Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Joni Earickson Tada--a hercules in the realm of suffering

 Joni Eareckson Tada is most amazing--famous even--for her inner healing and overcoming spirit.    For anyone who reads this blog who hasn't heard of her, let me summarize.  As an athletic teen, she was paralyzed in a tragic swimming accident in 1967.  Her wheelchair became her platform. With her exceptional gifts as artist, musician, writer, and speaker, she has spent her life advocating for the handicapped.  For a more complete biographical sketch, check out the Wikipedia article about her.

 She wrote A Place of Healing in 2010 as she was facing new levels of pain.  During the same year she confronted cancer.  In this book she shares her secrets for overcoming suffering.  These are not trite answers, but solid weapons forged in the fire and pressure of her own experience.

A Place of Healing is available as an audio book at Christian Audio.  Print versions are also available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mark 's contribution to my thoughts about suffering

Mark's dad is not well.  He has multiple health issues, but the one that weighs heavy on us at this time is the way Alzheimers is pulling him away from us.

During a crisis in which he was hospitalized, he worried all the time that Mark and his sister didn't know.  They both called him every day, but he didn't remember their conversations.  After years of being content with being the most peripheral person in their lives--content also with them being some of the most peripheral people in his life--suddenly he couldn't stop thinking about them.

Mark and I agreed that if he wanted to go spend some extended time with his dad, that would be the time.  His dad could still remember who he is.  He wanted to see Mark.  Mark could afford to take the time off work.

So he was out of town visiting his dad for several weeks.

While he was there, I began working on this series on suffering, and once when he called me I asked him about what words he associates with suffering,  what he thought was the cause, what was the solution.

Here's the backstory to his response.  After Mark graduated from college with his BA in Bible, he interned in a church near his father's home, Temple Baptist.  Every time we have visited his dad since then, we attend church there.  They are like family to us, and have supported us in countless ways for the past 30 years.  So while Mark was visiting his dad last winter, he attended church with his dad, and also attended whenever he could at Temple Baptist.  Since he was there for several weeks, they worked him into the schedule for both music and speaking.

Coincidentally, he had chosen to speak on suffering.

So he didn't answer my questions very thoroughly.  But he left me with these gems from Scripture:

     For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
(Hebrews 2:10 ESV)
    In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.(Hebrews 5:7-8 ESV)

This is a great comfort to me. 

Sometimes when some painful difficulty comes into my life,  I feel like I'm being smacked on the head for doing something wrong, and I can't figure out what it is.  These portions of scripture reveal that even Jesus benefited from suffering. God the Son, sinless and pure, was perfected, and he learned obedience.  Since Jesus tried to avoid suffering, I'm not wrong to want to avoid it either.  However, I hope that I can also learn from his courage and grace in in the face of necessary suffering.  I would like to be perfected through it, and I would like to be a more obedient child of God.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


I sat in a conference session in November. The nurse was giving an overview of parenting classes that she teaches.  She covered fetal alcohol syndrome.  And she started a section on shaken infant syndrome.  My gut contracted.  I wanted to retch.  I wanted to leave.  I wanted to leave so I could retch.  But I sat calmly and listened to her presentation.  She explained that when the infant or small child is shaken, his brain actually turns to a kind of jelly.

I know that jelly-brain feeling. 

I was shaken as a small child.  More than once, but I can't say how many times.  I know that the struggle to function, to survive, was so strong and afterward I would strive to focus, to respond to my environment. 

I know that if I was threatened to "stop or I'll shake you until your head rattles", my response was immediately docile based on painful experience.  

I don't know how many times that my siblings and I had our "heads knocked together", a bizarre form of punishment that involved grabbing two children by the hair on their heads and slamming their heads together.  But I know that when my child and her cousin were threatened with the same treatment, they were defended.  By me.

I know what it feels like to be tween-aged and have one's hair snatched and one's head slammed against the wall. 

I know what a lot of different kinds of physical, mental, and emotional abuse feel like.  I know despair.

But I also know hope.  And I know what healing feels like.  And I know the terror that the broken shards of my shattered inner person will cut and harm the people I love; however, I also that those shards need not damage anyone--not even me.  They can be made into a beautiful mosaic, catching and refracting light to everyone around me. 

I can't pretend I'm not broken.  But I am confident that brokenness has been transformed into beauty.

Friday, July 12, 2013

What Lisa had to say about suffering when I asked her. . .

 Lisa and I have never met in person. 

One day I wrote a blog post.  I was so terrified that I had "put myself out there" (like, i only have 5 followers, so you can see what a brave gal i am. ;)...) that I resolved to delete the post as. soon. as. I.  got. home.  

And when I got into Blogger to delete it, there was this comment from this person named Lisa.  So full of empathy and encouragement.  So.  The post did not get deleted.  And I went over to her blog (Hephzibah at that time, Christians Under Construction now) and so began a long an mutually beneficial friendship.

Last winter when I was contemplating suffering, I was eager to find out what Lisa would say.  I know she has had some heavy burdens. . .too heavy to be borne. . .and that she crumpled under the pressure and heat.  I have had the privilege of watching from halfway around the world as she and her husband Leo have emerged from the ashes of destroyed hopes and dreams, more vibrant and free and alive than ever before.

So I asked what words she associated with "suffering", what she thought was the cause, and where she turns to overcome.  She responded:
Oh WOW! Those questions seem like they should be simple, but... I'll have to think that out a bit.

Happy to do that though.

I guess words I would initially associate with suffering would be: pain, affliction, sadness, distress, anxiety, sickness, exhausting, grief/sorrow, adversity, torment but also; , testing, refining(fire), endurance, patience, discipline, dependance, Comfort, Grace, Salvation

What causes it? well that's a bit more complicated isn't it...

I think it's all manner of things as I have said many times before... I always make sure I have not brought it on myself first... or that it is not a disciplining or a 'giving over to my sins' is God trying to get my attention to repent for something I have been leaving out and it's damaging my life with Him.

These are true reasons we can suffer! As uncomfortable as I think we often are with the thought of them!

The other reasons are; suffering for Jesus... being persecuted for speaking/standing for His Truth. Preaching Jesus in anti-Jesus religious areas like Middle east for example... or just the simple your work colleagues hate you 'cos they know you're a 'God' person and they are convicted in their sin by you and your life and they act out in hate!

Refining fire and pruning... God Himself allowing or orchestrating a period of suffering for a purpose -through which (if we listen) He will teach us how to respond and make this time work for us spiritually and relationally with Him...

Then I guess the others we often don't focus on as Christians are - for one, living in a fallen world where we are degenerating... the sins are piled high to heaven and the creation is crying out...

also, if we live a life given to sin we may have repercussions or consequences. I.E suffering a disease which was contracted by sleeping around... or liver disease from abusing alcohol... they are not 'put on' us!

something I read earlier that made me think - Leo and I have said it of our experiences BUT the reality of it often still does not seem real at times:

2 cor 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.  If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer.  And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What my friend Lillie responded when I asked her about suffering

 When I was considering the idea of suffering and how we overcome the trials in our lives, one of the first people I thought of was my friend Lillie.  She is a young woman who, in my opinion, had a childhood of deep suffering.  She sincerely does not understand what a miracle she is.  However, she epitomizes redemption.  She is beautiful in every way, and a constant source of inspiration for me.   So when I was pondering suffering and overcoming,  she was one of my first friends that I asked about what she considered the causes of suffering, and then what was her life-line when the waves of suffering wash over her.  Her thoughtful response follows:

This is just off the top of my head, but I think of suffering's cause as a direct result of sin and the curse. I don't believe God originally created the world with suffering in mind, though He of course knew before creating it what Jesus would suffer. I believe suffering isn't bad or evil in and of itself. (I'm barely beginning to learn this.) It is a great gift and tool in God's hand--gift, in the sense that it can be a warning, like when a child touches something hot after being told "no," or in the case of [my brother]'s cancer, when he pursued help because of pain. Whether suffering is consequences for one's own choice, someone else's choice, or a natural catastrophe or life experience that seems random to us, it can be very beneficial. Suffering seems to "deepen" some people's spirits, and they are able to help bear other people's burdens and to grow very compassionate and gracious through the suffering--as long as they have a deepening, growing relationship with God. Even some "atheists" who go through much can reach out to many people to do "good things." I'm thinking of an "atheist" that Dave has worked for and tried to speak to about God, who has been quite generous to us. "A lady in our church gave a testimony today; she works at a place called "Options for Women," and she has lost 3 babies, two being 2nd trimester stillborns. She said God doesn't heal us from the pain, but with the pain. Maybe this will sound weird, but before we had even begun to pursue having more children after Kayty (she was a little over a year when we started feeling ready to pursue more) I remember having almost a knowledge-thought-thing that I might have a miscarriage or two in order to be more sympathetic and empathetic to other ladies. That thought didn't sound appealing, but it definitely sounded okay at the time, if that makes sense--I wasn't feeling morbid, just knew somehow that it was probably one of God's purposes for me and that there was I guess "peace" or "rightness" about it, I guess. (Btw, I am still "dying" for Him to let me know if I get to give birth to more. I definitely have human struggles!!) Well, I hope this rough little essay in response to your questions (that I still can't believe you asked ME!!) was of some help to you, even though you already know all of this! :o) "Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we..." was the first verse that came to mind. The Psalms are probably my favorite place to go when I feel pain, from a "bad day" to the death or abuse of a dear one. Suffering of any kind seems to be, I think, not God's first tool, but a frequently effective one, that draws us closer to Him. When He begins to heal us and reveal to us that He is as perfectly good as Scripture says, we can't help but worship and adore Him, and that is the greatest source of joy and ecstasy there is! The grace far outweighs the pain. I didn't like how I grew up, though grateful for the Bible knowledge and some other things, but the Steeses and my best friend with her family and you wonderful Wordens adopting Jim and I were a gift far greater than I'd ever imagined. Psalm 111 is my "9-11" Psalm to call God in emergency or whenever. It doesn't talk about suffering but about how good God is. I also like Isaiah 12 and Psalm 147. "Bearing one another's burdens" also came to mind. Better go. Would love to read your blog(s). And to hear what YOU have to say about it. Much love to you.

The older we get, the more we realize we have to learn, I guess. I agree with you about His individual-style teaching. I heard someone say once that grace comes in different colors for the different colors of pain or suffering, which is essentially what you were saying, I think. I love how you put things, and I really enjoy conversing with you. You're a great treasure of a friend! Have a felicitous day!

Monday, July 1, 2013

i wonder

is our ability to give generously
on our ability to receive abundance freely?

is our ability to give acceptance
enhanced by our ability to receive acceptance?

does our ability to fearlessly love
 grow out of our ability
to freely receive love?

is our ability to be fruitful
always dependent
on our ability to receive nourishment?

can we give anything
that we haven't received first?