I felt unsettled this evening. The cause was some music I was listening to. Yes, at times I revel in the artistry and swagger of certain artists or bands. At other times I enjoy a deep dunk in nostalgia listening to something hard and heavy. But, at other times like this evening, it is music like the songs of Steven Curtis Chapman that grab ahold and remind me of all that I have to be thankful for and what the purpose and ultimate focus of life is really meant to be for me as a follower of Jesus.
But, those peaking thoughts of inspiration soon dissolved into concern for friends of mine who don’t ever seem to come to that realization of what it really means and feels like to live with peace and purpose. There is a peace that comes with living under the grace of God that bursts out, over, and further beyond anything that we can quantify and I know that so many around me are missing it. Like I have been so often before, people are easily distracted with their attention fixed on something that seems shiny and rich in the moment, but, that, ultimately, rings hollow.
This concern brought me to the point where I felt like I needed to write. I have a couple of files on my laptop where I go to write new poems whenever the muse strikes and, while looking for one of those files this evening I stumbled upon some poems and scriptures that I’d typed up in the days just prior to my dad’s passing from brain cancer.
So many moments that occured in those dark, painful days in February 2012 are clear as crystal in my mind, but, tender still, like scars that will never heal. Yet, in words that I’d apparently typed just prior to Dad’s death, I found a striking affirmation of my faith and hope. Despite the dark, still tender memories that revisit me from those days so clearly, I have no memory of typing the words that stumbled upon this evening, but, it is clear, now, that God was readying me for what He had in store, just out of sight.
That said, I couldn’t be more familiar with those words. They are no stranger to me now. It turns out that they are a concise collection of some of the scriptures that I have held most closely and clung to so dearly in my life since my dad passed away.
In telling my testimony to others I often tell how my dad became completely dependent upon others as he declined. Toward the very end this meant that I had to care for him in ways I’d never imagined, helping him in the bathroom, among other things. But, as awkward as some of those moments seemed, I realized, in a very distinct moment after having read James 1:27 for the first time, that some things simply needed to be done regardless of how awkward or uncomfortable it made me feel. There are people in this world that are completely vulnerable and have no hope that they can muster by their own means. My dad was at that point and I knew what I had to do.
But, aside from that one distinct example, some of the other distinct details of how I heard from God and when, in the midst of that dark period and since, have grown fuzzy.
Tonight’s discovery was a distinct reminder of just how God used the fertile of that dark season as the perfect seed bed for hope and purpose that, at that time, I couldn’t imagine.
Since my dad passed away on February 20, 2012, just after midnight, The Hands & Feet Project’s mission to fight the orphan crisis in Haiti has gradually become a source of hope and purpose of our family and one of my greatest passions. There is no greater joy that we can know than to have confidence that we are on the path that God has designed for us.
God is faithful to walk with you through your darkest seasons and reveal joy, hope, and love that you can’t even imagine — if you’ll only empty your hands of whatever fixation you’re holding onto here on the surface of this dirt-clod, broken planet and lift them to Him to fill with His grace, peace, and purpose.
With every day that my Dad’s condition worsened further, the distractions of this life poured out of me a little more until, eventually, all that was left of me was a broken empty vessel laying on the hospice bed with my ear on my dying father’s chest listening to his last few heartbeats.
Only at that point was I ready to really be filled with Living Water and the abundant life that he had waiting for me.
Life’s heaviest, darkest trials, long and painful as they may be, are sometimes exactly what we need to prepare us for God’s greatest blessings.
God is faithful. He knows what He’s doing and He knows what you are meant for. Do you?
The smell of this poison
The ravaged territory
Left in its wake
Contaminate my perspective
A trickle slithering
Through my thoughts
Like an earthworm
Toward a ruptured cyst
What lies behind
The deathbed before me
A landscape of miles ahead
Yet to be traversed
In a singular notion
Not to be betrayed
This trail that you’ve blazed
Destination shrouded by trees
Under the cover of night
Your grace escapes unseen
A knee-jerk reaction perhaps
To pangs of frustration
Setting in from every side
Matthew 5:3 KJV: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 22:36-40 KJV: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Matthew 25:40 KJV: “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Luke 22:41-46 KJV: “And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down and prayed, Saying, Father if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And when he rose up from prayer and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”
James 1:27 KJV: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the Fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”