Thursday, June 22, 2006
And now, a song from Jennifer Knapp . . .
say won't you say
say that you love me
with love, ever, love
all my devotion put into motion by you
every morning I
have a chance to rise and
give my all
but every afternoon i find i have only wasted time
in light of your awe
isn't love amazing
i forgot how to speak
knowing you are near and
i am finally free
my eyes fear to close
this reckless letting go is
hard to bear
on the edge of all i need
still i cling to what i see
and what have i there?
bred my own disaster
who have i to blame?
when all i need is waiting
to be fanned to flame
yeah, i opened up my eyes
to see you standing there
o, i can barely breathe
o, i can hardly bare
all the love i feel for you inside
i hope you feel it now
I'll apologize up front for the negative feel that you may find in this song. I'm still struggling a bit with my emotions regarding the loss of my friend Steve Huisman. That being said, Steve's spiritual honesty and transparency have been driving me lately to look at my own life. That drive led me to Jennifer Knapp. She sings with an almost pure transparency and honesty. Here's what I get from this song.
We live in a fallen world. That is not an excuse for acting like fallen people, it is simply a truth with which each individual must deal. We are fallen, we live in a fallen place.
Paradise is lost to us.
Eden is a gated community. We are no longer invited.
Yet every morning, God offers to each of us a new measure of mercy. His mercies are new every morning. Like dew on the grass, this mercy just appears. We did nothing to get it, we will do nothing to earn it, we can't even make it happen. It just happens because it is driven by grace.
We wake up. Our world is still gray and lifeless, but on the grass we see this mercy. We see color, we see life, we see possibility and potential.
What do we do with it?
What is our reaction to this fresh load of undeserved kindness dumped on the lawn of our life?
Too often like the song above, we simply waste it. We tread through it with our dirty feet. At the end of the day, we wonder where it went.
The truth is that it hasn't gone anywhere. Even when we drag our dirty feet through the sweet holy dew of God's kindness to us, it still sticks to us. It grabs our shoes and follows us into the world.
God is not a quitter. He keeps pouring out lovingkindness, mercy, grace, and all that good stuff every day. Oh, we try to avoid it. We focus on the darkness of our personal experiences, we look at the drudgery of our lives, we complain about our own fallenness.
Yet even in the midst of that, God is there. Look at the bridge of the song above. Go on, look.
Open your eyes. God is standing there. His love is beautiful, it is breathtaking. He stands there to overwhelm us with his concern for us. He makes the dew of his mercy fall each morning on our colorless lives so that he can bring life and color and joy and holiness to each of us.
It is awe inspiring.
Even in the midst of our darkest moment the light of God pierces through like a laser of truth.
"I am here."
"I am that I am."
"I love you."
"Come to me."
I've heard various permutations of the song "It is Well with my Soul" over the last 10 days since Steve died. May I just say that the song is true. I sit here at my desk and tell you, it is well.
No, my circumstances have not changed, I still miss my friend. But my blinded eyes are opened, I see God and his kindness standing there. He takes my breath away. He cares for me. Yes, he even cares that I hurt.
It is well. As I bury my head into my Father's shoulder and let out that cry that has been welling up for some time, I know. I know. It is well.
As my Father takes me in his arms and loves me as only he can--I know. It is well.
As he brushes my tear stained face with his kind and gentle hand, as I look into his loving eyes, as I hear his calming voice--I know that it is well.
God loves me. He cares. It will be okay.
Hang in there. By God's grace, you're going to make it.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
Thank you for reading!
Friday, June 16, 2006
In memoriam . . .
Most of my readers will not recognize that name, although a few may think they know it.
Steve was a very good friend of mine. In fact, he was one of the best friends I ever had.
Steve died on Monday in a plane crash. He was flying a plane in Florida that encountered some mechinal problems and crash landed on Davis Island. Steve died when the plane hit a home and caught fire. His co-pilot and the one person in the home survived.
I don't want to dwell on how Steve died. I want to describe how he lived.
Steve was a man that seemed at times to operate on an almost visceral level of honesty. He was unafraid to admit exactly how he was feeling and what he thought, especially when those thoughts and feelings pertained to his own spiritual status.
Don't misunderstand me, he was not a negative person. He was just quick to recognize his own fallenness and struggles. And by his honest admission of his fallenness, he elicited from others a confession that often bordered on sacramental.
Steve was my hero.
I would never have completed my Ph.D. if not for Steve Huisman. He was working on a correspondence course when he called me one day. He asked how the dissertation was going, and I confessed that I was struggling and didn't think I'd finished. Oh, my lovely wife was gently prodding me, the members of the dissertation committee were doing their part to help me out, but I just was not motivated.
Steve had a great thought--"Leo, how about we call each other at 6:00 a.m. to update each other on our projects. It will be good for us and provide a source of accountability."
Promptly at 6:00 the next morning, he called me.
For about two years after that my early morning conversations with Steve were opportunities to admit my fears and my failures as well as times to rejoice in milestones and accomplishments. He never judged me when I had a bad day or week. He gently encouraged me to press on. He laughed with me when something funny happend, he celebrated with me when things got done. He walked with me, and by being there he pushed me to finish.
When I graduated with my Ph.D., I neglected to tell him how much his encouragement had meant to me. Two weeks ago he called me here in VA. He was in FL and just wanted to talk. We talked about an hour about our families, our lives, our Lord. We laughed, we kidded each other, we prayed for each other. He told me that he wanted my wife to speak to his wife. As we were passing the phones, I cleared my throat and said, "Steve, I wanted to tell you how much your friendship means to me. You were God's instrument to help me finish my dissertation. I never adequately thanked you for that." I told him all the great things I loved about him--his acceptance, his honesty, his gentleness even when he corrected me or pushed me to discipline, his gut level love for other people that was evident in my life. I sang his praises, I think I embarassed him.
I told him I loved him.
Little did I know it would be the last time we would talk on this earth.
Steve went to be with the Lord in that plane crash Monday, but he left an awful lot of good stuff behind. His life is still having an impact on others even though it has ended. His diligence to serve God and others has left the world a better place. His love for his wife and children have instituted a legacy that will no doubt bear great fruit. His ongoing desire to be the best he could be for God's sake continues to motivate those who knew him to a deeper intimacy with God through Christ.
Steve was not a Bible scholar, but his life exemplified a clear understanding of the biblical call to follow Christ. He was a friend. He was a godly man.
I miss him.
God, how I miss him!
I hate this fallen world of ours, but I know that it isn't home. Not completely. It is a way station. None of us are on this earth forever.
I still miss Steve.
41 years is not enough. I only knew him about 13 or so of those years.
He was a tall drink of water, a missionary kid with a love bigger than the world. He was the kind of guy you could trust to watch your most prized possessions. He had my back, he was my mighty and marvelous comrade. He helped me slay dragons and rescue damsels.
Now I have to contemplate life without one of my wing men. Steve loved flying only slightly less than he loved God and his family. He loved to be in the air.
Someday, I'll look up in the air and see him coming with Christ. It will be the ultimate flight, and it won't surprise me to see Steve acting as the pilot.
Death has invaded my life again. I can't imagine how his wife and four children feel. I feel like I've been punched in the stomach, like I've lost something that cannot be replaced.
I can almost hear Steve saying "I'll call you in the morning. You're going to make it! Hang in there!"
Thanks Steve, for all you gave us. Thanks to God for sharing Steve with us for 41 years.
I'm crying now and feeling like I'm rambling, so maybe I better stop.
Live today like you have no tomorrow. Hug someone special and tell them you love them. Life is fragile, my friends, but God is strong. God is still in control, even though the world seems to spin crazily out of orbit.
Hang in there! With God's help, we're all going to make it!
Thanks for reading!
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Time for some quotes . . .
"The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defense against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head." C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, pp. 13-14
"Until quite modern times all teachers and even all men believed the universe to be such that certain emotional reactions on our part could be either congruous or incongruous to it--believed, in fact, that objects did not merely receive, but could merit, our approval or disapproval, our reverence or our contempt." C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, pp. 14-15
"A theological thought can breathe only in the atmosphere of dialogue with God." Helmut Thielicke, A Little Exercise for Young Theologians
"The more seriously I take (God), the more completely I shatter myself against him." Helmut Thielicke, I Believe! The Christian’s Creed
What can I add except--Amen!
Thanks for reading!