Autumn Leaves 3 Column

Friday, September 30, 2011

Robust In Love: Opening

“We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do.  He keeps us in step with each other.  His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” Eph. 4: 15 – 16 (MSG)

This past weekend I had the privilege of speaking at a women’s retreat for the women of my church.  I was one of three speakers and our title was “Robust in Love” taken from the verse highlighted in today's blog.  Our focus was the necessity for maturity as godly women and emphasizing the building of God’s kingdom through us. 

Our first speaker spoke on “Trusting Upward” and shared her powerful testimony as to how the Lord called her out of a sinful life through some painful and life-changing trials.  The turning point of falling in love with Jesus came through an amazingly simple circumstance: a loved one had asked her to read the Bible aloud and over the course of time, as the words started to move from her brain and sink into her heart, the love God has for her was revealed as though a blindfold was removed from her eyes!  That is the power of the Word of God!

Our final speaker addressed “Peace Inward” and shared how we can find peace even when we feel abandoned, angry, hurt, or worse in the storms of life while we learn the enduring truth of God’s goodness, love, and grace for us as He brings us to maturity. 

I was the second speaker and my specific topic was called “Risking Outward.”   It may sound odd, but frankly, how many of us have a true understanding of what it means to “love our neighbors as ourselves”?  Yet, that is our commandment: to share the love we have received in our horizontal relationships in a manner that is glorifying to God.  So how do we live out relationships that glorify God?  I will be addressing this topic through a small series of blogs for the next few weeks.  I hope and pray you will join me as I share how the Lord stepped on my toes and challenged me as I researched and prayed through the book of Ephesians.   

For now, I want to leave you with a question: what prevents us from loving our neighbor, our spouse, or our child in a manner that brings glory to God?  Please read Ephesians and my future blogs and we’ll compare answers!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Acquainted With Grief

“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” Is. 53:3 (NASB)

Grief is a strange emotion.  There is no timeline.  It ebbs and flows with its own course to be experienced through a lifetime.  Twenty-six years ago today I lost a daughter, Erin.  She was stillborn at the end of an entire nine months.  Nine months twenty-six years ago; it seems like a lifetime.  While Jesus has granted me a great deal of healing through His grace (See ‘Amazing Grace’ Sept. 2009), I find that some years are more difficult than others.

Do people ever look beyond my smiling lips to see my eyes subduing the sudden pain in my heart?  Do they recognize the loss so intimate, the stillborn child, unknown to all but me?  Nine months spent fruitlessly waiting to fill empty arms that would never be filled with that particular life.  Her life unlived amid dreams never to be fulfilled, laughter never to be shared, and the birthdays never to be celebrated, but mourned over year after year: that is my truth.  A life unidentified to anyone else, but never forgotten by me, her movements felt by no one else save me.  Although twenty-six years have passed, the heartache can still be so sharp, the memories so fresh, it’s as though the delivery day took place just yesterday.   These are my memories:

Unforgettable, the silence of that delivery room; tears of anguish flowing unchecked accompanied by the low moaning of the young mother.  The only other sounds: a quietly weeping nurse as she wiped clean the still, un-breathing baby of what should have been life-giving blood and the clanking of instruments.  A young father stood silently, overwhelmed and withdrawn from the unthinkable horror of the moment.  Precious, fine baby hair was snipped and footprints taken from the unmoving infant for later recollection of parents destroyed by grief.

The memorial service was centered on the tiny coffin with words spoken that are no longer remembered.  Her mother unable to contain the grief, wailing her tears, yet ashamed of the emotions she couldn’t control.  A father so shut down, he was unable to mourn, trying, but unable, to comfort his wife.  He would later run from his grief into his job and be swallowed by it. 

Months afterward, at home, two toddlers confused by not understanding a mother who alternated between sobbing bitterly and fiercely hugging them.  For a time, hope seemed impossible and what does normal life look like after burying a baby?  Oddly enough, the sun still rises in the morning and the demands of children continue in spite of the agony of loss.  Life does go on.

As I read what I have written, I realize that the recollections are written it in third person, probably to maintain the distance that it took years to achieve.  Now when I look back, I don’t know how I got through that time in my life.  I was twenty-three years old.  My life was forever altered by that event.  How can one prepare for such a cataclysm?  However, that event started me on a search for purpose.  I had to find a love that would not die, a reality that could move me beyond the brokenness to find healing and hope. 

Jesus Christ was, and is, the only unchanging, perfect love that I could find.  He, too, was a man of sorrows acquainted with grief and He understood my pain.  That the Father in heaven comforted me in my pain, I have no doubt.  The Holy Spirit’s power activated in my life is the only explanation for the ability to come to terms with such a harrowing loss.  That love started a healing process that I will never understand.

For whatever reason, this year the memory of the delivery day and what followed was sharper than it has been for a very long time, hence this blog.  I will always miss Erin and I will always wonder who she would have become.  But I have undeniable, assured hope that I will see her again.  My arms will be filled with that particular life that I carried for nine months.  And my heart will finally be whole once more.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From 9/11 to Hope

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
Any of us who were present for Sept. 11, 2001 have a story of where we were when we either watched or heard the most incredible news: the United States was under attack.  In that moment, our lives changed radically and a nation long divided by politics, religion, and economic status was united in response to the senseless deaths of over two thousand nine hundred people.

As I watched the opening of the National 9/11 Memorial and the memorial service on the tenth anniversary of that tragic event, I was moved to tears by the stories of the lives so transformed by that day; the children who lost parents, the mothers who lost sons, etc.  I personally did not lose a loved one, but as a member of this nation, I mourned with those who mourned on Sunday.   Today I offer this simple poem of my thoughts and emotions as a tribute to those who lost their lives and the families who survived to go on and inspire a nation to hope again.

Smoking building, falling debris;
Chaos crushing, hard to breath,
Lives were sacrificed for thee.

Confusion, terror, loss of peers
Numbness, anguish, mounting fears;
Fury for children’s mourning tears.

Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons,
Husbands, wives, beloved ones;
Love unending, forgetting none.

National mourning, the world responds,
Kings, prime ministers, vagabonds;
None untouched, all undone.

Soaring growth, memorials built,
Some still fight survivor’s guilt
But none give up; seek peace, be still.

Ten years passed, lives renewed,
Children grown, all hearts imbued
To cherished hope they cling unmoved.


“But I will strip Esau bare; I will uncover his hiding places, so that he cannot conceal himself.” Jeremiah 49:10

You know, I have experienced God’s speaking into my life in such amazing ways.  Yet each time I am surprised…and awed…that the God of the universe who put the planets into place and knows each star by name will still pursue me and love me enough to make me holy.  But the means by which He reaches me can surely make me very uncomfortable and I am still prideful enough to resist.  But here is His latest conviction to my heart.

I am hiding.

I am staying safe within my little world, which over the last few years has dwindled from a huge “family” of about three hundred people to about fifteen.  Circumstances aside, I have become cowardly when it comes to relationships.  And there are many people whose forgiveness I am still seeking for my withdrawal.
The really difficult part is having the healthy boundaries to know who is safe to come further into my world and who has shown themselves unsafe and therefore needs to remain at a safe distance.  Herein lies the rub; and I’m still trying to figure this all out.

But the most amazing part is that I am preparing to speak at a woman’s retreat about this very topic!  My topic is “Risking Outward”, meaning how do I love others when I am afraid? However, God in His faithfulness is answering me clearly and concisely.  Therefore, I have a lot of “ ‘splainin’ ” to do.  And many people of whom I will be asking forgiveness.  How God must “shake His head” to confront me in my sin in such a manner…and haul me out of my hiding place. 

If you believe you are one of those people, I would surely love your assistance!  Call me, or send me a Face Book message, or an e-mail.  But don’t let me go any longer retreating into my little world.  I need relationship with you as much as you do me!