Saturday, December 22, 2012

How I Saw Eternity in 124 Days

*A re-post from the archives in remembrance of my sweet "nephew" Jayden on the one year anniversary of his passing into the arms of Jesus.*

I hope you have seen the video my cousins made in celebration of their sweet baby Jayden, who went home to be with the Lord after 124 days of life here on this earth.  If you have not, please watch it first here before reading this post.

As I mentioned in that post, there are so many things I want to say about the experience of loving and losing Jayden.  God gave him to our family for a short time, but for a great purpose.  Part of Jayden's purpose was surely to change me.  In honor of him, I want to share with you how God used this precious baby to do that.

Before Jayden was even born, he began to change me.  During Christina's pregnancy, we were made aware of some concerns the doctors had about how Jayden was developing in utero.  Each time a concern was raised, we prayed and God removed the issue.  At the next sonogram, the concern would be gone!  Through Jayden, I learned how to really pray- fervent, unceasing, faith filled and unselfish prayers.  And because of him, I learned that God does still heal!  I saw Him miraculously heal JJ not once but twice. 

When Jayden was born and all seemed well, I was overjoyed!  When I saw his precious face in photos for the first time, the tears of thankfulness flowed.  Even now, as I look back, I thank God my cousins had a month of typical life with a newborn.  I pray that God has engraved the sweetness of that time on their hearts forever.

One afternoon, when JJ was about a month old, I got a phone call from Christina to let me know they were on their way to the hospital and to ask for prayer for Jayden.  Once again, it was time to persevere in prayer.  Through the ups and downs and the lack of answers from the doctors, Jayden taught me how to press on in prayer and to trust God with the result.  His life forced me to put my faith in action.  Do I really believe that with God all things are possible?  Do I really believe that God’s plan is perfect?

When God made a way for my cousins to bring Jayden home and I was able to meet him, I felt such great thankfulness for the opportunity.  Holding him for those brief moments were a gift I will never forget nor take for granted.  I will never forget his beautiful eyes, his round cheeks, his sweet smile and of course how he looked just like his daddy. 

During my visit, my cousins held a beautiful prayer service for Jayden.  I will never forget how they purposed to keep the mood light yet prayerful and reverent.  Their grace and peace spoke volumes to those of us looking on- both believers and non-believers.  As a believer, I was encouraged to see that God does indeed give special grace in our time of need.  And those who don’t believe saw a faith that was real, and how God could be loved, honored and glorified even as one walks through pain and fear.

When I got the phone call I had been praying against for so long, my heart broke.  But Jayden’s life and my cousins' response to his life and his death, once again taught me.  I learned, really learned, that life is a vapor.  This is not just head knowledge for me anymore.  Instead I feel that truth now with an ache in my heart.  My eyes have been opened to see that not one of us is promised tomorrow.  I have had to experience what that feels like and to watch my loved ones suffer because of it.  I have been forced to acknowledge how I have taken the precious gift of life for granted.  I have been inspired to change that- to become one who appreciates each moment of life- my own and my loved ones- as a gift. 

My cousins' determination to honor God by celebrating Jayden’s life despite their pain was beautiful!  Once again, I saw Him give them the special grace to do just that at JJ's Celebration of Life service.  From the music they chose, to the words of the pastor, to the incredible video, to Christina’s unscripted appeal onstage to all to come to know God, to the release of 124 balloons in celebration of his 124 days of life, they set the tone of celebration and faith in the midst of suffering and sorrow.  They lifted God and His goodness above all else and, in doing so, set an example for all of us who believe and planted a seed in the hearts of those who do not.

The truth is, I wish with everything in me, that Jayden was still with us.  That our prayers had been answered differently and I could have rejoiced to watch him toddling through my cousins' yard as we enjoyed our annual week together in the summer.  I mourn with them.  I weep with them.  But praise God that we do not grieve like those who have no hope!  We know where JJ is- in the arms of our Jesus.  And we know that he is healed and whole.  We know that we will see him again- and this time it will not be for a vapor but for eternity.

I don’t know how to do this.  How to grieve a sweet little cousin.  How to love my cousins well.  How to minister at this time.  I only know this.  That I love my cousins and their family so very much.  And that He loves them exceedingly and abundantly more than I ever could.  So I simply trust that they will come through this stronger and more equipped to do His will.  And I ask Him to give me what I need to be there for them.  

Thank you, Christina and Jason, for sharing Jayden with me.  I am forever changed because of him!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Chasing After the Wind

As I listen to the news, scroll through my News Feed on Facebook and navigate blogs following the inconceivable evil wrought on Friday morning in Newtown, CT, this is what keeps rising up in my mind:  
"I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  What is twisted cannot be straightened, what is lacking cannot be counted."  Ecclesiastes 1: 14-15
Twenty fresh-faced, rosy-cheeked lives were snuffed out in an act of carnage so repugnant, one cannot bear to think on it too long without a visceral response.  Six brave, selfless women- mothers, daughter, aunts, sisters, wives, friends- were prematurely ripped from this earth.  Countless family members, friends and survivors have been forever marred by staggering trauma and loss.  

We cry out about gun control and mental illness and prescription drugs.  Politicians make impassioned promises to right all that is wrong with this world with their policies and laws.  But the hard truth is this: what is twisted cannot be straightened, what is lacking cannot be counted.  

No amount of dialogue or legislation or research or best practices can restrain the evil that can be borne out of the human heart.  We are a twisted people living in a fallen world.  

Our ONLY hope is not found in anything we can do to save us from ourselves.  Our futile attempts to do so are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

No, our ONLY hope is found in the God of the Bible.  Our ONLY hope is found in the Father who loved us so much that He sent His only Son to take the penalty for our sin.  Our ONLY hope is found in the Holy Spirit who gives us power to live a godly life.  Our ONLY hope is in the ONLY One who can straighten our twisted hearts and make our lives count despite all we lack in our own strength.  

Today, we weep with those who weep.  We pray and cry out to the God of all comfort to heal the broken-hearted and to be close to those who are crushed in spirit.  We share God's love whenever and however we can.  It's the only appropriate response in this hour.

Soon, yes, there will be honest dialogue about gun control, mental illness, and prescription drugs.  And spirit-filled believers must enter in to these dialogues, using the principles from God's Word and the wisdom He gives us to make a difference in this world.  However, we must never be blinded to the truth in this process.  The truth that only God can bring the full restoration our hearts long for and we must never waver in this message.  

"Now all has been heard;   here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every deed into judgment,  including every hidden thing,whether it is good or evil."  Ecclesiastes 12:13-14  
There is a day, and it's coming soon, when He will right every wrong and wipe every tear from our eyes.   

"And in despair, I bowed my head.  There is no peace on earth, I said.  For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.  Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead nor doth He sleep.  The wrong shall fail, the right prevail.  With peace on earth, good will to men."  from I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day


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