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Author Archives: Janet Boxx

About Janet Boxx

My name is Janet Boxx. I earned a Bachelor's of Science degree from Northwest Missouri State University before working at Mark Twain Bank and then Sprint. Following the birth of my fourth child, I left the business world to focus my attention on raising my family. In my lifetime, I've been inducted into two communities no one wishes to gain membership in; the special needs community and the bereaved parents society. I'm a wife, a mother and a follower of Jesus Christ. Like many of you, my life has not been a walk in the park. It's been challenging in a number of ways and has caused me to examine my beliefs, almost everything I thought I knew about God, with what His word actually says about Him. I'm comfortable with my struggle, but well, I'm afraid that other believers may not be comfortable with my confrontational approach as I question and search for understanding. I am in desperate need of real answers, real truth, and am a big believer in authenticity. Therefore, I'm not known to "drink the kool-aid" so to speak. I hate platitudes and simplistic answers to complicated issues. I believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible word of God, and that every word is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness" just as 2 Timothy 3:16 proclaims. Heaven knows I don't always get it right, and at times I concede that I cannot find an answer, and choose to trust that the Holy Spirit will reveal it in time or that He will enable me to find peace in spite of my questions. As a result, I'm open to others questioning my conclusions, I just ask that they aren't worded as an attack but instead by pointing me to another scripture and asking me to consider it in light of the conclusions I've drawn. A little background may help you understand my blog posts, so here is my life in a nutshell. I married my husband, David, in 1987. Our son, Cole, was stillborn on Father's Day, June 21, 1992. We went on to have three beautiful daughters. Bethany was born in November of 1993, Gracen in December of 1995, and Katie arrived in October of 1997. We noticed some developmental concerns when Gracen was about a year of age. Katie developed similar issues around her first birthday as well. Their physical issues were minor and the pediatrician was not concerned. But as Gracen and Katie grew, the physical issues became more pronounced, affecting both their fine and gross motor functions which impacted daily life and learning. Fifteen years and multiple and doctors and tests later, in the spring of 2012, we finally received a diagnosis. Gracen and Katie had been born with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. ARSACS is a progressive neuromuscular disease. The prognosis was not pretty and we were devastated. I had so hoped a diagnosis would lead to a cure - a medication or treatment that would give the girls a normal life. During that fifteen year time span, Gracen also developed chronic daily migraine headaches. Life was challenging to say the least. The day after Christmas 2013, life got harder. As we returned home from celebrating Christmas with family, our van was involved in a three-vehicle collision. Bethany and Katie died that afternoon. My first blog post was written a few months later, in March of 2014. I've edited that post in order to correct minor details that I was unaware of when it was originally written and posted on Facebook. Otherwise, it remains as it was. My hope is that my posts will serve to validate the feelings of others who are struggling with difficult circumstances and trying to assimilate their feelings and beliefs, as they too, try to hold on, get through, and avoid bitterness. So welcome to our world. Join me as I continue to live life in the Refiner's fire. In and out I go as God allows the dross to rise and be swept away until He can see His reflection as He looks upon me. Please share your thoughts (speaking the truth in love) and let iron sharpen iron as we banter back and forth as we each struggle our way through this life until God calls us home. Janet

A Biblical Thought On Death and Dying for Which We Can Be Thankful

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Many of us this Thanksgiving Day are grieving lives lost far too soon or living with the gaping hole and profound silence that remains after a lifetime of togetherness is severed by death. Babies born still, children and teens afflicted by disease, cancer or an incurable infection, those killed in accidents or military service, by their own hands or as a victim of crime, substance abuse, and old age. Regardless of the length of the relationship or the age of the deceased, those who are left behind grapple with questions, emotions, and spiritual issues that are overwhelming.

If you have read blogs I have published in the past you know that I believe that even the shortest life, including those who expire in the womb, have a living legacy due to the way parents-to-be are altered by the awareness of the child growing within the mother’s womb. Whether the parents are excited or horrified by the positive pregnancy test, changes in thought, attitude and actions result and carry forward touching the people the parents interact with in some way forevermore.

When death comes to call we struggle to find the comfort and consolation the Bible speaks of. Men and women well grounded in their faith may be afraid to admit that there are times when knowing that they will be reunited with their loved ones in Heaven is little more than a cold comfort. We know it to be true, are thankful for that truth, but it just doesn’t leave us with warm fuzzy feelings.

Maybe that’s the problem . . .

We interpret comfort as warm fuzzy feelings instead of the confident assurance that God’s eternal promises will come to pass . . .

and when those warm fuzzy feelings cannot be found, we believe ourselves to be abandoned without the promised comfort of the Lord.

Death is yet to be swallowed up in victory. It’s one of those finished, but not yet fulfilled, promises of scripture.

Death still stings.

And our comfort, whether we recognize it or not, is the confident assurance of every eternal promise in scripture.

That’s what comfort is—not warm fuzzy feelings.

The bereaved straddle the fence between resisting any explanation for the too soon parting of those they love and embracing the comfort the exact same scriptures provide in anticipation of their own death.

img_3173-1A fellow loss Mom recently shared Acts 13:36 with me. It says that when David had served his purpose (and in at least one translation—when he fulfilled God’s will) for his generation, he fell asleep and was buried (and my least favorite part) saw decay. That verse is immediately followed by one that tells us that Jesus never saw decay, which is, of course, the reason we can be assured that this parting is only temporary for those who are in Christ. Isaiah 57:1 says (I’m paraphrasing again here) that when good men die, no one understands that God is rescuing them from the evil to come.

When I think of those two verses together, knowing that this world is filled with evil that touches us every single day, I have to believe that God does not dilly dally, He does not let the children He loves linger and languish in this world of sin, one moment beyond the point in time when they have served their purpose in their generation. I believe that our final day is preordained so that we are not exposed to the sin of this world and denied the pleasures of Heaven, for one moment longer than required to fulfill God’s chosen purpose for our individual lives.

IMG_6453I’m making a bit of an assumption here but really, is that not consistent with the nature and character of God? Why would the long-suffering God of 2 Peter 3:9, who holds back the second coming of the Lord for the sake of that one final sinner to receive salvation, allow a single one of His children to live in a world tainted by sin one moment beyond the fulfillment of their worldly purpose? Not only does Heaven and all its wonders await the believer but don’t you think God the Father, and Jesus Christ His son, have longed for and lived in anticipation of their first face to face meeting with each of us?

Is it so hard to imagine that possibility?

Scripture tells us that everything created was created for God. We are His treasure. The apple of His eye. He has heard His children cry out in desperation, “Where are you?”, and, “How long, O Lord”, time and time again.  In response, He has drawn near to us and spoken to us, if we have ears to hear. And the Holy Spirit, who resides within, has offered comfort while Christ has interceded countless times from the throne of grace. But we, His children, have never experienced that moment when we’ve looked upon His face and seen Him as He is. We’ve never touch hands—only hearts and minds. How many times have we just wished we could talk to God face to face?

I attended a conference for bereaved parents in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in early October of this year. The conference was awesome and good for me in so many ways. I knew it would be, but the one thing that made me jump through all the hoops required to attend the conference was the opportunity to meet a fellow blogger, a fellow loss Mom and her amazing daughter, whom I had become friends with online through a grief support group. I knew Melanie and I knew Fiona before we ever met face to face. I knew their hearts and thoughts and the way they spend their days and even their nights. I knew of the challenges they face and the pain they bear and the strengths and weaknesses of their faith in God, but I didn’t really feel like I knew them until I met them face to face. Finally, I could hear the sound of their voices, watch a smile bloom or tears fill their eyes, and hug them close. The internet is a blessed substitute for a face to face relationship.

Scripture, prayer and the inhabitance of the Holy Spirit within allow us to develop a relationship with the triune God and come to know His thoughts, ways, character, love, and power. But as thankful as I am for all of that, it all pales in comparison to finally meeting face to face.

I know it sounds as if meeting God is far more exciting for us than it is for Him, but truly, if we were created for His pleasure (as scripture tells us) don’t you think our pleasure brings Him pleasure?

Have you ever bought an extravagant gift for a loved one that they’ve wished for but never really expect to receive? It’s a total pipedream. Pure fantasy. You scrimp and save, purchase it, wrap it and maybe even plan a special way to give the gift and throughout the entire process, your excitement grows and grows. But the greatest enjoyment comes the moment they open it, squeal and jump up and down, or fall to their knees in shock and pleasure when they receive it.

Can you imagine that the God in whose image we were made, might actually feel that same way about that first moment He meets us face to face? That He anticipates seeing your excitement and awestruck pleasure at the sight of Heaven—His gift, His reward—prepared specifically for you? Can you imagine His rumbling laughter as you leap around, hugging Him and the loved ones who have gone before and gathered for your welcome home party? Can you picture it? Can you imagine the joy He feels at finally having you home where you belong?

As Lisa, my Life Group Leader, reminded the women’s class at church Sunday, our individual lives touch innumerable other lives. We may never know the purpose and power of those individual touch points. A brief conversation with a stranger in a grocery store gives hope to a hurting heart. The man who sweeps the floors in your office sees the way you treat others, and unbeknownst to you, it makes a lasting, behavior altering, difference because you modeled your Savior and it’s completely unlike anything he has seen before. How amazing is it to think that all those seemingly insignificant encounters have a God-ordained purpose? They all matter – not a little but a lot! Somehow, the most minor and innocuous of interactions believers have with others are necessary, absolutely necessary (can you grasp that?) for the fulfillment of God’s purposes? When a loved one lingers in a less than comfortable condition you can be sure God only allows it because His child has not yet fulfilled His eternal purpose for his generation. That knowledge doesn’t make watching our loved ones suffer hurt less, but it does remind us how incredibly valuable every life actually is for all eternity. Every moment, every encounter is highly significant.

I am comforted to know, that the God the Amplified Version of the Bible says exercises extraordinary patience toward the lost sinner also does not delay in rescuing His children from the evil of this world. He doesn’t wait to bestow the reward of Heaven or the ultimate joy of that first face to face meeting our hearts long for. God, in the act of forming us in our mother’s wombs, foresaw the moment yet to come in your life and mine, when we will finally fulfill the entirety of our purpose in this generation and numbered our days to coincide with that precise moment.

You will not likely find this bereaved mother oozing warm fuzzy feelings about this truth, but it is a consolation my mind appreciates and clings to, embraces and even finds fantastically awe-inspiring. It is an intellectual comfort to my grief-ravaged heart.

I hope it is for you too.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2017 in Faith, Grief

 

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A Birthday Lament

What We Ain’t Got by Jake Owens

I relate to this song – the lyrics – on so many levels. It’s Bethany’s Birthday. The singer, Jake Owens, is lamenting a lost girlfriend. Everyday I lament the children I’ve lost and Gracen’s degenerating health. How I long for what I once had! What I wouldn’t trade for the lives and health of my children! Cole, Bethany and Katie have moved on into their eternal futures, but I stagnate here filled with longing for what once was and what should have been. It’s true, “I wanted the world until my whole world stopped. . . ” It’s in those moments and the excruciating hours, days, weeks, months, and years when all of life is distilled down to the most important things – relationships and salvation of the soul. You don’t forget and you definitely don’t stop loving those who have moved on without you. 

No, you just desperately long for what you ain’t got!


Partial Lyrics below:

Third Verse
We all wish it didn’t hurt,
When you try your best and it doesn’t work,
And goodbye’s such a painful word,
We all wish it didn’t hurt.

Bridge
All I want is what I had,
I’d trade it all just to get her back,
She’s moving on, but I guess I’m not.
We all want what we ain’t got.

Ending
I wanted the world until my whole world stopped,
You know a love like that ain’t easily forgot.
I guess we all want what we ain’t got. 

 
Four years of longing . . . 

She should be 24. 

I had been married a year by that time. 

I think of all she’s missed out on in the last four years. Oh, I know that’s not technically true – as she lived every minute of her ordained days (Psalm 139:16). But my heart refuses to release what could have – what should have been – if we were not living in a fallen world. 

In the last four years I have prayed, thought, and felt these things:  

“How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, Having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?” ~ Psalm 13:1-2

“Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; My eye is wasted away from grief, my soul and my body also.” ~ Psalm 31:9

“Why did I ever come forth from the womb To look on trouble and sorrow, . . . ?” ~ Jeremiah 20:18

 
And I have wondered why I have suffered sorrow upon sorrow. Why the Lord would not raise my children up (which I think has to do with the fact that Christ is no longer on earth. He is not performing miracles to fulfill the prophecies in order to verify His deity. That has already been established). Still my heart’s desire was to hear Him say “Arise!”, or “She is not dead, but asleep!”  

“Now as He approached the gate of the city, a dead man was being carried out, the          only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, “Do not weep.” And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise!”” ~ Luke 7:12-14

“Now they were all weeping and lamenting for her; but He said, “Stop weeping, for she has not died, but is asleep.”” ~ Luke 8:52

“For indeed he [Epaphroditus – who labored with Paul for the gospel] was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.” ~ Philippians 2:27

 

But, alas, it was not to be. I must await God’s promise of redemption and reunion. I will mourn, wait, watch and endure for the joy set before me. And I will remember. . . 

“Bethany’s Song” written and performed by Emma Nilsson is a perfect way to remember and celebrate the woman Bethany was.

Bethany’s Song by Emma Nilsson

Complete Lyrics:  

She walked with a purpose,
strong head on her shoulders,
her laugh was infectious,
and those who know her know,
that she was fierce and fun combined.

She smiled as bright as she could allow,
She dreamed she loved she danced on clouds,
And those who know her know,
That she was walking sunshine.

Oh, Bethany,
It’s not how it’s supposed to be
But remembering you smiling, laughing, and oh so happy
Holds us in this tragedy.
Oh, Bethany,
We will love you for eternity.

She liked colors, especially in hair
She spoke her views without a care,
and to say she was bright
Wouldn’t quite justify her right.

And she found a love so strong,
Something so special when your young,
And the love is still alive
Through her spirit that flies.

Oh, Bethany
It’s not how it’s supposed to be
But remembering you smiling, laughing, and oh so happy
Holds us in this tragedy.
Oh, Bethany,
We will love you for eternity.

Oh, and it’s not fair,
Can’t be justified.
I could scream and shout
Cause this ain’t right.
But it wouldn’t be the light to shine,
On Bethany, 
Cause Bethany,

You walked with a purpose,
Strong head on your shoulders,
Your laugh was infectious,
And everyone who knows you knows this,
You deserved the best, 
Deserved happiness,
Which is what was there before this tragic death,
But you’ll always be, 
Our Bethany,
You’ll always be.

Oh, Bethany, 
You’ll always be.
We’ll always love you,
Always love you.

 

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 2, 2017 in Grief, Links, Music

 

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Tonight I Wanna Cry

Tonight I Wanna Cry, Keith Urban

Katie should be turning twenty this coming Thursday, October 19, 2017. I can’t even imagine the woman she would have grown into had she survived to see that day. 

I find myself so very sad – absolutely heartbroken that the days I could imagine a future for her are gone. 

This song is about a breakup – she left him – walked away. 

I know Katie didn’t walk away. . . but this sentiment still rings true in my heart, “The way that it was and could have been surrounds me” . . . 

Oh, how it hurts that what could have been will never be!

Lyrics

Alone in this house again tonight
I got the TV on, the sound turned down and a bottle of wine
There’s pictures of you and I on the walls around me
The way that it was and could have been surrounds me
I’ll never get over you walkin’ away

I’ve never been the kind to ever let my feelings show
And I thought that bein’ strong meant never losin’ your self-control
But I’m just drunk enough to let go of my pain
To hell with my pride, let it fall like rain
From my eyes
Tonight I wanna cry

Would it help if I turned a sad song on
“All By Myself” would sure hit me hard now that you’re gone
Or maybe unfold some old yellow lost love letters
It’s gonna hurt bad before it gets better
But I’ll never get over you by hidin’ this way

I’ve never been the kind to ever let my feelings show
And I thought that bein’ strong meant never losin’ your self-control
But I’m just drunk enough to let go of my pain
To hell with my pride, let it fall like rain
From my eyes
Tonight I wanna cry

I’ve never been the kind to ever let my feelings show
And I thought that bein’ strong meant never losin’ your self-control
But I’m just drunk enough to let go of my pain
To hell with my pride, let it fall like rain
From my eyes
Tonight I wanna cry


There’s no bottle of wine, I’m not drunk, and pride be damned, I just want to let go of all this pain, to let it fall like rain because all I want to do is cry. 

To cry out all the sadness and sorrow. . . 

all the regrets, longing and missed opportunities. . . 

 to release all those painful emotions like an exhaled breath . . . 

hoping that the next breath I draw will miraculously infuse my heart and mind with the peace that so often feels beyond my reach.

I just want to cry!

How I miss when we were us!

When Katie was mine to enjoy up close and personal.

The echoes of her laughter are fading. 

The feel of her hand in mine a distant memory. 

And silence reigns where chatter once filled every corner of my home.

I so much miss her presence. Her smile. Her – and who we were when she was here – when we were Us.


This is what the Lord says: “A sound was heard in Ramah. It was painful crying and much sadness. Rachel cries for her children. And she cannot be comforted, because her children are dead!” ~ Jeremiah 31:15 ICB

Like Rachel, there are days that I simply can’t be comforted. Days I refuse to be comforted because all but one of my children are dead! I could shroud their deaths in more positive language. I could say they are “living eternally” instead of using the harsh language of death. I could refer to the day of their deaths as their Heaven Date. But, I don’t want to use pretty words to disguise the painful reality that “they are no more”, as some Bible translations describe Rachel’s children. They are gone, not lost with the hope of being found and returned to me. They are dead and my heart wails out it’s despair.

Heaven is richer for Katie’s presence, but this world is far, far poorer in her absence. 

I can’t celebrate her presence in Heaven with any real sincerity because I am not yet a resident there. Instead, I struggle to find a way to celebrate what was, while living in this painful vacuum of her absence. 

It was never supposed to be like this and I desperately miss when she was mine!

Keith Urban & Miranda Lambert, When We Were Us

 

Partial Lyrics

God, I miss when you were mine

Back when that song was a song
I could sing along without thinkin bout you every time it came on
Every beat, every line, every word, every time
When a road was a road
I could roll on through without wishin that empty seat was you
Money was gas, dreams were dust
Love was fast and we were us

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in Grief, Links, Music

 

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What is the Harvest of Tears?

Photo credit belongs to FreeBibleImages.org

 
My friend Melanie recently published a blogpost based upon Psalm 126:5-6, which reads, 

5 Those who walk the fields to sow, casting their seed in tears,
    will one day tread those same long rows, amazed by what’s appeared.

6 Those who weep as they walk and plant with sighs Will return singing with joy, when they bring home the harvest.

Psalm 126:5-6

In brief, it’s an important discussion about choosing to cling to God in obedient faith instead of the temporal things of this world (including those we love). Follow the link below to read this short post about costly obedience.

Costly Obedience | The Life I Didn’t Choose

Psalm 126:5-6 has long been a verse dear to my heart. It was a promise I could cling to after Cole’s death. I inscribed it across the bottom of every birth announcement mailed when Bethany Joy arrived 17 months after her brother was stillborn. She was the literal manifestation of the harvest from my promise keeping heavenly Father, but . . . and this is important. . . 

really important. . . 

the joyful harvest was never dependent upon her survival. 

Before she was ever born I understood, I was painfully aware in fact, and very very fearful, that the harvest greeted with joyful singing might only occur in Heaven. I believe that one day Cole will be a part of my long awaited harvest. I believed that then and I believe it now.

They that sow in tears will reap in joy (KJV) was the mantra that circulated though my mind throughout the duration my pregnancy. Others were quick to tell me that everything would be okay this time . . . which frustrated me beyond belief. 

To speak your fear out loud, to have it validated as a legitimate concern, loosens fear’s suffocating grip because you are no longer the only steward of truth. 

Two things allow fear to grow, isolated silence, and flippant dismissal. 

What I needed was someone to acknowledge the truth that while it was unlikely that I would lose another child, there were no guarantees that I would not leave the hospital empty handed once more. Over the course of three subsequent pregnancies, I never again counted my chickens before they hatched. There was always a part of my heart held in reserve – the part where naïveté was replaced with frank reality. 

There were other verses that competed for my attention among the cacophony of swirling thoughts and fears during my pregnancy. One of significance was Psalm 127:3 – specifically the King James Version. The Bible translation in this instance is important because different versions appear to communicate different things. Check out the versions below and see if you agree:

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.” King James Version

“Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” New Living Translation 

Twenty-five years ago I wasn’t spending much time comparing Bible translations. Instead I meditated upon scripture as it was presented in my personal study Bible. I struggled to understand exactly what it meant to be “an heritage of the LORD.” But the last half of the verse impacted me most. I meditated on the King James translation and understood it literally as it was written . . .”the fruit of the womb is HIS reward”, not “[children] are a reward FROM Him.” Such a small but significant difference. I interpreted that phrase to mean that my children were literally His prize. And when you consider that in relation to Colossians 1:16b, it makes perfect sense:

“. . . all things were created by him, and for him:” (KJV)

He created Cole, Bethany, Katie, Gracen, David (my husband) and me for Himself. 

The NLT version of Psalms 127:3, it tells me that my children were created by Him as a gift to me – a reward for something I’ve done. 

Maybe both translations are correct (although it’s hard to understand how one earns the reward of parenthood). Many times I have found that scripture has a broader meaning than I initially was able to comprehend. Regardless, I approached Bethany’s birth with fear and trepidation reminding myself that the fruit of the womb is His reward, not mine. Who’s to say if my rejoicing would take place this side of heaven? God knows there are plenty of parents who have planted their seed, their children, back into the soil beneath their feet and are anxiously and sorrowfully enduring the wait for the harvest of our eternal souls. 

I don’t know about anyone else but I am so very weary of sowing in tears. Recent events in our country lead me to believe that I am not the only one who feels this way.

As Melanie’s post makes clear, we can either cling to the things of this world or to God in faithful obedience. 

I don’t think I am clinging tightly to my loved ones anymore. I think the futility of that practice has sunken deep into the very marrow of my bones. My palm is open, primarily because grasping to hold onto that which can so easily be snatched from it, is as exhausting as it is futile. 

But . . . I’m not quite sure that I am clinging to Jesus either. 

It “feels” as if I am clinging to His promises more than to the promise keeping Savior, Himself. 

The nuance nags at me. 

I can’t decide if I’m splitting hairs or if, in fact, at least one more scary and deeply painful trip through the Refiner’s fire will be required in order to strip away every last thing I might latch onto in place of God Himself. 

Am I living in obedience or desperately grasping for anything . . . anything . . . that makes me “feel” better instead of actually getting better? 

Promises make me feel better. 

The Savior . . . well it’s complicated. 

It’s easier, less painful, to anchor myself to His promises instead of to the God who allowed the deep wounds in the first place.

I know that God is the guarantor of every promise. 

I know that the Holy Spirit serves as the earnest deposit securing my soul.

I know I can have confidence in His promises because of who God is, but I’m not confident that clinging to His promises is the same as clinging to Him.

In fact, I think they are two distinctly different things.

Has my heart rejected Christ in favor of His promises because I associate Him with the deep wounds that have been inflicted upon my heart?

Do I subconsciously blame God for the events that took my children from me and for the progressive disease that is systematically destroying Gracen’s body, instead of blaming the Devil, my true adversary and the author of lies who relentlessly seeks whom he might destroy?

Truthfully, the idea that I blame God for Satan’s actions doesn’t feel accurate. 

I honestly believe (know to be true) that sin and Satan and the fall of man are to blame for all my suffering, but it’s harder to determine if I harbor animosity and resentment toward my Savior for choosing not to intervene and thwart the plans of the enemy. 

I don’t want to look too closely. 

I don’t want to examine my heart!

Yet the questions beg an answer.

Am I resentfully resigned to the sovereignty of God? 

Am I clinging to animosity instead of acceptance? 

And then I ponder . . . 

Are resignation and acceptance the same thing? Does it matter?

Both recognize that there are things beyond our control but resignation is perceived in a negative light, as a defeatist attitude, because of its association with quitting or giving up a job, for example. (Not that leaving a job is a negative experience, just that “I resign” can be stated just as accurately as, “I quit”). On the other hand, acceptance is perceived in a more favorable light because we associate it with positive things. We accept a gift or a job. It carries a connotation of approval. We accept an individual into our circle of friends. 

Research tells me that both resignation and acceptance are synonyms for acquiescence (reluctant agreement). In my opinion, a good definition for resignation is unresisting submission or acquiescence whereas acceptance is well defined as willing tolerance without approval. 

I really don’t think God cares whether we accept or resign ourselves to His plans. I think He’s more concerned about the attitude with which we do either. Of the questions above, resentment and animosity matter more to God than resignation or acceptance.

Still these questions swirl around inside, and I find myself reminded that the heart is deceitfully wicked, that no one other than God knows and understands it. (Jeremiah 17:9)

So, It’s not surprising that I can’t unequivocally answer those questions.

I can’t resolve the confusion in my heart over clinging to God’s promises or clinging to God Himself, or even correctly discerning my feelings toward God as a result of the circumstances in my life. It’s not that I want to ignore those issues because I think they are important. But, my introspective nature has led me to decide that the confusion is irrelevant because I know that the Refiner of Silver, Almighty God, will not allow ugly impurities to hide unacknowledged, even in minuscule quantities, within the silver of my soul. The God who created and loves me is never satisfied with anything less than what’s best for me. He takes me places I have no desire to go, even if I sow in tears every step of the way – for my eternal good. 

Always and only for my eternal good.

And when God works in your life, His goals are the same as they are for mine. They may play out through very different circumstances, but whatever He allows to transpire in your life, even if those things result in tears, will always and only be for your eternal good.

For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 1:6 Berean Study Bible

The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands. ~ Psalm 138:8 New American Standard Bible

He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. ~ 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 Berean Study Bible

We are all the fruit of the womb. God, Himself, sowed in tears when He sent His son to the cross. Everything that is for our eternal good increases the harvest – the labor of God’s heart and hands – you and I are God’s reward. 

We are the harvest of tears.


By the way, in regards to resignation or acceptance –  acceptance may sound more positive but I’d rather respond to God in unresisting submission and acquiescence than I would in willing tolerance without approval. That’s just the rebellious way I roll!

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2017 in Faith, Grief, Links, Muscular Dystrophy

 

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Fear Not! – Biblical Command or Invitation?

I am intimately familiar with fear, but I am no longer consumed by it. These days when fear rears its ugly head it is quickly overtaken by resignation (the acknowledgment that I am not able to change some things) and acceptance (the knowledge that God’s plans trump my desires every time – and rightly so) and the hope of eternity (the assurance that what befalls me in this world is not the end of the story). I know the Bible repeatedly tells us not to be afraid, but I think that has less to do with fear being sinful than it does with God’s acknowledgement that fear is the natural response to a perceived threat. 

God knows we will repeatedly confront fear in this life!

Fear is often the impetus that leads us to reach out to God. And maybe God tells us not to be afraid because when we call out to Him we have summoned the most powerful entity in all existence, therefore there is no need to be afraid. He is the giant that steps between us and that which we fear. Instead of interpreting, “Fear not!”, as a command we are all too prone to fail to implement, maybe we should instead interpret it as a gentle reminder or reassurance. Maybe,”Don’t be afraid. I’m here. I can take care of this. Nothing is too difficult for Me.”, is a better translation than “Fear not!” Of course I lean toward wordiness (which is why I think the Amplified Version of the Bible is the all-time best Bible translation) and “Fear not!” is unarguably concise. But I also think Biblical saints were frequently told not to be afraid because a great big, glowing angel appeared before them and having never seen one they were reasonably terrified. The greeting, “Fear not!”, may have effectively snapped a terrified individual out of their adrenaline induced fight, flight or freeze response. 

This world is filled with very real dangers. In some ways fear is a gift to us from God who loves us. Fear inspires us to be aware of our surroundings and often prevents us from blindly walking into trouble. The admonition to fear not may have a more robust meaning than those two simple words imply. I think what goes unsaid is the reason why God encourages not to be afraid and the truth that He is not disappointed in believers when they are frightened. God does not want us to be consumed or crippled by fear. He certainly doesn’t want us to be paralyzed by fear. He absolutely doesn’t want us to be controlled by fear. In 1 Peter 5:8 we are told,

“Be sober [well balanced and self-disciplined], be alert and cautious at all times. That enemy of yours, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion [fiercely hungry], seeking someone to devour. ~ AMP

When we interpret the occurrences of “fear not” in the Bible as commands we set ourselves up for failure. Conquering fear is not accomplished by positive self-talk. Maya Banks in her book, Hidden Away, distilled this overlooked and dismissed truth in one short sentence,

 “We can’t turn it [fear] off just by realizing we shouldn’t be afraid.” 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that God commands us not to be afraid. But that just didn’t sit right with me (primarily because I felt it was not something I could do by sheer force of will). So I set out to google the Greek and Hebrew definitions of the word “fear” to determine the original intent of the word and I inadvertently stumbled upon the definition according to the Holman Bible Dictionary. Below you will find the portion of that definition that applies to the phrase “fear not”:

“Fear not” The expression “fear not” (also translated “do not fear” or “do not be afraid”) is an invitation to confidence and trust. When used without religious connotation (15 times), “fear not” is an expression of comfort. These words come from an individual to another providing reassurance and encouragement (Genesis 50:21 ; Ruth 3:11 ; Psalm 49:16 ). When “fear not” is used in a religious context (60 times), the words are an invitation to trust in God. These words appear in the context of the fear and terror that follows divine revelation. God invites His people not to be afraid of Him (Genesis 15:1 ; Genesis 26:24 ); the angel of the Lord seeks to calm an individual before a divine message is communicated (Daniel 10:12 ,Daniel 10:12,10:19 ; Luke 1:13 ,Luke 1:13,1:30 ); a person acting as a mediator of God invites the people to trust in God (Moses, Deuteronomy 31:6 ; Joshua, Joshua 10:25 ). ~ Holman Bible Dictionary, Claude F. Mariottini

Now that makes more sense to me. An invitation to trust, not a command. An expression of reassurance, encouragement and comfort. 

Conquering fear requires a conscious decision on our part, and I personally believe, the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. I have become increasingly aware of my utter dependence, my desperate need, of the intervention of the Holy Spirit in order to live the Christian life as God intends. . . The Christian life was designed to be one of cooperation between the believer and the Holy Spirit. Psalms 56:3 tells us what our part of that cooperative effort to overcome fear entails. Since different Bible translations often provide a more comprehensive understanding of scripture, below are several versions that present nuanced interpretations of the same verse.

 When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. ~ New American Standard Bible

Even when I am afraid, I still trust you. ~ GOD’S WORD® Translation

From the height of the day I shall fear: but I will trust in thee. ~ Douay-Rheims Bible

In the day that I am afraid, I will confide in thee. ~ Darby Bible Translation

The day I am afraid I am confident toward Thee. ~ Young’s Literal Translation

One thing Psalm 56:3 makes abundantly clear is that we all experience fear regardless of the depth of our faith. Fear and trust, faith and fear, are not mutually exclusive. 

The NASB represents the most common translation of Psalm 56:3, but I love how the God’s World translation acknowledges that fear and trust coexist. I love that the Douala-Rheims Bible makes it clear that fear will always plague us. I love that the Darby Bible Translation reduces trust to the act of confiding our fears to the One who is able to do something about them. And I love that Young’s Literal Translation expresses both fear and confidence simultaneously. 

Take a look at what the Pulpit Commentary says about this verse:

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee; literally, the day when I am afraid. When the day comes that I feel fear stealing over me, by an act of will I (even I, weak as I am) will put my trust in thee (comp. Psalm 7:1; Psalm 11:1; Psalm 18:2, etc.).”

Of course any discussion of fear and faith is incomplete without addressing 1 John 4:18, 

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” – KJV

I don’t know about you but when this verse is tossed out, I often feel condemned. It’s presented as if fear can be eradicated from our lives – as if we are capable of attaining the goal of perfect love. I’ve pretty much concluded that anytime the word perfect is placed before an adverb in the Bible and contextually applies to humans instead of God, it is a quality that I will not be capable of achieving this side of heaven. The Pulpit Commentary seems to agree in a much more theologically comprehensive manner.

“Love here means the principle of love in general; it must not be limited to God’s love to us, or our love to God, or our love of the brethren. Love and fear coexist only where love is not yet perfect. Perfect love will absolutely exclude fear as surely as perfect union excludes all separation. It is self-interested love that fears; pure and unselfish love has no fear. . . To cease to fear without attaining to perfect love is to be irreverent and presumptuous [taking unwarrantable liberties with Almighty God]. Hence the apostle is . . . pointing out an ideal to which Christians must aspire, but to which no one attains in this life.”

Casting Crowns, Oh My Soul, reminds us that when fear encounters almighty God, God will be victorious over it if we confide in Him* and place our trust in Him with confident assurance that He will hear us and perform that which is for our eternal good. And that last bit about God performing what is best for our eternal good, that’s the kicker right there. Fear keeps us in its clutches when our humanity demands that which is for our earthly good over surrendering to that which is for our eternal good.

Overcoming fear is not a battle – it’s an all out war made up of numerous individual squirmishes. Understanding that truth prevents us from the self-condemnation that leaves us feeling defeated and more inclined to quit trying. But knowing we will live to fight another day and recognizing that we are in fact gaining ground on the enemy, builds confidence and encourages us to persevere. 

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]” ~ John 16:33 AMP

Here is the story behind Oh My Soul:


The Story Behind Oh My Soul

And here’s the official lyric video:


Oh My Soul Official Lyric Video

I hope both will bless and encourage you. 

Soldier on Saint!

*It should be noted that confiding in God may necessitate repeated conversations on the topic. I can’t tell you specifically why that may be the case although a number of theological explanations have been discerned by numerous Biblical scholars. That’s a topic for another day. However, there are times I think revisiting the conversation in prayer peels away unknown beliefs and misconceptions about God’s love and enables us to uncover the true root of our fears. I know from my own experience that praying and making a conscious decision to trust God has not frequently resulted in the much longed for peace that passes all understanding. Maybe that’s because I haven’t yet succeeded in consistently keeping my thoughts fixed on God (Isaiah 26:3).

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2017 in Faith

 

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Elijah, Why Are You Here?

Photo credit belongs to FreeBibleimages.org

At some point in the last three years the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal became a focus of study for me. Talk about a mountaintop experience! But, what really grabbed my attention – what I’ve mulled over in my mind countless times since – is what happened after God demonstrated His power above and beyond any idol created in human hearts and by their hands. The story of Elijah and the prophets is found in 1 Kings 18. But look with me to the next chapter . . . 

1 Kings 19 New Century Version (NCV)*

1 “King Ahab told Jezebel every thing Elijah had done and how Elijah had killed all the prophets with a sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “May the gods punish me terribly if by this time tomorrow I don’t kill you just as you killed those prophets.”

3 When Elijah heard this, he was afraid and ran for his life, taking his servant with him. When they came to Beersheba in Judah, Elijah left his servant there. 4 Then Elijah walked for a whole day into the desert. He sat down under a bush and asked to die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he prayed. “Let me die. I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and slept.”

Huh? Did a prophet of the Lord just ask to die? Did he then just lay down and sleep? In this modern day a certified counselor would recognize this behavior as indicative of depression. Maybe even PTSD. He did, after all, slaughter the numerous prophets of Baal with his sword. Doing the right thing doesn’t exempt us from the physical and mental fallout of our actions. But aside from that, we just don’t expect our biblical heroes to be human enough to wish for death, do we? And you know what, we are appalled when a modern day believer expresses the same desire.

Around March of 2014, about three months after Bethany and Katie died, I received a phone call from my father. In those intervening months between December and March David and I had been caring for Gracen in ways we had never done before. There were pain meds, belly shots, bed pans, sponge baths, and two person transfers since her right leg was encased in an imobilizer as she recovered from the injuries she received in the accident that killed her sisters. David was unemployed and the bills started rolling in. We were exhausted on about every level possible. 

My Dad, after catching up on what was happening three hours north, asked me, “How are you really doing?” To which I replied, “I’m tired. I don’t want to be here anymore. I’m just wishing for the rapture.” My Dad, bless his heart, responded, “You can’t feel that way”, and went on to tell me why.

We act as if it’s unscriptural to wish for death unless someone is suffering severe physical agony. Then it’s deemed okay to pray that God will take them home and relieve them of their suffering. But that’s not the message in scripture. 

It’s not wrong to long for your eternal home. 

It’s wrong to take it upon yourself to end your life, but not wrong to wish for death.**

What I find really interesting here is the fact that neither God nor His angel rebuked Elijah for either his actions or his feelings. Instead, God sent an angel to minister to Elijah. See for yourself:

“5b Suddenly an angel came to him and touched him. “Get up and eat,” the angel said. 6 Elijah saw near his head a loaf baked over coals and a jar of water, so he ate and drank. Then he went back to sleep.”

Elijah went back to sleep! And the angel just let him. There were no recriminations. No get up!, Do something! messages from on high. No count your blessings rebuke. Neither God nor His Angel had one word to say to Elijah about his desire for death. 

Not one word.

And the story continues . . .

7 “Later the Lord’s angel came to him a second time. The angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat. If you don’t, the journey will be too hard for you.” 8 So Elijah got up and ate and drank. The food made him strong enough to walk for forty days and nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. 9a There Elijah went into a cave and stayed all night.”

Okay, so here’s what we know. God sent an angel twice to Elijah and each time the angel came with food and water. We also know that at the second visitation the angel told Elijah he needed the nourishment so he’d have the strength to make a journey. What we don’t know is if Elijah was planning the journey or if God instructed the angel to tell Elijah to get his butt to Mount Sinai. I’m leaning toward the idea that Elijah had rested and decided, if God won’t come to me, I’m going to Him. Maybe he wanted an answer to his request that badly. (And I wonder if he was such a mess that he would have ventured off without the provisions necessary to physically make the trip). 

Regardless, it bears mentioning that in all the time between Elijah’s run to escape Jezebel, his request to die, the angel’s first visit, the second visit, and the 40 day journey, God is silent. 

He’s silent.

And it seems Elijah was too. 

I suppose you could say that Elijah had said his piece in back in verse four, “I’ve had enough. Let me die.”. and he didn’t believe it bore repeating.

Finally, God speaks. 

I don’t know about you but God didn’t say anything I might have expected Him to say. He simply asked Elijah a question. 

9b “. . . “Elijah! Why are you here?”

And when you consider that God knows all, isn’t it interesting that He extends an invitation to Elijah to explain himself? 

And you know what? That wasn’t the first time in recorded history that God interacted with His children that way. Way back in the garden of Eden, God questioned Adam. “Where are you?”, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The angel of the Lord questioned Hagar on two separate occasions. “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” “What ails you, Hagar?” God questioned Jonah too (who, by the way, also wished for death), “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 

Sometimes we don’t really know what we think and feel until the right question is asked. We are filled with angst but incapable of expressing our thoughts and feelings with words. 

A year and a half after Bethany and Katie died, I was visiting with my brother-in-law and he asked me, “Why do you like to read?” I responded that reading enabled me to escape the constantly churning thoughts in my mind. It wasn’t until later that I realized I hadn’t answered the question before me in the spirit it was intended. The majority of bereaved individuals contemplate every thought through the filter of grief. Grief brain some call it. And that’s exactly what I had done. 

Following the collision, reading was an effective distraction for me. It filled my mind with thoughts unrelated to death and the minutiae of health, legal, financial and insurance issues. I needed that, but I’ve had a lifelong enjoyment of the written word. It takes me places I will never visit in this lifetime. It increases knowledge. It has generated empathy for people in circumstances with which I lack experience. It makes me laugh and cry and question and it promotes understanding and compassion. That’s why I like to read. That’s the answer my brother-in-law was expecting. That’s what he wanted to know.

Likewise, Elijah didn’t answer the question God asked either. He filtered God’s question through fatigue, fear and discouragement. 

10 He answered, “Lord God All-Powerful, I have always served you as well as I could. But the people of Israel have broken their agreement with you, destroyed your altars, and killed your prophets with swords. I am the only prophet left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

11 The Lord said to Elijah, “Go, stand in front of me on the mountain, and I will pass by you.” Then a very strong wind blew until it caused the mountains to fall apart and large rocks to break in front of the Lord . But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a quiet, gentle sound. 13a When Elijah heard it, he covered his face with his coat and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.”

What on earth was all that about? A tornado followed by an earthquake and then fire. Could it be God wanted Elijah to realize that not only was He near, but He wasn’t angry with him? Every one of those natural disasters are frequently equated with the wrath of God. But God wasn’t in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. No, God showed up in a quiet, gentle sound. 

13b Then a voice said to him, “Elijah! Why are you here?”

14 He answered, “Lord God All-Powerful, I have always served you as well as I could. But the people of Israel have broken their agreement with you, destroyed your altars, and killed your prophets with swords. I am the only prophet left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

I wonder if “why are you here?”, really translates to, “Elijah, talk to me! Tell me what you’re thinking. Are there questions you want to ask me?”

Back in verse four, Elijah was pretty clear about what he was asking for. He told the Lord he’d had enough and asked to die. But face-to-face, so to speak, Elijah didn’t ask to die. Instead he just reiterated his discouragement and fear. He also didn’t change his response following a show of God’s power either (maybe the purpose of the wind, earthquake and fire was to demonstrate God’s power in order to encourage Elijah by showing him that He had the ability to protect him from all those who sought his life). 

I wonder, did God repeat His question to give Elijah an opportunity to decide if he had it in him to continue serving as a prophet? It’s like asking, “Is that what you really want, Elijah, to quit? Make sure that’s really what you want. Say it out loud so there are no misunderstandings.” And Elijah’s response put in motion the ordination of Elisha to take Elijah’s place.

Wow, that speaks to me!

I also think the fact that Elijah replies to God exactly the same way he did the first time the question was asked is telling. The wind, the earthquake, the fire and the quiet gentle voice did nothing to change Elijah’s perspective regarding ministry and life. Is not God’s passing by Elijah synonymous with God showing Moses His glory? 

This was no minor event in Elijah’s relationship with God. It was a big fat deal when God passed by. It’s not something He routinely did. And yet Elijah is . . . underwhelmed. I don’t get the impression that Elijah was at all impressed with this Devine visitation. 

I do, however, get the distinct impression that Elijah was completely world weary. 

He was done. 

And God knew it.

Yes, God assigned Elijah new tasks, but they were passing the baton tasks not carry on tasks.

15 The Lord said to him, “Go back on the road that leads to the desert around Damascus. Enter that city, and pour olive oil on Hazael to make him king over Aram. 16 Then pour oil on Jehu son of Nimshi to make him king over Israel. Next, pour oil on Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to make him a prophet in your place. 

Notice how Elijah responds to Elisha’s request to return to his parents to tell them good-bye after anointing Elisha his successor in 1 Kings 19:20:

“Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?” 

“What have I done to you?”, is the most common way various versions of the Bible translate Elijah’s response, but here are a few others:

“Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.” ~ NLT

“Go back,” Elijah answered him. “I’m not stopping you.” ~ GOD’S WORLD Translation

“And he said to him: Go, and return back: for that which was my part, I have done to thee.” ~ Douay-Rheims Translation

The first time I read Elijah’s response it was in a translation that read, “Go back. What have I done to you?” I came away with the impression that Elijah didn’t really care what Elisha did following his anointing. It reinforced my impression that Elijah’s tank was empty. 

I am no Bible scholar, but how God handled Elijah’s request for death, both in what He said and did, and what He didn’t say and do, made an impression on me. 

And then comes 2 Kings chapter 2 . . . but before we get to that let’s backtrack a little.

I know many pastors, preachers and theologians believe the events described in 1 Kings 19 indicate that Elijah lacked faith, but that’s not what I see at all. Nowhere does it indicate that Elijah thought that God was incapable of caring for him, in fact, his response indicates the exact opposite. Twice in Elijah’s reply to God’s question he refers to God as the “Lord God All-Powerful”. 

Elijah didn’t lack faith in what God could do. He feared what God would allow. 

And why wouldn’t he? He certainly wasn’t a fool. He knew how all the prophets that came before him died. They were killed by the sword – by God’s own people. They killed the messenger because they didn’t like the message. 

Elijah didn’t think too highly of himself. He didn’t expect a better end because of his service for the Lord. In verse four he plainly states, “I am no better than my ancestors”. 

In Elijah’s despair, God was patient and kind. He provided for Elijah’s needs and protected his life. He pursued Elijah. He didn’t minimize or rebuke him for his fear. What I see is God’s great love for His weary servant. Elijah feared a prophets common end and in God’s great and merciful love He spared Elijah not only a prophet’s demise but death altogether.

Back to 2 Kings 2 . . . I love this part!

“And it came to pass, as they [Elijah and Elisha] still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” ~ 2 Kings 2:11 KJV 

A flaming chariot is one seriously awesome ride! Don’t you agree? 

I love this glimpse into the heart of God for His world weary servant. It tells me that God will treat me with the same tender care – that I can trust that He knows when enough is enough. That I am not just a pawn for kingdom purposes. That my feelings are of great concern to the Father. And on difficult days when my heart longs for death, when the cares of this world are too much for me, I need the assurance that God responds with compassion, love and faithfulness. I need to know that in my head and my heart

I need to be able to experience Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians every single day of my life.

“16 I pray that out of the riches of His glory, He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of His love, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” ~ Ephesians 3:16-19

How I need this! 

My inner being strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

To be rooted and grounded in love. 

To comprehend the full measure of Christ’s love for me – far beyond the realms of intellectual understanding. . . 

Far beyond what the human heart and mind can grasp. 

I need a supernatural understanding of God’s love. 

That is not something I can manufacture by determination and tenacity. My individual efforts can only take me so far.

I can never be filled with the fullness of God outside of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.
 

When a believer expresses the desire for death, there are two things you should be concerned about,

1) Is this individual at risk of harming themselves?, and
2) How can I validate their feelings, while affirming their ability to continue on? 

Then you should act accordingly.

If you believe the individual is suicidal, or you are unsure, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Just do it. They can point you to local resources.

It’s better to call and have your fears allayed than it is to assume an individual will not act upon those feelings. A phone call can save a life. I can tell you horror stories of families who have suffered unspeakable pain and trauma because someone who was concerned didn’t make that call. 

Err on the side of caution!

In the majority of cases, when a desire for death is voiced by a believer, that individual has experienced great loss and/or trauma or repeated hardships and losses. That person needs a friend who listens without judgment, without rebuke, and they might need a trip to their physician. They most definitely need to know that their desire is not uncommon among deeply wounded believers and that they are in good Biblical company. 

They need to know that God understands and treats broken believers with tender care. 

The question God asked, “Elijah, Why are you here?”, could very well have been asked of me. How would I have replied had that quiet gentle voice asked me, “Janet, why are you here?” My answer probably would have sounded something like this: “I’ve done my best. I’m tired. My eyes have seen things that are impossible to scrub from my mind. Too many losses. Too much sorrow and sadness. Too much pain and too much fear. I don’t want to be here anymore. I’ve had enough!”

Since God treated world weary Elijah with such gentleness, I can expect He will do the same for me. . . 

Well, maybe not the flashy flaming chariot ride home . . .  but I could be among the generation of people who get snatched up in the rapture. 

That’s every bit as cool as a flaming chariot, in my opinion. 

Flaming horse drawn chariots are so passé!

No, feel free to beam me up Lord. I’m all over that!


*All scripture references from 1 Kings 19 are from the New Century Version translation unless otherwise noted.

**It should be noted that in 1 Kings 19:4, Elijah was not planning his demise. He wasn’t asking for permission to end it all. He was making a request of the Lord. He’d had enough. He wanted to go home. And he expressed that desire to the Lord God All-Powerful.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2017 in Faith, Grief

 

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A Day of Hope

Gracen and Hope (left to right)

Gracen’s third semester at John Brown University brought her a brand new roommate. That is when Hope (and I mean that in more ways than one) literally entered our lives. Hope is a confident, lively, opinionated, fierce and determined little thing. In a word, she’s a spitfire!

Gracen and Hope compliment each other. Gracen helps Hope keep track of things and Hope gets Gracen out in the world. But what makes Hope unique among Gracen’s friends, family and acquaintances is one singular thing. She is disabled – or uniquely-abled – as I prefer to think of it.

Gracen was born with a genetic disease known as ARSACS – a progressive neuromuscular condition which is a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. She has been wheelchair bound for the last three years as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident and the progression of her disease. 

Hope was born with Cerebral Palsy, a condition that generally occurs as a result of birth trauma. She gets around aided by two cuff canes and/or a scooter. Let me tell you, that girl can move! It’s absolutely shocking how quickly she gets from place to place with those canes.

Parents of special needs children worry about a great many things. Big things, small things and downright crazy things. That old saying that encourages people to major on the majors is really not applicable in a lot of special needs homes. That’s because things that are minor for average people are anything but for the uniquely-abled. Molehills are mountains and life demands the constant awareness of your environment or other impediments encountered in the outside world, from accessibility to socialization and adaptability. 

From the time Gracen’s disease became apparent, I have been responsible for paving the way through and around the things that hinder her progress. But there are some things a mother cannot do for their child; uniquely-abled or not. The list just seems to be longer for Special Needs Moms. Among the things I’m incapable of providing for my daughter, friendship ranks high on the list.

As a mom, I can provide opportunities for Gracen to connect with others, but I can’t make real friendships develop. Over the years I have watched from the sidelines as Gracen (and her younger sister, Katie, before her death) navigated through the quagmire of social situations. 

I’ve seen her overlooked, ridiculed behind her back (sadly by adults in some cases) and marginalized. It’s not something we openly talk about, but Gracen isn’t mentally disabled. She’s not unaware of what goes on around her nor of the motives of others.

Nobody puts Baby in a corner! ~ Dirty Dancing

Through the years, Gracen has surprised me in innumerable ways. I have watched her insert herself into activities and conversations repeatedly. There’s a line in the movie Dirty Dancing that describes Gracen well. 

If you remember the movie at all, Baby is the youngest of two daughters. The family dynamics portrayed in this film show Baby to be sidelined by the (perceived) superior talents and beauty of her older sister. Baby’s the afterthought. She resides in the shadows, or on the periphery of family interactions. Johnny, the resident bad boy recognizes this reality. And at the end of the movie, in the triumphant moment, Johnny says, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!” just before sweeping her onto the dance floor and publicly showcasing her talent.

That line, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!”, describes Gracen to a ‘T’. The only difference being that Gracen doesn’t need someone to stand up for her. She has routinely refused to be overlooked. She refuses to be relegated to the corner. I don’t think I’ve ever attended a Parent-Teacher conference where a teacher hasn’t been surprised by her outspoken class participation. I’ve seen her insert herself among her cousins at family gatherings, her peers at church and in innumerable other situations.

I really don’t think this demand for acknowledgement is a personality trait so much as it’s a subconscious response to the way society as a whole treats the disabled. It’s as if she is silently telling others that they don’t have to like her, but they will not ignore her. Hope confronts the world in the same way. Still there’s a vast difference between being acknowledged and being befriended.

In the world we live in people have all kinds of motives for the ways they interact with others. Sometimes inspired by simple curtesy, shared interests or as a ministry project. Sometimes motivated by what another can do for them. Social interaction is a complicated and messy endeavor.

However, Hope and Gracen cannot be found silently sitting on the sidelines, enabling others to pridefully pat themselves on their backs for their inclusive character or acts of service for the Lord. No, Hope and Gracen can be found at a prominent table in the center of the room living large with strong opinions and copious amounts of sassy sarcasm – holding their own and dismissing those who see them as less than others. 

And you know what? Hope and Gracen gladly invite you to their table because they have something of value to offer others, not because they have any need of help themselves. They don’t need the benevolent kindness of others (when it’s motivated by nothing more than thinly disguised pity) in lieu of true friendship.

The bottom line, of course, is that we all want to be liked and appreciated for who we are underneath all the subterfuge of human interaction. We all desire to be understood and wanted, warts and all.

Hope is her name, but it is also the gift she bestows upon Gracen and others who have found themselves living outside the norms of society. She serves as a reminder to others that their lives hold purpose and contribute to the world at large. 

Hope is not the girl who goes silently into the night. Hope sweeps in like a hurricane, disrupting and reordering the people around her. She doesn’t leave a trail of destruction behind her; but she does leave others with the awareness that she is a person, not a project. 

In Hope, Gracen found the first person who understands her from an experiential perspective. And that’s huge. 

Indescribably Huge!


They have shared attitudes, feelings and frustrations. They look at the world though a lens others cannot fathom, let alone comprehend. 

We all have a room in our hearts I refer to as the Ugly Closet. It’s the place where we hide all the feelings deemed unacceptable by society when everything within us cries out that those feelings are both reasonable and justified. When someone comes along and echoes those hurtful thoughts and feelings that door gets flung open in immediate and overwhelming relief. 

It looks a bit like that famous scene from When Harry Met Sally*, when Meg Ryan demonstrates a woman faking an orgasm in the middle of a diner (minus all the moaning and head tossing). She slaps her hand on the table emphatically shouting, “yes, Yes, YES!” in a comical portrayal of physical release. But I’ve seen that exact response (I mean the table slapping and shouting) when an individual completes the sentence, I feel like . . . the same way another would, “Oh my goodness (Slap), yes, Yes, YES (Slap)! That’s exactly how I feel (SLAP)!

That was the first gift of Hope.


“Yes, Yes, YES! (Slap)! Oh my goodness (Slap), yes, Yes, YES (Slap)! That’s exactly how I feel (SLAP)!

And those words, that sentiment, has echoed repeatedly through the air every time Hope and Gracen spend time together. Hope carries true friendship with her every time she powers her way through the front door. (She doesn’t really walk – she’s too much of a force of nature to do something so mundane).   

That’s why, anytime Hope comes to visit . . . 

I refer to it as a day of Hope.

*Okay, the When Harry Met Sally scene is not the best example (it’s kind of tacky), but I seriously couldn’t find another where the hand slapping and yes, yes, yeses were so emphatic, and that’s the image I want to leave you with, because it happens just like that.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2017 in Adversity, Muscular Dystrophy

 

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