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WHY TODAY?

Why Today?The recent killing of four marines in Chattanooga raises the question, at least for me, of why today? It’s a question I ponder about death. In the case of my dad, it was death by cancer. He clung to life until the appointed day of his death.

As the marines drove to work that day, they had no foreknowledge of the fate that awaited them. That day they were in the right place at the wrong time.

I understand God has given mankind freewill and the choices we make will impact our life as well as the life of others. The gunman of the marines choose the day he would purposely fire an AK-47 rifle at innocent people. In the process, he was empowered to determine the day he and four others would die.

Certainly the families of the slain, like me, have asked why today. As I try to wrap my thoughts around death, I am reminded that scriptures only provide a glimpse into the mystery of death.

“It is in the plan that all men die once. After that, they will stand before God and be judged.” Hebrews 9:27 NLV “Man’s days are determined; you (God) have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.” Job 14:5

In this age of electronic devices death is broadcasted in real-time and reminds us that life is but a breath; it can end with little or no warning. Even as I write this piece another senseless massacre has taken place in a Louisiana movie theater; three people are dead and others seriously injured.

What I do know about death is we will all die. Some will experience a prolonged death; others may die instantaneously, accidentally or by choice. The knowledge that death is inevitable poses a greater question. Are we prepared to meet our maker when that why today moment happens?

The Psalmist said, “My whole life is in your hands.” Psalm 31:15 NIRV

When we trust that God is sovereign and in control of all things, the victory of the cross overcomes the fear of death. When our life is in God’s hands the why today question is answered with why not today.

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GIVE IT ALL TO JESUS

shattered-dreams3There is no amount of preparation for blind-sided moments life randomly throws into our path. One minute life is good and then something happens that stuns our senses; within seconds our immediate reality becomes surreal as we struggle to make sense of what just happened.

The phone call informing me my sister-in-law had been killed instantly in a car accident was just one of those blindsided moments for me. There have been others; like the words ‘Stage IV’ uttered by the oncologist when my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer or ‘I’m leaving you for someone else’.

History is filled with stories about mankind being blindsided by events or occurrences they can’t control. Certainly the Philistines were blindsided when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down and Samson was blindsided when Delilah cut off his locks of hair. Life doesn’t afford us the opportunity to redo moments in time. I wish it did and I am fairly certain you feel the same.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if my ex-husband still loved me, my sister-in-law was still alive or my dad’s cancer had been miraculously cured? But none of that happened and it never will. My new reality is to accept the challenge to regroup and move forward. It’s the only survival option we have and with God’s help it’s not impossible.

If you have been blindsided by something or someone in life, there is hope in Jesus. In our brokenness, hurt and sadness, he reshapes the attitude of our mind and infuses hope within us. The scars still remain, but so do the scars on the hands and feet of Jesus. It is our blindsided scars that bear witness to our desire to survive amidst some of life’s most difficult moments if we give them all to Jesus.

This song sums it up for me.

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DIANE’S STORY

Today, I share with you one of my sister’s writing from an upcoming book to be published. It will contain real-life stories, just like this one, to help encourage, uplift and bring hope when life situations break you. I have walked in the shoes of Diane; not just once, but twice. I pray this shared story uplifts the heart of someone today.

my storyThis vacation would be like no other.  I had no inkling of the devastating news I would receive.  As we packed and prepared for our summer family vacation, I felt a nudge from the Lord to talk to my husband Steve about an incident that had happened years ago earlier in our marriage.  Brushing it aside, I thought, “this happened 20 years ago.  Why would I bring that up now while we are getting ready for vacation?  “This can’t be God”, and proceeded to talk myself out of such a revealing moment.

Our vacation was going along well, until the last evening.  After dinner, I had decided to take a walk along the lake behind our campsite. Steve followed me after I had been gone for a few minutes.  It was at this time my husband of 21 years asked me for a divorce. My mind reeled, thinking “Divorce?”  I was plainly in shock, not suspecting this scenario at all.  It’s amazing I could even think of saying, “you’re involved with someone aren’t you?”  His response was “yes.”

After this confirmation, I recalled the nudging I had experienced prior to leaving on vacation and began to relay to Steve the incident of 20 years ago.

We had been married for a few years and living in California.  We were at a very low point in our marriage.  Steve had been discharged out of the army and doing drugs.   I was working and feeling very alone taking care of our son Steve, who was between two and three years old.  During this time of loneliness, I had an affair.   As I relayed this to my husband, his face expressed shock but still dead-set on wanting to end our marriage.

It felt like a tsunami had hit me with violent force.  I felt physically ill.

In that moment, he expressed to me that I was a great person, and even a great mom, but we were just too different.  I was a Christian, and he was not.  “You should meet someone more like you.”  Already feeling emotionally stunned, he expressed he wasn’t happy.

How do you recuperate from that, having to pretend none of this happened, since my youngest son and his friend were with us?  We had the packing up and the drive home yet.

Upon returning home, he wanted to stay living in our house together for at least another week.  After what seemed like eternity, he moved out.  Before he did, we sat down with our two boys, Steven and Karl, and told them the uncomfortable news, “mom and dad are getting a divorce.”  I left the room crying forced to face the fact that our marriage was over.  Thankfully, my boys were very comforting to me.

Seven years went by before he filed for divorce.   Divorce is a painful experience.  You really do become one.  I experienced pain from crying but also an actual physical tearing from deep within my soul.  Thoughts would swirl around in my head wondering “what am I going to do now? I can’t believe this has happened to me?”

I needed help in getting through this, so I began going to divorce care and read a book on divorce from the perspective of the one who asked for the divorce.  It was a real eye opener.  I started to grasp his emotional disconnect when he broke the news.  He had already separated himself from me and made the decision to leave.  Now I had to start the process as well.

Divorcing is a lot like death, except the person is still alive.  I went through the stages of grief.  In order to get through my stage of anger, I began working out, lifting weights, because I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Some of my angriest moments were watching my children trying to handle our divorce.  I eventually came to the place where I would allow myself the space to feel it emotionally.  I knew I needed to.

Something remarkable happened to me in 2013 as I sat in church.  Our pastor was preaching about husbands and wives, something that was still uncomfortable for me to hear.  As he preached, I felt my emotions stir again, feeling the pain.  In that moment, I brought this pain to the Lord, giving it to Him, not knowing what else to do.

That Sunday evening, as I was getting ready for bed, I realized the emotion I was feeling was unforgiveness.  “After all this time, unforgiveness?”  The Holy Spirit was telling me that I needed to forgive Steve.  Forgive him for taking away my dream of growing old with someone.  I recalled thinking that thought when he told me he wanted a divorce. Praise God for that extraordinary evening when God’s presence burst into my life and I relinquished my unforgiving heart.

Through all this, I have learned I cannot control anybody else or their choices, only my own.  I’m responsible for me……Diane.  I had to deal with regretful thoughts like “how come I couldn’t win over my husband like the Proverbs 31 woman? I did pray for him, fasted for him?”  I had to come to terms that I was not responsible for the choices he made.

I’ve learned to embrace today and realize that once today is gone, it’s gone.

I have found a strength I never knew existed in me – living alone, doing things on my own.  My circle of friends has become larger.  I am totally surrounded.

Today, when I look at myself, I see someone completely different.  There are things I will not settle for again, when I do meet someone else.  It has made me know the Lord as my husband and deeply enriched my faith family.

Interviewed and written by Sharon Garner

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DEATH CAME KNOCKING

andreaYesterday I saw a post on Facebook; a post I had hoped to never see. A wonderful friend of mine lost her daughter to cancer. As I read the post, my heart was overcome with grief for the family. Today, three children mourn the loss of their mom, a husband mourns the loss of his wife; a mom and dad mourn the death of a daughter.

There are no words of comfort that can fill the empty hole created by death. I remember the day my daddy passed away from cancer. Surrounded by family, he exhaled his last breath and peacefully left this world. The finality of what I just witnessed was not yet realized; that would only happen over time.

Whenever I see a hospital gurney, I am reminded of a warm September day when death visited our house and forever changed our lives.

We were given four years to digest the prognosis of his Stage IV diagnosis; but no matter how much time you have to prepare, no one is ever ready for a loved one to succumb to their last breath. I am sure this was true for my friend and her family.

I wonder what emotions God felt when Jesus died.

Scripture is clear that Jesus came to earth as both God and man united in one divine Person. As the Son of man, Jesus showed emotions. Jesus wept when His friend, Lazarus, died and also as He drew near the city of Jerusalem for the last time. We also know He showed anger and felt pain. But what about God, the creator of the universe, does He have emotions?

When sin separated God from His only Son, was He heart broken? When Jesus drew his last breath on the cross and ascended into the darkness of hell to redeem us; did God cry tears in His human form? I may never know the answers to those questions in this life, but there is one emotion God clearly demonstrated when His son died; that was love.

“God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.” John 3: 16 NIRV

I am thankful my daddy and my friend’s daughter believed in Jesus. In their death they were gifted eternal life. Not everyone is given the opportunity to prepare for death. Death can visit any one of us in an instant. Don’t let sin separate you from the eternal love of God the Father.

I pray you choose to believe in Jesus. After death, it’s too late.

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve… yourself or God.” Joshua 24:15

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THE VEIL OF GRIEF

This poem is dedicated to anyone who has had the veil of grief overshadow their life. Maybe it was the death of a loved one, a divorce, separation or mental illness.  Jesus is there to lift the veil of grief with His gift of grace.

In times of sorrow God grows our character in ways never imagined. He teaches us  to trust and lean on the promises of the cross. If grief is putting you through the refining fire, know there is hope in Jesus. The veil of grief has draped my life more times than I care to remember. My life bears proof that hope, God’s grace and prayer can lift the veil. The light of day will again emerge.
Click below to hear an audio reading of this poem.

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grief

We know your pain; we’ve been there, when there are no words to say
And overwhelming sadness fills each and every day.
When the soul cannot find comfort and there is no way to share
The loneliness and silent sorrow we are left alone to bear.

When our cry is, “God where are you? Have you abandoned me?”
When the spirit is so broken and hope cannot be seen.
When grief has cast its shadow on the mercies of God’s grace;
And prayers are merely heartfelt moans as we fall before God’s face.

Hush, hush I say, whose voice is that, who speaks so quietly?
The words are but a whisper but resonate with me.
“I heal the broken hearted and bandage all their wounds;
A promise made to mankind when Jesus left the tomb.”

“I am closer than you know, my child, and angels are ever near.
As silent anguish pours from your soul, I say to you, I hear.
My Word has shaped and formed you; your life is in my hands,
From the moment of conception, it was a life divinely planned.”

“Don’t think you are forgotten, for all heaven knows your name.
Every broken dream is noted; and I am with you in your pain.
Each night I gather all your tears and store them in my heart
To infuse them with My blessed hope, to give you a new start.”

And then the voice grew silent, and peace rained down on me.
The veil of grief was lifted and I knew with certainty
That joy replaces sorrow and in Him all Hope restored
When I enter the Throne Room of Heaven and bow before my Lord.

I will seek to find safe shelter in the fortress of my King.
And let Jesus be my refuge as I hide beneath His wings.
With outstretched arms He reaches out each time I call His name.
He is the Rock on which I stand, my Redeemer, who forever reigns.

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