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Category Archives: Faith

No, No, No!

My heart lies in tatters once again as I hear of the loss of another son, another grandson. It’s personal this time. People I know and love . . . the second such family in two months time . . . it makes me nauseous.

Oh, how helpless I feel!

I don’t want to be there to help. . .

No, no, no!

I want to rewind the clock so this is not their present stunned and horrified reality!

I want to save them from this anguish like none other.

And since I can’t. . .

I want to draw them close and catch their tears.

I want to receive and heal their broken and distraught hearts.

I want to listen to every painful word and let them know they are loved.

That God still loves them—will still be faithful to them—that there are mercies.

“It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed because his mercies never diminish. They are new every morning; great is thy faith[fulness].” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23 (Jubilee Bible 2000)

There is no silver lining! Nothing will ever make this loss acceptable or justify it for the family even when a good work of the Lord is later revealed. Silver linings imply that this horrible loss can be wrapped up in some future good, tied with a pretty bow and completely nullify the bad. The bad is made good.  Mercies, on the other hand, are blessings within and after and in spite of any tragedy.

There are mercies!

He can take the shattered pieces of our lives and in time make something good and beautiful but still cracked and scarred for all to see. He can make us beautifully broken but never unblemished by the ravages of sin in this world.

And everyday from the moment of loss until my friends step into eternity there will be mercies.

Small mercies in the midst of overwhelming sorrow and despair.

God doesn’t promise to fix this in the here and now. He promises to draw close, to catch our tears. He promises to be faithful to us. He promises new mercies every day.

Here I sit several states away and I can’t ignore the parallel that lies before me. I am afar off but the wonders of technology allow me to be close via phones, social media, Skype, cars and planes.

In many ways I can immediately respond if my friends reach out.

But they know I can’t wiggle my nose and be in actual hugging distance instantly.

They know that God sees them, and responds immediately to their call for help . . . but at the same time they are separated from His physical touch.

Consequently, the bereaved often feel alone, abandoned and betrayed. Please don’t correct these feelings. Imagine yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you feel the same? Validate those feelings! It’s not sinful to feel any of those things. Hear the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

“My soul has been cast far away from peace; I have forgotten happiness.
So I say, “My strength has perished And so has my hope and expectation from the Lord.”~ Lamentations 3:17-18 (Amplified Bible)

In many ways grieving families are simply inconsolable.

They don’t want to be consoled . . .

They want to go back!

Back to the moments before their lives were so tragically changed.

Three years later I can testify to this truth:  while life moves relentlessly forward there are parts of a parent’s heart that stand still in shocked horror indefinitely.

How can this be?

Surely, this is not real?

I’ll wake up from this nightmare!

God, please let me awake from this nightmare! 

Let it all be a terrible dream . . . a horrible mistake.

Please God, take this cup from me!

Yet the die has been cast and lives have unraveled in unimaginable ways.

Every sight thereafter will be seen through a lens of grief. Every written and spoken word filtered through grief. Every joyous event that follows will not be felt with pure, unblemished joy as in the past but will be bittersweet—tainted by the fact that you are no longer whole and you long for the presence of the one out of reach.

Faith will be shaken.

Minds fogged by confusion and fear, anger and frustration, and a sorrow so deep they will never find its limits.

They are shattered.

Not merely broken.

Utterly shattered!

Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard on high of lamentation, of mourning, and weeping, of Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted for them, because they are not. ~ Jeremiah 31:15 (Douay-Rheims Bible)

Mourn with those who mourn!

Weep with those who weep!

God’s mercies will be new every single morning.

He has His job; we have ours.

Today, once again, I mourn for and with others. Won’t you join with me and carry those who grieve before the throne of grace?

Anguished prayers for parents, siblings and family as a whole rise in begging supplication for God’s mercies to rain down—for His presence and love to wash over every shattered heart—for this to be nothing more than a terrible dream!

The desperate prayer of my heart to see faith made sight is far more urgent today.

“Hear my prayer, O LORD! Listen to my cry for help! Do not ignore my sobbing! For I am dependent on you, like one residing outside his native land; I am at your mercy, just as all my ancestors were.” ~ Psalm 39:12 (NET Bible) 

If you know of a bereaved family, please pray them through the holidays. If you don’t, please pray for the VanGulick, Vickers and Williams families who will each be missing their son, sibling or grandson while others gather with intact families and celebrate together. These families are secure in their confidence that Harry and O’rane will celebrate Christ’s birth in His presence; but their hearts will ache with the absence of their presence (as my friend Melanie is known to say). Please cry out to Jesus on their behalf!


*Follow the link below to read more about the beautiful sculpture pictured above. It’s only a few brief paragraphs.

Rachel Weeping for her Children Sculpture

 

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2016 in Faith, Grief, Links

 

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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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He’s Close to the Broken-Hearted

No one likes pain. But it is a necessary part of life. And loss is one of the most excruciating pains. But we can have this confidence which helps us when we experience pain. When our hearts are br…

Source: He’s Close to the Broken-Hearted

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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The Savior of the World

The holidays are notoriously hard for the bereaved; Christmas in particular. It’s the quintessential family day. It’s looked forward to with joy by kids filled with anticipation and hope and parents and grandparents excited to see that hope realized and the resulting celebration . . .

Not only that, the entire month of December is filled with triggers for memorable moments that will be no more . . .

Ever again.

santanativityShopping, decorating, making candy and cookies, late night cocoa by the light of the Christmas tree, piles of presents gradually growing higher and spreading out before the tree. “White Christmas” and “Charlie Brown’s Christmas” on the TV and trips to visit Santa Clause. It’s a recipe for family magic . . .

And then the circle is broken.

There’s one less person to buy gifts for, one less stocking to fill, one less excited squeal as brightly colored paper and bows fly through the air.

The day has become less.

But Christmas isn’t really about family. It wasn’t about Mary and Joseph. It wasn’t about angels proclaiming good will to men, frightened then excited shepherds and wise men traveling from afar to worship either. Everyone from the awe inspiring angels to the wise men and Mary and Joseph were all just supporting cast members. They all played an important role but there is no doubt that the focus was squarely on the new born babe—the Christ child in a dirty sheep fold—the hope of redemption for all the world. That’s the good news—that’s the gospel.

christmasBut we, in modern days, have relegated the Christ child to the background. Can you find signs of the nativity in the picture on the left? We’ve overshadowed His glory, God’s miraculous appearing in human form—Emmanuel—with sights and smells and greedy hearts.

And when your loved one dies, the props of the season are but painful reminders of what’s been lost. What was once shared. What was anticipated.

Melancholy blankets the joy of the season because we’ve made Christmas about Santa and gifts and family. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day has been consumed by the pursuit of happiness. The real gifts of the season, life and liberty, barely receive a cursory nod if they are acknowledged at all. How very American of us!

In Luke chapter 4 the beginning of Christ’s ministry is recorded following His temptation in the wilderness by Satan. He began His ministry in Galilee and people began to talk and word of this new prophet spread throughout the area. Eventually, Jesus returned home to Nazareth, the place where He grew from a child to a man, where he went to church. Can you imagine how curious the people from His home town must have been?

“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and there went out a fame of him through all the region round about.

And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all.” ~ Luke 4:14-15 KJV

One thing I didn’t know that’s of cultural significance, is that the scrolls were read in a certain order. On the day Jesus returned to His home church He was handed the preordained scroll from Isaiah. The text was Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the long anticipated Messiah. Jesus read that prophecy and basically told all those in attendance that He was the Messiah they had been looking for.

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 

jesusscroll“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.”

“He has sent me to proclaim freedom       for the   prisoners and recovery of       sight for the blind,
 to set the oppressed free,
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s        favor.”            

    

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” ~ Luke 4:16-21 NIV

And the fact that Jesus read that specific scripture is important because Jesus didn’t select the scripture to be read in the synagogue on His own—but it was no coincidence that He read that specific passage. Now, it’s important to understand that a prophet in that day was held to a very high standard—a 100% accuracy rate. The first time a prophecy failed to be fulfilled the prophet’s career was over. The Jewish people knew with absolute certainty that an unfulfilled prophecy meant God did not send that man.

The scripture Jesus read was inspired by God and then prophesied by Isaiah in order to enable the Jews to recognize the Messiah when He appeared. They should have been able to identify Jesus as the Christ because He fulfilled the prophecy of what the Messiah’s earthly ministry would look like. They heard the rumors: the evidence was before them if they’d just observed His ministry.

healingtheblindHe healed the brokenhearted by curing their sick and dying loved ones—by actually raising the dead on a few noted occasions.

He delivered the demon possessed from Satanic captivity.

He gave sight to the blind.

He set free those bruised by life’s harsh realities—by the sin that stains the soul all mankind.

He is—and was—and will always be Messiah.

Christmas and Easter should be the holidays the bereaved most enjoy. They should give those who grieve hope. Yet the birth of Christ and the full scope of it’s meaning is lost among decorations, flying wrapping paper and ribbons.

That long ago day, Christ was the only one to receive gifts; gold, frankincense and Myrrh. We don’t actually know how the gold was used. It’s been speculated that it paid for Christ’s escape from a fearful earthy king  [Herod] desperate to hold onto his kingdom. But the frankincense and myrrh were commonly used to anoint a body at burial. The gifts Christ received prepared Him for life and death. Just as the gifts we receive from the Lord do for us.

Since Bethany and Katie’s deaths we have not done much decorating for Christmas. We haven’t put up a tree or hung stockings or made Christmas cookies. Last year I bought a small (1 1/2 foot)  pre-lit tree and set up my usual manger scene. My heart has not been in what is commonly referred to as the Christmas spirit. And as the anniversary of the girls’ deaths is the day after Christmas; I have had no desire to return home from the holiday with family to a “festive” house. It’s just painful. My heart is not festive this time of year. Well, actually, my heart has not really been festive since that tragic day.

But . . .

Christ was still born . . .

He is still my hope . . .

His birth, death and resurrection are the rock solid foundation of the one hope I still nurse.

It’s the only hope that really matters.

Everything else is cake – a temporary sweet to savor for a short time.

But Christmas is about permanent things. It’s about the permanence of my life’s highest priority. It’s about peace, hope and joy and my heart longs for those things in pure unblemished permanence.

As translated by the Amplified Bible, Jesus said,

” I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]’  John 16:33

This month will still be hard for me. It’s filled with the sorrow of what was and what will never be again.

elegant-nativity-scene-editedI’m still not sure if a full-sized Christmas tree will grace our home.

But this year I did purchase a larger manger scene.

The nativity will take center stage in our home.

Christmas Day I will still struggle to focus on what is and what will be and not on what was. I’ll still be distracted from the true purpose of the holiday by the commercialism that has become Christmas.

I’ll still miss the children in my heart but not in my presence.

It will be a bittersweet day.

You may not find me is a state of good cheer, but you will find me confident and certain that for all that sin and Satan have snatched from my hands, Jesus has deprived them of the ability to harm my eternal soul. He has conquered sin and death.

So I will celebrate—not with happiness but instead with joy—the birth of the Christ child.

The Savior of the world.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2016 in Adversity, Faith, Grief

 

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Inspirational Faith? 

I’ve struggled with how to respond when someone refers to my faith as inspirational. I see the wrestling and failures, and my emotions cloud the view of any resulting good. Often, I don’t even want to see anything good. Recognizing good feels as if it justifies the deaths of my daughters and Gracen’s disease and honestly, that’s just offensive to my humanity. I’m doing well to put one foot in front of the other. I don’t see anything inspirational in my faith walk.

Believe me, anything worthy of praise is not my doing—at all.

And that’s not false modesty or veiled pride.

It’s ugly in here!

scroll816Like the Apostle Paul, I do the things I know I shouldn’t and don’t do the things I know I should. I guess we all do . . . and I guess that’s why the Bible tells us that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness.

The Holy Spirit is somehow displayed through our brokenness; not the perfectionism we strive for.

The girls’s deaths and Gracen’s disease have done one thing for me; they’ve confirmed my faith.

I did not realize how much faith in Jesus Christ had come to define me.

When we feel as if God has failed us or calls something we disagree with sinful or simply behaves in ways we cannot understand and do not want to accept, we can experience what’s known as a crisis of faith. We must decide what we really believe about God. We have to decide to continue to follow Him or walk away from Jesus.

In John chapter 6 Jesus proclaims Himself to be the Bread of Life which caused many of His followers to abandon Him. In verse 67b Jesus asked His twelve disciples:

“. . . “Do you want to leave too?””

And in verses 68-69:

“Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.””

Where else can I go?

There is nowhere.

There is none other.

Without Christ; I’d still be living with the same circumstances but I’d be completely without hope.

No hope for reunion.

No hope for redemption.

No hope for anything beyond this life.

And if I live well (as some define living well)—a positive outlook—a life of happiness and joy—it’s not enough to offset the tragedies that I, and countless others endure, in the absence of the hope that lies within.

Living well, as defined by others, is not enough.

longingformoreWe always find ourselves empty and longing without the Lord.

If living well were enough the rich and famous would not find themselves lonely, depressed and wanting more . . .

needing relationship. . .

needing relationships beyond that of a spouse, family, and adoring fans.

Money can’t buy love and love can’t buy happiness.

Ask anyone who has either—or both.

That’s why the rich young ruler came to Jesus: He just didn’t understand, or really, simply refused to accept, that he needed Jesus Himself instead of some quick and easy solution for the emptiness within. And we’re all looking for quick and easy solutions to life’s problems and longings.

But . . .

Even when we have Jesus we are left longing.

I can almost hear the gasps—the harshly in-drawn breaths—following the reading of that last statement.

But it’s true.

It’s true.

Even with Jesus we long for more.

We long for the fulfillment of His promises—for completion—to be made like Him.

We long for restoration and redemption—to be all we were created to be unsoiled by sin.

We long to live in harmony and unity in a world of pure motivations and unconditional love.

We long for a life free of suffering, sorrow, tears, fears, problems and parting.

We long for reunion.

We long for Heaven!

We’re just not very good at distilling our desires down to the underlying longings and we chase our tails looking for fulfillment to desires we are unable to define. But Jesus is our only hope for those things—for fulfillment.

If it’s inspirational to live—truly live with the understanding that Jesus is our only hope—then I am indeed an inspiration.

Life has destroyed the illusion that anything else can satisfy.

And you know what? I’m not living in a state of perpetual satisfaction here; just because Jesus satisfies.

Nope.

Ain’t gonna happen this side of heaven.

It’s just not.

I know you’ve encountered people who flippantly tell you that Jesus is the answer for every problem, but you know—you recognize it when someone genuinely believes that to be true—when they’ve found it to be true.

When all the artifice has been stripped away; when all the individual striving has ceased—you know it.

You know—something inside has settled and is at rest.

You know—they have stopped living in expectation of worldly fulfillment and have exchanged that unachievable expectation for living in heavenly anticipation.

It’s not always pretty.

Sometimes deep wounding has revealed the truth that Jesus is our only hope.

Wounds hurt.

And pain is hard to hide.

So sometimes a faith-filled individual looks hollowed out and glassy eyed—because they have reached the end of themselves—given all they had to give—and come up short.

They’ve come up short!

They’ve come up short because they were never intended to do it all. . . be enough all by themselves.

And humility is the result.

Humility is humbling.

It’s the acknowledgement inadequacy.

And then there are those—maybe you know one—a man, woman or child that exudes peace regardless of the circumstances they face.

I don’t know what causes that; if it’s a personality trait or a reflection of spiritual maturity beyond my depth, or maybe a combination of the two; but it’s definitely the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

They . . . those rare, rare, individuals, clearly are at peace with whatever comes their way.

img_1744

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

In the face of great sorrow—peace.

In the face of perilous situations—peace.

In the face of death and destruction—utter and complete peace.

It’s not a lack of energy, resignation or defeat—it’s peace.

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

 Peace. 

The absence of personal investment in a preferred outcome. 

Peace.

Hope-infused surrender not hopeless or helpless surrender. 

Peace.

Surely it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit; but I fear the only way to unwrap that gift is cooperating with the Holy Spirit While enduring the shared sufferings of Christ.

Suffering changes people and perspectives.

Suffering is a refining fire.

It’s painful . . .

and it reveals hidden depths of beauty . . . 

and strength.

Suffering burns away the humanity of man and reveals the holiness of God within.

And therein lies the beauty of brokenness.

The glue—faith—holds those broken pieces together.

And from the inside looking out, all that’s seen is the cracked facade . . . 

But from the outside looking in . . . 

broken-vessell

the Holy light of God’s perfected strength shines through that cracked and crumbling facade and the only word to describe the view is . . . Inspirational.

When the Bible tells us to . . .

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” ~  Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

it is preceded by the statement . . .

“Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” ~  Matthew 5:15 (KJV)

Here’s the thing . . .

ligth-under-basket1-150x150God’s light shines through your brokenness regardless of whether or not you hide your light under a bushel; just as this picture demonstrates.

Unbelievers can’t help but see the light of God within a believer. The failure to proclaim the source of that light is the equivalent of hiding your light under a bushel. The light under the bushel still shines forth and others see it, and fellow believers recognize it for what it is; but to the lost . . .to the lost . . .

it’s nothing more than an elusive quality they can’t define.

A light under a bushel gives light to others within a house, but not to all that are in the house. Proclaiming the source of the light—placing it on a candlestick so to speak, allows everyone—saved or lost—to choose to draw near to or reject the light of salvation.

So if others tell you your response to adversity is inspiring (the equivalent of seeing your good works)proclaim your faith—(let your light shine) so that your Father in heaven will receive the credit He is due and be glorified.

I’m not inspirational—the God within me is.

I’m the broken facade.

He’s the light within.

And His inspirational light shines through your brokenness too.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2016 in Faith

 

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How to Discourage a Suffering Friend » Vaneetha Rendall

The holidays are upon us and we will soon be interacting with friends, family and acquaintances that we don’t see on a regular basis. As a result, you may find yourself visiting with a suffering friend or family member–wanting to be supportive and encouraging but not really sure how to go about it. There are some common phrases we’ve all used, but they aren’t always received in the way we intend them to be. Therefore, it’s probably more important to know what not to say and why.

I encourage you to read this article by Vaneetha Rendall. The information is worthwhile anytime, but it might make your holidays more enjoyable for everyone if you read it in advance of the typical get togethers common this time of year.

Below is a teaser and a link for the article. I hope you will take the time to follow the link and read this informative article – for yourself, and for the suffering people you love.

“What’s the best way to discourage a suffering friend?

I can tell you what I’ve done.

I’ve told suffering friends about how other people are going through more painful trials. I’ve given examples of how brave, godly and optimistic these other people are. I’ve freely doled out advice, even mini-sermons, about how their horrible situations will turn out for the best. . .”

Source: How to Discourage a Suffering Friend » Vaneetha Rendall

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2016 in Adversity, Chronic Illness, Faith, Grief

 

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Present Tense

I recently began a post with the intention of talking about one thing and ended up writing about something entirely different. Maybe the Holy Spirit had a hand in that.

Regardless, as I looked back thinking I would begin the the second post a new way, I just couldn’t determine a more appropriate introduction for either subject. So bear with me please, if you think you’ve read this message before—because you have—at least the initial part of this post. But your final destination will be an entirely different place, and looking back, I hope you will consider both worthy of thoughtful consideration. So here we go . . .

simple-present-tenseI have found in recent times that I have begun speaking of Bethany and Katie in the present tense.

It just feels right.

And . . .

The Bible tells us that we are eternal beings.

 

One day, sitting in the sanctuary of our home church, Pastor Wes George said something that has stuck with me ever since. He said, “We all spend eternity somewhere.”

This was before Bethany and Katie died.

And you know, he didn’t say anything I didn’t already know, but the way he framed it, just seemed to boil it down to a profoundly powerful succinct message of truth.

We all spend eternity somewhere.

If I believe that truth, and I do, then this statement is also true:

In spite of the death of the body, life goes on; for the deceased.

Because we are mere mortals and cannot look beyond the veil to see life in eternity play out, we think of death as the end.

But its not.

Satan wants you to believe that’s true.

But . . .

Jesus conquered both death and the grave.

There is more to this world than the eye can see and ears can hear. More than any of our senses can catalog and identify.

There’s more.

Much, much more.

goethe-quote-the-soul-is-indestructible-and-its-activity-willThis is why believers do not grieve without hope. Faith and hope do not prevent the pain and suffering death brings; they give us a reason to continue on—something good to look forward to. I don’t know about you, but I need something good to look forward to with anticipation. I still fight with discouragement and even despair, but in the end, I have an unwavering confidence in the hope of Heaven.

So, I intentionally choose to speak of my deceased children in the present tense. I also speak of the deceased children of other bereaved parents in the present tense when I converse with them online for two reasons. First, their children live on, just absent of the earthly shell by which we commonly identified them. And secondly, while we can’t see or be a part of the daily lives of the children we’ve lost, those children have a legacy here in the world we reside in that lives and breathes on in the lives of others.

One of a bereaved parents biggest fears is that their child will be forgotten or deemed irrelevant by society at large. And you know what? It happens every single day. Family and friends cease speaking your child’s name. Time moves on. People forget the significant events in others lives as their own issues demand precedence.

I can’t tell you how many times a friend has said to me, “I’d forgotten you had a son.” It’s been twenty-four years and I understand that very few people ever actually saw my son in the flesh. They had no interaction with him at all and they have busy and demanding lives as well. Remembering my stillborn son is not a reasonable expectation even if it hurts when those we share deeper relationships with forget.

leaving-a-legacyAdditionally, many a friend was not present during my pregnancy. We met after Cole’s birth and burial. And when we moved into our new community and made friends, I told the people I met that I had three children. It’s more work than I want to routinely take on to recover a conversation gone south when others discover the tragic death of my son. And frankly, I’m not the most socially adept person out there.

It should be noted that I, like many bereaved parents, struggled greatly with how to answer the question of how many children I have. (*A footnote regarding this question can be found at the bottom of the page).

So yes, children get forgotten. And sadly some, especially those lost by miscarriage, stillbirth, or death shortly after birth are deemed irrelevant which is no great surprise when you consider the cheap regard with which life is held in this day and age.

Every life is relevant and valuable and carries forth a living legacy. Some leave a smaller footprint than others, but each one impacts their world. Even miscarried and aborted babies have a legacy.

You see, every child conceived impacts the lives of those who come in contact with them in some way or another. I would not be the neurotic (smile) woman I am today had I not conceived Cole, Bethany and Katie. Each one of my children changed me; shaped me. They’ve individually and together changed the way I think and interact with others. They’ve helped to refine my faith. They’ve taught me about joy and sorrow and the value of a sense of humor. They’ve increased my understanding of others, made me more caring and generous—more empathetic.

Cole’s footprint is much smaller than Bethany and Katie’s. Bethany & Katie both interacted with the world to a far greater degree. They’ve touched and impacted the lives of every person they ever came into contact with to one degree or another and their individual legacies will be carried forward. They may have contributed to an acquaintance’s overall self-image by a single act of kindness or a rude rejection. The smallest interaction can result in enormous life changes for an individual and then carry on to all the people they later interact with – good or bad.

legacyinpeopleAs a result, the children with the shortest of life spans can also carry great legacies. The child aborted or miscarried, changes their parents. The life of a child that dies in utero or shortly after birth of a disease, for example, may carry forth a legacy of treatment that prevents the death of a multitude of children the world over.

In spite of the fact that the earthly shells belonging to three of my four children have died, my children live on in and through me and the people they encountered in life. They also live on in the eternal unseen world and so I choose to behave as such. Check out this dialogue from John chapter 11 verses 23-26 between Jesus and Martha following the death of her brother Lazarus:

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 

I believe this.

So please, don’t freak out, or correct me if you hear me refer to Cole, Bethany or Katie in the present tense. I’m not crazy, delusional or in denial.

I’m enlightened.

I hope you are too!

 

*Bereaved parents are never comfortable with leaving any of their children unacknowledged which equates with a lack of value or worth and that my friend, is absolutely repulsive to a grieving parent. So bereaved parents adopt various answers to that simple question.

Some give the exact number and deal with the fallout when follow up questions are asked and the death of their child is eventually revealed. Some state only the number of their living children. Many answer with how many they have here and add the number of children in Heaven. And others base their response on how much or little they will interact with that individual in the future.

However they choose to respond should be respected by friends, family and acquaintances. The opinion of others is irrelevant. It is not okay to tell a bereaved parent that they should not count their dead child because it makes others uncomfortable. If that how you feel, suck it up and keep it to yourself. Don’t add to the burden the bereaved already carry by forcing your opinions or convictions upon them. It is also not okay to tack on to a conversation the death or means of death of a child mentioned or left out of the count. By doing so, you are tossing the bereaved into a situation they may not be prepared to deal with. Recognize that this everyday question has become one that reveals vulnerabilities not normally laid open with anyone outside ones closest relationships.

Please demonstrate the utmost respect for the parent’s choice in responding to the question of how many children they have; it’s disrespectful to do otherwise.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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