Category Archives: Grief

Alexis’ story

Alexis GraceOn May 14, 1996, after 30 hours of labor and an emergency c-section, Alexis Grace was born and promptly stole our hearts. She was gorgeous, with Jessica’s curly hair and brilliant, blue eyes. We never dreamed of how deeply and instantaneously parental love would flow. We also never dreamed we would have to face all  of the shock and horror of those initial days, months, and years with her.

Upon her birth, sweet Alexis entered a world of suffering. Brain damage, a seizure disorder, and multiple health deficiencies caused her life on this side of heaven to be a horrific mixture of doctor appointments, surgeries, potent medicine applications, and 24-hour health care. She spent her first seven weeks in the neo-natal intensive care unit, and then had to undergo the insertion of a tracheotomy. Sick with pneumonia nearly every month of her life, and undergoing seven different surgeries, Alexis faced more pain and trauma in her three years of life than most of us will ever face in ours.

She was an angel who touched the lives of everyone that contacted her, and after she died, eight nurses, a family doctor, and two of the leading pediatric specialists in the Pacific Northwest attended her funeral.

Our hearts splintered into a thousand pieces and we didn’t know if we would ever recover. We’ve cried, we’ve cursed, and we’ve wanted to die. But we’ve also lived again. There’s a little phrase that occurs in the book of Genesis after the sin and fall of mankind that says, “…Adam lived.” This Hebrew word for “lived” means “to live again.”

Adam lived and died in the Garden of Eden and then he began to live again.

That’s been true for Jessica and me as well. We feel like we’ve lived, died, and, finally, have begun to live again. And that’s our prayer for you in your painful situation, that God would take what appears hopeless and unnecessary and transform it into something brilliant and beautiful. He certainly did that in the time we had with Alexis Grace, and despite the grief of your personal heartaches and losses, He can do it for you as well!

(To hear more about Alexis’ story and our journey to reconnect to life after profound loss, check out my book, Praying Through SorrowsFree copies are also available in our Grace Church services).

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Where were you when…?

CONTACT/S: 30 Exhibition -ACPEvery generation is marked by moments that are so impacting that people ever after remember exactly where they were when the moment occurred.

For some it was Neil Armstrong’s epic walk on the moon.

For others it was the assassination of JFK.

I remember, at fifteen years old, hearing President Reagan say, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Ten years later Jessica and I were walking through a hospital lobby with our tragically ill daughter when we learned that Princess Diana had died in a car crash.

And on September 11, 2001 I was en route to a previously scheduled pastors’ prayer gathering in Colorado Springs, CO when I heard that hijacked planes had struck the Twin Towers in New York City.

Where were you on 9/11?

Where were you during the horrifying aftermath of the attacks? Do you remember where you were when you first saw the picture of the firefighters raising the US flag amid the rubble, and when the stories of unselfish heroism began pouring in?

We’ve lived through some incredible times. History is happening all around us. And if we are wise, we will remember that we have a role to play in its formation, however lofty or trivial that role may seem.

You are not an insignificant cog in the wheels of human history. You matter. And the way you live your today can serve a greater purpose.

Perhaps in years hence we’ll look back at today as the moment we upped our game and went all in our service to God, our loved ones, and our world.

Perhaps today could be historical.

WH/HO Portrait

Ronald-Reagan-Berlin-Wall

Princess Diana

The Greatest Christian Myth Ever Told

mythbusters“God will never give you more than you can carry.”

I’m not sure how this phrase became so widely popularized because it’s not even remotely true. God often gives us more than we can carry, and the weight of our daily burdens routinely threatens to crush us.

  • Moses said, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me.” (Numbers 11:14)
  • Solomon said, “I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.” (1 Kings 3:7)
  • Even Jesus famously said, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…” (Luke 22:41)

You and I will most definitely receive burdens beyond our ability to bear, and we will need help. That’s why Paul exhorted us to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We need burden-bearing friends, and we need a God who stoops to lift us up. However, it is crucial to realize that sometimes we won’t recognize God’s sustaining power in our life until after the burden has been successfully borne.

The popular poem “Footprints” has long contributed to the idea of God carrying us through our tough times, but it’s worth noting that the author of the poem didn’t realize she was being carried at the time. As she reviewed her seasons of seeming abandonment from God, she declared, “This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow, or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints…why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, “It was then that I carried you.”

I wonder if today you’re being carried without even realizing it.

Where was God at the Boston Marathon?

Participants in the 2010 Boston Marathon in We...

Where was Jesus when multiple bombs exploded along this year’s Boston Marathon route, shattering loved ones’ hearts and instilling fear into an already anxious culture?

Where was He ten days earlier when Pastor Rick Warren’s son took his life into his own hands?

Where was He during recent tsunamis, natural disasters, and cruel expressions of man’s inhumanity to man?

Where was He during your darkest hours?

Fortunately, the Bible is not silent on this desperate, all-important question. Two thousand years ago one of Jesus’ closest friends, Lazarus, died of an illness, and when Jesus arrived at the grave site Lazarus’ sister, Martha, greeted Him with the indictment: “If you had been here my brother would not have died.”

Martha’s bitter words were an ancient re-phrasing of our modern question: “where was God.” When Jesus responded to Martha He revealed how He might respond to us. When confronted with the question “where were you when we needed you most” Jesus responded in three ways.

First, He assured Martha that natural death and tragedy are not the ultimate trump cards. In John 11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Second, He wept. He entered Martha’s pain and cried beside her at her brother’s tomb.

Third, He released God’s life-giving power, raising Lazarus from the dead and calling him out of the grave as a timeless picture of God’s final victory over death.

It’s impossible to adequately explain why God would allow so many senseless tragedies. However, through Jesus we know that God is neither indifferent nor inactive to our plight. He sees, He cares, and He offers an eternal life that is able to heal even the greatest of our earthly traumas. So while we ache, weep, question, and serve we also hold out hope for Jesus’ promised life.

How important is the final glimpse?

Corcovado jesus

The final glimpse stays with us doesn’t it?

Whether it’s the sight of our Kindergartener boarding the school bus for the first time, a departing friend waving goodbye, or the final moments of a death-bed conversation, the final glimpse of a loved one can embed itself in to our psyche. When a final glimpse is peaceful or positive its memory can soothe our broken heart, but when it is harsh or disjointed it can traumatize our soul.

I know people who have been haunted for years by regretful conversations and bitter last words. Indeed, our final encounters will often stain the memories that preceded them, either memorializing the good or destroying it.

Have you ever thought about Jesus’ final pose?

In Luke 24:50-51 it says: “When He had led them out of the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into heaven.”

Isn’t that awesome?! “While He was blessing them, He left them.” The final glimpse of Jesus on earth before His return to the Father in heaven was a glimpse of blessing. His hands were extended, His face was bright with love, and His blessing was settling over His worshippers.

Regardless of the other “final glimpses” you carry, I hope this picture of Jesus stays fixed in your soul. It is not a picture of exasperation, frustration, or disappointment; it is a glimpse of confidence and everlasting love.

Poking the sea anemones

Be honest…do you poke the sea anemones when you see them in tide pools at the beach? It’s sort of hard to resist. They’re so exotic and tropical, and their recoiling feature always makes me want to stick a shell in to their soft center so I can watch them curl up in a tight, protective ball. It’s probably against the rules to poke the sea anemones, but their sticky, retracting tentacles are pretty compelling.

English: Sea Anemones at California tideppols....

Sometimes you and I share a commonality with sea anemones. We recoil and shut down when we’re threatened or touched. It’s not a bad thing; it’s actually a safeguard. It only becomes problematic when it’s time to open ourselves up again and we’re still crouched in a closed, defensive posture.

Sometimes we need to take the risk to open up again.

The natural response to hurt, misunderstanding, or wounding is to put up our guard and minimize our vulnerabilities; however, if we want to heal we will eventually need to open back up. We will need to release our hurts to the Lord, make peace with our past, forgive our offenders, and courageously stretch out again.

None of this is easy to do, but true love is never easy. It is always a selfless endeavor that stretches and challenges us, while pulling the greatness out of us.

Don’t let yesterday’s hurts keep you from today’s opportunities to receive, give, bless, and love. You will get hurt again, and you’ll retract like those pretty sea anemones. But after regrouping for a while make sure you bounce back and reach out one more time.

People are worth it.

What would your departed loved ones say?

Winston Churchill in Downing Street giving his...

My grandmother died this weekend, and her passing has gotten me thinking again about the perspectives of people in heaven. Do you ever wonder what your departed loved ones would say to you now that they’ve spent some time there? Whether they’ve been there six months or several decades I’m sure their perspective on our natural lives has changed.

  • The grief that plagued them here is a distant memory there.
  • The tears that wouldn’t stop flowing here have long since dried up there.
  • The anxieties that robbed their peace have been exposed as the imposters they really are.

Things look very different from heaven’s vantage point, and I’m sure our loved ones’ counsel would reflect that changed perspective.

My first daughter, Alexis Grace, has been there for thirteen years now and I’m sure that if she could speak to me she would tell me:

  • Don’t lose heart…following Jesus is worth whatever price you’ll have to pay.
  • Don’t worry so much…earthly monsters are trivial compared to heaven’s glory.
  • Jesus is everything you hoped He would be…and yet infinitely more.
  • Worry less.
  • Worship more.
  • Keep loving your loved ones and investing in the things that last forever.
  • And since Winston Churchill is my favorite historical figure, she might even quote him to drive her point home. She might say: “Never give up. Never give up. Never, ever, ever give up.”

“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)