The touch of leather

And He reached out His hand and touched him.  Matthew 8:3

This post is dedicated to all my dear readers who understand the value of “stuff” that once belonged to a beloved someone we have been forced to say goodbye to, but keep them tucked forever in our hearts. Maybe you decorated the mantel or the shelves in a curio cabinet or keep their room just as they left it or you know where the boxes are stored. It matters. Their stuff matters. I have my son’s billfold. It represents his life.

Contents represents life

The pulse of life

I am drawn to leather ~ good quality leather with its rich aroma and  smooth touch. Lest this sound like a description of a leather skirt or pants, let me hasten to add that I would never qualify to wear leather on any place on my body other than my feet, but I love leather purses, leather Bibles, leather seats . . . and  my son’s leather billfold.

It’s just a thing. And not a very big thing, but it holds notes, a little money and his identity. Other than our photos, it is all that remains to remind me that my firstborn once had a life.

Just like mail. Does anyone get excited about getting mail? Remember the movie with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in “You’ve Got Mail”? Both could hardly wait to get home, hit the power button, wait for the computer to warm up and then the magical voice, “you’ve got mail!” Be it the rarity of snail mail or the frequency of tweets and texts, who does not relish the exchange of words with those we care about?

Mail, like my son’s billfold, contain words that imply life. He once had a very busy, fulfilling, successful life ~ or so we thought. He had an address where he got mail. After his death, all future mail was transferred to us and still it comes. The latest is a Subaru car sales advertisement ~ advertising their product, encouraging him to “come in and take a test-drive in the all-new 2014 Subaru Forester 2.OXT with a 250=hp turbocharged Subaru Boxer engine.”

Of course they have no idea that he is no longer on Earth’s radar screen, but for his mom it is a painful reminder that he is not here. I wish he were here and perhaps take a test drive and tell us all about the new Subaru, or share his excitement over new changes in his life fulfilling his dreams. But it’s not so. Like your precious person(s) you have lost to death, we wish they were still here with us enjoying life.

In our grief journey when we are able to process our child’s life, we realize that with hindsight comes clarity. We are unable to see the future or we would do everything in our power to keep every one of our children safe. But we have little foresight or I would have realized the amount of pain my son was carrying. Depression leads to bleakness and frantic darkness and excruciating pain of mind and heart. I can’t begin to comprehend what he went through before he made the decision which changed our lives forever.

My questions will get answered one day and so will yours. God has promised to wipe away all tears which suggests to me that he will reach out and touch our faces and wrap us in a hug for the first time. There will be conversation and explanations too, don’t you think? Perhaps when I see my son’s face with his cute grin and little chuckle I will forget I ever had questions. But for now all I have is a billfold to remind me of the years I had his sweet presence in my life. I would gladly trade a piece of leather for the touch of his hand . . . soon, may it be very soon.

He will wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain. All of that has gone forever.  Revelation 21:4, TLB

This entry was posted on July 26, 2014. 9 Comments

Another fish story

This post is written in honor of my firstborn son who died way too soon at age 30. He was the angler in our home. My children were very young when introduced to the fine art of fishing for fun ~ catch and release. They got into it and made many canoe trips down lakes and rivers seeking the best and biggest fish for bragging rights. Maybe they will get to pick up where they left off in heaven.

After this, Jesus appeared once more to his disciples at the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. Simon Peter said to the others, “I am going fishing.” “We will come with you,” they told him. So they went out in a boat, but all that night they did not catch a thing. John 21:1-3

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If someone were you ask you to give a physical description of Jesus’ appearance, how would you imagine him? Would you naturally go in your minds eye to the form of the typical Jesus? Isn’t he usually a baby in a manger with a sunbeam over his head, surrounded by parents and cattle? Or the figure of an emaciated Jesus suspended on a cross, with blood running down his side, deathly pale, gaunt, and with his eyes looking upward ?

I’m not condemning either picture, but could there be others? According to my reading of the Gospels Jesus had muscle. After all, didn’t he flip over tables sending coins tumbling and money changers scrambling? He showed his temper too didn’t he? Well, what about the possibility of a playful Jesus? Does that seem rather out of place? Do you think that he and his disciples ever had any laughs in the three years they were together? Just for fun let’s explore a fish story tucked inside the book of John in the Gospels. There were several fish stories, but let’s explore the one in John 21 and if you will allow a little imagination . . .

It was late. The sea of Tiberias (or Galilee) was as smooth as silk and it beckoned. It had been a rough few days and the boys were exhausted. Their Master had been tortured and executed by Crucifixion and they either watched or ran. They had left their livelihood and families behind to follow when He had invited. Apparently His mission had been accomplished and theirs would soon begin . . . without him. They needed some time to unwind. What better way than to go fishing?

“I’m going to take dad’s boat out and cast some nets. You in?” Peter tossed out the question as the guys polished off a late meal this moonlit night. “Yeah, let’s,” they chorused. Nothing like going fishing to clear your head. But other than some good conversation with intermittent dozing throughout the night the sea had kept her secret stash. They did not catch a single fish all night long. Bummer. Now it was dawn and muscles ached from being scrunched in tight positions; their bodies clamored for a good stretch. Perhaps it was time to pack it in.

Their whereabouts was not unknown to the beach comber on the shore. He was keeping an eye on his friends as he grilled breakfast. From the distance and in the foggy morning mist the guys saw a loner on the beach, but that was common. They didn’t suspect it was Jesus and he didn’t bother to clear their vision. He took pleasure in keeping his identity a secret for the moment.

Jesus had been turning the fish on the grill, but now he got to his feet and stretched. He thrust his hands deep into his jean pockets and watched his mates intently while chewing on a piece of dried reed. He knew they had caught nothing. Tossing the reed, he cupped his hands around his mouth and called out to the fisherman, “Catch anything?” Peter yelled back, “Naw. Lousy night.”

Jesus could have staged a show-stopping, pyrotechnic display to arrest their attention and fill the heavens but that was never his style. Not at birth and not now. Instead we see a side of Jesus probably only known to the disciples who were along side him day and night for three years. Because they recorded their stories in the Gospels we have snapshots of sometimes a playful Jesus. And here was one of those moments where Jesus let the drama play out, no doubt enjoying every second.

Now the beach comber hollered, “Why don’t you cast your nets on the right side?”    

 What? Who had said that to them before?  Who else could it be but their Lord! Smiles broke across their faces like the dawn. It’s Jesus! They hustled to cast the nets anticipating what would happen ~ just like old times. In seconds the nets were bursting with a writhing catch. With biceps bulging and backs straining they hauled the catch into the boat and before it could sink and they lost it all, they headed for shore. Of course, impatient Peter couldn’t wait that long so pulling on his clothes he dove in and swam to shore. Dragging his soggy body unto the beach, he grabbed Jesus in a wet bear hug. Can you picture it?

The rest of the disciples pulled the boat up on shore. They’d take the count later. Their bellies were empty and the smell of grilling fish hit their noses. Yum. Breakfast fit for a king and cooked to perfection by the King! How wonderful to see their Master again. They all grasped him in bear hugs. This was the third surprise visit since his resurrection and they loved it. Perhaps still not fully comprehending all that had taken place they were learning they could trust Jesus completely.                                                   

With bellies full, they relaxed around the fire ~ sometimes chatter ~ sometimes silent in private thoughts. The boys knew Jesus would soon return to heaven to carry out his work from there while they took up the mantle and carried the Good News far and wide. They had gotten to know Jesus and by knowing him, they met his Dad, for Jesus had said,  If you have known me, you will also know my Father. From now on you know him through me and have seen him in me.” John 14:7, GW

Thoughts for this story came from “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldredge. It is a wonderful book about the unexpected, playful, light-hearted Jesus. It’s so human, to real, so not religious; a far cry from the serious, stoic Jesus we usually read about. I can’t do this story justice, but if it creates in you a thirst for more, you won’t be disappointed.

We can add one more tidbit to this playful side of Jesus. Fishermen do not dally when hauling their catch to shore. You can’t sell stinky fish, so the boys knew they had delayed this chore long enough. “We’d better get the catch counted, boys,” one of them stated. “Yeah,” called another, “we’d better,” as they unwound their bodies and got to their feet.

Jesus spoke up softly, “There are one hundred and fifty-three.” Oh, yeah. Right. We have Jesus with us. No need to count this catch. There had to be high fives, back slaps and grins all around.

They were a band of brothers who personally knew the King.

*  *  *

“Cast your net with all the might of your faith into the waters of His will. Send it deep into the sea of His promises, into the waters of His abundance, into the depths of His supply. As you do, you will gather ~ more wonders than you have ever seen, more surprises than you can ever imagine, more blessings than you can ever hold.”    ~Roy Lessin

 

This entry was posted on July 18, 2014. 4 Comments

Baby Laughter

Is anything too hard for the Lord?  Genesis 18:14

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Sarah shall bear you a son; and you are to name him Isaac [he laughs].  Genesis 17:19

Isaac was a darling baby boy. His name was extra special because God chose his name. Mom and Dad didn’t care ~ they were still too stunned at the very prospect of having a baby of their own. He would be their only child together. But let’s drop back and pick up the story.

How in the world could a baby be conceived at their age? They were dumbfounded at the news even though it had been hand-delivered from heaven. Sitting at her kitchen table Sarah could hear the conversation outside around the camp fire. With just animal skins separating her from the conversation, she could clearly hear what was being said. So startled and probably in denial she laughed. I probably would have too, to be honest. After all Sarah was no spring chicken.

The Bible tells us in Genesis that Sarah was 90 and her husband 99 years of age when it was announced that they were finally to be parents. Long before, God had told Abraham that he would have so many descendants that they would resemble grains of sand on the seashore. At that point they were both young and full of life so the thought of being parents “soon” filled them with joy. But the joy began to evaporate as the years rolled by.

Can you picture yourself pregnant at the age of 90? Stooped, wrinkled and tottery, Sarah was about to trade in her walker for a stroller and deliver her child on the geriatric ward. How absurd! Paparazzi would be camped outside the hospital for days in advance and the story would fill the tabloids with book and movie deals in the works. What a picture!

I would imagine it took these soon-to-be parents time to adjust to the news long after their visitors left. Laughter. His name would be Isaac which means laughter. God knew their reaction and that Sarah would laugh. Perhaps there is a connection? At any rate they would never forget this day or the ones to follow ~ providing Alzheimer’s Disease did not sneak up on them, but the Bible records the story as it unfolds.

I did not pick out baby names based on the origin, did you? Back in those days, they did. I have since looked up the meaning of the names of my children and it is something to ponder.

This story may be humorless for you today. You may be too close to loss to be impacted by humor. I understand. I look back to a time when I could not listen to music or had any thoughts or pictures in my mind that weren’t laced with bitterness and pain. If you are there, I am so sorry for your suffering. We have a time of it, don’t we? But if my journey mirrors yours I can tell you that time ~ lots of time ~ will eventually bring back some sweetness to soften the bitter edges of your life. I think tragedy is forever bittersweet; I suspect it is a given, but time helps us focus on the bigger picture. Somehow we go on. We travel with those who have similar experiences and we lean on the Lord for strength if you include Him in your life.

Perhaps an important point of this treasured story is that Abraham and Sarah had given up. They had lost all hope of becoming parents and even thought to take the matter into their own hands instead of waiting on God to deliver on His promise. You can read the interesting twists in this “soap opera” story. It’s a page turner. But God never promises what He can’t deliver. When it became obvious that conception would be a miracle God stepped in and the impossible becomes possible, right on time. Baby Isaac was a miracle baby. I am sure his parents often told him about his beginnings and his story was recorded for all of us to read and be reminded that we never give up on God, but instead cling to His promises of hope.

Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for and hope for and expect the Lord!  Psalm 31:24, AMP

 

What is Truth?

 Pilate said to Him, “So You are a King?” Jesus said, “You are right when you say that I am a King. I was born for this reason. I came into the world for this reason. I came to speak about the truth.”

Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” After Pilate said this, he went out . . .   John 18:37-38

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Has anyone ever asked you this question: “What is truth?” Did you have an answer on the tip of your tongue or would you have to ponder the concept? It is, perhaps, a question that is a bit overwhelming?

Pilot had the Son of God standing before him ~ in his very presence ~ the most important event in his life ~ and he missed it. Nothing before or after could ever compare to this one defining, shining moment and he missed it. In fact, he turned his back on his Creator and walked away as if he, himself, had all the knowledge he needed to know. In his arrogance nothing else existed. He also ignored his wife’s plea, did he not?

Do I do that too . . . walk away from Truth? Am I afraid of what I might hear? Do I already know my truth and don’t need to hear something different? Is the concept something to be doubted or feared? Take a deep breath and read on . . .

“As God’s child there is nothing in the Truth of God to depress you, defeat you, discourage you, or deflate you. The Truth will build you up, lift you up, and keep you up. The Truth has come to deliver you, free you, heal you, restore you, refresh you, revive you, and renew you. Truth brings you the light of God, the wisdom of God, the ways of God, the plan of God, and the heart of God.

Truth is the belt that is tied around your spiritual armor to keep it in place

Truth is the revelation of true goodness that draws your heart to the Father’s love

Truth is the burning lamp that guides your feet on your pilgrim’s journey

Truth is the plumb line of righteousness that directs your obedience

Truth is the foundation of your faith and the road map that leads you through the gates of salvation

Truth is the light in your spirit that brings you into worship and wonder

Truth is the mirror that your soul gazes into as you are beautified in His holiness

Truth is the light of God that overcomes the darkness of every lie that seeks to rob you of your peace, steal your joy, and smother your faith.

*    When the lie says, “God is not interested in you,” Truth says, “Cast all your cares upon Me, for I care for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

*    When the lie says, “God is against you,” Truth says, “Because God is for you, no one can be against you.”  Romans 8:31

*    When the lie says, “How could God love someone like you?” Truth says, “God loves you with an everlasting love.”  Jeremiah 31:3

Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.  John 8:32

~Shared from Today is Your Best Day by Roy Lessin

 

And the Oscar goes to . . .

Please, don’t misunderstand. I have nothing against bestowing praise on our fellow man for a job well done. But this post is aimed at our spiritual eyesight where we may not be so inclined to look. As Paul quoted Jeremiah, “Whoever wants to boast must boast of what the Lord has done.”  1 Corinthians 1:31, GNT

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What do you think he was talking about? I believe the best way to achieve personal understanding is to read what Paul says in 1 Corinthians and compare it with a variety of other texts, allowing scripture to speak for itself. In this post may I share a personal story in an attempt to illustrate Paul’s point?

If you are a woman, you understand the need for cover up, as in face cover up, as in makeup. There are days when one wanders slowly through the makeup aisles, hoping for a new idea rather than moving at  business pace which should read to employees: “Do not slow me down”. This day was a wandering day. I was ready to be approached and challenged with a new idea, actually a new cover up. Mine needed sprucing up. Could they help?

The sweet young thing behind the counter was energetic and delightful, the perfect sales person. She pointed to a chair and I sat down, ready and willing to be made over into youthful. Tall order, I know. But why not aim high? Apparently that was her thinking exactly for I was floored when a few minutes later, she handed me the mirror and with a flourish asked, “How do you like it?”

I was speechless . . . flabbergasted actually. I needed sunglasses to shield me from the glare as I looked at the face staring back at me from the mirror. I pondered which words could safely be said in this eager young thing’s presence. She waited . . . and waited. What could I say? I looked like I was headed to Mardi Gras! I had bright blue shimmer raccoon eye shades that covered me from side to side. Yes, I exaggerate for affect, but it was blue, no doubt about that. And I wasn’t headed to New Orleans, but to a wedding. Tamer, elegant, understated, was the look I was aiming for. No doubt I had failed to communicate my desires to the sweet young thing behind the counter!

I had stalled long enough. “No, I don’t like it” I answered softly. It seemed the only thing I could truthfully say. She was crestfallen. She pouted, “You mean you don’t like it?” She was obviously taking it personally. I tried again to explain the look that I was going for. She was not listening. Her countenance stated a determined, “sell it, sista” attitude as she looked about for a guinea pig. She found one. Her eyes lit on a young man entering the area, obviously in business mode. She stopped him in his tracks and asked him what he thought. I wanted to bolt, but they blocked the exit. I wanted to slide out of the chair, but that seemed too ridiculous a notion for someone with gray in her hair, so I waited. He stared. He walked around me, chin in hand, apparently looking for a better angle. Oh, dear. This was entirely more than I bargained for.

Finally he spoke, drawing back as if great distance would give him better perspective, “I think it looks . . . great!” He had taken too long. Like me, he didn’t want to hurt the sweet young thing’s feelings. But the makeup artist was on a roll and picking up speed. She was determined to find someone ~ any body ~ who would give her glowing makeup job glowing praise. Okay. Sigh. This quickie was quickly becoming unforgettable.

Then I heard her “yell”, “Hey, could you come here a minute?” No. She didn’t. Oh, but she did. She waved someone down who was innocently walking by in business mode and obviously not shopping for makeup. I turned around to see who she had captured. I was looking into the face of a bewildered senior not unlike myself. I can’t find the right word for the expression she wore, only to say that the sweet young thing was not going to get the A+ she desired. The lady hemmed and hawed and delayed to the point of further humiliation for me and exasperation for the clerk. “You mean you don’t like it?” Her words seemed to echo across the entire store.

“Well,” the gentle lady spoke finally, “it isn’t quite my taste.” Quickly she escaped. There was a lull. Now it was my turn to put space between me and the sweet young thing. Yes, there were stares as I hurried to the door. But yes, I became quite content with my own face. I could leave the makeup shopping to other customers.

Perhaps this story does not illustrate Paul’s point or maybe it does.  The sales clerk was more interested in seeking praise for herself than she was seeking to please the customer.

Remember what the King of Kings did for his disciples? He lowered himself to a kneeling position and washed their dusty feet. He took on the role of a servant and washed the disciples dirty, grimy feet; the lowest part of the body and the part most easily contaminated with the dirt of life. But he took advantage of the opportunity to teach his disciples by example how to experience and share humility.

We are not given to humility. We are born naturally with a spirit of pride. We seek the praise of others. We glory in ourselves. It is fine to take pride in a job well done and we lavish praise our children with the intent of stimulating them to work hard to do their best. I am not suggesting that we change these habits. But I am suggesting that we all look deeper into what God would want us to do. And then follow His example.

Glorify your name, not ours, O Lord! Cause everyone to praise your loving-kindness and your truth.  Psalm 115:1, TLB

 

 

This entry was posted on June 27, 2014. 2 Comments

The purity of mama pain

You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book. Psalm 56:8, MSG

 

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Perhaps this title gives you “word whiplash”, a double take as it were. That’s okay. The title looks a bit strange on paper to me too, but this post is about mothers losing their children to suicide which you may not have interest in. If you stop reading here, you won’t hurt my feelings. Since there is 1 suicide death every 66 minutes ~ actually 99 suicide deaths every 66 minutes around the globe, I think the topic is worthy of the time it takes to write and yours to read. Most of us know at least one family who has lost someone they love to suicide. Unless a mother precedes her child in death she will outlive her child, surviving the aftermath of terrible loss. I know this grief first hand so I hope you will give me a little wiggle room with my choice of words. They are intended to bless us both.

If you are not a mother, but you lost someone you loved to suicide, perhaps you are a sibling or a dad or a friend? I can speak around your pain and perhaps there are many similarities, but I cannot speak from personal experience to your grief. Each is unique. A mama’s grief is unique. It is this one I know and have known for 8 years. It’s not an easy journey as you may know. It is a tough assignment and certainly takes more than it gives, but there is gain in the giving back to help others along the same journey. This is what I do. In writing this blog, I drop back to link arms with you and we walk and share together. Hugs are exchanged. Tissues given. And in the sharing, our loads are lifted temporarily. I hope you have experienced this for no one need walk alone. There are many grief support groups out there and many as close as a click on your PC. If you aren’t familiar with grief sites on Facebook perhaps you will look for them. I was astounded to see the number of people, mostly women and mostly mothers so if you are a mother you will be in comfortable company of those who “get it”.

May I speak frankly? Suicide is a word fraught with drama. As I have written before, it is often used in circles where it does not belong, especially in the media as an attention-grabbing word, me thinks. From sportswriters to newscasters, they all use it and I have had to learn to accept it. What else can be done?

But what of those closer to us: family, friends, coworkers. Is there drama around suicide there too? I say “yes” because that is my experience. Funerals and weddings seem to bring out not only the best, but also the worst in human behavior. My memories of our memorial service are murky with the actions of others around me totally out of place and unacceptable, but I was powerless to stop it or change it at the time so I must live with the memories of it. But there is something I can do. I can speak openly in hopes that it will strike a resounding chord in some of you who will share it with others for maximum exposure.

I’d like to share my thoughts about funeral drama. Every family is different. Perhaps yours surrounded you and continue to support you in varies ways. Trust me it’s a blessing when they do. But some of us cannot think about the loss of our child without seeing the faces of those who tried to steal the day for their own purposes, therefore:

*I have given myself permission to move them out of my memory surrounding my child’s death.

*They are excluded from any thought I have about my child going forward.

*I choose to honor my child’s memory by keeping my grief pure with his name engraved on it. My tears have given me clarity over time. I will continue to shed tears as will you. I  choose to think of them as pure as rain drops, glistening rainbow colors in the sunlight with prism-like beauty. His memory deserves care and I will give it most tenderly.

I know others miss him and grieve in their own way. Bless them! I am glad they honor my son too, but they are outside the circle of my heart. Within me is the heart of a mother designed by the Creator with huge tear ducts! We can cry at a whim. We fall asleep drenched in tears, do we not? Each breathing moment our minds struggle to think about anything or anyone else especially in the beginning when grief is raw and bleeding. If you desire to move certain faces out of your memory, then do it. No one else need know. No one else around you can understand your mama heart, can they?

There is only one who truly understands. It is He who created us mamas with an enormous capacity to love! It is God, our heavenly Father. He knows all things so I assume that He, alone, understand our pain. So I talk to Him about my son all the time. I have no words, but I ask Him to write through me. If you are touched deep in your heart at what is shared here, please consider that it is the touch from God’s own heart. Our loving God understands mama grief. He is a super snuggler so fear not as you approach. He welcomes us with open arms and we can stay on His lap as long as we like and return time and time again. He offers His handkerchief to dry our tears and murmurs encouraging words that our heart understands.

There will come a day when we will cry mama tears for the last time. He has promised to dry our eyes for perhaps the last time. There will be no reason for tears of sadness because there will be no more death! Until this amazing day, we have reason to hope and bright blue words just seems to fit these beautiful promises.

Stop your crying and wipe away your tears. Everything you have done for your children will not go unrewarded. 

I will bring them back from death and from the land of the enemy. You will be a part of My royal family and I will always be your God.

I will wipe away all your tears and there will be no more death, or sadness or crying or pain. The former things are forever gone.                                              

Jeremiah 31:16 & Revelation 21:2-4, paraphrased

                                                                                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on June 21, 2014. 8 Comments

“The Story of the Running Father”

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1 NIV

Sherri Gragg

“Everything was quiet. I sat very still with my Bible and journal on my lap by my front window in a picture of perfect peace. But my heart was heavy with familiar grief.

I had been in church my whole life. “Amazing Grace” was as familiar to me as the lullabies my mother sang over my crib, yet somehow my image of God was less of a kind and gracious Father and more of an angry, distant judge. How could a holy God ever accept me, one so flawed?

I bowed my head and began to weep and pray with the kind of honesty that only comes when we are at the end of all our strength.

Heavenly Father,

I know the Bible says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, but I just can’t seem to believe it. Every time I turn to You, my first impulse is fear!  I give up. I can’t do this on my own. Will You please heal my heart?

Over the next year, God did for me what I had been utterly helpless to do on my own. He revolutionized my image of Him.

One of the stories that meant the most to me on my journey was the story many of us know by the title, The Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32. I discovered that in the Middle Eastern Church the story goes by another name: The Story of the Running Father. The difference in the title reflects important cultural knowledge that the people to whom Jesus spoke would have known.

In the biblical story, the son demands his share of the family’s wealth, leaves home and breaks his father’s heart in the process. Eventually the young man finds himself destitute in a foreign land and determines to return to his father’s house with the hope of working as a servant.

Scripture tells us the father sees his son a long way off and runs to him. It’s the image of this running father that was so powerful to the hearers of Jesus’ story.

First, it was considered extremely undignified for a Middle Eastern man to run anywhere. Running was for children. Also, running required men to hike up their robes and expose their legs, which was considered humiliating and disgraceful.

The reason he was running was even more significant. It was a very serious matter for a Jewish young man to lose his family’s inheritance in a foreign land. If he did, and he had the gall to actually return to his village, his entire community would then bring him to justice through a custom called the Kezazah. Once the community discovered the money was lost, they would surround him and break a pot at his feet. Then they would announce that from that moment on he was cut off from his family and community … as if he were dead.

But this young man’s father had been watching, and even though his son had broken his heart, he had been hoping for his return. He knew all too well what would happen when the villagers saw his boy. His son would be shamed and then the pot would fall, break, and his son would be lost. So, the father did what no first-century Middle Eastern man would do: he hiked up his robe and ran.

He ran through the village streets as his neighbors stared in horror. He ran as young boys began running along behind, shouting and mocking him in his shame. He ran ahead of the crowd as they moved toward his guilty, filthy son. He ran ahead of all that was reasonable and fair. He ran ahead of justice, taking his boy’s shame upon himself.

When he reached the boy, the father quickly gathered his son into his arms, kissed him on each cheek and called for a banquet in his honor.

This, Jesus tells us, is what God is like.

For too long my image of God was one of a tyrant, or a cold and callous judge. But now whenever I think of God, I see Him running toward me, gathering up my shame in His wake, to redeem me with His costly love.

My Father, thank You so much for running toward me. Help me rest in Your grace and trust Your great love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

TRUTH FOR TODAY:

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. Jeremiah 31:3, NIV

~SHERRI GRAGG

This entry was posted on June 14, 2014. 2 Comments

“God Sent Pipy”

We never know where life’s journey will take us. Many of us having been side-swiped by tragedy, seemingly out of thin air, forcing us to accept that our journey from now on will be laced with grief and take on a life of its own. Long before I became an author or a blogger, I wrote this story. I didn’t date it (somehow I always think I will remember), but it was written a few months after my son died. I sent it to a magazine; I do remember doing that. Searching through some stored papers recently, I came across it. I sat back and read it again allowing it to transport me back to another time when my life was innocent and fair. Here’s the beginning of my life with Pipy in it. May you enjoy the story whether you are a feline lover or not.

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“One warm evening last summer, my husband and I took a stroll down our country road. On the right side was a huge soybean field, lush and green from the abundant rain. Suddenly we heard a faint “mew”. It sounded like a kitten. We stopped and stared at the direction of the sound. A tiny kitten peeked through the foliage, a skinny little gray tiger kitten. Poor thing. Perhaps he had been looking for food in the field? He was not afraid of us and wanted to be held. We already had a cat, a spoiled unfriendly Samantha. But this kitten could use one good meal at least.

It was useless to put him down. He was not going back where he came from. He dogged our steps so it was either pick him up or step on him. All the way home, I pondered the options:  did he have an owner who missed him? Unlikely since we were surrounded by horse farms with barns and probably dozens of nameless cats. Was he tossed out to fend for himself? Perhaps, but he was not fearful at all. At least we could feed him before sending him back out to live on his own. One look at the way my husband held him gave me an inkling that this kitten’s chances had already improved.

He ate like the starved kitten he was. And as he did, he began to work himself into our hearts. Soon we were trying to think of names for this ‘outdoor mouser’. No way could he be inside with Sammy. I don’t know where the name, ‘Pipy’ came from, but he just seemed like a tiny ‘pipsqueak’, so small and frail. Soon he responded to his name and would come bouncing up to me from wherever his explorations took him.

Pipy turning out to be a kind and gentle kitten. He loves to play and has large almond-shaped expressive eyes. He soon won over our hearts to the point that there was talk about making him an indoor cat, considering the cold winter soon to come. Gradually we introduced Pipy to Sammy and to this day she snarls at him, but they seem to get along like any other siblings.

Little did we know that the fun antics from this kitten would soothe our broken hearts. Within weeks, we became shocked and grieving parents when our oldest son ended his life. There are no words to explain the anguish this created in our hearts. Perhaps time will help us learn to live again. Each day we shed buckets of tears that only God sees. We know that He is traveling this dark road with us.

During those first long and painful weeks, it began to dawn on us that perhaps God sent Pipy to us. He knew that our lives would soon be turned upside down and we would need this fun loving kitten to ease our pain and bring out peels of laughter in the midst of our grief. Each time we find ourselves laughing at this silly kitten, we remind ourselves that God does care about the simplest things when He gave us a ‘baby’ to love.

We could fill a book with Pipy’s antics. He is fascinated with the concept of gravity. He loves to push things off the edge of any surface and watch them drop to the floor. Needless to say, it is not unlike picking up after a child again. He and Sammy get into rough and tumble fights. Pipy is obviously having the time of his life. Sammy? Not so much. She hates having her calm and peaceful world so radically disrupted so she hisses and growls at him which of course fascinates him and makes us laugh.

One morning I heard what sounded like thundering hooves tearing up and down the hallway accompanied by a swishing sound. Sure I was imagining things, I turned off the hairdryer and peered out of the bathroom. There was Pipy, running around the house with a plastic grocery bag apparently attached to his middle and as he ran the bag became a parachute. Out of the parachute tumbled chocolate candy, hitting the walls and bouncing everywhere. The sight was too much. I doubled over, howling with laughter which brought my husband to the scene. By this time the show was over and a very frightened Pipy was hiding behind a chair with the empty bag still wrapped around him.

What apparently happened was Pipy, who loves the smell of chocolate, decided he wanted a piece of brightly wrapped Christmas chocolates which filled a pretty candy dish. I had covered the bowl with the grocery bag, hoping that he would leave the candy alone. Since the bowl was on the floor, empty, I assumed that in trying to uncover the bowl and help himself, he managed to dump the entire contents into the bag and off he ran, trying to get away from the bag that was flying behind him.

It has been a short 6 months since our son died. Each day is just as hard as the day before, but we put our trust in God. We know that He will get us through our grief to a place where we can have pleasant memories of our son. How thoughtful of God to provide us with Pipy, a source of comfort and laughter at a time when we need it the most.”

It seems strange to read something written at the 6th month point, which I remember thinking then that time crawled past slower than a snail. And now it is going on 9 years. I would have told you early on that years were impossible, but God has carried us along. So if you happen to be early in your journey, take heart and take my hand and we will both lean on God for comfort and support.

Every good present and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who made the sun, moon, and stars.   James 1:17, GWT

This entry was posted on June 6, 2014. 2 Comments

No Charge

photo 1 (6)For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.  John 3:16, GNT

Just an ordinary day running ordinary errands for ordinary purchases. Nothing special. Simply routine with nothing interesting to share . . . but sometimes unexpectedly, material just presents itself ~ a God surprise, you might say. Take today for instance. My last stop was to a specialty shop which has a wonderful deli with all manner of tempting salads, entrees and side dishes. All are arranged beautifully behind glass just begging to be tasted. I ask for a sample and one is readily given. Yum. Each tidbit voices clearly in my head, take me home and you won’t have to cook! Aw, come on . . . you’ve been there too, haven’t you?

I finished making my selections and since I’m always in “just looking” mode, I wheeled my cart by the hot bar just to take a look. One lonely cabbage roll lay forlornly in the corner of the tray. It looked tempting, but I had already calculated my max for today’s purchase and it didn’t include “Mr. Lonely”. Before I could roll on by however, an employee approached the hot bar, just doing his job.

He smiled. He had noted that I gave the cabbage roll a second glance and being a good salesman he promptly offered,  “Don’t you want to take that last one so I can remove the tray?” Surprised and flustered at being caught daydreaming, I returned his smile and slipped away.

I pressed on to the checkout counter to begin the routine task of taking items from the cart and setting them on the conveyor belt. Perhaps even a bit of chit chat with the employee ringing me up. Then to my left “Mr. Salesman” shows up again and this time, bearing gifts. He smiled and held out a plastic container on which he had written with a magic marker, “No Charge”.

“Hope you like it,” He said and walked away. A gift offered by an employee just doing his job. Perhaps his heart was gladdened. I know mine was.

And by the way, the cabbage roll was delicious!

No charge. Hmmm. How often does that happen in one’s life? Certainly not often in mine.

But it reminds me of what Jesus did. He did a “no charge” for us too. A free gift of grace that cost Him everything. Food for thought I’d say.

 

 

 

This entry was posted on May 31, 2014. 6 Comments

Yesterday’s News

So also the tongue is a small thing, but what enormous damage it can do. A great forest can be set on fire by one tiny spark. James 3:5
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Yesterday’s News

Yesterdays news is recycled to the bottom of the birdcage today. Our revolving world has a constant thirst for something new, something different, something that buys ratings when in actuality it is “chasing after wind.” (Eccl. 1:14) One can imagine how quickly a struck match dropped into a pile of shredded paper could destroy a house. Lives are forever changed. Words strike a match too and set hearts ablaze.
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It’s risky taking on the establishment and expose the heart to further beatings. The community at large may not have an interest in this piece, but there is one out there who will find this rings true for them. I have had more time in the trenches than many so I will speak up for you. Perhaps you would rather I keep my opinions to myself and I still respect you even if you feel that way and you may respond accordingly, but I will still speak up. One tiny voice can be heard over the din of life and that goal is worth the risk.
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It’s when our world crumbles at our feet after tragedy of any kind that we see yesterday’s news for what it really is. If you are not fresh and new, you are discarded ~ which include the painful feelings that come with loss. It isn’t long before we become boring and a drag, holding others back. We’re no longer continuously upbeat and soon find ourselves outside the social circle. I’m older and can accept this condition more easily that those who are younger and thrive on the social scene. It’s hard to find someone willing to come along side and listen to your story . . . yet again. It’s not fresh news. They want to move on. They want you to move on with them so why don’t you, they reason. But it’s a hollow argument lost on deaf ears. Our hearts are preoccupied with more pressing issues that we grapple with every breathing moment.
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I struggle to find words to cover the difficulty encountered with the casual, flippant attitude toward grief “out there”. This is not said to hurt anyone’s feelings, but rather to impart a conscience determination to stop giving the grieving a continual tongue lashing with one’s choice of words. Yes, we are sensitive! I won’t lie! Yes, it may feel like you are walking on eggshells with our tender feelings. This is true, but there are ways to help us. Please make an effort. It may be way outside your comfort zone, but this is not about you!

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Please, don’t tune us out. Please keep up a friendship. Please take the lead. Don’t volunteer to “help in any way needed” expecting us to contact you. Just go ahead and do what you are impressed to do. Put some teeth into your offer. Be specific. Don’t wait to be led. We always need to eat. We may need a break from small children in our lives. We always need a listening ear, a true listener, not a fake one who looks about in all directions for an excuse to escape while you’re still speaking. We have plenty of those. We seek real friends for the long haul and it is long. In fact, it is life long. Tall order? Yes, and unless you have experienced tragedy first hand, you sincerely have no clue.

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I cannot accurately put into words how it feels to bury one’s child. I refer to suicide because that is my experience. Even if this is not your experience maybe you can still touch the edges just a bit. If you are a parent, can you remember when you weren’t? Can you remember wondering what it would be like once your child was born? Are we in agreement that once the baby came, you realized how “clueless” you were before the birth? Can you put into words how you felt when you first held your baby? The touch, the sweet smell, the warmth, the sounds, the tears that flowed? So how did being a new parent change you? Can you describe the feelings? Actually, I can’t. It is beyond words for me. The awesomeness still floors me…and now he is gone, ripped away from my life for the rest of my days. No, words fail me to speak of the deep anguish.

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I am continuously shocked to my depth to hear phrases, loose words, whether intended to inflict pain or not. After reading long threads of expressed pain on Facebook grief sites, the heartbroken could fill page after page of words that continue to assail our senses. It is revolting! And  should you be ceased with intense desire to refrain from causing pain, good! Then the time it took to write this post has not been wasted. I have wondered aloud on Facebook if some persons could admin a new site open to the community to bring awareness and enlightenment to grief language. Is there interest? I don’t know. Would the public be concerned? I don’t know. Many of us are wanting to break the code of silence, shame, indifference, apathy that drapes over us like a wet blanket. Our ears and hearts are constantly bombarded with sharp, poisonous arrows by the use of words. Take suicide for instance. To hear the media use the word in a flip way, like everything from political suicide to career suicide. I’ve heard it all and so have you whether it registers or not. As a mom who has lost a child to suicide, it registers. My antennae are on high alert. That is no one’s fault. I can’t change how I feel, but we can all be more aware of our language. We can all learn to not say “I just want to kill myself” when we break a fingernail or say “just hang in there” a common phrase perhaps intended to encourage when said in the presence of the parent who found their child and had to cut them down . . . . Do you feel the jagged edge in your gut? As well you should. These are the nightmares some live with. Others have just as painful reminders. It may not be your story, but it is theirs. Its time to put someone else’s pain first.

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If you have kept reading to this point may I ask you a question. In your core beliefs do you extend salvation to those who complete suicide like you might extend salvation to your saint of a grandmother? If your answer is “no” I respectfully ask you to refrain from making any comments about your beliefs to anyone in public or places like Facebook where those suffering grief are likely to read or hear you. Any hurtful words only further crush our hearts. We prefer to hear from those who understand first hand or who are willing to put personal views aside if necessary and open gracious hearts to us in peace. We seek healing and kind words can help.

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I’m speaking out for me. I am speaking up for you. Listen up, world. Grieving hearts deserve your best words. You can do it!

Do to others as you would have them do to you.  Luke 6:31

 

 

This entry was posted on May 24, 2014. 4 Comments