Family Ties

It was a very long day.

Almost nothing was crossed off of the list.

There were a few hours on the road. There were a few hours in waiting rooms. There were a couple of meals shared with family. There were painful phone calls and some heavy wrestling with reality.

We had breakfast with son #3 and our soon-to-be daughter-in-law to celebrate her birthday this weekend. It was an early but sweet time of talking with them as they wade through what promises to be a heavy semester as they both approach the end of their college journey in the next year and a half. We’re blessed by the way they love and look after one another and we eagerly await their marriage in just a few months. That’s the plan. But nobody knows what tomorrow will bring.

My mom had a fourth neck surgery to re-do a previous one that just didn’t take. We were there to cut up with the various surgical folks before they took her in and got the usual strange looks in the waiting room as we dealt with things the way we usually do in stressful time – through random absurdities and oddball memories.

The surgery was smooth and successful… but that’s never a guarantee, is it?

We enjoyed a late lunch with my dad and my sister before we got to see mom back in her room. She did seem to come through with both her sense of humor and ability to roll her eyes well preserved—both of which are naturally put to the test when we are together.

We left mom in good hands and went on to see Tori’s grandfather in the Veteran’s Center. He volunteered to join the Navy late in World War II and received a Medal of Victory. This dear man, despite his flaws and mistakes and deep regrets, has been yet another example of God’s grace to use broken tools. Even in his frailty and waning health, he was an encouragement to me to press on—asking about my ministry, my education, my family. It would not be any surprise if that were the last time we were to see him.

As we turned back toward home, we soon received word that my most memorable and earliest childhood playmate, my cousin Molly, had passed away after a long, miserable struggle. She was 48 years old—just two months younger than me. She left a loving husband and four kids behind and big extended family as well.

Molly and I were the first of Grandma’s brood of grandkids. I was the oldest by just a bit (and, of course, always Grandma’s favorite—there’s really not anything to debate there).  Our biggest feuds back in the day came when I found her perched in my spot on the right arm of Grandaddy’s chair. The audacity of this usurper knew no bounds!

There on the wooden arms of that red, rough-upholstered rocking chair, Grandaddy would read to us from the “smoke-a-pipe book” until Grandma’s “bowl-a-soup” was ready to eat. And we’d race for the stool at the corner of the dinner table. “That’s my seat, Chichael!” Molly would point out to me. (For some reason Michael came out of her mouth with a k sound as small children sometimes do.)

Last night I called and talked our Grandma, now 96 years of age, who is so heartbroken to hear of the passing of her oldest granddaughter, the one named after her. My heart hurts.

In the midst of all of these family ties, I realize something of great importance. I am so very rich to have family. And the thing that makes them so much richer is the fact that our ties are not just genetic—they’re spiritual. My cousin Molly, flawed and broken as all of us are, had placed her trust and hope and confidence in Jesus Christ who transformed the grave into a dark doorway to something far greater. Death is no longer a dead end.

I am forever grateful for family ties that go beyond this world. 

While we do not know what will happen today or tomorrow, we have our family meeting place appointed. What a great family reunion awaits all of us who have simply believed.

Will you be there?

Please… It’s My Son

I’ve never had the terrifying experience of a child with a life-threatening illness or injury.

I can hardly imagine what I might do to find an answer—a cure or a procedure or a treatment.

I can imagine that I would have some hard, not-at-all-pretty prayer conversations with God. I expect most of them would not be deemed “Sunday-School Appropriate” by most standards.

I think that is the earnest longing captured some years back by Mark Schultz in his hauntingly beautiful song, “He’s My Son.” Take a minute to listen to the yearning within it.

You hear that longing, don’t you? You can hear that desperation and agonizing desire for the healing of the son. It’s the kind of desperation that would press a well-revered man, a leader in the community, to take off on foot to the village 15 miles or so down the road because he heard that Jesus, the man that healed so many people in Bethsaida and turned water to wine in Cana, had come back to the area.

15 miles.

On foot.

One way.

That’s desperation.

[Read John 4.43-54]

After a couple of days spent in the Samaritan village of Sychar, Jesus finally made it back over into Galilee, where he had grown up. It was a strange thing for him to return here. As he had observed, according to verse 44, a prophet is seldom well-received by the people who saw him grow up.

Still, even here in where he was raised, the people had heard of the miraculous things he had been doing. Many of the people here had made the trip to Jerusalem themselves for the feast.(45) And so he returned to the place at which his first recorded miracle had taken place, the town of Cana.

The text tells of an official from Capernaum “whose son was ill.”(46) He had made the journey, about 15 miles or so, to where Jesus was.

When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.”(47)

Jesus makes what seems kind of an odd statement.

So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”(48)

The man clearly did not come here to discuss theology and doesn’t seem particularly interested in hearing a sermon or being taught a lesson. His son is near death. His only hope is that the one who has done so many unexplainable things might choose to come and heal his son.

This is precisely why I think it’s so important that we be about the work of helping meet the immediate needs of people—because it’s often very difficult to hear the truth of the gospel over the groans of the dying loved one or the screams of the sick baby or the howling winds from which they have no shelter or even the growling of their own empty belly.

The man simply begged Jesus to come and heal his son.

The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”(49)

Jesus, evidently moved by the man’s worry for his child, does something even better.

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”(50a)

He granted immediate healing for the man’s son without even having to go and see the child in person. He met the man’s need. And the man “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”(50b)

The rest of the passage relays how the official’s servants met him as he made the trek back to Capernaum and brought him the news that the boy’s fever had broken and he was recovering—he would live!(51)

The man asked when things turned around and indeed it was at the very moment that Jesus had spoken the promise, “Your son will live.”(52-53a) But we must see the ripples of this healing action that Jesus took:

And he himself believed, and all his household.(53b)

People saw what Jesus did with merely the word of his mouth. They believed that Jesus was the promised One.

I suspect you would too… if it was your son.

Jesus stepped into the mess of disease and disability and brought healing.

He doesn’t always answer this way. He doesn’t always heal. But the hope of the gospel is the very real, very sure promise that ultimate healing will be found by all who believe in Him.

See Him as your healing.

Believe Him—that He came to heal you completely.

Know Him as your medicine, your therapy, your transplant, your wholeness.

The Mess of Lack

If God has come to us, here in this world, why is there so much need?

When we look at John’s account of Jesus feeding 5000 people, I believe we can see some important things.

Jesus came into the mess of our lack and brought abundance.

See Him. See that Jesus is our great PROVISION, not just our Provider.

Believe Him. Believe that will both BE and PROVIDE what we truly need.

Know Him. Know Him as God in the Mess of your Lack.