Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Does the LORD Care?

“Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the schemes of the wicked? Do you have eyes of flesh? Do you see as a mortal sees?” -- Job 10:3-4

He can see it all. He weaves the events of our lives together and we do not see how the threads of our existence are tied to all those around us. Sometimes it may feel very lonely to be limited in what we see. Does He know?

It is difficult to see the pictures of children in Haiti making their food for the week from dirt and shortening. It is heart breaking to see into the eyes of a woman holding her dead child after a calm ocean has suddenly turned into a wall of water that sweeps thousands of lives away. It makes me angry to see a man sitting in the heat of an African sun breaking big rocks into little ones, wearing out hammers so he can sell the gravel to the road builders to buy bread. We ask ourselves why.

Brenda is having a very difficult time. It seems that life has treated her roughly. Abused as a child, thrown into the role of a caregiver for her mother before she was a teen. Unable to bear children (her greatest wish). Our first child died (see posting: A Starting Point). The adoption of two war orphans has recently led to new challenges (see the last three postings). Two and a half years sober she is struggling in ways that I do not. Now we are learning to deal with the day to day reality of raising two children who are mentally challenged.

She was nearly killed in that fire (see “Chapter 2”). If she and Norm (one of our church’s elders) had chosen to go through the old sanctuary instead of out the nearest door things would have been very different. The sanctuary did not look dangerous. The flames had gone up the banners in that storage area and were licking along the ceiling, but there did not appear to be any danger beyond that. They did not know that the gases produced from that fire had filled the sanctuary and the temperatures in that vaulted ceiling were approaching a flashback point.

Outside that sanctuary, perhaps 30 feet away, Pastor Tim was trying to turn the fire alarm off. He did not yet know that the fire was real.

At the back of that sanctuary at another door I had just stepped inside calling for one of our children. I saw Tim punch in the code at the alarm. It paused for a moment and then started up again. I stepped into the sanctuary. It was still dark (I couldn’t see the flames behind the door to the storage area).

“Isaac?” I called.

Tim heard Mel, another of our elders, yell.

“Fire! There really is a fire!”

Tim could see through the sanctuary and a side door on the stage the flames in that storage area, and quickly went into his office to call for help.

I didn’t know yet that there was a fire burning on the other side of the door at the end of that room and that the gases above me were heating up to an ignition point. I turned around and went out a side door to see if Isaac was in the parking lot. I found him milling about.

Norm and Brenda exited the door nearest the fire. As they stepped away from the building Norm saw a fireball flash throughout the sanctuary, starting from where they were back to the point where I had just been. Tim says that the air suddenly turned black and he felt pressed down to the floor.

Tim crawled along the hallway, and turned left toward where the door was supposed to be, but he couldn’t see it. Confused, and growing muddled he crawled along in the darkness.

I started toward the side door where Mel and another elder were at the doors toward which Tim was crawling.

Suddenly the door flew open and Tim sailed past the porch, over the steps, and landed in the drive. The smoke blew through the door like the exhaust of a jet. This horizontal column of smoke roared over his head. He stood up, his upper body hidden in the soot and smoke blowing out of the church. Surreally I noticed papers from the office blowing around the parking lot as he staggered to the neighbor’s lawn.

Brenda, Norm, Tim, and myself had all been near the sanctuary when those heated gases exploded. Tim was literally on the edge of it.

We stood in the drizzle for a couple of hours while the firefighters worked. Engines from five communities responded. Finally they sent us home.
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  • That was a very difficult night. Jeremiah’s denials, eventual confession to the police, and his arrest seems like some sort of bad dream. We have been trying to wrap our minds around the idea that our church was so damaged and that we are somehow connected to this terrible thing.

    And Brenda is having an especially hard time understanding why we have children who are less than what they might have been.

    This is a great surprise to us. We have lied to ourselves about the extent of their disabilities. I think every parent wants their children to be exceptional in other ways. To be scholars and athletes and cheerleaders and class president. But that is a topic for another posting.

    Today I wish to look at Brenda’s grief and her question of “why?”

    Does God know what it is like for us? Does an omnipresent God see the world as we do? We are limited. We see but one thing at a time. Does that limit make our lives more painful? I think it does. We cannot see all the implications, all the stories of who an event might touch, all ways that we are spared what could have been worse. What we see is the abusing stepfather, the dying child, the nervously smiling boy who does not understand why we are so upset.

    Jenny has been the secretary of our church for the past few years. Her husband has been diagnosed with a very serious cancer and given a pastoral position near Sacramento. She sent me an email:

    “. . .I wanted to share a beautiful and interesting piece with you. I became acquainted with a shirttail relative about 2 years ago -- my brother-in-law's brother. He had been estranged from his family for many years, but has reconciled and shows up at many family events now. He lives in a hermitage in Sacramento and lives a life of poverty, service, and prayer. He has been a wonderful prayer supporter and encourager through Bob's cancer. His monastic background adds many interesting notes to our evangelical life! I've often copied his emails for Tim -- usually many weighty things to chew on!

    I sent an update about Bob to him a couple of weeks ago and mentioned the fire. When he responded he said that the fire confirmed a dream he had had! I quickly wrote back and told him he piqued my curiosity, and asked if he'd please share his dream if he was comfortable with doing so. I received another note from him a few days ago, which included this paragraph:

    ‘Your curiosity is up! Apologies, did not mean to do this. Dreams & Visions have been part of my life from conception. I have learned to accept them as gifts from the Divine Father. I dreamt several weeks prior to the fire and then just several days before your message of a fire in God's House, an apostle of the Lord was crawling and the Holy Spirit carried him out of a door way. In the beginning the dream showed a [special] young person with fire. The "specialness" is of mental/emotional capacity. There was absent any intent to be destructive or cause damage. In fact this young person & his family has a very special place in Our Father's heart. Our Father was pleased by the unity of His church and community. Life flows from and through the ashes [used for fertilizer in many cultures, that is -- to produce growth and life.]’"

    Here is a monk living in solitude 600 miles away and the LORD sends him this message. Since I have been writing about these events in this blog I have been getting messages from people all over the world (the comments on this blog are a few examples).

    Perhaps there are benefits to people out there from this. But that does not help us much. Brenda has been so depressed. This event is calling up all sorts of memories emotions for her. (I have been very concerned for her. It frightens me.)

    But regardless of what happens to other folks, I can’t help but be most concerned about how this affects us.

    I feel steady in my love and affection for my children. I love that boy who nervously smiles at us, uncertain of things because we seem so upset. I love Jeremiah now as always. I will love him even if he must live with me for the rest of my life and he always has the mind of a four year old.

    I am concerned about the reality of how we must now supervise Jeremiah. I know things will be difficult, but I also know that He will guide me. It’s been a rough path now and then (now being one of them). But He is my shepherd and I will trust the path that He chooses for me.

    Though He is not limited with human eyes, He understands it. Jesus took the form of a man and experienced the mortal life. And he spent that life understanding how we suffer, how we feel, and at every opportunity He stopped to give kind words, comfort, and healing. Even on the cross He stopped to reassure the thief dying beside Him. He knew what it was like to suffer, and He cares about us. What happens to us is small compared to the suffering I see throughout our world.

    I believe that life is very short. Consider eternity. What is a hundred or less years in the face of billions? What is unique about this life is the limitations we have on our understanding. Not being able to see the whole picture puts us in the refiner’s fire. What we experience and learn on the spinning glob of dirt in this corner of the universe are mortal experiences, experiences that will shape us for eternity.

    Jesus lead on, I will follow.

    “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” -- Job 23:10


    QueenBee said...

    I prayed for you family tonight and espeically for Brenda. I prayed for God to shower you with His comfort and strength, to fill you with confidence of His love for you. Jeremiah 29:11 "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. 'They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'" I just felt like sharing that verse with you - it has given me great comfort in hard times.

    EuroYank said...

    thanks for your comment on my blog. I hope that "unique" was meant in the positive. Stop by again ... am finished editing TODAY!

    Love yours also.

    Maripat said...

    You and your family are in my thoughts, especially Brenda. I've felt the darkness she going through now. Bless you, both.

    tim said...

    will, thanks for being honest, real, and authentic in your thoughts, fears, and questions. keep writing which i believe, in your case, is a form of prayer.

    Demonstrative said...

    You know, upon a closer look upon your page, i see that i'm visitor number 666. That's really freaky, and i mean really kinda erie. I'm not much of a believer in God, but like somebody else who read your post, i am a great appreciator for dandy story telling. With the recent troubles with your wife, and your mirror reflecting, and with me being number 666, i feel it only too proper to point out the God also took away Job's wife from him. As you are no doubt parelleling yourself with Job, i can say to you to strive to be there for your wife whole heartely. Or else she might encourage you to curse God and Die. I truly hope your God quit's testing you soon and lets you enjoy things tenfold. Cheers Mate!

    curious servant said...


    Thank you for your kind comments. Sorry about where the counter happened to be when you visited.

    I'm glad that the writing is pleasurable to read, and I appreciate your good wishes for things to come.

    I have found that writing this blog is therapeutic for me. I find it also a form of prayer. Sort of laying it all out there so I can step back and take a look at it all.

    I'm not sure I am comparing myself so much to Job as I am all of humanity. Life is hard for people all over the world and in the U.S. it is far easier us than for most of the world.

    But the core question remains, why is there suffering and how should we view it? I do not have the answers, but the questioning is, I believe, healthy.

    I wrote another piece directly about Satan yesterday, and perhaps you will find that interesting. I'll post it in a couple of days after I think it over a bit.

    Thanks again.

    Demonstrative said...

    I look forward to that post. I am glad that you didn't take my comments as negative in any light. People often confuse my overt honesty with belittlment and condensation, thank you for not. Keep spilling yourself out to the world, people are mostly evil, but persons are mostly good.

    Anonymous said...

    hi. thanks for dropping by my blog. your's is very nice. continue to have a burning passion for Christ! God bless you.


    halo said...

    I've read some of your posts and wanted to say hello. You peace is enviable. Thanks for stopping over my spot. :)

    MMM said...

    I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth, and though worms destroy this body yet in my flesh will I see God.

    Praying in the desert.

    bjk said...

    I just recently discovered your blog and so appreciate your honesty and ability to tell the story well....I have been challenged by the writings of the author Larry Crabb and one quote continues to challenge me....'the point of the journey is to want what God wants MORE than anything.'...I pray as He is using you and your family, your story so mightily that ...I don't know I guess I just pray for your family . In Christ b

    Ragna said...

    I love your thoughts and can feel some of your descriptive pain. Thank you for opening yourself up to the 'world' and thereby taking a bold step towards healing. God will do the rest..You are loved,

    the reverend mommy said...

    Prayers to you and yours tonight. Prayers for peace for Brenda.
    Take comfort in knowing that you are a beloved child of God and that he suffers with you.

    Hope said...

    All I know is that suffering comes to us all. I will be praying for Brenda. It sounds like she has had more than her share of disappointment in this life. Peace be with you both.

    bjk said...

    To quarrel with God is to pay God the supreme compliment: it is to take God seriously. It is to say that God matters enough to be worth some anger. To be indifferent to God is to pay God the supreme insult. It is to say that nothing of consequence is at stake. - Robert McAfee Brown, in his book, Elie Wiesel Messenger To All Humanity
    Praying boldly for your family....IN Christ b

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