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.