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Category Archives: Grief

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!

 
4 Comments

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

 

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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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Just Call Me Jonah

Image by Rev. Henry Martin/FreeBibleimages.org


I’ve had a lot of time to think following the day I watched in disbelief as the court dismissed the felony charge against Troy Robins in spite of having evidence in hand of his guilt. A lot of time – aside from the moments I pushed it away refusing to go there in my mind. Afterall, what’s the point? It’s undoable.

This past week I’ve flipped through my Bible aimlessly reading highlighted and underlined passages and tiny notes squeezed into the narrow margins of the thin pages. Searching . . . but not quite clear what I’ve been searching to find. Encouragement? Explanation? Maybe nothing more than a theological distraction. And as I did my biblical wandering, I encountered the book of Jonah, a minor prophet.

Jonah intrigues me. Maybe because he is the only prophet I can think of who fled from the command of God. God said, “Go to Nineveh”, and Jonah said (highly paraphrased), “No way. No how. Not going to do it! Absolutely not!”

Without the knowledge of the historical background we find it hard to understand Jonah’s absolute refusal to obey God’s directive. And the backstory makes all the difference in the world. 

The Assyrians were the inhabitants of Nineveh. They were known for their abject cruelty to their enemies, and the Israelites were definitely counted among them. They flat out tortured their captives in front of the city walls so that the screams of terror were heard by the inhabitants of the city under siege. They staked the desecrated bodies before the walls so that the watchmen on the walls could see the fate that awaited them once the Assyrian army breached the city walls. The nation of Israel had no love or compassion for the Assyrians. You could safely say in fact, that the Israelites hated the Assyrians with good cause.

Jonah must have been flabbergasted when God called him and told him to go proclaim impending destruction should the inhabitants of Nineveh fail to repent. He was likely scared for his own life but also completely opposed to God treating the Assyrians with compassion. And so he ran and we all know what happened next. 

Eventually, Jonah, the reluctant and defiant prophet entered the gates of the city of Nineveh where he then preached the message God gave him for the Assyrians. In forty days, Nineveh will be overthrown. That’s it. Short and sweet.

And low and behold the Assyrian King took heed of the warning, and decreed a fast throughout the land in repentance clothed in sackcloth and ashes for their evil and violent ways in hopes that the God of Abraham, would turn from His planned destruction and save their lives.

And, of course, God did that very thing. 

“For My hand made all these things, Thus all these things came into being,” declares the LORD “But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” ~ Isaiah 66:2

And Jonah . . . he was livid! 

He was so angry that he offered this prayer before the Lord:

“. . . I pray thee, O Lord, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.

Therefore now, O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.” ~ Jonah 4:2-3

And God replied, “. . . Doest thou well to be angry?”

Well, Jonah . . . he got a good mad on so to speak. 

He left the city and sets up a booth so that he can watch to see what will become of Nineveh. And God provided a gourd to keep the hot sun off Jonah, but then causes a worm to eat the gourd. 

And Jonah . . . he just got madder. 

Have you ever had something bad happen only to have another bad thing happen directly thereafter and looked up to the sky and muttered, “Really? Seriously? Wasn’t it enough before and now this!” That’s exactly how Jonah responded when the worm destroyed the gourd.

And God, in His frustratingly perfect righteousness, again enquires of Jonah:

“. . . Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.”

I wish it were not so, but I can relate to Jonah’s anger – even unto death.

I get it. 

God’s forgiveness feels like a free pass from accountability for the evil and cruelty the Assyrians were known for. Jonah knew God’s heart. Back in verse 2 Jonah said, “for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil.” From Jonah’s all too human perspective, the very characteristic of God’s love and compassion for him is completely unpalatable when applied to his enemy.

And to add insult to injury, Jonah is taken to task.

“Then said the Lord, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:  And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?” ~ Jonah 4:10-11

God loved the evil, violent and cruel Assyrians because He created them. He laboured for them. He made them grow. And because they were helpless to discern between right and wrong. The Assyrians were God’s creation just as Jonah was.

And that’s the end of the book of Jonah. 

It’s a bit of an odd place to end don’t you think?

We are never told that Jonah feels remorse over his lack of compassion for the Assyrian people. Maybe that’s because Jonah was never able to let go of his anger and indignation. Maybe in his humanity he found it utterly impossible to be thankful for the repentance of the Assyrians. 

And oh my, . . . I can relate. 

I am Jonah.

When I think about Troy Robins repenting and finding salvation I feel torn. From an eternal perspective, I can stomach spending eternity with him because I know. . . I know he would be a new creation. He would in no way be the same person who killed my daughters. . . But when I think about the time Troy Robins would spend here on earth between salvation and eternity, I feel sick. 

Absolutely nauseated. 

Frighteningly angry. 

Resentful. 

Oh, so resentful! Because repentance results in God’s mercy. 

Mercy – not getting what we deserve. The just punishment for his actions, attitudes and choices forsaken . . . vengeance gone . . . And from the perspective of this wounded mother’s heart . . . well, that’s just unacceptable. 

It feels like a betrayal of the worst kind. 

The courts gave him a free pass. It is unconscionable that God would do the same. 

And like Jonah, I want to respond when God asks me, “Doest thou well to be angry, Janet?, 

“I do well to be angry, even unto death.” 

That’s what I want to say. 

By golly, yes I have a right to be angry. 

I have a right to be livid. To be enraged! 

And yes, this request, “O Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.“‘, it makes perfect sense to me. Not that I would take matters into my own hand. That’s just not right. But pray for death? That I could do.

Maybe I won’t always feel this way. 

Maybe the Holy Spirit will change my heart. 

But right now. . . right now, I have absolutely no desire to cooperate with Him in that endeavor. 

I will not pretend to be more pious than I am. I know all to well that my attitude is wrong. However, that doesn’t change the way I feel. 

I will gladly bow to those with a greater degree of holiness and accept any criticism my fellow saints wish to chastise me with. I won’t argue with the rebukes you, or God for that matter, cast my way. 

I absolutely prefer to die before I am forced to face God’s mercy bestowed upon Troy Robins. 

Come eternity. . . when I am made perfectly Holy and Christ-like. . . I will, without a doubt, embrace God’s mercy and loving kindness. . . Until that time, I don’t want to have to address the matter anymore than Jonah did.

I am not sitting around reveling in the idea of this man burning in Hell. Honestly, I think that’s a little extreme. I don’t wish Hell upon him. I just want him to pay the fair and just price for his actions. 

Nothing more. 

Nothing less. 

If the Holy Spirit wants to work on my lack of compassion for this man, I invite Him to do so. I just want Him to do it behind the scenes of my heart. 

Because just like Jonah. . . I don’t want to participate.

Fellow believers are always quick to remind me that God is a God of justice, that He will repay, that I can trust Him to avenge the great wrong done to me . . . but they would be wrong! 

It’s just not true! 

Not all the time anyway.

Isn’t that one of the hard truths the book of Jonah teaches to the wounded?

God’s grace is available to everyone.

Everyone!

And none of us are deserving.

None of us!

Should Troy Robins repent, his sin will be forgiven . . . 

and forgotten . . . 

just like mine. (That truth hasn’t escaped me).

And like the prophet Jonah, I don’t want to see the one who hurt me so deeply escape punishment.

I am filled to the brim with righteous indignation. . . but it ceases to be righteous when I would stoop so low as to withhold the gospel from another.

I know this.

So I’m thankful God hasn’t called me and sent me to witness to what amounts to my enemy.

And yet my humanity howls . . . just howls at the mere prospect of facing the same circumstances Jonah found himself in. 

Twice I’ve sat helplessly by and watched as justice was denied all three of my daughters, my husband, myself. 

I don’t want to wake up and go to sleep over and over for years to come knowing with absolute certainty that the hope of justice has been lost entirely.

So, don’t come tell me if Troy Robins gets saved! Don’t expect me to rejoice with the angels in heaven.

Right or wrong, I just don’t want to know.  

Doest thou well to be angry, Janet? 

Maybe not. 

I am Jonah. 

I am no more Holy than he.


 
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Posted by on September 4, 2017 in Adversity, Faith, Grief

 

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How to Know When Your Journey Through Grief is Complete

Several months ago I asked my psychiatrist how I’d know when I had completed the grieving process. My most pressing need in recovery is/was to reconcile my losses and Gracen’s prognosis with my beliefs about God. I defiantly needed the Holy Spirit to make sense of it all within the context of scripture. That process has been impacted by the overwhelmingly raw agony of emotion cursing through my system. Anger, fear, discouragement and defeat cycled and recycled through my heart and mind constantly. There was, there is, no escape from that cycle without processing both my thoughts and feelings.

Frankly, following the death of my daughters everything I saw, heard and thought was filtered through loss. My perspective shifted and words, actions and thoughts were interpreted in a far more literal and somewhat cynical sense in spite of recognizing the good intentions of others. I understood the intention but was frustrated by others inability and/or refusal to see things from my perspective. Others fairly vibrated with the need to fix the unfixable. To justify with some grand overall plan and purpose. To extinguish the palpable pain. To escape the negativity so they were not inadvertently soiled by it. Those individuals probably felt the same frustration with me. 

Unbeknownst to most, inside an intense desire to be understood refused to be appeased or denied. It took root and demanded attention, refusing to be placated and demanding validation. And every bit of it was entwined with my faith in Jesus Christ.

So I set about entangling my seemingly contradictory thoughts and feelings with the truth of scripture. I did my best to ignore the advice of the untested and sought refuge with broken believers who shared my struggle to cling to and reconcile my faith. I withdrew to escape judgment and rebuke and carve out a safe, secure, silent space in which I could wrestle with the complex truths of scripture. And in that place I made peace with the contradictions of what love in action looks like. I meditated on the complexities of God’s promises and plans regarding my earthly existence and eternal purposes. In time, my internal struggle ended. I found answers that satisfied and let go of the unexplainable. I made peace with my losses . . . with Gracen’s prognosis. 

However, just as Jacob walked away from wrestling with the angel limping, I have also paid a high price in the search for understanding and peace. Depression dogs my steps and anxiety chases after me. And I wonder, have I processed grief only to be handicapped by the mental health issues that rode in on the coattails of loss? Will I ever escape them?

When I asked my psychiatrist how I would know when I had completed my journey through grief he responded that I will have healed when I no longer processed everything through the filter of loss. I will no longer analyze every thought, feeling and action in minute detail in regards to death. He told me I had not yet arrived at that place; but I know I’m making progress.

A long time ago, before Bethany and Katie died, I came to the realization that disease had thrust me into a constant grief cycle. As Gracen and Katie’s bodies changed, as hard won abilities were lost to the ravages of disease, I would grieve, rebel, adjust and adapt to new and painful realities. I would strive against, and then for, acceptance of less than palatable changes. 

I am not sure I will ever completely succeed at living life without filtering it through loss. Loss is destined to color my life and future. However, I always come back to Ecclesiastes 7:2,

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living should take it to heart.” 

And the living should take it to heart . . . 

The living should take it to heart . . . 

Maybe I’m right where I’m suppose to be.

There are valuable life lessons that are only learned through the crucible death and suffering. That is not so much a negative thing as it is a painful reality. At times I will conquer the fears and sorrow that share space in my heart and mind and at other times I will once again find myself overwhelmed by them. That is the curse of humanity – the cost of the fall of man. For as many times as others have suggested or implied that I should move on I wonder if my Savior is whispering, “Stay. Linger with Me here in this hard place for just awhile longer. Talk to Me. Don’t turn away. There is a gift of great worth awaiting you.”

“Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3 NET Bible

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace [Who imparts all blessing and favor], Who has called you to His [own] eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself complete and make you what you ought to be, establish and ground you securely, and strengthen, and settle you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:10 AMPC

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2017 in Faith, Grief

 

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Seasons of Disease and Death – Where Life Gets Real

I’ve been reading and meditating on John Chapter 9 and 11 of late. Those two chapters are significant to me because they touch on the very things that have most impacted my adult life – disability (or illness) and death.

John 9 chronicles the story of Christ healing the man blind from birth.

John 11 tells of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead.

As I mulled those scriptures over in my mind I looked for similarities and differences. I noted that the blind man didn’t seek Jesus out for healing, but Jesus healed him anyway. And as I thought about that blind man I wondered why he didn’t seek out this miracle performing man. Surely he had heard the gossip. John 9:32 might answer that question for us.

“Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind.”

The blind man held no hope for healing. Never had it been reported that a man born blind had been made to see. It was a foregone conclusion in his mind that he would never see the world around him. Why chase after the prophet who was stirring up so much controversy? How could he even find his way to the prophet? So he sat in acceptance of the circumstances he had always known with no hope of changing them as the world passed by around him.

I understand that mentality all too well. It’s hard to carry the hope of healing while simultaneously accepting what is deemed unchangeable. How does one invest the effort required searching for a cure while expending so much energy coping with what is? How was the blind man supposed to hunt for this wandering prophet when his very survival was contingent upon the alms he begged for day after day?

On the other hand, Mary and Martha knew that Lazarus could be healed. They had access to Jesus. They had cultivated a relationship with him. They believed He was the long awaited Messiah. They had likely seen Him heal others. So they sent for Jesus communicating their dire need for His presence. And then they waited . . . and waited . . . until it was too late and their brother was dead.

And when Jesus finally showed up their deep anguish bubbled up and out their mouths as they each told him that Lazarus would not have died if he had been there. Their faith is revealed alongside their confusion and vulnerability. They trusted Jesus to come, to step in and save the day. But he didn’t do it. And they still trusted him for resurrection at the last day.

One man without faith – without hope.
Two women with faith – with hope.

And in a rare turn of events Jesus answers the most common and difficult question that always arises when death and disease become a part of our lives. Why?

Why was this man born blind?
Why did Lazarus die?

And the answers are strikingly similar in both situations. In regards to the blind man Christ responded, So that the works of God could be revealed through him. And when questioned on the reason for Lazarus’s death He replied, So that God and the Son of God would be glorified.

Sandwiched between those two stories is John chapter 10 where Jesus proclaims, “I am the good shepherd”! And in that chapter Jesus lays bare the reason for which he came, “. . . That they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (in the fullest measure).” He proclaims his power to both lay down his life for the sake of his flock and to take it up again. He proclaims himself to be the long awaited Messiah. And maybe most remarkable of all is that he flat out tells his audience how to prove that he is not who he says he is. He tells them that if they won’t believe his words, they should believe his works.

And isn’t it interesting that “I am the good shepherd” falls right between the stories of death and disability? In the grand scheme of things what leads us to question the meaning of life more than disease and death . . .

When disease or disability become our eventual reality, we can be confident that there is an important purpose for our suffering – that the works of God might be revealed through us. And when death invades your life, stealing away your hopes and plans we can be assured that God and the Son of God will be glorified.

7 But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves. 8 We are pressured in every way [hedged in], but not crushed; perplexed [unsure of finding a way out], but not driven to despair; 9 hunted down and persecuted, but not deserted [to stand alone]; struck down, but never destroyed; 10 always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be shown in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly [experiencing the threat of] being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the [resurrection] life of Jesus also may be evidenced in our mortal body [which is subject to death]. 12 So physical death is [actively] at work in us, but [spiritual] life [is actively at work] in you. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 AMP

Our suffering is not in vain but has eternal value. And in the seasons of disease and death, where life gets real and all we’ve worked for and stood for is called into question, stands the good shepherd who is worthy of our faith and trust, who leads us and cares for us and is powerful enough to usher us from this earthly fold into eternity where we will experience life in its fullest measure.


***(From Wesley’s Commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:10 – alittle help understanding verse 10)

” . . . Wherever we go. . . Continually expecting to lay down our lives like him [Jesus]. That the life also of Jesus might be manifested in our body – That we may also rise and be glorified like him.”

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Chronic Illness, Faith, Grief, Uncategorized

 

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The True Source of Grief Paralysis

Psalm 91 is a mixed-media work of art including the use of watercolor, colored pencil and marker by Sarah Marie


A fellow grieving mother, Sarah Marie, shared the following comments on a closed Facebook page in anticipation of the Heaven Going anniversary of her daughter, Christina Grace. I am publishing Sarah’s comments with her express permission. 

Grief is far more complicated than missing your loved one and fearing they will be forgotten. Please take a minute to absorb the message Sarah shares below.

“This month marks one year since we lost our daughter. If I’m open about my pain, well-meaning people say things like, “She’ll never be forgotten,” or “Thinking of you as you miss your precious Christina.” I know they mean well, but their responses show how little they understand of what we experience. 

Yes, I miss her. And if she was here, I wouldn’t have this particular pain and I’m thankful she’s remembered. BUT simply missing her isn’t what creates this emotional (and sometimes mental and physical!) paralysis. 

It’s the scars of trauma. The anxiety. The loneliness of grief. The shallowness of petty people. The exhaustion that comes from insomnia, nightmares, and the exertion of conversation. The racking sobs I cannot control when I just want to be alone but the laundry pile is daunting and dinner needs made. The ever greater, experiential understanding that I have zero control and the way that changes… everything. 

. . . 

Come, Lord Jesus. Come!”

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in Grief

 

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