Monday, September 14, 2009

Extra-Strength Faith

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of going to the funeral the wife of a teacher at my new school. I didn't personally know this family but I had heard so much of their faith and just wanted to go. I got their early (I know, shocking) and watched as at least 800 people filled the seats of the E-Free church in Lethbridge to celebrate another faithful life and mourn the void left by this loss.

Something began to occur to me as I sat there and attempted to make sense of the events of the past few weeks. When does the world see Jesus?

My first experience with death (second hand experience obviously) was during my first semester at Bible College. I received the sudden and tragic news that my goddaughter Jani, a 9-month old baby girl from our church, had passed away suddenly of meningitis. I struggled to and failed to make sense of this tragedy. People always seem to say, “There’s a reason for everything…” but from personal experience, it unfortunately seems to offer little comfort in a grievous moment.

After some months had passed, I remember her mother standing in front of the church saying, “I’m here today to tell you that God is faithful.” I’m fairly confident that she hadn’t had a revelation answering the questions of why this had happened, but she didn’t seem to need to. I sat there and thought, if she can say that God is faithful, it really must be true.

The teacher at my school sent an email out to all the staff members at the school after his wife passed away, which eventually circulated in and out of educational and basketball circles throughout Canada. I don’t know how many thousands of people read his words, but they were truly a testimony of God's faithfulness. Only hours after his wife passed away he typed these words: “I am trusting that God will grant me the grace and wisdom to provide enough love to my kids to make up for the void that is now here. I have faith that He will see it through. That he wants me to trust him one step at a time.”

I was so encouraged and amazed by the strength granted through faith. This man has a 6-year old son, 4-year old daughter and newborn baby to raise now by himself, and seemed to be approaching it with a heavy dose of extra-strength faith. He concluded the funeral service by sharing his wife’s testimony of how she came to faith in Jesus Christ in University- carefully pausing to explain all Christian jargon to ensure that the message of hope was clear and the reason for her secured home in heaven. I sat there amazed at how many people- many who would probably not voluntarily be in a church otherwise- were there hearing about the faithfulness of God!

I cannot begin to understand nor am I trying to explain the why’s of so many tragic and early-seeming exits from this life but go with me just for a second here. During my dad’s journey with ALS, I had always assumed that a miraculous healing would have most definitely brought God the most glory. Until recently, I didn’t pause to consider that maybe, just maybe, my dad’s unwavering faith through one of the most disabling diseases out there could have glorified God, possibly more than a miracle healing? I don’t have the bird’s eye view of the mysterious ways of God but would it be possible that the faith of God’s people through the storms of life bring more glory to Him than a miracle?

I think the world sees Jesus when His people see Him. When a mother who has lost her baby girl can say, “God is faithful,” and when a widower and single-dad can say, “I have faith that He [God] will see me through,” and when a man suffering and dying from a horrible disease says, “Don’t let this discourage your faith in Christ. Following Jesus will leave no regrets,”- that is when the world takes notice and says, this Jesus must be real.

In the words of John Piper, God is the most glorified in us, when we are the most satisfied in him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Kin-dom Pur-spuc-tve

Ang called me a few days and asked me to email her the video of dad talking about the "Kingdom Perspective" for a devotional she was preparing. I sent it off and she received it and previewed it on her TV at home.

Ethan wandered into the room with BIG eyes and exclaimed, "Papa can talk?!" He proceeded to watch the video repeatedly- rewind-play-rewind-play- twenty or so times. After the first few he turned to Ang and said, "Mama what's pur-spuc-tve?" (Big word for a 3 year old!) She did her best to explain it to him. He turned back and watched a few more times and then turned to her again and inquired, "Mama- what's kin-dom?"

My mom told me that she had talked with Ethan on the phone and he was quoting some of Papa's lines from the video- word for word! I had to get a piece of the action so I phoned and asked for Ethan. He told me about the "Papa movie" he watched and how he talked about "Pur-spuc-tve" and "kin-dom."

I was challenged by this wonderful 3-year-old (who also happens to supply much of the material on this blog!) I too have watched that video and been touched by it. He watched that exhortation with intense curiosity, trying to decode the meaning in his little 3-year-old brain. I have a few questions to ask myself along the same lines- in slightly more adult terms of course: 1)What does it truly look like to live with the perspective that everyday could be your last and with the goal of impacting the Kingdom of God as an urgent high priority? and 2) What do I need to do to align my own life with this outlook? I know the answer to the first question... just like Dad! The second may take a bit more pondering...

I'll attempt to explore the "how are they" question. Mom and Em are doing okay. Life is very different but they're finding a way. I think my mom is on her fourth consecutive day of writing thank-you's to the many many people who have helped and supported our family especially over the last few weeks. She mentioned something about permanent hand cramping... They've experienced the most change in the day to day dealings of "normal" life. Please continue to pray for peace of heart and healthy, faithful, hopeful grieving... whatever that looks like!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Fences and Faith

Last fall, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about having a relationship with Jesus. When it concluded he said, “I just don’t need God. I know this sounds bad, but something really bad would probably have to happen before I would turn to God.” I tried yet I struggled to understand that perspective.

This summer we built a fence to enclose our yard. (By “we” I of course mean Mike with help from a few friends. I supervised!) Our fence is west-facing. Anyone who has been to Lethbridge is no stranger to the 100km/hr winds often blowing furiously from the west.

To combat this frequent force, we knew we'd have to build something solid. We put in 9-ft steel posts into 3-ft deep holes and secured them with concrete. The fence boards are securely screwed onto 3 horizontal beams on the top, middle and bottom of the posts and then sealed by 3 more horixontal beams. It is one solid fence. I think I could ram it with my car and it wouldn’t budge.

Today happens to be one of those terribly windy days. It's howling outside as I type. I fear that if I step outside it may carry me off to Saskatchewan. It came with little warning. On Saturday, it was summery and warm and today, the biting wind makes summer seem like a distant memory! I'm glad the majority of it is done as I am trying to imagine how very crazy it would be to be screwing in fence boards on a day like today. I'm also trying to imagine what our neighbor would have said if when she approached us about starting our fence in the summer we had said, "Actually, we're waiting until the wind is blowing 100km/hr. We won't really need the shelter until then." She probably would have put her house up for sale! It seems bit foolish to wait for a storm. No thank-you. I'd rather do it without battling increment weather!

I was reading in Matthew 7 not too long ago and was reminded of how we live on a solid foundation: "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

Many people, myself included, have been encouraged by the faith my dad had. It seems mysterious to some but I knew his secret. I saw it with my own eyes. Long before this particular storm came, he had been buildling a very strong house on the Rock. He got his bricks f
rom the Bible and and found them to be true as he laid them out in his life. He didn't just read them but put them into practice. He didn't know the storm that would be coming but was ready for it because of the solid rock he knew he stood on.

I find this extremely challenging. I oftened wondered how I would respond if I were the one personally battling the disease. I want to be as prepared as he was and be found as faithful. I don't want to wait for my own personal storm to continue building a solid house. It's too risky! I want to be ready for whatever storms life may throw my way.

The fence didn’t go up in a day and solid faith is not built in a day. It takes many days. But it must start with one. Then another and another...