Tough Trust

Yesterday as I ate my lunch, I saw a picture on my computer that started my mind turning toward some issues that make me sad.  As I wrote in my last blog (Listening Carefully), I know better than to let my thoughts stay on certain matters that will pull me down.  I am consciously practicing, more and more, immediately turning my heart to God and affirming to Him…and to me…that I trust Him totally.

As I sat at my table, thinking on these things and praying, these words came to me.  I shared them right away on Facebook.

It was around 1:30, and soon I was to go pick Aaron up at his day group.  He had a seizure early that morning, around 4:30, but felt fine and so was able to go on and spend the day with his friends. 

When we got home, as we talked about many things…because with Aaron there are always many things that he wants to talk about…I mentioned to him that I saw his empty deodorant in his bathroom trash can. 

“Yes!” he said, “I put some on this one but not on this one!”

I turned to see him holding up one arm at a time as he showed me which arm pit had gotten deodorant and which one had not.  😊

I left him in his bathroom to remedy the arm pit situation.  I had just sat at my desk in my bedroom nearby when I heard the awful crash and the sounds of a big seizure. 

I yelled for Gary and ran in the bathroom to see Aaron laying in the tub.  He had fallen backward into the tub, taking with him the shower curtain and rod.  He was entangled in all that, plus in his shirt that he had been removing.  The first thing to do was to hold his head to keep him from continually banging it on the hard tub as he seized.  Gary had run upstairs, grabbing one of Aaron’s small pillows to put under Aaron’s head. 

These sudden and very dangerous seizures are just awful on many levels.  It’s a terrible feeling to hear that crash and then the seizure sounds…to run to him not knowing what you will find…to wonder how hard he hit his head or if there are other injuries.

We had untangled him from the shower curtain and from his twisted shirt that was all around both his arms and hands.  Gary put a sweater over him and then we just had to let him lay there in the tub until he was awake enough to be moved to his bed. 

I went back to my desk, still shaken, and cried.  I cried out of fear, yes, but mostly I cried because it makes me so incredibly sad to see my son go through all these physical hurts. 

But as I sat there, God softly spoke into my hurting heart…and He reminded me of those words that He had given me two hours earlier.  God gave me words I needed before I knew just how much I would soon need them.

Yes, my heart is so tender when I think of Aaron and all the years of his physical suffering.  But God really does take that mama hurt I feel and uses it to show me how to toughly trust in Him.

I have to be tough for Aaron, and really, I can only do that because of my trust in God.  Sometimes that sort of trust doesn’t come naturally.  It would be more natural for me to be mad at God for letting this happen to Aaron, over and over and over. 

But I know my heavenly Father, and I know that He has reasons far beyond what I will ever know on this earth for why He lets Aaron suffer. 

It’s a tough place for me to be and it calls for a tough trust.  If my life was only smooth and simple, no tough trust would be needed.  But then I would not know God as deeply.  I would not experience His peace and comfort.  My faith would stay simple and small. 

A verse also came to my mind as I sat there thinking of all these matters.  I want to leave that verse with you…that simple but profound word from God. 

There it is again…trust.  Even when it’s tough.

ESPECIALLY when it’s tough.

Damaged

During our trip to the Houston area last month, we noticed that the palm trees looked different.  One normally expects palm trees to resemble these:

But instead, this is what we saw.

I stood there staring as I snapped this picture.  The trees looked both silly and sad.

“Bless your hearts,” I wanted to say.  I am from the south, you know.

Andrea explained what had happened.  The prolonged deep freeze this past February had taken quite a toll on the palm trees.  Many were irreparably damaged…dead.

I have read a little about the palm trees and found out that one way you can tell if a palm is dead is to scratch a section of bark off the tree.  If there is green underneath, then the palm is alive.

These sad looking palms we saw were, despite their damage, alive.  We could tell by the growth on top, odd as they might have looked.

This past Sunday at church we were privileged to listen to a live interview between our pastor and a prominent businessman from our city.  Britt Fulmer discussed his cancer journey.  Unless God works a miracle, there is nothing humanly possible that can be done for him.  Again, barring a miracle, heaven might soon be a reality for Britt.

Yet I walked away from that service full of hope and praise.  That is because Britt was full of hope and praise.  He conveyed, through his rather frail voice, the strength OF God because of his total trust IN God.  There was no anger, no regret, and definitely no fear as he confidently gave testimony of his total trust in God’s plan for him in this trial.  In fact, Britt has grown during his hard bout with cancer.

I think of so many I know who are battered from life’s prolonged adversities.  One can look at them and see the damage in various ways in their lives.  It reminds me of those palm trees.

But you know what?  Those palm trees are still standing, despite showing the stress of the freeze they endured. 

And they’re growing!  If we scraped off a section of their bark, we would see green underneath.  

Life is there!

Roots run deep!

James talked to believers about trials.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”  (James 1: 2-4)

That word “consider” means to make a judgment.  We have a choice to make when we encounter various…multi-colored…trials in this life.  Are we going to allow God to work in our lives the endurance that He desires?  That endurance is the act of abiding under the difficulties. 

Will we abide under the prolonged pain in our lives, whatever it may be?  Because if we choose to do that…to abide under the suffering…we are really abiding under the shadow of the Almighty Who has our best interests and His glory in mind. 

To abide means to endure without yielding. 

So, to endure means to abide…and abide means to endure.

It means I stay put in the place God has put me, even if He has put me under suffering. 

I don’t yield to unbelief.  I don’t give in to giving up on God. 

Instead, I allow endurance under the hardships to produce in me a maturity and growth that is evident to everyone around me.  But I can’t produce that growth myself.  Only God can grow me in that way as I abide in Him, fully trusting His plan for me.

Suffering hurts, no doubt about it.  Long-term suffering takes a toll. 

But what will others see in me beyond the damage? 

Will they see growth, even if I feel like it’s just a little bit? 

Is there green under my bark? 

Oh God, grow us in our prolonged sufferings so that You will be honored and others will be amazed at what You have done!

My Times, Your Hand

One evening last week, I looked outside and saw a beautiful red glow on the horizon.  However, my view was hindered by trees.  Knowing there was more to this scene than I could see from my vantage point, I quietly snuck out of the house…so I could drive alone without Aaron…and headed west to see what I would find. 

It was hard to keep my eyes on the road as I drove past trees and power poles.  The sky was so beautiful that I wanted to only gaze on it.  Finally, a few miles away, I found the spot I sought.  Flat…open…unimpeded by trees or poles – there it was.  The perfect view.

Oh my!!  What a stunning sunset it was!

I’ve looked at this picture a lot and done some thinking about the path of life upon which God has placed me.  How much do I trust God’s decisions about me and my life?

I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel more trust in God during the harder and often unexpected situations of life…those times when I’m suddenly the recipient of bad news and I’m thrown into God’s arms. 

But it’s the daily disappointments…that drip, drip, drip of stress…that can really bog me down.  The dailiness of life’s burdens can hinder my view of God’s path and His purposes for me much as the trees hampered by full view of this gorgeous sunset.

Saturday morning, for instance, Aaron stood by Gary’s desk chair. 

“Dad?” he said, “my mouth is broken.”

I smiled from the other room at Aaron’s phrasing – and I know that Gary was secretly doing the same.

Aaron thought he had burned his mouth, but in looking at it we both knew that these were not burns.  He had a rash.  The next day, Mother’s Day, I took Aaron to Med Express to have it checked.  It was quite painful, and he was having trouble eating.

Gary offered to take Aaron, bless him, but I wanted to do it since I always take Aaron to his doctor visits.  So, here I was, on Mother’s Day…at the doctor with Aaron.  It was a bit of a downer, honestly…not the way that I envisioned my Mother’s Day. 

See what I mean?  A small example of a small thing that can play upon my heart to bring discouragement, self-pity, and then lead to multiple other thoughts of how this and this and this did not turn out the way I wanted…

And my path’s view of God’s goodness is lost in the jumble of negative thoughts and emotions.

God gave me what I needed this morning, as He always does!

In Luke 13:31, the Pharisees reminded Jesus that Herod wanted to kill Him.  Jesus responded to them that He would continue the journey that God had for Him, and that when the time was right then He would perish. 

In other words, Jesus was declaring the truth of Psalm 31:15.  My times are in Your hand!  Jesus was standing in the unfailing sovereignty of God.

When David in Psalm 31 speaks of times, “…he doesn’t mean merely his life-span but all the kaleidoscope of circumstances that meet him left and right.”  (Dale Davis)

Oh, those multi-colored burdens that pile on day after day!  The unresolved issues and concerns that grow larger on a special day like Mother’s Day can cloud my view of God’s path for me. 

Last night, very uncharacteristically, Aaron suddenly said, “Mom, I’m glad you cared for me and took me to the doctor.”

I was pretty much stopped in my tracks by that!  And so overwhelmed with thankfulness that our “downer” doctor visit prompted in Aaron such a response.

Oh God, may I too look at You and be thankful for your care of me in the rough spots of life.  May I look fully at the path you have me upon and see the beauty amid the stresses.  May I not miss the opportunity to give You thanks for being for me all that I need, and not just giving me all that I want.

For it is in my need that I most fully see Your beauty on the road of life.

Barren

It happened to me again two nights ago.  I was sinking into sleep when I think, honestly, that I snorted and woke myself up.  😊

But then I couldn’t get back to sleep.  Instead, I lay there thinking of a picture I had seen just before bed.  Happy news for someone else created in me a longing for some things I don’t have. 

These are the moments that Satan loves.  He uses the tender areas of my heart’s desires to create in me an unsettled feeling.  The dark of the night is his perfect setting to speak words of doubt and unhappiness into my head. 

I’m a captive audience at that point.  The choice is mine. 

Whose voice will I listen to? 

So, I prayed and I thought of scripture.  I eventually went to sleep.  But I awoke the next morning feeling the weight of my burdens still lingering on my shoulders.

This morning I continued in a new study I just began yesterday in the book of Luke.  Right away we meet the priest, Zacharias, and his wife Elizabeth.  They were both righteous in the sight of God and walked in blameless obedience to God. 

They were old.

They were faithful to God.

And Elizabeth was barren.

In their culture, having children was everything. 

They had nothing, in a sense.

I think of Elizabeth beyond the stories we always hear and the ending that we know well.

I think of her hearing with sadness of the pregnancy of yet another friend.  Of probably faking joy when deep inside she is grieving over what she doesn’t have.  Of perhaps not feeling included in the years of family gatherings, celebrations, large happy holidays…

Of laying awake at night, bombarded with these realities, alone and with a broken heart.

And though we know the end of the story, that God gave her a child, she did not know that this blessing would be in her future.

“…there are those who are true servants of the Lord and yet some trial, some disappointment, that may be life-long, hangs over their lives.  ‘Righteous before God’ yet ‘they had no child’.  A very huge fact and a very deep sadness are pressed together.”   (Dale Ralph Davis)

Do you have a barren place?  An unfulfilled desire that eats away at you in the dark stillness of the night?

I do.

We all do.

What ARE we to do?

We are to live faithfully, in daily obedience to God.

We are to “Commit our way to the Lord…”  (Psalm 37:5)  That means to roll our burdens on the Lord’s strong shoulders.  Literally, that’s what it means.

“…God does His most impressive works in a context of impossibility.”  (Davis)

No BUTS…unless we say, “BUT God!!”

Will God give me what I want? 

I have no idea.

The real question should be:  Will I allow God to put HIS wants into my heart?

Will I want to walk with God so closely that His desires become my focus?

“God tends to begin His finest works in the face of human hopelessness and human weakness.”  (Davis)

Walking faithfully with God doesn’t mean we’ll never have our barren places.

But may we, in the barren, bear the fruit that only God can produce in us, to His glory.

What’s Ahead?

Here in Kansas over the past ten days we have had some extreme winter weather, as have many of you around the nation.  We knew it was coming thanks to modern weather forecasting.  We were able to prepare as best we could for sub-zero temperatures and even worse wind chills and snow.  What a blessing it is to be able to look ahead and to be ready when the storm hits! 

Some of you know that I have been reading and studying through the book of Numbers.  This book isn’t exactly known for super passages full of encouragement, but I have discovered, with the help of Raymond Brown’s book The Message of Numbers, that there are indeed many blessings and promises in this often-neglected book.

I finished Numbers yesterday.  The last verse was amazing, and I wanted to share it with you today.

“These are the commandments and the ordinances which the Lord commanded to the sons of Israel through Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”  (Numbers 36:13)

I believe I know what you’re thinking.  Nothing in that verse reaches out and grabs you, does it? 

But don’t be so quick to assume that this is just another dry verse from a rather dry book.

All throughout the book of Numbers, God had given His people commands to obey in order to survive the trip through the desert – but more importantly, in order to live victorious lives.  Their lives would only be successful if they obeyed God.  It was a lesson they learned over and over as they left Egypt and entered the desert. 

Obedience brought victory and blessing.

Disobedience brought defeat and curses.

Now at the end of this book, after taking care of matters concerning land distribution and inheritances, there stood the nation of Israel on the east side of Canaan. 

They stood in the plains of Moab, and what was ahead?

God had confirmed his commandments “…by the Jordan opposite Jericho.”

God had given them so many victories over their desert wanderings…so many lessons learned…so many providences. 

Then He confirmed all His final commands to His people whom he loved when there, just ahead, were two HUGE difficulties. 

The Jordan River, in flood stage and impassable.

Jericho, a well-fortified city that far outweighed any hope of defeat by a nation that had no real army.

God had given Israel the land upon which they now stood, but up ahead were seemingly impossible situations.

What was the key to victory? 

Obedience.  God’s presence was with them and His power was theirs if they but simply obeyed Him. 

The Jordan River parted.  Jericho fell.  The stories are so fascinating in the book of Joshua.  But the key, always, was for Israel to obey God.

“How could anybody possibly convey this huge contingent of nomadic people across that fast-flowing river, and how could an untrained army capture a well-fortified city like Jericho?  The secret was in total obedience.  Neither barrier was to be overcome by intellectual skills, geographical proficiency, crowd manipulation, army intelligence or military strategy.  Two doctrinal factors prompted their obedience:  God’s presence and God’s power.”  (Raymond Brown)

What is ahead of you today? 

Have you been walking in life, doing the best you can to obey God and live right?

But are you now looking ahead to a forecast that is anything but encouraging?

What huge thing in your life is looming ahead, causing you to lose sleep and to feel fear? 

Whether our issues are national in scope, or personal in nature, each of us has plenty to keep us anxiously glancing at what is ahead on our horizons.

Please know that God’s presence and His power are fully yours if you know Him, and if you are obeying Him step by step, day by day.

God has not brought you to an impassable river to watch you drown.

And He has not brought you to a strongly walled city to watch you die.

You may be standing near…or in…some very tough situations.  But like Israel as they stared at Jordan and Jericho, listen to what God says to you:

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9) 

Look in God’s eyes as you listen to Him, not over His shoulder at your Jordan and Jericho that are looming large. 

Be strong in God’s strength and rest in His presence. 

Let God do the fighting and trust Him for the finish!   

Don’t You Remember?

One of the many side effects of Aaron’s seizures and even of some of his seizure meds is memory loss.  It makes me sad to see it sometimes. 

Gary and I took Aaron out to eat the other day.  While eating, I got a text saying that his day group would be re-opening on Monday.  I was sharing with Aaron the names of some of his friends that he would get to see again.  At the mention of one of his friends, Aaron’s face was blank. 

I was surprised because just last week Aaron had facetimed with her.  Yet his forgetfulness was genuine just a short time later. 

As I get older (and older and older 😊), I find myself often saying, “Remember when…?”  Gary and I do this at times, remembering events and situations of the past, sometimes with joy and at other times with regret.

There is an incident recorded in the book of Numbers…the book I am now studying…that has impacted me this week and which I want to, well, remember. 

The children of Israel had traveled for a year in the wilderness.  In chapter 11, we find them complaining about their lack of good food.  They remembered all the variety of foods in Egypt, forgetting their horrible life they lived there as they ate that food.

They begged for meat, so God told Moses that He would give them meat.  Then Moses seemed to have memory loss as he questioned just how on earth God would be able to supply so much meat for so many people.

Are you kidding me?!

Moses had seen miracle after miracle, and he dared wonder how God could manage to find meat in the desert?

Actually, Moses asked God how he…Moses…was to get the meat.  Moses left God out of the picture.

Moses was run down, discouraged, tired, burdened. 

Pretty much like we feel today. 

Here we are, on the first day of a new year, trying to summon hope in the middle of our burdens.

2021 must be better than 2020, right?!

It HAS to be!!

We can’t handle anymore stress in our world and in our homes!

But I think that deep down we all know that we are entering this new year staring ahead at huge problems that still loom large. 

That’s why God’s answer to Moses is a HUGE promise to each of us who know and follow God.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s power limited?  Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.’  (Numbers 11:23)

Another version of what God said was this: “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”

That phrase brought to mind the fact that Pharaoh was said to be the possessor of a strong arm.  Yet God defeated Pharaoh with His much stronger arm.

Remember, Israel?

Remember all the plagues and the miracles?

Remember the exodus from Egypt?

Remember the parting of the Red Sea?

How could they forget?!

Yet I am no different.  How can I so often forget what God has done and what He has promised, to ME?

I have been challenged by others to have a word for this year.  And so my word is:

REMEMBER

Primarily, to remember just who God is and that His arm is strong and is long enough to carry me and help me and protect me.

To REMEMBER God’s past answers to prayer.

To REMEMBER His promises to me in His Word.

To REMEMBER Who He is, and how He never changes.

God’s arm is never shortened, and His power is never limited.

So may I…and all of us…remember.

This new year here in our neck of the woods has begun beautifully.

May I allow God’s beauty to permeate my heart every day in the uncertain times ahead as I…

REMEMBER!

This Gift Has My Name on It!

Gary and I were sitting beside our decorated tree one night before Christmas.  We were not alone for long, as is so often the case.  Aaron soon joined us.  He was, of course, drawn to the presents under the tree.  His observant eyes had seen his name on a gift!

“Look!!” he exclaimed, “this gift has my name on it!” 

His childish delight made us smile.

His childish delight is, in fact, a gift to us.

Yet there are other aspects of who Aaron is that we would not describe as a gift.  Maybe more as a burden?  An annoyance? 

We know that God gave us Aaron, and he is indeed the whole package.  It’s just that some of the contents of that package are not what we would have hand-picked. 

Am I being too blunt here?

This reality of God’s gifts to me carries over into every area of my life.  Gary and I had been married for five years before we had a baby…Aaron.  We prayed for a baby.  God gave us Aaron.

Do I really trust God in this answer to our prayers?

So many times in my life I have prayed over some matter…some decision…some issue.  But sometimes God’s answers are not what I would have chosen.

Oh, they may seem wonderful at the time but later the gift might turn sour. 

What happened?

How easy it is, then, to play the guessing game.

Maybe if we had moved there instead of here.

Maybe if we had joined that church instead of this church.

Maybe if we had raised our children in this way instead of that way.

Maybe…maybe…maybe.

Yet if I am walking with God in obedience, and I am praying for direction, I must trust that the way He leads is best and for a reason.

Good reasons, always.

But not always easy.

I must reach out and take God’s gifts to me with trust.

The children of Israel knew that God led them miraculously out of Egypt.  No one could doubt that.  But then it wasn’t long before they disobeyed God.  Even the manna God provided to them became a source of discontentment and complaint. 

Soon the Israelites were comparing their present lot with the life they used to have in Egypt, creating more unhappiness and grumbling.

I do that, too.  I pray…I take God’s gift of an answer…and then when things get hard, I fight the tendency to complain and to compare.

If only I had what they have…lived where they live…got to go where they go…blah, blah, blah.

Such a trap!

This morning, I read the answer to this dilemma in my life:

“Let all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; and let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘Let God by magnified.’  (Psalm 70:4)

I must keep my eyes on God in every area of my life. 

My gladness and contentment is in God alone, not in the events of my life – good or not so good.

So, when I reach out and take God’s gifts to me, may I not focus on the gift so much but instead may my eyes stay on the Giver of the gifts. 

That’s easy to do when the gift is fun and happy.

But I must understand that some gifts are not fun and happy.  Some are hard and sad. 

Yet on each gift, I see the tag.

To:  Patty

From:  God

Thank you, God, that every gift from You is good and perfect.  You didn’t say they were easy and fun. 

Help me to trust You.

“Look!  This gift has my name on it!!”

What A Mess!

Aaron and I were in the middle of watching an episode of The Waltons last night when he pushed the pause button and got up from his chair.  He went to the kitchen and soon returned carrying a huge bag of popcorn.  We’re talking huge in the sense of Sam’s huge.  All I envisioned was Aaron putting his hand into our community bag of popcorn, grabbing a few pieces, and then putting his hand up to and partially into his mouth. 

Germs!!  My mind could see all those little, microscopic germs being transferred into our huge bag of popcorn.  YUCK!

I stopped Aaron in his tracks, told him to pour some popcorn into a bowl, and over his grumbling he went back to the kitchen to do what I had said.  It wasn’t long, though, before I heard this:

“Mom, can you come here?  I need some help.”

Did he ever!  When I walked into the kitchen, there on the floor was a big mess.  Aaron had spilled lots of popcorn on the floor.  Mom to the rescue!  Aaron got the broom, and we were soon able to clean up the mess.

All around me today I see messes.  So much upheaval is in our country and the world today.  People are suffering and worried and angry.  I wish the messes we see were as easy to clean up as Aaron’s popcorn on the floor, but we all know that’s not the case. 

I read and studied Psalm 22 this morning.  I agree with Dale Davis, who says that David is speaking of his own suffering in this Psalm and yet goes “beyond his suffering and into the suffering of Another.”  David’s suffering also spoke of the suffering of Jesus still to come.

Certainly, the suffering of Christ for us is the greatest gift ever given.  Yet it’s also  in David’s earthly anguish that you and I as followers of Christ can find great comfort as we navigate this dangerous world in which we now live.

I, like David, can look behind me in my years of following the Lord and I can see His faithfulness to me.  I have no reason to doubt that He will remain faithful in the days yet ahead.

I look around me and I feel the chilling wind of change…change that is not good for believers.  I see how the world’s perception of Christians today has become warped…how we appear by liberal definition to be bigots and racists and haters.  How if we don’t jump on board with radical agendas and unbiblical lifestyles then we are not welcome to live in their world. 

The description that David gives of his persecutors sounds eerily similar to some of our accusers that I see on the news today.  He pictures his haters as bulls who encircle him and open their mouths wide at him; as lions who are tearing and roaring; mad wild dogs who have closed in on him; evildoers who surround him.

Remember the looks on the faces of the rioters when they hurled insults at those who attended White House events this past summer?  We’ve seen and heard that same spewed hatred over and over, aimed at pro-lifers and conservatives and Christians in various settings. 

I never thought I’d see the day when moral values are demeaned and blatant ungodliness is held up as the national standard.

But it is here, and it is now.

What jumped off the page to me this morning as I read Psalm 22 is this:

“But You, O Lord, be not far off; O You, my help, hasten to my assistance.  Deliver my soul from the sword, my only life from the power of the dog.  Save me from the lion’s mouth; FROM THE HORNS OF THE WILD OXEN YOU ANSWER ME.”   (Psalm 22:19-21)

David was already in the middle of great trouble.  The picture is of him being actively mauled.  But in the midst of being attacked, David asserted that God answered Him.

God doesn’t always remove my attackers, in whatever form they come, but He DOES hear me and answer me.

David learned that he may have felt forsaken but in reality, he was not.  God was there in every scary moment. 

And so He is with us and He WILL continue to be with us.  He will surround us while we figure out how to function as the minority in our culture today.  He will answer us from the horns of the wild oxen!

David knew that though he felt forsaken at times, God was there with him.  And God is with us as well. 

“For He has not despised and He has not detested the affliction of the afflicted, nor has He hidden His face from him, but when he cried to Him, He heard.”   (Psalm 22:24)

God knows.  God hears. 

I will praise Him and I will share Him with others. 

I will stand strong for truth.

And some day, in His timing, He will clean up all this mess. 

Just Trying to Care

Aaron has recently been fixated on planets and stars and space and seeing pictures of all the above.  And when I say fixated, I am not speaking of a casual interest on Aaron’s part.  Aaron latches on to his current fixation like a tick on a dog.  He does not let go easily, and nothing deters him from researching every little minute detail of said fixation. 

He loves to include us in his latest quest for information, which means two things.  First, we must often look up something on the internet with him that he just MUST share.  Google is our friend.

Second, we must listen to Aaron talk and talk and talk and talk some more about all the facts he has learned.  He just knows that we will be as dumbfounded as he is about his latest find.

He really, really wants us to care as much as he cares.

Yesterday evening, then, found Aaron and I sitting on the couch together listening to Louie Giglio’s famous video, Indescribable.  It wasn’t AS full of planets and stars as he wanted, but it did contain some sounds from outer space that Aaron loved.  Aaron was particularly interested in the sounds that planets and stars make, so he was very happy to hear that part of Giglio’s sermon. 

All in all, the video was a wonderful reminder of God’s astounding creation of the universe.  Aaron and I both loved all the breathtaking pictures of stars and galaxies. 

After we were finished, I was in the kitchen lowering the blinds when I hit my elbow on the back of a chair.  I didn’t just hit my elbow.  I whacked it good!  The pain shot down my arm as I grabbed my elbow and bent over.  Aaron, who was standing nearby talking, kept talking until he noticed my obvious pain.  Then he wanted to know what had happened, in detail.

I didn’t want to talk.  I wanted to be left alone until the pain stopped.  So I briefly answered Aaron’s question about my elbow and moved to another room. 

“Mom!!” Aaron exclaimed, “you act like you don’t want me to talk!  I’m just trying to care!”

Well, that stopped me in my tracks.  I removed the arrow from my heart as I walked back to Aaron and thanked him for caring.  I tried to explain how the pain made me not want to talk as I let him know that I appreciated his concern.

This morning I continued reading slowly through the Psalm I am studying…Psalm 8.    The verses I was to read today were these:

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

What is man that You take thought of Him, and the son of man that You care for him?   (Psalm 8:3-4)

These verses fit perfectly with all our talk here lately about space and planets and stars.  Well, Aaron’s talk about space and planets and stars.  Gary and I primarily listen.

Anyway, I just sat and looked at verse 4.  Who am I, God, that you care for me? 

And I thought of Aaron’s comment from the night before as I got irritated because of my pain. 

“I’m just trying to care!”

In my pain, I didn’t want to listen to Aaron…but he was trying to care.

It hurt him for me to not recognize that.

And I also thought of God and how much He cares.  God…Who created all the vast universe…cares about me? 

Yes, He does. 

I love that thought on most days, but when life isn’t going as I want…when I am in pain because of situations that hurt…I sometimes don’t exactly want to listen to God.

But then I hear God speak in verses like I read this morning and I am stopped in my tracks.  Humbled.  And so very thankful.

Like David, when I compare myself to the vastness of the far reaches of our universe, I am insignificant…a mere tiny speck.  But God cares…for me?

I love what Dale Davis says: “Only the condescension of God can hold together astronomical vastness and individual concern.”

God condescends in order to hold together His vast universe, but He also condescends to me out of His care for me.  God loves me.  ME!  I don’t know and can’t explain why He loves me, but I know that He does. 

Who am I that God would love me?   Why does God care?

Davis again says: “Why should a mere speck of dust on the light years of God’s calendar matter to Him?  David at least has no doubt that he does matter; he’s just baffled to bits over why.  When he says, ‘What is man?’, he is not asking a question but making an exclamation – he is really saying, ‘What a God!’  He is not posing a mental teaser; he is engaging in breathless praise.”

I didn’t want to talk to Aaron when I was in pain.  Likewise, I often don’t want to hear from or talk to God when my heart hurts, when life isn’t fair, when my world crumbles.

But He doesn’t quit caring.  And I know that He has a purpose for my pain…a purpose that is for my good in the long run. 

So may I, even through pain, give breathless praise to God for His thoughts of me and His care for me. 

Looking Back

Twelve years ago, our daughter was getting ready to graduate from college with a health sciences degree.  She wasn’t sure of what she should do after graduation, so a friend who had already walked that path told her to get her EMT license and work in an emergency room in order to gain some experience and some insight into the medical field.  She got her EMT license during her senior year of college. 

Shortly before our daughter’s graduation, my friend and I were at Sam’s Club shopping for a big church dinner.  We were standing at the cooler choosing heads of lettuce when another shopper joined us.  This other shopper was a caterer, and soon the three of us were talking away.  We found out as we chatted that she had a grandson with autism.  I told her about our Aaron, and off we went sharing some similar concerns.  I had noticed that this woman was wearing a work shirt from one of our large local hospitals, and embroidered on the front were the words, “ER Services.” 

I told her how my daughter sure would love to work at that ER and that she planned to apply soon.  This woman took out some paper as she asked me what Andrea’s name was.  She then gave me a phone number for Andrea to call as well as the woman’s name that Andrea should speak to.  When Andrea was able to call some time later, this woman said, “Oh yes, Andrea.  I have your file here on my desk.”  Andrea was so surprised!  “What file?” she thought.  Seems the woman I had met talked to this person and they started a file before even talking to Andrea.  It was amazing!  Andrea interviewed and got the job right away.

As time went on and several years passed, Andrea had gained much experience at that job as well as two others before being accepted into grad school.  She was finally sure that molecular biology/genetics was where she wanted to focus.  But it was easy to wonder if all the time and energy devoted to the ER and a doctor’s office was a waste.  But since that time, she has seen over and over that her clinical experience gave her advantages and opened doors that she never realized would happen. 

As believers and followers of Christ, we know that if we are walking in obedience to the Lord then nothing is a waste.  We know in our head that “ALL things work together for good.”  But sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that promise when the steps we’re taking are uncertain and even painful.  What we know in our head often doesn’t reach our hearts very easily. 

I liken it to looking ahead as we walk but seeing no clear path.  It reminds me of our walkway in our back yard.  In one direction there is no path.

But when I look behind me, I see how the bricks were carefully laid to make a clear walkway.

 We put one foot in front of the other as we launch out into the unknown.  Really, each new day is unknown to us.  We have no idea what will happen to us in any given day.  What is important is to walk in obedience to God as we trust Him to open and shut doors.

As the days and the years pass by, we too can look behind us and see how all things fit together in our life to make a beautiful pattern.  Each piece fits just where God meant it to fit.

But sometimes the beauty comes as a result of great pain.  God’s purposes are often more fully accomplished through suffering. 

In Acts 23, the Apostle Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel.  Through a series of events he was transferred from Jerusalem to Caesarea, and from there to Rome.  All along the journey, Paul was able to preach the gospel to the highest levels of government.  A normal missionary journey would probably not have opened those doors, but Paul’s suffering and imprisonment did provide the opening for sharing the gospel in ways unthought of and unplanned by Paul. 

D.L. Bock writes about how this incident in Paul’s life was rooted in God’s providence.  But he adds that providence does not always mean physical rescue.  “It is one of the mysteries of providence that many times we cannot see why things are happening as they are.  Yet God is surely at work in ways that we could not have planned for ourselves.”

May each of us, as we find ourselves at the end of our known and seen path…as we get ready to walk into the uncharted areas of life…fully trust that God knows best.

            If we could push ajar the gates of life,

            And stand within, and all God’s working see,

            We might interpret all this doubt and strife,

            And for each mystery could find a key.

            But not today.  Then be content poor heart;

            God’s plans, like lilies pure and white, unfold.

            We must not tear the close-shut leaves, apart –

            Time will reveal the calyxes of gold.

            And when, through patient toil, we reach the land

            Where tired feet, with sandals loosed, may rest,

            There we shall truly know and understand,

            And there shall gladly say, ‘Our God knows best.’  (Anon.)