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!

Miss my Little Guy

Last night was hard for Kelly and I.  We sat and talked on the couch as our two children lay asleep in their beds, knowing how blessed we were that we had two healthy children.  As Kelly and I sat next to each other, doing a few last minute Christmas shopping on our computers, I came across again a video a friend gave me of Samuel’s time last year and Kel and I stopped to watch.  I actually had the link on here for a few days but didn’t have the courage to listen to it for some reason.  Last night I did.  Last night I wept.  Last night again I was reminded that God alone is sovereign over all and in all and through all circumstances; but more impacting, that He loves us so.

In the video, Pastor Jon McNeff had read my blog I had written the morning Samuel passed away.  I will include a small portion of it here as it still strikes me:

I want you to know Lord that I believe with all my heart that you can heal my son Samuel.  Yes Lord, even now YOU are that God who heals.  After the doctors and surgeons told me that there was nothing left they could do, I finally heard truth and knew without a doubt that there is only One who can; and that’s you Father.  In your glorious might, would you heal Samuel?  Let the x-rays show that there is still lung there, that it’s not only there, but able to sustain life.  Let all the staff be surprised by your healing and let you be glorified in this.

Yes, this healing would indeed show your glory.  But Father, I know you do not “need” this display of your glory.  The truth is, WE do.  And life is not about us or our needs; the rocks will cry out in your glory if we do not.  I trust you Father, and you know what’s best and that’s far beyond our understanding.  

A verse that hits me at this moment is Mark 9.30.  I know I have recently wrote about this, but let me say it again, “They went on from there and passed through Galilee.  And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples…”  He was teaching them the most profound reality and purpose of His life; that of His death and resurrection so as to overcome our sin.  I just can’t get away from something, however, as it struck me last night and it seems to attack me right now.

Jesus is glorious; He is not only the Son of God, but God as well.  He is the second member of the trinity, the High and Holy voice that spoke creation into being.  And here He is walking along hidden paths or places where most people would not frequent.  He wanted to pour into His disciples; He wanted to be intimate with them and actually disciple them.  Throughout the course of the life of Christ, we see miracle after miracle proclaiming the glorious reality of the Kingdom of Heaven in the person of Jesus Christ.  Heaven came down in flesh, and fulfilled what we could not.

But Christ, as He encountered need and healed lives, knew the greatest need was not healing of our physical bodies, but our spiritual lives; reconciling us to the Father.  He never needed to perform those miracles; the people did.  There was an inherent need in them for Christ to “prove” Himself to them, but He alone is testimony enough of His glorious truth.  He did not need to prove Himself.  He did not need to perform miracles.  He does not need to do anything; God is completely whole and satisfied in Himself.  We are the ones who need Christ.  We are the ones who need to be discipled.  We are the ones who need healing.  We are the ones who need His precious resources of strength.  We are the ones who need the cross.  We are the ones who need the truth of the resurrection.  We are the ones who need His act to efficaciously grant us mercy and forgiveness.  We need the miracles.  We need the love.  We need the mercy.  We need everything that is Christ.

I am speaking to myself.  Let me be reminded of this.  I am the one who is desperately needing Jesus Christ to intervene in my life at this present moment.  I need Him; He does not need me, and He does not need us.

HOWEVER

Knowing how much we need, Christ out of love did the impossible.  Hebrews 12.2-3, “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”  When I say He did the impossible, I mean He impossibly loved us.  He loved those who hated Him.  He loved those who needed Him so desperately without even knowing it.

It is the love of Christ that I see in all of this.  I am humbled; I need it so much.  I can’t search for it in any other way, only at His feet and in His word.  The reality is that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, beckons us to abide in Him intimately.  We are called into a glorious relationship with Jesus Christ; not a religiosity, but a relationship.  I need this right now.  I need His love and His compassion.  Please Lord, forgive me that I ever presume upon you.  I need you Jesus.  You are my hiding place and my refuge from this storm.

2 Corinthians 2.8-9, “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”  Even Paul despaired even of life, to be shown that it was not about him or his strength, but the Lord’s.

Lord, raise our hearts that are burdened to the point of despair.  I do not want to rely on myself, but on Your mighty shoulders.  Help us to keep our eyes focused on you.  Help me to know that you are with me.  You are my Intimate King and I bless your name.  God I miss Samuel.  I need Jesus Christ and His love to intervene.

“Yet, though He doesn’t ‘need us’, isn’t the truth of Christmas that He so loves us He came for us, He wants us, not out of need, but out of love?  That’s what’s so amazing He wants us with a love so strong that He created eternity for us to share it.  A love so pure, that He gave His only Son for us to have the right to it.  It was not need for us that brought Him, it was love.  It’s a love that also knows we have eternity to share it, and as we understand eternity it’s just the beginning of sharing in a love that will never end.  Amazing.” – Byron MacDonald

Carrying Around Death in Me

This past weekend we traveled down to San Diego for a day and spent time not only reflecting on how much we loved each other, but also reflected on all the Lord has done in our lives.  Mia and Noah joined us as we went ice-skating on the beach at the Del in Coronado and walked to dinner and breakfast amidst the crisp cool air that is the beach-front.  It was a wonderful time as Kelly and I watched our two precious children play and frolic in the sand and surf.  In the back drop of my mind however, stood a pillar of anxiousness that has always been a goliath to me; the precariousness of my health.  In faith, I do not done the armor of Saul, but I seek refuge in the Lord.  I am no David or Moses in faith, but my heart is such that I seek to hide myself in the cleft of the rock, hoping and praying the Lord would pass by me and continue to sustain me.

It would seem that Samuel and the thought of last year’s events would ring loudest in my ears, yet having had three transplants during this season, I can’t help but be brought back to the pressing reality of unhealthiness.  The truth is, a few days before our trip to San Diego, I was told my liver wasn’t pristine anymore; the latest rounds of blood tests showed a slight elevation in my blood levels.  This is not necessarily cause for alarm, but with my two children in sight, as well as my pregnant wife, I can’t help but go to places in my flesh that I have no right or business to go to.

My body at times feels like a body of death; a sarcophagus slowly closing in around me.  I do not say this to be dramatic.  This is very real to me as each time I get blood drawn is an opportunity to hear once again, as I have heard so many times before, that I could be dying.  I am not dying right now.  I do not want to raise alarm to anyone.  And yet, I am dying; I cannot be naïve to this.  All of us are. 

2 Corinthians 4.7-12, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

My body is a jar of clay.  Oh to think anything other than this reality is such a naïve place to be!  And yet, as I walk, as I minster, as I live for the glory of my wonderful God, I know too that I carry around with me this strange reality.  I am dying, and in my life I carry around with me the reality of Jesus Christ’s death.  It is more than enough to me, to know the surpassing greatness of the act of my Jesus for me; to come and justify me to the Father.  Yes, we go through pain and trials and persecution, but we do it not focused on ourselves, but the glory of Christ’s death AND resurrection, so that in our faith in Jesus, His life and His glory may be made manifest as we show the world through this faith that is a gift, that He alone is enough to still be praised.

I do not live and breath and move for myself; I do not live as a victim of causality nor circumstances.  I am not some meaningless heap going through life merely trying to get by or be as happy as I can.  I am a son of the Most High God, redeemed for eternity, blessed beyond anything.  Yes I am.  I am not defined by my disease or liver struggles, any more than I am defined as a father who has lost a child.  I am not a victim of God’s sovereignty; I am a servant of the King.  I carry around with me the most precious promise of eternal life.

Did you know that?  Did you know that you carry around with you, as you face trials and pain, the promise of eternal life to those who would see the faithfulness born in you towards an awesome and almighty God?  Romans 8.18, “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  There is death in this life, but there is life in death.  We cannot be consumed, and I need to hear this just as much as the next person, with the trials we are facing.  They will come; they have been promised to us.  We are indeed struck down at times.  We are confused and perplexed; these are natural and right emotions.  But the conclusions of this world, that of destruction and despair, and not in the vocabulary of the believer of Jesus Christ.

No, we are more than conquerors.  We are not victims; we are messengers in our pain of the very promise of eternity.  “So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light and momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4.16-18).

Really, in all sincerity, praise God for these trials and this body of death.  For in it, we get to proclaim the promise of eternal life.  We get to honor the King.

 

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A Faithful God in December

Last year my son died.  It’s impossible to forget; in fact I don’t even want to.  Today, he would have been alive for ten days last year; knee deep in surgeries with a host of prayer warriors across the world petitioning for a little giant who captivated us.  Today, I am in my office with only memories of that cataclysmic time.  Each day that passes I don’t exactly dwell on him, but I would be lying if I said I don’t at least stop and remember the smells and sights of the ECMO machine, the CDH issues, and the neo natal intensive care unit.  I look at my wife often throughout the day and I see her carrying our next child, due late February or early March, noticing too the toll life has thrown at us.  This time of the year brings back so much.

Each liver transplant I have had, all three, were in the throws of December.  One transplant was done on the 23rd of December, another on the 28th, and still one more in January over the course of ten years.  The one in January, however, was probably the most difficult as Kelly was pregnant with my first son, Noah, while her husband was in a walking coma for much of December and January.  And last year, my son died on December 24th.  From one perspective, December has not been kind.

But from another perspective, one in which I see but do not see, one in which is given through the eyes of faith in Jesus Christ, proves to show me that our God is faithful.  I have only to look at Abraham, through the writings of Paul, in Romans 4, to see that my God has been faithful to His children throughout the ages.  Romans 4.16, 19-21 “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent to the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all…He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

Faith is a divine gift from our Divine Father.  Abraham was given faith, and the faith that he was given was counted to him as righteousness through Jesus Christ alone as he looked forward to the promised Seed.  He believed for Christ’s righteousness and rightness, and this I do as well.  It is the reality of the gospel, the quintessential manifestation of the faithfulness of God displayed through love.  But what strikes me to the heart right now is the statement in verses 20-21, “no distrust made him waiver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

It is no secret that a host of us have been through difficult and trying times.  But as we see with eyes of faith and experience the goodness of God despite the sin in our lives, are we too fully convinced that God will do what He has promised?  And do we even know what that great promise is?  It is nothing short of full redemption from the struggles of our lives, full reconciliation to the Father through Jesus Christ, and an eternity of fullness in perfection for the rest of our existence.

This is the goodness of the Christmas season that we must continue to look upon.  Jesus Christ, in the flesh, fulfilling all righteousness where we have failed.  Despite the difficulties in our lives, despite the horrible trials of December that it has brought to many of us, we must see not the trials, but the faithfulness of December.  The perfect life, the sacrificial death, the glorious resurrection of Christ, and the gift of faith given to us by the Father elicits in our lives a righteousness not our own.  Romans 4.24-25, “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

Our God is faithful, even when we are not.  Regardless, we can rest assured in the work of Christ, and proclaim from the rooftops even when tragedy strikes, that our God is faithful, even in December.

Never Saw Him Cry But…

There’s a video of Samuel on his fourth day, December 10th, 2010, in which we see his eyes open that breaks my heart.  I’m so glad that we took pictures and videos of him so I can always see how precious he was, not just from memory, but from actuality.  It’s a three minute video of heartbreak and joy; it begins with me huddled over him, and ends with Kelly and I talking to him and encouraging him.  During the course of the video, the sights and sounds are breathtaking; the nurse is actually changing his diaper and he is thoroughly not enjoying it.  One can see the wrinkles on his forehead that remind me so much of my children as well as the silent cry that most children exert when their own diapers are changed.  The silence is what’s so difficult.  We never heard him cry.

What is it about crying that seems so sweet to a baby boy, yet seems so foreign to a grown man?  Or perhaps foreign is not the right word, perhaps its just not accepted as acceptable.  Why is it important for a man to be strong; or for a Christian to act stoically?  A question plagues me that I see manifested from other’s words; must we always mask our suffering?  As I pursue the grief that I do not quickly desire to leave, does this make others uncomfortable or does it allow others the freedom and courage to grieve as well?  Truly, we have been given through the Holy Spirit the grace and strength to endure in this life; we have been given everything in the heavenly realms for life and for godliness (2 Peter 1.3).  We have been given everything for life!  Not just some things, but everything.

In this everything, in the life that we are living, we have been given strength to endure.  We have not been given strength to act without emotion; do to so with be to act outside of the actions of Christ himself.  But truly, we have been given the hope and strength to go through things; and if we overcome we overcome.  If we grieve, we grieve.  If we have joy, we have been given strength in that joy.  In the case with Samuel, I was assaulted from the very depths of heart ache.  My anxious heart was and is frail; I will not pretend otherwise.  I will not pretend that I was not wounded to the very core of my being.  I will not mask suffering; I will only bring this suffering the feet and arms of my Savior and see the greatness of our God meet me in this time of need as He so faithfully does time and time again.

Oh to hear him cry.  I know I will never hear Samuel cry now; I will, however, hear him sing praises with me.  Oh to see that day!