The Hell of the Mind

“Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” So wrote Dante in the 14th century as he did his best to describe hell.

I have found, at least in my personal experience, that Satan doesn’t tempt me (often) to “recklessly run off a cliff” i.e. do something that I know would hurt or kill me.  He’s too smart for that.

What Satan does is much more subtle. Insidious. Ingenious. He simply methodically, little-by-little, dulls my awareness to the presence & power of God. It’s the “frog in the kettle” analogy.

Since Jordan passed away, this has been Satan’s primary strategy with me.

Early on, Satan was having tremendous success – you’ll remember the numerous “cries for help” I posted on Facebook. You immediately responded with prayer to the King and, as the angel Gabriel told Daniel, “As soon as you began to pray an answer was given.” (9:23) Almost immediately, my heart rate would slow, my breathing would return to normal, and i could, again, recognize the presence & power of God.

I don’t have these attacks as much anymore. But, I did have one yesterday (12/26). In hindsight, I had worked so hard to prepare my mind for our first Christmas without Jordan that, the morning after Christmas, I was emotionally spent – and Satan (who never takes a “day off”) was waiting.

I began losing my mind – which I’ve found to be a sort of “psychological hell” (panic-attack, rapid heart rate, paranoia, fear, confusion, etc.) I didn’t even have the presence of mind to ask for prayer on FB. But, my family fought for me. More specifically, what they did was “invite God into the battle” and then – the battle was over

James, the half-brother of Jesus, rightly wrote, “The fervent prayer of the righteous is powerful….” (5:16b)

I believe in hell as much as I believe in heaven. After all, Jesus spoke often about hell. We don’t hear the topic of hell preached very often from church pulpits. Maybe we should.

Jesus describes hell in terrifying ways. But, i wonder if part of hell – the “complete and absolute separation from God” part of hell – is the worst part of all. As I began to regain my mind yesterday, recognizing again the presence & power of God Almighty who is also my very personal Savior & Shepherd, I wondered, “What if there were no ‘regaining my mind’? What if the confusion, rage & terror that flooded my mind this morning never subsided?? Ever?!”

That would be hell.

To all of you, as you continue to write notes, messages, texts, etc., telling me you’re praying for me/us – THANK YOU. It matters.

“His mercies are new every morning.” (Lam. 3:22-23)

I love you all, Nick

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Hallelujah

Merry Christmas, Jordan

Merry Christmas, Jordan – my baby, my son!

This Christmas, we see Jesus in the image of Manger Scenes. But you – you. see. Jesus.

This Christmas, we continue to see “as in a mirror darkly.” But you – you see “face to face.”

This Christmas, we continue to “know in part.” But you, my son, you “know fully.” (1 Cor. 13:11-12)

This Christmas Eve, as we cried & prayed as a family, we thanked God for the almost 20 years He loaned you to us. And we thanked God for eternal life made possible to us through Christ Jesus, in whose presence you now live.

One more thing: I must tell you that, during supper tonight, the Holy Spirit filled your sister, Macy, as she gave the most powerful, courageous & joy-filled “pep talk” to all of us around the table. It was a “moment.” The Spirit of the risen Christ was upon her. It is a moment I will never forget.

I love you so much. I miss you so very, very much.

Merry Christmas, my son! Merry Christmas!

Dad

Hope Floats

I love the movie, “Hope Floats.” (1998; starring Sandra Bullock & Harry Connick, Jr.)

Hope really does change things.  Hope can immediately change a gray sky to blue.

But, Hollywood didn’t discover this truth. This truth is ancient, finding its life-giving power in an “old rugged cross” and an empty tomb.

That said, I leave you with the following quote from “Melissa”, Dr. Frank Page’s book about his daughter who took her own life:

“Hope will not disappoint…’ (Romans 5:5) ‘That’s why Paul could say to the Thessalonian faithful, after declaring to them the resolute power of hope: ‘Therefore encourage one another with these words.’ Because hope will carry us through. Hope tells us that God is still active and working in the lives of His people. Hope reminds us that even when all appears to be invisible silence from heaven, our God is still very real, still highly engaged, still moving quite capably and compassionately behind the scenes. Hope is what opens our eyes and ears to receive in full the loving expressions of our friends, the uplifting counsel of our various support systems, and even those unplanned moments when the Lord sends across our paths what the Bible calls ‘angels’ (Heb. 13:2) – touches of God that communicate His nearness and knowledge of us in the most unlikely of settings. We grieve. Oh, how we grieve. But not without hope.”

And that changes everything.

This is why Paul encouraged the Romans,

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I love you all.

Soli Deo Gloria, nick

 

The Pain of Christmas

“But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
(Isaiah 53:5)

For years (way before my son passed away), I’ve tried to remind people that special times of the year, like Christmas, are not only joyful, but painful to many because it reminds them of loved ones no longer here. Since death is a part of life, what do we do with the pain of Christmas?

Author, Randall Cunningham, writes:

Pain says, “Don’t get up. Just lie here awhile.”Pain’s voice is loud, perhaps the loudest voice you’ll hear in your life. When [you] feel the pain, your mind and soul become tethered to doubt, anxiety, apprehension, and fear. The reality of the hit makes your head ring and immediately your mind begins to bend inward….When that hit comes to you, what will you do?”

Because of mankind’s failure in Eden (recorded in Genesis 3), pain is in the very fabric of human life. And if the story ended there life would be hopeless. Satan’s plan was pain.

But God had other plans.

God took what Satan believed was a clever “checkmate move” against mankind and turned it on its head – driving a stake into the heart of the dragon….a stake in the form of a cross.

Because this is true, when pain takes its best shot this Christmas we can ruthlessly trust in Him “on whom was laid the [pain] of us all.” (Isaiah 53:11)

Merry Christmas, St. Nick

Where Is God When It Hurts?

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the furnace in Daniel 3, Nebuchadnezzar asked, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?….But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

That “fourth” man was the pre-incarnate Christ.

Jesus doesn’t wait for us on the other side of our pain. God (Immanuel) is with us in our “furnace.”

nw

Secret Santa

To the individual(s) who rang our doorbell at 10:30pm on Friday night and disappeared into the cold night leaving giant “santa sacks” full of gifts: only in heaven will you know how much joy you brought to the Watts home.

First of all, I want you to know that when the doorbell rang it took me a minute to get to the door because I had to put a shirt on (no one deserves to see me without a shirt at Christmas time, or any other time.)

After we brought everything in and read the note attached, me, Michelle & Macy just sat in the floor and cried (it was a good cry):). We felt like Jesus had been to our door.

What you could not have known is that, although we’d put our tree up a couple of weeks ago, we could not bring ourselves to put the ornaments on the tree since so many of them are directly connected to Jordan. With the help of some friends, we had finished (finally) putting the ornaments on our tree only minutes before the doorbell rang. The Lord’s timing was impeccable. We so needed a “touch” from Jesus at that moment. What He gave us was a huge “I AM here. I’ve got this.” We were on holy ground.

We opened the first gift (per the attached instructions) but actually waited on Kelsie to arrive last night to resume opening the gifts. We’re on schedule now. And it’s something we look forward to every evening.

I may be St. Nick. But you, whoever you are, are Jesus to us.

Merry Christmas, St. Nick

Massacre, Suicide & A Manger

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:10)

This morning I stood before 200+ students at Evans Middle School in Lubbock and said, “The first Bible verse I ever learned was John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (We all quoted it together.) I continued, “This verse sums up the Good News of the Bible. ‘God so loved that He gave….’ But what about when God takes away?”

That last question sort of hung there in the air for both the students – and for me.

This Saturday, 12/14, marks the one year anniversary of a maniac walking into a Newtown, Connecticut, Elementary School and killing 20 children and 6 educators. The people of Newtown have asked national media to “stay away” and let them grieve.

This Friday, 12/13, marks 7 months since my 19 year old son, suffering from clinical depression, took his life, causing the earth to shift under our feet.

What about when God takes away?

Do we “roll up the tent” and go home? Satan is wagering we will. But I’m not going anywhere.

Why? Because, in Christ, our story has forever merged with His story.
Paul put it this way: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

At Christmas we celebrate the manger. And in that manger is the embodiment of God’s “Story”: “Emmanuel, God With Us” (Matthew 1:23). In that manger is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) In that manger is the One who makes paradise/heaven possible for us all by removing the barrier created by sin, and bringing us near to Him by His blood (Ephesians 2:13). In that manger is the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:10) who is the King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16) who is the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8) who is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Because Job knew even the worst pain of earth is not “the end of the story,” (cf. Romans 8:18) he was able to cry out in the face of the enemy, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Merry Christmas, St. Nick