Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful and Grateful.......

I wanted to post what I am thankful for this year.  There is so much in my life to be thankful and appreciative of.  I want to hopefully give those of you who might read this today an opportunity to stop and take stock of how truly blessed you are no matter the circumstances in your life.  Regardless of the place we find ourselves in life and the circumstances surrounding us, I guarantee that if you take a moment you will find there are amazing blessings in your life from God to stop and be thankful for.

I have been blessed with far more than I deserve simply by the fact I was born in America.  I have freedom, food, shelter, a job, and so much more because I was blessed enough to be born where I was.  I have an amazing wife who has stuck by me through thick and thin no matter the circumstances.  I am the father of four amazing boys even though I only have two here, with the other two in Heaven. 

I am blessed with amazing parents, sisters, in-laws, and a huge extended family that have played huge factors in who I am today.  I have a group of friends who are second to none and have walked with our family through our darkest days.  I have a church family and pastors from two different churches who have also stood with our family through it all as well.

The biggest thing I am thankful for this Thanksgiving day is the fact that I have a Savior who died for me so that I might live.  He took the punishment I so justly deserved and took it upon himself, so that I could stand before Almighty God washed clean of the sin I could have never wash away on my own.  It is because of the act of the cross, the shedding of Christ's innocent blood, his death, and most of all his resurrection that I am able to stand redeemed and clean.  This is what I am most thankful for.

My hope for everyone who might read this is that each of you will realize that no matter your circumstances there is so much we can thank God for.  Even in the midst of our family losing two of our boys I am able to thank God for his saving grace.  He has never left my family or I, and has continued to carry each of us through our darkest and deepest valleys.  I hope that each person who reads this will find that same peace, comfort, and joy.  There is a hope for each and everyone of us if we will only reach out and accept it. 

Happy Thanksgiving to each and everyone one of you!  I will leave you with this passage from Philippians that captures what I am most thankful for.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:1-11

Saturday, November 16, 2013

More Than We Can Handle...

I’m sitting here in Maui with Jess and the boys and finally have some time to actually put some thoughts to paper so to speak that I have had on my heart for awhile.  On November 19th it will be what would have been Hayes’ 2nd birthday.  We are going to take Noah and Drew into Lahaina that night and have “Hula Pie” at Kimos to celebrate.  It makes me happy that the boys look forward to celebrating their brothers even though they are not with us, but instead waiting for us in heaven. 

While this trip is amazing and I am enjoying spending almost 2 weeks with my beautiful wife and amazing boys, I can’t help but think about what it would be like if Jack and Hayes were here to enjoy it with us.  There is a huge part of me that always thinks about that no matter what it is we are doing, which I think is something any parent who has lost a child does.  I have to say the fact that I realize Jack and Hayes are not here with us and we don’t get to share these experiences with them, makes me appreciate doing this with Noah and Drew all the more. 

This post is not about our vacation or missing Jack and Hayes, but is instead about something more that has been on my heart for awhile but have not had the time to get out.  Bear with me as I go through this and please read till the end, because I will tie this all together as I get there.  I read a blog from a pastor a couple of months ago that someone posted a link to on Facebook.  This blog hit on something that I have thought long and hard about and completely agree with.  I wish I could find the link to this blog to credit the author, but I have not been able to so I will summarize what it was he was getting at. 

The main idea of this pastor’s post was raising the fact of the idea that God “doesn’t give us more than we can handle” is not an actual biblical statement.   Many Christians and non-Christians alike tend to speak that statement like it was an actual verse in the Bible when it actually isn’t.  This is something that I would have to admit I have been guilty of thinking if not actually saying in the past.  The simple truth is that is not what the Bible says.  

I want to quote the actual verse that gets cited when this statement is made.  It’s found in 1st Corinthians 10:13.
“No temptation has overtaken you except  such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

                This verse does clearly state that God has provided for us an escape for any temptation we might face, but that is different than God giving us more than we can bear.  This verse when taken in the context of the whole chapter is clearly talking about the fact there is no temptation to sin that we will ever face that is unique and something that we cannot over come through Christ.  There is always the opportunity to turn from the temptation because God has already provided a way of escape.  It is up to us to take that escape route when those times come.

                I would have to argue that this verse does not mean that every situation and circumstance we are faced with in this life is going to be one that has an escape route built in.  When we are faced with the opportunity to sin, there is always an option to turn from it and make the right choice because that escape route is always there.  We don’t have to sin, but when we are faced with circumstances that are beyond our control there isn’t always a way to escape those moments.  

                My big idea here is that when moments come in our lives that are completely out of our control there isn’t always a way to get out of them, but there is a greater option.  I can tell you from our experience having two out of four of your children die unexpectedly from things that shouldn’t have killed them; there isn’t any way to escape that pain.  Losing your husband or wife too soon when you had plans for your future is not something you can find a way around.  A child who loses their parent when they are too young, a person who is diagnosed with a terminal disease, or a country that experiences a natural disaster that kills tens of thousands of people to name just a few are circumstances that don’t offer a way to escape that kind of pain and suffering.  

                That verse in 1st Corinthians is not talking about these situations.   That is not to say it doesn’t still point us in the right direction.  The question that is asked in these moments tends to be “where is God”?  That question when fully explored actually leads us to the answer, and ultimately the way through these life altering moments in life.  

                I would hold to the truth that while there isn’t a way to escape the pain of losing a child or any earth shattering moment in our lives, there is a way to come through them.  I can say from my own experience of losing Jack and Hayes there has been a way through the pain and sorrow that followed.  Temptation we can escape from, but pain we must walk through no matter how hard we try to escape it.

God is not the author of pain and sorrow, but is instead the author of life.  This post is meant for anyone God would have to read it, but in my heart I am speaking to those of you who find yourself at that point in life where you have nowhere to turn and are wondering what to do.  While it sounds nice to say God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, the practical application of that has more to it.  If you want to find peace and comfort don’t look for the way out, but instead look to author of life who went to the cross for you.  Jesus asked the Father if there was a way to avoid the cross, but went to it anyways because there was no way to reconcile us to Him without dying on it.  

That is the pattern that is laid out for us in these moments.  Even though we want to avoid the pain of these moments there is a way.  If you will grab hold of Christ and keep your eyes on Him you will find that He will hold you up through it.  That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but it does mean that Christ will be right next to you holding you when there seems to be no way.  While many times in life there isn’t a way to avoid pain, God uses those moments to draw us to Him because that is the only way.  

There are many who want to avoid the pain and blame God for it, but I would encourage you to seek Christ instead.  The only way my family is still intact after losing Jack and Hayes is because we turned to Christ and allowed Him to carry us through.  That is not a pat on our back to say we are special, but instead a testimony to the power of Christ and the fact He is there to carry you through no matter the circumstances.  You only need to ask Him…

1 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, 2 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 12:1-2