Friday, February 18, 2011

God's Fingerprints

Wes's dad has been suffering from dementia for the last year. The year has been a hard one. Personally, I think dementia is the most horrible thing in existence. But, I guess that's just my opinion. He passed away this week after a long, hard struggle. The one thing we've seen through it all, especially this week, are the fingerprints of God ... how God has been working silently, mysteriously, miraculously in the background. Seeing those fingerprints and experiencing God's work has been encouraging and comforting for our family. In fact, it's meant so much that I've just got to share it.

To begin with, we went to visit his dad on Monday night. We were told that Bert's kidneys had shut down and that he would experience incredible pain. They weren't lying to us. When we got there, he was really hurting and the doctors weren't able to figure out the correct dose of morphine to help him. So, we began praying ... and asked for people to pray with us. By early Tuesday morning, those wonderful doctors had been given the wisdom by God to be able to figure out what was needed to keep Bert comfortable and calm. Not only was it a blessing to know his pain had been controlled, it was a tremendous encouragement for us. A fingerprint of God.

On Monday night, when Bert was in extreme pain, we had no idea what to do for him. He was in such misery and our hearts were breaking. All we knew to do was to pray. Once we mentioned the name of Jesus, Bert grew calm and still and peaceful. As long as we prayed, he was at peace. Even through the muddled mind of dementia, even though the throes of agony, Bert responded to his Lord and Savior. A fingerprint of God.

Wednesday morning, we were told that it was just a matter of hours before God would take him home. So, our family gathered around so that we could be there with Bert when he began his new life in eternity. We were there for a few hours and it was getting near lunch time. Everyone was getting hungry, so Wes volunteered to go grab some sandwiches for us. We prepared the list of what everyone needed; then our oldest son Justin said he and his brothers would go instead and Wes could stay with his mom, sister, and me at Bert's side. The boys had only been gone for about 10 minutes when Bert's breathing changed.Within a few minutes after that, he entered the realm of glory ... and Wes was able to be by his side. A fingerprint of God.

Wes's sister lives in Tulsa. Her car had broken down over the weekend and she had been unable to come down. The earliest she could get to Oklahoma City would be Wednesday. Our concern was that she might be too late. However, she arrived early Wednesday morning, just as the hospice nurses were telling Wes's mom to call the family. She was also able to be by her father's side. A fingerprint of God.

Our oldest son's 30th  birthday was February 17th. It was a fear of his (and ours) that his grandfather would pass away on his birthday. We had been praying that God would take Bert home either before or after, but that it wouldn't be on Justin's birthday. Bert started his new life on February 16th. A fingerprint of God.

This has been one of the hardest times we've gone through as a family; however, we've seen our God in all of it.  God never leaves us alone in our pain ... He always provides a way for us to get through it ... He cares about even the smallest details of our lives ... and He's working to bring us comfort and encouragement. We know that Bert is happy, healthy, and whole as he stands in Jesus' presence and we celebrate in that. We also rejoice in the fact that God left his fingerprints all over Bert's last days, to encourage and strengthen us. He IS an awesome God!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

On His Way Home

We stood around his bedside tonight, listening to his shallow rattling breaths. He would grimace and cry out in pain ... and we all cried alongside him. He never really knew we were there ... never recognized any of us ... but when we spoke of Jesus and prayed, he'd quiet down and become peaceful. All it took was the mention of Jesus' name. Just the mention of Jesus.

What did that say to us? That dementia and death are horrible, horrific things ... but even those things bow at the name of Jesus. That our God in heaven cares about every detail of our life and is there for us. That Jesus reaches beyond the mind and body to our innermost being. That Jesus loves us.

He hasn't gone home yet. He's still working on that process. In the meantime, we pray and grieve, knowing that Jesus is there with him in the far-off shadows of his mind that we can't reach. And somewhere, in the midst of his dementia and pain, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he recognizes the person of Jesus. He's on his way home.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Surgeon ... or Assassin?

I heard a sermon today that was probably the best one I've heard in a long while. Whether it was actually the best one I've heard, or whether it was the one I've needed to hear the most in a long time, is debatable. But, it was excellent. The sermon was all about suffering ... and how we choose to go through that suffering. At the very beginning of the sermon, the pastor mentioned that it all comes down to gaining God's perspective through that suffering ... and my heart practically stopped because that has been my very prayer for the last several months -- to see things through God's eyes, to have His perspective, to look first through the filter of Scripture rather than my emotions. I knew this sermon was meant specifically for me from God. What a wonderful Valentine's present... I think!!

I KNOW that I don't see things from God's perspective, but I also recognize that I need to. I really WANT to. I want to have the type of mature faith that doesn't question, just accepts ... doesn't rebel, just submits ... doesn't need to understand, just trusts.

When I'm going through a trial, I have to admit that I don't suffer well. I beg to be rescued. I wallow in the pity potty of my life. I get angry. I question. I tend to hold God at arm's length. I look for things to make me feel "happy". It all boils down to the fact that even though I say I trust God, I don't. Even though I say I believe He's working for the good, I don't really believe it. But the God I serve is incredibly gracious. He lets me go this way for a bit, but He winds up gently reminding me that He's still there ... that He's still working ... that He IS a good God. There will be times when I don't understand, times that are painful, times that I want to give up or run away. These are the very times when He's developing my faith and conforming me more to the image of Christ. By seeing things from His perspective, He gives me the strength and joy to deal with these trials.

But God's working with me. His faithfulness is amazing! He doesn't give up on me when I don't get it right. And He continues teaching me the same things over and over again that I fail to learn right the first (or second or fiftieth or thousandth) time. And the lesson of seeing things from His perspective is one of them.

I'm going to finish my post with a short paragraph from Walt Henrichsen's devotional, "Thoughts From the Diary of a Desperate Man". He says so eloquently what I cannot, but my heart completely identifies with:

"Seemingly senseless pain and trauma engulfs much of life. If you seek to follow Him, you must be content to trust His character rather than your ability to understand. The difference between a knife in the hand of an assassin and a knife in the hand of a surgeon is intent: both inflict severe pain. you must decide whether God is an assassin or a surgeon. But remember, your choice does not change God, only your opinion. All the risk of making the wrong choice is on you."


Monday, February 7, 2011

Tweaked Truth

We were recently in Dallas, driving in their monstrosity that they call traffic, when we witnessed a wreck. Since we were in the middle lane of the 8-lane highway, we couldn't pull over to help since we were still moving ... and there were crazy drivers all around us. But we saw the cars swerve, heard the metal-on-metal impact, saw the smoke that flew up after they collided, and the spinning out of control by the smaller car onto the shoulder. No one was hurt (that we knew of) and fortunately, only the two cars were involved. It was actually more of a side-swipe, but still ... it was on a Dallas interstate, so it was scary. There were cars all around, so there were a lot of witnesses. As we were crawling along (because by this time traffic had slowed down to about 5 mph due to wrecks), we could see people pulling off on the shoulder to help the other folks who had just had a wreck.

And you know, I guarantee you that every single person that saw it had a slightly different perspective. Everyone saw the same thing, but all of the stories would be different, even if only slightly. I can tell you that I know the colors of the cars ... but not the makes. I saw the one car change lanes in to an already occupied lane ... but I don't know much else other than that. And my view of the wreck was very definitely different than the view of my husband's. We were in the same car ... saw the same wreck ... and had two totally different stories to tell.

It occurred to me that life is the same way. Ultimately, there is only one truth. It doesn't matter how we tweak it or change it to fit our perspective ... the truth is there. It's fact. It's unchangeable. But we bring our own story or perspective to it.  We do the same thing to God and His truths. We don't like it so we tweak it. We think it's silly so we say it's out-dated and not applicable to our lives. We try to ignore it and create our own truth. The fact is: truth never changes. Doesn't matter what we do to it ... the truth is rock-steady. For me, there's a deep security in knowing that God doesn't change and neither do His truths. How grateful I am that I serve a God who is bigger than a tweaked-out Truth and an updated Gospel!