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On the altar.

“Eventually, when we returned to the town,” Ron continued, “we saw that the entire mission station, including the house we built for our family and the aircraft hangars and maintenance facility that we built by hand, were all destroyed.”

…Emotional and on the verge of tears, he told me, “It was a deep, deep hurt for me to realize that [what took] generations of missions effort to build was all destroyed.  We lost the whole thing, but not the privilege of being able to put it on the altar for Christ.”

(From the most recent VOM magazine)

They lost everything but not the privilege to lay all their costly losses on the altar for a worthy Christ.

So if our losses permit us to do nothing else … they permit us to do this …

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Patricia Ector.

If the most telling test of a woman’s faith is her response to the “untimely” loss of those dearest to her, I may not have known a more faithful woman than Pat Ector.  She lost her husband suddenly around 10 years ago, and that grief was unmatched except for the tragic death of her only child one year later.

She spent her last years on earth as a widow in the truest sense, and in my life, one of God’s greatest examples of faith and fortitude after loss is that of Pat, a modern-day Job.  Her response, too, was worship in grief, and she bore so patiently and graciously the clumsy condolences of her friends, family, and church family.  Sometimes the greatest trial after tragedy is listening to what people have to say to you about it, and her response was always genuinely thank you, accepting the stumbling words — and sometimes, the stumbling theology, too.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

(Isaiah 43:2)

I’ll never forget her grace as she walked through the fire.

I’ll miss her singing voice.  For years, I served with her husband Robert on the praise team.  Not long after he left to join Heaven’s chorus, she joined our church’s praise team.  I count it an honor to have heard this faithful widow praising God after the death of her earthly bests.

I’ll miss her arm squeezes, her eyes glistening with tears as she called me “dear Tia” (never just Tia but always “dear” Tia), and her encouraging notes to me, even years after I moved away.  She was one of the first cheerleaders in my life to encourage me to write for God’s glory and the comfort of His people.

She wasn’t just “Pat” to me either.  For many years, she was “Sister Pat” in our correspondences … and then when I had my own children, she signed her name “Grandma Pat.”  And she was.

I’ll miss you, Pat.  I can’t imagine what your face looked like when you finally saw Jesus face to face.  I can’t imagine the reunion that happened between you and Robert and Michael.  I can’t wait to see you again soon one glorious day.  Until then, I’ll remember you, your love, your example.

The angels roar.

Then on the third at break of dawn,
The Son of heaven rose again.
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King

Sang these words at our Good Friday service last night and choked up.  O trampled death where is your sting? The angels roar for Christ the King.

That’s. Right.

He is adequate.

A post I never published from last March.  I’m sure many more of these moments are to come in motherhood.  I can depend on Him for everything.

Today, I was at a loss for how to deal with Cub.  I had too much of my own frustration and sin clouding my judgment, and perhaps he did, too.  I searched Scripture and my memory for things I could say, wisdom I could impart — but I came up empty.

Finally, I just went to his room, clasped his hands in mine, and wept and prayed.  For the both of us.

I didn’t know what to give my son in his rebellion and mine.  I could only pour out our inadequacies to the only one who is adequate.

My prayers will not save him.  My tears will not soften him.

But God can.

And I pray He will.

Missionary’s final letter.

At the end of his sermon yesterday, our pastor read John Chau’s final letter to his family before he was killed by the Sentinelese tribe (bold emphases mine):

You guys might think I’m crazy in all this but I think it’s worth it to declare Jesus to these people.

Please do not be angry at them or at God if I get killed.

Rather please live your lives in obedience to whatever he has called you to and I’ll see you again when you pass through the veil. This is not a pointless thing – the eternal lives of this tribe is at hand and I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshiping in their own language as Revelations 7:9-10 states.

I love you all and I pray none of you love anything in this world more than Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo gloria.

As I was typing this post and wondering not only what it would be like to write a letter like this but maybe even to receive one from one of my sons one day, Cub came to me and asked what I was doing.  So I told him about John Chau, the Sentinelese, and showed him a map of the island.  And we prayed for the Chau family and the Sentinelese.  Cub specifically prayed God would change the hearts of the Sentinelese to one day know Jesus and love Him.

Oh that God would answer that prayer in our lifetime.

Many have called John Chau a fool.  I can’t make that final call.  But if a fool is someone who loves strangers enough to risk his life to tell them the gospel, I hope we are all fools in this way.  Fools before the world, but perhaps — just perhaps — wise unto God who alone is truly wise.

Unexpected providence.

A few weeks ago, I saw an old friend at a first birthday party.  We attended high school and college together but hadn’t really seen each other since college graduation.  She mentioned that she read my article for Desiring God, where I wrote a little about my grandpa’s journey through Alzheimer’s and to salvation.

Then she lowered her voice a little, “I never told you this, but I had rotations at your grandpa’s skilled nursing facility during my nursing program.”  She and another friend from our high school both worked a few months at the facility where my grandpa stayed, but because of privacy laws, she wasn’t sure if she could share that information with me at the time.

“I didn’t realize he was your grandpa until I saw your photo by his bed.”  And she shared with me how agitated he was back then, how she tried to help translate for the other nurses since his English was limited, and how she prayed for him.

By then, we both had tears streaming down our cheeks.

She didn’t know until she read my article that he had come to know Christ about a year after she had cared for him.  And I never realized God had provided for my grandpa in such an incredible way — a nurse who, unbeknownst to my family or me, joined us in petitioning God for his soul.

In how many more unseen ways did God work in my grandpa’s life back then?  Stories I don’t even know about?

And in how many more unseen ways is He working now in the lives of those for whom I am praying but not seeing fruit for yet?

His ways are higher.  Unsearchable.  Perfect.

Muffin tops.

Over four years ago, I was asked to describe my relationship with JE as if describing it to our children, and I summed it up with this story:

We ate dinner at Sweet Tomatoes one evening in 2011.  A transcript of our conversation would have read like playful children dined together, as well as two very serious adults.  At one point, we talked about how the muffin top was the best part of the muffin.

Later, your appa picked up a blueberry muffin for us to share.  I thought he would use his knife to cut the muffin in half, but with one swift motion he popped off the entire muffin top and handed it to me.

I didn’t know what to do, so I took it, a little stunned.  Thoughts like, Oh, shouldn’t we share this?  Do you want half of this?  Didn’t you just say this was your favorite part, too? came to mind.  But I just watched as he quietly and happily ate the bottom part of the muffin.

What is our relationship like?

Your dad giving me the muffin top.  Me, melting.

Which is why this next recent story is especially dear to me.

Last Saturday, JE was gone for men’s retreat, so the kids and I had a special morning at Starbucks.  We split a blueberry muffin three ways, and in his haste and excitement, Pup took a bite and then dropped the rest on the floor.

His face crinkled into a cry.

Then Cub popped off the top of his muffin — the best part with all the blueberries and sugar crystals — and handed it to Pup.  The piece he gave Pup was almost his entire portion, and he happily started eating the little he had left without a word.

I think I almost cried myself.  As if I didn’t already think he was so much like his dad, he repeated history in almost the same, unassuming way.

Obay.

Just wanted to record the sweetest rebuke I ever received — from my firstborn a couple weeks ago.

Pup had been wetting his pants again and again for a few weeks, making for some really inconvenient clean-up situations.  I lost my patience with him, and I yelled at him for an accident.  And as he cowered under my shouting, Cub quietly left the room and then returned shortly after with a little note in his hand.  He shyly handed it to me:

YOU MUST OBAY THE LORD.

Kapow.  God’s grace.

Little apple of my eye.

This morning, Pup came to snuggle with me and fell asleep as I patted his head. When he woke up, I stroked his cheek and looked at his little face for a long time. He looked straight back at me. Then he said, “Umma, I can see my face in your eyes.”

There is sweetness at the bottom.

Adoniram Judson, one of the first American missionaries to Burma, after the death of his wife, writing to console a sister and colaborer in the faith who just lost her husband:

You are now drinking the bitter cup whose dregs I am somewhat acquainted with…I can assure you that months and months of heartrending anguish are before you…I can only advise you to take the cup with both hands, and sit down quietly to the bitter repast which God has appointed for your sanctification…Take the bitter cup with both hands, and sit down to your repast.  You will soon learn a secret, that there is sweetness at the bottom.. You will find it the sweetest cup that you ever tasted in all your life.  You will find heaven coming near to you…

(Sharon James, My Heart in His Hands: Ann Judson of Burma, p. 199)

In Christ, there is sweetness at the bottom of every bitter cup appointed to us.