We Should Speak of God

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6.6-9

Christians, when we meet together, should use a sort of “holy conference” according to Thomas Watson.  In the beginning, what we read, is that Christians with a love for Christ and the glory of Christ “spoke often one to another.”  Our language in this conference is one of grace, and when we pour grace in, grace comes out.  Grace changes the language of any person and makes it spiritual.  But grace is not the goal, as that is not what is sweetest on our lips.  Christ is sweetest, and that is like a honeycomb dripping wherever He dwells.  The world should know our lips and tongues as the sweetest with love, and the most powerful with truth.

What do we talk about when we meet together as believers?  Is it really a question?  We proclaim Christ and Him crucified; at church, in the home, amongst friends and when we have times of recreation.  The country that we belong to, as many read this, is the country of the United States.  English, without the accent of Britain, states where we reside and shows us where we live and belong.  Likewise, the language of heaven, that is a “wellspring of wisdom” (Proverbs 18.4), means that every believer of Christ speaks wisdom and grace in full measure.

We are the temple of the living God, and as such, the tongue is the manifestation of the temple.  But it begs the question as we seek to conference with one another, what it is that fills our temple?  Is it smoke and incense from a burning world that saturates and putrefies the senses, or is the sweet smelling incense of the sacrifice of the life moved and placed upon the altar of God, living, holy, pleasing, as a spiritual act of worship?  What constitutes the aroma of your life?  Are you always carrying around in you the death of Christ, so that the life of Christ may be made manifest?

These are words to pray about, to ponder, to think over.  What am I speaking, what are others getting from my words?  My words, because of the grace of Christ and fact of His resurrection reality in my life, should be the sweetest, most potent words in this world.  My family should be edified by my tongue.  The church should be edified by my tongue.  My friends should be edified by my tongue.  The world should be edified by my tongue.  Everything should be edified, for by the grace of Christ, we are His ambassadors.

Speak Peace

photo copyThere should be a hush, and inward peace, a bell that does not sound when struck inside the heart of every believer.  Yet this is often not the case.  I am a pack leader for cub scouts; I’m supposed to help organize all the dens in our area once a month among other things.  I’m also a soccer coach for seven wonderful little boys whom many come from very broken families.  I’m pastor that oversees twelve to 30 year olds in our church.  I have three children, one startlingly beautiful wife, and a host of health issues to manage.  Yet amidst this chaos I know I am not lost or longing; I am wooed to hush and silence.  There is a beckoning from my first love, a simple word spoken to me that rings loudly.  Let us all let it ring loudly:  Peace.  Speak peace to your souls, oh people of the gospel!

Our garments in heaven are arrayed in white; so that the devils of life, the woes, the hurts, the gashes and wounds have not infused a shard of their putrescence.  The white garment, in all of Scripture, is the rejoicing garment; it is the garment of peace.  The black garment was the mourning garment, the garment of lament.  But we are not robed with black garments because of Christ, but shining, brilliant, white beyond white garments cleaned with the precious blood of Christ crucified.

And indeed, how can it be otherwise that we rejoice in this truth?  For don’t we walk with God, don’t we dine with God and don’t we converse with the Almighty?  Aren’t we acquainted with God on a daily basis, now reconciled to Him through the gospel of peace, akin to Job who beheld God in His glory amidst the travesties of life?  Aren’t we God’s children and don’t we have some special reserve and communion with Him?  Yes Indeed!  We have communion with God, and isn’t He the God of all consolation?

We have communion and fellowship with Christ, and isn’t Christ the Prince of Peace?  We have communion with the Holy Spirit, and isn’t the Spirit thus named as the Comforter?  And if I can go one step further, don’t we see that we are enabled to have communion with the Father, and the Son and the Spirit in and by the gospel?  And isn’t the gospel the word of peace, the actual good news of peace?  So we see, just from a logical progression, that the people of God, the redeemed, the called out ones, the chosen, the royal priesthood, the people belong to the Almighty, ordinarily and rightly have peace within.

Let your busy lives be silent for a moment and listen to the King of peace, the Father of truth, the Lord of it all who has redeemed us into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.  Slow down and listen to the whisper who speaks life into your hearts; Peace.  Peace!

Isaiah 57.18-19, “I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips.  Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him.”

Love Like Men

photo copy 161 Corinthians 16.13-14, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love.”

A lot can be said as we stand on the cliffs in our lives, as we done the armor of soldiers readying for battle, our cleanly polished shoes, our conquering sword, our truth we hold within our hearts.  Let now you men ready for battle Lord, but as we first fight in our homes for your glory and purpose and truth, let us hold to this truth and never forget.  All of it, every single action in our lives, is meaningless, a resounding gong, less than dung, if we have not love.

James MacDonald stated, “all truth and no love is brutality…absolute truth in the hands of absolute sinners is absolute brutality.”  He also said, “All love and no truth is hypocrisy.”  Men all over the world, in too many homes, come down upon the world and those closest to us with this brutality or hypocrisy.  We say “I love you Lord, and I would give my life for you and your service,” to stand firm in the faith and champion the truth, acting like men who are strong.  Or we love with reckless abandon, and perhaps the world will notice this, and our fame becomes a stench in the nostrils of God because it is about our glory and not His for His truth is not evident.  But, and please listen to this:

If we are not the most loving people the world has ever known, we have failed.  If a homosexual, transgendered person, an adulterer or a murderer, a sex offender or an addict, can look down an isle of people, and see a follower of Christ, and not say that they are the most loving person in the world, then no amount of truth will amount to anything.  We never celebrate, accept, or condone sin in any capacity, but we never trample them with the truth of God without the love of God.  We are to never hammer people down in the earth where they are at, we are to push them to the cross where Jesus is at.  Paul says we could have the tongues of angels, and yet, if we have not love, we are failing.  Oh church, we are failing.

The truth becomes our mantra, our call, our banner that we wave.  Have we become so brutal in truth that we care not for the love to which we are called and to which binds truth and makes it powerful?  What are some ways in which you know you are all about truth and lacking in love?  Again, MacDonald had some poignant statements here.

First, you know you are all truth and have no love if you see passive resistance around you.  If people are afraid to approach you then guess what, you need to work on your love.  Or, if people say you don’t listen to them.  Are you one of those people who always finishes other’s statements?  You think you know what they are going to say so you cut them off.  Guess what?  Maybe they NEED to say what they are going to say to you, maybe they NEED to express it, and maybe you NEED to just be quiet!  Or, perhaps you are one of those people who pride themselves in being a “realist”.  You always have to be right don’t you?  Is this you?  Search your heart and think back, when was the last time you were wrong and you freely admitted it?  Perhaps you need to love in your life a lot more.  Not perhaps; you do!  Who cares if you are right?  Do we think in our arrogance that we are moved up in the ladder of life if we are always right with our wife, that somehow it makes us a better person, better husband, or better father?  Men we are failing!  If being the head of your family, and leading this gift from above the Lord has given you, means getting your way in everything than you are failing.  We must love better.  Everything must be done in love.

Or what about this:  when people disagree with you, do they have to separate from you?  What if your sister disagreed with you on something, and wouldn’t budge?  Has it been months, years, or even decades since you talked with them?  Guess what, you need to work on love.  These are all tell tale signs that you are all truth, and no love.  We must grow in our love!  In all things:  Love.

And guess what, according to MacDonald, he would say, that if you disagree with any of this and are forming an argument in your mind against these things, than you are all truth and no love.  But we don’t swing the pendulum too far from the middle, for love without truth is just hypocrisy and is JUST as meaningless.  One can even make the case, however harsh this may be, that if you are not growing (men or women) in love, than you are not God’s man or woman.  Think about that.

Self-righteousness melts in the face of true love.  Self-vindication vanishes when true love is present.  And the glory of God—that which we seek to lift high above everything—will affect change to the world when they see love coupled with truth.  According to Christ, this is the way the world will see Christ, by the way we love each other.

I will end on a few points that MacDonald gave, as well as give a few of my own:

On the Major things in life, we are called to action.  Ask yourself, is this a critical path that I need to intervene in?  What if I don’t take action here in this situation?  Is it a chronic problem that is recurring and painful and you need to step in?  Does its proximity bring it to your attention.  We do indeed need to enter in and lay heavy the truth coupled with love; but love must be present.  Most things in life, just to help you out, are not majors.

On the Minor things in life, we are called to acceptance.  We must let go of our preferences.  So what if things around you do not always make sense.  There’s no “sense judge” or “logic dictator” in your household is there?  Do not boast in this; accept the minor things and let them be.  Let your wife keep the bathroom the way she keeps it.  Let your friend put his feet on the dashboard.  Let your husband leave his hair in the sink after he shaves.  Let it go.

In everything, love.  And in this, if we find that we are not loving, if truth is more important to us than Christ’s love displayed through that truth, than we have failed, and the truth is not in us.  And if this is the case, repent.  We have work to do with the Lord, and it begins on our knees before the loving God who calls us to Him, and before those whom we have crushed and damaged.  Engage them with the Love of God.  For the love of God, love God, by loving others.

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.

Nineteen Days is “almost completed”

The editing staff has received all of the corrections from me and we are about to go to print!  I will be receiving an final PDF of the book and as soon as the changes have been made and my cover designer finishes the back content, everything will go to print.  I can’t believe it.  It feels like the end of something; I put the final touches on Samuel’s story off for so long, not wanting to finish the book for selfish reasons, always rereading what I wrote, always missing him and feeling the fresh wounds of loss again.  It wasn’t constant, for it’s been almost three years, but when it would come, it was welcomed and strong.  The emotions will still come, but somehow, I feel as though the Lord has really worked through all of this for His glory, and I am eager to get Samuel’s story out to you and others who can be encouraged.

 

I talked with Kelly this morning on the phone and I read her this acknowledgment from the book:

 

The smells of his hospital room and the slow beats of the heart monitor still ring loudly in our ears.  The memory of Samuel never fades, but strengthens with time.  It becomes sweeter somehow, and by the grace of God, we have been encouraged and strengthened by hundreds, if not thousands of people who deeply cared for Samuel during his tumultuous life.  This book would not be possible if it weren’t for those thousands who followed the blog, prayed fervently, and passed the story of Samuel’s struggle onto their close friends and relatives.  Our close family and friends, all of your amazing support through this journey with CDH, carried us like eagle’s wings.

I also wanted to give a huge thank you to USC’s Institute for Maternal-Fetal Health and particularly Dr. David Miller and Irene Kletcha.  You two were sent by God to minister to us during one of the greatest struggles of our lives, and we not only felt taken care of, but somehow a part of your family.  All of the neonatologists, surgeons, and nurses on the NICCU floor at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles were a huge support to us as well, and many of you whom came to Samuel’s funeral gave us incredible encouragement.  We had many church families supporting us during this time, all of those who came out to give blood for Samuel, as well as the thousands whom never contacted us but silently prayed and loved our family.  A simple thank you is not enough, so we pray God’s immense blessings on all of you as you continue to live and grow in Christ.

We wanted to also say thank you to Cherubs, an organization that carries the full weight and burden of keeping track and ministering to all CDH families.  Not only are they specifically loving and caring, but their website features incredible information and support for anyone going through the trial of CDH.  For more information please go to: www.cherubs-cdh.org

Last but not least, I have to personally say that, without the resolve, integrity, honesty, and blessing of my wife, I would be a complete and total mess, failure, and in a world of hurt.  Yet my wife, who not only is my song, but my best friend, will always be my muse and confidant in all that the Lord allows to come our way.  Thank you God for giving me such an amazing partner to navigate the tossing storms of this life.

 

 

Day Two of Memories

photo copy 3The second day of his birth we recovered.  I wrote a blog in exhaustion to update my friends and family while Kelly had some respite after having given birth.  She was staying at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in her own room, albeit cramped a little bit, while her mother cared for her.  We were so eager to hold our son, to stare at his beautiful body wrapped in tubes and gauze from the ECMO surgery, that we rolled out of her room despite the warnings of the doctors to let Kelly recover.  She wasn’t able to hold her baby in her arms after birth; she had little connection to him physically.  This was not normal.  This was foreign to most women who give birth.

As I stared at his graveside, waiting for Kelly and the kids to celebrate his life, I wept.  Each memory of Samuel forced its way into my mind, and I couldn’t help but long for him.  All of the decorations for Christmas had already been set up around each child who had passed away near his grave.  Parents who lost loved ones, some older, some younger than Samuel.  This area in particular is extremely difficult to visit for so many tears of unmet expectations could almost be seen; no doubt giving salty food to the grass below our feet.  The topiary giraffe was clearly seen next to Samuel’s grave; two years ago it hadn’t fully developed.  We placed him near the giraffe because that was the floor he was on at Children’s Hospital; we always took the giraffe elevators up to see our precious boy.

I haven’t cried like that in a long time.  Those decorations hurt, for in my heart, I know that Samuel would be running around, speaking his first words, telling us with excitement how he wants to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  He would have loved Christmas.

But then I began thinking of Samuel and Kelly.  Before they got there, before we celebrated him, I couldn’t help but feel for my wife.  Knowing the clinginess of Christian, knowing his desperation for her whenever they are away from each other, brought an onslaught of pain to me.  Samuel never fed from his mother’s breasts.  She never got to hold him close like she did with her other children; like most mothers do.  It hit me hard and I wept for my wife.  We never heard him cry or utter a sound.  We saw pain in his eyes near the end of his life, but we never heard him cry.  I continued to cry tears because I hungered for this cry to be heard.  Even now, I wish I had that memory of him crying, waking us up, desperate for food and for his mother’s embrace.

When Kelly and the kids arrived, we did what we did, and as we continued to stand above his grave, we witnessed Noah and Mia running around the cemetery.  We watched the two of them frolic and enjoy the coldness of the morning with the fog stretching close to us.  I mentioned something to Kelly then; wouldn’t it be great if we could see him now, even just one day out of the year on his birthday?  I longed for a vision of him in heaven now, though uncertain about my theology of heaven and if he ages in his new body.  But we daydreamed then and there amidst the fog that seemed to be like heaven reaching down.  I could almost see Samuel playing with Noah and Mia, chasing them, speaking to them in basic English.  Wouldn’t that be something?  To see him laugh and run with all the lung capacity he could ever need.  Just one day Lord; oh to have that sweet time.

Kelly held Christian as we almost said goodbye.  Noah, the sweet boy that he is, fell to the ground above where Samuel was buried.  What are you doing Noah?  I want to give Samuel a big hug.  He placed his face on the gravestone and lay there for a few moments.  Kelly and I looked at each other trying to hold back tears.  The grass was extremely wet but Noah didn’t care; he wanted to embrace his brother.

I know that Samuel’s spirit is not here with us anymore.  I know he is in heaven resting in the eternal bliss of our Creator God with a perfect body.  But just like that day two years ago when we were giddy to see him, so too now, we long to see him.  Two years ago we had all the hope that Samuel would be with us for a long time.  Two years ago, we had nothing to fear.  Two years ago is still with us today.  And that’s okay.  Anybody worth loving is worth grieving over, and though we are not angry at the loss of our son, we still want to see him, to be with him, and will forever praise our God in thankfulness that we had a precious baby boy born to us that fateful December day.

He Would Be Two Today

IMG_0488I make no apologies for writing about Samuel James Parkins, my second son who was born this day two years ago, for I have nothing to be sorry for.  I’ve heard some parents do some pretty interesting things for the children they have lost, and having gone through something so traumatic, who am I that I should say anything against certain behavior?  And who am I but a husband and father who carries on amidst the storms of life, repairing the ship that has been tossed in the storm, knowing that it is my God towards which my life burns as incense.

This year, two years after he was born, will be a different experience than last year.  Last year was raw; it opened up some things in us and it was good to see our compassionate God continue in His unfailing love and unfaltering patience surrounding us like the sun coming up over the mountains that covers the dew fresh fields.  We cried out in painful submission.  A year had passed last year from the time our son was born, from the time of Samuel in our lives, from the time of so much learning, so many lost expectations, and so many memories that faded with the ticking clock that waits for no one.  Yet it was fresh to us.  Of course it was.  We let the tide of emotions come and they rose high like the waters in full tide, yet they ebbed and retreated as well.  What will this year, this season, hold for us?

To be sure, the emotions are already there.  I see my son Christian in my arms each day, I look upon his smiles, his four toothed grin, his wide eyes and his constant laughter (during the day mind you; at night it’s still another story!), and I see a glimpse of his elder brother Samuel.  He has his eyes.  Those eyes of Samuel that will forever be with me.  Those eyes that followed the sound of his daddy as I prayed over him in the NICCU at Children’s Hospital; those eyes.  Oh Father, those eyes!

Yes I long to see them.  Yes I long to hold him in my arms once again, even with his pail skin and the life that seemed to escape from him with every beat of his heart that struggled with no oxygen because of those undeveloped lungs.  But we held him.  No doctor, no human, no power in this world could save him.  Yet we know the resurrection power of Christ was evident in Samuel, and we know death was not the end, but the beginning.  We know the resurrection power of Christ is much more powerful than undeveloped lungs.  We know it is more powerful than anything in or on this earth.

Today he would be two years old.  Would he be walking right now?  Certainly I would hope so.  Would I have gotten him gifts already for Christmas like I have for the other children?  Would he be obsessed with Star Wars at two years old?  Would he cuddle with his mommy and daddy?  Would he know the joy of the Christmas season and would he know the love of Christ at such a tender age?  Would I find inspiration from his smile like I do with Christian, Mia and Noah?  Would he have scars from accidents, would he throw tantrums, throw his food?  What would he look like with pasta all over his mouth and shirt?  Would he like Mammoth, and going on hikes with us in the backpack?  Would he be as athletic as Noah and pick up things just as easily?

We will never know.  His life was taken from us.  But it is God’s divine prerogative that Samuel is up in heaven.  It is God’s plan above ours that we submit to, for there are no mistakes in this plan; it is perfect.  It is perfect for God’s redemptive purposes, not for my purposes.  But we still miss him.  We still hear pangs of hurt when people refer to us as having only three children.  No!  We have had four!  We are a family of six!  Don’t forget.  Never forget.  We have a son in heaven now.

Today we will remember Samuel in our way.  Today, it is a private day for us, to spend together, to walk together, to draw closer to the Father who alone is the source of comfort.  Today is our day to be in the memory of Samuel, and that’s ok.  To remember all the work our Father did in the life of our little giant; the life of a boy that lived for nineteen days but changed the course of history for us and for many who knew him.

I had a gift the other day, on Monday.  A woman was picking up her child at Noah’s school.  She wanted to talk, so I welcomed it.  She asked me if Noah was my only son, and I told her I had a daughter and another son, as well as one in heaven.  She was silent.  I told her he had a birth defect called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia.  She stopped me.  What’s your name?  Daniel Parkins.  Oh my gosh was all she said.  You are Samuel’s father?  Yes, I beamed, he was my son.  I followed your blog and I prayed so much for you.  His little life impacted me.  She shook my hand and said she was honored to meet me.

Don’t be honored, be thankful.  God uses the weak of this world to proclaim His glory.  So many blogs jump into my mind that I wrote during that time.  Samuel had no idea the impact he made; nor do we.  But one thing I do know, as we celebrate his birth today, He uses the weak of this world to proclaim His glory.  Actually, He uses everything in this world to proclaim His glory.

Samuel would be two today.  But Samuel isn’t here anymore.  But WE are.  And so we will glorify our King with everything that we are.