Tag Archives: loss

5 Friday Faves – Answered Prayer, Avengers on Classical Guitar, Financial Security, Community, and Moms

Friday Faves – let’s jump right in!

1) Answered Prayer – This week has been wave after wave of answered prayer…so much so that I’m without words…almost. Many times when we pray, we have to wait…sometimes for years. I have prayers on deposit with the Lord that (at least on this side of life) are still “in waiting” for his perfect timing. We pray on. Then we have the acute occasion when we seek a quick and crucial response. My brother spent a night this week in ICU because of a hard fall to concrete. How grateful I am for people who stand “in the gap” for each other in prayer, no matter the time of day, or whatever is going on in their own lives. For hours we prayed and waited for news that he would recover…and tonight he sleeps in his own bed at home. Just. Like. That. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Answered prayer does not always turn out the way we want. When our mom got cancer, we all prayed she would be healed. Her prayer, through the three years of fighting that dreadful disease, was a constant “for His glory”…only. Her prayer was answered in the positive, countless times. Our prayer was answered with healing in Heaven. Still, we praise God with all our hearts for how we saw Him draw near to her in the hard places. Her tender communion with God in those days was the sweetest I had ever seen in her life.

What might we see altered in this world, were it not for our prayerlessness. This week, because of my brother and othersacred turns of events, I am again reminded of great and present value of prayer. Not just in what we secure from God’s hands…but the journey with God Himself.

2) Avengers on Classical Guitar – I haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s on my summer film list. Like with other arrangements of Beyond the Guitar, I look forward to hearing this now familiar melody rise and fall in the background of the film itself. Since Nathan’s Fortnite Dances video debuted, his viewership and YouTube subscriptions have taken off.  Become a subscriber or Patreon supporter to be a part of the team that guarantees we see more and more of this young classical guitarist’s creative work. His arrangement for Avengers follows:

3) Financial Security – Sociologist and elder rights advocate Dr. Brenda K. Uekert has written a fascinating piece on losing her job in her 50s and the financial safety net that got her through that time. Take the time to read her story, but here are her 6 safeguards to consider in our own financial journey.

  • Pay off your mortgage.
  • Max out retirement contributions.
  • Max out accumulated leave.
  • Be wary of dabbling in individual stocks.
  • Shore up your taxable accounts.
  • Be careful in your spending, in general.

The simplicity of this is its own brilliance. Thank you, Dr. Uekert.

Fired in My Fifties: The 3 Best and Worst Moves that Determined My Fate – Brenda K. Uekert

4) Community – I write about community often. It’s hard for me to imagine maneuvering through this life without the constancy and care of community. For the last couple of weeks, some of us have been briefly in the life of a homeless woman who, it turns out, was just passing through Richmond. Her story had the sad markings of one who had either lost community from no fault of her own or had burned bridges with community across the years. She had to reach out to strangers because there seemed to be few else who would or could help. The margin we have to thrive in life, thanks to community, was difficult to even discern for her. I have no idea where she is right now. We did what we felt we could do, hopefully without being a toxic influence in her life…and now she has moved on.

It reminded me, all over again, how thankful I am for real and deep community. I pray that for us all.Community Group, Movement Church

5) Moms – This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day in the US. For some, it is an uneasy day… Not all of us have had loving, nurturing moms. Not all of us have become moms…or not yet anyway. Mothering can also be a painful experience. I think of dear friends who are estranged from some of their children…and other friends who have lost children, either through miscarriage or death.

Mother’s Day can be painful. Even in the pain, celebrating mothers ever how we can is a good thing. None of us would be where we are today were it not for mothering, whether good, bad, or just imperfect.

Today I remember the two women who have had the most impact in my life as mothers, and it is all for good. My mom and Dave’s mom.

As with all of us, through the years, other women have captivated us with their love, their servant hearts, and their wisdom. I celebrate them as well.

My friend Carol Ann Lindley captured the hard and even awful when mothering didn’t happen or go as we had hoped. Read her words:

I am all for celebrating moms…I look forward to celebrating my two miracles every year. I cherish it because I waited so long. I rejoice with my friends who have endured long years of waiting and have the chance to celebrate. I am aware of some who will be missing a mom this year. Mother’s Day is special because motherhood is such a gift.

But don’t forget to look around and remember the ones who ache this Sunday because they hoped that this year would be different. The ones who watch the celebrating and remembering from a distance, hoping to join in next year. I never ever resented the celebration…I just longed for the chance to celebrate the fulfillment of my heart’s desire.

I have had some hard Mother’s Days. I have had the “maybe next year it will be me” Mother’s Days. And I have had the “I’m missing a baby that I lost” Mother’s Day. Today, I am thinking of our 3 little ones who are celebrating with a different Momma. But I am also rejoicing over God’s two miracles that I have the privilege of being Mom to.

No one said Motherhood would be easy. In fact, the journey to Motherhood is hard. The day to day mothering of littles is hard. And I’m sure I will face other hard days in the future. But it is a precious gift from God and I rejoice in it every day.

So, you Moms who are enjoying this Mothers Day. Don’t feel bad. When I was waiting, I never wanted my Mom friends to skip out on Mothers Day. Enjoy and it and give your kids extra kisses. And look around and see who you can hug and encourage. I had those people on those hard days and their acknowledgement of my “hope deferred” made all of the difference.

And you Moms who are waiting for your babies or are missing your babies. I’m with you. I know how you feel. This is a hard day. But I can promise you that God is faithful and will not waste your tears. The desire to be a Mom is a good one and you are not wrong to feel sad today or to feel like a little piece of your heart is missing. If I could hug you, I would. And I am definitely praying for you.

Here’s the verse that pretty much sums up my journey:

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Carol Ann Lindley

Happy Friday! Happy Weekend! Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s to being gentle with each other and lavishing love on those around.

Bonuses:

YouTube – Dr. Seuss Does Advance Directives: A Tim Boon Poem – ZDoggMD

Bobos in the Church – Scot McKnight

Bobos In The Church

Stop Making Hospitality Complicated – Brandon McGinley

Why So Many Americans Are Lonely – Quentin Fottrell

Boss Doesn’t Trust you? Here are 4 Likely Reasons Why – Randy Conley

Brave Global – a Catalytic Movement for Girls

Photo Credit: The Kindness Rocks Project, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – the Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson, Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Avalon

Photo Credit: Vanhercke Christiaan, Geograph

The LORD is near the brokenhearted; he saves those crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18

He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted… Isaiah 61:1

You know how to break a kid’s heart? Uproot him from his friends and the familiar, and move him far away to a new and strange place. Then over the course of a childhood, move him/them several more times – not just between cities and states, but countries and continents.

Because of Dave’s work, our children went through these heartbreaks of life. With every move, we would sit by their beds as they cried out their hearts at losing friends and packing up their lives. You can imagine how their tears mimicked my own grownup Photo Credit: Max Pixel

emotions, tucked deep inside. Less visible…but still there. I could feel them more through the sharp ache of our children’s grief.

What was even more profound than their heartbreak (and I sure hope they remember this) was the peace…and even joy…that came after. The grace of God gently rubbed onto their wounded hearts and weary little bodies. Prayers of their parents answered. A loving, all-knowing heavenly Father who came alongside in their sorrow…and ours.

We have all experienced broken hearts…wounds that shape our lives and responses to others…and to God. Men and women, as well as children. We women don’t struggle at least in using words for what breaks our hearts. For men, it seems they bury that sort of pain deep…and move on. Albeit changed.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Having grown up with all brothers and now married over 30 years, mothering sons, I have seen men close to me wrestle with wounded hearts. Disappointment, bewilderment at betrayal, loss. We, as women, want to make it all better…we probably have no idea really how deep hurt goes for our men. They are excellent in disguising and disregarding pain…bearing it too often alone.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Then the women in our lives come to mind. We friends and sisters, mothers and daughters…we get it. Partly because we’ve experienced wounded hearts together. Loneliness. Infertility. Miscarriage. Loss of a child or widowhood. Unfaithfulness in marriage. Betrayal of a friend. Powerlessness at work. Insignificance. We talk together about these things…and yet, it’s probably just the tip of the iceberg of what goes on in our thoughts alone, and into the night.Photo Credit: Pixabay, Pixabay, Pixabay

When our hearts are wounded or downright broken, we pull away. Who, after all, wants to be around someone grieving?…we figure.

In my own life, and as I’ve watched others regain their equilibrium and return back to life and place, one constant has been clear.

Jesus is the friend of a wounded heart. We can lean in and lean hard on him. Even with small faith. Without any judgment.

The Scripture reminds us of the truth when we see there’s nowhere else to go…once we’ve been with Jesus. During a time of great persecution for Jesus and his disciples, there were those followers who counted the cost and left him. When he asked those closest to him if they would leave, too,

Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.John 6:68
Another favorite account for me is that of the woman accused of adultery and facing those who would stone her to death. Jesus intervened with the captivating statement: Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  That woman, that day, found mercy…in the presence of Jesus. May it be so for all of us.
Photo Credit: YouTube
Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken. My salvation and glory depend on God; my strong rock, my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. – Psalm 62:5-8
The song that came to mind and birthed this Worship Wednesday was written for an album 30 years ago.It is Wayne Watson‘s Friend of a Wounded Heart.
Photo Credit: Wayne Watson
When Watson talks about Jesus as friend…it is far from the casualness of some in our culture today. This friend Jesus is Savior friend – one who will never leave or forsake us. He knows our deepest pains and greatest joys. He keeps watch over us in dark times and he celebrates without reservation in our joys and victories – no matter how small or large. Jesus will be our constant in this roller coaster of life…if we let him in and lean on him.

Worship with me (lyric video in link):

Smile, make them think you’re happy
Lie, and say that things are fine
And hide that empty longing that you feel
Don’t ever show it, just keep your heart concealed

Why are the days so lonely?
I wonder where, where can a heart go free?
And who will dry the tears that no one sees?
There must be someone to share your silent dreams

Caught like a leaf in the wind
Looking for a friend, where can you turn?
Whisper the words of a prayer
And you’ll find Him there, arms open wide, love in His eyes

CHORUS
Jesus, He meets you where you are
Oh, Jesus, He heals your secret scars
All the love you’re longing for is Jesus
The friend of a wounded heart

Joy, comes like the the morning
Hope, deepens as you grow
And peace, beyond the reaches of your soul
Comes blowing through you, for love has made you whole*

Tears may flow in the night, but joy comes in the morning.Psalm 30:5

I pray we can also be hands and feet of Christ for one another in woundedness and brokenness. Watch for these precious hurting ones in your workplace, church, and community…lean in and come alongside. Hopefully, they will see this Jesus in you.

[In the links below you will also find the versions performed by Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir) and by Avalon. Enjoy. I’m thankful we have them on YouTube because this song is little-sung today…although we need the message as much as ever. It’s one of those songs and messages which draws my arms up in praise…every time I hear it. Thank You, Jesus, for being the friend to our wounded hearts.]

*Lyrics to Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Newton

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir)

YouTube Video – The Friend of a Wounded Heart – Avalon

10 Comforting Scripture Verses for the Broken Heart – Aimee Imbeau

YouTube Video – Jesus Christ – Let Him Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort

Photo Credit: John Ragai, Flickr

Guest Blogger: Carrie McKean

[The image described in the post below appears to have been taken down by the Associated Press. This Facebook posting below was so beautiful, I reached out to the writer and she gave permission to post it here. McKean begins by talking about this lovely visibly distraught mother comforting another mother. My hope is that she did not lose a child yesterday. She is wearing a silver heart (for Valentine’s Day) around her neck and the ashen cross on her forehead from a visit to her parish church that Ash Wednesday morning. The rest of the post is easily understood given the school shooting yesterday in Florida, leaving 17 dead and a dozen or more injured. News outlets and social media today are slammed with public outcry and political jockeying. McKean, the writer of the post below, eloquently speaks her response to this devastating loss.]

I can’t get her face out of my mind. Sobs wracking her body as she stands outside her child’s school, clutching a friend as though they have discovered the only truth there is to know: The only way through this war zone is if we carry one another. Her head is smeared with ashes. From dust you came, to dust you return.

I saw the picture when the ashes were still fresh on my own skin. And I thought about the moment my pastor drew his thumb across my head – reminding me of my mortality and my security in the no-matter-whatness of God. Despite the somber words I certainly didn’t consider, as little specks of ash fluttered down and brushed my eyelashes, that I might leave the church and end up in the ER or in an accident or getting a phone call that takes me to my knees. And this mama, with her pretty white-flowered shirt and silver heart necklace, certainly didn’t consider that she might leave the church and end up on the front lawn of her child’s school with her heart broken apart, begging God for one more day with her baby… for more life out of this dust.

We need a savior, and as we start the long march of Lent that leads us to the cross, we know Jesus is coming to break the shackles and the bonds and restore all that’s broken. But you don’t need a savior if nothing is shackled, bound or broken. So Lent starts in repentance. Did the shooter know the day he chose? Did he choose Valentine’s Day for a reason? Was his heart so broken that he felt like the only way through the war zone was to take others out? Oh God, we need to repent… for not recognizing our own part in this tragedy.

Talking heads are already starting to argue. Is it mental health or gun control? Hurry, pick your side. We retreat into corners and start pointing fingers. Thoughts and prayers sound hollow when these shootings have become so commonplace that they are just another blip on a relentless cycle of terrible news. We wring our hands and sigh and then we forget. It doesn’t even come up at dinner. Ashes. It’s all ashes. We’re going down in flames. Screaming louder and louder at one another as if we think the only way through this war zone is to pull someone else down so we can climb on top. Oh God, we need to repent… for being so afraid that we won’t be heard that we can’t even listen.

As bullets ricocheted off classroom doors and lockers in Florida yesterday, I walked down the locker-lined halls of my daughter’s school. A first grade Valentine’s Party is pure sweetness and light and sugar. We had the kids do an activity where they each drew the name of a classmate and listed out some of their favorite things about that child. As they exchanged cards, I saw eyes light up and broad smiles spread across frosting-smeared faces. One little girl said reading the card she was given made her feel happy and bubbly inside. I looked around the room and wanted to freeze time. To keep these little kids little – tender and eager and open-hearted and bubbly. In 10 years, which one will be the loner? The misfit? The outcast? The popular one who uses his or her platform to push someone else down? Oh God, we need to repent… for letting kids fall through the cracks.

I returned from the party to our church which is positioned across the street from one of our city’s high schools. The day before, the same high school was on lockdown because someone brought a gun to school. A trigger away from a tragedy. Each day after school, hundreds of students – maybe even the one who brought a weapon to school – traipse through our building to the free soda fountains. A ministry of carbonated beverages. I sat down at a table and played UNO with some kids whose stories brim with sadness and mistakes and bad choices and loss, covered in a veneer of bravado and toughness. How close have I been to a kid who is screaming to be seen and known and loved and valued and is a hair-trigger away from exploding their grief outwards and propelling us to the national headlines? For all their toughness, I can’t help but wonder if anyone gave them a card when they were seven that listed out all the best things about them? Oh God, we need to repent… for being too busy to engage the hurting and the lonely.

We may be mere dust, but we are each dust formed into the image of a living, breathing God. We may be returning to dust, but we each know this life is precious and deserves protection. God forgive us for forgetting our own worth. Forgive us for forgetting the worth of those around us. Forgive us for failing to see your reflection in the eyes of the stiff-shouldered, clouded-eye high school kid whose hoodie is pulled up, guarding him from the world but not containing the pain metastasizing-into-anger that is seeping out of his soul. Forgive us for giving into polarization and assuming that since “they” aren’t doing anything to solve the problem, we can’t do anything either.

Father, forgive us.

And help us remember: The only way through this war zone is to carry one another.

Carrie McKean

These Are the Victims of the Florida High School Shooting – Alexandra Ma

At Least 17 Dead After Troubled Former Student Allegedly Opens Fire on Florida High School – Nina Golgowski, Sebastian Murdock, and Carla Herreria

Worship Wednesday – I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: David Joyce, Flickr

Yesterday, driving to an appointment, an old Chris Tomlin song came on the radio. It touched my heart in an unusual way. Familiar words, I Lift My Hands stilled my thoughts for the moment. God drew me to Himself, and worship flowed. Not even thinking, one hand on the steering wheel, my other hand rose… I made a note on my phone of that old song and didn’t think about it again. Then early this morning, the Bible reading for today was in Psalm 63.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.Psalm 63:3-4

I wanted to write on joy today. Especially after reading Psalm 63-65. That unquenchable joy at all the good in our lives. New babies. Graduations. Weddings. Health. Milestones. Victories.

Then my newsfeed on Facebook brought the news that a friend’s sister died yesterday. Heidi Lodenstein – 47 years young. Adored by her husband. Two children at home. Glioblastoma. Devoted daughter of an all-loving God who chose not to heal the cancer here but received her Home, healed There. Sad? For that sweet family and friend group. Joy in grief?…abundantly so.

A Lament for Heidi – Cindy DeBoer

We lost a dear friend to glioblastoma a couple of years back as well. He left behind a much-loved wife and three darling little daughters. As we prayed through those months of his disease, while he fought for his life, we asked for miracles of healing. On this side of Heaven, it wasn’t meant to be.

At his funeral, Dave and I sat, tears on our faces, along with his family and friends. Sad with the loss of him. Yet, there was also something else. Something from so deep in us all, it had to push up and out. It was a strange and magnificent joy. How grateful we were to have known him. To have been a part of something bigger than all of us…with him. To be connected forever with each other by the God he trusted…and we trusted.

Joy. Even in that awful grief.

At that funeral, we lifted our hearts to the God who brought us all together…to be comforted together…and especially by Him. To breathe in the peace that we would see our friend again…whole and himself.

Whatever your situation is right now, my prayer for you is to know joy… May the object of your joy be the Lord Himself, who turns our weeping into dancing…our sorrow into joy [Psalm 30].

Worship with me.

Be still, there is a healer
His love is deeper than the sea
His mercy, it is unfailing
His arms are a fortress for the weak
Let faith arise
Let faith arise

[Chorus]
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, you are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever

Be still, there is a river
That flows from Calvary’s tree
A fountain for the thirsty
Pure grace that washes over me
So let faith arise
Let faith arise
Open my eyes
Open my eyes

[Chorus]*

Sometimes our thoughts take us place we weren’t aiming to go. Today I wanted to write about joy. It flowed out of sorrow…but it flowed full. 

Listen to the sound of my pleading when I cry to You for help,
when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary…May the Lord be praised, for He has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song. The Lord is the strength of His people; He is a stronghold of salvation for His anointed. Save Your people, bless Your possession, shepherd them, and carry them forever. – Psalm 28:2, 6-9

[Postscript: Presently reading Rob Morgan‘s The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times. It came at a good time.]

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin – I Lift My Hands – Official Lyric Video

*Lyrics to I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio, Matt Maher

Story Behind the Song I Lift My Hands – New Release Today – Kevin Davis

God Gives Us Joy in Grief – John Piper

YouTube Video – With Hope – Steven Curtis Chapman

The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times – Robert J. Morgan

Heath Has Finished His Race… – Deb Mills Writer

Nabeel Qureshi – 1983-2017 – Less About Religion, All About God

Photo Credit: Nabeel Qureshi

I am grieving today for someone who has touched my heart in a huge way, though we have never met.

Nabeel Qureshi is a son, brother, husband, and father. He is a writer, speaker, theologian, and medical doctor. Until recently he also was in treatment for a very aggressive cancer.

None of these descriptors speak to how deeply he has moved my heart and mind. His faith…and the God of his faith…speak volumes.

He is a follower of Jesus today, after being a devout Muslim. His relationship with God through Christ is laid out in detail in his books Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God, But One. Much of his story and the object of his faith are also highlighted on several YouTube videos.

His courageous battle against cancer ended yesterday. At the age of 34. Father of a little girl. Just really at the beginning of his career.

I have never spent much energy in questioning God when one of us dies. My understanding of such things is so limited. Why Nabeel had to die so young is beyond my understanding. One thing I am convinced of is that just as God worked in his life, God will work in his death.

That’s why I’m writing this brief announcement of his passing… He is now in the presence of the God who loves him, the God whom he loves. God will comfort his family and friends and will provide for his wife and daughter. Many of us will know more of Nabeel in his death than we did in his life. I am thankful he wrote about his spiritual journey and spoke so lovingly and articulately about the God who drew him to Himself.

“After loving us with the most humble life and the most horrific death, Jesus told us, “As I have loved you, go and love one another.” How could I consider myself a follower of Jesus if I was not willing to live as He lived? To die as He died? To love the unloved and give hope to the hopeless?”Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

“All suffering is worth it to follow Jesus. He is that amazing. I pray that I will meet you someday, my dear friend, so we can rejoice and praise God together for our joys and our sufferings.”Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

My first knowledge of Nabeel Qureshi‘s cancer and death yesterday was through Justin Taylor‘s blog posting. Please take the time to read it (and watch the videos included). If you have never heard of Nabeel Qureshi, you will have an introduction to him, his life, and his discovery and embrace of God. Below is Taylor’s close to his tribute of our brother Nabeel Qureshi.

Today, Nabeel Qureshi, beholding his Savior face to face, is able to declare what is true:

I have fought the good fight.

I have finished the race.

I have kept the faith.

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Entering into the joy of his Master, he undoubtedly heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”Justin Taylor

Postscript: I have dear Muslim friends who may take offense at his story. He spoke painfully in his book and vlogs about the loss of closeness with his beloved parents and sister…for a season. I was grateful to see that in his last-published vlog before his death, he spoke of them with gratitude as they were with him caring for him along with his wife, Michelle. Love is larger than anything that would separate us. So thankful for that.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God, But OneNabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Qureshi – 1983-2017 – Justin Taylor – The Gospel Coalition

Nabeel Qureshi – Quotes – Good Reads

YouTube Video – Vlog 33 – A Very Special Guest – My Dad! – Nabeel Qureshi

Why This Muslim-Turned-Christian Resonated With So Many Before His Death at 34 – Ravi Zacharias

Monday Morning Moment – Remembering 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl

Genessa & April

[From the Archives]

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US, and we all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

Genessa with team

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 16 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

Worship Wednesday – A Pilgrim’s Progress – Matt Papa

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.Hebrews 12:1

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

During a difficult period of life, Matt Papa wrote a song about our journey as pilgrims in this world. A worship leader, known for penning theologically rich modern hymns, Matt faced a time of emptiness when the Lord pressed him to “keep running”.

“The song arrived very late in the process of making the album (Look & Live). I was flying up to Nashville to record the rest of the vocals. This was January, and we just had our third child. Life felt as crazy as it had ever felt. The transition for us from 2 to 3 kids felt like a punch in the gut. I admit I have an artist’s temperament — my highs are high and my lows are low — so I’ve struggled over the years with depression. I was praying as I was flying up to Nashville and I kept hearing that phrase, ‘Keep running!’ I felt like the Lord was saying it, I felt like the cloud of witnesses was saying it, just put your head down and keep fighting. I had the overwhelming sense that I needed to finish the song and record it, and I worked hard over the next couple of weeks to finish it. I don’t know why, but my prayer for that song is this; I really want people who are contemplating suicide or battling depression to hear this song, and I pray that the Lord would use that in their lives to encourage them to keep going…to keep looking to Christ.”Matt Papa

Matt Papa – A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’) – Daily Play MPE

The Word of God is filled with encouragements for our heavy, dark times…when we just want to quit – to stop in our tracks, turn aside, and take an easier path.

During Jesus’ public ministry – a time of wonder and miracles – he lost followers because his way seemed too hard for them. Once (John 6) when he turned to his closest disciples, he asked them would they leave, too.  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

We all have suffered different losses, struggles, difficulties in life, and compared ours as less or more doesn’t really compute. Whatever is hard for me (or you) is just that…hard. When life pins us down and we struggle to get out from under the weight, Peter’s words always come to mind for me. “To whom shall we go?”

For me, there is nowhere else to run but to Jesus. That’s not to say I do always. Disparaging of my situation, I may fall to complaining or searching for a way out, any way out…besides through Jesus’ grace and strength.

For the days we find ourselves slogging through, almost to a complete stop, God promises he is for us (Romans 8:31-38). He will never leave us, and we will reap the harvest he has prepared for us…if we don’t give up.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

Today, if I had a literal race to run, it would not go well. Yesterday, I reached down to a low shelf in the refrigerator to pull out leftovers for lunch. In an instant, something happened in my back, and the pain was excruciating. This was my very first encounter of back pain the kind I hear others experience. It is still with me today – as I have to do everything carefully, at times in slow-motion. Whatever falls to the floor will have to stay there…today.

Fortunately, no literal footrace awaits my toe on the line. A journey does continue for this pilgrim. A race of faith and endurance still draws us, whatever our situation. Thankfully, the Lord’s call to “keep running” is never ever without His presence or His provision.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Please worship with me (lyrics below)…and let’s keep running.

Lord I’m tired, so tired from travelin
This straight and narrow is so much harder than I thought
On this path, I’ve met both doubt and pain
I’ve heard their voices say
“Yeah, you’ve given all you’ve got”

But there’s a crowd of witnesses,
the ones who’ve run this race
and even louder than my fears they’re crying
“Boy, you lift your face. . .!”

“. . . .keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t you give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

On this road, this fight for holiness
I’ve struggled and I’ve bled
through these dangers, toils, and snares.
And I have foes,
their siren voices call
saying “Boy, you’re about to fall,
with that heavy cross you bear”

I remember there was ONE who died to win this race
He took the cross, he crushed the grave
Oh I can hear my Saviour say . .

“Keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

Don’t turn aside
No compromise
Just lift your eyes
To the glory that’s comin’.
If you’re like me
you feel like you can’t go on,
you’ll never see the dawn,
and you’re just about to break . .
but don’t stop now
Know that every sacrifice
It’ll all be worth the price
when you finally see His face . . . . . . . .

Just keep runnin’
Don’t lose heart; don’t you give up now
Don’t turn around, you’ve got to find a way somehow
Dig deeper, run harder,
The pain cannot compare to the reward that will be yours; it waits in store for all who just keep…
So take my hand because we can’t do this alone
Until you hear “Well done”,
Until your race is complete
Find a way to just
Keep runnin’
Keep dreamin’
Keep darin’
Believin’
Keep workin’
Keep waitin’
Keep servin’
Keep prayin’
Keep movin’, keep tryin’, keep hopin’, keep fightin’, keep goin’,
He’s waiting
Arms open; He’s comin’
Keep runnin’*

Photo Credit: YouTube

None of this we do alone…we have God with us every step of the way. This is not a “do it in our own strength” thing. We are carried by His strength, and we run beside each other, encouraging and recalling the truth of His loving words to us…until we both reach the prize at the finish.

*Lyrics to A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’)

Worship Wednesday – Then Came the Morning and It is Well With My Soul – Because He Lives – Guy Penrod

Photo Credit: Air Force

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea,
    a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse,
    army and warrior.Isaiah 43: 1-3, 16-17

I have never lost my home to a flood or fire. Dear friends have had that experience, and I see something in them that I want. Rock-solid faith in a mighty and merciful God. Is trouble part of what gets us to unshakeable faith (tornado- and hurricane-proof faith)?

My life today is comfortable. Hurricane Harvey is far from us, but the ravages of that storm are felt across the US. I can’t imagine all the losses. Houses, businesses…and worse, family members and friends. Lost to a tropical storm system that poured torrential rains across Texas for days.

The pictures and video of flooded neighborhoods in Houston would be unbelievable except that they are real.

We in the US are so sheltered, cushioned from much of what rocks the rest of the world. When nature unleashes its most destructive forces, we usually watch that on world news…not on local.

This time, we are confronted with the transient nature of stuff…even life itself. We want to comfort and help, and there are ways to do that. My heart is thrilled by those on orders or inclined to go into the storm to help – the military and police and all the many volunteers.

For this natural disaster, the reality of all that’s happening hangs heavy in my mind. How would I deal with such a calamity in my own life?

My hope is that I would cling to the Lord. The God who promises that He is always with us. He has shown Himself faithful in other dark places in our lives – losing loved ones through the years, saying hard goodbyes to friends, miscarriages, cancer diagnoses. I know He is there…it has been my experience.

So how will the folks in Houston get through this difficult, difficult place? Either clinging to God or seeking help elsewhere. He is there…for any who would take His hand…to help them get through until the morning.

A couple of nights ago, I struggled to get to sleep. Like my mama before me, fears and stresses follow me to bed, and taunt me to sort them out on my own. Finally, exhausted and aching with loneliness, I pray.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!Psalm 30:5b, 11-12

Yesterday was better…as is today…in His grace and in the light of His truth.

Today, I want to share three old Gospel songs that minister to my heart. Always. Even more when Guy Penrod sings them. A solo artist now, he has sung with the Gaither Vocal Band and is also a featured artist on the Gaither Homecoming TV specials.

Then Came the Morning is new to me (hearing it for the first time the morning after that fitful night). It relates to experiences of Jesus’ mother and disciples after his death, and then when they discovered him alive again, as he had promised.

Then came the morning
Shadows vanished before the sun
Death had lost and life had won
For morning had come.*

YouTube Video – Then Came the Morning – Guy Penrod – Written by: CHRIS CHRISTIAN, GLORIA GAITHER, WILLIAM GAITHER

*Lyrics – Then Came the Morning

It Is Well With My Soul is a song I’ve known since childhood. No matter what happens in life, it can be well with our souls. The story behind this song speaks to the relationship Horatio Spafford had with his God.

Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford’s plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford’s plight. The next time you are in church,turn to the words of the great hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”–words he penned as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters! – Today in the Word, July, 1989, p. 27**

One of the verses of this tested and proven hymn of faith is:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.*

YouTube Video – It Is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod, David Phelps

*Lyrics of It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio Spafford

Lastly, a hymn that Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote and has touched millions of lives: Because He Lives. Such a great song reminding us that because He lives we have no need to fear.

Worship with me:

YouTube Video – Because He Lives, Guy Penrod

Lyrics – Because He Lives – Bill & Gloria Gaither

You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience.” – A.B. Simpson

No matter how dark the night, when the morning comes, we can find it is well with our souls, because He lives.

Guy Penrod

Gaither Homecoming

Floods in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal Kill 1,200 and Leave Millions Homeless – Chloe Farand

**Trials – Sermon Illustrations

Worship Wednesday – I’m Just Unfinished – Mandisa

Photo Credit: CBN

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1:6

So Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:67-69

Why are we so hard on ourselves and each other? Intuitively, we know in our core, that we can be better…and that others should be. We mark behavior. We analyze successes and failures. We self-reference. Am I measuring up? Are you measuring up? To what?

All this judging should completely wear us out. Yet…we become unaware we are even doing it. In fact, our bent toward judging is probably one of the reasons we (Christians and those who don’t follow Christ) struggle with addictions…to turn off that part of our brain. Unfortunately, the safeguard of judging (that of critical and logical thinking) is also impacted here.

This whole lifestyle of having opinions and being sometimes critical spills over into our faith. We judge God.

We judge God. Listen to that. How strange for the Created to question the mind of the Creator! Yet, we struggle with what we don’t understand. We shake our heads and raise our “why” to Heaven. Or worse…some precious ones walk away from God…disappointed.

Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud – Philip Yancey

Christian artist Mandisa went through a very dark time spiritually and emotionally as she lost her best friend to cancer. Take the time to read her story, please. Her album Out of the Dark came out of her journey back to God after this terrible loss.

The song “Unfinished” (from that album) speaks so beautifully to our experience of not being where we want to be…hoped to be…and the truth of God’s work in us…and for us.

Worship with me.

Not scared to say it
I used to be the one
Preaching it to you
That you could overcome
I still believe it
But it ain’t easy

‘Cause that world I painted
Where things just all work out
It started changing
And I started having doubts
And it got me so down

But I picked myself back up
And I started telling me
No, my God’s not done
Making me a masterpiece
He’s still working on me

He started something good
And I’m gonna believe it
He started something good
And He’s gonna complete it
So I’ll celebrate the truth
His work in me ain’t through
I’m just unfinished

I know His history
And the kind of God He is
He might make it a mystery
But He’s proven I can trust in Him
And yeah, I believe it

Still working
Still, still working on me
He’s still working
Still, still working on me*

Mandisa’s Unfinished reminded me of an old praise chorus  sung by Steve Green.  Taken straight from Scripture, we are reminded that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it”.

With all our travels, we’ve been to some of the world’s great museums. In them, often there’s a painting by one of the Masters…unfinished. The artwork still shows off the fine hand of the painter…but it is incomplete…without detail. Stopped abruptly.

For us, God has promised we won’t forever be unfinished. He will complete what He’s started in our lives. For this reason alone, we are called to be gentle with ourselves and with each other. Reminding ourselves that we all are works in progress.

As for our judging God, in the crush of disappointment or confusion? I always go back to Peter’s words to Jesus (John 6:67-69) – “To whom would we go?” No one…nothing…is like Him.

We don’t yet know how it all comes out…but we know God. He will finish what He has begun.

*Lyrics to Unfinished – Songwriters: Ben Glover and Colby Wedgeworth

Why Are People So Judgmental? – Quora

Why Are Christians So Judgmental? – Jason Malec

Life and Chester Bennington – the One Tribute You Don’t Want to Miss – Hanif Abdurraqib

Photo Credit: Suran2007, Flickr

There are some people I’ve only known in death. Chester Bennington is one of these…these beautiful silenced lives. Yet, for a season of time, the silence is broken by those who knew them alive and tell us about them.

When the news of Chester Bennington’s death spread on social media, my thoughts registered: oh no! Another musician lost to the world because of drugs and alcohol. Suicide again takes out a brilliant life and career. A real person. A friend. A husband. A father.

When one of my children posted that Chris Bennington with his band Linkin Park was the soundtrack of his high school years, I was astonished. The things we don’t know about our children. The great and intimate influences…the influencers in our children’s lives.

Chester Bennington was a huge influencer in the life of poet Hanif Abdurraqib. His tribute to Bennington is the one you don’t want to miss.Photo Credit: Hanif Abdurraqib, Wikimedia Commons

Below are just 4 quotes I’ve included from Abdurraqib’s piece, and the Suicide Lifeline at the end of his post. If you loved Bennington’s work, you want to read the whole article.

“Chester Bennington had a voice that sounded like a knife crying out with the delight and agony of being sharpened. It is that the first words on Hybrid Theory are “Why does it feel like night today?” in the song “Papercut,” and then the chorus says, “It’s like a whirlwind inside of my head,” and it was a whirlwind inside of my own. It is that my pals maybe made it through a year or two that they might not have otherwise because Linkin Park, and specifically Bennington, kicked in the door to our respective darknesses not to spark a light, but to sit with us for a while.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

“Even if you are able to make a map out of your grief and trauma with the chart of a generous mapmaker, it doesn’t mean the mapmaker has figured their own way out of whatever maze their trauma has trapped them in. There is a difference between the work of not wanting others to die and the work that comes with keeping yourself alive.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

“Chester Bennington was a survivor, of many things: sexual abuse as a child, violent bullying as a skinny high school student — things that he said pushed him to years of drug and alcohol addiction. And I believe survival of this — no matter how long — is a type of heroism.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

“Chester, this is hard. This is work, Chester. And I’m up to it today. I might not be up to it always, but I’m up to it today. I’m up to it now because you were up to it for so long and I hope there was some mercy in knowing what you did. Chester, there are people still living because you lived.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

If you or someone you know is going through a rough time, feeling depressed, or thinking about self-harm, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit its website here.

With all of you who knew Chester Bennington and loved his work, I extend my sympathy. Just now knowing something of him, I can see what a painful loss his untimely death brings to you. Somehow, especially after reading Abdurraqib’s tribute, my sense is, as he infers, that many who knew Bennington best, have, mixed in with the loss, the gratefulness of having had him in their lives…this long.

[Suicide is a deeply bitter pill to swallow for those left behind. Depression and the darkness that can grow with it drive some of us toward the only perceived way out. My prayer and hope is that all of us can take hold of God in those heavy times, and live…and that we who love the tormented one, driven to take themselves out, can come near. This is not a simple thing when depression turns deadly on us…but this is the hope I know. He is the Hope I know.]

Why Chester Bennington’s Suicide Hurts So Much – Hanif Abdurraqib

YouTube – 10 Unforgettable Chester Bennington Moments

YouTube Video – Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib – “A Genealogy”