Posted by: Gordon | 12/04/2018

A SIT-DOWN WITH GOD!

In the movie, The Mission, Robert Di Niro’s character, Rodrigo Menendez, comes to the mission riddled with overpowering guilt. He once peddled human flesh as a slave trader. He murdered his brother in a fit of rage. (See the clip https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ui91q7Y9xPk)

The priest (played by Jeremy Irons) compels Menendez to carry a net filled with all the armaments of war and violence on his back as he scales a steep mountain.

In the end, Mendoza realizes that the task is impossible and finally learns the all-important lesson that one cannot atone for his own guilt.

One of the tenets of a good recovery program is that we are all powerless over our sins and addictions.

In reality (and we don’t like to think about it), our lives are contingent on a million different possible variables that are completely out of our control.

A car careens through a stop light and broadsides us. A pesticide we were exposed to forty or fifty years ago finally spawns a deadly cancer in our body. A bolt falls from a jet engine 40,000 feet to the earth and pierces the roof of our car killing us on impact.

In my case, a time bomb lurked in the brain of my wife that is, like a filthy thief, robbing her of both personality and intellect. I never saw it coming.

If you haven’t seen her in a few months, you wouldn’t believe how far she’s digressed. She’s lost the ability to speak coherently. She is filled with incredible sadness and confusion. She can’t dress herself. She sees people who aren’t there and converses with them as though they were.

And me? I can’t figure out a God who would allow this to happen to a woman who has loved him with her whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. She still does. Even after her brain has deteriorated so much, she can still sing the old hymns…word for word. She’s never forgotten the songs about her Heavenly Father.

I’ve argued with him about this. I don’t get it. What’s he up to? It’s not fair. Why would he let one of his favorite kids suffer so?

I apologize to you if you think I’m being disrespectful to God. But fortunately for me, I’m not alone.

Job hurled the same accusations against God (see Job 19). He didn’t get it either. He wondered where God was In the midst of his suffering.

Like Job, I feel powerless over my condition. And there is a good reason I feel that way – I am powerless. Completely and utterly powerless. It’s out of my hands. Like Mendoza, all that I have relied on is confined to a large net that I’ve hoisted over my shoulder and struggled mightily as I climbed the mountain.

But it’s no use. I can’t do it. It’s too heavy. I can’t fix this. Like Job, I want an answer from God.

Ironically, Job had the answer all along. And so have I.

Job 19

[25] I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. [26] And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; [27] I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!

It’s the hope of a face-to-face meeting with my redeemer in the flesh – both of us in our resurrection bodies standing eye-to-eye in eternity that keeps me going.

Like Job, my heart yearns within me for that day because it is the only hope that is real.

Nothing else…no philosophy…no system…no self improvement program…no possession, degree, or accomplishment can answer the most important question a person can ask when it finally becomes clear that we are on a collision course with a six foot hole (and we are all on that road) – “What happens next?”

Resurrection and a reunion with my Savior who paved the way. He lives. He is planning a family reunion.

So no matter how much my heart fails me and tells me to give up, my head is quoting scripture to me … “Just hang on! It will all be worth it! Even though you are hurting now, God wants to imbue you with a joy that defies explanation – right here and right now. Yes, it is pie in the sky…but it’s pie now too. This kind of joy is not circumstantial.

In the midst of what we consider suffering and sorrow, we remember that our Savior is coming, and we are filled with joy now because of who is coming later.

He’s alive! He’s coming!

That’s more than sufficient. It is all I need.

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Posted by: Gordon | 09/07/2018

Five Sparrows for Two Cents

“What’s your name?”

Later, when it was all over, I thought that I would then pinpoint that day – the day when she forgot my name – as the worst day of it all. But I didn’t know then what the websites and doctors meant by paranoid delusions and hallucinations.

I’ll forgo the details, but trust me when I say that they are all focused on me with laser-like accuracy. I don’t take them personally, but they are daggers in my heart because they are not who she is. Don’t get me wrong, she’s always been a strong woman, and sometimes we came to verbal and emotional blows, but those times were years ago. And it was never like this.

The nurse at the geriatric hospital said Jan was under demonic attack. And to be sure, I am convinced that all disease, and especially dementias, are straight from the pits of hell. But sometimes I feel like I too am under hellish attacks – we both are, as one flesh.

“God’s in control,” the nurse said. And while I know in my head that he is sovereign, it doesn’t feel like it in my heart. I apologized to her. I love Jan’s nurse.

So I challenge God to consider my case.

“She has loved you her whole life. You can put an end to her agonizing sorrow and fear.”

I listen for a reply. I don’t hear it. Yet!

Psalm 4

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

Has he deserted me?

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent.

Yet where else can I go? Medical Science? Fat chance. A few pills to control the behaviors, but no real treatment for the underlying disease. Government? Have you been watching the senate hearings lately?

No, I have nowhere else to go but to my Father. I’m out of options. I have no strategies – no viable plan. I’m right where I need to be.

Psalm 22

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

I have prayed that I will learn to depend on him. How else can I learn to do that? Is there another way? Oh, how I’ve prayed for one. Out of options, I can turn inward and be destroyed, or lift up my hands in supplication to the one who made me and live.

I plead with him to protect my heart.

“I do believe, but forgive my unbelief. Take me where you will, oh Father, but never let me forsake you or deny you.”

“Give me perspective, Dear God. Give me the perspective of time – that life is but a burst of steam that is over before it really starts. And give me a global perspective – that millions of your children suffer in poverty, hunger, persecution, and imprisonment.”

“And finally I plead for you to destroy the voice of evil in my head. Silence him, loving Savior…give me the grace instead to hear your voice only. May I spend the rest of my days giving glory to your name.”

By God’s grace I will pursue him.

Where else can I go?

I sit here in our new home in the mountains of North Carolina. All around me the Smoky Mountains rise up and testify to the glory and majesty of God.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people.

I will run to him, the God of the mountains By his grace I will abandon myself and seek him with all my heart. Everything else is worthless. By his mercy I will trust his sovereignty and his love and his mercy and his grace.

Luke 12

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. [6] Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies ? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

God, eradicate all fear in my heart. Use me to bring glory and honor to your name. Draw me close to your bosom. May I desire only the food you set upon the table you have prepared for me in the house you have built for me.

More than many sparrows – yes!

Posted by: Gordon | 07/14/2018

“Do not be dismayed…for I am your God.”

Nouns. Right there on the tip of her tongue. She knows things have names, but increasingly, they float away before she can use them.

“I need one of those things you use to get jelly out a jar…a…shoot! I can’t remember what to call it.”

“Spoon?”

“That’s it! What is wrong with me?”

Relationships are now sloughing off the surfaces of her brain too.

“I want to go see my son…the one married to Jil.”

“How many grandkids do I have? What are their names? How many children do we have? I know Melissa, but I can’t remember who the others are.”

“We have three kids? Who’s the third one? Is he married?”

“Oh, God,”I lament, “Where are you?”

I pray for healing, but God never promised that…not in this life…not now. But as long as it’s possible, I’ll beg him for it like a man stranded in the desert longing for just one more drink of water. Just a drop or two. The thirst is real – unquenchable.

And then I pray for God to take her to where she longs to go more than I long for healing. Morbid? Cruel? Perhaps it is inconceivable that a man would pray for his wife to find relief in the physical presence of her Father in heaven, but it is is what she desires – always has.

“You know what I miss most of all? Reading my Bible. I love God’s word.”

She said that last night. So I will read it aloud to her more and more.

Sometimes, I think I cannot bear it – the future. But it isn’t about me, is it? Besides, my Father promised me that I can bear up under the weight of it all. With joy!

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

“Dear God, forgive me for being afraid. I believe you – forgive my unbelief.”

I find that I am in the position of wanting to believe what my God has promised me over what I, a deeply flawed and sinful man, fears is true – that I cannot carry on in faithfulness. That fear hovers over me day and night.

“Father, I deserve no good thing that you give me or any blessing I plead for. I am fully aware of my unworthiness. But Dear God, give me a heart for you that compels me to steadfastness. And grant me the grace I need to be as faithful as your daughter – the woman you have given me.”

This isn’t about dementia, or death – we all die. And I really don’t write these things to illicit pity. I am motivated to, first of all, align my thinking with the will of God. I want to find strength in what is really permanent -the lasting things of life. And I know that everything in my life – even my breath (and hers) belong to God and will one day be taken away from me…from us. The only thing that will transcend this life is whether or not my faith in God is expressed in love for him and for my fellow man…for her.

I don’t expect that I will accomplish this desire today or tomorrow – maybe never. But it’s the journey I want to be on more than anything else. Imagine that – imperfect, insignificant me being led by the God who spoke the heavens into being to love like he loves. I could never have done it on my own. He leadeth me – it’s just that I am a stubborn and unruly student.

And I also desire to help point others – maybe you – to follow the same God who loves me – and you. It almost takes my breath away.

Posted by: Gordon | 06/13/2018

She fades, and I cannot find her…

I wake up at all hours of the night pleading with God for relief.

“Please, Father, take this pain away from me! Don’t make me go through this!”

But in the darkness of late nights and very early mornings, I hear no answer. Not yet. Still I see my wife slipping away bit by bit. And it is now true that she is no longer what she once was to me. She is no longer my confidant. The time for fleshing out ideas and making plans with her is over. And I’m certain that it will never return.

Like an aging photograph, who she was is fading into obscurity. And one day in the not too distant future, she will be somewhere else – somewhere I can’t reach her.

Still, God has tasked me to serve her – to place her at the center of my affections. If she never needed me before, she needs me now. God has plainly told me that. And I have no desire to shirk that privilege.

“For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many.”

And God’s call to me is to embrace the mission of my Lord – to forsake self gratification and plead for the grace to serve – to give to those who cannot return the favor.

I’m learning this late in life – but not too late. It is never too late.

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ JESUS…did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the nature of a servant.”

I did not plan for it to turn out like this. I didn’t want it – I still don’t. But I deeply desire the outcome of embracing the mission of Christ…to serve someone who cannot help me in return. For their sake – not mine.

I want to know that I was faithful to God (to the best of my flawed abilities). I want to know that I honored my bride – to reflect in some way that I am grateful for God’s mercy on my behalf, that I am also grateful for her faithfulness to my Lord and to me.

“Consider it pure joy, my bothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I want God’s work to be done in me. I plead with God to strip away anything that hinders my complete and utter dependance on him. I want to be complete.

I’m not there yet, but God is chipping away at my self-reliance and independent spirit.

Father, I beg you to empower me to faithful obedience no matter what my circumstances are. I know that complete fulfillment is found only in you, so guide me to that place – forcefully, if you need to. I am a stubborn and willful man. Yet I deeply long for more. Take me there. I want no more than that. Thank you for teaching me to serve. I pray that I will take up my cross and follow you day by day.

Posted by: Gordon | 05/26/2018

“We don’t need your thoughts and prayers!”

 

“We don’t need your prayers!”

 

That’s what anti-gun activists are now saying in response to people who say that their thoughts and prayers are with the victims of gun violence. (https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/florida-shooting-thoughts-prayers_us_5a851c42e4b0058d5565da26).

 

I actually get it – I’m angry too.  I mourn just as deeply for every drop of blood spilled by depraved and vile men who somehow think that indiscriminate slaughter is a pathway to significance and meaning. Rational and sane people see the futility of crying out “Notice me!” as they spray bullets, or detonate bombs, or steer their cars onto crowded sidewalks in a feeble attempt “to matter.”  

 

Unfortunately, however, there are a few who will tread this path. 

 

Furthermore, if I thought for a moment that we could eliminate murder and killing by melting every firearm in the world and molding them into plowshares, I’d be the first to get on board.

 

But the fact that people all around the globe (including here in the US) have been so creative at finding ways to kill using everyday items as instruments of death should tell any thinking person that eradicating one instrument won’t really make a dent in violent death.

 

But “we don’t need your prayers?” Really? Then you tell me that you want America’s guns even though you know that is virtually impossible to round up all 300 million of them in our lifetimes.  You say that getting rid of guns is the answer even though you must know (or should know) that even if every single law-abiding gun owner in the United States surrendered his gun, the unlawful would scoff at any such suggestion.  In fact, they would recognize such foolishness for what it is – even more opportunity to commit gun violence since the good guys with guns won’t have their guns any more.

 

In that case, we would be less safe, not more.

 

“We want your guns, but not your God.” As if he’s not real or something, but that “common sense” gun legislation is real (even though we know it isn’t). 

 

“We want no part of God” even though real-life submission to God would transform us overnight into the safest country on the planet. 

 

One would think that some people in America have lost the ability to think rationally and logically.  And one would be correct, I’m afraid.

 

The apostle laid it out this way – “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not to be done.”

 

Depraved mind – one that has lost the ability to work as it was created to work – by God – the very God to whom they don’t want us to pray for answers and comfort.  A depraved mind looks for answers to horrible and despicable acts of violence in places where it doesn’t exist.  And simultaneously it – the depraved mind-  looks at the slaughter of 1.4 million children every year as if it were nothing. 

 

In the end, I have no control over what others do or think.  I can make my argument that the rational thing to do would be to turn our collective hearts to the very same God that some say we shouldn’t pray to. But people have to make up their own minds about that.

 

But I am at peace with things – if America continues along the path of despising God, it doesn’t change the reality of God.  He’s still there – here.  He’s still the creator of the universe.  And my Lord will still be alive sitting at the right hand of the Father. I’m still in good standing with my Father because of what Jesus did for me. 

 

It’s a redeeming kind of love – a transformational love – one that transcends politics and cable TV. 

 

And no one can take that away from me.  It’s a done deal.

 

 

 

Posted by: Gordon | 05/02/2018

A Peek Into Glory

I never know when it is going to overwhelm me. It happened last night. For the briefest of moments, my eyes were opened – only a little, mind you – and I was given a glimpse. Just a peek, but it was enough for now.
I’m at a point in my life where I’m beginning to (dare I use the word) “feel” both the brevity of life and the tenuous nature of it. It’s shaky – unsubstantial. Nothing that I can detect with one of my senses will endure.
I ambled into the back yard and there it was. Perched approximately 250,000 miles above me. Almost full, the moon could have had a banner hanging from it – “I DECLARE THE HANDIWORK OF GOD!”

Sometimes I live hanging on to a thin thread of faith. It’s in those times that I tell myself that it’s a good thing that the one I have faith in is bigger than my faith.
But at other times, times like last night, I just know. I got a peek into who I’m waiting for. Just hanging on, hanging around. Pleading for the grace to be faithful in the little things (I’ve given up hope of experiencing the big stuff for now).

The big stuff…You know, that day when I first proclaim in unison with the other heavenly dwellers, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” And the roar rattles my soul.

I repeat it now…and I mean it. I’m sure of it. But to see the glory of God in person and for his majesty to overwhelm me and compel me to praise his name, now that is something to look forward to.

That’s why I’m content in the current struggle…I’m looking forward to the first day when I personally see the Lamb “at the center of the throne” and I gaze at my “shepherd” in person and he shows me the “springs of living water” that I’ve been sipping from to quench my thirst just a little.

And then for my God to personally “wipe every tear” from my eyes – WOW!

Yes, just a few glimpses along the way – they sustain me. I can wait.

Praise Him!

Posted by: Gordon | 03/12/2018

Lord, Protect Me From Myself

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…”

The Apostle Paul

In the climate of prosperity gospel, it might be a hard thing to hear that God’s purpose for you does not include Devine deliverance from disease, pestilence, violence, or property loss.

Indeed, it is not in our natures to relish any threat to our well-being since we were actually created to live forever. God has placed eternity in our hearts – the desire to live and our reluctance to accept death as inevitable are in our DNA.

No one hates it more than i do – the brevity and impermanence of life. I do not like one bit what is happening to my sweet wife. Nor do I enjoy the pain of RA or the fact that I just began having blood pressure problems for the first time in my life. And I simply detest the fact that there isn’t one single grandchild that I can run down and tackle. Not one.

Truly, I am a prime candidate for anyone who can make a credible case to me that God wants me to be healthy and enjoy the vigor of youth forever. And I am completely open to any idea that God wants me to live in a “Christian nation” where I can enjoy “Christian” liberties.

But the body of scriptural evidence seems to indicate otherwise.

Take the Apostle Paul, for example. Imprisoned, beaten, and persecuted. Yet he seemed to take it as his lot that he was destined to suffer for the sake of Christ. He even pleaded with God to remove an ambiguous thorn in his flesh – three times, he begged God to take it away.

Yet God’s answer was a blunt “NO!”

“My grace is enough for you.”

And in the passage above, Paul seemed to understand that his suffering was not without purpose.

“This happened (suffering) so that we might not rely on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

There is something about suffering that drives us into the arms of God. Perhaps it is that when we suffer we realize that we are out of options. We become acutely aware that our lives here are contingent on a thousand different influences. And we certainly have no control over those who hate the idea of surrendering their lives to the God who created and died for them and make us the objects of their hatred.

So I pray – feebly and weakly, mind you.

“I beseech you, Almighty Father, use my pain – my frustration with my own flesh – my feebleness – the tenuous nature of my life here on earth – use it to draw me closer to you. Do what you have to do to bring me closer to that place where I am completely dependent on you.”

I say that I pray this prayer feebly because I don’t know what it would take to compel me to surrender my life completely to his care and control. I pray it fearfully because I know me – it will be painful because of my infatuation with here and now. I desire to be free of my attachment to the world, but I’m still hanging on with all my might it seems.

In the end – my end – I know that I will not ask for my college diploma or my money. I won’t ask for my possessions or point to my accomplishments. At that point, I’m sure that I will only ask for my Lord and Savior, Jesus to accompany me to my final home.

“Lord, protect me from my own evil heart. Lead me to what lasts. Let me rely, not on me, but on you – the one who raises the dead.”

I don’t dig music like I once did. But when I was younger, I would plop my skinny behind in the driver’s seat of my 1964 Ford Galaxy 500, turn on the ignition switch, and fire that massive 289 up. Without fail, my next move was to tune in the radio to WGGG AM.

Gainesville’s finest. Why AM? Because my old Ford came equipped with an AM radio and that is all.

Later, I would save up enough money to purchase a state of the art 8-track tape player. It was unreliable at best, but it was high tech for the time.

One of my favorite groups, back in the day, was a somewhat local band called The Allman Brothers Band. I loved those guys. Went to their concerts. Bought their tapes and records. And my all-time favorite Allman Brothers song was an old blues tune called, Stormy Monday. I think T-Bone Walker originally recorded it way back when.

The eagle flies on Friday
Saturday I go out to play
Yeah, the eagle flies on Friday
And Saturday I go out to play
Sunday, I go to church, yeah
And I kneel down and pray

And this is what I say,
“Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy on me.”
You know I cried,
“Lord have mercy on me.
Lord have mercy on me.

Okay, so it ain’t all that deep. But the plaintive wail of the blues has a soulful, prayerful sound to it. Like it comes from way down deep inside a wounded soul. I guess that’s the point of the blues, huh? Hurt people lamenting their pain. And pain is universal to all of mankind. Everyone falls prey to anguish at some point.

When it comes to praying, I’m a little uncomfortable speaking to God like he’s my personal bellhop in the sky. Like the old Janis Joplin song from back in the day says:

Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

God wants me to drive a luxury car rather than that old Galaxy 500? I don’t think so.

“Lord, have mercy!”

That’s more like my style. That’s the best I can do. If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that’s all I can do – to cry mercy. To plead for it as I would plead for another breath. And then to live in gratitude.

I know the very ugly truth about me; I am an horrible failure. I find myself, if I can articulate anything at all, admitting to God that I have failed him.

“Oh, God, have mercy on me! Please!”

I don’t deserve a Mercedes Benz – or a color TV – or to get a call from Dialing For Dollars.

I don’t deserve my next breath.

I do deserve the death penalty – God’s version. Eternal destruction. I earned it fair and square. And I know it.

I only want one thing – mercy. I need it. I will not survive without it. It’s my only hope.

Fortunately for me…for us…along comes this deity who lays claim to me as a son…a Father who sees me for the loser that I am and loves me in spite of it. Sometimes I don’t feel all that loved, but I know what I’ve been told – he loves me even then – when I’m not sure he does. His love for me doesn’t waver in response to my performance.

Honestly? He’s been good to me. In spite of me. He always has been. Right now, he’s good. I expect him to be so in the future. I don’t deserve it, but he keeps on showing up in my life. I don’t get it, but I do bask in it.

He’s a merciful God who sent me a merciful redeemer…one who pays the ransom for my liberty. He makes promises about the future that he can keep. I know he can keep them because my merciful savior sent by my merciful father was resurrected from the grave on my behalf (after he had paid for the debt I owed the Trinity).

Why would he do that? I don’t know, but I sure do appreciate it.

“Lord, have mercy on me!”

And he has – he does.

He shows up at just the right time – right now, when I need to be a grace and mercy and patience dispensing man myself… more than ever, he shows up again and reminds me that he nursed me back to health when I was on my spiritual deathbed. He came to serve me – imagine that. He served the unlovable – who am I not to serve the lovable?

The lesbians, arm and arm at Target. The thug with his pants drooping down over his butt. The crack whore selling her broken body for another hit. The greedy business man.

All the poor and powerless. My father wants to adopt them too.

And then there’s my wife. I’m guilty before the Father. She is innocent before me. Now when she is dependent on me to meet her every need? I remember that God tended to me in my sickness. Except mine was my own doing.

The God who created the universe with a word? That’s the one I spat at – right in his face. He repaid me with grace – with mercy.

I owed him more than I could pay. I was a bad guy – incapable of fixing my own problem with him, so he did it for me.
He loved me. He took pity on me.

“Oh, thank you Father. You didn’t give me what I deserved, but you were…you are…merciful. Praise you! I plead with you…empower me to dispense grace…ridiculous amounts of mercy. Scandalous grace. Strike down my desire to self-justify. Utterly destroy any desire on my part to condescend the poor and powerless except to kneel down to give them a hand and lead them to you, a merciful father.

Posted by: Gordon | 01/20/2018

An honor to walk with her…

“We are praying for you and Jan”

“I don’t know what it’s like to have a spouse with Alzheimer’s, but we want you to know that we are with you.”

Truly, we are so thankful for the vast amount of support we have from all around the United States and from a few other countries as well.  To be without friends like we have is to be alone.  Alone is not good. My forever family strengthens me and supports us both.

But I have to tell you, our life together is not falling apart.  Not everything is bad.

Sure, I go through periods of sadness and fear.  And sometimes those feelings are fierce – sometimes they almost overwhelm me – but not all of the time…not even most of the time.

For the most part, we are having a blast together. Our relationship has never been better – never been more cohesive.  The unity in our home is almost at a stage of perfection. We laugh more.  We joke more.  We cuddle on the couch and watch old westerns. And even when I do feel overwhelmed, there is still a prevailing sense of peace and joy that just can’t be explained.

For one thing, Jan is a hoot.  She hardly gives Alzheimer’s a second thought.

“Who is this Alzhiemer guy, anyhow?  Did he invent it? If so, I don’t like him.”

She’s joking, of course.  But she does have a little of what I call the “Scarlett O’Hara syndrome” (“After all, tomorrow is another day.”). She tells me all the time that she doesn’t worry about things she can’t change.  Good philosophy, by the way.

And me? I like to tell her friends lies about her.  Well, they aren’t actually lies if I know ahead of time that no one is going to believe them, right?

For example, I told the college girl who cleans our house every week that I must have help because I was finding my underwear in the silverware drawer.  She does misplace stuff, but it’s never gotten to that point.  Besides, my underwear won’t fit in the same drawer as the silverware – not even one pair. And everyone knows it.

Yes, it’s a strange journey we are on together.  Incredibly, I’ve found great comfort in the midst of it – in the notion that God has gifted me with forty three years with this incredible woman of faith – a woman who has dedicated her life to training her children to love God with all their hearts – a woman who has committed herself to me in spite of all my annoying and unseemly character flaws – a woman who has always delighted in leading other women to deeper faith.

But more than that, he has given me an opportunity to prove myself as a husband in a way that I had failed to do when I was younger. I am  increasingly responsible for meeting more and more of her needs.  He is teaching me to serve her without any expectation of return on my investment other than the fact that she is worthy of anything I do for her.  She doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of utility.  I do it all.  I have become, in a very real sense, her servant.

God’s pretty awesome that way.  He saved me once – and he sanctified me once.  But he’s still sanctifying me – changing me – molding me into the image of his son.  He’s teaching me to serve like I never have – like I never even wanted to. Serving others is not in my nature – nor yours, for that matter.  But it’s my will that he’s breaking and showing me HIS plan for me.  It’s not the same as mine.

He’s humbling me.  He’s disciplining me to find out what is important and to pursue it – to find out what is not important and to abandon it.

If you know me, you might think that he’s still got a lot of work to do, and you would be correct.   I’m still a loser if the standard is perfection.  But I marvel at how much he’s already done in me.  I long for more knowing that it may hurt to be disciplined by God.

The thing is, as I look back over my life, I can’t remember one single change in my walk with him that didn’t follow some level of pain.  But if my goal is to be Christ-like, I have to anticipate suffering on some level because what he wants to form in me is the polar opposite of who I am.  It’s like cancer treatment or surgery or something.  In this case, the end justifies the means.  It’s worth it because of who I am becoming. No one wants to go through it, but if it brings about something of far greater worth than what I had before…what I was before, it’s worth it to me.

Yes, I am a long way from being a finished product.  Shoot, I may be in the raw material stage of development, I don’t know.

What I do know is that without a steadfast and abiding hope in the Resurrection of Jesus, my life would be meaningless.  If I didn’t know that God has his hand right in the middle of all this with a plan for us that is beyond my ability to comprehend, I couldn’t travel this road.

I’m more grateful than ever that God is turning my head away from the impermanence of this realm (which is destined to perish with age) and teaching me to fix my eyes on Jesus.

And that is who and what I want to be – a man traveling down this bumpy road with my eyes firmly fixed on the one who died and was raised for me.  That’s enough.

 

Posted by: Gordon | 01/11/2018

Dancing On My Grave!

Only a few minutes ago, some of my fellow pastors and I walked into the hospital room of a very dear friend who has a vicious cancer that threatens to take her life. I know that we all die.  In fact, it occurred to me, as we circled her bed, that all of us would soon follow her.

I hate death.  I suppose it’s because we were not created to die.  I don’t know why God allowed The Serpent to have access to our ancestors, but the fact is that when we took the bait, a new era emerged and disease, violence, and death (along with all human frailties and ailments) rushed down upon us like a tidal wave.  And we haven’t been the same since.

Yes, I detest it.  And I am filled with a deep longing for something better – something permanent. I don’t want my friend to die.  I don’t want her to suffer.  And truthfully, I don’t want to go through it either.

But it wasn’t the sad scene that was playing out before me that exposed my own insecurities and reduced me to emotional carnage. Everyone dies, and we never like it. It was what her husband said that caused a wave of guilt and shame to wash over me.

“There are a couple of things worse than death, and this is one of them.  We have lived our lives confident that God has a better place ready for us, and she is ready to go.  She’ll be okay.”

All of my disappointment in the promises of God laid out for all to see.  I want it now! I want peace and freedom from pain and suffering NOW!

But he never, not even once, promised me that I would escape this planet unscathed.  But that’s what I want. More than anything, I confess.

What he did promise me is that if I am faithful to the one who provided what I needed most – to have the barrier between God and me destroyed, he would make everything right.

I cry out, “Father, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL!”

And he did – he does. I should be grateful.  It should be enough.

The problem is that the promise is a future promise. I can sense the here and now.  I feel it, taste it, touch it, smell it, and see it.  I’m familiar with it. I can’t sense future.  It’s too intangible.  Too elusive.  Delayed gratification isn’t my thing.

And my friend burst my balloon in one humble, honest statement that said, “I am confident.  We are ready.”

I think this is why the Bible puts so much emphasis on joy and raucous worship. It certainly isn’t because everything is perfect now.  Rather, it’s because we are confident that, no matter what we are feeling now, it will all be put in its proper place once God restores order to a broken and sin-cursed world.

God will turn “our wailing into dancing.” And that is why I can “Praise the Lord” and “Sing a new song.” That’s why I can “praise his name with dancing,” and play my tambourine and harp in celebration of who he is and what he has done for me that I could not do for myself. He “delights in me.” (Psalm 149).

It’s not that I have a legal right to go crazy in my worship (private and public), but more that when I get glimpses of who I am juxtaposed with such a majestic and mighty God who just so happens to delight in me, I can’t help but fall out in ecstatic expressions of joy and thanksgiving.

You see, no matter what happens to me here, what lies ahead is more valuable to me than anything I have here and now.

Oh Majestic and Mighty God, why do you love me? I wouldn’t if I were you.  But that you would humble yourself in such a way that you would put your well-being in the hands of people like me – well, it baffles me.  That is the thought that perplexes me – why would you do it? I am just thankful that you did.  And I am tormented that I fall so short after so many years of trying to follow you.  Your grace is amazing in the truest sense of the word.  I love you, God, in my very limited way.  Thank you for forgiving me.  And finally, set me free to worship you as I fix my gaze on Jesus who died and was raised for me.  Let that be enough for me, Oh Father.

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