Monday, December 31, 2012

When Misery Seems an Ultimatum

If you have walked this planet for long enough, then you understand deep sorrow. When someone says the word "pain" we immediately think of a cut or a broken bone. That is not what I am talking about. In fact, I would prefer a broken bone (or 5) to a broken heart.

What breaks a heart?

It might be watching a loved one in pain without the power to remedy. Maybe it is knowing that you caused pain in a loved one, and still you have no power to mend. Maybe seeing the truth about yourself is more painful than all the rest. Perhaps it is from the loss of something more valuable than your ability to articulate. Perhaps you realize something inside you has died, and you're morning your struggle for passion. Maybe it is not loss but delay - sorrow until a yearning is fulfilled.

I do not fully understand it, nor do I pretend to. I don't know how or why it comes, but I do know this:

There are times when grey always appears black, when what you once loved yields only torturous memories, when remedy is absent, when deep cries to deep hearing only an echo, and when misery seems an ultimatum. Even if you could see a light at the end of the tunnel you would simply sit and cry because it seems impossibly far off, and you are too tired of hurting to walk forward.

What do you do with a broken heart?

This has been a painful and long week in my life for a few reasons. Don't get me wrong - it has been great to be with my family again while on break, and I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend time with my siblings. However, I have had to face this issue of what to do with a broken heart once again, and while I am no expert, I do have some thoughts.

Psalm 30:5 and Psalm 62:1

At the end of the day this is what I know: I am called to trust. If I am broken over a loved one - I can trust God with him/her. If I am broken over my actions or self-revelations - I can trust God with my insufficiencies. If I am broken over the loss of someone/something - I can trust God with whatever it may be. If I am broken over a call to "wait and see" - I can trust God with the outcome. If I am broken over a call to simply "wait" - I can trust God with pain of patience. In essence, if I am broken I can trust God.

When the Son of God was hanging on the cross you may recall Him saying "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" At this moment, Jesus, the Holy deity that has always been in perfect unison with the Father, experiences something powerful enough to make Him cry out to God in that manner. I do not imagine that any level of heartbreak I have ever experienced has been this uncomfortable. We also know that Jesus (in Luke 23:46) openly and fully trusts the Father with everything. Finally, Jesus is alive again three days later, but we must note that it is God who raises Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24 and 4:10).

I pull five things from this:
1) Jesus felt AT LEAST my level of heartache
2) His first response was trust
3) His second response was wait
4) God was the one who rescued (When we cannot get up and run toward the light, The Light comes and picks us up)
5) Trusting and waiting did not result in an immediate removal of pain (Don't assume that God's number one priority is your immediate happiness - He loves you too much for that)

While I cried over a loved one the other day in the hospital I prayed, affirming out loud that God was trustworthy and intentional and on our side. I am quite sure that trusting and waiting takes courage and strength. Many times I think fighting would be easier (Matthew 26:53-56), but in the times when you either are called not to fight or just simply cannot fight: trust and wait.

For all those hurting, for all those lonely, and for all those yearning, know this: there is someone who has felt your pain, and He happens to be the same one who ferociously loves you and wants to deliver you for your ultimate joy and His ultimate glory. Let your fight be a fight for trust, and let your war be a war for patience.

Pressure creates diamonds,
and fire refines gold.
- Trip Lee

Thank You, God, for being sovereign, active, and on my side. Learning to trust You, Spence.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Observations of a Girl and Her Dog

     Today I had a chance to read in the amphitheater at UT. It looks like this, by the way:

     There were not many people there - it was quite a tranquil bit of time. I was enjoying "Mere Christianity" by C.S. Lewis when I noticed a girl spending time with her dog:

     Over and over again she gesters with her hand as she says, "sit," and the dog obeys. Then the girl makes a different gester accompanied the request "stay." I say request because at no point does her dog have to obey. The dog is not bound by any tangible item, influenced by any substancial threat, or even guided by any notable restrictions. If at any moment the dog wishes to refuse, it can easily choose not to "sit" or not to "stay." I find it interesting that the dog actively decides to comply each and every time. Why is it complying?

     I think that I get a hint into the why as I watch the rest of the girl's interaction with the dog. After the"sitting" and the "staying," the girl turns her back on the dog and walks away. The girl eventually reaches a point wherein she stops, turns back toward the dog, motions, and says "come." The dog complies once again, but this time it does so with gusto, moving with much more vigor and excitement then when complying to the other requests.

     It becomes evident all at once that the dog has been complying all the while because it loves its master. The love prompts the compliance. Furthermore, the dog has trusted the master. Would the dog likely have "stayed" if it did not trust that the girl would have once again turned back for it? And both of these seem to support each other - how often do we love that which we cannot trust? (While it does happen, it is not as common)

     What do you love? What do you trust? Ultimately the real question is, "what do you let train you?" I realized that the dog was responding to the commands because of love and trust, but what that eventually results in is a molding of the dog's character. What I mean is this: this dog was not necessarily bound to this girl but (in this case) because of love for the girl the dog decided to invest in her. What the dog decided to invest in is exactly what helped to form the dog. The more the dog invests emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally the greater the level of influence the girl has over the dog's life.

     Drugs train people. Business trains people. Serving trains people. School trains people. A need for performance trains people. Dietary habits train people. God trains people. Disciplined work-out patterns train people. Failure to meet goals trains people. Success trains people. A desire to be wanted trains people. Loving others trains people. Many mindsets train people. Relationships train people.

Make no mistake about it: everything you do in life is an investment in something. 

What is training you, and what will be the outcome of that training? 

     I do believe that there exist many "speed bumps" along the way though. In the amphitheater this dog did not like to get in the grass. It would walk along the concrete paths for as long as it could, and then at the moment it was forced to step down a level into the grass it would become immediately intentional about reaching the concrete on that level as soon as possible. What's more, it did not even like to step from one tier to another. I even imagine that the grass had many distracting bugs, flowers, and food scraps - from when those pesky students eat so darn sloppily.

     Similarly, in many human cases I feel like people categorize "freedom" as a lack of training, when in fact freedom to follow whimsical desire is an inadvertent training like that of a distracted or fearful dog. There is still a consequence to acting on one's desires and therefore a training. The reason this seems so difficult for our culture to identify is because being "trained" by one's wants does not feel like being "trained" at all. It feels like appropriate control. This is the point: even acting on your desires yields some sort of consequence. Everything you do in life is an investment in something. 

     Do not fool yourselves into believing that you have somehow managed to "float" through life without really doing any harm or really changing anything. Investment yields fruit - that's just kinda how this whole thing works. I encourage you to be intentional about your investments so that you can be intentional about the fruit you yield.

     For me, I am quite sure that I want my fruit to be geared specifically for the promotion of God's Kingdom and the renown of God's Glory, and that is exactly why I want to learn to love and trust my Trainer with everything. Only then will I be genuinely molded into what He has in mind for me. In this way when people see my walk they will see that I have purpose and passion. They will see that I have direction and have been equipped to do every good work that God has prepared for me. In light of training, what they will not see is me wandering distracted through the grass, fearing the different tiers in the amphitheater (because after all they do seem so big when you have not ben shown how to conquer them before), or making sure that my feet remain on the concrete - where life is safe and comfortable.

When I hear the request "come!" I want to be trained to ignore all else and live life in a passionate, fearless, singular-minded pursuit of the Good and Perfect Trainer.

What is training you? 

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Collage of Thoughts

Believe it or not my thoughts have not been as well sorted as usual.
Some cries of my heart:

As Saxon's brother:
-Please, God, take this cancer from my brother, and restore his health.

-Please, God, don't let Saxon be in pain. (He gets morphine roughly every 3 hours, and there have been times when the pain hits before its time for morphine. The worst instance of this that I was present for consisted of me laying hands on him and praying while my mom was holding him onto him, crying for him, speaking to him, and praying over him. He was moaning with pain.) That is so difficult to be present for.

As God's son:
-Please, God, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer." - Psalm 19:14... Basically, the part of me that God has placed in me (the Spirit) still, in the midst of all of the "life" that is happening, needs God to get glory from the way I handle this. If my life is a tapestry that I get to weave for God, then the Spirit of God urges me to weave a jewel of trust and service into my tapestry through this situation. God is intentional, and I do not want to leave a hole of missed opportunity in that which I am weaving.

That thought is so counterintuitive. It is cool to see God being God within me - because that reaction is not me. Glory to God.
The most difficult aspect of all of this is watching my brother hurt. . . It is so so very difficult. Today, for the first time, his pain was at a 10 out of 10. That means it was the worst pain he has ever felt in his life. We are trying to figure out how to deliver morphine orally so that we can go home, but there is a delay that does not exist with intravenous (IV) delivery. So finding the right amount of morphine, timing the delivery, adjusting to sleep patterns, controlling bowels, fighting the body's ability to build a immunity to morphine, and walking through the pain are all examples of battles. Prayer for all of this is appreciated. Please continue to ask God to do what He loves to do - bring health to His child, and we will await God's timing.

I remember in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that they were not delivered from the flames until they walked face-first into them. I do not think that we are in the fire yet. I think we have been informed that fire is coming, and we might even be walking toward the furnace. I still expect (or am battling to expect because I admit it is a war) for God to produce a miracle.
Please pray for Saxon's pain, health, morale, and strength. I am still asking people to go to war for my brother. Please also ask the Lord to grant my family calmness, strength, wisdom, and resolve. I would also like to ask for everyone to give God the glory that He is due. Glory because He is God in general, glory because He has given my brother some good days within the last two weeks, glory for meeting my brother in the midst of his fears, and glory for what He has done in so many hearts through this situation already. Glory to the Good and Perfect Father - He is trustworthy.
Saxon told my mother at 4 a.m. on Thursday morning, "Momma, I am not scared anymore. I know Jesus will do what He wants, and that's the end of it."

Glory to God for that. I had not heard news that good in a long while.
I would also like to express gratitude to the Kingdom of God on behalf of my family. The amount of support we have received is completely overwhelming! Thanks to everyone for the love, food, and money, and especially thanks for the prayers to and petition of God.
I am not perfect by any stretch, but I do want all of this to be fruitful.

Thank You, Father, for the spirit of thanksgiving. Thank you that you are good always, and thank you that I can trust what You are doing because of who You are. I love and respect You - You know that. I am begging You, with every piece of influence that You have freely give to me through Jesus, to take the cancer from my brother's body. Give him a healthy, full, and daring life - lived as a testament of Your power and grace. I trust that You will meet us in this place. You do not abandon Your children. Make all glory and honor and praise Yours.
"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat."                    

Psalm 19:1-6

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Saxon's Prayer Walk

Thank you to one of our good friends for organizing this, and sorry for the late notice. I have not been online in a couple days. I ask that, because of the late notice, if you cannot make the walk and want to help, please intercede for my brother wherever you are tonight. Thanks everybody. 

"Saxon Cochran prayer walk information. 

Thursday night [tonight] from 7:30 to 8:30 we (whoever would like to stand before God on Saxon's behalf) will be meeting at Children's hospital's entrance and uniting in prayer and worship for Saxon as we walk the circumference of the hospital. Emily and Andrew McCoy will lead us in a worship song and the remainder of the time we will walk and pray for Saxon's healing." 

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Yield of Vulnerability

Yea, staring down the beast is a moving idea, but how in the world do I do that? How in the world does anyone do that? 

One of my best friends and mentors sent me a brief facebook message. God used a sentence and half to remind me of the spiritual warrior's mindset. 

The problem with the idea of hope is that it sets up for pain. We have all heard the saying "Don't get your hopes up." When someone allows hope to penetrate the heart and provide drive, the failure of whatever he or she is hoping for is that much more emotionally devastating. I imagine hope to be like the carabiner of a rock climber. When a carabiner is put to good use the mountain is easier to climb. Because the carabiner has helped the climber gain so much height, if the worst happens and the rope breaks then the fall is that much more devastating. I believe that is the tradeoff of hope. A risky something to help hold you up. 

I think that in spiritual life, those that trust God dare to hope. Those with faith are not afraid to fall. If the worst happens and the rock climber's rope breaks, faith argues that God is there to catch regardless of how far the fall is. When God is there to catch one of His children even the extra height from using the carabiner of hope will not result in __________ death (mental, emotional, psychological, spiritual... I am not honestly sure what should go there). I wager that it will still hurt worse after hope, but God does not drop a child. 

Hope is not something that we are taught. Humanity is often quick to throw in the towel. "Let's be realistic. Let's be scientific." Abandon ship and cut our losses. In America especially, I think that too much of the warrior spirit is extinguished by complacency and comfort. When life is so easy (and lets be honest - most of the time it is), it is difficult to SEE the war ... much less fight in it.

Furthermore, I believe that this invades our spiritual lives on an alarming level. I think that many take American complacency and make God's army into God's tea party far too often. The people we look to in the Bible were on mission for God to an alarming degree. They were living with eternity in mind and counting ALL loss for the purpose of the Gospel. Name one time in your life where you have done that. One. I didn't think so. I know I can't name one, but I want that for God's people, and I want that for myself. I want to be about what counts. I want to run the race with endurance. No more taking my war paint off when I not at Church or when I am serving or when I am busy. When I put war paint on ...  I want to go to war. 

I am going to have to fight to keep hope. Hope does not happen naturally. 

The annalogy from the last post ended with staring fear, pain, and whatever else this situation embodies right in the face. The question becomes -- how do I do that? How do WE do that? 

 I also think it takes courage to hope. How often in films have the soldiers felt defeated only to rally behind the hope of their leader? I was reminded what it means to pray with expectation. Praying with and expecting God to produce takes hope and courage. In no way do I pretend that I can have ultimate control of God, but at the same time I know that prayer makes a difference. The multidimensional character of my Father will never make complete sense to a one-dimensional being like me. I have presented for a long time that the language of creation is not sufficient to describe the Creator. Having said all of that, I do think that praying with bold expectation has its place. Imploring of God, and EXPECTING the result for which I have asked -- that is what I will be striving to do. I remember the paradoxical language that the Book of Daniel uses to describe this. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego speak to Nebuchadnezzar about being thrown into the furnace: 

"If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up."   - Daniel 3:17,18


I ask anyone that wants to join in the battle for my brother to hope. Hope in such a way that you step out in faith and claim healing and peace and strength and childlike faith over him. Hope with such magnitude that you pray with expectation. Have a hope that produces vulnerability - ready to feel the pain as it comes to my brother. Fight the spiritual fight and feel the burden along with him. 

I also ask visitors to hope in the way that they relate with him. Ask God to give you the hope to enter his room with joy. Allow the Father to give you the strength to love him well and encourage his heart. Trust God enough to be able to enjoy what is good. 

No matter what the doctors tell us, this battle is far from over. God has the power to do what He wants, and I am asking God for the strength to hope and fight the hard fight even if all things tangible say not to. God has the final say. Not medicine.

Thank you to all those who have already been standing in the gap for my brother and my family. 

"The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit."   - Psalm 34:18

His caring bridge page:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Look of a Prince

It is difficult to know how to even start this one. I guess I am just going to go at it. 

My little bro, Saxon (I often call him by his middle name, Tran), has been feeling sick for a while. Tired for a couple months. Swollen and painful lymph nodes. Stomach started hurting. Two weeks ago, we got word from doctors that my 12 year old best-friend of a brother MIGHT  have cancer. Although we haven't gotten the "official" results from the biopsy, this morning it was basically confirmed. 


my little bro has cancer. (TECHNICAL STUFF AT THE END)

but he is my bro. my little bro. 

For two weeks I have been dealing with sporadic news about it. "It's not ____. It's not ____. That changes the odds by ________." It kept looking worse and worse, and because we did not want it to get back to Tran, we were not telling anyone. I was forced to keep it inside with the exception of my parents. Now, I would like to give a shout-out to my dad. When he and I would discuss Saxon's sickness it was always beneficial. He is a great example of Godly courage and deep Gospel-based roots, and he shares the vision and goal I am going to try to share in this blog, and that is SUPER encouraging. 

If you imagine a black manifestation, the embodiment of your fears, pains, and limits -- that is what I have seen approaching the last two weeks. I was trying not to make eye contact, hoping that it wasn't the painful improbability. I was both bracing myself and trying not to borrow trouble from tomorrow. It finally reached me and struck it's first blow this morning. I image myself down on one knee spitting up blood. My ears ring, and my head spins. Eyes widened, still in the shock of today's tangibility. 

The last two weeks have contained a lot of thinking and evaluating, and this is the perspective I (and my father and I think many others) am entering this with. And honestly this is the perspective I am fighting to keep because it is definitely a struggle to keep perspective. 

Here it is: 

After the initial shock cleared the air a couple weeks ago, it did not take too too long to hold fast to a trust in the Father. My consistent prayer was something that contained both an plea for my will concerning the situation, that Saxon would be healed quickly and cancer would not be present, and a claim that I knew that He, God my Father, was good no matter what happened. Although I am sure I will struggle with all aspects of the situation, my walk with God has lead me to a place where I can trust Him with this. God has even taught me how to rejoice in trials because He is sovereign, on my side, and intentional in action. I cling to Hebrews 12 often because it tells me that a good Father disciplines, and even though it is not fun at the time, anyone who is loved by God is disciplined by God. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that anyone has done anything to bring cancer about (I believe that would be creating a one-dimensional God, and mine is far bigger than I could ever attempt to define with language). I AM saying that when life gets hard I know I can trust Him with it, and I know it will yield Kingdom fruit in the end.

I also know that I can trust identity. The Author of the Universe is the ONLY one with the Authority to write my eternal story (and my brother's). No matter what we experience in this life, it will not rob us of what is to come. Living with eternal perspective. We are already citizens of Heaven. Knowing my unchangeable identity gives strength to face the here and now. Furthermore, not only is it unchangeable, but it is worth looking forward too: Romans 8:18. 

What's new in my thoughts, however, is that I can not only trust in trail, but I can stay on mission during trail. I am hurting, I assure you of that, but now see that the largest trails in life are also some of the largest opportunities to fulfill my purpose on this Earth. To glorify my God. I am ready to have both Chazak and Amats in the midst of assault (reference the video link below). I want the warrior's look. Going to war. Reckless abandon. Reckless trust. War paint on -- ready to feel the pain that comes my way only because I have been granted an understanding of God's infinite capacities, beautiful characteristics, and unshakable truths. I am protected. I have a refuge. I am going to war with a sovereign God, perfect Father, and a loyal Friend on my side. No longer do I just fight the fight -- I want to lead the charge. 

That is the lifestyle I want to live. That is the walk I want to walk. 

Remember the analogy from earlier? The one with the dark figure standing over me? The new thought plays into the picture like this: 

I want to stand up, shaking with fear and pain, and look the demon right in the eyes. I want a look so confident and piercingly ferocious that it shakes the foundations of Hell. I want Satan to look his limits in the face, and shudder. I want Satan to be reminded that GOD WILL NOT BE STOPPED. I want the Devil to remember his ultimate defeat is approaching, and I want him to be disheartened by the realization of the power of God in His children. This prince to God's Kingdom has no intention of living in fear. 

Who's with me? 

If you have read this please hold me accountable to such a life. I am nowhere near capable of this without God, and I am sure I will need the support of His family as well.


Basic preliminary reports indicate that Saxon has cancer in his lymph nodes that is originating from a different source (the official name for it is metastatic carcinoma). 

Please pray for Tran. We love him dearly. He is one of my best friends. 

His caring bridge page:

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Thought About Free-Fall

I believe that the culture we live in unintentionally removes an element from Christianity. Generally speaking, we are raised in the best environment in the world for comfort. How often do you have to worry about getting to eat your next meal, being able to drinking water that is clean enough to actually benefit your body, or finding a sufficient shelter from in pending thunderstorm? The point is that we live in an incredibly low risk environment.

If American society is an airplane, God is the parachute.

If your were to ask people, "Do you trust a parachute to open and bring you safely to the ground?", the most common response would probably be "Yes."

If you were to ask people while in flight, "Do you want to use the parachute (that you trust so readily) by jumping right now from this commercial airplane?", the most common response would probably be "No."

This is my first thought: the American dream is not conducive to the Christian dream. The American dream is self-serving and comfortable. If you ride on the plane, then you will probably not only get where you want to go, but you will most likely enjoy some food and entertainment along the way. The Christian dream (to know and be known by Jesus) does not necessarily end at your intended destination, probably scares the living heck out of you, requires a leap of faith, and is wholly dependent upon God for success.

Now, before I type out thought number two, I want to clarify something. I believe you can be a Christian that sits on the plane. Salvation is not contingent upon your actions, just as it is possible to sit on a 747 while wearing a parachute. I also think that this is what a LOT of American Christians are missing.

This is my second thought: life is vibrant while falling. You get to experience the sunset and sunrise firsthand. You have the freedom to move yourself around within a violently beautiful matrix of air rushing past you. Your body can spin and flip and rotate -- not limited by contact. The fear of imminent danger awakens your senses and calls for a deeper trust in the thing strapped to your back. Those awakened senses take in more of the beauty around you -- you are experience the world on a whole different level. The further you fall, the better your perception of the world becomes. You and your parachute.

My challenge: (to myself included) JUMP. I want to jump in the way that I live life for God. I do not want to be caught up in the American dream. I want to be so dependent on God that it scares me to no end. I want to release a finite monotony and embrace an overwhelming dance.

I think that American culture readily removes some things from a person's walk with God: Ferocity. Passion. Truth (to a degree). Purpose. Vulnerability. Identity. I think it leaves us confused about our wiring. I think that if Christianity "didn't do it for you" then you never jumped from the plane -- because this is what we are made for. It fits. It resonates. It grows. It spreads.

I think that we can "jump from the plane" in the ways that we choose to live at school, in the office, on the court, at home, behind closed doors, and in front of crowds. No jump is too small or too large for your parachute, and I am willing to wager that every height is invigorating for he who makes it.

Escape American mediocrity, and seek life to the full in Christ.

"Only skydivers know why the birds sing"