Tag Archives: suffering

Worship Wednesday – This Is Gonna to Make You Stronger – Mandisa

Photo Credit: GodTube

And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. – 1 Peter 5:10

Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me…For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9, 10b

Some of my sweetest times with the Lord are driving in a dark car with the radio on. Last night I was on my way to a friend’s house and a string of songs came on all meant just for me…we’ve all had this experience, right? They were:

Every one of those songs highlights God’s work of grace in our lives. Mandisa‘s song especially spoke to the transforming nature of suffering. How God takes suffering and brokenness in our lives and perfects us through it. Perfects us in such a way that not only are we made stronger but our ability to comfort others is strengthened.

One of God’s gifts to this distractible daughter of His is how He speaks to my heart in waves to drive His message deep into my heart.

Last night, in a circle of women drinking tea and catching up with each other, the Lord spoke Mandisa’s message again through my friend. She told us a story about how her little daughter had a favorite doll that she always had with her. The mama even kept a second similar doll nearby for when the favorite occasionally went missing. That doll was a poor substitute. Her daughter’s favorite was her constant companion and because of that, this doll was dirty, worn, and well-loved. She had in some measure endured whatever that little girl endured.Photo Credit: Pixabay

…and was made perfect (in this little girl’s eyes) because of their shared experience

Even God’s sinless Son was somehow made perfect through suffering.

For in bringing many sons to glory, it was entirely appropriate that God–all things exist for Him and through Him–should make the source of their salvation perfect through sufferings. – Hebrews 2:10

Though He was God’s Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.Hebrews 5:8

When we suffer and bear up under it, with God’s help, we come out the other side stronger. What that does for us…and for those watching us…is give us a confidence and assurance that we will get through it. Just as we have seen Jesus suffer for our sake…and gloriously endure.

It’s not surprising that the song Stronger comes from Mandisa’s album What If We Were Real. It set me to remembering the childhood story of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. In the story, the Rabbit confronts the reality of what makes things “real”. In short, he discovered that love makes us real…and with that love comes suffering…but the love makes that suffering not matter.Photo Credit: Reddit

Suffering is a part of all our lives. I can understand, especially if your experience of suffering is very raw and current, that this talk of dolls and rabbits will feel frivolous.

What Jesus endured for us, however, is not a trifle. It is, in fact, the most real thing in my life…and hopefully yours, as well. That and His ongoing work in our lives transforming us to become more and more like Him.

Sometimes…that is through suffering.

Worship with me, if you will, through this song brought to us by our dear sister, Mandisa.

Hey, heard you were up all night
Thinking about how your world ain’t right
And you wonder if things will ever get better
And you’re asking why is it always raining on you
When all you want is just a little good news
Instead of standing there stuck out in the weather

Oh, don’t hang your head
It’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even if it’s hard to see Him
I promise you that He still cares

(Chorus)
When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
And things can only get better
Believe me, this is gonna make you stronger
Gonna make you stronger, stronger, stronger
Believe me, this is gonna make you …

Try and do the best you can
Hold on and let Him hold your hand
And go on and fall into the arms of Jesus
Oh, lift your head it’s gonna end
God’s right there
Even when you just can’t feel Him
I promise you that He still cares

Chorus

‘Cause if He started this work in your life
He will be faithful to complete it
If only you believe it
He knows how much it hurts
And I’m sure that He’s gonna help you get through this

Chorus*

“And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore you, secure you, strengthen you, and establish you.”1 Peter 5:10

What do you make of this? Please comment below if you have a story of suffering you are willing to share. How did God reveal Himself to you…through you?

Lyrics to Stronger with Mandisa – song written by Christopher Stevens, David Garcia and Ben Glover 

Mandisa’s Album What If We were Real

Mandisa

YouTube Video – The Story Behind Stronger

“Stronger” – Behind the Song with Kevin Davis

Worship Wednesday – Up and to the Right with Andy Crouch

Photo Credit: Strong and Weak, Andy Crouch w/ Jonathan Storment

I want a Tshirt with this graphic on it. I also want to learn how to live “up and to the right”.

This graphic comes from Andy Crouch‘s book, Strong and Weak, which is still my favorite of 2018 so far. It sets out Crouch’s premise that flourishing is how God means for us to live. How we get to “flourishing”, individually and in community, is with high authority coupled with high vulnerability.

Authority is defined as “capacity for meaningful action”.  Vulnerability is “exposure to meaningful risks”. These are the truest definitions. We have bent both of them to mean something else in today’s culture – either power with potential to be corrupted or a smarmy sensitivity that needs protecting.

Both authority and vulnerability when aligned with the will and nature of God are so much more…and work together to make us true image bearers of our Creator and Redeemer. As community (church), we can actually move toward a flourishing that includes the most vulnerable and the seemingly least empowered.

This Worship Wednesday blog is not about singing praise but about thinking and meditating on God’s Word and His intent for our lives.

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable, or well pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”  Micah 6:8

Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah  22:3

“Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’”Isaiah 58:6-9

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of a Common Good RVA event. Andy Crouch was the keynote speaker. He spoke practically about how we could apply ourselves to the good of all, especially through the vocations God has given us.

As educated and affluent, our temptation is to avoid vulnerability placing us on the left side of the graph. In our flesh, we prefer withdrawing to safety or exercising control at all costs.

God calls us to a different life…a surrendered life for the common good.

A writer pastor, Jonathan Storment, wrote a series of blogs, taking the reader through a thought-provoking review of Crouch’s wonderful book. Below are quotes from his review and from the book Strong and Weak. When you read the take-aways below, you’ll want to read the book…then you will be compelled to act, with authority and vulnerability.

This paradox of both God-given authority and also the vulnerability that we all face in the world is where true Jesus-like leadership occurs. This is what it has always meant to be humans made in God’s image.Jonathan Storment

Power that is transfigured by love is an entirely different kind of power. It’s the kind of power that leads people to lay down their lives for the good of others. It’s why the New Testament can use the word Dunamis (the word for power, where we get the word dynamite) so often in positive ways. Because Jesus redefined what it meant to wield power.Jonathan Storment

Think back over the people who have made a difference in your life. Chances are they had roles as teachers/parents/mentors/friends. If they helped you flourish in your life, it was because they were acting in some kind of authority, and exposing themselves to some type of vulnerability. They had authority because they had the capacity to make a meaningful difference in your life, and they had vulnerability because they were opening themselves up to someone (you) who could potentially hurt them…Crouch is talking about what the word vulnerability really means…woundable.Jonathan Storment

Idols always promise to give you everything and cost you nothing, but given enough time, they take everything and give you nothing. So Crouch says: “The first things any idol takes from its worshippers are their relationships. Idols know and care nothing for the exchange of authority and vulnerability that happens in the context of love.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidenote: We don’t usually think about idols…probably because we have already been deceived by their control of our lives – alcohol, drugs, pornography, position, wealth.]

Nothing is sadder than a leader who has refused to bear vulnerability. Whenever someone in authority refuses to bear vulnerability someone else is forced to bear it. But it’s not just the people who are oppressed, it’s also the oppressor. They lose something of what it means to be made in the image of God. They slowly create a Hell for themselves and then are forced to live in it.Jonathan Storment

“This is the definition of Hell. To know the power you have and not have the ability to realize that potential.” Hell is like a cruise that never ends. But the real danger for us today is not that we book ourselves a lifetime filled with cruises. It’s that we do the same thing in different ways. Here’s how Crouch says it: “The real temptation for most of us in not complete apathy but activities that simulate meaningful action and meaningful risk without actually asking much of us or transforming much in us. So if you really want to see what withdrawing looks like in affluent, technological America, you don’t have to visit a port of call. You just have to turn on the PlayStation in your living room.”Jonathan Storment

[Sidebar: This is not about bashing ocean cruise aficionados or gamers. I know both who are incredibly engaged as image bearers in their communities. This is about not being deceived. Recreation or needed downtime are not the same as a life’s pursuit of avoiding risks and settling for idols.]

The way of Jesus is up and to the right, authority and vulnerability in the world, bearing in the world’s suffering while being a part of the God’s redemption  process.

I don’t think Christians are the only ones tempted to escape, and in our secular age, it’s no longer Heaven that people are escaping to. It’s much easier to stare at your iPhone than to have a conversation, slowly spend your life watching t.v. every night instead of going that group or civic effort.

[God help me here.]

Vulnerability and Authority – called to make a difference and remain open to the suffering of the world. Because we follow a God who did anything but withdraw, we are called to do the same. Now Up and to the Right. Jonathan Storment

Now the challenge for us is to take the wisdom of these words and apply them to our lives and our community. Thoughts?

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing – Andy Crouch

Strong and Weak: The Hidden Vulnerability of Leadership – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Flesh and Bones – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Crown of Thorns – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Numb to the World – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Drunk on Power – Jonathan Storment

Strong and Weak: Up and to the Right – Jonathan Storment

What Is True Worship? – Got Questions

Worship That Pleases God – Isaiah 58:1-14 – Brian Sandifer

Characteristics of Acceptable Worship – Gregory Brown

5 Friday Faves – Right Bus/Wrong Seat, Live Streaming, Words, Mommy Blogs, and the Inevitabilities of Life

Today’s Friday Faves blog comes to you on Saturday. It’s been that kind of week, full to busting. Along with it were fun times with friends, poignant occasions to serve people in crisis, beautiful sunrises and sunsets (plus a Blue Moon), and a few moments of quiet calm to process it all. I hope your week was memorable.

Writing helps me remember (even if it’s a few lines in a journal or on an old-school calendar)…maybe your memory is better. Here are five of my favorite discoveries for the week. Please share yours in Comments below.

1) Right Bus/Wrong Seat – Writer, seminarian Chuck Lawless posted recently on dealing with employees who appear to be on the right bus, but in the wrong seats. He wrote about church culture but

10 Ways to Deal with People on the Right Bus, but in the Wrong Seat

his counsel reminded me of work situations as described by business leader and writer Jim Collins. – in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. Collins focuses on the importance of having the right people “on the bus”. Then he pushes deeper in employers or leaders getting those right people into the right seats. We can find ourselves wondering at times if we’re in the right company when really the question could be that we may not be in the right job within that company. Collins’ approach puts people over product, but he knows the better product will come out of better-positioned people. Right bus/right seat.

Have 100% of the key seats on the bus filled with the right people. This doesn’t mean 100% of ALL seats have the right people, but 100% of the key seats. If you think there might be a “wrong who,” first give the person the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he or she is in the wrong seat. Whenever possible, give a person the chance to prove himself or herself in a different seat, before drawing the conclusion that he or she is a wrong person on the bus.

Spend a significant portion of time on people decisions: get the right people on the bus, get the right people in the right seats, get the wrong people off the bus, develop people into bigger seats, plan for succession, etc. Develop a disciplined, systematic process for getting the right people on the bus. With each passing year, ensure the percentage of people decisions that turn out good versus bad continues to rise. Wendy Maynard, Jim Collins

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’tJim Collins

2) Live Streaming – I am really not fond of paying the high ticket prices required these days for celebrity entertainment. What intrigues me more are the younger (or newer) artists pushing into the public’s eye through live streaming. In 2015, KrueTV was launched, and it has made a huge impact on where I go for music. A live streaming app. Where I get to watch, listen to, and chat with artists who are just beginning to hone their craft. Rough sometimes, but so fresh and very much “in the moment. Beyond the Guitar streamed on Krue from early on. Photo Credit: Screenshot, KrueTV

A community of followers was born there, many of whom support him on Patreon. KrueTV also made it possible for me to meet and enjoy the music of other artists – a young country-western singer from Ohio, an Indie artist from Canada, a sibling band with killer harmonies, a Portuguese singer who brings us all-things-Eurovision. And many others.

The bad news came this week that Krue’s creators are going a different direction. Another app will eventually come, but Krue will be shut down soon. It made all of us sad, all of us who enjoy the streams there.

Beyond the Guitar’s Last Great Stream on KrueTV

Turning that sad into action, the artists continue to stream on Krue for now and commiserate with each other and their fans. Also sorting out what live streaming app to jump on next.

I was surprised to find out that there are several now. GigFM. StreetJelly. Twitch.TV. One of these apps will become my next favorite, depending on where these favorite artists land. Because it’s not just their performances, it’s also the community around them. Never would I have thought, in all my life, that this would become important to me. Online communities. Gamers understand this, but it’s new to me.

Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – The Hunger Games: Hanging Tree

3) Words – Any of you who continue to stick with me on this blog know I love words. If you walked into our home, you would see them everywhere. Bookcases in every room. Words on the walls.

Books by my bed and beside my computer. Notes on top of my keyboard. Words that can remind, instruct, encourage.

In my resolve to read more, this year of 2018, I’m currently in the middles of a strange and fascinating book. It is The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth. It’s a book about the English language and what makes us love and remember certain phrases by how they are written. I will probably write about this book later, but here are some words that have caused me to think…this week.

The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of PhraseMark Forsyth

Mark Forsyth Blog

Young at Heart (Slightly Older in Other Places) – Day Brightener

4) Mommy Blogs – The blogs I subscribe to are usually about leadership, the Bible, or living cross-culturally. However, lately, “mommy blogs” have come to my attention, thanks to the young women in my life who read and write them. This week, I discovered Liz B. who writes Life in a Coffee Spoon. A mom of two who also works outside the home, she posted this week on the challenges of life that literally drive her to write in order to process it all. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Her writing is like that coffee – real, strong, and just right for when you need it.

Life in a Coffee Spoon – On Mommy Blogging in 2018

Family. Life. Organized – Bekkah Mills

17 Things You Should Do to Every Blog Post Before + After You Hit Publish (Free Checklist) – Melyssa Griffin – for any of you, Dear Ones, thinking of blogging.

5) The Inevitabilities of Life – This has been one of those weeks when life has been full of the inevitable – sickness, hard news, death. There are also the inevitabilities, thankfully, of new babies, good news, and happy anniversaries. This has not been a week of those.

[There was a time just a bit ago that I didn’t take any meds. Then…it happened. The inevitable, I presume.]

Still in the middle of all the hard, I’m struck by the great gift of community, the strength of true friendship and family, the power of prayer. The presence in our lives of a loving God and those we can lean on – good neighbors, first responders, trusted colleagues, and those sainted strangers – all, in their time, are there for us, as we are for them. The leaning in and showing up – in the inevitabilities of life. It’s really quite beautiful…and takes so much of the sting away.

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation [trouble; suffering], but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  – Jesus – John 16:33

So there are my 5’s this week. What are some of yours? Have a safe and splendid weekend, hopefully with those you love or in your own good company.

Bonuses

Photo Credit: Rick Fischler, Facebook

In Which I Am Learning to Live with the Ache – Sarah Bessey

Quote: I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history. – H.G. Wells

[I finally saw the Denzel Washington film Fences adapted from August Wilson‘s play….whew.]

“I think my plays offer (white Americans) a different way to look at black Americans,” he told The Paris Review. “For instance, in Fences they see a garbageman, a person they don’t really look at, although they see a garbageman every day. By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbageman’s life is affected by the same things – love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives.” – August Wilson

TED Talk – Susan David: The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage

Prescriptions Without Pills – For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety, and More – Susan Heitler

Photo Credit: Amazon, Susan Heitler

Worship Wednesday – In Suffering – Where Were You?- by Ghost Ship

blog-where-were-you-tumblrPhoto Credit: i-love-to-love.tumblr

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.” – God (Job 38:4)

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”…and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer.Job 42:1-6, 9b

I don’t cry easily. Maybe it’s all the years of cancer nursing where my tears were spent. Or having already lost loves of our own has drained them. Or this broken world has finished off my tears.

Or so I thought. This morning has brought tears as my sister-in-law texts with me about Dad. He is in his last weeks…days…we don’t know. This funny, intelligent, extraordinary and simple farmer’s son…this man who took in four more children when he married my mom…this man who has always been strong as an ox even in his 90s…this man who fiercely loves his family and friends…this man is winding down in this life.Dad and Debbie - July 2016

I don’t ask God “Why?” about Dad’s dying…he’s lived a full and amazing life. My prayer has been that he can enter the healing of Heaven without the terror of late Alzheimer’s or the pain of cancer spreading. So far, he still knows us all and has sweet moments of reflection…when he wakes from his long naps. The pain, like the cancer, is growing, but so far, with medication and the close care of family and hospice, he is managing to be comfortable most of the time…and we’re thankful.img_9067

The part of life, for any of us, when suffering looms large does cause us to ask “Why?” sometimes. This past Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang Where Were You. We are in an Explore God sermon series along with several other churches in the Richmond area. This Sunday the topic was “Why Does God Allow Pain and Suffering?” [You can listen to that podcast here.]

The issue of suffering is a very personal one. It’s really a wonder, in such a fallen world, that there is not more suffering. God has always been intimately present with us in times of loss and suffering, and I hope to be able to trust Him in future hard places.

The song Where Were You? is taken directly from the book of Job. He suffered enormous loss and physical pain which could have entirely shaken his faith in God. The book describes his wrestling with the “why’s” with the help of three not-so-helpful friends. Beginning in Job 31, Job makes one last appeal to God to satisfy his questions. Before God speaks, another friend, Elihu, shows up and offers a glorious defense of God’s character. He speaks through 5 chapters of Job on God’s behalf. Then, God Himself, makes the closing statement to Job (Job 38-41). It is thrilling to read. God is the answer to all our questions…if we will listen.

Worship with me to the words from Job by the Christian band Ghost Ship.

I said God I do not understand this world
everything is dying and broken
why do I see nothing but suffering

God I’m asking could this be Your plan
Sin has taken hold of this whole land
Will You not say anything else to me?

He said where were you the day that I measured
sunk the banks and stretched the line over
all the earth and carved out its corner stone?

Where were you the day that I spoke and
told the sun to split the night open
caused the morning dark with its light to show

Who shut in the ocean with stone doors
marked the reach of tides on those new shores
hung the day the waves rose and first broke forth

Have you seen the springs of that great sea
walked the caverns carved in the black deep
through the gates of darkness there on its floor

Have you seen the armory I hold
snow and hail are stacked up in silos
for the times of trouble and war and strife

Can you raise your voice to the storm cloud
would the thunder answer and ring out
does the lightning ask you where it should strike

Who has cleft the channels for torrents
rain to sprout the desert with forest
in the wilderness that my hand has built

Can you hunt the prey for your lions
can you use the cords of Orion
is this whole world bending beneath your will?

I spoke of things I did not understand
things too wonderful for me
although I had no right to ask
my God knelt and answered me*

We are not alone in our suffering. There is plenty of great teaching on suffering elsewhere (including John Piper’s article linked below). For me, for today, thinking about and praying for my dad…this song was a just-right reminder of God’s power and His goodness. He can do all things and His purposes are not thwarted. Hallelujah!

[If you’re reading this just after it’s been posted, we would appreciate your prayers for our dad and for those most closely caring for him. Thank you.]

*Lyrics to Where Were You?

YouTube Video – Where Were You? – with Lyrics – Ghost Ship – Mars Hill Music

YouTube Video – Where Were You? – Lyrics without Images – Ghost Ship

Video Collection – Why Does god Allow Pain and Suffering? – Explore God

Job: Rebuked in Suffering – Job 32:1-37:24 – John Piper

Saturday Short – Explore God – Tackling the Hard Questions

img_8918

Who is God? …Really. What difference does it make for me to believe in God or not? Isn’t my path set anyway? In the religion of my parents?
We have so many questions as we go through life. I have had my share…and yet still come back to the profound difference God has made in my life… Even in a world that is broken, we see glimpses of beauty, and order, and love outside ourselves. Glimpses of God’s touch and movement in our lives and throughout the world.
Wisdom is to seek answers to our questions. To wrestle with them with friends and family we love and are sure of their love for us. Or strangers even who appreciate an opportunity to sort out these questions together…respectfully and decently.
blog-explore-god-facebook-pagePhoto Credit: Facebook
Over the next seven weeks in the Richmond, Virginia metropolitan area, a large group of churches (of various denominations and leanings) are cooperating in tackling some of our questions.

fullsizerender

The Explore God website will help you find a Richmond area church or discussion group focusing on these questions. Also the same website has videos, articles, and resources by topic if you want to explore on your own a bit. Explore God can also be followed on Facebook.

My plan is to join the discussion at Movement Church tomorrow (Sunday morning) and then gather with a small group during the week continuing to sort out answers to these questions. No pressure kind of experience. Very stranger-friendly…meaning, no in-your-face weirdness.

blog-explore-god-movement-church

**Please note – Movement now has 2 gatherings on Sunday mornings – one at 9:00am and one at 11:00am.**

If you’re like me, you have questions…even if you think you’ve already sorted out the answers yourself. For me, as the world and culture change…and as I get older, my questions have changed. The God I’ve come to know can handle our questions and meets us in the answers, too.

Worship Wednesday – With Hope – Steven Curtis Chapman

Blog - Heath Funeral - Grieving with hopeWe do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.    –            1 Thessalonians 4:13

It’s been quite some time since I attended a funeral. Not that we haven’t lost dear friends in the last few years…but we lived far away at the time and just didn’t go. This time…when Heath died…we went.

Death is something no one wants to have to look on full-face. There’s no way really to polish it up. It is our final enemy. Our temptation is to remove ourselves as far from suffering and death as we can. When someone you love is on this path, then how can we do anything else but enter in…?

Heath lived 15 months or so with a devastating, killing cancer. That in itself was a miracle. When he died, a small loving family is left to figure out a new normal for their lives. They won’t be alone in this.

How thankful I am that God draws close to His children in the daily and in death. Heath’s wife and children will have what they need to face what comes next. God is faithful. God is good.

When a gifted, lovely 42-years-young man dies, leaving a wife and three little girls, can we say in this that God is good? If we cannot, then we never can. We cannot see what God sees, but we know from experience and from His Word that He will work good out of every situation in His children’s lives…every. single. situation.

Heath understood that, and he lived it. His family does as well.

You might not think that a funeral can be a joyous thing. I don’t cry easily. Maybe after so many of our own losses, maybe after years of cancer nursing…tears just don’t come at the usual times. During Heath’s funeral, I couldn’t stop them from rolling down. Out of love and out of loss…but also out of wonder at the beauty of God’s care and character.

With Hope is a song written by Steven Curtis Chapman in 2008 after the accidental death of his 5 y/o daughter, Maria. The tribute video for Heath at his funeral featured this song as the soundtrack and it was so right. Somehow, especially in times of loss, God weaves a deep hope into our faith. I saw it in Heath’s family…and I experienced it myself. God is good…always.

Worship with me.

This is not at all
How we thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We has so many dreams
But now you’ve gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you

And we can cry with hope
We can say good-bye with hope
‘Cause we know our good-bye is not the end
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God’s plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father smile and say ‘well done.’
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
‘Cause now your home
And now your free

[Chorus]

We have this hope as an anchor
‘Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true

[Chorus]

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope*Blog - HeathPhoto Credit: Facebook

Postscript: Toward the end of Heath’s funeral, a solitary musician with guitar began to sing Come to Jesus We, in that gathering, were all suspended in our thoughts of Heath, sad in our loss of him and full of joy that he was Home with the Lord. In the emotion of that moment, the singer, just into the first verse of that beautiful, soulful song, faltered. He willed his voice to continue but couldn’t. Even as his voice gave away, soft voices in the congregation took up where he left off. He strummed the guitar, and we sang…quietly, full of reverence at the meaning of all before us.

It is what we find in the truest experience of the Family of God and the grace of God. We all falter sometimes…we all fall. He lifts us up – either through the hands and voices of others, or by His own hand and word. He carries us. He helps us see beyond the pain and wretchedness of an unbelievable loss…to the glory of that life, of our lives, and His glory reflected in them.

Hallelujah!

*Lyrics to With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman

Steven Curtis Chapman

“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. This inheritance is 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 all 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 the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:3-9

Worship Wednesdays – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” – Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because my shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, “underneath are the everlasting arms!” You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & Country

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

Bio Page – for King & Country

Rebecca St. James – singer, songwriter, author, and sister to Joel and Luke Small bone

Photo Credits: YouTube and www.forkingandcountry.ccom website

Kara Tippetts Has Finished Her Race – with Grace and Kindness and Glory to God

Blog - Kara TippettsPhoto Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:6-7

“When I wake up in the Land of Glory
And with the saints I will tell my story
There will be one Name that I proclaim
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, just that Name.”*

Kara Tippetts is one of the bravest and most generous women I’ve never met. I love her so much. She has been battling cancer for awhile, but she is Home. She fought hard because she would leave behind so much she loved – an amazing husband, four beautiful children, close friends and family, and a ministry with a wide reach.

Blog - Kara & Jason near the endPhoto Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

Still…there is a time for all of us that this life ends, and the next begins. Her time came yesterday. She lived so well…and she leaves a legacy for her family of what it is to live a full, faithful life, with a kind heart, and an open hand. She was a tight hug and sweet encouragement to me, every day she wrote in Mundane Faithfulness.**

I woke today thinking about her. While preparing to just refer readers to her memorial (obituary), the song The Only Name came on the radio. It is so fitting of Kara’s life.

“Yours will be the only Name that matters to me
The only One Whose favor I seek
The only Name that matters to me

Yours will be
The friendship and affection I need
To feel my Father smiling on me
The only Name that matters to me

Yours is the Name the Name that has saved me
Mercy and grace the power that forgave me
And Your love is all I’ve ever needed
When I wake up in the Land of Glory
And with the saints I will tell my story
There will be one Name that I proclaim
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, just that Name.”*
Kara fought her fight. She finished her race. She kept the faith. For us, there is still a race to be run. May we run ours with the great grace, kind heart, deep love, and focus on God that Kara ran hers. So thankful I got to know her on her Home stretch. Thank You, God, for Your glorious presence in Kara’s life.
Blog - Kara with hairPhoto Credit: Mundane Faithfulness
**Memorial – Mundane Faithfulness – read Kara’s blog – her story and her God will change your life.
My Blogs on Kara – Here, Here, & Here

Today is What We Have – Fight for a Soft Heart Today – Praying for Kara

Blog - Kara with hairNo posts from Kara & Company over the weekend, and I was holding my breath. Kara Tippetts is one of the loveliest women I’ve never met. She is a Christ-follower, pastor’s wife, mom of 4, writer, and amazing sister and friend. How I know her is through the cancer she battles, through her faith,  and through her writing…this is how I know her and how I love her.

Today, exhaling, a post came up on her Facebook page. She was writing about a friend, Jay Lyons, who was producing a documentary about her journey through cancer. She linked to the documentary as will I.

In the documentary, she talks about having to leave the party early.

[Sidebar: I write about sad things sometimes. Don’t leave the party early yourselves, dear readers. Her life is so rich, so real; I want you to know Kara. So hang in there with me. Her journey right now is so much more than sad; she has so much to teach us about life…don’t miss it.]

Kara says, “I know I’ve got cancer. I know I’m going to die of it, but I also know I have today, and so in this today, I get to live well.”

She talks about her husband, Jason. “Jason shows me the best of what life has to offer mostly in encouraging me to fight for a soft heart.”

Finally, she talks about the cancer and her Father, God: “I want to be able to share this story, that suffering isn’t a mistake and isn’t the absence of God’s goodness, because He’s present in pain.”

When Kara talks, those who doubt the goodness of God have no place to speak into her experience. She trusts God for today.

Pray for Kara and Jason today. Pray for a soft heart…for her, for them…for all of us.Blog - Kara & Jason near the end

Kara Tippetts – Facebook page

Kara Tippetts Blog – Mundane Faithfulness

Dying with Grace – By Faith Magazine Interview with Kara

Kara Tippetts Documentary Trailer

Kara’s book The Hardest Peace

Documentary Indiegogo Project Funding

Photo Credits – Kara & Jason Before Chemo and Kara & Jason After

Cancer, Hospice…and All Those Beautiful Moments

Blog - Hospice - Kara TippettsA good writer does more than draw you into her story. A good writer can illuminate parts of your own story, as you resonate with hers. Kara Tippetts is a young woman I only know through her writing, but, because of her writing, my understanding of God and life and love has become even richer. It’s improbable that we will meet this side of Heaven, but I know her as if she were a good neighbor…or even a close friend. She is that transparent…and more. Kara is luminous; she is full of light and shines that light into a dark place.

For you see, Kara has a breast cancer that will not let go of her. Still she will also not let go of God. She was diagnosed not long ago, just in 2012, but not two years later, and all the treatments have been exhausted. Barring a miraculous touch from God, she will die of this disease. Yet, Kara is one of the most alive women I have ever encountered. Read more of her story for yourself.

Where I resonate with her story, at this moment of my life, relates to her experience with hospice. When you think of someone needing hospice, you might not think of a young mom, deeply in love with her husband and four children who is still writing and squeezing every bit of good out of life. However, this is where Kara is…needing hospice.

My mom, only in the last 3 days of her life, had hospice support at home, and we were so thankful. Even after many years as a cancer nurse, it meant everything having those good and kind people around us. We leaned on them, especially I leaned on them. No matter what competency I had in care-giving…it was my mama this time, and my mind was numb. Now, years later, my dad has his turn with hospice. His cancer, diagnosed 10 years ago, has returned, and no more tests or treatments are planned for our dear 92 years young dad. Hospice is again our (and his) strong support.

Back to Kara, I want to leave you with her beautiful insight about having no more treatment options and fully supported by hospice:

It felt like a huge blow when my oncologist said it was time for me to enter hospice care. It felt like quitting. I felt like my body had failed and I was being pulled from the team and being benched. Benched in an awful permanent way…I was wrong. Hospice care has been truly amazing…It’s just an adjustment. A hard adjustment to go from treatment, tests, and fighting to not knowing and comfort…Now my fight is a passive one, now I’m fighting for good moments. My fight is for time and tenderness with my loves. My fight is to embrace the good moments hospice is giving me and loving my people well. It’s important – these moments.

Pray with us all for Kara and her family. She even signed a contract recently to write another book (or two). I so want to read that book. Also I want to express gratitude for all you who care for patients and families “in the midst of life’s hard“*. For many years, it was my joy to work alongside you. You extend the hands of God to those who need His loving touch.Blog - hospice - hero - from Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups

Photo Credits – Kara Tippetts’ Blog & Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups Facebook page

Kara’s Breast Cancer Story

*Kara Tippetts’ Book The Hardest Peace – Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard

Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups – a life-affirming cancer support system in Kingsport, Tn. Many, many years ago, I helped lead a support group called Take Time…to Help, to Heal.  Really, those patients, families, nurses, and friends taught me so much more than I did them. The Survive and Thrive groups came out of that earlier group, under the continuing leadership of Kathryn Whitt Visneski.

Blog - Blessings & Hospice