Today we pause, reflect and chat about this day seven years ago. My blogging is few and far between. Every year we find ourselves drawn to those who have tragically lost loved ones. A strong belief I have is “death seperates man from man but not man from God”. For those of us who walk with Jesus and try to be obedient to His teaching we have a hope that gives a different perspective. The house is full with Laura’s boyfriend and his parents. Mike spent several years with them for a week in August. So we celebrate and sit round the fire telling stories. See you soon mike!
When the “storm of our lives” has passed and I don’t just mean your average storm, I mean the one that changes landscape, the one that flattens and wipes out, we sit there dazed for a long time.
Over the past few years I have made several comments as I have reflected;
- “As I looked at Mike’s dead body I realised that the primary had become secondary and the secondary primary”
- “In the week leading up to Mike’s passing we decorated the lounge. I stripped it bear. As we started to bring items back into the room, we paused and asked do we actually still want this?”
As the ability to breathe and function returned, I did two “Re’s”, Re-prioritized and Re-arranged my life.
Essentially the 3 aspects of our lives are generally given equal time. The previous 7 years, up until August the 1st 2009, mine was unbalanced and looked more like this.Emotionally energy looked more like this!
5 ½ years on, I continue to hold onto those priorities. I recognised that whist so much of what I was doing was “good”, there was better. I realised that when everyone goes home, even mum and brothers, its just me, Kathy and the girls. So why do I give so much time and energy in an unbalanced way to “other” good things?
I realised that even my relationship with God was not healthy. I recognised “I worked for God but not with God!” (A danger for many if full time “God work”).
So today, I am at peace to say “no to good things” because “I want better things”. I fight to keep the main thing the main thing, not to let primary become secondary. I reflect continually whether I am giving space in my mind to topics that create strong emotion and occupy my thoughts and conversation or just refuse to engage with the topic because I want other things to rent that space. How I spend my time, money and capabilities are purposeful. I am at peace to say “no” because I want to say “yes” to something else, even when I don’t know what that yes is yet. I leave space for the “yes”
Over the past months, I have been trying to make sense of where I am today, five and a half years on from that life altering event. My difficulty is that I have been afraid that what I say may both hurt my family and not be understood. So my blog has remained untouched, but I want to start again processing my thoughts through writing.
Today I want to grapple with a topic that in many ways is so hurtful and yet it’s a verse from the scriptures!
I don’t know about you but I have heard, read and had it said to me “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Rm8:28 For 20+ years I have grappled to understand this verse. I find it one of the most hurtful things to say when there has been tragedy! It makes my blood boil, but why?
Some years ago when I was studying business, I came across the word synergy “The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects”. This was a great help at that time to be more at peace with this verse. Individually, an event can be bad, but combined with other events, the sum total can be good! Of course we are talking here about spiritual good. I just could not accept that a rape, murder, death of a loved one etc could be “good” as I listened to some well-meaning but annoying person come out with “And we know that all things……………” Are you crazy? Do you not have an ounce of compassion in your soul? Have you never experienced pain of loss or rejection? These are the type of thoughts I would quietly hold.
I am a huge fan on the topic of narrative or story. I love to ask the question, what is the narrative here? That can be a question for an individual, family, community, and nation. If you want to understand the culture and behavior of Carlisle, you have to look at the story. A city that is on the boarder of England and Scotland, a city that has been invaded and ruled for short periods by non-English. Once you dig into the narrative, you can see the longer term effects that has had on the formation of current culture.
So what has that to do with this verse?
There are four parts to God’s story, Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration. We are in the 3rd part of the story, redemption. Simply put, God through Jesus has made a way to deal with our wrong and bring us back into relationship with Himself. This is the redemptive story. Mike’s death, someone else’s horrible story only make’s sense, when it is placed within the redemptive story. Outside of that, it remains a terrible event. But when we look at it within the context of the redemptive story, well it changes everything. I witnessed the other week two sisters being baptized as a sign of their relationship with Father God, on the one year death anniversary of their amazing Godly mother. Their mom suffered from MS for many years and was wheel chair bound. “BAD”. But she loved Jesus and had a wonderful active walk with her Saviour. Her life and death had a huge impact on these ladies and God used it within the Redemptive Story to bring these daughters into beautiful reconciliation with Himself.
We have seen God take Mike’s story and use it in ways we could never imagine for “GOOD”, even good in my, Kathy, Akila and Laura’s character. I can only see that now after 5 1/2 years. We only see the “good” as we look back. There is no “good” in the storm!
So I have moved on from accepting this verse in the context of “Synergy”. Today, I can accept that God can take something so horrible, so painful, so bewildering and use it to continue writing His Story, The Redemptive Story. I would still plead with my friends to not speak this verse to people who are going through a hard time. Just love them and be quiet and let God be God and pray He can use a bad situation for good as He continues writing His Redemptive Story. Then years later or as time has passed, look at the narrative and yes join me and say with tears running down “Nothing but good has come from Mike’s death”
The old writers of spiritual truth had a cool way of articulating truth. The Holy Scriptures teach that until I die to self I cannot experience life in Christ. Until I come to the point that “I” cannot do anything for God, in regards to keeping His laws, I will not be free from the law. Once I recognise I can do nothing for God then I am free to allow Him to do everything for me.
I woke this morning and was shocked to realise if it had not been in my diary, I would not have realised to date is the 19th of January, Mikes birthday. I can excuse that we are busy in London and didn’t realise the date but it made me ponder, do I think more about his death date than his birth date. That leads me into the topic of live, celebrate life, cease the day, honour the past but engage with today, don’t be paralysed or limited by yesterday, today is alive, it holds opportunities, it has hidden treasures to discover.
And so I say Happy Birthday Mike, I want to honour your life today and you know your dad, it will be colourful! Thanks for making mum, dad and your sisters proud
Read this today and it so resonated with me.
Salvation is not a product, but a relationship. It is not finished when one trusts Christ; it has only begun (a gate and then a road, cf. Matthew 7)! It is not a fire insurance policy, nor a ticket to heaven, but a life of growing Christlikeness. We have a proverbial saying that says the longer a couple lives together, the more they begin to look alike. This is the goal of salvation!
We hear the question “When someone is saved, are they always saved?” I wonder whether the motivation for the question is due to self.
Read this in my studies this morning and liked it!
The evidence of this salvation is a changed worldview, a changed heart, a changed lifestyle and a changed hope! It cannot be based on a past emotional decision that has no lifestyle evidence (i.e., fruit, cf. Matt. 7:15-23; 13:20-22; John 15). Assurance, like salvation, like the Christian life starts with a response to God’s mercy and continues that response throughout life. It is a changed and changing life of faith!
We read in the news about those being held hostages; school girls in Nigeria, individuals by ISIS, crews by pirates……Then we hope to read at a later date how they have been saved or released. Well it struck me recently how we are born as hostages of Sin. We are held captive by sin reigning in our bodies. Out bodies are a battle ground for temptation to all the world has to offer. Through the mercy mission of Jesus coming to earth and dieing on the cross, He was able to pay a price and see us released into freedom. How exhilarating it must be for a hostage to be freed. The great hymn writer penned the words, “my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed thee”. He understood this truth.
Have you ever heard of a freed hostage voluntarily returning to become a hostage again? So why do those of us who have been freed from the power of Sin in our lives, allow our bodies, or parts of our bodies to be weapons for sin, and allow sin to reign and be master over us again! How dumb is that. (Romans 5 & 6)
Unfortunately, death (Sin) is dressed up in a way that looks like life and fun to me. All I know is I want to stay free from the things that look so good but the capture me and enslave me which lead to death. The secret……..well for me…..walking with Jesus daily and that is in brokenness most of the time!
As I have been cycling to work the last couple of days, a song keeps playing over in my mind and the words “Only by grace can we enter, only by grace can we stand, not by human en devour but by the blood of the lamb”. I am studying the book of Romans at the moment and its one of the most brilliant literary pieces of writing ever written!
Romans 5 says “we stand in grace”. We are powerless against sin! Do you like me think at times I will put effort into an area of your life that you want to change? If I am powerless why do I try! Versse 6 says “whilst we were helpless, Christ died for us”, HELPLESS. Its Christ death and blood that reconcile us to God. It’s His Holy Spirit that empowers us to live a righteous life. My flesh is powerless, His Spirit in me gives power to be able to live as He wants me to. How good is that truth today!
So today, I stand in His grace. My position of being right with God is not based on anything I have or will do, but simply on His grace, love and mercy. Join me!
God is true, man is a liar! (Romans 3) Are you like me and get depressed at your human failings? I see my heart is not in sync with my mouth. It’s easy for me to pontificate about my relationship with God but then my behaviour is at odds with that. I confront myself and look again at my values. Do I really value my relationship with God? If I do, then why do I allow other priorities to push that relationship lower on the “to do” list?
Thank God for His grace, love and mercy. Thank God that He knows the character of us humans and has un-comprehensible capacity to love us as He finds us. Thank you Jesus for restoring what was broken. Thank you Father that you never give up on us. Thank you that one day, we who believe and persevere walking, stumbling, running and lets be honest, at times crawling with you, are one day going to be with you in full.