Guest Post: My Dad’s Hands

[As you know, my father-in-law, Duane Juve, passed away last week. At the funeral, Dawn’s youngest sister, Delaine (Juve) Gamache, offered this beautiful tribute in memory of Duane. I asked Delaine if I could post it here. And, you can read it, unedited, below. May this inspire us all to so live that we, too, may be remembered like this. You can also read my tribute to Duane.]

Oh Dad, I am going to miss your farm stories! Somebody asked me the other day: Is there a single memory that stands out to you about your father? I had been so focused on so many things that week, that at that moment my mind went blank. As I’ve thought about the question since, I keep thinking about all the times our family sat around the table or living room and listened to your farm adventures. The scene of you shooting at a few rats and then being chased by hundreds that came pouring out of the silo and the scene of your uncles hunting at night on the lake looking for deer eyes, but shooting at the eyes of their own oxen instead, the scene of you making your own skis and catching a ride behind cars, the scenes of you and Uncle Marvel doing dangerous things and you always being the hero come to the rescue (unless Uncle Marvel was telling the story), the scene of you walking to your country school and seeing a bear, and, of course, the classic walking in the snow to school uphill both ways—these scenes and others are showing regularly in my memory now. And I will miss the way that you tell them. No one will ever be able to tell them the way you did.

When we were in the hospital, I spent a lot of time looking at my dad’s hands. Maybe because I’m well aware that mine look very similar to his. I tend to wrinkle my nose at my hands and wish that I had cute petite ones like the rest of my sisters. But in the hospital I would look at my hands and then his and think about all the things his hands had accomplished. My dad’s hands reached out for a tree as he stumbled when learning to walk again after his childhood bout with polio. May dad’s hands held my mother in many an embrace in the kitchen (he was always excited about the next meal . . . and my mom). May dad’s hands carried five children home and buried one. My dad’s hands took little pieces of Kleenex and wrapped them around bobby pins to clean out our runny noses. My dad’s hands held the steering wheel of a school bus to make extra money to cover my medical bills while still pastoring his church. May dad’s hands disciplined us when we went astray. May dad’s hands opened his Bible every night after supper to read to us from God’s word and then his hands folded as he led us in prayer. My dad’s hand took up a pen week after week to write sermons to feed his congregation. My dad’s hands touched many a sick person in a hospital bed as he prayed for them to be comforted and healed. And I can’t help but remember the time when I was a feisty young person, I was giving him an attitude about something, and he finally put his hand on my shoulder, and with eyes filled with tears said, “Delaine, I just want you to love Jesus.” That was cry of my dad’s heart. He just wanted people to love Jesus.

As my father was dying, we watched his fingertips turn purple and then creep up his fingers. As I watched this, it struck me that it looked much like the hues of the sky when the sun is setting. My mind flew to Psalm 112 verse 8, “Light dawns in the darkness for the upright.” The sun was going down in his life, but a greater light was dawning for him. A beautiful glorious sunrise that all we who love Jesus are yearning to see, we who trust in a righteousness that is not our own, but a gift purchased by Jesus on the cross. We are groaning in this outer body that is wasting away to be in a place where we worship in a new body, free from all imperfections, and awash in the light of the Lamb.

So, Dad, my prayer is that the Lord would use my very imperfect hands to care for my own family—my husband and children—as faithfully as you did. My prayer is that the Lord would use my hands to open my Bible to share the word of God with others. And that he will use my hands to point other to Jesus. That’s the heritage you passed down to me. That’s your legacy. The day is coming when that purple sunset will move up my own fingers that look so much like yours and may it be said to me, like I’m certain it was said to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your reward.”

Does God Help Us, or Not?

I recently noticed an apparent contraction in Scripture, and between Scripture and life. Here are my thoughts about it…

God Is Our Helper

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. – Psalm 9:9

This verse is one example among hundreds teaching us that God cares about our troubles and helps us in our time of need. This is an essential part of the Christian understanding of who God is. The Bible teaches that God is compassionate and that He rules over all things with justice. We take comfort in knowing that He cares about our suffering, promises to help us, and will punish those who have a hand in causing it.

Or, Not?

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? – Psalm 10:1

So, in Psalm 9 the psalmist says God is a stronghold in times of trouble. A stronghold is a fortress, something we can take refuge in for protection. But in Psalm 10 the psalmist complains that God is hiding himself in times of trouble. Well, will God help me or not? Is He gonna be there for me, or not? Does he give a rip, or not? Can I depend on Him, or not? – A simple “yes” or “no” would be nice, thank you.

It’s Complicated

Life isn’t simple and a simple answer just won’t do. Yes, God is compassionate toward us. Yes, God is just, and will eventually carry out final justice – “eventually” as in, at the end of this age – a little longer than I’d prefer to wait. But experience proves that God doesn’t always help us when, how and to the extent we feel we need. Okay, let’s get real – God rarely helps us that way.

So, what’s going on?

I think the psalmist is living through the same averageness of life that we do. On one occasion he is full of faith, praising God for His protection. On another (maybe trouble seems more pressing now) he is waiting for help to come and wonders aloud, “God, where ARE you?” You know by experience that sometimes life works out way better than you could have expected, even sometimes, way better than you deserve (look deep inside now). We have no problem giving God credit for these rare blessings. But most of the time life just kind of works out. Sometimes it’s okay, sometimes not, sometimes awful, sometimes frustrating, or scary, or worse. Most of the time, it’s hard to see God’s hand.

So, What’s the Point?

Troubles force me to choose whether trusting God for the “eventually” will be the basic motivation of my life.

Trusting God in times of trouble is a choice: Will I trust that God sees, knows, cares and will eventually act even when He leaves me waiting… and waiting… and waiting? Troubles must come. I am born to them. If they don’t come, how else will I learn:

  • Wisdom to avoid trouble when I can?
  • Courage to face trouble when I can’t?
  • Integrity when a “white lie” could make the situation go away?
  • Patience to endure trouble even when I don’t understand its purpose?
  • Compassion to help another who is waiting for help?

Most importantly, without troubles how will I ever learn that only God is great? Life is average so that I’ll learn to pursue Him, trust Him, love Him. Love this life too much and I’ll eventually lose it and Him. But, love God more than my average life and I’ll get Him along with an eternal, not average life thrown in.

Until then, the psalmist and I must choose.

God help me to trust that You are great, even when life isn’t.

Preparing for the Battle

Thankful for the respite

This spring I cycled out of what always feels like a very long depression. As the flowers blossomed and the trees unfurled their new leaves, I felt alive. The spring breeze would caress my hair and I would close my eyes, breath in deeply and just “feel”. Lon would catch me with my eyes closed and a smile on my face, ask me what I was doing and I would answer, “Just feeling. It feels so good to feel…good.”

Sharpening my sword

I embrace this time wholeheartedly and try to steward it well because I know it won’t last. I begin to “sharpen my sword”. That phrase comes from when Lon and I were dating. While I was living in Minnesota and he in Massachusetts, he wrote me a letter stating, “A soldier always sharpens his sword before going into battle.” This was referring to us as Christians staying in God’s Word and making it a part of us before the battles of life ensue. I’m taking a long, deep look at what feeds the depression in my life so I can begin applying God’s truth to it.

Using the sword on my heart

One particular area I needed to apply the truth to concerns a significant, personal  relationship (I need to be anonymous here). This person does not like the choices I have made for my life, which means I do not have this person’s approval. I crave that approval and allow the lack of it to shadow the joys in my life. But the Bible teaches me that through Christ I have my Heavenly Father’s unconditional approval and that is all I need. Zephaniah 3:17 says that He sings over me and rejoices over me. As I revel in this, my craving for that person’s approval (and my fear of their disapproval) diminishes and it no longer has the hold on me it once did. My heart is awed at how applying God’s truth to my life can so free me from an inappropriate need for approval.

How do you prepare for your spiritual battles?

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