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Ready or Not!

My dad has always been interested in prophecy and the study of last things, which means I grew up in a state of urgency.

My dad is convinced that God is painting a picture through the heavens with a blood red moon over Jerusalem on July 27th, aka the 15th of Av, the day that Israel left the wilderness for the promised land.  It is exactly 7 years after the last blood moon over Jerusalem, which was on the celebration of Pentecost.

Anyway, I was thinking about it all last night.  I am grateful that I do not know the date and time of the Lord’s return just as I am glad I did not know the day and time that Jim would go to heaven. Something happens inside my head to play mind games with me. It is almost like I am equating the return of Jesus with the natural disaster category of events.  Readiness is about being prepared for a future event and different events require different types of readiness. To  prepare for  earthquakes and storms, etc. it is important to purchase insurance, prepare a kit, secure bookshelves and create an evacuation plan. The point is that there are things that can be done to be ready and you don’t become unready!  Once the checklist is completed life goes on and you just live knowing that whenever disaster strikes you will be ready to go! Maybe because I am a list kind of girl that I would rather think about the end of this life as we know it in the natural disaster category. This kind of preparation does not apply to every kind of event, however, especially Jesus’ return. That is where the rub is!

Another category of events, which does include things like Jesus’ return, cannot be prepared for in the same way.  What does it take to be ready?  To be ready to compete in the Olympics or the World Cup means continued training and ongoing rehearsals. Practice daily. There is no check list to complete; rather, the best way to be ready is to keep busy. These kinds of events involve tasks that must continually be performed until the event occurs!  The job is never completed.  You cannot rest.  There is no point where you can say, “I have done all I can do. I’m finished.” Even more, if you stop working and preparing, then you stop being ready! This kind of event requires vigilance like being ready for a terrorist attack. While certain tasks can be implemented and completed, ultimately security requires round-the-clock watchmen to be responsible and alert. Jesus said that his return would be this kind of event, not a natural disaster type.  (Mark 13) It would require constant watchfulness and diligence. We are to keep working, keep praying and always be watching, staying constantly on guard. To be ready means to persevere to the end. And that does not mean that we need to squeeze in as much playtime beforehand, or have a nice list of past experiences to refer back to, or complete a personal bucket list.  We are supposed to grow in righteousness until the day we die or until he returns. We are to live holy lives until the very end. (2 Peter 3). I need to train my mind to this state of readiness. May this be my reminder to keep on keeping on and not give up or grow weary. Amen!

 

Kaylee Mykal Benzing

Cousins words to describe Kaylee: awesome, thoughtful, fantastical, kind, extreme, uplifting, laugh-a-getic, life of the party.
Angel story

My name is Miriam Mohler and Many years ago I was the junior high pastor at FBCS along with my husband who was also on staff. One of the families I ministered with and to was the Benzings. Ministry occurs in the context of relationships and I am more like Jesus because of the relationships formed during those years with the Benzing family extended and many others. I am honored to be here today and it is my job today to comfort the brokenhearted, instill
We gather today and our hearts are broken wide open. I am so sad. We are so sad. None of us wants to be here because we are so grieved over Kaylee’s death; but at the same time we are so glad to be here to honor and celebrate the amazing young life of Kaylee Mykal Benzing.
it is so important that you took off of work or you drove the miles or found the time to be here. Death is never convenient and it matters that you are here. There is something powerful about getting together in the same room and breathing in and out our sadness; breathing in and out words of faith; breathing in and out our love for Kaylee together. This time of public mourning is important for you and for Kaylee’s family. Thank you for being here to walk together, to say goodbye, to remember, to celebrate, to laugh and to cry.
Our personal journeys of grief have begun now, and grief plays by its own rules. It doesn’t follow a linear path but ebbs and flows as we figure out how to live without Kaylee. Wherever it is you are in your grief, I hope you will find encouragement and promise in today’s service.
Kelly – you’ll never get over losing your sweet girl, your Kaylee. There isn’t closure that will come where you are done remembering and missing her. Instead of getting over her, you will learn to live without her and you’ll learn how important memory and story together will be. Don’t forget the goal of mourning is to keep memory alive and you will always want to remember your sweet girl. People will expect you to be fine sooner than you are – simply because you look fine – but it’s ok to not be fine, it is ok to not be ok. It will take a long time, a lifetime actually, to grieve and to learn to live in this new way. Some days it will feel like you’re taking steps backwards. Just take the time; It’s yours to take. Sorrow is actually a gift that connects us to the heart of God and His presence. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted it says in Mt. 5. God is near to the brokenhearted. I know I am not saying anything new as we have all grieved Michael for the last 20 years. God is brilliant at using all of our life, good and bad, to make a perfect work.
Life is a journey and we have had the privilege of walking on this road with Kaylee long before cancer was part of her story. Kelly, you were on the road with Kaylee as her mom. She was your rock, and you were hers. Together you traveled and you helped each other find your best and confident voices, your own ideas. You raised such an incredible godly young woman who lived well, loved well and laughed fully.
Scott, Karrie, Mandy, Joseph: you have, with your families, walked through life giving guidance, loving and playing with Kaylee, telling stories of faith and Jesus.
Elizabeth, Jon, Clara, Jay, Hannah, Rylan, Jaden, and Jayce: you walked on the road with your cousin – you had fun making videos, playing games, camping and playing soccer together. What a gift she’s given you to remember how much she loved you.
Dennis and Ginger, Grandpa and Granny, You got to see how generous and thoughtful she was and was always willing to step up to help get something done. And she delighted in telling stories and hearing yours.
She had incredible wit, off the wall humor and would stun you with her laugh and creativity. She was precious and precocious, wasn’t she? Inside and out.
Some of you walked with Kaylee at school, at church, on a field or in the halls of the hospital. And now, we’ve all been together on the road with Kaylee being sick, wearing our warrior t-shirts, logging in and donating to help her kick cancer’s butt, doing whatever we can trying to help, knowing that in the face of terminal illness, it is hard to know what to do.
We know what it is to join this mom, Kelly, on this road of disbelief and sadness, recounting the whirlwind of the last 15 months and the impact of stupid rare cancer, osteosarcoma, she got and now reeling in a life without Kaylee. Today we get rejoice that Kaylee has finished her journey home. Our walk on life’s road from here on out will be lonely without her and a lot less silly. We will miss her good heart, the way she quietly loved and lived. We’ll miss her stories. We will miss loving Kaylee and being loved by her. But today, Thanks be to God. For the honor and joy of knowing Kaylee as long as we did.
I would like to share 3 truths that Kaylee would want you to know:

#1 Death does not Win.
Cancer is awful. It is devastating. We prayed for healing and God answered our prayer. He chose not to cure her cancer but he did heal her. And so we can grieve with hope. Remember the goal of mourning is to not forget! May we never forget that even though cancer and suffering does impact our time, our finances, and our strength, it cannot destroy our faith, Our love…. Nor our eternity! The only way to beat death is through a relationship with Jesus. Kaylee knew that. You see, We have it all turned around. We are in the land of the dying and we are going to the land of the living. Kaylee is more alive than any of us! She would not want to come back to earth but she would want all of us to join her there!
Romans 8:38 tells us that nothing separates her from the love of God through Jesus Christ – not death, not cancer. God did not give Kayley cancer and God did not take Kayley from us. God did not need another angel or a pretty flower or to hear a new joke. God is not that needy, greedy or co-dependent to do something like that. Instead I want you to know that God is with us as we grieve, broken in our brokenness. There is a broken and dying savior who meets us there and comforts us and says that not even death gets the last word! God does. Cancer did not win today! Kayley was clear about that from the beginning. She’s always known she’s not been alone on this road. She recognized Jesus as her Savior and has never let him out of her sight. The attitude she brought to the sports she loved, her her mom, her friends, her family– she wasn’t going to give up without a fight. She showed cancer no mercy. Yet all the time she knew that in death she would not be abandoned but would be raised to new life. New life even our wildest dreams can’t imagine. She knew she would win because of Jesus. She would want you to know that death doesn’t win! This life is short but the next one is not! It is forever!

In those moments when the memories return and the sadness resurfaces, I find comfort and even joy for those we love as I reflect on the promise of today’s key verse. For in heaven, there is no mourning, crying, pain or death. All things are made new. Kaylee’s at peace now. She’s not suffering. She’s with Jesus, in the arms of the God who loves her and will wipe every tear from her eyes. She’s home, where we all belong. In the meantime we ache, because we miss her. We’re the losers here. We’re the ones who have to say goodbye. And it’s going to be hard. There will be dark days ahead, but the same God is with us, ready with his heavenly hankie, offering to wipe away our tears, to hold us in his arms and allow us to cry on him. He’s whispering to us, I’m with you. I’ll always be with you. You’ll never be alone. So let’s allow Jesus to comfort us, and let’s be Jesus to each other. And let’s not lose hope. Jesus is alive. He’s defeated death, and he will come back again. Jesus gives us hope. The tomb is empty. Love and life have won.

#2 Death is not the end of the Story
Kaylee would want to remind you to live in light of eternity. When I was praying about what to share today, a verse kept coming up in my mind. Karrie texted me and told me that the verse highlighted in Kaylee’s bible was 2 Cor. 5:17. The same verse!
It says if anyone is in Christ they are a NEW creature. The old has gone and the new has come. The minute we become a Christ follower we become a new creation. We are given a new song. A New inheritance. We are under a New covenant because of JC. He even gives a new command love one another.
While we don’t have to wait until heaven for the Newness of life to begin, we do wait to have a New home, a New body and New life that will never end. Today Kaylee has many new things: a body free from pain, fashioned in the image of Jesus and whole. She is enjoying all the splendors of her new home. A New fellowship.
Kaylee is home. Imagine as Jesus carried her through the gates into heaven to a welcoming crowd of the great cloud of witnesses.
I find comfort and even joy for those we love as I reflect on the promise of today’s key verse. For in heaven, there is no mourning, crying, pain or death. All things are made new.

She is at peace now. She’s not suffering. She’s with Jesus, in the arms of the God who loves her and will wipe every tear from her eyes. She’s home, where we all belong. In the meantime we ache, because we miss her. We’re the losers here. We’re the ones who have to say goodbye. And it’s going to be hard. There will be dark days ahead, but the same God is with us, ready with his heavenly hankie, offering to wipe away our tears, to hold us in his arms and allow us to cry on him. He’s whispering to us, I’m with you. I’ll always be with you. You’ll never be alone.
Kaylee knew she was made for something more!
Hope is faith that looks forward to that place called heaven where there is:
No more death. No more good-byes. No more grief. No more sorrow. No more sin. And no more pain.
In Heaven, we will walk on streets of gold. In Heaven, there will be a family reunion. We will be reunited with those who have gone on before us. In Heaven, we will experience peace that is beyond comprehension. And most importantly, we will be with Jesus. And we will finally see the great love of God in all of its glory.
In the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, one of the Characters says when they land on the shore:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”
“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
The old has gone and the New has come!
#3 Death from the Other side. Last, Kaylee sees it all differently than we do!
There are some things that look different from the other side. It’s called perspective
When hiking we start at the Bottom of mountain and wonder how we will ever get to the top! At the end of the trek we wonder how we ever made it or perhaps wonder how we will ever get back down!
When a child starts school, we parents think there is plenty of time, but it goes faster than we think. My perspective is so different now that my son just finished college.
When a child gets braces on their teeth, they wonder what their smile will look like at the end, but no amount of imagination compares to seeing the real thing at the end.
One night when we lived here we were outside looking at the stars and my Emily, who was 3 or 4 at the time looked at the night sky and quietly said that the bottom side of heaven was super pretty and she wondered how beautiful the right side must look. Ps. 116:15 gives us God’s perspective on death too. Precious in the sight of the lord is the death of his saints.
For us the way forward looks daunting. It is a time of loss and defeat and separation. But from the side Kaylee is on it is a time of release, reunion, rest and reward!
We think of it as losing and it really is gain.
We think of it as parting. But it is arrival
We think of it as the end. It is the beginning.
We think of it as a closing door but it is an opening gate
We are going from the land of the dying to the land of the living.
Yes, at first glance death looks like the end; it seems so final. The end of relationships, end of all we have worked for, etc But it really is the beginning of a bright new, abundant and eternal life.
We used to watch the sunset and blow the sun out as it dipped beyond the horizon. Poof it was gone. “There it goes”, we would say. But it really is not gone; it is just out of sight! Someone else on the other side of the world was waking up and was saying, “Here comes the sun!”
Similarly on July 8, we could hear the family say, “There she goes! She is gone! But, imagine what was happening on the other side as Jesus carried her through the gates and that great cloud of witnesses said, “Here she comes!” She’s home!

Bill Method

Bill has been my friend for nearly 40 years. He was on the Puppet Express Co. with Ann, his wife, Jimbo Mohler and Pat Zweber. Others came and went but these 4 formed the original team. Over the years as we all moved apart the sense of family created by this team of puppeteers stayed intact. This tightknit group included the family members and the puppets who had been given life and voice by each of the members.
There is no other ministry quite like a puppet ministry. In the hands of a talented puppeteer puppets can make us laugh, cry and share God’s word in creative ways. If Skip, Bill’s alter ego, or any of the other puppets he brought to life, could talk, they would say something about how he made them live; perhaps their words would include, ”It was the look I felt in your eyes as you looked at me that helped me perform exactly as expected of me. It was you and your heart for Jesus that made me so convinced and convincing of the message you told through my plush and foam body. I became more than a caricature of humanity. I lived through your arm, laughed through your voice and ministered in unexpected and surprising ways to share the gospel.”
But you have got to “hand it to” Bill! His own quick wit and great sense of humor and timing became an inseparable part of the Puppet Express Co.

It is difficult to sum up my friendship with Bill Method in only a few sentences, but I will try.
He loved Jesus.
He loved his wife.
He loved his kids and grandkids.
He was intentional. He was fun and creative. He was generous. He was a hard worker. When I think of Bill, I think of cars, Disneyland and his family.

I hate that we live in a world of brokenness and disease. Huntington’s is a long goodbye. Bill was robbed of so much as the disease progressed and wore away his memory, his personality and body. The good news is that Bill is in heaven now, completely healthy and whole. He is fully alive and reunited with Ann and living in the presence of the Lord.
In 2 Tim. 4:6-8, Paul says, “The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – “

These words apply to Bill! In claiming his crown Bill has gone from this life to the next he has left an indelible mark on our world, impacting and helping shape the lives of others, including his wife of, his children, grandchildren, and many other lives, which are too numerous to count.
Today I say goodbye, at least for now, and today, as I stop to remember Bill and all those things that made him unique, who made him who he was, and so special to me and my family. I will miss his warm smile, his quick wit, and endless sense of humor!  Most of all I will miss his positive attitude and encouraging words. What made the difference in Bill’s life that sets him apart from so many others? It’s simple. He had enough vision to make his life want to count. He heard the call of Jesus Christ and made the decision to give his life to follow after Him. I thank God for Bill and Ann Method!

So I was asked to teach on the topic of evil in student ministries yesterday.  Here is my basic outline:

Hi, … I am Miriam and I am the one who sends you all the emails that you don’t read!  I work here at church and I teach at Trinity as well.  I was a youth pastor in ministry as a team with my husband in 3 states.  I have 2 kids and one is here this morning; Clayton is a core group leader. So we are looking at answering some of the tough questions of the faith this summer. I got “stuck” answering the question of why a good God could allow suffering and why there is evil in the world. There are so many corollary questions included like “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “Where is God when it hurts?” and Why me? Where is God when tragedy strikes? Why is there evil if God is Good…Why me? Where’s God? Etc. (On a side note, I actually think it is a bigger mystery to consider how there is any human goodness at all)

Let me just touch on a few things before we get started:

Anyone here have something bad happen in your life? Is anyone here a victim of divorce, bullying, cancer? Anyone here ever go hungry or been homeless? How about molestation, gang violence, car accident? I could go on and while I don’t expect anyone to answer I know we all have been impacted by sin and evil. Let me start with a bit of a “pre” discussion question. Why would God create evil in the first place… or allow the possibility?

Imagine that you are given a magic potion and you can give it to any person you want and they will be yours forever. You find the perfect person and you give it to them and they fall in love with you. You get married and live happily ever after. But a few years later you begin to ask yourself if they really love you or if it is just the potion you gave them that makes them respond to you. You will never know, will you?– Having a choice which is called “Free will”is key in relationships. That is like God and humanity. He does not want robots or puppets. He loves us too much which is why he allows the possibility.

God wants us to know who he is and what he is like. God is so great that he can even use sin and evil to show how great he is. If there was no such thing as sin/evil then there would be many things we would not know about God. Could God show us how forgiving he is if there was no one to forgive? Would we know how much God hates sin if there was no sin to hate? Can God show his great love for sinners if there are no sinners to die for? Would we understand grace or justice or ? Also, there is theology that teaches that God is unknowable, incomprehensible

Another comment before we get to the real question is a reminder that Man is not what he once was as God designed us to be. We have changed. God did not change us but we changed ourselves because of sin. This still does not let God off the hook. Even though humans are to blame for evil because of sin, God who is sovereign and powerful allowed evil to happen. He permitted it to infect and infest creation. Everyone suffers because we live in a fallen broken world. Even though that includes everyone, I would tell you that everyone’s s pain is unique.

Now I want to give you a few other definitions as we get into it.

Evil – the active intent to do harm.

Suffering – the passive result of evil. It is what happens to you.

Modern times have changed evil.

1. Evil is different because we live in a culture where we fix everything. We have aspirin, antiseptic, anesthetics so we can live a life without pain.  We are shocked any time we experience it.

2. We have made it much more efficient. We drop a bomb from thousands of feet in the air and don’t even see the humanity we are destroying, one another.

3. We have made evil good and cool. And with technology we have even made it a game! Everything is impersonal and we are numb to its devastating reality.

Now let’s get into answering the question of the day:

I have an answer to the question at hand but you wont like it: I don’t know

Ultimately we cannot understand God’s purposes. The Bible says that no one can fathom God. Does good stuff come out of bad stuff ? Absolutely! And that is because God is good. (Job – the book to read for all the wrong answers to the question of evil and suffering!)

Here is what I do know // 3 things:

1. Evil is evil. It is not a watered down game.  It is not a fairytale stepmother who is mean. It is really bad. God is not to blame for it. People are.

What is wrong with the world? I AM … (GK Chesterton)

God hates evil. Jesus was outraged and indignant at the intent to cause harm and despair by the Jewish leaders. In Mark 3:5 it reads “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand.” Instead of the discussion being around the power of God’s miracle for healing, the onlookers accused Jesus of doing ‘good works’ on the Sabbath. Their loyalty to legalism prevented them from having a right heart before the powerful presence of God. When the Pharisees refused to answer Jesus’ questions, “He looked around at them in anger, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts

Not only does God get mad about the evil, it makes him sad!

John 11 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind manhave kept this man from dying?” Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

He grieves with us over it. Shortest verse in the Bible. God’s face is wet with tears.

2. God is Good – ALL THE TIME! He cares. He came. He acts. He hears the cries of His people. He took care of our needs every day as a family and he still does!.Just as the Israelites had to rely on God in the wilderness for food, he takes care of us in a harsh and broken world.  The jews had what they needed each day and could not store the manna longer because then they would not have to trust God to provide tomorrow. When they got to the promised land, they did not enter a utopian paradise but had a really harsh land without water so they would need to rely on God to take care of them every day.  We too learned to  lean in every day – dependence is not a highly valued trait in America, yet it is in God’s economy!

We all have bad stuff.  Everyone here has dealt with death, bullying, hunger, sickness and other evils and suffering.  For our family, the worst was when Jim, my husband and the kids dad got brain cancer.  He lived for 22 months before he went home to heaven.  It was hard and we still miss him everyday.  But in the process we learned in a very personal way that God is good all the time!

This year for Father’s day Clayton wrote: college was the first season of life that my dad wasn’t able to be a part of. i can’t help but imagine what it would’ve been like to have him around at Biola. Seven and a half years later, many of my friends now have never met him, seen his magic tricks or heard his jokes, but I wish they could! I wonder sometimes what it would’ve been like to take one of his classes or sit in his office on campus, or for him to be able to come to my soccer games. I also wish I knew more about the lives that he impacted while he was around on campus and even before we moved here, at Trinity and in his youth groups; and I wish I could’ve known him as an adult. Biola was a time of joy and growth for sure, but it also came with difficulty and a continued process of grief. yet I can see and acknowledge the ways that I have come to know God more intimately and trust him more deeply through this season and in this loss; and I can be grateful for how God has pursued me and worked in my life throughout college. God is still good! I’m grateful for the impact that my dad has made and continues to make on my life and many others, even in his absence, and I hope to someday make an impact like him too

We ask the questions: I asked the tough questions when Jim got sick. Why me? Why not me? We like control but we live in a world that is not fair. Unjust. Irrational. We ask this so we won’t despair. Where is God? We feel we must blame someone and that someone is responsible. Jesus even asked this on the cross. In the thick of suffering we cry out in faith and pain! But we know that God works all things together for our good and his greatest glory. God loves us enough to fix the brokenness and to be present with us in the middle of it! That is amazing!

3. GOD is all powerful. Can He be trusted even if I don’t know what he is doing? I’m in the dark about he is doing but I am not in the dark about God because of Jesus!! He acts to stop it. He Gives an escape. He Uses it. He Acknowledges it. He Frames it. He Defeats it. God will abolish evil one day soon. He has the power to finally obliterate evil and he has perfect timing. We just think he has no power because we want it fixed NOW! Just because God doesn’t change the evil now does not mean that he can’t!  Underline this verse in your Bible:

2 Peter 3:9 New International Version (NIV) 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind – this man had to live his whole life blind for this moment! Sometimes we have to wait what seems like an eternity and not understand any of it. But we can trust the Lord and put our hope in him because he does have the power and the desire to make it all right again! John 9 ::As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Silver Linings These are not answers or explanations but are things that give me hope

  • Evil actually deepens faith.
  • The darkest night allows the light of Jesus to shine through. Jim saw a vision of Jesus in dark praying for our family!
  • God is there with me in the dark.  We are never alone.  I have felt his presence.
  • Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face Job 13:15
  • One day the last tear will fall. Rev. 21:4
  • God is turning it upside down and uses it for his glory, What was meant for evil he used for good. (story of Joseph.)
  • Daniel 3:17ff– If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
  • One day secrets will be explained and God’s goodness and justice will be seen
  • God’s presence is enough

Responses – God expects a response from us when bad things happen.

  • We forgive. Forgiveness cuts off the past and liberates the future.
  • We have Courage to do something for others – evil triumphs when good men do nothing
  • We pray for his kingdom to come
  • We trust. We depend on Him for all of our needs every day.
  • We have received comfort so we can comfort others. (2 Cor. 1)
  • Do Not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21)

Review & Blessing

Nearly 40 years ago, when I was a student at Biola and met my future life partner I anticipated many things, but no matter what one anticipates the future is never certain. Who would ever have anticipated where God would lead us? Or how many kids we would minister to or raise? Who could anticipate raising our kids in IL or the amazing community we were to encounter there? Who could have foreseen that our move back to California was going to be critical as we would face cancer once we got there.

When Jim was diagnosed with GBM brain cancer, I began the fearful journey of anticipation as I wondered what life would be like as a widow and when it would become my reality. I had no idea. And yet Jim was loved to the end fearlessly… and my kids needed strength for the day. My future all became a glance at the past as I avoided anticipating “tomorrow”.

I was afforded the great privilege of ministry as a team with my husband. Jim and I went to college and seminary together, pursued doctoral work and ordination and worked side by side at churches and in teaching at TIU. In 2009 Jim, a Bible prof at Biola, was diagnosed with GBM and we began a 22 month journey with the “C” word. We were married 30 years with 2 high school kids when God took him by the hand and led him home.

We all have “stuff”. My experience of becoming a widow is both similar and unique. There are other widows here who could tell a different story But for me….

Jenni suggested that I answer the question of how God showed up and my first response is to say that he didn’t!

I would say instead that He was always there. In fact, I think God’s presence was more real to me than ever before, during that season of my life and I found the truth and comfort of passages including “though I walk through the valley of the shadow He was there with me” , and “God is close to the brokenhearted,” etc., I think that when life stopped with the cancer diagnosis it was easier to find God than when life goes well. Everything in life is designed to push us to dependence on our heavenly Father. Tragedy and suffering left me with no other option! My confidence in His presence grew. He had NEVER ever let me down before and I was sure he was not going to start now.

Life is difficult, but it is more than that. It is dangerous, magnificent, exciting, short, adventurous, fragile, humorous, magical and forever!

We don’t get to choose our path (Jesus never promised an easy life, just pain and suffering and his presence, among other other things).

Having said that, I would share that the Lord gave Jim a vision every night for several months after his diagnosis. Jim would wake up and see Jesus praying for our family in a corner of the room. I never saw the Lord even though Jim would often wake me up to experience what he was seeing.

I would like to read to you what I wrote in 2009 in response to these visions:
Journal entry by Miriam Mohler — Mar 27, 2009

I was thinking of the vision Jim has had the last few nights of Jesus, and one of my favorite quotes came to mind. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in Aurora Leigh:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes — The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Often God is present in our lives but we fail to recognize it. Jacob echoed this in Gen. 28:16 after an encounter with the Holy One

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (Gen 28:16)

It seems a natural part of human nature that we are more predisposed to sit around and pluck blackberries (or the modern equivalent) than to perceive the presence of God, take off our shoes, and worship. It is so easy to focus on our (Jim’s health) situation because it is the primary thought and conversation of the day. This is really just another chance for God to remind us of His care and his presence.

Perhaps Jim’s vision is a reminder of God’s presence, which we are to proclaim, rather than overlook. God took a rock and a hard place for Jacob and made it a holy meeting place. He is, perhaps, doing that for us too.

All the things I believe about God, all my theology, has become biography in the last month. The constant challenge for each person is the translation of all we say we believe to be real and true into daily living. Even though it is always a struggle, suffering forces the choice.

So God, once again, is breaking into our world saving, shining, healing, restoring and we are part of the shimmers of His presence. Wow! I hope you will take off your shoes and worship with us. (and then we can eat berries!)

2) how the Body of Christ loved and supported you through that and walked with you through your experience.

Let me say that the main way we experienced God was through the Body of Christ. And the body of Christ included our family, and multiple church families and 2 college campus staffs in 3 states. We experienced God’s love and presence in the valley through the many friends who hugged us, brought us food, took care of errands and chaperoned our kids. He heard his voice when we picked up the phone, or been given a word of encouragement and been reminded of His promises. He wrote us countless love notes, emails and get well cards. He creatively and generously met our needs and loved our kids and prayed without ceasing. The church was a joyful way of experiencing God – I would also add that we experienced the body of Christ as God’s hands and feet until Jim died. Then the comfort of community dwindled to a few who walked with us in the months and years that followed.

2 Cor. 1:3,4 says we are comforted so we can comfort others. I did not realize that the lack of that community would inspire me to provide God’s grace and love in a way that I did or didn’t receive it.

To the ends of the earth

Even though the world has shrunk due to the internet, it is still huge! I went to JPL last weekend and was once again in awe of how big God is, how vast and complex the universe is and how lost mankind is in trying to figure it all out on its own.

I think of the people around the world who have no idea about the worlds beyond this one and who are also without a clue about a God who loves them and cares for them eternally!  And yet there are those really smart rocket scientists who know all about other worlds in the universe and who have not discovered the One who created the universe. Both are lost in the dark; Oh how I want to shine brightly and show them the way!

Those who are wise[a] will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. Dan 3:12

So that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky. Phil 2:15

Wishes and Prayers

One of the struggles I have with prayer is not that I don’t think it is important. I do. I know I need to keep praying, even when I don’t feel like it. I need to talk to God, telling Him my needs and thanking Him for His answers. It is not that I am too busy because I can spend all kinds of time talking to friends on the phone, playing and watching too much TV. I can find all kinds of time to serve God, to help others and to attend bible studies and church services.

Instead, I think it is so hard because I am too results-oriented. I like feedback and the sooner the better. I want God to “fix” my situation and to give me instant updates without making me wait! Prayer is supposed to be about an encounter with God Almighty and building a relationship with a loving heavenly Father. I have made it all about rubbing the magic lamp and getting God to answer my wishes. Worse, I have made it all be about myself; when it is convenient for me thus “forcing” God to meet with me simply because I have chosen this moment to talk with Him.

So it would seem that I choose not to talk to God with any kind of regularity because I am not “hearing” Him (aka He is not doing what I want and when I want it). It is crazy to even write this down! Yet it really is the reason.

So how do I reverse that?

(For starters I can stop praying for things on my wish list and try not to even keep such a list:

ie… I wish I had a job that paid the bills// I wish I could have my career back or at least feel I am participating in Kingdom work by using my gifts and talents//I wish I didn’t have to live so far away from “my world.” I have lost my kids because I had to move so far away aka I wish God would let me live where I want//I wish I could travel more.//I wish … Etc…)

There is such a “long” gap between planting and harvesting. While we are okay with that in the farming world, we do not like it in everyday life. This morning I held a peach seed after slicing my peach on my oven pancake and considered the promise of more within. And how everything takes time. We live in a culture that has made it all about not waiting for, not wanting and not doing without – anything! Not kingdom values at all and yet, How do I even begin to rail against it all? Perhaps just acknowledging the issue is a good starting place!

Being instant has more downsides than we like to admit. It is hard to live in the “now and not yet”. Kent Hughes once talked about this time frame. Living in the “not yet” of the kingdom is the period of time before Christ’s return and the inauguration of the ultimate Kingdom. The reason this is difficult is because we also live in the “now” of the Kingdom, which creates relentless tension because we are called to live out Kingdom values and ethics while we wait for the King. (Titus 2;11-13)

We are different when we become a Christ follower and we are to Pray without giving up….we are to learn to  live in the “now”.

The parable Jesus told about the widow and unjust judge comes back into mind whenever I think about this aspect of prayer.  By contrast we have a loving God who helps us to live in the now as we wait for the not yet!

I have not travelled extensively, but many of the places I have gone I have attended church or visited various cathedrals and worship sites. Each one is beautiful, some because of the architecture, some because of the history and some because of the community found there. One thing in common is that they are sites set aside for worship and reminders of God’s presence.

I read and reread this passage about the Tabernacle several times and in several translations hoping to make sense of it as I imagined it all. There are probably multitudes of ideas on the symbolism of the numbers, colors and fabrics used, but it is the goal or purpose of the tabernacle that kept commanding my focus.

God told the people He had redeemed to build a place for Him to dwell in their midst. He wanted them to see that He was with them. It was the first time that He was to live with them since the Garden of Eden. This “mobile home” was designed to lead people into the presence of God and to remind them of His faithful presence every day. Additionally, the tabernacle is another picture of Jesus, who would eventually dwell or “tabernacle” among us on the flesh. Immanuel means God with us; God’s presence and His plan for redemption are written into the blueprints of the tent of meeting.

Some people are better at following instructions than others; the detailed directions for building this tent of worship was to give God’s people the opportunity to obey. God expects obedience even in the details. The Israelites struggled to learn these truths. Today there is not a portable tabernacle, but our struggle to obey is not much different than those whom God redeemed in Exodus 26. Just as God pitched his tent with the Israelites, he now makes his dwelling place in human hearts. This is why we are to glorify God with our bodies. We are given the gift of God’s presence through the Holy Spirit, so that we can follow his instructions and faithfully obey all he has commanded.

Sopps 6.3.18

Skyler and Lauren, because I don’t speak “electrical engineer”, this analogy is based on the universal language of music!

In the Magician’s Nephew, CS Lewis writes about the creation of Narnia. When the characters find themselves in the land of Narnia they actually stumble into the creation of the world itself. When they enter there is no light. No wind. No stars. No sound. No smell. Soon a voice begins singing in the distance, creating a sound that is beyond comparison. The children listen, keeping their focus on the Creator Lion and his beautiful song of Creation.

The Bible says that God sings over us. Zeph. 3:17

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One who will save;
He will exult over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.

Our Savior rejoices over us that we belong to Him eternally. The voice of God that created all things, stilled the storm, and will raise the dead at the end of all time; the Lord sings over His deep joy for His redeemed. Think about how amazing it is that God is singing over you! And one day in glory we will finally hear the God who sings.

Like Narnia, one day (Aug. 6,2013 to be exact) the song started to be heard as God began singing your relationship into existence. Listen. Can you hear it?!  This song of creation is an embrace of the ever joyful songwriter blessing you to serve together, to join into His song of praise, and to harmonize as you participate with the One who created your relationship in much the same way as the creation of a new world. For some reason people think that marriage is the happy ending. Marriage is actually just the beginning of 2 people’s lives together. It is the creation of a new family. It is the beginning of a symphony, a praise song to the Holy One. He is joining your separate melodies into a beautiful piece of music that exists for the pleasure and glory of the One who created it and for the advancement of the Kingdom

Let Him join your voices into one and allow Jesus to sing himself through your marriage to everyone around you, Sometimes there will be sour notes or sections of the song that will need extra rehearsing and practice. It may even seem that the grass is greener, or to put it into musical terms, that another marriage is more in tune than yours seems to be. It is only because they are practicing and tuning their hearts to the Standard that the concert master set before them! See those times as an opportunity to  tune your hearts to the same Standard set before you.

Skyler & Lauren, from this moment forward you will carry the love of another person. May your life together be better and may you be fulfilled by each other’s love and friendship. Before we leave to go and celebrate your marriage, and before you go forward as husband and wife, I would ask one last thing of you. On a day like today, where there is so much excitement and emotion with all the details and planning and hope that today would be perfect, I don’t want this most important moment of this day to be forgotten. When you wake up tomorrow, the wedding will all be over. So right now, in this beautiful setting, and in the presence of God and all who are here, I want you to look around and drink it all in. Take a few seconds to look into each others’ eyes and think about what you are feeling. Do you hear His song of joy over you? …. .Memorize this moment so you never forget the cadence of your love song, the joyful radiance of everyone here, and the way the light plays in each other’s eyes? Take a mental imprint of the sounds and sweet smells in the air so that in the years to come you will always remember this day  with a leap in your heart and overwhelming gratitude to God for each other. Can you dream and imagine what the praise song you are singing together will sound like with its crescendos and majestic tones 20 years from now? 33? Fifty? WOW.

Receive this blessing with your eyes and hearts open –

May The peace of the Holy Spirit be in your heart so that everyday is lived with hope and harmony with each other
May The grace of Christ be in your words as you encourage and honor each other
May The love of God be in your hands as you serve together
May The joy of Triune God be in your souls and in the song that your life sings so that together with one voice you may glorify Him forever.

Blessing (Ruth): Face one another and repeat the following blessing to one another:

Where you go I will go, Where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and Your God my God

 Let us pray:

Dear Lord, our hearts are filled with great happiness on Skyler and Lauren’s wedding day, as they come before You, pledging their hearts and lives to one another. Grant that they be ever true and loving, living together in such a way as to never bring shame or heartbreak into their marriage. Temper their hearts with kindness and grace. Help them to always remember to be each other’s sweetheart, helpmate, friend and confidante so that whatever they face in life they will handle with courage and hope. As the years go by may the home they are creating today always be a place of truth and harmony, where your Spirit is ever present.

In Christ’s name, Amen

Growing Weary

I am not sure why but time seems to dull the senses, curb enthusiasm and stifle joy. I have the depressing capacity for getting tired of the wonder, of taking life’s moments and pleasures for granted.  No matter how hard I try to rail against it, I miss amazing and beautiful things that God has given because I am not paying attention or because I am caught in the busy and I just don’t notice.  Even worse, I don’t believe those gifts were meant for me so I never open and treasure them! Life is a cereal instead of a celebration of God’s faithfulness and omnipresence.

Likewise, somehow I have lost my excitement for ministry.  The thrill of serving has seeped away. The energy and enthusiasm that renewed my strength and recharged inner power are gone.  I have lost heart.  Over the last few years, without even realizing what was happening, I have come to believe some pretty negative things about myself.  The negative attitudes of others about my age, my gender and my abilities have become a self fulfilling prophecy as I have practiced negative self-talk until I believe I am meant to live in the margins and I don’t have value. So now, I miss out because I don’t think I am worthy. I have found myself imagining walking away from this known life but I am not sure that place will change the damage that time does. Nonetheless, I think I need an overhaul.  I am weary.  I am asking God to allow me to hear his voice whispering His love for me and that I would believe Him enough to try again.

PS – Need a job that will pay me enough to live above the poverty level.

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