Sunday, October 2, 2011

When you can't fix a loved one's pain...

     Years ago my brother, who is one of the best persons I've ever known and a true Christ-follower, was going through a hard time. A really hard time.  One night he called me to tell me what was going on and I instantly went into panic mode. After we hung up, I just paced the floor, praying for him and hoping he would decide to come stay with us for a while.  After all these years, I still remember vividly the helpless feeling that I had after we talked on the phone.  But he didn't come over that night and gradually, through that long night, it dawned on me that there was nothing I could do except pray. But I was really almost too agitated to pray and  somehow, the few prayers I did manage to get out simply didn't feel like enough. In fact, my frantic prayers only added to my anxiety if you want to know the truth. I don't know if you've ever been there and can relate. But that's really where I was.
    Sometime in  that long night  I got the idea of writing down some promise verses that I thought might help my brother through the tough days that lay ahead.  I didn't realize it, but this would turn into  a huge project for me. As the days (and then weeks)  went on, I began to hunt  up appropriate verses from different translations, choosing the translation I liked best. And then, at some point,  I decided to add to the project:  I decided that I would  find an appropriate quote or passage to couple with each verse. So that sent me on a search through hymnals, books by pastors, Christian biographies, workbooks, even taped sermons and Christian calendars, trying to find just the right quote to go with each Scripture.
   I don't know if the verses and quotes, when they were finally done, copied onto cards and such, ever helped my brother or anyone else but they helped me. Tremendously.  As I looked up Scripture, copied the verses down, thought about the various meanings and looked for quotes to put with them, panic gave way to peace. It was amazing!
   For years I carried the verses with me but then, over time, I decided that some of the quotes I used were dorky.  Some of the verses didn't seem like such good selections after all - like, why did I choose that verse?  From Nahum? Really?  A few of the quotes sounded idiotic if you didn't have the rest of the poem, sermon, hymn etc to give it a frame of reference. So I filed my original typed copy away and forgot about it.
  Today, years later,  I thought about them and finally, after hunting for a bit,  found my last copy of the verses, still on whole sheets of card stock paper, laminated but never cut into individual cards.  I felt a little hesitant as I started reading them, thinking it  might be a little embarrassing to re-read what I, in my stress,  had selected over 15 years ago.  I figured that a lot of the  verse selections would be non-sequitars and many of the  quotes would sound lame in light of all the wonderful new Christian books that have come out since I did the cards.. Basically I expected the cards to be like spiritual dinosaurs at best and perhaps a record of my immaturity at worst.
   As I read over them, there were some quotes that didn't mean much to me anymore  and  there were also a few verses that I would  drop, substituting other passages that have taken on more meaning for me over the years.  But overall, as I re-visited these verses/quotes  and then cut them up into individual cards, I felt profound peace, a renewed desire to carry them with me and to meditate on them.
  Many cards evoked memories of  hard times for myself  or my loved ones, times when we couldn't see what lay around the next corner, times when things seemed so uncertain.  Divorce, cancer, job turmoil, financial straits...  Those cards went with me through it all.

The first one pretty much said it all as far as my frame of mind went on that desperate night so  many years ago:
 Matt. 19:26 - Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible but with God, all things are possible."  The quote on the back? "Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?  Got any mountains you can't tunnel through?  God specializes in things thought impossible.  He does the things others cannot do."   
  The quotes themselves say that I  was obviously freaked at the time, envisioning all kinds of dire situations and wanting, needing, actually begging  God to do the impossible. He didn't do things exactly the way  I wanted but He did everything well and He definitely carried us through.   Now, those desperate concerns are a dim memory while  what He did stands out like a beacon in the night, giving me hope for tomorrow.
   Americans love projects and at this time of year, many of us start thinking about Christmas, what we can make, what we can do, what we can buy.  Tomorrow  I turn 57 years-old.  Over the years, I've done cross-stitch, tee-shirt art (not well, but I did it...), creative writing, decorated blessing jars, Christmas bread wreaths, etc.. And all of that is good.  There's nothing wrong with any of it.  But none of those projects come close to the Scripture cards that I started in desperation one night so long ago. If you are looking for a project, I don't think you can beat it. If you are artistic, there's no end to how you can decorate or personalize the cards.
  Most important of all: if you are stressing over a situation you absolutely cannot control, I would really urge you to get out your computer and go for it. Even if  in your pain, the specific cards that you work up speak only to you and to no one else, I think you will be amazed at the peace and joy the effort will bring to you. Both now and later.


  1. This is WONDERFUL! Thank you so much for sharing it. May I share it with my daughter? She would just LOVE it and might even want to do something along these lines with her 9th grade girls small group!

    You are blessed with such a gift for writing!

  2. Feel free to share anything you see here. I don't think I've ever had an original thought so someone probably planted the idea in my mind years ago and I just don't know who..:)and thanks for the compliment!