16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
When Lee asked me to write a blog post I thought I couldn’t write to the scripture referenced for the day. (John 3:16-21) He said to write what is on my heart… the challenges my family has been through in recent years – The pain behind the smile.
Phil and I have just begun grief counseling. We are dealing with extreme loss and near loss. Within the past two years, nine relatives and friends have died. Our daughter Kari has lost an additional five friends. (Death by cancer, suicide, murder, military friendly-fire in Afghanistan, hit and run, drowning, accidental falling through a ceiling skylight and natural cause.)
One Saturday night last June, we nearly lost both our daughter Kari and our son Brandon. Kari was held up at gunpoint near her home in West L.A. and it took three calls to 911, before officers showed up! The officers were angry with Kari and Phil until they realized it was the dispatchers who decided NOT to send officers – who told Kari and Phil they were just down the street and may have been able to catch the robber who got away with other accomplices in a car.
Phil brought Kari back to our home that night.
The following morning, as we were getting ready for church, our son Brandon called – saying he was at a sheriff’s station with friends in Battle Creek, Michigan. (Brandon was playing summer baseball in Battle Creek.) He and three other Christian ballplayers on his summer team were driving in a four-door pickup truck. As they drove under a freeway overpass that previous night, a big thud hit the passenger side of the truck. They didn’t know what it was. They thought it may have been a deer. They didn’t see anything so they kept driving back to their host family homes.
The driver of the pickup truck was staying with a host family whose father was a retired sheriff. The morning news reported a deadly hit and run and the search was on for the driver. It turned out that a large man had taken his life by jumping from the overpass, landing on top of the truck Brandon was in with his friends. There was no blood, but a large dent in the truck that could be seen in the daylight. The retired sheriff pieced together what apparently happened.
We were told if the man who took his life had hit the top of the truck’s cab or windshield inches away, it could have killed all four of them in addition to the man who took his life.
Understandably we came to church that Sunday physically shaking.
We pray for the robber, the accomplices, and the family of the man who took his life.
We give praise to God for protecting our children.
Every day and night we pray for protection over our family, our children by name: “No weapon formed against you will prosper.” Isaiah 54:17. We tithe and stand on Malachi 3:11 “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes.”
New Year’s Day evening, I took Phil to the E.R. after he experienced symptoms of a T.I.A. Doctors wanted to make sure he did not have a stroke. He did not. He is taking steps to improve his health, while still working on trying to grow his business we believe God put together.
And there’s more loss.
An apparent joy-riding driver turned head-on at Kari forcing her off a Pasadena street, totaling my car, and sparing her. We have had one car the past three years.
Phil continues to work with his agency business, but there has been personal loss in a company crisis-based restructuring.
We lost our house, and there’s been other misfortune that I won’t explain here.
Our children are ALIVE! THANK YOU GOD!
Things that have been stripped away from me during this time: false humility, pride and arrogance – things I didn’t know I had, but God knew, and showed them to me.
We have all gotten closer to God.
Kari has had two good career-building jobs since graduating from college and is moving on to her third in Macon, Georgia.
Brandon’s faith is growing stronger.
We pray for God to fulfill the desires of their hearts and ours. (Psalm 37).
We have a place to live.
We understand others have even more difficult trials and God seems to not be answering yes to their prayers, or saying no or not now.
We look forward to seeing how God gets the glory through this suffering – not just our pain, but also the pain our brothers and sisters in Christ are also suffering through now.
So I guess after all this I can tie in today’s scripture.
I am very grateful that we do have a God who loves us so much that He sent his one and only Son to save us! Jesus understands our suffering and promises to be with us in good times and in bad. I pray that those who prefer the darkness will listen to the Holy Spirit nudging them to search for and find God.