Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Eclipse, Wrapped Up with a Bow

I cried out to God that I couldn’t make Dave’s dream come true on my own—he would have to intervene. I wasn’t thinking of the obvious things (like the sun and moon)—but the “mountains” that so often consume our daily lives: there couldn’t be anyone smoking. No bug spray. No perfumey people. No overwhelming crowds or blaring music or vibrating bass. We needed to avoid most of the 200,000 people flooding to Southern Illinois for the eclipse on August 21st.

Sun with sunspots, August 20th

Dave’s lifelong dream started when he was 9 or 10, with a book about the stars and planets from his Uncle Eddie. I remember the morning at our kitchen table when the dream spilled out like so many moonbeams, unable to be contained—but Dave was choked up because the totality of it all seemed too impossible. That’s when I knew—we had to make this one happen.

Dave, bespeckled with eclipse glasses!

Dave studied the map, looking for the perfect place that would be lovely and clear and not too crowded. A spot in nature—because part of the experience, he knew from his extensive reading, is not just what you see but what you hear. This, too, was part of the dream, and even then, God’s finger was nudging Dave to a quiet side of a smaller lake where a few thoughtful people would gather but the crowds would ignore.

A quiet little spot on the lake

Dave started setting up the tripod as I unpacked our antigravity chairs (which assisted Dave in lying back and sitting up), and we snapped a quick shot of the vanishing sun. We were really there!

Our first glimpse, around noon

The air had that greenish glow-before-a-storm look to it, not the light of twilight. 

Dragonfly along the shore

As the sun inched away bit by bit, we marveled that there was still so much light with just a sliver of sun. Then the birds shifted to their nighttime warble and the frogs began their rhythmic croaking. A great blue heron set his shyness aside and garnered the courage to wing across the wide lake in front of us, eager for his “dusk” feeding. Cicadas drummed out their deafening cacophony, and the cool of evening fell.

The final sliver of sun slipped away and cheers rose from around the lake! 

Then, silence and awe. We all listened, engulfed, entranced, lulled by the blackened new moon where once the sun had shone, and the brilliant corona, joyfully dancing around it in the solar winds. A few planets and stars twinkled, and the gravitational pull of totality held us in its spell. It seemed like it would last forever. 

Then, suddenly, the diamond ring burst forth and the sun peeked out, flooding our senses with light again.

The first new light from the sun spilled out in little pools, and Dave cupped his hands. The light seemed tangible, as if we could scoop it up like so many moon-balls in our hands.

The second dawn of the day awakened.

I opened the Word, but before I could turn to Psalm 19, the leaves of a tree showered its pinhole-camera crescent shadows. I had actually walked the grounds, looking for this just before totality—what a joy to see it as we stopped to read:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
    refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
    making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
    giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
    giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever.
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
    and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
    than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
    than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can discern their own errors?
    Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
    may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
    innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
--Psalm 19, NIV 

Then, joy upon joy, as if one heavenly sign of God’s power and love wasn’t enough, God wrapped up our 28th anniversary trip with a storm and a rainbow on our way home.  

"I will remember my covenant between me and you
and all living creatures of every kind." 
Happy 28th Anniversary, Dave!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Who's in the Wheelchair?

I first saw this video of Team Hoyt and their father-son triathlete in 2008. It left an indelible impression on my mind so strong that when I came across the following paragraph on my computer tonight, I knew immediately the image I had in mind when I wrote--and had to go watch their inspirational story again.

I remember Dave, frustrated with Lyme disease, identifying with Rick in the wheelchair. I longed to be like the father, to have something I could work hard at and do that could make Dave feel free. In many ways, that desire kept me writing my book. And yet, I found that I too identified with Rick--and saw much of the father in Dave, to his surprise:

I know you see yourself in the wheelchair, and get frustrated at what you cannot do.  But I see you behind the wheelchair, running—and I am in the chair.  I don’t know how to run with compassion but you drive me there.  I don’t know how to swim the waters of selfless love—I drown in my flailing attempts—but with the Lord you carry me in your arms and lay me in the boat, and you swim and strain and pull me along.  I can’t balance on the wheels of caring for others but that you pedal for me, the wind joyously whipping through my hair at the speed—for you have time to stop, to look, to listen, to see the needs, and the desire that aches to meet them, and the hands and heart to reach out—while we with our rushing about to “live life” are truly in the chair, and you are running.  And if at times the going is very hard for you, it’s because you are pulling me too.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Power of an Indestructible Life

Here's a free bookmark from me over on Jenn's Blogiversary Bash!


I remember the first time this verse in Hebrews 7:16 really stood out to me--that Christ is our priest by the power of an indestructible life. A priest forever; the "better hope" as it says in verse 19, through which we draw near to God. At a time when I felt very broken and used up, God nourished my soul with tender words, soul-strengthening words, powerful words--about his ministry to us and for us and in us, forever. Everlasting.

I needed a "better hope" that day. Life seemed hopeless and futile--and I even had fleeting thoughts about ending it. Thoughts that terrified me. I felt trapped--it seemed there was no way out. But there's always a way out or a way through, and we are never alone. He has put his name on us, we are his, forever. And life in his hands is never futile.

From Invisible Illness, Visible God, Day 65:

I was blown away because I realized that since Jesus is in me, then this power of an indestructible life is in me, and I could rest in that power. Something more powerful than my emotions, peace that passes understanding! And since we are in Christ—this peace is a sure refuge. I began praying that God would fill me with the power of an indestructible life so that I wouldn't want to destroy mine.

Strength. Surety. Life. His love sustains and feeds our souls.

Imagine—Jesus never, ever stops interceding for you, his beloved, his delight. He uses the greatest, most extraordinary power that exists on our behalf, to be our priest, our intercessor, our guarantee, our hope. He could condemn us and instead betroths us and unites us with him.

Indestructible life. Forever. That is the surety, the rock, of his covenant with us.

His mighty power encouraged me in my darkest days, and I pray that you also will draw strength from his power.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Win Invisible Illness, Visible God, and other books!

Jenn at Busy Being Blessed is having a "Blogiversary Bash" to celebrate her 12 years of blogging! She has some amazing giveaways and freebies planned, including a copy of Invisible Illness, Visible God! Check out "A Reader's Dream" for some of the books you could win:


There are also homeschooling and homemaking giveaways, health and beauty items, and daily freebies! Check her site each day for the latest freebie--it looks like she has several each day. Feel free to share this with your friends!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Faithful Bloggers Festival

If you're a blogger, this looks like a great opportunity to learn how to be more effective. The sessions will also be recorded if you can't make it at the scheduled times--June 3, 4, 5 at 1pm Eastern. The link below has more info.

Faithful Bloggers Festival: One

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Book Reception Celebration!

Two weeks ago, a dear friend of mine hosted a book reception for me at a local coffee shop.

 She made a beautiful display of my awards and books...

and got another very talented friend to make this incredible cake! I hated to cut into it!

But of course we did! We had about 20-30 people there, and I had an absolutely lovely time talking with friends and meeting a few new people as well.

I'm so thankful for good friends, church, and family. No one writes a book alone, and especially not a rubber-meets-the-road, how-will-God-carry-us-through? kind of book. I was so blessed to be able to share the scriptures that have been food for my soul over the past 14 years, the questions and heartaches, and the ways that my husband, even in his pain, has encouraged and enabled me to stay steadfast in my faith.  Thank you all, dear friends. (and this is the only "people" picture my kids happened to capture, so if others have pictures, send them my way!) It was a joy to celebrate my book with you, but even more, God's goodness to us all.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why Do People Suffer? Is Pain Meaningless?

Most of us have asked the question, why do people suffer?  Why would God take Dave away from being a pastor and helping others, why do any of us go through suffering?

We all know the Sunday School answers, and they’re good and true answers. God is refining our character, or God is going to use it for good, or God is teaching us or training us. But it’s hard to really be satisfied with those answers because we can’t see the outcome like God can—we can’t evaluate that it’s worth it.  As if a servant should evaluate his master’s plans.

Why isn’t it enough for us to know that God is sovereign, he is good, he loves us, he’s in control? We think we know God…until trials come.  Then we realize, maybe we don’t know him as well as we thought.  If we knew Him, we would trust Him, draw near to Him, rely on Him.  We push Him away, but we think He turns away from us.

When we go through suffering, it’s usually not by choice—but Christ chose to endure great pain on our behalf. In suffering, we have the gift of seeing more deeply how much Jesus loves us. This God who sought us and gave up so much for us, won’t abandon us now.

Michael Card has a beautiful quote: 
“The great promise of Psalm 23 is not that we will be saved from the dark valley, but that the Lord, who is our Shepherd, will remain close beside us even though the darkness might obscure Him from our view.”

I think we have the mistaken perception that God is going to save us from trouble, but over and over again, that’s not what the word says. He does of course sometimes. But Isaiah 43:2 says

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

If you are going through the fire, it’s not because God has abandoned you—he is WITH you in the fire!

Ken Gire shares a story in his book, The North Face of God. A man named David and his wife couldn’t have children, so they adopted a beautiful 4-day-old baby. They were filled with hopes and dreams for this child, but soon found something was wrong. The baby would stiffen whenever they held him. As he grew, he was diagnosed with learning disabilities and psychiatric problems. One doctor told them, when the boy was about 11, that he’d be dead or behind bars by the time he was 18. The parents refused to believe it, and continued to pour heart and soul into loving and discipling this boy, determined to find help and avoid that outcome, they spent years crying out to God…but the son got into drugs and did end up in prison.

David had a friend who also had a son in trouble, and they talked often. Exciting things were happening at his friend’s church—God’s hand was moving, and people were coming to know Christ—and finally even his friend’s son was turning back to God. But nothing changed for David. And he told his friend he couldn’t stand to hear one more miracle of Jesus story. It was too painful.

So then, a group of people from church decided to meet with David and pray with him, and they prayed together every week for a year and a half. They became his lifeline.

He did a 40 day fast and sought the Lord in every way he knew how, but his only answer was silence.

One day David decided to go to the prayer room at church and stay there until he heard from God. He was broken and at the very end of his rope, he was desperate. He waited for 5 hours, and then he finally heard God speak. And this is what God said:

“If I never heal your son, If I never speak to you the way you want…can I still be your God? Will you still love me, still honor me, still serve me?”

So often we believe the lie that God must not really love me, or He would change this circumstance in my life. Sometimes, that’s not in God’s plan, and we may not get to know why. We may not even be able to understand why. 

Can he still be your God?

I could easily be consumed by asking Why? It’s a good question, we should ask it, but we don’t always get to know why. The lack of answers can leave us feeling bitter and defeated and unloved. Instead, my very wise husband Dave has encouraged me to ask two other questions:

Who is God? And, how will I respond?

God doesn’t change when we suffer. He is still all-powerful, all-loving, just, merciful, holy—and he still cares deeply for us. He doesn’t abandon us—he is walking with us. In fact, he’s closer than most of us ever imagine.

Remember the story Jesus told about how he’ll separate the sheep and the goats at the end of the age? And he tells the sheep that they visited him when he was sick and in prison, that they brought him food and drink when he was in need—and the sheep were confused.  “Lord, when did we do this?”

His answer shows that God doesn't merely see our pain; He says that "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Mt 25:40). That means…He is hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison, along with us. When He says "never will I leave you, never will I forsake you," He means to impart a depth of love and grace and unity with our spirits that if we truly understood it, would take our breath away.

If that’s who God is…how will we respond? Isn’t he worthy of our all, even our suffering?

When I was younger, I used to think about how I was willing to live my life for God and give my all—never dreaming what might be required. He has come, asking for my all, asking for things dear to me like my husband’s health, and simple pleasures like going to church together. Good things, things I took for granted and never expected to give up—so how will I respond? I can kick and scream and throw a good ol-fashioned 2 year-old tantrum—and I’ve done that! Or I can lay down my life, like Romans 12:1-2 says, as a living sacrifice. God you are worthy.  

Romans 12:1 says, 
“I urge you, brothers, sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship.”
The pain in our lives is never meaningless. We may not know why, but we can ask God to be glorified in our lives. We can remember that Christ thought we were worth suffering for, when we go through our dark nights. He is certainly worthy of our suffering.