Praise You in the Storms

Our Lenten Sermon series centers on the storms that rage in our lives.  We have been singing, “Praise You in this Storm” by Casting Crowns in our worship services.  Mark Hall, the lead singer, captured the story behind the song in his book “Lifestories.”  It is about a little girl dying of cancer who never gave up her trust in Jesus and her mother who literally stood on the promises of God through the whole ordeal.  Erin was six years old when she prayed to receive Christ.  She was diagnosed with cancer when she was seven, and by the time she was eight she was visiting area churches to give her testimony. Four months after Erin was first diagnosed, a second bone scan revealed that the cancer was gone. Doctors called the results remarkable. Laurie and Erin called it a miracle. Emboldened by the Lord’s clear hand in her life, she began regularly sharing her faith and giving her testimony. “She had a desire to reach people to let them know there is no hope or joy without God. And even though she had reason in her life not to be happy, she was joyful because she had Jesus in her heart,” Laurie said. “She wasn’t afraid. She let the Lord speak through her, and when she would get up and speak it was like I wasn’t listening to my own daughter. He would put words in her mouth, and it was just awesome.” But the cancer eventually returned, and this time, it didn’t go away. The tumors grew so large that they displaced organs and created a visible bulge in Erin’s chest. They pressed down on her spleen, pushed her heart to the right, and deviated her trachea, straining her breathing. On June 21, 2004, Mark e-mailed Laurie to tell her that I was writing a song for Erin entitled “Praise You in This Storm.” Upon the news, Erin screamed so loud that it hurt Laurie’s ears. Mark kept up with Erin’s condition through Laurie’s e-mails detailing the family’s wrenching ordeal. Every e-mail described a change in Erin’s condition. One e-mail would offer hope: “There is a new treatment, so please be praying.” So we’d pray, and then the next e-mail would report, “It’s not working.” Sometimes Laurie had questions: “What’s going on? I feel like I’m all alone in this.” But her love of Jesus remained fervent even though she questioned what was going on and didn’t really understand the reasons. It was raw, rare faith, and it was inspiring. It was the early morning of Saturday, October 30, 2004. Ten-year-old Erin Browning lay in a hospice bed in her home, in such pain and shortness of breath that, in fear and exasperation, she could manage only one request of her mother. “Just read the Scriptures!” she said. So Laurie began reading the Scriptures. From 1 a.m. until 5 a.m., loved ones took turns reading aloud the Word of God over a child in the last, cruelest stages of cancer’s grip. Little Erin had battled for more than three years. At one point, Laurie placed her Bible on the floor and stood on it, literally standing on the Word of God as she read over her child. Finally, after the long night of reading Scripture followed by another long night of hopeful prayer, Laurie consented for a hospice nurse to administer an IV with medicine that essentially placed Erin in a painless coma on Sunday afternoon. There would be no more gasping for breath. Erin finally gave up her fight.  Erin Browning went home at 4:24 a.m. on November 1, 2004. Laurie still doesn’t fully understand what happened next. She remembers only a tremendous peace and describes it as being under the shower of the Holy Spirit. She held Erin’s body for 90 minutes while her daughter played in heaven. “It was not like how I expected her last minutes to be. I thought I’d be hysterical, but I wasn’t,” Laurie said. “But she was where she always wanted to be. She told me when she was six years old that she couldn’t wait to get to heaven.  Erin never got to hear this song, but Laurie heard it for the first time when her mother bought the CD on the day it was released and took it to the school where Laurie works. The two women sat in the car, listened to this song, and “cried and cried and cried.”

 

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