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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Yeah, Though I Walk - 9.11.01 - Everyone Has a Story

On that lovely autumn day with a clear, brilliant blue sky, I was in my classroom teaching Bible to high school students. After my first class, I headed to the church office for my weekly Tuesday morning meeting with the Youth Pastor. The secretary seemed alarmed and mentioned something about the World Trade Center, but I was focused on the upcoming meeting and didn’t really pay much attention. However, the Senior Pastor stood in the doorway of the Youth Pastor’s office. Our Senior Pastor was a big man--tall and broad shouldered and he filled the doorway. He didn’t move, so I stopped and looked up at him. He asked me if I had heard the news. When I shook my head, he told me that the World Trade Center had been hit by an airplane. Each of the towers had been hit. My thoughts quickly turned to the Youth Pastor’s father and brother-in-law who both worked in Manhattan. The Senior Pastor, the Youth Pastor, the Church Secretary and I paused to pray for our country and for those in the towers. Then the students were gathered and we went to tell them and walk with them through the horror of that day. 

The Senior Pastor stood in front of the auditorium like an unmovable, unshakeable rock and told the students that some days shape our lives and our world and this was one of those days. He not only told them the news, he put it into perspective and he prayed with them.

Throughout that day and in the following days we prayed often with our students and we waited. Being little more than an hour northwest of New York City, many of our kids had parents or other family members that worked in the WTC or were police or firefighters in the City. We prayed and we waited. We waited for news of rescue, news of a loved one coming home.  As we talked it seemed that everyone knew someone who had been affected, that everyone had a story of how the Attack on America had directly impacted them. We watched and waited and prayed. One student’s mom escaped the Towers as did the Youth Pastor’s brother-in-law. Their lives were forever changed. The firefighter father of two of our students went into the building, but never came out. Others from our church were at Ground Zero doing rescue and recovery work.  We watched, we prayed, we waited, and everyone had a story.

On September 13, 2001 I penned the following:

Everyone has a story . . .
Stories of pain, shock, terror . . .
Everyone has a story . . .

It was a bright, clear Tuesday.
The sun shone brilliant in a cerulean sky
Over the Big Apple
The capitol of the world

New Yorkers bustled along the streets
Walking to work
Riding the subways
Hurrying about their daily tasks.

Overhead, a jet airliner whined
Spectators commented on how low it flew.
Then the horror began.
The North Tower of The World Trade Center was hit . . .
A direct hit, by a 767.

A city stood in shock
People fled the building

Then 18 minutes later the horror grew
A second plane flew straight into the South Tower
A cloud of fire mushroomed up the building
From where the plane had hit.

About an hour later the South Tower collapsed.
To those who watched it looked surreal, like a horror movie
Except it was real . . . oh, too real for all of America

A plane flew into the Pentagon
Both Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed
Thousand buried in rubble
Fires raged
Screams of terror
People fleeing
The dead and the living buried
The brave rescue workers
The innocent business men and women
The airline passengers
The day-care children
The suicide mission hi-jackers
A city . . . a state . . . a nation watched in horror and shock.

The sky filled with debris
Smoke . . . dust . . . papers . . . bits of buildings . . . bits of people

The hospitals filled
The news dribbled out
Thousands around the nation waited
Did those they loved survive?

Today, 2 days later many don’t know
We still grieve
Flags fly at half staff
Police patrol our streets
Our military is on alert

The terrorists have struck
We put on a brave face
We vow to bring justice
But our hearts . . . our hearts grieve
And deep inside, below our anger
Below the confusion
Below the hurt and pain
We’re a nation afraid
Terrorism has never struck so close to home
And we’re afraid of what will come


The two most important words in all history

BUT GOD is still in control
BUT GOD still lives
BUT GOD still loves
BUT GOD is unchanged

If our world is turned upside down
If all that we know is destroyed
If the horizon we’ve known all our lives disappears
If the people we love are gone


Our refuge . . . our fortress. . . our grace giver . . . our life giver . . . our hope . . . our strength . . . our peace . . . OUR ONLY HOPE – THE GOD WHO NEVER CHANGES!!!!!!!

What are your memories of 9.11.01?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Yeah, Though I Walk - God is Good

In 1999 a relationship ended abruptly and with a great deal of pain. The grief and distress I experienced over this loss also brought to the surface some of those same questions I had wrestled with previously. Why? Why did bad things happen to good people? Who is this God I claim to serve and love?

Deep soul searching and study of Scripture led me on a path that first went down into an honest exploration of my view of God and into my doubts and then to a realization that changed my perspective.

Had someone asked me if God was good, I would have said yes. During this time of soul searching, I realized that at the very core of things I doubted God’s goodness. I doubted that a God who was good would let these things happen. While I believed that he was mostly good, I couldn’t understand how He let these bad things happen if He was fully good. I came to realize that there is no middle ground. Either He is good or He is not. If He is not, then He could not be God. 

The Bible describes God as pure, holy, righteous, and good. This is His moral character. The Bible describes Satan as evil. I realized that if God was evil in even the tiniest of ways, then He was not absolutely good, pure, holy, or righteous as the Bible declares Him to be. If that were true, He could not be God. If He was not good, then we were left only with an evil ruler of the universe and both God and Satan would be evil. We would be left with nothing truly good. As I processed this and worked through it, I realized that I believe there is good in the universe, in the world AND I believe there is evil. Better stated I believe there is a Good God ruling the universe and an evil Devil seeking to overthrow him. I realized that if that were a true premise, then God had to be 100% good.

If God were 100% good, then He could do no evil. Nothing that comes from His hand is evil.

But how does a God who is 100% good even allow evil?

Despite knowing how things would go, despite knowing that His only Son would have to become a human being, suffer, and die to rescue humankind from the clutches of evil, He chose to give human beings the ability to choose. The ability to choose God or reject Him, the ability to choose good or evil, the ability to choose to love or hate, the ability to have a true will of our own, was so very important that God created us with it, despite knowing all that would happen because of it.

God’s design is not for evil. God’s design is for 100% good and He is working out His plan to bring that about one day. In the meantime He has allowed evil to enter the world, to exist because that is what humankind, in Adam and Eve, chose. God valued us having an ability to choose so very highly. Humankind chose to disobey, chose evil and every second of every day we experience the consequence of that choice and of our own continued choices. One day God’s purposes will be accomplished and He will establish a place where there is only good and where we choose only good. Evil will be eradicated and good will prevail.

In this I found the answer to my question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

The reality is there are no morally pure people, only imperfect people, experiencing the consequences of sin in this world . . . BUT ONE DAY this will change. One day we will live in a perfect place where death and sin and pain and sorrow are no more. 

What do you think it will be like to live in a perfect, good place where evil has been eradicated?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Yeah, Though I Walk - Part 2 - Learning to Grieve - Grieve Purposefully

Although I had witnessed trauma and grief, I had no idea how to grieve. All I knew was that it knocked people off their feet and was so very painful. 

A book entitled A Severe Mercy changed my perception of grief. The book is written by Sheldon VanAuken and tells the love story of himself and his beloved wife Davey. Through interaction with C.S. Lewis the couple comes to faith in Christ. Davey’s faith grows strong and she is willing to give everything up for her love of Christ. While Sheldon also believes, he is unwilling to surrender everything to God. Davey’s greatest wish is that Sheldon would surrender completely to God and she is willing to give her life to see that happen. She prays to God for Sheldon and offers herself, if need be, on his behalf. Not long after this prayer, Davey becomes ill and after an extended illness, Davey does indeed die and Sheldon is bereft. 

As he described the process he went through to grieve the loss of Davey, I realized that grief didn’t have to be a bottomless abyss of hopeless agony, but that it could be approached in a purposeful way that honored the person lost, the relationship with that person, and God.

Everyone grieves differently and the things Sheldon did might not work for everyone. Still, I believe that the principle behind his actions is universal. Grief can be approached with purpose and a path to hope and recovery can be found. 

Has there been a book or song that has encouraged you in your journey through grief?
Please take a moment to share it with the rest of us. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Yeah, Though I Walk - Questions

These first four deaths (My Uncle, My Pastor's Son, My Missionary Cousin, and My Little Cousin) occurred before I was 20 years old and impacted my life profoundly. They taught me lessons about the shortness of life, the suddenness of death, and about keeping short accounts and telling people I love and value them.

These first four deaths also raised questions about the character of God. I have consistently had a firm belief in the existence of God. I see too much evidence in the natural world around me, in the intricacy of the human body and the laws of nature to doubt that He exists. I have, however, had many questions about the character of God.

My Uncle was a youth group leader and driving students to a youth group event when he sustained the injuries that would lead to his death. My Pastor’s Son was a good boy and his father was a Pastor – a man of God. My Missionary Cousin was going to tell people in Peru about how Jesus died to save them, but he was never able to go. My Little Cousin was the daughter and granddaughter of people who loved God and served Him faithfully. It seemed so unfair to me that God would allow these people to die. After all they were serving Him, didn’t that mean they should experience blessing and long life? It seemed so very unfair to me. I asked why. No, at times my heart screamed why.

Although I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to admit it to many or even to myself, I spent many years doubting that God was good. I questioned what kind of God would do this, what kind of God would kill people who were serving Him. What kind of God would allow people to suffer so?

I didn’t know that I was asking the age old question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” But, I was. And it was 16 years before I would find peace with this question. 

What insights into the question 
"Why do bad things happen to good people?" 
have you gleaned on your journey?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Month of Silence . . . What's Up?

Dear Readers,
Thanks for tuning in today. I wanted to pop in to say, "hi" and to explain where I've been the last month.

Accountants have tax season, doctors have flu season, pro athletes have the season that matches their sport. And I, well, I have editing season, that time of year when doctoral candidates are frantically writing and needing editorial help because deadlines are looming just a short time away. Usually from mid-November until mid-January I have a great deal of editing to do and I spend many hours carefully sifting through doctoral dissertations correcting errors and giving suggestions for a better paper. This year I have seemed busier than usual and that combined with extra family responsibilities eclipsed many other things including keeping in touch with you my valued readers. I have missed you and our conversations.

I have a post ready to publish in a day or two that will continue the "Yeah, Though I Walk" grief series. And then, Lord willing, we will continue our journey together.

Blessings and thank you for your patience!