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Tag Archives: Eternity

Created for . . .

strandeddanipettreyIf you’ve read my blog posts in the past you probably know that I love to read. When I was a child it seemed as if my parents took us to the library once a week. I have a few distinct memories of the Swanson Library in Omaha, Nebraska. From my child-sized view, it was a huge library filled with a treasure trove of books and resources. It stood as a playground in my mind. I remember the hallways and the room where movies were shown, the book drop bin outside in front of the library, the long counter where books were stamped for checkout and I have a very clear image of standing in front of a bookcase filled to the brim with fictional escapes to dreamlike places and lives. The library is a very vivid image of my childhood.

I’m an avid reader. One the genres I enjoy reading is Christian fiction. The authors have expanded my understanding of scripture and taught me lessons that have stayed tucked in the forefront of my mind because of the story wound around the theological message.

One such book touched my heart as the parent of a stillborn child. I’d long ago laid down the question of why realizing there would never be an answer good enough to satisfy my grieving heart this side of Heaven. But there is a second why question that had never been answered satisfactorily that has lingered in the recesses of my mind for almost 25 years. That question is why create Cole at all just to have him die before he lived outside of my womb?

In the last year, I happened upon the best answer I’ve ever encountered in a book called “Stranded” by Dani Pettrey. In the course of the storyline, one character asks another why God would create his son just to let him die. The character responds that his son wasn’t born to die, he was born for eternity. That one sentence just grabbed me and it hasn’t let go.

As I have pondered this explanation, the conclusion drawn has expanded in scope in my mind. You see, every creature created by God Almighty, not just the miscarried, stillborn, aborted, or baby who dies shortly after birth, but every single human being ever created was not created for this world alone. Every single one was created for eternity. We were all created for a forever relationship with God.

To use the old dot and line analogy, our lives here on earth can be represented by the dot, and eternity is represented by the line. It looks like this:

.______________________________________________________________

That word picture doesn’t always help me to grasp the concept of eternity. But, if I’m standing on a hilltop or the top of a mountain looking down at the valley below and beyond, it feels more real. In that case, the place I stand is the dot and the line is as far as the eye can see stretching out before me . . . and beyond. That idea blows my mind.

eternalperspectiveIn comparison, our earthly lives are barely a blip on the radar of our eternal future. This is why the scriptures can so boldly proclaim that our suffering in this world is nothing more than a light and momentary affliction.

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” ~ 2 Peter 3:8

When we think about the suffering of Christ, the suffering of the Father while Christ was abused, spit on, whipped, and had nails pounded into his wrists and feet, we often think the time of Christ’s suffering was short. His absence from the disciples and His other followers a mere three days (prior to His ascension), yet from a heavenly perspective, Christ’s one full day of suffering in equivalent to 1000 years. If every year is equated to a thousand years then God the Father awaited the resurrection of His beloved son for 3,000 years. And Christ’s lifetime (living life as a human as opposed to deity alone) lasted 365 individual days times 33 years of life or 12,045 days. When you multiply that by 1000 years Christ lived the equivalent of 12,045,000 years separated from His Father, and has lived far more separated from all of His creation. I don’t know about you, but that’s a sobering thought for me.

We were created for eternity. It’s our free-will choice where we will spend those eternal days. A failure to make a decision is, in fact, a decision. Allow me to plead with you to make a wise choice. When you consider that a mere 33 years is equivalent to 12,045 days, that’s a lot of time spent in your eternal home. But 12,045 days will feel like 12,045,000 years when spent in hell as opposed to Heaven.

Yes, I believe in Hell. The Bible writes very vividly about it. It’s not the fun party place we like to believe it to be. It is a place of endless torment, isolation, sorrow and fear. Yet, we all have a choice. No one need go there.

No one.

Everyone spends eternity somewhere.

Where will you spend it?

 

*Photo credit goes to Karen Blankenship. Pictured is Matthew Sanders.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on January 23, 2017 in 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.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on November 14, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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The Ultimate Decision

it-is-in-your-momentsI 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 all eternal creatures.

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.

And let me tell you—that somewhere—that somewhere is absolutely the most important thing to a bereaved parent—spouse—child—friend.

All the things—every deed—goal—hope—expectation—ideal—every single thing that draws our attention in this life is reduced to one primary concern when you stare death in the face. Where will eternity be spent?

The body dies but life goes on; even for the deceased.

And what the bereaved believes about the afterlife is all of the sudden of utmost importance.

And frankly, it’s all about the bereaved at this point in time.

The deceased has lost the opportunity to figure out and act upon what they believe about eternity. The choice they made, or chose not to make, in this life is now their eternal destiny.

notmakingadecisionBut for the bereaved those beliefs have the power to extend hope or destroy the heart.
And that’s why the cultural belief that all roads lead to Heaven, that we all worship the same God regardless of what name by which we call Him, is so deceptively destructive.

It allows us to make light of the most vital question and decision every human must address. And the failure to make a decision is a decision in and of itself. The decision to postpone making a choice, and the decision not to choose, result in eternal consequences, just as making a conscious choice does. And that is why the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 7:2,

“It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting (or in some translations, the house of mirth): for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.”

The loss of a loved one—the natural end of all men—forces those with hearts not already harden to seriously consider exactly what they believe about the afterlife and hopefully leads them to make a conscious choice—for the sake of their own eternal future.

Everyone spends eternity somewhere.

I have made my choice.

I have no question and no fear about where I will spent all of eternity.

It’s not a decision I’ve made lightly.

I didn’t just drink the Kool-aid, so to speak.

Twenty-four years ago, I took my first real trip to the house of mourning. As a result, I reexamined everything I believed about eternity—who got to Heaven and how. Then I reaffirmed the choice I made many years before when the need to make a decision seemed far less critical.

I couldn’t have been more wrong about the priority of that choice, and that fact was never more evident than when I knelt by the side of the road frantically trying to determine if my oldest daughter was alive or dead. She was 20. Twenty years old, far younger than the average lifespan in our current day. And then I repeated that same assessment, dead or alive, for my 18 and 16 year old daughters.

That day, my 20 and 16 year old daughters lost the opportunity to make a decision regarding their eternal futures. The choices they made, or failed to make, prior to that day had already begun to be played out for the entirety of their days without end.

Consequences good or bad . . .

On that day, I wasn’t confident that my 20 year old had chosen the way I desperately desired for her to choose. Even in a state of shock, I knew . . . I knew the time for deciding was lost. My opportunity to influence—over. And ironically, just an hour before the accident that stole her life, we’d debated the issue of evolution and creation theory.

One short hour before her death.

And as I knelt at her side in stunned disbelief, my heart fractured in a way it had never done before. In my shock, during which I’ve been told my mind entered a state of disassociation, I stumble from her side in order to find my two other children. Now, when I rewind the tape of that moment, I literally see myself sitting back on my heals and keening out a desperate and despairing cry of, ‘Noooooooo!’ to the heavens, and collapsing on her still form. ‘Noooooooo, Noooooooo!, Please, God, Noooooo! There is no more disturbing and heartbreaking sound on earth than that of a mother keening out her sorrow over the body of her dead child. And there is no greater fear than being unsure of your loved one’s eternal destiny—unless you feel assured that their eternity will be spent in Hell instead of Heaven—and that’s nothing short of terrifying.

It was three long months later when I discovered a journal with only two entries that had been written four years prior to her death, that gave me any hope, any peace, that she might be spending her days dining with the Savior of her soul in paradise forevermore.

Three utterly agonizing months.

And, I won’t really rest easy until I see her again; face to face.

If you’ve not decided what you believe about the afterlife; I urge you not to delay.

My greatest frustration in regards to the topic of the existence of God and the afterlife is that our culture seems to endorse the concept that every resource, aside from the Bible itself, is a legitimate source with which to make such an all-important decision.

lifeisshortThose who encourage you to disregard the Bible are doing you a grave disservice along with manipulating you toward the decision they want you to make. I encourage you to choose the Bible in addition to any other resources you desire. And frankly, I can say that because God is not at all concerned with how His word stands up against any other source.

By encouraging you to research other sources including the Bible, it should be plainly evident that I’m not trying to manipulate your decision. Instead, I want you to compare and contrast what God’s self-proclaimed word says with what any other source you choose has to say. You will probably discover that every other source tells you what the Bible says. You may think that means reading the Bible yourself is unnecessary but that’s not the case because verses will be quoted, but taken out of context, and thereby the true meaning is warped or lost altogether. The Bible is the only inspired source revealing God’s character and His own declaration on every moral choice presented to man. So it’s important that you include the Bible in your choice of resources in order to make a non-biased decision.

Research and choose.

Don’t forfeit your chance to consciously decide where you will spend all of eternity; because . . .

Everybody spends eternity somewhere.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on October 24, 2016 in Faith, Grief

 

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