Archive | December 2012

Kyleigh’s Rose

Donate Life Tree

Kyleighs RoseOne of the ways in which we continue to honor Kyleigh is through her gift of life. Last we checked, one of her heart valves had been sent to a hospital on the West Coast. It is about time to follow up again, but we are hopeful that since a valve was sent someplace that means it was able to be used. Read Giving In Life and In Death and Picnics in Heaven for more of Kyleigh’s story regarding her gift of life.

I have always loved parades. I can remember watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on T.V. as a child and always wanting to attend one of these years. I enjoy other parades as well, both on T.V. and in person; the local American Royal Parade, the Rose Bowl Parade, homecoming parades, etc. In high school and college, I was in the marching band so I got to participate in many, many parades. Some were a lot of fun; others, not so much. Being a spectator at the American Royal Parade is fun. Being told to keep step and march through horse poop at the American Royal Parade is not fun. I don’t know what it is that draws me to them, but if I have the opportunity to watch a parade on T.V. or attend in person, I’m there.

A few months ago, I was made aware of the Donate Life Rose Parade Float . I got excited before I even knew what it was. After reading about it, I discovered that you can donate a rose to be placed on the float in memory of someone who has given the gift of life, in honor of someone who has received the gift of life or in honor of someone who is waiting for the gift of life. How perfect. I became so excited to learn that for $30, we could donate a rose in Kyleigh’s name. A rose that would be lovingly placed on the float. A float that will be in a nationally televised parade on New Year’s Day. All of the dedications from the roses can be read here: Donate Life Dedication Garden

At the same time that I learned of the opportunity to donate a rose, I also learned that one of the float riders was someone that we have become connected with since Kyleigh’s passing. Michele Shanahan DeMoss will be riding the float this year to honor her daughter, Blair. I have been able to follow Michele’s journey to Pasadena, CA, where she has been over the past few days working on the float. What an amazing experience it would be, although bittersweet, for sure. Someday, I hope to be able to travel to Pasadena and volunteer on the Donate Life float.

Just a few weeks after we placed Kyleigh’s rose dedication, we received a letter from the hospital where Kyleigh was born. The hospital, along with Midwest Transplant Network, was going to have a service to honor all of those who had given the gift of life during the past year. Family and friends were invited to attend the service and place rose ornaments on a Christmas tree that would be on display throughout the holiday season in the hospital lobby. The hospital also let each family know that a rose would be placed on the Donate Life Rose Parade Float in memory of our loved one. We were honored that out of everyone at the service, twelve people were there in memory of Kyleigh. Everyone had the opportunity to hang a rose on the tree; we hung Kyleigh’s rose and those who attended with us hung roses for others who gave the gift of life whose family members could not attend. What a blessing it was to be surrounded by loving family, my doctor and one of my nurses during such a special occasion in our journey of grief.

Kyleigh will have three roses on the Donate Life float tomorrow. I will be watching the parade and waiting to catch a glimpse of not only Kyleigh’s roses, but all of the roses that honor somebody who gave, received or is waiting for the gift of life.

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2012. 2 Comments

Yes, God is Always in Control

Sometimes I read a headline or the title of an article/blog that simmers with me for a few days that I just can’t shake. Often times, days will pass and that headline will fester in the back of my mind as I’m simply stuck on the words. That nagging curiosity just won’t go away. At some point my curiosity will overcome my better sense of self-control and I’ll venture back out to where I found the headline and read the article. Time such as this, the article will so enraged me that I’ve little choice but to write a rebuttal.

Let me start with a public confession that will set the stage. I get paid every other week and with every paycheck, bills are paid, food is purchased, some money is wasted (heaven knows where it all ends up) and once a month, charitable donations are sent. We sponsor three boys through World Vision, and at present, this constitutes the bulk of our giving to the work of the Church. We used to give regularly to our church, but ever since the move to Lee’s Summit, this is not a practice that we’ve restarted. Yet I pray that it’s something we’ll be correcting soon.

But make no mistake, I’m keenly aware that with each passing paycheck, every year that I’m not giving what’s been placed on my heart to give, I’m literally ROBBING God. Strong word.  Really?  Am I really robbing the Source from which all things come?  It’s right there, plain as day, in the last book of the Old Testament. Malachi 3:8, “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Pretty simple really, if you’re not at least tithing, you’re robbing God. 

Some people try some fancy word trickery to get out of the most basic of our financial responsibilities while still others argue as to the applicability of the text for today’s generation. But if you let the words simply be what they are, black and white letters on the page, there it is. I’m a thief that is actively robbing God. I don’t like it and I hope someday to change it, but as I write these words and listen to my boys play, I’m robbing God. There are no “shades of grey.” There’s only Truth. Thankfully the story doesn’t end there even if my name is called before I have a chance to resolve this sin. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) I’m a sinner saved by His Grace no matter what I’ve done. That’s the beauty of the Gospel as recorded for us in the Scriptures.

That’s all well and good, but what about commands or verses in the Bible that are seemingly inconsistent with life today?  While it is true that there are many commands in the Bible that were given for a specific time period (some call this a dispensation), which were applicable for only that time period, this doesn’t mean that all are exonerated simply because we’re 2000+ years removed from the time in which the Text was given. Take Onesimus for example. In the tiny little New Testament book of Philemon, Paul writes to ask Philemon (and the church in his house) to receive a run-away slave back into his home. The text does not refute the institution of slavery; this is something that men and women both inside and outside the Church pushed for almost 1700 years later. Neither does the text explicitly support the concept of slavery. It’s a book about redemption and forgiveness that was written within the context of life in the first century and it is completely appropriate of us to apply these principles to our lives today.

So we can see from this that there are certain verses in the Scriptures that transcend time (such as our responsibility to tithe) and certain commands that were applicable for the time or context in which they were written and were preserved for our benefit today. The issue this creates for us then is the ability to discern which is applicable, and which are no longer applicable. Common sense is a tool gifted to us by God for this very purpose, but this is not the only tool. Prayers, searching the Scriptures, studying the classics provided by our church fathers or simply asking spiritual mentors are all means by which we can learn how to better apply the sacred teachings to our lives.  As the Lord declares, “For I, the Lord, do not change.” (Malachi 3:6) “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb 13:8) 

All of this sets the stage for the reason for this post. I’ve written in previous posts about the difference between God’s permitted will, and His perfect will. Kyleigh is in heaven right now due to God’s permitted will, not a part of the original plan when He conceived of the universe, but a specific event that entered the plan around the same time it was foreordained that the Son of God would die a terrible death on the cross of Calvary.  This isn’t just the wishful thinking of a grieving father nine months after his daughter’s death, but more importantly; this is what is taught in the Scriptures.

Take Psalm 139:16 for starters. “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.” Seems pretty clear to me, but the evidence doesn’t stop there. Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” The same message that was stated so clearly for the earliest readers of the Psalms is reinforced centuries later by the Apostle Paul for the newly formed church. This seems to be one of those themes that are meant to transcend time; its relevance was essential thousands of years ago yet it continues to bring comfort and purpose to the Church today. What bothers me about this is how easily the message is so quickly distorted in times of distress.

On November 26th, I was at my parents’ house where my grandmother fell asleep for the last time and she was released from this life to spend eternity with her Savior and those whom have gone on before. She was 88 years old when she died, and while she lived a full, blessed life, her final years were spent in relative isolation being removed (by her choice) from the town where she was born, raised, and retired. She lived and worked alongside her husband for many years in a suburb of Kansas City, and while they retired to Southern Missouri, when grandpa died, she uprooted and moved in with her daughter. We can look at the Ephesians verse and know for certain what “good works” were hers to walk in and we can recount the days that were written in His book for her from birth to death.  Like many of our grandparents that live long, full, and prosperous lives, we sit comfortably aside and affirm that “Yes, God sure blessed them all their days.”

Why then, do we question the validity of these very verses that, when in times of blessing they form the cornerstone of our faith in the providence of the Almighty God, but in times of tragedy they cause some to doubt the very meaning of the verses? Is not every life, all life, written in His book from the moment of their birth to the moment of their death? Why do people insist upon wanting to amend Ps 139:16 to read, “…and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them provided I live either a long, full life or die by some noble or gallant means?” 

Life, death, and everything in-between. All of this is part of a script that plays out whereby nothing that anyone decides to do, say or think surprises the sovereign God. Our freedom and His sovereignty, like two parallels tracks that make the locomotive arrive at a final destination, are two inseparable elements whose complete understanding is beyond our limited capability. Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” We may not like this verse when we watch the news and shake our heads in disgust at the choices individuals or nations make as they rage war with their fellow man, but we simply cannot dismiss the verse because we don’t fully understand how the events in the moment impact the eternal world whose history is yet to be written.

If we start in Genesis and read to Joshua, we don’t understand why God would command the nation of Israel to murder every living man, woman and child in the Promised Land to which they were moving. From a family (perhaps a better word for Israel at this point in their history) living as slaves in Egypt to the first Theocracy, the orders they were given seem unusual or rather appalling to contemporary readers. Yet the very reason that Israel was in Egypt for so long, as the Scriptures tell us was that the “iniquity of the [inhabitants] is not yet complete.” (Genesis 15:12-16) I have no idea what it means that their iniquity was not yet complete, but if you back up a few chapters in Genesis, I think you get a picture of it. Genesis 6:5 before the cleansing flood reads, “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Pause for a second and re-read that. What would a contemporary society look like if everything we did was “only evil continually?” I can hardly imagine, but I would suspect that the events over these last few months would pale in comparison to the atrocities of what man is capable of when their every action personifies evil. And while the command was given to Israel to annihilate the inhabitants of the land, the facts as recorded in Scripture tell us they failed to do so and instead they preferred to cohabitate and intermarry with these people. Generations later the extent of their inability to live by the explicit precepts given by their God, manifests in a deplorable activity of child sacrifice (Jeremiah 7:31). This is the story of the Old Testament, promises made to our forefathers, the nation’s inability to keep their end of the bargain, and God punishing an unrepentant generation for their wickedness. And yet in the midst of this, it’s telling that the genealogy of the nation’s greatest king (David) and the very Word that became flesh to dwell among us, Jesus, traces to one of these very nations that Israel was ordered to wipe out (read the book of Ruth).

Did God create evil? No. God created the opportunity for evil when He granted us the freedom to choose between good and evil. After all, the choices that we make are either one or the other. Freedom resulted in evil all those years ago in the Garden, and it’s our disposition today that continues to make that very same choice. When we rebel against God, who is by His very nature goodness, love and light, we demonstrate our propensity to be evil. What we cannot do, nor what we must not do, is attribute blessings to the mighty hand of God while at the same time deny the permission He provides to the Evil One who tempts us, which often results in times of suffering. This is precisely how the plan unfolds for Job. It starts with Satan at the throne room seeking permissions to inflict Job, and ends when Satan has done his worse and Job is a better man for it. Yet while the infliction presses upon Job and at the point when God makes His presence known to him, I believe Job is making the same mistake for which I’m writing here. God’s rebuke is powerful, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4) I remember reading these words just days after Kyleigh’s burial and I felt an overwhelming sense of humility. I believe we will always be susceptible to question the plan. It’s natural to do because the plan is so much bigger than us. I would prefer the plan to be about me and my wishes but that’s my own selfishness at work.

Make no mistake, God never tempts us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13). Yet at the same time, we must know that “God is faithful, [He] will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able…” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Rest in the knowledge that the Scripture teaches that God is in control of all things. Big and little, good and bad, nothing, absolutely nothing occurs on this earth without His explicit involvement, command or permission.

~Rodg

Devastating

I have always been particularly fond of Christmas. My faith teaches me of the significance of this day which is second only to Easter in which the power of the Babe born in those deplorable conditions all those years ago was fully accomplished. I like it because people talk about families. They are more open to talk about their own faith but I suppose most of all I like it because people spend a good deal of time thinking and doing things for others. This is of course, against our natural tendencies, but we’re especially motivated to do something for family or better yet, to do something to help a complete stranger and in some cases, we prefer to remain anonymous in doing so. Churches are generally packed and with few exceptions, people know why it is we pause and reflect on who He is and what He has done. It’s a beautiful time of year not just for Christians, but for the world which is, after all, the scope of His mission. Jesus came to save the whole world, not Americans, not just the faithful (although that is how it works), but He came “to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28) Yes – for certain, Christmas is a bright, wonderful and warm season in an otherwise dark, cold and selfish world.

Yet I find this year there’s a new side of Christmas that I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen it portrayed in movies. Heard about it in the songs that some artist’s sing but as with so many things, you cannot fully understand until you’ve had the privilege to go through. This side of Christmas I’m referring to is best summed up in one word. Devastating. That’s a powerful word and as I look back on 2012, I can see so much of the carnage that it has left behind in the wake of life. There’s so much emotion that by the end of the day, I’m physically spent. It’s exhausting.

This is truly the reason why Leann and I chose 2 Cor 9:15 as the Scripture to put on our Christmas card this year. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” This word, indescribable, occurs only one time in the Scriptures and to the best of my knowledge; the exact meaning of the word is still a bit of a mystery. Most translations use the same word, indescribable, which is an odd way to translate a word that is a little unknown. The root of the word gives the idea of the ineffability, or a wonder beyond description of the gift. (Ryrie) There is so much to life that is indescribable.

The weight of the season really didn’t start to crush upon me until Saturday. I got to see a mother of new multiples that are still in the womb glow as she shared pictures of her babies that most mom’s would never dream of possessing. I’m elated to be able to share in their story. That night we went to the ballet and while I’m certain that the performance was phenomenal, I was fully lost in thought about Kyleigh. I never know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing that will send my head spinning, but that’s what really got the ball rolling.

Next up was Sunday morning. Leann crafted stockings for the five of us this year and we finally decided what to put in Kyleigh’s as we really didn’t want to find it empty on Christmas morning. We resolved to buy socks, so before church, I ran to Wal-Mart (arg!) and found a dozen pairs. That’s the first time I’ve shopped for girls stuff aside from the take-home outfits we’ve purchased through the years. That was like a stab in the gut, but we do it and move on. This morning I purchased fresh flowers that we will take to Kyleigh’s cemetery tomorrow, on Christmas day, an unthinkable tradition that starts this year and ends for me when I’m called home. Tonight we watched a talking dog Christmas movie with the boys that centered on a family whose mother passed away in the fall and they were trying to be happy again for Christmas. In Disneyland I suppose three months is long enough for someone to feel sad. Too bad life isn’t spent entirely in Disneyland.

So back to the gift. Paul writes in 2 Cor 9:13 that it’s the “gospel of Christ” that is the indescribable gift. Gospel simply means “good news.” To me there is more to the Gospel then to focus all of the attention on the aspect of Salvation as there is more to life than our eternal destination. I choose to see this as everything that Christ has done (and will do) in, through and for me. My gift is so beyond my comprehension, but it’s worthwhile to pause and think of a few:

My wife, my partner, my helper, my best friend, she is so much of my gift.

My boys, both Oliver and Garrison as they embrace life and the season and I can see in their eyes the wonder and magic of it all.

My daughter, Kyleigh, for whom my love continues to grow daily. Although I cannot hold her, I know this time of our separation is short and we’ll be reunited soon.

My God, the Author of life, my Savior, Substitute, King and Friend. It’s for Him I choose to live, to Him deserves the credit, honor and glory.

I’m thankful for this new dimension of Christmas that not all are chosen to experience and understand. Sure, I’d rather my story was different but that’s not a choice that I get to make. What I can choose however, is how I respond to it.

~Rodg

This entry was posted on December 24, 2012. 1 Comment