Together Soon – The Amazing Story of an On-time Picture

Grandpa's navy class

In memory of what would have been my grandparents 70th wedding anniversary, I want to share this story with you. Perhaps you read it on Yahoo’s front page last year. It was this story that won a Content of the Year Award. I’m honored that I was able to tell it.

Wilbert Glenn Adriance, my grandpa, died on May 26, 2010, at the age of 91. Battling her own failing health, Grandma (Bonnie), his wife of almost 69 years, struggled with the grief of their separation. She wondered why she was still here on Earth. Her mind and body were painfully giving out. Some days she didn’t recognize her daughter (my mom) or anyone else. But then something very strange happened

This is blog about the Bible, so I shouldn’t stray far from that purpose. However, this one is a personal tribute to my grandparents who demonstrated a lifelong love for each other. In many ways they inspire me to strive for a great, lifetime marriage that honors God. Let me just add this Scripture as a postscript to the story:  “Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” I Corinthians 13:8-10 ESV

Happy anniversary, Gma and Gpa. I miss you both!

 

 

One Scripture?

Recently, a blogger asked me a great question in the comments on his blog. When I offered to help answer his questions about the Bible, he asked me if there was one Scripture that I considered “gold” or thought about every day. What a great question!

But it made me pause. One Scripture? I love every book of the Bible. My favorite one is always the one I am studying at the moment. There is so much depth, beauty, insight, inspiration, and joy in the Scriptures. Could I pick just one? I am not one who has chosen a “life verse” that encapsulates my faith or purpose. God has always provided the right Scripture at the right time for my situation. One Scripture? I decided to dig back into the bedrock foundations of my faith. What is essential? What do I know is true? What do I depend on?

I thought back to one of the great turning points in my life – a literal choice between life or death. I was just a young teen, probably finishing 8th or 9th grade. I had chosen to follow Jesus with my life a year or two earlier. I was on a youth retreat with my church at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. My life was just not going the way I wanted. I wasn’t athletic or popular. I wasn’t funny or attractive. I wasn’t talented in anything anyone noticed. I was believing Satan’s lie that no one loved me. One night I just sat out in the open air hallway outside my room. I looked down two or more stories to the ground and rocks below. A voice inside whispered, “no one will care if you just fall off of here and die…” I didn’t know the term “spiritual warfare,” but I knew this was a spiritual attack. I went back inside to get away from the immediate temptation. However, I was still wallowing in the self-pity and the lie. Later, I went back outside, letting the tears, at least, fall to the ground below.

One of our college age counselors, Keith, came and sat with me. He tried to offer advice and wisdom and comfort. It was nice to have someone notice my struggle, but it wasn’t enough. I did come in for the night, but my despair continued. However, during that week, God got my attention through the speaker. My memory isn’t clear on exactly what the speaker said, but God clearly revealed to me that He loved me. No matter what anyone else thought, He loved me. God loves me just the way I am! It sounds like such a simple truth, but it gripped me with a real power. I have value and worth. I have a purpose and a destiny. It isn’t because of anything that I am, except that I am loved by the King!

So here is that one scripture that, upon reflection, is the bedrock of my faith. When my faith wavers, looking for a foundation, this Scripture calls me back to the love that changed my life that week. Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (NASB)

 

Administrative note: Over the weekend, this blog received its 1000th all-time view. People from 17 countries have stopped by (unbelievable). Durt on the Bible isn’t taking the internet by storm, but I am thankful for all who take time to read. If it has value to you, please share it with someone else who might be encouraged.

Men in Back

Men in Black

This is an update of a sketch that I wrote many years ago about church ushers. With the arrival of Men in Black III, it is fun to introduce it to a new audience. Performance rights are granted as long as you credit me as author. (Acknowledging this blog would be appreciated. I would love to hear about your performance.)

Characters should wear black suits with white shirts. Dark sunglasses are required.

Old Agent (Tommy Lee Jones’ character) – hardened, confident, and serious

New Agent (Will Smith’s character) – young, cocky smart-aleck

 

Old Agent: Welcome to your first day with “The Company.” I hope you are ready for the challenge of your life.

New Agent: Of course, I’m ready. You only recruit the best, right?

Old Agent: We recruit potential. Don’t get too cocky. You don’t know what you are in for.

New Agent: Sure, whatever. Now, when do I get my offering plate?

Old Agent:  Easy, kid. These things aren’t to be trifled with. This is a tough and serious job. Let’s start with something a little easier. Take this stack of bulletins and go to the side door. When someone comes in, greet them and hand them one. Can you handle it?

New Agent: Sure no problem. How hard could that be? <Walks off stage>

Old Agent: (to himself) These rookies just don’t get it…

New Agent: (after a pause, now short of breath) Chief, what are you getting me into? Do you know who is out there? The first person wouldn’t shake my hand, and the second family wanted bulletins for each person – even their baby. The third person quoted some Scripture to me while I was trying to greet them. His Bible looked really big. Then someone asked where the restrooms are. Someone said it was too hot; somebody else said it was freezing, could I turn up the heat. Then someone asked if I knew how Mrs. Jones’ surgery turned out. It was like they were, were, (looking out over the audience) aliens from different planets or something. What is going on here?

Old Agent: Calm down. That’s nothing compared to what can happen around here. Wait until the music minister cuts the offertory short and you aren’t down front. Everyone starts looking and fidgeting. Or when you have to give directions to the nursery to a woman with a crying baby. Or when the pastor asks us to hand out something to everyone without telling us ahead of time. Sometimes the pastor might even ask one of us to pray — out loud, in front of everyone. I have seen it all. God doesn’t gift everyone for this, but I think you can do it. You’ve got to hang in there and just do the job.

New Agent: Well, OK, but when is the offering?

Old Agent: Coming up soon now. You take the left side.

New Agent: But what if I see how much someone gives?

Old Agent:  Don’t worry. Why do you think we wear these glasses? Its so people can’t tell if we are watching them or not. We are like deja vu. People know we are there, but they forget who we are. Besides, I have this neural atomizer that will erase your memories, should you ever choose to leave “The Company.” But you shouldn’t desert us. A Man in Back is a Man in Back forever. You may rotate off, but we always know where you are.

New Agent: And I thought this job was a joke.

Old Agent: No joke, sonny. Who do you think counts all these people every week? Who do you think cleans up all the note-covered bulletins after services? Who opens the doors so the people can be first to the restaurants? Who warmly greets  everyone that comes every week? We do, the Men in Back. And the people sit there unaware of how their lives would be ruined if we didn’t do our job.

New Agent: Wow! This really is an elite unit. Thank you for letting me serve with you.

Old Agent: You’re created for it, kid! (hand him an offering plate) Now get down there are collect those offerings, the music is playing.

New Agent: Yes, sir!

 

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord.” I Corinthians 12:4-5 HCSB

 

Q&A: Questions and Awards

beautiful_bloggerAward_REV

This post is about the blog more than the Bible. Call it an administrative interlude. However, I am learning that I need to do some of these things. First, I have (cautiously) added a new page here. It is called “Ask Your Question” (see link in left column near the top). This is where you can enter your honest Bible  questions. I will give you my best answer, either on the comments there or in a separate blog entry. More details are on that page.

Secondly, I have been nominated for a couple blogging awards. As I understand them now, they are a way for bloggers to recognize their favorite blogs and spread the news. There are a few rules. I have to link to the nominator, tell seven random things about myself and then nominate 7 other blogs. Although I have multiple nominations, I am going to combine my awards into this one post.

I have been nominated for the Beautiful Bloggers Award by Just a Cowboy for Christ and by Linneann. Cowboy writes with a force and passion that are contagious. Linneann is a woman who shares the grace and truth of a tough walk as a single mom with a special needs child. Both are engaging writers. I am honored (and flabbergasted) they chose me out of all the folks they could have nominated.

I was also nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award by Red Flame Fire. I must admit that her style is far different than mine, and it leaves me wondering. I perceive, though, that she is woman who has found Jesus faithful despite some very difficult circumstances.

Here are seven random things about me:

  • I wear two hearing aids. I have worn some kind of help for hearing since age 4.
  • My three kids and wife all have birthdays between 1/6 and 2/8. It is quite the sprint.
  • Most craveable foods – Mt. Dew, chocolate chip cookies, tuna sub, and macaroni and cheese.
  • In middle school, I won a computer programming contest for a text-based adventure game loosely based on Indiana Jones. The main character was Idaho Joe.
  • For 17 years, I met with a group of guys every Friday for accountability and basketball.
  • My favorite Scripture is always what I am currently studying. However, I usually claim Ephesians 6:10-20 as my favorite.
  • As a senior in high school, I was the Executive Officer (2nd in command) for my Navy JROTC unit at school.

I have chosen a variety of blogs to highlight as my seven nominees for the Beautiful Blogger Award:

  • Art Pinney’s Family Photo blog. Art is a friend and immensely talented as a photographer. His project to capture every day photos every day for a year is just a delight.
  •  Jeff Davidson has just come back to write more in Elevate, a blog about his family’s journey with a special needs son. Their ministry, Rising Above, has been a help and inspiration to us.
  • Live Love Nicaragua is about the Stearns family’s desire to serve as missionaries to Nicaragua. I “met” them only recently through their blog, but I am excited to hear how God works through them.
  • Prolific is the word for Morgen Bailey. Her blog on writing and writers is a massive work and very accessible. She even reviewed a short story that I wrote and gave me some great advice.
  • Peggi Tustan publishes an weekly entry on Real Life that is always worth the wait. She blends family history, faith, and great insight into the Scripture with smooth prose.
  • Meaty theological discussion – that’s Christopher Randolph’s blog. The conversations in the comments are as good as the articles.
  • Fresh and encouraging. I hope to see more from Life With Misty.

Check these out when you get a chance! One final administrative note. My article “Standing in Hope” was republished on an online magazine called WordExpress Weekly (scroll down a bit). It is a place of dialogue (positive and negative) about faith. I am honored to be included.

Standing in Hope

One of my greatest goals for this blog is to point people to the very real hope that Jesus offers. Not a false hope or a hope on just good days — but a hope that inspires us through the painful realities that we face.

Linnea is a writer whom I met through her blog. She understands and clings to this hope. Read here: Brevity–May 16, 1990.

In the comments, she mentions the hope expressed in Romans 5. That is exactly the Scripture that inspired hope in us during the dark days around our daughter’s diagnosis. I wrote about that:

“When my daughter was diagnosed with an incurable illness, I could not think it would lead to hope. It was despair that lurked in the shadows of seizure-filled nights. Fear preyed on me with each mysterious side-effect from the various seizure medications. And confusion threatened to overwhelm me as I tried to understand mitochondrial diseases.

But God did not let me fall.  …” Finish reading

In what do you hope? In what circumstances do you need His hope today? Stand in God’s hope and you will be able to stand.

When a Child Dies

In Memory of Ainsley Higgins

Yesterday, Ainsley Higgins, a girl almost 7 years old, died as a result of a mitochondrial disease. Our family has known too many children who have died because of this disease. We are involved with this didn’t-want-to-join-but-had-to community because our eight year old daughter Gwendolyn also has a mitochondrial disease. In addition to the anguishing grief, Christian parents may wonder what happens to their children after death. The Scriptures are clear that all have sinned and deserve condemnation and an eternity without God. But what about children who didn’t have a chance to choose Jesus? I believe the Scriptures do offer real comfort to families dealing with the death (or likely death) of a child. There is good news about their eternal destination.

David’s Confidence

The classic  text on this issue is King David’s response to the death of his first son with Bathsheba from 2 Samuel 12:22-23:

He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me. (NIV)

David, a man commended by God (except in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah), is confident that he will see his son in some future afterlife. His surety is not rebuked by anyone, priest or prophet. Thus it stands out as evidence that children who die young have eternal life with God. It is shaky, though, to derive a full-blown theology on such a critical issue from one man’s declaration that is not explicitly echoed by God.

Jesus’ Example

However, Jesus, who is God, does seem to echo this declaration, in opposition to His disciples and the prevailing view of children in His day. Read Mark’s account:

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:13-16 (NIV)

Jesus blessed the children. He didn’t condemn them or send them away as unimportant. Mark’s placement of this account is also very telling. It occurs just before Jesus’ encounter with a rich man who asks how to inherit eternal life. Jesus’ response, which challenged the man to sell everything, astounded the disciples. If this man, who claimed to follow the law, cannot be saved, who can? Mark’s inference is clear: children will inherit the kingdom even when the rich and “good” turn away from it. The last will be first (Mark 10:31).

God’s Character

Finally, there is comfort in knowing God’s character. He is just, righteous, and good.  Even if the Bible doesn’t describe the “mechanism” of salvation for those unable to make their own decision, we can trust that God’s decision are just and good. His demonstrated goodness and mercy are enough to convince me that He will do what is right and good. If He would give up His own Son for us, wouldn’t he do everything for our children?

Because of Gwendolyn’s condition, I have thought about this often. Even if she has a long life, we do not know how much she understands. What if she (and others) can never make that decision for Jesus? (Infant baptism to deal with original sin is one tool that some Christians use. As a Baptist, I know that baptism is a sign for believers, not infants.) In Gwendolyn’s case, we often wonder if she has her own communication with God. Sometimes she just laughs for no apparent reason. We have decided that God is telling her jokes. Maybe Gwendolyn and God have a better relationship together than He and I do. No matter what, I trust God with my daughter’s eternal life. David’s confidence, Jesus’ example, and God’s character are enough for me. May He give you encouragement and hope if you are facing those darkest days when your child dies.

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. Matthew 11:25-26 (NIV)

More:

How we have hope when there is no cure for our daughter

Brighter days: an interview with Gwendolyn’s mito doctor about the state of mito medicine

Psalms Project: Psalm 2 – Safe, Not Shackled

The Avengers

The much anticipated movie “Avengers” opened this weekend. It tells the story of several superheroes who must band together to stop an evil Norse deity, Loki, and his band of aliens. I haven’t seen the movie, but I suspect that the heroes must learn to work as a team. Then, using all their powers, they thwart Loki, at least until the sequel. Strange as the movie plot sounds, it has some similarities to Psalm 2. (Hang in there and maybe you will understand my warped way of thinking.)

In Psalm 2,  we meet the kings of the earth. These kings are tired of being shackled by God and His Anointed (Hebrew – messiah). So they are planning some kind of rebellion to win their “freedom.” Mortals are taking on God. In this case, we are talking about the one, true God, the Creator of all. So, these kings on earth want to take on the King of the Universe, and they have no super powers to help them. God laughs (an ironic twist to Psalm 1). He and His Anointed rule no matter what anyone else does. He can just speak and destroy the kings and their nations. God has already chosen the Ruler – His Son.

Psalm 2 is classified as a “Messianic Psalm” because of its clear mention of God’s special, anointed One, the Messiah. Here, he is called “My Son” and “My King.” He is given the nations as His inheritance. And He will rule absolutely – as with a rod of iron. The nations are warned to properly honor the Messiah (v12) or face His sudden wrath. This is a proclamation of royal authority, perhaps using the same language as the coronation ceremony of Israel’s kings. Is it any wonder that Jesus’ disciples expected a Warrior Messiah to come and destroy the Romans and establish His kingdom on earth? (Of course, they neglected the teachings of other Messianic Psalms like Psalm 22, but we will get to those later.) While Jesus did not fulfill all of these roles in His first coming, He will upon His return.

The New Testament writers did not shy away from associating Jesus with this ruling Messiah in Psalm 2. In Acts 4, Peter and John are released by the Sanhedrin after they had healed the lame man at the Temple in the name of Jesus. When they return to the believers, they testify that Psalm 2 is being fulfilled: Gentiles and Jews gathered in Jerusalem against the Messiah, Jesus, and killed Him. But His resurrection demonstrated His ultimate authority and rule. In Revelation, John quotes Psalm 2:9 four times to remind us that Jesus is coming to rule.

So, what does this mean for us today? First, it is a corrective to our view of Jesus. If we consider Him only meek and mild, an itinerant preacher of mushy love, we don’t know Him. He is God’s Anointed King. He rules, whether we accept it or not. And if we choose to reject Him, we can expect to be broken like fragile pots.

I think the most important message, though, is that God’s rule is a refuge, not a shackle.  Look at how the whole tone of the Psalm changes in the last line: “How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” God is not trying to destroy us or keep us from joy and pleasure. No! His way IS the way of life and peace. Boundaries are for our safety, not for binding. Let’s rejoice in our shelter, the Most High God who rules over all.

Read Psalm 1: Planted or Seated?