Friday, April 3, 2015

A World Without Redemption:

About 5 years ago, a few days before Resurrection Sunday God impressed upon my heart a "vision" or spiritual understanding of what it would be like if Jesus never came and if redemption was never part of the plan of God from the foundation of the world.

I have wanted to share this for years but never felt capable of explaining with the full impact the "vision" or "picture" that the Spirit impressed this upon me. Today with fear and trembling and much reliance upon the Holy Spirit to speak through me, I would like to share this vision of a world without redemption.

I think we believe that if Jesus hadn't come, our life would be the same but eternity would be spent in Hell forever separated from God. But this is not the truth. Everything in history, from God covering Adam and Eve with the first clothing to events in our modern lives, has been put in place as God's redemptive love story for his people.

Therefore, we cannot begin to comprehend what human life would look like had God said to Adam and Eve, "You've sinned! Get out of the garden! And you will go to the hell that I've prepared for Satan and the demons when you die!" This would be a totally logical response of a holy God that had warned his creation to not sin. Satan and the demons, as far as we know, did not get any redemptive plan offered to them. Why do we assume that we should be treated so differently? We brought sin into the world and like a contagious disease, infected every human ever born since. Why do we assume that we deserve this beautiful redemptive story?

It's amazing to study other religions. Every religion has a hope of a peaceful eternity built into it. No other God is loving like the one true God but other invented deities at least give the hope of some type of redemption should the subject do it's bidding enough times and with enough sacrifice.

In Islam this sacrifice is known as a Fedayeen or Shahid - a martyr. The point of the bomber isn't suicide - it is to kill infidels in battle. This is not just permitted by Muhammad, but encouraged with liberal promises of earthy rewards in heaven, including food and sex.

From the Buddhist point of view, those who go to hell can work themselves upward by making use of the merit that they had acquired previously. There are no locks on the gates of hell. Hell is a temporary place and there is no reason for those beings to suffer there forever.

And the list of world religions go on and on. Therefore, it is safe to assume that everyone in the world, in one measure or another, hopes for some sort of eternal redemption, for even if that redemption is in the form of ceasing to exist, still it is void of punishment for sin and hope of a painless eternity.

What if the world had no hope of redemption??? The implications in human history are astronomical and impossible to sift through in this writing. There would be no false religions, as the evil one acting as the father of lies, would have no purpose in deceiving the nations. Satan would be in our face, night and day, tormenting us with the reality of the future and of the future of our loved ones. Satan would not veil his evilness, there would be no purpose in deception, he would be free to show himself in all his evil glory from the day of our birth, until the day he won the victory and celebrated our souls torment in hell.

I am reminded of Edmund in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and how he sat with terror and dread as the white witch declared him guilty of treachery and by the deep magic that he belonged to her for her to torture and kill. Of course the story ends with the redemption of Edmund through the representative death of Aslan.

But we are talking now of a world devoid of redemption. The White Witch-Satan, would have a heyday with our lives. He would delight in torturing our emotions with the fact that, through our sin we belong to him, and we will die in our sins and be tortured forever.

Do we realize what a life like this would be like? What would it be like to lose a baby to death? A beloved mother or a cherished husband? We would know, without a shadow of a doubt that they left this world in the clutches of Satan and went directly to hell. Can you imagine the horror of living a life like that, knowing that a trip to the mountains in the snow could be a one way ticket to hell? What would it be like to "enjoy" an extra piece of pie at Christmas knowing that it would mean you would be destined to enter hell that much sooner? Can you imagine watching a family member age? Or having a child born with a life threatening disease? Can we even wrap our minds around the hopelessness that this world would hold?

You see, the hopelessness wouldn't be the same as just being a non-believer, because nonbelievers have hope. It is a false hope but it is still hope never the less. Without redemption, Satan would have no desire to deceive so false hope would not exist. The evil one would wallow in our suffering and in the agony of our future with him in hell. He would have no desire at all to give false hope; he would derive great pleasure from the despair of our fallen and sinful state.

What would our world look like without the indwelling Holy Spirit in believer's lives? Chaos, sin, and evil would run rampant. If God's sovereign hand was not guiding this planet, what would our lives look like without him?

This "vision" became very personal to me after Gary's death. What would it be like to know that he was in hell? What would it be like to not have the comfort of the Holy Spirit? What would it be like to live in a world without redemption and know that one day I would join my beloved in utter torment and despair?

A world without redemption goes way beyond being surprised by hell when we die. The lack of redemptive plan from the foundation of the world would infiltrate every area of life of every person on the planet. It would literally be hell on earth.

Therefore, on this day when we remember the death of Jesus Christ, let us remember that the redemptive plan of God was in place from the foundation of the world. From Adam and Eve to Noah to the nations of the world, and to your family and mine.

God's loving and redemptive hand has been upon the human race from the moment he picked up the dust of the earth, made it in his image and breathed life into it. God isn't this angry deity whose son happened to be a nice guy and decided to appease the wrath of his father for dying for the world! NO!!!! The love of God was in place and the redemption of mankind was planned out before man was even created. The Bible says that Father God, so LOVED the nations, that he gave his son to die. Jesus was being obedient to the Father in giving his life a ransom for our sins. Jesus responded to the Fathers love for us and his redemptive plan for us.

So on this Good Friday let us fall upon our faces in worship for the redemptive death of Jesus that was planned by the Father from the foundation of the world! Let us ponder a world without the redemptive plan of God and in that pondering be brought into new worship and new devotion to a God who gives us the hope and assurance of eternity with him! Let us worship God who has brought redemption's story into our world from the moment of first life to the moment of the end of the ages. God IS love and his love has brought redemption to the world!

"with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." 1 Peter 1:20

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." Matthew 25:34

"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love" Ephesians 1:4

"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil"--Hebrews 2:14

"Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior,…" Titus 1:2

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Lord of The Rings-The Final Journey

Tonight ended the final journey of the fellowship as I finished the last book in the Tolkien Trilogy "The Lord of The Rings". Something very unusual happened as I read about the return of the Hobbits to the Shire.

 I was stunned at how personally their return journey impacted me . It was a very unexpected culmination of my reading this brilliant fantasy novel about Middle Earth. How could I relate to Merry, Pippin, Sam, and Frodo from the Shire? 

"Well here we are, just the four of us that started out together," said Merry. "We have left all the rest behind, one after another. It seems almost like a dream that has slowly faded." "Not to me," said Frodo. "To me it feels more like falling asleep". 

"They sat with the family in the warm kitchen, and the Cottons asked a few polite questions about their travels, but hardly listed to the answers: they were far more concerned with events in the Shire." 

"Well be off with you"! said Rosie. "If You've been looking after Mr. Frodo all this while, what you'd want to leave him for, as soon as things look dangerous?" 

This was too much for Sam. It needed a week's answer, or none. He turned away and mounted his pony" 

"I am wounded," Frodo answered, wounded and it will never really heal" 

"Yes, said Gandalf; for it will be better to ride back three together than one alone. Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are evil". 

"At last the three companions turned away, and never again looking back they road slowly homewards; and they spoke no word to one another until they came back to the Shire" 

Obviously, Tolkien's writings are powerful and as a skilled author he touches the very heart and soul of the reader, which is exactly what happened as I finished this trilogy. 

What effected me the most personally was the attempted return of the fellowship to their normal life and the way that things had been. Not only was the Shire ruined for the fellowship but the fellowship was ruined for the Shire. As Frodo said, it was "like going to sleep" after an incredible, horrendous and wondrous life. I suppose what he was describing was the same as C.S. Lewis "The Last Battle" where their previous life was just the shadow lands, that real life lie in Aslan's country. It seems that this is what Frodo was trying to express. Everything seemed colorless, dull and trivial after all that they had walked through. 

Our family is unique in many ways we aren't just returning missionaries and we aren't just a grieving mom and her children, we are both and this makes for an unusual combination. 

Also, our family approached going to the mission field very radically and counter to our modern Christian culture. With our pastor and our sending church's blessing, we sold everything that we owned, left our home, our friends, our financial security and our church and set out SITE UNSEEN to the mission field in Southern Mexico. We didn't know the language and we didn't know anyone in the town where we would be living. 

We faced enormous challenges from the moment we stepped onto the beautiful Mexican soil. We would have related to the fellowship before Gary died. Therefore, his death was a book in the trilogy of our journey but it wasn't the only book and it wasn't the only battle. 

Many times I feel like the above quote from Sam Gamgee when Rosie scolded him for leaving Frodo when things got dangerous. 
"This was too much for Sam. It needed a week's answer, or none. He turned away and mounted his pony" 

One man recently patted me condescendingly on the back and said, "Rachel, this is a time for you to begin to lean on God and trust him." 
Many things require a week's answer or none at all, therefore many times I emotionally turn away and mount my pony.

The shire called Colorado looks different. The situations that once scared me seem foolish to me now and the things that once thrilled me seem trivial. Nathaniel, Bethany and I are battle worn, we've been holding our spiritual swords for many years but we have also been strengthened by the battle. We have our swords drawn and our bodies ready for the intensity of life on this fallen planet. Things that would have rocked our world 5 years ago are par for the course now. 

I am tremendously grateful that the battles have not given us a hardened heart but simply a strong spiritual perseverance. Actually, the Holy Spirit has softened my heart to the point where I cannot keep the tears back even under average circumstances. God has softened our hearts deeply but has given us a strength, a faith, and a perseverance of spirit that we never had before the trilogy of our life's novel. 

"I am wounded," Frodo answered, wounded and it will never really heal" And in that brokenness, God's strength becomes mighty and powerful! 

Reading this amazing work by Tolkien, during the past several months, has been deeply meaningful to me. The fellowship was broken in Mexico when Gary died and the three of us have journeyed onward back home to "the shire". 

 At last the three companions turned away, and never again looking back they road slowly homewards; and they spoke no word to one another until they came back to the Shire....... 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Beyond Breathing

I am sitting in our living room in Gary's pjs sipping a cup of fresh coffee while watching the snow swiftly fall into the evergreen trees that surround our home. The calendar tells me that it is officially spring but in Colorado that means our biggest snow storms of the year. I am enjoying this snuggly evening and the fleeting beauty of winters last struggle to blanket everything in white.

This blog has been focused on getting through grief and the enormous struggle of beginning a new life together as a family of three. It's been about God making a way in the wilderness for my children and me. It's been about the tremendous struggle and ultimate triumph of walking through grief. I haven't written in awhile. I suppose that is because I feel the subject of grief lessening and therefore, I haven't had the profundity of writing that I did in the beginning.

I have had countless people encourage me to write a book. However, writing is born out of passion and not a terribly effective way to pay the rent and send my children to college. Still, I tell myself that one day I will write that book. I don't know if "one day" will ever come but I have been pondering subject matter titles. The one thing that came to me as a theme is "Beyond breathing".

In grieving circles it seems to be the common advice when going through the initial stages of grief to be told by loved ones, "just breathe". When Nathaniel, Bethany and I were in our first months of our terrible loss, the idea of just getting through the next breath really made sense to me. I could barely put one foot in front of the other and so learning how to breathe without my beloved was an essential part of the process.

Yet, months later I began to get annoyed at this same advice that gave me comfort early on. I wanted to scream at people. "I'VE LEARNED HOW TO BREATHE! NOW PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME HOW TO LIVE WITHOUT MY BELOVED!!!"

I think that is what is on my heart right now. I would love to minister to the grieving ones and help them learn how to live a full and joyful life after such a tremendous loss.

How did I learn to get "beyond breathing"? First and foremost it was the total grace of God. There's no other way to explain how far he has brought me and how deeply he has ministered his healing hand to my heart and life.

One thing that I know was key was to pursue and embrace the future. I don't think it was any particularly noble action on my part. It was really the only survival mechanism that I knew. "I MUST get through this for my children" was the constant mantra running through my head. "I MUST progress toward our future together." "I MUST learn how to live each day without my beloved!" I MUST press on, otherwise I will crumble up and never survive this pain."

One of the last things that Gary said to me was that where I used to have a tremendous capacity for physical perseverance in exercise, God had now given me spiritual perseverance that he was going to use to get me through times of great trial. Little did Gary or I realize that he was speaking of my getting through his own death. But this word of encouragement to me really has been true as God has given me incredible perseverance to get through this. I give him all the praise for without him I could do nothing and I am completely aware of my dependence upon his grace to keep me alive throughout this journey.

Another aspect of getting "beyond breathing" has been allowing the pain to soften me rather than to harden me. It is a fact of life that there is beauty in the fountain of youth but there is also a deep penetrating beauty in an elderly man or woman. However, the aged are only beautiful if they have been softened by the years. There is nothing more ugly than someone who has an old calloused heart that shows in their posture as well as in their countenance. To me this is the most grievous thing to happen as a person travels through their years.

 I knew that the tragedy of loss that I had gone through had a power over me to either mold me into a soft, kind, and Godly woman of years or turn me into an old bitter woman living alone in her anger. I cried out to God during this past year and a half, "soften my heart oh God, please protect me from being hardened by this pain!" And God in his grace and mercy has done just that!

I've learned to get "beyond breathing" by being purposeful with my children and not allowing the grief to consume us. We have learned to enjoy life together as a family of three. We have special dinners, fun game days, reading parties, and movie nights with pizza for the three of us. At first it was difficult to plan all of these things for "just" three people. And yet I knew that it was not only important in the realm of getting through grief but it was also important to build these memories for my children. They were 14 and 15 years old when their daddy died suddenly before their eyes. I don't want the memories of their teen years to be full of a grief filled and sorrow filled mother. So God in his grace has given our family a spirit of rejoicing! We play, we sing, we have fun together and we have become a complete family unit despite our tremendous loss.

Some days the grief still hits hard and heavy. Sometimes I still cry myself to sleep. And occasionally I still asked Bethany to crawl into bed with me because I'm having a really rough time. But for the most part we have now learned how to get "beyond breathing" and God has cared for us in tremendous ways and healed our hearts deeply during these past 20 months.

There's still many more areas to learn and grow. There's times when breathing seems to be the only accomplishment that I can claim. Yet, in so many ways God has made a Way in The Wilderness and he has done incredible new things in our lives!

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” Is. 43:18-19

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Siamese Twin Separation!

Recently I've been pondering my Christian walk and how it is related to the grieving process. 

My relationship with Gary was very unique. Our marriage was the Girl With the Little Curl poem:

"There was a little girl,
            Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
            When she was good,
            She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid."

"When Gary and I were good we were very very good and when we were bad we were horrid." Actually that may be a tad on the extreme side but I have always thought of that little poem in relation to my marriage. Gary and I both brought tons of baggage into our marriage. I grew up in a very dysfunctional home and he had come through a 13 year failed marriage. We were stubborn, opinionated, selfish, and broken. Yet, God in his grace worked mightily on those areas and brought immense healing and Godly change into our lives. 

Within our personalities we were extreme opposites and had very different interests. My idea of a fun outing was going on an adventurous mountain hike and Gary's idea of excitement was going  to a museum. Gary was well-read and very scholarly. He was the thinker and I was the feeler. He was the pessimist and I was the optimist. Planning an afternoon excursion was half the pleasure of the event for him. For me, a spontaneous adventure was the ultimate in enjoyment. It seemed that in every are of our lives we were opposites. 

In many of those areas we learned to grow and appreciate the other person's interest. We grew and expanded as people because of our marriage. Never-the-less, our default position in life was always to be completely opposite.

However, there was one area of our lives where we were 100% soul mate best friends and that was within our spiritual lives. Gary was the prophet and I was the one given to mercy. This displayed itself in our lives through my passion for intercessory worship and his prophetic teaching ministry. These giftings blended very well in our spiritual life together as well as within our ministry. I know this combination of spiritual gifts, which resulted in powerful ministry, is the eternal purpose in why God brought two such opposite people together and literally called us with his clear and unmistakable voice to get married. 

We were mutually passionate about the things of God. Neither one of us was came dragging our feet into marriage or trying to get the other person interested in the things of God. We were both head over heels in love with Jesus and extremely impassioned about serving him together in our daily life. 

Our hearts of faith were joined together in such a way that to pull them apart would mean certain death. We were joined together as if we were Siamese twins. After Gary's death I was like a co-joined twin without the excellence of modern medical science to be able to separate my heart of faith from Gary's. 

In my spiritual life, during these many months, I have been dragging around Gary's corpse. My heart of faith was unable to function properly. I wanted to live fully for Jesus and serve God with all of my life here on this earth but I didn't know how to do that because Gary's spiritual life was completely co-joined with mine. 

But God has had a plan. He is the great physician and has been doing His mighty work within my heart. In the past few weeks Jesus has separated my spiritual life from Gary's and the freedom in that has been incredible. 

Prior to God's mighty work in my heart, all I could see is what Gary and I were together. I could not see my own walk with God as an individual. Now I see how God has worked within me as an individual during these past 20 years of my life. I am now able to look back upon our marriage and see how God used me as a separate person within the bond of our incredible union in marriage. 

I have realized that the most important aspect of my life throughout these many years, has been to love Jesus with all my heart, soul, mind and body. Yes, I did that along side of my husband but I was still an individual woman seeking and loving my savior. 

I can look back at our life together and realize that in many ways Gary and I pulled each other closer to our savior. It wasn't Gary rushing ahead where I wouldn't know what to do spiritually without him, certainly not! Countless times, I was the one on my knees in deep intercession and worship. I was the one seeking God through hours of prayer and I was the one who seemed to dwell in the presence of God more deeply than anyone Gary had ever known or heard of. During the years of my marriage I knew my spiritual worth in our family. I understood how God was using me in my marriage, in our ministry, in Gary's life and in my children's lives. I could see the incredible fruit of my personal walk with God and my worship and intercession for my family and our ministry. However, these past many months since his death, all I have been able to see is Gary's walk with God and not my own. I felt like I had died along with him and I couldn't even picture who I was spiritually without Gary by my side. 

Since God released me from the bondage to being co-joined with someone who has died, I can see that I have been a mighty woman of God these many years and I CAN CONTINUE to be so! For so long I felt completely immobilized spiritually as if I could not walk with God as a single woman. And yet my heart's desire is nothing more than to sit at Jesus feet and love him with my whole heart. 

So I am praising Jesus tonight for his mighty work in my life and the continuing journey of grief that he is walking me through. He is healing me and delivering me each step of the way! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

From the Devistation of Flood Waters to New Life!

New Life.....What does that mean? It represents different things to various people: "If I get this dream job my wife and I will have a new life. If I move to a tropical island my husband and I will retire with a new life. If I stay sober for more than a year I will have a new life and so on and so forth. Most people view a new beginning, a new start, and a new life in a very positive sense.

I have come to realize that in this journey called grief there is no way around receiving a new life. It is up to me whether I embrace this new life in a positive way or reject it negatively. Either way, the reality is, when a spouse dies, we are faced with a completely new life and not necessarily of the desired above mentioned variety.

Some would call getting through the loss of a spouse as embracing your new normal. It's learning to cook dinner without your wife's expertise and loving cheerful hands. It's learning to sleep alone and be a single parent, It's learning to change the oil in the car, mow the lawn and do all those little fix-it jobs that your husband once did. In short, the belief is that grief is simply learning to live life in a slightly new way. However it is much deeper and MUCH more wide spread than simply a new normal. For all intents and purposes, the life as a missionary in Southern Mexico that I had been joyfully living with my husband, has been utterly and completely annihilated.

Not long ago I went to a women's retreat and met a very young and recent widow from our church. She and I exchanged hugs and tears and then she said, "I DON'T WANT A NEW LIFE!!! I WANT MY OLD LIFE BACK!!!!" I thought, "Welcome to widowhood my dear one" and we began to share deeply our mutual journeys. This is such a classic and true reaction. Our whole life has not only been changed and flipped upside down but quite frankly it is completely gone.

The recent floods in Northern Colorado have reminded me of a death of a spouse. A garden wasn't just destroyed or a fence ripped out, entire lives were ripped apart and forever altered by the raging flood waters. Catastrophic destruction is one way that I have heard this flood being described. I relate to that as our lives have experienced catastrophic destruction through the death of our beloved.

Our dear friends home backs to the Big Thompson River. Thankfully their house was spared but their precious gardens, flowers, and pasture land is all gone. It's not simply that it has been removed but the structure and layout of the land has been forever changed. I was talking with them one day and they were sharing that they don't know what they are going to do in the rebuilding process. They are thinking about doing something totally different with their land and gardens because what they had known has been totally destroyed.

This really reminded me of what we go through when we lose a spouse, a garden isn't just missing or a fence broken apart in our life but the entire layout of the land of our life has been totally and completely annihilated!

Within this total annihilation of our lives as we knew it, it is our choice whether we crawl into our houses and let the stinky mud, muck, and sewer filled river water continue to surround our home, or whether we plan an entirely new home and garden, one that we had never envisioned in our lives but one that can spring up from the ruins and destruction of the flood of death.

This is where I find myself. Many people marvel at how I've come through this. First and foremost it is the hand of God upon my life and his incredible and unexplainable grace. But on the human side, I had no choice really but to either sit in the muck of the destructive flood of death or clean up and build a new life. Sitting in the muck of a flood does NOTHING to bring the way things had been back into being. It doesn't help to cling to the photos, watch the old videos and dream of the good old days when my life wasn't flooded with mud and debris. It doesn't bring my beloved back if I do this! If it did, honey, bring on the mud because I'm going to be sitting in it waiting on my sweetie! But it doesn't do anything to sit there. He's gone, he really has gone to Heaven and is rejoicing with Jesus, our marriage is really over. This is reality. The house is gone in the flood, sitting in the stinkin mess doesn't bring it back!

So I shovel, work and sweat to clear the muck out of my life. I look at garden books, house building plans, and begin to pray about what God wants this catastrophic flood zone, called my life, to look like. The change does NOT come easy.

The memories of my old home can haunt me. I want to go back, I want to walk into the kitchen, kiss my husband, turn the worship music on and pick up life as it had been. But I must press on........

The builders are calling and asking me if I would like a front porch and would I like the house to be painted in butter yellow? Yes, I say, pondering the loveliness of newness and realizing that never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have a butter yellow Victorian home with a delightful white porch surrounded with red antique rose bushes! I say goodbye to the builder in a dream state of joy and wonder at all that "HE" is putting together. But then reality crashes around me because right now the Victorian home is just a vision that the builder has given me. I walk around my property and see the brown bottom of a river bed that has raped my life and stripped everything from me. As I walk and cry I trip over a dead fish and look into the bleak destruction that once held such beauty.

But the builder is persistent, he needs me to sign some papers to move on with the building plans, he needs answers now and tells me that I must stop spending so much time walking through the mud of my property. I need to be spending time with HIM in redesigning my home, my life and my gardens. I can't look back at what was but I must press on to what will be.

Yes, God is our great architect and builds beauty from the ruins of our lives. The only thing he requires is that we embrace the change and embrace Him. We must welcome what he is doing in our lives. If we trust him, he will move us onward into our beautiful Victorian home where there once was only the muck and stench of a catastrophic flood.

Isaiah 43:18 &19
Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland!"

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Come Away My Beloved!

Song of Solomon 2:10
"My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away"
My heart has been longing to get away with my Jesus, just He and I without all the distractions of everyday life. I needed to be with Him, to soak in His presence, and to have my relationship with him fully restored in the intimacy that we have shared prior to Gary's death.
I knew what God was calling me to and that the purpose was to draw deeply into Him and to allow the crud from the grief to be washed away in his presence. Grief in itself is not a sinful process, it's actually a very Godly and emotionally healthy process. Yet, after 13 months of grieving there was a residue of muck in the depths of my heart. I realized that the only thing that would cleanse this from my very being was to spend a significant amount of time soaking in God's presence, yielding to him without reservation and seeking him with my whole heart.
I felt God calling me, "Come away my love, come away with me and dwell intimately with me."

The setting was Buena, Vista Colorado and the "event" was the Rocky Mountain Calvary women's retreat. I was incredibly blessed, not only with a full scholarship to this event but a beautiful and private room in the retreat centers mountain condo! I felt guilty with such luxurious accommodations but I knew the purpose that God had for me and I knew that the provision was from Him and that I was to dwell in his presence in the privacy of the sanctuary that he had provided for me.

Gary and I had learned, through ten years of intense suffering and loss, how to tuck deeply into God and seek him with our whole heart.This has been our family heritage and daily way of life. Yet, there are still times when we need a fresh filing of the Spirit and a deeper soaking to cleanse us from all that we've been through. This weekend was destined to be just that.

I don't have the freedom in this blog to write about all that was taught from the guest speaker at the retreat. Suffice it to say God had orchestrated this retreat to perfectly coincide with what he was doing in my own heart and the lives of the other women there. The theme was living without the masks in our lives and being authentic before our God and others. The message on Sunday morning was focused on how to seek God deeply and how to live for the Glory of God.

Those of you who know me well realize how passionately Gary and I taught intimacy with God, seeking him with our whole hearts, and living totally for the Glory of God. The message at the retreat hit me profoundly because it was the heart and soul of Gary's and my life together.

 On Saturday afternoon we had several hours of free time. I skipped lunch so as to increase the hours available and headed up into the mountains for a time of worship! What joy it was to drive up Cottonwood Pass to the Continental Divide and sing and worship the whole way up! After getting to the top (12,200 feet!) I turned around and headed back down still worshipping and signing God's praises. I pulled over a couple thousand feet down and found a little place to walk, pray and sit before the Lord on the softness of the wildflowers and mountain grasses.

Later I came back to the retreat center and tucked myself into my room to read my Bible and pray some more.

The cleansing presence of His Spirit was deeply tangible to me this weekend. And his word to me was fresh and profound. Some things I am to ponder in my heart. But one thing that I feel freedom to share is God's word to me about worship and intercession.

My calling and gifting is first and foremost worship but with a strong secondary calling of intercession. Typically they are so intertwined in my life that it is difficult to separate them. When I worship it is usually with a spiritual warfare focus, which then lends itself to intercession. And finally the spiritual warfare worship eventually leads me into the quiet and intimate places with God where I just sit in his presence without uttering a sound and just dwell with him in the holy of holies. To me, this is the greatest blessing and deepest joy of my life.

Since Gary's death worship has been tarnished and this was an area where the "muck" of grief had accumulated. Worship in my life had always been focused first and foremost on the Glory of God. Yet, the spiritual warfare aspect was always directed to what God was doing in Gary's ministry of the Word. As he would teach and preach, I would worship and intercede for the ministry of the Word that was going forth from Gary. We had VERY different gifting but they meshed together perfectly, like a completed puzzle.
Together Gary and I were "spirit and truth". He would proclaim the truth of scripture while I was tucked away in the background, in a private place worshipping and interceding to bring God's anointing down upon Gary's teaching.

Even when I was simply dwelling in the presence of God through worship and singing praises in my kitchen, I still felt a sense of being part of Gary and that the worship was a significant part of our family life and establishing our home  and ministry together.

Gary and I were so unified in the Spirit that since his death I haven't known how to worship without him. I know that sounds very confusing and I wouldn't have understood it prior to his death either.

I've felt lost and as if my calling as a worshipper and intercessor had no spiritual covering. I was naked, not just before my savior, which is the way it should be but I felt lost, naked, alone and without a spiritual purpose. To me, worship is about intimacy with God as well as bringing God's glory to the earth. Being a worshipper reveals God's glory where it would otherwise not be known. Yet, in what circumstance was I now to welcome God's presence and anointing through worship? Gary was no longer proclaiming the gospel. Gary was no longer teaching and preaching. Gary no longer needed me as a partner in ministry to intercede for the anointing of the Spirit to fall upon him and to bring others to Christ through the message of the Gospel. I felt lost, naked, and alone in my calling that I shared so profoundly with my husband.

So this weekend I was seeking God about the "what now????" aspect of my call to worship and intercession. God's word to me was profound.

In prayer I felt God telling me that my specific call as a missionary to Mexico was tied to Gary and me as a couple, as Swordmaster Ministries, and that it was a unique and specific call to us as a couple. I am still called to have a heart for missions but for right now I am not called as a single woman to go to the mission field. I had been wrestling with this because I wanted to be obedient to God's call upon my life and didn't want to run from the mission field simply because it was so difficult without Gary.

On the other hand, my call to worship and intercession is God's call upon MY life. Worship and intercession was intimately connected with Gary's call but is not ultimately dependent upon our marriage and life together.

I am to worship and bring God's glory into the areas where he wants to minister. It's as if before I was Gary's worshipper (not worshipping Gary but worshipping God on behalf of Gary's ministry) and now I am God's worshipper!

God was showing me how this transition is vital to the next step of my life in a new relationship. The picture I got was of a breezeway or an airlock in a house. These rooms or areas in a house are transition spaces to go from one section to a completely different area such as a garage. When we lived in Chan's home there was this type of "air lock" or "breezeway" room in-between the guest house kitchen and Chan's kitchen. It's a space that keeps the two spaces from combining, getting mixed up or becoming co mingled.

What I gleaned from this in prayer is that the gift of worship and intercession is very intense in my life and it was used mightily in Gary's and my ministry together. However, in order for me not to get into an unhealthy pattern of trying to re-create the past, I need to learn how to walk in my giftedness and for a season not have it be connected to another man's ministry. God wants me to have a "breezeway" experience with him and him alone! Through worship I am to welcome God's glory, purpose and presence into what he wants to accomplish on this earth.

In prayer God was showing me that in order to serve him in a new relationship I must go through this "breezeway" experience where I learn to walk in my gifting apart from what Gary and I had together. Otherwise, I would be trying to replicate what we had and that would be a completely unhealthy response. I kept getting the sense of how small a breezeway is but how it completely disconnects one life from another. God doesn't want me to travel through a great room or a formal banquet hall, he just wants me to go through the breezeway of walking in worship and intercession as the bride of Christ rather than the bride of Gary.

The fellowship with God was intense and I filled my journal with the things that I am pondering in my heart. This weekend was such a profound time of simply "being" and "soaking in God's presence. This is what I have been longing for since we returned from Mexico. I felt the muck of grief being cleansed out of my heart in profound ways and my passion and calling to worship being restored in the depths of intimacy with my savior.

So for me, this weekend wasn't about a specific speaker, although she was a tremendous gift from God! And it wasn't about having an incredible time with friends, although God blessed me on the drive to Buena Vista and back to Colorado Springs with a precious new friendship and the depths of the bonding of two hearts! Those things are priceless and deeply important but this weekend wasn't about those things.
This weekend God was calling his bride, his beloved and it was the delight of my heart to respond to him!

"My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away"



Thursday, July 18, 2013

Goodbye my love

My Dear Husband,
 You have been gone from us for a year now. A whole year; it’s difficult to believe that it has been a full year and yet it often feels like it has been centuries and centuries since you last held me in your arms. Sometimes I try to picture you walking through the door. Everything has changed, not only are we not in Mexico but we are no longer in Loveland. The “door” that you would walk through goes into a house that you’ve never called home. So picturing you here with us is difficult and painful.
The kids and I are doing well. For awhile I didn’t think that I would survive. I almost lost my mind in a tsunami of grief. I honestly didn’t know if I would pull out of the depths of sorrow. I was trying so hard and yet sinking further down into despair. Yet, God is so faithful and so gracious. He rescued me and has given me the opportunity to joyfully thrive and move on in my life without you.
But because I have been doing so well, I have been thinking of the scene in Family Man, the scene at the end that always made me cry softly in your arms as we held each other and watched that movie for the 80th time. And I know that a tear would be glistening in your eye as well. It’s the scene where Jack decides to not give up in trying to win Kate back. He’s at the airport yelling to her across all the people about their children, about their love, and about their life together. He says, “I know we could both go on with our separate lives and we would be okay, but I know what we can be together. I know our love and I know how good we are together and I choose us”. Remember how we would always say that to each other? "I choose us!" I still remember you singing to me "la la la la means I love you". Recently I’ve been thinking so often of that scene in the airport. I finally can see that the kids and I are going to be alright, we’re going to go on with our life and be okay. BUT…..I know what the two of us can be together and Gary, I choose us! I want to scream at you to not get on that plane. Please Gary don’t go to Paris, not tonight”. But the snow never begins to fall, the glimpse never becomes reality, and you are gone.  And my life now is just a fading memory of what we had, the depth of love that we shared, and the passion with which we loved.

I lie in this big bed alone, I’ve taken your side because my side was too painful. As soon as I was on my side it seemed as though you should be lying there next to me. I couldn’t bare the pain. I have a new bed of course as I couldn’t move ours from Mexico. It’s really comfortable and beautiful, you would really enjoy it. I have girly bedding now though, which you would have only tolerated at best. I miss holding your hand as I fall asleep. How many countless years did we do that? Every single night we held hands and it was torture when you left me to have no warm hand to slip my fingers into when I crawled into bed at night. I miss making love to you and the depths and the joys of intimacy that we shared. More than anything, I miss sitting on the backyard swing with your arm around me as we would gently swing for hours. I miss your friendship and the fellowship in the things of God so very much. I make friends fairly easily but you and I shared a depth of spiritual intimacy that I’ve never had with anyone else. I want so badly to talk about the things of God with you, worship with you and to pray with you. We were truly one in the Spirit and I really miss having that unity with another person.

Nathaniel and Bethany are doing very well. They love you so much and miss you tremendously. We all miss your Bible teaching more than any other aspect of our life together. What a tremendous Godly legacy you have left with our children. We all have found Bible study difficult this year because when we pick up our Bibles all we “hear” throughout the pages is dad’s voice. “Is it Paul or is it Dad???” we jokingly say. It’s just been so very painful to read those words that you taught for so many years and yet you are not here with us. I had to buy a new Bible without your our bible study notes, in order to be able to freely read scripture again. I cherish your teaching but it was just too painful for me right now to be bombarded with such a deep loss every time I opened my Bible.

We unpacked all of your books and amazingly they all made the rough journey from Mexico without harm. I’ve organized them differently than you always did and they are in the living room now rather than the office. As I unpacked each commentary or study book your life and your fingerprints were upon everything as they are etched upon our hearts.

So tomorrow marks the end of the first year without you. My year of grief has ended and I am saying goodbye to you for the last time. You will always be a significant and beautiful part of my life but you will never be my husband ever again and I am allowing you to dwell in the joyful memories of my past as I press on to what God has for me in the future. I am so very grateful for the 18 wonderful years that we had together. I wouldn't trade a second of it for anything. I will cherish you and love you forever. Yet, with God's grace I am transferring my relationship with you and the intensity of my love for you to the past because that is when we were married. It is amazing to me to realize that I am the age now that you were when we got married on that warm November day so many years ago. This knowledge gives me hope. I realize that even though our life together was amazing and that our love was deep and tremendously intimate, that God is not finished with me yet and that he has a plan and purpose for me.
So honey, I am releasing you to your Heavenly home and saying goodbye one last time. Thank you for being the type of husband and father that it nearly killed us to walk through losing you! You were an incredible husband and father and we will cherish and love you always.
All my love for all time
remember la la la la la means I love you..............