Monthly Archives: July 2014

My Nephew

Filtered, morning sun from a single window softly lit the small, rectangular room where upholstered and folding chairs lined three walls.  The members of two extended families, ranging from a toddler to those in their eighties, filled the seats.  All sounds were muffled:  sobs and sniffling, the rip of tissues torn from their cardboard box, subdued conversations in an adjoining room, and the chime of a grandfather clock down the carpeted hallway.

An open casket was centered against the fourth wall.  We had come to see him one last time, to “pay our respects,” to say good-bye.  As the time for the small, family-only burial service neared, everyone left the viewing room and gathered in the main entry area, discussing directions to the cemetery.  I stepped back in and looked at my nephew’s still face a final time.  Oh, Nathan, Nathan, what have you done?

bleeding heart by heather johnson

Our hearts are broken:  every mother, father, brother, and sister heart, each grandparent, every aunt and uncle, each cousin and friend.  We have all fallen with the weight of this loss, and we are scraped and bruised, bleeding raw emotions.

To lose a young man we loved–who was only twenty years old and had such potential and such a gentle soul–is difficult enough,  but in this way . . .

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We are left with nagging questions and regrets:  the should haves and could haves and would anything have?  I can’t imagine the pain and despair and hopelessness that led you to this choice.  I can’t imagine how your mind was painted with the wide, black strokes of depression.  I answer my own question (Nathan, what have you done?):  you became ill.

At the cemetery family members carried the casket from the hearse to the graveside, walking across the green grass sprinkled with sweet clover.  Some sat in chairs, and some stood in the shade of a small, blue awning under the vault of a bright, blue sky.

We commended Nathan to God’s care and final healing.  We listened to the reminder that Nathan’s name meant “gift of God.”  He was.  He is.  We read his favorite scripture and sang his favorite hymn.  Those who wished to share spoke of his life, his character, what he was like as a child, and how we remembered him best.   After a season of dark illness, Nathan now rests in the Light of Jesus.

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If I could have choked out the words at the graveside service, I would have shared this verse.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13

If faith falters, and hope slips away, love remains.  Nathan may not have had a life “full of years,”  but his life was full of love–his love for his family and friends and their great love for him.

And over all, covering all, forgiving all, healing all is the boundless love of God.

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Nathan, age 10

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If you are depressed and feeling hopeless, please, please, talk to someone.  I am not a counselor or mental health professional, but I know you need to get help.  Talk to your friends, your family, your pastor.  Find a doctor or a counselor.  You may need to call your local mental health center and schedule an emergency appointment.

If you know someone who is despairing, reach out.  You may need to direct them to professional help.  Offer to go with them to an appointment.  If you have serious concerns,  you may call the police who can go to the person’s residence to do a welfare check.

If someone you love has taken their own life,  you may experience a range of emotions: from anger to sorrow.  You may benefit from support groups and counseling .

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.   Galatians 6:2   NIV

. . . weep with those who weep.   Romans 12:15   RSV

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More information:

When suicide strikes in the body of Christ  — Please continue reading to the end of this article for links to suicide hotlines, prevention and awareness sites, and grief support for survivors.

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bleeding heart photo by Heather Johnson of truelifewithgod.com

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  linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

  linking with Holley Gerth

Essential Fridays Linkup  linking with Essential Thing Devotions

Searching for the Light

The sun had burned off the morning haze and ushered in a beautifully-bright June day.  The warm breeze was gentle, and the deep blue sky was spotted with puffy, cumulus clouds.

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On days like this it’s easy to understand Jesus’ proclamation:

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

John 8:12   NIV

The sunshine surrounds me and illuminates everything.  It is  the engine of photosynthesis that provides food for man and animal.  Sunlight heals.  It banishes the deep shadows.

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Sometimes the light is muted, weak.  High humidity at dawn can drape the morning with a heavy haze,

but the sun is still there.

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Sometimes sunshine is hidden, obscured.  Storms swirl and veil the sun.  The word “hide” means “conceal from sight,”  not destroy or eradicate.

The sun is still there.

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When the rainstorm scrubs the world clean, and the light is shrouded in the final wisps of clouds and is captured in rain-washed reflections,

the sunshine is still there.

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Sometimes when the sun has slipped below the horizon, the only light is what is reflected in sunset clouds.

But the light is still there.

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Is your life today as warm and cheerful as a bright summer’s day?  Soak in the rays and rejoice!

Are there troubles on the horizon, making it hard to see how the future will unfold?  Let the light of God guide you.

Are the storms of life–illness and injury, financial setbacks, broken relationships–clouding your days?  Have faith that the radiant glow of the Lord’s compassion shines behind the thunderhead.

Are you facing the loss of a loved one in the dark grief of sunset?  The blazing love of Jesus is a light that will comfort you as you mourn.

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Jesus is the Light you need every day, every kind of day, in every circumstance.  Look to Him.

Seek the Light.

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 4:29   NIV

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Diane W. Bailey  linking with Diane Bailey

Essential Fridays Linkup

 

 

 

 

linking with Essential Thing Devotions

 

 

 

 

 

linking with Holley Gerth

 

 

He Stinketh

Four days ago, two fast-moving lines of thunderstorms dumped nearly five inches of rain on our part of the state in less than twenty-four hours.

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Basements flooded, languid streams turned to torrents, and rivers surged out of their banks.

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Homeowners have pumped out their basements and piled ruined, sodden belongings on the curb, waiting for garbage trucks.  Creeks (the first to flood and first to fall) have resumed their normal path, leaving behind muddied soybean and corn fields.  The large river closest to us is still rising, forcing the closure of the main highway there.

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In a few days (if we don’t receive any more heavy rain), the flood waters will recede. The river will drop below flood stage, leaving orphaned pools of water, which will eventually begin to smell–and not in a good way.

I usually read a more modern translation of the Bible,  but the King James version’s story of Lazarus really captures this idea of an unpleasant odor.  The Revised Standard Version merely warns of “an odor,” and the Good News Version cautions about a “bad smell.”

Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

John 11:39   KJV

How do I describe the olfactory assault from the stagnant water left from the flood?  It stinketh!

So do I at times.  I choke the flow of Living Water when I neglect prayer and Bible study

–an unpleasant odor.

When I get too busy for fellowship and quiet meditation, I begin to stagnate

–a bad smell.

I fail to grow and thrive as a Christian

–the stench of death.

I can become

stale, at best, and foul, at worst,

close-minded to God’s leading in new directions,

irritable and hard to live with

–I stinketh.

But–glory to God!–Jesus’ resurrection-giving Living Water can clean me up and make me sweet-smelling again.

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

John 7:38    NIV

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Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ.  Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance.   Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation–an aroma redolent with life.

2 Corinthians 2:15,16   MSG

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   linking with Jennifer Dukes Lee

 

 

linking with Holley Gerth

 

Essential Fridays Linkup

 

 

linking with Essential Thing Devotions

 

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