Category Archives: Shares

Perspective: A Story Of Suffering And Sovereignty

Steve Saint is perhaps best known as the son of Nate Saint, a missionary pilot in Ecuador who, with four others, was killed by Huaorani indians in 1956.  In June of 2012, Saint was injured and partially paralyzed from the neck down – these things I had heard.  What I had not heard is that Steve Saint had a daughter, Stephenie, who died of a massive cerebral hemorrage in the summer of 2000.  I heard this story, told by Saint himself in 2005, just this morning and was so moved by his faith and understanding of who God is that I wanted to share it here.

God Planned My Daughter’s Death
believe God planned my daughter’s death. In the years prior to her death, people started asking me to go around and speak, and I realized that there was a deficiency in my heart and life: I could not see the world the way God does. Oh, be careful what you pray for. I prayed and begged God and told Ginny, “I can’t keep doing this. I go out and I’m speaking from my head to people and it doesn’t work. I can’t keep going. I can’t speak unless I feel the passion of this.” And so I started praying, “God, please, please let me have your heart for the hurting world out there. I see it, and I empathize a little bit but I don’t have a passion for it.” Now, don’t overrate this. Perhaps a lot of you struggle with the same thing. I just couldn’t keep going and talking about what I had seen God do without a passion to share it. And I had no idea if God would give me such a passion or how he would do it. I’m more mechanical; that’s what I do well. I fly; it just comes, it’s in the genes, I don’t have to figure it out—it’s just there. But passion is another story, so I begged God to let me see his heart.

We have an idea that if we do what God wants us to do, then he owes us to take the suffering away. I believed that; I don’t believe that anymore.

Ginny and I had three boys and then we finally had a little girl. I made her promise me that she’d never grow up; she broke her promise and went away to college. And then a time of suffering came because Youth for Christ asked Stephenie, who could play the piano beautifully as well as the bass guitar, to travel around the world for a year with one of their groups sharing the gospel. And you know what? It wasn’t worth it to me; I wanted my daughter home. I knew that some day she would probably meet a boy and go off. She was tall and slim, and in my eyes, beautiful. She was Ginny’s bosom friend. She was our baby. She started traveling around the world, and it was a painful year. But finally the year was over and she was coming home. Ginny and I met her at the Orlando airport. Grandfather Mincaye was there too. We had made him a sign to hold up, Welcome Home, Stephenie, but he couldn’t read so he held it upside down. He was jumping around, big holes in his ears, wearing a feather headdress. He wasn’t blending! Stephenie came and saw him and tried to pretend that she didn’t see us, but Mincaye went up and grabbed her and started jumping around with her. Then we headed out for a welcome home party—it was a joyous time.

Later, I passed Stephenie in the hall, and she just leaned on me and said, “Pop, I love you.” I thought: God, just beam me up right now. Let’s go at the peak. Does it get any better than this? All of our children are following you, and Stephenie is home. And Ginny and I—we’ve had a twenty-seven-year honeymoon. Let’s just quit right now.

A while later, Ginny said, “Steve, Stephenie’s back in her room. Let’s go back and be with her.” So we ditched everyone else and went back. Stephenie had a headache and asked me to pray for her. Ginny sat on the bed and held Stephenie, and I put my arms around those two girls whom I loved with all my heart, and I started praying.

While I was praying, Stephenie had a massive cerebral hemorrhage. We rushed to the hospital. I rode in the ambulance while our son Jaime and Ginny and Mincaye followed us in the car. Grandfather Mincaye had never seen this type of vehicle with the flashing lights, didn’t understand why strangers had rushed into the house and grabbed Stephenie and hurried off with her. Now he saw her at the hospital, lying on a gurney with a tube down her throat and needles in her arm, and he grabbed me and said, “Who did this to her?” And I saw a look on his face that I’d seen before, and I knew that he’d be willing to kill again to save this granddaughter whom he loved.

I didn’t know what to say. “I don’t know, Mincaye. Nobody is doing this.”

And just like that, this savage from the jungles grabbed me again and said, “Babae, don’t you see?”

No, I didn’t see. My heart was absolutely tearing apart; I didn’t know what was going on.
He said, “Babae, Babae, now I see it well. Don’t you see? God himself is doing this.”
And I thought, what are you saying?

Mincaye started reaching out to all the people in the emergency room, saying, “People, people, don’t you see? God, loving Star, he’s taking her to live with him.” And he said, “Look at me, I’m an old man; pretty soon I’m going to die too, and I’m going there.” Then he said, with a pleading look on his face, “Please, please, won’t you follow God’s trail, too? Coming to God’s place, Star and I will be waiting there to welcome you.”

Why is it that we want every chapter to be good when God promises only that in the last chapter he will make all the other chapters make sense, and he doesn’t promise we’ll see that last chapter here? When Stephenie was dying, the doctor said, “There’s no hope for recovery from an injury like this.” I realized that this was either the time to lose my faith or an opportunity to show the God who gave his only Son to die for my sin that I love and trust him. And then I watched. I watched my sweet wife accept this as God’s will and God’s plan. And you know what God has done through this? He changed my heart. He broke it. He shredded it. And in the process he helped me see what he sees. I thought the worst thing that could happen in life was that people would go into a Christ-less eternity. There’s something worse than that. It is that our loving heavenly Father, the God and Creator of the universe, is being separated every day from those he desperately loves, and he will never be reunited with them again if what this Book says is right.

Moment by moment.

[Special thanks to Pastor Chris McGarvey of Bethel Baptist Church, Delaware for sharing this in his recent series on suffering.  Text courtesy of Grace for Sinners.  You will find the entirety of Steve Saint’s message on Desiring God under the 2005 conference series.]

Shadows And Love

During the Christmas season, I attended the most wonderful wedding – it was just what such a celebration at the holidays should be, yet as I sat in the dimly lit auditorium, I felt out of place. Weddings are joyous occasions and even as I truly entered into the happiness of the bride and groom I couldn’t completely escape the shadow of Chase’s cancer. …and so I sat, taking in the beauty and feeling vaguely guilty lest my shadow burden be apparent to anybody but myself.

Words broke through my distracted thoughts as a woman in a beautiful gray dress stood to do a reading. As she spoke, my shadow seemed to grow stronger. I couldn’t hear the words she spoke with anything other than cancer ears…even though I knew that they had been chosen to reflect this marriage love at the moment of commitment, but as she spoke the familiar words, my heart was soothed by the fresh reminder of the Gracious Provider…and then she began to cry…and I cried too because I had needed to hear those words.

Much later in the evening, Providence ordained that I meet the woman who read the verses: a divine appointment if ever there was one. I learned that she too carries a horrific cancer shadow. I, my baby boy…she, the spouse ’til death do they part. We talked and cried and felt helpless together in the middle of the beautiful reception and though I had never met her before and may not see her again for some time, she is my sister because of that night.

Many times since then, I’ve pondered the strange mixing of the celebration and the sadness, and the family relationship with a complete stranger because of the pain. In my mind, pain and joy belong in different universes, yet from birth to death we cannot separate them any more than we can separate ourselves from the Sovereign One who created us.

Here is an excerpt of the words she read that night…

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

Of this I am sure, there is a mercy in the shadows of pain – a severe, but present one nonetheless. I do not even pretend to know what it is, but I know it is there because I, and she, and all who walk a painful road walk it next to the Everlasting Love who has known us always and will know us still and what is a dim shadow now will be crystal clear when we see Him face to face. Even so, come soon, Lord Jesus, come soon.

Moment by moment.

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Take Off The Bag

Sixteen of Chase’s every twenty-four hours are spent attached to an IV bag. This bag, its carrying case and the pump weigh about as much as he does (when the bag is full) and he must drag it behind him everywhere he goes. In addition to the weight, the cord has a short range, so he can only walk about two feet before it pulls and strains; reminding him to pick up the burdensome piece again. The moment it beeps (a notification that the cycle is complete) is the happiest moment of his day and as soon as he’s detached, he immediately starts running and jumping…two things he really can’t do without causing harm when the bag is on.

However, there was a day last week when the IV pump notified it’s completion, and instead of the jubilant “My baggy’s done!!” that I usually hear, there was silence. I went to him and said “Chase, your bag is done! Do you want me to take it off for you?” He sighed and said “Not right now, Mom. I’m playing…maybe later.” He had become so engrossed in his play that he was no longer energized to remove that awful shackle of a bag.

And I suddenly saw myself in this encounter…

How often I struggle with fear and sin that -with God’s help- I could lay aside! I could find peace, find rest, and be free of whatever burden holds me. He comes to me, much as I came to Chase and says “It is finished, this can be removed…will you let me do that for you?” …yet in my foolishness, I am content to play while my worry and fear is attached to my very life vein because I am too preoccupied to see that He stands there -more able than I will ever be- ready to remove it.

“…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1b-2

Take off the bag. It is finished.

Moment by moment.

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My Antique Book Kick

I love books and I love reading and I love antique books …oh, and I love reading.  Did I mention that?  Bob loves reading too and I think it’s safe to say that we came into our marriage with a lot* of books.

*this may or may not be a slight understatement

Real talk: we have three large book shelves in the living room alone.
This is my favorite section in our collection:20120624-224513.jpg
Several volumes handed down to me by my great-grandmother.  (and an adorable picture of my oldest two … Awww, so cute … right?)

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My great-grandmother’s name inscribed and then my great-aunt’s note to herself that the book might some day go to me (those are my initials under the signature).

My favorite has always been this book:

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It’s such an old-school, sensational fairy tale with kidnapping, mistaken identities, tiny Bavarian kingdoms, Europe before the first world war …ah, I can’t even help myself. Look at these illustrations!

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Okay, I’ll stop … Except, oh wait, I didn’t stop … I actually Googled the author a few weeks ago and found out that he was quite the prolific writer. And … SCORE! … Most of his books are free downloads for my Kindle!  (insert shameless Amazon plug here)

I downloaded … never mind.  I won’t even tell you how many I’ve downloaded.  It’s embarrassing.  Nor will I tell you how many of them I’ve stayed up late to read.  That’s even more embarrassing.

I don’t know what is more intriguing for me: the late-nineteenth century drama or the early-twentieth century social commentary.20120624-224833.jpg

See?  I’m waxing historical. I can’t even help myself…

Happy Summer reading to me!


What are you reading this summer?

 

 

 

 

Commonplace … Or Not

 

Just recently, I was putting the kids into the car and we saw a caterpillar.  It was fuzzy, green, and directly behind the front wheel of our van.  I probably would have forgotten about him, climbed into the driver’s seat, and gone into reverse without a second thought, but one does not do this in front of small children to whom each bug is a new best friend.
After once and for all time settling the question of whether or not the caterpillar could be our new house pet (“He could be like our dog, Mom!”), we decided that the best thing we could do for him is move him away from the path of the van so as not to “goosh” him (as Aid said).
I poked him with a stick, and then two sticks.  I tried to get him to climb onto one or the other so I could move him.  I tried picking him up in every way I could think of without the aforementioned “gooshing” occuring.  Still, the caterpillar refused to be rescued.
I finally got him to move enough that my car wouldn’t kill him and we were able to move on.

 

As we were driving, I got to thinking about this picture a little more…
Metaphorically, I think I must look a lot like that caterpillar … I’m often stuck behind a giant wheel of sin and pride that will “goosh” me, yet how often I refuse the gentle prodding of offered rescue because I – in a grand delusion of deceit – believe that the stick will hurt me and that I must move in my own strength, will, and time.
The verse that kept coming to my mind is a passage from the book of Hebrews: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”   (Hebrews 3:13, ESV)

 

Even thought my little caterpillar picture is silly and ordinary, there is nothing silly, ordinary, or commonplace about grace.  Grace saved me and teaches me – now and until the day that I will see Christ face to face.
The hand of Grace is extended – have you reached for it?

 

He breaks the power of canceled sin, he sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean, his blood availed for me

Friends

This week, I’m on a cleaning rampage.  As I was cleaning, I came across this …

Special memory, special friendships … We’ve known each other for years and know each other still.

I should have some classy quote on friendship or a beautiful poem.  But I don’t.  These are some of my friends.  Good friendships are precious.

That’s all.

Something I Read

This summer, I have been reading through Comforts from the Cross: Celebrating the Gospel One Day at a Time, by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick.   Though I’m not finished yet, I wouldn’t hesitate to highly recommend this book.

Here’s a small section from what I read today.  It was so beautiful in it’s intensity and challenging to me that I wanted to share it with you.

“Shake off your boredom and apathy.  God’s love for you is fierce, self-afflicting, white-hot, life-transforming.  The goal of this love is that you may be called God’s daughter, God’s son.  All this pain and grief is bent in on one primary goal: your adoption and His eventual praise.  Your relationship with the Creator of all there is has been secured by the blood and tears of love’s delight.  Your Father is no longer far off, no longer a stranger, no longer a judge.  Now He’s your Father.”

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3, ESV
If you want to know more about Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and her writing, you can start here.  Please hear my heart on this though …  this isn’t an endorsement, advertising, or a book review.  What I’m sharing  is completely something that was on my own heart and mind from my morning reading.
What is the Lord teaching you?

Songs for Saplings

“Songs for Saplings makes music for kids. We want them to understand who God is and what He has done, as well as what He wants your children to do and to be.”

~from the Songs for Saplings website

A few weeks ago, we had the great pleasure of meeting Dana Dirksen and her family.  Dana and her husband James have six kids and live on the West Coast and (more importantly for the purpose of this post) are the creators of “Songs for Saplings” — A musical ministry to help teach children about God.  Dana has a great, mellow voice and is gifted on the guitar (parents, imagine a CD for your kids that reminds you of a chill afternoon in Starbuck’s), and her children sing and play (dejembe, keyboard, etc) with her as well.

While the music is good, the lyrics will blow you away!  These are such great and strong biblical truths!  Kids will hear such songs as “Who is God?”, “Who are the three persons of God?”, How can you glorify God?”, and much more!  These three titles that I just named are just the first three songs on their CD: “Questions with Answers: Vol 1: God and Creation”. Each CD they’ve produced is equally jammed with similarly deep themes.

I feel like this music is suitable for all ages.  I really enjoy listening to these and both my 5 year old AND 2 year old love listening and singing along.   (The 1 year old likes it too, but he’s 1 and also likes to watch parked cars, so take his interest with a grain of salt)

In addition to providing this amazing music, the Dirksen family has a strong heart for missions and travels internationally to sing and share.  According to their website “Songs for Saplings music is currently being used in Bangladesh, Malawi, Romania, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zambia.” Supporting the Dirksen family and their music is another way to support international missions.

So, whether you “like” them on Facebook,: www.facebook.com/songsforsaplings

Or, go directly to their website: http://songsforsaplings.com,

Check them out!!  This family, their music and ministry is worth your time!

 

**This youtube video is a little funky with it’s images, but it definitely gives you an idea of their style.**

*This post is something that I felt led to write after meeting the Dirksens and hearing a little bit about their ministry.  This is not a paid endorsement.

Something Better

Occasionally, (or more often than that) I anticipate sharing from whatever I’m reading. Today’s quote comes from my current study on the book of Hebrews — “Hoping For Something Better“, by Nancy Guthrie —

“God does not intend for us to wear ourselves out with meaningless religious activity, filling ourselves with theology, working for him but never knowing what it is to enjoy knowing him and being known by him.”