Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Once you have kids

I remember when I was in college, one of my nephews (Justin) was four years old. I remember thinking that I would have rather died than to suffer his death. At the age of 21, I had my first taste of really understanding the kind of love that would make you want to give up your life for another. Unfortunately, sometimes the people who are the most willing to give up their lives are the ones left behind. They are the ones that do suffer the loss of their loved ones. My sister and brother-in-law (Terry and Bob) are in that category. Their son (Robby) died as a young adult. His death was the worst experience of my life. I was supposed to be a pall bearer, but couldn't compose myself to do so. I walked behind the coffin, sobbing. Hannah was a baby at the time. Once you have kids, you get a quick taste of the fear of death. Not the fear of your death; rather, the fear of the loss of your loved one.

I had a reminder of that yesterday. I was driving Colton to a friend's house when we both saw a horrible sight. There was a teenager lying in the middle of the street--face down. His skate-board was lying about five feet away. It was a hit and run. A cop and a lady were talking quietly near the body, but they were not addressing the body. I spoke to Colton, saying, "If he was just hurt, they'd be sitting next to him, telling him to hang on until the ambulance arrives."

Colton looked closely, noting, "I can't see him breathing."

Our hearts sank and we began to pray in earnest. If he was dead, then we prayed him back to life. If he was wounded, then we prayed for healing. As we drove away, we could hear the sirens of the ambulance coming.

The night before, we watched the TV detective show, Monk. (Lena bought me 8 episodes for Christmas.) Each episode begins with a murder. The rest of the show is a combination of mystery and comedy. We never mourn for the victim. The show is not about the victim. It's about how good your feel when the detective solves the crime. But when it's not a TV show, the reality is almost too painful to imagine. Empathy wells up like a flood and we have feelings of great remorse for the loved ones left behind. I thought about the young man's mother. She thought he was just outside playing. It began to tear me up. I prayed, on and off, for the rest of the night. I prayed for the boy, but after hours of worry, I also prayed for myself. I asked the Lord to reveal to me what happened. I told the Lord, "This is really upsetting me. What about his mom? I want relief Lord."

After many hours, it was time to go back to get Colton. I drove past the very spot and slowed down to look for any sign of what happened. There was a patch on the street that looked like blood. I looked ahead and saw a night guard sitting in front of a restaurant. I pulled over and asked about the boy, saying, "I drove by earlier and their was a boy lying in the street."

"Yea. It was a hit and run."

"Did the boy survive?"

The guard answered, "Yes." My heart leapt within me.

"But I drove by right after it happened and he looked dead."

"Yep. But when the ambulance arrived, he revived. They helped him up and he was able to climb into the ambulance on his own legs."

I could hardly believe it. Instantly, the feelings of oppression passed. I was able to breath.

Was it our prayers that revived the boy or would he have recovered just as well in the natural. That, we will never know. But I know that God heard me and I know that tonight, a mother has her son to hug one more time.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A Tale of Two Bibles

In a fete of generosity, I purchased new Spanish-English Bibles for Hannah, Colton and myself. Shortly thereafter, I noticed Hannah carrying her old Bible. She explained that she had recently shared her faith with a girl and that she felt the Holy Spirit nudge her to give the girl her Bible. I was proud of Hannah for sharing her faith, but scolded her for giving away a new Bible. I said, “Hannah, that Bible was expensive and we have cheap Bibles at home that we buy to give away.”
A week later, I was in Iquitos with a medical team from the Timberline church. Some members of the team began to witness to a young man who was studying English. He said that he wanted to read the Bible, but that he couldn’t afford to buy one. He then said that what he really wanted was a Spanish-English Bible so he could read the Bible and improve his English. I, of course, had my Spanish-English Bible in my backpack. But, if I gave him my bilingual Bible, how would I explain it to Hannah? I decided to suck it up and take my lumps. I gave the guy my Bible. (In the picture, here, I’m showing him verses on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.) I saw Hannah a few minutes later and confessed quickly. She was very gracious. Later that week, I saw her having her quiet time. (She’s very faithful in her devotions.) I noticed she was reading a new Bible just like the one I had given her. I asked, “Where did that come from?” She smiled a wry smile and said, “Mom bought it for me.”

To see more pictures from the Timberline medical mission, visit http://picasaweb.google.com/BillandLenaPics/200907TimberlineMedicalMission#

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A Good Friday Reflection

The week before Resurrection Sunday is a big deal in Latin America. People here actually quit working and live a more peaceful existence--though many merely use it as an excuse to go to the beach and celebrate the end of summer. Yesterday was Good Friday (Holy Friday in Spanish). So, we joined with many other faithful believers for a day of serious church attendance. We went to church with two of our missionary collegues: Emily Sandoval and Phyllis Rose. They were scheduled to preach as two parts of a seven sermon, four hour, church marathon. The topic of the sermons was the last 7 statements of Jesus (see the list below). After we arrived, the pastor said that he didn’t have anyone to preach on “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? (Mk 15:34)” He asked if I’d be willing to do it and I said yes. I sometimes give the kids 10 minutes to write a 5 minute sermon. That’s what it was like. I was grateful to get this text, since it was more passionate and obvious than some of the others. I addressed the sermon from two perspectives: theological and emotional. In honor of Holy Week, here is a devotional on Mark 15:34--"And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'—which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'"

The first perspective (theological) is to simply answer the question, “Why hast thou forsaken me?” The answer is that sin separates. Sin destroys relationships and creates barriers where no barrier was ever meant to be. The husband who cheats on his wife, eventually forces everyone in the family to feel abandoned. An innocent wife goes unloved. Children go without their father’s affection and, worse, lose the image of a father they can trust. The whole family suffers a painful existence without affection and without protection. When people sin, it forces others in society to undertake the painful task of punishing even their friends. An honest cop cannot let his best friend off, if the latter is an alcoholic who kills people by driving drunk. The latter man’s sin has caused a separation among best friends. If the cop is a just man, he must arrest his best friend and bring him to judgment. He must do it, even if the sinner is his son. God had to forsake Jesus, because the latter was carrying all the sins of the world. Jesus was, at that moment, a murderer—carrying the weight of Cain’s murder of Abel. God, the Father, was the judge. An honest judge cannot let his son go free, if the young man had actually committed murder. And even if the father had always been there for the son in the past, when one goes to the gallows, one goes alone. The just Judge decrees the sentence that, according to the law, the young man must die. After he gives the decree, the Father watches the executioner take the young man away. It’s possible for parents to visit their son in prison, but when someone gets a death sentence, they go alone. Perhaps, as in this case, the young man looks back at the father and cries out, “You’ve always walked with me through the difficulties. As these men take me away, why do you not accompany me? (i.e. why have you forsaken me?)” The father, a just man who respects the law, turns away because he cannot bear to see it. Criminals, who are so vile that society deems they must be put to death, must face their punishment alone.

The second perspective, emotional, has to do with human experience. Jesus cried out these words to let me know that he knows what I have gone through. No one walks the walk of faith without experiencing a time in which it feels like God is not listening. For some, the feeling that God is not listening, that he has turned away and forsaken them, lasts for years. That’s the pain of the barren woman who longs for a child. That’s the pain of a couple whose child is terminally ill. God does indeed answer prayers and there are hundreds of stories of the barren woman who miraculously has a child and the parents of a sick child who miraculously recovers. Miracles do happen, but they don’t always happen. There are many great Christians who saw fabulous miracles, but who also suffered. Mother Theresa went for decades where she did not hear the voice of the Lord and she suffered horribly under this longing. Martin Luther led the reformation, but also suffered the death of his beloved daughter. I have prayed for friends to recover from cancer, only to suffer their loss. In those moments, if one is really honest, one’s emotional response is to accuse the Lord of wrong doing. In our pain we cry out to the Lord, “You left me alone when I really needed you!” It is to say, “My God, my God, at my hour of greatest need, why have you forsaken me?”Jesus knows what I’m going through. Jesus has experienced these feelings. We don’t need to feel ashamed of them. Even the Son of God has asked that question.

We have the advantage of historical perspective. We’ve read the whole story and know that, even though Jesus felt abandoned by the Father, God had a plan. Jesus knew the plan. Jesus knew that he would rise again, but the effects of sin had obscured his ability to see it. Sin separates and sin obscures. Sin, whether it is ours or someone else’s, leaves both innocent and guilty people in the dark. But we are not in the dark in this moment. We have the account written fully for us. We know that in that darkest moment, the curtain which sin had created, the curtain which separated God from us, was torn in two. We need to always keep in mind that even though today is Friday, Sunday’s coming--and we all know what we celebrate on Sunday.


The picture, above, is of the cross atop "San Cristobal" (Saint Christopher). It's a mini-mountain in Lima, from which one can overlook the city. On Good Friday, thousands of peruvians climb to the top of the mount in penance.

The 7 last statements of Jesus are:
1. Lk 23:34a Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
2. Lk 23:43 Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
3. Jn 19:26-27 When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
4. Mk 15:34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
5. Jn 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
6. Lk 23:46 Jesus called out with a loud voice,“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
7. Jn 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.