That’s the devil’s game.

bible picI had a revelation this morning when my Bible fell open to this page. I shared with my small group last night that I’d been angry with God since we lost the baby. I knew the anger was there. In fact, I’d kind make a joke out of it and my prayers would sound like, “I love you but I’m a little ticked. I’ll get back with you.” Only I never did and just drifted and drifted for months until I was sick of myself–exhausted from trying to heal without the Healer.

Anger is a normal, necessary stage of the grieving process, but I can’t forget the One who walks through my grief with me hand in hand. When I saw the note on the top margin where the devil tempts Jesus, all the dots connected. Satan places conditions on Jesus, tries to strike a little bargain with the King of Kings. Huh. What a dangerous game–to attempt to thwart the plans of someone who is in complete authority over you, the Living God. But now I realize that this is the place where my anger has taken me. I’m not going to pray, or study, or worship right now. I’m angry! Fix it, and then we’ll talk.

But Jesus doesn’t play. When I enter into that negotiation, I’m playing the devil’s game.

Last night at Bible study we talked about obedience. When God tells you to do something, you do it or you sin. No two ways about it. But that doesn’t mean that he isn’t simultaneously holding your hand and heart as you grieve. And just like I draw so much support, affirmation, and comfort from unpacking my grief with my sisters in Christ, conversations with the Father have all of that to offer and MORE.

My act of obedience today will be to bring my grief to worship with me. I think Jesus is eager for us to unpack this together. Here’s a verse I’m meditating on: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” II Peter 1:3

If you’ve lost your way in the grieving process, I invite you to come with me to the Father and claim this promise. Wait expectantly for His divine power to heal your broken heart.

 

Pray boldly–even when it doesn’t make sense.

Though Zechariah and Elizabeth were well along in years, the angel says his prayer had been heard. No doubt the couple prayed for a son when it made sense to pray for one—but all those years later?

A few years ago I prayed for a son. I’m not sure that it made sense praying to that end—I was 41. Emma Kate, the younger of our girls, was about 2 at the time, and I believed that we were “done.” We put in five hard years of miscarriages and indecision before God led us to adopt. Our family was indeed complete.

But I was not.

Still, I was in part unaware of my feelings about having a biological child until the doctor tossed out the word hysterectomy. He only meant to inform me of my options—I might endure endometriosis until I completed the change, but if not, I could always go under the knife and have my womanhood removed. No big deal.

I was not prepared to hear those words. At all. He left the room and I burst into tears. Where was this coming from?

I’d always held out the possibility of getting pregnant again. I just did my best to pretend it was something I didn’t need to do. The results of our genetic testing a few years before had shown that biological children were certainly possible; in fact, according to the genetics counselor, we should only miscarry one pregnancy in five.

So we prayed. Maybe we were praying when it no longer made sense to do so. I was labeled advanced maternal age, high risk, and I’d already lost six or seven babies at this point.

I prayed very specifically, very boldly, for a healthy son who would not carry the chromosome translocation that increased our chances of miscarriage.

But it didn’t make sense. It was unlikely that God would give me the answer I wanted.

Was this Zechariah’s prayer? Was he hoping that God would act on their behalf and take away his wife’s disgrace? If so, how strange that he doubts the angel’s news! Zechariah’s reaction to Gabriel begins a pattern that is repeated throughout the gospels. People will see something supernatural right before their very eyes but will not receive its message nor recognize the identity of the Christ. Ritual religion does not help you detect the movement of God. Looking eagerly for Him helps you recognize Him.

Prayers have been heard

The answer to Zechariah’s prayer is unified with God’s purpose.

He will be a joy and delight to you . . . Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.” Luke 1:14, 17

That purpose is always to engage in meaningful relationships with people—not just in ritual religion–to turn them from their sin, to discover the value of eternal life in Christ Jesus.

And—for Zechariah—did this begin with a prayer that he never expected the Lord to answer?

When I prayed for a son, I miscarried, but that doesn’t mean the prayer wasn’t answered. Maybe, if I peel back the layers of the last few years, I’ll see clearly the Lord’s purpose. Maybe it was to engage in a more meaningful—less ritualistic—relationship with me. Maybe it was part of the greater work of preparing the Beasleys to be on mission–leaving what is comfortable and leaping into situations where we have to depend on HIm. Maybe it was simply to prompt me to pray more and more unlikely prayers—and ask boldly—so that I might better see that His purpose is for my good and His glory.

Always pray boldly, even the prayers we think He is unlikely to answer. His answers–the ones we hope for and the ones we don’t–are unified with His  purpose.

When He speaks, it is so often not the words I want to hear, but I can always be sure that that they bear His purpose. He always draws me closer so that I am engaged more deeply in my relationship with Him. As He answers each prayer, He prompts me all the more to turn from my sin, to submit to His authority, and in doing those things I discover the value of the life I’ve found in Christ. He brings the supernatural right to my doorstep, and I look all the more eagerly for Him–not just for the answers to my prayers.

Because of God’s tender mercy,
    the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,

to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78-79

How Much is Left?

I’ve mentioned before that I’m running a marathon (the whole dad gum thing!) with Team in Training to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. One thing that can’t be stressed enough about the research funds that will benefit from my efforts is that they ultimately support treatments for a spectrum of other illnesses. Therapies that were developed for blood cancers have helped patients with many other cancers as well. And, have you noticed? Cancer is everywhere. We need research funding to put an end to it! We all benefit from the work that LLS is doing.

Having a cancer diagnosis hit so close to home has left me with, not only grief, but a general skittish feeling. Will it come for me? My husband? My kids?

Emma Kate and Papa Bear

Even if I never have a personal encounter with cancer again, it’s left its mark. This is my little girl Emma Kate with her “Papa Bear.” Sweet, right? She loved my daddy and I was so looking forward to her discovery of all the things that made him a great man–besides the fact that he would hold her in his lap while she ate her Cheerios. One of my biggest regrets is that my girls didn’t get to see him one last time before he died. This picture was taken at the zoo the last time that Emma Kate got to visit with my dad. She was 2 1/2. After that trip, she never saw him again. We didn’t know it when this picture was taken, but he was already sick.

If someone had told me five years ago that I would one day run a marathon, I would have laughed them out of the room. Things as drastic as this have a way of changing you. I once was a woman who ran to support my food habit. Today, I’m running to show my resolve–so patients don’t have to measure time in terms of how much is left.

Here’s something exciting for me, though. As I write this, My Fundraising Page is showing that I’m 28% of the way to my goal. It’s actually 30%! I have a check that I got in the mail that isn’t included yet. How much is left? Just 70% but let’s just shoot for the moon and maybe we’ll be looking at 200% by the time October rolls around. Click the link above or to the right to make a contribution. I’m so grateful to everyone who has donated. Thank you!!

On disclaimers and death…

The following post requires a disclaimer. It’s not light or humorous commentary on life. Not at all. What follows is an example of why I waited so long to start a blog. I’ve wanted to–and friends have been telling me to–for a few years. When I quit my teaching job, a blog was on the to-do list. But right at the time the job ended, my father was locked in a battle for his life againt leukemia. The week prior to Father’s Day last year was one of the hardest of my life. He was dying and I couldn’t be with him. A week later I was there at his death bed.

For months after he died, I simply didn’t have the emotional energy to write anything that I felt could be published, just lots of personal journal entries. I didn’t want to start a blog and only have gloom and doom to discuss, so I got myself a ways into the grieving process before I started writing with the hopes of getting published. But since Father’s Day is this week, and the first anniversary of his death is approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about where God has taken me in the last eighteen months. It’s actually been very surprising, especially to me. Someone should be able to benefit from what I’ve been through.

What follows is a post I wrote for a fundraising website in fall of last year. When my father was diagnosed, I committed to running a half-marathon with Team in Training to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. For a while I entertained the fantasy that he would be well enough to cheer me across the finish line. I ran the race in his memory. This was written about six months after his diagnosis.

“I haven’t wanted to update because I haven’t wanted to write. Normally, I enjoy ticking away at the computer, and it’s fun to run across an old picture that I’d forgotten about. Here we have a picture—that I didn’t know existed—of my dad with my now six year old daughter. What a joy to find this little gem buried in my computer files. Yet there’s a terrible sadness I feel looking at it.

It’s very difficult to put into words what this loss is doing to me. Nothing could have prepared me for this. NOTHING. There is no adequate description of grief in this world, I think. If we could describe it, then we might be able to give others a heads-up, and maybe there wouldn’t be this awful shock when a crisis occurs. I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to see my dad—my hero—sick and in pain. More than that, I was completely ignorant of how deeply you ache when you lose someone you love. What a child I’ve been.

Today in church it hit me. I was listening, Mom. In fact the sermon, “What Happens When We Die”, was practically written for me. Barry even mentioned in his introduction that several church members had lost fathers recently. I know what happens when the followers of Jesus Christ die. Thank God for giving me parents that wanted me to know the truth, to know God’s Word, and to have wisdom to turn to it when I need answers about sin, grace , salvation, and eternity.

I haven’t been thrown off so much by what happens when we die, but over why it’s so hard when we’re here. My despairing comment to my husband a few weeks ago was, “The world really is just a giant ant hill, isn’t it?” It feels that way. Just a bunch of insects. Here and there, a few get squashed (or some idiot fourth grader sets a firecracker off in the middle of the mound) and for a short time the rest of the insects go completely bananas. But even then, the chaos is more about getting the rest of the ant hill back to business.

Todd’s response to my ant hill metaphor was spot on. He spoke without hesitation. “Yes. But God chose to redeem the ant hill.” Thank you for agreeing with me but also not letting me get away with it.

It’s all there in scripture, and I periodically turn to descriptions of Heaven so that I can picture my dad, young and healthy, enjoying his reward from a loving Father—our God and our King. Having lost count of exactly how many pregnancies I’ve lost, I especially like to picture my dad playing with the gaggle of grandchildren that are with him in Heaven. Wes Prescott’s suffering is over, and I’m grateful.

But I’m still here. On the ant hill. And I’m in pain.

This morning the revelation was more about what good it does us to be here. God has given us little glimpses of Heaven in life on earth. My relationship with my dad is a perfect example. He was so special. He loved me so much. And being his daughter in that loving relationship gave me so much joy. As I Corinthians 13:12 tells us, “we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…” There is so much more joy to be had. This loving daddy/daughter relationship is a very, very faint echo of a relationship that cost the Father His Son, and the Son His life. I was bought at an enormously high price, so that I could enter into the joy of my Master at life’s end. In Heaven with God. Where Jesus is. Where my daddy is.

But that’s not all. If we are allowed some shadowy awareness of the joy of Heaven, then certainly God in His wisdom exposes us to a tiny fraction of torment—just a bee sting, really—in comparison to Hell. I could run through a list of all the things that make this life so hard—with disease and loss topping the list. The hardest thing to describe about my grief is how awful it feels to be separated from my father. I’ve told my husband so many times that I just want to be able to make a phone call and hear his voice. The scene that plays over and over in my head is the last time I hugged my dad. It was June 1, 2011. I feared it would be the last time, and I was right. It all came to such an abrupt end. Without the cross, I’d have no hope of seeing him again.

The real lesson for me here is not about my father, but about my Father. If I feel such pain just trudging my way through the grieving process, how would it feel to face death without ever a hope for a hug and “I love you” from the Lord Jesus? If I feel sorrow that drives me to my knees in prayer, then how unspeakably horrible would it be to have no hope of my prayers being heard? If my relationship with my daddy could be so precious to me—as imperfect as we are—how grossly have I underestimated God’s love for me—that He would purchase me from Hell with the life of His only Son? The cross is truly a rescue.

I’m still angry periodically about this whole ant hill thing. Why IS it so hard? I can’t point to a scripture to answer the question, but this seems reasonable. Do you look for healing if you aren’t aware that you’re sick? Would I pay any attention to someone pointing the way home without first knowing how lost I am? And this one’s the kicker: Without sorrow, would I ever crave joy? I’m certain that the answer is no, because I have never hungered for joy like I have in the last six months. I guess you have to have some frame of reference for Hell in order to feel homesick for Heaven.

I ran eight miles last night. There is a song on my iPod—which I’d completely forgotten about—that I kept replaying after listening to the lyrics. It’s a Jars of Clay version of an old German hymn that was translated into English by John Wesley. All of the verses spoke to my heart, but the last verse is my favorite:

Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way

Wait because in His time, so shall this night

Soon end in joy, soon end in joy

Soon end in joy, soon end in joy

God will lift up your head… “