Archive for the ‘suffering’ Category

I was hungry and you formed committees.

I was thirsty and you preached sermons.

I was naked and you said, “That’ not in the budget.”

I was sick and you sang another chorus while internally debating traditional verse contemporary style of worship.

I was lonely and you rushed to the restaurant to get the best booth.

I was in prison an you held another congregational meeting.

I tell you the truth: whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto me.

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So much time has passed since I last posted. In fact, I do not know that I have updated my blog since just after the new year. So much has changed in my life and I have been trying to process it all. Life is like a roller coaster ride. It is filled with ups and downs and sudden twists that take you completely by surprise. Sometimes all we can do is hold on tight and trust we will make it through the ride safely and with a better appreciation for the calm moments.

It feels as though the last 10 months or so have been a giant roller coaster with sudden turns and corkscrews and loops with no area of straight track. It feels as though I am holding on tight and trying not to fall out. What I am learning is to trust the ride operator. God is guiding and leading and I am slowly learning to trust Him, loosen my grip on the safety bar, and enjoy the ride. In all honesty, it has been an incredibly painful  and emotional lesson, but I am thankful for what I am gaining from the ride.

Back in October, our then one-year-old son, Joshua was admitted into the hospital. We were told by the hospital staff and doctors that he was near death. We brought him in just in time. Our life was rocked. Nothing else mattered to us except making sure our baby was okay. We cried; we prayed; we worried; we stood strong; we struggled, but still trusted in God. After about a week in the hospital , he was released and doing well. This was one roller ride we did not want to experience again. We learned valuable faith lessons, but no parent wants to see their child suffer like that.

Fast forward a few weeks. I sat in my office responding to emails and working on a children’s Christmas musical for the church. An elder approached me and said I was needed in the conference room. I sat down and listened as the elders asked me to resign as children’s minister. My heart sunk. I did not know how to respond. I was always told that I was a great teacher and the kids were learning so much, yet it was explained that because of my struggle to find teachers, I needed to resign my position. Every emotion imaginable overtook my spirit: anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, and even relief. It is hard to explain. I was quite bitter for a couple of months. I felt like such a failure. I was depressed.

I struggled to find any type of work at all. I applied at retail stores, restaurants, and even fast food places. With each rejection, I sank a little lower. I finally took a job cleaning a department store and probably wouldn’t have even found that job if my brother-in-law hadn’t recommended me. I wondered what was wrong with me. I wondered how I could have my ministry taken away from me. Nothing seemed to matter at that point. Rather, I didn’t think I mattered at that point. I felt so low; so useless; so powerless. I sat in the worship service not knowing what to do. I had always had some role to fill – preach the sermon, teach the class, lead the communion, be up front, share a word of wisdom – now I just sat there. Yes, I understand that one does not need to be up front to participate in the worship and life of the church, but that was all I had ever known. Now, I felt…insignificant. All I had ever worked for was gone.

I was one the roller coaster of life and it was making me sick. I became disoriented from all the turn and sudden drops. I cried the ride operator (Jesus) for help. He didn’t stop the ride, he didn’t even slow it down –  but  he did teach me how to learn from the ride and even enjoy some of the moments. I learned a very valuable lesson. My identity is found in being God’s child – nothing more, nothing less. My identity is not a title of minister, it is not a great sermon, or a good lesson. My identity is not found in being a good teacher. My identity is not wrapped up in my ability to organize. It is not found in being an introvert or an extrovert. My identity is found in Jesus. My identity is not others expectations of me. My identity is God’s son. I had never realized I viewed my identity in being a minister and having a title, but when that was taken away, I had never felt so insignificant. I have now learned my true identity. I am God’s and He is mine.

Do I miss doing full time ministry -yes, I miss parts of it. I miss teaching and preaching. But I will not trade the valuable lesson I have learned. It nearly cost me everything, but I have gained the only thing that mattered. I have gained an understanding of my true identity.

The roller coaster did not end there. You can read about Kellie’s job change and see that God is still trying to teach us something. Sometimes, I just want to scream out, “Okay God I get it. You can stop now.” But I am so thankful for this new-found identity. It was there all along, it just took a major wake up call to realize I was burying it somewhere and didn’t even realize it.

My life looks much different today than it did a year ago. I am now a forklift operator at a local warehouse. It is so different from what I am used to and I struggle to find my place there sometimes. I used to preach about staying faithful during the darkest times of life and now I am experiencing what that means. I once talked about freedom in Christ and now I am truly experiencing it. I am God’s child – nothing more, nothing less. Lord teach me to always find my identity in you.

Joshua’s leg was red and swollen. He found it difficult to walk and we could tell it was infected. He went to the doctor last Monday. He was prescribed a couple of antibiotics. We came back to the doctor Wednesday, he was given a shot of antibiotics. We checked him into ER on Wednesday night and he was sent home. We took him back to the doctor on Thursday and they immediately admitted him into the hospital. It was scary to Kellie and I.

We sat there at the hospital holding our precious child wanting so badly to protect him. He was given an iv with a steady flow of antibiotics. It broke our hearts to see our 1-year-old child laying there with an iv. We were not sure how bad the situation was until the doctor and nurse began to explain that when we brought him in, it was close to being fatal. That thought still haunts us.

Joshua is a strong kid and he managed a lot of smiles during his hospital stay, but what sticks out most are his screams. He hated to have anyone touch his leg, yet the doctor and nurses had to touch and examine it. They had to see that it was progressively getting better. When he was admitted, his white blood cell count was at 31,000. The normal is 5,000-10,000. He was in bad shape. The lab workers had to prick his finger to get his blood for testing. He screamed. We had to hold him down. There was a time when his iv came loose. He had to have it moved to the other arm. Three nurses and Kellie held him down. I entered the exam room as they were trying to insert the iv. He somehow managed to get a leg loose and kick one of the nurses. I came in to help. It was so hard to look at him. With tears in his eyes, he looked at Kellie and me. Though he was unable to speak verbally, his eyes and tears told us what he was thinking. “Why are you letting them hurt me? Why are you helping them hurt me? Can you pick me up and hold me? Can you tell these people who are hurting me to go away?” It broke our hearts. How do you communicate to a one year old child that we are not hurting him, but helping him? The nurses and Kellie and I knew something he didn’t know. We knew that without this pain, there would be no healing. The pain was a part of the healing process.

I learned something that day. From a father’s perspective, I did want to just pick him up, hold and comfort him, and tell the ladies with the needles to go away and leave my son alone. But had I done that…I don’t want to speculate. I realized that this pain was part of the healing process. I had an image of Jesus as he was being beaten and nailed to the cross. I thought of his prayer in the garden where he asked God if there was any other way. I thought of the pain His heavenly Father must have felt as he saw his son having nails driven through his hands and feet. Jesus words on the cross were “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” It is as though he is questioning, “Why must this happen?” And I pictured God, the heavenly Father looking down at His Son and answering, “Without pain the people have no true healing.” Without the suffering Savior, I have no healing. Without his pain, I am lost. Without his pain, I am hopeless.

I find myself sometimes looking toward the heavens and begging God, ” Why are you letting this happen? Can you make this pain stop? Can you take the hurt away? Will you make these people who are hurting me go away and leave me alone.” His quiet answer is “Without pain, my son, there is no real healing.” My pain helps me realize my need for God. My pain reminds me that although I may not realize it, my condition is severe – it is fatal. If I do not have the pain, I may not seek the doctor of my soul; the healer of my soul. Without the pain, I have no real healing. What about you? Do you have times of pain? Have they caused you to look toward the heavenly Father who is the healer of your soul? Look to Him – he has the cure for your heart’s condition. He is the healer.

Last Friday I took Joshua to a doctor’s appointment. It was the routine four month check. I am happy to report that he is healthy and growing strong. A part of the four month check up is immunizations. The word immunizations sounds so much nicer than shots. The nurse came in with three syringes of various immunizations to shoot into my four month old son’s legs. My job was to hold his arms and head while the nurse held down his legs and gave him the shots. He screamed a painful cry as the needle penetrated the skin. Big crocodile tears dripped down his face and then he looked at me. I am not sure what his mind is able to comprehend or how he processes his thoughts; but it seemed to be a look of “Why are you letting this happen to me?” It broke my heart. I did not want to see my child hurt. I did not want to see him in pain. I wanted to hold him and tell the nurse to keep those needles away from my baby boy. But I did not. I knew the temporary pain of receiving a shot would help him be stronger and more equipped to fight off sickness in the future.

I began thinking about that and realized it is similar to our spiritual walk with Christ. Sometimes life hurts. We go through trials, persecution, hardships, sickness, and pain. We like Joshua do not understand what is taking place and we look to our heavenly Father with a “why are you letting this happen?” attitude. Nobody enjoys pain (unless there is something deeply wrong with them), yet we all suffer pain. Nobody likes to hurt. We do not like suffering. We do not like persecution, yet we all face it. I believe the trials, persecution, and sufferings we face are making us stronger and more equipped to stand strong in our faith. They serve as a spiritual shot, an immunization, preparing us to fight against the sin that seeks to overtake us.

When the shots were finished, I picked up my son and held him close. I softly talked to him telling I love him. I sang a song to him. I let him know that he was loved. When I make it through a trial, I feel my Lord grab me and hold me close. He whispers that everything is okay. He sings over me. No, I do not hear an audible voice or feel a physical touch from God, yet I experience something much deeper. I experience an amazing renewal and transfromation that moves me closer to God.

Sometimes life hurts. It is during those times that we must learn to listen to what God is seeking to teach us. He loves us and He does not want to see us in pain, but He knows that when we overcome this temporary trial – we will receive something much greater.