Sunday, March 27, 2011

The wonder: Warts and All

My second child Goober (Oliver), as many of you know him, had just finished eating his meal. This is not uncommon. In fact, we have termed him the "human garbage disposal." He speaks in stout, chunky bunches these days - not unlike his stature. He was in the high chair in the kitchen the other night, Jada was crying on the couch, Pierce was crying in Jessica's arms and Goober and I were trying to clean up the mess after dinner. With food smeared all over his chubby little face, he sees a picture on the counter of Jess and I at my townhome in Angier, NC from when we were engaged (obviously not the wedding pic you see here).

Goober points to the pic and says, "that's my mom!" I look at him inquisitively and say, "who is that with momma?" Ollie looks at me and says, "Its my, its you. You are with my mom." Then, in the slow deliberate way that he always does now when he has something serious to convey, says "its amazing that you are with my mom dad."

Now lets get one thing crystal clear right from the start, I married UP! Jessica is a wonderful, godly and exciting woman to be married to precisely because her priority IS NOT me - its Jesus! It was quickly brought to my attention by my two-year-old that my wife is lovely and it is indeed "amazing" that she chose me. However, that is not where this little parallel from marriage finds its resting spot. Link
The thing I love about being a parent of kids the ages I have (and any parent reading this will likely agree with you sporting one of those "I know what you mean" grins) is their perpetual excitement. For a child like Ollie (2) or Jada (6) there really is nothing quite so exciting as learning a spiritual truth and watching it play out on their pretty little expressive faces. When was the last time you were perpetually excited to the point of shock and awe that God would have you? I am blessed to have a real life metaphor each day as I wake and glance at my lovely wife. I pray the same is true for many reading this.

Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17 and see if you don't come away with the "Jesus is everything" mindset. In times like Jess and I (or anyone going through trial) are going through Jesus is our perpetual joy, ALWAYS worth being ecstatic about. Jesus will have us and His Father has counted us (and many of you) worthy of suffering for His Glory and our Joy. And that is "the wonder" of, as the Psalmist says, "setting your hope in God!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Routine of the Abnormal and the Living Words of GOD!

Clinic mornings are never my favorite and yesterday was no exception. However, as I am learning, our LORD usually lays me metaphorically on my back looking up with no hope in self-salvation before I will pay attention to a truth He must impart.

Jess and I had gone to bed on Monday night discussing Psalm 71-78 (I recommend you read them). Our habit lately is to use the Bible application on my phone (thank you brother Alan for getting me a phone which encourages me to look at JESUS), locate a passage, and select the "read aloud" option and have it read to us. This has been GREAT because it is the closest thing to routine we have going right now. Having arrived Psalm 78:7 which speaks of "setting hope in God" I began to ask Jess what that looks like for her right now. "I have never been so pressed for stillness and had so little of it - yet clinging to the little I do have." Quickly I agreed and added this metaphor:

Have you ever taken a towel that was sopping wet and tried to wring it out completely? God's word is so saturated with Goodness, Greatness, Grace and Glory that even one drop of it is sufficient. So it is that each morning I envision God's word as a sopping wet towel in which the Spirit wrings out just a drop and this is sufficient for me to live on for the day.

Return with me if you will to the morning visit to clinic in which Jada received her chemotherapy and some rather sour news that her counts (especially her hemoglobin) are critically low. This simply means that she is in need of yet another transfusion. The staff will reevaluate her blood-work again tomorrow and determine whether she will have a transfusion. Please pray RIGHT NOW for RISING COUNTS to the Glory of God!

Jada has become increasing soft and her comments generally necessitate a thoughtful response from me. As we got on the highway Jada says, "its crazy that people just throw trash out their window onto the ground dad." "I know sweetie, it does not show respect nor love for what God has given us to take care of does it?" Jada processes and replies, "yeah, and its against the law dad. Did you know dad that there are many laws - some that are even crazy?" "Sure, I knew that sweetie." She looks straight ahead and says, "dad the people that make laws make them for us to live and that is very nice of them. They are kind of like moms and dads because parents make laws at home to help us live."

I thought to myself "I wonder if she sees the connection between this and the commands and prohibitions in the Bible." While still in my own thoughts Jada says, "dad, remember yesterday when I did not listen to you and you spanked me?" "Yes." "That was good because so many people in the Bible had to learn the hard way like me. God loved them but he made laws," she said. "I know Jada, Jesus clearly told us that His words give life and that He himself is the way, truth and the life." I wanted to get her away from the term "laws" and help her see Jesus because he is the fulfillment of those laws (John 5:39).

He is our life, even in the routine of the abnormal.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sloppy love

The note read, "Here's your money back, I did it because God told me to do it." While the nephew shall remain nameless... (he has red hair, 5 siblings, and splits his time between basketball and deer hunting) what he wrote served to illustrate what Jessica and I would call the sloppy love of God.

You know what I refer to if you are a parent. Its that kiss that your toddler gives you which is just a little too wet and requires a beach towel to clean up. They usually occur when least expected or when most needed. In the stillness of the early morning they squeak out of their bed, find you with your morning cup of coffee, look at you with those eyes you could get lost in, wrap those chubby fingers around your neck and plant one on you. It reminds you why you're a parent and encourages you to press on.

This metaphor will serve to illustrate our experience in the last two weeks. A brief summary: two weeks ago Sunday I had been up all through the night with Ollie who had a fever and was throwing up. I put a load of laundry in first thing Sunday morning and the utility room flooded. After some testing it was determined that the washer needed replacement. Monday morning I was up early reading and having a steaming cup of Joe when the fridge made a noise unfamiliar to my ears. After some testing it was determined that we were on borrowed time and it needed replacement as well. Our constant prayer through this whole thing with Jada has been that our trust of God would deepen even when the outlook is the bleakest available option. What happened the following 5 days was not unlike that sloppy kiss just described.

It began with one person, then two and then about five in all who gave us gifts of love in varying amounts of cash. All told the Lord blessed us with a new washer and dryer set, a refrigerator, and a free recliner. Now, catch this - the gifts we received began before the calamity befell us. However, the total of those gifts was roughly $25 more than the total we spent. God IS EXTRAVAGANT but not wasteful. His love is sloppy because it came when least expected but DEFINITELY when most needed.

Psalm 18:19 "He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me." When you read this what are your first thoughts? I read that and there are times, even this week if I am honest, in which I say, "yeah right. He delights in me? No way - he did not see or hear what I did or said just two hours ago... let me build up a track record which would make me worthy of love."

However, the real mind blower for me is this: write that verse out on a sheet of paper, draw circles around "he brought, he rescued, and he delighted." Invert the verse, "He delights so he brings about your rescue." Still we have not arrived at the motive for WHY he delights, etc. That is a crucial question to ascertain an answer to because so many of us in trials and even in the mundane still want to bust out the rag and a good bar of soap to clean ourselves up a bit before being presented to Him. The answer could not be more glaring when one realizes that the cause of his delight is not us but his Son. God does not look at Doug Rumbold and say, "now there is a stand-up guy." NO! He looks at me and says, "now there is a guilt filled, glory seeking, prideful, self-serving, and occasionally behaving man... Good thing he's got Jesus."

What does all this add up to? Well, I am certainly thankful for the monetary gifts, but I am most thankful for the perfect obedience to the point of sacrifice of God's own Son, Jesus Christ. Why? Because even in difficult times there is something about one's obedience to the Father that is beautiful.

The last event that occurred which served to encourage Jess and I still further was simple. I left my car at Alan's (my older brother) house while I borrowed his truck to pick up the new appliances. Admittedly I am not the most organized guy in the world and my car was in a state of disarray internally when I left it. My nephew cleaned out the inside to top notch specifications. When I picked up my car all I had was $2 cash on me. So, I thought, "I'll tip the man for his efforts and help him realize that his kindness and diligence were of great encouragement to his aunt and uncle." I left the money with his mom and dad and hit the road. The following day he shows up with a sealed envelope and nonchalantly hands it to me. When Jess and I read the note (the contents quoted above) and found the $2 inside we were amazed. "I did it because God told me to." No gain in it for himself. Obedience. That's all.

So, rest assured when a sloppy kiss of God's love comes your way - it was enabled by THE ACT of obedience by Jesus Christ. . . nothing you did to deserve it.

Friday, March 11, 2011

good news

"for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance..." Paul 1st Century letter to a church who'd given him aid financially, spiritually, and physically.

Fast forward to the 21st century - level your sights against the slogan we hear so often as believers, "the problem with the Bible is that it is just an outdated book that really carries with it little relevance for today's world." Really? That's the best argument against the Bible naysayers have going for them right now? I can't imagine standing on sand and arguing with the arrogance of an over-inflated celebrity who thinks the world revolves around them.

This morning was much like the last few. I had not slept well all night and neither had Jess - as we waited with baited breath concerning the PET scan of our lovely daughter. To date, everything we have heard from the staff of the hospital has been negative. So, Track Record VS. Faith was the matchup today... I am GLAD to say that FAITH WINS. There were many (maybe even some of you reading this right now) who joined Jess and I in a fasting and prayer effort. Thank you! Here's the skinny: the preliminary results indicate NO CANCER! and "...nothing seen was compatible with anything of concern." - our Dr.'s words. We will get the full report on Monday or Tuesday.

In the verse above, Paul was doing NONE of the delivering. The Spirit of Jesus Christ was much obliged to help and the church at Philippi was ENGAGED in DEEP PRAYER. Here is only one of a MYRIAD of reasons as to why the Bible is Absolutely TRUE: We came under the directive of Scripture (in James we are told to anoint and pray for the sick, in the Psalms fasting is combined with prayer a number of times, and we see it obeyed further in the book of Acts). So, Jess and I reasoned that our focus today should rightly be on the LORD and obedience to His word. We sought the Lord and His Spirit has delivered good news for Jada and us.

We are humbled and we are thankful. I do not wish to equate myself with Paul. He being the "worst of sinners..." still penned about 2/3 of the NT. Not bad for a day's work in the power of the Spirit - and what have I done? Written about 3 paragraphs? You get the idea, I am nowhere near Paul. However, Jess and I have a support network which includes our immediate family, deep friends, and Church family of Northfield Christian Fellowship - which, for all intents and purposes resembles the church at Philippi to a large extent. Thank you all!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Compassion's Dilemma

I argued with the first light of day this morning. No shouting or raising of fists, just subtle obstinance. Last night's sleep at the hospital was about as restful as a soldier in the bunkers on the beaches of Normandy. I posted my objection primarily because rest is just something I was hoping for. We don't always get what we hope for and Jess and I are keenly aware of that little reality more and more these days.

I guess the bigger picture here is that I wanted some compassion from God regarding my sleepless estate. However, there were more factors at play last night and the Great Sovereign Puppet Master was gently tugging the strings of "circumstance" so I would see what's really important.

Romans 8:25 - "But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."

You, the reader, may or may not be aware that this week carries with it a fair amount of trepidation. The results of Jada's CT scan last week indicate that further investigation is necessary so a PET scan is ordered for Friday morning. The results could be anywhere from nothing to something incredibly serious. So, as with every other week in this ordeal, we pray and wait patiently for that which we hope but do not see.

Which brings me to a conversation Jada and I had last night just as her chemo was getting prepped. I had left the room for about 5 minutes when the nurses came in to begin the chemo preparation. By the time I was back they were finished preparing and had stepped out. Jada glances in my direction with those eyes that seem as big as the ocean against her small, hairless head.

Obvious concern had led to their sad and now squinting countenance as she fought off tears. "What is it sweetie?" I said. "Dad, who knows what is happening in this entire hospital while you were gone. There are so many people in this place who could be having a hard time right now... you know, like taking yucky medicine or getting chemo, or having a surgery. It makes me sad just to think of them all having a hard time."

My mind is thinking of how Jesus would see crowds of people and the Bible says, "have compassion on them..." Compassion is a fiber of your character which webster rightly defines as, "sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others." However, Webster misses an important element for which I wish to make an account for. THE HEART. That is to say, the affection or preceding logic which gives way to "pity and concern." Anyone can "feel" compassion - but is that really sufficient? You see, the affection of Christ's heart (his preceding logic which gave way to miracles, the atonement, propitiation, and radical obedience to a foreordained plan, etc.) was the condition of the hearts of the masses.

Circle the wagons then, take a ride on the elevator, come through the double doors and look to your right - that's us (Jada and I) in room 401. Lets look in now and see the conclusion to the compassion dilemma we are facing: "Well, sweetie, what do you think we should do?" I'm careful here because I want her deep compassion to have biblical direction. Without so much as 3 seconds to formulate a polished statement, Jada replies, "I have just been praying and praying until you walked in right now." The first condition in need of compassion is always spiritual, the second is physical. Christ saw this and realized that most times the avenue to the primary could easily be accessed through the secondary. This then, sets a great theological cornerstone for mercy ministries being tangible and practical.

So, as the night was closing out and chemo was well under way one of the nurses was asking how I was. In a gracious - COMPASSIONATE - moment from the LORD, she asked if she could pray with Jada and I. She grabbed another nurse, began praying and the comfort of the Spirit was palpable. Jess and I have often said, we don't want people to feel sorry for us, as though something strange or bad were happening to us. Our desire is that our situation honors Jesus and brings glory to God... while at the same time causing others to have compassion on us. A compassion with biblical direction that is concerned first with our spiritual condition.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Sun and its Habits

It rose much as it always does... full of brightness, unassuming, and promising. Have you ever noticed that about the sun? I have - even more so these days because of the contrast it represents to my heart. (Jada does a birthday dance)
A brief update on Jada will paint the landscape of emotion that, I am sure, will taint this entire post (I say that because I really don't know for sure what I am going to say when I begin writing). Jada had a ct scan on Tuesday, the results of which were concerning. Thus, a call from the Dr. and a brief meeting yesterday (March 3rd) in which we discovered 2 growths about 2 inches in size each, one on each side of the midline located just below the diaphragm. The Dr. went on to explain the PET scan he ordered for next week (11th); basically they are baffled and do not know what it is - because the 2 growths did not exist on the previous scan (Jan. 11th). So, answer, we don't know. We have no idea and therefore are choosing not to worry. There is peace and comfort for those who trust and wait on the Lord. However, we are a little battle-worn.

Today is Jada's 6th birthday and she was dead-set on having friends over for the big party. Imagine her disappointment, this past Tuesday, when we informed her that her counts were too low. We were overjoyed when the Dr. told us yesterday to come in today for her counts to be checked and possibly still have an impromptu party. We came, we saw, we conquered as it were - and we were on our way back home awaiting the phone call to report her blood counts. Just as Jada's friends arrived in the driveway the phone rang. "The counts are up" was the first thing I heard and jumped for joy. However, we need you back her right away - Jada needs a blood transfusion because of low red counts."

Where does one go from there? I remembered the sun and its stark contrast to the pull of emotions we are experiencing daily. It would seem that I am soon to forget the blessings and kindness of the Lord, which is to waste this bit of suffering God has gifted to us. So, it should come as no surprise then, that the birthday girl is the one doling out the presents in the form of an adjectival chronicle of our Great God!

I Peter 4:1 "...whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin..."

It all started last night. Jess and I were just a little on the frayed end of things and I was putting Jada to bed. We are reading through a book together - just her and I - last night's selection was aimed at the role of suffering and sorrow in the life of the believer as being tremendous tudors. After reading the selection and gorging on the the Word together I asked Jada, "Sweetie do you know anyone who loves the Lord and still has lots of suffering or sadness?" Without a breath Jada responds, "of course daddy, me and Jesus. Except Jesus' suffering was way badder than mine because he took all that sin and died and I am still alive...but you know that because you are reading to me." There is a brief pause with silence, and that term 'brief' could not be used more loosely if one knows' Jada, before that overworked brain caused her lips to utter, "Daddy, would you explain to me how Jesus took ALL THAT sin from forever and gave us goodness?" "Hold up honey, let me see if I have Luther, Owen, or Calvin on speed dial to tackle that one?" We spent the next 20 minutes walking through propitiation, and that was a treat. Ultimately God has a rightful claim to ALL Glory and one of the avenues he uses to achieve this is suffering which which helps us "...cease from sin."

Fast forward about 24 hours and you have our trip to get the the transfusion which occurred this afternoon. Knowing it to be Jada's birthday and her counts previously low I was lamenting yet another visit to clinic. As we get out of the van I expressed my frustration at the timing of it all and asked Jada what she is thinking about. I scooped her up in my arms, she rested her head on my neck while at the same time whispering in my ear. This is what she had to say. "Dad, God is SO GOOD! We are not even going to the hospital for 3 or 5 days like usual - just a few hours and we'll be outta here." That was the medicine I needed (for once). Psalm 16:11 urges us to consider that its God's presence that provides fullness of Joy. Praise the Lord he used my daughter to remind me of the Spirit's dwelling in me and its cause for great rejoicing.

The sun retreats to its hiding spot as the Psalmist says, my spiritual memory is jogged, and the first rays of sunlight the following morning will carry on their wings all that is necessary to get me Godward.