Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts on Providence

If you are a facebook friend or a follower of my blog you know that I have struggled over the last several months with extremely serious heart problems. These problems culminated in triple-bypass surgery, a defibrillator implanted in my chest and a stent following a minor heart attack in January. Needless to say, life has been "interesting." I have become accustomed to my own mortality and resigned to the fact that the rest of my days would be a struggle with pain and fatigue.

But it turns out that I was wrong.

Yesterday I was given some of the best news I've had since my wife said "yes" all those years ago. My heart function has improved to the point that it is now considered normal. I am not considered to be suffering from congestive heart failure at this time. How did this happen? We could talk about my commitment to exercise and a better diet or the medicines doing their job or any number of factors. But I believe the real answer came from something that was not said in the clinic yesterday....The Nurse Practitioner pointed to the sky and said "It means that there's a purpose for you to still be here..." She was completely right.

I recently performed a funeral for a man four years younger than myself. He dropped dead from a heart attack. No warning, no symptoms. He was here one moment and gone the very next. That situation was hard on me....knowing that there was no reason why that shouldn't have been me. But God has a purpose for keeping me here.

God has a purpose...That's an interesting thought. So much of life seems random and meaningless. The images coming from Japan shake us with their scope and starkness. Can there be any purpose in such devastation? I have quite a bit of experience with devastation, especially on an emotional level and I want to tell you that there is a purpose in it, and that good can and does come from it. As a Christian I believe that God is using all of the events in my life to mold my character into a better reflection of Him. People talk all the time about wanting to die well....I want to live well. I want people to look back at my life and be able to clearly see a love and devotion to God that filled and directed every decision, every action, every word and thought. I figure that will insure dying well.

God has granted me a healing that I never asked for and never thought I would receive. I am grateful beyond words, but I hope that the life I've lived over the last few months was a witness enough of God's power to sustain us even when life isn't what we'd hoped or bargained for.

Perhaps someday I'll understand God's purpose for this season of my life...not that it really matters if I do or not. What matters is that I use this season in a way that brings glory to Him. That's the only purpose that really matters.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

For the son I never held

Monday was one of those days that has a deeper, more profound impact on you than you realize. The impact was not from anything that happened during the day itself, but something that happened a long time ago. Twenty-two years ago Monday my second son Timothy was born. He lived only minutes and then joined his brother Johnathan in heaven. I never saw Timothy alive, a fact that haunts me to this day.

Johnathan's death was sudden and unexpected and frightening. Like any first time father-to-be I bonded quickly with my son. When Johnathan died a part of me died too, and I was hesitant to embrace the prospect of being a father again. From the beginning of the pregnancy everything was different. Different treatment plan, different emotions, different me. I had a very difficult time embracing Timothy. I am ashamed to admit these things, but they are the reality of those moments.

The years have blunted those feelings, but not the memory. I am grateful that God has blessed me with six other children and I have learned to love them with all my heart. I do regret that I couldn't enjoy our brief time with Timothy but I rejoice that he has always only known the peace of God's presence. That knowledge is my hope, the thing that gave me the strength to take the step that started me to life again. Timothy's memory is the understanding that God is always active in my life, even when I can't see Him or understand what's going on. I can honestly tell you that I have come to the point that I wouldn't want him to leave heaven to be with me for any reason. I know that one day I will be with him and that is enough.

My life has been filled with disappointment and sorrow, but it has also been filled with the hand of God. From the very first moment that I placed my trust in Him He has been active. God's plan has always been to guard me from the worst while teaching me about who He is. His purposes are not always clear to me but I have come to understand that His desire has always been to draw me close to Him. I have come to understand that death is not something to be feared because He is greater even than death.

Thank you Timothy for teaching me how to live.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Random Thoughts for a Tuesday

There's a definite chill in the air this morning...the kind of chill that makes you walk a little more quickly. I enjoy it because it makes me feel more energized. Knowing that this chill will soon be gone, replaced by the busyness that is my life makes me appreciate it all that much more this morning. Like so many others, my days all start before the sun comes up and ends well into the evening. As I reflect on my life I realize that it has always been this way. I'm way too busy. Too busy to enjoy life, my wife, my kids, my work. Too busy to enjoy anything. That's been one benefit of the long period of recovery from my heart surgery and subsequent heart attack....lots of time for reflection. Reflection, when focused on the right things, fuels the soul and promotes positive change. Who of us couldn't benefit from changing some things?

One of the things I've thought about this morning is the lack of civility and concern that has come to characterize our culture. This was driven home to me the other day as I read through some posts on an Amazon discussion board. It seems that we've forgotten how to disagree without being disagreeable. I genuinely enjoy discussing issues with those who don't share my viewpoint, it's a learning experience. There are few anymore who seem to be able to discuss their differences without pursuing a "scorched earth" policy regarding those who disagree with them. I am grateful for those in my life who have taken the time to teach me through disagreement. Yes, there are some issues that I can never change my position on, but there has never been someone who I cannot learn from by engaging in a reasoned, intelligent discussion with. Perhaps our inability to have those type of discussions has more to do with our loss of the ability to reason and learn for ourselves than with anything else.

As I've waited for the sun to rise this morning I've thought of old friends who I've lost touch with through the years. They represent my biggest, and perhaps only regrets. I am grateful for websites like facebook and classmates and the opportunities they represent to reconnect with old friends and to share laughter once again.

I guess I've gone about all the damage I can at this point in the day. As the title of this post indicates.....random thoughts. I hope your day is a good one.