Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Unfinished Business

When Frank and I returned home from Kelly’s funeral, I was thinking that (except for a couple of final notices) the blog I had maintained during the crisis on Mt. Hood had pretty much served its purpose and should simply go to sleep. The rescue effort is over. Three grieving families have gone home. The media packed up their cameras and microphones and moved on to other stories. There really didn’t seem to be much more to say. Then I started having second thoughts.

It is a worn out metaphor, I know, but after all has been said and done, there is an elephant in the room—a big, glaring, cumbersome load of uncomfortable questions that, to be honest, most of us prefer to ignore. But to stop here and not face head-on the uncomfortable issues that this crisis has raised—raised in public, no less—is to turn away from the central issue of this entire ordeal and cheat ourselves of the kind of honest reflection we all need.

Looking back over what happened, anyone can see that we were set up for a miracle. All the pieces were in place. We had a desperate crisis. SAR experts were on the scene, well-equipped, ready and eager to tackle the mountain—willing to risk their lives to bring the missing climbers safely home. Resources, technology and volunteers poured in from all directions. Family members boldly spoke words of faith on network television. “Courage and hope”—how we clung to those words. God’s people everywhere mobilized to pray. Media cameras zoomed in and all America watched.

Yet, to our great dismay, there was no miraculous clearing of the skies. No stilling of the storms. No stopping of the winds. Instead, blizzards moved in with record fury, driving rescue workers off the mountain for the most critical days of the search. Everyone poured themselves into the effort and, to be completely honest, it seemed as though the only one who didn’t cooperate in the whole rescue operation was God.

The book of Job opens with a man of faith on his knees and a God who seems to work against the prayers of His child. It is utterly mind boggling, but after only two chapters faithful, righteous Job’s whole life stands in ruins. But the book doesn't stop there. It goes on—for forty more chapters—to talk about the elephant in the room. Where was God when disaster fell? Why didn’t He step in and do something? What kind of God is He anyway? Are we wasting our time to put our faith in Him if He turns His back when we’re in trouble and crying out for His help?

Some of us are already wrestling with these questions—not just in the situation involving Kelly, Brian and Nikko, but in our private struggles with unanswered prayer and lives that are filled with disappointments, heartache, and loss. Our troubles mean these questions are personal, not academic. Much is at stake for all of us. We want to understand the God who holds our lives in His hands and whose ways so often defy our understanding.

And so, for a while, the Mt. Hood Climbers blog is going to continue. I think we have some unfinished business that we all need to address. I hope you will stick with us—not with the expectation of getting all your questions answered, but with the intent of being honest with God, with how life looks, with what faith in God is all about. These questions are under discussion in our home. I want to take the conversation online. Frank will be joining us. I think a lot of us are interested in hearing his thoughts on these matters.

If you have questions you’d like discussed in this forum, feel free to raise them in the comments. We can’t promise to cover everything, but we want to at least try to take this discussion to the next level.

May God meet us as we struggle to understand Him.

Monday, January 1, 2007

A New Beginning?

New Year’s Day has always been a favorite holiday for me. Having grown up with three brothers, I naturally associate it with good food and lots of football, minus the pressures Christmas creates. At a personal level, I like the pause for reflection and resolve that January brings and the sense that this is a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to do a lot of things better than I did in the year that has just closed.

This year, I’m struggling to find that sense of new beginnings. Instead, I have a strong awareness that a lot of 2006 is traveling with me into 2007. For my family, 2006 ended on an all-time low with the death of my brother-in-law, Kelly James, on Portland’s Mt. Hood. There isn’t any way to leave that heartache behind.

But for all of us, the past is always part of the present, as well as a shaping influence in our future and on us. We carry baggage from the past with us, no matter how desperately we’d like to leave it behind. Despite the obvious negatives (the extra weight, the drag on us, and the dysfunction baggage can produce), our inability to shake the past is a good thing in many respects. God uses the experiences, disappointments, and heartaches of the past to take us deeper in our relationship with Him. In the process, we gain wisdom and become more sensitive to the struggles of others. I felt this deeply during the search and rescue effort on Mt. Hood and in the grief that followed, because I’ve been especially helped by the comfort I’ve received from people who are in a lot of pain themselves.

A major goal of WhitbyForum is to encourage women and men to pursue a deeper relationship with God. I’m discovering that God does some of his best work in us through wounds that don’t seem to heal and in the residue left behind by painful chapters in our lives. The baggage we’re all carrying around are important opportunities to go deeper with God. If you want to explore this subject more, join my husband Frank and me in an online discussion of the hard questions about God that life’s realities provoke: