Wrestling with God for Life

{written for The Morning Center blog: https://www.morningcenter.org/blog/wrestling-god-life}

My five year old son, Jeremiah, has a new hobby: knights and castle play. We’ve been reading “The Story of King Arthur and his Knights.” The first book ends with the motto of the Round Table: “We, the Knights of the Round Table, will be gentle unto the weak, courageous unto the strong, and terrible unto the wicked. We shall defend the helpless, hold all women as sacred, be merciful to all men, and defend and support each other until the end.

I’ll admit, the phrase: “hold all women as sacred” really caught my eye!  That is something I truly want impressed upon Jeremiah’s heart, but even more so, the truth that all of life is sacred.

It almost goes without saying that the Christian community holds to the value of “sanctity of life” and yet, I fear, without much thought. As Jacob wrestled with God, and in the wrestling held on tightly to Him, I believe that in order for our conviction of “sanctity of life” to have real depth, tenacity, and outward effect in our lives, there needs to be a true wrestling in the heart of each follower of Jesus.

When is the last time you came away from prayer limping?

In his book “Adopted for Life”, Russel Moore discusses spiritual warfare and Planned Parenthood. He argues that Satanic powers “rage against the babies and children” who reflect the image of God. He quotes Proverbs 8:36: “All who hate me love death,” and goes on to say, “Satan always uses human passions to bring about his purposes. When new life stands in the way of power [or selfish ambition]… the blood of children often flows. Herod loved his power; so he raged against babies… It’s easy to shake our heads in disgust at Pharoah or Herod or Planned Parenthood. It’s not as easy to see the ways in which we ourselves often have a Pharoah-like view of children rather than a Christlike view. What God calls blessing, we often grumble at as a curse- for the same reason those old kings did, because they disrupt our life plans.”

Let us pray boldly and sincerely:

Search me, O God, and know my heart!

Try me and know my thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me. ~ Psalm 139:23-24a

My suspicion is that the painful, Jacob-style of wrestling with God is absent and a dull sense of complacency has taken root, in part, because we do not speak into each other’s lives with insight and truth. In a social media world where we are all hungry for the affirmation of the “like” we live in a people-pleasing culture.

You may not actually be sacrificing babies to Molech, but your heart has grown hard and cold to life in some arena. Where has your heart turned from desire? From beauty? From delight? Do you waste the glory of your life in numbing-dissociative addictions?  

The famous puritan John Owen wrote, in his book The Mortification of Sin, that a sincere fight against sin must be universal: “We must not be concerned only with that which troubles us, but with all that troubles God… If we will do anything, we must do everything. (2 Cor. 7:1) So then, our need is not only an intense opposition to this or that particular lust, but a universal humble frame and temper of heart that watches over every evil…” (The Mortification of Sin, John Owen and abridged by Richard Rushing).

The Sanctity of Life movement must have this same universal principle behind it. We must seek fullness of life in every corner of our own lives and world which we inhabit and seek to bring down all forces of death.

Dan Allender once said that we would have much more clarity if we take out the false sense of neutrality: If something is not love, then it is hate; if something is not life-giving and affirming, then it is of darkness and a herald of death.

The Serpent wooed Eve into an agreement with Evil as she assented to his lies. All the while she was completely unaware. Let us not think too highly of ourselves for we are not unlike Eve. Without any awareness we too have made agreements with the lies of Evil.

We need a jarring voice to awaken us and invite us into painful reflection.

May this question be a holy disruption in your life:

Have you broken your covenant (or agreement) with death?

Here is the jarring voice of Jesus: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” ~ Matthew 16:25

We need to renounce the empty ways in which we search for life that are truly Satan’s façade that will destroy.

For my people have committed two evils:

they have forsaken me,

the fountain of living waters,

and hewed out cisterns for themselves,

broken cisterns that can hold no water. ~ Jeremiah 2:13

Only through repentance can we turn to Jesus afresh and let him lead us to life-abundant.

Then you will hear the voice of Jesus inviting you to fight for life and embody His mission in the unique realm he has called you to:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor;[fn]

he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and the opening of the prison to those who are bound…” ~ Isaiah 61:1

 

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

Happy 3rd Birthday Tirzah!

Dear Tirzah,

We now celebrate your 3rd birthday! (August 20th)

It’s been a gift to celebrate you and remember you… You were our little perfect Gift! and still are.

With the school year starting and Jeremiah entering Kindergarten, I’ve been thinking that you would be going into preschool… what would it have been like for you to be buddies with Jeremiah and him showing you around CHA?

I can picture it clearly in my mind… but then I think, “No! no, you’re just where you’re supposed to be… with Jesus… held in His arms… walking with Him in the heavenly gardens.”

I remember the words in my speech just 2 1/2 months after your birth:

( https://delightofmylife.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/119/

“The Lord convicted me that I needed to submit to Him so FULLY that I could honestly say before God and men that I would not change the story, if given the chance… I needed this unshakable faith and trust in the goodness of God… such that I would not rewrite Tirzah’s life on this earth. These questions: “Would I rewrite the story? Would I write it differently?”  … there is still the temptation… but still the same conclusion.

Dearest Tirzah, my most beautiful and precious little princess, you are our perfect gift just the way you were… still, silent, yet carrying a loud message of LIFE.

You brought us the gift of LIFE in so many ways:  Faith, Hope, and Love in new depths, new vibrancy…  and a farther reaching spectrum of emotions- more tears and steadfast joy (for now we cling to Eternity… a part of our hearts are already in Heaven with you, Tirzah.  Hope in Heaven is the only true Hope, and the only true joy has eyes toward Jesus and Eternity) These tears and this joy are a little closer to the heart of God (who weeps with deep mourning and rejoices in the heights of Heaven).

You opened our hearts to deep grief, such as we had never known before, and pain that we didn’t know was possible. But yet, we have seen the Lord’s faithfulness, felt His presence, and heard His voice with an intensity and reality that matched the depth of our brokenness. Job says in 5:18: “For he wounds, but he binds up;
he shatters, but his hands heal.”

Tirzah, your life is still bringing us the gift of healing. We can only be healed so far as we are broken. Dan Allender once said that “trauma begets trauma”… and oh! did we find that to be true!

I have a theory: that all grief, pain and trauma have the same biochemical outcome in our brains… therefore, one traumatic event can actually trigger all past trauma and bring it to the surface again.

The last three years have been tumultuous for your dad and I, as not only the trauma of loosing you on this earth was felt, but all past traumas of our lives were also brought forth.  This brokenness in our hearts was there before you, just buried beneath the surface. Now you have brought us the gift of healing and the gift of being “wounded healers”, by the grace of God.

My good friend Rose shared this verse with me often:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  ~ 2 Corinthians 1:4-5

This is where we are now, Tirzah. Because of you we have the gift of a new calling on our lives. And when I say “we” I include Jeremiah and Judah!

Ever since you were born, Tirzah, Jeremiah has a sense of empathy that is stunning for a small child. He was about 2 1/2 at that time. As a result of our grief over you, Jeremiah became keenly aware of emotions. When we read him stories after your birth, he would point to every character on the page and want to know how they were feeling. Every single day (this is no joke), multiple times a day, Jeremiah would hand me a train and say, “Percy is sad because there are no beetles, lets just listen to how he feels.”  One day we were at a park with a sandbox (of course another mom with a similar age boy was sitting right next to me), and Jeremiah (about age 3) handed me a shovel and said, “This shovel is sad because he can’t dig, let’s just listen to how he feels.”  I was a little tongue-tied… but beaming with pride.

God has joined your story with ours, Tirzah, and He is beginning to work in Jeremiah his own life verse:  “He defended the cause of the poor and needy and so all went well…”  (Jeremiah 22:16)

Tirzah, you’ve given him eyes of empathy… to see pain in the eyes of another.

Just a couple weeks ago, (at age 5) he prayed in the evening, “Dear God, I pray that Mommy wouldn’t feel guilty…”  My mouth dropped open: for him to understand that emotion, to recognize it in me, and to have the compassion to pray for me was simply stunning… and I believe Spirit-given.

I believe we will see God use you, Tirzah, in Judah’s life as well. Judah’s life verse comes from Ezekiel 37: verses 4-5, 10.

“Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, “Oh dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live“… So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceeding great army.

Your little brother’s first birthday is now just a few days away! I wrote this in Judah’s newborn album:

“The Knight family is now a family of five. Judah is our third child: his older brother Jeremiah, and older sister Tirzah. We want Judah to know all about his sister. Our desire is the same for both Tirzah and Judah: That they would both carry a message of LIFE.

“The verse that Tirzah carries in her still and silent way, for it is engraved on her headstone, is one that Judah will carry with a strong and loud voice:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? ~ John 11:25-26

 

 

Birthday Video

There’s still time to donate to Tirzah’s legacy of life at through the Morning Center. Click below for her memorial page and fundraising in her honor.

https://secure.morningcenter.org/np/clients/morningcenter/campaign.jsp?campaign=21&fundraiser=12286&team=21#.VcyXcDVkpl0.facebook

Tirzah’s life message: Resurrection and LIFE:

“Resurrection is real. Life is more powerful than death. Light CAN pierce darkness. (1 Corinthians 15:54).

Lord, we know You will come. We know You are here. Let us bring all our wounds and brokenness to You expectantly, without a doubt. Remind us that all the children we hold, and all the children we don’t, are yours. Yours in this broken life and Yours in Eternity. Come, Lord Jesus. We wait in **Hope**. ”

(Katie Davis, Kisses from Katie)

The Valley of Vision:

“Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the Valley of Vision, where I live in the depths, but see Thee in the heights… there I behold Thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox,

that the way down is the way up,

that to be low is to be high,

that the broken heart is the healed heart,

that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,

that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,

that to have nothing is to possess all,

that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,

that to give is to receive, that **the valley is the place of vision.**

Lord, let me find thy light in my darkness, thy life in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin, they riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.”

~The Valley of Vision, A Collection of Puritian Prayers

Dear Tirzah:

My sweet Tirzah, Jesus just couldn’t wait for you because you are so beautiful. And if I had a garden, wouldn’t I give my Lord the most beautiful Rose of the garden? How could I give Him any less than you?

~ Dear Tirzah, October 3, 2014

Soli Deo Gloria:

Tirzah’s life is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he life, and everyone who believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? ”   ~ John 11

Do *not* be deceived: wake up from your drunken stupor, and do not go on sinning… Return to the Lord, for He is merciful and will abundantly pardon.”  ~ Jeremiah

and we all tore our robes

Then Job arose, and tore his robe… and fell on the ground and worshiped. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, Blessed be the name of the Lord.  ~ Job 1:20

This weekend at the Respite Retreat, in Henrietta, TN with David and Nancy Guthrie was a hard and yet glorious time.

My heart was freshly broken for all the families we met, and feeling their pain of loosing their children along with them, along with our own heartbreak for our first daughter Tirzah.

At the end, we all agreed that we didn’t want to leave the retreat…. It was so good, because it felt so safe… it was wonderful to cry and not hold back.. to have people to cry with, and not try to fix it, or feel awkward or rush us past it… i could freely let out the deep guttural cry of my heart… it was wonderful that Tirzah’s name was said, naturally and often. It was amazing to be with people who “get it” and just “know” and we didn’t have to explain or justify anything. Tirzah’s value and worth was assumed and celebrated.

We also found in our time together, the Lord to be faithful and the Rock on which we stand. The *name of the Lord* is salvation, redemption, and resurrection… for our babies… and for us.

We found together that *Jesus understands* both the overwhelming weight of grief, and the loneliness in that grief:

Then {Jesus} said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?

Jesus understands what it is like to pray and receive a “No” from the Father:

he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me

Together we found God’s answer to the “Why??”… and a beginning of putting to rest the guilt and regret we all are tempted to have eat away at our hearts:

Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Here in John 9, in this story of a blind man, we see Jesus answer in terms of purpose, not cause, as Nancy drew out of the passage. That was a wonderful reminder, and a truth in season for my heart. Nancy reminded each of us that God DOES NOT punish those *in faith*. For those who have accepted the free gift that Christ offers (the gift of being our substitute on the cross, and dying the death our lawbreaking demands as penalty), ALL the punishment that I *deserve*, Jesus took upon himself on the cross. *This sounds too good to be true* but we accept it and rejoice in this gift by faith. And now, God wants to pour out on US love, mercy, grace, forgiveness and GOODNESS.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. ~ Psalm 23

*ALL* the days includes the days that our children died. God’s *goodness* was there, and IS there in the depths of the despair we still feel.

Ecclesiastes 7:1 (paraphrase) ” and the day of death is better than the day of birth.”

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. ~ Psalm 116

And not only is God good on these days, but He has planned them, purposed them, and written them. Nancy read to us from Revelation 1:17 and Psalm 139. She emphasized this TRUTH: *God holds the key of death. No one walks through until God himself opens the door. And He is ALWAYS right on time.

“Fear not, I am the first and the last,  and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. ~ Revelation 1:17

God has written *every* one of our days. Even the days that our children die.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me… ~ Psalm 139:16 

And finally, we read this *on going* invitation of Jesus in Matthew 11:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

She gently reminded each of us to come to JESUS himself, with a simple and pure heart… it doesn’t say “go to church”, or “seek a spiritual experience”, or whatever we might turn to… instead, we come to our Lord- the *person* of Jesus, and, like the *beloved* disciple John, we simply lay our head on his chest, experiencing his love and rest.

Happy Three Month Birthday Tirzah!!

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Today Tirzah’s 3 month birthday…. i asked Ryan if he had any thoughts… He said, “Well, we’re three months closer to our eternity… to seeing her again.”

How true… I think the past three months I’ve been living more “in light” of Eternity then ever before…. the reality of my own *imminent* death (because really, compared to eternity, isn’t ALL of our deaths *really* imminent??)

In celebrating Tirzah’s life and birthday today, my one request, is for you to consider your own soul… and your own eternity.

To the person who thinks only of this lifetime and says: ” I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’… God says to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you,…” (Luke 12:19-20)

How do we know that anyone of us could have our soul “required” of us this very day….

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? ~ Mark 8:36

How do we secure our souls for eternity? Mark 1:15 says,” repent and believe in the gospel.”

This is the Gospel: “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” ~Romans 5:8

When Jesus died on the cross He became the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)

And this is the promise that His death purchased for those who come to Him… the only requirement is **COMING** : “as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” ~ Psalm 103:12.

This is a once-for-all-time transaction, the moment we come to Christ in faith. THEREFORE, we can have BOLD ASSURANCE on the day we stand before God. **KNOWING** that our sins have been removed from us… We will not bear our sins upon us in God’s court of Law on the day we stand before God’s judgment. We know that Christ bore our sins, and our penalty… and therefore, we know that we shall be declared **INNOCENT** and ushered into His Kingdom.

The invitation is open to ALL: “Come!” ~ Revelation 22”:17

{this is my addendum, which I thought good to add! Can enough ever be said of the Gospel of Salvation??}

Who can stand before The Lord God and before His Throne?

Psalm 24:4 asks this question, “Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?”
And answers: “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”

Which of us can say that we have clean hands and a pure heart??

Jesus says that if we hate, then we are murderers at heart…. If we look on another person with lust, we are adulterers at heart… Matthew 5:22 says, “whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” Who of us has not done that?? Each one of stands before God as a murderer, a thief, an adulterer… and that’s just a start!

But God being *RICH* in mercy, has provided a way for us to be redeemed…

Just as Jesus took on our sin, to bear our punishment…. We take on His righteousness, as a cloak or garment, to bare his purity. This is known as **THE GREAT EXCHANGE**

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.~ 2 Corinthians 5:21

Isaiah 61:10- I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness…. {which is the righteousness of Christ!}

two months into eternity

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Today my little girl is two months into eternity… I feel peaceful… I feel deeply thankful… I am so proud of her…

God has used her to touch so many heart and lives. People from all over the world are reading this blog: South Africa, Germany, Ireland, Canada, Brazil, Malta and Honduras…

Here are the words a few people have shared:

From Taylar: “: I read parts of your blog and felt like numb sensation throughout my whole body. I had to get off of it for now because I couldn’t fight the tears. As a Christian myself, I would like to encourage you to stay strong and keep doing what you’re doing. You have more strength than an army of a thousand men. I am very inspired by your messages. Xo”

From P: “: God bless you Catherine and your sweet baby girl,,,, sounds like you already know, that your blessed and a blessing,, even in the deepest hurt, ,, oh but sweet lady,,you will see her again! thank you for sharing such a great amazing life with us, your family , Tirzah”

From H— who recently had baby E— “I just kept thinking about what you had been through and then would try to refocus on the faith you were demonstrating in light of everything. Then, when E came out strawberry blonde, I just knew that Tirzah must have been with her, sent by God to help keep her safe. May sound corny, but I really felt that way.”

And we’ve been so loved and encouraged by so many:

From Esme R.: “You are doing so well, dear friend! Your grateful heart, though it comes with so many tears and sorrows, cannot but please the Lord. You and Ryan are such good testimonies of God’s grace. Love ya!”

From Kari B. – “You are such an amazing women Catherine, God is using you, and will continue to use you in mighty ways. It’s so painful to be broken but as you know, his strength shines so bright when we are so weak, I see that strength in you and I am awed by it. We all will go through suffering on this earth and I just hope I can be as authentic and Christ filled as you have been. Hugs!”

From Gabrielle P.- “Catherine, thank you for being used by Jesus to bring Him honor in the midst of your pain. May He continue to strengthen you and shine through you. We are praying for you and your beautiful family.”

From Kristin H. – “Thank-you so much for sharing this, Catherine! Your faith and belief in who Jesus is and how you are walking through this loss is so encouraging and has challenged my faith! Sweet, beautiful Tirzah is home! Love you, friend!”

From K. L- “This is so beautiful Catherine! It’s such a testament of your faith in Jesus on how you are relying on him during this time and he is showing you such beautiful things. I can’t imagine going through what you are going through and my heart breaks for you, but I’m amazed by the way you are handling it all. You are such a strong woman and such an amazing mommy to both Jeremiah and Tirzah! She was so beautiful and we know She is in a much better place than any of us.”

Those are just a few.

 

Fall is in the air

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Dear Tirzah,
I was thinking about you and missing you during our walk along the harbor today… the fall colors and the stillness of the Lake were so beautiful… and I thought you’d be with us for all this. I would have bundled you up to keep you so warm… and your little beautiful cheeks would have been so cute and pink from the fall air. And Everyone who walked by would have stopped to gaze and you and see how beautiful you are, and you would have looked up with your big blue eyes in wonder at the world and people around you (I *know* you had your daddy’s eyes). And right about now I would be searching for the *perfect* Christmas stocking for you… and every time I see a pretty little baby dress I’ll think of you… how perfectly beautiful you are.
My beautiful Tirzah, did I tell you about my new photography project: Souls of Chicago? It was inspired by you… because I have a life time of questions I never got to ask you… to know all about you… and I know you’ll have all eternity to answer…
And maybe you’ll still have a little Christmas stocking here with us, and I’ll line the top with mistletoe for all the 1000s of kisses we have for you!
Love you so so so so so much, Tirzah. From your mommy