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Until Death Do Us Part

To him whom much is given much is required.
Luke 12:48

Until death do us part are sacred words. We have had either the personal experience of speaking these words or listening to them spoken at wedding ceremonies. Where these words take people is unknown. That is part of the mystery of love. From the moment of speaking vows to the time of the end of a relationship due to death, is a unique and unpredictable experience. Some people spend many years together; decades of loving, changing, forgiving, growing, and growing older. Some people experience a shorter span of time; a limit that comes due to disease, accidents, divorce, and death due to military service. When love is born and vows are taken, it is uncertain as to how many years a couple will spend together. Whenever that physical union comes to an end, the grief it brings is an experience for which no one can prepare.

The ending of a marital relationship due to death is one of the most challenging kinds of losses. When two people come together and unite their lives, the physical sever that death brings finds a widow or widower facing a maze of emotions. Years of building a life together and growing as a couple, becomes a way of being. When that ends, life changes dramatically. Especially difficult can be the loneliness this loss brings.

For some loneliness can be acute. It can make one feel isolated, discouraged, and utterly disinterested in life. The future can seem bleak and even pointless. This is part of the depth of loving someone. However, this hollow feeling and gray view of the future is temporary. It gets better. When until death do us part becomes a reality, those who love continue to live out I love you.

Eleanor Roosevelt believed that caring for someone else is the best way to cope with one’s own problems. Concentration on someone else’s needs helps us bear our own. When a spouse must create a new life, there are various activities that can be helpful to fill in the day and develop a new lifestyle. Working in a job, doing volunteer work for the church or community, and praying for oneself and for others, are constructive ways to live. Time with family members and friends helps to round out life, and offers opportunities to share feelings and reminisce. Attending support groups, going out with acquaintances for coffee or lunch can be useful exchanges. Sometimes it can be advantageous to spend time with people who are not as close to the person who died. Their perspective is objective. They can provide helpful support and friendship.

God grants the gift of love and marriage to certain people. Those given this privilege also bear its responsibilities. Part of love is to endure the absence of a loved one and trust God through a season of grief. The path of grief is part of the path of love. Albeit an unwanted part, Jesus promises to never leave one alone. While grief is painful, it does pass. It takes a long time, and an odd route to heal but healing does come. Life is different after the death of a spouse but life continues to hold goodness and purpose. God reveals the blessings still to be. Hearts can continue to hold gratitude for all that was.

Lord God, You plan for certain people to come together in love and marriage to share life together. Because You know all that happens in our lives, You know losses in love will happen. Father, You sent Jesus to help in these times. Lord, grant those who grieve the loss of a spouse Your comfort and encouragement. Send ministering angels and wholesome company to their side to walk through days of sorrow. Restore hope for life and give meaning to the days. Help grievers live through their goodbyes and walk into lighter times ahead. This is asked in Your Name, Lord Jesus, and for Your sake, Amen.

LATER
But let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. James 1:4

There was a time when later meant later, i.e. later on, later today or later in the future. However, in today’s nomenclature the word has morphed into a casual greeting for goodbye. Because later has lost its meaning, people are not inclined to respond to its directive to wait. Not waiting until later has consequences. Serious ones when driving while talking on the phone and texting. For some who do not wait until later to talk or text, later may never come.

This era of advanced technology allows people to communicate quickly. The equipment we have available at our finger tips and in the palms of our hands is mindboggling. Fast equipment coupled with an accelerated desire to know is a dangerous combination when operating a car, bicycle, boat or truck. As humans, we may think we have it all under control and can multi-task to maneuver a car and simultaneously talk or text. We cannot. One blink away from the road can hinder reaction time; it could be the second necessary for attention to react to a situation to prevent a crash. Seconds of distracted driving can result in years of grieving.

Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol have long been road concerns. Now talking and texting are part of the mix. Many a parent, grandparent, sibling, wife, husband, daughter, son, and friend grieve deeply over loss of life due to decisions that impaired judgment and took life away too soon. Tears of sorrow, acute anger, a sense of waste, and a dripping reminder of what might been, accompany persons who bear the grief of losses that could have been prevented if someone would have waited until later.

Sometimes a dramatic wake up call because of a close call gives people a second chance. Sometimes not. For all of our high tech achievements, accidents due to human negligence are real. The cost paid in human resources, medicine, and finances are great. However, all of these combined do not come close to the toll taken in the hearts of grievers. Love always pays the highest price.

Jesus proves this. He suffered deeply for people when He went to Calvary. He took the sins of people on Himself, sins which include hasty and foolish decisions that inflict pain. Only Jesus understands the arduous pain of a mother who will not see her son graduate because he got behind the wheel intoxicated, the granddaughter who texted her favorite song to a friend and missed out on the music of her life, and the salesman who ran a red light to make an appointment and killed a mother because he was too engrossed in the sale on his mind and the phone in his hand. Distractions—silly or serious—can end life. Be it on the roadway and waterways or in hearts, minds, and spirits. Only faith in Jesus can bring resurrection hope to those who trudge through grief because later was ignored.

God has shed much grace on us to live in a land where technology abounds along with the freedom to use it. He dispatches His angels more often than we realize to protect travels and guide us as we go to and fro. However, we bear a responsibility as new or seasoned drivers to be smart with phones in cars. This is our responsibility to God, to ourselves, and to others—strangers and kin—to preserve and protect life. Every person on the road is a soul God sees, and is a person with a life-plan the Lord has prepared. Staying off the phone—at every age—extends all life-plans.

One day in church worship I was seated near a grandfather and his young grandson. At the time to give the offering, we were waiting for the ushers to come around and I heard the little boy ask his grandfather Is it almost over? His grandfather replied Almost. I leaned over to the granddad and said that is equivalent to Are we there yet? We laughed. The boy was so quiet and well behaved one would not even know he was there. He had been observing and absorbing the steadiness of his grandfather and it had taken root. Even though he was thinking about church service being over, the boy quietly waited until it was. Sometimes God uses children to remind adults to Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).

A hurried and harried citizenry is wise to consider the value of patience. Whether it is a glimpse of an obedient child in worship or an Olympic athlete exercising precise moves in an event for high marks, we all win when patience is exercised and better character is formed. Scripture informs us that patience will do its perfect work but that we must let it, by giving ourselves over to it and giving God room to perfect our character. When patience performs its perfect work, we are told we want nothing, i.e. another chance to put the phone down on the road. God has an Eternity planned for those who are in Christ but while on earth God wants us to see what other growth and blessings He has in store. To see His plans we have to wait until later. To let the phone calls and texts wait until later when driving is done, is to allow those plans to come into view. Your plans and the plans of others. Let us bring later back into vogue—and wait.

Father, You give to humans the ability to make advancements in technology. Thank You, Lord, for everything You give for communication that betters our personal and marketplace connections. Help us, Lord, to be patient and smart when it counts the most—in protecting life for ourselves and others by using technology in safe and undistracted places. May this bring glory to You and be a witness for others, young and old alike. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Final Hugs and Finish Lines

Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and set down at the right hand of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

A runner awoke on the morning of the Boston Marathon with his mind focused on the race ahead. Not only was he a racer but also a husband and father. Much physical and psychological training went into his preparation for the marathon. When the big day arrived, thoughts were on completing the arduous run. He ran the race and crossed the finish line. What this man did not know is that soon after, terrorists would set off bombs at the finish line that would kill his young son, maim his daughter, and critically injure his wife. The final hugs he knew before and after the race were celebratory. Now, the most grueling race of this man’s life was about to begin: The race to survive.

Surviving a devastating loss is not accomplished alone. Many of us have faced sorrows and tragedies in our lives—or we will. Life finds each one of us coping with some kind of pain and loss in one season or another. Directly we meet with sorrow or indirectly when we enter into the grief of someone else and walk the path of grief. Surviving a loss and working through grief can be among the greatest accomplishments a life can know for it begs tremendous concentration, energy, physical strain, and forgiveness. Such requirements are only met via the help of others who through their ability to give, help each one of us to endure that which we must in order to survive loss and keeping on living and loving.

Simple activities cannot be considered ordinary or endless. The routine hug in the morning when parting from children or loved ones, the spontaneous outing for ice cream on a week night, leaving work on time to make it home for dinner for no other reason than to be there, are indelible and cumulative activities. They do not get the focus of birthdays and graduations but they rank high in memory making and fusing hearts for strong relationships. When time is taken for the final hugs in the morning and at night before going to sleep, that time may be the last. We never know.

The finish line that we run toward is the line that marks off the end of life. For some, that line is very far down the road. For some, such as a little boy cheering in the stands for his runner-hero dad, that line was closer than anyone imagined. More than that father could ever know, that final hug with his son would serve as a catalyst for him to finish the race of life; to strive to finish well i.e. with hope and encouragement for others. The Bible encourages us that throughout our lives we have a great cloud of witnesses watching over us to cheer us on. That means we are being cheered on in times of victory such as finishing races and also when we trudge through times of grief. In God’s continuum, He counts all the days of living as part of the race. He wants us to endure. We are already victorious through Jesus, the One who endured the cross to atone for our sins and give us hope. We look to Jesus for proof that we can go on by His example and strength.

Jesus finished His course. He made it through life’s sufferings. For us. He wants you and me to stay in the race of life; some days with footing strong, some days weak, but still moving forward. The Lord wants us to survive this life, for our sake and for those persons looking on in the bleachers that line the skies as well as those of earth where others watch and bear witness to our continuing strides—no matter what. Jesus died for us so that we could keep on running the race of life. He has seen to it that we can indeed make it to the finish line for He is right beside us and serves as our steady companion. And when we do reach the end of life, we may be tired and tried but we are certain to fall into the arms of Jesus, who by His powerful embrace will dissolve all human weakness and escort us into the light and endless joys of Eternity.

Lord, You are the One who knows completely the sorrows we suffer. You promised to be with us always and carry us through difficult times. Thank You, Lord, for Your strength and touch that upholds and heals us. Holy Spirit, keep us mindful of daily activities burgeoning with life and love. May we never take our interactions with others for granted as You guide us on the narrow path to run our races and finish well. All this is asked in the governing power and Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

                                                       THE PIERS OF OUR LIVES

             I love them that love Me and those that seek Me early shall find me.

                                                                                                                           Proverbs 8:17 

 A pier is a platform from which we look out to new possibilities.  Piers are beginnings; places where we stand at the edge of something that usually finds us expectant of a particular outcome.  Among our pier-time beginnings are first days of school, weddings, graduations, new homes, whimsical days of summer and new jobs.  What is also there but hidden when we stand at these beginnings is the breadth of experience in them such as joys, memories, and accomplishments.  This may include sad episodes and sad conclusions.  A hopeful beginning may result in the loss of something due to natural fulfillment or a sudden death, divorce, illness, or storm.    When we stand at the beginnings we cannot see what is ahead.  God can.  He knows the entire length of our lives and every second of our lives.  He knows what will become of our beginnings.  This is why we are encouraged to seek out Jesus at the beginning of all our endeavors.  He will be the constant on which to depend no matter how a beginning unfolds or concludes. 

 In late October of 2012 Hurricane Sandy made landfall on New Jersey and ravaged the coastline of the JerseyShore.  Sandy’s wrath extended to New York City, the surrounding region and many states in the northeast quadrant of the United States.  Flooding, destruction, and loss came and swept away life for many as it was known.  People stood in shock when wind and wave calmed and daylight revealed the enormity of the devastation.  The hurricane was gone; loss and grief were left. Hope in Jesus remains.

 Our lives will know loss.  We can count on it.  Loss is part of the human experience.  Whether loss comes via traumatic events or planned departures, loss comes.  Of course dramatic events are far more challenging.  Hurricanes, blizzards, expected or unexpected illness, death, fire, flood, income loss, and terrorism, reveal that human life is fragile and susceptible to changes which include nature’s fury and circumstantial shifts.  We do indeed live on the grace and mercy of God.  Daily.  However, when we experience loss, of any kind, hope in God’s Son, Jesus, offers steady strength and companionship that is secure and unchanging.  The Creator of all knows everything we will face before it happens.  Therefore, a secure faith in Jesus will anchor us so we can face loss and transition with Him at our side.  To trust our lives and the lives of those we love to anything but Jesus is to have a weak inner foundation that will wobble or even collapse.  But placing trust in Jesus is to live on a sturdy foundation that allows us to begin again when life’s trials and tragedies meet us.

 Hope may be weak for you or someone you know due to Hurricane Sandy or another event in life that has shaken physical and/or spiritual moorings.  Know that Jesus is strong.  His hope for you is real and vital.  Lean on Him.  Jesus came to the world so that we would not be alone at any time in our lives but particularly in the times that challenge us.  When we stand out on the piers of our lives at a beginning, Jesus stands with us.  But we must consciously look to Him and desire His presence in order to be mindful of His love and strength at a beginning as well as throughout a new experience.  He will accompany us, come what may.  

Even if piers and plans crumble and bring us to new unexpected views, He is there.  We can trust Jesus.  He is at our side. We can trust His strength to be our firm foundation and believe that there is still good ahead.  All because of Jesus.  Investing time in prayer and reading the Bible are ways that the Holy Spirit speaks and moves to bring comfort and guidance.  These are ways that keep Jesus close.  Wherever you stand today in your life, look at Jesus.  Seek Him early in the thoughts of your days and the plans of your life.  His eyes are fixed on you.  He is loving, attentive, and trustworthy.  Jesus will lead the way forward by His love.  Trust Him in your every step based on His unchanging heart and complete ways explained in the Bible.  With Him, hope is clear and near.  Hope on.

 Lord Jesus, life’s changes can be abrupt or known.  It is difficult when we face these human challenges.  But You, Lord, are our strength.  With You and by Your abiding grace we live our lives.  Help us, Lord Jesus, to build our lives with You by seeking You first. You are the only firm and lasting foundation.  We shall seek You early in thought,  prayer, and reading the Bible for strength, encouragement, and reminders of Your great love.   You promised to be with us always.  In You alone, Jesus, we place our hope.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

Living with Jesus means always making room for all that He wants to do in our lives.  Loving Jesus should mean that He is given vast room to guide us, help us, and teach us in the ways of Himself.  But human ways can be a barrier to the ways of Jesus.  We live in a culture pressing against Christ’s ways.  It takes faith and a deep closeness with Jesus to press on, press into His Word,  and stay away from the pull of the crowd and culture.

When grief enters our lives, it can seem as though we are adrift and, therefore, making few conscious decisions about how to live.  This can be dangerous and spiritually corrosive because it can give Satan a foothold in our lives when we are vulnerable.  When weak times come in our lives, and they will, say Jesus.  Say it aloud in the air and say it as a whisper to yourself.  His Name has power.  It transforms the atmosphere.  Living with Jesus means that He is with us at all times and all places.  Say His Name and be assured of His presence and His steady peace.

Lord Jesus, You promise to be with us at all times and in all places.  Thank You, Lord, for being our steady Friend no matter what life brings.  We open the doors of our hearts, espcially in times of grief, so You can fill us with Your love and care.  In Thy abiding Name, Lord Jesus, Amen.

 

                                     A LITTLE BIT LONGER     

 

So He shall give His angels charge over Thee to keep thee in all thy ways. 

                                                                                                            Psalm 91:11

Sometimes when people pray together they are inclined to hold hands.  This may happen in a circle, when two people pray together or during a church service.  In some churches it is customary to hold hands while praying The Lord’s Prayer.  People reach hands across pews and aisles to pray.

When people do clasp hands in prayer, a gesture that is common is to squeeze the hand of another a little bit longer.  When Amen is uttered, frequently there is a tendency to hold the hand of another person a little bit longer.  That brief pressing of hands together is a human reflex that speaks about human ways of holding on a while more.

With every grace God gives to us, there is a desire to hold on.  This life the Lord grants to us is one filled with people, places, things, memories, and dreams we hold dear.  God wants it that way.  He made it that way.  Although this life is not the final destination for the Christian (Heaven is) during our earthly pilgrimage we get hints of everlasting life.  The finest and warmest moments we know here can be likened to the eternal Home where believers in Jesus shall live forevermore.  Because certain people and experiences are so precious, we want to hold to them.  It is painful when it is time to let go.

Grief is a season in life when letting go is in process.  It is a sad time.  It is an exhausting time.  To say goodbye to someone or something and know that we cannot relive that season in life, is to cross an emotional bridge of acceptance that may be one of the most arduous journeys ever taken.  Sullen and long as days may seem, grief days are filled with enormous effort and energy for it takes such to adjust to a necessary goodbye.  Jesus knows this.  Jesus stays through this process—just as He was there for the memory-making in the first place.

Believers in Jesus have an unbreakable bond with Him.   Jesus holds all that we love—forever.  Whether endings comes due to illnesses, sudden deaths, divorce, miscarriage, empty nest, drug and alcohol abuse or relocation, Jesus still holds for us in His heart what is most meaningful to us.  And we are to always remember that if someone or something is meaningful to us, the same is meaningful to God.  Everything—everything—that matters to us matters to the Lord.  He gives us life and its graces and He derives blessings from us as we share life with Him, in all of it joyous as well as sorrowful experiences.  

When it is time for certain relationships and experiences to conclude, we try hold on to them.  We may be granted the time to linger.  The Holy Spirit may bring inspiration to journal, write a song, create a painting or carve woodwork that helps adjust to goodbye.  There may be times for prayer or silence that offer insights that speech cannot.  The Holy Spirit may bring revelation through Scripture to comfort and strengthen.  Whatever way one is inclined to express emotions and capture a time of meaning, the Lord is certain to offer a two-fold blessing.  He will accompany us in the process of remembrance and He will hold the future, we cannot see, in His heart of love and promise.  With Jesus, the future is always certain.  New life, different life, is ahead.  Jesus is the reason why hope is still real even when it may not be felt.  Jesus will hold on to you and to me in all of our times of transition as we are inclined to hold on a bit longer to life as we have know it.  He will keep His angels with us for protection.  He will hold on to us with His incomparable, unbreakable, and unfathomable love.  Trust Him to hold you.  Jesus can do no less.  The Bible says so, and the Bible is His heart.

Lord Jesus, You are the One who gives to us all the joys we behold in this life.  You, Lord Jesus, are our reach to the future when we are too weak to hope.  Lord Jesus, Thank You for carry us through the beginnings and endings of our seasons in life so that we can fulfill our time in this world and know the many blessings You want to give to us.  Because of You, Lord Jesus, we can go on and believe in tomorrow and all of Your grace that still abounds.  In Thee, Lord Jesus, Amen.

 

The Lord never tires.  The Lord never ever grows weary of loving us.  Is that not a strengthening thought.  There are times in life when we grow weary but His love is steady and strong.  Because it is, we can carry on even when we are weak.

Losses in life can and do weaken us.  They take away energy and focus and seem to leave us empty.  But the Lord’s love fills and replenishes.  Even if it does not feel as though it is carry us, it is.  He promised to be there through all the days of our lives.  Certainly this mean the days of fatigue and sorrow.  Jesus promised.  There is nothing more to be known. 

Lord, Thank You for Your promises in the Bible that give utter confidence of Your love and presence.  This has nothing to do with how we feel but everything to do with what You promised.  Your promises are true and abiding.  Thank You, Lord Jesus, Amen.

 

 

Time is precious.  How we use it adds up to the way we spend our lives.  When losses come, and losses will come, we hare given a choice.  Grief will have its time but hope accompanies grief so that time can indeed grant new meaning and new purpose.

Jesus is our hope-Giver.  In Him is the opportunity to look at the future with purpose.  This does not mean that tears will not come.  They will.  But it does mean that Jesus will be there to make time purposeful through times and grief and beyond them.

Lord, You make life worth living and You give time purpose and promise.  Thank You, Lord, for staying beside those who ache because of goodbyes, and for living true to Your promise to stay with us always.  In Thee, Lord Jesus, Amen.

On the Brink

 

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from Him.   He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.  Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.                                                               Isaiah 53:3

 brink – the edge or margin of a steep place or a land bordering water; verge;  a critical or crucial point

When I was in college I worked during the summers as a tour escort for a travel agency.  My territory included the New England states and Niagara Falls.  I studied much about these regions and then explained this to the tourists.  When Nik Wallenda recently made a historic walk across the Niagara Falls, I watched intently, never dreaming that a place so familiar to me would be the site of such a human feat.  I prayed Nik would make it safely across as the waters rushed around him and beneath him.  As he walked gingerly along the thin wire fastened between the American and Canadian borders, Nick spoke the names God and Jesus over and over again.  He believed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were with him as he walked.  He did indeed make it safely to the other side.

The use of drugs and alcohol in our culture have become so commonplace that their addictive properties and destructive powers can be dismissed or disguised until one is walking a tightrope to make it from addiction to recovery.  Drugs and alcohol can seem simple social and recreational means for relaxation and socialization.  However, they also have the potential to become strong habits; so strong that they ruin lives, marriages, careers, and hope for the future.  When individuals use drugs and alcohol in excess, he or she—regardless of age, gender, education or financial status—may not realize they are on the brink of developing an addiction and meeting with painful consequences that follow.

Drug and alcohol usage in excess and addictions cause grief.  Reasons for losses that result in grief include drunk driving, homicides, suicides, date rape, job loss, marital strife, divorce, custody battles, academic decline, athletic decline, criminal offenses, and theft.  In addition, there is loss of normal brain function, normal reflex skills, and cognitive ability.  In conjunction with these losses are the emotional ramifications that are deep for the individual as well as for those he or she loves.    When one person losses self-control, others are at risk and loved ones suffer, too.

For those who have suffered physical, mental, emotional and spiritual pains due to drugs and alcohol, these experiences have made a mark.   Whether the pain has been personal or related to watching a loved one self-destruct due to drugs and drinking, it is a sorrowful and difficult process.  Jesus Himself knows what it feels like to be stricken, rejected, in physical pain and emotional turmoil.  He can fully identify with human pain.  His love kept Him on the cross so that He could be the One to shed the blood that would cleanse sin and give a fresh start and new hope to people.  His love keeps Him with each person today.  Whatever poor choices have been made, Jesus is accepting.   Jesus will never reject anyone who calls upon Him in faith. 

To be on the brink of an addiction is to be on the verge of a job loss, a divorce, a car accident.  But the subtlety of alcohol and drug usage can make one think “I can handle it or that would never happen to me, or to my husband, my son.  Wrong.  It can.  It has.  It does.  The culture has normalized alcohol and drug usage through advertisements, sports, and in all kinds of social settings that its dangers are often concealed.  Dangers become glaring when something painful, something tragic, occurs. 

God intends for our time in this world to be rich and full of hope.  He sent Jesus to us to be the reason why our hope can be full and unending.  Using drugs and alcohol to cope with school problems, bullying, breakups with boyfriends or girlfriends, to escape from life’s responsibilities, to cope with the stresses of work and family or to avoid making decisions and taking responsibility for one’s life, is neither beneficial nor honest.  Recognizing that drugs and alcohol are being used for the wrong reasons and getting help is beneficial.  For you.  For those who love you.  There is no shame in reaching out for help.  Making one phone call or sending one email to admit a problem is an act of courage.  That one act to reach out for help could prevent addiction and even save a life.  Maybe yours.

When Nik Wallenda walked across that fine wire to make it to the other side, he continuously said aloud God and Jesus.  They were with him.   Anyone who calls out God and Jesus, is a voice that will be heard.  Whatever fine wire you or someone you love is walking today, God and Jesus are listening with their hearts of love and arms of strength to hold you up and get you to the other side safely, and with new hope.

Holy Spirit, touch those who read this so that Your inspiration for what is needed is given and acted upon.  Help those who suffer the strains of bondage to drugs and alcohol.  Help those who grieve because of what they have witnessed due to the destructive results of these substances.  Thank You, Father God and Lord Jesus for Thy precious presence and open heart to hear and to help those who call to You.  Lord, Your love saves and soothes. Blessed be Your Name forevermore, Amen.   

 

 

                                                 A FATHER’S LOSS

Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.

                                                                                                                 Proverbs 29:17

            After running an errand, I was my securing my seatbelt when I looked up to see a family of bicycles before my eyes.  Yes, a family of bicycles.  The SUV had an assembly of descending size bicycles being towed on the back.  The size order and quick count of five allowed me to deduce this was likely an average family on an outing.  The little bicycle-caboose drove away.  That happy sight brought the truth that for various reasons some fathers and children do not know such a simple joy as this. 

            There are fathers who do not get to teach their child to ride a tricycle, gain confidence to move up to a two-wheeler with training wheels, and then graduate to no training wheels and ride solo without dad’s help.  There are fathers who yearn for that experience but can only pine for or imagine such a time.  Such men may be serving in the military inIraq,Afghanistan, and bases worldwide.  Then there are fathers busy with work and focused on making money who miss out on opportunities; long hours at work may be essential to meet needs or some work out of fear to make more money to measure up with someone else.  There are fathers who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, pornography, gambling, food, and even work.  Such addictions create a chasm between fathers and children.  Bicycles and the experience of training and riding look routine enough but addiction can be strong enough to keep people from this typical activity.

There are fathers who are ill in mind, body or spirit who cannot hold themselves up let alone hold up a child on a bicycle. Some fathers have died.  There are fathers are caught up in gangs and distracted by the requirements of membership.  Some fathers are incarcerated and unable to have any privileges of interaction with children. They serve time for their sentence on a calendar and serve time in the heart.  There are fathers who are teenagers still trying to finish high school.  There are fathers in college attempting to take courses, take jobs, and take responsibility for being a father but have little time for bicycle frolic.  Some fathers are estranged or divorced from the mothers of their children; custody battles and emotional hurts may not allow for visitation.  Pain from severs between a man and woman who conceived a child together may not allow for contact.  Sometimes bicycles cannot even afford to be purchased due to divorce and economic constraints. 

Relational, physical, cultural, military, and economic realities of our time may not be conducive to fulfilling a child’s wishes for a father’s presence.  These realities create loss and grief—for fathers, children, and society.   As ever, the promise of God through His Son Jesus is of paramount importance to remember and apply.  This is for the sake of children who desperately need and want to be fathered.  Given the realities of society, male role models are needed and found in granddads, uncles, coaches, and teachers; persons essential in the lives of sons and daughters of God.  They serve a great purpose.

Scripture above gives a clear message that correcting a child as to what is right is a benefit not only for the child but extends to the elder.  The correction of a child may not come from the biological father.  However, if proper correction is given by those who step in to help raise a child, the calm passes to biological fathers and fathers-of-the-heart.  The significance of healthy male mentors cannot be overemphasized.  Whether for young girls and boys, toddlers and teens, or at any stage in life when good training and wisdom are needed to keep one moving in the right direction, those who help prop up a character do so not only for one person but for a family, for a country. 

God loves people.  The Lord knows life can hurt and hearts and can break for human reasons.  The Lord is there.  His Spirit, the Bible, and the presence of those who believe in the Lord are there to help encourage, assuage fears and grief, and bring hope.  Jesus is all about hope.  He came to bring hope for our earthly life and our eternal life.  The death of Jesus on the Cross atCalvaryis where the Lord shed His blood for the forgiveness of sin so that we could live in freedom in Him for this life and the life to come.  Whatever happens in this world, Jesus is the answer to remedy life’s circumstances to offer hope and continuance.  He loves you. He loves those you love—more than you do.  The love, strength, forbearance, and hope found in Christ are second to none.  No other love is stronger and able to keep one throughout all the stages of life. 

Bicycle rides, ice cream cones, homework, science projects, days at the beach, and little league cheering sections are activities meant to be shared to make memories, build character, and build lives.  A father may or may not be able to share in such times.  But others can.  Where there has been the loss of one kind there is God who brings gain of another kind.  Someone can step in to care, to call, to give of himself to be that father-of-the-heart.  All love comes from God.  Therefore, the equipping to love a child is available from God.  God responds to a prayer.  If more come to ask for God’s equipping, then maybe, just maybe, such a reach for God will produce more SUV’s seen with a bicycle-caboose.  Surely it is worth a prayer to find out.

Lord God of Israel, Your love is everywhere.  Lord Jesus of Nazareth, Your hope is everywhere.  Holy Spirit of wonder, Your witness is everywhere.  May hearts respond to Your heart, Father, to meet the needs of growing children.  In the exchange of giving for a youngster’s benefit, may men receive a touch of Your love that assures their belonging and security in You, their Father, who loves them so.  Children of all ages and stages in life need Your love, Father God.  Your love is our  in endless measure.  Forever in Christ, Amen.

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