We weren't, but we went to look at it anyway, and when we drove up, I said, "I've been here before."
The couple who owned it go to our church. Karen had even helped me teach Sunday School one year and had invited our little Sunday School class down for an Easter Egg hunt. I knew the property, and as Tracy, her husband, started showing us around, we knew that it was for us. He loved that old horse farm, but we were thinking those horse trails would be perfect for four-wheelers. And there was a big hay field with so much room to run, and a pond where the kids could fish. So perfect, and so near, 30 minutes from our house, if the traffic isn't too bad.
It was a gift, a perfect gift from God, just right for our family, and we had not even thought about it.
So much of life is like that. It's lived when we're not looking, or searching, or striving.
Because there is a God in Heaven, and He reigns. He's not distant or unaware but He is intimately involved in every little detail of our lives.
I bought this little chair for that farm, for Bronner, and I'm not sure he ever even sat in it. But I remember him loving the gravel in the driveway. It was little pebbles that he loved to pick up and throw. He was sitting there in that driveway while I was talking to a contractor about things that needed to be done to the little farm house, new siding, new tin roof, that kind of thing. We were on the porch, and he was right there in plain sight just picking up the pebbles and filling a bucket with them when he decided to take off down that little dirt road as fast as he could. Well, thankfully, his mama was pretty fast too. I was a sprinter on the track team back in the day. I ran and grabbed him up, and I thought, "My goodness, do you need that big hay field, little one!" Oh, and he loved the four wheelers. He'd ride right in front with us loving every minute of it.
I wanted him to grow up on that farm.
But it wasn't to be.
You know what I use this chair for now? And I use it; I do.
I use it as a step stool. I keep it in the kitchen at our farm, and it dawned on me just recently how appropriate that really is. Because Bronner taught me how to reach higher, to step into a place that isn't quite Heaven but it's not quite the earth either. It's somewhere right in the middle, and that somewhere is right where God wants me to be.
That night, that cold, dark night in January, 2008, when I pulled my baby up out of the water and ran inside with him, laid him on the couch, pulled off his wet clothes, and breathed air into his lungs and watched his chest rise and fall but without one ounce of life left in it. That's the moment. So many times I tell this story and I rush past it because it was so fast and there's so much more to tell and maybe because it's just too hard to stay in that moment too long, but today, tonight, that's the moment I want to land on.
Because it's important.
Life before that moment had a little sweetness to it, but it was far from perfect. There were lots of things that made life not so perfect, but it was nothing I couldn't handle, nothing I couldn't tackle, fix, work on, make happen by sheer force of will. And I did, buddy. I made some things happen because I CAN, because I'm strong and smart, and I'm a real hard worker. I get stuff done. Don't you?
Of course you do. As Americans we're taught from the cradle, there is nothing you can't do! The world is your oyster. Find all the pearls you can! Work hard; achieve the American dream. You can do it all, anything you want. It's for the taking, and it's all... for... you...
The World. Have at it!
In His unsearchable wisdom looks down at us with compassion and mercy and grace because He knows that we're just dust. And to dust we return. Our lives are just a vapor, a blade of grass and a fading flower.
We forget that sometimes, and God has to remind us. Because we think we're so strong. We think we can do anything because that's what our culture tells us. And we have become just like the generations before us, civilization after civilization of idolaters. Lovers of self and lovers of money, pursuing pleasure and gratifying every desire of the flesh. We've become so self-sufficient, so obsessed with what we can set our eyes on, that we've forgotten that other place - the more - that which we can't see. What we have forgotten is God.
And so He pricks us - and maybe pinches us - just to say, "You know, I'm just as real as anything you can see with your fleshly eyes. Look harder."
That has always been our problem from generation to generation to generation. The problem of unbelief. Faithless men and women throughout all of history.
Don't you remember that the earth at one time became so wicked, so utterly evil, that God had to destroy it with water? We were in Arizona once and visited the Red Rocks of Sedona, and it was so interesting to look and see right there in all those layers of sediment one layer not so red, one layer not like any of the others. And the woman taking us on the tour tried explaining it, but Rick, always the voice of reason, looks at her and says, "Or maybe that layer of ocean like sediment could be the result of a global flood, just like the Bible says there was. It could be that."
She didn't have anything to say to that.
And if the Bible is true - and I believe it is, not only because the Holy Spirit of God within me confirms it but because it has proven itself true in countless ways not only in my life, but in yours - do we realize that there were only eight people who made it into that ark?
Eight, one man and his family. Today, Noah might be hard pressed to get his whole family on there. Eight people out of the entire ancient world were worth saving. That's pathetic.
But God did save those eight people and He tried again, and what was the name He gave to Moses when He began teaching the people how they should live?
"Then Moses said to God, 'If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me,'What is His name?' what shall I say to them?' God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' And He said, 'Say this to the people of Israel, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations." (Exodus 3:13-15)
I am THE LORD. I AM.
Because people ALWAYS forget that there's a God in Heaven who sees them.
And we become godless, or worse, we make gods of ourselves or other people or things. But God isn't like us. I'm always amazed by the story of how Satan came to be. This angel - Lucifer, beautiful, wise, all of that - wanting to become God.
But it really makes no sense because God is so different from anything else. Every one of us, humans, angels, demons, everything can point to a day when they were born or came to be. We all have a beginning.
He is from everlasting to everlasting. And He created everything else. Everything. Every leaf on every tree, every animal, every blade of grass, and every hair on every head. He created it all. No body, no thing, can boast of that.
God is incomparable. Nothing, no one comes close.
But when we remember that we are just dust and that we need God to help us, to deliver us, to redeem and shepherd us, to teach us and guide us, and bring us into His presence, He gives us of Himself and we become a part of who He is and what He's doing. That's when we look beyond ourselves - to God - who is holy and perfect and good.
Calamity can do that. It can make us remember. It can make us remember who we are and to whom we belong.
Calamity isn't a word we use that often. It's a Biblical word. Webster defines it as an event causing great harm or loss and affliction: disaster. I had a sneaking feeling that didn't quite get to the heart of it, so I looked it up in Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, which I like to do. I knew I was going to find something interesting, and I did.
Right off the bat I found that the Hebrew word for calamity is pronounced, "aid," as in Kool-Aid. And that's exactly what it's supposed to be, an aid to your spiritual growth. That Hebrew word "ade" comes from another root word that means firebrand or poker used for gathering or turning embers. Have you ever taken a fire poker and used it to punch at or stir the coals of a fire and watched the flames get bigger and bigger each time you touched the fire?
Calamity takes embers that are about to be snuffed out and makes sure they don't, and sometimes stirs up a flame that burns brighter and brighter.
And have you ever seen someone take a firebrand, put it in those coals and get it so hot that it glows red, and then touch it to the backside of a cow? That type of branding is meant to let you know who that cow belongs to. God does the same thing with us. It hurts, no doubt, but one who has been marked in this way knows to whom they belong.
The Bible tells us so specifically that suffering is a part of the Christian experience. But for some reason we just won't hear it. We don't want to think about it, no matter how true it is, or even how clear it has been made through scripture or in that other person's life. We just don't want to believe that God will use calamity and suffering to grow our own spirit or to fan into flame any bit of fire that we might have for the gospel. Maybe it's as simple as this: we're scared. We don't want to have to go through what it will take. But don't you trust Him with your soul? Don't you know that He's your Father who loves and strengthens you? Suffering and calamity are a part of the Christian experience for that very reason, so we don't forget our Heavenly Father and that our faith and trust in Him will not grow cold.
"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of you souls." (1 Peter 2:21-25)
Don't you forget it. Don't forget it, dear child of God. And "don't be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13)
"For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering." (Hebrews 2:10)
And if He is made perfect through suffering, then so are we.
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him." (Romans 8:16-17)
God wants us to be a part of Him. He wants to be able to call us children. That's why He allows calamity to strike, so we'll remember that He is THE LORD and we are not.
Because when we're in that moment, that moment of destruction, the moment where we see ourselves as who we really are - utterly helpless - nothing but dust - all we can say is GOD HELP ME. GOD HELP ME.
BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE CAN. And we know it.
When I looked at my baby lying there with no spirit of life left in him. I knew God alone could help me. That's the moment, people. That's where He wants us. Because that's when we know, "I can't fix this. I need something better, something greater than myself." Because we've all made gods of ourselves. But when we are looking at our lifeless baby, not just somebody, but somebody real special. Somebody we carried in our womb for nine months and nursed for eight months. With the other kids in school and Rick at work, Bronner was my life. And I loved my life with him. That's the moment of perfect humility when I knew that I wasn't God but I needed Him real badly. That's the moment when we know we need God, and that's the moment that we know that He is.
He not only is, but He is able.
And He is.... able.
But He's also greater in wisdom than any of us grasshoppers here below. And His ways and His purposes are so beyond searching out through human eyes. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, who is truth and comfort and power and peace, we can begin to see it.
We can see divine plans being played out before our eyes. A Divine Being too wise to give us everything we want here in this world because if He does, we will never reach high enough to touch the hem of His garment and be healed of our selfish, sinful ways.
We'll never reach high enough to even desire something greater - God - Heaven - life everlasting. Without calamity in our lives, would we be satisfied with this? Earth - where God only casts His shadow but doesn't truly live. Would it be enough? Death alone should be enough to make us want more. More life, more meaning, more purpose.
And we don't know when that moment is going to come.
It came to a small Baptist church in Texas a week ago Sunday.
Are you ready?
Jesus said, "You also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him." (Luke 12:40)
I can see so clearly now that God used Bronner to help me step up to a different place - not quite to Heaven - even though I grasp at it all the time. I reach out for just one touch of the hem of His garment.
I wanted Heaven at first because I wanted Bronner and I still want Him, but now I know that more than I need Bronner, I need God - who is from everlasting to everlasting. Not like anybody else.
He is better.
And my aim is to please Him in any and all things that I can.
But my feet aren't really on the earth either. My citizenship is in Heaven. My hope is in seeing the glory of God face to face. That's coming for me. I don't know when but I know it's coming, and I wait for it. But not idly.
I walk somewhere in between Heaven and earth crying out, "Sinner, dear sinner, come home."
There's another word for calamity in the Greek - epikaluma - which means covering or cloak, to conceal, cover, forgive.
A calamity isn't something you get through. It's utter disaster. That old part of you is gone and you're covered, marked, by something different. You wear it for the rest of your life, like a cloak, an outer garment, that conceals. So in this way calamity has to do with forgiveness and reminds us to die daily to ourselves and live unto God.
Way back in September of 2004, I prayed and fasted that God would set me on a course to crucify the sin in my life. A few days later I found out that I was pregnant with Bronner.
God has used that baby, that sweet precious baby, to refine me in the furnace of affliction so that I might shine for Him.
"You are the light of the world," Jesus said, "A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house." (Matthew 5:14-15)
What's it going to take to get you up in that place in between Heaven and earth, up in this place where God wants you, where you can touch both God and the evil in this world and be used to do something about it? What's your stepping stool? What will it take for you to cry out, "God help me." And then, as a cleansed sinner yourself, to begin crying out, "Sinner, dear sinner, come home."