Friday, May 30, 2008

Do we cry like Jesus?

Wednesday night our pastor, Devin, addressed an issue that to be honest, I had never given much thought. As part of a series on "walking as Jesus walked," he taught us about the times in Scripture where Jesus cried. Now, of course I knew about these passages, and have heard many sermons about them, have read them, and have even thought about them. But I don't think I've ever really considered their application to my life. I always just thought that they showed a human, emotional side to Jesus; that they portray His humanity and deep sensitivity. Devin discussed them from this angle, too, but at the end he applied them to us as Christians. That's the part that really has me thinking over the last two days.

In our society we are taught that real men don't cry, at least not in public, but that isn't the picture we see of Jesus in the Bible. Let us see:

John 11:35 Jesus wept.
This happened in Bethany outside Lazarus' tomb, when Jesus saw the grief of Lazarus' family and friends.

Luke 19:41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it...
Jesus knew the destruction that would take place not too long after this, when the Romans would come in and literally tear the city down. He knew the fate of the people, and even though they had rejected Him, He wept for them.

Hebrews 5:7-8 ...who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
This is a description of Jesus when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He was Crucified. We know that He was in such agony that He sweated drops of blood in addition to shedding many tears. He was in a deep emotional state as He looked ahead to the suffering He would endure.

We therefore see Jesus shedding tears in three different situations which I would sum up:
1. Compassion for others' grief and grief of His own over death and its hold on man
2. Sorrow for the lost, who face destruction both physical and spiritual
3. Deep personal anguish and suffering

Applying these to our lives, then, is simple yet intensely profound. Do we cry with and for others when they are hurting? REALLY cry over their sorrow? Not just tell them we love them and will pray for them but sit down with them and cry? Do we shed tears for the lost? Are we moved to such deep feeling for sinners that we weep for them and for the destruction they surely face? Do we cry out to God with "vehement cries and tears" when we are suffering greatly?

Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but I think many of us have become hardened and jaded in this area of our lives. We think that crying is a sign of weakness, or we don't want to be seen as emotional basket cases. I'm not advocating that we spend all our time crying and wailing, or that every Sunday be a huge emotional experience where we go to the altar and sob. After all, we are only told of a few times that Jesus wept. But I admit that I have tried NOT to cry over the last year, maybe because I fear that if I begin crying, the tears will go on for too long a time. Oh, there have been a few times I've cried--one night in choir the words of a song we were singing brought me to tears...("Sometimes we wait, simply to find, sometimes the answers come with time...there is a place where we rest in His grace, when sometimes we wait on the Lord.") I've been moist-eyed a few times in church, here and there. Usually I just try to get it under control as quickly as possible. But now I'm thinking--would it be cathartic to cry before the Lord with "vehement cries and tears"? How long has it been since I truly wept for the lost? How long since I had "a good cry"?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Another Reason for Bobby's Cancer

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 reads:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

Over the past year our family has seen many reasons for our having to go through something as difficult as Bobby's cancer. We have seen spiritual growth in ourselves and others around us, we have had opportunities to witness, and we have learned to be content in whatever situation God puts us in. (Okay--we're learning to be content...)

Now we have a new reason. Last week the social worker from the oncology clinic, Donna, called us to find out if we would be willing to reach out to another family whose little boy has just been diagnosed with cancer. She really wanted to know if we felt recovered enough to take on something like this, and I told her that we are. So Monday night we went out to eat with another family who are just starting out on the long journey of cancer treatment. I have not sought their permission to use their full names on here, so I'll just use first names.

Jesse and Vicky have three children ages 11, 8, and 4. A few weeks ago their lives were totally normal, with Jesse working as a pastor of a local Southern Baptist church, and Vicky working three night-shifts a week as a nurse at a local hospital. About three weeks ago, their oldest child, David, started to notice that his left foot wasn't feeling right. He was dragging it a little, and didn't feel like he could tell it what to do correctly. He told his parents that he was thinking what his foot should do, and it was not responding with the action. This condition worsened over a few days, and they sought medical help. Within a week they had their answer: David had a brain tumor.

Two weeks ago David had the tumor removed from his brain. The pathology report shows it to be an anaplastic ependymoma (translation: malignant, no-good, low-down, dirty-rotten cancer.) The doctors believe they got it all out during his surgery, but this does not mean that there aren't cancer cells hiding in the surrounding tissues. Because of this possibility, he is now facing eight weeks of radiation treatments. This sweet family's entire lives have been turned upside-down.

As we sat and talked with them Monday night, we realized just how thoroughly God has prepared us to be able to help, comfort, and encourage Jesse and Vicky. Bobby was able to answer a lot of questions for David and encourage him, too. We can share experiences, give advice, give comfort, pray with them, and uphold them during this time. It was nice for them to have somebody saying "We know exactly how you feel." It reminds me of last March when the Botelhos came to visit us in the hospital and we shared an immediate bond. There is the bond of brother/sisterhood in the Lord, and the bond of parents dealing with a child with cancer. We really do know how this family feels. We can now comfort them with the same comfort with which we have been comforted.

As for David, he's doing remarkable well. He is recovering from his tumor resection well, and only has residual weakness on his left side and loss of balance. He is starting physical therapy this week, and is also have a spinal tap to check his cerebro-spinal fluid for cancer cells.

How wonderful for our family to see that God will use us to come alongside this precious family and help them through this time. As we left the restaurant on Monday night, we gathered around David as he sat on a bench just outside the door. We laid hands on him and lifted our prayers for healing to our loving, gracious, merciful Father God. Please join me in praying for healing for David.

P.S. His mom is setting up either a caringbridge or a Care Pages web site for him. I'll post the link as soon as I get it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Edible flip-flops....

Here is the promised picture of Mary with her birthday cake. She would rather be wearing flip-flops than any other kind of footwear, so I made her a pair of flip-flops on the beach. The "sand" is graham cracker crumbs, and the straps are made from sour-fruit candy. The polka dots are giant sprinkles. Caroline painstakingly applied all the polka-dots. The cake went over really well, and tasted yummy, too--french vanilla flavor. Her birthday is now over for another year...

Sunday, May 18, 2008

I ponder as I wander...

As I go through my daily routine, I have one or two songs that play over and over in my head, usually songs that I have been playing on the piano or that we have sung in church. Last week I was playing through my hymnal, and this song has been in my head ever since:

May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His power.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

Published in 1925 by Kate B. Wilkinson, this hymn was inspired by two of my favorite Scripture passages. The first is Philippians 2:5 "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus..." The passage goes on to explain just what that mind of Christ entails. This is perhaps my favorite passage in all of Scripture--verses 5-11 in Philippians 2. The other verses that Wilkinson clearly alludes to are Hebrews 12:1-2 "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." I'm pretty sure there are other verses referenced, also, but those are the two main ones.

I love the lyrics to this hymn, as the author asks for the mind of Christ, the word of God, the peace of God, the love of Jesus, and His beauty, to live in, dwell in, rule, fill, and rest upon her. I have been singing these words over and over (in my head) for the past few days. I'm not sure if we are supposed to meditate on things other than Scripture, but I think this song falls within the guidelines of Philippians 4:8 as something that should be thought upon. So I'll continue to keep playing it over and over in my head as "background music."

Are there any songs on your mind these days?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I Can't Believe It

My middle child, daughter Mary, turns eleven years old today. It amazes me that it has been that many years since Eric and I first held her in our arms. Then, she weighed 6 pounds and was about 19.5 inches long. Now, she's almost 5'1" and weighs about 86 pounds! In her short life she has survived a cerebral aneurysm repair, (no, it never burst, thank God!) lived in two states and for a few months in another country, and tolerated being the middle child quite admirably. She is very different from her older sister and younger brother in personality, but she's no wallflower. Mary impresses me with her ability to make friends easily and get along with almost everyone. She is kind, loving, and friendly. She really wows me when she gets up early, nearly every day, and gets most of her school work done before her siblings even start theirs. She is extremely self-motivated. She also reads her Bible every morning and every evening, and the fruit of this is evident in her life. She is striving to be more Christ-like each day. This is starting to sound like a college recommendation letter, and that was NOT my intent. I merely wanted to write about Mary today, telling anyone who reads this how very much I love her. I have been blessed beyond belief to have her as my daughter. Here are her last three birthday pictures. After her party on Saturday I'll post a picture of her with this year's cake.
Mary's birthday in 2005:

In 2006 celebrating her birthday at the Old English Tea Room with Caroline, Miranda, and Lindsay:

In 2007 with her Eleanor the Elephant cake: