Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Seeing Jesus in the Power of Prayer

Kids 1st hospital visit - Mon, Jan 9th
SPECIAL REQUEST: I haven't done this in a while, but I'm asking you to read through this entire post and am humbly asking you to consider doing something very specific for us if the Lord so moves your heart. Thanks. 
One of the most amazing things we have seen in our battle with cancer is the way God works through and answers prayer to accomplish His sovereign will. I have never been a bigger believer in the power of prayer than I am now. Let me share with you one example of what I mean.

When I took Kim to the ER late Friday evening on January 6th it was near midnight and the kids were already in bed and she ended up staying in the hospital for 11 nights straight. The kids were a bit traumatized when they awoke on Saturday morning realizing that mom had disappeared in the middle of the night and they were very eager to see her again but I kept having to break my promises to them and repeatedly pushed off their planned hospital visits because things kept going from bad to worse. Well, the kids finally got to see mom the following Monday night and I wrote a post on January 13th about an amazing way God spoke to us through His Word (an excerpt from that post is pasted below but you can see the full post HERE).
On Tuesday night (Jan 12th), I was reading our Children's Bible with the kids before putting them to bed. We've been reading through it in order and we just happened to be on the story of Lazarus. It was perfect because the kids had just seen mommy the night before and they wanted mommy home and wanted God to heal her now. But if you remember the story, Jesus kind of drags his feet and waits 4 days after Lazarus dies before he finally arrives in town even though he was earnestly beckoned by Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha. It was a perfect word for them - we talked about how God may come later than we may like, but He always comes on time. Well, the very next morning, a friend shot Kim and me this email:

" This verse has been coming to my mind as I have been praying and I wanted to share it with you. John 11:40 "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" We will continue to pray for a miracle and that the Lord will be your strength so that your faith will not fail!"

This verse comes straight from the exact same story I read with the kids the night before - Jesus and Lazarus in John 11. I felt a great peace at that moment that even if our healing may come later than we may like, I know it will come in His perfect time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Seeing Jesus in Memorial Day

For many of us Memorial Day is special because it marks the official kickoff to the summer season. The days are longer, the temps get hotter and to the joyful relief of many teachers, the school year finally winds to a close. Well, I'm ashamed to admit that this is primarily all its meant for me, but this year it's a bit different. A few weeks ago, I attended a conference in Washington DC and during one of the breaks I got a chance to jog around the National Mall. When I got to the Korean War Memorial I was so moved at what I saw.

It seems like the two major wars before and after this one receives more notoriety - one was very unpopular and the other involved the entire world with a clear enemy but the Korean War often seems to get lost in the shuffle. But the fact is many Americans died to secure freedom for me and my family in this often forgotten war - soldiers we "never knew" and "never met" and who had no vested interest in sacrificing their very lives and yet who were faithful in answering the call - even unto death. They will always hold a special place in my heart and they deserve to be honored.

God was big on memorials and memorial days. All throughout the Old Testament there are specific instructions for special feast days (Exodus 12:14), stone edifices (Joshua 4:1) and memorial offerings (Psalm 38:1) all instituted by God so that the people might remember what the Lord had done. This wasn't for Him as much as it was for us. He knows how prone we are to forget.

And when Jesus arrives centuries later, immediately before he offers up his own life he institutes his own "memorial" of sorts. Something the Church regularly practices today:
"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." -Luke 22:19
In the same way that Memorial Day is a national holiday set aside to remember and honor those that have sacrificed their lives for the freedom we enjoy in this great country, the communion is an ordinance that we practice to remember and honor the One who sacrificed his life for the freedom that we enjoy from sin and death. But communion isn't just about looking back - it's also about looking forward.
"I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." -Matthew 26:29
Communion also looks squarely to the future and the promise is that the next time Jesus drinks from the cup it will be with us in His Father's kingdom. What a glorious day that will be. Godspeed the day.

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Seeing Jesus in Great Loss

Please continue to pray for our friends Andrew & Connor. They both received their bone marrow transplants last week (thank you Jesus!) and now enter the crucial period to see how the body responds to it. Complications usually appear from Day 8-20 which is basically now until the end of the month. Right now, both boys have absolutely no immune system, as the old bone marrow is gone and the new marrow is preparing to kick in.
 I felt this post was needed because I've been getting some conflicted feedback from some who have lost loved ones to cancer or other horrible circumstances. I feel for them. And as far as I can tell these people were otherwise godly and faithful people and yet for some reason God chose not to heal them despite their many prayers. God has done a miracle in our lives but I don't want to give the impression that He did this because we were somehow more holy or more deserving. To be honest, I really don't know why God chose to heal my wife - at least for this season. But that is not going to keep me from glorifying Him or cause me to apologize for celebrating this gracious gift. The week after we got news of Kim's full remission, I attended funerals for two different people who died of cancer and I had to ask myself why did God hear our prayers for healing and not theirs? I don't have an answer, but I do know this...

God is always working for the good of those who love Him. ALWAYS. (Rom 8:28) We simply have to take this truth by faith. We have such a myopic view of what He is doing that we're really in no position to judge God's actions as "good" or "bad" by our finite knowledge or broken standards. We are only called to trust Him. I'm sure by our standards the murder of an innocent person in a horrific manner is about as "bad" as "bad" gets. But this is what happened at the cross and by God's standards He transformed what we thought to be "bad" into our greatest "good" - just as He promised.

I also know that no one understands pain, loss and suffering more than God Himself. The young boy named Logan in this video understood this very well.

So instead of becoming bitter at God for the pain and loss we are bearing, I hope that instead we can just run to Him. Run into the arms of the only one who truly understands. As Logan says, "He will always understand". 

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. -Psalm 34:18

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim

Monday, May 21, 2012

Kim's Cancer-Kicking SURPRISE Party

So last Saturday night we did it! We surprised Kim with a special party at Harvest Bible Chapel (Rolling Meadows) which included about 200 close friends and family and it was PERFECT. I thought she was on to me because I'm a horrible liar and left some inadvertent clues the last few weeks, but it turns out she had NO idea. Here is the video of her surprise entrance:
So a few weeks after we found out about our remission, I wanted to do something special for everyone (at least locally) that had been kind enough to serve us by feeding us, caring for us, sharing their own stories and verses from their respective trials with us, and faithfully praying for us in the midst of the greatest trial of our lives. What better way to do this than throw a big party? But most of all, I wanted the night to be about thanking the Lord, who ultimately healed my wife and who gave us life and gave His life - making all this possible. Thank you Jesus! I also sang a very special song that night after dinner, that I thought I'd share with you.
That wasn't it though. We got to see the Lord's faithfulness (and some funny moments) by walking through a slideshow history of Kim's life and we also got to hear some powerful testimonies from others about how God had used our cancer trial to move in their hearts and allowed them to "see more of Jesus". We ended everything with a video chronicling our journey (see below) and a great time of worship. A special thanks to everyone involved and all glory to God!

I'll try to get more video up on the blog soon - especially of the testimonies. There are so many of you out there that we wish could have joined us, and so these clips are my best attempt at doing that. We love you and thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him. Sing praise to Him. Tell of all His wondrous works." -Psalm 105:1-2

Friday, May 18, 2012

Beauty & the Beast: Chopping the Tree (Chapter 12)

If you're joining in late - see previous chapters HERE.) There's an old Korean proverb that says: "If you chop at a tree long enough...eventually it will fall down." Mind you, I had been chopping so long my ax had whittled down to a chopstick. (FYI - I'm pretty sure this is how the word "chopstick" originated) but I was not going to let a little summer retreat gone bad deter me. If Lloyd Christmas was not going to let "one out of a million" odds discourage him, I would not let it discourage me either. Besides, I had been ignored once, what's the big deal in getting ignored twice? I guess it just makes me an "ignoramus". (Wait...did I use that word right? Or did I just confirm I am one?)

Anyways, unfazed I resumed calling Kim about once a week or so from the summer of 1998 until the rest of the year. Although I gave Kim the impression that I was fine with "just being friends", I would be lying if I didn't say that deep down inside, I was holding on to the "one in a million chance" and secretly praying that we could eventually be something more. That said, maintaining long-distance relationships are hard. But maintaining a long-distance friendship in which the female clearly doesn't want to go beyond friendship is darn-near impossible. It's like trying to push a wet noodle.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Seeing Jesus in Kicking Ass*

This post is dedicated to our friends Andrew (age 17) and Connor (age 7). I know many of you have been praying for them as you have been praying for us. As of two months ago neither Connor or Andrew had a bone marrow match and both were desperately searching for one (Connor for over five years!). Kim and I just got back from visiting Children's Memorial Hospital and it's hard to believe that both Andrew and Connor are on the same floor awaiting to get their bone marrow transplants within 24 hours of each other (Andrew tomorrow at noon and Connor on Thurs ~8am). Is God AMAZING or what? PLEASE pray for them! The transplant itself is usually not a big deal but the weeks that follow are crucial. There is a lot of risk of complications and especially  Graft-Versus-Host-Disease (GVHD) "in which the newly transplanted material attacks the transplant recipient's body". Please pray against this if you would and for the strength and faith of their families. These have been difficult days for all of them as their young sons prepare to essentially reset their bodies - please read their blogs on my blogroll for updates and specific prayer requests.
*Sorry*. I know there are some people out there that are very uncomfortable with using the word "ass" (and apologies to any children that read this blog), but before you make any quick judgments allow me to explain why I so carefully chose this word. I am the son of a Presbyterian elder so to be honest I have never been much for swear words but I made an exception a few months ago...

The night after Kim went Code Blue from the infusion reaction,  I declared war on cancer and so I ended a post entitled, "Dark Night of the Soul" with this:
We have a long road ahead but know that God is living and He is hearing the prayers of His beloved children. In the meantime I am giving Mr. Lymphoma a little warning: "Look out, brother! Because me, my God, and an army of prayer warriors are coming to KICK...YOUR...ASS!!!"
Here's why. Cancer is a horrible disease and it's certainly worthy of having it's butt kicked but there's something more. I believe cancer is a product of sin. This world was not meant to have horrible things like cancer. Nothing opens your eyes to this more than walking around the cancer floor of a children's hospital. The Bible opens with God’s creation of the heavens and the earth and a proclamation that “it was good” (Gen 1:31). However, after the fall of man, what was once “good” becomes marred and distorted by sin and from that point on we see the pernicious effects of sin, which include disease, disasters, and death. But God doesn't sit still, He sends His Son, Jesus, who demonstrates a greater power...a divine power over demons, disease, disasters and death – a glimpse of the kingdom to come – and leaves with the promise of a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Seeing Jesus in Our Children (Happy Mother's Day!)

First Easter without Mom
You learn to appreciate mothers a little more when they're no longer around. I know because I've had to play "Mr. Mom" for the last four months (granted with LOTS of help) and all I can say is it's obvious why God gave moms the role of "moms". No one does it better.

No one.

Our kids are far from perfect but it's clear that Kim has done a great job in raising them thus far and although we've both made (and are making) plenty of mistakes along the way, we are realizing how profound an influence we have, as parents, in how our kids view themselves, the world and even beyond. As Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."

That said, we've had to remind ourselves that the Proverbs are not absolute truths (precepts) for all times, but general truths that speak generally. I actually find this to be a great source of comfort because I don't think I could live with the pressure of being the sole determiner of whether my children come to a saving faith. Instead as parents I believe we are called to raise up our children in the way of the Lord and to the best of our ability but can rest in the fact that ultimately their salvation and their destiny is in His hands. What better place for it to be?

It's good to know that God is not only sovereign over all that happens in this world (good and bad), but sovereign over our children as well. If you recall I wrote a post in early March of how, unbeknownst to us, God had been profoundly moving in Caleb heart even when he saw mom riding off in an ambulance (see HERE). Just last week I ran across this old video of Timothy I posted on FB that we had taken five years ago (when he was two) where we were shocked that he seemingly understood the cross of Jesus before we ever even sat down and explained it to him.

And to top it all off Kim recently told me that she was sitting with Selah in our dining room, and while staring out our back deck our four year old suddenly exclaimed, "Mommy, God just told me something!"  When Kim asked her what God said she replied, "He said, Jesus loves me." I'm not making this stuff up, and I'm not sharing this to boast. I'm bringing these personal examples up to demonstrate that God is sovereign even in the way that He reveals Himself to little children and we have seen this to be true in our lives, and to Him be all the glory.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come unto me." not just because he loved them, but because they were his children before they were ours. As the song Jesus Loves Me says, "little ones to Him belong, they are weak, but he is strong...."  Make no mistake. All God's children belong to God and we are but stewards of His gifts for a brief time. May we make the most of the precious gifts God has given us. May we train them up in the way they should go.

Happy Mother's Day!

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Seeing Jesus AS Everything

We finished up our last chemo treatment last Monday but it's been a tough go these past 10 days. After a trip to the ER last week, Kim just wasn't bouncing back like she did in previous rounds.  Today was the first day Kim felt well enough to go out. So we made a trip to Red Mango and some sense of normalcy is starting to return. Thank you Lord. That said, please continue to pray for Andrew and Connor as they prepare themselves for their bone marrow transplants on May 16th & 17th. They are both taking a beating right now with all the radiation and chemo leading up to next week and the road after the transplant is still a long one. You can follow Andrew HERE and Connor HERE. It's good to know that the same God who has held us in His hand has Andrew and Connor in His hands as well.

"...for the LORD will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard."  -Isaiah 52:12b
The Lord promised He would go before us and walk behind us and we have felt His hand of protection all along the way. Isn't that just like God? He doesn't just begin a good work - He completes it (Phil 1:6). He's not just the creator of the universe - He's the sustainer (Col 1:16-17). He's not just the author of our faith - He's the perfecter (Heb 12:2). He's not just the architect of heaven - He's the builder (Heb 11:10). He is the "Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Rev 22:13).

Everything that matters in life begins and ends with Jesus. He is all we need.

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Beauty & the Beast: The Wonder Years (Chapter 11)

I entitled this chapter the wonder years. Not because these years evoke the nostalgia of a bygone era but because most of the time I "wondered" what the heck I was doing in this relationship during these years. So after four months of radio silence the next nine months followed with nothing but cyber-communication, which in 1998 simply meant emailing back and forth (I was too chicken to call). Not to go off on a tangent but where was Facebook when I was in my early 20's? I mean if I had the ability to post perfectly photo-shopped pictures of myself, show off the vast number of "friends" I have, and could manage my "public persona" with pithy comments and my "self-image" via witty status updates, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have captured Kim's heart in....say two years as opposed to three. No doubt.

Well, it was now May 1998. Kim was about to graduate from college and head back home. The problem was I knew Kim didn't have access to email at home. This was a problem. If something didn't change I was headed towards putting Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" on repeat in my CD player. I decided to take matters into my own hands and make a visit up to campus . I had two younger sisters (Lydia and Esther) going to school there and so it was the perfect "cover" for a visit. Coincidentally, they were both rooming with Kim that year and they knew we'd make the perfect couple. And so with a little prodding (and a modest financial incentive) they agreed to trick...I mean convince Kim to head out to a local state park and hang out with us (along with Lydia's boyfriend Ken)  for the day. It was a good time. We had a barbecue, flew kites and explored some of the wooded trails. Later that night, after dropping off my youngest sister, the four of us went to a place called Orchard Downs and sang songs, shared and prayed together. It was a beautiful night and I remember shooting stars lit up the sky everywhere. It was the first time we had "hung out" in nearly a year and it seemed so right. Things finally seemed like they might be moving in the right direction.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Seeing Jesus in Our Brokenness

KIM UPDATE: Well, it's been a rough week since Kim finished her last treatment of chemo. The cumulative effect of all these powerful drugs has taken a toll on the body and Kim has not bounced back as quickly as in previous rounds. In fact, last Thursday night we had to make another trip to the ER because Kim was cycling through some intense stomach pain. Things are slowly improving and day by day she's getting a little stronger but even walking up the stairs has been a challenge. We're so thankful this was the last of it because it's hard to imagine going through another round. Thanks for your prayers.

ANDREW & CONNOR UPDATE: Despite the glow of finding bone marrow matches for Andrew and Connor the reality is that they both still have a long road ahead of them and they would be grateful for your prayers. This was unthinkable just two months ago, but as it stands today both Andrew and Connor will be getting their transplants within one day of each other (Andrew on May 16th and Connor on May 17th). That said, there is a lot that goes into getting their bodies ready for the actual transplant and so the pre-transplant process begins now. Connor is getting his first treatment of chemo today and tomorrow and Andrew will be getting radiation twice a day for the next four days starting tomorrow. This will be an intense and trying week for both families as their boys will be enduring quite a bit. Please lift them up and pray that they sense the nearness of the Lord through it all. For more details on Andrew please visit Joe's blog HERE for more details on Connor please visit his blog HERE. Thanks!
Short post today. I leave you with one of the most moving videos I've ever seen (hard to believe it's a commercial). I think the reason why it resonates so deeply is because it captures the essence of the gospel. Good triumphing over evil. Beauty rising from ashes. Faith overcoming unbelief. Seeing the unseen...not with our eyes...but with our hearts. We are all longing for a profound redemption from our brokenness....we are all longing for Jesus.

"...blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." -John 20:29b

In His Grace,

Peter & Kim