Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Year in Review - 2011 in Song

2011 Song of the Year:  "Precious Again" [Sara Groves]

New tender mercies and infinite graces
Woven like threads in the cloth of my days
Deep wells of glory behind common faces
Where is the wonder, where is the wonder

Friendship and good will a sweet invitation
Kindred in spirit and eager to share
Love in familiar and long conversations
There is the wonder, there is the wonder

Oh oh, sing me the song that's never old
Oh oh, tell me the story never told
Promise the just when love grows cold
You'll make it precious
Oh make it precious
You make it precious again

                 Maybe we can rip off the bandage / Maybe you will see it for what it is / Maybe we can burn this building holding you in / I can't help it, I love the broken ones
                  Love has an incomprehensible ability to destroy the tallest walls and strongest fortresses, dissolving the hurt inside.

                  Sit talking up all night / Saying things we haven't for a while / Smiling but we're close to tears / Even after all these years / We just now got the feeling that we're meeting for the first time
                  There's freedom and healing in sharing one another's burdens.

                 Looking back at all God brought us through / You were my happy birthday / And you were born to break the chains
                 Salvation sometimes comes in the strangest forms.  But there's comfort in knowing that His ways are perfect, and there is always grace sufficient to endure what we don't understand.  And precious friends to carry you through.

             When shadows fall on us / We will not fear, we will remember
             Remember in the dark what was true in the light.

             How long has it been since you've felt anything but shame / Child, lift up your eyes cause mercy remembers your name / ...Oh, the healing has begun
             Shame is not God's plan for me, it's my prideful attempt to make retribution for that for which He has already atoned.

              I'll be okay, cause you'll heal me / I'll give you all my pieces broken / In your hands, there's nothing that you can't fix / My heart is frayed, my scars are open / So put me back together now stitch by stitch
              Healing first requires surrender.  Take a chance on love.

               Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me / Let me be singing when the evening comes / ...Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find / Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul / Worship His holy name / Sing like never before, O my soul / I'll worship Your holy name
               Joy and worship are a *choice*.  Even in the darkest times, there is much for which to give thanks.

                    For me you'll always be eighteen and beautiful / And dancing away with my heart
                    Learning to appreciate life and joy, not taking even the "trivial" for granted.  Every minute is precious.

                     By your grace, it is well / my hope is sure in Christ my Savior / it is well with my soul
                     Regardless of anything, my hope is sure, giving me reason to worship in ALL circumstances.

                  I've been a walking heartache, I've made a mess of me / The person that I've been lately , ain't who I want to be / But you stay here right beside, and watch as the storm goes through / And I need you
                 It's okay to need others.  We're suppose to walk together, not alone.  And it's okay to love deeply -- love brings hurt, but it also brings healing.

                     Love is way too much to give us lesser things
                    Love doesn't settle, it always looks towards more with confident hope and anticipation.

                       No shackles wrapped around my neck / the deep deep scars that pillage left / I lift them high and I come to find / they're all gone
                       Freedom is bought, freedom is chosen.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I've Been Set Free

Four and a half years ago, I attended a Chris Tomlin concert during his "See The Morning" tour.  It was one of the first stops on the tour, so the CD hadn't been out long at all, and I'd been in Thailand since the CD was released so I hadn't heard any of the new songs.  Blame it on jet-lag, or the fact that I had just gone through some of the biggest changes in my life up to that point, but I was an emotional wreck throughout the entire concert.  For someone who prided themselves on being unemotional, this was devastating to me and I had not a clue what to do with it.  I would long point back to that time as one of my "lowest" moments, and it was in a lot of ways.  But it was also the start of an "upward" moment.

Tomlin's "See The Morning" album debuted his now-popular rendition of "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)".  As I sat (yes, sitting at a concert -- I told you I was a wreck! :)) in my seat, the song began just the same as the other ten thousand times I'd heard Amazing Grace.  

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see

'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed

And there the similarities ended.  Most of you already know the punchline -- the song continues:

My chains are gone, I've been set free!
My God, my Savior, has ransomed me!
And like a flood, His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

By this point, I had been promoted from a sitting-wreck, to a standing-puddle.  Awesome, right?  I still remember the feeling of the extremely heavy weight of conviction as I read those words on the big screen. Conviction, why?  Because I realized that I had no idea what they were talking about.  The AWANA kid, multi-year Bible Quizzing Champion, winner of the five15 award, had no idea what it meant to be "free".  I knew the AWANA definition of "redemption", "grace", and "mercy" and could quote them to you word-perfect at the snap of a finger.  But I couldn't begin to tell you what it felt like to mercy, and unending love as amazing grace given personally to me as part of my redemption, bought by a personal Savior.  I had no idea what it meant to be "free".

(1) Freedom is bought.

The Lord has promised good to me
His word, my hope secures

For all of those who are in the Lord, our freedom has been purchased.   1 Cor 6:20 says, "For you were bought at a price."  Galations 3:13 says, "Christ has redeemed us...became the curse, and at the same time, dissolved the curse.  And because of that, the air is cleared." [The Message]  We are no longer bound to sin, we have been set free by the atoning blood of our Savior.  But what does it look like to realize this freedom?

Thailand still trains and uses elephants for a lot of construction and building, especially in the mountain regions.  When a young elephant begins its training, the trainers place a shackle around the elephant's leg and chain the elephant to the base of a strong tree.  For weeks or months, the elephant will remain chained there, continually pulling against its chain, trying to break free, while the shackle digs into the elephant's leg and leaves it bloodied and bruised, often cutting all the way to the bone and doing great damage and leaving many permanent scars.  Eventually, the elephant is too tired or injured to continue fighting its bondage, and it accepts its captivity.  The chain is removed, but the shackle remains on the elephant's leg.  In doing this, though the elephant is no longer chained to the tree, the trainers have successfully placed a shackle on the elephant's mind so that it continually believes it is still unable to escape and will only cause more hurt and pain if it tries.  A masterful plan, no? 

(2) Freedom is chosen.

He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

Jesus has purchased our freedom, and that promise is forever secure.  But what do we do with the freedom that is given to us?  Oh goodness, I could write a very long list of all the things I do with that freedom.  Refuse it on the basis of being unworthy, undeserving, not wanting to accept grace, having a better plan, wanting to try another way, and sometimes frankly not even wanting freedom, but preferring to live in bondage.  You see, that shackle around my mind led me to believe that getting out was "too hard" and "too painful" and "not worth it", or perhaps even "not possible".  All lies that had deep roots in my heart, and shackles on my mind and heart.

"Sometimes you have to decide to do the right thing because it's right, even if it's not "easy" and you "don't feel like it"."

Important truths spoken by a precious friend, at a time when God had prepared my heart to hear and act on them.  I spent decades (yes, saying that does make me feel old!) claiming that I was "waiting for my healing" and "waiting for my freedom", but these were more lies.  I was not "waiting" on anything, my freedom was waiting on me.  I was a free-man choosing to live as a slave, and the only person who could choose to live in freedom instead of bondage was myself.  No one else could do it for me.  John 8:34-36 says, "Most assuredly I say unto you, whoever commits sin is a slave [or in bondage] to sin.  A slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you are free, indeed!" 

The catch is that if you spend long enough in it, bondage becomes comfortable. It's familiar, it's temporarily satisfying, and it's "easier" to stay in than to work to climb out.  While getting out isn't as simple as a decision, it begins there.  It begins with deciding that rather than the chains and shackles that have become comfortable parts of life in bondage, I will choose to trust, "He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures" and walk in the freedom that was bought for me.  Oh, I wish I could tell you the rest was all downhill.  Not so!  But God didn't simply buy our freedom and leave us to figure out the rest.

The earth will soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God who called me here below
Will be forever mine

As the above verse states, He promises to be "ours" and with us as we learn to walk in His freedom, even 'til the end of the earth.  


Fast forward four and a half years to today.  

My chains are gone, I've been set free!
My God, my Savior, has ransomed me!
And like a flood, His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace!

I have been blessed to have the opportunity to attend a Chris Tomlin concert recently and, yes, I can now sing those words. :)  Through the mercy, grace, and unending faithfulness of my Savior, I stand today free from the chains of bondage, choosing daily to walk in the freedom that is mine, through Christ. God's word is true when He promises to "complete the good work He began" (Phil 1:6).  Corrie Ten Boom spoke beautifully true words when she said, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still."  That love is mighty enough to save even the most captive slaves and guide them gently to beautiful freedom, and it is my true joy to testify to this Truth for the rest of my life on this earth.  Unending love, amazing grace!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

The hardest things I’ve ever endured in my life?  Truth is, I don’t know how to "deal with them".  At least not in ways that give that shiny and put-together appearance that the world says I should.  I don't know how to "put them behind me" and "move on" or "go to my happy place" where they all disappear.  When I focus on them or think too much about them, I become totally and completely overwhelmed.

People say that “time dulls the pain” – it’s a lie.  It doesn’t.  Nothing ever dulls the pain.  It’s always there, always has the ability to bring you to tears at just the right word, always feels like someone reached deep inside of you and ripped your heart out of your chest, or took the air out of your lungs.  The ONLY way I have ever learned to deal with these things is this -- to worship.  I can’t dull the pain -- that's for the comfort that comes through His promises of hope to do.  I can't fully heal the pain – that’s for God to do when we’re finally Home -- but I can make my God bigger than my pain, and for me that’s the only way I know how to cope with the pain and avoid being consumed and destroyed by it.

Helen Lemmel knew the path through heartache.  In 1922, after her husband left her when she became blind, Helen penned these simple, yet profound, words:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There's light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Thro' death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conqu'rors we are!

His word shall not fail you He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

There are things I will never understand on this side of glory.  Things that will never make sense to me, that will never be what I would have chosen for myself or others.  But I have a God who is truly full of glory and grace, who has already overcome the world, and who fights for me.  I may not be able to "put it behind me" or "move on", but I do have a "happy place" where the hurt and pain and confusion and questions dissolve into hope and trust and peace and faith, and that's in the face of my Savior.  "His word shall not fail you He promised..."  And for me, I see His face most clearly when I'm worshiping.

Listen:  "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus......"

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sing to the Lord!

You know those days where you have everything to be thankful for, but not a word of thanks on your lips?  Where there is much reason for joy, but you can barely muster a smile?  When everyone else is skipping about their day, and you don't even want to get out of bed?  

I love the Psalms.  David is so candid about his mountaintop-highs and deep-valley lows.  I like Psalm 42, where David writes, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Hope in God!"   I feel like I can almost hear David's head and heart warring against one another, much like my own does.  My head says, "He paid the ultimate price for you. He loves you. You are redeemed and your biggest problem has already been solved. You are under grace, not law. You have much reason for joy!"  My heart says, "I am fearful. I am discouraged.  I am overwhelmed.  My sin seems greater than grace. God feels distant.  I feel alone. My hurt feels greater than my joy."

You know me – music obsessed.  But to me, music delivers to my heart and soul the truths that my mind knows but my heart can’t believe.  I will sit and listen to a song on repeat sometimes all day until my unbelieving lips can mouth the words and my faithless heart can sing.  I don't think it's any coincidence that after pleading with his heart to rejoice, in Psalm 43 David basically says, "God, you are faithful, lead me to your light, I will come to your alter (a place of worship) and sing to you with the lyre."  David understood the value of music to his wandering soul.  

Today has been one of those days where I feel like I've spent all day coaxing my stubborn heart, "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Hope in God!".  So I turned to the best heart communication I  And this has been my song, today –

Righteous Ruler of the heavens
Holy, holy, our God
Sovereign Lord of all creation
Holy, holy, our God

Every tribe and tongue
Lift your voice as one
He is greatly to be praised

Sing to the Lord, oh my soul
Let the heavens shout for joy
Great is our God
Great is our God

Nations come and bow before Him
Holy, holy, our God
Angels sing now and forever
Holy, holy, our God

Every tribe and tongue
Lift your voice as one
He is greatly to be praised

Sing to the Lord, oh my soul
Let the heavens shout for joy
Great is our God
Great is our God

The heavens shall declare
The glory of our great God

Jesus King, let us adore Him
Holy, holy, our God
["Sing to the Lord", Hillsong]

It’s not complicated, it’s simple.  I guess when God put it in my heart last night He knew that my heart would need something very basic to cling to, today.  I have been blessed to spend much time in strong churches, around godly people, and studying and memorizing scripture.  My problem is not that my head lacks reasons to rejoice.  I know sooooo much truth, but *knowing* and *feeling the belief of those things in the depths of your heart* are two different things.  Every day, I have to pray that despite and in the midst of pain and hurt, the words on my lips and in my heart would be, “He is greatly to be praised!  Sing to the Lord, oh my soul!  Let the heavens shout for joy! Great is our God!”

That's one of the reasons I love this song.  It doesn’t try to give any explanation for why we should sing, why He’s great (‘cause I question it some days!), why He’s “greatly to be praised” – just a command, “sing to the Lord, O my soul!”  Some days I *feel* the reasons to sing and some days I don’t, but “He is greatly to be praised - Great is our God” none the less.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Listenin': "All Gone"

(Click here to Download "All Gone" by Melody Olson)

No shackles wrapped around my neck
The deep deep scars that pillage left
I lift them high and I come to find

They're all gone
They're all gone
They're all gone, gone, gone
They're all gone

No circles 'round my heavy eyes
My stone-clad heart as cold as ice
You come inside and I come to find

They're all gone
They're all gone
They're all gone, gone, gone
They're all gone

Oh bless in hard, and bless in peace
They've fallen and overtaken me
My foolish stains have been washed away

They're all gone
They're all gone
They're all gone, gone, gone
They're all gone

Monday, March 21, 2011

Longing for Home

I’ve always loved “people watching”.  I think it stems from those 1AM trips to the grocery store with my dad from the time I was teeny tiny where we would just watch the people walking around, what they were buying, how they were dressed, etc.  I would try to guess what they might be thinking about or what might be going on in their lives at that point in time.  I still do the same thing – I love to sit on a bench in the mall with a cup of coffee and watch all the people walk by.  One thing that seems different lately, however, is that I don’t have to look nearly as hard to see past hustle and bustle.  It seems like people have stopped working as hard to hide the pain, or maybe the pain is just harder to hide?

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” [Rom 8:18-19]

On Tuesday at 6AM, my nephew was born.  A precious little 8lb baby who was born exhibiting signs of infection that will keep him in the hospital for precautionary treatment until Sunday.  Why does a tiny little baby have to bear the pain of sin?

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” [Rom 8:20-21]

Between driving to Tennessee to see the baby and various other things, I’ve done a ton of driving in the past couple weeks.  And gas prices just continue to creep up and up and up… the gas station signs line the road to remind me that a gallon of gas will cost me nearly $4.  Or maybe they remind me to pray for the strife and darkness that is overwhelming parts of the Middle East?

“The ruined city lies desolate; the entrance to every house is barred. In the streets they cry out for wine; all joy turns to gloom, all joyful sounds are banished from the earth. The city is left in ruins, its gate is battered to pieces. So will it be on the earth and among the nations…” [Isaiah 24:10-13]

And how could we forget the tsunami that obliterated so many people, homes, and lives in a matter of seconds?  Those people are someone’s brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, son and daughters.  And it’s not over yet – radiation and aftershocks continue to pillage the area, as though to mock those who attempt to rise from the ruble to their feet and move forward…only to be knocked down again.  Or Haiti? Ravaged by an earthquake over a year ago, and now by cholera and other devistation. 

"The floodgates of the heavens are opened, the foundations of the earth shake. The earth is broken up…the earth is violently shaken. The earth reels like a drunkard, it sways like a hut in the wind…so heavy upon it is the guilt of its rebellion that it falls—never to rise again.” [Is 24:18-20]

My baby sister just got back from her first missions trip, a wonderful experience all around.  She went to Mexico to spend time with orphans who are desperately starved for attention because many of the groups that usually visit have been unable due to the severe violence in Juarez.  My sister was one of a small group of about 8 college students who gave up their Spring Break to go.  The group was small because everyone had to be at least 18 years of age, as the violence is Juarez is so bad that they won’t take minors across the border.  Do you hear the cries of the children who were abandoned once, again feeling the weight of hurt and fear of abandonment in a broken world?  Who is going to love on the little boy whose body is covered in cigarette burns and whose mind is tormented by the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome now that the team has returned to the States?  How about the sweet girl who struggles with attachment disorder as a result of abuse from her mom, a prostitute with more than enough of her own pain?

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” [Romans 8:22]

In the past few months, I’ve begun seeing “now hiring” signs in the front windows of stores for the first time in years – glimmers of hope.  But even more frequent is standing behind someone in line at the grocery store who is deciding what they can do without in order to get the bill below what they can afford.

What about the broken girl who’s tormented by memories of harm done to her?  Reminders of hurtful things that were said or done?  Pain and fear, feelings of worthlessness and failure, shame and guilt bind her like chains, holding her back from knowing *true* love and preciousness.  Making her feel like she has no worth, no reason to be here on the earth, no reason to matter to anyone.  Where was God when she was hurt?  What must be done for her to be free?

“Not only so, but we ourselves…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope w e   w e r e   s a v e d. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”  [Rom 8:23-25]

What, then, shall we say in response to these things?

Do you hear the loud groans of our aching world?  They sound like gas station signs and broken families, NICU equipment and stained sleeves, scared children and stifled sobs, overdrawn back accounts and tear-stained faces, homes in strife and marriages broken, a mother’s empty arms and flooded homes, gunfire and disease, orphanages and scars, bankruptcy notices and nightmares,….

I f   G o d   i s   f o r   u s ,   w h o   c a n   b e   a g a i n s t   u s ?

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?...Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. [Romans 8:31-37]

It’s hard to see so much pain, so much hurt, so much brokenness.  My heart just *aches*.  This past week especially, the constant reminders of how very much hurt is in our world have seemed overwhelming.  I finally couldn’t ignore it anymore and spent a long time just lifting up the hurt and the hurting to the Lord – it’s all I know to do with such pain.  I was reminded of two things.

“Then he fell to the ground and worshipped.”  When Job lost his wife, his children, his servants, his fortune, his home, and everything that was dear to him, what was his response?  “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Pain and destruction are huge, but redeeming love though Christ’s sacrifice is bigger.  Who should separate us from the love of Christ?  Because of this, we have H O P E that “though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles (they are indeed momentary, even when they don’t feel such!) are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” [2 Cor 4:16-18]

“When darkness seems to win, we know / the pain reminds this heart that this is not, this is not our home…”  As I’ve thought about all the ways in which our world is groaning beneath the weight of sin and brokenness for which it was never created, I’ve found myself truly motivated to worship at the promise that these afflictions are, indeed, momentary.  We are promised a “home” that is free from all pain, where we will worship day and night in the presence of Glory.  “Maybe the reason for the pain is so that we would pray for strength / And maybe the reason for the strength is so that we would not lose hope / And maybe the reason for all hope is so that we could face the world / And the reason for the world is to make us long for H O M E”

( ( (  Tonight, this heart is longing for home.  ) ) )

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines, A Day for Hearts

Valentines.....a day that, for most, is full of dinners out, roses, and chocolate, holds a much different meaning for me.  February is "heart month", a time to raise awareness for heart disease and defects.  Congenital Heart Defects are the number #1 cause of childhood birth-defect-related death. My sweet nephew, Corbin, was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome among other heart defects. He was with us for two precious years before the Lord wrapped him in His arms and took him home, where Corbin is fully healed.

When Valentines roles around, I think about hearts, physical and spiritual. Corbin is one of the single greatest influences to ever impact my life. I learned more about my God (and love, and trust, and goodness, and sovereignty, and peace, and so much more!) in the tear- and joy-filled two years Corbin was with us than any other two years of my life. As I often say, "You don't appreciate what you think you deserve."  We didn't "deserve" this precious little one, much less for two years, and his partial heart made sure we never EVER forgot that.  I was often tempted to think it wasn't "fair" that our Corbin was born with this heart defect, whereas thousands of babies with perfect hearts are aborted every day.  But what isn't "fair" is that we had any time at all with Corbin.  Half a heart is not compatible with life on this earth, except for the hand of God sustaining his every breath.  That kind of tender love, care, mercy from the all-powerful God....that's what's not "fair"!  Every minute we had with him was a blessing that we didn't deserve.

Corbin and I have this in common.  I also have a "heart condition" that's not compatible with life -- it's my sinful depravity.  And yet, going completely against what's "fair" and deserved, God chose demonstrate his love and grace to me by sacrificing His son so that I could be redeemed, my heart repaired and made whole.  "...It was my sin that held Him there, until it was accomplished, His dying breath has brought me LIFE, I know that it is finished..."

I pray that I always remember that I don't deserve God, love, redemption, grace.....but it's mine.

During the time that Corbin was in the hospital, having his surgeries, etc. I kept friends and family updated with regular emails regarding Corbin's medical condition, how our family was doing, and specific prayer requests.  As I spent much time caring for my nephews (Corbin's three older brothers), these updates were often some of the only quiet time I had with just me and God to wrestle over my circumstances and struggle to find truth in the midst of oceans of fear and pain.  They  were often merely outpourings of my own mind and heart as I worked from anger to thankfulness, fear to peace, entitlement to grace.  This is one of those updates, written two weeks after Corbin's memorial service:

Dear Friends,

Beginning when the boys first came to stay with us at the beginning of April, Gunnar, Aiden and Brodie had talked about the party they wanted to have when Corbin came home.  We'd come across decorations in a store or they would eat a food that they really liked, and tell us all about how they had to have this or do that at Corbin's party.  And in case there was any doubt, they would check at random times during the days they were with us -- "We can have a party when Corbin gets home, right?"  That Thursday morning when we received the news that Corbin had gone to be with Jesus, one of my first thoughts was, "The party!  How do I tell a three, five, and seven year-old that instead of a party for their baby brother, they're going to be attending a funeral?"

Two weeks ago on Monday, July 3rd, those three little boys and several hundred family members and friends, each who had been touched in some way by our little Keebie, gathered for the "party" that would celebrate Corbin's homecoming.  This was not the party we would have had, and yet "His ways are not our ways" (Isaiah 55:8).  This homecoming took him forever away from surgeries, feeding tubes, and meds to the eternal arms of our Savior.  The service was beautifully done and we were blessed by the many that attended.  The church lobby held a beautiful display of many pictures of Corbin and his favorite toys.  The service began with worship, followed by testimonies, a dear friend singing Sara Groves' "He's Always Been Faithful", and concluding with pastoral comments and prayer.  Following the graveside service, we returned to the church for a reception.  What a privilege it was to hear so many testimonies of lives eternally effected by God through Corbin's twenty-three months on earth.  God is glorified.

One of the things that impacted me as I sat in the service was the realization that there are those enduring similar trials without the hope of the Gospel.  I can see how that small, white casket could be so horrifying to one who's soul isn't quieted with the knowledge that death has been conquered.  Or the sense of abandonment at the burial, apart from the comfort that your loved one is "absent from the body and present with the Lord".  I was reminded of Luke 16 and the imminency of death for all of us -- what urgency this evokes to share the hope of the Gospel.

How are we doing?  God never promises that we won't pass through times of trial or that they will be easy.  In fact, the opposite is true -- He promises that we will encounter trials, but He also promises that they will not consume us.  "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." (Isaiah 43:2)  "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2 Corinthians 4:8)  Indeed, we walk through a fire and are hard pressed on every side, but choosing by grace to put our faith in the One who has always been faithful.  It is an inexplicable feeling to stand on this side of this trial and be able to say with complete confidence the same words -- God is still here, still good, and still faithful.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.

We all find ourselves somewhat precariously positioned emotionally.  The little things (grocery stores, cellophane paper [a favorite of Corbin's!], Purell hand sanitizer, encountering a friend who spent time with us in the hospital, push-toys, sending the high chair to The Salvation Army, etc. etc. etc.) can make the tears flow.  But this grief is a reminder that death is not welcome in this world -- this is not the way God intended it, and how anxiously we look forward to a day when death will be no more.  Please, PLEASE don't take this as reason not to speak of Corbin.  Please don't refrain from sharing your funny stories, delicate moments, fond memories, and testimonies of how God's grace came to you through Corbin for fear of "upsetting" us.  While I cannot assure you that these conversations won't evoke tears, I can assure you that he is never far from the front of our minds, and we are infinitely blessed to know that his life here is remembered.  As we see it, the good Lord gave us a precious gift in Corbin for twenty-three months!  We wouldn't trade that time for anything.  That he was taken from us sooner than we would have chosen doesn't change the fact that our lives have been forever blessed by the time we had with him and for that we rejoice.  So, please, don't be hesitant to offer us the opportunity to share joy and grief, laughter and tears with you.

In the words of George Mueller,
The Lord was good, and did good, in giving Corbin to us.
The Lord was good and did good, in so long leaving Corbin with us.
The Lord was good and did good, in taking Corbin from us.

Corbin would be two years old on the 20th of July.  We covet your prayers especially on this day, as it will no-doubt be especially challenging for us.  Though I don't plan to continue writing with any frequency, I will likely write again at Corbin's birthday.

Blessed be the name of the Lord,