Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Dawning

My sheep hear my voice,
and I know them,
and they follow Me.
John 10:27

 Mary Magdalene knew she should have waited for the other women after the Sabbath. It was unkind to go ahead of them to Jesus' tomb. But the emptiness inside, the need to be near Him overpowered her sense of propriety. She hoped for a few minutes to weep alone beside His body before the others came to anoint Him with spices.

As the first rays of light peeked through the haze of night, another large earthquake--the second in the last two days--rumbled underneath, nearly knocking her off her feet. She caught her balance and stumbled onward to the garden.

At the tomb, she had a larger shock. The huge stone sealing the tomb's entrance had somehow been rolled away from the entrance of the tomb. Panic seized Mary. The tomb had been robbed of its contents.

She ran and found Peter and John and breathlessly reported the theft. Together they ran back to the tomb. John got there first but didn't go in. Mary stood fearfully outside with John as Peter, with his usual bravado, bent down and stepped into the tomb.

Jesus was indeed gone. The shroud was still there, head cloth rolled neatly by itself. It seemed a macabre touch, as if someone were tidying up after a nap.

Peter was disgusted. John, who finally went in to see for himself, came out with a look of bewilderment and wonder. They walked back to their homes arguing quietly. 

But Mary couldn't leave just yet. This was the final blow. Hadn't His poor body suffered enough humiliation? The tomb was her last tie to Him, the last place to be near Him. Now truly nothing was left of Him but the memories. She had never felt so forsaken or alone.

Then she heard a small sound coming from inside the tomb. Was the blessed sanity Jesus had restored to her now leaving, too? Trembling, she bent down and peered into the room.

To her surprise, two men were sitting where Jesus should have been lying. They sat in shining garments. One of them spoke, his words flowing like the sound of a dancing stream.

"Woman, why are you weeping?"

Now it was not her sanity in question. You're sitting on the reason, she thought. But she simply said, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him."

Precisely at that moment, she heard footsteps behind her. "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Startled, she turned to see a young man standing near, looking at her with a strange mix of compassion and pity.

A random thought occurred to her. Perhaps this was the gardener and had, for some reason, moved the body. She turned back longingly to the tomb. "Sir," she begged, "if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away."

For a moment, there was no answer but silence. A long pause hung in the air like a deep sigh.


A shock wave rolled through her. She knew this voice. This was the voice that conquered waves, kingdoms, demons, and men. It was the voice that raised the dead and stilled her storms. 

The holy voice that called her name was the Voice of her God.

She whirled around in disbelief. It was Him. Now there was no doubt. His face was different; serene, peaceful, scarred. 

But it was His eyes. Those eyes that always bared her soul and forgave what they saw. Her heart pounded with the thrill of the words thundering in her head:

Jesus is alive. He is not dead. A thousand other thoughts tumbled through her head as the force of this revelation rocked her world. 

Eternal life is real. Death is temporary. Nothing is more powerful than God.

"Teacher!" In a moment she was at His feet, clinging to Him with joy and abandon. The reality of His presence and His authority to conquer even death burst into a thousand prisms of joy in her heart. In one shining moment, an endless night of tears melted away in the power of a new dawn.

 We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet;
for the trumpet will sound,
and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
For this perishable must put on the imperishable,
and this mortal must put on immortality.
But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable,
and this mortal will have put on immortality,
then will come about the saying that is written:
1 Corinthians 15:51-54  

This account is based on the record of the disciple John in John 20. Some of the other Biblical accounts vary slightly as each disciple reveals different insights to the event. Read the Biblical accounts of the Resurrection for yourself in Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24, and John 20.

Special thanks to Erik Thorson for the photos. Copyright 2013.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Long Night

Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery's shadow or reflection:
the fact that you don't merely suffer
 but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer.
I not only live each day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day 
in grief.
-C.S. Lewis

Life had never been that bad for Mary. She wasn't rich like the Pharisees and Sadducees who walked with pious dignity to the temple every Sabbath. But she wasn't so poor that she had to beg alongside the tattered bits of humanity lining the streets of Jerusalem that fine day.

She skirted the people now, frantic to find out if the rumors swirling about Jesus' arrest were true. It was surely a mistake. It wasn't possible the Messiah would be killed. She swallowed back the gnawing fear growing inside her.

No, life had never been that bad before Mary met Jesus. It was more like no existence at all; just a numbing ritual of doing and being. It had all been pointless, really. 

Living without being alive.

The Master changed all that. The sound of His voice called to something deep and clean and pure inside her, as if awakening the dead. His piercing eyes seemed to bare her soul. And yet, His presence was the one place she felt safe. Men often argued about whether or not He was the promised Deliverer. Mary only knew He was Life.

Finally, she found Him. She found him dying on a cross, hanging between heaven and earth as if He belonged in neither. His suffering was unspeakable. Mary fought back the urge to lunge at the rough beam holding Him there and somehow bring it down. Instead, she stood frozen at a distance as waves of revulsion rose and tightened into an unspoken scream in her throat. A thick, ungodly darkness fell over the land, mirroring her soul.

The worst part was when it was all over. Back at home she lay in misery upon her cot. Sleep would not come that night, nor the next, nor the next. Every moment of the horrific day replayed in her head: the mocking laughter of the soldiers; the screams and groans of the dying men, the smell of death. There would be no reversal of the court, no last-minute reprieve. 

No word from heaven to stop the human farce that declared the innocent one guilty of its own sins.

Jesus' cry, "It is finished" echoed incessantly in Mary's head. She didn't know what He meant, but she knew what it meant for her. Life was finished. The voice that called to her was stilled forever. All that gave her a reason to live lay dead in a borrowed tomb.

Erik Thorson 2013
Mary's life loomed before her now a dark night to be endured, rather the adventure her Master had made it to be. Every day with Him was a new morning. Anything before Him had been formless and void, and she knew she could never go back. And yet, there was no future without the Master. 

Now she was the one left hanging between heaven and earth.

Before the first rays of the day dawned, she arose numbly. The first thing to wash over her was the overwhelming sense of loss in another day without hope. She was gripped with an intense longing to be near Him again. She just had to go to the tomb. Even in death, He drew her to Him.

TO BE CONTINUED... Join me this Sunday morning for the conclusion: "The Dawning"

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Photo courtesy Erik Thorson
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work 
and the love which you have shown toward His name,
in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.
Hebrews 6:10

It's been a long winter. A cold and bitter wind has chilled your soul for many months. The icy fingers of death claw at you as you struggle to free yourself from their grip.
The weather's been bad, too.

You have chosen to follow Christ as you walk through a dead world. The spring you have experienced in your heart drives you to share this amazing news. It inspires you to fly into the storms, to choose a life in the harsh places where the hurting and the dying and the desperate need the healing touch of the Lord of the seasons. 

You have given up the comforts of a cozy existence to follow this call. Day after day you pour out your life for others. You are often misunderstood--or worse, ignored. Your reward is resistance, insults, mocking, silence. 

But you stay, because the call is greater than the cold. Beneath the snow, you can see evidence of a coming thaw. The tender green shoots of new life are stubbornly pushing toward the sun. 

Don't give up yet.

God has heard every prayer. He has seen the love you display toward others. He has noticed even the smallest acts of mercy you have shown in His name. Absolutely nothing escapes God, and He never forgets.

And He will repay him for his good deed.
Proverbs 19:17

Stay true to your call. Serve in the winter seasons with joy and perseverance, knowing you work for a loyal master. Eventually spring will triumph and the harvest will come. In the meantime, lean hard on God and stay close to your fellow laborers. Look out for each other. Pray for one another. Choose the day's duties wisely and follow God's instructions precisely.

No winter lasts forever, not even this one. You will see a harvest.

Let us not lose heart in doing good,
for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
Galatians 6:9

What winter are you experiencing? What promises of God are you still waiting to see fulfilled? How can we keep from growing weary as we serve Him?

Friday, March 22, 2013


We were joking around last week and I kiddingly called someone a "stonethrower," a reference to the ancient Middle Eastern practice of stoning offenders. The name struck me (no pun intended), and it sent me to the Bible to revisit the account of the adulterous woman. That led to the subject of this week's Wednesday devotional at CMADDICT.COM.

Come on over and glean new insights from Slightly Obsessed: Stonethrower.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How Well Do You Know Your Enemy?

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,
making the most of your time, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15 NASB 

Last weekend I was privileged to attend the Inland Northwest Christian Writer's Conference. The keynote speaker was Dr. Dennis "Doc" Hensley. Dr. Hensley is a professor and department director at Taylor University. He has published over fifty books and thousands of newspaper and magazine articles. He spoke eloquently at the conference. As a good speaker should do, he had us both laughing and crying with every speech.

It was the final message, though, that grabbed my soul.

Dr. Hensley described his first experience after arriving in Vietnam as a young soldier. He was gung-ho, proud of his toughness, ready to fight as he rode the long flight with the others from the American base. They arrived in the sweltering heat of the jungle and stood at attention for what seemed like forever, sweat dripping off their faces.

Finally the sergeant came out of a Quonset hut, dressed impeccably in a faded uniform. He was obviously a seasoned soldier. Hensley happened to be the first man in the first line. The sergeant directed his attention to him.

First he noted his cologne. Hensley admitted with some confusion that he had put on cologne that day. The sergeant berated him for announcing his arrival to the Viet Cong, who could easily tell the difference between their own soldiers and Americans coming down the road in the dark simply by that one thing. Sheepishly, Hensley realized his cologne was a dead giveaway.

The sergeant then pointed out his luminous watch and nine other ways an enemy could find and destroy him and his fellow soldiers in the jungle, just by the way they were dressed. Hensley suddenly realized this was deadly business.

His sergeant opened his eyes about death and life that day.  He showed those green, untested men on the tarmac how to stay alive in enemy territory and how to take this new knowledge home to the States. They were words Hensley never forgot; sage advice he determined to live by for the rest of his life.

The advice?

Know your enemy better than he knows you.

Today I am thinking about my life, about what makes me fall into the enemy's hands. What can I change about the battles I fight, the war I wage against the enemy of my soul? What minefields do I wander into regularly? What propaganda do I allow to color my perceptions of God, others, and myself? What hallowed ground do I give up by default because I don't want to bleed on the battlefield?

Wouldn't it be awesome to break out of old patterns that defeat us and strengthen our enemy? I want to listen harder for the voice of the Captain of our souls, the One who walks before us and has already won the war. I want to be all that I can be, to quote an old military slogan. It's time to regroup, get our new orders, and move forward. There's a world awaiting release from captivity. 

Let's go.

What traps do you regularly fall into? In what ways could you better see the way ahead of you and avoid sustaining needless wounds? What are you willing to shed blood, sweat, and tears to gain?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Early Dawn

Photo courtesy Erik Thorson 2013
 Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
Matthew 7:7 

Dawn came especially early today as I had to get up early to get my duties done for the day. This morning I head out of town for a couple of days at a writer's conference. For me, this rare mini-vacation involves extra work before and after to keep things caught up with our certified family home. For my family, it means closing ranks and taking up the slack while I'm gone.

Thanks, gang, for believing in the message and releasing me to go.

Thankfully, we're all doing well again, although Daniel is just starting to go back to work. If you think of our family, your prayers would be much appreciated.

Have a great weekend, dear friends, and I'll see you here next Tuesday!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Let Hope Take Wing

Photo courtesy Erik Thorson 2013
How rich I am! God is the Creator of the whole universe, 
yet is holding my life in His hands. 
-Corrie Ten Boom

Winter's grip is loosening here in our corner of the Northwest. An icy wind still wraps the gray mornings in a chill, but the grass is greening and the bulbs are peeking through the dirt. I feel the cold fingers of fear slipping from around my heart as Kevin and Daniel's medical issues resolve and we fall again into some semblance of a normal routine.

Plus, I got lots of sleep last night. It's amazing what a little rest can do for the soul. This morning dawned gray and overcast, but I know it's just bluster from Old Man Winter. He always tries to make me think he's here forever. But he can't fool me.

Spring is on the way.

There have been some good things that have come from our recent struggles with Kevin's medical issues. It's made us rethink how we do things around here and come up with new techniques for getting through our days. We've been forced to come up with alternate solutions for transfers and do a little healthy innovating with caregiving duties. It's been a fierce-some reminder to never take anything for granted. We'll probably come out of this stronger and better equipped for the future.

God has a way of doing that.

Today I'm going to take a deep breath, enjoy a cup of tea, and prepare for the upcoming writer's conference I plan on attending this coming weekend. Along the way, I'll remind myself to thoroughly enjoy the peaceful days, giving lavish praise back to the Creator for His rich provision. I'll try to make this winter a memorial to setting aside the little things I allow to crowd out the pure joy of living. Every moment without pain is an abundant blessing. Each day with those I love is heaven.

Once again, death threatens to be swallowed up with rebirth. And we have been given this day to rejoice in it. 

So rejoice! Ignore the snow, the wind, the bluster of the enemy. Let the stirring in your heart arise; let hope take wing. 

It's a new day.

And not only this, 
but we also exult in our tribulations, 
knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;
and perseverance, proven character;
and proven character, hope;
and hope does not disappoint,
because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Personal Slough

Photo courtesy Grace Thorson 2013

At the end of our yard sits a lovely little corner featuring grass, evergreen trees, and a small pond. It's a peaceful spot, filled with the gentle sounds of the fountain and waterfall. The water's always green, because I can never quite keep it up. I don't care, though. I always wanted my own personal slough. For years it's been my quiet place. I love to sit and watch the dozens of goldfish that greet me and churn the water surface at feeding time.

When we first heard the news our son had broken his neck in Canada and was on a ventilator, we knew very little about his condition. We didn't know if he was still alive or had died. My husband grimly called the Lethbridge hospital for information. I stood beside him in agony.

Suddenly I just had to escape. I could take no more. I bolted outside, as if I could outrun reality.

This is the place to which I ran. I collapsed next to the pond, buried my head in my hands, and sobbed. It nearly killed me to think of our dear son so far away and fighting for his life. I thought I was going to break into thousands of jagged little pieces. I couldn't even pray.

"Oh...God, " I moaned.

It was here, next to my little slough, God answered. Two unmistakable words broke through the blinding pain, two quiet words, spoken with absolute authority in a Voice I had come to recognize and love over the years. The Voice commanded me to be still.

The words He spoke: Trust Me.

It's been nearly sixteen years since that awful day. We have had many trials and victories in that time. The thing that has remained constant is God's faithfulness to His Word. I've learned quite a few lessons on this journey, but the most important one has been the one I found at the pond. In times of trial, the only safe place to run is to God. He still performs miracles, He's still our faithful Father, and He's worthy of our trust. He has never once let us down.

What do you need to trust Him for today?

Portions of this post are excerpted from my first book, Song in the Night, which chronicles our son's injury and God's amazing work in our lives. Click on to find out more about our story.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Down to the Foundation

Photo courtesy Erik Thorson
For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid,
which is Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 3:11 

First it was Kevin. When he injured his arm a couple of weeks ago, he couldn't walk to his wheelchair using the two-person assist we usually use. We had to revert back to the "fireman's transfer" we learned in physical therapy, using three people. Our youngest son Daniel, the one with the strongest back, did the lion's share of the transfer.

A week into that system, the strain on Daniel's back made an old work injury flare up with vengeance. We ditched that technique and went to  the "standing pivot," using a gait belt. Since Kevin's been healing nicely, that works better for now. Except it still takes three people, given the level of Kevin's spinal cord injury. So Kevin's brother Erik helps when he can, and Grace has been helping a lot.

Until today, when Grace awakened with a fierce sore throat. Erik is working.

And then there were two. It will be Aaron and I taking care of things today. Now my back is groaning.

Thank God Kevin is improving and taking on more of the transfer himself again. But this brought back into sharp focus the realization of the fragile dwellings we inhabit. We are, quite literally, souls living in clay houses. Each day we're given is a momentary gift, with no guarantee of a tomorrow. Not in this life.
Things have been easier for us in recent years. We have developed a good system for running a certified family home and caring for our son. We've even been able to develop a few other interests. It doesn't take much, however, to level us back to our foundations. Over the years we've learned some basic survival techniques for the bad days, something I suppose most people with chronic illnesses or injuries instinctively develop. We revert to these emotional and practical cornerstones when hardship hits:

*Cut out anything not necessary for the day. Conserve energy whenever possible.
*Tag team the duties. We try to make sure somebody gets rest at some point.
*Keep other projects caught up so we have a little wiggle room when caregiving gets intensive.
*Get prayer support from family and friends.
*Stay on the foundation.  

For us, that foundation is Christ. He is our Rock, the only solid place to stand when everything is falling down around us . When our houses get shaken, He is always there to rescue us and help us rebuild.  I thank God for the firm footing under us during times like this. He will see us through to better days again. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Proceed with Caution

Photo courtesy Erik Thorson 2013

Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
Proverbs 27:1 NASB 

The last two weeks have been a reminder to never take anything for granted. Although we're full time caregivers, we have been at it a long time-nearly sixteen years. In that time, we've developed a pretty good system for taking care of our duties for the day.

When Kevin first got injured in 1997, we didn't do anything else but take of him all day and night. But as he improved and we got more used to our job, life got easier. Except for the increasingly rare times he is sick, things run pretty smoothly around here.

Until last week.

Kevin was getting up for the day as usual. Each day he walks with assistance to and from his wheelchair. Last week he stood to walk to his chair and suddenly buckled.

We were caught off guard but quickly sat him back on the bed. In the process, he injured his arm and back slightly. There was little pain but a lot of back spasms, making getting up by himself nearly impossible.

For the last week and a half, we have been working with new ways to help him get into and out of his wheelchair and negotiate through the days. It's been a time-consuming process and a frustrating situation for all of us, and especially for Kevin. Thankfully, he appears to be healing nicely and is better each day.

Until this happened, we had fallen into a routine and perhaps a false sense of security. Recently we have been busier and busier outside the home. This was a bit of a wake-up call to take care in making other commitments. Our job here comes first.

We never know what God has in store for us. Every day is His. It's important to be flexible and yielding to His right to change our plans.

The people who build our highways know the road and have signs to direct us. When the road is marked with double yellow lines, it indicates some caution is required. We can't pass everyone and sail on. In the same way, God marks the journey for us in order to keep us safe and headed in the right direction.

Sometimes we make great progress. Other times it's a slow and winding drive. Losing patience won't help us get there any faster. There are no shortcuts. The only way to get to our goal safely is to follow the signs and proceed with caution.