You may lose a life. But, you may gain a future.

copyright AP Photo Steve Gooch

copyright AP Photo Steve Gooch

Ezekiel 47:9  And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.

You may lose a life.  But you may gain a future.

Days of Tornados

Every day we struggle with the immensity of life and death.  Both are enormous.  Both require tenacity.  Both require courage.  In Oklahoma City, we face another tragedy of epic proportions.  Some would refer to biblical proportions.  Many stories recorded in our Bible are such immense acts of God and people that they can appear unbelievable.  Trust me this morning seems unbelievable.

Last year my family and I lost many friends and members of the clans.  Age, accident, and disease ripped loved ones from our vision and arms.  In just a few weeks, the impact reached from California to Oklahoma to Mexico and touched close to my wife, my children, my friends and me.

Last year my job and work family was torn from my hands in the same weeks when these deaths occurred.  Insurance, office, and just a place to get up and go to work and see friends disappeared in a moment of reorganization and decisions in back rooms.

Last year my wife and I flew upside down at 65 miles per hour in our car landing intact in body but a total loss of vehicle we had just bought.  This happened in the same few weeks as the other disasters of loss.

You may lose a life.  But you may gain a future.

We lost our lives. The familiar is gone forever in many instances.  Months of rethinking and rebuilding create a new future.  The old is gone.  It is gone.  It is dead.  It is passed.  Like a dear friendship accumulated over 50 years, I cannot have coffee with him anymore.  I cannot laugh in the hallways of my old life and friendships, for the hallways are not there.  It is not the first time tragedy has struck and will not be the last.  It is the first time of such immensity and scope and hopefully the last of such proportion.   Life is full of passing and coming.  We pray it happens gradually and we have emotional landscape on which to recover.

This Pales.  May 20th, 2013 families lost children at school, their home, their neighborhood, their neighbors, all their possessions, their work place, their memories and familiar turn points as they drove the same streets for years.  Today, they do not even know where they are standing in front of what used to be a house.  There are no familiar landmarks on which to lean and position thinking.  They lost their lives.  Yes, they may be physically alive.  But they lost their lives.  The death count is not 91. The death count is uncountable.

Gain a Future: Now this morning they must start the work of gaining the future.  The future must be grasped and brought into reality.  That is not easy and will take many friends.

Every morning, I enter a strange new land of new friendships and new relationships.  What took a lifetime to build takes another lifetime to build.  I don’t have another lifetime. Do I?

Build:

Can God build a lifetime in a few months?  Yes.

Can God restore fortunes that took decades of labor and saving in a few weeks?  Yes.

Can God bring new friendships and loving relationships? Yes.

Does that replace what we have lost?  No.

You may lose a life.  But, you may gain a future.

What is lost is lost.  A new friendship does not replace an old one. The old one lingers in memory and mixed emotions.  It is not meant to be replaced.  A future must be grasped.

Grief Changes You: Many times I tell friends in grief, “You do not pass through grief.  It changes you.  The pain of loss only begins to heal when you can see the future without what you have lost.  You must be able to grasp a vision of the future without that person or item in it.  Allow grief to change you.  You become a different person.”

Grief comes in waves.  It can be too painful to process at once.  Tsunami grief can strangle a future and lock us in pain.  Ride the waves and grow stronger.  So how does one handle massive and complicated and expansive loss?  A week and even an entire month passes and I can’t even remember all that happened.  Pain dulls the senses.

Change: I really don’t have the answer, because I am being changed into this future person.  He is different than the old man and in some ways the same.  We are human beings.  We are humans being.   It is the business of being that consumes us, morphs us, moves us, changes us and passes us through life and death, through coming and passing.

There is nothing ugly or evil about living and dying.  It is what it is. The normalcy of it can be called evil.

Defiant: In Oklahoma, we laugh about our defiant men, who when tornados come, run outside to watch.  With hubris, we look up in the fearsome clouds and talk to them.  “Move on”, we declare.  “Get out of my neighborhood.”  And, most times, it seems to work.  We go back to our homes where wife and kids are huddled under the stair well or in the bath tub or down in a safe room and say, “See, it is all gone, come out now.” Our defiance of evil pushes it aside.  Yet, sometimes it does not work and we have no answers for that day.  But, we will defiantly and resolutely stand in the face of such evil again and again and grasp our future. We are made of sterner stuff, we are the Oklahoma Standard.

Pain: It does not mean the pain subsides with a flippant face.  It means we must grasp the future with pain in tow.

Attitude: It does not mean the loss is lessened with a conquering attitude.  It means living in loss is unacceptable if you want to stay alive.

Another: Another loss is coming.  Another gain is coming.  Life is about the living through comings and goings.

So  let us pray!

Father, You are the God of the Future.  Every morning is new with You.  Every grace comes fresh with the rising of the sun and the changes of our lives.  You do not view death as final but You view death as entry to the next opportunity for life.  In You, we never die.  In You, we continue.  We move forward.  We change.  We are changed.  In You, we can live and move and have our being.  No matter the pain or problem or pressure.  In You is all we need. 

When a piece dies and goes on, we are still ready for the next living breath and living moment.  Death, where is your sting?  Grave, where is your victory.  We continue into the future in Christ.

Father, I pray those around me find this reality.  Without You all is death.  With You all is alive into the next moment.  You have no end.  Those in You have no end.

Show us.  Let us grieve into becoming our next self and next victory.  Let us die to the old and live to the new.  In You.

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Meet Jesus: Poor in Spirit Matthew 5:1

Matthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

 Poor by Choice: For Jesus, there is a route to blessing that is markedly different than our thoughts.  The poor in spirit are those who purposefully humble themselves in relation to God.  These are those that rightly discern their poverty in relation to a great God over all the earth.  They do not pursue arguing with God, because they acknowledge Him as above and themselves as below.  Jesus is that way.  He confirmed that He only said what His Father told Him and only did what His Father instructed in the gospel of John.  He was one that did not consider it something to grab hold and keep to be equal with God, but humbled Himself in relation to the Father and became a man.  He exampled poor in spirit for us to see.

 One Family’s Test:  A situation comes to mind as I ponder this scripture.  One family came to me rocked with enigmas. Questions about life and death and healing and answers to prayer were coming with forcefulness.  Like all of us they faced a reality they did not want to face. The person had died.  This mother of four had her life cut short.  How could God allow such a thing?   Why did He not do as we imagined and simply grant a request for healing here on earth?  Did the scripture not say we could have whatever we willed?  Surely God must do what we ask?

These are all valid questions that seem to have no answers.

 The second question posed stronger.  What did God want us to do today?  Regardless of our understanding or lack of understanding of the situation at hand, what did He want us to do now?  Now that this mother and grandmother was gone, what was to be our walk in the kingdom of heaven this day?   Do we quit praying and believing?  Do we continue in prayer?  If He did not heal here and now would He hear our prayers for peace of mind and acceptance of a life without our lifelong friend? On the flip side of the coin, could we experience more of His kingdom by giving Him the benefit of our doubt or by doubting His benefit?

 Answers: It is tough stuff, but the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit. Life requires us to relinquish our rights and demands and allow the wisdom and the hand of God to play out.  A heart of Jesus leads us to absorb the pains and confusions and admit we just don’t know all the answers, yet we will trust Him.  In the beginning of the new life with a loved one gone, this family chose to continue in trust with questions unanswered.  Sometimes that is all we can do.  It requires making a choice to be poor in spirit and large in faith.

 ACT!  Can you lay down your understanding and demands to find the newer will of God for your walk in the kingdom?  What does it take to become one poor in spirit and committed to His will being done on earth as it is in heaven, unquestioningly?  Test Him out.  Volunteer your ideas for His.

PRAY! God, You are God.  Me, I’m just me.  You are the greatest God of life and living.  The answers I don’t understand, You create.  Your thoughts are higher than my thoughts.  When I just about figure out life, You are bigger and greater than my wisdoms.   Teach me to obey.  Teach me to walk close to Your breathing.  Teach me to walk in Your ways even when I do not understand.  Then You will open new wisdoms for me.  Then You will open the windows of understanding on the other side of obedience.

Meet Jesus: Blessor Matthew 5:1

meetjesusblessorMatthew 5: 1: And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: 2: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, 3: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4: Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 5: Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 6: Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 7: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 8: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 9: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 10: Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11: Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12: Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

 When you meet Jesus, you meet blessing.  Pure and simple, He is a blessor, especially of the underdog.

I remember my 50th birthday.  Hey, it wasn’t that long ago, give me a break.  So many blessings were received.   A business trip to a great site coincided the week before.  A group at work attended an NBA game.  My youngest son and I attended a hockey game.  Family celebrated at home.  My oldest son was able to be here, though for another reason.  My pastor and others called and encouraged, “Disfutas cumpleaños.”  (Enjoy your birthday.)

All of this was in the middle of a horrible and tragic sickness and rapid death of a family member living in my home.  While my home was grieving it was celebrating.  Daily the situation of the family member became worse.  Daily, my Father pulled out another blessing to make sure his son had a good birthday week.  While that grief sat heavy, the blessings were rich.  In the middle of our mourning, God is faithful to bless us unrelentingly.  These verses hold daily and moment by moment meaning.

It is an honor to attend a loved one in the process of death.  Yet, it is tough.  Receiving special touches from the heart of Jesus give life and strength and blessing for the moments.  Appreciate those blessings no matter the struggle.

¡Bendiciones!  (Blessings!)

 ACT!  Find somebody who needs a blessing today and give them one.  You may be holding the exact blessing from the Father that can turn the tide of pain for them.  Release it.

PRAY! Father, I receive Your blessing from Jesus to me.