are fleeting and are instantly squelched by truth. Even in my darkest moments, moments like last night, I hear the Lord speaking to my heart. He does love me. He sacrificed HIS son so that I could spend eternity with MY son. I can rest deeply in His love for me that is beyond measure and unchanging. I can fall down at the throne of grace knowing that He keeps each tear in His bottle and takes note of them in His book. It's in the most vulnerable of moments that my Savior is most real to me. It's when I'm doubting His love that He takes the opportunity to flood me with it. It's in those moments that His kindness and grace reaches down and pulls me out of the miry clay I'm sinking in. It's the very thing I doubt that rescues me.

Still I struggle with what to do now. One of the biggest adjustments has been learning how to walk this road that was never one I had considered. I feel like I'm being forced down this path that was never what I imagined my life to be. The truth is, it was always the road I would travel. Since I wasn't handed a map I had created my own itinerary, and forgot to include the pit stops and detours along the way Looking back over past 22 months without Kade, I have seen how the Lord has grown me up, pushed me forward and lavished His grace on me for every step. The Lord has provided some amazing fellow travelers that are making the journey much more bearable.

So what now? I'll just keep putting one foot in front of the other toward eternity, my Savior and my son.

Jessica says it well. We put one foot in front of the other as we move along this journey to that blessed reunion with our children. There isn't an exit off of this road. There is no closure. The reality of losing a child is always with us ~ and quite honestly, we want to remember, as we cling to memories as proof of their existence. But there is the hope of redeeming the losses of this life. There is the promise of transformation.

Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!"
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
Psalm 30:10-12
I love you, J ~

To read more of Jessica's postings, visit her blog Seeking His Face.