Amazing Love

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We’ve often heard the buyer-beware expression, “If it looks too good to be true, it’s probably not true.”

That expression is not always true.

Darkness is all around us in this world. We read about it every day, and for those of us who have known loss and deep depression it feels like darkness has saturated every cell of our being. It wraps itself around our thoughts and imprisons our dreams. Sometimes it’s been so long we stop looking for the light. Sometimes we chase something that appears to be light, something that soothes our pain for a while, but it only leads to a path of even deeper darkness – if that’s possible. We come to distrust flickers of light as cruel illusions.

There is no greater depth of darkness than loss of hope.

I know. I was there – for far too long.

But I had friends who were relentless. They had light and love in their lives and I resented them for it. That light didn’t go out when their circumstances were bad. They had a weird kind of joy even in tears and brokenness. I dared to raise my eyes to the source of light that shone in them.

Charles Wesley wrote these words:

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

My chains fell off! My heart was free!
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

He understood the risk of trusting something that seemed to be too good to be true. What? How can it be?

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Oh, my God! You did that for me? Can it be?

You matter. He knows your name and every detail of your life down to the number of hairs on your head. You are not an accident. Darkness cannot put out the light. In the battle between light and dark, light always wins. There is no such thing as a flashdark – only a flashlight.

Jesus is the light of the world. This is amazing love!

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There are no thoughts in my head. Well, none of any significance anyway. I keep a list of blog ideas for days when nothing floats to the surface of the puddle of potential that is my mind. But nothing on the list grabs my attention.

There are no emotions in my soul today either. I don’t feel good, I don’t feel bad. I’m not particularly up, down or sideways.

My body feels tired, but not sick. I’ll get going eventually. The highway is closed due to a commercial truck spill so there’s no use rushing. I’ll take my camera and my music and probably enjoy the day as I drive to Alberta again, but there’s time for another coffee.

Then it dawns on me. A year ago this week my Daddy died. I’ve done okay this first year as an orphan. My heavenly father has indeed been the perfect father for me. My earthly father was old and tired and in pain. He missed my mom and he wanted to be with Jesus. I wanted him to go.

Our Jewish friend told us they mourn a death with rituals for a week, then again at three months and at a year. Then they are done and get on with living. We tend to plow through until we can’t plow anymore.

Perhaps the Lord is telling me I’m under no obligation to be “on” for myself or anyone else- or even for him. It’s okay to just stop here for a while.

I’ll be back.

 

All Saints & All Souls

I’ll never forget a TV show I saw which asked the question, “What do people who live very long lives have in common?” The answer surprised me. It was not their diets, or their lifestyles. They knew how to grieve well and had a reason to get up in the morning.

The church should be the safest place in the world, and yet again I recently heard a person suggest that a grieving mother shouldn’t come back to the group until she had finished mourning. Grief is part of life and we need to demonstrate, in a loving community, how to grieve well — with real emotions and with a real sense of hope, surrounded by loving acceptance.

When I read this blog by Ryan Matchett on the heart of All Saints and All Souls Day when the Church acknowledged those who mourn, I knew he understood the season. A loving community can weep with those who weep, but also help encourage each other to find a reason to get up and keep going. This is a beautiful post. Thank you, Ryan.

Convergent Christianity

When we lost our first child to miscarriage I was stunned. It was never something that I considered to even be in the realm of possibility. I remember just sitting there, watching as my wife wept, not knowing what to do or feel. Death had been just a theory and grief was a total stranger to me. By the time we buried our son (our fifth and only late term miscarriage), grief had become more like a winter rain; it was now in my bones.

It begin with what was supposed to be a romantic get away for just the two of us but, instead of romance it had this strange weight of dread over it. We didn’t know why until we returned home to discover that our unborn sons heart had stopped beating. Very quickly we found ourselves in the emergency room wrestling with the doctors recommendation that the baby…

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Just Give Me a Moment

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I remember those wonderful summer days at the lake. Around about five o’clock families would pick up their toys and towels and wander off to prepare supper. If I was lucky I could stay there while the others slap-slapped their way up the trail to the camper in their flip-flop sandals. Sometimes in that transitional space between hours I had the dock to myself.

I trailed my hand in the cool water, smelling the scent of damp wood against my cheek and felt the gritty sand drying on my legs as I lay on my stomach on the gently rocking wooden island. A lull stretched beyond the distant sounds of swings clanging in the park and canoes scraping the pebbles on the shore. Smoke from barbecues leaked out from between tree branches and drifted heavenward like summer worship.

I had no profound thoughts, no plans, no particular emotion. The dock was like an island in time.

That’s kind of how I feel this week. After the drama and trauma of the deaths and funerals of both my Dad and my brother-in-law in less than two months I am tired, but not overwhelmed. I believe both of them are with the Lord. But I don’t have the energy to either celebrate or cry right now.

It feels like Jesus is just sitting quietly here with me like a close friend, making no demands, requiring no soothing of his own emotions, making no particular suggestions about what I should do next. I’m tired, but I’m OK. We’re OK.

In a while Mom will call me to put on some dry clothes and help set the table. There will probably be some game involving a ball or frisbee that the boys want me to join in on later. Dad will lay down his novel and get up from his lawn chair to chop wood for the fire we will sit around when the crickets sing in the darkness. Tomorrow we pack up and drive back to the city and get back to work.

But for now, on this little square island, there is only the sound of the waves lapping the planks, and the gentle sun pressing its comfort into my stretched out body, and I am at peace.

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Crossing the River

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Tough day. My husband’s younger brother succumbed to lung disease yesterday. The news was so hopeful a little while ago, but he suddenly went downhill. The doctors said they found previously undetected small cell lung cancer that left him too weak to fight an acute illness. His family and friends surrounded him and wept as his heartbeat faded.

I am thankful for our 11-year old grandson who reminded us that even in this there is hope.

Today we try to work on funeral plans with his wife. We can’t speak Spanish and she can’t speak English. Bob was always the translator.

Today we try to comfort his mother, who seems even more frail with the shock and we live in a conversation on replay.

Today we try to gather up legal loose ends and financial unknowns. We step on each others toes in our efforts to step in to the empty spaces.

Today we wince as individual ways of handling grief clang against each other.

Today we can still be glad, as our grandson pointed out, that we have a close family that cares. They immediately gathered from across the country when they heard the news.

Today we can be glad, as our grandson pointed out, that we know Jesus, and that Uncle Bob knew about his grace.

“You know, when you think about it, this is really a happy day for Uncle Bob,” our grandson said in the ICU waiting room. “Today is the day when he will see how wonderful heaven is and get to be with Jesus.”

There is hope.

 

And then one day, I’ll cross that river.

I’ll fight life’s final war with pain.

And then as death gives way to victory,

I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He lives.

(from Because He Lives by Bill and Gloria Gaither)

And When I Am Alone

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I’m alone on my porch on a beautiful spring morning, drinking my second cup of coffee and watching the sunlight sift through the plum tree. It’s been less than a week since we stood in a downpour and committed my Dad’s body to the earth. Everyone has gone home, back to work. The flowers have wilted and the sympathy cards are stacked on a corner of the kitchen table.

Life goes on.

When I gave the eulogy at his funeral I talked to the children and told them about the great-grandfather most of them did not know before he had forgetting disease. We included all the children in our gathering because what better way is there to teach them about physical death and spiritual life than with a family member who loved the Lord, lived to an old age, and was longing to be present with the Lord and reunited with his loved ones? I spoke of all his fine qualities and the wonderful things he taught us. We do that at funerals. It’s about honour.

But there are things we don’t talk about. Like all human beings going back to Adam’s grandchildren he was the wounded son of a wounded son. He brought his deficits into our relationship the way I dragged mine into my own children’s nursery. There were seasons when I adored him and seasons when I avoided him for months at a time.

It was complicated.

I don’t think I had left anything unsaid before he passed away. He said he forgave me. I had certainly forgiven him and Jesus had replaced a whole lot of unwanted feelings with love and compassion for him, but there are a lot of things I can’t explain no matter how many words I use. No sympathy in form of visits or cards or flowers – or even therapy – can ever say, “I understand.” We say that to each other, but we don’t understand, not really. Every heart has its own sorrow. Every heart is alone in grief.

But we do not have to be totally alone. There is one who understands all our weaknesses. Unlike so many of the versions fed to us by angry unapproachable people of an angry unapproachable God who can’t bear to look at us because of our sin, Jesus approached us first. He, who was the perfect representative of the nature of Father God, chose to associate with those whose sins had become a part of their names -the harlot, the thief, the drunk, the hypocrite. He sat down right beside them. He was not disappointed in them because he never had any expectations in the first place. He had sympathy and compassion for them. He wept with them. He loved them. His joy in going to the cross was in knowing the freedom and new names they – and all who call on his name – would receive.

Since we have a great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God

who has passed through the heavens from death into new life with God, let us hold tightly to our faith.

For Jesus is not some high priest who has no sympathy for our weaknesses and flaws.

He has already been tested in every way that we are tested; but He emerged victorious, without failing God.

So let us step boldly to the throne of grace, where we can find mercy and grace to help when we need it most.

(Hebrews 4:14-16 The Voice)

This morning  an old song came to mind:

In the morning when I rise,
Give me Jesus.

And when I am alone,
Give me Jesus.

And when I come to die,
Give me Jesus.

You can have all this world, just give me Jesus.

He’s all I need. Because of him life goes on – eternally.

Bring Him Home

When I was a wee little girl I sat on my Daddy’s shoulders as he ran and my mother screamed. He had been a competitive sprinter and he didn’t hold back. I thought sitting up there was the greatest feeling in the world.

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Today I believe he knows freedom from an old man’s body and the chains of dementia and is again running as free as the wind.

His health was declining. He was becoming more child-like and he spent a lot of his time staring out the window, longing to see Jesus face to face and be reunited with Leah, the love of his life. But he told me he was afraid of pain and the process of transitioning beyond this physical place. Yesterday morning I was listening to a new recording by Josh Groban of the song “Bring Him Home” and turned it into a prayer that God would take my Daddy home, without pain, in his sleep.

My heavenly Father heard and answered, just the way he did when I prayed for Him to take Mom home. In the afternoon I got a call that when my sister-in-law went to check on him at noon she found he had passed away in his sleep. He had a recording of “How Great Thou Art” made at an anniversary party for him and Mom playing on repeat in the background.

God is good, full of mercy and very, very kind. Precious in His eyes is the death of one of His own.

I will miss him, and the conversations that never happened, but in the light of eternity, it will only be a short time before I see him again.

My Dad was a writer and a story-teller. A month ago I snapped photos of him telling one of his many tales of a Saskatchewan boyhood.

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Many people will remember him for his writing and story-telling in schools and theaters and old folks homes.

I will remember being carried on his shoulders, sitting higher and moving faster than anybody else in the crowd because my Daddy was the fastest, handsomest, greatest Daddy in the world.