Getting off the round about

4 years have passed since 4 family deaths started my wife and I on an unexpected journey with grief. I wish this journey had a final destination where I could get off this damn bus and let out a sigh of relief from the exhausting trip. However, I have discovered the longer I travel this road that there is no ending to this trip and sometimes you get stuck driving in circles in a round about.

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Grief comes to me (us) often and stings in ways we aren’t prepared for. 3 years post-mortem of Jacob and we are still getting our butts kicked by unexpected things in our pathway. I am not driving this bus, so I have no control of where it is taking us and where our stops will occur. One thing I have noticed recently is that the ride seems to be circular and and repetative. This week I was reminded that moving forward in grief requires more than one oar in the water.

There were some unexpected stops this past week for us. Sometimes you just gaze out the window, remain in your seat, ignore the door and wait for the bus to get rolling again. Sometimes it just easier to close your eyes and wait for a change of scenery and hope for a sunnier place.

I thought I was doing pretty good on this trip. I am an open kind of guy, I talk about my grief and I even blog my feelings and experiences for everyone to read. Then I saw myself clearly for the first time in a long time this week and it set me back it my seat. I was like, Ohhhh, yeah, that is how I have been responding to grief since this trip began.

On this grief bus you can run but there is no place to hide. You can close your eyes tight and wish it away, you can check out any time you like but you can never leave. There are many expected and unexpected triggers over the years that have troubled me to which I have had a standard response. The pain comes, anxiety intensifies my grief, I withdraw and seek out a quiet place on the bus until the pain subsides. I knew this was my pattern and I didn’t see it as a problem until recently when I was asked, “Why is this your response to the pain?” and, “What are you running from?” Those were probing questions which I could not answer and honestly have yet to answer.

I can’t get off the bus but I have asked the driver to get off this roundabout because I’m ready for a change of scenery. I trust that my compassionate God will hear that prayer and merge the bus on a straight path to new and pleasant places.

I guess running, hiding and withdrawing are no remedies for grief. I thought I had a handle on this crap but the more I ride this bus the more I realize I am kidding myself. I need to stretch my legs and go to the part of the bus where they offer help for the weary travelers. The bus has been running in circles and I just noticed that I have been on a round about for some time now.

The wheels on the bus go round and round. I am on the bus for life but it is up to me to change my seat if I don’t like the one I am sitting in. There are people on the bus who can help me if I willing to move from my place.

I guess it’s time to change my seat.
 

 

 

 

 

Troubling Triggers

Without question my grief trigger over the last three years has been music. From day one music has triggered for me sadness and pain. I can honestly say that I hated music, I hated everything about it and I found it nearly inescapable no matter how fast I tried to run from it. The sound of music is everywhere and it pierced my soul with pains so that even background music in a TV commercial would cause me to cry. I made every effort to shut music out of my life to reduce the triggers of grief it caused.

The following video is one of Jacob performing a song he wrote only 4 months before he died.

 

The music trigger for me was set off every Sunday that I sat in church. I found myself in the deepest pain when the people sang. I do not sing, nor do I yet feel compelled to sing in church. I listen to the voices, I pray and I try to focus on worship while greatly anticipating the music ending and the sermon beginning.

I have been able to measure my healing by my ability to listen to music. I have moved from hatred of music, to tolerating it, to now being able to tune it in with only minimal grief. It has been uncanny how each anniversary of Jacob’s death marks a recognisable step in the healing process for me. I have noticed that the trigger of music is not what it once was at this three-year anniversary mark.

My heart is healing and not so heavy, music doesn’t make me shudder in pain like it once did. King Solomon wrote a proverb that perfect describes how I have reacted to the troubling trigger of music. “Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar poured on a wound, is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.” (Proverbs 25:20)

Grief Changes and triggers lighten

My wife Stacey has discovered Kenny Chesney’s satellite station called No Shoes Radio. Silence is usually what I am tuned into when we drive together but lately on the road I have tuned into her favorite station. I have been able to listen, but not without an occasional pull at my heart which I try to endure that the healing may continue in my soul.

Coming home from Chicago a couple weeks ago I heard a song by Kenny for the very first time. As soon as the song began Stacey turned and said to me, “You can turn it off.” I responded by saying “No, it will help me heal.” The song is called Who You’d Be Today.  It was hard to listen to and made for difficult driving as I pondered his words.

Time does not heal all wounds but I am discovering that time does change the troubling triggers of grief. With time grief becomes manageable and the triggers come less often. Who knows, maybe next year I will be able to sing in church once again, or maybe I will play my harmonica again. Time will tell because time changes everything.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4

A Christmas confession

I am struggling with holiday depression. I feel its heavy pull today so I write with the reins in hand pulling back hard to keep me from writing too deep into the darkness I feel. All is well and good in my life and yet my soul is cast down- and so it goes, no reason to be sullen but darkness overshadows me.This is our third Christmas without Jacob and this is my current struggle without him during this Christmas season. IMG_1437

The world loves to expose a Christian hypocrite. A hypocrite wears a pretentious mask and desires the applause of men rather than that of God. Hypocrisy is nauseating to God and man so I decided to reveal what Christmas has become to this Christian since the death of my son. Confession is good for the soul they say. Maybe…hopefully.

It is Christmas time, I am a Christian, but my mind is rarely on the incarnation of Son of God at this time of year. Actually my thoughts concerning the birth of Jesus are elevated more around the Easter season- he was born to die and give his life a ransom for many. My confession to you (so all pretense is gone) is that Christmas for me is more about family than about Bethlehem, and Easter is more about Jesus and Calvary and less about family.

All the Christmas sights, the sounds, the smells and the bells lead my heart and my mind to one place this time of year. My Jacob. Everything about this season reminds me of him and family, not of grandiose thoughts of my Lord. This admission to myself last week was a bit of a personal revelation. I concluded after much thought that Christmas for me is more about family than about Christ. This confession makes me feel very unchristian but at least I am not a hypocrite I suppose. Lying is always bad, but lying to God and myself is worse and just plain stupid.

We say the cliché, “Remember the reason for the season.” What exactly does that mean? It can mean many things to different people. I know what it should mean to me as a Christian but it’s just not evidenced in my life. Jesus is the reason for the season but how I long for family more than him most of the time. My heart aches terribly for my son this time of year. All I see and hear reminds me of him and stirs up my pain. I wish I could say that all that I see and hear makes me ache for the Son of God; but it doesn’t and that is my terribly honest confession.

Merry Christmas my friends

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David as preached in my gospel. -2 Timothy 2:8

 

 

 

The face of addiction

Overdose. What does that word conjure up in your mind? Put a face to the word overdose and who do you see?

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The face of our Jacob; a college freshman addicted to prescription pain medication

I know what it means for me because that is how my son and nephew died. Just ten months apart Justin overdosed on heroin and Jacob overdosed on prescription meds.

I have asked myself the question,”Where did I fail as a father?” I didn’t fail to love my son nor did I fail to educate him about the dangers of drug abuse. As parents we provided every opportunity possible for him to live a productive and wholesome life. He was involved in school musicals, choir, football and wrestling. He was a good student and he was active in church youth group. We lived our Christian faith in front of him as best as our frail flesh could. Jesus sat with us at the dinner table and we gave him thanks for his provision. Yet here I sit, my son is gone and I ask myself again, “Where did I fail as a father?” One concerned but totally ignorant older man asked me if I failed to educated him about the dangers of drugs at a young age. As if that would have prevented the March 26th 2014 overdose in the basement of our home. That is just stupid.

I wish… (I only think this and never would 😉 say it) I wish ignorant people would shut their big yappers. Nothing inflames me more than hearing people pontificate about an issue they are truly ignorant about. I have discovered these are generally older people who have created a false stereotype of drug addicts. (Yes, I just profiled and stereotyped some old people) They read a pamphlet or watch a documentary and have decided that there is a solution to the problem. So they go on a crusade  and campaign against drug use to stop the madness. They assume there was a failure in the home, or perhaps they missed out on the DARE program and demand more education, laws, and law enforcement from their senators. Surely money, education and activism will slow and stop this societal blight.

My son did not die of an overdose because he lacked education, or love, or nurturing. Will education, law enforcement, governmental regulations and programs stop overdoses? It may curb the problem but there will never be enough money, police, or rehab centers to end this deadly issue that seeps into all places of our society. Love can’t stop it, government can’t stop it, money, law enforcement, education and whatever other method devised by man may curb it but drug overdoses are here to stay. I am pretty sure the statistics are telling us that overdoses are on the rise despite all the money thrown at it to slow it down. So I just refuse to join that parade around the block.

Don’t get me wrong, I reach out where I can and I support education, legislation, law enforcement and rehab centers. But as a Christian who has lost a son to an overdose I do not deeply involve myself in battles that offer little change and no lasting hope. For me it’s like shadow boxing with the expectation of landing a knockout punch on a phantom opponent. I am in a fight however but my strategy is very different from most. I am offering hope over more than drug addition. I present real lasting hope for all people over every addiction known to man through the chain breaking power of Jesus Christ. He alone beat death. It was foretold to us, it came to pass and now he offers all people freedom from the chains and abundant life in his name. This is good news and available to everyone by faith in his name.

Let’s face it; we all are addicts, we are all slaves to something. The following is God’s diagnosis of our slavish condition. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” (Titus 3:3)  We are terminal but God prescribed the cure; faith in his Son, which is a difficult pill to swallow for most.

Our addictions are just symptoms of the disease that is killing us. We are all born with a spiritual and terminal disease called unbelief that manifests its symptoms in many fleshly ways. Jesus offered the cure to the religious leaders of his day but they refused it. He said to them,  “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24)

We are all slaves to our passions and pleasures until the shackles are unlocked and the chains drop away never to bind us again. Paul explains, “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Romans 6:17)

When Jesus sets us free we are truly free for the first time. Free from guilt, free from shame, free from hiding, free from sin and alive to God.

There are only two kinds of people in the world. Slaves to sin or slaves to righteousness; slaves to hedonism or slaves to Jesus. Every man will someday overdose, oh maybe not on drugs but we will all die because our preferred addictions. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)

But God has provided a cure…”but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Any other treatment plan for the disease has no power to deliver anybody from death.

I offer hope, this is my crusade if you will. It is my calling and it is my primary duty as a believer. Jesus is the bondage breaker, he defeated death and is seated at the right hand of God offering life and liberty by grace through faith in him. Believe on him, trust him, seek his face. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:25-26)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every rose has its thorn

Grief still lingers.

I suppose that many around me that know the story of the loss of our son, and 3 other loved ones are happy for us when good and positive blessings happen in our lives.

We get all the smiles, congratulations and pats on the back and all the while grief still lingers like a nagging tooth ache. We smile through our pain and are conflicted in our emotions. Happy occasions become occasions for pain and grief is always under the surface of our smiles. Most people don’t see it or get it but some understand it because they have also been there and done that.

We smile, not necessarily because we are happy but because sometimes the smiles are all we have to disguise our pain. Many times we want to bolt and fly like a bird to our mountain. I recall multiple times when we have bolted. Times when my wife and I go to remote places to hear the waves, escape people and find solace. These are well meaning people who are truly happy for the blessings that are coming our way, but naive as to the pain that is present in life’s blessings for those who grieve.

We sit in our beach chairs and remind ourselves that it’s not their fault, they just don’t know, they have not walked this path or worn these shoes. Oh how often I have wanted to be in a state of ignorance again and to not know what I know all to well today.

Every rose has its thorn in grief. We see its beauty and smell its fragrance but for those who grieve we handle the flower by its stem and it pricks us. The pokes are painful and bring both tears of joy and sorrow in times of blessing.

In the days since the deaths there have been engagements and weddings.There are college graduations coming next May and in June our youngest son Jared will marry his high school sweetheart. We are happy but there is always a thorn that will poke our souls. We guard ourselves from the pain, the dull ache occasionally becomes very sharp and departs somewhat slower than when it arrived.

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The moment

This is how we roll in grief for now. I hope that someday I can see the rose and smell its sweet aroma and not be poked by a thorn. But, for now, every rose has its thorn. When I feel the pain I am reminded of the one who understands my grief and was himself pierced and felt the sting of death for me. Jesus is the beautiful fragrant rose, he is the Lilly in the valley. My hand feels the thorn but his hands took the nails and he understands my grief. He takes my hand in his and comforts my soul.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4-5)

Jesus took the thorn and I am healed. Someday I will enter his garden of roses that is free of every thorn. Until then, I suppose, every rose will have its thorn.

Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

What love cannot do

Yesterday, after 28 months, we cleaned out Jacobs bedroom in preparation to sell our home. It is a terrible feeling to box up a life of memories and to bag up items for the trash for goodwill and for storage. The room smelled of my son. Everything we handled told a story that broke our heart as we made choices as to what box or bag to put it in. Jacob loved deeply and was deeply loved in this life but love has its limits. Our love for him was powerless to save his life from both physical death or spiritual death.

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God is love and the greatest commandment is to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as we love ourselves. Yet love is powerless to deliver us from our greatest fear and enemy death. If love had this power your loved one would not had died of cancer, or a car accident and my son would not had died from an overdose. No matter how much we obey the golden rule and love our loved ones and neighbors there is no power in love to deliver anybody from death.

Do you think, if it were possible, I would have made efforts to prevent my son from dying? Your right. We did the best we could by giving him the right instruction, family life, church, friends, education, etc… We poured love in his life, we demonstrated it yet there we were yesterday boxing up a life that we deeply loved but were powerless to save. Have you ever considered that the love of God by itself could not save us either? The love of God alone could not save us from sin and death nor sorrow and pain. But grace, mercy and love combined can if we only would believe the following.

“For God so loved he world that he gave is one and only Son.” (John 3:16a) Gave is a word of grace, and my God is the God of all grace. His love for you and I by itself could not redeem us, but he demonstrated his love towards us in that while we were yet enemies and sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) What love could not do for ourselves or for others God did by sending his Son to die for sin.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

What would be the greatest demonstration of love you could show towards your family, to your kids or grandchildren? Is it time? Is it stuff? Perhaps a fat inheritance? Would it be that they see you in the bleachers for every game or that you send them a nice card with words of love on special occasions? No, all our love and affection is powerless to save anybody, but God is mighty to save. So perhaps we should be sharing his love, his grace and his mercy if we truly love them. Point them to Jesus and proclaim the Son of his love, “And whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16b) This is the greatest love story ever told and sharing it is our greatest expression of love.

“The Lord God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17) 

Even so, come Lord Jesus

Xanax altenative: my prescription for grief

In our journey with grief my wife and I have not used medications as a means of coping with the pain. It wasn’t long after Jacob’s death that I went for my annual physical and I told my doctor that I just preferred to deal with everything head on without drugs.

Grief is warfare and I battle its symptoms daily. I fight against sadness and loneliness for my son. I get anxious and I fall into depression. I get irritable, frustrated and angry at times. Grief is still a daily battle, I expect it to change but I would be a fool to believe that I will ever be free of it. I can’t suppress it, or ignore it, or expect it to just go away. I don’t believe I can medicate or drink it away either. I can fill my life with busyness, entertainment, work, vacations and run from grief but though I may run I am unable to hide.

So how do I cope? Some may think that I run to religion to medicate. After all Mike is a man of faith and for him religion is his crutch to hold him up. It may surprise you to know that I reject religion, it is a blight on the earth because religion is built on lies and I prefer truth. I believe in unchangeable absolutes and I apply the healing balm of truth to the pain of life to comfort my troubled heart. Truth is medicine for the soul and Jesus the lover of my soul is truth. He alone can mend my broken heart.

I often walk with sadness in my heart. When the heaviness for my son weighs on me I often pray the simple prayer of, “God, help me.” In those times Jesus the Good Shepherd comes near so that I never lack any good thing. He brings me to the still waters, he causes me to rest in green meadows. He restores my soul.

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When confused and without wisdom on how to navigate the pain he leads in in the right path and I follow him for the sake of his name.

There are times I have felt as though I was dying inside, robbed of my joy and utterly destroyed. But the Good Shepherd says to me, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) The times I walk through the valley of the shadow of death he has calmed my anxiety and quelled my fears. For he is present with me, with his rod Jesus corrects me, and with his staff he gently guides my steps.

Though the enemy of my soul desires to destroy me I am richly blessed by the Good Shepherd. I look around, I see his grace, my cup overflows with his blessings. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.

When hope sees dim and the dark days casts doubt over my faith I remember the truth, I remember his way and I recall his life. The Good Shepherd speaks and I hear his tender voice, he calls me by name and I follow him. He whispers to me, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)

So with confidence and great hope in the truthful voice of the Lord my shepherd I have hope and eternal life. I can conclude my life as David the sweet psalmist did and joyfully proclaim, “And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23) This is my hope, this is my future, this is the truth and it is good medicine for my soul.

Jesus gives me what no medication can ever provide. He gives me faith, hope and love. He provides me comfort, peace and assurance of the future. He makes me strong when I am weak, we makes me wise though I am a fool. He is mercy, he is grace, he is all I need. I don’t need Xanax and I certainly don’t need religion all I need is the truth. Jesus is truth. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Medication left in a bottle will never help anybody get well and the same is true with the Christian faith. Dosage directions on the label are to be followed precisely for the good of the patient, this is true of the Christian faith as well. The symptoms of grief are many, they attack my soul continually. When I am anxious, when I lose my peace, when I hurt I look to my Good Shepherd and he offers me his cure. I follow his prescription instructions and do as directed by the great physician my soul. It reads, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philipians 4:6-7)

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”- Jesus

Trouble in River City

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Every day is memorial day for me and my family. I wrote the following the day before Jacob died and thought I would re-post it. We texted back and forth that day about the words to a song he sang in his lead role in the Music Man. It has been a tough stretch of life for our family in the last 3 years. Every day we remember, we keep swimming against the current, leaning on the grace of God.

The Steelhead spawning run has begun in the Betsie River. The trout begin their difficult journey by leaving the solace of the great lake Michigan to enter the difficult river current, swimming ahead through many dangers toils and snares (and hooks!) to reach their goal.

I have a reminder on the wall in my office that reads, “Any dead fish can go with the flow, it takes a live fish to swim against the stream.” In our study of pastoral patterns I was reminded of this quip and how Paul was no dead fish, flip flopping with every wind of doctrine but was a man on a mission, passing through many difficulties on his journey to win the prize of the upward call of Jesus Christ his Lord.

The journey of Paul was prophesied by Jesus Himself as a ministry that would bring him much suffering because of the name he proclaimed (Acts 9:16) Suffering will come on any faithful servant who desires to live godly in an ungodly world. If Christians want to follow in the wake of Paul’s example we can expect difficulty in this life, just as Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Knowing the hostility that is to come we need the grace and patience in our lives to love our enemies and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. (Matt. 5:44)

Saul began as a church terrorist; he was a blasphemer a persecutor and a harsh proud man. But the mercy and grace of God touched the chief of sinners and saved him, demonstrating to us that the worst of men are not out of the reach of the grace God. God could have chosen to destroy him for his unbelief but instead he chose him and used him to bring glory to Himself, and make him an example of patience for us.

Life without faith is full of trouble, lets face it, if we live out our faith as the patterns outlined for us, we will be in need of much grace and patience because of the added trouble it brings to our lives. Paul is our pattern for patience in life’s many troubles. “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first, Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen!” (1 Tim. 1:15-17)

There is a chorus line in the musical, Music Man, that sings, “Yes we got trouble, right here in River City with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for pool! Yes we surely got trouble, right here in River City, gotta figure a way to keep the young ones moral after school!” We as Christians have entered River City, and there is certainly trouble with a capital T that flows our way on a daily basis. We need grace and patience, especially when it comes to suffering for what is right and good.

How do you react when you are mocked for your faith in Christ? Are you suffering for your good conduct in Christ? If we flow with the stream like a dead fish we can expect that we will never give glory to God by suffering for His name. This is our calling, it is a privilege to suffer shame for his name and it actually provides joy for us when we suffer it. (Acts 5:41)
Peter and John left a beating rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus. Why would they suffer shame for Jesus? Because Jesus suffered for them, providing atonement for their sin and in loving response they would most gladly suffer for the one who suffered for them. Peter commenting on suffering for doing that which is good said this is commendable behavior to God. ” For to this we were called, because Christ also suffered for us (past tense, Christ suffered only once for sins-(Hebrews 9:26-28) leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. Who committed no sin, nor was guile found in His mouth.” Who when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness- by whose stripes we are healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter2:21-25)
Jesus is our divine example of patient suffering; Paul is our earthly example of patient suffering.

Follow their examples Christian, swim against the current with all grace and patience to the glory of God our Savior! But may the God of all grace, who called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, (1) perfect, (2) establish,(3) strengthen, and(4) settle you. To Him be glory and dominion forever. Amen!” (1 Peter 5:10-11) Patient suffering yields a fourfold fruit- can you see this fruit in your life? We shall as we abide in the vine of Jesus. Finally, beware of those who, “desire to make a good show in the flesh, these try to compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. (Gal. 6:12) Beware of the fishes who go with the flow!

How insignificant things become meaningful

Selling a house is an emotional experience. A house becomes home because of family and years of created memories within its walls. We are getting ready to sell, we want to downsize and prepare for our future retirement. The emotions are greatly increasing for us and are much more intense than most sellers because of Jacob’s death.

It has been 2 years and 2 months since we said goodbye to Jacob. His bedroom door is closed and we have yet to go through his things. Soon we will be forced into tasks we have put off till the right time. I can’t say that the right time is here but the unavoidable day of packing, pitching and painting is coming fast. It’s still our call as to when, but one thing is for sure, we can no longer keep putting it off.

I got a taste of the pain last weekend while repainting his brothers room. Tokens of Jake’s life and the love these brothers have for each other was everywhere. It made me cry. These were the first tears I shed in connection to our decision to sell our home. I expect more, I expect harder days and am preparing myself as best I can for the hardest day to come; the day we open Jakes bedroom door. The day the door swings open our hearts will be opened as well, opened to love, opened to memories, opened to grief and opened to the pain.

There are many insignificant things in life that suddenly turn incredibly important upon death. Once meaningless items now speak a story and evoke thoughts and emotions. This really made me consider the meaningless treasures that I will leave behind someday for my loved ones. What story will they tell about me? What emotions will they drum up after my passing?  Most of the time I make efforts to avoid personal items of Jacob’s because of the emotional trauma it ignites. But in preparing for moving there is no place to hide and with every item handled there is a memory, a story, there is a smile, a laugh and much sobbing and tears.

Jake parked his 1998 Honda CRV for the last time on March 25th 2014. It has sat unmoved for two years but last weekend time came to clean it out and let it go. He was not the tidiest college student on the planet and his car reflected that.I found his hat and used it to contain his sunglasses, his Adidas cologne and his safety vests from Pro Build lumberyard. I smelled the bottle and remembered how I helped Jake get the job, he really loved working there. Then I threw away some MacDonald’s bags which represented some of the last food he tasted in life-poor kid! I collected his change from the console and discarded a losing scratch off lottery ticket that was with it. There were the tires in the back that I asked him multiple time to have installed which obviously he never got around to. Then I found a well worn senior picture of his friend Gail, I read the message she wrote him on the back and put it in the hat with the other treasures. Then, Under the floor mat I found the most insignificant treasure of the day.

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There on the floor lay Jacob’s once insignificant college ID. The plastic card has 2 corners missing and I wondered what the story was behind that. Then I realized he couldn’t find a guitar pic so he made some out of his ID. I smiled, my heart warmed a bit as I thought about how he loved that Big Baby Taylor we bought for him in the 6th grade. The ID is now in Jacobs treasure box that rests on my wife’s dresser. The forgotten and insignificant ID told me a story and has now become a priceless item to me of the life of my son.

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There were more insignificant treasures found while I painted his brothers room. I found a notebook with bible study notes and lengthy prayer lists that belonged to Jared. I seen Jacob’s name on the list and felt the love he has for his brother and just began to cry. I am crying just thinking of it again.

Then there, on the desk, laid 4 pages of sheet music that belonged to Jacob. He printed off the music to sing Amazing Grace and the Old Rugged Cross at his great granny’s funeral just 3 months before he died himself. He had notations on the paper but what he crossed out again made me shutter inside and begin to weep again. It was a contemporary version of Amazing Grace which had words he crossed out and did not sing. These are the words he crossed out.

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There are indicators when people relapse into their addictions. Jake was no different, we knew when his anxiety was high that he was in danger of relapse and we would love him trough the rough patch. But when Jake overdosed his indicators were hidden well, he was happy, life was very good at the time- apparently too good. This is why his death was so shocking, we knew the signs but the signs didn’t show themselves.

I can only assume what Jake and God only know. Why did he cross out these words? I guess he was feeling the weight of the chains that December before he died. It’s possible that couldn’t sing the words because he was using prescription meds, he was hiding, he was chained again. On March 26th he was set free from it all.

I took the papers  upstairs to the treasure chest and left them with the other things, each having a story of their own.

Very soon we will open his door and reopen the wound. We will discover and rediscover things that once were once insignificant but now have a priceless treasured story.

What will my things say to others when I am gone? What will become treasures to loved ones when fly away? Kind of an odd thing to think on but truly every object has a story and is leaving a legacy for others to remember us by. What will that legacy and story be for you; what will it be for me?

A legacy of love

There is an account in the bible that tells of the very thing I write of today. It occurred in the days of the apostles and you can read it for yourself in Acts chapter 9. It tells of a kind and loving woman who had died in Lydda. Disciples sent for nearby Peter to come quickly which he promptly did. When he arrived he walked into the following scene.

“All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing the tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them.” (Acts 9:39)

Why did the widows cling to the clothing? Because the clothing was the emblem of the loving kindness of Dorcas and they clung to it as they mourned the loss of love. This is why  simple, seemingly insignificant items makes us grieve. They retell a love story.

A promise of hope

The apostle Peter had seen Jesus risen from the dead. There is no doubt that Peter believes in the resurrection of dead people, he seen it many times in the three years he spent with Jesus. With confidence in God, he puts out the women, kneels at the bed and calls Dorcas to life through the power of the Spirit of God.

“But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up.” (Acts 9:40-41 ESV)

I am sure that I am going to grieve much as I cling to Jacob’s things in the coming months. Unfortunately, Jesus, Peter or Paul are not next door to call and solve this death problem. Yet, I have hope that my son will someday come out of the ground and be given a new body much like the risen body of my Lord Jesus Christ. He promised it and assured it by his own victory over our greatest enemy death.

A comforting promise

Jesus left behind a cross. It is emblem and legacy that I cling to that brings me great comfort. I will cling to the old rugged cross because there, and only there was sin, death, and hell defeated in one fatal blow. The serpent’s head was crushed and I can have real comfort and real hope in  his resurrection from the dead.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then those who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Be encouraged, be comforted, be hopeful, and be ready my friends!

Behold, I come quickly-Jesus

The grief creeper

Grief is a creeper. It creeps up on you when least expected with triggers that are unavoidable. The creep showed up on vacation in Mexico last Saturday.

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It was 8 AM at the Reef Coco Beach as we entered the lobby to catch transportation for a day trip of snorkeling. An ambulance was under the car port with its lights flashing as Victor the attendant came to us. We looked away from the emergency vehicle as he began to tell us a tragic story.

A couple from my home state of Michigan had recently arrived on their honeymoon. The mid-twenty something husband woke to find his new bride unresponsive in the bed that morning. There were many unanswered questions at this point as to what happened but the details didn’t matter, she was dead and the paramedics couldn’t help.

I couldn’t bear to look outside and hoped we could catch our bus before they removed the body. I was affected, but not like my wife Stacey, I could see her tanned face pale as Victor continued to talk. We began to tell him of our story of losing our son Jacob unexpectedly. The driver arrived at the car port a little late but in time for us to miss the removal of the young girl.

There was a time that we would be curiously interested and indifferently saddened by such an event. After all, these kinds of things only happen to other people, never to us. But it did happen to us, and to my wife, who is a nurse but could do nothing to help our unresponsive son who lay dead on our basement floor. The grief creeper nabbed Stacey on Saturday morning and held her captive. She was visibly shaken most of the day and into Sunday.

The creeper pulled the trigger and grief crept back into our souls. Suddenly and unexpectedly it cut through her heart again. She felt the pain, the shock, the unbelief and the terrible emotions that come when you are the individual that discovers a deceased loved one. You remember, you realize, and you relive the moments that the young man was enduring. It is horrific and it affected her, she hurt for him and carried the grief once again for herself and for the hopelessly shocked man. What a happy and horrible experience to have the best day and worst days of your life only hours apart. Victor would later tell us how he spoke with the man who was visible absent and in total shock as he continued to stay in the room where she died.

The grief creeper showed up in Mexico casting a shadow on a day that was enjoyable but sad. We bounced back and we moved on but we will never forget what happened on vacation in sunny Mexico last Saturday morning. Especially my wife, who knows the pain firsthand and must occasionally relive the pain when the grief creeper comes from behind the shadows to show his ugly face.

This is life with the grief creeper. We don’t like it, we can’t change it, we just live with it. The creep even shows up on vacation in a wonderful place like Playa Del Carmen Mexico. Who knows where we will meet next.