Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ten weeks today. It was 10 weeks ago today that my mom started her journey into trying out every machine the medical community has, and my dad has been with her every step of the way: hour after hour, day after day, week after week.

This is my dad's typical day. Wake up; eat breakfast; drive to the hospital; stay there all day (except if my brother takes him out for lunch); drive home at night; get something to eat; go to bed. The days are sometimes broken up by a dentist appointment or having to mow the lawn, but he spends hours and hours of time with mom. He has not missed a single day of being with her.

The day this happened to my mom, my dad's world changed from winters in Florida and working part time in the summer to one job - caring for his wife. It takes a big man and a loving husband to abandon whatever his plans are/were to care for his wife. To look forward and see a "bleak" (from a worldly perspective) future, to see all his plans changed, and yet in the midst of this to serve a woman day after day, week after week who cannot serve him - that is the stuff that real men are made of.

You are my example dad; you are my hero.
My mom moved this week from her room in Spectrum on Fuller to another Spectrum facility on Kalamazoo. Another step in the process for her as her body heals. Still struggling a bit with varying blood pressure, but still making incremental improvement. That is not why I am writing this entry.....

I was in the room a bit early to help my dad move my mom's "stuff". As we were dialoging and packing, nurse after nurse came in to say goodbye to my mom - not just the people that were assigned to her that day, but lots of nurses who had worked with her over the 6 weeks she had been there. The thing that impressed me was the words that these professionals used: we are going to miss you, thank you, stop back and see us, we want to know how you are doing; a couple of them even were shedding tears about her leaving.

Do you know that this told me as I watched this unfold? My mom had an impact on the people in the hospital; a deep impact. They were positively influenced by her smile, her attitude in the midst of a bad situation, her kind words to them, her "thank you" every time they served her, her gentle touch on their arm as they were helping her......I could go on.

I can't begin to describe to you all the stuff that my mom struggles with every day and the things that she has to work at that we all take for granted. In the midst of all the trauma of life that she has to face, she is having a positive influence on the people around her.

It is a great honor for me to have this woman as my mom. She is an example to me and to others of what having joy in the midst of trials should look like. Thanks mom.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I went to a wedding last night. It was a rather short wedding ceremony, but it reminded me once again of one of the purposes of marriage. Paul speaks of this in his letter to the church at Ephesus (5:22-33). Paul is addressing some order issues in marriage: wives submit to your husband and husbands love your wives. For centuries this has been a topic of debate - what does this mean and what does it look like in practical terms. Paul answers this question - this profound mystery is about Christ and the church (Eph. 5:32): marriage is to look like the relationship that Jesus has with His church. The church always submits to Jesus as the head; Jesus loves the church and gives Himself for it. Interesting that there is no room for selfishness here; there is only room for sold out giving to one another.

Why should our marriages look like this? This is so hard and so counter-cultural. I believe that what Paul is trying to teach us is that marriage is an earthly picture of a heavenly reality: a visible illustration of the invisible love that Jesus has for His church. Our marriages should be SOOOOO submissive and SOOOOOO loving that people can see what the relationship between Jesus and His church looks like. It is primarily a evangelism tool to help people understand Christ!

Now I have to do something about it......

Sie note....... It is interesting to me that Jesus gave himself for the church. I often think that this was a bad investment on His part. What did He get for his investment in this relationship? A person like me, who is self centered, who doesn't really think about Him as much as I should, who doesn't serve Him with all my being. Not a great return. The picture for marriage is that: don't expect a return on investment.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

We are preparing for our big Memorial Day weekend of putting down mulch around our landscaped areas. There are several things we have to do to prep for this, the first of which is to weed the beds. As I was popping and pulling weeds the other day I noticed something: the weeds were growing faster than the plants. When the creeping rose, day lillys, purple cones, shasta daisies and all the other annuals that we have planted were just starting to poke out of the ground, the wild mustard, dandelions, mint weed (??) and other weeds were in full growth mode; choking out the annuals. If I am not diligent in removing the weeds, they will over take the annuals. I have to pull them, cut off their supply of sun with mulch, strengthen the good plants with water and fertilizer, maybe even spray weed kill. (Of course I was lamenting the curse of Adam and Eve while I am pulling them.....)

As I was pulling weeds, I realized something about the weeds in my life (a metaphor for the sins that plague me or that I struggle with). They grow fast; much faster than the "goodness" that I desire to be manifested in me. Just like I have to be diligent in removing weeds from my annuals, I must be diligent in removing weeds from my life. They will not naturally go away. They will not die and let the good plants grow. They will multiply; they will choke out the good that God wants to see in me.

The lesson for me: stay at it; keep pulling the weeds out of your life. Join me in pulling weeds!!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wow, two in one day...too much on my mind I guess. I was reading Job last night and in chapter 19 of the record of this conversations, he is lamenting the feeling that everyone has not only abandoned him, but now is also giving him terrible advice. He also feels like God has made him a target and is out for him. After these laments, he makes these statements:

JOB 19:23 "Oh, that my words were recorded,
that they were written on a scroll,
JOB 19:24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead,
or engraved in rock forever!
JOB 19:25 I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.
JOB 19:26 And after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God;
JOB 19:27 I myself will see him
with my own eyes--I, and not another.
How my heart yearns within me!

OK, I just have to say WOW. I cannot believe that in the midst of feeling abandoned by his friends, family, servants, kids from the town; every one in his circle; and God, he makes a faith filled statement like this. What an example of hope in the midst of travail!!!!!!!!

This is what I have to focus on today - God, MY redeemer, lives today. Despite everything that is going on, the trouble around me, the trouble within me; my redeemer lives.
I met with a friend last week who has been "in the saddle" for many months now. He, like me, is trying to balance family, parents, work, relationship with God, etc. He told me that he was in a "have to" phase of life. He was not serving and doing things out of passionate desire, but out of duty, knowing that it was the right thing to do. I completely understood - I find that this is where I am right now with all the things in life that are necessary for me to do right now. I cannot check out and need to stay engaged, but it seems like I am doing it out of duty and not out of joy.

I think that we all have those seasons in our lives - seasons where we are mentally and spiritually tired. Yet in these seasons, it is imperative that we continue to pursue God and serve others - even if it is out of duty. It is not that we don't love God or love people, it is just that we are serving out of our reserve and not out of our excess. It feels like the spring that was feeding our well and that used to overflow to God and others has stopped. Instead of ending our pursuit of God and others, it is in these times that we must start using the water that was in our well; our reserve if you will (I hope that you are catching the analogy....takes to long in a blog to develop it fully).

I know this season will pass. I know I will have an encounter with God like Elijah did on the mountain of God and He will give me a fresh vision and the energy to execute it. (Read 1 Kings 17 - 19 for the record of this event in Elijah's life; it is a great read.) I just have to wait and continue to serve Him and others believing this is truth. In other words, I have to have persevering faith right now, even though I don't have the feeling.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The last two weeks have been so crazy that I have not had the time to sit down and put some thoughts down. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I had 19 meetings last week. Now I love meeting with people, but come on....

I have found a huge conflict in my roles over the past two weeks - father, husband, provider for the family, employee, employer, son, brother, consultant, child of the King...... It seems like these roles are in constant conflict because of the time of year. This happens every year at this time, but this year seems especially poignant because of the health issues with my mom.

It is hard to find margin during these times - margin to fill my soul, margin to spend time, real time, in the important relationships in my life, margin to develop as a person. I know this is only for a season, but when you are in the midst of it, it doesn't feel like there is an end point. This year is especially poignant because I really did not have margin while we were in Florida (and at the hospital every day) to regenerate.

I know in the midst of this that God wants to teach me something. I think what that "something" is revolves around finding rest in Him, moment be moment, day by day. I am reminded of the words of Isaiah (40:29-31): He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

I believe that this is what God wants of me - to wait on Him and Him alone; not on my strength, not in my power, but in His. There are many other things that I could write about this, but that is for another day. Right now, I am trying to figure out what waiting on Him looks like. I know that the result is that I will not be weary, so I know that I have more learning to do!!!