On Broadway: “My Man, Job”

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 Decide today whom you will serve . . . Joshua 24:15 GNT

Perhaps not many of us would like our life story aired on Television or portrayed on Broadway before a live audience, but essentially that is what living on Planet Earth is all about. We live in a war zone and like it or not, we are all players. And like it or not, many of us may feel like we live in glass houses after loss where our pain is visible to prying eyes even as we try to keep it hidden. Someone else was a player long ago, and today we will observe a bit of his story played out on stage. His name is Job.

“There was a man named Job, living in the land of Uz, who worshiped God and was faithful to him. He was a good man, careful not to do anything evil.  He had seven sons and three daughters,  and owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, one thousand head of cattle, and five hundred donkeys. He also had a large number of servants and was the richest man in the East.”  Job 1:1-4 GNT

 ACT ONE

Lights go out. The audience hushes in anticipation. The curtain rises to reveal a celestial summit in heaven. Satan strolls out on stage uninvited. He chooses this public forum to challenge God ~ you might say ~ to another duel. Perhaps like the one back in the Garden of Eden. The one he won ~ he’s quick to remind God ~ just in case He’s had a lapse in memory. But this time, the subject is Job. Why Job?

“Well,” Satan claims, strutting about with his hands on his hips, “Would Job worship You if You didn’t protect him? You’re like a heavenly Santa Clause, providing wealth and goodies to fill his every whim.” “But now suppose you take away everything he has—he will curse you to your face!” Job 1:11 GNT

How would you expect God to respond? Would you expect Him to fill His lungs with air and blow Satan to the edge of the cosmos? The audience leans forward in their seats, eager to hear God’s response.

“All right,” the Lord said to Satan, “everything he has is in your power, but you must not hurt Job himself.” Job 1:12 GNT

Gleefully, Satan exits. He can’t wait to inflict pain and suffering. It’s his specialty and he gets right to it.

ACT TWO

In rapid-fire succession, one by one messengers run on the scene, reporting to Job so fast it’s enough to keep your head spinning: the first messenger rushes in to report that Job’s donkeys are stolen and his servants are all killed; the second messenger rushes in to report that lightning strikes Job’s sheep and shepherds, killing them all; the third messenger rushes in to report that Job’s camels and servants are all killed; the fourth messenger rushes in to report that a storm blows down the home where all of his children are gathered having a celebration and killed every one of them (Job 1:13-19). Job drops to his knees and wails in agony as the curtain drops upon his grief.

“In spite of everything that had happened, Job did not sin by blaming God” (Job 1: 22 GNT).

The curtain rises as the lights go out. Job is sitting in a heap in the dust. He gets to his feet and tears his clothes and shaves his head, as is the custom to display one’s grief. Then he throws himself face down on the ground again and cries aloud,

“I was born with nothing, and I will die with nothing. The Lord gave, and now he has taken away. May his name be praised!” (Job 1:21 GNT).  Great wailing pours forth as he grieves his horrific losses and the curtain drops, hiding his misery. Some in the audience sniffle, sharing his sorrow.

ACT THREE

The curtain rises as the lights go out to reveal another celestial summit in heaven. Again Satan strolls out on stage uninvited. He’s scowling, obviously in a rage as he paces back and forth in front of God, like some caged lion. “What’s on your mind, Satan?” God asks coolly. Before Satan could open his mouth to speak, God calmly asks,

“Did you notice my servant Job? There is no one on earth as faithful and good as he is. He worships me and is careful not to do anything evil. You persuaded me to let you attack him for no reason at all, but Job is still as faithful as ever.” Job 2:3 GNT

Every muscle on Satan’s body appears to be rippling into one giant knot as he roars so loudly the audio guys hustle to adjust the sound,

 “A person will give up everything in order to stay alive.  But now suppose you hurt his body—he  will curse  you  to  your  face!” Job 2:4, 5 GNT

The audience is deathly quiet as if collectively holding their breath. God had refused Satan’s request to touch Job’s body in Act One. Will He allow it now?

God responds to Satan. “All right, he is in your power, but you are not to kill him.” Job 2:6 GNT

Satan hastens from the scene. He lives for the adrenalin rush every time he inflicts pain and suffering on unsuspecting, naive, weak-willed, worthless, humans. 

INTERMISSION

The curtain drops and the lights come on. The audience is buzzing. Those who thought this was going to be a comedy are muttering to themselves what a waste of money. Some in the audience groaned aloud. They obviously didn’t trust Satan to not “accidentally” kill Job or maim him within an inch of his life. Others are wondering aloud how God could allow such a thing to take place. Poor Job! He lost his entire livelihood, and all his children all in one day! And where was his wife in all this? Certainly he will blame God now!

ACT FOUR

The curtain rises as the lights go out. What horror met the audience’s gaze. Sitting before them is Job, squatting in the middle of a garbage dump. The vaporous stench rolls out over them, and the tidy guests in the first few rows are either fanning themselves with their programs or covering their noses with their laced handkerchiefs.

Job is covered from the top of his head to the bottoms of his feet in nasty, seeping boils. He takes a piece of broken pottery and carefully scraps the puss from his sores. What a miserable condition. His wife is watching him with her hands on her hips, shaking her head from side to side. It’s hard to know whether she is trying to be encouraging to her husband or not. And when she finally opens her mouth, her voice is high pitched and shrill,

“You are still as faithful as ever, aren’t you? Why don’t you curse God and die?” Job 2:9 GNT

Lest we desire to criticize Job’s wife too harshly, she has lost her children and her livelihood too. No doubt she could have said just about anything but that last sentence. It had to inflict even more pain on her suffering husband.

Even though Job was miserable, he did respond to his wife, and right to the point. “[Woman] you are talking nonsense! When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?” Job 2:10 GNT

God knew His man pretty well, didn’t He? He was being sorely tested by the enemy, but remaining faithful in spite of all the trouble and loss and suffering and sorrow and in addition, nagging from his wife. The curtain drops and the lights come on.

ACT FIVE

The curtain rises and the lights go out. We see that Job is still sitting in the garbage dump. The smell is still overpowering. He’s still scraping his sores and looking most miserable. From a distance we see three men approaching. Our program says they are his three closest friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. As they draw closer, they appear to have shocked looks on their faces. Apparently they hardly recognize their old friend.

“They began to weep and wail, tearing their clothes in grief and throwing dust into the air and on their heads. Then they sat there on the ground with him for seven days and nights without saying a word, because they saw how much he was suffering.”  Job 2:12, 13 GNT

Sidebar: Sweet silence from dear friends in a time of sorrow. Perhaps some of us can relate. I may have experienced maybe a few minutes, but never a few days like these friends. I applaud their endurance and faithfulness. It would have been best if they could have stayed silent, but they did not. Perhaps Satan worked thru them to bring even greater pain on their mutual friend. I’ve experienced such behavior. Likely you have too, from those who profess to love you?

Job’s friends dialogue through most of the remaining chapters where they: challenge, accuse, and blame Job, assuming that he must have offended God and he should scour his conscience until he has made proper amends . . . until God speaks, and when He does, He challenges them with knowledge too great for them to comprehend and they all bow their heads in silence.

“When God speaks, the power of His word puts our life and our questions instantly into perspective.” Blackaby Study Bible, Encounter (background) Note on Job 38:1

The curtain drops and the lights come on for the last time. The play is over. The patrons are rather subdued as they file out quietly, as if in deep thought. Perhaps some expected this to be a divine comedy of sorts, while others can relate, perhaps having experienced similar reactions from friends during their seasons of grief.

EPILOGUE

This is just a portion of Job’s life, but throughout his story, he remained faithful to God during both good times and bad and Satan lost this huge challenge. Perhaps during his lifetime, Job never got all his questions answered and he, like some of us, must wait. Job trusted God so much, had such a good friendship ~ a special one-on-one relationship with Him ~ that he could speak the words below. He wasn’t particularly special. God longs for this same kind of relationship with each one of His children. I choose a close relationship like this with God. I’d like to trust God enough to say these words to Him too. How about you?

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” Job 13:15 NIV

“The Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life even more than he had blessed the first. Job owned fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, two thousand head of cattle, and one thousand donkeys. He was the father of seven sons and three daughters. Job lived a hundred and forty years after this, long enough to see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And then he died at a very great age.”  Job 42:12-17 GNT

Tethered by grace

Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way. Proverbs 3:5-6 GNT

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I don’t know if you’ve ever put your life in the hands of someone who harnessed you into a contraption, like a parasail. It wasn’t against my will since I actually paid good money for the experience! The parasail is tethered to a boat and the boat takes off at breakneck speed pulling you high into the sky. You have no control over the parachute; you go wherever the boat pulls you. You are supposed to enjoy the ride and the breathtaking views from high over the ocean, and if all goes well, you are promised a soft landing ~  if you follow instructions.

A teacher friend, who was a senior class sponsor, invited me along for spring break. I saw it as a bit of a vacation away from the grind and so did she, but she knew the trouble the kids could get into . . . but that is not what this post is about. It’s actually about two adult women who did not follow instructions. Now before you go gettin’ too smug, haven’t you ever not paid attention when you were supposed to?

We were going double on this sky ride thingy and she was in back where the rip cord was located. I figured she should pay more attention to the instructions since she would be guiding our return to land and since I was in front, I should have no responsibilities whatsoever, right? Then suddenly we were up and away! The sky was a gorgeous blue with puffy white clouds and the water was so clear . . . way down, down, down below. I tried to not think about how high up we were. I tried to feel safe . . . tethered by a skinny rope . . . oh, what was I thinking to agree to do this? Was my insurance premium paid up?

We jabbered to each other as we took in all the scenery from high in the sky. With our aerial vantage point, we tried to pick out our hotel from all the hotel roofs we had to choose from. Needless to say we lost all track of time. Noting we were circling back toward shore I glanced down at the people “specks” and thought I saw one of those speck’s wildly waving its arms. Was that our guy giving us the signal to pull the cord and land this bird? I hollered at my pilot who was busy jabbering away. She concluded the frantic waving could not be intended for us since, in her estimation, we had not been up here long enough. Certainly the ride should last longer, shouldn’t it? I was more doubtful, but overruled since I had “no responsibilities whatsoever.”

Now we are approaching the shore again and the speck is larger this time and I could clearly see it was a guy flailing his arms and jumping up and down and his mouth was moving too, but we couldn’t hear what he was saying, which was probably a good thing. Again I yelled to my pilot who finally looked down for herself. Yep. Looks like he’s trying to get our attention. So she yanked on the cord and we started our decent. I guess I should tell you that the students on the beach were howling with laughter at the two of us. They got an earful of what was intended for us and they totally enjoyed watching two adults being bad examples and getting into trouble.

Needless to say, our landing was not a smooth one and we both got wet, but at least we were safely on the ground again . . . and got a lecture from the boss man. And as my husband likes to say, “I’ve done that twice, first and last!”

Perhaps I can attempt a spiritual application here. We are created in God’s image, in fact, we can look at our attachment to Him like a spiritual umbilical cord; sort of like the rope that attached the boat to our parasail. But like our unwillingness to follow instructions, I might tell God to leave me alone; to go pick on somebody else, that I can take care of myself. But an attachment to God is a good thing. I might even consider it my lifeline; another one of God’s gifts of grace.

“Grace brings us into a life that is greater than what sin could ever offer us. Grace extends the hand that lifts us out of the miry clay, throws the rope that pulls us from the deepest pit, and lights the flame that brings us out of the darkest cave. Without His grace we were without hope, without the assurance of heaven, and bound by the fear of death; by His grace we abound in hope, we rejoice in the certainty of the resurrection, and we glory in knowing that the very best is still ahead.” Roy Lessin, “Today is Your Best Day”, pgs. 91, 96

I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord. They are plans for peace and not disaster, plans to give you a future filled with hope.    Jeremiah 29:11, GW

 

 

 

 

Why not me?

We all have “why” questions, don’t we? Maybe you’ve stepped outside on a clear, dark night, looked up into the star studded sky, ablaze with twinkling stars, and shouted, “Why me? Why MY child?” But there’s not the faintest whispered reply.

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He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.  Psalm 147:4 NIV

I’m re-posting for the benefit of new readers. Sadly, there will always be new losses. Someone reading reading this for the first time or even for a second time and feeling comforted in some small way, would be my hope. Loss is hard. We all experience loss in one way or another. Pain is pain as they say, and whatever tops your list of pain will be the worst at this point in your life experience. You cannot compare yours with another’s, but you will find similarities which will give you the opportunity to journey beside someone else for a time who truly understands how you feel.

I had been on my grief journey a few years when I penned these words below. So perhaps it is fair to add a disclaimer by suggesting that if you are new to your grief journey, this might be a piece to set aside for later. It takes time to see the big picture perspective. As always, be gentle with your healing.

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Remember my prayer, Lord? Save my children at all cost? I never thought praying that prayer would lead to death. But that’s what happened. I was forced to bury one of my children after death by suicide. Out of my tears and agony I sobbed, “Why me , Lord. Why? He had his whole life before him. Why now, when it seems he was lingering in the valley of so many decisions?”

Silence. No answer came. I slogged on, picking up the pieces as best I could. Life is for the living, but I was barely breathing. As bad as my pain has been, would I wish this gnawing grief on anyone else? The answer had to be, “No.” So should my question instead be, “Why not me?”

To which Jesus seemed to answered softly to my heart, “This is the work of Satan. I created and love each and every one of My precious children.”

“But is that all the time I get with him, Lord?” I implored. “Sorry, but it wasn’t long enough. Not even close.”

I pause and take a look back . . . I grew up Christian, always assuming good things come to those who pray, but my heart shattered that day into confetti-like bits of flesh, and I fell on my face begging God to extend His mercy. Who else could understand my wailing and tears? Are You listening, Lord?”

Long, long ago before Adam and Eve were created, the heavenly council met somewhere in the heavens. There had to be a back-up plan ~ just in case the humans God was going to create would choose to follow a different path. Who could do the job? Who would willingly volunteer to give up life to pay the ultimate price sin demanded?

Jesus pushed His chair back from the table and stood up. “I’ll do it, Father,” He said. “If sin demands blood, then let My blood pay the ransom.” And it was done. Council adjourned.

Fast forward about four thousand years to the Garden of Gethsemane. The dreaded cross looms just ahead and Jesus is on His face, begging His Father for mercy.

Father, if possible, let there be another way, but if not, I will keep the promise I made long ago. They are worth every drop of blood I must shed for them.”

Now zoom forward to the present. The scene is full of indescribable pain and tears as parents, siblings, and friends say “good-bye” to a son, brother, and friend they loved so much. But we weren’t alone in our sorrow. We were wrapped in the loving arms of Jesus, while He gently wiped the tears from our eyes with His nail-scarred hands, the victorious reminder of the price He paid long ago, forever releasing humanity from the grip of sin.

“It won’t be long,” He seemed to whisper softly in my ear, “Soon I will come and raise him up and you will have all of eternity together. Please cling to My promises. Please try to comprehend that He had been in terrible pain for so long. The enemy took pleasure in harassing him. His grip on life . . . and on Me . . . were weakening. I could not bear to watch Satan make fun of him any longer. It was time to let him go to sleep. He’s safe and at peace, and I have the best part of him ~ his DNA. So don’t worry. He will be so much better than you ever remember him. His face will be lit with the glory of His Heavenly Father and you will recognize his beautiful blue eyes and his cute little chuckle with his delicious sense of humor, when something strikes him funny. I made him once . . . I will make him again.

Yes, My child, you are right when you can finally ask, ‘Why not me?’ I couldn’t stand his pain . . . and yours hurts Me too, but we have each other and you will continue to grow in My love. You will also continue to grow in your understanding that this world is a war zone between good and evil and sadly, many more of My children will become casualties of this war before I return. Satan is hell-bent on taking as many with him as possible, but remind those who have lost precious loved ones, that he does not have the last word, I do.

I, alone, know the hearts of all My kids. 

I, alone, know who is safe to save for all eternity, and that is what matters most. 

There are many who need to hear your story. They are everywhere, trying to bear their terrible grief in silence, guilt, embarrassment and shame. They need to hear from your lips, your story. They need to hear about My love that will never, ever let them go.”

Love you,

Jesus

Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.  Isaiah 57:2 NIV

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  1 Thessalonians 4:16 NIV

~ shared from the book, “Shattered by Suicide, My Conversations with God after the Tragic Death of My Son”

This entry was posted on April 3, 2015. 2 Comments

From Adversity to Triumph

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We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience.  And patience produces character, and character produces hope.  And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts.  Romans 5:3-5, NCV 

An anvil is a tool with a hard surface on which another object is struck. You might say the anvil graduated from the “tool house” of hard knocks. In most cases the anvil was used as a forging tool, and before the advent of modern welding technology it was the primary tool for metal workers. If we liken the anvil to the hardships in our lives what is the result? As an example, why don’t we explore a bit of Joseph’s story from Old Testament times. Like many of us, he had it rough, but how can an ancient story make sense to the modern, grieving heart? Let’s peek into his life and see if we can uncover anything that might fit our lives today.

Joseph was the eleventh of twelve sons born to his father, Jacob. He was the first child born to his mother, Rebekah, Jacob’s favorite wife. The other sons were from Leah, Jacob’s first wife and from his wives’ maids. Does it sound complicated? It must have been the source of much drama during the time in which they lived. And on top of everything else, Joseph was his father’s favorite son, which provoked jealousy in the hearts of his step brothers. It didn’t help that he had dreams and then explained their meaning to his family in which he implied that his brothers would one day bow down to him. I can imagine how I’d feel if one of my siblings said that to me. It would not have gone over well.

The jealousy led to a quick life-changing act at the young age of seventeen. One day Joseph’s father sent him to the fields to check on his brothers. He happened to be wearing the special coat woven especially for him. Not the usual drab colors shepherds’ wore, this coat stood out with its bold, bright colors and the brothers saw Joseph coming from a long ways off. Their blood boiled just thinking about this self-proclaimed dreamer. One brother suggested they get rid of him once and for all. Others suggested they not murder him, but sell him to a band of Midianite merchants they could see approaching in the distance, who would be on their way to Egypt to sell their wares and slaves. For a little change in our pockets, some of them reasoned, we could unload this dreamer and be rid of him. And so that is what they did and changed their brother’s life forever. Plucked from innocence and freedom, he was now destined to be a slave in the household of Potapher, Captain of the Palace Guard. Would Joseph ever see his family again? Where was his God when he needed Him most?

Meanwhile back in the fields, the brothers concocted a lie to tell their dad when they returned home. They would tell him that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. They produced Joseph’s coat as evidence, which they had dipped in goat’s blood, supposedly proving that they were telling the truth. The Bible says that Jacob mourned a long time for his son and refused to be comforted. He lived many more years grieving his loss. Even though he was surrounded by his many other children and their offspring, the death of Joseph nearly killed him. He refused to be comforted saying, “I will mourn for my son until I die.” (Genesis 37:35, GW) Sound familiar? I have said these same words. You too?

And so began a different life for Joseph . . . one he did not choose. He had been taught well at home and even though he must have resented his loss of freedom, he set to work to do his best. Do you think he wondered how this wicked action could possibly be a part of God’s plan for his life? Did he blame God? We have no evidence that he did. Did he know his life would get better over time? Did he know he would get out of jail after being unjustly accused? Did he know whether or not his brothers would be brought to justice? Did he know that one day he would be given a high place in public office where he would face his family again and they would indeed bow down to him? No. Joseph did not know his life in advance any more than we do.

We have the advantage of being able to take a panoramic view of Joseph’s life whereas he did not know what lay ahead. It’s worth taking the time to read through all the twists and turns from adversity to triumph within the pages of Genesis. It may be difficult for us to see our reflection within Joseph’s story, but if we take the time to look, perhaps it will give our own personal faith a boost.

Sometimes we find ourselves in our own deep well of adversity and see no way out. Perhaps Joseph did too, when he was sold as a slave, but he chose to not give up on God even though his future seemed to have collapsed at his feet before he had barely begun to live. How discouraging it must have been to try and try and try and still come up short. He suffered many losses over the next few years while in bondage to Pharaoh, but God never left his side. He had plans, big plans, and one day Joseph would have 20/20 vision, and he would see how God had led him step by step until the day he was promoted to second in command under Pharaoh and was in charge of feeding the nations who were struck by the adversity of famine. Eventually his family joined him and his dad lived out his final years surrounded by all of his children, even the one he thought he had lost forever. All along the way, God was with him and blessed him. Even when he was unjustly accused of raping his boss’s wife and sent to prison, God was with him, helping him to stay faithful within his circumstances. 

~Especially during life’s trials, our spiritual muscles are exercised and strengthened, thus building characters fit for heaven~

But Joseph replied [to his brothers], “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.  Genesis 50:19-20, NLT

I am familiar with the same impatience you feel. I didn’t think I could last a week after my son’s suicide and now it has been years. I’m as eager as you are to see the end of suffering and pain and have our children restored to us once again. Like Joseph, soon we can shout loud enough for the enemy to hear, “YOU INTENDED TO HARM ME, BUT GOD INTENDED IT ALL FOR GOOD!”

 

They can’t get it

Who has gathered the wind in His fists?  Proverbs 30:4, AMP

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They don’t get it. They can’t get it. They can no more understand what it’s like than they can see the wind or capture a sunbeam. As human beings, we aren’t wired to comprehend the sudden, tragic death of our children. It’s as if we have been unexpectedly plunged into thick darkness and left to feel our way along in unfamiliar territory with no guard rails or flashlights. There is no data in the imagination from which to draw if you don’t have firsthand experience, and no survivor would wish that on anyone. So I don’t plan on being too hard on those who try to help from the sidelines. They will never be in the trenches of tragedy unless it strikes them personally. Perhaps a couple of personal stories will help illustrate their lack of understanding.

The first story happened a few years earlier when life was humming along on “normal” and when, naively, I did not understand the complexity of depression or the long-duration potential this dreaded disease has on the human spirit. I had developed complications after a simple surgery and needed further surgery. I wasn’t worried. But I was nervous and when I get nervous, I become a “chatty Cathy” and so I was chatting away with anyone within earshot. The doctor was delayed, but the nurses went about making the usual preparations by hooking me up to this and that. The longer the delay, the more urgent became my need to use the powder room . . . again.

Now this all happened quickly, you understand, but I will slow it down to include all the details so it makes sense. The doctor had medical residents observing at nearly every office visit so I was used to having them around and listening to the doctor explained my medical details to us both. It felt like I was on display, but I digress.  I had just told the nurse of my predicament, knowing I was making more work for her to unhook me, but she was gracious about it. I had no more asked the nurse to help me get there when a medical resident came to the foot of my bed and shyly asked, “May I watch?” I hate missing an opportunity to tease (and embarrass, I know, and I should be punished), so I responded, “I’m on my way to the powder room. Not sure watching would be a good idea.” Bless his heart. He turned beet red and quickly disappeared and as far as I know, he never returned to observe me . . . ever.

In telling this story, one does not need first hand experience to understand how the resident felt. You can instantly relate to his predicament, being so “brutally” embarrassed, can you not? Most people have had medical procedures done. Most people have been embarrassed a time or two that they can recall. And maybe there are at least a few readers who would have taken advantage of the situation, just to watch a sweet resident squirm a little.

Fast forward a few years. Life had taken an ugly turn. Sweet had turned to bitter in an instant when I got the word that our son had taken his own life. We’ve explored the emotions of tragic loss in this forum many times and we will continue to do so, for we are never finished. There will always be attempts to plummet the depths of painful loss as long as time shall last.

Friends offered to drive us to the mortuary and memory gardens to pick out things that appalled us and sign things with shaky hands that we would never choose to sign. Death had us in a vise grip. Mind was in a fog. Numbness affected sight, sound, and limbs. I ricocheted between nausea and fainting most of the time. But in the course of riding to these places to make decisions, someone said something in the car, I don’t remember what, and I laughed spontaneously, out of habit to be sure. These were friends we spent recreational time with and laughter was our entertainment, but this day, I was struck instantly with nausea.

What surprised me, however, was the response from one of the friends along for the ride. She responded to my outburst of laughter with, “Oh, that’s the friend we know.” And I heard it as, “Our old friend is back!” They didn’t get it. I was far from the friend they knew. That person had been blown to bits and was still free falling somewhere out in space. They were our close friends, but they had no idea how I reacted to laughing. Apparently they did not see my facial expression nor did they know I suddenly felt sick enough to vomit. I had to mentally talk myself down from that one; it was neither the time nor the place to be sick.

You see, they couldn’t get it. Even though they were taking us by the hand to places we wanted to kick and scream our protest, that did not help them to understand. They were wanting to draw out the usual and customary humor to break the ice and ease the tension we all were feeling . . . more likely what they were feeling. We were embalmed in a fog and not feeling at all. And to this day, I resent anyone attempting to cover up, smooth over, change the subject, or any other reaction they might have at the sight of parents’ tragic horror.

You feel this, don’t you? You understand my reaction and my protest for you have had similar reactions of your own, have you not? You could share versions of your stories and we’d all nod in agreement. Unfortunately we have been forced into getting it. We get it so much it’s hard to allow ourselves to relax our grip. Loss of a precious child to suicide is the most horrific loss and if you witnessed your child’s death on top of it all, I can’t imagine the pictures in your mind and I am so sorry for the added crushing pain you must feel. I am so sorry for the pain suicide causes those who are outliving a beloved child. I am so sorry for anyone who has lost a child from any cause. We are never prepared to lose a child. We would not be able to get it, unless, sadly, it became our horrible reality. Therefore it is all the more reason to cling to this promise:

The Sovereign Lord will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The Lord himself has spoken.  Isaiah 25:8, GNT

 

This entry was posted on March 20, 2015. 6 Comments

Make them golden

A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Proverbs 25:11, AMP

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Best friends sharing secrets

It’s interesting that the Bible has so much to say about our words. I was searching for a picture that could best be described as decadent. In absence of finding such a picture we will have to rely on imagination. Picture an exquisite silver bowl laden with burnished golden apples. Whether you can imagine it or not, you get what this means, right? Our words, as the text above says, are not meant to harm, but to help, to soothe, to please, to teach, to bless. Don’t you wish they accomplished this 100% of the time? Unfortunately, way too often they do not. More times than I can count, I wish I would have hesitated just a bit longer to allow the alphabet soup of letters collecting on my tongue to filter through my brain to avoid saying something that unnecessarily caused another person pain.

Recently while lounging not-so-comfortably in the dentist chair, I determined to keep my mind focused on other things like: my grocery list, errands to run, bucket list, you know, anything to keep me from focusing on the “jack hammer” in my mouth. It always sounds like the dentist is drilling in Grand Canyon, but of course the sound is just magnified.

So while trying to keep my mind focused elsewhere I happened upon an old memory, one that still makes me cringe. That particular day I was again at the mercy of a healthcare professional and awake. The thought of being awake gave me some sleepless nights prior to the day of surgery even though I had been instructed that I wouldn’t feel a thing. Right. True to his word, however, I was surprisingly comfortable, but of course I had been given something to numb the area he was working on and probably something to put me in “la la land”. Again, I was trying to keep my mind focused elsewhere rather than on the work taking place.

Eyes closed, mind who knows where, I amused myself with voice tones. Some high tones going up and deeper tones coming down. Up, down. Up, down. Don’t think me crazy, or go ahead . . . you won’t be the first. Anyway, it was distracting and somehow to my mind at the moment, entertaining. I assumed there were people talking in the room and I was aware of the sounds around me when all of a sudden, I heard my name spoken by a deep voice, probably the doctor. I was wide awake now, listening to see if I had imagined it. I only had seconds to wait. Indeed it was the surgeon who spoke my name, followed by a stern, “please be quiet so I can concentrate.” What? Why did he say that? Was I talking? Oh, dear. What did I say? I had no idea I was talking and the tones “going up” were mine! Naturally I thought the worst. After all, the subconscious mind has no filter, right? My heart beat faster just wondering . . . and worrying.

At the follow-up visit, I didn’t know whether to play it cool or act embarrassed. Would he remember? The suspense was killing me. Finally I had to know so I asked, “Doctor, what did I say to you while in surgery?” He grinned, then responded, “I’ll never tell.” He pleaded the 5th so I guess he will take my deepest secrets to his grave.

Perhaps you will find this amusing at my expense. I don’t mind. After all, I risked in sharing it. But it is a reminder to me that words do matter. We speak them from morning until night. Are they worthy? Truthful? Considerate? I especially speak to the heart of those who weep. Since I am a suicide survivor I know the tenderness of my heart. I know that I am cautious when approached by someone I suspect will ask how many children I have. And will they probe deeper? And if I answer more questions, will they pull back in disdain if I allow myself to reveal the cause of my child’s death? I can feel a twinge just writing this and no encounter with someone speaking hurtful words has even occurred today. Can you relate? Has this happened to you?

Actions are remembered, but so are words. They are stored in the hard drive, perhaps forever. Here is a sample encounter. Two friends, one in a wheelchair, met a person who knew the woman in the wheelchair when she still had the use of her legs. The acquaintance was surprised to see her in a wheelchair and said something like this: “You’re in a wheelchair now? I didn’t know you’s in a wheelchair.” The words may have sounded pleasant, but they seemed to drip with disdain as she gave her wheelchair friend the once over. No doubt when this woman is feeling depressed about her circumstances she will envision that encounter again. She will try to dismiss it, but it will attempt to resurface to her conscious mind again and again to cause her embarrassment.

Words have power. We elect officials by their words. We hold power over our children with words. We trust and believe in words that may not even be truthful. I agree with Terri DeMontrond, who wrote on social media, “Life is short. Speak your mind.” And I’m going to add, “but do it with care.”

Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire.  James 3:6, NLT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on February 27, 2015. 2 Comments

The sweetness of silence

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A picture speaks a thousand words when words aren’t even needed.

In spite of the tragedy that struck our family, I can recall a sweet memory. It involves one of the younger members of our family. God bless him.  Everyone had gathered at our place except this young man. I was walking in the back yard, seeking to be alone where I could cry without the pressure of prying eyes observing my every move.

I heard someone approaching. I turned around to see him walking slowly towards me. He was looking down; only glancing up in my direction once or twice. He was wiping his eyes. As he got closer I could hear him sniffling. Closing in, this huge hunk of a guy grabbed me and squeezed me tightly, his head pressing against my neck. His warmth caressed my aching heart.

Not a word was spoken, but eventually he released his grip . . . and I could breathe again. We sat down on the grass facing each other. Still, no words were spoken, just a pattern of soft sniffles. Finally he broke the silence by asking a question or making a comment, I don’t remember which. But I remember these moments we spent quietly in shared grief. No lofty words were necessary. In fact, this precious shared silence with someone who deeply loves me and loved my son, was enough.

This young man had no idea at that moment, that he was the hands, arms and tender heart of Jesus “with skin on” . . . just for me. He didn’t have the perfect phrase on the tip of his tongue to ease my burden of pain. Instead, he came boldly and unafraid  into my space, and with transparent emotions, enveloped me in a giant hug. No more was needed and I will always cherish his act of kindness and love this memory has given me.

I am reminded of a book I read, Just Like Jesus, by Max Lucado:  “Oh, the power of a godly touch. Haven’t you known it? The doctor who treated you, or the teacher who dried your tears? Was there a hand holding yours at a funeral? Another on your shoulder during a trial? A handshake of welcome at a new job? A pastoral prayer for healing?  Haven’t we known the power of a godly touch?”

We fear saying the wrong thing or using the wrong tone or acting the wrong way. So rather than do it incorrectly, often we resort to doing nothing at all.

Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t make the same mistake? If your fear of doing the wrong thing prevents you from doing anything, keep in mind the perspective of the lepers of the world.  They aren’t picky. They aren’t finicky. They’re just lonely. They are yearning for a godly touch. Jesus reached out and touched the untouchables of the world.  Will you do the same?”

If you ever feel uncomfortable and uncertain about what to say at a difficult time, remember these words from Max, reminding us that Jesus got up close while He walked this earth.  Our Creator, who flung stars into the night sky and keeps the heavens humming in perfect orbit, was not so heavenly minded that He could not get down and earthly, touching a leper or listening to a mother’s concerns or holding a child while planting kisses on each sweet cheek before she’d wiggle off His lap to run and play.

This same Creator promises to wipe away all tears from our eyes. He will touch us, love us, give hugs and be our Best Friend for eternity. I am drawn to a God like that. Aren’t you?

The Sovereign Lord will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The Lord himself has spoken.  Isaiah 25:8, GNT

 

Meet the Thirst Quencher

O God, you are my God, and I long for you. My whole being desires you; like a dry, worn-out, and waterless land, my soul is thirsty for you.  Psalm 63:1, GNT

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Come, all you who are thirsty. Isaiah 55:1, NIV

Have you ever known someone who did not fit in? We are about to meet such a woman . . . from another time and another place. Let’s take a peek into her story.

It’s high noon and the stage is set for an encounter between Jesus and a sad, empty woman. The story begins at the well in Sychar. Jesus is tired and needs a rest so He sits down by the well. His disciples have gone into town to buy food. In His humanness, Jesus is thirsty, but the water is out of reach and He has nothing with which to draw. But His focus is elsewhere and she is walking towards Him right now. He knows all about her as she approaches for her daily chore. Essentially she’s an outcast in the village, so she comes to fill her jug during the heat of the day when she can be alone. All the other women come to the well early to avoid the blistering heat, but she is an exception. She is the topic of town gossip. The women talk about her behind her back. They don’t like her. She has a checkered past, so she is bullied by the women and gawked at by the men.

She approaches in spite of the stranger sitting next to the well, a bit too close for comfort, but she needs water and must get it now during the daily siesta. She plans to ignore His presence even though she is so close she could reach out and touch Him. She sets down her jug to catch her breath and Jesus asks her a question,

“Will you give me a drink?”  

Startled, but trying hard not to show it, she looks up and meets His gaze. He foiled her plan by asking her for a drink of water ~ He has some nerve, she thinks to herself. She notes His heritage and in her discomfort and nervousness she attempts to divert the conversation elsewhere by bringing up a hot topic which usually sparks a debate, since Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another. The conversation exchange is priceless. Note how quickly Jesus confronts the woman’s heart ~ and instead of immediately dipping her jug, she dares to point out their racial disparity by asking,

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

  Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Jesus knows her daily struggle trying to live peaceably as a scorned woman. He has her attention and is about to get personal.

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Ouch! Instant exposure! Can you imagine your surprise at hearing your private life aired before you by a total stranger? But there is a heart connection that Jesus wants to make; He wants to share a priceless gift, a life-changing gift with her. She is eager to receive so He pours it into her thirsty soul. She becomes so excited she forgot all about drawing water and rushes back to the village to share the good news. Suddenly she has something so special to share that it overcomes her previous feelings of inferiority and emptiness.

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

I have a thirsty soul too. Mine is from loss. I am a mom outliving my child who died by suicide. It is a death so overwhelmingly tragic that it can leave one curled up in a fetal position  and hoping to die. This was not the story of the woman we are reading about today whose failed marriages, one after another, had left her scarred and bone dry, but we are all broken and bone dry in some way, are we not?

The living water Jesus offers is eternal life, forever quenching the thirst of hurting hearts. And there is not a soul on earth who does not need what He offers and only He has the answer. Does my heart thirst today like hers did then? It’s so like Jesus to zero in on the innermost part that is in need of healing refreshment. Liquid love, the healing springs of living water Jesus offers, cuts across all barriers of human existence, demonstrating once again that the ground is indeed level at the foot of the cross.

Scripture story taken from John 4:8-18, 39-42, NIV

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on February 13, 2015. 4 Comments

Hymnlines: “Rock Of Ages”

My soul is quiet and waits for God alone. My hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and the One Who saves me. He is my strong place. I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5-6, NLV

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Sadly, one of God’s kids has lost his battle with life; another unsung hero has fallen. He may not be a hero in the eyes of the world, but he is definitely a hero in ours. A family friend has died way too young. This piece is in honor of him and in honor of yours, if you, too, have recently lost a beloved someone.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

When I seek comfort, my mind searches through its archives for just the right song, it’s usually an old hymn. An example is “Rock of Ages”. Perhaps you remember it? I know there are versions that change the old language, but I love the original. And I can hear it now . . . being belted out by Vestal Goodman of Southern Gospel fame.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

I am praying and seeking comfort for another family who has just lost their child. It doesn’t matter the cause. It’s just so devastating to have to bury one’s own child! You don’t know this family, but please join me in heart and song or prayer, seeking peace for a family from my community; a family who has been thrust into the midst of a raging storm of pain like no other they have ever encountered.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come before Your throne asking for You, the Creator of all things and the one who loves us most, please be with all those who mourn, some for years and many more who have just begun their journey into grief. We shudder just thinking about the pain that is so intense it shatters human hearts. But You know this pain and You love us more than any human on earth. Comfort, hold, cry, wipe tears, with these dear families. We long to be reunited with our children once again. Already this family longs to see their precious child again. May it be soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

The last stanza talks about death. We accept it as the other half of life, but we don’t like it, and in fact, we rebel against it! There are many “if only” and “I should have” statements, but the words fall by the wayside unnoticed. Once again when we hear of yet another young person who will not lived out a full life, we are reminded how very fragile life is.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Yes, Lord. Let us hide in You. There is no other safe place. We cling to, rely on, and trust in You alone.

Augustus M. Toplady, preacher and song writer, 1776

Out of the shadows

~No human has more clarity about the scourge of suicide than the survivors who are outliving their loved one who died by this shocking, dreaded killer of our young~

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Suicide is NOT shameful, but society has been saturated for generations with the belief that somehow suicide is shameful and it is reluctant to give up this stinky thinking even in the face of indisputable truth. “The shaming of suicide” in my humble opinion, is a product of society mores and historical traditions, festered by the daily use of the word to provoke emotion. It is society’s intent to pack a punch with this inflammatory word, and the media is hugely guilty when they jam their rhetoric full of phrases like: political suicide, financial suicide, sports suicide, etc.

I will attempt to speak particularly to the heart of those of us who are outliving a child, and worst of all, from a death of suicide. But hopefully, all of us who mourn will take away something. And to each of you, I am so sorry for your pain.

Is there anyone who does not like chocolate? If you happen to prefer, let’s say, bananas, then I know this won’t “appeal” to you, although I happen to think a banana dipped in chocolate makes a nice treat. Please stay with me here. I haven’t “gone bananas” but I want to see if a comparison can be made. You decide.

Chocolate is fragrant and silky smooth and beguiles the senses. Place a piece of milk chocolate on your tongue, let it melt, and then describe the experience. It’s rich and flavorful and screams, “more” does it not? Far too often I reach for chocolate every time I feel bad. It may not be wise to feed the pain, but chocolate helps me forget the problem for a few delicious seconds before it settles permanently on my hips (sigh). And the reason it’s not “hip, hip, hooray” is because of the volume of fat and sugar that goes into that divine piece of chocolate to make it the sensual experience that it is.

I suspect I have swallowed shame just as easily as I have swallowed chocolate. In my young and developing years, I was criticized for my “flats” ~ flat this and flat that. It was totally humiliating when my mother, just trying to help, would say to the clerk, “Do you have anything to fit my daughter? She has flat feet.” It sounded to my heart like she had been handed a megaphone and everyone in the entire store heard her. I wanted to crawl under a display, or better yet, drop through the floor. Perhaps even back then, chocolate was my friend, smoothing out the frayed edges shame spawned in my heart.

Is it possible that shame hides in suicide like sugar hides in chocolate? I read the lines and between the lines on social media grief sites. Some mention shame directly, but many more don’t say the word, but we know what they mean. When people tell us to “move on” is it because they are tired of thinking about the cause of death? Does it make them feel uncomfortable? Some attend church and it’s in this intended “safe haven” where they might feel shame after some saint speaks some thoughtless words within earshot. I could go on and on, but you know what I mean. And if you personally have felt shamed by others, I am so sorry for the extra pain inflicted on your already shattered heart.

file2491298389219Darkness breeds lies and shame so let’s bring this bad boy out in the open. Let’s treat it like the dirty cockroach it is and shine the light on the darkness of shame, scattering and zapping it’s lies like scurrying insects. May I suggest that we don’t have to hide. We have done nothing shameful. Our child or other loved one did nothing shameful. They died. It should be just as acceptable to tell our cause of death, as if it were by any other cause. There is no difference in my opinion. It’s time to tell the world to back off or spread the truth. Give us some breathing room and we will tell you what it’s like to lose someone to suicide. Their lives are worth talking openly about and others to respectfully listen.

I hope I did not sour your love affair with chocolate by comparing it to shame. But shame is slick and slimy and scummy and can stick like glue, but it’s also as smooth as chocolate the way it coats the tongue of someone appalled by the way your child died. Think about it and let’s spread the truth.

Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed. Proverbs 12:19, NLT

 

 

 

This entry was posted on January 30, 2015. 6 Comments