Of Dreams, Death, Resurrection, and the Tower of Babel…

A few weeks ago, I again watched the movie “Meet Joe Black.” The central character, or central human character, is Bill, an uber-wealthy man about to celebrate his sixty-fifth birthday. However, Bill has been experiencing intermittent chest pains, and begins to hear an audible, whispered voice saying, “Yes…” Despite all his wealth, intelligence, and good will from the people who love him; Bill comes face to face with the inevitability of his own death:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ae-mN5aD8Qg&feature=plcp

Death becomes a person: Joe Black. The rest of the movie shows a man trying to deal with death walking beside him in his everyday life. At first, it is really awkward, introducing this new “friend” to work associates and family. As part of the deal Bill makes with death which will buy him more time with his family, Bill must allow Joe to go with him everywhere. Essentially, Joe calls the shots! Bill knows if he doesn’t play the game right, he is done. However, eventually, death begins to pay particularly close attention to Bill’s beloved daughter, and Bill stands up in protection of her. Throughout the movie, you see Bill having such normal reactions to the death that walks beside him.

He denies…

He bargains…

He fights…

and finally… He not only is resigned to the ongoing presence of death, he seems to even embrace it. Bill begins to see his life differently while death walks beside him, and tries to make things right with the people, dreams, and legacy to which he had given his life. He spent his life building something, and began to see how quickly it could be taken away. And yet…

Bill’s experience of walking with death by his side, brings him to the place of gratitude for all of his life:

I am reminded of Jesus’ words of invitation to “…take up your cross daily and follow me.”

Our tendency as a species seems to be to build towers that we believe will take us to God. The tower can be experience, money, power, pleasure, morality, or even… or maybe especially… theological/religious ones. We begin to build, and even invite others to build with us, but eventually, we each become so focused, so obsessed, in a glassy-eyed, tunnel-vision dream-like state; upon only our piece of the tower. We stop listening to each other. We become deaf to the call of community, due to the clarion call of our personal obsession.

…and the tower goes unfinished…

It is God’s grace to send the whisper of death into our deafness. We must learn to embrace death in order for Resurrection to supplant it. For there is no resurrection without death…

Death of our dreams…

Death of our expectations…

Death of our obsessive need to be right…

Death of our illusion of control…

But the cross is the gateway to new life! What we thought we wanted is replaced with something better, richer, deeper, eternal. The way to embrace our death, and to receive new life, is the way of Trust in the God of the Resurrection. Trust changes the grief of death to the gratitude for a life without end, from which  love is the by-product.

Courageous love…

Servant love…

Encouraging love…

Listening love…

Embracing love…

Tenacious love…

Sustaining love…

Patient love…

Healing love…

Giving love…

Forgiving love…

Christ’s love…

My Brother Thomas…

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)  So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,  and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”

 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”

 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”

 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”  Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.

 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,  and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

  Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:1-16)

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (John 14: 1-5)

………………………………………………………………………………….

” On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.

  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

  Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

   But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 

 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:19-29)

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The church I have been attending is in downtown St. Petersburg. It is a fairly small church plant, yet has just the right vibe within which I fit. We meet in an art gallery, and the exhibits are constantly changing… which is a great thing! A creative community in a creative environment. (If you would like to find out more about it, check it out here: http://themissiodei.com/home.htm ) This past Sunday, Doug McMahon, one of the three co-pastors, spoke about Thomas and used the last of the three scriptural passages above as his text. Doug pointed out that when Thomas finally saw the resurrected Christ, he not only looked to the wounds of Jesus, but also brought his own wounds into the room. Doug’s sermon was the impetus for my own thoughts about Thomas.

I have come to believe that the common religious practice of painting Thomas in a demeaning corner of weakness is a bit unfair. I sited the prior passages (also in John, by the way) as a means of examining the man Thomas. I believe Thomas to be:

…a practical man…

…a man of action…

…a man with a lion’s heart…

… yet a man whose underlying motivation was fear.

Thomas shows his lion’s heart in the first passage as well as a tendency towards the dramatic, when he proclaims his intention of going with Jesus back into harms way. “Let us also go,” he quips, “that we might die with him!” By this statement, Thomas belies not only a lion’s heart, but also a mind which tends first towards action. Thomas’ words  sound courageous, yet I wonder what was behind them. Sometimes, the most practical way to fight fear is to go straight at it. To attack. Maybe Thomas had a feeling that the road they were on following the fearless Jesus was bound to end badly. He had to know the religious leaders were intent on crushing the insolent, big-mouthed carpenter from Nazareth; so why not confront them now? “Let’s go out in a blaze of glory!”

Thomas shows both his practical side, as well as unwillingness to let Jesus off easy as he confronts Jesus after Jesus’ eloquent promise of peace for the disciples. Thomas wants to know where Jesus is going, that he might go there, too.  He is saying…practically, “How can we go where you are going, Jesus, you haven’t told us how to get there!” All the while, Thomas’ question shows a lack of trust in “the Way” Jesus. Instead, he still believes that his life and future are his own to ferret out. He is afraid to lay his life and future in the hands of Christ, so he responds in clarifying practicality.

Finally, Thomas is absent when the disciples are in a room “with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders”. I have a theory about why Thomas was absent. I believe Thomas had returned to his normal life. Or maybe he was out getting food for the group. I suspect he was doing some sort of practical activity.

Jesus was dead. Sitting around and crying would not bring him back. Besides, it felt more comforting to be in motion, as if the motion could keep away the reality of Jesus death…or Thomas’ grief. “It feels too out of control to grieve. I need to be DOING something!”

Anyway… the scripture isn’t descriptive of what or where Thomas was, he just wasn’t with the disciples. I think it notable, that the disciples were locked into a place of fear. So, I believe, was Thomas. While the disciples’ fear led them to hide away, and worry about the unknown future together; Thomas’ fear may have led him to face into reality. He was locked into a place of action and personal control. A different expression of the same emotion. While the disciples’ fear was expressed more like a lamb, Thomas’ fear was expressed like a lion.

For both the group of disciples and Thomas, the resurrected Christ walked through their self-imposed walls of fear, to join them in their isolation. Thomas’ statement about seeing and touching the wounds of the living Christ before trusting, is not surprising… it is practical. It is a statement of grief and anger of having trusted in someone he saw die, and Thomas’ hopes with him. Thomas needed to touch and see the open wounds of the living Christ, before he would open his own woundedness to be healed by them. So, Jesus joins him in his place of fear, yet invites him out of the isolation of his personal need for control and into faith in the activity of God, rather than his own.

(More to come…)

Narrow Daylight…

Narrow Daylight

By Diana Krall

Narrow daylight entered my room
Shining hours were brief
Winter is over
Summer is near
Are we stronger than we believe?

I walked through halls of reputation
Among the infamous too
As the camera clings to the common thread
Beyond all vanity
Into a gaze to shoot you through

Is the kindness we count upon
Hidden in everyone?

I stepped out in a sunlit grove
Although deep down I wished it would rain
Washing away all the sadness and tears
That will never fall so heavily again

Is the kindness we count upon

 hidden in everyone

I stood there in the salt spray air
Felt wind sweeping over my face
I ran up through the rocks to the old
Wooden cross
It’s a place where I can find some peace

Narrow daylight entered my room
Shining hours were brief
Winter is over
Summer is near
Are we stronger than we believe?

Life on the other side of a life changing event can be like emerging from a cave. Diana Krall’s song gets it right, I think. The daylight is there, but it certainly is narrow. Really, the work has just begun after the darkness of pain and loss. Like walking through a sunlit grove of trees, the light flickers between varying degrees of shadow.  The path to the Cross is certainly the right way, but there is a hill to climb to get there, and it is sometimes steep. Yet in the shade of the Cross, there is peace… comfort… grace… love… 

And hope! 

Everyone living in the grief process wonders… How strong am I really? Can I dare trust myself to keep moving out of the cave and follow the narrow shaft of light leading me from winter to summer? Good days haunt with a taste that life is like it was, yet the shadow of loss stains the soul. We long for the rain to wash away our loss, rather than sunny days that remind us how nothing will ever be the same. The temptation is to stay hidden in the shadows, and honestly, remaining there to heal is needed for a time. But eventually, the shaft of light pierces the shadow, beconning us outward. 

Frankly,  the pathway of grief is strange for other people who haven’t traversed its steep, slippery slope. We wonder if other people think we should be done with it already. Certainly we ask ourselves that question. Dare we ignore the camera of public opinion in order to give ourselves the room we need to come into the light?

And still the narrow light beckons.

Summer is near…

Are we stronger than we believe?

Rescuing the Deadliest Catch…

The Deadliest Catch is a reality TV show that follows several ships and  crews fishing for Alaskan King Crab in the Bering Sea. During the fishing season, the crews battle ice that builds up from extreme, near-Arctic temperatures, fatigue due to round-the-clock fishing sessions they must endure in order to fill the hold and get the catch back to harbor, and the Bering itself.  They also fight with each other from time to time. But on these ships, the Captain’s word is final. Ultimately, the Captain is responsible for the lives of his crew, the condition of his ship, and the numbers of his catch. Although the crabbing season doesn’t last all year, it is still very lucrative. Each crew member makes a full year’s wages in a few months. However, working in the 40 degree Bering Sea is the most hazardous work place imagined. The call every Captain and crew dread hearing is, “Man overboard.” If the man can’t be retrieved within a VERY short period, the frigid water will take his life.

This morning, while eating breakfast, I watched an episode of Deadliest Catch. The Time Bandit, with Captain Jonathan Hillstrand at the helm, was sailing within close proximity to another crab boat. As the ships are going out to fish or returning from sea, they carry their 800 pound crab pots stacked on the deck of the ship. One of the crew members of this other ship, was hanging on the side of the stacked pots, trying to secure them. The Bering was choppy and the ship rolled from side to side such that the man could reach his arm down into the ocean at times. Captain Hillstrand watched the man in the precarious spot until the crewman suddenly disappeared. Immediately, Hillstrand sounded the alarm and the entire crew began rehearsed rescue operations while shouting, “MAN OVERBOARD!”

At first, they had to spot the crewman in the rolling chop of the Bering Sea. One of the Bandit’s crewmembers, Russell, put on the bright orange survival suit in case he had to dive into the waves in order to save the freezing man. Thankfully, the man in the frigid drink was wearing a flotation vest and they were able to throw him a line after the Captain swung the Time Bandit to within range. The man was able to grab hold of the line, and the crew pulled him aboard. The rescue wasn’t over, however. He was so cold that they  lead/supported/carried him to the crew quarters of the ship where his clothes were immediately stripped from him and he was wrapped in warm blankets and taken to the galley to warm up. Although he never lost consciousness, the guy staggered about and kept saying, “You saved my life…. I was so scared…. I’m so cold… You saved my life…” Eventually Captain Hillstrand, very shaken himself, came down to the galley. Immediately, Hillstrand embraced the crewman  and accepted his emotional thanks for giving his life back to him.

Later, when the crewman was up in the wheelroom with the captain, Hillstrand radioed the captain of the other ship to let him know his crewman was safe. Suddenly, from off camera, the crewman could be heard to say… “Hey! Its my 31st birthday today!” They all laughed and Jonathan relayed the message to the other captain, and he responded… “Tell him he can have the rest of the day off to celebrate…” And the laughing continued.

Later, Hillstrand told  of how they had attempted a similar rescue 9 years earlier, but were unsuccessful.  When the drowning man was unable to grasp the line thrown him, Jonathan’s brother dove in the water after him, but the guy took in a huge breath of water just before the rescuer could get to him. Although they were able to haul the man onto the ship, he never regained consciousness despite 2 hours of CPR by the crew as they awaited the Coast Guard. Remembering the prior rescue attempt, Jonathan stated…”We’re even now,” speaking to the sea rather than to the interviewer.

If Captain Jonathan Hillstrand wouldn’t have been watching the small figure of a crewmember of a different ship working in a precarious position, then a man would have been lost at sea in the frigid Bering. Another name added to a memorial. Lost through the cracks…

But…

The Captain had his eye on the nameless man.  The Captain wasn’t too busy with the affairs of his ship to allow his gaze to be a net into which the crewman fell. It didn’t matter that they weren’t close friends. They shared a calling: they are Fishermen. Fishermen in the Bering Sea are a rough and tumble brotherhood. They compete with each other, fuss and fight with each other, party with each other, and save each other’s lives. They are brothers and when one boat is beached on the rocks, they all come for survivors.

My Captain has had his eye on me in the last day or two. He has rescued me from myself. He has spoken words of warmth and comfort:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

   In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

   And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

   What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.  Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written:
   “For your sake we face death all day long;
      we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,  neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:18-39

Honestly, my battle has been with how I speak to myself. The precarious reality of my own definition. The waves of self-recrimination wash over me. These waves are ones I have been crushed with before, but I thought they were calmer, more controllable. And then another storm. What’s so frustrating is my battle is within! So this morning, I turned to the place I knew I can always go to restore perspective in a time of battle with myself: Romans 8. The last part of Romans 7 speaks directly to the inner turbulence, but then the waves of the storm crash upon the calm sea of  Romans 8, verse 1: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

Reading further down, I was once again reminded that our circumstances are only waves seeking our attention…to distract us. Like Peter walking to Jesus on the water, I was beginning to look at the waves. Nothing in this life can change the way God loves me….

Nothing….

Oh look!  A life line…

Sometimes Ya Just Gotta Laugh….. Really!

I had one of those days on Friday…. Murphy loaded up with all the little hassles he could. You know Murphy… He lives in Washington DC…. (http://www.murphys-laws.com/murphy/murphy-laws.html) It kind of started on Thursday on the way to work. I ride a bike to work because my license expired…. I know, Murphy wasn’t in charge of that…. and vehicle problems, and it’s good exercise….. Anyway, on the way to work, my front tire started getting lower and lower and lower. I stopped to get some air in it, but the leak was too fast to make it to work. So, I pushed the bike to work and a co-worker gave me a ride home.

I had big plans for this weekend. I had hoped to get my license  on Friday, rent a car, and get out of town. Hopefully to Colorado for a late summer/early fall  trip. I also had a lunch meeting planned with the worship leader of the church I’m attending. I had been looking forward to the day for a few weeks. Since I had to get my check cashed and license  taken care of before I could rent the car and my tire was flat, I got up early and walked the mile and a half  to Walmart  to get a new tire and tube.  After a stop at Starbuck’s…. its on the way after all….. I left Wally’s world, with a jingle in my pocket and a skip in my step. Beautiful, cool, sunny day. Wonderful to be alive. A mile and a half back home, took the old tube and tire off, replaced them with the new ones and walked the bike up the hill to Seven-Eleven. I kept the front tire off the ground because I didn’t want to damage the tube by putting weight on the flat tire. Upon reaching the store, I started to take 75 cents out of my pocket to put in the air machine….. 75 cents for air……… However, I found that someone had stolen the end of the air hose so it coundn’t by used. I was pissed! What idiot steals one of those! Who’s the @$#^&*****  that cares more about himself than how much time and hassle he is costing countless other people…. especially me! I was tired after the roughly 3 and a half mile walk and was now running late for my meeting, I wasn’t late yet, but would be. I called the guy, told him I would be late and apologized. He was great about it. So, I tried to figure where the closest station in the most direct route to the church would be. Remembering a tire shop on the way, I stopped in to ask if I could bum their air hose….

“No problem!”

Aired up and on my way, I wheeled down the parking lot, and down the ramp to the bike/running/walking trail that follows Indian Creek. I turned onto the trail and as I started to go into the tunnel that goes under the main street of Olathe, I heard a “Pop!” and I was suddenly unable to stear and struggling to not go head-over-handle-bars. My new tire and tube had blown out…. After calling my friend to cancel lunch, I walked the half mile back to my apartment. I was wearing a dark brown, long sleave, button-up shirt with the sleaves rolled up, and my backpack with all-kinds-of-crap-that-I’m-sure-I’ll-someday-need-but-most-likely-won’t in it. It’s not too heavy, at least most days, but does make my back and shoulders sweat profusely especially after a 4 mile walk.

But I can still save the weekend if I can get to the license bureau and get the test taken, then get to the rental car place before too late. However, rather than going back to Wally world for another tube, I figured to walk to the bureau… about 2 miles. Deep breath.  Ok… let’s git ‘er done…. we’re burnin’ daylight… and after a few other transparently red-neck phrases used after the trailer has fallen off the hitch, I started to walk.

Upon reaching the bureau, I started to open the door, and found a line which Walt Disney would’ve deemed daunting…. with two three-year-old boys waiting with their mothers as patiently as three-year-old boys can wait. So I stepped inside the door….just inside…. and hurried up and waited. Eventually, I was the head of the line and the guy called, “Next…”  I ventured to his window and he took my information….

“Ok Mr. Williams, you’ll need to take a closed book, written test and a driver’s test….”

“Really?”

“Yes sir…”

“Well, I can’t drive today, can I take the written part and get it out of the way?”

“Sure…… Uh…. Mr. Williams…. have you ever lived in Delaware?”

“Uh….. yeah…..”

“Did you ever have a ticket there?”

“I don’t remember….”

” Did you live at ……………….?”

“Yes.”

“Well, there is a hold on your license from there. I can’t go any further until that is taken care of.”

So, he gave me a phone number to call and I numbly walked outside.  Taking the number out of my pocket, I called, was given the correct number I needed to call, and then called it….

“Mr. Williams, you had a ticket you paid in 2006, but there is also another $25 fee….”

I can’t pay it online or by phone. I have to mail it in, check or money order…..

So I hang up the phone, and…… begin to smile and shake my head. Looking to the left, I see a Subway and remember I am hungry. I have walked 6 miles… I’m hungry and sore and feeling old….so I need some nourishment. I ordered a “five dollar….five dollar footlong” (The song is in your head now isn’t it? Your welcome…) Just what I needed, and then a song began to pierce through the fog of fatigue….”Ya had a bad day….”(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hugp7Cz07Ds) My smile begins to grow….

So I leave Subway to w…..a……l……k  home….. no car….. no trip…. no license….. no bike tire…… As I walk down down the sidewalk beside a grassy spot in front of a store……. the sprinklers come on……… and I just start to laugh! I HAD to… at some point Murphy just gets hilarious! Whaddya gonna do? It is a dark-humor laugh. A letting-off-stress laugh. I began to walk across the athletic fields surrounding my daughter’s high school, and watched the teams playing… working, but playing…. I then started walking the south end of the Indian Creek trail, and found a quiet spot with two benches backed by two trees. Sitting down, I noticed a memorial stone between the benches: “In Memory of Frank M. Keene…. Beloved Husband,Father, and Grandfather.”  Thanks, Frank… Getting up from the bench after a couple of minutes, I heard a noise behind me and turned to see a kid with a sled with wheels on it and watched him body surf a playground behind an elementary school….. Cool!

You know, I started the day with plans I was excited about and was worried about whether I would have time to get it all done…. and didn’t get one of them done successfully…..  But God found me and helped me return to the moment. I have to regroup, repair, replan…. It is what it is…. and it’s good.

I Didn’t See That Coming…

I just returned from my second Divorce Care small group meeting. Most of the folks returned, and everyone at our table was there. It was beautiful to see how everyone surrounded one woman with words of wisdom and comfort. She seemed less overwhelmed when she left. I think she had some action points she could address and a friend from the group to accompany her in one of the more difficult ones. How cool is that?

Two points jumping out to me tonight were:

The reminder that grief is a tricky thing. In my mind, it’s like a roller coaster. Normally, the only reason I would choose to go to an amusement park is to ride the roller coasters. I always love the anticipation of the long, click, click, click, climb of the train as it traverses the initial, tallest hills. Then, just as you get to the top… looking at the majestic view…. the bottom falls out with an adrenaline rush of  the fall…. Hands up…. slightly weightless yet held securely within your car. The process of divorce is like a roller coaster where you physically climb each hill to see some part of the bigger picture, then are hurtled down the other side unexpectedly… and you tumble, head over heals with adrenaline rushing, for sure, but usually not in a good way… In most roller coasters, the tallest hills are in the beginning, and the succeding hills are increasingly smaller, and every so often, with some unexpected curves thrown in for good measure. Divorce grief is no different. Tonight I found a drop I didn’t see coming.

One of the tasks the video portion asked us to do was make a list of our personal losses we experienced with the death of our marriages. We are to make a list… get it out on paper… see it… hurt over it… grieve it. During the sharing part of the evening, our discussion leader asked us to share one individual loss we had experienced. I was the last in line. I listened to each one, mourning with each one… each fall down the hill. Then it came to me. The thought came to me suddenly, unexpectedly….

“The loss of the concept of Home…” Our culture has stopped using the term “broken home.” We, instead, have tried to redefine what home is…. single parent home…. blended family home…. same-sex parent home…. But, for me, home is where Mom and Dad are. Where I am connected by blood. Where I am accepted, as I am. Where I am loved…. I no longer have a “home.” I have a place to live, but it doesn’t feel like home. I may form a new home someday…. I may not. I KNOW I will someday go to my REAL home, to live with my Father…. But that is not now…. and yes, I know my Father is with me… and that He loves me… and that DOES give me hope… but it isn’t the one I have known…. the one I dreamt was possible…. That one is broken.

….and I didn’t see that hill coming…

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime…

I stole the following from my facebook account. It was a note I wrote about a good man and the influence his action had in my life at the time.

I heard a story about a wonderful father the other day. His name was Jim Beals. Jim was a pastor living in Oregon and married to a good friend of mine, Becky. Jim and I attended college together for a time in Kansas, but Becky and I first met in heaven…uh… Longmont, Colorado. Her father pastored a church in Longmont just prior to my father. Yes, Becky and I belong to the sometimes twisted family of preacher’s kids. Jim and Becky had a wonderful marriage, filled with three daughters, beautiful country, and difficult days both in ministry and personally. They loved each other through Jim’s 6 and one-half year battle with cancer, which took him home to his Heavenly Father about 4 months ago.

I have enjoyed hearing the stories of how wonderful Jim was as a husband and father. A particular story which has become very meaningful to me, speaks to his ability to let his daughter’s know just how special and loved they are. Jim would save all his dimes in eclectic containers and as soon as each daughter left home for college, he would send the hoarded dimes to them at school. Along with each container, Jim included a message proclaiming, “Here are some dimes for you because you are a perfect 10! I love you, Dad!”

I can just imagine the delight of each girl as they openned each package, feeling a long way from home, a little intimidated by their new surroundings or circumstances common to the formal break from the familiarity of home and family. Jim purposefully waited until each girl went to college before starting the new tradition. Their youngest daughter, Dena, graduates this year from high school, so never got to open a new package and read the endearing note. However, while Becky was cleaning out Jim’s church office, she came across a strange little statue on his desk. Perplexed, she began to put it in the “give-away pile” until she heard a rattling sound coming from inside the statue. Upon further inspection, she found it to be a bank, with a new collection of dimes rattling inside. Immediately Becky knew they were for Dena. She knew Jim was lovingly squirrelling away more dimes for another “perfect 10.” Although he was unable to complete the transaction, Jim’s intention and heart was reaching forward to the day when his youngest daughter would feel most alone without her father. His love still wrapped long arms around his little girl in the encouraging passion of a father for his beloved child. Becky shared the story and tradition with Dena and promised all their girls the tradition would continue.

While Becky told me the story with broken voice and through tears of love for her tender husband, I listened with wonder and gratitude for the gift this man had transmitted to his daughters. He affirmed their beauty, intelligence, and unique giftedness by letting them know he valued them as perfect. Perfectly created as THEY were supposed to be. Not comparing them to another by some undefinable standard. But letting them know they were worthy of his love and respect, so they could love and respect themselves as well. His love freeing them to face life with courage. Saying by their lives, “I can live out my worth, because my father loves me.”

As I walked along, staring at the ground while Becky spoke over the phone, I suddenly saw a dime lying on the asphalt. Immediately, I heard the heart of God through the lone dime, “Here is a dime, because you are a perfect 10! I love you, Dad!” I quickly interrupted Becky and began to tell her of my find, but my voice broke from the immense joy at my Father’s message to me! I dearly needed that message from home. And there have been several other dimes within the past week that I have found in the same fashion. It is changing the way I view myself. I am understanding God’s love for me in a deeper way, with each stray dime I find. And I’m looking for ways to communicate the message to my children, friends, and family.

Our ability to love other people is tied to our ability to accept God’s love and value of us. Actually, we are each God’s second gift to us as individuals. His first gift is the gift of Himself, but His next gift is who He has created each of us to be. The psalmist says we are “Fearfully and Wonderfully made…” and that God saw us in the “hidden place” where we were created. His love for us speaks in His constant messaging, both instant and ancient, to us individually and collectively.

So, Jim…brother…thanks for the spare dime.

 
 
The other day I was walking along and a coin on the sidewalk caught my eye. I almost passed it by, thinking it was a penny, but decided to pick it up anyway. As I reached for it, I recognized the size and, although it was scuffed and discolored by dirt and who-knows-what-else, found it to be a dime. Immediately, the lesson Jim taught me came back to my mind and heart. Although the dime was in such rough shape, it still held the intrinsic  value it had at the moment of its creation. My Father, once again, was graciously reminding me of how valuable I am.
But that isn’t true for just me. You, who are reading this… You have the intrinsic value of a one-of-a-kind-can’t-be-reproduced masterpiece. No matter how scuffed you are. No matter where your choices have taken you. Your Creator infused you with inestimable worth. We all look for someone to love us…really love us… as we are… to the depths of our souls… And God does!  He knows your name… He knows where you live… And He wants to hang out…. to get to know one another. He is knowable.  You can even talk to Him now…