Difficult Questions

There was something incongruent in me, something perplexing that I couldn’t get to the heart of. I had not properly grieved for Samuel; the Lord was not through with the entire process and with letting me know of his loving-kindness and compassion as a Father. I had not learned to be weak so that God would be strong. Even as I write this now, I see waves of empty stares within many in churches who have not learned this either. Many men, particularly, struggle with this reality, and their hearts are deceiving themselves. Oh, let the Spirit wash over us and humble us.

I’ve alluded throughout this book that I have had three liver transplants. I’ve experienced a lot in life and actually was blessed to write a book about two of the transplants along with a host of other things. I’ve experienced the loss of family members, even a close brother a few years ago, performed funerals for close friends, and experienced the worries of life. I speak not as a person who understands fully the depth of God, and I write too on a journey with you to understand God more fully in the course of our trials.images

I want to see God’s glory break us free from the shackles of lies that we have believed when it comes to the Lord’s sovereignty in trials. But please understand that I speak from a place of experience, not giving me greater wisdom, but simply asking the reader to give me a platform of trust. I will not talk about pain and not having gone through pain myself. I hope you trust me in this. I have and will continue to struggle through these things; it takes great faith to believe. But praise God, faith is a gift, a treasure, that has been given to us. It is not something we muster in us. So with the faith that you have been given, let’s grapple with some of these issues.

It takes an act of God to carry us through difficult things, and though by no means have I completely understood everything, I seek humbly to reveal to you what the Word of God says about some of the issues I raised and struggled through. I wish I could wave a magic wand that would cause many of us to open our eyes to the reality of weakness and the freedom we have in being weak (which needs to be qualified), but alas, it takes the formation of the Spirit, not the formation of our flesh.

Samuel’s life would have been a waste, truly, if it were not for the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is indeed safe to say that God was glorified in the life and death of my son, particularly as I look back on it, yet I also know that some would still argue that God may have been more glorified in the healing of my son.

Perhaps the biggest question on my mind, and perhaps yours as well as you contemplate your own trials and pain, is this: Was the death of Samuel truly within the realm of the sovereignty of God? Is your disease, your sickness, your hurt, and your loss within the realm of the sovereignty of God? Is it in God’s control or providence? I ask this question because to me it is the fundamental aspect to understanding the safety net of weakness and strength that we can fall into. The implications run deep; if God is not sovereign, then indeed we are left with questions that will never be answered and a host of new problems that arise. If God was not in control of the events of Samuel’s life, then that would mean many of the things we find ourselves flung into are dependent upon our own wisdom, technology, or strength to endure. And if this is the case, what would be the point of the glory of God in our lives save to make a weak God stronger due to our faith? It would also imply that God would need us in some capacity to fulfill his will, that God is at war with a very strong and capable foe in the form of the devil, and the outcome, though bloody, would seem to be God’s. What security is there in this? God cannot be at the mercies of the situation, wholly dependent upon us, but is far beyond and above.

However, if Samuel’s death, my transplants, your pain and loss, addictions, and frailties are in the realm of God’s sovereign plan of redemption, then by faith don’t we understand that God is allowing these things as in the case of Job 2:3? Is it not our duty then to press this truth close to our hearts, not judging God based upon our limited view of our trials, hide it in our hearts, and allow the Spirit to show not only the truth of it to our minds, but our hearts as well? If this is the case, shouldn’t we seek to justify Christ in all of life’s circumstances as his perfect will is displayed throughout history for his glory in our lives? Is he not the author and perfecter and finisher of our faith? And since he is perfect in all his ways, shouldn’t all that is dealt to us be used to glorify God and cause us to run to him for security and refuge, even when we do not understand? Do we think God cannot take our questions, that he is insecure in any way, and that our demands in this life will somehow make him angry with us?

Excerpted From – Nineteen Days, Wrestling with God in the Death of my son, by Daniel Parkins

It’s Here

9781622954209C_F copyIt has finally arrived.  November 19th, 2013, almost three full years after the event of Samuel’s life, I finally get to share what the Lord did with him with the world.  Samuel’s life was tragic at times, blessing us more than we could imagine, and yet his story is much like many of ours.

I know many of you prayed for him and Kelly and I during those difficult events.  Would you do me a favor now?  Would you tell “your” world about this book and encourage them about God’s story in Samuel and what it means to wrestle with God amidst tragedy and pain?  Do you know of anyone experiencing loss or hurt, a broken marriage or estranged relationships, or even disease and pain?  This book does not cure anyone; only Christ does through the cross.  But I believe this will help some as a catalyst to see God’s glory amidst their pain.  So please, repost this on Facebook, link this link on there, take a picture of this picture on your phone and post it to your instagram account, tweet it, and email people.  I know it may seem like a lot, but remember when you did that during Samuel’s life?  It was only through community and the power of the Holy Spirit that Samuel’s story went “out there.”  I am asking for that again.  Here’s the link:

NINETEEN DAYS 

Here’s what’s written on the back of the book:

What happens inside us as we experience the agony of the loss of a child? When the loss of it grieves you at first, and then, as time passes, doesn’t seem to go away but comes in waves upon waves? Tragedy befalls all of us, circumstances are beyond our control, and it is in these moments when God beckons us to the mat and wrestles us into submission out of His great love.

In Nineteen Days, Daniel Parkins gives insight into anyone who has ever experienced pain in this life. How do we cope when unmet expectations seem to surround us? How are we to navigate the rough waters of divorce, heart ache, loss, disease, or any kind of hurt? Nineteen Days is raw, but intensely real as Parkins reveals to all of us an honest portrayal of pain, yet in the midst of it, the undying love and sovereignty of a patient God who is still and forever good. Inside he challenges each person to look beyond the hurt, and see the love of Jesus Christ as not just a good idea, but truth that carries us forward for His glory.

Thank you!  Kelly and I are more than excited, and genuinely love you all!

Fear and Faith

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There’s a fear within me that something is going to happen to me.  My health has been a bit precarious in my life.  My liver function levels have been up and down lately.  I’ve lost so much weight lately due to an inflammation in my intestine as well as complications from my diabetes.  This is the time of year when I’ve experienced all of my trials and pain.  It holds too many memories for me to withstand at times; like a bucket trying to contain the waves of the sea during a storm.  It shows my weakness and need of Jesus, but it manifests in gripping even tighter on my loved ones.  Past trials make me see things clearer; pictures are sharper, memories more cherished, the present more appreciated.

The listening of my wife’s breath as it slowly goes in and out, dripping into my ears like a sweet symphony as the moon waxes through our window.  It is the small steps and pitter-patter of my youngest child running down the hallway, laughing as he plays with my oldest boy who just might be the best older brother in the world.  It’s the grace I see in my daughter’s eyes as she peeks up at me when my voice gets a little too loud and I near the line of going to far and too close to crush her little sweet spirit.  I hold her then, in my arms, longing for more of these moments, asking for promises from her that when I am old and gray, if I make it that far, that she will still let me hold her.  It’s the closing of her eyes when I say I am sorry, that instead of being mad, I am called to protect her and love her.  Her sweetness is my accountability; her grace to me is my motivation.

It’s the smells of Mia’s hair after a shower, all nice and clean, as she asks me to brush it so it won’t be tangled in the morning.  It’s both Noah and Mia running up to me asking me to brush their teeth or Noah grabbing his silky blanket and, almost at age seven, sucking his thumb as he nuzzles his nose and face into my neck at any time of the day.  It’s the focus of my son, longing for validation from me, as he kicks the ball during practice that I coach.  He loves me, I know he does, and wants so badly to do well in soccer, but wants even more for his daddy to say “good job.  I’m so proud of you.”  And I tell him.  And he beams.  And in goes to his thumb.  It’s these moments that are slipping through my fingers quicker than I can imagine.

So I take the time to get down in the dirt with Noah, dressed in our cub scouts uniforms.  It’s these moments that spur me to say “yes” to them and “no” to my own time.  It’s not about resting, it’s about them.  So of course I’ll be Noah’s pack leader in cub scouts.  Of course I’ll be his coach.  And when Mia’s asks, of course I’ll be the loudest who cheers at her gymnastics and of course I’ll hug the hardest after her dance recital.  Of course I’ll run first thing in the morning to get Christian out of his crib, or dance with him in the hallway to old VBS music.  Absolutely.  I’ll be the world to them, because in me, they see my Jesus.  It’s just the way of things.  In me, they see God, judge God, know God, love God, and experience God.  I may have a fear, and though there’s nothing to fear in God, I know God uses my weaknesses for His glory.  So I revel in my children, in my wife that is more than lovely, in the little fingers that grasp mine and the smiles that encompass my heart.

I may fear, but I’m okay.  I may be sick at times, but I’m okay.  In fact, I’m better than okay.  I’m exceptional.  I see things sweeter than most; I appreciate things more than most.  And for that, I wouldn’t change anything.

The Wilderness

I wake up this morning pensive; refreshed, but desirous of change.  The beauty of Kelly when I awoke was intoxicating as my angel laid next to me, yet the stupor I find myself is right between waking and reality, for the medication I have been taken elicits sleep after waking an impossibility.  And so I’m left with thoughts and prayers.  Oh by no means does this mean a bad thing!  I love waking up early when I am anew; I feel God’s mercies this morning.  How could I not?  I am His child.

I think back many times and I realize, with all of my prayers, that I am thankful the Lord has refused many of them.  I have asked amiss and did not receive for I did not pray for the Glory of God but rather the glory of man.  I have prayed at times from a heart full of lusts and passion for things or comfort, pleasures or worldly objects that haunt my flesh.  As one writer says, “I have longed for Egypt and have been given the wilderness.”

And yet, in this wilderness of my existence, do I fight it?  Of course I do, but when I stop and am thankful for the blessing of my manna for the day, I forget that it is the Lord’s hand that sustains me.  More than that, I know that in Christ all things are held together according to Colossians 1.17, so it’s not so much that He sustains me entirely, but intimately and specifically.  He has my liver.  He is holding it together.

What this means to me simply and profoundly, what it means for all of us is that we do not just wake up because we are supposed to.  We do not exist because of the natural state of man as if we have to merely meander through.  In other words, we do not deserve today.  We do not deserve the sunrises, the kisses from loved ones, the hugs from our children or the smiles from strangers.  There is no “right” to live, but simply the gift of it.  We stand back from the tumultuousness of God’s majesty and glory carrying us through the time we have.

So things in our lives take on a different hue; a different color than what we see.  Our eyes used to see in black and white, but the many colored coats we have now as children of the most high proves things opposite to what we see.  We know now that failure is the key to success, that obedience triumphs and trumps the passion in our bodies and that pain, more than anything, is a gift.  We wander around in our wilderness not aimlessly, but purposefully.  Sustain us in Your tent of meeting Lord!  Meet with us this day.  Oh let me never forget Your beauty today.  Let me know Your light that is to shine and illuminate my day as the song guides the heart of the birds of the air.

It is odd to say this in the midst of possible disease again.  But in this wilderness, are we really wandering around?  Oh I don’t think so!  We are precisely where the Lord has us until He takes us to the promised land of true freedom and joy; and that is something impossibly attained here on this green earth.  My disease is not the wilderness any more than they are the things that define me.  Christ does.  And no trial I experience on this earth is so difficult to bear as the sense of sin in me, something Christ has done away with.  If we are given a choice to live in the pleasures of flesh and the lust of eyes, to keep these sins, or to have them done away with, burnt and refined because of pain; then give us affliction.  Only, let it sanctify us and purge us for Your glory Lord.  Don’t we know that our pain will not end in death no matter what the outcome?  Keep me in a place where I constantly see my need of You Lord.  Let me not think that I deserve this life, but in weakness, let me see Your glory revealed in this brokenness.  In when we are done in this wilderness of walking, where the souls of our feet are worn, then I shall bless You Father, for helping me so much more than I will ever know.  Your great love for us, for me, is palpable.  Give me eyes to see the color of You my King, and hold me in the palm of your upright hand this day for I know I need you.  I know I need you.  No one else can help me, nothing else can keep me.  Take our lives, and do what You want with them.

A Sabbath Rest

Without suspicion I sauntered over to the front row of the pews, or seats really, and listened to the last few worship songs of the morning sung by good friends whom I respect and admire as men of God.  They were in unison, and the freedom of the Spirit was tangible.  What made this morning special for me was the simple fact that I had made it to church on time; relatively.  I had been stopped outside in the parking lot by a few wonderful friends; some new and some old.  My family, long before I knew of them who had been burdened for us during the time of Samuel, had an air about them as if they had been let in on a joke that I hadn’t heard yet.  I am always greeted there; any time someone comes into view that I had met recently, they always go out of their way to say hello and ask us how we were doing.  Unfortunately, Kelly was driving back from a wedding I wasn’t able to go to, so I was with the kids alone.  They kept asking me where the donuts were, but to their chagrin they had run out completely.  It was time for church; and I knew I needed to come and be before the Lord in my new but old community of friends.

Pastor Randolph spoke first about the unity and importance of the church coming together; helping those in need.  I was a bit nervous, for I had heard that the main pastor was going to mention one of these blogs in his sermon, so I was a bit electrified and hoping to go unnoticed; relatively.  It was not the case.  I could not hide from their great love for me, and after reading a few verses, called me up and anointed my head with oil in the presence of many witnesses.  The elders who were attending the service came up as well and they laid hands on me; praying for my liver and against the rejection that the doctors fear I have.  They prayed for my biopsy, and as I fought to hold back the tears, I accepted their great love and was moved as we finished the first part of the morning with announcements and the message.

Barry Nugent gave the message; a mountain of a man who, from years of walking with the Lord, had become soft in the Spirit and even in my short time with him, had become someone I love.  His message itself was a great call to community, to spur one another on using our own gifts, and to encourage the saints, not neglect meeting with one another particularly as the day of the Lord is drawing near from Hebrews 10.  He warned me that he would be sharing one of my blogs with the congregation, as he had done previously in the other service, and I was humbled to my core.  Afterwards, he came up to me and shared an encouraging thought with me; something he believed with conviction.  I heard later that those at the beach services had prayed for me as well, for my liver, and that many people had heard about what the Lord was doing in my life.  I cried.

I kept on repeating in the worship songs, “Lord, don’t give up on me.”  I know my sin is ever before me, and I know the grace of God is richer and bigger and more transcendent than any failure I can commit.  I know I will not go through this present trial perfectly, but the truth of it all was further instilled in me to greater measures this morning.  I sat beneath the Father of peace in His presence.  When I talked with Barry, we both sat back and wondered at the reality of professing the truth of Christ, and how that alone gives us courage to continue forward.  There’s something powerful about this profession; something tangible.  When we share the testimony of God in our lives, we are strengthened for the day.  I can’t explain it, but this wonderful morning gave me strength in measures.  I resolved with him then and there, on those comfy seats, to not stop giving glory to God.  I can’t explain it.  It is something I need to do.  It’s armor fashioned upon me that I need for the fight.  And so we fight.  I don’t fight because I believe this will turn out for the glory of God; I fight because I am expectant that God will be glorified.  I am expectant that He will move.  I am expectant that He will heal.  I believe He can, but I am expectant.

I was further strengthened when I learned that another portion of my family, that up at Life on the Hill, spent time praying for me as well.  When my wife shared this with me, I felt sinews of muscle wrap around my weakness of heart for I am indeed weak.  It is ever before me.  I know it; but in this weakness, I am shown Christ’s overwhelming strength that has been spurred upon me be the saints around and through His gracious Holy Spirit.  They remembered to pray for us; they didn’t forget us.  I cried again.  I am right where God wants me to be; not in perfection, but in weakness.  I am not afraid to face this.  Yes, Tuesday I go to get a biopsy of my liver, but I am not afraid.  No, I am not, because my God and my King has me.  The future is dark, but the promises of God to walk with me means I am lit up at every instance; I can navigate because He is with me.  The light of Christ is illuminating our paths today.  He’s got the future; so really, how dark can it really be?  That’s a gift.  People are a gift.  Everything good, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, is perfect for today.  I will rest today, knowing my God is with me and has me.  I am expectant in this.