Category Archives: Faith

IT’S STILL TRUE

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When we are invited into the “fellowship of His sufferings” and the “gospel of weakness” is preached to our soul and makes us its convert, and, like Job, we are left with hanging hands, questioning heart and smitten soul…we need to be able to face the most urgent questions of our lifetime.

IS GOD IN CONTROL?

and

CAN I TRUST HIM TO BRING ME THROUGH THIS INTO A BETTER PLACE?

The Psalmist said,

“it is GOOD for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn to trust Your ways.”
Psa 119:71

He preceded that with this stunning piece of insight:

“YOU ARE GOOD, and You do good…”
Psa 119:68

(Notice the order; we want to reverse those clauses)

Allow me to share some insights God showed me recently from Romans 8:18-39 – one of Paul’s strongest sermons ever.

Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait…

🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹🔹

I saw it again recently. It wasn’t overt; it was subtle, not evident. But it was there, even if only a flicker or quickly passing guarded judgment.

I opened a gate into my personal space for a friend I hadn’t seen in many years. I chatted about our lives, what’s been happening…and the truest and most painful update of all. I revealed to them that we buried our son – who they remembered as a young child – the weekend of Christmas, each revelation more difficult and dark. Might as well say it all, I was thinking. Someone said, “there’s no valor in faking it; there’s tremendous valor in facing it.”

So I faced it.

“Our son was a heroin addict. He died of an overdose.”

It was there. I saw it. The quick unspoken interview, dying to ask, holding back, not wanting to judge, but still…

How did that happen?
(He was such a sweet child)
What drove him to drugs?
(It had to be something in his upbringing)
How could you, the gatekeepers of everything that influenced him, his protectors, his spiritual guardians, let him sink so low?
(Couldn’t you see the signs?)

All that in the quiet space of about two hundredths of a micro-second. I saw it. I could tell. Then I thought, I know what you’re thinking because those are the very first questions – even accusations – that would pop into my head if I were sitting where you’re sitting.

This time I didn’t react to the look and quickly go to a defensive tack and say how it was the bent of his heart mixed with bad company, adding to that the “mark of Cain” of being given up for adoption, placed in a minister’s home, and calling a disabled man “Dad.”

What I did, instead, was to say that the Father saw my son – yes, with a needle in his arm and hating himself for it (I know he did) – He saw the pain in his soul and heard his cry for mercy and RAN to him, met him in the back seat where he was all alone on a Minnesota December morning, and, as his life was ebbing away, said, “Graham Scott, you’ve had enough of this pig sty, and I’m going to do two things: I’m going to hug you with the stench of offal and sour earth still on you, yes; and then I’m going to escort you to the kingdom I’ve prepared for you.”

I told my friend that God is a Good Father, a Gracious King and a merciful Rescuer. I told my friend that Sandy and I, though wrecked with an earthly grief that persists to this morning and beyond, we’re confident that even in this God is good. That is STILL TRUE. Taking Graham from us was an incredible act of mercy on His part.

GOD.

IS.

GOOD.

And now, perhaps one or two are having a similar internal dialogue in response to what I’ve just said.

Wait. Your son was an addict. He died from a heroin high. He had been partying with friends. How is it you’re so sure he’s with God?

I have to tell you, when I got inboxed on Facebook from Graham’s birth mother on the day he was found in that pitiful condition, saying that he was on life support but no other info was available to her, that when I finally was able to get through to her, understood that our boy was grave and the next 24 to 48 hours were critical.

My first thought?
Oh, God, what if he dies (didn’t know he was already gone)?
Lord, will our boy be with you?

My theology doesn’t allow for a “say a prayer” one-and-done salvation. It is constructed of the message of the Kingdom, that salvation is “from faith to faith” and thoroughly “from first to last.”

I suppose you can see the conflict, knowing what you know now.

Lord God, Father of mercies, what will become of my son?

And, as sure as a burning bush glowed in my dining room, as sure as if an angel made an entrance into my space and time, as sure as Elijah hiding out in a mountain cranny, the Father’s Word split through the gauzy mist of the moment and reassured me.

Psalms 85:2-3,10
[I] forgave the iniquity of your [son];
[I] covered all [his] sin.
Selah
(Now I can say:)
You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.
[Your] steadfast love and faith meet;
[Your] righteousness and peace kiss each other.

I read those words from that day’s scripture on my Bible app and knew without a shred of doubt that my son was in that moment dressed in white, being carried by angels and laid at the feet of sinful man’s Redeemer and Eternal Hope. There Graham bowed and was hugged by God Himself.

How can this be?
How can God call “holy” that which, from all appearances, seems so unholy?
Does He, then, save everyone, universally, unconditionally, no questions asked?

Well, no, of course not.

What “saves” us?

Romans 8:24 says “hope” saves us. Hope in something we can’t see.

YET.

Specifically, the “redemption of our bodies” (v23) is what the saved hope for. What, then, does this entail?

(1) Firstly, The understanding that there’s something past the grave, that death doesn’t end it.

(2) Secondly, The submission to the truth that we need something outside ourselves to extend our lives on into eternity, namely a Somebody, a Redeemer.

(3) Thirdly, The recognition that there’s something in us worth redeeming, that we are not lost causes.

(4) Fourthly, The sometimes-painful truth that what we see now is not the finished product, that the Father obligates Himself – through our yielding and repentances – to make us fit for eternity

The apostle says hope that can be seen with our natural sight is not the hope he’s referring to. Thank God THAT’S not what saves us! If we have hope of future glory based solely on going to church, being moral, living clean, minding our tongue, giving to charities, and the like, we’d be sunk.

Where the Lord looks – not where we can see – is into the heart. If Graham walked in here this morning, looking the way he did before December 16, 2013, most of us would see a lost soul. Covered in tattoos, fully sleeved, face, neck, legs and hands, thick with the cloying smell of nicotine, pants sagging, and ghetto-speak, we’d start praying for his soul.

And I’d be praying right along with you!

It’s sad that many of us put ALL our trust in our performance to save us rather than God’s foreknowledge and grace. In the end, when we appear before the King Who Reigns – and all of us will – the question (forget the St. Peter at the gate jokes) that will be asked will be “What did you do with My Son?” and the only response accepted will be “I looked to Him and cried out for His mercies to save me from beginning to end.”

The Father will say “I know. I saw you choose My Son before you were even born. It was in eternity past that I elected you based on your disposition toward My Son. Enter into the joy of the Eternal Kingdom!”

The woman of Sychar wouldn’t pass inspection either. But Jesus wouldn’t write her off. Nor would the woman who was face-planted at the feet of Jesus in John 8 be most churches’ candidate for membership. But Jesus wouldn’t condemn her. The shady woman that interrupted a dinner party in Luke 7 wouldn’t make the grade but Jesus didn’t interrupt her love-fest on His feet. I’ll bet most of the Twelve who were in Jesus’ band wouldn’t be our cup of tea either, but they were the Master’s Men.

Yeah, one was a devil…and we know he’s in hell.

What you’re thinking is what I assure you I still preach: “but,” you say, “the woman at the well surely ceased her wild ways, the woman of John 8 who got a divine reprieve most likely took Christ’s counsel to heart and repented, the grateful whore of Luke 7 certainly mended her ways, and the disciples were noticeably different after having been with Jesus.”

Yes. All that is true.

I twice warned my son “as long as you’re looking for a way OUT instead of the way HOME, you’ll always remain a prodigal.”

The Father, it says, “searches the hearts” (v27) and who are we to “condemn His elect?” (V33) because “it is God who justifies” whom He will (v33) and who He justifies,”He also glorifies” (v30).

These great verses are preceded by one very important qualifier: God offers His Holy Spirit to help the weak (v26). We’re too weak to save ourselves. We’re even too weak to hope for the redemption of our bodies! We need God to accomplish in us what we are too weak to do for ourselves.

Andrew Murray, in The Two Covenants, wrote long ago:

“There are some still looking wistfully at this blessed life [New Covenant], and yet afraid to trust themselves to this wondrous grace. They have a conception of faith as something great and mighty, and they know and feel that theirs is not such. And so their feebleness remains an insuperable barrier to their inheriting the promise. Let me try and say once again: Brother, the act of faith, by which you accept and enter this life in the New Covenant, is not commonly an act of power, but often of weakness and fear and much trembling. And even in the midst of all this feebleness, it is not an act in your strength [that saves], but in a secret and perhaps unfelt strength, which Jesus – the Surety of the Covenant – gives you.”

The Spirit in the believer “groans” for the believer to be fitted for eternity, to make it Home (v26). Do you think any of the Holy Spirit’s prayers will be unanswered? Of course not! Verse 27 tells us that the Holy Spirit prays according to the will of the Father! AND GETS RESULTS! (Grk meaning)

What is the Father’s will?

(1) To call sinners too weak to save themselves.
(2) To justify sinners too weak to reconcile themselves to God
(3) To transform sinners into holy beings.
(4) To make us overcomers in this life.
(5) To give sainted sinners the same glory He gives His Son.
(6) To pray us into His eternity (vv27,34).
(7) To remove all condemnation by making us His own, and loving us unconditionally and never letting us go.

What if the elect don’t look elect?
What if they do not overcome in this life?
Can there still be hope?

Remember, hope that is logical, *makes* sense, *looks* like hope, *holds up* to our standard of hope…still hasn’t even come close to the Hope of Christ. Isn’t that amazing?

His Hope accomplishes “ALL THESE THINGS”.
The reason we can overcome in “ALL THESE THINGS” (v35) is because of ALL THESE THINGS:

“The Lord searches and knows our hearts” and still accepts us (v27)
“The Lord sees our weakness” and helps us (v26)
“The Lord intercedes for the saints” (v27)
“The Lord works it all together for our good”(v28)
“The Lord elects”
“The Lord predestines”
“The Lord conforms” (v29)
“The Lord calls”
“The Lord justifies”
“The Lord glorifies”(v30)

What is the common factor in all those blessed promises? What is constant?

Our salvation – from first to last – is the Lord’s doing! It’s all of grace! Not of works, else we’d make salvation less divine and more human. God prophesied that He’d take our hearts of stone and make them flesh…FOR HIS GLORY! (Ezk 36:25,26)

But isn’t there some expectation that those who have had heart transplants (I.e., born again) should walk in holiness?

I say amen.

Am I resetting the standard just because it’s my son? No, and God hasn’t reset His either. Not by a long shot.

That’s why my son was taken out of this earth – he put himself under the severest discipline of the Lord who is both merciful and “severe” (Rom 11:22) and committed the “sin that is unto death” (1Jn 5:16). How God handled Graham Scott in the end shows us two things:

(1) God saves “sinners”, that salvation is messy because it forgives the unforgivable, and,

(2) whom God saves, He lays claim to, and has rights to, He owns and can treat how He will (we know from the Romans 8 passage that He only deals with His own in love).

>The Lord searches the hearts
>The Lord knows who belongs to Him (2Ti 2:19)
>God is FOR His own
>No charge, no accusation, no condemnation stands up against His decree

If you’re struggling with condemning thoughts, do THREE things:

(1) Examine yourself, whether you’re in the faith

The quickest way to determine this is to answer “Who/What are you trusting for your day to day strength and eternal destiny?”

(2) Exhibit yourself under the holy gaze of the Spirit of God (Psa 139:22)

Let Him show you where you are failing in the grace of God, where you are being overcome instead of overcoming…and REPENT

(3) (Then) Excuse yourself from self-condemning thoughts and evil accusations

If the Lord set His affection on you to save you…

IT’S STILL TRUE.

If Jesus ever loved you before…

IT’S STILL TRUE.

If He adopted you, not based in your ability to measure up and qualify, but in His foreknowledge and provision to save you,

IT’S STILL TRUE.

If grace saved you at the first…and you were not worth saving…

IT’S STILL TRUE.

If God began the work of salvation in you…

IT’S STILL TRUE…

…and He will finish His work, fit you for His eternity and redeem your bodies, your spirit and your soul.

I just read this morning – a quote by Perry Noble – and it’s spot on for all of us who are kinda looking at ourselves as we are, our circumstances, all the things that really, well, stink, and wonder if there can be a miracle in my mess…

“If it ain’t good, God ain’t done.”

Forget the grammar; embrace the grace.

God forgives, forgets, makes new and makes it permanent. When my son died, I was overcome by a massive tidal wave of emotions but God channeled them all to the harbor of Truth and I wrote these words:

“God blessed Sandy and me with the gift of a lifetime, our son Graham. We were blessed to have our baby boy (our only) for twenty-four fun-filled, amazing, tragic, adventurous, never-a-dull-moment, heart-wrenching, miraculous, painful, sweet, cuddly, hard, eye-opening, jaw-dropping, hand-clapping, sweet-as-pie, soft-as-silk, abrasive-as-sandpaper, thrilling, magical, wonderful years.

Yesterday, he went Home. He’s with Jesus. The war is over. The struggle has ended. Devil, you scoundrel, you wanted to destroy him but God promoted him. You can’t touch him anymore. Can’t. You lose. Gra-Gra is with God now. Praise Jesus, his chains are gone. Amazing, amazing grace.

Hallelujah. Selah.”

And, beloved struggler on the way: He is for you too. It ain’t done. But when He finishes you out – if you trust Him to do it – you’re gonna be breathtakingly beautiful.

It’s true.

Selah.

Gone…But Not Forever…

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Graham, sharing with the millennials group in 2012. He was in a recovery program in Atlanta and in a ‘good place’

It’s fitting that before I could post this, my 9th (and presumably last) installment since our son passed, I needed to sit by Graham’s graveside and read it out loud to him. I’m not intending to sound melodramatic, but, somehow, I feel I owed him that. Anyway, you, dear reader, have graced me more than you know for following along. Processing this way has helped ferret out many of the emotions tremendously. Thank you. Oh, and since I’ll still be blogging, come back and visit from time to time. I’ll probably need an ear or a comfy shoulder again soon.

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(Continued from previous post, “Gone…But Not Homeless…”)

It was March, in the year of our Lord, 2003. Our church family was challenged to believe Jehovah-rapha for my healing, to press in, intercede, and see if God wouldn’t take my body and raise it from the prison of paralysis, and grant the healing so many cried out for. Graham, then 13, was out front, emotionally leading the charge.

Before we left for church that morning, this conversation ensued:

“Dad, let’s put the regular van driver’s seat in today.”

“The regular chair?” I asked.

“Yes sir. You’re not going to need your wheelchair after the service. You’re getting healed this morning,” he answered with unhinged exuberance.

I knew that “faith comes by hearing the word of Christ” so I used the moment to teach my boy a little something about how God operates, as best I understood it.

“Has God told you I would be healed today, Graham?” I pressed.

“I just know you will be, Dad!”

“Graham, buddy, I haven’t heard that He will. Only that we are to ask together as a church family and see what God might do,” I tenderly explained.

He could not be deterred. He even held a stiff hand out to stop me.

“I know you’ll be healed today, Dad!”

And that’s when I sensed something dangerous afoot. I had to do something, say something, to help my son see that just because it’s a strong wish doesn’t mean it’s God’s will.

“Graham, what if I’m not healed today?” I pleaded.

He shook his head sternly. He wasn’t hearing that. No way. I was getting healed that morning. End of story. The matter, as far as Graham was concerned, was dropped.

The rest of that morning, I didn’t pray with the couple hundred who gathered around me, pressed shoulder to shoulder, groaning and pleading and crying out for my healing. Instead, I was praying for a boy whose young faith was almost certainly going to take the hardest of hits. I felt Graham at my right shoulder, dying by degrees the longer the prayers went “unanswered”, and knew in my spirit he’d be fully deflated by the end of the morning.

We left that service and I rode the lift up into the van and locked my wheelchair into its place behind the steering wheel. Just like always. Graham, sitting in the co-pilot’s chair, was quiet. Nothing changed. The hopes he’d pinned to my full healing were lying in shattered pieces at his feet.

Later, in the gloom, Graham confessed to something else occurring while all the praying was going on. It confused him greatly.

“Dad, everyone had their eyes closed, but I just watched. I watched you for awhile, but nothing was happening, so I just started watching people.”

There was an unsettled expression on his face that prompted me to ask: “Did you see something?”

“I saw Jesus,” he said.

I didn’t say a word. I trusted my son. If he said he saw Jesus, I believed him. Whatever it was he saw confounded him, clearly.

“He just kinda appeared in the back of the church. Then He passed through all the people and came right up to you.”

“To me?” I prodded.

“Yes sir. He just knelt in front of you.”

“Did you see His face?” I asked, masking excitement.

“Not really. That was a blur. But I remember He put His hands on your legs and I could tell – even though I couldn’t see His face – that He was looking at me.”

I thanked God that night for graciously revealing Himself – in whatever way it was – to the most devastated soul in the room. That experience puzzled, more than moved, our son. He wasn’t making up a story to appear spiritual. No, he was already mad. He didn’t want anything to do with God. But he couldn’t deny…something happened. And was flummoxed.

A common prayer of mine became,

For Graham, I pray that a great and mighty olive tree would grow from his tender shoot and that future generations would be blessed through him. May he not “settle among the Philistines” but always pitch his tent in spiritual places, leaving altars to You everywhere he goes, and may he constantly be seeking to build new altars to You! May the fire never go out. May faith be his walking stick, and obedience his shoes, and may Your provision always fill his backpack every mile of his journey with You…

The pull of darkness, however, was irrefutable and our gorgeous son, in spite of God’s tender overtures, lacked the intent to refuse its draw. He was defiantly pitching his tent toward Philistia.

There was no lack of warnings, mind you. One of Graham’s strongest champions, his school administrator who loved him unconditionally, once looked into his eyes and said, rather brokenly,

“Graham, you have had so many chances to repent – more than most. Just remember, young man, GRACE REFUSED IS GRACE REMOVED.”

Dark storm-clouds began to move across his countenance. His sweet face turned sullen and hard. In short order, he was devolving into a slave of darkness, feeding himself the opiates of satan’s kingdom to compensate the emptiness within. He hated God, hated me, hated church, hated ministry, hated…yes, I’m very certain, even himself.

Many have commented on his tattoos and have seen it as a positive expression of his artistic side. I’m sure there’s s o m e of that but I also have an altogether different take on it. While I was so proud of his script (handwriting was never his specialty!) and how beautifully his drawing was evolving, many of his own tattoos were also ugly and dark. I sensed for some time that the way he inked his body reflected how he intrinsically felt about himself, deep down, minus the masks.

I know others will take issue with me on this front, but I know my son better than anyone except his mother, plus I know a thing or two about the nature of evil and how it manifests. It eats from the inside out.

I also know that 24-year old Graham was tired of his rebellion. Living in opposition to the higher plan of God does that to you.

It exhausts you.

It leaves you empty and unfulfilled, running on putrid fumes.

In the fullness of Graham’s shortened time on earth, God intervened and mercifully rescued our boy and received him home. God’s grace does that. It takes what the enemy means for evil, turns it upright, and creates something beautiful from the wreckage of our choices. Something praiseworthy.

This GLORIOUS REVERSAL first became evident to us when Dr. Venugopal, the attending cardiac ICU doctor at the Univ of MN hospital, called me at 5:30 p.m. on December 16th. I had been expecting her call for several hours so I had my pen and little notebook handy to write down everything she said. The last word we got was that Gra-Gra was found alone in a car, unresponsive at the scene, likely an overdose, but that he was on some sort of “blood warming” machine and that the next 24-48 hours were critical to his survival.

That’s all we knew.

So I’m driving Sandy to the airport so she can catch a flight to Minnesota to be with her baby boy and we’re scared and we don’t know details and we just want someoneanyonetocall
andletusknowthateverything’sgoingtobeokaywithourGraGra
andwhyisn’tthedoctorcalling…?

We pull up to a Zaxby’s because Sandy hasn’t had a thing on her tummy all day. The drive-thru lane is wrapped around the building for the supper-time rush, so my lovely goes inside, discovers she has no appetite, orders a drink, then visits the ladies’ room.

And.

You guessed it.

While I’m waiting in the van, Dr. V calls.

I pull out my pen and moleskin notebook. I need to write it all down, word for word, can’t miss a detail because I’m not, by nature, very detail-oriented (except in my writing) and I’ll need for Sandy to be completely in the loop.

“Mr. Mitchell?” the female voice responds when I say hello.

“Yes?” (Pretty sure my voice cracked)

“Mr. Mitchell, I’m the doctor in the cardiac ICU here at the hospital. You can call me Dr. V because my name is pretty long…”

My heart is in my throat.

“Mr. Mitchell, what do you know at this point?” she asked kindly, like a gentle counselor, not professionally.

I told her.

“Mr. Mitchell, I understand your situation is that you’re in Georgia?” Her voice lilts on the end.

“That’s right.”

Dr. V sighs. And pauses.

“Mr. Mitchell…”

I’m ready, pen in hand. Can’t miss anything she says.

“…If only there was some other way to do this…”

I thought she meant having to give all the medical jargon over the phone rather than face-to-face.

I thought…

Rather, she said ten plain words: “Mr. Mitchell, I’m so sorry, but your son is…”

Oh God

“…GONE.”

My hand, holding the pen, was shaking. A blast of sorrow came through my insides and exploded out my mouth. I don’t usually cry hard. My eyes get watery and leak, sure. My voice cracks, yeah. I pause to collect myself, certainly. But this was so sudden, so unexpected, a dam inside released and oceans of sorrow – years of pain and pent-up sadnesses – broke out and through.

I heard Dr. V saying other words but I, for whatever reason, put down my moleskin notebook and picked up a white piece of paper in the cupholder. Who knows why? It was a receipt from an earlier stop. I turned it over and wrote a single word:

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I’m almost finished, you’ve been so patient to make it this far, but I beg you to stay with me because the next paragraphs are the most critical. They put the “amen” to this epic story. Read on, I beg you. You won’t regret it.

Earlier that same afternoon, as Sandy raced home from an early shift, to pack and race again to catch a flight out of Atlanta, a myriad of thoughts whirled through her mind. At the forefront was her son’s soul. She cried. She prayed. She veered through traffic. She stormed heaven.

God, who was already cradling our boy, prompted Sandy, through the chaos, to play her worship CD. He always seems to speak to her through music. Her finger touched play and the disc responded with the song, “Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone.”

Meanwhile, I’m sitting at the dining room table, waiting for Sandy to get home and I’m crying out for my son’s soul at the exact same time. I’m thinking the next day-to-two-days is crucial, so I’m praying that God will intervene. I honestly was thinking this will be Graham’s ‘wake-up call’, that he’ll somehow survive, and I’m asking God to run ahead and use it to redeem him from his broken path.

And turn his heart toward home.

Little did I know he was already there.

Once upon a time I’d been given a word for Graham: “as long as you’re looking for a way out instead of the way HOME, you’ll always remain a prodigal.”

Recalling that truth, I prayed this scary turn of events would turn our prodigal son home.

So I prayed. And, just as Sandy was prompted to push play to hear from heaven for herself, the Father of mercies niggled at me to open the Bible app on my ipad and read the “verse of the day.” And this is what it was:

Psalms 85:2-3
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
you covered all their sin.
Selah
You withdrew all your wrath;
you turned from your hot anger.

Maybe my theology is askew here, maybe my imagination is running awry, but you’ll be hard-pressed to convince me otherwise of what I believe my son’s dying moments were like in the realm of the Spirit.

I believe the adversary – satan – was fully convinced Graham Scott Mitchell would be his. As our baby man was expiring in that back seat, the accuser was posturing for his claim, talons snicked, breath hot and visage contorted with hellish glee. He had won. He was sure of it.

But in those last milliseconds, as our son’s breathing slowed to a final heave, a Voice thundered in the heavenlies. As his last gasp pushed through the natural realm and into the unseen, I can almost hear what the Almighty commanded as He dispatched His guardian escorts:

Psalms 87:4-6
Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon;
behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush —
“This one was born there,” they say.
And of Zion it shall be said,
“This one and that one were born in her”;
for the Most High himself will establish her.
The Lord records as he registers the peoples,
“This one was born there
.”
Selah

The great deceiver was himself deceived in the end.

HALLELUJAH!

Dear reader, if you’ve journeyed with me in these few posts, you’ll agree that these truths buttress and serve as soluble bookends to our boy’s life and are our unarguable and unchanging testaments to this God-story:

The LORD gave…miraculously
The LORD has taken away…mercifully

Thank you, merciful God, for setting Your affection on Graham, and seeing him Home before the darkness swallowed him up. I know You ran to meet him, because You never disowned him, and that’s how You treat Your own. Thank you for letting us have those very last words with our boy: “I’m so glad your mine” (Sandy) and “I’m so proud of you” (Me). Now he’s safe, he’s gleaming and he’s free.

Amazing Grace, his chains are…GONE.

Sleep Sweet In Jesus, Baby Boy (cont.)

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Each and every evening, Sandy prayed over her baby boy – even into his young adult years – the words “Sleep sweet in Jesus…” Night was never Gra-Gra’s favorite time, alas he didn’t sleep through the night until he was 11 years old. These were his most vulnerable hours, those pre-nighty-night moments. Before drifting off to sleep it was mommy and son time and that is when our son often opened up about the things that either bothered or mattered to him. So, Sandy would climb into bed with her beautiful baby boy (at whatever age) and listen to his dreams, fears, burdens, day’s recaps and tomorrow’s plans. I can still hear Sandy call out in her same sing-songy way, “Gra-Gra, time to go night-night!” and our little man reply, “I don’t want to mommy.” But then, knowing he so disliked the night, would help him ease into it by indulging their sweet ritual. I wish for just one more night I could hear the soft murmurings through the bedroom walls of my son’s meaningful conversations with his mommy.

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I edged my wheelchair closer to the edge of the platform. My innards fluttered but it wasn’t because hundreds upon hundreds were pressing into the auditorium. It wasn’t because the eminent Greek scholar, Spiros Zodhiates, was seating himself near the front, right under my nose, or the fact that I was sharing the pulpit of a venerable pastor whose flock was in my care for the next hour. My belly dipped because Sandy was crying.

Oh no. What’s this?

Did I say something wrong in the young adult assembly? Was Sandy taking the heat for some blunder of mine? Did I offend that young girl Sandy was talking to as they whisked me away?

Sandy climbed the platform steps. Her eyes weren’t just damp, they were shimmering pools.

“Did you see that girl I was talking to just now?” Her whisper modulated and seemed strained.

I nodded carefully, dread and fear seizing me.

She choked back a sob. “Do you know what she told me?”

Here it comes.

“She said…she said…” Her head dropped as she collected herself.

Oh, dear Jesus…

“She told me she wants us to have…to have…(more soft sobs)…she said she wants us to have her baby!”

You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.

That petite young vessel with the large blue eyes was the answer to our heart’s petitions. In one single morning, a condensed moment in time, the sovereign will of God broke into the narrative of our lives via an obedient stranger, expelling our beaten-down, shot-through hopes, and breathing an Emmanuel into the aching void.

Our ‘savior’ with a cute round belly was seven months along and appeared as excited about the prospect as we were. She had been eyeing another couple for her baby but couldn’t get a fixed peace in her spirit and when she heard one statement in the young adult class that morning she knew why. During the Q&A, someone asked us about children. Perhaps it was the way the query was framed, but I thought the inquirer wanted to know if children’s ministry was included in our calling. I said no.

“No,” they elaborated, “I mean, do you have any kids?”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I apologized. “No, unfortunately, we don’t have children…”

Sandy broke in. “Do we want children? Oh yes. We’ve been praying for over six years and we’re still hoping for a miracle –”

I interrupted her, chuckling: ” — because, well, we’re not getting any younger!”

My handlers were already moving in my direction so that would have to be the final question. Someone prayed a quick benediction and hands gripped my chair’s push handles and another was clearing a path. I turned toward Sandy and started to mouth something to her when I noticed a girl swoop in and pull my wife aside. Obviously with child, I first noticed her red-rimmed eyes and a countenance that broadcasted a need to talk to my bride right away.

I caught Sandy’s attention to let her know I’d see her in the main auditorium…which catches you up to the opening of my post today.

____________________________________________________

Friday, September 29, 1989
Rocky Mount, NC

The phone rang in our hotel room.

One, two, three pushes on my wheels and I covered the ground to the nightstand and answered a call that would change our lives permanently.

“Scott?”

“Jill? Is everything all right?”

“As a matter of fact, it is. Congratulations. You’re a Dad.”

And there it was. In three monosyllabic words my entire resume changed. I wasn’t just a preacher. I was a Dad. And Sandy wasn’t just married to a paralyzed man, she was a mommy. How beautiful of God to accent His breathtaking plans by having our messenger be the very vessel who bore our son. Such gilded grace still leaves me bowed down with praise.

As our gift’s bearer broke the news, Sandy sagged to the floor. Her mouth flew open, covered with a shaking hand, and remained so throughout the call. We hadn’t expected our little guy/girl for another three weeks. What’s this? We’re potential parents already?!? He’s here???

He?!?

I’m not sure I was hearing everything from that point on. I know I heard something about how beautifully delivery went, that he was ready, wanted out, needed to see the world, etc. I did hear he was healthy. All ten digits. A tiny little peanut. Six pounds, 9 ounces (if memory serves), 19 inches small.

Sandy is waving. She’s jumping up and down, stifling yelps. I’m watching her, grinning from ear to ear. Stunned. My bride is listening as I’m relaying every word, hugging herself, mouthing questions, dancing a quiet jig in the corner. Our baby is here, nine hours away.

I’m saying stupid things like, “uh, well, Jill, Sandy and I will leave first thing in the morning…”

She’s waving me down.

What?

Her head is on a high-speed swivel, ranging back and forth, almost violently. She’s frowning.

Oh.

“Ummm, Jill, check that. We’re leaving tonight. (I pause) As soon as we get packed.”

I look at my lovely to see if it’s okay that I said that. I mean, at this point, the clothes on our backs might be sufficient for her. She nods her head vociferously.

I told her we’d see her around seven a.m. and ended the conversation. I stared at my wife who wanted to hear everything again. She said there’s no way in, well, that place, that we’re staying another night (no, she didn’t say it, but I knew she thought it). She knew I was drained from our 6 days’ ministry in nearby Tarboro, that I didn’t have it in me to drive, that she would sit in the pilot’s seat and “fly” to Chattanooga. I said I was more than fine with the arrangement. I’d better be, or she was determined to be a single parent.

I don’t remember the trip. I think all four tires gripped the expressway once or twice, but the journey from childlessness to parental bliss was a blur and blaze and we arrived at Erlanger Hospital just after dawn. As we neared Jill’s – and our baby’s – room my heart was caught inside my throat and Sandy’s was pounding in her chest and we paused a tick and breathed deeply before entering the room where we hoped Graham (not yet named) would be.

As we entered, Jill saw us and smiled. Her room was arranged so that her son was in a crib behind her headboard. She explained it was precautionary as she didn’t want to go through the pain of looking at him constantly, lest she change her mind.

Thank you, Jill, for bravely following the Lord’s heart. I don’t understand such letting-go love but will never question it.

My first look at Graham is a snapshot in my memory. His beautiful blue eyes were wide open and alert. He was following sounds and looking for all the world like a veteran at this living thing. He was gorgeous. His skin creamy and soft, reddish-blond hair light and wispy. Small as a peanut.

The next hours were a mist. I remember our dressing him the next morning for the first time. Our plans were to take our baby to a relative’s house in Chattanooga as we had not yet secured legal permission to take our baby across the state line into Georgia. We were going to get him all squared away in Sandy’s sister’s place then fly like the wind to meet with child services in Marietta and get the okay to bring our baby all the way home.

The hospital didn’t permit the hand-off on the premises, so Graham’s birth mommy had to hand him to us in the parking garage. Oh, the pregnant drama of that moment! In her shoes, I don’t know how there’s grace for such a thing, only that there is because I was witness to it.

As Sandy retrieved our Taurus, Jill and I waited by her family’s car. She began to climb into the front passenger seat of their car with baby in hand. My heart seized. Is she changing her mind? She has every right to…but…please, God…

And then, as when a dreamlike spell is broken, her eyes blinked. “Oh,” she said, “I think he’s yours to take home…” She handed the tiny bundle to my waiting arms as Sandy drove up. With some very hasty good-byes (understandable), she disappeared into her front seat and the car sped from the garage. Sandy and I stood, baby in arms, and watched the tail lights move out of sight.

The would-be parents carried their blessing to the rear passenger side and set him in his car seat, missing one very important detail. As we sighed, smiled and giggled, I put the car in drive and lurched forward, a brand new family pointed toward home. Only, as the car started forward, the car seat, baby and all, surged and our baby nearly went bottom-up as the seat was not clipped to the back seat.

He was fine; no harm, no foul, except to our confidence levels. Only when our hearts stopped rabbit-beating could we laugh and snort. Graham seemed oblivious. Never even whimpered.

With that and a sound recheck of everything, we moved out onto the street with our baby. In that moment, we were the oblivious ones, not at all aware that in a matter of hours our bundle might be lost to us for good.

The first time.

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