View from Glennallen, Alaska USA
For some time I’ve been meaning to sit down and write about my grand-daughter. She was our first grandchild. When we heard some 16 years ago that we had a grand-daughter we were excited. We looked forward expectantly to the Grandparents role with all the assumptions of normalcy; a grand-daughter who I could bounce on my knee, we could buy fancy dolls for, who we would read stories to and all the normal things a Grandfather does with a Grand-daughter.
But our Grand-daughter was not normal. Our daughter, her mother, noticed it when our first grandson came along. He developed differently than his older sister. She was obviously not where she should be in terms of “normal” development. And so we entered the world of autism. Our expectations of “normalcy” in relation to our grand-daughter were shattered. I have grieved and still to some degree grieve what could have been but was not.
We always hear of the "success stories"; the autistic children that respond well to this therapy or that therapy or some "miracle program" and we are happy for them. But as our grand-daughter grew older, hope for "the miracle" has faded considerably. I don't totally rule out a miracle, but neither do I hold my breath waiting and hoping for one.
We observed the strain her autism has been on our daughter’s family as well as ourselves. Her sibling brother at an early age sensed and felt the anxiety and uncertainty autism brought into his family. He too shared the emotional burden and psychological strain. We often were there to provide much needed respite time for her mother. There were some very extremely difficult times, but somehow by the mercy and grace of God we as an extended family pulled through.
Yes I do love her; autism and all. She is very very special. I think she knows I love her, and in her own way has expressed her love for me. If she was on the verbal end of the autism spectrum perhaps it would have been a little easier, but she is on the non-verbal part of the autism spectrum, and though there has been speech therapy and other things, she remains non-verbal. I have never heard her say, “I love you Grandpa…” She has expressed love to me in other ways and for that I am thankful, but I still feel a loss.
I don’t know why this happened. It just is, and despite all, she was created in God’s image and as such, her life has meaning, purpose and value in and of herself as a being created in the image of God. I pray for her just as much as I pray for her two younger “normal” brothers. My hope is that in the resurrection when all things are restored to the fullness of what they were meant to be, that I will finally hear those words I have so longed to hear…
“I love you Grandpa…”
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
~ Jeremiah 17:5-8
We had been driving all day, a good 8 hours from our home in Michigan, and we still had a few hours to go to get to our overnight in Springfield, Missouri. We were taking I-255 to go around the south side of St. Louis. As we passed by on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River, there low on the horizon was the St. Louis skyline with the famous St. Louis Arch; way off in the distance across the Mississippi River in Missouri. Though St. Louis beckoned, we could not stop. We hurried on; the road ever beckoning. I had "miles to go before I sleep".
It goes without saying that Western culture continues its slide into moral chaos and darkness. Here in the United States we debate and get all in a frenzy about who gets to use what public bathroom. It is obvious that at many different levels in American culture, Christianity has been minimized and marginalized. There simply is no "moral majority" as it was once defined back in the early 1980's. We see that specifically in the course of our national politics during this current Presidential election year.
The time will soon come and is already knocking at the door when American culture's growing animus and hostility towards Christian faith will flush away the remains and residue of any easy pop "Christianity", and we will find out that to be a Christian and to be faithful to the Gospel is going to cost us those privileges we once thought inviolable. Are you ready to continue giving financially to your church even when you can no longer declare that giving as a charitable deduction on your Federal income tax return? Or what will you do when your church and ministry buildings become subject to local property tax assessments? Those question are just the tip of the iceberg when outright scorn and ridicule and persecution of Christian faith becomes an entrenched part of public policy.
My concern is that amidst the ever growing signs of the approaching whirlwind of God's judgement on a godless secular materialistic narcissistic culture, the church, and the broader evangelical church in particular, will still be caught up in a "we can fix it" mentality where we desperately seek the right incantations to speak and the right rituals to perform that will somehow twist God's arm to the point where He will be forced to take up our "cause".
News flash: God only has one overarching cause, and that one cause is His own glory period. Everything else is subsidiary to His glory.
Our problem in the broader church at large is we have not been brought to the point of utter desperation where all our confidence in our fancy programs and latest evangelical fads and ideas have been stripped away and we are flat on our back with nowhere else to look but up. God will not allow us to claim any glory that rightfully is His alone. We can not make "revival". Revival is the work of the almighty free and sovereign God; the free and sovereign moving of the Holy Spirit working through the proclaimed word of God in the hearts and minds of lost and desperately needy sinners.
We desperately need an outpouring and movement of the Holy Spirit in our own lives, in the lives of our local congregations and our wider local communities, in the church at large, and in an increasingly viciously wicked culture. We can not bring that about by anything of our own saying or doing. It will only happen as a free and sovereign work and moving of God for His own glory. We are left to pleading and begging and desperately crying out that God in sovereign merciful grace for His own glory would grant that outpouring and movement of His Spirit. And in the meantime, revival or not, persecution and distress notwithstanding, we are to remain a faithful remnant; faithful to the Gospel once delivered to the saints.
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence—as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil—to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence!
~ Isaiah 64:1-2
Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!
As much as I would rather not, I find I need to say a little something about the recent issues/scandal at the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE). The Christianity Today story regarding the Donn Ketcham affair can be found here. As well the ABWE statement regarding this long festering sad tragedy can be found here.
A number of years ago I had providential occasion to see the effect of this sordid affair on one of Donn Ketcham's children. The scars this adult son was carrying were obvious and clearly deeply felt even though at the time I did not know the source of that pain in his life. I also have an acquaintance who was an ABWE MK, and whose family was serving in Bangladesh at the time Ketcham was there engaging in his wicked acts. It is clear that very serious errors in judgement were made by a number of ABWE leaders at several high levels that resulted in justice and righteousness being denied. That said I affirm my personal confidence in the spiritual integrity and honesty of the individual ABWE missionaries around the world that our church currently supports. May God give much grace, mercy and healing to the victims of this obviously evil man who now has had to more fully answer to Christ's church for his wicked actions.
I get angry when I see a church or organization use the "tell it not in Gath" excuse to cover up serious, even criminal wrong doing, or attempt to generalize or minimize such a scandal instead of facilitating fuller public disclosure that would shed light on how deep the actual failure of a particular person, usually a pastor or other "respected" leader was. Inevitably in those cases the victim is victimized again and justice and righteousness is not realized. The result is, as it has been in the ABWE-Ketcham case, the gospel and the work of the gospel is harmed by an even worse scandal.
" Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!"
~ Matthew 18:4-7