Thursday, June 21, 2007

Where Else Would I Go?

“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble?” …As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “you do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:60-61;66-68

Music is an amazing expression of the soul that often communicates our feelings in a way that nothing else quite can. A song from the early 70’s Jesus movement has been on my heart lately. It was written by a Christian folk rock group called Children of the Day and the lyrics, based on the above Scripture passage, went something like this:

Sometimes I forget just how much
He changed me with a single touch
And when I start remembering, I see His eyes.
And then I see the differences in my two lives -
Remembering makes me cry,
Oh, Lord, where else would I go
If I sought to leave your path behind?
If I look around, see the pain abound,
No one else would take the time to find me,
No there’s no where else to go.

Intense emotional pain, whether it is because of a fractured family relationship, the loss of someone close to us, a physical or mental illness, financial hardship, job loss, or many other factors, can cause us to get to the point of just wanting to quit. Stop the merry-go-round, I want to get off right now. With many of Jesus disciples, it was something He said that caused them to give up following Him. But even though that thought of quitting, to stop the emotional trauma, may be understandable on one level, it isn’t a rational decision. Because the truth is that pain is a part of this world whether we are believers or not – “it rains on the just and the unjust.” In matters of faith the question really is, “do I want to walk through this pain with Jesus, or without Jesus?”

Some of the disciples in the Scripture passage made the tragic choice to give up. Now, God’s plans always go forward. We can see vividly all through the Old Testament that when people made themselves unusable because of a bad attitude, poor choices, or a “hardness of heart,” God’s plan still went forward. God can use anyone He wills to further what He has determined will happen. If we get sidelined spiritually, tragically for us, we miss being a part of the blessing of being used by God. The disciples who quit missed out.

One of my professors said, “I would never want to relive my childhood. But neither would I want to give up the lessons I learned from having lived through it.” And so it is with most emotional pain. We would certainly not want to relive that which was so agonizingly difficult to go through - yet again. But if you walked through that experience with Jesus, no doubt you can say with confidence that you would not want to give up the incredible life lessons and answers that you now own because of having lived through the pain.

It’s not on a sunshine filled day at the beach when cares are far away that we question the goodness of God. It’s in hard places. God is always good, but sometimes He is good like a surgeon. There has to be some cutting away and some pain going on before we are healed. But the Great Physician is a good doctor with hope and a future plan for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Tribute to My Dad (Happy Father's Day)

It took me over 30 years and hearing that my father needed a heart bypass operation before a tremendous truth thundered down on me: my father has always been there for me. Until that moment I didn’t realize the incredible gift that he had given me for my entire life. I could always pick up the phone and he was glad to hear from me. If I had any questions about how anything worked or information of any kind – he was the first to pour through the books and encyclopedias looking for an answer. He was never too busy for me. After work he was always just a few steps away in his workshop, and I spend many “magical” hours there as a child. Planks of wood became my coloring books (my dad would save the drawings by varnishing over them and then using the wood on the bottom of furniture, etc. His actions carried a very strong message: whatever my child creates is something to be treasured). In my father’s workshop, the drill press became the submarine control room. His large assortment of screwdrivers became my dolls. The tape measure was a fine thing with which “to go fishing.” My dad would involve me in ideas and plans and some of my finest hours were spent at his desk as we talked over how to build projects, designing them to be strong and look great. He taught me to paint a house, use a band saw, mow a lawn, and how to find answers. My father made all the cribs in the church nursery at the church I grew up in, and he made the beautiful cross at the front of the church. When I was a young adult, dad made all the windows and my husband and I put stained glass in them. My dad was a church trustee for over 50 years. He modeled consistency. My dad was always there for me.

Dad is 87 now. He is still working on projects. He lost the sight in one of his eyes several years ago making me bookshelves. Those bookshelves are some of the most beautiful things in the world to me. The heritage my dad gave me grows sweeter everyday, because with each passing day I realize what a great gift he gave me in always being there for me.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


It was his last message as our Visitation Pastor. Now my husband “retires” to a new season of life. Why the happy faces? There is simply a deep sweet joy in seeing the goodness of God colored all over a human life. Even though it was an emotional Sunday for us, I couldn’t help but be very thankful for the experience of seeing Don serve in this capacity in his “vintage” years.

Yes, this is actually his fourth retirement, and over his life he has worked hard at many things. Don was a navy chief, an aviation inspector, a high school and junior college history teacher for 22
years, a real estate agent, a Vice Mayor of a city of 25,000, a stained glass craftsman and business owner, a maker of Victorian redwood screen doors, and for the past seven years, a Visitation Pastor. And after all that, he has no intention of getting out the rocking chair.

The first thing he did in “retirement” is make up a list of 25 items he felt needed to be done at the house immediately. Don set about his tasks with enthusiasm and he adds to that list daily.

The joy continues...

Safe Places

The ancient towering redwoods silhouetted against a sky that appeared like a watercolor painting seized my attention. The multiple luminescent shades of blues, grays, and violets, framed by clouds and streaked by sunrays, formed a “ceiling” to this natural cathedral in the forest. I sat mesmerized from the campground underneath. This amazing chunk of nature was only twenty minutes from our house! What an incredible place we have found to live.

Children in the camp ran back and forth. What is better than the sounds of happy kids? A naturally beautiful place, a community that cares about children, small schools, fascinating Victorian architecture, a place with a sense of history, a good solid Bible believing church…what a great place to raise kids, I thought. Having been raised in a large Southern California city, with smog, crowds, traffic and the fear of strangers, I felt like I had found a piece of heaven. What I wouldn’t have given to have grown up in a place like this, I mused.

Twenty-four years have come and gone since those idyllic and somewhat naive thoughts. While my appreciation for the many benefits of this community continues, I have come to realize that this place is no safer than any other in many regards. As Philip Yancey points out in his excellent article Where Is God When It Hurts? On the Christianity website, incredible tragedies sometime come to out of the way places. There is no place that we can run to become a stranger to hurt, suffering and pain. They will be a part of our lives, and unwelcome companion, no matter where we go. We do not have a choice in that, our choice lies only in our response.

No one needs cliché answers when bad news hits. Whether that bad news affects the entire community or only one person, it seems the greatest comfort comes in the form of someone who has “been there.” We need to know we are not alone when we are hurting. We can have the assurance that Jesus is there for us, that He understands our suffering, because He has, above all, “been there.” And as God often works, He uses ordinary people who have also “been there” to minister to us and help us through the darkness of the situation until we can see a flicker of light. The “safe place” when we hurt is not a geographical spot on the map, but is found in the relationship of the One who weeps with us, feels our pain, and, as no one else can, cause goodness to come from a seemingly horrible situation.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.” II Corinthians 1:3-5