I started my day with this verse...
“This is how we fit into God’s picture: Christ is the measure of our portion, we are in him, invented and defined in him. God’s blueprint intention is on exhibition in us. Everything he accomplishes is inspired by the energy and intent of his affection.” Ephesians 1:11
Invented and defined in Him stands out to me. I was asking myself if God invented and designed my suffering to accomplish some noble spiritual feat in me. I don’t know. I don’t always feel very noble, nor do I feel very spiritual.
A part of me feels like my wife and I should be exempt from any further suffering. Enough is enough.
My feelings don’t dictate or direct my reality though. So I don’t place much trust in them.
Honestly, sometimes I am angry at God. Maybe He feels the same way about me? I trust His love for me more than anything though. I don’t stay stuck for long. I can’t afford to.
I constantly wonder why we suffer? What’s to gain? Why does my wife have to suffer the way she does? What’s the friggin point of it all?
I’ve heard the piety and holiness talk about suffering from other people. It’s causes weariness within me. I cannot stand a pretentious piety that acts better than it really is. I like honesty, because honestly, life is messy.
Understanding the “why” of a situation doesn’t really do much to help you figure out the “what’s next” part of God’s plan. No matter how exhausted I get by the ups and downs of living/loving someone with challenging health, God always shows me grace.
The scripture I’ve referenced above is one that recalibrate’s my thinking when I am walking through a crisis. God is accomplishing something in our lives through all of this. That is what I choose to believe.
I’m thinker, and a highly contemplative person. I can easily get lost in the matrix of my own thoughts. When I read a portion of God’s Word I am able narrow my focus and be less obsessed about what might go wrong. There is already so much that is going right.
That is all I have to say for now. Thank you for keeping my family in prayer.
Pastor Jeremy E.
Prayer helps my soul breathe. I really needed to pray tonight. My Father-In-Love (not Law) had a hemoglobin of 4.9 tonight and was admitted to the hospital. Simultaneously, my wife had a low blood sugar under 20 that my daughter couragesly helped her through. All this happened while I was hosting an event for the recovery community. It only takes one hour for everything to fall apart. The phone calls and texts started coming in. It was at that point I had to decide to stay in peace or be taken down by the chaos. Prayer is what helped me to stay in peace.
I resfuse to surrender my peace.
If you’re prone to prayer, shoot one up to God for my family and I. I don’t know if you believe in spiritual warfare, but we’re getting hammered by wave after wave of oppressive stress. Things are okay right now, but it can turn quickly.
My simple prayer is, “Peace, be still.” Being still and pondering who God desires to be to us in this stress is more beneficial than wondering why He is allowing all this. Whatever the case may be, I choose to trust Him.
I humbly ask you to keep us in prayer.
I am sincerely thankful to those of you who pray for us.
Pastor Jeremy E.
It’s not always easy to accept the change that comes into our lives.
We can fight it, accept it, or deny it.
Whatever we choose to do, there it is staring us in the face.
Without overthinking it, which I’m prone to doing, I find that it is much easier to talk to God about how powerless the change has made me feel.
The moment I choose to bring my powerlessness to God, He reminds me that “....Greater is He that is in you (and me) than he that is in the world.” 1 Jn 4:4
Be encouraged my beloved friends.
Pastor Jeremy E.
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.
The Dusty Disciples