Pressing, Multiplying and Bringing about Good

I’ve been reading through the gospels lately. I was tempted to skim through the birth account in Luke, but something made me slow down… Zechariah. You know the priest who went to the temple and an angel appeared to him and said he was going to have a son, and to name him John – and then Zechariah didn’t believe him, so the angel made him mute. Remember him? :-)

It just kinda hit me that maybe Zechariah was made mute to develop his character. God just wasn’t being mean – it was actually a loving act of discipline. When the baby was born, Zechariah obeyed God by ensuring his name was “John,” and his speech was returned in the presence of many witnesses, thus God received GLORY.

God is also glorified through the private goings-on in Zechariah’s heart during those 9 long months. I imagine Zechariah’s heart was changed from unbelief to repentance to grumbling to surrender to contentment to anticipation to praise. Whatever happened in Zechariah, it was good! God’s glory was also revealed not only in the miraculous return of Zechariah’s voice – but that his first words were not cursing God for the hardship but blessing and prophesy…

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David (Luke 1:68-69).

God took Zechariah’s unbelief, pressed it down and multiplied it into more good than Zechariah could muster in his muteness. God’s good at that. And I love the people’s response!

And a fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him (Luke 1:65-66).

What then will this child be???? I’ll write about that tomorrow :-)

I’m on the fast-train…

Last weekend, I attended our church’s women’s retreat. It was AWESOME! The weather was gorgeous. I got to canoe and hike. We didn’t have any fancy-schmancy speaker… just women from our church teaching and sharing. That’s the best kind of retreat (in my humble opinion ;-)

Anwhitney Culpepper talked about the power of God’s presence. Her testimony was powerful as she shared how hardship had driven her into the presence of God. Interestingly, she compared herself with Jonah – and how he ran from God’s presence when given a difficult lot. And I thought, “yeah, I do that.”

I’ve been living life on the surface lately… Avoiding going down into self-sacrifice and grief.

But Anwhitney said something that was like a knife to my gut… She said, “Don’t be afraid of that hardship… For that is the fast-train to the heart of God.” She’s so right. So I’m trying to enter in – to feel again.

I rest on Job 23:10…

But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.

Complicated grief

Acceptance. It’s the 5th and final stage of grief. And I can’t… quite… get… there.

I’m so tired of feeling sad and desperate. How long could this grieving thing possibly take? I know I must be slower than most everyone else, right? It’s just like a woman to compare herself to others. The idea is ridiculous…

Ideal Griever: “Well, I moved through all five stages of grief in just 5 months. I spent one month on each stage. Very efficient, eh? What about you, where are you in your grieving process?”

Me: Well, I don’t know… I bounce back and forth between stage 3 & 4 – and then sometimes I find myself living back in stage 1 (denial) just to survive the day-to-day, ya know?

Ideal Griever: And how long has it been since the accident?

Me: Um, we just passed the 18 month mark.

Ideal Griever: Oh.

Ludicrous, right? Well, I just wish it was simpler sometimes – more clear-cut. Grieve and done. Let’s just get. it. done. But God doesn’t work that way. His carvings take time… painful time.

I think one complication is that there are so many different things to grieve. I’ve grieved losing the old Anne and all of her unique little ways. I’ve grieved the freedom of having all of my children be mobile and independent. Now I find myself grieving Anne’s health. She has seizures. She is unpredictable. She is demanding. She’s not whole. You can feel the sunken place on her skull where the brain tissue has atrophied from the damage. My sweet Anne is broken – a fragile jar of clay – and we are left learning how to compensate.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (2 Cor. 4:7). God always shows me that I am the same as Anne… I am a broken jar of clay – in desperate need of surpassing power. I think we all are. Don’t you?


Botox, Baclofen, Physiatrist, Orthotist, Tone, Spasticity, Clonus.
I could go on, but what’s the point? Dealing with all of Anne’s doctors and wading through all of her “conditions” is just overwhelming. Advocating for your child’s well-being is stressful for me – especially when I have to navigate the impersonal systems of Atlanta’s larger and prestigious medical practices. Sigh.

When I think about it all, I feel like this:

And my nature is to procrastinate – to just not call this doctor or that doctor… But that only makes me feel like this:

Double sigh. One of the reasons I don’t like dealing with all of Anne’s doctors and “specialists” is that it’s just another reminder that I’m completely out of control. I can’t stop her seizures by myself – or reduce the spasticity in her ankles by myself. I need help. Lots of it! But what I need most of all is peace…

…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Now excuse me while I go call the doctor…

Back in the saddle…

Well, I’m teaching bible study tomorrow morning. It’s been a while since I’ve taught… so we’ll see how things go tomorrow.

I’m giving an overview of Biblical World View, Covenant Theology, the Church AND Biblical Womanhood. I told the gal who asked me to do this… “Yeah, all of that should take me about 10 minutes, and then I can teach everyone how to line dance the last hour or so.” I was kidding. I think it’s nuts to try to cover all of that in one lesson, but hey, I’m just doing what I was asked to do ;-)

There was one interesting point I stumbled upon while studying… Have you ever noticed that in the very beginning – when God created man and woman – and gave them jobs to do… (man – go work and keep the garden – and woman, you be a helper suitable for him) – that after they sinned, God cursed them with the exact opposite of their original good design. Woman will have desire for man (or desire to be over or control the man). And man will have toil all the days of his life – and in the end, he will return to dust. And what do women struggle with? Submission. And what do men struggle with? Toil-filled work and and a sense of purposelessness. No wonder life is hard. The curse of sin put in our hearts is the very opposite of what we were created and called to be! …And when did Jesus say He was coming back??? Oh yeah. He didn’t :-)

Thank you Jesus for reversing the power of sin and providing a way for us to draw near to you. Thank you for giving us the strength to persevere until that glorious day when you will come again!!


I found myself doing normal tasks this morning. And then I thought, “What is normal, anyway?” has something to say about this…

Normal: conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural

“not abnormal” Gotta love that! So not helpful. Anyway… Normal depends on a standard. Again, not very helpful – since they’re tons of standards and they’re all really different!

I was listening to the radio as I was doing my “normal” tasks. Laura Story’s Blessings was sailing through the upstairs bedrooms… “We pray for blessings.” I make the bed. “We pray for peace.” I unload the dryer. “We doubt your goodness.” I start paying attention. “We doubt your love.” Yeah. I do that. “As if every promise from your word is not enough.” Ouch.

As followers of Jesus, our standard is the Bible. We define normal from God’s Word. I’m still struggling a bit with this new normal – Is it normal for families to suffer. More specifically, is it normal for children to suffer? Unfortunately, yes.

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart!
I have overcome the world. John 16:33

What’s the promise? He has overcome! This is our temporary home. There will be a day…

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain,
for the old order of things has passed
away. Revelation 21:4

“God does miracles”

I was picking my kids up from VBS yesterday, and the song leader was up front reviewing the bible story the kids learned that day. It was from Luke 5 – the story of Jesus healing the Paralyzed man. And then the music started… and all the kids were standing, singing and doing hand motions to “God does Miracles… oh yeah, My God does Miracles!!!” And I became cynical.

Now let me stop and interject something. I have no right to be cynical. I have seen miracles. God saved Anne from the clutches of death, and now one year later, she’s learning bible verses at VBS. That’s a double dose of miracles. Hear me, I’m grateful. Oh so grateful…

But, the kids’ song raises a valid question. Why doesn’t God heal the way He healed when He walked the earth? Continue reading

I love words!

This past Sunday, I sang in our church’s ensemble. We sang a paraphrased version of Psalm 42 set to an Appalachian folk melody. It was beautiful. Way too high for me to sing well, but beautiful:-) One of the members of the ensemble noted that two words were flipped in the third verse. As I studied the text, I disagreed with him and we started a discussion that continued on and off throughout the morning (and that we both relished).

See what you think. Here’s the text… (emphasis mine)

As longs the hart for flowing streams
So longs my soul for You, O God;
My soul does thirst for the living God.
When shall I come to see Your face?

My tears have fed me day and night
While men have said, “Where is your God?”
But I recall as my soul pours dry
The days of praise within Your house.

Why do I mourn and toil within,
When is it mine to hope in God?

I shall again sing praise to Him,
He is my help, He is my God.

My friend thought the text should read: “Why do I mourn and toil within, when it is mine to hope in God?” In other words, “Why do I mourn when my hope is in this amazing God?” His view is theologically sound… But I agreed with the text as written. The Psalmist asks two questions… “Why do I mourn and toil within? When will I be able to hope in God again?” He encourages himself with the truth that he “shall again sing praise to Him, He is my help, He is my God.”

I fought back tears as I thought about this text. I know how it feels to mourn and toil and wonder if I will ever have hope again. I know how it feels to encourage myself with the truth that this season of grief will pass and I will again sing praise to Him, because He is my help and my God. I know (like so many others) all. too. well.

What’s interesting is the portion of Psalm 42 this text is based on… Check this out:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God (Psalm 42:11).

I would suggest that neither of our interpretations is correct! The Psalmist (David) is indeed mourning, but he doesn’t ask when he will be able to hope in God again, and he doesn’t claim to already have hope in God. No, he tells himself to hope in God because He is his salvation! A subtle difference, but so important.

My friend’s interpretation focused more on God’s character and failed to give adequate weight to the psalmist’s mourning. My interpretation was too focused on the toil within. David got it right. His soul is downcast. What is the answer? God (period).

I love words!

Goodness of the Lord …in the land of the living

Eric has been very encouraged with Anne’s progress lately. He’s posted two very uplifting journal entries on CaringBridge. I’m thankful that he’s so positive because I’m struggling. I’m struggling to see God’s goodness, and I’m struggling with hope.

Caring for Anne at home is so emotionally draining, so physically demanding… I’m tired, and it’s only been two weeks! So I pray from Psalm 27…

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?

4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.

7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!

8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”

9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!

11Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.

13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!

14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!

Suffering & Comfort

Part of me feels silly writing about suffering – what do I really know about suffering? …But as I’ve been (lightly) studying suffering in the bible, I am flattened by the extent of suffering I find there – the pinnacle being the crucifixion of Christ. Isaiah calls him the “suffering Servant” for good reason.

I have so many thoughts about suffering, but for now… I’d like to focus on Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1. Paul was intimately familiar with suffering. And somehow he is able to link comfort to suffering in a most provocative way. He actually tells the people of Corinth that the way to experience comfort is to suffer. Seriously?

For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. …If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer (2 Corinthians 1:5-6).

What kind of comfort is Paul talking about here? Knowing a tiny bit about Paul’s character, I don’t think it’s a sweet, warm & fuzzy feeling, but rather comfort in the truth that suffering is not in vain. Paul points to sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Christ’s sufferings accomplished the ultimate good – salvation from sin and death. And God brings good from Paul’s sufferings too. Paul argues throughout 2 Corinthians that his sufferings help him bring comfort to others and serve as a means to make Christ known to the world. The world notices when a “suffering servant” remains faithful to Him. It is the way of the Kingdom of God… death brings life… and suffering combined with surrender …brings comfort.