Fragile times that Truth Strengthens

by tklicka on June 7, 2017

A couple Fridays ago, I was blessed to attend a Steve Green concert with my daughter Charity, who invited me to share in the experience with her. I raised my kids on many wonderful Christian artists’ music, including Steve Green. From Hide ’em in Your Heart CDs for kids, to his outstanding praise and worship music CDs, my kids were saturated in gospel-centered theology in music.

You never know if, as adults they will like, let alone remember what you tried to instill in them through the music you listened to as they were growing up, and it blessed me greatly to know Charity still listens to and loves Steve Green’s music.

 

I love it too, more than many other artists. Green was raised on the mission field by parents who lived out the gospel in lands far away, without many of the comforts and conveniences we take for granted in the USA. He saw the reality of their faith and I’m certain it had a big impact on the strong man of God he has been all his life.

At the concert that night, Steve shared that the gospel is something we need to be reminded of, again and again. How true this is, especially when you find yourself amid difficulties – enduring sickness, suffering loss, or experiencing being misjudged or maligned.

If you are facing ongoing hardship, you may find that waves of discouragement come washing over you when you least expect it, like a surprise wave, bigger and stronger, and threatening to knock you down. Isn’t that the time when you need to be reminded of God’s faithful love, good purpose, and mighty power toward you? I know I do.

I remember longing for these reminders in several seasons of my life – during a nightmarish childhood, then when I almost died from ulcerative colitis in the late 80s, then when Chris’s health start to deteriorate rapidly after a shocking MS diagnosis, quickly followed by us nearly losing our twins in utero in the 90s, to my being very sick again with UC around 2000. Losing Chris to MS in 2009 is a grief that never completely goes away, even while I have so much to be thankful for in our marriage of 25 years.

Chris & I meet Steve Green at one of his concerts in 1995 – me, pregnant with our twins, Charity & Amy

 

Most recently, the past two years of my life have been very painful and difficult. Turning my eyes to the Lord has been my only hope. Purposing to trust in God for the details and needs of my life is what I’ve tried to do, again and again. Waiting for His help as I’ve sought to obey and follow Him through suffering, however, was excruciating at times.

The power of God’s Word to strengthen us in its truth is just what we need in the center of our storm. God knows this and He often brings the very Word we need to hear to lift up our hearts and minds. During an emotionally fragile week last week leading up to the Steve Green concert, God brought me a Word that deeply encouraged me.

In an online course I’m taking about stewardship for nonprofit Christian ministry, a wise, godly older gentleman in the course with me shared a story about King Hezekiah. His application is just what I needed to hear:

“I’m reminded of a story in 2 Chronicles 32 about Hezekiah and Sennacharib. Hezekiah was king of Judah and Sennacharib was king of Assyria. The mighty Assyria army was headed for Jerusalem to take the city. Upon hearing the news Jerusalem set out to deter the army by doing all they could within their limited power. They repaired the broken walls, strengthened the gates to the city, fortified the towers, and even built another wall outside the existing wall. They also made large numbers of weapons and shields.

They did everything within their power to stop the Assyrian army. After they prepared for war and did all they could do, they left the matter in God’s hands.

With Jerusalem gathered together, Hezekiah declared, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.

The end of the story was victory for Hezekiah and Jerusalem. God sent an angel to defeat the Assyrian army before they ever made it to Jerusalem. Thus, I am challenged to:

1) Recognize the days in which we live

2) Be strong and courageous

3) Be wise and do everything within my ability to {conduct myself in a worthy manner; emphasis mine}

4) Realize that God goes before us to fight our battles”

I would not have written the story of my life the way it has turned out, particularly the last two years. The fall is real. Brokenness is inescapable. God has heard my prayers, though, and has either strengthened me for each step of my journey or has shown me mercy. It is God’s lovingkindness, or hesed that keeps us from being crushed under the weight of the fall and its effect on us.

And that strong, true picture of our God filled Steve Green’s music that night, music and truth which Charity and I both love. Praise be to His dear name.

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These two have a special relationship, which all began about seven years ago. To understand how important this pooch is to my boy and what God has to do with it, you need to hear the whole story.

When my son John was 9, he asked his dad for a dog. My Chris, having Solomon-like wisdom at that moment said, “When you’re 12, you can get a dog.” He knew his wife well. Adding the work and responsibility of a puppy when I was already trying to raise and homeschool seven kids, ages 19 down to 9, and care for my husband who had advanced MS might have just put me over the top. “Good answer, honey.”

In the next two years, however, life got even more challenging and Chris’s MS got even worse. We never talked again about getting a dog. And that year, in the fall of 2009, God called my husband Home. Since Chris had passed away in Colorado while we were attending the HSLDA national homeschool leadership conference, we didn’t get back home for about six weeks. Once we did get home, after my crazy idea of making a maiden voyage across the country in an RV, neither the children nor I wanted to be home without daddy for Thanksgiving and Christmas, which were just around the corner.

So, I decided to take a road trip to see our family and friends after Chris’s memorial service on October 31st. God ministered to our hearts in soft, quiet ways as we clocked the miles visiting my daughter Megan in Tennessee and my daughter Bethany and son-in-law Ben in Mississippi for Thanksgiving. And spending Christmas with our friends, Bob and Tina Farewell in Florida was loud and fun and very healing for all of us. Right in the middle of our road trip, however, was my son John’s golden birthday; he turned 12 on 12/12/09.

To celebrate, my kids and I spent the day at one of Walt Disney’s water parks. I honestly don’t remember which one, but I do remember John asking me to go down this ridiculous slide that looked as tall as a skyscraper and about as steep as one, too. I thought I was going to slide my way straight into heaven on that one! Ever heard of uncontrollable, hysterical laughter brought on by sheer fright? Yep, that was me…oh, the things we mothers do for our sons.

Those weeks were marked by deep joy as we felt the love and prayers of many, many friends and family, and by even deeper grief as we realized, over and over, day after day, that we would never see our daddy and father again. We heard only the echo of his laugh, saw only the shadow of his big grin, and felt only the memory of his arms and prayers around us.

And in our deep loss, I certainly wasn’t thinking about a dog, but God was.

Shortly after we returned home from that trip, not even one month after John turned 12, I was having my morning devotions and prayer time, and I distinctly remember sensing God was saying to me, “John is 12 now, and you need to honor his dad’s promise to get him a dog.”

At first, I was dumbfounded. “Did You really just say that, Lord?” but I knew better. Yes, His words to me were clear, “You need to honor his dad’s promise.” I started crying, not because I didn’t want to get a dog. No, I was crying because in that moment, I could see how great God’s love was for my son. He cared enough about this boy to remember his desire for a dog back when he was nine years old, even if I hadn’t remembered.

After John read several books about dog care and dog breeds, we decided to get an Irish Terrier. This breed met my three requirements – no dog bigger than medium-size, or that sheds, or that barks a lot – and it fulfilled his desire for an intelligent dog that is steadfastly loyal to its master and great around children. We flew all the way to Tulsa where my parents lived and with my dad, drove to Missouri where John picked out a little girl pup that charmed his heart.

The next year became a remarkable journey for John as he cared for Indy Anna, a name fitting for a female dog who is named after the famous adventurer Indiana Jones. She became part of our family, but has always been John’s girl. When she was just several weeks old, he faithfully took her out in the middle of the night as part of her house training. He also bathed her, cleaned up after her accidents, fed her, brushed her, played with her, took her for walks, and taught her tricks. We even took her to a dog groomer for a private session so John could learn how to groom her himself.

While there were several years where I watched John grow in faithfulness and maturity, all because he had Indy to care for, there were also seasons when John got busy with other things and work, and when he just didn’t feel like caring for her like he knew he should. That’s where I grappled with balancing showing grace and enforcing responsibility. I don’t know that I always did that well.

I do know that seven years later, John, who no longer lives at home, loves his dog still and will probably bring her home with him, whenever the time is right. Even more, I know that God loves my son in a very deep and personal way, and He showed it by reminding me of a promise his daddy made three years before he died.

Tracy Klicka Photography
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