He is gone but we go on

It has been a year. A year ago my pastor, my mentor, the man who was like a second dad to me – Pastor Alvin Grothe – went to be with the Lord. When you are busy living life it is easy to not think much about the difference somebody is making in your life. When they are gone it can cause you to reflect.

Various times during this past year I have been reminded of how blessed I was that Pastor came to be my pastor when I was 13 years old. He was an encourager during times of trial and sorrow. He was an example of what it looks like to follow the Lord and serve people. His firm faith helped me hold on to my faith during times when I wrestled with doubts. When I would question my abilities and whether I could be effective in serving the Lord, his belief that God could use me helped me to keep on going.

He is now gone, but we keep on going. The Savior he loved and pointed the rest of us to is still here. The Bible promises: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). That promise was made to Joshua as he was facing the reality that Moses was about to die. His mentor would soon be gone and Joshua would need to lead the people. The same Lord who strengthened and guided Moses promised to be with Joshua.

The ones who walk the path ahead of us can’t be with us forever. But their example and prayers continue to bless us. When they go it may seem like we have to be the ones in the lead. While in one way we do lead, we can also trust the Lord Himself is in the lead. He goes before us. Others have to leave us, but we don’t have to fear. The gracious Lord promises to be with us forever.

The blessing of being still

I was supposed to be in India today, teaching a class for pastors and church leaders. But instead I’m at home in the state of Washington. After Christmas I started having vision trouble in one eye. A couple of weeks ago I saw a doctor who said I had a detached retina that needed to be treated right away. If I went to India and delayed the surgery there was real danger I might lose vision in that eye. So with regret and disappointment we had to cancel the trip. Hopefully we can go next year.

The surgery went well. The recovery involved spending a week facing the floor. We rented a type of massage chair with a donut-type pillow that had a hole in it that I could look through. It came with a tray below the hole that I could put a book or iPad on so I could read. It also had a double mirror set up that made watching TV possible. We also got pillows set up for sleeping on my stomach.

At the follow-up appointment the doctor said recovery is going along well and I can start gradually resuming normal activities. I can lift up my head, make eye contact with people and look out the window. It feels a little like being set free.

We had what we thought were good plans. It is tempting to wonder why God didn’t make things happen the way we wanted them to go. But Proverbs reminds us: “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9, NLT).

Sometimes God has different plans than we do. He is the Lord of lords. He doesn’t owe us an explanation. He doesn’t take orders from us. But He does promise to be with us and care for us, even in those times when things go differently than we expect.

During this change of plans I have been blessed in many ways. My wife, Cathe, has been a wonderful, loving caregiver. I’ve grown even more appreciative of her during these days.

I have been blessed with many caring, praying friends. The congregation I am a part of in Ferndale has been very supportive and praying and my home congregation in Astoria has been also.

This could have happened to me in India, which would have presented a challenge. Instead it happened in an area where I had access to excellent medical care. Not everyone in the world has the opportunity to receive the care I did. It is not something to take for granted.

During my week of being face down I read a biography of Eugene Peterson: “A Burning in My Bones.” It was an enjoyable and appropriate read. Peterson often wrote about the value of quiet and having times of silence and contemplation. I had some times of quiet imposed on me these past few days. I hope to continue to have times of quiet, even when they are not forced upon me.

As I was recovering I couldn’t follow in a literal manner the call of Psalm 121:1: “I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” With spiritual eyes I could look to the Lord, and look forward to the day when I could look to the mountains with my physical eyes.

As I was facing the floor I could contemplate the call of another Psalm: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us” (Psalm 46:10-11).

We can be still when our plans don’t work out. We don’t need to stress and worry. God is still on the throne. He is still with us. He is still caring for us. It is a great blessing from God that we get to be still.