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Great Lines in Fiction & Non-fiction Words of Note

Great Lines in Fiction & Non-fiction Words of Note

Often I find that authors speak the things my heart knows but can’t quite put into words. Words about fear, grief and prayer…Words that offer the sweet relief of knowing that my struggles, spiritual and worldly, are common across mankind. Here are several that have spoken to me. I hope you can appreciate them even if you haven’t encountered a situation where you understand them experientially.

Let’s start with non-fiction.


Non-Fiction Words of Note:

One bold message in the book of Job is that you can say anything to God. Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment — he can absorb them all. As often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with God. They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out.” ― Disappointment with God, Philip Yancey

***

When weakness meets weariness, and discouragement meets disillusionment, we must be on our guard. These are spiritually precarious moments. . . I’m finding that what I really need at this phase of life is the refreshing gospel reminder that it is precisely my weaknesses that showcase most clearly and beautifully the strength of God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9–10), and that I have need of endurance, so that when I have done the will of God I may receive what he promised (Hebrews  10:36). My weaknesses have a purpose in God’s design, and so does my weariness.”  ― Turning Fifty and Still Fighting for Faith, John Bloom

***

“Rejection steals the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst that’s been said to me.” ― Univited , Lysa TerKeurst

***

“Waking up every day and loving someone who may or may not love us back, whose safety we can’t ensure, who may stay in our lives or leave without a moment’s notice, who may be loyal to the day they die or may betray us tomorrow – that’s vulnerability.” ― Daring Greatly, Brene Brown


Great Lines in Fiction:

“I like to think that all those stars are my prayers,” whispers Charlotte. “God thinks they are so pretty he chooses to string them in the sky.” ― How Sweet It Is, Alice J. Wisler

***

“. . . the most difficult battles are not the ones fought outside the armor, but the ones within it.” ― The Prayer Box, Lisa Wingate

***

” It’s been my experience that fear doesn’t have a set of parameters. We can’t turn it off just by realizing we shouldn’t be afraid.” ― Hidden Away, Maya Banks

***

“Her mind would have accepted the facts about the deaths, done its best to shield her from the emotions of those facts. To survive it, she would have fought to keep that distance.”   ― Taken, Dee Henderson

***

“I walked over to the shoulder of the road, unsure of what I expected to see. Sirens in the distance placed a sense of urgency, but I was numb. I knew I should be feeling something, but I didn’t. Every single emotion I’d started to feel had been placed back in the vault of my soul.” ― Hidden Sins, Selena Montgomery 

***

“She needed one person besides God who knew it all, who knew her, and accepted her as she was.” . . . But she also needed friends who knew, whether in whole or in part who still unreservedly accepted her.” ― Taken, Dee Henderson

***

“Silent is always better than sorry.” ― Buried Secrets, Irene Hannon

***

If only worry could keep him safe.” ― Buried Secrets, Irene Hannon

***

“I think he’s scared to trust that someone could actually love him. That it’s not just a mistake. Simon knows all about how to love. He just doesn’t know how to be loved.” ― Daring in the Dark, Jennifer LaBrecque

***

“The urge to live was as intrinsic as it was intense. And the urge to save those she loved was stronger still. But, in the end, she’d been helpless. Infuriatingly, pathetically helpless. . .” ― Thrill Ride, Julie Ann Walker

***

“. . . finally saying the words out loud, telling the tale and admitting to the root of her fear was freeing in a way she never could have imagined. Letting someone else share in the horror of her experience, having someone hold a mirror up in front of her face so she could address the foolishness of her irrational fear, relieved her of a burden she hadn’t known she’d been carrying around like a two-ton bolder of shame.”  ― Thrill Ride, Julie Ann Walker

***

“. . . being without him made her heart heavy—it felt literally heavy, as though it had become a lifeless, leaden organ, barely worth carrying around. And everything remotely happy had an echo of pain that hurt like hell.” ― Against the Dark, Carolyn Crane

***

“. . . People always judged themselves by their intentions; they judged others by their actions.” ― Wild Thing, Robin Kaye

***

“Writing had always helped her, before. It always clarified her feelings and her thoughts, and she never felt like she could understand something fully until the very minute that she’d written about it, as if each story was one she told herself and her readers, at the same time.” ― Look Again, Lisa Scottoline

***

“Suddenly, someone who was at the center of your life is gone, excised as quickly as an apple is cored, a sharp spike driven down the center of your world, then a cruel flick of the wrist and the almost surgical extraction of your very heart.” Look Again, Lisa Scottoline

***

“Nobody was ever replaced in life, no hole completely filled or loss totally healed. You didn’t need a medical degree to know that the human body really wasn’t stronger in the broken places. Like any bone, the cracks would always show if you looked hard enough.” ― Come Home, Lisa Scottoline

***

“I’ve learned that you don’t stop loving someone just because they die. And you don’t stop loving someone who’s dead just because you start loving someone else. I know this violates the natural law that two things can’t occupy the same place at the same time, but that’s never been true of the human heart anyway.” ― Everywhere That Mary Went, Lisa Scottoline

***

TEN YEARS (A song)

“In one second, I see ten years

I picture a future of all my fears

One Blink, and I think

Losing you is like losing me.”
“Lights flash, the car spins

Every time I close my eyes I see

Broken skin and broken kin

The end of you feels like the end of me.”
There’s a scream in my soul

‘Cause I’ll never feel whole

I’m stuck in the moment. My mind’s on repeat

Trapped in an instant I can’t delete
“Time unravels, my life unspools

The future has made us all into fools 

You’re lying there, and I’m stuck in my chair

All I’m allowed to do is stare.”
We’re all slaves to the grave

Helpless to save

So we close our eyes to shut it out

Instead it becomes what we’re all about.”
“In one second, I see ten years

Can’t hold it back any more than the tears

I see black dresses, life’s stresses

Imagine the grief, loss of belief

My life unfolds as yours is untold
“Every time I close my eyes.

Every time I close my eyes.”

― Faking It, Cora Carmack

***

“I love it when you swear. It’s like a Care Bear giving someone the finger.” ― One Blazing Night, Jo Leigh

***

“So he simply said, “make sure it’s about justice and not revenge. ”

“What’s the diff?”

“Justice will keep your head straight. Revenge will skew your judgement.”  ― Wild Ways, Tina Wainscott

***

“You’re trying to think it through, trying to, make sense of it. The thing is, though, it doesn’t make sense. It never will. You can’t equal it out. What he did and how you feel for him may never . . . wash, I guess. You just have to make a decision and stick to it. Right now, you’re basically burying your head in the sand and hoping it goes away.” ― Alpha, Jasinder Wilder

***

“Fear is just fear. We must take action in the face of it, Cassie, because action increases courage.”  ― Secret, L. Marie Adeline

***

“Love has many guises . . . Sometimes it’s a stroke of lightening . . . other times a slow building storm . . . But the one thing that never changes is that it must be be nurtured. You can’t kick a heart and expect it not to flinch.”  ― Rock Courtship, Nalini Singh

***

“”I didn’t lose him. God took him.” The edge was back in his voice when he spoke of the Lord. “You know what I don’t get? he quickly continued, “Why did God even bother creating Tucker if it was only so he could die?”

Her heart physically ached, her chest tightening at the hurt and anguish in his soulful eyes. “God didn’t create Tucker to die. He created him for eternity.”

He looked at her with such longing, her breath caught. “Gage, Tucker’s time on earth was short, heartbreakingly so, but his life didn’t end in the NICU. He’s alive for eternity.” . . . “How can you sound so sure, be so sure?””Because of God’s Word. He’s never reneged on a promise, so I know He’ll keep His promise of eternal life for the innocent as well as those who choose to accept the redemptive death of His son.” ― Stranded, Dani Pettrey 

***

I hope you were able to find a bit of validation for yourself among those quotes, and if not . . . Did you know that studies show that people who read fiction are more empathetic than those who don’t? There’s great value in the written word! 

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Adversity, Books, Faith, Grief

 

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Philosophical Thinking, Unicorns & Rainbows

8 Great Philosophical Questions That We’ll Never Solve - Does God existOn my more philosophical days, I have been known to think that I am far more blessed than those around me who seem to live lives devoid of tragic loss and health challenges. Truth be told, I’ve not found myself terribly philosophical in the two and a half years since Bethany and Katie’s lives were stolen by the selfish and reckless actions of an unlicensed driver. But I remember those moments in what feels like the distant past.

Life is hard. Circumstances have driven me to my knees literally and figuratively. In fact, circumstances have led me to a full body prostrate position, the nubby carpet of my bedroom floor, imprinting my cheek as I’ve petitioned the Lord for the hearts, souls, and health of my children.

And I’ve lost. I’ve lost too many of the things I love most in this life. No great spiritually inspiring story to be told. Just loads of heartache, anger, and questions for the One True God of love and justice.

Loss and heartache translate into vulnerability and weakness. And in this day and age both are intolerable to society at large. We are a nation of overcomers. We pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and keep going. We deceive ourselves into believing that through sheer force of will and dogged determination we can overcome every challenge, every trial in life.

I-have-the-strength-to-overcome-the-impossible.

We perceive ourselves as strong when we ignore negative feelings and refuse to be beaten by circumstances beyond our control. We pat ourselves on the back (as do others) for moving forward while we are really undermining our future health and happiness by ignoring or repressing emotional needs all in the effort to meet societal expectations and exercise control over the chaos that has somehow infiltrated our lives.

images (44)According to John Powell, author of Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? the two major causes of anxiety are supercharged repressed emotions and unmet emotional needs. Emotional needs include the need to feel accepted, approved of, believed in, forgiven, listened to, needed, important, useful, respected, valued, supported, understood, in control, trusted, and worthy to name a few. The cultural demand to overcome, to turn every negative into a positive promotes and encourages the unhealthy practice of ignoring emotional needs and repressing negative emotions.

I fear this secular theology of overcoming against all odds, when boiled down reveals that we believe ourselves to be, or are bound and determined to make ourselves, God. And these efforts, are obviously in utter and complete opposition to the doctrine of the Bible.

The philosophy that enables me to believe that I am far more blessed than those whose lives appear to be filled with unicorns and rainbows, is grounded on the Biblical truth that I am NOT God. I am not capable of independently and self-sufficiently controlling and overcoming the chaos that surrounds and invades my life.

Tragedy, weakness, and suffering have driven me to work out my salvation. I’m constantly comparing my beliefs to the Word of God which reveals secular untruths I have absorbed, personal misconceptions or interpretations that don’t hold up under stress or simply an incomplete understanding of scripture.

I fear that the average Christian, myself included, doesn’t hold up the shield of faith in order to protect themselves from Satan’s fiery arrows but instead in an effort to hide their vulnerability and project an image of spiritual maturity to a watching and expectant audience of believers and non-believers alike.

Somehow we have interpreted the shield of faith as an impenetrable barrier of protection from pain instead of protection against Satan’s deceptions and lies than weaken and destroy the very foundation of our faith; trust in God Almighty.

Weakness and dependence are paradoxically the strength of the Christian faith. The beauty of weakness is the revelation of Christ’s power at work within us. A supernatural strength is inexplicably revealed through our weakness and humility that far exceeds the strength manufactured by force of will alone. Is this not why Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9b-10, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”? (ESV)

In my humanity, I desperately long for a life filled with unicorns and rainbows. I long for a life that is filled with nothing more than common everyday hardships; car repairs, defiant children, financial fears. Garden variety, everyday frustrations, and irritations.

Dark Clouds an Little Blue SkyGiven the opportunity, I would rewrite the story of my life. But in the recesses of my mind, the storm clouds of sorrow shift and briefly reveal the truth that hides behind; losses and sorrow have gifted me with things of great value. Empathy, compassion, and understanding poured out on others in an effort to help meet their emotional needs. The assurance of my salvation and an awareness of the solid foundation of my faith even as it is battered by the storm. The development of a more holy and heavenly perspective. And then the wind picks back up shifting the storm clouds once again obscuring those encouraging truths. And I am left frustrated and discouraged instead of philosophical; feeling more cursed than blessed, desperate to escape the suffering that plagues my daily existence and longing for unicorns and rainbows.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2016 in Adversity, Books, Faith

 

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Stepping Forward or Forever Standing Still

Ken-Gire-title

“Mystery, ambiguity, uncertainty. These are places where we reach an end of ourselves, places where we have to stop, stop and take off our shoes. If we don’t, the mystery, the ambiguity, the uncertainty will one day prove too much for us. If we must have all our questions answered before we can go forward in our relationship with God, there will come a day when we won’t go forward. It may come at Gethsemane. At Calvary. Or Auschwitz.

Or at the death of a son.

For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face, and now we know in part, but then we shall know fully just as we have been fully known (I Corinthians 13:12).

So until then, what?
We feel our way in the dark.
Until we find each other.
We huddle together in the storm.
Wet and shivering, but together.
And maybe in the end it will be our huddling in the storm that gives us more comfort than our understanding of the storm.”

~Ken Gire, The Weathering Grace of God

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2016 in Adversity, Books, Faith, Grief

 

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Notes from the Author

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“When I Fall in Love” by Susan May Warren, includes “Behind the Pages” which is found at the back of the book. Here’s what the author wants you and I to know:

“So often, in the Christian life, when things don’t turn out our as we hope or expect, we feel robbed. . . Frankly, God promises us challenges, so we shouldn’t be surprised when they happen. But how, then, do we cope? Psalm 84:5-7 offers answers:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”

“Pilgrimage. The journey…through life, towards heaven. God offers us refreshment in the desert, and places of strength along the way. What if our happiness isn’t only in what is ahead of us…but in embracing the now? In enjoying the moments God has given us, even in the midst of suffering? What if we lived with a mindset of rejoicing in the strength, the springs of today…in order to bear the desert of tomorrow? Perhaps the annoying vices of our loved ones might not be so frustrating. Perhaps our faith wouldn’t seem so starved.”

**The Valley of Baka is thought to be a symbolic place meaning “a desert place”, “the valley of tears”, “the valley of weeping” or even “the valley of suffering”.


 

I don’t know about you, but that the idea that we grow in strength with each successive trial encourages me. We begin each new trial from a position of greater strength than the last trial we. We may grow physically weaker as we age, but grow spiritually stronger as our faith is refined.  James said it this way in Chapter 1 verses 3-4,

“. . . the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking in nothing.” (NASB)

We may not “feel” strong, or even as if we are being strengthen. In fact, I daresay most of us feel weak, pitiful and maybe completely shattered during the fiery trials of life. But we find ourselves stronger after we’ve passed through the fire. The Holy Spirit quietly performed His supernatural work within, while our distracted and overwhelmed hearts and minds struggled to simply trust and obey.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2016 in Books, Faith

 

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Laughing at my Nightmare

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Stumbled across this book on my library’s digital books website. This young man has SMA, a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy (think Jerry Lewis telethon). It’s different than Gracen’s ARSACS, but both fall under the MD umbrella.

He writes with no small amount of humor and a liberal use of profanity (he particularly enjoys dropping the f-bomb) about growing up and living life with a progressive, terminal illness. (Not all forms of MD are terminal).

The chapters are short, you will laugh out loud, but you will also get a glimpse of how a disabled person views themselves, their fears, their courage, life’s hurdles, and hope amid increasing dependence and diminishing abilities.

It was an educational read for me. I know how I feel, the challenges I’ve faced as a mother of a disabled child, but I can’t crawl inside Gracen’s mind and really appreciate what it’s like for her. I can only imagine and that is hard enough.

Like Gracen, this young man’s disability does not affect his intellect. The book reveals the ways in which people of all disabilities are often grouped together. The author is blunt and not always kind, but his attitudes are reflective of the larger “healthy” community and of a young man’s thoughts and attitudes as he matures. So, a parent with an autistic child may find some of what he writes mean-spirited or otherwise offensive. I hope you will recognize Shane is a young man coming of age in challenging circumstances and is simply learning how to live with his own personal reality (nightmare) using humor as his primary coping mechanism.

It’s worth the read if you have any desire to more clearly recognize some of the unique challenges the disabled community encounters.

One more disclaimer: This young man does not shy away from uncomfortable topics including human body parts, urination, and sex – all normal parts of any healthy young man’s life. If that and foul language offends you, it’s probably not the book for you.

 

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Laughing at my Nightmare

12088497_994403817288205_1193078907032096104_n
Stumbled across this book on my library’s digital books website. This young man has SMA, a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy (think Jerry Lewis telethon). It’s difference than Gracen’s ARSACS, but both fall under the MD umbrella.

He writes with no small amount of humor and a liberal use of profanity (he particularly enjoys dropping the f-bomb) about growing up and living life with a progressive, terminal illness. (Not all forms of MD are terminal).

The chapters are short, you will laugh out loud, but you will also get a glimpse of how a disabled person views themselves, their fears, their courage, life’s hurdles, and hope amid increasing dependence and diminishing abilities.

It was an educational read for me. I know how I feel, the challenges I’ve faced as a mother of a disabled child, but I can’t crawl inside Gracen’s mind and really appreciate what it’s like for her. I can only imagine and that is hard enough.

Like Gracen, this young man’s disability does not affect his intellect. The book reveals the ways in which people of all disabilities are often grouped together. The author is blunt and not always kind, but his attitudes are reflective of the larger “healthy” community and of a young man’s thoughts and attitudes as he matures. So a parent with an autistic child may find some of what he writes mean-spirited or otherwise offensive. I hope you will recognize Shane is a young man coming of age in challenging circumstances and is simply learning how to live with his own personal reality (nightmare) using humor as his primary coping mechanism.

It’s worth the read if you have any desire to more clearly recognize some of the unique challenges the disabled community encounters.

One more disclaimer: This young man does not shy away from uncomfortable topics including human body parts, urination and sex – all normal parts of any healthy young man’s life. If that and foul language offends you, it’s probably not the book for you.

(Facebook Post 10/2/15)

 
 

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Suffering & Sanctification

(Facebook Post 9/8/15)

I recently read, FEARLESS, the story of Navy SEAL, Adam Brown, an Arkansas native. Adam wrote the following statement in his journal while deployed. In order to better understand the quote, you should know that Adam overcame an addiction to cocaine in order to become a SEAL.

“I’m not afraid of anything that might happen to me on this Earth because I know no matter what, nothing can take my spirit from me… How much it pains me…to think about not watching my boy excel in life, or giving my little baby girl away in marriage… Buddy, I’ll be there, you’ll feel me there when you steal your first base, smash someone on the football field, make all A’s. I’ll be there for all your achievements. But much more Buddy, I’ll be there for every failure. Remember, I know tears, I know pain and disappointment, and I will be there for you with every drop. You cannot disappoint me. I understand!”

What I like about this quote is not that he tells his son and daughter that he will be there for their big moments, but that he will be there for every failure. I think that’s what Jesus would tell us, “I’ll be there not just for the high points of your life but for every failure. (OK, I like to add in – “not to judge or criticize but to support and encourage”). I imagine Christ saying to us, just as Adam said to his children, “Remember, I know tears. I know pain and disappointment, and I will be there for you with every drop. YOU CANNOT DISAPPOINT ME. I UNDERSTAND!” (No shouting intended – just emphasizing the point).

I don’t know about the rest of you but I do a fair amount of self-criticizing for my failure to do this grieving thing, and every other misstep during life’s trials, well from a Christian perspective.

Today a good friend sent me the following excerpt from “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend:

“God is free from us. When he does something for us, he does it out of choice. He is not “under compulsion” or guilt or manipulation. He does things, like dying for us, because he wants to. We can rest in his pure love; he has no hidden resentment in what he does. His freedom allows him to love.

Many Bible characters ran into God’s freedom and learned to embrace it. Embracing his freedom and respecting his boundaries, they always deepened their relationship with God. Job had to come to accept the freedom of God to not rescue him when he wanted. Job expressed his anger and dissatisfaction with God, and God rewarded his honesty. But Job did not “make God bad,” in his own mind. In all of his complaining, he did not end his relationship with God. He didn’t understand God, but he allowed God to be himself and did not withdraw his love from him, even when he was very angry with him. This is a real relationship.

In the same way, Paul accepted the boundaries of God. When he planned trips that didn’t work out, Paul accepted the sovereignty of God. He asked God repeatedly for a certain kind of healing that God would not give him. God said, “No, I do not choose to love you in the way that you want right now. I choose to love you with my presence.” Paul did not reject God for setting that boundary.

Jesus was perfected through his suffering (Heb. 5:7-10). In the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked that his cup of suffering pass from him, but God said no. Jesus accepted God’s wishes, submitted to them, and through that “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9). If Jesus had not respected God’s boundaries and God’s no. we would all be lost.”

I especially like the part where it describes Job’s response to God’s sovereign plan. It seems as if we equate the fact that Job did not sin or blame God in response to all his trials as saying that he did not struggle with his losses or with God’s sovereign plan – and I guess I expect myself to do the same. But it’s not true. Job did struggle and he desperately wanted an audience with God to plead his case.

And Paul obviously didn’t simply shrug off his request for healing either or he would not have continued to pray for it. He came to terms with God’s decision not to heal him over time. The Bible doesn’t tell us how much time that took but we might consider that Paul may have experienced three seasons of praying for the thorn in his flesh to be removed instead of three individual prayers expressing his request for healing.

We would also do well to bear in mind that Jesus was both fully God and fully human. Maybe his dual deity/humanity allowed him to pray, “Thy will not mine be done”, in one nights time, in spite of his obvious anguish, whereas, we are being made holy and need to allow ourselves more time to come to the same place instead of beating ourselves up for failing to be holy while we are still living out daily the process of sanctification.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) Jesus is not looking down from above, shaking his head and uttering sounds of dismay as we struggle our way through our trials. He feels our pain, hurts with us in the struggle, but is not surprised by it, alarmed by it, or disgusted by it. He knew we would respond this way – knew it would take us time to come to terms with his sovereign plan and is far more likely to be heard muttering, “You hang in there, Janet. You hang in there __________, (insert your name here), because you will overcome this through my power in time as the Holy Spirit continues the work of sanctification within you. Keep your eyes on me, and quit worrying about what others think and quit beating yourself up. You are right on track and you bring glory to my name in the midst of your struggle, not just when you come out on the other side of it.” (At least that’s what I think and hope is happening amid the great cloud of witnesses in heaven who are encouraging us to keep fighting the good fight for our faith). That’s my story and I’m sticking with it – today anyway!

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Books, Faith, Grief

 

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Notes from the Author

Notes from the Author

“Behind the Pages” can be found at the end of Susan May Warren’s book “When I Fall in Love”:

“So often, in the Christian life, when things don’t turn out our as we hope or expect, we feel robbed. . . Frankly, God promises us challenges, so we shouldn’t be surprised when they happen. But how, then, do we cope? Psalm 84:5-7 offers answers:

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka,they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength,till each appears before God in Zion.”

“Pilgrimage. The journey…through life, towards heaven. God offers us refreshment in the desert, and places of strength along the way. What if our happiness isn’t only in what is ahead of us…but in embracing the now? In enjoying the moments God has given us, even in the midst of suffering? What if we lived with a mindset of rejoicing in the strength, the springs of today…in order to bear the desert of tomorrow? Perhaps the annoying vices of our loved ones might not be so frustrating. Perhaps our faith wouldn’t seem so starved.”

A word about the cultural reference to the Valley of Baka:

Apparently, the Valley of Baka is likely a symbolic place meaning “a desert place”, “the valley of tears”, “the valley of weeping” or even “the valley of suffering”. So, for those whose strength is in the Lord, as they walk through this life and suffering and tears come their way, God promises they will be strengthened each time they pass through those valleys until they appear before God. I don’t know about you, but that concept encourages me. James said it this way in Chapter 1 verses 3-4, “. . . the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect (mature) and complete, lacking in nothing.” (NASB)

We may not “feel” strong, or even as if we are being strengthen. In fact, I daresay most of us feel pretty weak, pitiful and maybe completely shattered during the fiery trials of life. But miraculously we somehow find ourselves stronger after we’ve passed through the fire, because, of course, the Holy Spirit quietly went about His work within while our distracted and overwhelmed hearts and minds struggled to simply trust and obey.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Books, Faith

 

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Reflections on Grief: The Rubik’s Cube & Heart to Heart with C.S. Lewis

(Facebook Post 8/31/15)

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– The Rubik’s Cube –

I wish I could wrap my arms around all these facts and feelings. Enclose them in one space and then squish them together into a small square and sit them on a shelf so that I was not consumed by them all the time. If I could form them into a Rubik’s Cube I could take down and turn and examine each fact, each feeling individually, line them up in order, make some kind of sense out of them, control them. But I can’t and it leaves me feeling so frustrated, so antsy. I imagine it feels like a meth addict tweaking. It’s so relentless; so, so, so, I don’t even know.

unknown (2) – Heart to Heart with C.S. Lewis –

I think I am struggling to voice what C.S. Lewis already said so very well in “A Grief Observed”. C.S. Lewis said some controversial things in that book. I guess because he was speaking of his own thoughts and feelings and comparing them to what he knew or thought he knew about God. Regardless, when a well-respected Christian says something we often embrace it without thought based on his reputation and standing alone. Yet if I say virtually the same thing, I feel as if eyebrows will go up and scripture will be quoted in order to correct my heretical thinking. Maybe my own inner eyebrow is rising, my own inner mind spouting well worn scriptures back to my heartbroken other half – my internal split personality alive and well and taking me to task.

So I’ve summarized, in my own words, some of Lewis’s quotes – it actually took me three summaries for the first quote alone. My thoughts are numbered and placed beneath the quote they reflect. Some of the summaries are things I’ve fleshed out in my own mind and was surprised to discover he had already said something very similar. Others are things I’ve not encountered and maybe never will, but I recognized the truth of them and put them in my own words as I understood them. All this is my attempt to fashion my own internal Rubic’s Cube of reason for my hearts unreasonable demand for control – for closure – for meaning and purpose – for peace.

“If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.”

1. I can find comfort in the truth that my children fulfilled their God ordained purpose in life – no matter how short it was.

2. I can take comfort in the spiritual changes suffering will manifest.

3. I will not find maternal comfort – I must accept and understand I will never find comfort for my separation from my children. Never.

“I once read the sentence ‘I lay awake all night with a toothache, thinking about the toothache and about lying awake.’ That’s true to life. Part of every misery is, so to speak, the misery’s shadow or reflection: the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.”

4. An unanticipated truth about grief is that “I not only live each endless day in grief, but live each day thinking about living each day in grief.” I can’t say it any better than he did.

“For in grief nothing “stays put.” One keeps on emerging from a phase, but it always recurs. Round and round. Everything repeats. Am I going in circles, or dare I hope I am on a spiral?”

“But if a spiral, am I going up or down it?”

“How often — will it be for always? — how often will the vast emptiness astonish me like a complete novelty and make me say, “I never realized my loss till this moment”? The same leg is cut off time after time.”

5. Grief is made up of phases that you go through repeatedly. You don’t work through one and advance to the next but instead maybe make a step forward and later find out you really didn’t take a step forward at all and begin again without any idea of how long the entire process will last.

“It doesn’t really matter whether you grip the arms of the dentist’s chair or let your hands lie in your lap. The drill drills on.”

6. It doesn’t matter how well you yourself or others perceive you to be coping with your grief. It will continue until it’s done.

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead.”
“Do I hope that if feeling disguises itself as thought I shall feel less?

7. We might try to conquer the overload of feelings with thought, but that logical understanding will not prevent you from feeling the intense emotions grief generates. There is no way to avoid the feelings.

“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”

8. Grief changes you. You may heal from the searing pain, but in the end you will be forever changed. You cannot return to the person you were. You have been irrevocably altered in fundamental ways, if not outwardly apparent then inwardly scarred.

“Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?”

9. We all wonder if the ways we try to cope with our grief are completely vain – that instead we will simply have to endure it.

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”

“When you are happy, so happy you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be — or so it feels — welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence.”

10. When we desperately need God we often feel abandoned.

“Nothing will shake a man-or at any rate a man like me-out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.”

11. Introspective people fear that the only way they learn the lessons God wants to teach them is through suffering.

“Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand. Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions ‘on the further shore,’ pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There’s not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn’t be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! ‘Things on this side are not so different after all.’ There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.”

12. Those who grieve don’t want to hear about the consolation faith provides. In the midst of our heartache we find consolation non-existent, we simply want what was lost restored.

“. . . for the greater the love the greater the grief, and the stronger the faith the more savagely will Satan storm its fortress.”

13. Deep love results in deep grief. Great faith results in fierce attacks from Satan.

“And grief still feels like fear. Perhaps, more strictly, like suspense. Or like waiting; just hanging about waiting for something to happen. It gives life a permanently provisional feeling. It doesn’t seem worth starting anything. I can’t settle down. I yawn, fidget, I smoke too much. Up till this I always had too little time. Now there is nothing but time. Almost pure time, empty successiveness.”

“I think I am beginning to understand why grief feels like suspense. It comes from the frustration of so many impulses that had become habitual. Thought after thought, feeling after feeling, action after action, had H. for their object. Now their target is gone. I keep on through habit fitting an arrow to the string, then I remember and have to lay the bow down.”

14. Grief feels like continuous waiting for what comes next. It leaves one on constantly alert, unable to relax, with endless, repetitive emptiness stretching before you.

“What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know He is good’? Have they never even been to a dentist?”

15. God’s plans are for our eternal good and may be terribly painful in this earthly world in which we reside.

“Come, what do we gain by evasions? We are under the harrow and can’t escape. Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable. And how or why did such a reality blossom (or fester) here and there into the terrible phenomenon called consciousness? Why did it produce things like us who can see it and, seeing it, recoil in loathing? Who (stranger still) want to see it and take pains to find it out, even when no need compels them and even though the sight of it makes an incurable ulcer in their hearts? People like H. herself, who would have truth at any price.”

16. The grieving often dig for every minute detail in regards to the events that surrounded the death of their loved one from the grisly details of how it happened to how people heard the news, responded and what they did as a result. We want to know it all regardless of how much it hurts.

“Bridge-players tell me there must be some money on the game ‘or else people won’t take it seriously’. Apparently it’s like that. Your bid – for God or no God, for a good God or the Cosmic Sadist, for eternal life or nonentity – will not be serious if nothing much is staked on it. And you will never discover how serious it was until the stakes are raised horribly high, until you find that you are playing not for counters or for sixpences but for every penny you have in the world.”

17. The loss of a close loved one elevates what you believe about God, heaven and hell to a level of supreme importance. Suddenly what others have told you is no longer good enough. You must determine for yourself what you believe.

“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.”

18. We fear we might learn something about God we find unacceptable.

“An odd by-product of my loss is that I’m aware of being an embarrassment to everyone I meet. At work, at the club, in the street, I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”

19. We are absolutely unprepared for the way others respond to us after the death of a loved one. Some people avoid you, some want to know all the details so they can either gossip about you or feel as if they are part of the inner circle. The grief-stricken make others uncomfortable.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2015 in Books, Faith, Grief

 

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