Hope in hard times

Its been nearly 5 years since my son died. The three anchors that have moored me in the most difficult days are faith, hope and love. Heartache and hardships truly test the validity of these three foundational Christian principles. I have found that it is impossible to destroy these three things. The ship may be battered but the anchor always holds in spite of the storm.

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I have been told by people that they have watched and admired my faith while walking through hard times. I always want to turn the compliments back to God who strengthened me and deserves all the glory. I am not to be commended for enduring the storm. I am neither the anchor nor the chain that prevents me from drifting from the harbor and sinking in the depths. My faith is in Christ, my hope is in Christ and my love is for Christ. Apart from him I can do nothing.

My faith is not in a religion nor is my hope in clever fables devised by mere men. The Christian faith is not a “I hope so” philosophy of life but a confident “i know it’s so” assurance in actual historical events. My faith is in the promises of Jesus whom I have never seen. My confident hope is that he actually and literally defeated death and offers me his life by believing in him. Love for him is the result of receiving this outpouring into my life.

 Good Hope

I have nearly 100 entries into this blog. The blog has been a journal of how faith and grief has walked hand in hand in the darkest period of my life. Writing has been a great outlet and help to me in my journey. It has also been my desire that what I have written would encourage, comfort and offer hope to those who are grieving.

Jacobs death was, and still is, a crushing blow to my life. I need daily hope to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have no use for hopeless pie in the sky mystical superstition that is not based in truth. Christianity is factual and extremely comforting and offers good hope. Truth is, if Jesus isn’t alive from the dead then hope of heaven is also dead and my faith would be pointless. Life would be empty and death might actually be a welcomed friend because of my many sorrows.

Christian hope changes my darkness into light! I have a confident hope in the future promise of heaven because of actual, pre-written, historical events that were literally fulfilled to the letter. So I share with you the words of Paul the Apostle, an eyewitness of the One who was raised from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God.

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 NKJV

Perhaps you are reading this and you feel like you are without hope and without God in this world. I urge you to trust in Jesus the risen one. Call out to him and you will find rest for your soul.

I wish you all a happy and hope filled new year.

“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 NKJV

 

 

 

 

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Remembering Jake

Jacob was born March 3rd 1992. A chubby and content newborn, nearly ten pounds who could have won a cute baby contest. Soon he was sitting up, soon he was walking, soon he was dressed for his first day of kindergarten. Not long after we were attending football games, wrestling matches, choir concerts and high school graduation.

Birthdays, Christmas, vacations, and Sunday afternoon dinners with the entire family have vanished. All that remains are these snapshots of his life. Just frozen images of places, times, and events but not much more. His life doesn’t run like a movie in my mind. There are only clips and screenshots, bits and pieces that flash in my memory.

Sometimes Facebook jars my memory and I recover a forgotten snapshot in time.

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I can’t remember. I want to remember but it seems most of the files have been deleted. They are scattered, unrecoverable and taken away like leaves with the cool winds of fall. There are a few leaves left behind that the late October wind left behind. I hear his voice and the garbled laugh of his great-grandmother. I see his thin-lipped crooked smile and clips of his maturing face as he grew from a boy into a man.

There are other memories that exist in a firesafe box in the basement. They are digital memories on discs and VHS tapes. The box has not been opened. The digital images remain in darkness, unseen but available. I have not come to the place where I can open the box, the very thought still causes me to shutter. Pandora’s box? Perhaps. I guard myself from places that complicate my grief. I’m not ready and I am not sure I will ever be ready. Maybe his brother and sister will discover it years from now and open the treasure chest of their brother’s life. I hope it makes them smile. I hope it warms their hearts. Near the firesafe box is a cedar chest. Someday they will also open the hope chest  and in it they will discover all the cherished family leaves gathered in one place. Full of color, full of beauty, full of memories and full of love.

I long to hear his voice, but not in this way. I desire to see him but not on a 60 inch flat screen. Not now, not yet, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps never.

Life begins and life gets lost in forgotten moments that have passed me by. How I wish to gather the leaves into a pile and admire the beauty of each colorful fallen leaf. Scattered memories are all that remain and every so often I pick up fallen leaf in time and recall a sweet moment. Once insignificant moments in time that have become beautiful and cherished snapshots for me to enjoy today.

Someday hope will end and I will realize my hope when we meet again face to face.

“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:15-18)

 

 

 

Never Forgotten

Remembering

When I was younger I never gave thought to my legacy and how I would be remembered after death. Now that I am beyond mid-life I think of it quite often and am reminded that each day I live is a day that might be shared in my eulogy.

We want to remember the lives of those we love and we do many things so that they might not be forgotten. This week I will transplant Jacob’s memorial tree from our old house to our new home.

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Jacob’s tree

Last week I had a memorial tattoo put on my right arm of a sticky note that Jake secretly placed in my bible. People have memorial events, establish memorial scholarships and give donations to charities in the name of the ones they love. All of this is good and comforting to do because we never want to forget nor do any of us want to be forgotten.

I visit the graveyard where my son and other loved ones lay in rest for the great day of Christ’s return (John 14:1-6). I remember their lives, I walk around and I see the names of many unknown and forgotten people. There are people who have been resting there for over a hundred fifty years and I ponder who they were and does anybody remember their life? Unless you made a huge dent in human history it is likely that people will forget all about us after about 3 or 4 generations. My life is a vapor, I am here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14). The most I can hope for is that I leave something behind for this generation and the next that was meaningful and eternally significant.

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Rewarding

 I expect to be forgotten and I am just fine with riding into the sunset and disappearing like a morning mist. Perhaps in a hundred fifty years somebody will look at my headstone and wonder, “Who was this Mike Fekete and what was his life like?” I am OK with that but what I am not OK with is to be eternally forgotten by my eternal God. Thankfully, with God, there is a legacy believers are currently living in this life that will never be forgotten and better yet will be rewarded by him. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Hebrews 6:10) Let us not forget that when we love and serve our Christian brothers we love and serve our Lord. Let us work, let us labor in love, let us persevere to the end for the name of Jesus. FullSizeRender-9

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10)

In ancient temples the wealthy memorialized people by purchasing a marble pillar in the name of the deceased. Jesus knew this and said to the church, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12) Those who overcome are never forgotten and always rewarded by Jesus. When we honor him on earth he promises to honor us in paradise.

 

 

Best wishes

Our beloved Jacob Michael Fekete would be 25 today.

In my minds eye I see 25 imaginary candles on a make believe cake that will never be baked. 25 imaginary flickering flames to blow upon, to extinguish and to wish on better things. I remember your hopes, I remember your dreams son. I remember with a heavy heart and wish that those hopes and dreams for you had come true.

I wish to wish, if I could wish, if it were possible, if reality were not so real and birthday wishes really did come true. I would wish to blow out those 25 candles and these 25 things are the wishes I’d wish for you.

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I wish you could see your sister. I wish you could see her smiling face at her wedding to one of your most loved friends. I wish you could see their love and I wish you could meet Oakley their one year old puppy. I wish that you could visit with your Bo and again share joy and laughter with your siblings.

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I wish I could hand you tickets to the NCAA wrestling finals your brother will compete in next weekend. I wish you could cheer for him- you were always his biggest fan. I wish you two could sit and catch up and I wish you could see what an incredible man he has become. I wish you could stand as his best man this June and I wish you could see his bride and the beautiful person she is. I wish you could meet their enormous puppy named Pine.

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I wish you could speak to your mother’s heart and I wish you could still her soul. I wish you could see her strength, her faith and her perseverance. I wish you could write an assuring love note and tuck it under her pillow like you used to do. I wish you could could walk through the doors of our new home in Beulah and lay a big Jacob hug on her. I wish you could walk with her down Center street to the beach and to the shoppes downtown.

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I wish we could all sit as a family once again. I wish I could hear your voice, your gargled laughter and I wish I could see that thin crooked smile again. I wish you had found that simple girl you wanted to marry in a pretty yellow sundress. I wish you had found love.

I’d wish for your peace. I’d wish for your joy. I’d wish for your contentment.

I want you back but I would never wish you back Jacob. 25 candles and 25 birthday wishes for you but of those wishes only three have come true. You are at peace, you have pure joy and you are completely content. Best wishes and happy birthday in heaven son.

We love you.

 

 

 

 

When hope is lost

Life is difficult. Pain is real. Grief, sorrow and trials are experienced by all in this world. We live by the golden rule, we walk by faith…or so we say, or so I have said. Yet lately, for longer than I want to admit to myself I have lost my hope. Oh, I say that I hope in God but that hope is mingled with a hope for better things in this life. I had dreams, but they died. I had desires for good things but they were cast down. I suffer pain, grief, sorrow and loss and I feel disheartened and crushed. I must admit that the death of my son Jacob has crushed my spirit to hope for better things.
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Therein lies my problem. I have fallen into the trap of placing hope in this temporal life, for passing earthly hopes that disappear as quickly as they appear. Oh, I would say that I was also looking to heaven for my eternal hope, but when my eyes fell again on the horizontal plane towards my hopes in this life I have been repeatedly disappointed. In these past three years I have guarded myself from hoping for better things in my life. However, when I let my guard down many times I was crushed again by another disappointing and difficult life event. I had forgotten and lost my sight of the promises in the valley of the shadow of death. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)
We have faith in God, we have love for God and we have good hope in God. Faith can be turned to fear, love can grow cold, and hope will be shaken when the eyes of our soul turn away from Jesus to the things of this life. God has corrected my eyesight in the last couple of days with the help of some of his servants. I had lowered my spiritual eyes and turned away from the only eternal and unwavering hope. I still desire, expect and hope for good things from my gracious and merciful savior in this life. I will hope and wait for his goodness but whether in the pain or in the pleasure my hope is assured by an anchor in heaven. When hope in this life is robbed by trials I have learned, and have been recently been painfully reminded again that earthly hope is a mirage and a dissipating vapor.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18 ESV) There have been times I have wanted to put a choke hold on people who quickly respond to trials by saying, “Everything happens for a reason.” While this is true it is of no comfort to the sorrowful, in fact it can be maddening. I have been in the fire, I am in the fire and I expect be in the fire again. This verse assures me that the my afflictions are temporal and no matter how bad life gets they are considered light and purposeful. I can rejoice in hope in the fire that prepares me for my future glorious inheritance in heaven. This is assured and this is our unchangeable and eternal hope.
I have been comforted by God and my hope has been restored because my eyes have turned heavenward where Christ my hope is seated at the right hand of God. “Now may our 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 Thess2:15-17) Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.
 

An unexpected and inexpressible gift

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I received the most amazing gift from my wife this Christmas. I was caught a bit off guard when I received it because we decided not to exchange gifts with each other. The gift came unwrapped, without a bow but was to me the most beautiful and thoughtful thing I have ever received. I say it was thoughtful, actually I am certain it was deeper than that. Though the gift was spontaneous, impulsive and emotional when presented to me I have come to realize it came from the deepest part of her heart and soul.

From Thanksgiving to New years day we endured the holiday season for the third time without our son Jacob and Stacey’s mother. Linda died suddenly six weeks after our son and I can see in my wife’s eyes the grief she carries for both of them. I struggled again to get through this holiday season but in my heart I believe Stacey’s struggle with heartache may be double what mine is. There is no way to measure this and most people haven’t a clue-but I do.

Not many words are shared between us about the pain we feel during the Christmas season. Yet volumes could be written from the unsaid words that our souls communicate to each other. Sometimes by just the meeting of our eyes and other times the holding of our hands we say it all.

Grief always finds a way to be released. It builds, it creates pressure and eventually that pressure finds it way out. It could be expressed by tears, in anger, in frustration, by sullenness, isolation or a myriad of other ways. It was New Years eve and Stacey’s grief came to a head and when released (strange as it may seem) it became the most amazing gift she has ever given to me.

I will spare you the details of how and why we came to this point on the last day of 2016. Suffice it to say that it was a difficult grief day and there was a moment of painful release. Moments later she gave me the gift. She said, “I know you love me and I know that you will do anything for me.”  I can die a happy man knowing that this came from the deepest place of her heart.

For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in happy times and times of grief her words have become very precious to me. They are the greatest gift a Christian man could ever receive because this is how Jesus loves me and this is how he instructs me to love my wife. He loves me perfectly, infinitely and sacrificially. I am just a mortal man, imperfect on my best days yet Jesus loved me and gave his life for me. Somewhere deep in the heart of my wife she knows I love her and will sacrifice all for her just as the Lord did for his church. I am called to love like this and it warms my heart to know it is sealed in the heart of my wife.

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25a)

What Stacey gave me was affirmation that in all my short comings and failures I am loving her the way God has called me to love her. This was her great gift to me but it pales in comparison to the greatest gift given to mankind. The free gift of eternal life through the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. I know he loved me and he demonstrated the love of God towards me by sacrificing all for me.

“Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Grace to you and peace in 2017

 

 

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