Wrestling with God

Your name will now be Israel, because you have wrestled with God and with people, and you have won. Genesis 32:28

~Pain is the price of admission to life on Earth. It comes to us all and can strike at any moment~

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Battle weary, burdened and in need of rest, the trials and tragedies of life continue to overwhelm us, draining our strength. We want to lash out. We want to blame. We want a target for our pain. Things appear difficult, impossible in fact which brings a question to mind ~ have you ever wrestled with God about it? Maybe your imagination can’t stretch that far. But maybe it is in prayer and conversation with Him that we wrestle for answers and understanding. Do you think we have the right to go to God and beat on His chest? To take Him to the spiritual mat, as it were, and challenge Him with tough questions? I say yes because He says yes. Sometimes God is the Wrestler at Peniel.

Perhaps some explaining is in order. There is an old Bible story about Jacob. His bio is fascinating and you are welcome to check it out. Meanwhile I’d like to zero in on a portion that touches me deeply . . . in that deep soft spot where gnawing pain resides, although thankfully it is more subtle now with the passage of time. However it is pain I must learn to live with and I imagine you agree if you, too, have lost a beloved child.

Pain didn’t start with us, however. We have to go way back to the beginning of time and there we will find pain. Bible stories are proof enough that to follow God is to walk not with a swagger, but with a limp. God has always used pain in the lives of those who choose to follow Him. Pain is never our choice; it is what is chosen for us. Why? Let’s see if a particular Bible story can shed some light on the topic of pain.

There are many examples to choose from and three, who have had personal experience with pain, come readily to mind:  Peter, the arrogant hot head, Saul, the violent persecutor who became Paul, and Jacob, the lying swindler who is the subject of today’s story. All three men discovered first hand that God never leaves us where we are, but rather turns us into something useful for His glory. Let’s pick up Jacob’s story in Genesis 32. You may follow along if you like while I attempt to share a bit of his story in my own words (with the help of Pastor Brian Zahnd, wolc.com, who brings Bible characters to life in his storytelling).

Jacob was a twin. He followed his brother Esau out of the birth canal holding on to his heel. Thus he was born a supplanter or “holder of the heel”. He became a fast talker, a manipulator, a hustler. He honed his instincts to size up and use people on his way to the top. He cheated his brother out of his birthright and went on to con his uncle who conned him back. His definition of success was to swagger through life with the confidence of a con man. Life was a race and he wanted to cross the finish line first with his backpack full of riches.

But as it often happens, Jacob’s life suddenly took a nasty turn when he got word that his twin brother was hot on his trail with murder on his mind. Jacob quickly divided his family into groups sending them to safety while he stayed behind to face his brother alone. He prayed that God would save him from the wrath of his brother. Alone in the darkness, with the words barely out of his mouth, he was knocked to the ground by an unknown assailant. Esau? No, it couldn’t be Esau. This guy was way bigger and stronger than he remembered Esau to be, but there was no time to figure out who his attacker was for he was in for the fight of his life.

Let’s “invite” Jacob to continue the story in his own words.  ~ Down we went into the weeds and reeds, tumbling over and over in slimy mud. Who is this madman? Desperation gripped me in a cold sweat. It was hard to get a grip on this guy, but if this fight was to end in death then I was going to give it my all. My mind raced ahead, grimly reminding me of my evil deeds, one on top of the other. Is this how my life will end? Will I never get to tell Esau how sorry I am for everything? For stealing his birthright?

We fight on into the night, the silence broken only by the sounds pounding flesh. I willed my body strength, but we were ridiculously mismatched. Clearly he could take me, so why didn’t he and get it over with? It’s obvious he’s playing with me. I’m his prey, his pawn. Just as the foggy whisper of dawn nibbled at the edge of darkness, he made his move. It looked like a lightening bolt passed between us and zapped my hip. Searing pain like a hot knife engulfed me. I writhed in agony on the ground. Did I catch a glimpse of his face or was that pain talking?  He was trying to pull away now, but I clung to his neck with a grip tighter than I knew I had. I would not let go. The agony of pain was nothing compared to the agony of soul. My wretched life passed before my eyes . . . it couldn’t end this way. I must have a blessing. Please . . . I must have his forgiveness! Defeated and crippled for life, would he now leave me here alone? I held on for dear life. I felt his hot breath on my neck when he finally spoke,

“Let me go, for day is breaking.”

I dug my nails into his skin. Through clenched teeth and with a voice strained from fatigue and pain I cried,

“No! I will not let you go unless you bless me!”

Then he asks me my name. I told him. Then he said the most amazing thing,

“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and men and have overcome.”

I relaxed my grip, stunned by his words. Though in agony I could hardly wrap my mind around the blessing I had just been given. I was no longer Jacob, “supplanter”, but Israel, meaning “‘God prevails”. How awesome. I could scarcely take it in but I would have plenty of time later to replay the greatest event in my life. Now I must ask him one more question,

“Please tell me your name?” He leaned down to my ear and softly spoke, “Do you really need to ask?”

No, I didn’t. My heart knew. I began to quiver with emotion from head to toe. I had wrestled with my Maker .  . . and survived to tell my story! How is that possible?

And Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel. Genesis 32:30

Heavenly Father,

As hard as it is for me to admit and even harder to be thankful for . . . over time, lots of time . . . I have come to be thankful that You brought about pain in my life. For it was in the horrific crucible of losing my son that I truly found You.Thank You for reminding us through Jacob’s story, that it is through wrestling with You that we prevail. Amen.

Walking wounded

For God so loved…John 3:16

We are the walking wounded, friend. I see your pain, feel it in your words; it is both pulsing and palatable. This is not a path we would have ever chosen, but it is ours to walk. We do it hand in hand, walking with an unseen Guest who knows our grief first hand. It was God and His Son, Jesus Christ who agreed to a plan that they would not have chosen either if there had been another way to save mankind from self-destruction in the hands of evil management of this world.

In God's hands

In God’s hands

From my years on this journey I have the “vantage point” of reflection while looking back to remember all the stages and how God has led. You may not factor God in the equation and that is okay. But if you don’t mind I want to continue this train of thought.

I was born with an empty backpack waiting to be filled. All negative things were easy to store in my backpack which grew heavier as I grew older. I got busy raising a family, therefore, like most of you, holding down two jobs. There was always something to push my nose out of joint so in the backpack it would go. Maybe it was a snide remark made by a coworker or boss that I was afraid if I spoke up I’d be fired. Maybe it was a smart remark  from one of my children as he skidded out of the driveway staying away until he thought it was safe to return . . . and I’d have forgotten. I have a memory like an elephant . . . for pain that is. So in the backpack it goes. There’s always room for more pain in there. Sound familiar?

And then the unspeakable happened. Suddenly, tragically, we lost our firstborn child to suicide. That pain would not fit in my backpack. It was the size of Mt. Everest and broke me. I shattered like shards of glass splintering in all directions. There was nothing left to salvage. The me I knew and others around me knew,was no longer. It seemed as if time should stand still now. The atmosphere void of oxygen. Not even a heart left to beat.

Perhaps you would describe your experience differently or maybe you are nodding in agreement. You can add more sentences and we would all nod in agreement for we are familiar with the trauma of sudden death. It sucks the life out of the living making even thinking about living impossible . . . for a time.

But I do have good news. God can recreate. It’s His specialty. He loves His sons and daughters on Earth with an unconditional love ~ a love so awesome He would agree to watch His own Son be murdered by our ancestors. He loves us still; both Father and Son love us inside and out. And they know the trauma we live. They suffer with us in our grief.

“Spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the Devil is one long, continuous struggle. The battleground has front lines and rear flanks. There are soldiers of Christ and backsliders gone AWOL. The Enemy has a strategy, and he’s out to kill, maim, and wound. But God’s strategy is to advance His kingdom and reclaim enemy territory. ” ~Joni & Friends

God is fighting for us and Satan is fighting against us. And we are caught in the crossfire in this battle between Good and evil. There are converts on both sides. You and I have met both. Perhaps in your grief you have met those who don’t give you the time of day. In their ignorance they are allowing the enemy to speak through their mouths and work through their actions. This may be more than you can comfortably swallow and that’s okay. What I am suggesting is that the picture is much larger than our minds can fathom. The whole world groans with the actions of the enemy and God misses none of it. He hurts when the enemy destroys a child, any child. and too often it is our child. God is not the destroyer. Satan is. (John 10:10)

So where is the good news? This is how I describe it. God is recreating me brick by brick. I don’t know when I will be completed; perhaps I am a work in progress until Jesus returns. But I now know where to turn. I turn to God. I take off my heavy backpack and drop it at His feet with words that go something like this. “Here. You take it. I’m done carrying it.” This is an act of total surrender to a Power greater than myself who sees time from beginning to end and “giving up” is giving Him permission to act in my life. Surrender must be practiced daily for it is too easy for me to want to get behind the wheel and take over again. And even though my heart is often very heavy, my steps are light and my mind can sing His praises because I know I don’t have to fix what I am incapable of. That’s His job and He does it with love.

 Recreating brick by brick

Bricks of hope, forgiveness, faith, love, trust . . .

 

This entry was posted on August 15, 2014. 6 Comments

Hymnlines: “God Will Make A Way”

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Tragedy is the biggest blind side. We’re never prepared for sudden death. Never. Whether by accident or murder or suicide to name three big ones, we’re never prepared. It’s hard enough when disease slowly ravages your loved one’s body and death is breathing down their neck, it is still hard when they breathe their last.

If you’ve never heard this song, you will find it on YouTube by Don Moen, who is credited with writing this popular song born out of tragedy; God gave him the words when his family was in a tragic accident. There are at least two versions and I happen to like Janet Paschal’s which is shared here.

Must have felt strange to end up stranded between an army and the sea                       
They must have felt forsaken wondering why God wasn’t all He said He’d be
When your back’s against the wall
It’s the hardest place of all
But somewhere between provisions and impossibility

Is your back against the wall? Often mine is. The anniversary of my son’s death creeps slowly upon me like a snake weaving back and forth as it stealthily inches toward its prey. It’s ugly. Who care bear it? The memories should have faded by now and be fresh no longer, but they are! Granted, the edges are softer now than they were years ago, but it still hurts and is likely to until I draw my last breath. It’s time to seek comfort. I tap awake my iPod which I haven’t bothered to touch in years; long forgotten are all the songs that meant so much to me back then . . . and a song by Janet Paschal, cancer survivor, begins to play and my tears begin to fall . . .

 

God will make a way
When there seems to be no way
Forever He is faithful
He will make a road
When you bear a heavy load
I know, God will make a way

“To put it simply, the only way to have hope is to have Him. The only way to have peace is to have Him. It’s Jesus alone. As Paul reminds us in Romans 15:13, hope — as well as peace and joy — come through faith. It is true that many people claim to have faith in God during the good times, but when trials come their way, their faith is clearly lacking. In times when our vision of God becomes blurred by sorrow, the eyes of faith are more important than ever.

George Macdonald, author and mentor to C.S. Lewis, once wrote: ‘I think faith can never have a greater victory than when it will trust even in the midst of darkness and doubt and temptation.’

What a great definition of victorious faith! — faith in our victorious God who never loses control of His people…and His planet.”

When a wall of circumstances leaves you crying in the night
And you struggle til your strength is almost gone
God will gently hold you in the shelter of His heart
And carve a road for you to carry on.
So carry on ~

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“The truth is, God’s will for us isn’t even nullified by our suffering, nor does it end at the grave. Our hope rests in the promise that our lives will stretch far beyond these few fleeting moments on earth, into an eternity of heavenly joy and satisfaction. Are you willing to believe that God will make a way where there seems to be no way? He works in ways we cannot see…He will make a way!” Dr. Stephen Davey (Oneplace.com)

No matter your favorite artist or which version you prefer, the message will give you encouragement and hope, strengthening your faith in the One who has us in the palm of his hand and tells over and over in so many ways how much He loves us. We are each unique; each one His beloved treasure.

 

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, Who loved us and gave us everlasting consolation and encouragement and well-founded hope through [His] grace (unmerited favor), comfort and encourage your hearts and strengthen them [make them steadfast and keep them unswerving] in every good work and word.  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

This entry was posted on August 8, 2014. 2 Comments

Silent Salute

For me there is something powerful in our military salute. I love it! I love my country. I am sure you do too and we support everyone who defends our freedom. It is a costly task leaving many spouses, children, parents, siblings and other family and friends to mourn. Thankfully, these United States of America are still free. May we always be free.

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One of my children served in the U.S. Air Force and I am proud of his accomplishments. He has served his country faithfully, doing his best, giving his all and fortunately lives to share his stories.

Then my firstborn died by suicide. I have only why questions and no answers, not unlike many of you. We survive the tragedy by the grit of our teeth; enduring the shock of it all by God’s amazing grace.

Perhaps your memories of loss are etched in your mind . . . seared more likely and tattooed forever on your heart. Me too. Getting through those first hours, days are still somewhat a blur . . . perhaps never to be fully slowed down and the blanks filled in but instead, just remain a blur. But there is one exception in my bank of memories about the events that followed after my son’s death.

I love each one of my boys unconditionally. I was blessed to give birth twice. I was privileged to add a 3rd son by marriage. Soon after we had our first real family gathering, we were forced to say goodbye to my firstborn. Of all the choices I am allowed to make in my life, preventing his death was not one of them. Fortunately my remaining children have managed to go on and live their dreams which gives me great joy. They are privileged to live by independent means and I am blessed to share my life with them even if only in small ways and sometimes from a distance.

Recently I watched our President share heroic stories about our fallen comrades, those who gave themselves as a living sacrifice to defend our homeland. I know the pain in the hearts of the families will never go away. They have been blessed to share their children to keep us free. We owe them a debt of gratitude and our President paid the nation’s respect in their honor. After the stories came the medals followed by a crisp salute given by our President and received by the one who is fortunate to have survived.

Perhaps this post will seem disjointed. For that I apologize. The pain in my mind and heart slow down the flow of words to the page even though my mind swirls in search for just the right words in an attempt to convey feelings from my heart to yours. Perhaps you understand this internal conflict? Those of us on a survival journey “get it” and require no further explanation. There is a story that I shared in my book “Shattered by Suicide” that took me forever to write. The telling was so wretchedly painful and the words so deep that unearthing them seemed an impossible task then and still does now. I have a point. Really.

The point is about the salute. I won’t quote the book. That would be silly. And I won’t reread it now for I don’t want this to be a carbon copy. The images are stuck forever in my mind. We had gathered to say our last goodbye to my firstborn son. We were sitting in the shade under the canopy that hot August day. Morning or afternoon. Hmmm. I remember sunshine, but I’m unaware of the time of day. Apparently it didn’t make the cut in my memory. You know the drill. Most of us have experienced such a gathering at least one time in our lives and too many times it is in honor of one of our children . . . way too often and if you, too, have lost a child, let me say how sorry I am for your pain.

My stepson spent much of his life serving his country. He looked fine in his uniform, creased and pressed to perfection. He had the gait, the language, the perfect performance, the manners learned and executed flawlessly throughout his career. He knows the salute and has given it often when in the presence of a senior officer. Nothing less would be tolerated. It is a habit, but respectful to be sure.

Back to the tent. The last words of comfort had been said although I don’t remember them. I heard sound ~ mostly my own weeping. We each caressed the box . . . oh how I hate the box . . . but it contained precious remains so I must cherish it. Slowly we stood to our feet. It was time to leave the box behind for that is the decision we made at the time. Mind numbing pain = mind numbing decisions which could later be mulled over and regretted, but not now. Now we must bid a fond farewell to the box displayed on red velvet. No matter the softness of fabric . . . nothing about this moment softens the blows to my heart.

And then I saw it. My stepson stood to his feet, approached the stand where the box rested. He paused, then snapped to attention, clicking his heels together and gave his brother a sharp salute. Silence. Even the air seemed to pause in respect and stood still. Through blurry eyes I witnessed a shower of honor bestowed on my firstborn by an elder brother. For him, the salute offered the highest respect, love and praise to his fallen brother. No, my boy did not die in combat, not like we usually think of combat. And yet it is combat. The forces of evil fighting against the forces of Good. My heavenly Father, in His unfathomable love and mercy gently laid a hurting heart to rest . . . for now.

Slowing the story down frame by frame is not intended to draw tears (even though mine flow) but to bring relief. If you are a parent who has lost a child or you lost your sibling or a dear friend, you understand the need to slow it down, do you not? The heart aches to unearth pain. The heart aches to release to the wind the agony it feels. The heart aches to share it, for it is in the sharing that we deepen our understanding of loss where mind and heart ache to be connected again. We can’t bring our loved one back, but we can open our hearts for the benefit of others who may not have experienced such tragedy. Not to be morbid, but somehow in the telling of our stories we help others to become wiser, more reflective and understanding in the love and honor we feel about our fallen child. Does that make sense?

Like a maze, we work our way thru twists, turns, stops and starts as we tackle the pain from within, trying to put it into words not only for the healing of our hearts, but to help those who cannot fathom our suffering. With encouragement from a willing listener we are able to unearth some painful words deep in the core of our being and release them for a bit of relief. Granted the process repeats often for there is always more, still more. Such is the process of healing, slow and steady.

For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.  Philippians 4:13, LB

 

This entry was posted on August 1, 2014. 4 Comments

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

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