If tomorrow never comes

I am not absolutely sure, but I think the death of a child might be the deepest pain that an individual can experience in life.

I am confident however it has been my deepest hurt in life. There are things I would do differently if I had known Jake would die at 22.

Tuned into XM radio the other day Tim McGraws famous song Live like you were dying began to play.

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As I listened to the words again I thought about our easily forgotten destiny.

We all know that everybody has an expiration date. It’s not a thought we rest on too long. It’s uncomfortable. But if we did it just might change us for the good.

If you knew you or a loved one had a week to live what would you do? What would be on your bucket list?

Not to be too dark but we all are on a death march. We aren’t promised tomorrow and if we knew that tomorrow would never come for us what would that change today?

Two condemned criminals on crosses next to Jesus were in that very spot. Hear the words of a man who began to live like he was dying and the gracious response to him by our Lord.

[41] And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” [42] And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” [43] And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:41-43

Listen to the thief’s confessions about himself and his new faith in Jesus at deaths door. This is truly the beginning of living like he was dying and he received eternal life.

Today is the day of salvation. It’s the only day we presently have.

If we lived today, and every day, as our last day the world would be a much better place. Live like it is because it just might be. We aren’t promised tomorrow.

A teacher called grace

A teacher called Grace

Seven years have come and gone since our Jake passed in March of 2014.

Grief has been a teacher to Stacey and I (others also) through this difficult season of life.

I think the greatest lesson I have learned since that awful day is that the grace of God is without end. It is deeper than I ever imagined.

At my salvation I experienced Gods grace through faith. As I began to walk by faith his grace continued to be revealed to me. This is a wonderful experience.

At Jacobs death and the years that have followed I have learned more of Gods grace in the pain than in the days of pleasure. This is a wonderful experience as well.

Grief is a tool God used to teach of his boundless grace and strength. I didn’t enjoy the class but pain has taught us things about God that aren’t known apart from discomfort.

Seven years ago I was at my lowest and weakest point in life. It seemed unbearable but Jesus carried the burden with us the whole way, till this day.

Jesus taught us things about his grace that we never could have understood apart from losing our son.

There is grace in pain. A depth of grace that is discovered only in our weakest points in life.

God didn’t remove our pain. Jacob is gone and that is a continual ache in our hearts.

I hated the hurt and wanted it gone. But now I wouldn’t trade the pain for what I have gained and learned through it.

The apostle Paul experienced tremendous pain and Jesus refused to remove it. Paul also was instructed by a teacher named Grace.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

Wonderful things are learned in Gods classroom of pain. What have I learned most? Gods teacher is named Grace and she is more wonderful than I ever imagined or thought possible.

Grace and peace to you all. Mike

Hope guaranteed. A new body and abundant life

I long to see my son and loved ones face to face in heaven. The great hope of the Christian faith is the resurrection made possible by the life, death resurrection and ascension of Jesus.

He is firstfruits of that harvest. Whom I will give thanks to, in person, in a new body, forever.

I will be buried next to my son someday. I want to be laid there so that when the voice of God calls us out of the ground Jacob will be one of the first faces I see.

This is my guaranteed hope.

“You only live once.”

We all likely have coined that phrase in our lifetime at some point.

We have said it but have we ever thought on it? Is it true? Have we truly lived at all?

The world clings to this life because this is all they get. If that were true I would join in the party. Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

But Jesus is alive and that changes everything for everybody, and I literally mean every body.

A box or an urn is not going to be anybody’s final resting place. We will all meet Jesus face to face. With a real face, with a real body resurrected for a real and eternal existence.

Yes, you will be resurrected. What does that look like?

Listen to the words of Jesus.

28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice
29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. – John 5:28-29

Jesus is Lord. Yes, he is our King even if you haven’t bowed your knee to him in this life.

We all will bow with a real knee and we will all confess with a real tongue whether it is now or later is up to us. I choose now.

He died and was raised so we could live. He is worthy.

9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11

You only live once? Maybe you never lived at all.

What form will you take, and where will you and your eternal resurrected body be?

The great hope of the Christian is this, “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 shall be changed.”- 1 Corinthians 15:52

Serious matters that demand serious consideration. Choose wisely and live my friends.

Happily ever after

My life story was written by the sovereign pen of God. Surely “a man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?” – Proverbs 20:24

There are dog ears folded in the pages of our autobiographies. Bookmarks in life that changed our hearts and changed the narrative.

In my story, like in everyone’s story there are blessings and testings that make and shape the saga.

For me those bookmarks include marrying Stacey Philo on September 17th, 1988. Add three markers for the births of our children Jordan, Jacob and Jared.

Add three more when I gave my daughter to her husband and gained a son. When I gained a daughter at Jared’s wedding and most recently added the blessing of our first grandson Eli Michael Ritter.

My story became our story and like all stories there are dark chapters interwoven throughout the goodness life brings.

May 15th 2013 began a difficult chapter that culminated in the graveside committal of 3 loved ones exactly one year to the day later.

Our son Jake, nephew Justin, mother Linda, and grandmother Marjorie. That year and those losses were written by God into our story.

The Lord truly gives and takes away. All these events penned down and foreknown by God before the opening of my storybook.

These are a few of the days that changed my storyline. Events that are bookmarked. Some I turn the pages back to and others I cannot bear the thought of doing so.

One date stands apart in my timeline that changed everything forever. Literally.

It was 25 years ago this week on February 5th 1996 that God wrote redeemed into my script. At least on my calendar he did- on his I was there from the foundation of the world.

I was in a bad place in life at that time. For sake of time the details of how I got to that place cannot be stated but just know that much was unraveling around me.

It was evening and I was cleaning the junior high school wing as I had been doing for the previous 8 years.

God was hounding me. My heart was heavy and on that winter night. 25 years ago this week my pride was broken and I humbled myself before God.

In a classroom, at a desk, in tears at about 7:00pm God laid down his pen and revealed himself and his son to me.

I met the author and finisher of my faith that night. Nothing would ever be the same for me. All that was to come afterwards would be seen through the lens of faith.

This awakening changed everything in my life. God began to shape me and change my thinking, attitudes and behavior.

That day was and is the best day of my life. Above all days, this day made the good days doubly blessed and the difficult ones filled with grace, mercy and love.

25 years ago this Friday God called my name and wrote my name in his book of life.

My story is still being revealed to me. I have read the ending already. He has revealed to me his good intentions and I am currently living in the happily ever after.

I have been graced with eternal life and for this I give him thanks.

23 “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book!

24 Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!

25 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,

27 whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! – Job 19:23-27

Thank you Jesus for a life full of your amazing grace and love. Thank you for 25 years of friendship.

Thank you for writing in the happily ever after.

Wrestling with why

Why? The unanswered question of a bereaved parent.

Jacob was 22 and struggled with anxiety, depression and drugs.

We raised Jake in a Christian home with biblical teaching and values. But like many young people with the same upbringing he seemed to turn his heart away from the faith.

This grieves the heart of parents who endeavor to raise their kids in the faith only to watch them walk away.

Thankfully, not all who wander are lost.

Wrestling with the why question is exhausting. It’s a treadmill that must be turned off and walked away from.

I find myself back on the machine once in a while however.

I am a simple man. I believe there are knowable, but partial, answers to the why did my child die question.

Rarely it is black and white. Most of the time it’s unclear.

Jake died of a prescription drug overdose. He did something stupid and paid the ultimate price for it.

This answers some of the why questions. Bad choices lead to deadly ends. That’s simple and true.

Sometimes the why question is answered in the black and white of the scriptures.

1 My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,
2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. – Proverbs 3:1-2

Why Jake died is not fully known. But I do know this. Jacob failed to remember and apply the wisdom and instruction we gave him.

Jacob lost his peace and his days on earth were shortened to 22 years.

It didn’t have to end this way. But it did and I understand why.

Partially

Something to think on

After my son Jake died one of the the more difficult things to control was my thought life. Focusing on the light was important in dispelling darkness. I was constantly readjusting my thinking to calm my heart. This is a challenge for me still today.

Facebook asks us “What is on our mind?” before we type anything.

That’s a great question and it’s worth looking inward and pondering. Our minds never rest and we all are restless to one degree or another because of it.

True peace of mind is no accident. It’s a choice with consequences.

Here’s a Facebook challenge. Redirect your mind and allow peace to rule and calm your heart and mind then share your feel good story.

Remember the promises of God

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” – Isaiah 26:3

Godly thinking leads to godly living leading to a peace filled life. How we choose to think and how we decide to live is a choice that has great rewards.

What’s on your mind today?

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9

Good thoughts and positive vibes to you all! ❤️

Mike

Meaningless memes

The pain of losing a child is excruciating. Physically it is exhausting. Emotionally it drains you. Depression will overcome you at times. There were times when I didn’t care if life went on yet I was never suicidal.

Five and a half years have passed. Time has left an awful scar to a terrible wound. Time has been a teacher of things I knew nothing about however. Time and grief have educated me about God, faith and myself. The morning fog does not dissipate immediately, neither does the fog of grief but as it lifts the light of the sun makes your surroundings clearer. I see life and death differently. I see myself and God more clearly.

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I read the social media memes of grieving parents. Many of these memes express a broken heart desperate for hope and comfort. I get that, I want that for myself as well yet in some of them I have found their words to be hollow and unhelpful. I have desired truth on my journey with grief and have found no relief in a well worded lie.

Truth has brought to me real comfort and real hope. The world scoffs at truth saying, “What is truth?” The Christian replies, “Jesus is the truth and his word is truth.” There is a comforting anchor of hope in the actual, historical, prophetical and archeological facts of the scriptures. I find no hope or comfort in mystical notions, speculations and unverifiable philosophies concerning life after death. I want and need the truth.

Truth answers the tough questions. Truth is, God answers to nobody and not all the answers made available to us. But God has made know to us his love, his grace, his mercy and in this I find immeasurable comfort and hope.

If this life is all there is and death is the end of all things then I would choose to become a hedonist. Let us eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die. If death is not swallowed up by life then I am greatly decieved and my faith is pointless. I am a fool left comfortless and hopeless if the sting of death is the end of all things.

But I am no fool and I take great comfort in the hope given to me by God in the scriptures.

The only comforting hope for me is based on actual, predicted, historical and verified events concerning Jesus. Apart from this my son is only a memory to me and we shall never embrace again. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything- it is everything- he is everything! And in this I rejoice with hope and joy inexpressible.

Cling the gospel my friends. It is our one hope and comfort in the dark days of our lives.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8

Till we meet Jesus and greet our loved ones again.

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” 

A prescription that works

A few weeks before my son Jacob died I watched him have a panic attack. I was helpless to help him as fear overtook him for about ten minutes.

He struggled with anxiety, depression and prescription drugs. I believe that his overdose was an attempt to calm himself during one of these attacks.

I have never experienced a panic attack. I have never been addicted to prescribed drugs but I do know about depression and anxiety.

Not long after Jacobs death I went for my annual physical. My family doctor asked about my depression. I didn’t deny my struggle with it but told him I wanted to face it head on and drug free.

I knew something about fear, anxiety and depression that a pill could not provide for me. Drugs could not offer me hope and drugs can not bring me peace.

Anxiety is a menace to everybody. But I understood as a Christian that I had a prescription that actually works. Xanax wasn’t a cure nor an option for me.

Spiritual pill #1

Cast your concerns on God because he cares about you. Be prayerful and thankful even in your confusion and you will have peace of mind.

6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

Spiritual pill #2

Cling to the God of hope and praise him in the whatever turmoil you find yourself in.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” – Psalm 42:11

Prayer, thankfulness, hope and praise. These have been priceless remedies for my walk in grief. Give them a try. They are wholistic, pure and proven to work.

I live in hope to see my son again. Someday my hope will be realized.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” – Proverbs 13:12

Empathy and comforting hope

Four family lives suddenly lost in twelve months time. A nephew, a grandmother, a mother and a son, three of which were laid to rest on the same day. That was May 15th 2014 one year to the day that Justin our nephew died.

Rob my 49 year old brother-in-law lost his fight with cancer a few short weeks ago. Death has visited us again. Rob was buried just a few steps away from my son and mother-in-law Linda. I wish to be laid to rest next to my boy someday when I am called home.

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Rob Laffleur

Five years have past since the darkest days of our life. Grief has changed much over that time. Five years seems to be a marker and somewhat of a milestone on this journey with grief. A little over 2 years into my journey I met my new neighbors who were 5 years in. They said at that time that life had finally gotten on track again. I remember wanting to be where they were and wishing I could fast forward the nightmare I was stuck in.

Well, I’m there now. They were right. Five years for some reason seems to be the timetable for life getting back to normal. The new normal as we say. It was true for them and it is true for me as well. I am not alone in this thought. I recently spoke with another bereaved mother who has experienced the same thing.

I felt the heavy weight again not too long ago. I drove without invitation to the house of a couple who lost their son recently. It was the evening before the funeral. We shared, we listened, we laughed and cried. I hurt for them knowing what they are facing. Terrible things that only our hearts know and understand. Things they were yet to experience the following day. Things they are yet to feel in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

Empathy was so helpful to us when we lost Jacob. I needed to put feet to my prayers and pay a visit to my hurting friends. I am so glad I did.

We all embraced at the end. We talked much about hope. Hope in Christ. Hope in the resurrection. Hope of heaven and hope of better things to come. There is no greater comfort to offer the grieving than the promises of God to those who believe.

13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18