Archive | May 2012

Rain, Rain Go Away

My grandmother lived across the street from a cemetery for more than 40 years. Whenever we would visit, Grandma Nina always took my sister and I for walks around the cemetery. She could tell stories about almost everyone buried there. If it wasn’t about the person themselves, it was about someone else in their family, or their descendants. We continued these walks for many years, until it was hard for Grandma to walk the uneven ground. There were also many summers where we would travel throughout the countryside with my parents to meet my grandma and aunt, visiting the graves of loved ones. One summer in particular, Grandma pointed out landmarks from her childhood as we stopped at cemetery after cemetery to place flowers. I think I may kidnap my sister for a day this summer and visit those same cemeteries, including the one that my grandma is now buried at. I doubt it was intentional, but my grandma taught me a lot about respect while walking all of those cemeteries. Not just respect for how to act in a cemetery, but respect for the people buried there and respect for what a cemetery is to so many people. I did not realize this until today.

Last night, a thunderstorm blew through in the middle of the night. The lightning and thunder woke me up more than once. Each time, the first thing I thought of was Kyleigh’s grave. Did the wind blow over any of the flowers? Are the flowers going to get ruined from the hard rain? I woke up just enough to have these thoughts and then faster than I could answer them, I was back asleep. When I awoke this morning, I was anxious to share my thoughts with Rodger. He assured me that everything would be fine, but told me to go over there this afternoon and check, just to be sure. So I did.

It was a beautiful day. The temperature barely got over 80, there was a nice breeze and the sun was out all day with barely a cloud in the sky. A perfect day to spend outside. As I sat next to Kyleigh’s grave and pondered life, a man and woman pulled up and started walking the grounds. It was clear that they were looking for someone buried there, as they had a bouquet of fresh cut flowers in their hand. It was also clear that they were unsure of where this person was. After they walked around for a few minutes, they came upon the person they were looking for, not too far from Kyleigh. It was clear by their reaction that they were disappointed by what they saw. Inside the vase were a few dried up flowers, nothing else. Nobody had left flowers over Memorial Day weekend, or for quite some time. I got up and walked the other direction, as to give them time alone.

When I arrived at the cemetery, all of the flowers at Kyleigh’s grave were just as we had left them a few days before. The storm had touched nothing. I should have known. You see, Rodger checked and double checked to make sure that the cross we put in the ground was secure enough to withstand wind. My dad did the same with the wreath that he and my mom placed there. It wasn’t going anywhere when I checked it today. All of the other flowers were secured as well. As I walked around, there were wreaths that had been blown over, flowers that had fallen over and trash that had escaped somebody’s hand. I carefully stood the wreaths back up, adjusted the flowers and picked up the trash.

I can’t take care of Kyleigh physically. God is doing that. I can take care of what I have left of her. That includes the cemetery. It is my job to make sure there are flowers in the vase. It is my job to change them out before they fade. It is my job to keep her grave looking nice and kept up. It brings me peace to walk around and read the names of those who are there with her. It brings me joy to adjust flowers in a vase or stand a wreath back up that has been blown over by the wind. I hope someone would do the same for Kyleigh. This cemetery has become a second home to me. My daughter is buried there and someday I will be by her side.

But there is more to this than taking care of flowers in the cemetery. It’s about not being forgotten.

As the couple approached the grave of their loved one today, it was clear that their disappointment came from others forgetting. As I walked around today tidying up headstones, I also paid special attention to those who had dried up flowers, faded flowers or no flowers at all. Those who had been forgotten. Now, I know it’s not fair to say all of those without fresh, bright flowers had been forgotten, but when you see a sea of beautiful wreaths and flags, it’s an easy assumption to make.

One of my biggest fears when Kyleigh died was that she would be forgotten. That people would not remember her birth, only her death. While that fear has subsided somewhat, it is still there. People tell us that they will never forget her, but it has only been eight weeks. Will she be remembered in five years? How about twenty? Or even fifty? Isn’t that a fear of all of us? Being forgotten? By walking around and paying attention to the names on the headstones, by picking up blown over flowers, by removing trash, by sitting on a bench that bears a family name, I am remembering. I may not know that person, but I am recognizing that they once lived and that someone cares.

When we went to the cemetery the day after Memorial Day, we saw all of the beautiful flowers that people had left for Kyleigh. Love pours out of her grave. Kyleigh has been loved more in these past eight weeks than some people receive in a lifetime. Seeing the flowers again today brought me comfort and peace. Comfort and peace in knowing that she will not be forgotten because I will always remember her.

 

 

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This entry was posted on May 31, 2012. 3 Comments

Biblical Reflection on Death

It has become apparent to me that it’s time I write a concise reflection for what it means for someone to die. Now I realize there are a myriad of books on the subject and I’m hardly an authority, but I’m a student of the Book and I know God is guiding my pen for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. My only job is to be faithful to that calling. It’s important for me to say up front that the basis for my reflection is solely what I find in the Bible. I’m not concerned with popular culture or New Age theory, only what is recorded in the Scriptures and unpacked in a way that is concise and relevant to our lives today.

When we speak of death in the Scriptures, there are really three distinguishable forms. The first is spiritual, which can be more generally stated as our “fall from grace.” The second is eternal – or the final separation of us from God. This is Jesus with the goats and the sheep (Matthew 25:32). The third is physical or the separation of the soul from the body. (Systematic Theology, Oden vol 3 – pg 381). It’s this third form that I’m focusing on for this study. Not that the other two aren’t pertinent, hardly, but this is what we most often mean when we speak of death. The reality that a person is made of two distinct parts which are separated at death is only so clearly obvious when we look upon the dead. The shell remains, but the part that animates the body is no longer present. We’re left with only a vague reminder of who that person was and that truth is felt more deeply depending on how well we knew that person. I’m thinking of the last time I saw my grandfather’s body. Clearly not the man he was just days before when I last saw him. Something was changed, different, missing. It was years later when I knew how to describe that.

This truth that we’re comprised of a body and a soul is taught in Scripture. Matthew 10:28, “fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” and Luke 12:4, “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.”  I like this, “Death is more fittingly described under the metaphor of severance than annihilation.” (Oden) The word for soul, nephesh, by definition means “that which is alive.” It’s my soul that animates my body. It’s what allows me to think, allows me to feel, and gives me the ability to reason and the emotion to cry. You might see my picture and be able to recognize me, but the only way to truly know me is by becoming more aware of my soul. It’s wise to bear that, to allow others to become more aware of whom you are.

As Jesus died on the cross, He spoke, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) This is the same as the Psalmist, Psalm 31:5, which, by the way, was part of the Bible that Jesus knew. It then follows, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.” (Matthew 27:50)  When Jesus died, at the moment in time when death was defeated, it wasn’t His body that did the work. That very Body had another purpose to serve that would be accomplished three days hence. James writes, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead…” This is what we mean when we say that Jesus died on the cross. He most certainly didn’t cease to exist. He wasn’t annihilated, nor did He become one with nature. He wasn’t sent back into the queue for another rebirth as some other person and/or creature. That’s blasphemous. When He died, His soul was separated from His body. What happened to Him is the same that happened to the thieves on the crosses that died next to Him. Now, their final destinations were different, but the process by which that occurred was the same for both of them. The same is true for us today. When we die, most likely at the moment in time when we draw our last breath, our soul is separated from our bodies and we depart to be with Christ. This is so beautifully illustrated by the death of the first Christian martyr Steven in Acts 7:54-60. It’s worth the time to stop and read it. Paul writes later in Scripture, “…to be absent from the body [is] to be at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)  It really is that simple and there’s nothing to fear. At the moment we need it most, when the assurance of what we believe becomes our reality, the Author of Life is ready to welcome us.

If we can therefore conclude that a person is made of two parts, and that the very definition of physical death is the separation of those parts, how then do we conclude that the part that we cannot see lives on? Scripture tells us that the soul is not just a figment of our imagination – a trick played by our minds using seemingly random electric impulses flowing from one part of the brain to the other.  John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” How about John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” Scripture is full of the hope of eternal life. The promise of reward for things to come based on the decisions and sufferings that we endure while living in this “tent” as the Scriptures often refer to the body (2 Corinthians 5). But how do we know that place is real? That there really is a distinction between heaven and hell?

Take a look at the story of the rich man and Lazarus as recorded in Luke 16:19-31:

“Now there was a rich man, and he habitually dressed in purple and fine linen, joyously living in splendor every day. And a poor man named Lazarus was laid at his gate, covered with sores, and longing to be fed with the crumbs which were falling from the rich man’s table; besides, even the dogs were coming and licking his sores. Now the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom; and the rich man also died and was buried. In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things; but now he is being comforted here, and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great chasm fixed, so that those who wish to come over from here to you will not be able, and that none may cross over from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers — in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ But he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent!’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

While this story can give us many clues, ultimately the answer to the question regarding the reality of heaven is one of faith. To believe that things are more than they appear, that a place exists beyond our senses is not from a lack of reason, but does require the acceptance that there is more to life than what we can perceive. The story teaches that in Scripture, there really is a place called heaven, “Abraham’s bosom” in this instance, and that there is a fixed “chasm” between that and a place of “torment.” The story teaches that messages from the after-life are never sufficiently convincing to persuade someone to believe in God when we have the Scriptures (i.e. Moses and the Prophets) that fully point to the existence, mercy, and beauty of our loving and holy God. As far as the Bible is concerned, heaven and hell are real places and I’m fully convinced that we’re on a path to one place or the other. Death is the method by which we enter into either place and that once we’re there, no amount of begging, pleading or prayer from this side of eternity will change the course of our blessing or condemnation.

Those that have read our blog know that when I speak of Kyleigh, I’m very dogmatic about the fact that I know where she is, and that I know she is safe. You may be wondering, what is the basis for that belief? I’m convinced that in regards to our eternal destiny, the Bible teaches that there is an age of culpability; or an age when we alone are responsible for our decision to accept His grace, or to turn from it. It would be nice if I knew of one or two verses to point you to, but I don’t. I think it happens sometime in the teenage years, but everyone who reaches that age when they are free to choose to align oneself with God or to rebel against Him, will choose separation from God. Everyone. “There are none righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)  We do this through sin. It’s at that point that the sinner must be reconciled to God. These folks are often called “unrighteous” in the Bible, not because the other group (i.e. the “righteous”) is a collective set of do-gooders, but because they have accepted a Substitute who stands on their behalf when the time of judgment comes. I’m convinced that everyone who dies at whatever age not knowing that Substitute – the unrighteous – would have never chosen otherwise. We have only ourselves to blame for the choices we make. It’s not the circumstances that are forced upon us, but how we respond to them that truly matters.

There are a group of folks like Kyleigh, but also includes every miscarried, aborted, infant, toddler, and every other child up through that age of accountability that also belong to God. It’s this group that you see in the Gospels of Mark and Luke being brought to Jesus. I like the account in Luke 18:15-16 best, “And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, ‘Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” Kyleigh is a resident of the Kingdom of Heaven, not because of wishful thinking on my part, but because God has explicitly revealed that as such. I’m bold in this proclamation because the 2000 year old text which is alive and so relevant today permits me to be so. She is a resident there. Her life is eternally meaningful. And because I am certain of my own fate, I know without doubt that I will see her again.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” (Ps 116:15)

They say in life that only death and taxes are certain. Regarding the later, that’s clearly not true as it generally depends on where one is born as to whether or not he/she will be taxed. As to the former, it’s written, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-52) Some folks won’t die but go straight from this life to the next. This brings us to the only certainty in life.

All of us were created as eternal beings. Not from eternity past through eternity future as if stuck in some kind of cosmic hamster wheel in which we’re never allowed to get off. But from the moment of conception, when God breathes life into us and energizes our hearts through a time without end, we are all eternal. The only relevant question is not if you are an eternal being, but where do you plan to spend it? You get the choice and for certain, that choice outlives your flesh. Do you choose eternity in blissful reunion, or do you choose a life of eternal separation which is only best described as “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:50)  I pray you choose wisely not just because your choice determines your future, but because you are missing out on all that life has to offer now. There are so many ways to help you make that choice. Talk to a friend, have lunch with a Pastor, email me – whatever – but don’t delay. Take the time that you must, but you don’t want to depart from here undecided. In this case, no decision is in-fact, a decision.

~Rodg

Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Version, copyright Zondervan, 2002

This entry was posted on May 28, 2012. 2 Comments

Grave Envy

In two days we have Memorial Day. Powerful times for some no doubt, a tremendously difficult time for others, and sadly I suspect indifference from a good many as well. Memorial Day has always been one of the few times each year that I’ve felt patriotic. I’m grateful and very blessed to have been born in such a time and to be a citizen of this great nation, and I know that God orchestrated events, all events, so that I could be here today. I know that means that great and terrible things have happened in the past to make this my reality and I’m truly thankful. To all the service men and women that have made any sacrifice for our country, a heart-felt thank you. Last fall I watched Vietnam in HD on the History Channel and I was moved to anger to see the general response of some of my countryman when our patriots returned from war. I see how much that has changed in the years since that time and I pray we never digress back to that regardless of how unjust we may view the cause. Pray for our service men and women now and thank God they are doing the jobs they are.

My dad is buried at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, CO. I don’t think about him or visit his grave very often, but I’ve thought about that a lot since Kyleigh was born. One thing I’ve noticed – I don’t say “visit him” or “I went to see Kyleigh” anymore. I find my convictions are so strong about where I know she is that it forces me to choose my words carefully. I’m glad I do that, and I wish I could do that for all of the conversations that I have. I could say that I’m going to see where her body is buried, but that’s a mouthful and a bit morbid to me. So I say, and I tell the boys, that I’m going to see her grave. I plan to do so this morning – and hopefully every Saturday morning – for now until God says “Enough…come.”  I was 10 when my dad got that call and as with every death of someone close, it changes you. His death was one of many factors that made me choose to resist and turn from God. So much so that by the time Leann and I met and I told her that I was an atheist, and her response was, “ok just don’t tell my parents.”  I’m grateful she choose to be “unequally yoked” for the first years of our courtship. How things would be terribly different if she would have said, “No.”

But yesterday when I went to the cemetery, there was a bit of a new feeling. I had been waiting for that first trip to her grave when I made it through without crying. That actually happened a few days before when our family went to visit and took some water to pour on the grass as it has been so dry here and I didn’t want the seedlings to die. I guess I’ve just had enough of that. By taking water and nurturing the grass at her grave, it made me feel like I was doing something for her – taking care of her – doing one of the few things left in my power to demonstrate to her how much I love her. As odd as it sounds, I actually felt pretty good when we left.

This was not the case when I went yesterday. I wept for her again. I wept because she is there and I am here. I wept because of a bug on the ground that can live its entire life next to her and as its very existence is short, it will know release before me. I’m not talking about bug heaven – I’m talking about the fact that some things are so disproportionate (like the expected duration of the life of a bug vs. the life of a child) that when events happens which upset our expectancy we start realizing and thinking things that we never could imagine before. This is what I was thinking when I cleared my eyes and started looking around once again.

Last time I mentioned Paul in Philippians 1:21 whose goal it is to be with Christ. I get that. I get that deeply. I looked about at all the headstones and actually found myself envious of the fact that so many have already left the pains and struggles of this world for a better place. Many have also departed to an entirely different fate, in fact I believe this is the majority (Matt 7:13-14), but that was their choice and we do not serve a God of coercion. I was thinking that I could just lie down on the ground and after a few days of physical suffering, it would all be over. I would be helping God, but he would still say, “Enough…come.”  Yet shortcuts are rarely the right answer, especially one as selfish as that.

Thankfully there are more verses than just 1:21. He immediately follows this with the very reason why he stays. Why he carries on. Why he perseveres. Mine is in addition to this – I have two lovely boys that deserve the very best that I can give them. To grow up in happiness and to know that it’s ok to get hugs and scratchy-faced kisses from their dad.  I’m convinced that fathers these days don’t do this nearly enough. That’s a trend that I intend to smash – even if just within the walls of my home. I’m so thankful for them.  Then I think about folks that lose a child who don’t have others to come home too. Sadly I know a bit about that myself yet that was different from this. My heart hurts for the people that I know right now who have to live through Memorial Day with their families, but not their babies.

This time when you go to the cemetery, and you see the flags and flowers, please do remember our military who gave so much. Be in a state of gratitude for all they sacrificed. Remember your family and friends that have likewise gone on before. Celebrate the moments that you had with them and honor them by living a life worthy of that calling. But not only this, think about that for every grave you see, someone, generally in their time of grief, had to walk the grounds and make nearly impossible choices about where the body of their loved ones will spend the next many years until God says again, “Enough…come.”

~Rodg

Time Marches On

This is the first week that I have driven in six weeks. I got released from all of my restrictions a week ago today and can now resume all regular activity. I drove for the first time on Tuesday, making stops at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s and Target. I was exhausted by the time I got home and I was by myself; no boys to get in and out of shopping carts and the car. Wednesday we met friends to play at a local business full of fun activities for the kids and on Thursday, we checked out the new aquarium in town. Again, I was tired after each of these days, but enjoyed seeing the boys having fun. My stamina is not what it used to be and it is going to take some time to build it back up again.

When people hear that I am getting out and about, or see me out and about, they are excited for me. They are glad to hear that my restrictions have been lifted, as that must mean that I am healed, physically, at least. What most people don’t realize is that getting out and doing anything right now is a struggle. I cried in the middle of Hobby Lobby because I had to pick out flowers to place on Kyleigh’s grave for Memorial Day. I walked around Michael’s forever trying to find the perfect arrangement of red flowers, because that’s what the boys requested for Kyleigh. Target was exhausting on every level. I hadn’t been in so long that I forgot where a lot of things were and had to double back more than once, making me even more tired physically. Every time I turned the corner of an aisle, I prepared myself emotionally, just in case I saw a newborn baby. You don’t realize how many babies are out there until you really don’t want to see one. Our play date on Wednesday was successful. Not too many others were there that day, the kids all got along and I had some time to have genuine conversation with a friend I have known since at least Kindergarten. I left feeling pretty good and thinking to myself that I can do this. Going to the aquarium on Thursday was another fun day, especially because Grandma went with us. The boys were excellent and I powered through seeing the occasional infant. Getting out of the house really is good for me, I realize that. I also realize that it presents a whole other set of triggers and by today, Friday, I am exhausted emotionally and physically.

I made it through this week. Another week down. This was the last week of school for many and Memorial Day is this weekend. For most, this marks the kick-off of summer. When Garrison saw that the pool was open today, he clapped from his car seat and said, “Yay! Summer’s here!” The timing of me being able to resume regular activity at the same time as summer starting is not necessarily a good thing. It means that time is marching on. A new season is beginning, but I am still stuck in the old one. Rodger and I mapped out the next few weekends and before I knew it, we were into July. This weekend is Memorial Day, the next is our family tradition of making the drive to ride Thomas the Train. A free weekend after that is before Father’s Day, followed by our anniversary weekend. The next weekend gets into the Fourth of July and Oliver’s birthday. I know not everyone cares what our weekend plans are, but this was a huge realization to me that life is moving on whether we want it to or not. It’s going to be the middle of July before I know it and while I am excited to celebrate my son’s fifth birthday, I am so saddened by the fact that Kyleigh won’t be here for it. Every holiday, every family celebration, every trip to Target, is a reminder that Kyleigh isn’t here for it.

We have plans to travel later in the summer to see family and I am not excited about it. Rodger and Oliver were to make this trip by themselves and I was to stay home with Garrison and the baby. Now that there is no baby, Garrison and I are going too. How can I be excited when every time I think about it, it reminds me that Kyleigh’s death is the reason that I am going? I am going for the boys, for they are the reason that I do everything right now. It is their lives and their time that make me get up every day and power through. Their lives are continuing. Their time is marching on. I don’t want my boys to miss out on life or time because I am too sad to take them to the park where I might see a baby girl. Just please realize what a struggle it is for me to do so.

Tale of Two Experiences

When was the last time you laughed so hard that you cried? How about those times when you are so overjoyed that you were reduced to tears? If I reflect back on life there are certainly times when I can recall feeling those types of unchecked emotions. Like the days that Oliver and Garrison were born. Or the day that Leann and I got married. What beautiful days those were and how fresh they remain in my mind. Leann and I were 22, and I remember standing at the front of the sanctuary when she stepped into view. Her dad, a wonderful man whom I’m blessed to now call my own, was standing by her side. She wore white of course as most brides do, but she glowed. There were no questions that she and I were to be joined together. I don’t remember seeing anyone else in that building except the kind Pastor that God placed in our lives for such a time. When the new creation was finished (that would be the “one flesh” part of marriage) I felt both euphoric and nauseous.

This sort of describes how many of these days have become. Mother’s Day this past weekend is a good illustration of what I’m talking about. Our family is wonderful and tight. The people are generally compassionate and are quick to help in good times and bad. Yet, as with all families, we’re comprised of people: fallible, imperfect and often times, we’re in need of correction. All of that to say that on Mother’s Day weekend we got to see the Spirit of Reconciliation at work and it was lovely. Second Corinthians 5:17-19, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” A part of our family has been severed for entirely too long. Leann and I were so deeply moved to see steps toward restoration. I was so happy that I cried.

But that’s not all of it. In the midst of the reunion, I had to step out. Leann and I found our way to the cemetery where we sat for a time at Kyleigh’s grave. We learned that this is the way all holidays will be for us. Joyous to celebrate whatever the meaning of the holiday, ok perhaps not Labor or Arbor Day, but terribly saddened that a part of our family is not with us. It was this new combination of emotion that I’m referring, grief and joy at the same moment. Not sequential, as if one moment joy then the next grief. But instantaneously and simultaneously we’re experiencing two quite opposite emotions. It’s unusual for certain, but something we’re now growing accustom.

We’ve felt this same thing at other times as well over these past seven weeks. I was reading comments from my previous post and my heart is warmed when I hear first hand that Kyleigh’s story is influencing others. I want to know that people are changed, lives are changed, relationships restored, as if the course of life and the very essence of who we are is being altered for those that are willing to let down their guards.  At the same time, I hate it.  I hate that it came at such a high cost. I hate that on those unfortunate days when I have to work from the office and someone points out a balloon floating innocently past the 11th floor window and suggests that it’s perhaps one from a release at the cemetery near our building that I’m taken back to our own balloon release for Kyleigh. All productivity stops. I might as well leave the office because I can’t think anything about but her. Thankfully it occurred at the end of the day and that I was able to leave. 

Here’s another one that I thought I knew. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)  Yes!  When I think about the things in life that used to concern me now all I can think is, “how silly.”  I got myself all worked up over what?  Before Kyleigh was born I would often times find myself coming home from the office with terrible headaches; ones that hurt to the core. All I could do was close my eyes and press my temples in an effort to relieve the pain. I noticed that on the days when I worked from home, nada. No headaches, no pain and I know the family was generally happier as I was in a much better mood. Looking at this now I can’t help but wonder why I let that stuff affect me so?  Will I feel the same six months from now? How about six years from now?  What else could I possibly experience that would come remotely close to the trials that I’ve experienced. To be clear, I’m certainly not asking for any further tests. I pray that I live the rest of my days not coming anywhere near anything like this again; yet I must avoid complacency. Jesus doesn’t like lukewarm Christianity (Revelation 3:15).

I get what Paul was saying, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Yes!  Not that I’m asking to depart this life for something better; hardly, but I’m most certainly not afraid of death as I know that was conquered on the Cross 2000 years ago and it has lost its sting. Listen to James, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

I live in this world, but I am no longer of this world. I am a new creation, being made new daily as I give my life as a sacrifice to others. I’ll not get caught up in the race to acquire more stuff, climb any stupid ladders, join any clubs or pursue anything that would detract my attention from the One who created it all and binds it all together (Colossians 1:16-17). If faith is in fact a gift, then I pray He grant that gift abundantly to all of those who earnestly seek Him. Give it a try…you might be surprised.

~Rodg

Shattered Dreams

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Joplin tornado that killed 161 people. Out of those 161, I have read that thirteen were children.  I know that at least one of those children was a senior in high school and on his way home from graduation. (The scenario below does not represent this victim’s story and is in no way factual of the events of May 22, 2011, in Joplin.)

Imagine being the proud parent of an 18 year old who has just graduated from high school. All of their hard work has gotten them to this point in life. All of your hard work has gotten them to this point in life. You have just watched your son or daughter walk across the stage to receive their diploma and you are smiling from ear to ear. It doesn’t get much better than this. You are high on life!

Then, out of nowhere, a tornado bears down on your town and takes the life of your child. Your child has died in the blink of an eye. Healthy and living one minute, in heaven the next. It doesn’t get much worse than this. You are at the lowest of lows.

Your life has changed forever in a matter of minutes. You went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. You cannot imagine anything worse and do not know how you are going to make it through the grief and despair.

Plans had been made. Dreams had been set. A future full of hope and promise had been laid ahead.

A graduation party was to happen in a few hours. A summer job at the neighborhood pool was in place. A family vacation was planned. College started in the fall. Buying furnishings for a dorm room and signing up for classes were a priority.

And these were only the plans, hopes and dreams for the next three months. All of these dreams have now been shattered. You will not see your child open graduation gifts. You will not see your child walk into their dorm room.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the feelings that the family of the high school senior who lost his life in the tornado felt, I’m sure.

 

It was 5 a.m. the morning of April 5, 2012. Rodger and I were on our way to the hospital. We were anxiously awaiting the arrival of our baby, excited to find out if this baby was a girl or a boy. Our due date was just a few days away and everyone was healthy. We checked into the birthing center and were at ease with everything that was going on. Since this was our third delivery, we knew what to expect and our excitement overshadowed any nervousness. It doesn’t get much better than this. We were high on life!

Our baby’s heart tones were within normal range all day, never going above or below the red lines. Then, out of nowhere, the heartbeat dropped. Within minutes, our baby was born into the arms of Jesus via emergency C-section. Our child died in the blink of an eye. Healthy and living one minute, in heaven the next. It doesn’t get much worse than this. We were at our lowest of lows.

Our lives were changed forever in a matter of minutes. We went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. We cannot imagine anything worse and do not know how we are going to make it through the grief and despair.

Plans had been made. Dreams had been set. A future full of hope and promise had been laid ahead.

The camera was ready to take pictures immediately following the birth. Names were picked out. Coming home outfits were in the diaper bag. A crib waited at home with sheets on the mattress. Car seats were in both cars. Baby clothes were washed and folded in the dresser. Big brothers made stuffed animals at Build-A-Bear for their baby brother or sister. Diapers had been bought. Making it home from the hospital for our baby’s first Easter.

And these were only the plans, hopes and dreams for the next 3 days. All of these dreams have now been shattered. We will not see Kyleigh come home in her pretty pink outfit. We will not see Kyleigh asleep in her crib. We will not see three car seats in the back of the cars. We don’t know what to do with the folded clothes or the stuffed animals or the diapers.

My heart breaks today for the families who lost loved ones, especially children, in the Joplin tornado. I pray that new dreams have been set for each of them and that we will one day set new dreams for our family, too.

This entry was posted on May 22, 2012. 1 Comment

Leann’s version of Did God Will Kyleigh’s Death?

A few days ago, Rodger posted Did God Will Kyleigh’s Death? If you have not read it, take a few minutes to do so. It’s a long read full of theology, but well worth it. After you have read it, come back here and read my version.

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Now that you’re back, let’s be honest … that was a heavy read. I have read it several times and there are still portions of it that I’m not sure if I understand or not. Rodger is, in my opinion, an excellent writer. He has read the Bible more times than most of us reading this. He has an undergraduate degree from a local theological school. He has written many theological papers and taught several Bible studies. It’s how he thinks and how he often expresses his thoughts. Sometimes he writes/speaks of his faith in a way that everyone understands and other times it is for the Christian who is mature in their faith, well beyond their years. Neither is good or bad. Both appeal to a different audience. Both are thought provoking and personally, help me in my own faith journey.

With that being said, Rodger’s post was a heavy read! Here is my version …

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Let’s look at Psalm 139:16 …

“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” New Living Translation (NLT)

“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” New American Standard Bible (NASB)

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” New International Version (NIV)

Three different translations that all say the same thing.

God knew us before we were conceived. He saw us in his mind, his image, when we were nothing. He planned for each one of us to exist. He planned for everyone to exist. Everyone is a child of God.

He knows our days. He planned how many days we would live on this earth. I believe that life begins at conception. Because of my belief, our days begin when egg meets sperm. Kyleigh’s days began the moment I got pregnant. Her days were numbered from that point on. The days recorded in God’s book equal out to 39 weeks, give or take a few days. Only He knows the exact number of days, the exact number of hours, the exact number of minutes, the exact number of seconds. A distinction that humans make is gestational age vs. actual age. For example, many would say that Kyleigh was 39 weeks 4 days gestation. Since she was born silent, she does not have an actual age, at least according to the government. God does not go by this ridiculous rule. According to God’s book, Kyleigh lived for nine months. Even though her life was inclusive of my womb, she LIVED for nine months. Praise God that our eyes, and the eyes of many people we know and love, have been opened to this! My daughter lived! If you don’t believe me, read this My Letter to Kyleigh. God numbered our days before we ever came to be. Before we were conceived. Before our parents were conceived. Before time. Hard to wrap your mind around, huh? Me, too.

The part that is the hardest for me, is understanding how God numbered our days when his original will was for no one to die. Did God want Kyleigh to die? No! He never wanted any of us to die. It breaks His heart when we die. Within minutes of me finding out that Kyleigh had died, my dear friend and pastor, Megan, told me that “Jesus is crying with you.” He hurts when we hurt. Then I remember that God knew that man would fall. He knew that Adam and Eve would sin. He knows everything that everyone is going to do before they do it. He knows what I am going to do in 5 minutes and He knows what I am going to do 5 years, 3 months, 28 days, 9 hours, 45 minutes and 25 seconds from now. But then we ask, where does our own free will fall into this? We choose what we do, God just knows our choice before we make it. Not everyone who reads this believes that, but I do.

The circumstances of our deaths, how we die, is God’s permitted will. Our sin leads to our death. That in no way means that we all die at the direct hand of someone else. That certainly is not the case with Kyleigh and I shudder at the thought of anyone suggesting or thinking that. The fall of man (sin) led to her death. We all sin. We will all die. This again, is where it gets tricky for me to understand and even more so for me to explain.

In the summer of 2007, the wife of a close friend passed away in an automobile accident. I do not know all of the details, but from what I understand, she died instantly and he escaped with minimal injury. They were headed out of town for a weekend away and were supposed to go the weekend before, but had to postpone due to last minute obligations. I have known this friend since birth. He is a year older then me and our birthdays are one day apart. He and his family are more like family then friends. Oddly enough, I never met his wife. Her death really shook me up. I was upset for several days and couldn’t understand how something so horrible could happen. It was devastating to everyone.

In the midst of trying to understand it all, I clearly remember asking Rodger this question, “If they had gone away the weekend before like originally planned, would she have died?” Rodger’s response was very quick and clear, “Yes, she just would have died a different way.”

This was a moment of clarity for me. This was the moment when I understood that our days are in fact numbered. God permits us to die because that is the plan. God permitted his Son to die so that we can live in eternity with Him. That is also the plan for those who believe. My friend is now married and has a beautiful daughter who turned one just a few weeks before Kyleigh was born.

Could God have saved Kyleigh? Yes. Could He have breathed life into her? Yes. He didn’t because her days were numbered to exactly the days she lived.

This entry was posted on May 20, 2012. 1 Comment