Isaiah and Losing a “Loved One”

This afternoon I was telling some friends about my brother Craig.  I was telling them what an easy person Craig was to love.  “If you would’ve known him, he would’ve been one of your favorite people,” I said.  He had a magnetism, a humor, a sweet and loving disposition.  He was humble.  He loved Jesus.  But the sad thing is not that I’ve lost a “loved one” or five.  It’s that I’ve lost loving ones.

You see the phrase “losing a loved one” is misleading, because “loved one” is a misnomer.  There is nothing past tense about your emotional attachment to someone who is gone.  I love my brother just the same.  I love my dad just the same, and my uncle and my Papa, and my aunt, and all my other relatives who have died.  The real heartache, the void, is not being loved in return, at least not in a tangible way.  I am desperate for their affirming words, approving laughs, faithful prayers, their wisdom, their warm hugs — their overall showering of love.  Losing a loving one is hard.   I’ll long for these dear ones until I die.

But as much as I may want them back, there is a great comfort in knowing that they know no tears.  After all, when we love someone, we are vulnerable.  When the beloved hurts, we hurt.  Yesterday I took the boys downtown Washington for the afternoon.  The Potomac was bluer than usual, the sun was brighter, and we had a delightful time playing tourists.  However, there was one not-so-wonderful moment.  Sammy was harmlessly chasing after Nate and tripped.  As an observer, his half-second trip to the ground felt like ten minutes.  It was one of those falls that didn’t end on hands and knees — no, he had enough momentum to carry the ride right onto his face.   His nose and cheeks are scraped up good (and of course, it’s picture day tomorrow at preschool!).  Watching someone you love get hurt is terrible; it gives you an immediate sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

And a scraped up face is nothing.  In a week it will be gone.  But watching someone you love truly suffer — emotionally or physically — now that’s hard.  There’s a helpless feeling.  A desperation.  That’s why Isaiah 25:8 is such a comfort: “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces.”

I miss my loving ones, but what a comfort to know that they all knew Jesus as Lord and Savior in their earthly lives, and now they are living eternally in the presence of the Loving Creator of the Universe.  Praise be to God that death and tears will be swallowed up forever, that no matter how much pain, darkness, and evil there is now, that Jesus is the ultimate victor.  The truth is, Love wins!

Watch Out Lon Solomon, There’s a New Kid in Town

Proverbs 21:31 says, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.”

This afternoon in front of an auditorium of at least two hundred people, a preacher, whom I know very well, who had no notes, explained this verse with the following: “God has the battle all in His hands.  He will not give up on you.  You can always rely on God because He is your strength, and He will never let go of you.”

How do I know this preacher?  I gave birth to him, and he is eight years old.  He cannot possibly understand the full implication of these words.  And neither can I, but I know that sometimes we must choose to cling to the truth of God’s promises — that He is Sovereign, that He is Faithful, that He will never let us go.  Today I visited the cancer ward at the hospital.  I was there to see a friend, but ended up seeing two friends.  Both of these women are healthy and beautiful and strong and full of faith, but both of them have husbands undergoing treatment for cancer.  Aggressive treatment to battle aggressive disease.

I left the hospital, had lunch with my husband, grabbed Sammy from preschool and went to the the big boys’ school.  There I sat with a squirrelly Sammy, who made everyone fully aware of his desire to be elsewhere and heard these words pour out of Nate.

“God has the battle all in His hands.  He will not give up on you.  You can always rely on God because He is your strength, and He will never let go of you.”

I hope you know this in the depths of your soul, and I hope that when (mind you, it’s not if) you experience heartaches and trials that do not make a lick of sense from an earthly perspective, that you’ll choose to trust these words anyway.

Praying heavy-hearted prayers for these very dear families, will you join me?

Why It’s Not Just a Game and Jeremy Lin

My boys play A LOT of sports.  They play organized sports (swimming, baseball, basketball, and flag football); they play sports at recess every single day (mostly hockey, knock-out basketball, capture the flag and soccer); they play sports at home (basketball, baseball, two-hand-touch football, ping pong, knee hockey, and occasionally lacrosse).  They play tennis, volleyball, foursquare and miniature golf on our summer vacation.  It’s a huge, huge part of their lives, and I couldn’t be happier about that.  Because for me it’s not just a game: sports provide a window to the soul.

I’ve only missed a handful (one handful) of games or swim meets because of conflicts.  In part I just like being there.  It’s entertaining, and obviously little boys want their parents there to cheer them on.  But I am also intrigued as their mother, as a shepherd of these little souls, how sports magnify and intensify issues of character.  Swimming competitively requires determination.  Baseball requires concentration.  Basketball requires hustle.  My son, Will, has an incredible work ethic, and losing is hard for him.  Really hard.  Can I tell you how important it is then that he loses?  Besides confessing Jesus as his Lord and Savior, that son of mine becoming a gracious loser, an all-around good sport, is one of the most important things in the world to me.

And even though we haven’t yet seen Jeremy Lin lose, is there any doubt that he’ll be gracious?  I’m so thankful that even though many professional athletes offer little to emulate besides hard work, there are some who profess their faith and live it.  I am loving the boys waking up each day to new levels of Lin-sanity!

This morning I am praying Hebrews 10:22-24 for this winsome young man, this Harvard graduate and unlikely star.  May Lin hold unswervingly to the hope he professes.  For He who promised is faithful.  Surely, Lin is spurring MANY on toward love and good deeds!

One of the Worst Pains in the World?

The other day my son Nate said, and I quote, “The pain of regret is probably one of the worst pains in the world.”  He’s eight.

Now he didn’t say this because he has experienced the pain of regret.  He only has an inkling of what it even means, but he’s a good listener and he has great recall.   He was merely parroting what my husband shared with me and our boys from his Bible study.   They are studying Hebrews, and were on chapter twelve — the part that talks about running the race with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith.   Jerry Leachman, his leader, shared that we can often choose between the pain of preparation and the pain of regret.  There is pain in working hard at anything, whether it be sports or our walk with Jesus.  We must persevere and face the pain of preparation, because the pain of regret is, as my son said, “probably one of the worst pains in the world.”

I’ve been pondering this, marveling about how simple it is.  Choosing between the pain of preparation and the pain of regret.  It’s simple, but profound and nearly universal in its application.  Everyday we can choose the pain of preparation, or suffer the pain of regret.  And what has hit me in just the last few days, is how you can actually have both.  You can have the pain of preparation AND the pain of regret.  In fact, I’m pretty skilled at this.

For example, I’ve been going to the gym and working hard to get in shape.  My big impetus was turning 40 and I received a gym membership for Christmas.  But this has been a tremendous shock.  Because if there is a syndrome that is the exact opposite of anorexia, I have it.  Perhaps it’s just an extension of my optimistic, glass invariably half full spirit, but whatever it is, I was blissfully ignorant about how out of shape I really am.  I have long looked in the mirror and seen someone who wasn’t at an ideal weight, but was not that far off.  Well!  The gym mirrors are brutally honest, and worse yet they are everywhere!  The horror of what jiggles.  The blow of staring at my middle for a full hour while jumping helplessly around trying desperately to keep up with women who are 10, 20 and even 30 years older than me.   The reality has begun to set it.

But I’ve actually begun to embrace the pain of preparation.  I’ve been going to the gym multiple times each week, some mornings I leave the house before six a.m. and I am NOT a morning person.

But what’s sad is that I also have the pain of regret.  Because I sabotage my own well-being, my own precious little progress by eating like a glutton.  On Super Bowl Sunday I made the mistake of eating and eating and eating, and then eating some more.  I was so full I felt sick, depressed even, so I had a few more cookies.  I had endured the pain of preparation (running on the treadmill that morning) AND suffered the pain of regret.

Why do we do this to ourselves?  It’s almost like our sin nature is a propensity to self-destruct, and sometimes it sabotages more than just a resolution to get in shape.

I have a friend who is suffering terribly from regret.  I haven’t even spoken with her yet, but her emails reveal an agonizing sadness.  Nate is right: regret is one of the worst pains in the world.

So how can we avoid this pain?  Well, more preparation, right?  More prayer, more contemplation of God’s truth, more submission to His plan for us, more fellowship within the body of believers, especially with those who will hold us accountable.  We need to be more aware of our own pride – more willing to admit whether it’s another cookie or a Facebook friend – when we just can’t handle the temptation.  We need to be more willing to set firm barriers and take that out that the Lord is always faithful to supply.  And we need to obey whether our hearts are in the obedience or not.  Certainly all of these things are good things.

But I think we also need to be honest about our stubborn and selective little ears.  One of my favorite verses from my Bible study this year is Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.”  I want to walk in the way.  I want to hear His voice and heed it.  I want my life to reflect the fact that He is living in me.  Plus, I want to avoid one of the worst pains in the world, don’t you?