Are You Grieving Tis Season?

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home from college, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

 

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated Christ in the midst of a grief that can’t be spoken…

The death of an elderly father. The loss of an infant grandson. A broken marriage. A pre-school child with cancer. Someone facing a double mastectomy. So many lives touched by a pain that goes on and on.

I try to make sense of it all especially during Christmas when hearts are meant to be merry and bright. A friend told me that tragedies like these remind us to hold our loved ones close, forgive and keep short accounts, and share Jesus. Another woman, whose husband was killed, said, “Instead of asking why this happened, I ask how I can live to honor God despite my circumstances.

Wise words, but I also opened my Bible to Matthew because I thought of those ancient moms who grieved for their sons—martyred babes, slain by the sword when Jesus was born.

For even though a bright star led the Magi to worship the Christ Child, the troubled soul of King Herod resulted in the blood-thirsty slaughter of children.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

When I look at the current mayhem and sorrow in the world, has anything changed since that blessed year when Christ was born?

After all, one of the Magi’s gifts was Myrrh, a bitter perfume, that breathed “gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

lamentation-of-christ-by-antony-van-dyck-1599-1641However, outward appearances can be deceiving.

Jesus wasn’t born to spare folks from pain and death on earth. He came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. To prove God’s great love by dying for us while we were still sinners. And His resurrection guarantees us new life when He’ll wipe away every tear and there will be no more death.

“Rachel wept…refused to be comforted.” Maybe you’re mourning too.

Just remember, when we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His name, it truly is possible to experience His peace and comfort that defies human logic… 

Even in this grief that can’t be spoken.

 

References: Matthew 2:16-18, John 1:29, Romans 5:8, John 20:31, Rev. 21:4 & lyrics from We Three Kings of Orient Are

Photo of woman: Pixabay

When Death Interrupts Life

My uncle died Friday night.

Lying in hospital, his one strong hand clung to the woman he loved. His pale cheeks wet from my aunt’s  teary butterfly kisses.

My uncle had suffered a Stroke weeks earlier, but on Friday—the first day of spring—I didn’t know his frail body was shutting down….

While I played Florence Nightingale to my outdoor plants—amputating dead limbs, nurturing them with life-giving water.

Springtime—the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sky the color of robin eggs, yellow buds unfurling in the afternoon sun.  My Friday was pregnant with new life around me and joyful possibilities.

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 What a stark contrast to my uncle and aunt’s reality. Death’s chill shadow loomed over them as the life they knew and shared concluded.

And yet, even in this…gut-wrenching pain of letting go….Hope was present.

Hope is the balm that soothes the burning sting of death.

 “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Death can’t be sugar coated. “There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.” (Lyric from Empty Chairs at Empty Tables)

However, my uncle and aunt believed “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day….”

And their FAITH is what the Bible describes as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

This world isn’t the end all. There may be mysteries we can’t explain. But God has given us His Word, and His Promise, that death will be swallowed up in victory.

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The Columbine seeds I scattered in my garden last year now rise from the earth, but in a new form. The clover-like foliage and lavender bell-shaped flowers are more beautiful and fragrant than its seed.

So it will be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Because Christ lives, we live too!

That is the sweet reality for those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have LIFE in His name.” (John 20:31)

*Other scripture  cited is from 1 Corinthians 15

Photos by Jennifer Foster

Where was God?

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Where was God?

Where was the Almighty while twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christian men were murdered by ISIS for professing their faith in Christ?

Joshua 24:15 says, Choose you this day whom you will serve….

And on February 16th, 2015~~

Twenty-one Christians chose the name of Jesus!

This horrific event happened last month, but the image of these martyrs will not be forgotten. Not by me.

What about God? 

Is there any doubt that He saw these men dying for their faith, claiming the name of Jesus?

If so,then why not spare these men?

Why didn’t God step onto planet Earth and perform a miracle that would prove He is real, and turn the world upside down? And thereby show how much God loves His own.

The ones He chose and knows by name.

Actually, God did!

Two thousand year ago, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

Jesus, the Son of God, spoke about the Kingdom of God. He performed miracles to prove His deity.

Then God demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us“(Romans 5:8).

But in case we forget, Jesus warned His followers: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18). “…If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you….” (John 15:20)

Where was God when the twenty-one Christians died?

God was present with each man.

Because His Spirit lives inside every Believer, and the Lord has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:25).

Twenty-one Christians died, but “their blood is the seed of Christianity.”

The words of Tertullian’s (A.D. 160-230) during the early stage of Christianity rings true today:

Proceed in your career of cruelty, but do not suppose that you will thus accomplish your purpose of extinguishing the hard sect (the Christians). We are like the grass, which grows the more luxuriantly the oftener it is mown. The blood of Christians is the seed of Christianity. Your philosophers taught men to despise pain and death by words; but how few their converts compared with those of the Christians, who teach by example! The very obstinacy for which you upbraid us is the great propagator of our doctrines. For who can behold it, and not inquire into the nature of that faith which inspires such supernatural courage? Who can inquire into that faith, and not embrace it, and not desire himself to undergo the same sufferings in order that he may thus secure a participation in the fulness of divine favor?

The Last Time

School is over. My son, my youngest child, graduates from high school next week.

As I spread mayonnaise onto a piece of bread, I realize this is the last sandwich I’ll make for my son to eat at school.  No more brown-bag lunches filled with sandwiches, chips, and sliced apple.

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Only the Lord knows how many hundreds of school lunches I’ve prepared when I multiply them by three children. My son offered to make his lunch, but years of habit evolved into my morning ritual.

Last evening, I attended our last High School choir concert. While my eyes were fixed on my son’s clean-shaven face, I remembered another concert years ago. The elementary-aged children held battery-operated candles as they sang. Well, most children held them. My third-grade son used his candle to sword fight with the boy next to him.

Today my son’s strong body towers over me. His deep voice is reminiscent of a Bass Cello. I love to hear him sing. So when the choir sang the last note in the last song of his last concert, tears clouded my vision.

My son isn’t obsessed with last moments. He’s ready to raise anchor and leave shore, bound for new horizons. I’m excited for him, but this melancholy mom cradles last moments.   

What emotions swept over Jesus when he ate the last Passover Meal with his disciples?

Jesus knew it was their Last Supper. “The time has come for me, the Son of Man, to enter into my glory….Dear children, how brief are these moments before I must go away and leave you!” (John 13:31-33)

Although Jesus had warned his disciples this day would come, they panicked:

“Lord, where are you going?”

“Why can’t I come now, Lord?”

“We haven’t any idea where you are going…”

It may have been their Last Supper, but it wasn’t the end of their relationship with Jesus.

 “Don’t be troubled. You trust God, now trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s home, and I am going to prepare a place for you. If this were not so, I would tell you plainly. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

For three days, the disciples were derailed by their circumstances…the trial and death of Jesus. They ran and hid. Peter denied knowing Christ. They might have lost all hope for tomorrow if not for Jesus’ words.  “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” (John 16:22)  

True to His word, Christ was resurrected and appeared to them before he left them and was taken up to heaven. And his disciples were “filled with great joy.”

Likewise, our sorrowful moments…even the last ones…can become joyful when we trust Jesus and keep our eyes on Him. 

When It’s Enough

The woman passed away yesterday.

While I vacuumed pine needles off the floor, debated whether to take down the Christmas tree because it’s hard to let go of things we love.

The frail woman, though surrounded by loved ones had to let go.

One last breath, and her eternal soul flew into the arms of Jesus.

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While I, not knowing she was gone, stripped sheets off my guest bed,

And breathed in the lingering scent of my grown son who had returned to his own home.

I LOATHE goodbyes though my heart says, “We’ll be together again.”

When I heard the woman was “walking streets of gold,”

My heart was heavy.

Like it was on New Year’s Eve when I watched my grown son walk away into the airport.

I longed to run after him for one more hug.

Another chance to say I love you.

Even though we know how much we love each other.

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Driving home from the airport, I thought about the day before, when we put together a puzzle.

Holiday movies were background noise.

Bowls of half-eaten Chex Mix, and empty candy wrappers sat on the table.

My pants snug.

I placed the last piece into the jigsaw puzzle and declared, “It is finished!”

And a voice within me groaned, “ENOUGH!”

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As much as I love the holiday season … family, food, fun … I was ready for routine.

Perhaps the woman was ready.

As much as she loved her family and friends, wanted to celebrate life on Earth one more day,

Perhaps, she’d had “Enough!”

Enough of the endless

Physical pain, medical appointments, hospital visits.

Enough disappointment

As she hung to a thread of hope she’d be restored to good health.

Enough sorrow

To let go and leave behind….

Her favorite things and the precious people she loved.

And be with her Beloved Jesus,

Who “will wipe every tear from their eyes….no more death, mourning, crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4)

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Today, my Christmas tree comes down.

It’s been up long enough.

I’ll wrap:

A newly-wed couple’s first hand-blown ornaments, faded with age.

Baby’s first Christmas,

A toddler’s photo glued to a felt star

Ceramic candy canes painted by children now grown and gone.

I’ll say goodbye and put them away until …

I was going to say, “Next Christmas.”

But who knows what a year from now brings.

I ONLY KNOW THAT I KNOW THERE’S A HEAVEN.

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One day, I’ll be there with the woman,

I never met,

Whom I grew to love,

Because I prayed for her last year.

Together, we’ll be in HEAVEN

Where Saints meet and re-unite.

AND WE CAN NEVER, EVER, GET ENOUGH OF JESUS.

Want Some Gum?

crossOn April 1st, April Fool’s Day, a fellow jail chaplain passed away. Harry was 92 years old, but he was no fool.

The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  (Psalm 14:1)

I attended Harry’s memorial service this past weekend. I went, not to weep, but to celebrate a life that belonged to Jesus. To honor a man whose earthly fruit glorified God.

Folks called Harry the “juicy fruit man” because he always …and I mean always…carried sticks of gum. That’s how I met him one night, many moons ago, while I waited to go into jail.

Smiling, he offered me a stick of gum. The yellow wrapper said Juicy Fruit, but it was Harry’s “Gospel Gum.” Whether it was a jail guard or a stranger sitting in the lobby, Harry used gum to break the ice, to part the Red Sea.

You know, GUM stands for God, U, and Me.” Then he’d share the gospel or pray for the person, whatever the moment called for, while I watched dumbfounded that he made Christian ministry look so easy.

Before we’d enter jail, the guard would examine our Bibles to ensure we weren’t carrying illegal contraband. Harry would grin and say, I’m armed with the Word of God, which is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword.” (Hebrews 4:12)

Many evenings, the spiritual warfare we faced in jail was darker than the night time sky. I’d arrive fearful as though I were going into the lion’s den. Harry would pray as we walked down the long, concrete corridor. So by the time we parted, each entering a separate tank, my courage was mustered.

At Harry’s memorial service, I learned that years earlier, before he was a chaplain, prisoners escaped from jail and held him and his wife hostage in their home. They stole his car.

His response? Become a jail chaplain.

Listening to testimonies about Harry’s love affair with God and His people inspired me. But Harry’s death encouraged me to….

Cling like sticky GUM to the Easter message of hope I’d celebrated a week earlier.

Cling to Jesus, my sweet Savior, and His promise:

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies,

and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?

(John 11:25, 26)