Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Words from My Precious Granddaughter

My policy for a number of years has been to not post "anonymous" responses on this blog. Since I have picked up some new readers in recent weeks, I have bent my own rule. I really want to encourage responses. So I am asking that if you choose to reply to my blog under the "anonymous" option, please put your name at the end of your comment. Thank you.

Last night Beverly and I went to Malaya's school open house. On the wall the teacher had put students' writing assignments. Seeing Malaya's, along with her art work illustrating it, reminded me to post this. We had seen it a couple of weeks ago when her teacher shared it with us.

The assignment was to complete the statement, "If . . ." Here is Malaya's response (remember, she is 9 years old):

If Imagination Were Real in Different Ways
By Malaya Bizaillion

If angels and spirits could talk . . .
If Mom were here . . .
If clouds were windows and the sun was the entrance to heaven . . .
If no one could leave this earth . . .
If hearts weren't broken . . .

If there were no color . . .
If there were no sin in the world today . . .
If death were defeated . . .
If heaven was earth . . .
If my heart was still full of pride and not broken . . .
If people could keep promises . . .

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quotable Quotes

I started reading Randy Alcorn's If God is Good on Friday. Let me share a few jewels I have uncovered so far:

"After his wife wife died, in great pain C. S. Lewis realized, If I had really cared as I though I did about the sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came."

Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl wrote, "Just as a small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them."

"The faith that can't be shaken is the faith that has been shaken."

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thursday Blues

As days of the week go, Thursday is not my favorite. It used to rank fairly high. But in the last month+, it has fallen drastically.

Five weeks ago today, my precious princess spoke her last words to me. It was the day after her surgery on her legs, and I still don't know for sure if she asked me, "My legs?" or "Malaya?" So I assured her Malaya was OK, and spoke to her as she drifted back to sleep. I am convinced that the next day, the brain lesion had taken her from us, although her body passed on Monday.

One month ago today, we buried Jenny. It was the most beautiful memorial service I have ever been at. The outpouring of love carried us through that day. But, oh, the grief!

One day at a time. One step at a time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Gospel of Beck

I don't know much about Glenn Beck. He strikes me as a Rush Limbaugh clone -- someone who knows how to say outrageous things in order to get ratings. After all, that is what talk radio is all about -- getting ratings.

Recently, Beck made the comment that if your church preaches a gospel of social justice, to "run as fast as you can." He said that social and economic justice are "code words" for communism and Nazism.

I agree with the newspaper columnist Leonard Pitts who wrote that "the gospel according to Beck is missing the red words." I personally don't want anyone running away from our church. But I would be an unfaithful minister of the Word if I was to fail to call us to social justice. It is one of the main themes of Scripture, maybe best summed up with these words from Matthew 23: 23: "but you have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice, mercy and faithfulness." Scripture even tells us that justice is more important than the offering of ritual worship!

When the Israelite (and Scripture) spoke of justice, it was not in the legal sense that we might think of -- administering a right judgment in court. Rather, it was about caring for the marginalized.

There are obviously many strengths to American capitalism. But that is not to say it is perfect. And one of its weaknesses is that it dehumanizes those who are "lesser." The assumption is that their condition is their fault. Sometimes, that is true. But not always. And mercy would still call upon us to care for them all. Not to enable, but to empower. I believe that as a nation, this is not just an option. I believe God will hold us accountable to that.

I like the way Pitts ends his column. He writes: "(Beck) thinks we should flee the church that preaches social and economic justice? I think you should flee the one that does not."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Please Be Gentle

After we returned from our Disney cruise on Sunday, I could not decide whether to blog about it or put it on Carepages. I went with the second option -- because there were so many people I wanted to thank beyond those who read my blog. If you would like to read that, go to

Through this painful season, I am finally learning the lesson of Job's friends. Their best ministry was done when they simply practiced presence. Once they started trying to explain human suffering and offer profound words, their ministry became misery to Job.

Someone either sent me the following piece or I read it somewhere. I am sorry, but so much of the last 6 weeks seems like a fog. If you sent it to me, thanks.

Please Be Gentle, by Jill B. Englar

Please be gentle with me, for I am grieving.
The sea I swim in is a lonely one, and the shore seems miles away.
Waves of despair numb my soul as I struggle through each day.
My heart is heavy with sorrow.
I want to shout and scream and repeatedly ask "why?"
At times, my grief overwhelms me and I weep bitterly, so great is my loss.
Please don't turn away or tell me to move on with my life.
I must embrace my pain before I can begin to heal.
Companion me through tears and sit with me in loving silence.
Honor where I am in my journey, not where you think I should be.
Listen patiently to my story, I may need to tell it over and over again.
It's how I begin to grasp the enormity of my loss.
Nurture me through the weeks and months ahead.
Forgive me when I seem distant and inconsolable.
I need your support and understanding.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve.
I must find my own path.
Please, will you walk beside me?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Sting of Death

Yesterday morning David, my brother John and I went out to the cemetery to look at memorial stones. It made me stop and think: How many funerals have I conducted? As we walked around, I saw several graves of those whose services I have had a part in just since I have been in Decatur.

And then I thought of the grief. The grief those families experienced as they journeyed through the passing of a loved one. Grief that, too often, I have naively assumed passed after a couple of weeks. After all, I mourned when my dad died. And I mourned when Beverly's dad died. But I have never known grief. Not like this.

Since Jenny's death, I have heard about a teen who died in a ski accident. And a young woman who died in a car crash. Yesterday I stood at the grave of a 17-year old girl who died a couple of years ago in a car crash while on her way to school one morning. And there was the 32-year old man who ran a half-marathon Sunday, got to the finish line and high-fived his friend, and fell over. He died minuted later. He left a wife and two kids.

In the past, I would have thought for a moment about those young lives taken. While I did that in these situations, too -- immediately my thoughts went to the families. Oh, what grief!

Paul asked, "O death, where is your sting?" I can tell him. It is piercing the hearts of people who loose a loved one. Oh, I know that through Jesus, the sting has been ultimately removed. But it sure feels like a swarm of killer bees right now.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I've Gained Respect

Something keeps haunting me. Not too terribly long ago, I blogged about how I live this charmed life. I serve a great church. I have a great marriage. Three incredible kids who married three wonderful people. Five beautiful grandkids.

I don't want to take this too personally, but I wonder if Satan heard that as a challenge. My mind now goes to the opening pages of Job. Satan knew where he could strike me that would be the most painful. He won a battle. But he will not win the war.

Through this ordeal, I have gained some respect for Satan. I don't mean admiration. I mean respect in the same way that one should respect the Mafia if they were living next door. I think about ways we make fun of Satan. "If the devil doesn't like it, he can sit on a tack." That's like poking a lion with a stick.

I'm struck by the words of Jude (v. 9): "But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" I don't know exactly what this means. But I do think it suggests that Satan is not to be trifled with.

And I am so glad that Jesus stands beside me.

Monday, March 08, 2010

A New Week

Yesterday was Beverly's birthday. It was a bitter-sweet day for a number of reasons:

For one, Jenny has been at the center of our birthday celebrations for so long. I am still in such denial of the fact that she is gone. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was right when she defined the stages of grief. And she was right in saying that people experience those stages differently. I seem to be randomly going from one to another. I just don't seem to have a moment when I am not thinking about her. It was two weeks ago today that Jenny went to see Jesus. It seems like yesterday.

Second, it was my 1st week back in the pulpit since Jenny went in the hospital on February 4th. While it was difficult, it just seemed right. And it again affirmed to me that I am in the right place. Yesterday, the church I minister to ministered to me and Beverly. What an awesome group of Christians!

Today, I seek peace by resting in the God of mercy and Father of all comfort.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Spiritual Depression

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with any thoughts, and every day have sorrow in my heart? (Ps. 13: 1-2)

But if I go to the east, he is not there;
if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. (Job 20: 8-9)

O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. (Ps. 42: 10)

I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like parched land. (Ps. 143: 6)

These heart-wrenching cries are prayers -- addressed to a God who seems either deaf or completely absent. Perhaps more surprising, they are IN THE BIBLE! This leads me to conclude that perhaps a season of spiritual depression -- a state of God-forsakenness -- is normal. Perhaps it is even to be expected.

In some strange way, today I find some comfort in that.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Broken and Empty

I am back at the office this morning. It's not where I want to be -- but it is where I need to be.

We just finished the month of February, and I am glad it is the shortest month of the year because it has been brutal. As a family, we keep looking for explanations. We try to make some sense out of this whole thing. But we hear only silence. Still the silence is better than any attempts to explain at this point (That probably won't make sense unless you have been there).

Today I plan to open the Word and read from Yancey's Prayer, as well as Disappointment with God.

As a family we are empty today. We believe the Lord will again fill us. The other day, Josh said that we, a family of ministers, will be "playing wounded" for a while. He told about how Emmitt Smith played one of his greatest games with a separated shoulder. And while I totally understood and agree with Josh, I couldn't help but say, "I would rather play with a separated shoulder than with a broken heart."

Yet today I find myself hearing over and over again the words of my daughter, who said, "I want people to remember me as someone who, even when she didn't get her way, praised the Lord." That is what I choose to do.