David’s Disastrous Day

-Written by Katy Key (with assistance from Stan)-

Katy Key - David series 1
November 2015

Last November, I gave a Bible study for a group of 35 people entitled “The Worst Day of David’s Life.” Based on I Samuel 30, my study examined what happened to David and his soldiers at Ziklag when their city was destroyed and their wives and children kidnapped. On that terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, David lost everything! The situation was so bad that David’s own men wanted to stone him!

Though David’s life journey was composed of many bad days, this was by far the worst! My Bible study was mainly theoretical. Though I tried to make it personal, I knew that nothing in my life came close to resembling David’s disastrous day. Little did I know that, in the providence of God, my teaching had a prophetic element! Three weeks after my Bible study, I experienced the worst day of my life on December 14, 2015 when I suffered a terrible stroke that robbed me of health and dramatically changed my life and the lives of my family. Oh how often the words I spoke in that study rattled around in my mind these past six months as I lay paralyzed in bed trying to make sense of what had happened.

IMG_1473
June 2016

Two weeks ago I was invited to share a word of witness with missionary leaders during a retreat weekend at which Stan was speaking.  At first, I protested.  I wasn’t ready to speak in public from a wheelchair!  And my thoughts were muddled, I had nothing to say. But dutifully I paused to ask God what he thought about this crazy invitation. Surprisingly, His response was quite clear: “Share with them the same Bible study you gave last November, the one about the worst day of David’s life.”

So I did.

David’s “worst day” experience has become for me a type of filter through which I am interpreting my own “worst day” experience. The fact that these two Bible study presentations punctuate my journey both at the beginning and now, six months down the road, only enhances my desire to make David’s lessons my own. In an effort to personalize and apply the truth of Scripture, I thought I would share this Bible study with you¹.

What did David do on the worst day of his life?

I. He wept (I Sam. 30:4).  He and those who were with him “raised their voices and wept until they had no more strength to weep.” Rather than stuffing his emotions, he expressed them. David had emotional integrity. He didn’t deny his agony nor did he pretend to be strong. David simply poured out his heartache to His Heavenly Father. Tears may not change our circumstances but they do help us move through our circumstances. They are a gift from God to cleanse and comfort.

II. He refused to get bitter (I Sam. 30:6). Though the people with him were “bitter in soul”, David refused to permit the cancer of bitterness to take up residence in his heart. Everyone else was looking for someone to blame but David refused this path as well. David was “greatly distressed” to be sure, but with God’s help he found strength to keep the bitter experiences on the outside from becoming a root of bitterness on the inside. I have realized that it is hard to get bitter in spirit when you turn your gaze outward to the suffering of others and upward to a compassionate and loving Father. If I focus more on Who He is rather than Why He has allowed this or that in my life, then I am less likely to be embittered by trials and troubles. I may never understand why but through these sufferings, I can know Him more!

III. He “strengthened himself in the Lord” (I Sam. 30:6).  When all seemed hopeless and no one could help, David found a quiet place to get alone with God.  Rather than blaming God, he found strength in God.  Rather than focusing on his problems, David focused on the only One who could help!  He chose to believe in God and His promises even when nothing in life made sense. In my own endless need for strength, I realize that it’s not only about understanding where my strength comes from, the One who made Heaven and earth(Ps 121:1,2), but understanding that I have no strength apart from Him (John 15:5). Paul reminds us that His strength is made perfect in our ‘strengthless-ness’ (2 Cor. 12:9). Acknowledging where true strength comes from helps me look and lean on Him for everything I face.

IV. He “inquired of the Lord” (I Sam. 30:7-8). Rather than trying to come up with his own plan and relying on some man-made solution, David sought direction from God. Show me your way, O Lord! David inquired of the Lord in the midst of his pain. It’s difficult to see clearly when you’re in pain and yet pivotal decisions have to be made. For us, as we look back we can see His provision and direction at each point of the journey when a decision was needed. We can easily trace His path through the darkness as He led time and time again to provide the best care for what I needed when I needed it. We were clueless! Yet while we were clueless, He was not! He knew what was best and led us in it.

V. He got up and moved forward (I Sam. 30:9). Rather than groveling in the paralysis of self-pity, David did the most courageous thing anyone can do who has lost everything: he got up! Then he simply took the next step. For me, I continue to take the next step and then the next step in this journey by His grace and strength! This week marked a new step as we started outpatient therapy. We continue to trust the lord for more independence and mobility as we continue to move forward.

Perhaps you think that I am sharing this Bible study because I think that you need to hear it. No! I’m sharing this Bible study because I need to hear it! In fact, I’m sharing it in the hopes that I will be wise enough to listen to my own sermon!

¹The original inspiration for this study as well as key points in the outline come from a book written by Brian Zahnd entitled What to Do on the Worst Day of Your Life (Christian Life, Lake Mary, FL, 2009).

 

New Life

-Written by Anna-

Last Monday we experienced first hand the LIFE and JOY that can come even in the middle of a valley (as mentioned in the last post). My sister, Elisabeth, and brother-in-law Ben welcomed their first-born, Josiah Blake Lind into the world. In a way that only Jesus could have orchestrated Mom, Dad and I were all able to be there. Ben was even able to obtain special permission for Mom to go back and be the first one to meet this precious little boy.

Over six months ago upon first seeing Elisabeth after her stroke and surgeries Mom immediately put her hand on Elisabeth’s stomach and tried to ask about the baby. It was that moment along with several others that helped us know that Mom was still very much with us even though she was in the fight of her life. What a gift and a double miracle to see her sitting up, able to travel and holding baby Josiah in her arms.

Josiah is named in honor of his grandmother, and her miraculous and difficult journey of healing throughout most of his 9 month creation.

Josiah – means Jehovah Heals
Blake – significant family name and Katy’s middle name.

We are so thankful for the gift of life and the God who creates and sustains it! 

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Anniversaries

-Written by Anna-

Helen and Mom
Mom with a dear friend from their 1st church

Anniversaries. When I hear the word anniversary I tend to think of happy occasions. For example three days from now my parents will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary. Happy! This past Sunday we celebrated with my parents first church as they marked the anniversary of a move and a renovated church. Happy! But today marks the six month anniversary of the worst day of our lives. The day that took us from the high of a cancer free diagnosis to the devastation of a large complete stroke, the brain surgery that followed and the fight for Mom’s life.

Two weeks ago Mom and I started talking about what we should do to mark the occasion. It seemed that although this was the worst day of our lives we needed to celebrate the fact that God allowed her to LIVE! So last Sunday after church, thanks to a generous gift certificate that we had been holding on to for just such an occasion, we went to one of my Mom’s favorite restaurants to celebrate. She had strength for the outing and enjoyed every delicious bite on her plate.

But even in the midst of relishing the ability to eat and swallow and be out in public, reality quickly hit threatening to steal our joy. Someone had parked illegally blocking the only place we thought we could get her wheelchair over the curb. Dad had to go in and ask them to put ramps down to get her into the building (as it is an old hotel), we had to figure out how to navigate the restrooms,etc. Six months ago in the midst of the trauma and the crisis our hearts rejoiced with every beat of her heart and every day she kept fighting. I have to be honest and say that at the six month mark we found that the simple joy of having lived was somewhat overshadowed by the many losses, the weariness and unknowns of long term recovery and fears of the future. We learned early on in this journey that with stroke recovery no one will predict or guarantee anything. Each person’s recovery is so unique and individual. While we understand this it can be maddening at times to have the future be a big question mark, never fully knowing what is realistic to hope for or expect.

I have found myself surprised again and again at the expectations I realize I have only as I watch them crash. It takes months for your mind to wrap itself around the fact that recovery does not actually mean the patient will be back to their old self. It is learning to wrap your mind around the fact that the ‘old life’ is no more. Even if Mom were to regain full function of her limbs again we can never go back to December 13, 2015. It is hard for me to even imagine that day now. When I look back I feel as if I am watching another family. Mom and Dad picked me up at the airport, both standing tall and Mom able to hug me fully with both arms. We then spontaneously decided to eat at Cracker Barrel. We didn’t have to give ourselves extra time to pack up a wheelchair and remember all the things that need to come with us. No one looked on us with pity as we walked into the restaurant. We didn’t make a grand entrance trying to fit the wheelchair through tight spaces, etc. I honestly have no idea if it was a restaurant that was easily accessible for someone in a wheelchair or not. I didn’t watch Mom as she ate hoping she wouldn’t choke. And I certainly didn’t accompany her into the bathroom stall. That life is gone forever. There is a grieving that must happen and yet one of the mysteries of being a follower of Jesus is that He promises LIFE from death. JOY in the midst of grief/pain.

And even though in a weak moment you might find me/us wishing for our ‘old lives’ back, if we are truly honest there is something about suffering that draws you to the heart of God in a way that nothing else can. Does this mean that we as a family have not had our questions, doubts, moments of wondering what God was doing? I think I can speak for all of us by saying absolutely not! We have each wrestled with the new realities and losses that the last six months have thrown our way AND YET as we move out of the crisis of the moment and the intensity of those first days/weeks/months, we can all attest to His faithfulness, His mercies, His tangible love through so many of you, and I could go on.

It is the reason God commands us to REMEMBER! In my darkest moments, watching my mother suffer so terribly in the Neuro ICU, I was not always sure where He was. While I still shudder at the pain of those days when I look back now I can see His hand everywhere! Our reality/life is filled with His provisions, mercies and tender care!

Stones of remembranceMany of you know care-giving is a job that never ends (part of the reason for my silence on this blog since Mom returned home). Keeping up with the house even with my Dad’s help has been a challenge. Since coming home I had thrown a few things in the back corner of Mom and Dad’s room and had not touched anything since our return. Last week I finally had a moment to get all of Mom’s stuff a bit more organized. And I found myself adding things to that pile in the corner and I felt God whisper to my heart – “Stop and look! You are building an altar of remembrance.” Instead of the rocks that God told the Israelites to use from the Jordan River, my ‘altar’ was made up of milestones, items we no longer need, ‘stones’ that mark His faithfulness and the many miracles we have witnessed. Her helmet, a boot to prevent foot drop, scarves used when visitors came to cover the 40+staples put in her head twice!, an AFO brace, a bedpan, a standing frame so generously gifted to us, and a few other items. There are quite a few things I pray we will soon throw into that back corner of the room as well but in the meantime at this six month anniversary mark I want to publicly thank the Lord for the miracles represented by that pile! And thank Him from bringing LIFE out of death. And thank Him for the new life He has brought to our family!

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Brief Update

Thank you for your continued prayers for Mom and for all of us. We do see continued signs of improvement and progress, albeit much slower than we would like at times. Pray for patience and perseverance. Pray with us that as we are discharged this week from home health that the Lord will lead us to just the right place and therapists for outpatient therapy. Pray for her pain as it is something we continue to try to manage. Pray for us as we anticipate my return to Germany mid August. We are eternally grateful for your love and prayers for our family!

 

Glorious Indicative (Part 2)

-Written by Katy (edited by Anna)-

Recently Stan and I have had an ongoing conversation about how true faith needs to be lived in the indicative mood, not the imperative mood (see previous blog). It’s not about what I should be doing, or what more I can do, or cannot do, but who He is that determines how I live.

If my understanding of Him is correct the only response is to bow down in worship and praise.

These indicative statements make me want to bow and worship the One who holds the stars and planets in place and holds me as I learn to walk and stand again.

Allow me to share some of the indicatives or truth statements that have brought life to me during these difficult days of recovery.

  • In an unstable world, You, O Lord, are the Rock of Ages.
  • The wind and the waves still know His name.
  • I will stand my ground where hope can be found.
  • The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength (II Tim 4:17). This means so much as I learn how to stand and walk again.
  • Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (James 1:17)
  • His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning (Lam 3:22-23)
  • Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life (Psalm 23:6).
  • He is my shelter, my refuge, my fortress (Psalm 91).
  • My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:2).
  • He is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Col 1:17).  My daughter, Elisabeth reminded me recently that this included me….He holds even my broken body together.

What about you? Any indicative or truth statements that have been ministering to you recently? If so, please feel free to encourage and bless us all by sharing one (or more) of them in the comments section below.

The Glorious Indicative

By Stan Key

Reading recently through an old book of sermons that I “stole” from my father’s bookshelf last fall, I stumbled on a short passage that literally jumped off the page.  I know nothing about the preacher (Douglas Horton) and actually found the rest of his sermon somewhat boring and rather liberal to my tastes.  But this particular paragraph penetrated my mind and ever since has been trickling down into my heart.

Always the church is in danger of slipping into the imperative mood in its teaching: do this or do that, and you shall be saved.  It is a mood which puts the emphasis on the work of men – a tragic mood, therefore, since no man can save himself without God…. What the Reformers did was to restore to the church her ancient and thrilling indicative: this has been willed and that has been done by the Almighty and you are saved.  Sola gratia – by grace alone the world is overcome. ¹(p. 207).

I had to read and reread those words to get what Rev. Horton was saying.  I even had to go to my grammar book and refresh my memory on the meaning of the indicative mood (used to state objective facts) and the imperative mood (used to state commands). But after several days of cogitation, rumination and meditation, the blessing began to come!

As Katy and I were talking about this after dinner tonight, she said: “It’s time for one of us to write a blog.  It’s your turn so I think you should write about the glorious indicative!”  So in humble obedience to my wife, I’m sharing these thoughts with you.

This is what the Spirit is teaching us.  Our tendency is to understand salvation and the victorious life that is promised us in terms of commands, obligations and responsibilities (the imperative mood):  Do this, Don’t do that, Try harder, Pray more, Give more, Worship more, etc.  This is how I have often preached the Gospel and this is how I have often lived it.  During the past six months, Katy and I have often felt that if we could only pray more, try harder, believe with greater intensity, and work more diligently, we could live in the victory that Christ has promised us.  To be honest, the end result of living under the weight of such imperatives only leaves us tired and defeated.  We never seem able to do enough.

But Horton’s paragraph reminds us of a truth that is anchored in God’s word from Genesis to Revelation.  It is not what we do that matters but what he has already done! Grace alone.  Sola gratia. The preaching in the book of Acts is not a list of duties and commands.  No!  The apostles preached the glorious indicative: Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus rose, Jesus reigns… Jesus is Lord!  Oh eventually they would get around to using the imperative:  Do this, Don’t do that, etc.  But those were corollaries of the Gospel and not the Gospel itself.  So at this time in our lives when Katy can do absolutely nothing it is freedom to realize that the One who is Lord is not dependent on our performance.

The glorious indicative is working like a soothing balm to our souls.  Jesus is Lord.  “If we are faithless, he remains faithful – for he cannot deny himself” (II Tim. 2:13).  Oh, there is still much that we need to work on and many areas where we need to grow.  But our hope, our confidence and our song is in the glorious objective fact of Jesus’ victory over sin, death and hell.   Yes, the “ancient and thrilling indicative” makes an amazing difference in the way we face our battles today.  So when disease, stroke or any life circumstance keep us from ‘doing’ we can rest in what He has done and in the knowledge that we belong to Him.

Can I get an Amen?

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¹The Protestant Pulpit: An Anthology of Master Sermons from the Reformation to Our Own Day.  Compiled by Andrew W. Blackwood.  Abingdon Press.  New York.  1947.