Thursday, February 23, 2017


This Is Us is an American television  series created by Dan Fogleman that premiered on NBC on September 20, 2016. It has gained a huge fan base, including me.  The cast of characters is fascinating and multi-hued. They seem like people I either know or interact with every day, people I see in my office. The series follows siblings Kate, Kevin and Randall who share the same birthday, but not the same parents or race, as Randall was adopted after their natural sibling was stillborn. Their lives intertwine through current events, flashbacks, and not a few tears.

Actually,the tears just keep on coming. Because of some of those flashbacks, I know that Jack, the amazing father to these three, is going to die way too young. I adore this fictional man, and may have to take a bereavement day when that actually happens. :-(  This past week, William, Randall's biological father, died of cancer in his favorite city Memphis. He was on a meaningful road trip with his son, the baby he gave away only to meet again a few months before his death.  During the road trip, we saw flashbacks of William’s early life with his mother, Dorothy, his experiences in the band with his cousin Ricky, and his downward spiral into drugs with girlfriend Laurel. We witnessed the sadness and brokenness that so shaped his life. It was heart-wrenching, and all too real.

But we also saw something awesome. Randall's young life had many challenges as well, even though he was adopted into a loving home. He was undoubtably affected by his pre-birth trauma, and despite the love of his parents, they couldn't shield him from the pains and hurts of being an African-American in a white world. He had asthma, and this highly intelligent young man often went into spasms provoked by anxiety and fear. His loving adoptive father would take his face into his hands and with firm, gentle words affirm him as he looked into his eyes, and said, "Breathe, son, just breathe." The fear would vanish, and life and peace would seep back into Randall's soul.

When Randall's biological father was dying in the hospital, William was fearful and panicked. The incredible love of his adoptive father Jack, long gone at this time, enabled and empowered Randall to be to reach back into his past for just the skill and love his biological d
ad William needed at this moment. Through tears he placed his hand on the sides of his father's face, and said firmly and with anguished love, "Breathe, Dad--breathe. " William's panicked laboring ceased, he absorbed the love of his son pouring through Randall's tender hands and down his tear-stained cheeks.  He began to breathe peacefully and easily, and then he was gone.

Whew. Loving well is so important. It's the best we can ever give our children. When we patiently love in words and deed, letting them KNOW and feel to their core how valued they are, they get the only thing in life worth having besides Jesus--the ability to know and show love in the toughest moments.

I want THIS to be US.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Feeling Like Job? Maybe Not So Much...

Just finished reading the book of Job again. Fascinating dialogue between a man badly misunderstood by his self-righteous friends, and an intimate dialogue with God who knew him best. It's interesting how common culture misuses this story, though. Many people compare themselves with Job when they are suffering...but few of us could even aspire to that, myself included. NONE of Job's trials were brought on himself because of his own poor choices. NONE of his suffering was because he had sinned. In fact, according to Job 1, God himself said about Job, "There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”(v.8) HIS suffering was initiated because Satan believed the only reason Job was obedient and faithful was because he was enjoying God's favor and protection.

God knew Job, and he truly believed in him. He told Satan that he believed Job would stay steady no matter what, so Satan went after Job to prove God wrong. Job suffered far worse attacks than we can imagine---the loss of all of his children and their families in a single accident, the loss of all of his fortune, the loss of his health, the loss of his reputation, and the loss of the support of his wife. She told him to curse God and die. Not exactly the spousal support for which one would hope. When I look at the things I consider to be my worst trials, they are fairly puny compared to what he experienced in a single blow. And, truth be told, it is very, very easy for me to get whiny when I suffer. I have to work hard to not complain to the world. Job took his pain and complaints straight to God. He never blamed God, he never threatened to give up on his faith, In fact, he said, "Even if he kills me, I will always serve him." He said, "I know this--my Redeemer lives. And I know that even if this life ends, I will live with him forever." His strength married to complete humility is awe-inspiring.

WOW. When we say, "She has the patience of Job", we're probably very far off the mark (especially if you are talking about me!). When I say, "I feel like Job"---really? Is Satan actually attacking me because I am so pure and godly? Because my attitude of faith is so unshakeable? Am I able to take the heat and not fold? Can I go through hard times and not feel God is abusing me?

The really great news is that God is with me in my suffering, whether I brought it on myself or not. And he wants to help me get through it triumphantly, and then use it to help other people.

Paul updates the experience of suffering for us when he writes to his Corinthian friends about what he had been through:

"God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. 4He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
8We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety." II Corinthians 2

If you are suffering today, know that God wants to be with you. Don't blame him. Learn the lessons of your pain and then share them and comfort others.

And then look forward to God's new work when it's all over. Job 42 records Job saying he only THOUGHT he knew God before. He said, "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have actually seen you." Suffering can be worth it if it takes us there.

God did more than that, too! He restored Job's fortunes, gave him twice as much as he had before, and he had 7 more sons and 3 daughters--"no where in the land were there found women as beautiful as Job's daughters (v15)....The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part." (v.12)

Of course, he still had the same wife. Sigh. Maybe she changed, too.