Archive for the ‘Thinking Theologically’ Category

roller-coasterNeedless to say, this journey has been full of emotion.  Many times we have felt like we are on a roller coaster – at times in fear, hanging on with white knuckles and other times exuberant with joy.  There have been many tears shed and many smiles shared.  We definitely have experienced what Jesus meant in John 10:10 when He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  I’ve always described this verse as life being a roller coaster and then life with Jesus the roller coaster is simply more exciting – lower lows, but also higher highs.  

Being wired and designed in God’s image means that we share attributes that God perfectly possesses.  Of course, ours have been marred by the fall, but we are given glimpses into the emotions of God throughout Scripture and especially through glimpses of Jesus life in the New Testament.  We are created beings and we are created to feel.  Ecclesiastes 3:4 reminds us that there are seasons or times for our emotions… “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

kulaquaI had the opportunity to step away (thanks to Brooke and my parents holding down the fort) and preach to 500 middle schoolers this past week at our middle school camp.  I shared the Epic Story of God – the narrative that He is writing and how He invites us into His Story.  Well, one morning I shared on the topic: every scar tells a story.  That in God’s amazing Story, He uses hurt and pain in our lives to accomplish His purposes in our lives and to have a story that reflects His Story.

Despite being a bit hesitant, I did share about our journey and more specifically about Cole’s story.  I shared about our trust in God’s goodness despite our emotions that tried to convince us otherwise.  I shared about the pain of feeling helpless as a parent in a situation like this.  And I shared how we believe that God is weaving Cole’s story into the larger Story He is telling and how we pray his story points other people to Jesus’ Story.  And by God’s grace I managed to keep it mostly together in the process of sharing.  And then lost it when I sat down.

That was Wednesday and Thursday was yet another emotional day.  It was x-ray day as I wrote about here.  There were high hopes and great joy as we waited for what we hoped would be good news.  And praise God it is good news.  We are overwhelmed with excitement and happiness to know the cast is coming off and we will begin our next phase in this journey.

I’m certain we will reflect back on this time and experience even more emotion.  Our hearts have been opened up to feel at new depths and while at times difficult, we are grateful.  It is most certainly has been a roller coaster… but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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ImageI guess this idea of road has been on my mind throughout this journey.  In some ways it makes a lot of sense to look at our journey in this life as a road.  But it also seems a bit to simplistic to look a life as a road because there is so much more to life than simply getting from point A to point B.  Now make no mistake… point B – our final destination is of utmost importance.  In fact, it’s been well said that if you don’t know where you are going, then you will most certainly not get there.  But what if life isn’t meant merely to be a road?

Our faith has really shaped out this journey we are on with Cole and as a family.  So it seems more appropriate that we would look at this journey as more of a story than a road.  We all love stories – especially good ones.  And really there is only one story that has been and is continuing to be written and that is God’s Story.  God’s Story is one of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.  A story of God’s amazing love for His creation and His relentless pursuit of their hearts.  We are all a part of that story and that story is a part of all of our stories.  John Eldredge says, “The true story of every person in this world is not the story you see, the external story. The true story of each person is the journey of his or her heart.”

God is writing Cole’s story.  And he’s writing a story of restoration and redemption.  But far more than his story of physical restoration and redemption – the more important story is the journey of His heart.  I sit here in the waiting room (waiting, yet again) to see my son – he’s out of surgery and in the recovery room.  And yet I can’t help thinking about his road story to recovery.  I can’t imagine how God is going to use this medical part of his story to tell the grander narrative of God’s Story.  I long for the day I will get to hear him share his story of God’s love and physical healing.  But I also long for the day when He realizes his story is rooted in God’s Story.  A story of God’s love and pursuit of his heart – a story of His grace and mercy – a story of His power and grand purpose.  And how exciting it will be to see those stories intertwine.  God speed that day.

WaitingWaiting is hard… especially for me.  I think my life really has had only one speed and it doesn’t seem that waiting fits well into that speed.  I mean, I have trouble at doctor’s offices, red lights and even my mac pinwheeling.  Waiting often feels purposeless.  I’ve got better things to do than wait.

I have honestly tried to evaluate this problem… even though I have trouble reconciling it as a problem.  Surely there are better things to do wait… but what if waiting is the better thing?

Waiting often requires me to deal with my thoughts, my inner self and soul.  Waiting makes me stop and actually slow down enough to notice people and things around me.  Waiting also allows me to hear that “still small voice” that gets so easily drown out at a full-throttle, noisy pace of life.  “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10).  I’ve often tried to rewrite that verse.  Why can’t I know that He is God full speed ahead?  Is there something that is only available to us in the waiting?

Isaiah 40:31 has always been a favorite verse of mine, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”  I think I have always loved the promises of this verse.  Who doesn’t want to fly like an eagle or run with such endurance beyond a marathon or even an ultra and not get tired?  But how are we able to claim those promises?  Only by waiting on the Lord.

It’s only through the waiting that our strength is renewed.  It’s only in the waiting that our relationship with Him is given new life and strength.  Dependency on the Holy Spirit and walking in His power is best discovered in the waiting.  There is purpose in the waiting.  A purpose that can only be found in the waiting.

So today we find ourselves waiting.  We’ve gone from waiting in a pre-surgical waiting room to having to take the longest and hardest walk any parent can take.  It’s the walk down the hallway towards doors that are restricted for parents.  It’s the walk that at one point requires me to let go of the little hand that is clinging so tightly to mine.  And at the end of that walking… more waiting.

The waiting room is filled with others waiting.  But this waiting room is also filled with a presence – the presence of God who so graciously and lovingly is inviting me into waiting.  To listen through the surrounding noise and hear His still small voice.  To enter into rest where my strength can be renewed… and yes, I am tired.  An invitation into waiting is an invitation into His strong, sustaining arms.  It’s where I need to be and it’s where I am.  Thank you Jesus for the waiting.  Help me learn to be a better ‘waiter.’

“More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of” – Tennyson

That quote often finds itself stuck somewhere between my head and my heart.  Intellectually and theologically I know it to be true.  And in some of the lowest valleys and highest mountaintop moments in my life my heart has found it to be true.  And here we as a family find ourselves at a crossroads between our heads and our hearts.

I mean, how do you exactly pray for the healing of your son?  How do we reconcile God’s perfect plan for him with our parental desires for him and his future?

We know our God to be a God of healing.  And we know our God to be a God of purpose.  And we are okay with how He decides both of those should line up in the life of our little guy, Cole.  But we also know that this God of healing and purpose has not only given us access to Himself through Jesus but also encourages us in that access known as prayer.  So we’ve decided to pray boldly as Hebrews 4:16 challenges us to, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”  And then Matthew 7:7, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

We have been praying for a miraculous healing because we believe in a God who still heals miraculously.  The pattern has continued most nights… pray with Cole, together at bedtime and then wait until he falls asleep and kneeling by his bed, with my hand on his hip, cry out to God for healing.  These have been tender moments where the Spirit of God communicates to the heart of God our requests.  And in return we truly have been offered His presence and a peace that does pass all understanding.

Even though our understanding is quite limited, we still have peace.  We don’t see what God sees in regards to Cole’s life and future.  But we do know what God knows – He will be glorified in this situation.  So ultimately that’s what we desire beyond all else.  No matter how God chooses to heal, we want His name to be made great.  We want His Story to be made known through our son’s story.

If you would be willing to stand with us in prayer… here are some specific requests:

  • Please pray for wisdom and skill for Dr. Killian and the team taking care of Cole.  We are praying for the lesser of the two surgical options if at all possible.
  • Pray for minimal pain, minimal affects of anesthesia, rest, and plenty of sleep for Cole (he cries out at night right now and hasn’t been sleeping well)
  • Pray for us as we care for Cole and manage the rest of the family’s needs. Pray especially for Brooke caring for our baby, Trent and caring for the majority of Cole’s needs.
  • Pray for extended family helping with Cole and other siblings needs, pray for Brock and Jake as they process what their brother is going through and how is family is different right now.
  • Pray for Todd’s summer ministry commitments and wisdom to delegate.
  • Pray for Cole’s understanding and a spirit of peace both before and during the procedure, but also how he copes with not having mobility for so long.
  • Pray God’s mercy and healing power over Cole that the surgery will allow complete healing of Cole’s femur bone and hip and that he has no long term affects from Perthes disease.  Pray that it doesn’t affect his other hip down the road.
  • Pray the Lord will guide our decisions and keep up tightly knit as a couple and a family during this time.

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. (Isaiah 58:8)

Thank you – each and every one – for standing with us in prayer and for all the encouraging words!

PS – If you are local to Tallahassee, we’d love to have you join us in a service for prayer and healing tonight (June 17) at 7p in the Student Center at Wildwood Church.  

WImagee all want a journey that is safe and predictable.  A road that seems well travelled and easy to navigate.  No sheer cliffs or harrowing turns.  Sounds like Interstate 10 here in Florida, yet it is one of the most boring roads to travel.  The great missionary, David Livingstone said…

“If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.” 

That sounds like a dangerous calling.  A calling to a road that can’t be tamed or managed alone.  A calling to journey on a road that doesn’t even exist.  But in journeying on that road we are called to walk by faith and not by sight.  To place our lives into the hands of the one who holds all of life.

It’s hard to describe where we are on this road or what our road looks like.  At times we feel that we can see clearly and at other times like we are traveling in a thick fog praying we aren’t near the edge of the cliff.  

Our current curve in the road was discovered about four months ago – right around the time we welcomed our fourth son, Trent Isaac into the world.  Still jubilantly celebrating new life, in a matter a few days, the celebration turned to fear.  Our third son, Cole Imagehad been complaining of leg pain but nothing could be discovered.  Then after an injury and a more specific location (his right leg) we went in for x-rays.  You know things are serious when you get a phone call from the pediatrician the next morning.  “I’m not a specialist” he began, “but I believe I’m seeing what is called Legg Calve Perthes Disease.”  A rare and incurable childhood disease affecting only a handful of kids out of a hundred thousand.  “You’ll want to see a specialist”, he added.  

The “specialist” we first sought out was a standard go-to… the internet.  There began our journey into information.  In short, Perthes is a disease that cuts off blood flow to the femoral head (a form of avascular necrosis) resulting in the bone shrinking as it dies in the hip joint.  It is unknown what causes this and to date there is no cure.  

Armed with limited knowledge, we learned there are no pediatric orthopedic specialists in Tallahassee (only a doctor that travels over from Pensacola twice a month).  We locate a specialist in Jacksonville and later one in Birmingham, Alabama.  We would come to find out the severity of Cole’s condition through the second specialist – labeling it as one of the worst he has seen in a child so young.  He also offered a very different approach toward the disease that would lead us to a third opinion from the specialists at Boston Children’s Hospital (where the disease was discovered nearly 100 years ago).  

We were told we have a limited window of time in which to act.  We will move forward with a surgery that is fairly extensive and invasive with no guarantee of any change in outcome as the disease runs its course.  But we are at peace that this is the right decision and so Cole will undergo surgery in Birmingham this week.  The recovery will potentially be long and hard.  An immobilization device (petrie cast) will be required for at least three weeks.

We’re on a curve… and to be honest, we aren’t sure how many curves there will be ahead.  I’m not sure anything grows and stretches your faith and trust in God as much as the health and future of your children.  We stand in a place where we are totally out of control, but we stand firmly knowing the God who is in control.  We pray… and we pray hard.  And we pray to a God who not only hears us but has the power to respond accordingly.  Thank you for standing with us in this journey.  God is good… all the time and at all points in this road of life – especially the curves.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Colossians 1:19-23

The cross.  We see and recognize its power even printed as words on a page.  An instrument of death that mysterious contains beauty and life.   But how?  How can such a tortuous means of death bring life?  In asking this question, we are really asking, “How can God transform evil, rebellious people like you and I, and make us acceptable in His sight?”  The cross.

You see, God reconciled sinners to Himself through the blood of the cross, as we read in the first chapter of Colossians.  And as Isaiah prophesied, there could be no other way for this reconciliation to take place other than in the cross of Christ.  And this happened for us, when we couldn’t have been farther from God.  We stood as His enemies – spiritually dead – and then we murdered His one and only Son.

Yet amazingly, in a mystery beyond our comprehension, that is how God made peace for us and with us.  The cross.  We can draw near to God, or as the author of Hebrews says, boldly approach the throne, because of the very act that pushed us the farthest away from Him.

And so today we rejoice, because God did not just save us from our sin, but He saved us with our sin.  And he did not just save us with our sin, but with our worst sin.   At the cross.

The worst sin imaginable – crucifying Jesus Christ – is actually what makes our sanctification possible.  In the greatest of mysteries, we realize that we are actually saved by the very thing we need salvation from.  The cross.

This is what makes the mystery of Good Friday a sorrowful, yet blessed day.  A day that a vile act was committed, yet we call the day good.  A day of darkness yet filled with inexplicable light and hope.  What an amazing God we serve that can work even the hatred of those who love Him for our good!  It’s the mystery of the cross.

Awesome God in Heaven, I thank you for the cross.  I can’t imagine the sacrifice you made in sending your only Son, Jesus, to the cross to die in my place.  Without the cross I am nothing, and yet with it, I have gained everything.  Thank you for saving me from our sin and crediting Christ’s righteousness to me – that I can now be known as son of the King.  Amen.

da-da’s lap

Posted: February 29, 2012 in Thinking Theologically

I heard the click of the door and it’s subsequent closing only to look up and see my little toe-headed boy, blanket in tow, heading my way.  At first all I could see was a silhouette.  There was just enough light coming in through the doors from the neighbors security light to break through the darkness of the living room.  But that didn’t matter much… he knew where to find me.  I’m in the same place every morning.  So as his eyes began to adjust to the darkness of the room he started his walk over to me.

He only uttered one word… “da-da”.  That was all he needed to.  The relationship is already well established… he just wanted me to know that he was coming into my presence.  I didn’t need to say anything at all.  Just welcome him into my lap and wrap the blanket and my arms around him and continue on in prayer.

Mornings come early here in the Veleber household.  So for me to have some true “quiet” and time alone with God at the dawn of each new day, that means it has to happen before dawn!  Today was an earlier than usual start for my little guy, but what a powerful picture it brought to my prayer time. 

Here I am “da-da”.  I’m just letting you know I’m here by saying your name.  I know you’ve been waiting here for me.  In fact,  you’re always here when I need you.  I enjoy sitting in your lap.  Being embraced by your loving arms.  I don’t feel the need to say much, as I know our relationship is secure.  I find great rest in your arms and peace fills my heart when I’m here.  This is a great way to start my day.  Thanks for your love and care for me.  Thanks for singing over me and delighting in me.  It’s gonna be a good day.  We’ll keep talking throughout the day, but you know I’ll be coming back to this same spot – even though I’m not sure what exact time it will be – but look for me, because I’ll be coming.  I love you “da-da.”

My little Cole obviously couldn’t articulate the encounter we had this morning with these words, but he did with his actions.  And the imagery was profound and came rushing into my mind, painting a beautiful picture with exquisite detail… my relationship with my Heavenly Father.  What a very similar morning routine I share with my son and I hadn’t really realized it. 

The Psalmist David has taught me much in regards to a passionate longing for God and His Word and an understanding of what it means to practice the presence of God.  He writes in Psalm 63:1, “O God, you are my God. At dawn I search for you. My soul thirsts for you. My body longs for you in a dry, parched land where there is no water.”
 
That same sentiment is expressed in the chorus of the song “Forever Reign” that we often sing in our student ministry.

Oh, I’m running to Your arms,
I’m running to Your arms
The riches of Your love
Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

I look forward to the “da-da” moments I have with all of my boys.  The relationship and connection grows each and every time.  And I’m learning the same is true spiritually.  I desire to have the same longing for my “papa, Abba Father” and to run to His arms as my boys do with me.  There perfect love is found.  There my soul is restored and my energy is renewed.

He’s always there.  Just waiting for us to say “da-da” and we’ll find His arms open wide to receive us.