Talking to Stan

Stan, my wonderful father-in-law, just put his garden to bed for the winter. There is nothing he loved more than driving his tractor around the farm on a fall day in Michigan. So it was both fitting and beautiful that he took his last breath doing just that. In fact, he died between sentences, while talking with a close friend.

This good man was the nearest thing I had to a father in my adult life. He was a man of integrity who loved God, a patriot in the best sense, a warrior who shed tears when his grandchildren left after a visit. He loved and cared for his wife of 65 years, a spry and feisty centenarian who can no longer live on her own. She and I are puttering around the house together now, waiting for a room to open in a nearby assisted-living facility. As I search for missing items, calm repeated fears and welcome a parade of visitors, I find myself talking to Stan.

Sometimes I ask his advice obliquely (what would Stan have done about this?) and sometimes directly (Stan, please help me figure this out). I tell him how grateful I am for the plans he made, the family he raised and the legacy he left. I grumble at him for his packrat ways and for hiding his wife’s driver license too well. I’m a bit astonished at myself for doing this. I don’t know whether he hears me, and so far, he hasn’t answered back.

Many otherwise sane people have talked to their dead throughout history. Some have institutionalized the practice as prayer or ancestor worship. I understand the impulse. My love and my frustrations are real. They want a target to aim at. Someone who cares deeply about me now sees further than I can. Someone in heaven has the wisdom I need. Stan, as I knew him, was both strong and tender. I trusted him. He could understand my situation as no one else could. So I talk to him.

I realize I should be talking to God like this all the time. My love and even my frustrations have been invited by the King of Everything. Someone Who cares deeply about me sees further than I can. Someone in heaven has the wisdom I need. The Lord God is both strong and tender, and I can trust Him. He understands this and every situation as no one else could. So why am I talking to Stan?

It’s easier to feel warm about a physical person you have hugged and laughed with than a Spirit you’ve never heard or touched or seen, I suppose. But I don’t want my memory of Stan to be a substitute for the reality of God. Instead, I want to understand God better through my love for Stan. I want to know my Jesus as the warm, wise, ready heart on the other end of my conversations.

I don’t think it’s wrong to talk to Stan even though he’s dead (as long as he’s not talking to me), but it is more effective and more real to speak with the living Christ. It is not Stan who has what I need, loves me the most or intercedes for me with God. His death cannot yield those benefits. But his life is still pointing me to the One whose death ensures that Stan and I will sit down together again. There are so many things I look forward to in heaven, but one of the best will surely be talking to Stan.

“Christ is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)


Related Content:

Hurry Up and Wait

emergency concept: girl using a digital generated phone with emergency call on the screen. All screen graphics are made up.

“Hurry! Send help! Someone is trying to kill me!” It sounds like the latest 911 call replayed on your local news, but it’s really a summary of Psalm 70. David didn’t have a smart phone, so he had to appeal to God directly. I’ve been doing some of the same recently, but I’ve also been reading about persistence (Luke 18:3-5), patience (James 5:7-11) and peace (Phil. 4:6-7).

 

How is it that we are told to call upon God like the importunate widow, even to the point of never resting (Is. 62:6), and yet, we are also told in other places to be patient in affliction, to wait on the Lord and to exercise our endurance which builds character? Can the two qualities, which we could almost call patience and impatience, co-exist? Apparently they can, since we are encouraged to both. Psalm 40 provides a good example of serenity cohabiting with eagerness.

 

Perhaps the trick is calling upon God to act quickly without demanding that He do so. When does a sincere prayer morph from a request to a requirement? I think it must be when I stop praying with humility, with open hands, with supplication, and I start to sound shrill and angry. God knows we need His help, and He knows we feel we cannot wait. Yet He wants us to worship Him through the act of presenting those needs and desires. Relationship, intimacy and trust are fostered through this kind of honest communication. Yet He also knows exactly when and how He will meet our requests, and He wants us to wait in hope and peace for that response. Again, relationship, intimacy and trust are kneaded deep into our souls as we do the hard work of waiting. Both/and. Cry out for haste; wait patiently for the Lord. 

 

ladder

@thedesigntabloid.com

Living in that kind of tension is not generally my strong suit, so I’ve been looking for ways to practice. It’s popular these days to re-purpose something – an old shirt becomes a new pillow, an old ladder becomes a new shelf. Well, Psalm 70 is a perfect psalm to re-purpose for my own needs. When things are hard, it’s easy to be frustrated and prideful rather than expectant and humble, so this poem is a wonderful reminder that God and His salvation are our highest need and hope. Psalm 70 also gives us permission and verbiage for expressing our suffering and our desire for a reversal in the universe. (Come, Lord Jesus!) That reversal is certain, but it is not evident, and to cry out for it is worship. It’s also something practical to do while we wait.

 


Applications:

 

  1. Rewrite Psalm 70 (it’s short) filling in details of your own situation. If there is no evil person for verses 2 and 3, let Satan play this role as he surely does.
  1. Could an exclamation of “Hurry!” be an act of worship? What would make it so? Think about the characteristics of Psalm 70 as you answer.

Related Material:

An blog about the oxymorons in the Psalms by JS Park

Asking God to Hurry by Steve Fuller

Free download about anxiety

Ordinary Days

I cry to the Lord when I am hurting or exhausted. Even in my crises of doubt, He is the first place I turn for reassurance. I also remember Him in celebrations. I’m not grateful enough, to be sure, but I say, “Thank you, God.” Sometimes even out loud. It’s the ordinary days when I forget Him. It’s the hurried chores I can do in my sleep, the jokes I share with a friend, the errands, the mindless hours of television – that’s where He is most absent from my thoughts.ppg

I love The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. More than any other tool, his story has shown me how to maintain some consciousness of God in the ordinary moments. I have found God at my ironing board, in a crowded room of party-goers, and with me in the shower, as a result. A few years ago, after reading the book again, I determined to tell God that I loved Him once an hour every day. It’s harder than you might imagine. Humbling. I think I will try it again today – on this ordinary day.