Blogging In Crisis

How do you write when you would rather just sleep?

How do you write when everyday you feel like you have just been run over by a bus?

How do you write when you have been drained of every ounce of profundity or insight?

How do you write when just getting up in the morning to go to work is your greatest accomplishment for the day?

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I have gotten off my usual pattern. For months, I would put out two blog posts a week. I haven’t been able to do that this summer. I lack the mental, spiritual, and physical capacity at this moment to keep to that schedule.

All of my posts recently have centered on my dad’s illness and death and my part in that equation. From a spiritual sense, that is about all that I can address right now. Before this summer, I would have post ideas brewing days before and when it was time for me to write something, my thoughts would be primed and ready to go. But lately, the only thought I have brewing regarding this blog have been, “I hope I can get at least one out this week.”

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I haven’t lost my morning routine. I have remained consistent, yet not up to date, with my Apprentice Experience reading. I even exercise regularly. But expressing myself beyond my rawest emotions and most evident reflections has been difficult.

I write this not as a way to whine or to elicit sympathy but to tell you part of the toil that struggle and grief can take on a person. I also write this to give you a marker for how I am doing with my grief.

When I get back to two posts a week and can start writing about subjects that don’t involve disease, struggle, and death, then you will know I am doing better. I am just not there yet.

Where Is God When It Hurts?

During the final months of my dad’s life, I learned that God takes care of you even when you think he isn’t taking care of you.

There were many prayers for my dad, and myself, that went unanswered. Prayers for his healing, prayers for his ease of mind, prayers for an easier situation for my dad, as well as for my mom and my sister and I. Those prayers seemed to go unanswered.

But all around the situation seemed to be evidence of God’s care for us in profound ways.

One such incident occurred the day I returned to work after a few days of helping my Mom care for my dad. These few days were some of the lowest points in the slow awful process of his cancer. He had become non-communicative and his attempts to walk and conduct just the most routine of movements had become almost impossible. We were forced to start looking at options for care outside of our own capabilities.

I was beat down and frustrated and helpless. Still, I had to work and fulfill my duties of my job.

A computer in our area was not logging on correctly and the usual fix was to climb underneath the computer station and start to mess with the chords. As I was doing this, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I saw that it was a torn out piece of paper with some words on it. I figured it was just trash and would quickly discard it. But, I did take a look at the writing and noticed these words:

“Cast all of your worries on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

Who knows how long that piece of paper had sat there, maybe weeks or maybe even months before I found it. And for me to find it at one of the lowest points of one of the lowest moments of my life was no mere coincidence or good luck. God was providing for me, was encouraging me, and was reassuring me of his great care.

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When my dad died, my wife was out of the country on a mission trip. The care and love that she received from the local believers in Zambia demonstrated that God’s love and provision is available half way around the world. The day he died, 22 girls at a Girl’s Retreat, which my wife help lead, sought and received Christ’s gift of salvation.

In the absence of my wife and her present support, three of the staff members of our church drove 170 miles to attend the funeral. Also, three colleagues at work made a similar trip to demonstrate concern, compassion, and support. Two of my longest and dearest friendships were represented and found me before the funeral to bring me encouragement and comfort.

I could go on and on in demonstrating how God was present and moving during this time.

Sometimes, as we look for God’s big miracles we miss all of the thousands of little miracles all around us. My dad was lost to us too early and under great strain and suffering. There is no denying the awfulness of his disease and what it did to his mind and body. I don’t understand why it was necessary for him to go through all of that and why we had to watch it happen. But in spite of that grim reality, I saw God work. I felt God’s comfort. I experienced God’s provision. I tasted his goodness. God was with me and with my family and with my wife. He never abandoned us.

“What’s lost is nothing to what’s found, and all the death that ever was, set next to life, would scarcely fill a cup.”

—Frederick Buechner, Godric, 96.

 

My Dad Taught Me What Mattered Most

My dad passed away on July 8. I tried to honor him at the memorial service by offering some remembrances. Here is a condensed version of those remarks.

My dad was a simple man. I say that in the best possible way.

He knew the power of a handshake and taught me such power. Just a few days before he died, he still gave me one of his patented handshakes.

He taught me that life wasn’t about comparison but an opportunity to get the most out of your ability. To this day, I tell our girls each day as they go to school to, “do your best.” I learned that from my dad.

He taught me that little things can make a big difference. My parent’s neighborhood is set up like a circle. Everyday, when he was able, my dad would carry each neighbor’s newspaper from the driveway to the porch. On trash days, he would roll the big trash cans from the curb to the house so that the neighbors wouldn’t have to do it. This sounds like a small thing, but just about every neighbor I talked to after his death mentioned his kindness to do this day after day.

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I mentioned that my dad was a simple man. A good way of thinking about simplicity, as it relates to a person, is they know what matters most. My dad knew what mattered most.

Before he retired, his job sent him to schools in small towns around the area where my parents lived. Instead of cranking up his favorite song or listening to talk radio, my dad would turn everything off and pray and meditate and sit in silence. What a simple yet profound thing to do in our day and age.

One Easter growing up, I noticed something strange at the dinner table. The rest of us were enjoying our meal but dad was just drinking orange juice. He wasn’t broadcasting it but he was fasting in response to the sacred event. I had never been exposed to this before and this action really had an impact on me. My dad took his faith serious enough to sacrifice something.  What was I willing to sacrifice?

Not too long ago, my dad and I were on a long trip out of town. He took the opportunity to tell me, “If there is anything I have done or said that hurt you, I am sorry.” Here was a man in his sixties asking for forgiveness. He was at the age where most men don’t think they owe anybody anything. You are supposed to be set in your ways by then. It takes a real man to go first in a situation like that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t man enough to return the favor and tell him that if there was anything that I did that disappointed him or hurt him, I was sorry.

What mattered to my dad was consistency, integrity, love of Jesus, family, connections with close friends, and kindness to others. These are the things that should matter the most to all of us.

May we all practice this kind of simplicity.

 

The Awful But Essential Need To Consider Our True Neediness

No one chooses to face the depths of their ruined heart.

Because we never seek this out, sometimes God has to force us to come to grips with our true bankruptcy of spirit. This usually occurs through some kind of tragedy or crisis or wilderness time. These are times when we come face to face with our own limits and realize we have little of what it takes to truly make it, to truly change, to truly be like Christ.

As my Dad faces death due to Cancer, I have had constant and ugly reminders of the depths of my selfishness, childishness, spoiled nature, and general immaturity. I talk a big spiritual game but this crisis has shown me that I am more than willing to manipulate even the most serious of situations towards my own comfort and wishes. I have fantasized about scenarios surrounding my family that might benefit others but basically only benefit me and my agenda.

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I have discovered that my capacity for compassion has limits, that my willingness to trust God is lacking, and that I want growth but on my own terms.

So I repent of my need to manufacture good for myself and put myself at the center of the universe. I want you Lord more than I want comfort for myself; more than I want my agenda; more than I want things to be easy.

Not my will but yours be done.