Archive for January, 2016

Running the Race of Life

Friday, January 15th, 2016

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

This last weekend I raced my first run in decades. To be more precise, I finished the race without giving in to exhaustion and walking. I ran successfully in High School and obtained a scholarship in college so running is something that I have a history around, but that was many miles ago.

Life has had many obstacles in the decades since my college running days. Responsibilities and life have taken precedence over training and health. The fight against cancer and then the passing of my daughter have made food a support for me emotionally. Inevitably I gained me some pounds.

This last year I have been fighting to get back in shape. I have lost several pounds and dropped 7% bodyfat but I had not really tried to compete in a distance race. My mental strength for distance running is very untested. Ok, It is quite weak. We ran the color race where they threw colored powder and squirted color gel on you as you ran so it was lighthearted. Though it was fun, I was serious.

I was determined to keep pace until the end. My first mile went well. However, when I went up a slight incline the defeating thoughts began. They started as a thought of just a little rest. Then they blew up into a constant gnawing to just stop. The pain in my quads and in my lungs joined in to attempt to convince me to just take a break but I kept going. I reasoned that I could stop if I still wanted to,” just up this hil”l, then “Just down this hill.” etc

I had my music playing in my ears and when I was headed into the last ½ mile a song about the crucifixion of Jesus came on my headset. It spoke of the pain Jesus endured on the cross when the nails were pierced through his hands after he was beaten and set up there to die.

At that moment when I was in my self imposed pain I knew I had a choice to stop and I recalled that Jesus had that choice as well. The Bible says that Jesus could have called upon the angels to deliver him from his pain but he chose to endure it in all its agony for me.

For YOU.

Faced with this realization I focused on my small burden of pain and pushed myself to the finish line. The scripture came true that said, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” Consider in the greek is aporao which means to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something. When I got my focus off of my pain I was able to endure more. It just clicked on this day.

Isn’t that the story of my life. The pain of child loss has often left me in a state of disability that has hindered me from life. In the beginning it was all I could do to just leave the house. The pain pushed me to just hide. Endurance and dealing with the pain has been an ongoing lesson on how to continue on in this life to, “finish the race.”

Lately I have been challenged to take on many things that are not comfortable for me. God has used working out and pushing my physical body as a training ground to teach me about other areas of life. I see how what I though was impossible (enduring more pain) was a product of bad thinking and focusing on my pain. In college I used to be able to overcome this but I am learning to do this all over again.

I am learning to do a lot of things in life again. Traumatic grief changes the emotions in profound ways and I am stumbling to learn new ways of living. But this day I won. I accomplished the goal. I focused on my Lord and how he endured. I learned a new tool that keeps me going.

I know I will be in pain again. I will be in pain and I will focus on my Lord and how much he endured, so that he could get the payoff; the salvation of all those He loves. Pain has a way of making you give up on dreams. On people. On life.

I am determined today to Never give up. I will focus on Jesus and what He endured so I will not grow weary or fainthearted.

God can handle ugly

Friday, January 1st, 2016

Last week’s blog was entitled,” the mourning need love not logic.” This week’s blog could be a companion piece of sorts. I received a message after reading that blog and asked How I kept my faith through it all. I thought about it for a bit and the most obvious answer to me was that God honored and respected each of my feelings, including the “ugly” ones.

When you grieve your loneliness, shame, anger, sadness, all of it overwhelms your senses. When you lose a child it involves your hopes, dreams, and security for the future. When you have prayed and trusted God for a healing it feels like a betrayal.

I was in this predicament 7 years ago when I found myself yelling, screaming and yes even cursing at GOD. I’m not going to tell you what I said but it was ugly. I felt so abandoned and I was angry and I let GOD have it. It was gut level, loud, angry and I am certain I would be embarrassed if anyone saw it. It was also very true and real. I was very angry and very stuck. But the thing about it was that I believed that I was still accepted exactly in that place.

I believed that my reaction was sinful but that was ok. God sent his son to get me out of that sinful place. Forgiveness and Love was his department and if anyone was in need of a Savior it was me.

When I yelled at him and vented my very genuine and ugly emotions however I felt afraid. Wasn’t now when a lightning bolt was supposed to hit me in the head with judgment from on high? So as I was in a heap on my office floor I said to God, “It doesn’t even make any sense but I still want and need you so bad.”

Then I remembered the time when Boey was still with us near the end. The cancer had invaded her hip bones and caused fractures so she stayed in her big brown chair and mostly slept. The time came when we needed to bathe her so I ever so carefully scooped her up in my arms and began to carry her to the bath. This caused an extreme amount of pain and my little girl shrieked with agony and proclaimed, “I hate you…I hate you..” as I carefully walked her to the bath. In that moment, as her daddy, I knew exactly what was happening. She was in such intense pain and she needed some sort of outlet and so she spoke those words that were not even the essence of what was in her heart but she needed some release.

When she was done with the bath and I returned her to the comfort of her big stuffed chair I could hear her words, “I LOVE YOU…I LOVE YOU…I LOVE YOU…” as she trailed off to sleep. In those moments I knew that my daughter trusted me that she could be who she was and act how she needed to act just to make it through the moment. She trusted me and my love for her to be real.

In this moment, as I was shrieking in emotional pain and proclaiming my hate for GOD I was comforted greatly by this picture of me and my daughter. Matt 7:11 came to my mind, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” GOD accepted me just the way I was, warts and all, Hate and all, with the same heart of love and full knowledge that I had for my daughter.

GOD and his love is not limited by my hate or my sinful condition. He is a good parent and he stands unchanged by my immaturity. He is who he is and my feelings and struggles don’t change him. He really is an unchanging rock. A rock of love.

That was a powerful revelation and one that was crucial in my wanting to stay close to HIM. If I only believed the sinful part of the equation, that I was a sinner and needed to repent. Forget it. I would not be able to stand before God. I actually had hatred for him. I would reject him.

But I had enough experience with GOD to know he was not like that. The story of the NT is that GOD sent his son to save that who was lost. When they didn’t know or love him, when they were in rebellion against him Jesus was sent and He gave. Love does that

The bible says we are ambassadors of his. As Gods ambassador I want to invite those parents who have lost children and are grieving to not be afraid of your darkest emotions. I know these emotions. God knows these emotions. He can take your emotions. He knows you have no other way of acting. He is well aware you can’t change you. He wants to love you. Period. Even more than I loved my daughter He longs to love and comfort you. Knowing this is crucial. This will transform you. It is transforming me. Know that GOD can take ugly and that is why he sent his Son.