When Even Answers Cannot Satisfy

Our community is suffering a tremendous sadness today due to the untimely death of a young student via suicide.  There are no words to express the deep grief, sadness, and pain that his family is feeling at his loss, and the deep sorrow that sweeps over our youth who were his friends and peers.  The tears flow freely and the hearts seem to hang so low that speaking just seems irreverent at times.  Questions rise to the surface about the “why’s” of this tragedy, and they linger like eternal echoes in the souls of all of us.  There are just no answers that can satisfy.  But there is one question that finds its way to the forefront of conversations among many, and that is the question:  “How could God let this happen?” That is the question I would like to follow-up on here in this blog.

Love that is forced is not love. What makes love beautiful and powerful has to do with choice.  We want to be chosen, we want to choose.  When we are moved by our free will to choose to love someone, we have the ability to express it to the deepest levels of our heart, and even beyond if we are conduits of the love God has for us which transcends our thoughts and feelings.  We feel the power of love when it chooses us, pursues us, and keeps us.

Choice.  Choice is a gift.  Choice is a gift given to humanity by a God who loves us.  With our choices we can build cities, paint pictures, love people, explore the world, settle down in our hometowns, raise families, foster children, work in hospitals, care for the orphans, feed the hungry, provide for the needy, bless our friends, and build our dreams.  With our choices we make faithfulness mean something.  With our choices  we become heroes, friends, soldiers, servants, and leaders.  With our choices we live life to the fullest and enrich the lives of those around us.  Without the power of choice, we are puppets who have no will, no desires, no outs, and no hope.

As long as we have the power of choice, we have the power to bless one another.  We have the power to “speak life” into the sorrowing soul of another.   With our choices we can be a conduit of healing, of hope, of love and forgiveness.  This is what God intended when He gave us choices.  “Choose life” God says.

Deuteronomy 30:19

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

I don’t know why this beautiful young man decided to end his life this past weekend.  I can only stand on this side with sadness for him as he made his choices, and sorrow that his choice was not life.  I ache for his family, and I sorrow as a mom who cannot imagine a life without my sons.  With this sorrow I am made more confident in the love of God that has endowed me and you with choices.  He could have made puppets out of all of us.  He could force us to love Him, and force us to choose Him, and His desires; but He doesn’t.  He lets us choose.  He lets us use the depth of our emotions, and the epochs of our strengths.  He allows us to feel the depth of loss, and hold our loved ones close.  He, Himself, all the while, chooses us in love, comforts us, and holds our hope.

We may never know “why?”  And even if we knew the full story, our hearts could not rest in the knowledge of it.  Life is just too precious to be lost, and this young man was no exception.  My heart and prayers go out to my community tonight and in particular to the family of this beloved son whose life ended all too soon.  God be with you.

 

For more reading on the subject of “free will” I submit an earlier blog:

High Tide

https://catemorris.com/2009/12/10/free-will/

 

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Radio Interview

A few weeks ago I was invited by Chris Story to his radio program “Alaska Adventure Radio” to talk about my new album “Red Sky“.  It was a fun interview that I enjoyed immensely with a very entertaining host!

I live in Homer, Alaska so this program showcases the local flare.

Blessings to you!!

Cate

Taking the Plunge

My Biggest Halibut Ever!

This summer, while my husband was gone commercial fishing, the kids and I decided to go halibut fishing with our Pastor, and his neice.  We motored out well into the Cook Inlet to some designated halibut “hot-spots” and prepared to bait our hooks.  Some of the best bait for halibut happens to be herring and Rick, our Pastor, had a bucket of herring on the deck that was soaking in some sort of special brine he had made to make it more smelly and therefore more halibut attracting.  I looked at the liquid the bait was floating in and suddenly didn’t want to touch it.  It was brown, greasy, slimy, and smelled pretty funky.  The thought ran through my head, “I don’t want that stuff all over my hands.”

Well, we had seven fishermen, and five poles to bait, so I “bucked up”and plunged my hand into the greasy brine, pulled out a herring, cut it in half and attached him to the circle hook at the end of a fishing pole.  Then I took the other half and attached it to the hook of another, and repeated this process until all of the fishing poles were ready to fish.

I thought about what changed my mind from being grossed-out by the herring to becoming brave and diligent with the assignment, and here is what I came up with:

#1  The task needed to be done.  Sure I could let Rick, bait everyone’s hooks, and run from pole to pole making sure everyone was set up and ready, but that would make the burden greater for him, and he may not get a chance to fish because his time is taken up in baiting other people’s poles.  I was capable, I was knowledgeable, I was an adult.  It was a responsibility that I needed to answer to and so I did.

Secondly, and probably more profound to me, was this thought that occurred to me:  “My hands will only be dirty until I wash them.”  The grease and grime was a temporary state of being, because I had opportunity to make them clean again.  As I looked over the railing of the fishing boat we were on, there was a vast supply of water we were bobbing upon.  The Pacific Ocean was within my reach, with water that would clean my hands.

So with herring on my hands, God began to talk to my heart.  I began to think about the assignments or opportunities God had placed in my path on a daily basis, and I thought about how I picked or rejected each one.  I didn’t like the ones that inconvenienced me.  I didn’t want the jobs that got my hands dirty, or messed too much with my free time.  I often skipped some assignments thinking that someone more qualified would eventually come along and do them in my place.  I saw many assignments as undesirable while I bobbed and floated in life on the ocean of God’s love and mercy.  I began to see my selfishness and near-sightedness.

My mom used to have a plaque that hung up in our home that said these words: “The Will of God will never lead you where the Grace of God cannot keep you.”  And in the words of John Mark McMillan’s song “How He Loves”, there is that brilliant line that says “if grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”

The fact remains that I live in an infinite supply of the love and grace of God.  Like the fishing boat on the Pacific Ocean, my life is surrounded.  I need only to dip my hands over the railing and find that there is grace enough to help me accomplish my tasks, refresh my soul, and prepare me for the next moment.  So what am I waiting for?   It’s time to take the plunge!

Hosanna!

In dedication to Lorraine Williams, I reflect on a blog I originally published in 2011. Updated now…

I had had been reflecting on the Easter season when my kids and I had read through the book of John, we came to the chapter about the “Triumphal Entry” of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey.  Often in our churches, Palm Sunday will be marked by children walking into the sanctuary waving palm branches and shouting out what the people of Jerusalem did, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”   Palm Sunday is a cheery, celebratory day and we revel in the history and joy of Jesus’ entry,  but how did the same cheering crowd praise Jesus one day and crucify him on another?

Several years ago a dear friend of mine began a battle with breast cancer.  She is a pastor’s wife and a woman of great faith, so she began this fight with much optimism.  Her life was on display, and her community was ready to witness a miracle in her life as we expected God to do a miraculous healing.  Many weeks passed, many prayer vigils held, many prayer chains contacted, and many encouraging words spoken, but the healing did not come.  She stood on God’s promises of healing and quoted the scriptures that declare that He is a healer, but still the cancer prevailed.  The tumor was growing and she had decisions that had to be made quickly.

I remember her sharing with me that late into her cancer, at one doctor’s appointment, a nurse began sharing with her that there was a “Spiritual Healer” in town who lived not far from her.  The man was a Shaman who used incantations and different concoctions to cure his patients.  Many from our town had used his services and were cured, and my friend would have been a perfect candidate for his help.  With quiet resolve, my friend declined the invitation to put her hope in a Shaman and journeyed home with the cancer still present in her body and questions in her mind.

What do you do when the Jesus you are expecting isn’t the Jesus who shows up in your life?  When you are expecting a King to come and overthrow the Roman government, set you free from tyranny, and bring governmental peace decides instead to be crucified and taken from the political scene you are living in?  What do you do when God the Healer decides instead to walk you through your pain rather than deliver you from it?  What do you do with this Jesus?

We all face this dilemma.  We love God, worship Him whole-heartedly, and celebrate Him on Sunday morning, but on Tuesday when our child is incurably ill, or our cancer is still growing, or we lose our job, home, or spouse we begin to doubt and wonder–  “Is there possibly another solution?  God doesn’t seem to be coming through for me.  Should I look for another Savior?”

Jesus looked pretty legitimate riding in on that donkey.  After all He was fulfilling the scriptures prophesied hundreds of years before in Zechariah 9:9.  The people also shouted something they had rehearsed from scripture in Psalm 118:25-26.  They were ready for His arrival!  They recognized the King in the parade.  He wasn’t as recognizable, however,  when He was silent before His accusers.

When we can’t “see” Him in our circumstances, when we don’t recognize His presence in our pain we begin to doubt and look for another Savior. We can be quick to crucify or abandon our Help when it doesn’t come in our time-table dressed the way we are expecting it.

In his book “The Mystery of the Cross”, Alister McGrath, professor of theology, ministry and education in King’s College, London said: “Just as God has humbled himself in making himself known ‘in the humility and shame of the cross,’ we must humble ourselves if we are to encounter him.  We must humble ourselves by being prepared to be told where to look to find God, rather than trusting in our own insights and speculative abilities. In effect, we are forced to turn our eyes from contemplation of where we would like to see God revealed, and to turn them instead upon a place which is not of our choosing, but which is given to us.”

My friend scheduled the surgery she wanted to avoid, and had the mastectomy.  She grieved her losses, embraced the pain and embraced her Savior even tighter.  She learned to trust God in the dark and walked with Him in the light. She would tell you that cancer taught her more about the love and grace of God than any other experience.  She found her Savior.  He was there in the suffering– promising to never leave her.

Today I will celebrate the life of that dear friend, as she has gone home to be with Jesus–the One she put her trust in. I will celebrate the battle she won in faithfulness and perseverance. I will joy in the fact that she positioned her life to “see” her Savior even when she could have kept her eyes solely on her pain. Even in the face of cancer, she was able to say “Blessed is HE who comes in the name of the Lord.”

I am forever grateful for her faithfulness, and for who she was to me and this community. She is deeply missed.

Dedicated to Lorraine Williams (1959-2018)

When we wanted a King, God sent a baby.  When we wanted revolution, God sent a Redeemer.  When we wanted freedom, God sent a cross.