Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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Shoes Off!

 

Wow.  

After my annual Easter-Monday bout with haziness {and some mild laziness}, I really needed this video.  It has already put me in program mode for next year.  Better yet, later this year!

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Sweet Potato

During my first year of grief, all those awful “firsts without Cindy” often gathered around me like an avalanche gathers snow as it rumbles down a steep mountain.  Maybe you recall that I wrote before about some of those “firsts” when the crushing weight of Too Many Firsts made last December almost more than I could bear.

Call me an optimist {or stupid}, but I thought all these “firsts” would cease after April 7.  I think I even had people tell me they would.  “Just get through that first year,” my well-wishers would say.  “that’s when all these first time moments will go away.” 

But they haven’t.

Easter is late this year, one day shy of “as late as it could be.”  For the three of you who may be interested, the reason Easter doesn’t fall on a fixed date is because it’s determined according to a lunisolar calendar.  Back in 325 A.D., The First Council of Nicaea established the dating of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox. 

But I digress.

My only reason for mentioning that is this:  Today, Good Friday, is yet another first.  But also, a very sad “last.”  It was the last treatment day for Cindy’s second full round of whole brain radiation. 

After treatment, we stopped by to visit Drew and then I asked Cindy if she’d like to celebrate her final treatment {little did we know}.  She smiled faintly, and said she thought she would like that very much.  I suggested Logan’s Roadhouse since she loved their sweet potatoes and she hadn’t been eating much. 

She liked my suggestion, so we pulled into a handicapped spot, got situated into her other set of wheels and rolled into Logan’s with “party” on our minds.  But just before our food arrived, my very compromised bride lost the grip on her glass of iced water {with lemon, of course} and the whole glass spilled into her lap.  Since the restaurant was even a bit chilly for me, I quickly gathered our things and we hustled out to the truck and drove home.

That potato never did get eaten.  Not that I didn’t try.  I mashed it and tried to feed her in very infant-sized bites.  I remember crying, trying to somehow will even a tiny morsel of nourishment into her starving body. 

And that was our last time “to go out” together.  To this day, I can’t pass Logan’s without a lump forming in my throat.  And though I used to love the place, I’ve always kinda figured Logan’s would be one restaurant I never would visit again. 

Except this morning, I’m wondering if maybe I should go.  Maybe I could drop by about 2:00 this afternoon and ask for the table over on the far left where we were seated last Good Friday.  If I do go, I won’t need a menu.  I'll just order an iced water {with lemon} and a baked sweet potato {butter and brown sugar on the side}. 

I’m thinking maybe I could just sit there for a while, remember my bride and then walk out with the meal entirely untouched— you know, just like last year. 

I don’t know that I will go.  Maybe I will, but probably not.  But I AM thinking about it.

 

I’m facing another first, too.  See, it’s Friday— but Sunday’s a-coming!  {Thanks, TC!}  My first Easter without Cindy by my side. 

I think I’m ready.  I’ll be teaching from Colossians 1:16-17, where Paul talks about Jesus being the “firstborn from among the dead.”  As I added a few final tweaks yesterday afternoon, I realized that Jesus was also experiencing a “first.” 

He was the “first” to execute a full and forever resurrection. 

He was the first to rise to life without ever having to die again.  

Just thinking of Easter in those terms has helped me put a different spin on losing Cindy.  You see, since He was “first,” that must mean He won’t be the last!

If Jesus was “first,” then there will be more!

And Cindy is a part of that “more!” 

So on my first Easter without her, I’ll be thanking God that my bride has already found her place among the multiplied others who are also “more.”  Can’t you just picture her?  Holding court among other spirited faith-warriors who, like our Lord— and like Cindy Wyatt— will never experience death, not ever again.

Armed with that bit of good news, I’m ready for even more firsts.  And there will be plenty more.  I find my heart suddenly wanting a LOT more firsts. 

Andrea is preparing to deliver Baby Isaiah…my first grandchild without Cindy to help me know what needs done at precious times like this.  But I will figure it out, because there will be more!  Right, kids?  There will be MORE…right?

Josh is getting married in October.  It’s the first wedding that I won’t have Cindy to lean on as waves of nostalgia wash over me.  But it’s my son’s first, too.  And I am so proud of the man he has become.  So plan on Stevie being the life of the party, crowd!

Drew will soon make a major life decision.  Another first.

Good firsts.

Happy firsts. 

Firsts that are bursting with shouts of new life, rekindled hope and undiminished love.

And I smile, eagerly embracing this new round of firsts that I hope will never stop. 

How come I’m smiling?  Because I know my bride is smiling, too. 

She’s smiling— and I’m also smiling— because Jesus went first.   

 

Katrina

Yesterday, my OneDayServe team served a hurricane of a woman named Katrina.  You talk about a story— this is a story!  Katrina’s uncle came outta nowhere when my life hit the skids 15 years ago.  I’ve often said that my friend Don walked in when others walked out.  And not only stitched together my gaping wounds, he stood at the gate of my heart and refused to let anybody but the most righteous of heart enter in.  And Don never asked for anything from me. 

Until two months ago, when he told me that his niece had recently moved from Chicago to Scottsdale.  And that not long after moving here— she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  He asked me if our church could find some way to help her.  And I wasn’t about to say NO. 

Without even one additional morsel of information, our church stepped in.  I sent a 911 to some of the same people who helped carry Cindy and me.  Nancy quickly added Katrina to our OneDayServe list.  And Gin and her small group stepped to actually do the work. 

And it was HARD work.  We were there, just yesterday, and we helped the niece of the man who helped me.  But it wasn’t until just a few days before yesterday that we learned that God had been weaving an even more incredible story. 

See, I had no clue, but Katrina had also lived in Evansville.  And as youngster, she took piano lessons and for a while, traded her piano lessons by giving her piano teacher’s son swimming lessons. 

But back to the Arizona part of this story.  Katrina’s family had told her about me.  How I once pastored the biggest church in Evansville and was now in Anthem, AZ.  They also told her that my wife had recently died of breast cancer. 

So Katrina went to my website and read all of my blogs…but she just couldn’t bring herself to watch Cindy’s video.  See, the thought of seeing Cindy’s  frightened her way…cuz she just wanted to hear happy stories. 

But as OneDayServe drew closer, her curiosity got the best of her…and she watched Cindy’s video.  And as she did, she couldn’t believe her eyes!  See, Katrina’s piano teacher…was my bride!  And the boy she taught to swim was Drew. 

Isn’t it amazing how God works? 

Now Katrina is a woman of faith, but it’s still unclear as to whether she has fully embraced “the true message of the gospel”[1] or fully understands “God’s grace.”[2]  All we know for sure is that what she does know is Cindy’s verse.  Cuz she saw it in Cindy’s story. 

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.[3]

But more than just Cindy’s verse, she has now received OUR…serve.  And although I’m convinced Katrina has no idea what God is up to…and His purpose behind her growing story— I’m equally convinced that God already has Katrina in His sights. 

But follow me now:  If her salvation is, in fact, the way her story will one day read?  It’s because OneDayServe helped make her God’s amazing purpose…possible.

That’s how it worked through Epaphras.  He heard about “the gospel” because Paul had so much “love” that he taught the Bible every day, all day for two long years. 

But then Epaphras also had love…for his people back home.  So he went home…and told those he “loved” about “the word of truth.”

A “love” that was so strong that Paul, even though he was in prison at the time, see it…?  Even there, Paul had “heard of [their] faith in Christ Jesus and of the love [they had] for all God’s people.”[4]

See, there is an undeniable link between trusting in the gospel and loving God’s people.  Don Hester is an incredible man of faith, but it was his “love” that kept me connected to God and eventually restored me to ministry. 

So I move out to Arizona, and I don’t know why.  Except I was once again driven by my love for “God’s people.”  I didn’t need to keep putting my heart out there, but I did.  So we start a church, a church with a heart for people who hurt…no matter what the reason may be for why they hurt. 

Then I go through two years of hell, but once again I’m carried by people who “love” me.  And then, about the time, I’m getting healed again, I get a call to “love” somebody else.  So we do. 

We love her and serve her— and then watch as God amazingly loops the same ‘ole story that has been repeated countless times since “the gospel” was first unpacked at Pentecost: 

Someone loved me…

…so that I could love you…

…and then you loved me…

…so I could love more…

…and then we loved Katrina…

because Jesus first loved…us.

And so it goes. 



[1] Colossians 1:5

[2] Colossians 1:6

[3] II Corinthians 4:7-9

[4] Colossians 1:4

This is an exerpt from Stored Up and Springing From. For more, please go to thecrossroadsaz.com.

 

For Her Kids

These words are being written by me to all six of you— Anj, Em, Jess, Lib, Josh and Drew— but each word, as you well know, was the deeply embedded passion of your mom and my bride— our beloved Cindy.

Next week we will observe an anniversary we never wanted.  On the one hand, it hardly seems possible that a year has passed since our lives were last brightened by her infectious smile, her ridiculous cackle, and her unforgettable voice.  On other hand, it feels like time forever stopped in that awful moment when our North Star breathed her last.  And if you’re like me, a big part of your heart wishes time had stopped.

But time didn’t stop, did it?  Instead, our lives have persistently plodded…on.  

Time has kept marching despite our vigorous protests— as each day has selfishly demanded our involvement.  We’ve had to buy gas for our cars, food for our stomachs, and milk for our babies.  We’ve had to prepare meals and do laundry and pay the bills— plus a thousand other stupid, mind-numbingly boring tasks that life requires that we must submit to— and offer up our continued, albeit grudging, allegiance.  

But big and wonderful things have happened, too.  Em has a new home, Andrea’s belly is swelling with new life, Jess and Lib are in school again, Josh is engaged, and Drew is making forward strides toward a God-honoring life.  Your mom would be so proud of all of you. 

And before 2011 passes, Grammy’s two little princesses, Liv and Iz, will welcome into their ranks beautiful Madison and rough-n-tumble “little D.” 

At first, we all resisted time’s forward thrust— with such a determined and dug-in rigidity.  But life kept dragging us forward anyway, despite our vicious protests. 

Only now do I realize [as I look back] that my stubborn dug-in boots were actually digging deep furrows behind me.  I couldn’t see it then, but I do see it now:  Those first few pages of my new calendar resemble cornfields in the early spring, cutting deep lines of upturned soil— almost inviting a new planting. 

At some point, though, my stupid resistance gave way to a plodding, or more truthfully, a seething stomp.  “Fine,” I thought.  “I’ll walk instead of being dragged, but I REFUSE to like it.” 

I can’t say exactly when, but at some point my stomping became a somewhat faltering, but forward gait.  And then, a settled walk.  And now, with God’s help…I run. 

I am.  I’m running!

And with this first-completed lap of His relentless four seasons, here I arrive back to spring again.  And into those same deep furrows I angrily dug, I’m finding that God has been faithfully planting seeds of…blessing.  New plantings that are visibly starting to pierce through and reach for the sunlight.  And for the first time in a long time, I find myself actually looking forward to a harvest I thought might never again come. 

Maybe you guys aren’t there yet.  If not, I get your reluctance.  And I respect your journey.  Trust me, every emotion you have, I have also had.  And will continue to have. 

But as I watch the seedlings of His blessings starting to poke through, I am also— increasingly understanding His purpose in all of this. 

Blessings. 

His purpose— in all of this— is blessings.  I’m beginning to realize that Cindy’s greatest gift to us— is His blessings. 

I very unintentionally discovered a new song early this morning.  As I listened, the “what if” of Laura’s question quickly pierced my heart even as my eyes flooded with tears. 

Tears of sadness?  Yes.  How could we not be sad? 

But even more, I shed tears of, well, blessings.  Tears borne from a divinely intimate early morning encounter with your mom.  I say that because this is what your mom not only believed— it’s what she said, to you and to me, many times during her journey.  And now, I receive this song as her words that she still longs to whisper to our searching souls.  Words that she, not us— only her, embraces not just by faith— but in fulfillment. 

A “what if” question that propels me to keep running even as I receive her death as God’s planting of new— wow, “blessings.”

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I miss her so much.  But I’m also getting to the other side of God’s “what if.”  And I’m starting to see that His plantings really are piercing through the soil and bringing to my soul a harvest of “blessings.”  And that the darkest night of my life really was His “mercies in disguise.”

Thank you, Cindy.  You are still finding new songs for me.  

 


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