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A MOTHER’S LOSS 

Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost.                                                                                       John 6:12

            Natural or tragic deaths.  Miscarriage.  Divorce and custody concerns.  Wayward sons and daughters.  Addicted sons and daughters.  Empty nest.  Infertility.  Estrangement.  Gang membership.  Incarcerated sons and daughters.  Ill sons and daughters.  These are some reasons, you can name others, that a mother or mother-of-longing experiences.  The losses known to women who face these transitions because of connections to children—physical or emotional connections—are deep and cutting.  Women who bear the strains of love for children or who desire to be a mother to children, are strains Jesus understands fully.  They are reflections of the power of God’s love toward people and the unique endowment of love that God places inside of women. 

            Today’s culture is a cauldron of  temptation.  This is true young people especially but for all who are alive in this era.  Drugs, alcohol, suicide, sex, bullying, cyber sins, and preoccupation with physical appearance are among the distractions in the mainstream.  These entice and threaten those who delve into these areas unadvisedly.  The emotional and physical ramifications of entering into these kinds of actions and lifestyles are great.  Sometimes they end in deep grief.  Many bear the sorrows of choices self-destructive as well as painful for others to bear.

             The Lord’s treasure of love inside of a woman is a treasure that has within it something new to give.  Losses hurt.  Losses require time and attention.  However, in God’s restorative power comes the enablement to love again and again.  In new ways and sometimes with new people.  In the process, He takes the pains of suffering and weaves it into wisdom and strength for new love to rise.  This is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.  He truly enables women to love again.  He gives to mother’s a depth of love that cannot be denied.  This is evidence of His love that is unending and unfailing.

             Whatever losses you have known as a mother or an onlooker to someone you love who suffers as a result of motherhood or a desire for it, is a loss that can be healed by Jesus the Healer.  Jesus has a way of getting inside of a heart such that fresh hope comes and possibilities present themselves.  This is not immediate for that would not allow for personal growth and deeper faith in Christ.  But over time and over time spent in His Word and in prayer, reason comes and purpose returns.  All He asks is that you give to Him the fragments of your love.  When you do, He in His power and abiding love will see that nothing is lost.  The Redeemer will redeem.  Trust Him. 

             Loving Christ, You know the heart of a woman and the pains suffered due to loving a child and desiring to love a child.  Lord, help those who bear emotional and physical pains as mothers to know that You are with them and with their children.  Lord God of Israel, You create children and bring them forward.  Help those who grieve to know that Your love for those You create is greatest.   All is in Your heart and Your sight.

In Christ Jesus the Redeemer, Amen.

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THE CLEANSING BLOOD OF JESUS  

 

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But solely lean on Jesus’ Name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

than Jesus blood and righteousness.  Many know this familiar hymn by heart.  But that one line so impresses for it is emphasizes the foundation on which Christian hope is built—the blood and righteousness of Jesus.  Holy Week and Easter bring thoughts to Jesus’ suffering, death on the cross atCalvary, and resurrection celebrated worldwide on Easter morning.  The intense pain Jesus endured proves the intense love Jesus has for you and for me.  The blood Jesus shed during His beating and when He later hung on the cross was holy blood that secured our days in this world and our tomorrows in Eternity.

To read the Bible’s telling of that dark day on Good Friday, to read other commentaries, and to have seen the movie of recent years, The Passion of the Christ, is to learn details of the ordeal Jesus endured for the forgiveness of my sins and your sins.  The blood that flowed from Him was sacrificial blood that would cleanse us from sin and keep us righteous when we one day stand before God.  What Jesus did for you and for me onCalvary was an act of love unparalleled and costly.  Jesus accepted excruciating physical pain, shame, and emotional separation from God so that one day we could be acceptable before God.  Jesus suffered and sacrificed Himself all because of love.   

To say I love you to someone is to come to learn that what follows is what we possess in our hearts in order to live out the love we declare for someone.   Jubilant expressions of love require no thought; they come easily and gladly.  Challenges in love beg more of one’s will and define a character such that love either deepens or ebbs.  However, suffering in love and for love’s sake is the ultimate expression of love for it alone measures endurance and tests our depth of faith and commitment.  When goodbyes reach us because we love someone, grief strikes.  We suffer.  Our heart tells us how much we emotionally invested while we could or grief tells us what we did not give of ourselves while we had the opportunity.  Either expression reveals the degree to which our hearts were involved and tears will flow.

Faith in Jesus Christ ennobles us.  But it does not happen in grand ways; most often in quiet and even sad ways.  There is something about being broken in love and for love that allows us nearness to Jesus’ heart and to gives us access into the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10).  This is how we realize that love is precious and it depletes us in some measure.  Jesus emptied Himself to give of His love and cleanse us by His blood in the interest of our forgiveness for sins.  When we grieve due to losses in love, we experience a small fraction of the personal cost to Jesus for love’s sake.    Human experiences in loss and love bring us to places of brokenness and vulnerability that allow the Holy Spirit to bring us closer to Jesus. 

For the Christian who grieves this season, it is a time to remember that the Lord availed Himself to death so that we could live and survive the sufferings of life with hope.  This Easter, and each day of our earthly pilgrimage, may we be mindful of the risen Christ who laid down His life and shed His cleaning blood so that we would have a reason to believe that we could rise above grief and life’s losses for love’s sake. 

Jesus, the Holy Week and Easter season  will be more trying for those who have experienced loss.  Lord, You made a way for us through shattered dreams and unexpected losses.  You are the way.  We go through Your heart of forgiveness and compassion to reach the other side of a season of sorrow.  May Thy Spirit serve as a warm and steady reminder that we are not alone in our sorrow but that You accompany us to hope that does not disappoint.  In Thy beloved and risen Christ, Amen.  

    LOVE AND THE CROSS   

 

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise.     Luke 23:43

As Jesus hung on the cross at Calvary, two thieves hung on their crosses to the right and left of Jesus.  One thief was filled with contempt; the other with compassion and faith.  The one with compassion knew he was wrong, and that Jesus was righteous.  This thief declared belief; a declaration that moved Jesus to state and the Bible to record that today this man will be with me in paradise

For those who make Jesus their Saviour,Paradiseis a destination after life in this world but paradise is also a positioning throughout life.  What the Lord does is place Himself in the heart of a person who receives Jesus first and then the gift of Salvation Jesus gives.  One must be touched by the love of Christ to know He is and be moved by Him in order to take from Him.  This is paradise.  To know the love of Jesus is to have it alive in a heart all days of one’s life that lead to the great day of joining Him inParadise.

Love is costly.  Very costly.  The price is self.  One must give up one’s perspective, ambition, opinions, preference, and will, to love.  To love purely.  The truest test is of the presence of love is less of self and forgiveness.  The cross stands for love because it is the place where the deepest love came to include all and to pardon the unlovely.  The unlovely that is present in all of us at different times.  The cross stands as the beacon of forgiveness for all who will receive Jesus and His forgiveness.  Then, only then, is forgiveness possible.  The price of loving someone—a family member, spouse, friend, pastor, colleague, child, and one’s self—is whether or not forgiveness is given freely and received graciously.  If it is not, the love of Jesus is not alive in a heart.  Self is.  The patience of Jesus is great to wait for self to ebb. 

Losses in life, disappointments, and abrupt sadness can cause hearts to become hard and love to cease from flowing.  It is human and universal for people to be hurt and to hurt others, knowingly and unknowingly. The sure sign Jesus in a heart is one’s desire to make all things right and unified, even if that means things not turning out as one expected.  The peace and unity is what is most important; it is the love of reconciliation that Jesus so honors.  But when someone holds a grudge and will not be kind or forgiving, Jesus still forgives.  When one has been intentionally hurtful, Jesus still forgives.  Although the Lord understands fully the heart that so cold that it will not forgive, each day that passes when one does not attempt to make peace with himself or others, is a day further from fellowship and love with Jesus.  Relationship with Jesus suffers the most.  Whatever breaks one’s heart, breaks the Lord’s heart far more deeply.

The two thieves on the cross where separated by the state of their hearts.  One thief was filled with self and wanted his own way, and got it.  That meant not getting Jesus and being the recipient of His love, nor the love of others.  The other thief wanted Jesus and, got Jesus.  In the process he forgave himself, opened his heart to God’s love, and became the inheritor of an eternal home with Jesus.  When we love Jesus and are filled with Him, we always get more than we ever thought possible.  With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

The act of love atCalvarycontinues to flow with power today; a today that invites everyone to receive Jesus and His love into the heart.  If you have done that, you can be encouraged and warmed as you meditate on the love and peace you and Jesus share together and that flows forth to others.  If you have not, the Jesus of Calvary stands at the door of your heart and knocks, wanting you to open the door and let Him in.  May your heart be made and kept through the love of Jesus.  His love is the most trusted love of all.  The love of Jesus is a foretaste of paradise, and a relationship that shall last and endure all the tests and seasons of life in this world.  May you share this incomparable love with Jesus—today.

Lord Jesus, life hurts at times.  But the warmth and strength of Your love and presence abound with assurance and peace.  Lord, You know the hearts of people.  You know when life hurts and that which dwells in a heart to make it difficult for people to reach out to love and be loved.  Love is hard for some to give, and hard for some to receive.  Jesus, Your love always has the potential to soften hearts and to bring people to new dawns of forgiveness, grace, and unity that make for paradise.  Lord, thank You each day for the power of Your love and the cross that continues to prove all that is indeed possible because of You.  In Thee, Lord Christ, Amen.

LOVE ABIDES  

And now abideth faith, hope, and love, these three but the greatest of these is love.     1 Corinthians 13:13

To think that love abides in the throes of loss is most difficult to reconcile.  Pain is not often equated with love.  When loss comes and grief follows, love is challenging.  Hope is weak.  Sorrow stays; for a time.  In a society that emphasizes the euphoria of love, the truth of love’s abiding presence even in sad times seems impossible.  Because of Jesus, all is possible.  Because of Jesus, love abides.

Love does not leave when loss comes.  It abides in a different form.  It lives in memories, character, witness, and possibilities.  A range of years or a speck of experience in love moves to transform, better, and ennoble love’s recipients.  When love is known in Jesus, love has a supernatural quality that transcends human knowledge and feelings so love can thrive in a new way.  This may be difficult to see, feel or believe in times of sorrow.   But Jesus is the reason why love abides and reveals itself in new ways.

If you or someone you know is going through a season of grief that is painful and is seems as though all hope is gone, know that the Lord understands this grief.  Better than the griever.  Grief brings a maze of emotions and can confuse thinking and blur perspective.  The Lord can and does make meaning out of loss when He is invited to do so.  Asking Jesus for help and healing is to receive it.  Although it may be a long walk through a season of grief, Jesus will be your companion through it.  Jesus Himself will be the steady source of strength to uphold you.

Loss may make people reticent to love again, care or be cared for.  This is normal for a time.  But hope in Jesus is life-giving.  And for as long as life continues, it is the hope of Jesus’ heart that love will abide. While grief’s stay brings its web of challenges, grief does eventually ebb and leave.  When it does, love in its new form is clear.  Love, as promised in God’s Word, does abide.

Lord Jesus, You are the strength in times of human weakness.  You are the One to make meaning out of love’s mystery.  Thank You, Jesus, for being the reason why and how love abides—no matter what.  Kindly bring hope to those who need to be reminded again of Your sustaining touch and renewing Spirit.  In Thee, Lord Jesus, Amen.

BEGINNINGS

                 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.     Psalm 111:10

At Epiphany we remember the three wise men; the three kings who journeyed far to bring their gifts to the Lord Jesus at His birth.  These kings, considered wise and high in stature, came to the Lord in reverence and fear to bow before Him.  They knew He was holy.  They did not tremble before Him but knelt before Him, knowing that Jesus is the One in possession of all power and wisdom.  Their recognition of the Lord Jesus as King over kings illustrated their smallness before Greatness.  With quiet fear and holy love the wise men followed the star to Jesus.

Are you following Jesus today?  Loss may be part of your life this season, and therefore, conscious following of Jesus may not seem to be part of your daily course.  Serious loss may have come unexpectedly or anticipated loss that you could not prevent.  Human fear may be stirring in you as try to cope, carry on, and plan for tomorrow without whom and what you had yesterday.  To follow Jesus may be difficult because focus on anyone or anything is hard right now.  But the mere whisper of Jesus’ Name brings comfort and healing.  Letting His Name be on your lips brings assurance to the heart.  Fearing Him and concurrently trusting Him to be with you and to hold you in a time of loss are signs of wisdom.  It means you are following Jesus even if you do not feel you are doing so.  He understands. He loves you.  Completely.  Trust His love for you.  It is perfect.

The Lord created us for fellowship with Him.  He wants to go through everything with us.  The beautiful bridge of prayer at any time or place allows us warm and ready relationship with Jesus.  Prayer fosters closeness with God in Christ.  As we turn the corner from 2011 and enter into a new year of God’s grace, 2012 will hold its share of uncertainties.  The unknowns include the people we will meet, relationships that will develop, relationships that will conclude in one form, places we will go, inspiration that comes, and differences we will make in God’s world for Christ’s sake.  The next generous portion of time God gives to us will include matters new, wondrous, and maybe perplexing.  But the God of Israel will be in the center of it all.  If we recognize the fluidity of His power at all times and all places, we will fear Him yet trust Him, and be endowed with more wisdom.

Fear as a beginning! How can it be that fear leads to something beneficial—the gain of wisdom.  But in God’s Word it is clear that fear of God is the beginning of  wisdom.  How much wisdom do we want?  It is measured by how much we want God and desire to know Him through His Word.  May His coming year find us filled with more wisdom from the Lord and greater love for the Lord.

Lord, to fear You is to know Your power and yet be wrapped in Your love.  May every beginning bring us closer to You.  In Thee, Lord Jesus, Amen.

Time

To every thing there is a season, a time to every purpose under the Heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

Time.  It passes.  Sometimes quickly.  Sometimes not.  But this is so because often our hopes and expectations are entwined in time.  When we anticipate something special, time moves much too slowly.  But when something is ahead that we would rather not face, the hour comes too swiftly.  In truth time moves at its usual pace—whether we are ready for it or not.

For some, this Christmas will be a season long anticipated as loved ones reunite with those home from military service.  Or those who rejoice because they are given the gift of a clean bill of health.  Or those with new babies who will celebrate their first Christmas.  Indeed this will be a time of joy.

Others will meet this season with resistance and tears.  Loved ones who gathered together may no longer be alive.  There are loved ones who may not be together due to divorce or estrangement.  Relocations for jobs, homes made in new cities, military service, and missionary callings will make this Christmas less joyful than some would like.  Illness, economic strain, and various challenges life imposes, will make this time of Christmas one that may not want to be faced.  Oh, but Jesus.  Jesus is the reason for Christmas.  Jesus is the reason for hope.

Jesus came to give hope.  Not the hope that humans can conjure but hope that is spiritual, lasting, and complete.  Without Jesus one truly has no hope.  With Jesus, one does have hope, perhaps weak but it is Jesus Himself who keeps hope alive, not you, not me.  Jesus.

Whatever view you take of time this Christmas season, take time to be with Jesus.  Do not let the activities of the season overtake your time with Him.  Jesus is the peace-giver and the hope-giver.  Rest your days in Him this Advent and Christmas.  Raise your sights afresh on the One who keeps hope raised for a world in deep need of hope.  His love never fails.  His hope lives.  Let His love and hope wrap around you so that time does have worth.  So that He can make time count—no matter what.

Lord Jesus, thank You for the precious gift of hope that you give to us.  Your arrival in this world signifies a joining with us so that we would never be without You.  May hearts be filled with Your hope this season.  By faith, may all of life’s circumstances be entrusted to Your care and Your view.  In Thee, Lord Jesus, Amen.

ARROWS

I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.  Amen.    Matthew 28:20

Recently when traveling through a mountainous terrain in the south, I came along a crew of workers constructing a new road in a mountain.  There were only a few cars going through this area but were directed to slow down.  For a short distance, the dust created from the vehicular equipment carving out the road, obstructed vision.  It was essential to slow down until the dust passed and the clear view of a perfect autumnal day was again in view.  Any physical arrow to navigate would have been useless for I would not have been able to see it.  I simply had to slow down and at one point stop because this was the safest and smartest thing to do. 

When trying to get from point A to point B, arrows are helpful indicators to direct us to destinations.  Arrows are posted on signs on the road, buildings, some maps, modern technological devices in vehicles, and on packaging.  Arrows are symbols that move from one place to another with a purpose—getting people where they need to go.  However, when grief is a companion on life’s journey, a purpose for getting from point A to point B may not be clear, and may not even be desired.  Motivation may be listless at best.  That is where Jesus comes in to be The Arrow to bring one’s focus to Him.  Slowing down and stopping to spend time with Jesus is a safe and smart thing to do.

Jesus will point you and me in the right direction if we let Him.  Jesus will never force anyone to look to Him and follow His lead.  But the Holy Spirit will persevere with His presence to lead one to a closer relationship with Jesus.  Grief seasons can allow one to be so needful of comfort that Jesus is given openness to a heart that He may not have been given before a significant loss occurred.  Furthermore, one who has been walking with Jesus for a long time and has trusted Him to be The Arrow of a life may find one seeing Him with fresh eyes since Jesus will stay in this uncharted path of grief.

I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.  I travel for travel’s sake.  The great affair is to move, said Robert Louis Stevenson.  Aimless may seem the way when a season of loss must be lived through.  But unlike physical travel, spiritual travels transport us to places unknown and unseen.  Often grief is the bridge that carries people to discoveries not possible by any other means.  Even if those views are at first undesirable, with Jesus they have the potential of becoming personal vistas that are worthy and enterprising.

Travel is typically a desired action.  However, sometimes it is a required one to help to be present to others, to learn, to work.  When grief enters a life and one is forced to navigate this terrain, asking Jesus to be the companion is one’s best defense against unexpected turns in the road and detours.  He wants to accompany you.  Will you let Him?

Jesus, You came into the world out of love for people.  You know the pain that love sometimes produces, for relationships involve and require unforeseen experiences that include loss and transition.  You are The Arrow that lives to love, to guide, to assure.  Jesus, Thank You for Your steady presence and availability to keep pointing people in the right direction.  May Your promise to be with us always be the living hope that keeps hearts warmed and hopeful for tomorrows yet to come.  In Thee Lord Christ, Amen.

FORGIVENESS AND A  SHIH TZU

Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times but, until seventy times seven.        Matthew 18:21-22

Recently I was visiting my uncle and his good-natured shih tzu.  I am an early riser so I got up about 5:00 in the morning, put on a pot of coffee, and decided to take the dog out for a walk while the coffee was brewing.  It was already quite humid on that particular summer morning but it did not stop this happy little dog from investigating the landscape and exploring to his heart’s content.  He stayed near me and eventually he was ready to go inside and began to go up the steps into the house.  Suddenly he stopped and he began to chew on what I thought was a foreign object that could be harmful to his body, his digestion.  I spoke to him and then I tried to take it from his mouth.  He did not like that.  He nipped at my hand but did not break the skin.  I stood there and watched him; shortly thereafter he stopped chewing and wanted to go in the house.  The family has been cautioned that while this little dog is friendly, one thing he does not like is to be disturbed when he is eating.  But in this instance, I disturbed him in the interest of his well-being. He did not know that.  Time would reveal that thankfully whatever he ate did not make him sick.  He was just fine. 

When we went back into the house, he followed me around calm and happy.  But I was unsettled.  He might have bitten me!    This was out of character for him.  He knows me when I come over and knows I play with him when he brings me his toys.  He is accustomed to me petting him and being attentive to him.  Given how amiable he is, I was surprised he would nip at me.  He did not break the skin but for me the matter broke our fellowship.   But not for him.  He went about in his usual manner with me.   I admit that it was with some trepidation I petted him after he ate his food and drank his water.  He followed me around while I prepared my coffee and puttered around the kitchen.  Then he followed me as I took my coffee to the guest room and went back to bed to read for a while.  He jumped on the bed, curled into a ball, and settled in for a nap.  It was as though nothing ever happened between us.  All was forgiven. 

Pets have something to teach us about unconditional love and forgiveness.   Jesus said we are to forgive 70 times 7.  Creatures that become part of our family seem to have forgiveness down.  For them, to forgive is something they simply do.  No instructions required.  Do I forgive that easily?  Do you?   For us, forgiveness may take time depending on the incident, the person.  We can be reticent to interact with someone if there has been offense.  The Lord makes room for that but He still wants the end result to be forgiveness.  No barriers.  No barrier to create a chasm that allows Satan to come in and agitate all the more and get one to thinking that the offense is unforgiveable.  Jesus will forgive anything.  We are to forgive anything.  He wants no barriers to the possibility of closeness with that person—perhaps even closer than we were before we or they did something to offend.

When we forgive, we become closer to Jesus.  Forgiveness is not acceptance of an act that occurred but it is a pardon for it.  Do we not all need to be pardoned at times?  I do.  Others need my pardon.  They need your pardon.  When we forgive each other, we keep our personal communion with the Lord and keep unity in the Body of Christ.  Even if communion with others is from a distance, in the spirit realm there is no division.  This pleases God.  Whatever pleases Him surely pleases those who love God.

When our pets die, these great and small creatures leave with us life lessons about unconditional love.  Part of the grief that comes due to pet loss is because of the absence of their unconditional love.  Sometimes when we have had a challenging day at school or work, to come home to the dog or cat is as a healing balm.  When that is gone, it hurts.  We make our lives with these creatures and they help make us who we are.  Indeed, pets have a place in our hearts and when it is time for them to leave this life, we grieve. 

But as with any relationship of merit, would we stop forming relationships to be spared the pain of loss?  Short or long in duration, the Lord allows us to gain from all of our exchanges.  God’s way is such that He soothes loss with time, with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and with the arrival of new interests and renewed purpose.  Furthermore, in His blessed kindness, He restores memories to be a source of joy and gratitude for having made the memories at all.

Pet loss is painful because pets are a source of real love and affection.  If you or someone you know is experiencing grief due to the death of an animal, do not minimize these feelings.  Talk, cry, have a memorial service, look at pictures, and remember that creature.  It is not inconsequential to lose anything or anyone inspiring love.  Give place to what has been and trust God to give place to what shall be.   In memories and in the making of new ones, God shall bring new life and new hope.  He is the God of Life. 

Lord, thank You for the treasure we know with pets.  They are evidence of Your blessings.  May we continue to trust Your heart and Spirit in times of loss.  May we recognize the value that pets offer us as we try in earnest to conform our character more into the likeness of Thine own.  In Thee, Lord Jesus, Amen.

THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11

The memory of the righteous is blessed.   Proverbs 10:7           

Memories are made up of various components.  Sights, sounds, textures, and aromas are among the fragments of life that can stir emotions when memories with certain people cannot be duplicated.  Of course, every day we live is a triumph for life.  Every day bears it opportunities and expressions for giving and receiving.  But often in the fullness of living, this truth is not foremost in minds and we may think that there will always be another day for expressing.  In reality, today—this moment—is our only certainty.  Memories remind us of that.           

The tenth anniversary of 9/11 is a time for memories.  Remembrances and memorials are ways that people can gather together to join with a nation that still feels the pains of sorrow and concurrently the blessings of hope.  Life has gone on; it shall continue to move forward.  However, special memorials will ignite memories that individuals may not even realize they house.  All lives on in the chambers of the heart whether or not we are aware of the existence of certain moments.  These memories are triggered at different times and often unexpectedly.  The gatherings on the weekend of 9/11 are sure to prompt some of those memories into the forefront of hearts and minds.  We can all expect the unexpected that day.           

How will you spend 9/11?  Will you gather somewhere for a memorial service?  Will you stay home and watch television coverage?  Will you donate time, talent or treasure to a certain charity?  Will you try to ignore the day and get past it because it is too difficult to face?  Only you can answer these questions.  But a question you cannot answer is what will your memories be on that day?  Swirling around inside of you may be the fullness of a moment you did not realize was alive inside of you.  God knows it is there.  God will be with you as you remember.           

God is the giver of life.  Jesus is the Redeemer of life.  In Him, the value of memories is kept timeless and priceless.  Even when recollections are painful, the grace of Christ’s presence can balance all.  God never wants us to suffer losses such that we think there is nothing left from what has been.  If all trust is placed in Jesus, then through His heart, memories are still meaningful, healing, and life-giving.  God’s interest is always in continuing. Sometimes this is done through weakness, sometimes strength.  Whatever the condition of our spirit during respective seasons, God is there.  God will always be there.  Trust His presence with you.           

However you spend the 9/11 weekend, may you take time to spend it with the Lord.  In prayer, in visits to special places, and in memory, may you share time with Him.  Because of His love for you, for me, and for all people, the Lord’s love will cover that day and infuse it with beauty and purpose. God, the Maker and Keeper of memories, can transform that which is painful into something meaningful if we let Him. May we let Him.

Lord of Love, You know the hearts of all people.  You know the pains and sorrows that some suffer and the challenges that some still face due to abrupt and tragic endings.   Lord, by the might of Your Spirit and the integrity of Your love, integrate yesterday, today, and tomorrow so that Your peace reigns in hearts.  In Thy Name, Lord Jesus, Amen.

DISMEMBERMENT

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.    Romans 6:13

Wash, 0 God, our sons and daughters, where your cleansing waters flow Number them among your people, bless as Christ blessed long ago.

Weave them garments bright and sparkling; compass them with love and light. Fill, anoint them; send your Spirit, holy dove and heart’s delight.

Music: The Sacred Harp, Philadelphia, 1844
Text: Ruth Duck, 1947

Recently attention was given to New York by a story that gripped everyone. Leiby Kletzky, age 8, was murdered in a horrific act of evil. The medical examiner concluded he died of acute intoxication as the child was forced to ingest a large dose of drugs, smothered with a towel, and had his feet severed from him and placed in a refrigerator. Levi Aron was arrested for the crime. Spirits have been arrested with grief and guilt as Leiby’s parents, family, and a watching community live with regret thinking that this could have been prevented. Only the Lord knows how devastated his parents are over the loss of their beloved son.

The loss of a child in any manner is an inimitable experience. Time stops. Hope stops. For a time there is emotional paralysis, weariness, and a depth of emptiness that only God fully understands. When children die violently, grief is compounded. Innocence, in every way, is killed and the sense of loss is indescribable and seemingly inescapable. Such pain is only known to those who have borne it. Others look on in compassion and gentleness to offer a word, an act, that may in some small measure soothe and heal. But ultimately, such losses are only for the Lord to cover and comfort.

We are members of the human family. When tragedy of any kind strikes a community, we are all dismembered. Each suffers a loss. A loss of collective hope in what might have been. We are connected to each other, whether or not we are conscious of that connection. What I do for you, I do for the community at large—whatever that community is in size or variety. What you do for me increases my investment in your days as well as those around me. Actions matter. Attention matters. We are linked, not as much by technology or social websites, as by the heart and purposes intended by a holy and remarkable God.

Grief is lessened when we bear it for each other. We bear it with our prayers, our offerings to help with household tasks, with notes, phone calls, and with our silent yet compassionate presence. God wants us—needs us—to bear each other’s burdens. We are incapable of walking through challenging seasons in life without the help of others. When grief strikes a heart and a home, the support of others is essential. We become to others the presence of Jesus. The Holy Spirit ministers to us as to how we can help and then the Holy Spirit supernaturally ministers to those through their season of sorrow.

God’s plan for your life and mine is one of wonder, fulfillment, purpose, and peace. It is a plan conceived out of love and sustained by love. Although that plan can at times seem lacking when suffering occurs, remembering the life of Jesus and what He did for love’s sake insures that our sufferings shall be redeemed as well. God promised. May you trust God’s love and promises for yourself. May you be the one to be a witness to hold them true for someone who grieves that needs to be reminded of the same.

Father, You show us throughout Your Word that sorrow is real, and that it is experienced due to all sorts of endings and challenges. Lord God, because of Jesus, Thy dear Son, and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we have been given the capacity to endure for each other as need requires. We only do so by leaning on You for strength, wisdom, and direction. We do this only because it is Your love that is holding on to us. Thank You, Lord, for holding on to us with Your unfailing love. In the Lord Jesus and His precious Name, Amen.