Where is Will?

Where is Will?  Not as in, “Is he in heaven?,” “Is he standing before Jesus?,” “Is he in Paradise?,” “Is he nowhere?,” or “Is he just in the ground?”

But that’s not my question anyways.  My question comes from everyday as in when I was at home for Christmas… Where is Will?…  When I need advice on relationships… Where is Will… When I’m starting a new venture and need his input and creativity… Where is Will?… When I want to talk to someone who I know will understand and listen….. Where is Will?… When something exciting happens and I want to share it with someone I know who has been through the same trials… Where is Will?

Where is he?  Seriously.  Where?  Why?  Why did God decide to take him?

Not to put a play on words, but it has caused me in some ways to lose my will.  To lose the hope I once saw with.  The joy I would find in this life.  I see with new eyes.  And they lack the hope they once had.  They lack the joy they once had.  They see disease.  They see heartache.  They see pain.  They see families dreading the holiday season.  Dreading Christmas, dreading birthdays.  And they wonder why the world is filled with so much pain.

I see people fighting to survive, fighting to stay here on the earth longer and I go… “Why?” “What are you trying to live for?”  It pains me to see others go through so much pain to try to survive… and for what?  I’ve seen the fight first hand.  And it was brutal.  And it won.  And since the cancer won, it took more than Will from us, it took much of our own resolve, our joy, our hope for beauty in the here and now.  And it causes me to question why others fight to have a few more years on this earth.  Because to me, the earth lost its joy.  But for many there is plenty to fight for….  There are spouses, children, families and loved ones.

It’s so strange feeling this way when – I mean, no one maybe in the history of life fought harder for life than Will did.  And he did so for you.  For Angie, for his loved ones, for those God had put in his path to bring hope to.

But now that we’ve lost Will, rather than it being inspiring it makes life seem not that important.

I’m reminded of when Jesus died.  The disciples simply went back to fishing.  And then Jesus comes back and they start the greatest revolution ever known to man.  That’s really cool.  And I’m really glad Jesus came back to give us a little more direction and a lot more hope.  Sadly, Will’s not coming back.  And with so many questions, there’s only one guy I want to find so I can ask him, so… “Where’s Will?”

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My Process: Part II

I didn’t realize what happened when Will passed.  I’m not sure if it was because I had been living close to his death for so long or what…

But those times of us fighting for Will’s life were sweet.  Meeting new people, making new friends.  Crying out to God, trusting Him from the depths of my soul.  Cherishing moments, every moment, with Will, with Angie, with family and friends.

When Will passed, some of those moments were still there.  The community was there.  The family was there.  Will’s music and testimony were there.

Will’s legacy and creativity created a longing in me to never lose a moment, to create all that I could.

And the result of all of those feelings has led to…

…just about nothing.

Instead of being inspired, I have in turn, lost all motivation.

I discipline myself to get through life.

When Will passed, I listened to his music everyday, all day.  Now, I can’t listen to his music anymore, it hurts too much.

Even after he passed, I would make sure to read at least a chapter of my Bible daily.  Now, I am lucky to get through a few verses each day.

And it’s not even because I don’t want to.  It’s because I don’t care.

For a moment, I was inspired to dream.  Now, my dreams are waning.

One thing that it has created is that it has given me a greater compassion for others.  Others who are hurting.  Others who have lost.

I don’t help others when they are in pain anymore.

I join them in their pain.

I still go to church but I’m pretty neutral towards it.  Worship is often the hardest.  Recently, I really just didn’t want to be there, so I stepped outside and started walking.  I decided to walk to Target, why not.  I found a homeless lady outside.  “What’s your name?” I said.  I let her know I would be back later that evening and every week after.  “What could you use?”  “I have peanut butter, I could use some jelly… and some dog food for Angel.”

I used to look down on people with nothing who used resources for pets.  But Angel was her best friend.  Angel stands by her, stands with her.  Something I’ve never done.

I was leaving Fred Meyer when a disheveled man came racing to my car.  He rambled a bit and asked for money for a bus ride.  “Do you just want a ride?” I said.  Some people think scary people like that should be avoided – maybe they will shoot you or steal your car but… I don’t really care anymore, I’d rather just have compassion for him.  He did indeed just want money though.  So I gave him all the money I had in my wallet.  “Hold on, I have some change in the car, you can have that too.”  I mean seriously, I don’t care.  He might buy alcohol or something, but at least that may alleviate some pain in his life rather than dollar bills burning a hole in my pocket.

I went back to my car and started to take off when I saw a man going through the garbage looking for bottles.  I turned around and dropped my bottles in his cart.

I’d still say I’m mad at God.  I don’t care to spend much time with Him.  My motivation for life is sincerely lacking.  But, I can definitely join others in their pain now rather than handing out Bible verses.

I see people hurting everywhere now.  Maybe I just couldn’t see before.  Or maybe I actually respond to those I see now.

I’ve lost a lot of hope in this world and what it has to offer.

And that sucks.  I want to have hope in this world.  I want to believe I can accomplish things here.  But everything seems so insignificant.  I want to dream.  To pursue relationships.  A family.  A career…. But I just don’t know anymore…

I’ve certainly lost hope in this world.  But maybe that’s a good thing.

An Essay: Processing is a Bit#^ Difficult

Two eyebrows suck in and point up. The cheeks clasp and the lips open without a sound as the face slants to the northwest.

“Hey John, how are you doing?” said the friend, the other friend, another friend, a co-worker, an acquaintance, the friend of the friend, someone I don’t know, another person I hardly know and another friend.

“Amen! Praise God! Rejoice! Will is in heaven!! ” Wait, no, that’s not what I said. I think I just made that face and that was about it.
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I received a text message several months ago that my brother-in-law (Will) was in a gravely serious condition. I made a phone call to a doctor friend to clarify the news and indeed got word Will may only have days to weeks to live.

Will’s more than a brother-in-law to me.

Will and John Wedding Day

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He’s a best friend.  A brother.  My only brother.  A mentor.  My hero.  And a host of other things but… back to the story.

I cried.

And I cried.

And I bought an airline ticket, grabbed my suit, and flew to LA devastated by the news.

I walked into the hospital room, saw him lying motionless in his bed, looking disfigured, and I started crying.  I couldn’t bear seeing him like that.  I couldn’t bear knowing I wouldn’t see him at all soon.  My sister Kelli also joined in the orchestra of tears.

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Then Angie (my sister, Will’s wife), stepped in with a battlecry.  “This is not a room of tears.  If you need to cry, step outside.  This is a room of prayer.  And of hope.  William is still with us and as long as he is with us, we are going to continue to believe and pray for Will’s healing.”

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I was sold.  More than sold.  I was excited!  No more tears.  Only hope.  I mean, why not hope?  We serve the God who heals the sick and raises the dead.  Why I had I assumed so easily that a medical diagnosis was the final answer.

Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find”

I left a week and a half later, returning with an unused suit and a renewed hope.  I continued to pray, occasionally fast, while continuing to hope and believe for Will’s healing.

I began combing the Scriptures for instances of healing and found out that was pretty much what the Gospels had to offer.  I wrote down every reference of healing in the New Testament.

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Hope, healing, and redemption.  Jesus was going around healing people like it was his job.  And I think it was.  And my understanding of authority and faith continued to grow as I began to study what authority truly meant and the authority I had been given by Christ.

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Mark 16:17-18 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues… they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases.

My faith increased and increased.  It didn’t just increase without resolve.  I got excited about it.  Real excited.  I started praying for people all the time.  After every church service, I would go to the prayer room just to find people to pray for.  I wanted to breathe life and hope into others through prayer and through the power of the Word of God.  And my family’s faith increased.  My sister Kelli was getting up 45 minutes early to circle around her house (Angie and Will’s former house) and pray for them.  My mother was circling every morning in prayer as well, circling the clinic in which Will was receiving treatment (in reference to Joshua 6:15).  And with each passing moment, we believed more and more that not only could William be healed but that he would.

Psalm 103:1-3 Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy Name.  Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits –  who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases. 

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The doctors had given Will a short timeline to live.  Many Christians were already ushering Will into heaven.  “He’s run his race.”  “It’s time for him to go to his eternal home.  This is not his true home.”  Cool, thanks for that advice, it’s pretty helpful as he’s here on earth fighting for his life.

If Will was ready to head on to heaven, maybe that would be ok.  It’d suck but it’d be ok.  But he wasn’t.  He was in the fight of his life, literally.  And we were with him.

From the #goteamgray blog – http://goteamgray.com/2013/07/14/trip-to-the-icu-from-angie/ – “That morning I (Angie) asked him if he was ever tired of fighting so hard. He said, “Yes.” I asked him what keeps him fighting. He said, “I just want to glorify God here… and I got stuff to do” (in his typical “I got stuff to do, people” voice).”

And if he wanted to stay and glorify God in his life on earth, we were gonna fight and pray with all we had for him to stay here.

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We put all our hopes and fears before God and trusted in His power.  We brought in elders to pray for his healing according to James 5:14-15  Is any of you sick?  He should call on the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.

We believed with faith that could move mountains according to Matthew 17:20  …”Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you.”

We prayed and we fasted.  Matthew 17:21 But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.

We anointed his body.  Mark 6:13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

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Will continued to fight and showed small signs of improvement.  He regained some strength and a bit of energy.

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Will receiving Gold Record for co-writing the single, “Do You Remember” on Blake Shelton’s album

And the days went by.

And the weeks went by.

And the months went by.

And William was still with us.  In fact, William was celebrating his 33rd birthday with many of his friends.

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News did not get much better in regards to the outlook for his healing but he seemed to be improving greatly.  He was moving around.  And most of all, he was present.  We loved having him “back.”

And we continued to pray and continued to fast and continued to cry out to the one and only God who could save Him.  Psalm 34:17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.

And when Will took a dramatic turn for the worse, our faith was questioned but not shook.  Once again, Angie engaged us in continued prayer and hope for life.

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We continued to believe more than ever.  We needed God more than ever.  All of our chips were on the table.  Our backs were against the wall but our faces were turned towards Him.  Everything we had was in God’s basket per se.  With people all over the world, doctors, and others thinking Will’s race had been run – we, along with so many others around the world, said…. “God, we believe you can heal Will and we trust you for His healing.  Our hope is in You.”

… and as Will slowly faded away…

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…he did just that,

he faded away.  To no applause.  To no angels in the sky.  To silence.

Will was gone.

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Tears followed.  But belief still reigned.  There was no doubt that God could still raise Will and for the next couple of weeks, a continued hope that He would was still there.

John 11:43-44 Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  The dead man came out.

Acts 9:40 Turning to the dead woman (Peter) said, “Tabitha, get up.”  She opened her eyes…and sat up.

Acts 20:9-10 Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep, fell to the ground…and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him…”He’s alive!”

John 14:11-12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater than these, because I am going to the Father.  And I will do whatever you ask in My Name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.

But God’s response was the same, silence.

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“Hey John, how are you doing?” said the friend, the other friend, another friend, a co-worker, an acquaintance, the friend of the friend, someone I don’t know, another person I hardly know and another friend.

It’s not an easy question.  Not only did I lose someone who I love, someone who will absolutely never be replaced in mine or my family’s life, mostly my beloved sister, I was left with a bucketful of promises and a silent God.

Feeling like Elijah versus the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:18-40) and ending up with mud on our faces, as if our God was the one sleeping.  “Hey God, here we are…our hope is in You”  …silence…  “God, we’re praying, and fasting, and trusting, and hoping…God, we are doing everything You have asked.”  …silence…  And the world wins.  The doctors win.  All those who felt Will couldn’t be healed win.  Everyone who put their hope in Will’s diagnosis wins.  It appears as if 10,000 prayers weren’t enough.  As if simple prayers and faith weren’t enough.  And that’s hard, real hard.

I’ve never met anyone with more faith than my sister Angie.  With doctors giving up all hope – with many Christians giving up hope – She defied the doctors diagnosis.  To proclaim hope when no one else would.  To stand up for God’s power and greatness when no one else would…

(Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.)

…And then to receive silence in return.  That’s hard.  What is the reward?  Seeing a beloved tortured for 10 months, having him die, then having those images burned in your mind, having to move from your home, your city, your community without your beloved…

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I do trust God.  Our whole family’s hope is still in Him (Thoughts from 35,000 feet).  There is nothing else or anyone else to turn to.  It’s just the difficulties and reality of what we are facing.

It’s not as if I should be afraid to question God,  He’s bigger.  He’s big enough.  He needs no validation.  He is who He is.  My questioning means nothing.  I mean, He could Job me. (Job 40:1-2) The Lord said to Job “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!” He goes on to tell Job how great and awesome and wise He truly is.  I would probably be completely terrified if God did speak to me like that, but at the same time, I think I’d prefer that over the silence.  It would be nice to know He really is here and cares for us.  But I would probably die at the presence of His voice and glory.  A win-win? (to hear God speak – and to die)  Or a lose-lose?   (to hear God speak – and to die)

And as I question and process, my hope is that He would indeed encourage us to question and dive into the mystery of Himself.

And so I do.

But it’s not so much questioning Him.  I believe in Him.  I believe Jesus is the Son of God who died for my sins.  It’s more of a wonderment.  I am puzzled.  I am puzzled at this great God who seems to have, for lack of better words, let us down.  I don’t believe He has, but it seems…

We were engaged in a fierce battle for William’s life.  We fought with everything we had.  We trusted and believed God and the power of His Word and promises.  And yet, were we fighting against Him the whole time?  I mean, I’m sure He heard us, heard our prayers, saw our tears.  But then… decided not to respond?

People talk about the compassion and humanity of Jesus when he was moved to tears at the death of Lazarus and the sadness of His friends (John 11:35).  So what did He do?  Oh, He just raised him back to life.  Here people, have your friend and brother back.

Jesus did cry… and then brought Lazarus back only minutes later?  Yet others of us are left in tears for a lifetime.

When the woman bleeding for twelve years (Matthew 9:20, 22) touched the edge of His cloak, did Jesus respond in silence and continue walking through the crowd?  No, power went out from Him and she was healed.  I’m pretty sure we were pulling Jesus’ cloak as hard as we could.  We were like the four men dropping Will through a hole in the ceiling (Mark 2:3-12) and laying Will at Jesus’ feet, only to have the Master continue teaching as Will died in front of Him.

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Sometimes I picture William being healed, his face being restored and him sitting up and all of us rejoicing and celebrating the Lord and Will’s life.  And I just imagine how much worship would scream out of my body to our All Mighty and All Powerful God.

…and then in my head, I hear others saying, “you should worship God like that regardless.  Don’t worship Him for what He can do but for who He is.”

But that is the question indeed.  Who is He?  I can worship Him for who He is for sure but that is a question we all know in part, and I am realizing that more than ever.  We are far too quick and too fair to shout words of praise that we don’t understand, to sing lyrics that we don’t abide by, and to live (recklessly) rather than to love recklessly.

I remember Will saying “Everyone’s theology is about 20% off.”  I thought at the time, “That makes a lot of sense.”  Now I think, “Maybe everyone’s theology is about 20% right.”  And God is just that much bigger and mysterious than we can understand.

My God is Powerful – but He doesn’t always use His power.  My God is Merciful – but oftentimes, it does not seem so.  My God is the Healer – but only when He chooses (earthly-speaking).  My God is Loving – and I’m not sure how that exactly fleshes itself out on earth.  I hear people talk about crawling up on God’s lap and things like that that sound really nice and cozy.  But I also crawled up on God’s lap and watched my brother die, knowing He had the power to rescue him.  And this does not even compare to Angie’s experience which has left her simply trying to breathe (Just Try to Breathe).

I often hear people say that when you pray, God responds with a yes, no, or wait.  But 2 Corinthians 1:19-20 says For the Son of God, Jesus Christ… was not “Yes” and “No,” but in Him it has always been “Yes.”  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.”…. That sounds like a lot of Yes’s to me.  In fact it seems like all Yes’s.  But the Bible is littered with a lot of No’s.  No’s to God’s promises.  This “Yes,” maybe is simply referring to our salvation and redemption.  But if this is the case, someone please keep your Jesus Promise Books from me because those promises simply aren’t true.  …at least, in the way we perceive them to be.

Promise – God will rescue you.  Our Perception – God will get me out of this and make things better.  Real Life – God might just let you suffer and die.

Just because He is rescuing you doesn’t mean He’s going to rescue you like He did someone like David, maybe He will rescue you from earth entirely as you greatly suffer along the way.

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I thought during Will’s story that there was a good chance he was a modern-day Job.  Dealing with unruly and intense, undeserving suffering.  Day by day, suffering more and more and more and more.  Pain that was unbearable, unimaginable to most of us.  A tumor breaking the bones in his eye socket.  A tumor on his spine.  Cancer in his lungs.  Cancer in his bones.  Cancer in his pelvis.  Cancer in his lymph nodes.  Tumor on his sternum.  G-tube in his stomach.  Eye removed.  Part of jaw removed. Unable to open his mouth, unable to speak or to walk, legs the size of arms, liters and liters of fluid filling his lung cavities, hooked up to machine upon machine….

I was expecting and waiting for the healing and the double blessing heaped on top for his faithfulness.  …video recorded right before finding out the cancer had returned –

Job 42:10  After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before.

I was wrong.

I also imagined a spiritual battle.  A warfare.  A fight in the heavens for Will’s life, Will, God’s chosen servant.  “Have you (satan) considered my servant Will?” in reference to Job 1:8.

And now, I felt, we were all engaged in this battle.  Having prayers intercepted…

Daniel 10:12-14 Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come….”

…and continuing to pray and fast.  Isaiah 58:6,9 “Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke…. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: Here I am.”

And yet, when we prayed with authority and confronted evil… silence.

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One of my favorite things to do in this life is to pray.  I guess I should say, it was one of my favorite things and I dearly wish it to be again.  I want to pray and believe God hears and responds.  But right now, I can’t.  I did pray.  And God didn’t respond.  Something, anything, would be cool.  Just to know He’s there.  And He cares.  One might say, “He does care.  He counts the hairs on your head (Matthew 10:29-31).”  Yet one might also say, “believe and it will be moved, ask and you will receive, where 2 or more gather”…

Matthew 18:18-20 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

I miss seeing a beautiful sunset and saying, “thank You.”  It’s hard to be thankful when the thing you want the most is not here.  It’s hard to be thankful to God when what has happened has literally crushed your family and sister when you know God had the power to keep that from happening.  I miss reading and embracing the Word of God.  That’s where I would always end up for wisdom, for guidance, for anything.  And now, I feel like I’m on my own.  Just trying to live this life through sheer will-power and determination.  And I will give you an update on that, I suck.  I am a pretty lame dude on my own.  I really need God a lot.  But when you feel someone doesn’t care about you (your family), they aren’t really the type of person you want to spend time with, you know?

I went for a walk the other day in prayer towards God and the first thing in my head was, “God, are You an imaginary best friend or are You real?”…

“I talk to You like You are (real).  But You respond like You’re not.”

I wrote, “Our whole lives – we’ve just believed.  And then when it came to where we needed God to come through, its as if He failed.  I don’t get it.  I don’t believe that He failed because I don’t believe that’s who He is but it just makes me …. ———–“

That’s as far as I got.  I don’t know what it makes me.

Now would this feel different had we accepted Will’s fate as death and trusted in the doctors rather than having faith in God for healing?

Absolutely.

We would have celebrated the last days of Will’s life the best we could.  We would have said our ‘I love you’s’ and our ‘goodbyes.’  We would have thanked God for a life well lived.

But God did not give us a peace in accepting death as Will’s fate.  Instead, He gave us tremendous will to fight.  He gave Angie supernatural grace and strength to enter into Will’s pain each day on little to no sleep or food for 10 months.  God sent the perfect people each day, each week, to support, help, and serve Will and Angie every step of the way.  God was there!

And yet, God left Will’s body tormented.

It was as if He was fighting with us but not for us (in how we wanted Him to be for us, that is).

Journal Exceperts between July 25-Aug 12

Journal, July 25: “I guess I just don’t get God.  I don’t get this life.”

Journal, July 27: “Last night, William Gray went to be with the Lord.  Lord can we please have him back?  Who can praise You from the grave?”  Psalm 6:5  Who can praise You from the grave?

“Worldly speaking, God seems a bit unjust, cruel, and that He let us down.  I’m sure those things aren’t true and that Will has the most beautiful of perspectives but wow, is this hard.  And how is this fair to Angie?  And, oh the thousands he was reaching.  The music he was writing.  The love that he offered the world.  We love you Will.  I love you Will.  I will miss you forever.”

Journal, July 29: “There is a hole in my heart, in our hearts, in my family.  And devastation to the core in Angie.  I don’t think I get it – at all.  We put our complete hope and trust in God and it feels like He let us down.  Where was He?  Is He trying to make us understand that life on earth is miserable? – it’s working.” …. “Where was He?  Why did He, how did He not come through for us?  We prayed, fasted, anointed, elders, healing teams, tongues, etc. – What did You want from us?”  God was conspicuously silent.  The whole time.  We don’t understand.  When we needed Him the most – He didn’t show.  He showed for Lazarus (Mary & Martha), he showed for Elijah… (we are men just like Elijah – so the Bible says).” James 5:17 Elijah was a man just like us.  “Dorcas was raised because of her good deeds and love and she was like 60. And not Will?! Known for his good deeds and love, married and 33?  I don’t understand.”  “Ask and you will receive – what?” “You have not because you asked not” – we asked.  “What did You want from us?  You had 10 months of us praying, crying, fasting, sacrificing – us as in an army of people – Did You ignore us?  Did You really hear our prayers?   Did You respond at all?  Do You care about Angie?  What is Your plan for her?  Did You consider her when You took Will?  And I understand there is nothing required of God.  But could He not give us a peace.  Or yell at us like Job, “How dare You question Me?!” Something please……      just silence.  Help me out – what am I missing here?  I thought You were God.  I thought You were all-powerful.  I would lay my life down for You.  And yet, You can do anything and chose us not only to suffer but to be without.  I believe in You.  I believe You are God.  I believe You are powerful.  I believe you love us.  I just don’t understand.  Help us God.  Help us understand.  This is terrible.”

Journal, July 31: “Hello God!!  Hello!!!  Are You there?  Are You awake?  We know You are.  Why do You withhold from us?  Your Word says You withhold no good thing.  You withheld Will.  So he was bad?  I don’t understand.  I feel rude questioning You because I do believe – with all my heart.  I just don’t understand.  It feels as if You left us.  As if You left us in our greatest time of need.  Where are You?  Please bring William back to us God, please.  Not only for him, but to show You God.  Show us who You are.  You are.

Journal, August 1: I’m still not sure what to do with God.  I believe in Him and believe He knows what He’s doing – but its gonna be hard to cry out to Him, to love and receive love, to trust He will respond or react to my prayer.  God, I love You.  I don’t understand why it seems as if You’ve let us down.  It doesn’t make sense and we miss Will so much.”

Journal, August 12: “I’m not sure what to say. We just love and miss Will so much.  And I’m still not sure how to process God in this.  When the prophets of Baal called on their gods and there was silence    – yeah, that’s how we feel.  But that doesn’t make sense.  We are serving You, the Almighty and Awesome and Powerful God.  Right?  Aren’t we?  I hope so.  I really hope so.  But it seems our prayers fell on deaf ears and now we are without the one we love and care for the most.”

August 12- present: blank

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I do pray and hope that we, #goteamgray, and all those who loved Will so much come away eventually with a much deeper and richer faith.

I want to believe life is worth living.

And that is one thing Will did.  He lived.  He lived well.  (Most importantly loving his Lord, his wife and so many others but also creatively and artisticly speaking, he left a legacy as well – … he produced a movie, Broke*,

was an incredible musician (Will Gray Music), sought to bring hope to the world (Will’s Manifesto – written) (Will Tribute Video from Memorial Service)

and performed music in a way that touched the hardest and the softest soul (Hush), (Pressure Man), and my favorite – Top of the World…

I’ve got to believe there is something bigger “behind the curtain” that I simply can’t see right now.

I’m not down on God or His Word.  I still believe His Word to be true.  But I have been left in a great mystery.  My argument isn’t against God – my argument, if I were to have one is that life is real.  And life is difficult.  And life often, doesn’t make much sense.

I take hope in John the Baptist.  Someone who Jesus knew intimately, but failed to rescue.  John even questioned if Jesus was really the Messiah (Matthew 11:2-4) when things got difficult for him, even though he had baptized Jesus (John 3:13-15).

I’m not sure why God often seems so silent.  I don’t believe He is.  I believe He is always speaking through nature (Romans 1:18-20), through people, through His Word.  I do believe that according to Luke 12:7 “the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”  I do believe that but it makes now really confusing… so You loving and caring for each of our hairs means 10 months of torture for Will and then the loss of our beloved.  That’s a weird way to care for and love us.

And that’s where we’re getting.  I still believe God does love and care for us.  And I believe Will knows that more now than all of us.  But in Will’s words (Video – 2:54) while suffering, “I believe that God loves me.  Umm, I think He has a strange way of showing it.  But I don’t come to it with a sense of entitlement.”

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As someone rightly stated to Angie, “Our experiences change how we view things.  And your whole life (how you view it) is completely changed forever.”

I’ve traveled around the world sharing the Gospel, sharing hope, teaching the Word of God to those who have been abused, raped, tortured, left to die, unwanted.

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How quick we are to toss out words we have yet to understand.  How quick I have been to toss out words I have not understood.

I’m starting to understand.  If just a bit.  The hurt.  The pain.  The reality that most people endure in this life and that I have been so immune from.

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I have offered some prayers while writing this.  I in no way want to be condescending towards the Father.  It is confusing.  It does hurt.  It doesn’t make sense.  But the whole nature of God’s Kingdom is flipped upside down.  Jesus, as King, entering Jerusalem humbly on a donkey (Matthew 21:7-9).  The King being betrayed by His own people.  Crucified, on a cross.  Taking the sins of a people who turned their backs on Him upon Himself.

That’s upside down.  And Will’s story is upside down too.  The silence of God is one of the hardest, if not the hardest part but my hope is that there is a greater plan.  Maybe He wasn’t ignoring us when we laid Will at His feet.  Maybe Will was a chosen one.

Quite possibly the greatest and most gifted talent (musically) of his generation, and yet, virtually undiscovered.  A more gracious, loving, compassionate human being than anyone I’ve ever met – and dead at 33.  A true influencer of influencers, shaping culture, and building relationships with people you and I never could – taken off the earth in a flash, with what seems – work undone.

There are thousands of layers of “I don’t get it.”  Thousands of layers of hurt.  And thousands of layers of, “We just miss and love him so much.”

I wish I could put on a happy face, enjoy life again, trust in the Lord’s goodness… but right now I can’t.  I hope one day again I can listen to praise music.  I hope one day again to listen to a sermon without rolling my eyes.

It’s the not understanding that makes it so hard.  Losing mom or dad would have been hard but I would have been grateful for the lives they lived.  Seeing your sister lose her husband, her love, her best friend, her everything… that’s a lot harder.  God’s silence, that makes it even more difficult.  And confusing.  A God who seems by His Word, to be all about relationships and caring, … and then in real life, when you need Him the most, He seems absent.  That’s hard.  That changes everything.  And that’s what we are wrestling with.  I want to believe He does care, and I do.   But something’s amiss right now.  I begin to pray as always for wisdom in certain situations and relationships and life and then as I begin to pray… I hesitate… and I think “If God couldn’t answer the biggest prayer I could pray, why would He care to answer now.  And I don’t even want Him to answer if I do pray because then it’s like, “Really, You’re gonna answer this one?!! …and then I usually stop praying.

God as a Father.  As a lover.  A relationship with Him – I get all of that.  I get it.  I’ve experienced it.  I desire that.  I’ve noticed how often my default is God – every time something good happens I want to thank Him.  Anytime something bad happens, I want to come to Him.  And yet, now I cringe either way.  I hate that.

I am glad that He spared Paul sorrow upon sorrow (Philippians 2:27) but He has heaped sorrow upon sorrow upon us.  And it is too much to bear.  We have been crushed.

“God will never give you more than you can handle.”  How true it is… not.  And we, our family, those who love Will, and mostly Angie have been crushed.  Our very hearts have been ripped out of us.  We are all at a loss of where life goes from here – it is all too much for us to handle.  Positive, uplifting clichés are out – reality is in.  Our hearts have been crushed.  Our view of God has been crushed.  Angie’s life and home have been crushed.  We could pray for joy but we don’t want joy.   Somehow feeling miserable feels better.  Some friends abandon you, not because they don’t care or love you but because they don’t know how to be around you.  Others give you advice when advice is the last thing you desire.  It’s a process that literally is a bit&^ and it really sucks.

For Angie’s great faith (Hebrews 11:6), believing God for the impossible, she has received the loss of their child (through miscarriage), an early death of her husband, the loss of her community and church as well as her job.  Sometimes God’s upside down kingdom is seriously hard to understand.

Angie gave me a perspective on a passage that I had never seen.  In the book of Job, personally, I have always looked down on Job’s wife for her words to Job, “Curse God and die” (Job 2:9).  But Angie said, “I understand.  I understand where she is coming from.  We forget that she also lost her children.  She was losing her husband.”  It’s always easy to look at the one cursing God rather than looking at their story.  As Will shared, “I love stories.  There’s always character growth.  One moment to the next, people are evolving.  They’re changing.  They’re growing.  So I would say, just wait.  Be patient.  Because your story, (tears), your story can change (tears), just the way mine has, just the way Angie’s has.  It can change.  Just wait.”  Knowing someone’s story changes everything, literally.

Life on this earth is terribly unfair.  I’d venture to say there are many more questions than answers.  And we need each other.  We need to live inside of each other’s stories as best as we can.  Maybe the silence of God, is actually the voice of you and me.

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Jesus told His disciples to eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:55).  That was pretty confusing and still is today.  But there is a principle in there too.  John 6:60  On hearing it many of His disciples said, “This is a hard teaching.  Who can accept it?”

I don’t really know how to process this or what to do next.  I don’t think anyone in my family or #goteamgray knows how to.  The processing will continue for a lifetime.  And I hope God will speak to us at some point.  It’s a hard teaching that none of want to accept and that none of understand.

But our response is the same as the disciples on the day so many left because they couldn’t grasp or get their minds around what Jesus was saying.

John 6:68-69 “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

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Update:  It’s been about a month since I wrote this.  I can’t say a lot has changed.  My feelings are about the same.  My soul has grown a bit softer.  I wish my heart was at peace.  I wish more than anything that my sister was well.  But the intensity of the situation doesn’t wane in only weeks or months.  3 things I would add since writing:

1 – I had a 5 hour drive ahead of me… alone.  I was not anticipating this at all.  I used to love things like this.  I would pray, worship, and listen to sermons and have a beautiful time.  I wanted to do none of that and yet I didn’t want to waste 5 hours.  So I figured it would be a great time to try and pray again.  So I turned off my radio.  I sat quietly and thanked God for my family.  I thanked Him for my parents.  And I thanked him for my sisters.  And then I started crying and prayer time was over.  Sometime, someday, I will try again.

2 – I’ve begun to struggle semi-severely with anxiety.  Heart racing, veins pumping.  Trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep.  Trouble eating at times and not burying myself in a worried mess or distracting myself with idleness.  I think I used to simply go straight to Scripture whenever a struggle came up and I would meditate that Scripture into my life.  I’m not at a place I can do that right now so its more about just doing things on my own and that creates such anxiety in my heart and mind.  I plan on seeking counseling which has been recommended to me several times over the last couple of months.

3 – One thing I have seen throughout the last year is the Body of Christ.  A major theme of the last year has been God’s silence.  But has He truly been silent?  Or has He been shouting His love through His people?  Because His people (you) have been loving so well and just as intensely.  God definitely provided such a beautiful community around Will and Angie and people to love and support every step of the way, wherever there location was.  And even now, He has provided me with such incredible people who listen to me pour out my heart, and questions, and thoughts and simply wrap me in love.  The Imago Dei (image of God), has no doubt been seen countless times over in the most recent season of life, and in that is hope.

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Love, like, really really Love

I haven’t written for awhile because sometimes in life, nothing else matters.

I’ve written a couple of times about my sister and brother-in-law (Valentine’s Lovers) (Real Life Superheroes) and although it’s been a reality this whole time, you never expect it to come to this – desperate, literally, desperate for a miracle.  Will was given 1-3 weeks to live but he’s made it 6 weeks now.  Each day he is with us is a miracle and we pray for many more.

I have continued to be amazed by watching Will and Angie (Pray for Will & Angie – incredible video).  There is something so powerful about two people who love each other.  Like, really really love.  Like, not the movie-type or what you read in novels or what maybe you have when everything’s clicking and she’s cute and he’s hot and… no, not like that but like love.  Like in sickness and in health.  Like for better and for worse.  Like for richer and for poorer.  Like when part of one’s face is removed and their frame has gone frail and they can’t get out of bed.  Like when someone has cancer throughout their body and can’t eat and can barely speak or stay awake.  Like when one has lost their hair and is in constant pain.  From this day forward till death do us part.  Yeah, that kind.  …and what is so special about this love is that it is not love because “we made a vow.”  It’s love because, in Angie’s words, “I just love him so much.”  In one of her blogs (Living Each Day), she writes,“ Can I go to sleep, or should I stay up to watch him?  Will he wake up in the morning?  And every morning, from the moment my eyes open, I hold my breath until I see him take one.” To see one sacrifice her own life, to lay it down not just in words but in sleeping next to him for 5 months whether that be in a small hospital bed, on the corner of his bed at home, in an L shape or U shape at his feet– wherever she fits.  “I just want to be close to him if anything happens.”

You know, those kind of vows.  The kind of love people give up on when things get tough.  That kind of love.  The kind that isn’t in movies or in a book because it simply can’t be manufactured.  It’s powerful.  It’s beautiful.

I’ve never seen someone endure the kind of pain that Will endures each day.  Cancer in the lungs.  A tumor on his spine.  Cancer in his bones.  Cancer in his pelvis.  Cancer in his lymphs.  Tumor on his sternum.  G-tube in his stomach.  Eye removed.  Part of jaw removed.  Discolored skin.  Hopeful to get out of bed once a day.  Albeit in pain and with 3 people helping him to stand so he can get his bed sores cleaned.  And so much more that we simply don’t know because he can’t express it and we can’t see it.

And yet, not once have I heard a stern word towards Angie.  Not once have I heard him complain.  Not once have I heard him make any demands.  Because he doesn’t find his love in comforts but in being comforted by the one he loves.

I know that I want that same love.  I want to love a girl like Will loves Angie and be loved like Angie loves Will.  But I also know that this takes time, oh yes, it took them lots of time to get here.  Lots of time, lots of moments.  Moments that almost broke their marriage, times when they didn’t know they would make it…or if they wanted to make it.  It’s an honest and true love.  Not one that has been dependent on emotions but one that has faced emotions and the not richer, but poorer, and a little health but much sickness, and some better but a lot of worse and here they are.  Loving each other in a way that seems unfathomable.  A way that doesn’t make sense.  Yet, is what we all yearn for.

They weren’t always in love.  They didn’t always know they would be together.  One would chase one while one wasn’t sure.  Then they would exchange roles.  With the other chasing and the other not sure.  It was that kind of love.  Not a fairytale.  Simply love.

I’ve read what love is before but I think I’ve learned what love really is through witnessing Will and Angie’s towards each other.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.  It does not envy.  It does not boast.  It is not proud.  It is not rude.  It is not self-seeking.  It is not easily angered.  It keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil.  Love rejoices in the truth.  It always protects.  It always trusts.  It always hopes.  It always perseveres.

Love never fails.

#goteamgray

w&aang will hospital love

Stray Thoughts from the Holiday of Love

Valentines has passed, yes.  But thoughts start to accumulate on that day.  And I thought it was worth a post.  Yes, I may be 30 and unmarried but I’ve always enjoyed this day.  Since college, I would usually try to find a wonderful lady and take her out and treat her special so she could have a special day.  I’ve always thought it was a great day for a low-pressure date.  You could take someone out, be really nice to them and not necessarily have a bunch of expectations attached.  One time in college after one of these, a group of guys from my dorm decided to celebrate a bunch of ladies (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLPq7nKyI_4)  yep, 3:08, I guess I do like to celebrate this holiday.

Sometimes girls get in big groups on Valentine’s Day to celebrate… or comizerize together.  To talk about boys or maybe just to act as if boys do not exist.

Inevitably, the party is planned, the girls are ready for the evening and 1 girl from the group gets asked out by a boy and she has to decide – “Do I say ‘yes’ and admit that boys do exist or do I say ‘no’ and join the ladies for some forgettable revelry?”

I hear girls, quite often, talk about guys not asking them out.  Not true.  In fact, talk to guys and you will find out in fact, how often guys are getting rejected.  Boom!  When a girl says, “Guys aren’t asking me out,” what she often means is, “the guy I want to ask me out is not asking me out.”  And for the guy… well, maybe he is just asking the wrong girls out.

I think its cool when a girl makes herself available for guys to ask her out.  It makes it simpler.   It gives the guy some confidence.

I also think its cool when a girl does wait for that guy and turns the others down along the way.

Just be you I guess.

That’s why it really is ok if Girl A chooses to stick with her lady crew for the evening or if she goes the other way and decides to go out with the boy.  But what she has to do is to be her.  Don’t hang out with the ladies talking about how a cute guy asked you out and you said ‘no’ to hold your “commitment” to the girls and that you were willing to make that “sacrifice” even though the boy was soooooooo cute…– no, no, no.

I liked Valentine’s Day in elementary school.  Lots of candy and lots of nice notes from classmates.  Everybody got to like everybody and you got to find out who really really liked you.  While you might give one girl a card that says, “You’re Cool or Be Good,” you could give another girl a card that said, “Be Mine or Hot Stuf.”  The implications were obvious and somehow, not creepy.

As I stated earlier, I was always down with the program of taking someone out on Valentine’s Day.  But I always knew I’d have to get through the inevitable circle of girls to get through.  It’s a tricky navigation but with the correct gps, there is a way through.  It was nice to treat a girl special, give her a cheesey card from days of old, and say nice things with the understanding that it was a unique day and that’s what it was, just a fun day.  No further expectation needed.

I liked that.  I wish people could still date like that.

But I’m pretty sure we can’t.  Because after we do, we enter back into our awesome communities where agendas, feelings and jealousy live (oh my!… more on awesome communities next week!).

Valentine’s Day.  What an interesting holiday.  So many options.  Come to think of it, I think single people are doing a lot more on this holiday than marrieds and single people are getting all worked up over it.  You hear of some marrieds doing something special and some treating it as another day.  Well, little Susie must decide whether to go out with Billy, her 14 lady friends, or the co-male/female ‘family’ dinner that night.  Don’t make it too difficult, just be you and do what you want to do.  Good luck Susie.

Valentine’s Lovers

“I know the Bible says to not awaken love until the time is right… awaken my Love, the time is now.”

The girl rolled over from the mini-couch, her first 4 hours of sleep in 3 days and with glazed eyes and a raspy voice responds, “huh.”

“I know the Bible says to not awaken love until the time is right… awaken my Love, the time is now.”

Rubbing the crusties out of her eyes, she responds with a throaty, “huh.”

“I know the Bible says to not awaken love until the time is right… awaken my love, the time is now.”

That is the scene I was standing in at about 5am Valentine’s morning.  The “time is now” meant, time to clear the others out of the room and let love do what it does.  Love is there when one is fighting cancer, going through chemo and radiation simultaneously.  Love dresses wounds (and bodies), it comforts pain, it helps one use the restroom, and it lays down its life for another.  And that’s the clean version.

You may have read about these Superheroes in a previous post.

https://girlandboystories.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/sometimes-beauty-can-only-be-seen-through-the-lens-of-pain/

Well, they are back at it.  Or still at I should say.  Phrases such as, “Let’s take our benadryl’s together like Romeo and Juliet” reverberate the room in the moments of awareness.  Love stays awake through the night (again) with her reasoning of, “I was concerned you would choke on your secretions.”

The male Lover gets his mind stuck on meatloaf.  No, Meatloaf.  He speaks aloud, “What Meatloaf won’t do for love?……  That.  Hahahahahah.”  “I’m making that T-shirt.” “What Meatloaf won’t do for love?  ….  That.”   …… He continues with his bride sitting next to him, ”Why isn’t anyone else finding out what Meatloaf won’t do for love?!  …Well, I searched the globe to see what Meatlof would not do.  And he’s not the man I am, because I would do that.”

“I love you.  Happy Valentine’s Day.”

And when someone truly loves, they love.  It’s not just a love for a special someone.  It’s love for people – because everyone is special.  It’s a heart that overflows in love.  The male Lover continues amidst a stupor caused by various mixed drugs and asks a question, “The woman next door screaming nonstop through the night – is she going crazy or is she in pain?  I would like to know how to pray for her.”

A true love between a man and woman can be beautiful and rare while a true love between man and stranger might be all the more rare.

“Awaken my love, the time to love is now!”

Angie and Will Hands

Everyone Sucks at Dating

Dating is one of those things that isn’t really mentioned in the Bible but that EVREYONE has an opinion about.  It’s amazing to me how much advice gets tossed around and how often people are told how to date.  …when in fact, no one knows anything about dating.  I don’t write this because I am of the 1% who does know but because I am of the 100% who messes everything up.

Now some would argue, “hey, I dated the same girl since I was 17 and then we got married without every making any mistakes.”  And I would respond, “Congratulations.  That’s great and it also disqualifies you from offering any actual advice on dating, breakups, and relationships.”

I know that may seam harsh, but it’s true.  Those who dated 1 person and married that 1 person by and large live in a fantasy world of what the struggles of dating actually look like for the rest of us.

I am blessed to be a part of an amazing community of about 50 people who are in their 20’s and 30’s and mostly single.  We love each other, pray for one another, and serve each other.

And occasionally, we date each other (enter fireworks and explosives)… (enter more fireworks. more explosives.)

And when we do, THAT.  CHANGES.  EVERYTHING.

Not just for one person, or even for two people.  But for all 50.

And even wilder, take dating out of the equation… if one person simply happens to like another person …and someone else happens to like that person too – yes, THAT.  CHANGES.  EVERYTHING.  Not just for 1, 2, or 3, but for all of us.  Even if one person likes one person who doesn’t like them back.  Yep, changes everything too.  It’s crazy.

People in our demographic get told how to date a lot.  By people who have never been part of our demographic.  They, those who know who to date really well, they tell us we need to ask more people out and that we need to spend more time alone with guys/girls and not in such big groups and a lot of other things like that.

What most of the experts don’t understand is the ripple effects of doing just that.  There’s no taking a girl to coffee and moving on.  No, its taking a girl to coffee and then everyone choosing sides, hearts are getting broken, and group dynamics have changed.  (I’m not saying it should be like this, but it just is)

This group of 50 has actually had about 300 different people at any given time in the last couple years.  But then someone dated someone, and half the group had to leave because they didn’t “approve.”  Then another half of the group had to leave because they liked that guy/girl too. And then finally, if it didn’t work out, another half had to leave to support the one that the ‘jerk’ called it off with.  Even if it was just one date.  And then 25 new people come in to fill their spots.

Sorry, I can’t make this stuff up.  I am part of this demographic.  Is it crazy?  Yes, absolutely.  But it’s just how it is.

NOW… this may not seem like its headed nowhere but hold on, it is…  Some people get upset with people in our demographic for this happening.  They say guys/girls get too invested with each other after a date (or before a date!), they say we are dating the wrong people, they say that we just don’t know what we are doing.  And the ‘they’ are often the experts within our own demographic as well.  Experts are everywhere.

But the truth is – we are real people with real emotions and real feelings.  And unfortunately, often, when those are involved… it does change everything.  And that’s not bad, that’s real.  I wish it was different.  It hurts to see people have their feelings hurt.  It hurts to see one person in a close group hurt another (almost always unintentionally).  And it hurts to see what we inevitably put each other through.  But that is inevitably part of the dating process whether it should be or not.  Can we ease those strains?  Yes, a bit.  But likely, this cycle will continue.  Why?  Well, the answer is the title.

Do I have a point to this blog yet?   Sure…

Everyone sucks at dating.  No one has the right answers.  So rather than telling someone how and what they should be doing, simply: Listen and Show Compassion.

That’s it.  We are all messing up royally.  And no one’s advice has ever worked for us.  So you might as well just support each other and help each other pick up the pieces along the way.  I don’t think people need more answers.  I think another shoulder (to lean on) will do just fine.