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Tag Archives: Romans 8:28

The Quarry of God

The Quarry of God-2I was sitting across the table from a good friend, sharing what I felt God was doing in my life—and how painful, but healthy, it was.

She’s the wise type, sitting there tuned in as an active listener, simultaneously praying, and waiting on God to speak to her. Sometimes I stare at her for a full two minutes before she responds. I’ll admit it was unnerving the first few times I experienced it.

And do you know why I love this so much?

Because she measures every single word that comes out of her mouth. It’s never flippant, casual, dismissive, arrogant, or half-hearted. She feels the intensity of every spoken word. And as they flow very slowly from her mouth, there is a soothing tone to them. It makes me feel so safe. It’s the exact reason I go to her for wisdom: Because she loves God more than she loves me and listens intently to Him, and because when she speaks, even correction, it has His loving kindness on it. 

“I feel like I’m being scraped from the inside-out right now. This has been one intensely painful year. I feel like God is scraping my insides out.”

She stopped me right there, cocked her head, and said: “What do you mean?”

I replied: “He is digging out old wounds that no longer belong there. He wants to set me free.”

With that, I could see her shoulders relax. She knew what I meant—not that God was hurting me but rather that He was cleansing me. Restoring me. Helping me to let go of junk I was holding onto that was no longer relevant or part of who I am supposed to be.

I wish I could say the process was like a nice micro-abrasion cleanser, you know, the one with the gritty feel to it? But this? This was more significant than that analogy allows.

This was more of a Read the rest of this entry »

 

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Let God Be Your Handhold to Joy

I had a silent prayer on my heart this week. I had about three topics in my head to write about but no time to write them. And then in came this blog from my sweet friend Tammie. I had literally just tweeted a former blog of hers about joy 30 seconds before her message arrived in my in-box. What provision! Right on time!

Tammie has contributed several times to Espressos of Faith this year. I consider her part of the blog team. I believe so much in what she writes about that I have given her blog topics a board on my Pinterest page and regularly remind people on social media of her articles. She writes to bring hope, healing, and joy to those with child loss of any kind, sharing her particular journey of loss (to suicide), but what she writes is for all of us—because there is always someone out there hurting who needs us, and because we all know pain, sorrow, and despair from time to time. Tammie is an incredible encourager who wants to honor the life of her son Joshua by ministering to and loving on hurting hearts out there. She is an amazing vessel used by God to reach some of the most painful places a parent could ever go.

If this touches you, please leave a comment for Tammie. She genuinely wants to connect with you. And feel free to share, tweet, and pin her encouragement so others can read about finding joy again too.

Here’s Tammie…
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Banana Crêpes, Mint Milkshakes, and Living in the Past

 
Photo credit: PacoCarmonaCalzada from morguefile.com

When I lived in Japan as a 19 year old, I greatly missed home (and American food) for the first few weeks there. I suppose that’s natural. They say you often lose weight when you first arrive at a culture with a vastly different diet than your own, and then as soon as you get used to how great the food is, you gain weight. Well, I eventually learned to make miso soup and fish heads staples in my diet. I even tried some raw chicken (a delicacy), but my weight gain was not because I was putting down the healthy fish, rice, and tofu. It was more the result of having found some European bakeries and a little cafe tucked away within walking distance of my college campus. On the menu at that little cafe were banana crêpes and mint milkshakes.

Yeah, it was all over at that point. They had me at crêpe and milkshake.

I certainly love those flavors and food items. And I knew having one of each was such a teenage-metabolism thing to do, but I was drawn to the comfort of foods I would find at home. I needed something non-fishy and non-red-bean to bring me some home—some familiar.

And I’d like to tell you that I exercised self-control, but the truth is: I went every day after class for two weeks and ordered both until my stomach literally hurt. It’s what made me realize I needed to stop, get a grip, cease pretending to be somewhere I wasn’t, and live in the present.

I wish this lesson had stuck with me, but decades later, I found myself in the Marshall Islands with my very young family, spending so much of my day emailing and Facebook-ing the friends and family I left behind. It delayed my adjustment until one day I realized: “I’m in a sunny, tropical place. Why am I living in Boston in my heart and mind when I really needed to be making a life on the other side of the International Date Line?”

I feel this way about holding onto the past in general. I sometimes want to go back to when this or that relationship was better, this child wasn’t struggling, that financial stress wasn’t weighing down on us, we didn’t have XYZ problem, life was simpler, etc. Do you ever feel that way? As if, somehow, transporting ourselves back to that time and place erases all worry and stress?

It really doesn’t. We just end up trading in current wisdom for a time when we hadn’t learned certain lessons yet or experienced particular deepening, strengthening trials.

For every relationship we look back to a better day, there are those that are now healed and stronger. For every trouble squeezing our heart now, going back in time just finds us another one and we’d have to go through it all over again. As much as I miss holding my infants, I can still hold other people’s and savor the memories.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, ESV, King Solomon* speaking
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

Verses 1-8 of Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 are well known and often quoted. Many find comfort in those passages. But what really strikes me is what the author says following that part: “I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:10-12, ESV, King Solomon speaking
I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live…

That sure sounds a lot like:

Revelation 21:15, ESV, Apostle John speaking
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

and

Romans 8:28, ESV, Apostle Paul speaking
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time” means that even our oldest pain, deepest struggle, past regret, biggest learning curve, etc.—when yielded to Him—can be made beautiful, can be turned around, can be given new life.

What’s more: “He has put eternity into man’s heart.” The longing we feel is not really nostalgia in the sense we understand it. It’s a timeless ache that can only be filled with relationship with God, that, thanks to the redeeming work of Christ on the cross, we can have forever.

We often want something comfortable, familiar, and from another time and place because we rely on memories and a time gone by to inform our hearts.

I challenge us to ask God to help us live in the present: fully engaged in what is happening now, learning from what came before, and knowing that with “all things new” and “working together for good” when we trust in Christ, we can see the past as reassurance that we come through things, we can heal, hope is ready, and the lessons of yesterday are the growth needed for today.

———————-

*It is a widely held belief that King Solomon authored Ecclesiastes.

For a great book with a heavenly perspective, refer to You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan.

For more anecdotal stories with direct application of what the Bible teaches about relationships (with God and others), healthy boundaries, grace, childrearing, joy and peace in the storms of life, and many other topics, refer to Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day.

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This blog has been shared at RaRa Link-UpTell It To Me Tuesdays, and Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up.

 

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Waiting for the Telephone Call

My father has struggled with cancer since the early 1980s. He was actually told his first one was terminal. My mother didn’t accept that diagnosis, given at a local hospital, and took him for a second opinion. And here he still is, decades later, because of her persistence—but also because of our faith community, which rallied in prayer. (And I know not everyone’s story of healing plays out this way. We each have our own story. This is just ours.)

His first cancer was a liposarcoma in his leg. I remember that one well. I was about 9 years old, and I’d come home to find him in his bathrobe laying on the couch airing out the leg that went through radiation. The pastor would come, sometimes an elder (leader) of the church, and there would be prayer. A lot of prayer. Sometimes they would invite me to come over to the couch to talk or join the prayer. I also remember a spaghetti dinner brought over by a neighbor; she made it with pepperoni in it, and I was consequently really happy every time she was slotted to bring a meal. When you’re 9 and your strong father is home sick and weakened in your family room, pepperoni in spaghetti makes your whole day. I think I may have played barber shop with his hair a lot while he was so sedentary. He tells me now, years later, he really didn’t mind. And I believe him.

His second cancer, only a year later, involved the colon. And back then, colon cancer victims very regularly ended up colostomates, where they have to redirect the waste to exit through an opening (called a stoma) out the front of the body into a pouch. Dad has been managing that lifestyle change now for over 30 years. In my ninth grade year, I wrote a paper on living with an ostomate, and it went into the Ostomy Quarterly. But that wasn’t so much about getting published. It was about taking the biology class I was in and finding direct application. It was about honoring my father.

Somewhere during Cancer 1 or Cancer 2, I wrote him a song and sang it into an old tape player so my mother could take it to him in the hospital. I remember that my grandmother was there, intermittently, while Mom had to go between hospital and home. A part of the song went something like this:

“Waiting for the telephone call, bringing all the news,
Remembering the Bible says that Jesus died for you.
God the Father, God the Son is all I think about
I know the Holy Spirit; there never is a doubt.”

Originally the part about “Jesus died for you” was “Jesus was a Jew” because I was 9 or 10, and that rhymed, and I saw Jesus being a Jew as a good thing (and it is!). But Mom asked that we readjust that so it wasn’t accidentally taken as some kind of slur or mocking in our culture, or be misunderstood by the man next to Dad in his room when they played my song. That was probably wise on Mom’s part. At this time, I remember my childhood pastor talking to me. I have no idea what he said, but he ministered to me as Jesus would a child who approached Him. He saw that this whole sick family member thing was about each of us: my parents, my sister, and me. It made a lasting impact on me that he found me worthy to stop, in the middle of talking with adults in crisis, to address my needs.

And then there was reprieve, and in 2002, in came bladder cancer. And at first, the BCG treatments kept it at bay. Dad was fortunate; the bladder was spared, although he had years of uncomfortable procedures to make sure the beast kept its teeth out. But back it came in 2013 and again in 2014, a very unwelcome companion.

And last night, my father lost his bladder.

But he didn’t lose his life.

Or his faith.

Or his God. He walks with Christ, the hope of glory.

Colossians 1:27, Apostle Paul speaking

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

And I’m convinced God has used this journey to not only build my father’s faith but to build the faith of so many around him. Because while God doesn’t cause the yucky things of life, He promises to take them and bring them to good purposes for those who love Him.

Romans 8:28, Apostle Paul speaking

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Good-bye, bladder. We’re very sorry to see you go, and we have certainly mourned your parting. But your part of the story is over now. And the disease within you has not stopped a very real God from inspiring people through a previously-very-red-going-slowly-white-headed, 6-foot-tall man who, through the power of prayer, has lived beyond three different cancers and five tumors into his eighth decade. Nor have you slowed down his impact on this world—because the God he serves is so much bigger than you, or any yucky disease for that matter.

[Dad, earlier this year, with three of his six grandchildren.]

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