When Words Fail


“Success builds character, failure reveals it” ~ Dave Checkett

So, ok, maybe things didn’t quite go as planned. Maybe everyone knows it. Maybe no one knows it but you.

This past February I turned 40. Something I am learning over and over is that as we age, and hopefully mature, we tend to do more thinking and less reacting. Sure, I definitely still have more than my share of flying off the handle, knee-jerk reactions, and so forth, but I’m getting better….I think… I hope.

Naturally, when we think we’ve got one aspect of life under control, like being careful which friends you share your deep personal stuff with, or where to buy the good burgers, or which checker is efficient and friendly and won’t talk your ear off about their personal life drama…Just when you think Ok, I’ve got this, here comes a curve ball that shatters your world and makes you question what you thought you knew for sure, like the love of God and his plan for your life.

For me, a wrenching reminder came about seven weeks ago. You see, I was pregnant.

I had kept it a secret from nosy people with their opinions of how many children each couple should have. Like a treasure, I had hidden my secret away during difficult times my family has been going through. I mean, come on, opinions would be coming fast and furious. I’m 40? And I have HOW MANY KIDS ALREADY? Right. Well, this blessing in disguise was OUR blessing, a precious gift in the middle of trying times.

So, when I was finally ready I went to the doctor and had my pregnancy confirmed. I saw the ultrasound. The little coming attraction was bouncing around with a steady heartbeat. About 2 weeks later, a blood test came back telling us there were no chromosome defects, and we were having a little girl. My husband groaned. Another girl? Yet we were both relieved that the baby was fine.

One week later, something was wrong and I made a visit to the emergency room where another ultrasound showed no movement OR heartbeat. So, I returned to the semi-private, curtain partitioned room and cried my heart out. Alone. I was almost 4 months along. The man on the other side of the curtain who had pulled a muscle lifting weights was very, very quiet as I tried to make my unreal grief more socially acceptable.

A dear friend, who had left work, and my dad came to the hospital. They were two of the few people who knew I had been expecting. They shared my grief, but what can you say when there are no words?

When I was discharged and handed a pamphlet on miscarriage, I still had the long drive home and facing my husband with the news. He wasn’t aware that I had gone to the emergency room, or any of the things that had happened. Service is spotty in the hospital, and my husband works nights. What a horrible way to wake someone up.

Many parents have struggled with the pain that comes from losing a child, whether from death, custody battles, rebellion, or estrangement. Like me, they may feel confused, anxious, full of grief, and on the verge of giving up. This was a situation I didn’t understand. It felt so very unfair. God seemed far away when I needed his comfort. He seemed silent when I needed his advice. The pain was so great that I felt like I was being crushed physically. It’s a scary place to be when we see just how little control we actually have over our lives. It feels like there is nothing you can trust.

Time and time again, people would offer ridiculous “smiley-face” bits of advice like, “This too shall pass”. I didn’t want it to pass. I wanted it to disappear. The passing felt like being dragged behind a horse.

I have seldom felt anything to compare with the pain of a child being lost or struggling in some way. I became very bitter and shut people out. I hid from people. Why would anyone want to hear the same old complaints? Why bring people down? Our struggles can be embarrassing. We can feel ashamed.

It seems odd, but the thing that has been the most powerful and actually healing thing to me in my most gut-wrenching pain has been the Cross of Christ. His suffering didn’t just lead to death, and, poof– end of story. Jesus’ ticket to the grave was for a round trip.

His suffering and anguish were public and humiliating. His grief was made more difficult to bear because of his loneliness and being misunderstood. He was blamed although he was blameless!

BUT! The incomparable suffering of Christ was only a comma in a sentence that ended with death itself up-ended and turned on its ear in Jesus’ absolute victory! What this means for you and me in our times of suffering is that we can trust his competence and compassion as we face our most formidable challenges. Even death has lost its sting!

The Resurrection means more than I used to think. See, this is how we carry our hope: we realize that the shadow of the Cross actually covers everything like a big “Paid in Full” stamp. Even more amazing, however, than the fact of its being paid is what was purchased once and for all, and FOR US ALL! Amazing! (Ephesians 2:1-22)

So, if you are reading this post and have some heart breaking thing that you are currently facing in your life, I want to encourage you. It is difficult, but sharing our pain leads to sharing the joy that our victories bring. I’m not sure why I didn’t see it before.

Without the Cross, Jesus being alive is just regular, business as usual. There’s no amazement. No miracle. No power. When you and I are able to humble ourselves and share the Goliath, the tiny stone becomes enormous. In a similar way, the light doesn’t mean as much without the tunnel. When we are willing to share our own struggles and pain, we can see the relief and hope it creates in other people. I have felt the same when others share with me.

This feeling that we are not alone is very comforting, even more so that there is hope and victory through Christ. Talk about JOY unspeakable! It will build your faith as you share with others, just as God intended.

“Therefore, believers, since we have confidence and full freedom to enter the Holy Place [the place where God dwells] by [means of] the blood of Jesus, by this new and living way which He initiated and opened for us through the veil [as in the Holy of Holies], that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great and wonderful Priest [Who rules] over the house of God, let us approach [God] with a true and sincere heart in unqualified assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us seize and hold tightly the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is reliable and trustworthy and faithful [to His word]…” Hebrews 10:19-23 AMP

 

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Come Undone


“Hey you, out there in the cold

Getting lonely, getting old

Can you feel me?

Hey you, standing in the aisles

With itchy feet and fading smiles

Can you feel me?

Hey you, don’t help them to bury the light

Don’t give in without a fight.” ~ Pink Floyd

Sometimes, after the pep talks end and the encouragement fades away, we are left alone in the dark; brittle, empty, and afraid. Sometimes we come to the end of ourselves and realize that our painful  situation is still going strong and we have nothing left to give. Sometimes, we find that we are not enough. What then? When reality smacks you in the face like a giant tidal wave, no amount of self-help, Oprah’s book club, pop-psychology will save you.

To borrow a quote from the movie Speed, “Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?” (Oh the irony of using a movie quote when I’m talking about facing reality, right? Seriously, sometimes you just have to poke a little fun at yourself.)

OK, so maybe not every situation is as life-and-death as that….but yours may be. Your situation could have you sweating bullets, or sweating because of literal bullets. We live in a very angry world. It seems no one can even state an opinion these days without bringing down a firestorm on their heads. You’d better not say something that someone else doesn’t like. You’d better never make a mistake. Further, you’d better never even suggest that there might be only ONE truth and that it is a Person named Jesus and that he died to save every one of us angry, opinionated, offended, fault-finding, hypocrites. I have realized as I go through life that it is the easiest thing in the world to say one thing and then do another when we come down to the sticking place. But I’m getting off track now talking about Jesus…..Oh wait, no I’m not.

So anyway, Jesus……because he is really what will help us all out here (as in our lives in this world), not more of our own opinions…… Jesus…Name above all names, beautiful Savior, glorious Lord, Emmanuel, God is with us, Blessed Redeemer, Living Word…….In the midst of very personal and painful trials with my own family, my loved-best-in-the-world, my children, my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my dearest of dear friends…I have had to camp out at the feet of Jesus and just weep on more than one occasion.

The funny thing is that from the outside, people have many opinions about the reasons we all hurt, the reasons someone else hurts, or you, or me (SOOO many opinions!!); but we’re all kind-of just winging it as we go. I mean, no offense to you planning, careful types. I know you’ve worked hard and you know where you want to go. Good for you! 🙂

But, let me just say, as a non careful-planning-type someone who knows, that plans unravel and stitches come out, threads holding you to other people fray and tear, buttons get lost and zippers break. Sometimes, many times, our best laid plans are just not enough. Sometimes we get the thing we’ve wanted, and sometimes we don’t. Quite often, in fact, we don’t get the things we want. Many times we get the thing(s) we never wanted instead. It quite honestly seems to be horribly, cruelly unfair.

So, there you are, sitting in front of the blank wall of disappointment, where all your hopes and dreams have been crushed by a giant, undeniable “NO”. And yet, failure teaches us. Pain molds us. Disappointment tests us. We cannot grow without it, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Without “NO”, there is no reason to change or improve. “No” hurts us deeply. However, “No” is not the final word written in our story.

“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not ‘Yes’ and ‘No,’ but in him it has always been ‘Yes.’ For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”  2 Corinthians 1:19-22 Amplified

In our own lives, it will take each of us a good deal of time and thought and study to learn about the promises of God. We all have our own dreams and plans. Since we can’t honestly say that the purposes and motivations behind those plans and dreams are 100% godly, it behooves each of us to find out what God’s plans are for our lives and how they differ from our own often-frustrated plans….and how much God’s plans surpass ours in every way. 

Of course, a lot of us will say our own “No” here. We don’t believe it, and we don’t trust it…..but since we’re chatting as friends here, let’s call it truthfully what it is, this big “No” of ours:

We don’t believe GOD; and we don’t trust GOD.

There. I typed it out. You read it. No lightning has struck us. It’s not like it was a big secret anyway. 😉 A big part of the reason why we don’t see the fulfillment to the many promises of God is that we give less credence to the power, integrity, and intentions of the Maker of the Promises than we do to Starbuck’s when we order a drink at the drive-thru. In order to get past this stuff (and move on up, to the east-side, to a deluxe apartment in the sky as it were….you were singing along too, weren’t you?)….In order to set foot on the Promised Land instead of only hearing about it or seeing it from very far off, you and I have to grow up. (This post is taking me literally months as I stop and think about each new thought and walk some things out in my own life.)

You and I have got to quit playing at being followers of Christ, and actually take HIS lead and follow. Long ago, before Twitter or Facebook or any other ironically-named “social” networking site, there was such a thing as being a follower of Christ. The men and women who followed Jesus Christ were just like you and I. They had their own plans and hopes and dreams and families and heartaches and jealousies and livelihoods, etc…etc… Yet, each and every one of them was told to lay down his or her cares, take up their cross, and follow Christ.

When I was little and I would hear those stories with a child’s understanding, I thought they were basically left with the clothes on their backs. In my mind I saw this odd group of people trailing along in the desert wearing different colors of tunics and some sort of head coverings, like the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar. Their families were left behind. Their responsibilities were left behind. Basically, I thought Jesus asked them to beggar themselves and become outcasts. In my mind all I could picture was the loneliness, sacrifice and going without and being in want. I’ve heard it preached this way many times. Usually the follow-up example would be the rich young ruler, then riches were labelled a bad thing we all had to give up, and the collection plate would be passed.

Of course this kind of reasoning flies in the face of verses (from the NIV) like:

Psalm 23:1 ~ “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.”  

Matthew 11:28-30 ~ “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

John 16:33 ~ “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.” 

OK, calm down. I’m not spouting heresy here. Just be patient with me. 🙂 Some people are called to leave everything behind and follow Christ into a deep jungle, or a burning desert, or the urban inner city, etc. Not everyone is called to do that, however. In the Bible, Jesus had 12 disciples and there were many others who followed along at different times. They eagerly listened to the challenging and beautiful words of the Carpenter from Nazareth and then brought those words back to their lives and families. They returned to their responsibilities and loved-ones and God-ordained places. They reached out to the people around them every day, their neighbors, friends, and family. They gave their possessions and time and talents and even wealth to the cause of Christ. Spiritually, we are ALL called to set as priority one: Jesus Christ.

No, Christ doesn’t need our money. Christ is seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1) The people we share the world with, on the other hand, have just as many physical needs as we do ourselves. Therefore, we are presented with a very practical, no nonsense way of showing the love of Christ to the people we encounter every day. People need bus fare, rides to work, babysitters, help around the house, a hand to hold, a meal, a few bags of groceries, a shoulder to cry on, our knowledge, our skills, our time. As indicated by the verses above, our recompense isn’t only waiting for us on the other side of the grave. How does all of this fit in with the concept of coming undone and trusting God to fill in where we’ve fallen apart? I’m glad you asked. 🙂

 

“And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth. [Isa. 40:5.]” ~ John 1:14 AMP

We, being so spiritually needy and helpless, needed someone to show us how we were supposed to put the laws and principles into living, breathing action. Much in the way a kindergarten teacher has to show their students how to hold a crayon or pencil, even to the point of physically molding the child’s fingers around the instrument, we all need to be shown how to do new things by someone who has already mastered them. Jesus came to show us the practical application of the Word of God, himself being the Word in the flesh.

Jesus came to walk it out for us. He came to show us what love actually looks like in human form. He became 1 Corinthians 13. He gave up everything to come down here in the mud where we live. He protected and taught. He served and healed. He befriended. He forgave. He took us by our sin-stained hands and raised us up. He gave us hope and a chance for a new beginning. Jesus invested himself in us. Now that is someone you can trust. Let’s look at a snippet from one of the verses above again.

“Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. [Jer. 6:16.]” ~ Matthew 11:29 Amplified

When you’re feeling broken, you need someone to be gentle. When you’re grieving, you want tenderness, not a lecture. While I was figuring out how to say what I was figuring out for myself these past few months, I stumbled upon a Bible study about Jesus (which you can find here)In this study, a lot of emphasis was placed on Jesus’ character. The attribute I want to especially look at here is his gentleness.

“Behold, My Servant Whom I have chosen, My Beloved in and with Whom My soul is well pleased and has found its delight. I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim and show forth justice to the nations. He will not strive or wrangle or cry out loudly; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets; A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering (dimly burning) wick He will not quench, till He brings justice and a just cause to victory. And in and on His name will the Gentiles (the peoples outside of Israel) set their hopes. [Isa. 42:1-4.] Then a blind and dumb man under the power of a demon was brought to Jesus, and He cured him, so that the blind and dumb man both spoke and saw.” ~ Matthew 12:18-22
In the previous chapter, Jesus bids us to learn from him and tells us that he is gentle. In the next chapter, we have the two pictures of the bruised reed and the smoldering wick. Then immediately after this there is an extremely bruised and smoldering individual who is brought to Jesus. So we can watch him. We can see if he will do what he says he will do. Jesus healed and restored him. Once again, Jesus shows us with his own actions all the things that God’s word has been telling us. He is his own proof.
So, maybe today you are feeling bruised, mistreated, and misunderstood. Maybe, like a smoldering wick, you feel that your own abilities, patience, strength, and importance are used up. Perhaps you feel forgotten. Perhaps you feel like the world has thrown you away. I want to tell you that God sees you. Jesus died for YOU. You are not an accident. You are not a mistake. God has not forgotten you! The breaths you take right now as you read this are no mistake, like someone somewhere just left the TV on and you happened to be in the room.
This life of yours has meaning; YOU HAVE MEANING.
If you are hurting, let me just tell you as someone who has hurt as well, deeply, and come out on the other side, the other side of hurt does come. In the meantime while you are still in the valley, still taking shallow breaths and gritting your teeth against the pain, taking one day at a time, hoping against hope..Remember there is a gentle Savior who walks right along with you. He will sustain you, and he will lead you eventually out on the other side. Keep your eyes on this gentle Jesus. He is our best hope and comfort in this life. He is true to his word. He is able to lead you through and out of any valley you may be facing. One day, Jesus will lead us gently out of the final valley, and we will be home.

“Then I heard a mighty voice from the throne and I perceived its distinct words, saying, See! The abode of God is with men, and He will live (encamp, tent) among them; and they shall be His people, and God shall personally be with them and be their God. [Ezek. 37:27.] God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be anguish (sorrow and mourning) nor grief nor pain any more, for the old conditions and the former order of things have passed away. [Isa. 25:8; 35:10.] And He Who is seated on the throne said, See! I make all things new. Also He said, Record this, for these sayings are faithful (accurate, incorruptible, and trustworthy) and true (genuine). [Isa. 43:19.] And He [further] said to me, It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I [Myself] will give water without price from the fountain (springs) of the water of Life. [Isa. 55:1.] He who is victorious shall inherit all these things, and I will be God to him and he shall be My son.” ~ Revelation 21:3-7

Return of the Old Man


“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.” ~ Jan Glidewell

Picture yourself walking alone on a beautiful Wednesday late afternoon. You’re walking along the road, when you pass a graveyard. You maybe think about the souls whose mortal husks lie beneath the ground, or how their lives were like or different from yours or the people that miss them. You walk on down the road and the graveyard is soon out of view. The sun goes down behind the hills and your path darkens. As you pass through the branches of closely growing trees, you hear a sound behind you. You turn and see someone else walking down the road in your direction. Nice night for a stroll, you think, as you turn around and continue your walk. A branch lashes across your face and the air is turning chilly. You glance behind you and notice the pedestrian is closer. Wow, a power walker, you say to yourself, as you zip your jacket up a bit more and pick up your pace to make it home by dark. Gradually, you hear the approach of hurried footsteps. This time you turn and find yourself face to face with the rotten flesh and reeking death-stench of a zombie!!

Freshly turned dirt covers their clothes and the creature’s hands are scratched and bleeding from their fight to rise from the grave. It turns its face toward you with sightless eyes, looking not at you but through you. Bracing yourself for an attack, you hold up your arms and eye the nearby scenery for something with which to defend yourself. The creature stands still, as if waiting for you…..as if summoned by you. Upon further examination, this dumbly-blinking monstrosity has some familiar characteristics.  Dripping with mud and debris, wearing sodden and rotting grave clothes, this horrible being clutches in its hands the remnants of a life long gone. A startling realization dawns on you that this creature actually resembles you! That’s right, Ladies and Gentlemen, you’ve come face to face with the “Old Man”.

Your bad habits, your failings, your slip-ups, your pride, your wounds, your betrayals, your lies, your shame, and your wretched, wretched sin…..everything that you never wanted to remember about yourself, everything that makes you want to hide, all this and more you see plastered from sole to crown on the thing that stands before you. Like a creature from the trash heap, everything in front of you is something you wish you could throw away, you have thrown away. Why then does this thing stand before you with vacant eyes, drawn like a magnet to your side, like the vomit that the dog left, refusing to be left behind.

“Be with me. Let me stay with you. Love me. Excuse me. Pity me”…the Old Man seems to say. “This is who you are. You cannot escape from me. We are one forever.”

Before today, you may have succumbed. Before now you may have sighed and accepted what you believed to be inevitable and resignedly taking the hand of this putrid maggot fest you would have allowed you to lead you back to the graveyard, to defeat, to your past. Today, however, you have made a decision which has loosed the hold that you could not have previously broken, filled your lungs with the fresh air of hope, and put the starry light of love in your eyes. Today you met the Lover of your soul and He has set you free.

Today, for the first time ever, you are able to calmly turn your back on your past as it stands there silently beckoning, and continue on the path set before you, making it home in plenty of time for dinner. Today a new pattern has emerged. Now when you glimpse the sad-eyed, un-dead thing looking in at your happiness and fried chicken, you can simply close the curtains. If you’re feeling aggressive, you can even run it off. Occasionally, you will notice it shambling through an open door in your heart, not wasting any time as it tries to set up its own living space. Again, all you have to do is notice (it always give themselves away with its smell of death and misery) and firmly kick it out. Sometimes it is possible to be so overwhelmed by the grief and pain and toil of this life that you will be shocked to find one day this unwelcome creature has made itself at home and has been camping out once more. However, you have all the authority now to kick this interloper right out on its tombstone! It doesn’t belong with you any more. You were made for life!

“Are you ignorant of the fact that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious [power] of the Father, so we too might [habitually] live and behave in newness of life. For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be [one with Him in sharing] His resurrection [by a new life lived for God]. We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that [our] body [which is the instrument] of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. For when a man dies, he is freed (loosed, delivered) from [the power of] sin [among men]. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, Because we know that Christ (the Anointed One), being once raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has power over Him. For by the death He died, He died to sin [ending His relation to it] once for all; and the life that He lives, He is living to God [in unbroken fellowship with Him]. Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore rule as king in your mortal (short-lived, perishable) bodies, to make you yield to its cravings and be subject to its lusts and evil passions. Do not continue offering or yielding your bodily members [and faculties] to sin as instruments (tools) of wickedness. But offer and yield yourselves to God as though you have been raised from the dead to [perpetual] life, and your bodily members [and faculties] to God, presenting them as implements of righteousness. For sin shall not [any longer] exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law [as slaves], but under grace [as subjects of God’s favor and mercy].” Romans 6:3-14 (Amplified version)

Day of the Dead?


Love, like death, changes everything.” ~Kahlil Gibran

This time of year has always been my favorite. I love the fall colors, the fall food, the fall sweaters, smells, etc, etc. My anniversary is November 1st (5yrs tomorrow!). Halloween, on the other hand, used to be a big question mark for me. Do I celebrate, as a Christian? Do I make a point of telling others about my faith? Do I pretend I’m not at home? Do I celebrate as my non-Christian friends and neighbors do? I’m not sure why I tend to over-think things like this, but that’s the way I am. I like to analyze.

This year is a little different. There has been a LOT of death recently in my community and in my own life as well as the lives of my friends and family. It quite honestly frightens me. Like a divorce, the death of a friend or loved one (or the friends and loved ones of friends), death makes you reevaluate things in your life like relationships, priorities, hopes and dreams, and the unknown clock that is running out for each and every one of us. We each carry a skeleton around on the inside.

If the focus, for you or me or anyone else, stays on death, then no, Halloween/Samhain/Day of the Dead festivities are not fitting for a Christian to celebrate perhaps. There is, of course, more to the story than a skull and crossbones at the end of the trail. Our story continues after death. For those who have decided against popular culture and chosen Christ, there is no fear of what comes after death, because of the love of God.

“It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so that we will never die again. Our dead and decaying bodies will be changed into bodies that won’t die or decay. The bodies we now have are weak and can die. But they will be changed into bodies that are eternal. Then the Scriptures will come true, “Death has lost the battle!Where is its victory?Where is its sting?”Sin is what gives death its sting, and the Law is the power behind sin.But thank God for letting our Lord Jesus Christ give us the victory!My dear friends, stand firm and don’t be shaken. Always keep busy working for the Lord. You know that everything you do for him is worthwhile.”1 Corinthians 15:52-58

 

Phoenix Rising


“We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure.” –  Cesar Chavez

Death, despair, desolation…the defeat you have faced is so overwhelming, you wonder how you can go on. All hope lost, all dreams shattered, even your friends have gone, you are alone with your pain, and the smoking ruin of your life collapses around you. You have lost everything.

When we are faced with a loss so deep, a grief so great, that we can’t seem to make sense of the point to even draw breath, we have come to the end of ourselves; and we have found out that we are not enough to fix it, to heal, to cope, to survive. So many people are faced with these kinds of situations everyday. The doctor’s report is in, the police officer at your front door with hat in hand, the judge’s sentence, the letter of dismissal, the empty place at the dinner table, the Dear John note; and we think that we have come to the end of the sentence and the end of meaning, and there is no more to be written.

It is so tempting to lie down in our ocean of grief, feeling betrayed and abandoned, and make the oh-so-easy choice to close our hearts, not only to the people around us, but to the possibility of there ever again being a possibility. We let the waves of sorrow wash over us, and we sink into the sea of misery and drown. Hope seems foolish at this point. Joy mocks us. Happiness, too, we’d like to cover with earth and let it fade, mouldering in the ground where our dreams have gone. There are no words to speak to such grief. Even time is an enemy, as the clock’s ticking eventually brings each day to a close; and then night comes, when we lie in our beds and think, and think, and think. We stare at the ceiling, but all we see is black. Our days are spent, looking past the real world, to the realm of memory and what might have been, where we stare, transfixed at the source of our grief, and all else falls by the wayside. We can sometimes be this way for long periods of time; and those around us (often also grieving) are afraid for us, and love us still, and miss us while we walk like zombies in this half-life that has claimed us. We might as well be buried along with our hopes and dreams.

But life goes on, all the same.

It is important to remember that life goes on after grief. It seems wrong; it seems unfair, but life continues and we remain for a REASON. Of course, we can make the choice to sit in the ash heap and sift through the rubble for the rest of our lives. We can succumb to our feeling of hopelessness and make it a reality. OR….we can make a different choice, and have a different fate.

“Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon, and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odors. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent’s sepulchre), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun.”  Ovid, on the Phoenix Bird

The Phoenix does not only live on choice and expensive spices and resins, but it springs out of a nest of ruin. There is no re-birth for the Phoenix, until there has been a death. There is a time and place to deal with death, but that is not where the Phoenix lives.

“So when the new-born Phoenix first is seen,
Her feathered subjects all adore their queen,
And while she makes her progress through the East,
From every grove her numerous train’s increased;
Each poet of the air her glory sings,
And round him the pleased audience clap their wings.” Dryden 

Not only does the Phoenix rise from the ashes of desolation, but it is surrounded by scores of other birds because a Phoenix is a glorious conqueror, beautiful, remarkable, and rare. The Phoenix is an overcomer, and we are all encouraged by someone who overcomes. Against great, impossible odds, the Phoenix rises, strong, triumphant, and aflame!

Do not be drowned in your ashes. You can rise again to a brand new beginning! There is joy after grief, as surely as day follows night. You are alive for a PURPOSE. There is a PLAN. You can OVERCOME this sorrow, and be a light to encourage many people.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.On the contrary:

‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:9-31

The Velveteen Equation (Part 1)


“If we treated everyone we meet with the same affection we bestow upon our favorite cat, they, too, would purr.” Martin Delany

Can you remember the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? If not, let me sum it up for you: Once upon a time, there was a lonely little stuffed bunny who belongs to a little boy, who loved him very much. The bunny is the little boy’s constant companion, until one day when the little boy is stricken with scarlet fever and the bunny as well as the rest of the boy’s belongings are put in a big pile to be burned to stop any further spreading of the disease. The little bunny is rescued by a fairy who has watched his love and faithfulness for many years and at last, the little bunny is granted his fondest wish: to be “real” and hop around with the other rabbits and live out his life. (OK, the original story is much more charming, but that is the jist.)

As some people know, and many others do not, I was adopted. However, I did not begin life as an unwanted child. More to the point, I was a surprise! My birth parents were older when I was born, my mother 42 and my father had reached the ripe old age of 71 when I appeared on the scene. (The many implications of this particular age difference and the fact of my birth were things I had to come to terms with as a preteen in typical “eww-gross” fashion; but I digress, the fact is that I owe my existence to unusual circumstances.) As I grew, their years advanced until a chance meeting with a logging truck and the car my father was driving when I was seven. Fatherless, I continued living with my mother until the age of sixteen, when I received a call while in Denmark as an exchange student. Cancer. Terminal. I chose to return home. My mother appeared diminished and grey, dark circles under her eyes when I saw her at last. Less than a month full of anguish and sleepless night trying vainly to nurse her back to semi-health as she slipped away from me and her body gave in to advanced kidney failure, she died. I was all alone.

Others who have faced the prospects and unique challenges of being orphaned, will understand the many times I felt isolated, misunderstood, and strange, among other things. It is bad enough to be alone as an adult. As a child, especially an extremely sheltered and backward child such as I was, it is devastating in the utmost. It is difficult to take in a child whose been broken. I have friends who have recently adopted a child from China, and they have learned about many of these issues already. “Difficult” is a nice word for the way I behaved that year as I lived with the kind family friends who became my guardians.

I began to daydream about belonging to the family of a friend of mine.  Little did I know, at the same time that I was daydreaming, my guardian was praying about whether it would be better for everyone if I lived with this other family and the “daydream family” was thinking the same thing about me! I remember the day they came to pick me up. There were tears in our eyes as we hugged on the doorstep. It was the beginning of a brand new adventure.

Adventures do not always take the turns we anticipate. Part of the journey involves taking what you’re faced with and learning to adapt, accommodate, and worth through it. Joining a complete family, especially as a needy, spoiled teen has many pitfalls and challenges. It would be difficult to say who has a more difficult time of it, actually, the adopters or the adoptee.

It has been a long journey. The love of my adoptive family has seen me through the recovery of a divorce following a terrible marriage, single motherhood, remarriage, and the births of my 5th and 6th children. Their love has at times confused me, as I pulled away, and felt isolated for my efforts. I am now well into my adult years and still occasionally struggle with what it means to be part of a family, included in something I didn’t begin. The bottom line is that love makes us real. Love makes us belong.

“NOW WHAT I mean is that as long as the inheritor (heir) is a child and under age, he does not differ from a slave, although he is the master of all the estate; but he is under guardians and administrators or trustees until the date fixed by his father. So we [Jewish Christians] also, when we were minors, were kept like slaves under [the rules of the Hebrew ritual and subject to] the elementary teachings of a system of external observations and regulations. But when the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born subject to [the regulations of] the Law, to purchase the freedom of (to ransom, to redeem, to atone for) those who were subject to the Law, that we might be adopted and have sonship conferred upon us [and be recognized as God’s sons].” Galatians 4: 1-5 AMP

(To Be Continued…)

A Candle in the Wind


Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. – Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night, Dylan Thomas

There are a lot of things which can snuff out the light in our lives. One of the most destructive is guilt. We become manipulated into doing and saying things we’d rather not. We lie to others to make them see us a certain way. We even lie to ourselves. “I’m not worthy.” “It’s no big deal.” “They didn’t mean to hurt me.” “They’re only trying to help.” “I owe them.” Relationships are difficult enough without the bitterness of guilt poisoning things. We sometimes just need to be brave enough to be honest with ourselves and others. Head games are for chumps.

So, how does avoiding guilt tie in with all this talk of light and candles, etc? The joy we bring to the journey is our light. It is very difficult to get light from a snuffed candle. Anything we allow in our lives that makes us continually unhappy will logically make it very difficult for us to be a blessing to anyone around us. A candle doesn’t just spontaneously light itself! As tenuous as our feelings of happiness and cheerfulness can be (and we cannot just chase warm fuzzies all the time), we have to take concrete steps to eliminate those nasty candle snuffers as much as possible. The whiny friend, the complaining relative, the gossiping neighbor, the manipulative co-worker; these are all relationships that will snuff out our joy and make us ineffective as lights in this already-dark-enough world.

Be careful with you. You’re the best you that you’ve got!

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

Dreams Lost, Dreams Found


“Before beginning a Hunt, it is wise to ask someone what you are looking for before you begin looking for it.” Winnie the Pooh

I am currently in the process of hunting. What I’m looking for is old friends I have lost touch with, friends which I owe a debt of gratitude, news, or connection. Some friends were lost over time, through no fault of anyone; other connections were lost as a result of problems within the relationship. I hope to one day enjoy the experience of happy reunions with all of them, God willing. What I have come to understand, however, is that sometimes you have to confront in order for changes to be made. I have been faced with this task in the past, and on more than one occasion I have been the one confronted. Let me tell you that a truthful scolding from someone that loves you can really hurt, but it is absolutely necessary in order for us to grow.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:6

I have seen many times in airports and bus terminal, the infectious joy of reunions. They are fairly similar across the board: the hugs, the kisses, the smiles, the tears. I love watching these happy scenes. I think there is something in all of us that longs for these kinds of experiences. We are not meant to live our lives alone and isolated. Even Adam, the very first man, eventually had his fill of solitude.

“We need others. We need others to love and we need to be loved by them. There is no doubt that without it, we too, like the infant left alone, would cease to grow, cease to develop, choose madness and even death.” Leo F. Buscaglia

Maybe there are those you long to see again. Maybe you have been parted by time, place, situation, or even confrontation. Might I urge you today to begin thinking about what it would be like to have a joyous reunion with this person? What if you could forget the old hurts, lay down the grudges, forgive, and look past the parts of them that make you unhappy?

Now, for any of you who have read past blog entries, you will know that I have some history with spousal abuse. I DO NOT advocate a reunion that would be unwise or unsafe in any way. Sometimes goodbye is the healthiest word we can say to someone.

BUT for those other people in your life that should be taking part in your joys and sorrows and life events, take a little time and consider if maybe it is time to start building some bridges again. The weight of unforgiveness is too heavy to drag around the rest of your life. Be free, and be reunited to people who will enrich your life as you once enriched theirs.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here!All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5 : 14-19