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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Holiest of Holies

Romans 8: 18, 24-27

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us

It was 10 ft long and 4 ft wide closet, and besides the usual stuff in a closet there was a small kneeling stool that our good friend Lisa gave us, on it was the word, “Believe” written on it. In the midst of Andrea’s battle this small closet became our sanctuary or the “Holiest of Hollies” as Andrea called it.

Matthew 27:50-51

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

It was here we would spend our sleepless nights when life was difficult to understand, and there were plenty of those. I would awake in the night many times and see the closet light on and I knew Andrea was hurting physically, or the next day she would tell me, “I had to go into the Holiest of Hollies last night.” We had some amazing “meetings” with God in that small closet. Sometimes we went there with a specific prayer request but most times I would awake in the night or early morning and just feel God nudging me, “Get up, we need to talk.” It was always a great time of prayer, and listening. And even though God never healed Andrea in this lifetime, He gave us amazing comfort and peace and it was in that closet that we found our strength to endure a weight far beyond our ability. I would try to describe the despair we felt on many nights in that closet, but all I can say is it was overwhelming. Cancer was relentless in its attacks and the waiting, the hoping, the praying, the tests, the pain, the sickness, the vomiting, the aching, the wheezing, the gasping for air, the moaning, all weight on you and you find yourself being crushed by it all. But we had our closet, our shelter from the storm, a place where cancer seemed marginalized and puny in a way. In the closet, God was the focus, and we didn’t go for answers, but assurance. We went because we were helpless, because there were no answers, no easy fixes. I know how it is to be in a hopeless situation and want so bad to wake up and it all be a bad dream, but that is not life, sometimes God is asking us to walk the difficult road and as much as we ask for and seek relief there is none. It was in our closet that we found a strength we did not possess. Although the physical reality never changed when we left the closet worry never came out with us. Cancer was our cross to bear, really Andrea’s, and it became our act of worship. In that closet cancer lost it power over us. It could threaten us, but it was nothing more than a bully and its only power was the fear we gave it. On our knees cancer became an instrument that God was using for His purpose, we just offered ourselves to God. Every story we heard from those who Andrea impacted became our joy, and our confirmation of God’s power and plan. To see life and death from God’s perspective was Andrea’s gift and that is what she learned in that closet as she met with her savior.

Last night Ginger and I took the Boston and Greyson to a Third Day concert. It was great, but as I sat there I just kept saying please don’t sing, “Cry out to Jesus.” Andrea and I listened to that song all the time and it was in our closet that Andrea and I cried out to Jesus. I also knew Ginger had listened to that song many times after losing Troy and if you listen to it you will know why this song touched us both:

To everyone who’s lost someone they love
Long before it was their time
You feel like the days you had were not enough
when you said goodbye

When your lonelyAnd it feels like the whole world is falling on you
You just reach out, you just cry out to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
To the widow who suffers from being alone
Wiping the tears from her eyes
For the children around the world without a home
Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness Mercy and healing
He’ll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

It turns out they did sing that song and Ginger and I held each other, her tears hitting my face as we remembered times of great pain and need in our life. Afterwards I thought the title of that song expresses best what occurred on the closet. Sometimes you don’t know how to pray, sometimes the words elude you, and all you can do is cry out to Him.

Romans 8:24-27

For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

It was during those long nights that I experienced the most amazing times with God. We went into the closet because I was at the end of my rope, I was tired and Andrea was tired. We had very little relief and our prayers seemed unanswered. Andrea’s tests results countered our requests for healing. But in all of that, what many would see has the worst times, when Andrea just could not seem to get better, and her tumor markers or CT scans at best showed a slowing of the cancer; it was in our little closet we found “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding.” Sometimes I felt His words; sometimes He was frustratingly silent, but even in His silence I found comfort and strength.

Recently I have found a new favorite song it is from Mercy Me's latest album, "All that is within me." It has a video version of a song called "Bring the rain," (A song that takes faith to just sing along with) at the end they sing a verse from an old hymn that I love and expresses my experiences in the closet. When we learn that sometimes God does take away our problems , He changes our viewpoint

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look on His wonderful face, and the things of this life will grow strangely dim in the light of His wonderful grace."

It the simplest terms that is what happened in our closet. And in a strange way I miss the closet, I miss the closeness of God that the intensity of cancer brought. It was utter despair that stripped away everything of this world and left us with nothing but our need for our God. It was simplistic and beautiful and I’m sad that I needed tragedy to bring me to that point in my faith.

Matthew 6: 25-34

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink;
or about your body, what you will wear.
Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not much more valuable than they?
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow.
They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you,
O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

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