Archive | July 2013

The mask; one size fits most?

Mask

(Photo credit: poropitia outside the box)

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”
― Nathaniel HawthorneThe Scarlet Letter

Who am I other than a suicide survivor? Like you, I am a mom who plunged headlong into the black abyss of loss some years ago which squeezed the life out of me, splattering it on the walls of my dark prison. There seemed nothing left but a carcass for the trash heap, so why was God so attentive to it? It took a while before I was able to realize that God cared about me very much. In fact, he never left my side during those days, weeks, months (Hebrews 13:5). It was years later before I realized the Master Builder was slowly rebuilding me, brick by brick.

We talk so much about wearing a mask during our grief journey that I feel impressed to unpack it a little from my viewpoint. Wearing a mask after loss is familiar language to those who grieve; we who are walking a grief journey understand it’s necessity completely, but do the rest of you? May I explain? And if I don’t do it justice, survivor moms, please straighten me out.  Please understand that my heart is in the right place. I know grief personally. I know you know it personally as well. Many readers have experienced the death of their child and many of those to suicide. Everyone knows some family hit by this tragedy in this day and age.

It is easy to put on a mask after death strikes a blow. We are reluctant to have people see our swollen, red eyes. But beyond the physical we desire to hide ourselves from intense scrutiny. Do we put on the mask when we crawl out of bed and leave it on until we drop back into bed? Do we make sure it is securely in place when among family or friends or strangers? Is it worn to keep others at a safe distance or to protect ourselves with a piece of armor?

I wonder if we don a mask in an attempt to cover our broken heart? After losing a child we are like a gaping wound, raw and bleeding. We feel the stares of others and even the slightest touch makes us cringe as if someone slapped our exposed sunburned. After one unkind remark, we withdraw, hoping others will keep silent rather than speak words which, we fear, will heap even more salt on our tender wounds. Rather than wearing just a mask we may become like the Tin Man, covering our exposed souls with protective armor from head to toe.

If others would approach us in love, perhaps our reactions would be different? If they could just put themselves in our shoes for a day? I read a devotion recently which hits home to my heart. Perhaps it will have meaning for you as well:

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.  1 John 4:16

“When it comes to love, the Greek language is incredibly descriptive. It has four different words to distinguish between four kinds of love: the love of friends, familial love, sexual love, and unconditional love. This last kind of love, agape, is the one mentioned most frequently in the New Testament. It describes a love bestowed on those who are undeserving, in spite of possibility of rejection or heartbreak. Agape is so unique that, outside of the Scriptures, it is found in only one ancient  Greek text, where it describes parents’ unshakable love for their only child.

God loves you like an only child. His love can’t be earned or lost. He loves you simply because you are his. God is more than the source of agape. He is agape. His very essence, his nature, is love, given without obligation or expectation. He loves unconditionally because that is who he is.

Abide means “to dwell.” When you invite God’s Spirit to dwell in you, agape takes up residence. This gives you the ability to love others the same way God does, without condition. Whether you choose to use that ability is up to you. Unconditional love can lead to disappointment and sorrow. It led Jesus to the cross, but that choice ultimately led to a victory that could not be gained in any other way. Allow agape to help you love unconditionally. Others will catch a glimpse of God through you.”  ~100 Favorite Bible Verses

Obviously, not all humans seek to understand and practice agape love. Those of us who grieve would love to be surrounded by those who practice unconditional love. We would be in a healing environment instead of dodging the poisoned arrows thrown by those who “just want to help”. Perhaps it is the grieving who teach those who do not grieve by our example. Perhaps as I seek to dwell in God and he in me, I will grow the kind of intimate relationship that helps me heal and teaches those around me just what he is like.

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This entry was posted on July 27, 2013. 2 Comments

Peace, be still

An old fishing boat

(Photo credit: Jimmy McIntyre)

A violent windstorm popped up out of nowhere. Towering, foaming waves bashed the fishing boat and drenched the men aboard. It was a violent storm, unlike anything they had encountered when out to sea. It must have frightened them to think that this storm could be the one they had always feared. This time could be their death. Frantically these burly fishermen bailed to no avail. Clearly the boat was sinking. Obviously they were no match for nature’s fury.

But this was no ordinary storm. And this was no ordinary group of men. One of them was the Son of God and He was fast asleep in the back of the boat; totally unconcerned for their safety or so it must have seemed to the disciples.

So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to die?”

Then he got up, ordered the wind to stop, and said to the sea, “Be still, absolutely still!” The wind stopped blowing, and the sea became very calm.

He asked them, “Why are you such cowards [timid and fearful]? Don’t you have any faith yet?”

They were overcome with fear and asked each other, “Who is this man? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”   Mark 4:37-41, GW

Is this not our question most days?

Master, don’t You care if we perish? We call out for Him in the night when we can’t fall asleep and we call out to Him in the day when there are so many reminders of our needs. Does He answer? Is He listening? The disciples had Jesus in the boat with them. The Creator of all things, the Savior of the world was taking a nap in the boat. He was that close when the wind shifted, caught the sails and was about the capsize them.

When they finally remembered who was on board with them, they asked Him, “Do You care?”

Does He? Is there evidence that He really does? Is the following verse evidence of His care? What does it say to your heart?

When calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you . . . all who listen to me will live in peace.  Proverbs 1:27, 33, NLT

He was in the boat then . . . and He is near you and me now. Always loving, always wooing, always longing for a personal relationship. So He knocks on the door of our hearts. We can choose to let Him in. We can choose to start a friendship. We can choose to surrender our worries; to stop bailing on our own. We can choose to simply ask the Peacekeeper to guide us to a place of safety when storms in our lives arise.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

Is Anyone Listening?

As free as the clouds in the night sky

(Photo credit: Images by John ‘K’)

Where are You, God? My mind says that You are in my heart, but my heart is not so sure. So much bad stuff happens with so little good stuff to balance the scale.

I look up at the moon and stars in the clear, night sky and wonder about the vastness of space. Are You out there, God?

Sometimes I feel like a lonely child with her face pressed against the glass. She’s not allowed to go outside, but the bustling activity going on out there looks so inviting.

I am that little girl trapped inside the house, which feels like it has become my prison. I can only admire the outside world with my face pressed against the glass.

Do you see that lonely, little girl, God? When will she ever be free to explore, to love, to be herself? Will she grow up trapped in a cycle of being what everyone else expects her to be? Or will she fly free?

The child in me cries out, and for what, she’s not even sure. She can’t seem to give her inner words a voice. Will You give them a voice, God?

It feels like I am always waiting, always wondering, always hoping You are leading. But You are so quiet, so like the dark, immensity of space in which I am but a speck.

God, please teach my heart what my head understands – and my heart will follow Your lead. And by Your power, I will fly free!

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

This entry was posted on July 20, 2013. 4 Comments

DRAFT – work over to repost -“Surviving the Stigma” need to copy to new page

62.365 i know it hurts to feel so all alone, ...

I know it hurts to feel so all alone      (Photo credit: ashley rose,)

I am scorned by all my enemies and despised by my neighbors ~ even my friends are afraid to come near me. When they see me on the street, they run the other way.  Psalm 31:11

I know David is writing about his personal enemies . . . and I never thought I had enemies and perhaps I don’t, but there are days when I feel just like David. It seems that every person I meet runs the other direction.

Society may show more understanding and acceptance than it did in previous generations, but we still feel sort of contagious. There lingers a stigma about suicidal death. Perhaps there also lingers the “stench” of death causing doors to shut, blinds pulled and strict adherence to social codes and comfort zones. Am I meddling a little?

Not only have we lost our son to a tragic death, but we have also lost family, friends, and acquaintances. Family members disagreed with our choices and chose to step outside the family circle ~ maybe due to their sorrow and confusion, but what about our sorrow? We lost our son! Our youngest lost his only brother! Why blame the parents? Why blame anyone at such an awful time?

I lost my precious son. The grave swallowed him up. All that remains is grief, pain, suffering, sorrow, and now we are forced to face guilt and shame? Yes! Shame for the way he died. It’s as if the enemy, through familiar voices, shouts at us:

Shame on you for allowing this to happen! Why weren’t you more watchful? Couldn’t you see that he was about to snap? Why didn’t you call in the professionals? Don’t you know the grave does not release those who kill themselves? How could you embarrass us this way? You are no longer welcome in our family. Stay away!

Waves of pain roll over me as I write these words. Remembering puts a bitter taste in my mouth and brings tears to my eyes. How could family members ever treat grief-stricken parents and siblings this way? It’s unthinkable, but it happened and it happens to others too.

It’s as if satan squeezed the life out of our child and then went on the war path to bring anger and bitterness into everyone who should have been there to comfort us in our time of sorrow.

Lord, thank You for allowing me to vent these wretched feelings to You. Only You can take them away forever. I have forgiven those who hurt us and I choose to continue to forgive them . . . the pain and disbelief of it all runs deep. I am not responsible for anyone else’s well-being. However, I must respect their disapproval and keep a safe distance out of respect for their wishes. But I am curious.

Are we all going to live in the same neighborhood in heaven? Will we attempt to take our hard feelings with us so we can continue to debate who was right and who was wrong? What matters to our tight, little family is that our son will soon rise to meet His Creator, no matter what others may say! And when we see him in the air, we will join him! We will be ecstatic with joy! Our sons are together again!

Our earthly family will be recreated in the twinkling of an eye! We will be hugging each other and our God and King who made it all possible, and that will be enough for us. Just being together again in a perfect heaven.

God, You are an awesome Friend and Teacher. It is amazing how You listen without condemnation and You love unconditionally. May we be willing to follow Your example. And please come soon. I love and trust You so much. Thank You for being my Everything.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.  Isaiah 35:10

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

If it “hisses” . . .

I have never had a frightening encounter with a deadly snake before. Have you? What happened? I’d love to hear your story. I would imagine that if I did encounter a deadly snake in the wilderness I would instantly be filled with adrenalin and these arthritic limbs would suddenly be able to leap short buildings in a single bound! There is nothing like fear to get one moving. So what happened to Eve??

The snake was more clever than all the wild animals the Lord God had made. He asked the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must never eat the fruit of any tree in the garden’?”                   

Brown tree snake http://www.npswapa.org/galler...

Brown tree snake  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The woman answered the snake, “We’re allowed to eat the fruit from any tree in the garden except the tree in the middle of the garden. God said, ‘You must never eat it or touch it. If you do, you will die!’”

 “You certainly won’t die!” the snake told the woman. “God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened. You’ll be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Genesis 3:1-5

The Garden of Eden must have been gorgeous, unlike anything our eyes have ever seen. It was the place where God formed Adam out of the dust of the earth and blew His breath into his nostrils and gave him life. Sadly, it was also the setting for the very first lie on Earth hissed by a beautiful snake [Satan in disguise] which changed God’s plan for his children.

The first lie in history is thousands of years old and yet what is astounding,  is that it is still as effective today as when told to Eve. Satan is still telling the same lie today ~ “you won’t die”. You just pass from one life to the next. But what is the next life? Does anyone know exactly what it is? Is there Scripture to define it? I am a person who needs proof. Is there proof?

It’s easy to blame the problems of the world on men, but it was the first woman who sinned. If I could have a chat with Eve, maybe it would go something like this: “Eve, you had it all. You had perfection all around you including a drop-dead, gorgeous, hunky husband and you walked and talked with God face to face! What could possibly make you think you could improve on that? Why listen to a talking snake when you had God? What on earth were you thinking?”

That snake turned out to be an impostor. We need to wake up. Be vigilant. If it hisses . . . back away and fast!

Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, evil will go forth from nation to nation, and a great whirling tempest will rise from the uttermost parts of the earth.  Jeremiah 25:32

To the Brink . . . and Back

English: Baby Fulmars on the cliff edge

cliff edge (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the test. The devil was ready to give it . . .

For the second test the devil took Him to the Holy City. He sat Him on top of the Temple and said, “Since You are God‘s Son, jump.”

The devil goaded Him by quoting Psalm 91: “He has placed You in the care of angels. They will catch You so that You won’t so much as stub Your toe on a stone.”

Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: “Don’t you dare test the Lord your God.”  Matthew 4:1, 5-7, MSG

It was hard those first few months after our son’s death to even think of a reason to leave the house. I didn’t want to go anywhere, but I didn’t want to stay either. I felt myself falling, falling into nothingness . . . with no way to get my bearings . . . and I didn’t care.

But after some time passed we finally took the opportunity to get away. The exercise and fresh air did us both good. As my eyes gazed upward into the deep blue sky and rugged ridges of the hills around us, I felt God’s Presence in a way I had not felt it in a long time. I could begin to relax and trust Him; ready and willing to listen in case He spoke to my barren soul.

One early morning, I was walking alone. I had ventured higher than I had before, leaning in and digging my toes in the loose gravel to keep my footing on the steep climb. I paused to catch my breath, sucking in deep droughts of crisp, clean air. The woods were thick and hard for my eyes to penetrate, but in them were sure to be eyes looking back at me . . . wild ones. This was God’s country where wild animals roamed freely in their habitat. I was very much aware that I was stepping into their domain, so being alone, I thought I should turn back and head down the trail.

Going down was easier, but still I had to proceed cautiously in the sift dirt mixed with gravel under my feet. Rounding the bend, I could look down off a ridge and my tummy did a flip-flop as I realized how far up I had climbed. And just at that moment, a voice spoke clearly in my head, “Go ahead, jump. You can end your misery right now and join him. No one will know . . . and they won’t find your body for days.”

“Do it!”

Stunned, I sucked in my breath and couldn’t let it out for a few seconds as my mind whirled, trying to comprehend what I had just heard. Certainly God wouldn’t say such a thing . . . so it had to be . . . satan! Yes! It must have been satan goading me to end my life and stop the pain!

When I felt strength return to my legs, I hurried back down to my husband and safety. That was a strong directive, and I realized then and there that the enemy would never leave us alone. He had taken one of our precious children, but he wouldn’t stop there. He would take anyone else too and will continue to try . . . not only in our family, but in yours, too!

Jesus refusal was curt: “Beat it, satan!”

He backed His rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: Worship the Lord Your God, and only Him. Serve Him with absolute single-heartedness. The Test was over. The devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus’ needs.  Matthew 4:10-11, MSG

Shattered by Suicide, My Conversations with God after the Tragic Death of My Son”

This entry was posted on July 9, 2013. 2 Comments

The Eternal “Why?” quote

Big Tree with Red Sky in the Winter Night

Big Tree with Red Sky in the Winter Night (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Shared from “Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love

No man has power over the wind to contain it; so no one has power over the day of his death.  Ecclesiastes 8:8

Death has a way of causing us to face our absolute powerlessness. Humans would prefer to pretend that we are powerful. After all, we can send rockets to the moon. We can irrigate the desert. But the truth is, we have no more power over death than we do the wind. We are helpless in the face of death, and many of us rail against that helplessness. We want to do something. We want to make the pain stop. We want to make God answer the question “Why?” Did I do something wrong? Am I being punished? Has God stopped loving me? Did God ever love me? If He loves me, then why?! Why me? Why now?

All of these questions tend to march relentlessly through our minds when we are grieving. When we lose a loved one many of us go through a crisis of faith in which we  question everything we have believed until now. Unhappily, a lot of people who are questioning feel as if their questions indicate that they are bad people. This is simply not so. C.S. Lewis is widely hailed as one of the most profound theologians of this century. He was a man who knew what he believed and why he believed it. Yet his wife’s death cast him into crisis. Lewis’ search for answers to the questions spawned by his great loss is profiled in his book A Grief Observed.

Regardless of how others may have handled their personal crisis, however, we are each called upon to come to peace with our own feelings of helplessness. No one can do that for us. And in the final analysis, no one can show us how to do it. It is a battle for peace that can only be fought on our knees. We may rail at God. We may tell him how unfair we think he is. We may tell him how terribly angry we are with him. In the end, though, we must find some way to face, as did Solomon, the fact that only God can tame the wind and only God has a wisdom so perfect that he can rightly determine when a person should go on living and when that person must die. It is only when we surrender our anger, our grief and our heartfelt “Why?” that we can know that peace.

Friend, you may or may not believe what was stated above by authors, Mitsch and Brookside, and you don’t have to. Perhaps you have searched for answers and meaning from various authors. Maybe you go out and shake your fist at the night sky. No matter what we do or say or ask, God has not left us alone. He’s there all the time as he promises to be. He does have the answers we seek, so keep searching.

This entry was posted on July 5, 2013. 2 Comments

Pavement

Polski: Sztabka złota ważąca 12,5 kg. Własność...

Polski: Sztabka złota ważąca 12,5 kg. Własność Narodowego Banku Polskiego. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ugh. We are preparing to have a cement driveway put in to replace the old, broken-up tarred surface which had seen better days/years, to be truthful. Soon it will be a nicer, cleaner surface and match the neighborhood driveways. Obviously we have lagged behind the Joneses’. It is an investment we have put off, but it is time that we take care of the property God has loaned to us. But what an expense!

It is expensive to live isn’t it? Nothing comes cheap and nothing is “free”. I can hardly stomach television commercials that “force” their way into my home. That’s the down side of watching the news during which one of their sponsors advertises gold. Buy gold! Save yourself from the troubles of the world. You will feel so much safer if you buy gold. I get the message and I could probably quote the actor if I put forth the effort, but you get the idea. If you buy gold, good for you! I have no opinion to voice as to how money should be stored or invested.

However, it does remind me of this little allegory you may have heard:

“There once was a rich man who was near death. He was very grieved because he had worked so hard for his money and he wanted to be able to take it with him to heaven. So he began to pray that he might be able to take some of his wealth with him.

An angel hears his plea and appears to him. “Sorry, but you can’t take your wealth with you.” The man implores the angel to speak to God to see if He might bend the rules.

The man continues to pray that his wealth could follow him. The angel reappears and informs the man that God has decided to allow him to take one suitcase with him. Overjoyed, the man gathers his largest suitcase and fills it with pure gold bars and places it beside his bed.

Soon afterward the man dies and shows up at the Gates of Heaven to greet St. Peter. St. Peter seeing the suitcase says, “Hold on, you can’t bring that in here!”

But, the man explains to St. Peter that he has permission and asks him to verify his story with the Lord. Sure enough, St. Peter checks and comes back saying, “You’re right. You are allowed one carry-on bag, but I’m supposed to check its contents before letting it through.”

St. Peter opens the suitcase to inspect the worldly items that the man found too precious to leave behind and exclaims, “You brought pavement?!!!”

Hope you got a chuckle out of this, but there is a kernel of truth here. We are going to walk on streets of gold in heaven ~ not the cement of earth. No cement driveways either. Maybe gold ones or perhaps you prefer pearl? We will have countless jewels to choose from. Can you believe that the New Jerusalem will have doors mined from solid pearls? It’s beyond my comprehension, but it is true.

I don’t want to get bogged down worrying about earthly substance. God has promised to take care of me and I choose to take Him at His Word. After all, it’s all His anyway. He just moves it around a little to benefit those who love Him and those who don’t. “For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10 ) Jesus wants to give us abundant life (John 10:10) as we follow Him by faith.

The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.  Revelation 21:21

Revolutions

English: fireworks seen across the at Washingt...

English: fireworks seen across the at Washington, D.C., USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Egypt’s president was removed from power today.  Three and a half thousand years ago another Egyptian leader was removed from power at the Red Sea.  Well, perhaps he stayed in power but the power of his army was gone.  Government transitions are as old as history.  Adam and Eve handed control over to Lucifer and what a mess he has made.  One of my favorite verses is found in Luke 10Jesus said, “The seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through your name. And he said to them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”

The context gives us past and future glimpses.  The past is described in Revelation 12. “The great dragon was hurled down–that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”  And the future is found in Revelation 20.  “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.”  The Bible is very clear.  Jesus wins.  Revelation 1:18, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”  Jesus got the keys back on Calvary.  It is not a question of who wins, it is merely a question as to when God in His wisdom says it’s time.

The Kingdom of God has come.  God is collecting citizens right now.  God’s immigration policy is very open, generous and unfair.  I say “unfair” because we really don’t deserve it.  It’s all grace.  That will be the last government transition ever.

~Roger Bothwell

Go Down, Death

by James Weldon Johnson

 (A Funeral Sermon)                                           

Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
Grief-stricken son--weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;
She only just gone home.

Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God's big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.

And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!--Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn't make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God's command.And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She's borne the burden and heat of the day,
She's labored long in my vineyard,
And she's tired--
She's weary--
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.And Death didn't say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven's pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning's flash behind;
Straight down he came.While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn't see;
She saw Old Death.  She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn't frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I'm going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn't feel no chill.
And death began to ride again--
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,
And the angels sang a little song,
And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying: Take your rest,
Take your rest.Weep not--weep not,
She is not dead;
She's resting in the bosom of Jesus.

Dear Readers,

I first heard this poem recited by Wintley Phipps, a wonderful vocal artist. You may view his delivery of it on YouTube if interested. But I am interested in your reaction to this old poem. It’s a heavy subject, but one we are familiar with, like it or not. Death has been around us for thousands of years and we still have not adjusted. I wasn’t sure readers would be comfortable with this poem, but in it’s own way, perhaps comforting? Your thoughts?

This entry was posted on July 3, 2013. 2 Comments