I remember getting to the end of 2016 feeling exhausted by all the drama that’s comes with trauma. As a family we were hopeful that 2017 would usher in a reprieve from the challenges we were all facing in 2016.
My wife Cally was struggling diabetes and severe epilepsy. The intensity of her symptoms created an atmosphere of constant fear in our home. As much as we muster an atmosphere of hope and faith, it was offset by one medical crisis after another.
The fear and the anxiety of seeing my wife suffer the way she did was almost unbearable. Holding a family together through all that may have been one of my greatest challenges in life. I feel like I am still in the middle of that journey.
Intense stress can have an unforeseen ripple effect on your family. It happened in our family.
For example, my two daughters had a front row seat to all of this. They have had the courage to speak to me about the burden they’ve carried. It’s been a huge responsibility assisting Dad in looking out for the well-being of their Mom. It’s a responsibility neither Cally or I ever intended for them. They have been courageous kids.
We’ve fought hard to prevent her from dying. Facing that reality can put a lot of pressure on two teenage girls.
2017 hasn’t been any easier than 2016 was, but we’ve gotten a lot of answers after transferring Cally’s healthcare to the Mayo Clinic. We’re hopeful that can Cally find the courage to keep fighting for the health we know is possible. She has more courage than anyone I know.
Just to be clear, we understand that suffering visits all of us at one time or another, we don’t feel sorry for ourselves, nor do we desire any pity. On the contrary, we’ve been truly blessed by the overwhelming show of love and support.
For those who’ve been following our journey, Cally is working with her doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester on a long term plan to further stabilize her health. There are residual diagnoses to follow up on, so we graciously ask you to keep us in prayer.
Please pray for the safety and security of our family. Pray for peace. Pray that the work of the enemy would thwarted by the power of God. Pray that we’d have strength in the days ahead.
Thank you for loving us. Being a part of the Body of Christ is true blessing.
May our Lord be eternally glorified. Amen.
Pastor and Friend Jeremy E.
Blessed Are Those Who Mourn: Lessons I’ve Learned from Grief
Grief is one of the most difficult experiences you’ll ever go through. Whether it’s anticipatory grief or grieving a loss that’s already occurred, it is a personal hell you wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy.
It’s hard to put a positive spin on grief, it’s like the victim of a crime trying to redeem the character of the perpetrator who harmed them. It can be hard to see how any good can come from such a devastating personal loss.
If there is any true consolation amidst our own grief, it’s the fact that we have certainty of eternal life in Christ Jesus and the assurance of seeing those we love again. I wouldn’t even try to offer any type of sound bite cliche’s on grieving to the bereaved. Grief hits you hard, but the harmful cliches of consolation often hit harder because they sound disingenuous.
For example, “So sorry about your loss, God needed another angel in Heaven.” What a load of crap. Let’s have more wisdom and maturity than to say something as callous and insensitive as that. We’ve all done it, but we must learn to do better for the sake of those around us.
I like the Jewish custom of Sitting Shiva. It’s a dedicated period of sitting with the bereaved for seven days, followed by celebratory feast to mark the formal transition from grieving to mourning.
Obviously grieving will last a life-time, but the ritual as a tradition brings people to together for formal grieving rather than isolating the bereaved to a solitary struggle.
Grief is something you have to walk through, it cannot be avoided, nor will it be denied. It will demand all of your attention, whether you want to give it or not.
In my early walk with God, I always found it puzzling when I read the words in Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” How could anyone find comfort in mourning? I wrestled with the meaning of this verse for many years until I experienced grief first hand.
Now I understand it. You encounter God’s comfort and care in unique way while you grieve. Miraculously you find hope in the middle of great despair. I’ve learned to stop over-analyzing it. To understand it, you have to experience it.
Jesus said He would send the Comforter, and that He would lead and guide us into all truth (John 14:26). I understand the comfort of God in ways that I never knew existed. I trust God to lead me out of my distressed thinking and into to the truth that we will see our loved ones in the life to come.
If you are grieving, I pray that you know that you are not alone, and that you are loved.
Much love to you from this Dusty Disciple.
Pastor Jeremy E.
Gratitude: The Art of Thankfulness
Somedays I don’t feel like I am winning at the game of life. Even when I think I am doing my best, I know that I am making mistakes along the way. Add to that, my propensity for perfectionism. I wish I had a better way of perfection detection in life other than an acute awareness of the stress I put my wife and kids through. That’s why we all need the grace of God in our lives.
What I am saying is that I understand my own capacity for selfish living really well. Paradoxically, I can be extremely generous in a way that plays into selfish motives. I can be altruistic in a way that plays into a hidden self-interest. I can show kindness, with a clenched fist. I can love with selfish motives. Isn’t that the nature of paradox? Or maybe it’s the duplicitous nature of the human heart. I cannot justify it, I can only make observation about it that finds validation in scripture.
The Old Covenant Prophet name Jeremiah had a theory about the human heart when he said,
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9
It’s more than a theory, it’s a fact. I know my own heart and its capacity for selfishness, but I’ve also encountered its wisdom when yielded to God.
With all of the complex issues my family faces with chronic health challenges, and the additional strain on our relationships and finances, the one thing we always come back to is gratitude.
The Apostle Paul was speaking under the influence of the Spirit of God within him when he said,
“15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15-17
This verse of scripture is the antidote to my own selfishness, self-pity, fear, and my long held grudges. It’s prescriptive and predictive. It’s prescriptive because it is telling me how to walk out my faith (praxis) and it’s likewise predictive because it’s telling me that the peace of Christ will rule my heart.
Step 1. Let the shalom (peace) of Christ rule your heart.
Step 2. Be thankful.
Step 3. Be a carrier of the message of Christ’s peace.
Step 4. Share the message through psalms, hymns, and songs of the Spirit with heart full of gratitude.
Step 5. Make sure your walk and your talk are telling the same story.
Step 6. Do everything as unto Christ himself.
No matter what challenges I am facing, following these simple 6 steps helps me to reduce the amount stress I experience, and mostly cause in the lives of those I love.
Much love from this Dusty Disciple to you.
Pastor Jeremy E.
The Complexity of Chronic Illness
Imagine trying to live your life as normally as possible between daily life and death struggles. Imagine you’re the spouse with complex medical symptoms just trying not to be a burden and feeling overridden by complex feelings of guilt and shame. Imagine you’re the other partner trying to hold it all together while maintaining employment, trying to be a good husband, a father, and whatever else might be demanded of you. Imagine trying to console the mental, physical, and emotional needs of your kids as you’re trying to hold yourself together.
You can start to feel very lonely. That’s been my life.
I am not complaining. Every day I wake up and thank God that I have a family, a wonderful wife, and two amazing daughters. I also wake up every day praying that today my family would be free of yesterday’s conflict. I know my prayers aren’t falling on deaf ears, I also know that God isn’t indifferent to my pain. Talking to God in my prayers doesn’t always change my circumstances, but it seems to change me. That’ll do.
Life doesn’t always go the way you planned it. People get sick, and people die….every day. Somedays you wonder where you’re going to get the energy to face the inevitable challenges a new day brings.
Apart from dealing with your own chronic anxiety, symptoms of PTSD, or anticipatory grief...life can leave you feeling exhausted and lonely.
I know that I hide my pain really well. I don’t usually give it voice in my life or relationships. Have you ever started sharing your struggle with a person and then watch them literally check out on you? There aren’t many listeners out there who are willing to hear you, unless a paycheck is involved. Paying someone for their empathy and psychological insight doesn’t appeal to me. I’ve done that to many times already.
How long can a person live this way? How do you hold a marriage together when it’s under so much strain and stress? How do you instill hope in your kids when you struggle to find it within yourself?
As complex as everything has become in my life over the last three years, I choose to follow the teachings and the wisdom of Christ. The Beatitudes have been a true blessing to me.
3 “What wealth is offered to you when you feel your spiritual poverty! For there is no charge to enter the realm of heaven’s kingdom. 4 What delight comes to you when you wait upon the Lord! For you will find what you long for. 5 What blessing comes to you when gentleness lives in you! For you will inherit the earth. 6 How enriched you are when you crave righteousness! For you will be surrounded with fruitfulness. 7 How satisfied you are when you demonstrate tender mercy! For tender mercy will be demonstrated to you. 8 What bliss you experience when your heart is pure! For then your eyes will open to see more and more of God. 9 How blessed you are when you make peace! For then you will be recognized as a true child of God. 10 How enriched you are when you bear the wounds of being persecuted for doing what is right! For that is when you experience the realm of heaven’s kingdom. 11 How ecstatic you can be when people insult and persecute you and speak all kinds of cruel lies about you because of your love for me! 12 So leap for joy—since your heavenly reward is great. For you are being rejected the same way the prophets were before you.”
Waiting upon the Lord has helped me to develop patience and perseverance. It helps me to quiet my mind and to encounter His love for me on His terms, not mine. When I am able to look at my life through the eyes of Christ, my entire outlook changes. I go from feeling hopeless and despondent to hopeful and grateful.
I hope you can follow my tangential train of random and abstract thoughts. Thank you again for your prayers.
Much love to you from a Dusty Disciple,
Pastor Jeremy E.
External Conformity or Internal Transformation?
External conformity without internal transformation is the essence of consumer religion, at least that’s my experience.
It doesn’t surprise me. It’s easy to put on a good show for other people for the two hours a week we dedicate to attending a religious church function, worship service or Bible study.
It’s easy to fake being something we are not. It’s easier to hide our pain or mask the dysfunction in our lives by just agreeing and shouting amen to whatever rant we might hear from the pulpit on Sunday morning. That’s not a knock on pastors, parishioners, or anybody in particular. We are all a part or have played our part in that system.
Some of us are sincerely disgusted by it and are honestly asking God, “is there more to religious life than this?
The Good News is that there is more to the religious life than serial church attendance. There is a Life in Christ that isn’t being withheld from you, it’s simply a case of God waiting for you to seek it out. God wants to reveal more of himself to you than can possibly be experienced in those old church-as-usual scenarios.
All you need to do is crack open your Bible to the Book of Acts so you see for yourself how free from religion the early church was! The world didn’t need a new religion, it needed a new relationship. The relationship I am referring to is Christ Jesus, the bridge between God the Father and His wayward prodigal children.
We have to diagnose something before we can get to the prognosis.
Jesus said it best...“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, "The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues”
Matthew 23:1-6 ESV
External conformity without internal transformation turns us into self-righteous religious frauds. The message of Christ resonated with people because His walk and His talk were telling the same story. The religious leaders He confronted were good at putting on a show, that’s all.
A skin deep religiosity doesn’t lead anyone to righteousness. It’s a pretentious piety, with holes in its fake holiness. I want nothing to do with it.
Inward transformation is what happens when we allow Christ to inhabit our stony hearts turning them into soft clay easily molded by His loving hands.
We no longer have to live our lives in a false and pretentious way. We can be authentic in Christ. Healing is only possible when we diagnose the problem and then trust the prognosis of the Great Physician, in whom we place our trust. You no longer have to fake-it-till-you-make-it. You can be free right right now. Invite Jesus into your messy life, not religion.
Much love from this Dusty Disciple to you.
-Pastor Jeremy E.
I Know Nothing: It’s True
Did you ever feel like you were more familiar with your problems than God’s provision?
That’s been my experience on occasion. The problem loves to keep you in its grasp, not unlike an addiction.
When you’re addicted to something, you crave it because you cannot live without. Your mind obsesses over it, your heart races, everything inside you wants to feel the euphoric rush of that first hit.
An addiction has a voice in the life of the addicted. It’s a master at selling you on a lie. It makes you believe in an illusory world. It’s not a pleasant world, it’s actually rather hellish.
We can get addicted to the chaos we pray to be set free from. Take Post-Traumatic Stress for example. The sufferer lives in fearful anticipation of an event that occurred in their recent past potentially repeating itself in the present moment. It may never come, but sometimes it does. Fear reinforces itself by offering you evidence. Again, it’s the lie.
The repetitious cycle of chaos brings the sufferer into a mood stabilizing state of calming familiarity. Science has proven it. Every cell in our body has specific receptor sites that are designed to receive nerve proteins, or neuropeptides that fit like keys into little locks (pores). The body craves the dominant chemical state that it is being deprived of when life gets better.
Call it a state of chaotic homeostasis.
Some researchers believe this is where anxiety comes from. I’m no expert, but I’ve learned from my own experience how challenging it can be to shift gears when your life has been nothing but chaos.
I take comfort in the the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:2 “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
I had rehearsed my hurts so many times that I’d actually memorized my pain on a cellular level. As I’ve pondered this verse, it’s wisdom strikes me like a bolt of lightening.
Like Paul, I needed to know nothing. No thing, except Christ, and him crucified. I had to stop rehearsing my hurts and take control of my runaway thoughts. The process feels like two gladiators locked in an arena, fighting to the death.
I’m not saying I’ve arrived, but I feel like I’ve let go of 90% of the pain that kept demanding my attention in the present. Thank God I feel free, freer than I’ve felt in years.
From one Dusty Disciple to another...I feel good saying I Know Nothing.
Pastor Jeremy E.
Suffering Sucks Pt. 2: What I’ve Learned About What It Means To Follow Christ
Jesus suffered in the desert, for 40 days and 40 nights.
Jesus suffered when Lazarus died.
Jesus suffered when Judas betrayed Him.
Jesus suffered when when Peter denied Him.
Jesus suffered with every lash from the whip by the Roman Soldiers ordered to torture Him.
Jesus suffered as He carried a piece of wood up a hill.
Jesus suffered when they drove nails in His body.
Jesus suffered when they erected the Cross.
Jesus suffered as He hung on the cross.
Jesus suffered the insults, the mockery, and the humiliation of crucifixion.
All to show us just how far LOVE was willing to go.
When Jesus said, “Abba, forgive them, they do not know what they are doing,” humanity had a chance to see for themselves who God is and what He was willing to endure to see His people restored to their true identity as beloved Sons and Daughters of the Kingdom.
The suffering of my wife, my children, and myself has taught me more than a life of convenience and getting my way ever could.
We’ve learned what real faith is.
We’ve learned what prayer is.
We’ve learned what it means to “suffer the dark night of the soul.”
We’ve seen the “goodness of God in the land of living.” When weariness came knocking on our door, we didn’t answer. When doubt and disbelief tempted us to give up, God whispered...”don’t give up before the miracle happens!”
With all that’s happened, one of the greatest gifts has been the Body of Christ rising up to meet our needs in more ways than I can count. I’ve seen God work through people I don’t even know personally.
Don’t give up before the miracle happens. Suffering sucks, there is no doubt about it, just take a deep breath and say to your self, “Abba, I belong to you.”
From one Dusty Disciple to another, God’s love will see you through!
Pastor Jeremy E.
The Dusty Disciples