Thursday, January 11, 2007

Sleepless in Orlando

Last night before I went to bed, I visited a couple of Internet blogs where self-described agnostics are dissecting what happened on Mt. Hood and deriding statements Frank made about God and faith and hope, given the tragic outcome. It probably wasn’t the best thing for me to do before trying to fall asleep. I felt the sting of their remarks about the absurdity of faith and their conviction that we are simply fooling ourselves to believe in God. After I crawled into bed, I lay awake feeling saddened and humiliated by the whole discussion.

What helped me sleep, oddly enough, wasn’t figuring out some clever argument to convince them God exists and we are right to trust Him no matter what happens. Rather, what helped me was realizing I’m in good company. People made fun of the psalmist when God didn’t rescue him from trouble. He felt like God had forgotten him. His enemies picked up on this and tormented him, taunting, “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:3, 10).

One of the strongest incentives we have to be honest and open about our struggles with God comes from the fact that Bible is so honest. You’d think that a book intended to promote faith in God would edit out moments where God lets His people down and they become the butt of their enemies’ jokes. Instead, the Bible is loaded with stories of people—like King David, Job, Naomi, Jonah, Habakkuk, and Jesus’ disciples, to name a few—who were disappointed, frustrated, confused, and angry with God and couldn’t make sense of what He was doing. In fact, most of the Bible is about God’s people scratching their heads in bewilderment, exploding with anger at God over something He did or didn’t do, or having their faith stretched to the breaking point.

We may be embarrassed. We may feel like things have gone terribly wrong and we’ve been left looking foolish for trusting in God. Amazingly God doesn't share our embarrassment. He doesn’t shy away from situations that make Him look bad, but openly and without apology puts these messy circumstances out in the open for everyone to see. He does that in His Word. He does that in our lives—both in our personal struggles and publicly on Mt. Hood.

Somehow, this is part of the journey of faith—an important way God often draws us in to look more closely at Him, jolts us out of our polite, pious conversations with Him, and engages us in a real relationship. This is (at least for me) a good starting point—to know I’m not alone. This path—painful and confusing as it is—is well-worn by the footsteps of God’s people through the ages. Given the history of God's people, we should not be surprised to find ourselves here.



Anonymous said...

How sad for the agnostics to not have any hope or faith. For them, when it's over it's over. Mt. Hood did not end the way most of us would have liked. We would have loved to see all three of these men to walk off that mountain as healthy as when they started and praise God for a miracle. Apparently, God has a different plan, a plan that includes Kelly, Brian and Nikko. This is a God who gave his only son to save mankind. Wow. I'm thinking Kelly, Brian, and Nikko, have saved quite a few through this ordeal by Frank and others speaking about their faith.
I am continuing to pray for all of you that are struggling with grief over the loss of Kelly, Brian and Nikko and I pray that God will reveal his plan to you.

QQ said...

If I may speak from my self experience, some of these who mocked believers will one day become believers, and even devoted themselves to serve God, whom they once mocked. This is the power of the gospel -- and also the reason for our labor. For the Son did not come to save believers, but to save those unbelieve to believe, so that every member of the family of God may be gathered and not the least of the 206 bones of the body of Christ may be forgotten. For that one lost sheep, he left his 99 and went out.

Anonymous said...

Upon doing some thinking, I realized that God really does have a plan for each and everyone of us. We may not comprehend this plan right now, but God knows what He's doing.

To everyone who's lost someone they love
Long before it was their time
You feel like the days you had were not enough
when you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains
Keeping you back from your life
You believe that there's nothing and there is no one
Who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

I was sure by now, God You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth


Anonymous said...

What kind of God would take a man away from his wife and 4 children? I'm a Christian and still struggle with this question. I keep telling myself there had to have been a very special purpose for what happened on Mt Hood. But will we ever know what it is? Is this connected to all the other bizarre things happening on Earth right now? I'm feeling lost and confused and having a hard time getting closer to Him.

Anonymous said...

Mrs James,

This blog is making me think more about my faith. Would I be able to hold on the my faith if my husband were lost? My children? Sometimes I feel the only time I feel close to God is when things are going well in my life which I know is wrong.

I praise you, even envy you because of your strong faith in Him. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and continuing this blog. I look forward to more of your posts.

Mollie Warren said...

Hi Carolyn, God does work in powerful ways that is why I am writing here. he has brought me to you. When I kept searching about what happened on the mountain and found what you and Frank do I sat here and cried and said "I got it, all of this was bringing me closer to God. Since the day I heard Karen say "Kelly is coming down off that mountain" I have never prayed so much in my life. To hear Frank talk to the news crews there was a sense of peace and strong faith. What happened on Mt Hood kept me awake at night praying for their safe return. Something kept bringing me back to search for more and more and it was for you and Frank to answer more of my unanswered questions about life and God and you sure have done that. I am so heartbroken of the outcome of all this. I believe Kelly, Brian and Nikko are in a wonderful place, but the ones left behind suffer so much because we miss our loved ones and want them back with us. I was walking with my husband today on the Springwater trail, normally an open view to Mt. Hood, but cloudy. We talked about Kelly, realizing God can't control Mother Nature which failed to clear the skies for them to rescue him. We lost our son-in-law when he was 23,have searched for the last 10 years why this happened, how? I was angry at God. Your strong beliefs in God comfirmed what I have been searching for, God is good and surely can't control all that happens on this earth. He has given us the strength to all go on and to love stronger and to value each day more than we did before. He will do that for all of you.
If what happened on Mt. Hood did not happen my question may have never been answered and I know there are others just like me in this world that need answers. I never would of seen the beautiful work Kelly and Karen did to their house, his beautiful work, or Karen's paintings. The great words written at the end of their story. You have touched my heart and all of my family. My daughter has shared with me all of this and brought us closer to God. I feel without God in our lives we are nothing. We have many animals and a few months ago I lost one of our 29 kitties, she was no where to be found, I prayed for weeks for God to bring her home also, but she is still not home today and I feel so sad and no it does not compare to your loss, but they are just so dear to me and I blamed God again, but know now something out of his control and mine took her. Unfortunately life is full of very, sad and tragic times. I try to stay focused on the good and positive knowing how lucky we are to be here for our short time, not knowing exactly what is ahead of us but to know it is good and positive makes life better here. God Bless you all. You are great,wonderful and beautiful people and feel so privledged to have met you. I will continue to pray for you and all your family, let Karen and the kids know there is someone in Portland, Oregon that deeply and dearly cares about you all and I am so sorry for your loss. Sincerly and with love. Mollie Warren

Anonymous said...

As I sit here at home in the shadow Mt. Hood I am struck by how profoundly I have been affected by the passing of Brian, Kelly & Nikko. Daily when I look out my window I am reminded of your loss. I ask myself ... why this time, when at least once a year (or more) people perish on her slopes? My only answer is you...the families. You carried yourselves with Grace and Dignity, indeed you gave us all hope, something needed in such dark times.
I hope that you find peace in your search for understanding...

caroline cutler said...

First of all, Carolyn, I wanted to say how much I have been blessed and challenged by your book, Lost Women of the Bible. I'm planning to lead a small group study on it in the spring and I hope others will also be encouraged.

I have been praying for you and your family since you first sent that newsletter. At the time, I was in the middle of reading Philip Yancey's book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? which is an extremely honest and helpful look at prayer and what the Bible says about it. It deals with some of the tough questions about prayer such as: Does prayer change God?, Why is it so difficult for some of us to pray? and (a very relevant one for you and your family) Why does God seem to answer some prayers and not others?

The last question is one that I have thought a lot about and from both perspectives. I have seen God do amazing miracles in answer to prayer both in my own life and in the lives of others. I have also seen many prayers (my own and others') apparently go unanswered or at least answered with 'no'.

I have also had to deal with 'survivor's guilt' when it comes to prayer. When my husband and I were working for a Christian development organization in Bangladesh sixteen years ago, our son was born 11 weeks prematurely. There was no health care available in the country for cases like this so we were taken on a medical evacuation to Bangkok, Thailand the next day. It was an absolute miracle that he even made it to Bangkok alive. I could tell you so much about what God did during that time through all of the ups and downs and what he taught me, including some important lessons about how he views suffering. Not only that but today we have a bright, imaginative and, yes, still strong-willed teenager whose only health concerns are occasional bouts of asthma. I am so grateful to God! Yet, around the time of his birth and since, we have known many families who have either lost children or who had premature infants who face significant physical and developmental challenges. Not to mention the millions of infants born around the world who don't stand a chance because of lack of access to good health care. Do I believe that God answered this prayer for us because we had more faith than they did? Absolutely not! Many of the couples we have known who have had to deal with these circumstances had incredible faith.

I know other people who seem to have received physical healing and years later their illnesses came back. Does that mean it really wasn't God working in the first place? I myself have been dealing with back and leg pain due to sciatica for over five years now. Is it because I have a lack of faith about this? Or maybe God is punishing me for something I've done? This is what some would say.

I really don't know the answers to a lot of these questions or, I'm sure, to the questions you and your family have probably been asking and struggling with. However, I believe it's important to keep on asking and struggling with them. More importantly, I believe we need to bring these questions, struggles, doubts and even our outrage at the suffering we see in the world to God. That is called prayer.

Michelle Sanchez said...

I too have recently rediscovered the Psalms as the tremendous resource and treasure that they are. Brian Moss is a recording artist who is working on a 10-year project to put all 150 of the Psalms to music. I just purchased his first CD and highly recommend it. The raw, honest beauty of the Psalms is so powerful - especially when they are sung! Here's his web site:

Anonymous said...

One day a while back, a man, his heart heavy with grief, was walking in the woods. As he thought about his life this day, he knew many things were not right. He thought about those who had lied about him back when he had a job.

His thoughts turned to those who had stolen his things and cheated him.

He remembered family that had passed on. His mind turned to the illness he had that no one could cure. His very soul was filled with anger, resentment and frustration.

Standing there this day, searching for answers he could not find, knowing all else had failed him, he knelt at the base of an old oak tree to seek the One he knew would always be there. And with tears in his eyes, he prayed:

"Lord You have done wonderful things for me in this life. You have told me to do many things for you, and I happily obeyed. T oday, you have told me to forgive. I am sad, Lord, because I cannot. Don't know how.

It is not fair Lord. I didn't deserve these wrongs that were done against me and I shouldn't have to forgive. As perfect as your way is Lord, this one thing I cannot do, for I don't know how to forgive. My anger is so deep Lord, I fear I may not hear you, but I pray that you teach me to do this one thing I cannot do - Teach me To Forgive."

As he knelt there in the quiet shade of that old oak tree, he felt something fall onto his shoulder. He opened his eyes. Out of the corner of one eye, he saw something red on his shirt.

He could not turn to see what it was because where the oak tree had been was a large square piece of wood in the ground. He raised his head and saw two feet held to the wood with a large spike through them.

He raised his head more, and tears came to his eyes as he saw Jesus hanging on a cross. He saw spikes in His hands, a gash in Hi s side, a torn and battered body, deep thorns sunk into His head. Finally he saw the suffering and pain on His precious face. As their eyes met, the man's tears turned to sobbing, and Jesus began to speak.

"Have you ever told a lie?" He asked?

The man answered - "yes, Lord."

"Have you ever been given too much change and kept it?"

The man answered - " yes. Lord." And the man sobbed more and more.

"Have you ever taken something from work that wasn't yours?" Jesus asked?

And the man answered - "yes, Lord."

"Have you ever sworn, using my Father's name in vain? "

The man, crying now, answered - "yes, Lord."

As Jesus asked many more times, "Have you ever"? The man's crying became uncontrollable, for he could only answer "Yes, Lord."

Then Jesus turned His head from one side to the other, and the man felt something fall on his other shoulder. He looked and saw that it was the blood of Jesus. When he looked back up, his eyes met those of Jesus, and there was a look of love the man had never seen or known before.

Jesus said, "I didn't deserve this either, but I forgive you."

It may be hard to see how you're going to get through something, but when you look back in life, you realize how true this statement is.

If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

MT said...

Thank you for sharing your struggles with us. It makes our faith that much stronger. I have never fully realized until reading your post how much we share with great leaders from the past like David.

Carolyn said...

Yes, MT, I think it's a great comfort to know we're not out of step when we're wrestling with hard questions about God. If those who view our questioning as a sign of spiritual failure would only take a closer look at Scripture, they'd discover questioners are walking on solid ground and following in the footsteps of many giants of the faith.

I'm so glad this discussion is helping others.


Anonymous said...

Amazing how Job was put down, yet he never backed away from trusting in God. Yet after the battle was over... he was blessed double.

It seems to me that the nations eyes were on this one family - not only to see tragedy, but to see them not back away from knowing and trusting God. This tells me that they are some tough cookies because we are not tested more then we can handle.

In the end, peace and joy. Funny how death will gets its butt kicked when you view this whole story with a long term view.

Hope this makes sense.