A comforting sign

It is Easter Sunday morning and I have been awake since 4:30. I sip on my coffee in the silence with this Mac on my lap as I listen to a robin sing outside my window. I ponder what life would be like if the birds hushed their singing. What a wonderful grace this is from God that the silence was broken by the melody and harmony of his creation. The wind, the waves, the songbirds and the sound of rain on my roof all speak of the gracious Creator who reveals himself even in the sounds which we often ignore.

Painted in Waterlogue

I am not a sign seeker. God is everywhere and I don’t need something miraculous to affirm that he is, I need only to look and listen to my surroundings to be assured of his presence. Yet, some weeks back, just before the three-year anniversary date of the death of my son I whispered a prayer to God. I asked him to give me peace again and assurance that Jacob with him in his presence. I asked for a comfort and to do something to give me peace.

I kind of had forgotten the prayer until some other things happened. I wouldn’t call it a sign, it was just an answered prayer from God to comfort my sometimes troubled heart.

I need to fill you in on some background before I tell you what happened.

Let not your heart be troubled

The words of Jesus in John 14:1-3 were written on the heart of my son and Jacob could quote them when he was a young boy.  They read as follows, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

On the headstone where Jacob rests are engraved the first six words of these verses. These words that came from Jesus and were etched in the heart of my son. We had them engraved in marble that we might never forget the promise of heaven and a family reunion.

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My wife Stacey found these words so comforting that she had them put on her arm. In memory of the promise of Jesus and in memory of our beloved son she had this tattoo done shortly after his death.

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So, March 26th came and it happened to be on a Sunday this year. We went to Eden Bible Church and sat in the seats we have been sitting in for years. The service began and I got a light elbow to the ribs as Stacey leaned over and whispered, “Did you notice this?” She handed me the church bulletin and you guessed it, our verses were right there on the front for us to take comfort in. Three years to the day of Jacob’s passing this was the bulletin we were handed.

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I had kind of forgotten the prayer I made to God. Sunday passed and my dad and I were having breakfast at Ursa Major on Thursday morning and our conversation triggered my memory of the prayer I had made. I told him about the prayer and the church bulletin and asked, “Do you think God used this to answer my prayer for comfort?” My dad believed he did and I do as well. Irony? I dont think so. A sign? Perhaps.

Here’s your sign

Today is Easter. This is the best day of all Christian celebrations because it is this resurrection day that stills my heart and says, “Let not your heart be troubled.”

I don’t need nor do I seek a signs from my son. But God in his grace to me has assured my heart once again by answering a prayer in a most ordinary but immensely comforting way and for that I thank him. It was like he was saying to me, “Here’s what you prayed for, let not your heart be troubled.”

Today I celebrate the greatest day in human history. Jesus promised to give the world a sign that he is God by walking out of his grave after three days. He conquered death and by faith in him I have been given life and my heart is not troubled. He has prepared a place for Jacob and he is preparing a place for me, he has promised to come for me so that where he is I will someday be also.

There is only one sign and only one faith that points to heaven and that sign is the resurrection of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Good Friday has passed Jesus is alive; There’s your sign!

“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:38-40)

Happy Easter my friends!

 

Good grief

Although my son Jacob’s death certificate says that he died on the 26th I actually know that he died late evening on the 25th. Today is Good Friday. Two years ago today was the last day of life for my son. It has been a strange, mixed up and emotional day for me today. As a Christian I remember the death of the only Son of God and as a father I remember the death of my firstborn son. Today is a day that is good and today is also a day that I grieve. I feel a bit like Charlie Brown I suppose, I would say that today is filled with good grief.

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The great exchange

On the first Good Friday the disciples certainly were put to grief. The predetermined plan of God was set in motion and all that was written of the suffering of Messiah was about to come to pass. Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” (John 16:20) 

The crucifixion and death of Jesus bring weeping, lamenting and great sorrow for a short time. Sunday would arrive, the women would look into the tomb and the angels who were there would say, “He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come see where he lay.” (Matthew 28:6) Jesus appeared to them alive and joy was their response just as he said. They rejoice that Jesus was alive and the crucifixion suddenly has become their greatest joy.

Jesus put death to death. But what about us? Did he make a way for us to beat death also? He promised them, “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19) How is this possible? It was made possible by his sacrifice and declared in his final words on the cross, “It is finished!” What is finished? “For our sake he made him to be sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus willingly took all my sin so that I could receive his perfect righteousness. This is the great exchange. The greatest grief became the greatest joy of the disciples and it is my greatest joy as well. I glory in the cross.

The great hope

Grief for a Christian is different than that of unbelievers. I have the great hope of seeing my son once again because Christ made it possible for me by dying, being buried and rising from the dead. Christ is coming again for his saints, this is the great Christian hope.

“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, will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

I struggled for nearly a year with the terrible thought that my son was not in heaven. This is a terrible kind of hopeless grief to live in daily. I was not at rest, I was without peace and I think that this pain that I was enduring was actually harder on me than the actual death itself. I really got a sense of an unbelievers grief and their hopelessness in that time. Then one day, I sat at my desk at work and just wept over this and God did a work in my heart. I wrote this poem that morning, it is a a poem I believe God wrote on my heart.

Waiting for the rain

You our rosebud in a garden of thorns; you grew up in sunshine waiting for rain. Waiting for rain your bud would push out; blessings from heaven would surely bloom out.

Beauty in the blossom was our hope in the drought, waiting for rain it’s sure to come out. The thorns ever present and your bud bulging to bloom; waiting for rain it is sure to come soon.

The sun is now covered and the clouds have come in; waiting for the rain and for the blossom within. The rain came quickly; a storm in the night. It cut down our rose bud before the dawns light.

Cut down by the storm, there our bud lays; awaiting the rain has cut short his days. Our rosebud is broken; we placed him in a vase. Pricked by the thorn we lean on God’s grace.

Our bud has now blossomed though not like we planned; his bloom has now opened in a heavenly land. I know you have bloomed in a place that is bright; for you are with Jesus where never it’s night.

Waiting for rain, I see your sweet face, our boy, our son, our child in the vase. Here we sorrow awaiting the rain to cut us soon down and free us from pain.

We love you son, we’re doing OK; were waiting for rain to unite us some day. Someday we will bloom, be joyful, and say, “It’s good to see you, what a beautiful bouquet.”

Have a joyous Easter

Imagine that!

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I can only imagine what your enduring. I have heard that statement countless times in the last two years. Year two after the death of our son was unimaginable for us, we had no idea what we were in for after the first year fog began to lift.

Saturday, March 26th, 2016 marks the end of year two of living life without our son.

They’re right. You can only imagine the pain if you have never experienced the loss of a child. But, I had an epiphany this past weekend that might engage your mind to better understand what year two is like for grieving parents. To help you understand I need you to enter into your own past experiences. Take a moment and think of good things that have taken place after waiting long periods of time for them to occur.

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Remember the anticipation of a planned vacation, perhaps to Europe or a Caribbean cruise to a far away island. Recall the hope of graduation and the anticipation of college. Bring to mind the hope, anticipation and excitement of starting a new career, getting engaged, getting married, buying your first home or having a child.

Keep that thought

Now, bring to mind the surreal moments you had when all your wonderful hopes actually arrived. Recall when you were sitting on a beach sipping a margarita while watching the sunset and saying, “I can’t believe I’m finally here!” Remember the surreal times when you said to yourself things like this. “I finally have a my degree! I can’t believe I’m wearing this engagement ring! Wow, I am married and on our honeymoon! This baby I am holding belongs to me! I am a mother, a father, a grandma, a grandpa!”

Now let’s imagine those moments become daily and those everyday surreal feelings suddenly get turned upside down becoming dark and painful. This is the feeling that you can never imagine, though you just imagined it. It’s like waking up terrified from a nightmare that seems so real only to discover you never were asleep to begin with.

Imagine yourself in that moment when you first realized a loved one was really gone. Or that moment at a severe auto accident when the mind and emotions scream, “This can’t be real!” Hold on to that moment and never let it go, now multiply it by God knows what number. This is the unimaginable feeling of losing a child in words that can never fully express what has actually taken place in our hearts.

This is the best I can do to describe what most can only imagine. All those surreal moments in life being felt on a daily basis except they are not joyful moments but sad, heavy and full of tears. I have said to myself many times, “I can’t believe this has happened, I can’t believe this is my life.” On the day Jake died I raced home and remember saying out loud, over and over, “This isn’t real, this isn’t real!” Those words continually echo through year number two. Though I saw him dead in my home, in a casket and at the graveside, acceptance was a slow coming train that has taken every bit of two years to come to terms with.

When the fog lifts

A parents worst nightmare has only begun in year one. It is  frantic fast-paced and foggy. The nightmare slowly becomes reality in year two. I believe that this slow reveal of the new reality is a kindness and a grace given to us by God to heal our soul.

Physical trauma and emotional trauma have much in common. Healing takes a long time and the pain doesn’t go away, it dulls but never disappears. Year one is the terrible day, the ER, the trauma center, surgery, ICU and the beginning of recovery and rehabilitation. God mends the brokenhearted. There are divine medications prescribed to block the pain because we couldn’t handle it all at once. God never gives us more than we can bear but provides a daily dose of grace for our everyday pain. He is kind to us in this way.

Year two comes and we are on our feet doing painful PT but still in need of heavy doses of grace. The initial shock is gone, the fog is lifting and we are starting to see clearly our new crippled life.

Grief is exhausting and painful but I have experienced the grace of Jesus holding me up as I learn to walk once again. There comes a time when the rehab sessions are completed and you get discharged. You still hurt badly and walk with a limp but the lover of my soul is near by. The comforting thing about being released is that the Great Physician never leaves my side. This is of immense value because the residual pain will never fully diminish and his grace will be needed again and again. He is the God of all grace and is eager to share it with me.

Year one is like a black circular curtain pulled around your life, year two is the curtain being slowly pulled back to reveal your new life without your child. What does year three hold in store for me? God only knows. What I do know, and take great comfort in knowing, is that I stand in his grace today. I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.

Where is comfort and hope found?

My comfort and my hope are found in the great and precious promises of God and his risen Son Jesus Christ. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) 

Job lost all his children, lost all his wealth, lost his heath and the support of his wife and friends. Yet Job speaks and God speaks to my heart giving me comfort and hope for today.

What was the hope of Job? He said, “For I know my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has thus been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me! (Job 19:25-27) Job was confident of a future resurrection; this is also my assured hope.

Why was the story of Job recorded? “As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” (James 5:10-11)

Jesus is Job’s Redeemer and Jesus is my Redeemer! I am, “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:13-14)

My Redeemer lives!

“But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6)

Happy Easter!

“Surely I am coming soon.-Jesus”

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