Nursing school, mourning, and where is God?- A Personal Davidic Lament (Psalm 13)

NOTE: This is not to be read as a “pity Jonathan.”  I would like the reader to read the faith struggle and doubt. For the tone I wish it to be read you can listen to it here:

https://soundcloud.com/sycamoreview/03-psalm-13-how-long-o-lord?in=sycamoreview/sets/the-psalms-project

Psalm 13 

1 How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?

How long will you hide your face from me?

2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts

and day after day have sorrow in my heart?

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.

Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,

4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”

and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

In my previous training as a Counselor and Minister I was taught of how to listen to those who are hurting, suffering, and mourning.  I was taught about trusting God and helping those who have lost all hope in humanity and in God.  I even took a class titled “Providence and Suffering” and read books like Philip Yancey’s Disappointment with God.  What I did not learn was how to mourn; how to live with hurt.

I have heard Nursing School often compared to Boot Camp and giving Birth. Very painful, however when you are done there is great pride and a reward. I didn’t get that reward.

Two weeks away from doing my internship.  Two classes left.  Four weeks from taking graduation pictures.  Two months away from sitting for boards to be an RN and my school has had close 100% pass rate on boards for nearly a decade.  Three tests changed everything.

Now I have close to $50,000 in debt and 3 years of school with nothing to show for it. I have contacted 4 schools about transferring since I have passed 90% of what most bachelors of nursing programs require to graduate.  The answer from all 4 schools has been and I quote “Although you may have completed a significant amount of coursework towards a BSN at UTHSC, you would have to retake all nursing classes if you are accepted into the BSN program due to the necessity to follow the curriculum to ensure that all aspects of nursing are covered.” It doesn’t matter that the program I was in was a Bachelors AND a Masters in Nursing program and a top 30 in the nation according to USA today. Translation: “Sir, you have run 25 miles of the 26.2 miles of this marathon but you must go back to the start line and begin the race all over.  No, Sir there are no other options.”

            God where are you in all of this?

Over the last month I have found myself punching walls and banging my head against walls out of frustration, out of anger, out of hurt. I have cried.  Boy have I cried. God only knows how many times I have cursed at Him; something that my younger faith would have thought would equal eternity in hell.  Sometimes the only relief I have found has been cussing. It hurts. God can handle it.  God wears Bigger Big Boy pants than I could ever dream of wearing.  He is God.

But what in the world God.!?!?! . . . Where are you God? Why aren’t you coming through?” 

I am tired of hurting and tired of mourning. It sucks. Most days I feel empty and without a compass or road map. All I know to do is go to my job.  I feel like a zombie. I am trying to find meaning, hope, or something out of all of this.

I am mourning. I don’t like mourning. I trust God even though I am doubting Him. I believe in God, just tired of Him “making things out of broken things” with my life. . . Not that I have any control over it.

All I wanted was to work as a nurse, provide for my family, and work with one of the two church plants that I was in conversations with. May 30, 2014 was graduation and moving shortly there after to pursue those hopes and dreams.  I wanted to work as a medical ER nurse after finally experiencing a taste of the work in my last clinical.

Instead, I have had multiple vivid PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) dreams according to a counselor friend of mine.  The lucid dreams are about accidentally hurting a patient in the hospital, not getting accepted into another nursing school while all my other friends do, or getting accepted into another nursing school and then getting kicked out after the first day of clinical because of doing something wrong.  I see my dreams in my wife, two sisters in law and mother in law who are all nurses.  I see my dreams in my friends who graduated last year and those who are doing their internships right now.  I see my dreams in my coworkers who are nurses. I hear it when my 3 year old says “Daddy needs to go upstairs and study” when I don’t or when he says “Daddy has to go to school today” when I don’t.

            “I am tired of wrestling with my thoughts God!”

I had aspirations to be a part of two to three medical mission trips a year in which I could combine my love for helping those hurting, bilingual abilities, and nursing skills like I just did in June in Ecuador.  Where was there any evil intent?  Where was there a lack of hard work on my part to accomplish my goals?  Where was I being selfish?!

I have doubts.  I question God and his purpose.  I feel picked on by God.  My faith is messy.  I don’t know how to mourn. I find comfort in that it is ok for me to feel and think those things because David did the same in this Psalm of Lament.  It embodies my life right now, my spirit, my emotions, and yes even my faith. It too is my Psalm of Lament.  My Psalm of Mourning.  My Psalm of Trust in God.

                                    “When Has God Not Been Faithful?”

Psalm 13:5-6

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;

my heart rejoices in your salvation.

6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,

for he has been good to me.

 God,

May the ending words of this Psalm be ever evident on my lips, my heart, and my faith.  Even in my mourning.

Maranatha! Come LORD Quickly!

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Honoring the Pope, Hope, and Peace: An Argentine Protestant’s view of the Papacy

Image

(Image taken from Argentine News paper) http://www.clarin.com/europa/Iglesia-catolica-nuevo-Papa_0_881912011.html

The title of this blog may seem odd to some and before I begin I want to give my worldview because we all wear rose-colored glasses that affect how we see the world.

I am Argentine born to American missionaries for churches of Christ to Buenos Aires; I am a dual citizen.  I am also a seminary graduate and former minister.  My perspective is both Argentine and American. Culturally Protestant and also somewhat culturally Catholic because I grew up in the culturally Catholic nation of Argentina; 90% Catholic during the time I lived there.  From an Argentine’s perspective the new Pope being Argentine is a BIG deal.  For Argentina this is as big as winning the World Cup.  For those that don’t know during the World Cup the whole nation stops working something that would never happen in USA. There is even talk of tomorrow being a holiday for Argentina.

As a Christian I understand that Catholicism is a part of the big picture of Christendom (See Image Below).  To paraphrase one of my professors Dr. John Fortner “your faith rests on the shoulders of those who have gone before you and they were not all church of Christ,” i.e.: many of the Bible translators are not from my Christian faith branch.  Because I understand that Catholicism is apart of my faith I would like to honor it.

I would like to honor the new Pope. He is someone who has tried to be humble.  He has not taken up riches in comparison to other Cardinals. He has not used a personal driver instead using public transportation even at the age of 76; in Argentina you could drop your briefcase in a train or bus and it would never hit the ground during rush hour because of how packed the buses and trains are.  He did not live in a luxurious place in Argentina instead chose to live in an apartment.  According to Argentines he was approachable after mass and would stop and pray with individuals that stopped him to do so. He is noted for listening to others.  All good qualities.

I commend him on his new name.  If he is trying to imitate Francis of Assisi he is imitating someone who is known for getting rid of his riches to help the poor.  Francis of Assisi is most well known from coming from a well to do family and in a counter cultural move took a vow of poverty renouncing his family’s wealth.  Assisi did so to the point of taking off his robe in front of a priest to give it to the poor; this of course a symbol of his attempt to be like Jesus that did not take earthly riches.  If he is trying to imitate Francis Xavier he is seeking to imitate a Jesuit missionary to Asia who studied under Ignatius of Loyola who was famous for spiritual disciplines.  In many respects he is a brave man for accepting the title of Pope.  He is the first Pope from outside Europe since the apostle Peter in close to 2000 years.  This is a monumental change.  He is also one of the few Jesuits to become Pope (need to look up the history on this). Let me repeat that he is brave.

Whether staged or not I would like to comment on the Pope’s first public appearance as Pope. Taking a moment of silence to listen; wise.  Asking for others to pray for you is a symbol to me of vulnerability and admitting that you are not God; this is to be commended.  In a time when most of the world is looking to praise him he did not appear to seek praise.

While I may not agree with Catholic theology I am hopeful that he can bring peace, justice, and a good name to Christianity. Whether I like it or not he is the most famous Christian in the world. I pray that he will represent my faith well.

 

Father in Heaven,

I pray for all of Christendom.

May we be Wells of Joy.

May we be People of Peace.

May we be Fighters for Justice.

May we be Restorers of Hope.

May we be Healers of Prejudice.

May we be Followers of Truth.

May I embody all of these.

Amen.

tree_of_christianity

 

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Neller’s Nifty Fifty

“Neller’s Nifty Fifty”

I have had several requests to post Dr. Neller’s “Neller’s Nifty Fifty.” I am pleasantly surprised to say that he apparently never waivered in his list.  He always had 51 not 50 passages to memorize.  As evidence of how “intense” we perceived the discipline of memorizing scripture to be, it appears that some students even made flash card apps online as recent as 2011. I did a simple Google search and this link is what popped up.

http://quizlet.com/5490629/nellers-nifty-fifty-flash-cards/

Make me smile.  It would probably honor him (and God more!) to memorize or rememorize these passages.  Here they are in NIV; probably not Dr. Neller’s favorite translation for it’s accuracy (tongue in cheek).

Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and and take up his cross and follow me. for whoever wants to save his life will find it. That good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 28:18-20 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Mark 1:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 16:15-16 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
Luke 13:3 “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
John 1:14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 3:5 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”
John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”
John 8:31-32 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
John 17:20-21 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that they may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Acts 2:36-39 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 20:28 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,which he bought with his own blood.”
Acts 22:16 “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.”
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
Romans 3:10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.”
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 6:3-4 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 10:9-10 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies”
2 Corinthians 5:10 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Galatians 3:26-28 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 4:6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”
Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Philippians 2:5-11 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Colossians 3:16-17 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him.”
1 Thessalonians 5:2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
2 Thessalonians 1:7b-8 This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Titus 2:11-12 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
1 John 5-7 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

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Beginning with the End in Mind: In Memoriam Dr Ken Neller

They say that when you write a song you should start with the end in mind. Similarly with telling a joke; you don’t want to give the punch line early or you ruin the joke.  Without the punch line at the end there is no joke. But what about life?

One of the things that I appreciate from my various academic pursuits has been the emphasis of starting with the end in mind in each discipline. In counseling you always want to know what the end goal is for the client. In nursing you plan for discharge, hopefully a healthy one, from the first moment they enter the door. In Dr Huffard’s spiritual leadership class in seminary he had us do a life assessment of a spiritual leader who ended well to see how God worked in that individual’s life.  He wanted us to see the challenges, valleys, and peaks in a faithful servant.

There is now a new leader whose life I wish I had known better.  Whose life deserves to be assessed because he was a true spiritual leader.  That man is Dr. Ken Neller; he Ended Well.

Dr. Neller finally arrived where he always longed for his journey to end on January 10th, 2013. I am grateful that my life intersected with Dr. Neller.  He taught me New Testament, the Gospel of John in Greek, 1 Corinthians in Greek, and Christian Ministry aka “Marry them and Bury them” class.  I am especially grateful for the “Marry them and Bury them” class because in my first full time ministry job I performed 2 weddings, but I also performed 8 funerals in 12 weeks!  However, those were not the most important things that I learned in Dr. Neller’s class.

I remember on our first day in our Christian Ministry class that Dr Neller gave us a questionnaire.  One of the questions asked was “Who has influenced you the most in your life?” I responded in the questionnaire the missionaries that I grew up around in Argentina.  I got it wrong.  I think the majority of our class of young hopeful minister got it wrong too.  Dr. Neller called us out and said that while family members, youth ministers, missionaries and other Christians are all good; they do not compare to Jesus.  He was that in love with Jesus.  He did not say that for show. He was being transparent.  It was the most impactful teaching moment I had experienced from him. It shook me at my core.

Dr. Neller ended well and had a vision for how he wanted things to end from the beginning. He followed Jesus.  One of my peers at Harding, Jonathan Storment, recalled a moment that we both shared together in Dr. Neller’s Christian Ministry class soon after that questionnaire:

“He taught me how to do ministerial finances, how to do weddings and funerals and how to read the Bible. He taught me how to use redaction criticism to write a sermon, but to never say redaction criticism in one. But the greatest lesson he taught me was one that only really makes sense now.

He was teaching us about how each of us have a canon within a canon. That is, everyone who reads the Bible, privileges certain verses over others, and it’s important to acknowledge which passages we lean into. Because, he said, this will affect the way you do ministry and the way you view God.

And that’s when he told us something that has blessed me every since.

He told our class that his hermeneutical center, the verse that meant the most to him was Matthew 25:21. When Jesus tells his people ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’

And then Dr. Neller teared up.

Which was not what any of us in class saw coming. He wasn’t the crying type, but you could tell that this was embedded deep in his idea of what it meant to serve God and to teach.

And then Dr. Neller went on to tell us that we each had no idea what we were about to step into, the amount of criticism we would face, and the temptation that we would have to be people-pleasers, but that this was not a big enough dream to give our lives for. And then Dr. Neller said this, ‘When I realized that God was the only one I really wanted to please, I realized what it meant to serve a church.’”[1]

I remember that moment well and I too was shocked by the moment.  I was humbled. I was inspired by his vision for his life.

In honor of a life well lived that honored God I have added Dr Neller to my personal heroes of faith that have gone on before me who are now apart of the “great cloud of witnesses” Hebrews 12:1 (See image of my Bible below).  Thank you Dr Neller for challenging and cheering me on my journey of faith with your life and your enlightenment of the Scriptures. Thank you for “Neller’s Nifty Fifty” passages that you instilled in me, the spiritual discipline of memorizing Scripture.

I am happy for you to get to hear the words that you always wanted to hear from God “εὖ, δοῦλε ἀγαθὲ καὶ πιστέ, ἐπὶ ὀλίγα ἦς πιστός, ἐπὶ πολλῶν σε καταστήσω· εἴσελθε εἰς τὴν χαρὰν τοῦ κυρίου σου“ “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

God,

Thank you for a good and faithful servant.

Amen.

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Pink daisies, Divorce, and caring for the wounded: How some Christians got it right!

I like flowers.  No, I don’t need anyone to send me any flowers but I know someone that does.

I am not going to presume to be the flower expert.  My Dad is the flower connoisseur in my family; he has over 60 rose bushes in his home in North Carolina. I like flowers. I like that each is unique individually even if it is of the same kind and color.  Flowers add colour and flavour (to use the British spellings) to life.  Flowers light up my wife’s face when I give them to her.  I even gave Meghan 3 dozen roses after we had dated a year; ought to do that here soon.  What I like the most about flowers is giving them. My grandfather many years ago got me into the family tradition of giving my mom and orchid for Mother’s Day.  Giving flowers add meaning and depth.  The specific type of flower is metaphoric.  If you give a single red rose you may invoke romance or passion; unless she isn’t that into you then rejection.  If you give a white rose it says purity.  Give a yellow rose you invoke feelings of friendship unless you give it to your significant other and then she might be breaking up with you. Of course the worst rose to give is the black rose aka “the kiss of death” unless it is someone’s 40th birthday and they are going “over the hill”; then it is just a joke. Pink daisies are my new favorite; not manly but full of meaning.

I know someone to whom you should send flowers.

Divorce is painful.  Often divorce happens because someone or both in the relationship have been selfish.  Because of the pain of divorce sometimes people celebrate.  I have known friends that have had a “happy signing the papers” party.  I have known others that have gone out and had sex with the first person they met.  I even had a friend who sat and got drunk all alone at home.

I know someone to whom you should send flowers.

Sometimes a divorce is healthy. Healthy how?  One word “abuse.” I have a friend who was abused in multiple ways.  Regardless, she tried to work on marriage for over a year, went to counseling, begged partner to go to marital therapy and partner refused, and even tried a trial separation for 6 months.  The last thing that she wanted was to get a divorce.  Divorce is against her faith beliefs and her faith group.  Often times churches banish divorcees of any kind.  There can even be a “witch hunt” by leaders of some churches to find if the divorce was “scriptural or unscriptural”; the whole process is against God’s will.  Some churches might as well sew a red “D” on people’s clothes that have ever divorced and excommunicate them from all faith.  All of the above a reasons are why my friend did not want to divorce.  Regardless, because of the abuse she endured she did.

Her church redeemed her. They heard her pain.  They were patient with her.  They redeemed her faith.  Her church Got IT Right.  They sent her pink daisies.

My friend’s church is helping bring healing. They could have continued the abuse that already occurred by shaming her; instead they chose to love. They are taking something painful and making it whole; they are redeemers. They redeemed my faith and hope in church.

I know someone to whom you could send flowers.  Those who have recently divorced, those who would have celebrated a wedding anniversary if it were not for divorce, and those who are separated.  Send them some flower.  I recommend pink daisies.

God,

Please bring peace to those hurting from broke relationships.  Bring healing to those who have lost intimacy. Bring them pink daisies in whatever form they may come.  Help me to be that pink daisy in my friends’ life.

Amen.

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Losing part of a finger, A name, and Heaven: Where is God in all of this?

What is the big deal about someone’s name?  People name their kids after fruits, medical conditions, former athletes, famous politicians, rulers, Greek mythology, and even the urban legend A – A (pronounced Adasha).  Regardless, I am a firm believer in pronouncing names correctly and the meaning of the name.  After all it is the name given to you by those who love you the most on earth.  So when Meghan and I decided to name our son Asher (אָשֵר ) one of the main reasons why is because the name means happy/blessing in Hebrew.  What we did not realize was what the implications of the meaning of his name would be.  Last night we got a taste of his name.

Our 2-year-old Asher had an accident last night and lost the top part of his right index finger. Asher fell out of a metal chair and ripped his nail and tissue underneath.  It also exposed a small bit of bone; have a picture of it but I will spare you from vomiting. The doctors were not able to reattach the top portion of his finger.

I cried this morning wishing that that it was a bad dream.  Meghan felt horrible and guilty wondering what she could have done differently.  No parent wants their child to be hurt even less to lose a part of their body forever; every parent wants a perfectly healthy child. Perfection shattered.  Where is God in all of this?  I mean for crying out loud this is a two-year-old child that was simply having fun!

In the middle feeling hopeless, hoping that none of this was real and that this really was not what Asher’s life would turn out to be, Asher taught us what his life really is about.  Asher began to sing in the Emergency Room:

“The Lord is good to me

And so I thank the Lord

For giving me the things I need

The sun and the rain and the apple seed

The Lord is good to me.”

I was in disbelief, how could he sing “for giving me the things I need?”  Asher then sang the songs Jesus loves me, The Lord has a Will, and God is so good.  The cynic and angry father in me argued and railed within me “He has no clue what he is singing about!  How could God be good, have a will, know what he needs, or even love my son after he just lost his part of his finger forever?!?! He is no longer perfect.”

Then the sane part in my argued “maybe Asher does know what he is singing and what it means.  Maybe I am the one that has one that does not know what those songs mean.”  I got it wrong.  Perfection was being demonstrated to me.  It was demonstrated as Asher checked on another child that was on stretcher with a neck brace.  It was demonstrated to me as Asher took interest in a baby that was crying.  He was showing me what heaven on earth looks like.

There will be days in which we will be sad or disappointed that Asher’s fingers do not all look the same. There will be days that as a family we mourn and cry losses and the pains of life.  There will be days in the future that are not perfect.  However, a piece of Asher is already in heaven. Even better, Asher shared of piece of heaven with me here on earth; trust in God.

God I believe.  Help my unbelief.

Thank you for pieces of hope and faith.

Thank you for Asher (אָשֵר )  sharing heaven with me and thank you for the piece of his finger that is in heaven.

You are God and I am not.

Amen.

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When Has God Not Been Faithful?

“When Has God Not Been Faithful?” but why this title?  Why the question mark at the end title?  When has God ever been faithful if there is a god?  You believe that there is a god in spite of the fact that science cannot prove the existence of god, in spite of genocide, in spite of Christians hurting each other, in spite of. . .  (you fill in the blank)?

When I first came up with the saying “When Has God Not Been Faithful?” as my life motto I did not know the pain that I would have to go through.  I did not know that I would have to enter the recesses of my pain and address my anger that I had bottled up; bottled, shaken, and spewed sideways.  I did not know that I would be abused by other people of faith.  I had never fathomed that I would be so disgusting to people that they would rejoice, celebrate, and even put it on a marquee thanking God that I was leaving their town.  However, I do not believe that good experiences or bad experiences prove anything about whether there is or there is not a god.  Experience shape and form ideology, emotions, spirituality, and faith.  Experiences are vital.  Facts are vital.  However, experiences are disproven daily by another individuals experiences or can be clouded by emotional unhealth.  Facts guide all knowledge yet in the medical community it is common knowledge that “what we know today in 5 years may be completely wrong” which has been proven tenfold. Nevertheless, experiences and facts are to be respected, acknowledged, and sifted with wisdom or a “grain of salt” however à la mode you choose to describe it.  All the more, experiences and facts are guide posts.  They are not the reality themselves, but are a framework from which I believe every individual operates in life whether knowingly or unknowingly.

As a person of faith I believe that God is always faithful regardless of if I can comprehend how He is faithful, regardless of pain that occurs in life, and in spite of broken dreams.  Some might call that blind faith yet I am a person who questions God to show up and be God.  This does not mean that God is my puppet and that He acts as my amulet at my beck and call.  He is God; I am not. I am a person who doubts God. I question Him out of pain that I experience daily, out of hurt of past things that have occurred, I get angry with God and yes even curse Him. However, most if not all of those pains and sufferings have occurred, occurring, and will occur due to one of five things 1. My current rebelling against God. 2. My past rebelling towards God. 3. There is brokenness in the world which is beyond my control. 4. God allows it possibly for my character formation. 5. God has something better planned.

My pain and suffering are not due to God not being God. Therefore, “if God is not God then we need not worry” however, if God is that “being than which no greater can be conceived” (Anselm/ontological argument) then there are implications for my life out of His faithfulness. I am a believer that IF I can answer and prove that God is not faithful as He claims in scripture then I am allowed to quit on Him.  I believe this to my core. The single best way of proving that God is not faithful is time. In time all will be proven even at the end of time, if there ever is such a thing. Until that time when all is made clear I will live in tension and continue to ask and question “When Has God Not Been Faithful?”

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
Amen.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

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