Monday, February 28, 2011

A Letter to Our "Church"

My precious wife wrote a beautiful letter that she had one of our shepherds read yesterday morning in our assembly. This letter represents how we feel about our extended "church" as well. So I wanted to share our thanks with so many of you:

Dear Church Family,

In February 2010, our family was dealt a blow that we never saw coming! We were devastated and absolutely broken. You were so faithful in standing with us in prayer over Jenny for healing and deliverance. You met every need we had before we even knew we needed it. Thank you.

On February 22 of last year, the darkness engulfed us as we said good-bye to our precious daughter and knew that part of us was dying as well.

While these events shocked us beyond what our minds could fathom or imagine, the Lord, in all His tenderness, had prepared us for it. He knew from the time He knit us together in our mothers’ wombs that we would bury our first-born. Although we do not believe that God “took” our daughter, we do believe He knew what the evil one would do and, in His lovingkindness, prepared us for it by placing us in this community of faith for ‘such a time as this’.

How we love Him for His provision! How we love you! And thank you for your love and support.

The Lord has used you repeatedly over the last year to pour His love, grace, and mercy into us with rich compassion. We braced for the one-year marker of this tragedy, and the Lord used you to pour into us. Your prayers over us have become treasures to our hearts.

Thank you protecting us and letting us catch our breath a bit. Please continue to pray.

We resolve to never serve another – no matter what! He is the Lord God Almighty. We are begging you to join us in that decision – that together (shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm) we will walk into the arms of Jesus. We will continue to remind each other that resurrection is real – it is what we live for! May His presence be thick around us as we wait for that day.

We absolutely love you!

Rick and Beverly Ross

“We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead…ON HIM WE HAVE SET OUR HOPE THAT HE WILL CONTINUE TO DELIVER US, AS YOU HELP US BY YOUR PRAYERS.”

2 Corinthians 1: 8-11

Friday, February 25, 2011

THE Man of Faith?

This week I am preaching from Romans 4. There Paul, in his desire to convince Jewish Christians that we are saved by grace through faith (trust) and not works, turns to their hero, Abraham. So I have been thinking a lot about Abraham this week. Actually, the last part of chapter 4 (next week's sermon) deals more directly with him.

Why is Abraham considered to be THE example of a man of faith in Scripture? Sure, he leaves his homeland when called by God. But there is good reason to believe that at that point he sees YHWH as simply another of his ancestral gods. And the story of his willingness to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22 is a powerful story of faith (trust). I still can't get my head around why God would have made such a seemingly barbaric request of him. Perhaps it represents a clear break from the pagan practices of his past?

But then you have TWO episodes in which, in order to save his own skin, Abraham allows his wife to be used as a concubine. I don't understand such cowardice from THE man of faith.

On another note, I have done extensive studies of David, and I always come away from them wondering, "How could this guy be called 'a man after God's own heart'?" He was brutal. He was a sexual predator at times. And while the psalms certainly reveal a heart that could be SO in tune with God, they also reveal a man who longed for revenge.

Maybe all of this is intended to show us that the focus should not be on these men, with their spiritual titles. When we hold them up to their titles, they leave us disappointed. So it seems to me that we would be better served to be directed to the God of love and mercy and grace, who chose to embrace these sinful men and use them for His purposes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Heartfelt Thank-You and A Rant All in One

I want to personally thank so many of you for praying for us this month. While it has been difficult, the peace we have felt is due in large part to so many prayers being offered up for us. Tuesday had its tough moments. Yet perfectly spaced throughout the day were texts from friends reminding us that we were being carried. We went to the cemetery and had an emotional time there. Tuesday evening we went to The Cheesecake Factory because it was Jenny's favorite restaurant.

We are indebted as a family to you.

OK, time for a Rick Ross "Big Oil" rant. I am NOT a fan of big oil companies. How many wars have we fought to "defend our freedoms" that actually had at their heart protecting the interests of big oil? And yet, I do not know how a corporation could be less patriotic than the Big Oil companies are. Their power is scary. We have enough natural gas reserves in the USA to meet our energy needs for hundreds of years. Why aren't we developing that? Why isn't there a greater push to develop other alternative fuels? Because our politicians hands are dripping with oil. Instead of having their palms "greased," they have been "oiled."

I know of their tactics 1st-hand -- having worked for an oil company for several years. I have seen the way that they create "shortages" -- while full oil tankers sit in a row out in the Gulf looking like a downtown freeway at 5:30 in the afternoon.

So here is Libya, a country that produces about 2% of the world's crude. Saudi Arabia, one of the more stable Arabic nations, has said that they can easily meet any shortfall in Libyan oil production. So why is there a "crisis"? Well, I'll let you guess.

Now get this: While we as a nation are being told that we will need to sacrifice in order to pull out of this recession, and just as recovery was picking up momentum -- who stands to make outlandish profits while perhaps throwing us back into another recession or stagnant growth? Exxon-Mobil. BP. Shell. They are shameless.

We have watched the Middle East, as nation after nation falls into revolt against oppressive and ruthless leaders. Maybe it's time that Americans revolt against the tyranny of Big Oil.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wowed By My Granddaughter Again

I usually don't post on the weekends, but I didn't want to forget something that happened today:

I went to Malaya's basketball game this morning. After the game, she came home to Decatur with me to spend the rest of the weekend. As we were driving along and talking about different things, I asked her, "What do you miss most about your mommy?"

As soon as I asked it, I wished I hadn't. But she thought for only a moment, and then she said, "It's really hard to say just one thing. It would be like taking a 600 page dictionary and trying to pick only one word that means the most. All of them have so much meaning."


Friday, February 18, 2011

Another "Year Ago Today" Memory

One year ago today I stood at my daughter's bedside, holding her hand as she slept. She opened her eyes and attempted to speak to me. I am still not sure what she said. I smiled and told her Malaya was doing fine.

She smiled at me, shut her eyes and went back to sleep.

It was the last conversation we had.

"In mourning will I go down to the grave . . ."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Baby Girl is Dancing on New Legs!

I did not think things could get any worse for us than one year ago today. It was the day Jenny's legs were amputated. We held to the hope at that time that it would save her life. But it was still devastating.

The timing of my sister-in-law's family's daily notes was interesting today. I think this one was written by my oldest niece:

Dancing in the kitchen. On one of the many nights that Jenny babysat us kids, we decided to listen to Mariah Carey's Christmas album . . . it was winter . . . and Mariah, well she can jam and Jenny could sound just like her. Jenny's dancing on the other hand wasn't exactly on Mariah's level! So she decided to grab Tabi's hands (my younger niece) and head bang to "All I Want for Christmas is You!" It was hilarious! I still look back and laugh at those pictures. We had soooo much fun when she babysat!

I wasn't even there with them, but I can so picture that! I hang onto the hope that Jenny is today dancing in heaven with her perfect new body.

I am currently reading through Genesis in the morning, and today I came across a verse that captures the heart of a parent who has lost a child. When Jacob was told by his sons that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal, Jacob said (Gen. 37: 35) "In mourning will I go down to the grave . . ."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Peace in Chaos

These are difficult times in which we live. Our government is past broke. Inflation seems to be rearing its ugly head. Moslems are keeping the world on edge.

Current problems always appear to be bigger than problems that have been worked through -- or problems that past generations faced. Maybe that is inherent in us to keep us from becoming complacent.

But THIS I do know. After telling His disciples that He is about to leave them, and then promising the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus said (John 16: 33, emphasis mine) "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have PEACE. In this world you WILL HAVE trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I am resting in that peace with everything I have.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Precious Memory

My sister-in-law (Beverly's sister) and her family presented Beverly and me with a precious gift a couple of weeks ago. For each day in our February ordeal (Feb.4-22), they gave us sealed notes sharing special memories of Jenny. Each morning I get up with anticipation to read my daily devotional and Bible reading -- and the note of the day.

While each day's has been a treasure,today's was extra-special to me. I want to share it on this blog:

One of my most powerful memories of Jenny is from a high school retreat at Camp Deer Run called "Lay Your Burdens Down" where she was a counselor. The highlight of the retreat was after an exercise of carrying burdens through a field and learning how great it is to truly give them to the Lord. After that, the campers came into the pavilion that we had decorated in white and gold and set up as a banquet. As each one came into the room, the "angels" greeted each one and gave them a white robe and a golden crown. Jenny was an "angel." She was absolutely precious in that role! She looked each one of them in the eye as she crowned them and told them how great heaven is and that she was so glad that they were there! Then, Jenny, Cecil and Mike Montana sang, "How Beautiful" and it was truly life-changing!

I picture my daughter filling that role in heaven right now. In fact, Beverly recently had a dream about a friend who was sick being greeted in heaven by Jenny. Later, she found out that friend had passed away a couple of hours before her dream.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Satan's Cruelty

Satan has a lot of nerve, and a wicked sense of humor. Last year at this time, my daughter lay fighting for her life because of a misdiagnosed case of strep. She had been in the hospital for 5 days at this point.

Today my granddaughter (Jenny's daughter) was taken to the doctor by her daddy. She has strep. Fortunately she is on antiboitics and I am confident will be fine. But how cruel of Satan to continue to mess with us like this. Oh, I long for the day when I will witness him being cast into the pit -- extinguished forever.

2 Corinthians 2: 11 "We are not unaware of his schemes." We are onto you, Satan. In the name of Jesus, we say that you may have won a battle. But you stand defeated. Even the battle you THINK you won has resulted in my daughter being eternally with Jesus. Good try.

I am saddened when Christians lay the blame for consequences of the Fall on God. Death? "Well, it was just God's time." Really? Was death God's will or Satan's? Sickness? Satan. Pain? Satan. Strained relationships? Satan. And all the while, God continues to work toward the renewal of all things -- back to the perfectness of His creation.

My heart aches for that day!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My Only Hope

A year ago today was what our family referred to in following days as "the day from hell." On Monday, February 8th we nearly lost Jenny three times. We mistakenly thought that after she survived that day we were through the worst. Little did we know that it was simply a precursor of what awaited us two weeks later.

I share this quote from my son Josh's Twitter: "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hope: It's what I hold onto.

Monday, February 07, 2011

My Super Bowl Review (As if it matters)

I haven't watched a Super Bowl in a long time it seems, but I watched most of last night's game. It took me back to last year. We were in the ICU waiting room as the TV showed the game. I remember seeing it on, but don't remember anything about the game -- except that the Saints won.

Sounds as if Jerry's Super Bowl wasn't so super. The game was pretty good. But could someone tell me how, with all the planning that goes into this, you could get to gameday only to have the fire marshall declare over 1,000 temporary seats too dangerous to be opened? I can't imagine having traveled from Green Bay, Wisconsin with a ticket that probably cost at least $1,500 dollars only to be told, "Sorry, you don't have a seat." Chalk this one up to the greed of Jerry and the NFL.

Someone in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram the other day referred to Jerry Stadium as "the huge cockroach." I had to laugh, because it immediately struck me that it does look like a cockroach's back. Maybe Jerry can get Raid to sponsor the stadium. Or Orkin. "Orkin Stadium."

I would love for Mr. Jones to take a lesson from perhaps the two best organizations in the NFL. They know how to do it right -- Pittsburgh and Green Bay. Pittsburgh has had 3 coaches in 42 years! Then there is small-market Green Bay that consistently competes at the highest level. And both organizations have ownership that allows the people who know the game to run the team.

On a related note, I know I'm getting old. So understand that I realize that as I write this. What is it with getting some premadonna to sing the Star-Spangled Banner each year at the Super Bowl? Why not try getting someone who actually just wants to sing the Anthem because they love the USA? Last night was a total butchering by Christina Aguilera of what should be a special moment. And the half-time show featuring Black-Eyed Pea? I don't get it.

Finally, as I continue my old foagie rant, I also really want to get the commercials -- but I don't. Some of them are kind of cute. But the one everyone is raving about is the "Tiny Dancer" commercial. What am I missing?

Friday, February 04, 2011

February 4th, 2010

I awoke this morning to a beautiful snowfall. Looks like we have gotten about 3 inches during the night. Jerry better enjoy this Superbowl, because it will likely be the last in North Texas.

A year ago today began our nightmare. I keep thinking of "The Wizard of Oz." Although Dorothy's dream was a fairly pleasant one, at the end of the movie she awakes with all her loved ones around. Something in me continues to hope that this is all a dream from which I will soon awaken. After all, a whole season of "Dallas" ended as a dream of Pamela Ewing's.

As I blog about the rawness of grief, I do not mean to suggest at all that this is something unique to the Ross family -- or that ours is worse than anyone elses. I served with an elder in Crockett who about 15 years prior to my meeting him was involved in a car wreck with his entire family (I think he and his wife had 5 children). All but one of the children died in the wreck. In the book A Grace Disguised, the author tells his story of losing his wife, daughter and mother in a car wreck. How does one continue after such a tragedy? If anything, what has happened to us has only served to make me aware of the grief pain of others.

How fast the year has gone. I think that is because grief has a way of making everything melt together. It is hard to distinguish months from each other -- or even weeks and days.

I remember a year ago today Beverly and I met David and Jenny at the hospital emergency room. Jenny was sitting in the bed, and I kissed her. Malaya was there wide-eyed, and so I took her to the hospital cafeteria. She had her school lunch box with her, so I got something to eat and we had lunch together. One of my elders, Mike, showed up about then and sat with us. Little did I know at that time that Malaya would not see her mother again. We had been told by Jenny's PA that she was probably dehydrated and would be home in a few hours. Wow!

Some people have insinuated, and a few have flat-out said they will be glad when we get back to normal. I know they mean well, and I appreciate that they care about us. But what they need to know is that this IS our new normal. Our lives have been forever changed by the events that began a year ago today. In some ways, for the better. I never would have known the depths of a person's grief if I had not experienced it for myself. And my faith has been put to the test, as well. I no longer have to wonder how I would respond if given the choice of recanting Jesus or being executed. And I have learned what trust REALLY means. Oh, that word is so huge to me today. Trust and hope.

I love this line from my wife: "Our family has been called by the Lord to do hard, so we will do hard."

"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes -- I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19: 25-27)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Pray for Islam

A year ago today Jenny probably went into sepsis. We only know that in retrospect. She was running very high fever, and then it suddenly broke. We thought that was a good thing. As it turned out, that was probably a very bad thing.

Oh, how we miss her.

Followers of my blog know that for years I have been praying that the Lord would bring Islam down through ways that would not involve war with Christians or other religions. When I was growing up, our prayers were for the downfall of Communism -- and in the late 1980s it suddenly imploded. Many people gave credit to demonstrators, other governments putting pressure on the communist countries, etc. Few stopped to thank God for pulling off what seemed to be impossible.

I want to encourage everyone to be praying that the demonstrations and riots that are taking place in Islamic nations today will have similar results. The situation is volatile in these nations. Some are teetering in going to one extreme or another. Ask God to bring down this religion -- and replace it by lifting up the name of Jesus. It wouldn't hurt to also pray that Jesus followers ACT LIKE Jesus followers through all of this.

May the peace of Christ reign!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

It's Cold!

As a follow-up to Monday's blog, get this if you haven't already heard: Jerry has figured out how to get 300 more people into his shrine for the Super Bowl. I am not making this up. He is selling tickets for $250 -- TO STAND IN THE STAIRWELLS!

"There is a sucker born every minute." And there is someone willing to take advantage of the sucker born every minute as well.

The last two days have been forced "slow-down" time. Iced in and cold. As I write this on Wednesday afternoon, it is all the way up to 12 degrees. I had to get out to go check on my mother-in-law a while ago, and the roads are trecherous. Even so, there are people driving as if it is a balmy day. I saw several people fish-tailing. One person came up on a stop sign like on a normal day -- and slide right through the intersection.