Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Soul Searching and Finding Rest

The end of the first half of 2015 is fast approaching—so far it has been a whirl-wind; it is time for some soul-searching. In this mundane chronos, am I practicing what the Lord spoke into this weary saint as 2014 faded away? A look into the Brazen Laver is sobering.

The annual change of the calendar takes me by surprise each year; I greet each one with frustration. When the sparkling cider is gone, and the noise makers are trodden under foot, nothing seems new—nothing feels new. 2015 began with my resistance to its arrival. I refused to write a list of resolutions, or fill out another prayer card; for it would only get lost in the pages of the One True Word. I desired this New Year to be different—I wanted a word. A word that would guide me through the year. A word I could cling to in tough times. After seeking God and praying for His direction, I christened 2015 with the word I felt Him whisper into my weary soul—Rest. sabbatismos a lifestyle of Sabbath rest and Sabbath observance. The Greek sabbatismos is an idea far beyond church on Sunday. It is an attitude, a heart condition. This is not a legalistic ritual, but it is prayerfully seeking a new perspective on the chronos. The Omnipotent One, continues to urge me to rest. A lesson I have not yet fully retained.

The rest that was to govern my year alludes me. While my faith and trust in God does not waver; I still struggle with resting. “A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval,” Mark Buchanan writes; storms definitely describe the year and it is anything but restful. I have had enough upheaval to last a life time. It has brought sickness, heartache, sadness, and betrayals that test the most determined soul. It is so easy to get caught up in the whirl-wind of chronos and it drains the passion from us. Kairos—God’s divine intervention, is as fleeting as spring after a hard winter.

Chronos betrays us, always. It devours the beauty it creates. But sometimes chronos betrays itself: it stirs in us a longing for something else—something that the beauty of things in time evokes but cannot satisfy… we end up as the man in Ecclesiastes did: driven, driven, driven, racing hard against chronos, desperate to seize beauty but always gasping smoke, ashes, and thorns. Seeking purpose and finding none, only emptiness (Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, p. 37).

I am a passionate reader—a dozen books a month is my usual habit. Yet, piles of books await for me to get lost in their pages. Piles that once stirred me to read, now seem daunting, and overwhelming. Studying alludes me as well, as I have taken the summer to rest from seminary. This is new territory for me. Days and weeks of wrestling and torture just to pen this journal entry proves exhausting. Reading and writing is so much a part of who I am, that I feel lost. I feel as though I am wandering around—searching for my place in the world. If I don’t read and write, what do I do? I rest.

Sabbath is both a day and an attitude to nurture such stillness. It is both time on a calendar and a disposition of the heart. It is a day we enter, but just as much a way we see. Sabbath imparts the rest of God—actual physical, mental, spiritual rest, but also the rest of God–the things of God’s nature and presence we miss in our busyness… A Sabbath heart is restful even in the midst of unrest and upheaval (pp.3-4).

One thing I have learned in spending time in His presence, is that worship is the key to rest. When I cease worrying about the cares of this world (Matt. 6:25-34), and I lay at His feet; peace overwhelms me.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus {Phil. 4:7 NASB}.

There are many things that vie for my attention; so many cares and distractions. But I must choose, as Mary so wisely did, to sit at His feet and worship. The Martha in me is easily lured into the drama of the day. If I never read another book, if I never pen another page, I will have peace when I rest in Him. Sabbatismos.

The New Year is frustrating, because the strike at midnight changes the chronos, and not the kairos. I want something new…I want kairos. I want to witness the divine intervention of God in my moment and see the change that I have longed for. I must be reminded in the mundane to seek out and choose joy. I must remember the greatest kairos in all eternity—He has already made all things new.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true {Rev. 21:5 ESV}.

He is trustworthy and true. He made all things new long before midnight of 2015. He made me new, and instead of seeking for my circumstances to change, I continue to change. When I rest in Christ, then He abides in me and Christ in me is the hope of glory. And the mundane doesn’t seem so dull after all. I witness the Divine every day through His mercy, grace, and love.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Remembering My Father....

My dad passed away in October of 2013. I wrote about it here. I thought a deserving memorial would be the Eulogy I spoke at his funeral. Though my earthly father is with Christ now, I am grateful that my heavenly Father walks with me every day.

My Father

On January 14, 1930, in Kansas City, Missouri, Marvin Paul Burnett arrived accompanied by his twin brother Marion. Unfortunately, Marion died when only three years old.

Marvin spent the first six years of his life fending off illness; a strep infection forced his parents to move to Denver in 1936 so that Marvin could undergo a bilateral mastoidectomy to remove the infected bone from behind the ear. He also was one of the first in the US to receive antibiotics, which had to be flown in from Germany. For years to follow, he did not experience significant health problems, but medicine would be a part of him for the rest of his life.

Upon graduating from Denver South High School in 1948, he attended Colorado A&M, which is now CSU. However, college was put on hold as he was called into active duty to serve in the Korean War. He jokingly remarked to a buddy that, thanks to the war, he didn’t have to study for his upcoming Zoology exam. He completed infantry training in California and, In April of 1951, was assigned to the First Marine Division as a rifleman. He was released from active duty as a corporal—earning a Purple Heart Medal for shrapnel in his shoulder, which he also carried for the rest of his life. 

He re-entered college in 1952 and received his Bachelor of Science in Zoology in June of 1954. He considered becoming a veterinarian, but his college counselor would not have it, and refused to sign a recommendation for him unless it was to enter medical school. He devoted the next two years to graduate research studies and finally entered medical school in the fall of 1956. He continued as a graduate assistant in teaching Zoology Laboratory and Ornithology. He enjoyed research; however, it became clear that clinical medicine was his calling. However, his interest in Zoology and Ornithology continued, as numerous cats, dogs, reptiles, and the like were a constant in the Burnett household, along with the Field Guide to North American Birds and a pair of binoculars.

In 1960 he graduated from the University of Colorado School of Medicine. After graduation, he served as a Captain in the United States Army from 1960-1961 in the state of Washington to complete a one-year medical residency. From 1961-1964 he completed a residency at Presbyterian Hospital in Denver and completed a second residency with Denver Presbyterian in Pathology from 1964-1965. This was not enough for my dad as he completed yet another residency at the University of New Mexico from 1965 to 1966 in Hematology.

Just a few years later, my father and two partners, Dr. Robert Berris and Dr. Paul Hamilton, founded Hematology Oncology Associates in Denver, down on 18th and Franklin. This is the original entity that, over the years, has grown and evolved into what is now Rocky Mountain Cancer Center. Though retiring in 1998, medicine continued to surround his life.

Apart from practicing medicine, my dad also enjoyed the outdoors. It is no secret my dad loved to golf, but even more, he loved to fish. In fact, his physical therapist, Adam, endured ten years of bibliographies of fly-fishing must-reads. His hobby of tying his own flies reflected his love for the stream, and you would be hard-pressed to find something in the Burnett household that did not have either the Orvis, Trout Unlimited, or Catch and Release logo proudly displayed. He loved taking the family fishing. The first morning light of loading the station wagon with tents, pillows, blankets, fishing tackle, coolers, kids, and the like proved inspiring. The white and black checkered luggage carrier on top of the brown and white woodgrain ‘76 Country Squire station wagon was indeed a sight to be seen. By the time he unloaded the fishing tackle from underneath the non-essential fishing equipment, he could expect a good hour or two of prime fishing. 

He also loved to hunt. I can remember many trips to the far-east, well, the far east of Colorado or Kansas, to walk the cornfields. I did get to accompany him as the assistant to his retriever. I loved those memories; good times!

My father earned a mention in his former Drill Sergeant’s memoir of the Korean War, The Run Up to The Punch Bowl. The Punch Bowl was an ancient volcanic crater off Japan's coast, giving the North Koreans a great advantage in the war. My dad had to face a Punch Bowl of his own, which included many life-threatening illnesses that resembled a volcanic crater that at times seemed to have the advantage. But my dad lived a life of miracles. 

His first miracle as a child, receiving antibiotics for a strep infection, was the first, not the last. His second life miracle was surviving the rearing of three daughters. He earns double credit for me; he should receive a special honor for surviving my teenage and young adult years until Christ grabbed hold of my heart and life and gave my dad a bit of a reprieve. But as I heard a wise pastor’s wife once say about child-rearing, “Who could be a better parent than the heavenly Father, and under perfect circumstances, His children fell.” So, I hope that comforts my dad. He was a good father, one who loved his family and his faith. His faith dictated his practice of medicine, and his compassion for the sick and dying still strikes me today. Just as the first six or seven years of my dad’s life began warding off sickness, the last six or seven years of his life were spent the same way. Though many illnesses threatened my dad, he kept them at bay until Sunday, October 13, 2013. It was simply his time. I can see the fingerprints of Jesus all over his life. And it is the grace of God that allowed my dad to be with us as long as he was in the face of illnesses that sought his life.

You see Psalm 91 on your programs today; it is fitting. Barb Roberts read it to my dad just a few days before he passed, and we all knew that Psalm would be a part of my dad’s service today. Although it looks like from our perspective that pestilence did come near my dad and, in fact, ended his life, death does not win; it does not have the last word. The Cross of Christ overcame the power that death had; First Corinthians 15:55 taunts death, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Christ forever destroyed the power of death, and though we may be separated from our bodies, which are decaying, we can never be separated from spending eternity with Jesus our Lord.

It will forever be a precious memory that I witnessed my dad’s last breath on earth as he entered the presence of the Lord with such peace. My dad is now with the Lord and no longer does cancer, triple “A” ruptures, strokes, or infection plague his body. He can speak again; he can walk perfectly again—no plague comes near his dwelling, for now, he is truly sheltered in the wings of the Highest.

Our hope is in God. I heard another pastor’s wife say of hope after her son committed suicide, “Having hope is not a magic spell we use to get our way - it simply realigns our hearts towards God in such a way that allows faith to grow and opens the doors to miracles. God is all that remains constant - our hope is IN HIM. Our hope is in a Person, not a particular outcome.” Yes, I prayed for him to be healed. God answered my prayer, just not on this side of eternity. Isn’t that our hope as believers? That is my hope. I know that I will see my dad again one day. And that is what takes the sting of death from us, that Christ-followers have it all—hope for today AND hope for tomorrow.

I loved my dad. I always looked up to him and respected the accomplishments in his life. How he took care of and provided for his family. A beautiful reflection of the heavenly Father, who provides and cares for the needs of His family. We will always love you, Dad; your life truly glorified God.