Be Still And Know That I Am God

Today I need an extra measure of faith. Lord, will you grant that to me?

I need to trust your goodness and mercy. Abba, will you help me?

I need to remember that you do not treat me as my sins deserve. I haven’t earned your compassion. You have freely bestowed it on me. My God, will you reveal that to my heart?

Today I must put my confidence in the steady and constant strength of the Lord of Hosts. Father, will you carry me?

I desire the love and comfort that one feels only in the arms of a good shepherd. Jesus, embrace me.

God is my refuge and strength, a every-present help in trouble

Therefore I will not fear, through the earth give way

Though the mountains fall into the heart of the sea

Though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging

The Lord Almighty is with me; the God of Jacob is my fortress

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God”

(From Psalm 46)

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My Son is Autistic. There, I said it.

My son is autistic. There, I said it.

During the last few years, advocacy groups for the disabled have encouraged the use of “People-First Language”. This concept has become the new and “correct” way of identifying an individual with disabilities. This means that, in my case, it would be incorrect to refer to my son as being autistic. Instead, I would need to say that he has autism. While I do appreciate the effort to not define the person by the disability, I think this is a matter of semantics. And it’s ridiculous.

Think about it. If we were to separate the condition or characteristic from the person, in every instance:

Wrong would be: “I am overweight”. Right would be: “I have extra weight”

Wrong would be: “I am a musician”. Right would be: “I have musicianship” — yeah, that doesn’t even translate.

Wrong would be: “I am talented”. Right would be: “I have talent” — Fine, they both work, but the first one is not really “wrong”

Wrong would be: “I am an American”. Right would be: “I am from America”

So what is the point? Is it to make sure that the autistic individual is not defined by a label? I think the label stands even if we say that someone “has” autism. Being a diabetic and having diabetes are one and the same! Either way, the person is medically defined by the pancreatic decease. Whether the person is or has, he still needs to stay away from sweets, inject insulin, and wear a medical warning on the wrist.

My son has autism, therefore he is autistic. Does it define him? Well, yes. And no. Autism influences the way he perceives the world, the way he processes information, the way he communicates, the way he conducts himself. His extreme talents and equally extreme disabilities and obstacles are because of autism. So yes, autism -not the label- defines him. And yet, autism does not define him. He is my son, autistic or not, he is loved and cared for, autistic or not. He can know God, autistic or not. He has feelings and desires, autistic or not. He loves. He is precious and valuable. So whether he is autistic or has autism, his essence as a person will never change.

My humble opinion is that we should just stop being silly pretending that the use of our verbs will alter the perception of the person. The overweight person can lose the weight, but the autistic person will more than likely never lose his autism. It is what it is. Let’s drop the semantics, people. It’s all good.

Gabriel and Juan hanging out in DC

Gabriel and Juan hanging out in DC

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

Psalm 139:13-14

Suffering with Hope

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life”  – Proverbs 13:12

I suffer. You suffer. We suffer. Pain is a common ailment, affecting 100% of the world’s population. Sure, there are people who go through more anguish than others. Not all pain is equal in degree or in longevity. But at the end of the day, we can all say that we have either suffered or are continually suffering one way or another. So let’s change the saying to a new an improved version: Three things are certain, suffering, death, and taxes.

The question is not if we suffer, but how we suffer.

As I see it, there are two ways of enduring the hardships this world has to offer: With hope or without it.

Suffering with no hope feels like darkness. There is nothing to look forward to, nothing to make us get up in the morning, and nothing to motivate us to keep trying, breathing, moving forward. Suffering without a living, present hope, as the proverb says, makes the heart sick. A sick heart will see no light nor will it desire to live. A sick heart wants to succumb to the pain instead of fighting against it. It will desire to give up and will seek a way out. Suffering without hope is desperate.

Suffering with hope feels altogether different. The object of our hope strengthens our minds to do battle against our pain. We endure when we hope. We find strength when we hope. We can embrace our suffering and see the good in it, when we hope. In fact, we can even have joy in spite of the pain, when we hope. A cancer patient can endure radiation because she has hope it can heal her. The unemployed father gets up every morning and endures the hardship by applying to jobs because he hopes he will find one soon. A child suffers through relocation and changes of school when he hopes he will make new friends. Hope helps us to keep trying.

But the problem with hope is that it is not always real nor attainable. What happens when chemo doesn’t work and the cancer does not go away? Or the job search lasts not for a few weeks, but for a year? What if a student hopes to recover from his failing grades but can’t and loses his scholarship? We can hope for a new boyfriend, a better car, a marriage, a child, and that hope can help us through a season. But what if the object of our hope never materializes? What if fertility treatments don’t work? What if we are evicted from our home? What is our hope then? How can we endure then? Do we succumb and give up?

Yes, any kind of hope can help us in our suffering, even if for a little while. But there is only one kind of hope that will sustain us all the time and in all circumstances. There is only one hope that does not disappoint.  Even when there is no earthly hope that can possibly pick us up, there is an eternal, supernatural hope that will. A man named Job, written about in the Old Testament, lost everything: His children died, his processions were burned away, his wife left him, and then the icing on the cake, he got so sick that he was in constant pain and unable to care for himself. He fought hard against suffering. He said: “Though he (God) slay me, I will hope in him”.  He understood two things: 1. God allowed suffering in his life, and 2. He could trust God with his pain because God obviously understood why he would do such a thing to Job, even when Job could not understand it. Yes, the whole book of Job shows us a tremendous struggle of belief and unbelief. But in the end, we see that these words really reflected where Job put his trust. He obviously would never see his children again. Humanly speaking, there was no hope! Yet, he hoped. He hoped, not in a physical restoration or restitution, but in God himself.

Suffering may find us. But we can find hope, but deciding to trust God. He, himself, is our hope. It is not what he can give us or what he can do for us, that should give us hope, but who he is: his character, his presence, his comfort, his wisdom, his knowledge, and everything that makes him God and huge and good. We can put our trust in him so that He becomes our hope.

When we desire him more than what he can give us, we will then breathe life into our pain. “…. A desire fulfilled is a tree of life”. Yes! Let us make him the object of our desire:

  • By reading Scripture that reminds us of who he is and how much we need him
  • By talking to him, acknowledging his presence and power in our lives
  • By listening to him (spending time in silence, hearing God’s Word preached, talking with others who trust in him also)
  • By refusing to allow our emotions to win over our will to trust. Persevere and fight!

I have endured suffering with no hope, the dark kind. I have also suffered with great hope in Christ. I wish for myself, for my children, my family, and my friends, and even for you, dear reader, to never suffer in darkness.

“Why are you cast down, o my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” -Psalm 43:5

 

May I please have some water?

About three weeks ago I had oral surgery and consequently initiated a steady diet of pain killers and antibiotics (actually the antibiotics were needed because of an infection in my finger, but the point is I was on heavy meds.) A couple of weeks after the surgery I started developing a horrible case of dry mouth. Man, oh man, this has been very uncomfortable! What started as a nuisance has turned into a very painful situation, to the point of tears. I’m assuming this extreme dryness has been a side effect of the medication (took my blood sugar just in case, and thankfully, it’s not diabetes.) I’m drinking water by the gallons, chewing gum to hopefully stimulate my salivary glands, and every other trick I have found on the internet. And still no improvement.

I haven’t journaled (is that a word?) in a while, and today, as I turned on my laptop, I got to thinking that my blog’s title is “Like a Deer Panting for Water”. The deer reference, of course, is Biblical and it points to the need and desire for God. In the words of King David: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1-2) So here I am, thirsting in my physical body, and the thirst is so strong that it actually hurts and it keeps me from sleeping at night. There are times in the day when I can barely talk and I feel like I’m suffocating. And even though I am not at all happy with this condition which I hope is temporary, today I am thankful for it. God is not-so-gently-but-very-wisely explaining to me what thirsting for water really feels like, not only in the physical sense, but spiritual.

True, unsatisfied thirst is painful and strong enough to drive us to do anything to obtain hydration.

In the physical sense, thirst can only be satisfied temporarily. If we stop drinking water, we die. Plain and simple.

In the spiritual sense, there is one water that is living and able to satisfy not only temporarily, but eternally. Jesus said in John 4: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again (referring to earthly water) but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Spiritual thirst is very real, but we don’t always identify it as such. It is only when we find the source of living water that we can look back and realize that we have been given life-sustaining nourishment for our souls.

Even though spiritual water is eternally satisfying, in a sense, we won’t enjoy that complete delight until we are face to face with the Lord. For now, we have a need to continually seek, pant even, after the water only He can give us, in the daily fellowship of the Holy Spirit and the feeding of his Word.

In both senses of the word, I’m thirsting. I’m in desperate need to alleviate this non-quenching dryness in my mouth, and I’m in DESPERATE need of God’s continual flow of himself in my soul.

Unlike the deer panting for water who will not be satisfied with anything other than water, my soul often wanders after water-substitutes. Lord, may you fill me with a passion and a drive to seek after you as if my life depended on it (cus it actually does). Drive me to your word and to prayer. Help me to listen and grow.

Thankfully, I have experienced having spiritual thirst before. And I have been satisfied by God. So understanding my need and knowing where to find the answer for it is not an experiment nor is it a mystery. Thirsting after God has been and will continue to be my drive from the moment I came to faith the Jesus until the day I depart this earth to be with him. Everything I need is in him.

In the Cave I Find Mercy

For the director of music. To the tune of “Do Not Destroy.” Of David. A miktam.
When he had fled from Saul into the cave.
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
3 He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
7 My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
8 Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
(Psalm 57)

 

Lord, to be in a cave, as David found himself, with nothing but you. To be surrounded by danger and peril and pain and loneliness, but to have you. To know that in that cave, in that moment, you are fulfilling your purposes for my life, and that my life is really not about me at all, but about your will, and glory, and way. To be confident that I am not alone. You are my protective cover and in you I am completely safe. May your glory fill the earth and inundate my life! May I desire it and seek it! May I overflow with thanksgiving in the midst of suffering, knowing full well that you are good and your will is good. In the cave, may I find mercy, and sing loudly and joyfully.