February 5th 1996 was life changing

We reminisced of our younger days with some dear friends the other day. She was 19 and I was 20, we got married and started a family just a few short months later. It was the fall of 1988. I was a boy, a selfish young man who knew nothing of life, of being a decent husband or good father. I was clueless to the needs of my new wife and God knows I didn’t have a way with kids. How I ended up being the loved janitor of an elementary school is beyond my understanding.

I wasn’t the ideal father when my kids were young. If you looked closely at my life you might think that I loved whitetail deer and salmon more that my own offspring. I was a self-absorbed functioning provider and my wife was a sportsmans widow. I missed out on a heck of a lot of things that I now would love to have back.

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20 year anniversary  in 2008

Speaking about, and later thinking on my life sobered me as I pondered it on a south Florida highway late Sunday afternoon. I opened a conversation with Stacey and said to her that I doubt I would have liked the young Mike Fekete if I had met myself today. She responded with some comforting words and reminded me that we can’t live life consumed with regret. We can only change today and hope to be better tomorrow.

We drove a little farther and I broke the silence again. I said, “Life sure would have been a whole lot different for us if God had not intervened with me.” Stacey agreed.

Late December 1995 I was told by Stacey that if it weren’t  for the kids and Christmas that she would send me packing. This was not an idle threat, I knew she meant what she said. Stacey never minces words and these words cut through my thick skull. God used her words to reflect on my life deeply and to consider Jesus once again whom I had closed out of my life. The weight of my sin and the heavy accountability I had before God for my wife and kids was crushing me in early 1996. I knew I was going to have to answer to him someday. Soon the dam would break and I would find the peace I needed.

We attended church one Sunday morning and the following scripture cut my soul like a hot knife through butter. The preacher read the words of Jesus in Matthew. “On that day many will say to me Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? And cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name? And Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:22-23)

I thought, if Jesus said this to the religious, what would he say to me who was irreligious? I knew the answer to that question and it caused me to turn to God for grace and mercy.

February 5th, 1996 I was working nights as a janitor at the local high school. The preachers words burned in my heart and I broke down before God in a classroom and  called my dad for advice. I told him my heart and all he said was, “Mike, you know what to do.” He was right and I hung up the phone. I called out to my heavenly Father, believed on his Son and he rescued me. I was saved and peace entered my soul for the first time.That day was the great turning point in my life.

This was not a decision to be morally better but a great awakening and spiritual rebirth. What Jesus said to religious Nicodemus he was saying to me, “You must be born again” to enter into the kingdom of God. I was 28 years old and I heard the voice of God calling into my soul and I responded in faith.

I’m not sure where I would be today if God had not reached down that cold February night. I told Stacey what happened  in the classroom and she responded by saying, “We will see.” She had every right to be skeptical. I had much to prove and restore.

God saved me, God saved my marriage and my family. I am not perfect, we are not perfect but the God who is still working in us certainly is. 22 years later God and time has changed so much for our good and his glory. We will celebrate 30 years of marriage this September and God willing I hope he grants us 30 more.

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As I think  of my old life I have many regrets but I have never regretted turning to Jesus. He changed everything in my life and by faith I am still being changed for the better day by day.

I am on the potter’s wheel and he continues to shape me into the image of his Son. Some of the molding has been very painful especially when we lost our Jacob. But I have found that in the worst of times that his grace has been sufficient. God has used even this to reveal himself to me and to shape me into the man I have become. There is still much more work for him to do. God never abandons any work be begins. “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

To God be the glory, great things he has done!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; and behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ has reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

 

 

Getting caught in a grief bubble

Life is difficult. Doing life while grieving is extremely difficult. There are coping mechanisms that I have used consciously and unconsciously to deflect and protect myself from unwanted pain. Since our son Jacob died many times it has felt as though we have been at our emotional limits. There is a coping mechanism, a shield, or a force field per-se that guards us from feeling the pain of others. We see, we hear, and we know the sorrows of people but we often withdraw and put up our guard to avoid entering into their pain. We reside in a grief bubble with a thick wall. We can see out but nobody is allowed in. Sometimes we do this deliberately and other times it is a gross oversight.

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I unconsciously did this recently to some people I love very much. I should have known better but I neglected being there physically and emotionally for some dear friends who are going through some deep waters and grief. They were always there for me but I failed to be there for them. I was lovingly called out on my absenteeism and shown the ugly other side of the bubble I have placed around myself.

There is a point in time, I believe, that the shield must come down and the bubble must burst. I believe this because I am a Christian and Jesus himself reached out to others in his deepest pain and grief on the cross. He never withdrew from the needs of people even in his darkest hour. He had no bubble. He willingly ministered and offered grace to a criminal on the cross beside him. He provides comfort to his mother and John who wept below him at his pierced feet. He asked God to forgive his executioners while he himself suffered for their sin. He humbly ministered to the needs of those around the cross.

Seven hundred years before Calvary Isaiah wrote of what would take place on the cross. He said of him, “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:3-4. Jesus entered into our pain, our grief and our sorrow so that someday all tears might be wiped away.

In an infinitely lesser degree my suffering in this life is not pointless as a Christian, on the contrary it is quite purposeful. All comfort comes from God and the primary tool he uses to provide comfort to people is people. I hope I burst your bubble on that one because it’s true. The apostle Paul speaks to this issue to the Christians in Corinth.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Believers can never say that they can’t endure any more pain. That is just not true because God is the God of ALL grace and ALL comfort. His grace is sufficient for our every weakness and his comfort is boundless to heal the broken-hearted. Therefore, when we enter into the sufferings of others there is plenty of grace and comfort for all involved.

We will never be crushed if only we come to Jesus. He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

I have found that it is easy to rejoice with those who rejoice. What isn’t so easy is to weep with those who weep, but as a believer I am called to both. This week I was reminded that the comfort I received from God through my friends should have been returned to them, but it wasn’t, and for that I am ashamed. I asked for forgiveness and they graciously obliged and I learned a valuable lesson about grief once again. Comfort is not only to be received graciously but to be graciously dispensed.

In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. Psalm 94:19

Grace in the dark place

Jacob Michael Fekete would have been 25 on March 3rd but instead he is forever 22. On March 26th we will have completed our third cycle around the sun without our son.image

This path is not one that any parent would choose to walk. Yet in this journey there is wisdom that I have gleaned that could have only been acquired by walking it.

I have learned more about God and about myself in the last three years than I had in the previous 45. There are innumerable topics I could write about but today I will lightly touch on just one. Grace in the dark place.

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I have a deeper knowledge and experience of the grace of God in my life because of my son’s death. However, I sometimes wish I were still ignorant of the depth of this grace because it took me places I never wanted to go. But when plunged into the depth of sorrow I have found a surplus of grace in the sometimes overwhelming pain of grief. This all-sufficient grace is only experienced in the deep and dark places of life. Grace is precious and it is needed to persevere through the pain.

Most of the weakest moments of my life have been in the last three years. I can say that in those moments of despair, and having nowhere to look but up, that grace has sustained and strengthened me. Jesus said to Paul and also has assured me of the abundant supply of this all sufficient grace. “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

 I have discovered the hidden treasure of his grace in the deepest darkest places of my life. Jesus is the treasure, He is the diamond discovered in a mineshaft without light. No treasure is ever discovered unless one descends into the mine. I didn’t want to go but God sent me anyway and I would not trade the treasure I have discovered in the shaft. I discovered Jesus in the mine and we became much better acquainted. It was there that he uncovered for me the precious abundant treasures of his grace. It was there also that he showed me the immense value of faith in him. He has disclosed for me the jewel of his hope diamond and the endless golden vein of his love found only in darkest places I never wanted to go.

I can say that the pain is worth enduring because the payout is priceless. I lost intimacy with my son but I gained intimacy with Jesus in the experience. Jesus is the treasure.

 There is pain involved in growing in the grace and knowledge of God. The maturing process cuts to the bone but I have clung to the following verse through it all-knowing its purposeful end. Peter said, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” (1 Peter 5:10) Jesus never hid himself to me in the darkness. No, rather he revealed himself to me. He himself is restoring my life, he himself is confirming me till the end, he himself is giving me strength in my weakness and he himself is establishing me for every good word and work.

The darkness of the mineshaft is discomforting but there is grace and treasure to be discovered in the deep pit. Jesus is there, yes, I would even say that Jesus is more easily found in the darkness rather than in the light. His value is discovered in dark places and I would not exchange this intimacy for the world. No, I would not exchange this even for my beloved Jacob. Why? Because apart from Jesus I would never had my son nor would I ever get to be in his presence again. I will see my son again but that was only made possible by the immeasurable grace of God found in his only Son.

When the mountain is on top of me and the weight of the world is on my shoulders my burden is made light because of Jesus. I cannot carry this burden and am thankful that I can cast my cares on him because he cares for me. What a marvelous Savior. What amazing grace. What a priceless treasure he is.

 

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

…What a wonderful world!

I am on a patio at 6:34 AM enjoying the sights, the sounds and the smells of Playa Del Carmen Mexico. Sunrise was amazing with all the shades of blue green water that a person could drink in. The birds are singing, the sound of softly rolling waves breaking on the beach and a warm south breeze is hitting my face. I love Mexico, it’s not just a nice place to visit, I could live here

imageIt is now 6:54. My wife is wandering the sand searching for me, I called to get her attention. 7:02 and we are enjoying morning coffee together with the rising sun. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world. Louis Armstrongs famous song and iconic voice keep ringing through my mind this week. “I see skies of blue, and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night, and I think to myself what a wonderful world.”

Day 5

It’s now day five and I am in the same chair enjoying the same sights and sounds I have enjoyed for the past 4 sunrises. We went snorkeling yesterday in a few cenote’s. The limestone formations, the fish, the sunshine, the water and time with my wife was wonderful. Louis is still being hummed in my heart,”I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom, for me and for you, and I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

I am soaking in the sun. I am soaking up life. Excuse me for a moment while I get my sunrise latte and banana muffin. The resort staff are working hard to make our stay wonderful. The Mexican’s are a kind and friendly people, I really love them. They greet you with a smile and a hola all day, every day. I can hear Armstong singing again, “The color of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands, sayin’,”How do you do?” They’re really saying’, “I love you.”

And I think to myself, what a wonderful world!

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My vacation meditatation

As a Christian I believe God is good and does good all the time. There is no darkness in him at all so I can trust that, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights. With whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

My senses are on overload here in Mexico. God is so good to me; he is so good to us and this is never going to change. His good hand is everywhere I look in all that I see, in all that I taste, in all that I hear, smell and experience. Vacation has been refreshing! God has provided all things for me to enjoy, and I think to myself, what a wonderful God.

Yesterday we snorkeled  in a cenote that had an opening in the ceiling. The hole was perhaps 4 foot across and allowed the sun to come into the cavern. The sunbeam was simply amazing to behold as it cut through the darkness into the water and danced on the limestone floor below us. I thought of my boy Jacob as I put my hands and feet into the light that looked as if were angels dancing for Jesus. God gave me this to enjoy too. And I thought to myself, what a wonderful world- what a wonderful creator.

Life is good but life is not always pleasant. Children are a blessing from God and sometimes God takes our children away to be with him. Mexico is reminding me of all the good things God has provided for me to enjoy and of my beloved son whom he has taken away. Though terribly painful, but in a much lesser degree than Job experienced, I must respond the same way he did to the loss of my child. He lost all his children and in deep grief he lamented, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21) God is worthy to be blessed in our pleasures and in our pain. Regardless our circumstances, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm 145:3)

God gave me 22 good years of joy with my boy. Jacob isn’t my creation he is a creation of God given to me to enjoy. I enjoyed his life thoroughly but like a sunset his life disappeared behind the horizon. With every sunset there is the hope of a sunrise. I look ahead with the psalmist who said the following.

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. – Psalm 30:4-5

There is a sunrise coming, my son will rise again and we will dwell in a place where the sun never sets. “And the night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light and they wil reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)

Adios my friends, I am going to the pool!

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Death benefits: part 1

A musing

We received “death benefits” from 2 small insurance policies after my son Jacob died. The money was something we were really uncomfortable keeping around for too long. So we used it quickly by paying for a funeral, a wedding, a vacation and a few other miscellaneous things.

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little brother at big sisters wedding

 

To be honest, we were glad when the money was gone. It felt as though the life of our son had a dollar value and we were benefiting from his death. The remembrance of this has captured my thinking lately. Doesn’t the very term death beneficiary sound absurd and cold I wondered. As I contemplated more deeply I came to the conclusion that it can be understood as cold and absurd, but for me, in many ways, it is warm and wonderful.

The absurd

How does death benefit anybody in this life? When I considered this I contrasted the benefits I received from Jacob when he was living to the benefits I receive now that he is gone. There is a reason we call funerals a celebration of life; from his birth till his death he filled our days will with things that brought us happiness, joy and life. The day he died was the day that the benefits of life ended and the death benefits began. I am not talking about the death benefits I received from the settlements for that would be cold and absurd. So what are the death benefits I am currently receiving? Please consider the following before I reveal what they are.

A consideration

The following statement goes against our normal way of thinking. Keep in mind that it was penned by the hand of man but inspired by the Spirit of God. Solomon said, “A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth; better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for that is the end of all men; and the living will take it to heart. (Ecclesiastes 7:1-2 NKJV)

This is quite a contrast to consider. I remember well both of these days in Jacob’s life, his birthday and the day he died. I remember our joy as parents, I remember the joy of grandparents and his 2 year old sister when he was born. Also burned in my memory is the day that he died. I remember our sorrow, the grief of grandparents and the tears of his little brother and big sister.

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Big sister and Jacob

Which day do I prefer most? Well, that goes without saying. But what exactly is Solomon saying? He is saying that the day my friends and family came to my home to mourn with us is better than the day of Jacobs birth. Why? Because nobody considers eternal matters at the birth of a baby but we certainly do when a 22 year old college student dies of an overdose This means that death has benefits, yes, even better benefits than the days we rejoice in.

Death  and sorrow hushes our laughter and joy, we become sober minded and serious. When the death angel arrives and takes a life, those who remain are left behind to consider. Consider what? We are pressed to consider life and death itself. We wonder why life is filled with fleeting joy, mixed with much pain that ends in death. We are left considering and questioning, “What is the meaning of life?” and asking, “Is this all there is?” These are questions we might ask at any point in life, not just at a time of death. I think there are other questions that come out that I myself asked. Questions like, “Where were you God?” and “Why did you allow this God?” or “Do you not care God?”

Our darkest days are better for us in this regard. They give us opportunity to consider or reconsider what we believe about life and death, God and eternity. Death turns our attention to these matters and forces us to consider sobering questions, sobering questions like these. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  – Jesus (Matthew 16:26 ESV)

The death benefits

Losing a son and 3 other close loved ones in a 12 month period has tested and exposed what I believe to be true about God. It has caused me to consider. It has deepened my understanding of him in ways that the best times in life could never teach me. What are the death benefits I am receiving? They are the same spiritual benefits that I enjoyed before Jacob died, only better. I have a deeper faith in Jesus, I have a deeper hope through his Spirit, and I have a deeper love for God the Father. IMG_1439

Lately my death benefits have been of great encouragement to me. Jesus is teaching me many thing about faith, hope and love in  John chapter 11. I cannot go into it at this time but watch for part 2 in the near future. Read what happened for yourself and you will find many of the death benefits woven into the story. You will discover that Jesus lets Lazarus die for the glory of God and the glory of the Son. You will learn that Jesus lets Lazarus die to increase the faith of the disciples. Jesus also lets Lazarus die to demonstrate his power over death thereby giving the disciples good hope and great consolation in the resurrection.But the greatest thing about the whole account is that Jesus loves his disciples and that Jesus loves me. This gives me hope, this gives me great encouragement to press on and to walk by faith.

Isn’t that what the world want’s more than anything? To love and be loved, to trust and be trusted, and to live in hope of a better future. Faith, hope and love. These are the death benefits of every Christian which Christ provided for us by his own death on the cross.

I am a death beneficiary! That may sound absurd to some but it is wonderful to me.

phonto

Resting in peace and resting in grace

I began this blog at the encouragement of a good friend. I recently passed the one year mark of blogging my experience through the eyes of faith. It has been my desire to show how the bible, Jesus, and my experiences are working together for healing and the greater good in my life. I also desire that others have found hope and a measure of comfort in their sorrows. Not because of me, or my experience or even because of what I write but in the God who heals the brokenhearted.

“Now may the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

I have not written, nor will not write just for the sake of writing. I feel it’s important to only write out of my experience and not to waste words on things that have not helped my faith. My hope is that my story of faith will encourage others in similar life experiences. I suppose writing ministers to me but I mostly hope that it will minister to someone else.

In this journey with grief I have tried to capture in words my experiences and feelings as they connect to Jesus and my faith in him. In the infancy of my grief experience it was all new and there was much to learn about therefore writing came easy. Again, I never want to write just to write so I have just learned to be patient and wait. In the waiting room I am living life and life brings me new experiences. I take those experiences and pour them through the filter of the bible and I come to understand the truth. My experience is not the truth, it is subjective and is not always trustworthy. Right now my life is quite uneventful, I am resting in peace and for that I am glad because December was rough.

Lately I feel like the ink well is drying up and have considered ending the blog. That is good in many ways because it tells me that I am healing and grief is not the dominate emotion and experience for me as it once was. However, reality tells me that grief will follow me all the days of my life. Therefore the blog will likely never end. I love my son, I think of him daily and I have accepted that grief is as permanant as a birth mark.

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I have an ugly life partner named grief and it’s certain that our romance will not be over until death do us part. She sleeps at the moment but I know that she still lives and will awaken my heart to the pain once again. I am thankful for the times she rests because in those times I also find rest from her nagging voice.

I have such a short memory. I struggled during the holidays and I feel I am doing OK at the moment and I forget that there is more to come. I  remind myself that March is coming and Jake’s birthday and a death day are on the horizon. I have a hunch that my sleeping companion will be awakened soon. I have a hunch that the inkwell will be refilled and the stylus will be taken in my hand to communicate the words buried within me. There will be new experiences, there is more for Jesus to teach me, the story has really just begun and future pages will reveal the wisdom I have gleaned from him.

Life is full of unrest, like a bird seeking her nest we flutter through life wanting to rest in peace. We lite here and we lite there but we never find peace, rest eludes us as we grow more and more weary of the flight. We need only to go home to the only sanctuary of true rest in this life. Jesus beacons us home to the safety and warmth found under his wings. We seek places that offer peace but discover they can never provide the rest we seek. Is it possible to rest in peace before we are laid to rest, if so, how is that possible?

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First we need to understand that there can never be peace without the presence of righteousness. They are two peas in the same pod. “And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.” (Isaiah 32:17)

Second, we all fall way short of perfect righteousness so we can never find perfect peace within ourselves. Actually, peace is accomplished by a historical event “For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of Christ in him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, Isaiah 53:4-5) Jesus  takes our sin and punishment and we receive by grace his righteousness by faith in him. By faith in Jesus I received “A peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:17) when I believed in the righteousness of Jesus and chucked my own. “For he himself is our peace! (Ephesians 2:14)

Grace is a difficult pill to swallow for many people, but without grace we could never rest in peace. Jesus said that there is only one who is good, that is God. That excludes all of mankind from the equation, this is why we need mercy and grace. This is why Paul would begin his letters by saying, “Grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace always comes first and peace follows behind. Peace is a work of God accomplished through grace which is only received by faith.

Its offensive to most people to consider the fact that we are totally bad and no part good apart from the righteousness that God provides in his Son. Pride says I’m not so bad but God says your not good at all. But for those who humble themselves and trust in grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone peace is the result of his gift of righteousness. “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy..” (Titus 3:4-5a)

I am resting in peace, I am resting in grace. I trust what he did that I could never do for myself and the result is rest for my weary soul. The Price of Peace offers grace, mercy and peace to you in the same way, receive it freely by faith. He says to you and I, “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart…

…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”-Jesus

 

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Rest in peace son