Sunday, April 15, 2007

Building Trust

Today we celebrated the 5th birthday of our sons, Maddox and Isaac. I spent some time thinking over the last five years of their life and reflecting on all that has happened. We have been an active part of four and a half of their five years as we adopted them when they were six months old.

We began our adoption process in February 2002, the boys were born in April 2002, we first saw a picture of them in July 2002 and we traveled to get them in October 2002. It was a busy year. My thoughts, though, were how God was preparing something for us that we were not expecting. You see, in April 2002 we had no idea that we would adopt two. In fact, we were only expecting to adopt one. We didn't know if we would be adopting a baby boy or girl. Yet, in God's plan these two little boys were being prepared just for us. Now, long-legged, smiling boys we are so thankful for the plans God had for us that we never expected.

Too often I think we believe we must know everything God is doing in our lives. But we seldom do. There are things that God is planning and preparing us for that we have no idea will be in the days and weeks ahead. Most of all, He is at work trying to develop our trust in Him because our trust in Him is a direct reflection of our love for Him. Do we really trust God with our lives?

This is a big year for our family. Monica and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage in a little over a month, the boys turned five today, Eliza turned three a few months ago and in just a few days it will be one year since Baby Benjamin went to be with Jesus. As I think about all of those special events we can clearly see that God has been working to build our trust in Him. He has not failed us yet. We don't think He will in the future. The real test will be whether or not we will live as if we trust Him completely. I pray that we will.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Filled with Hope

There was controversy brewing in Thessalonica. Word was traveling that the teaching in the young church was wrong. Paul, the traveling preacher, had spread the word that the recently deceased Christians would be raised from the grave one day. Now, some of the established leaders of the Jewish faith were trying to put down this teaching. They said there would not be a resurrection of the dead. You got this life and no more. No wonder they called on the people to live their best life now.

It didn’t take long, though, for word to spread to Paul. So, to help reestablish the power of Jesus Christ and, to clarify his teaching, he wrote to the church in Thessalonica what we read in 1 Thessalonians 4,

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

In a matter of a few lines, the Apostle clears up the misconception that was being stirred up. He does so in a way that causes these young Christians to look at more than just life and death, but to gaze deeply at the very power of Christ. There is much more in these sentences than just a statement of fact or an equation for resurrection…there is hope. The last verse tells followers of Jesus what they should do with this hope of resurrection. They are to use it for encouragement. It is not a doctrine that should be debated in academic circles only. It is not the fourth part of a sermon outline that finishes a sermon and then is then tucked into a Bible. Paul offers us this hope so that we may put it into practice and draw hope from it.

Recently, we were moving through the line that passes beside the casket as folks speak to family members at the conclusion of a funeral service. I am always intimidated as I try to think something to say in those moments. That day I decided that I would use this verse in what I was going to say to the family. The man that had passed away was a strong Christian and we had a great assurance that he was now with Christ. When I approached his mother and father, I looked them square in the eyes and said, “Remember, we do not grieve as those without hope.”

This broken-hearted mother just looked at me.

For a moment I thought I had made a serious mistake.

Then she asked, “What did you say?”

So I repeated my bold sentence. “Remember, we do not grieve as those without hope.”

In an instant, her whole face changed and as tears filled her eyes she offered what seemed to be a heart-felt thanks.

Since Benjamin passed last year I have often clung to this hope. When I think about the sadness and pain of his death, my heart and mind are immediately filled with the hope offered by an empty tomb and a resurrected Savior.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pain and Its Memory

I haven’t written much in the last few months. My routine has been up and down because of changes that have happened in our life, and I have found it difficult to find time to sit down and think through a blog article. However, I remember that a year ago this journaling really helped me get through the loss of our son, Benjamin. He was still-born on Saturday, April 22, 2006. It’s hard to believe that it has almost a year has past. I can honestly say there is some fresh pain now just because the calendar says April. It seems that for 30 days I am going to be reminded of the pain in an “in your face” kind of way because everyday I will have to write April _____, 2007 on something.

I’m not sure how to deal with the present pain and with the memory of pain. Just a few days ago I was in a daze and Monica asked me what I was thinking about. I was thinking about Benjamin. My sadness is not so much about his actual death, but it is about what we are missing with him. He has been with Christ for a year now. What does he look like? What is he doing? What has he experience apart from his Mom and Dad over this past year? Who, in addition to Christ, has been caring for him? Does he know that he has brothers and a sister that ask about him often? Does he think about his Mom and Dad as often as we think of him? However, it was an odd time of the day and there was a lot going and because I didn’t want to cause her to crash in the middle of the day I didn’t let on as to what I considering. I’m not sure if that was a good thing, but I didn’t want to ruin her day (or anyone else’s for that matter) if she is having a good one.

So, I have decided to try to come back to this blog. It helped a year ago, maybe it will help now. Here’s my two-fold task: First, there are some unfinished articles on suffering that I need to write and publish here. Second, how does that Bible tells us to deal with the memories of those we love who have already died? And, what does Scripture say about us dealing with our memories? I hope to think through those questions.