It feels like a sucker-punch…

a few weeks ago, out of the blue, I looked up Rachel Held Evans because I hadn’t heard from her in a while. I have enjoyed her blog, and though at times I have been at odds with her view point, I have always been challenged by what she had to say.

So I looked her up, and discovered she was ill and in a medically induced coma. I couldn’t believe it. What? Naturally, I figured the doctors knew what they were doing and she would be fine. Then I saw the news today, it was sobering, it caught me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. I involuntarily exhaled all of the wind from my lungs. She was gone.

I cannot even imagine what her husband Dan must be going through right now. She was only 37 years old, and I feel as if the world has been sucker-punched right in the gut. How could something like this even happen…and yet it does. How could something so random and seemingly innocuous even take place in our modern-medicine-filled-world? It feels as if a large boulder has been placed on our collective chests and we are immobilized by the sheer weight of it.

The “pat”, Christianese answers like “well, it must have been God’s timing” and “everything happens for a reason” just feel like bold-faced lies, and I don’t want to hear them said. There is a certain bitter taste that wells up in my mouth and I feel that when someone so young (with a young family) and so much potential in the world dies it just seems so unfair. I have felt this way numerous times, and I wish that there was some way to quantify the sudden passing of people like this…but there’s not. We live in a very fragile world and every one of us is very much mortal. Life and Death balance precariously in our world and (as morbid as it sounds -sorry) any moment could possibly be our last.

I won’t cheapen Rachel Held Evans’ death by trying to summarize and “mortalize” a neatly packaged missive, stating that we never really know when the Lord will take us…but I will say that this all just feels heavy and unfair. I know we have never, ever been given a life that was guaranteed to be fair, but when a loved one or someone we respect dies so suddenly we feel it in the core of our souls…and it feels so very unfair. Please keep Dan Evans, Rachel’s husband in your prayers, as well as their small children and the extended family.

Perhaps we will all catch our breath again, but for right now, it just feels like a massive sucker-punch…and it’s okay to mourn…but it just feels so unfair.

-Just a thought.

Dear Salvation Army – 10 Things That Will Kill Your Corps

Today I want to explore with you only ten things that will kill our corps.  As with other lists we have compiled here on Pastorsponderings, this is merely a primer and I know there are other issues that will certainly lead to a terminal corps.  Be mindful as we explore this list to consider your own corps, ask yourself the hard questions.  Our goal is not to tear down or make anyone feel bad about their corps, but instead through critical thinking, help us to inject vibrancy into corps settings.  One other word of caution – Corps Officers, don’t try to be the dictator of every aspect of your corps, micromanaging will stunt the potential growth of your soldiers and local officers.  Soldiers & Local Officers, don’t expect or accept the notion that your corps officer is to do everything either.  This is a partnership.  It is true that the position of corps officer is a very temporal position and with it comes differing views and leadership styles, but be firm and strong as the glue that hold your corps together!  More often than not, corps that die usually have little to no local officers leading the way.  Without that infrastructure the corps can collapse.

So, without further adieu, let us delve into
Ten Things That Will Kill Your Corps 

  1.  Legalism legal
    Contrary to some views, the Pharisee of the Bible did not die…they still exist sometimes even in our corps.  Be mindful of the use of rules and regulations.  Yes, we need order and operate within a quasi-military structure, but watch out that extreme legalism doesn’t soffocate your members!  Remember that we are not under law but under grace!  (Rom. 6:14)   Yes, keep to the doctrines of our Army, but do not lord it over soldiers and adherents.  Excessive power will divide people and make them dispise leadership, where as grace and love will solidify the soldiers and friends of our army.  Sometimes, bite your tongue and say nothing is a better formula than lashing out, judging and becoming the rule enforcer!
  2. Tolerance of Sin Issues
    sinAt the other end of the spectrum is the ignoring and tolerance of sin issues in your corps.  Be mindful that we are not the judge of our world, but we do hold a high standard for our fellow brothers and sister in Christ who wear this uniform.  This almost seems to be in complete conflict with the first point, but it is not.  Galatians 6:1 clearly reminds us as it did in Paul’s day – “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.

    Do not blindly ignore sin issues in your corps.
    Confront in love with the support of other believers.  We must be very cautious here, make sure this is not done in anger, unless righteous anger is needed (let the Holy Spirit lead you).  Pray about these issues.  Wait for the right time.  DO NOT confront from the Pulpit or lash out at people just to “get even”.  Use your corps council, your local officers, contact an mediatary from your divisional headquarters, but do not let anyone in your fellowship slip further into sin and/or by ignoring it condone it by-proxy.

  3. Lack of Core Leadership
    Without core leaders in the corps, the vision and decisions fall solely on the Corps leadOfficer(s).  Yes, they have had training, yes they are leaders, but they cannot lead properly without the core leaders to help them.  A shared vision and delegated group will be better equipped to handle opportunities and threats that come to your corps and community.  If you don’t currently have core leaders, begin by praying and asking God to reveal potential leaders to you.  Prayer is never a last resort, but a constant conversation.  Don’t limit your search to just the older members, the younger generations will eventually replace us at some point, so begin to invest in them.  Begin to disciple them, and display for them what leadership is all about!  Gather one or two influential people with common sense to help you in your corps.  Remember, that we are an egalitarian movement – both men and women are equal, so do not limit your leadership search to just men or just women.  Without a core group of leaders, the vision and movement will be limited.
  4. Polarizing Visions
    disagreement
    Polarizing Vision Can Kill!
    On the other end of the spectrum you might have too many cooks in the kitchen, so to speak.  What happens when the core leaders in your core do not agree on which direction to take?  This is a danger, and if not addressed properly can leader to dysfunction, an exodus of membership and death in the corps.  A shared vision is of the utmost importance.  Without a shared vision, everyone will be doing their own thing and everyone will be going every which way, and nothing will ever get done successfully.  “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 11:14)
  5. Inwardly focused – All-in
    There is a danger in our corps to become so insulated, so accustomed to who is there, focusedand what we do as a corps, that we begin to have no need for the “outside world”.  We stop looking out into our community and we become self-reliant and self-focused.  In this danger, what happens when our congregation gets old and dies?  Will there be youth to raise up and take our place?  Will be just be a group of inbred soldiers?  I don’t mean to sound crass, but the reality is, we need to stop being afraid of our communities.  We need to stop treating the people outside our buildings as “those people” with a sense of superiority.  We must squelch the desire to just remain in our buildings and selfishly focus on “us”.  What about the great commission?  What are we fighting for if we only fight for ourselves and our traditions and self-interests?  If we are all-in and inwardly focused, we will slowly die away…and no one will care when we’re gone.
  6. Outwardly focused – All-in
    godThis is probably a rare thing, but perhaps not.  Perhaps there are some corps that have so many services to the community that worship and all things “Spiritual” are an after thought, and then you come to Sunday and it just becomes a “thing we do”.  We focus all of our energies on the outside, on meeting human needs but we seldom meet those needs “in HIS name” anymore.  We might as well be just another social service agency or a humanitarian group, because we will have forgotten our first love and the “body” will be just bits and pieces pulled and stretched so thin that it doesn’t resemble Christ any longer.
  7. Rigid Goals and Vision 
    We can plan to fail by over planning everything.  This can kill our corps, if we do not listen to feedback from those we serve, and we merely continue to plod on in ourrule vision and goal because “they have been set, and we don’t alter these goals”.  Goals should never be so rigid that there is no looking back and re-evaluating what works and what does not work, whether it be in evangelism, discipleship, or corps fellowship growth strategies.  Remember what worked 100 years ago, might not necessarily be the best method to use in an ever evolving culture.  Not to say we adopt our culture, but we ought to consider what works and what does not work any longer and not be so rigid that we refuse to ever change how we plan and how we enact a strategy in our corps.  Rigidity can kill your corps, and stifle any potential growth you might see.
  8. Holiness is not taught
    holyIf you corps does not understand Holiness, and or it is never preached on spoken of, perhaps this might be an indicator of a terminal issue.  I am not saying that holiness is the end-all be-all of the corps, but what do you do with Salvation after receiving it?  Where does one go after initial sanctification?  Does the Holy Spirit still desire to transform us through and through?  Does He not want us to be the very reflection of Christ?  Yes.  There needs to be continual conversation about our surrendered life and how that looks in the real world.
  9. Discipleship is not cultivated
    With the teachings of Holiness, comes the deeper fellowship of discipleship.  This isn’t some text book class we all are forced to attend, this is mentoring, this is disemulating elders we respect, this is becoming more than who we are now.  Walking in the footsteps of saints and in so doing, we too become saints within this great army.  If your corps does not have this vital element, closely connected to holiness, you could be facing extinction.  Recognize this need, and do something!!
  10. Comfort Over Risk 
    Lastly, our army could will die if we merely remain content in where we have come.  We can sit back and relish the past.  We can lament that things aren’t how they used lazyto be in the bygone days.  We can rest comfortably on financial resources and riches we have been given from various places, and never take another risk again…and if we do this, we. will. die.  I cannot stress it enough, in order for God to change our Army, we have to become uncomfortable again.  We have to take risks and forget what the rules and regulations say.  We have to close dead corps, move to places of need without bureaucratic red tape hamstringing us along the way.  We have to get out of our pews and put feet to our professed faith.  It’s either put up or shut-up.  Seriously, we can talk a good game, but if we can’t back it up, then hung it up and quit already.  We don’t need fans in the stands not doing the work.  We don’t need complainers and criticizers telling it us it can’t be done – because the risk is too great.  If we don’t do something, we might as well put our corps on life-support right now.  There is a sad trend that is taking place in our corps around the USA, and our corps are not statistically growing anymore.  We are not busting out of our corps buildings anymore.  Yes, perhaps it’s across the board in all denominations, but could it be that we are so comfortable now that we have stopped ACTUALLY trying to reach our communities?  Could this be an entire systemic issue of spiritual laziness?  Forgive me if I offend you today, I can’t help but feel alarmed at how swiftly our corps are dying.  And I can’t help but wonder what the next 50 years will hold for this movement?  If we do nothing, we will not be here in 50 years…not like we have been, not like we should be…and then perhaps, Lord forbid, God raises up someone else to do what we should have been doing.

    These are ten things that are killing our corps…there are more, but for now that is more than enough to ponder and chew on in our army.  What do you think?  Tell us, please, I relish your input, opinion and testimonies.

    Blessings on you and your corps today!
    To God be the glory!

David Bowie, Lazarus, Blackstar, Life and Death

I have to admit right up front that I was never an avid fan of Bowie’s music.
Sure, I know all of the hits, like “China Girl“, “Let’s Dance” and the Iconic song duet with Freddie Mercury “Under pressure“: …but I wouldn’t categorize my fandom as “superfan” by any means.  I don’t have all of his records, cd’s or downloaded musical content.

movieMy very first recollection of Bowie’s work came by way of the movie “The Labyrinth”.
He played an amazing villainous character known as the Goblin King.  His music and strange vocals carried a mediocre movie into the realms of a cult classic.

David Bowie wasn’t your average, run of the mill musician.  He sort of did his own thing.  He set the trend.  His music was strangely weird and fascinating at the same time.  In 1969 Bowie gave us Major Tom in “The Space Oddity” which tells the tale of an astronaut leaving Earth and of his fears in a rather nostalgic and melancholy way.

Throughout his career he gave us odd.  He gave us artistry and creativity.  He certainly gave us something unique and rarely (if ever) duplicated.

But…
this isn’t really a tribute today.
This is a pondering.  And like all ponderings, I would like to ask questions that perhaps have no answer, but maybe, just maybe we continue to seek them out along the way.

BLACKSTAR Photo Jan 26, 8 18 49 AM
I find it rather fascinating that David Bowie kept his failing, terminal diagnosis of cancer to himself.  It is astounding in this day and age that something that was private stayed private.  What’s even more interesting is that although Bowie was given this gloomy prognosis, he set his sights on finishing this remarkable journey on his own terms.  Just two days after the release of Blackstar, Bowie died.  It was as if he had timed all of this, and everything went according to his plans.

Life and Death…
blackI have listened to Bowie’s last album “Blackstar”.
I have seen both music videos for Lazarus and Blackstar.  They are hypnotic, weird and yet oddly captivating.  Within these depictions of death, we find a man struggling with his own mortality and coming to grips with his own illness.  There is so much to ponder with this final release.  He certainly knew he was dying when he began work on this album.  He knew time was short.  Despite his prognosis, Bowie decided how his passing would be depicted to the world.  I do not want to delve too deeply into the symbolism and interpretation of his final songs, but I am quite interested in the final product of who each of us are…and what we leave wish to behind.

Making it Personal…
My personal interpretation of this final act of Bowie’s speaks to me on a much deeper plain than mere showbiz and pop culture.  The question begs to be asked in my own life.  It’s a question that currently doesn’t have a specific timetable like Bowie’s did, and yet keeps pounding on the door of my life.  It’s not a prideful question, or a fear of one’s reputation either.  In the purest sense…in the honesty of silence, when no one else is around…this question begs me to answer.  It’s really a two fold question that keeps getting kicked around in my head, and I still find myself falling short on the words that would formulate an appropriate answer.  Questions like: “How do you want to be remembered, and what sort of legacy do you want to leave behind?” float around my mind waiting to be explored, quantified and perhaps answered in slow-small doses.

Honestly, I don’t wish to take away anything from Bowie’s artistry and canvas that he has hung on its final frame and placed on his legacy (that is a stand-alone project of His life – not mine) …but within my own heart I must ask this of myself…and perhaps we all do.  I’m some what fearful to what the answers might be, because it can be far too revealing even to ourselves.  “What am I doing with my life right now that matters?”  “What can I leave as a legacy for my children and for the world around me?”  “How is the world better because of what I’ve done to better it around me?”

From a Christ-driven relationship perspective, I also know that I do not live for myself, thomasbut for One who has given us all grace.  I live for One who holds both life and death in His hands, and in Whom everlasting life can be found.  I find that my “Lazarus” in this new life, in the hope of eternal life is completely and utterly found in Christ.  This isn’t some sermon I’m writing, or a persuasive speech, this is just how I feel and what I see in my life.  I know hope exists.  I know peace exists.  Everlasting love and life also exist – in Christ.

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains at sunsetWhere ever you live.
Whatever you do.
If you are facing grim prognosis’ in life…know that this life is only the beginning.
We can grasp onto a life that is eternal and will never run down or expire unlike these bodies of ours.

Something more to ponder today.

Seeking Dead-Jesus… (a reflection of Mary at the tomb)

I keep thinking about Mary encountering Jesus in the garden post-death.
Imagine it with me if you can:

She is going there to properly take care of his dead body.
She is going there to shed a few more tears in private.
She is going there to say goodbye.
Her heart is as heavy as a led balloon.
She just can’t wake up from this nightmare.
Rising early that morning, a night wrought with bad dreams and sleeplessness, she heads directly to the grave.
Call it a moment to convince herself that He’s really gone.
Call it a part of the mourning process.

Rounding the last turn in the overgrown garden she comes upon a sight that she cannot quite explain.
Reason fails her and she is pauses a step to take in the scene attempting to comprehend it all – His grave is open.   Picking up the pace, she closes in on the tomb and enters all in one quick motion.  The place where they had laid Jesus is empty,  it is vacant.  Had the authorities changed their minds?  What happened to the body of her teacher, her rabbi?

Mary runs back and gets the disciples who, upon hearing this troubling news, run to the tomb to check it out for themselves.

Fresh tears begin to well up in her eyes as a lump forms in her throat as this all takes place.
Where is Jesus?
Why had they done this?
Could they not have left Him be, allowing this one ounce of dignity?

griefStepping back out of the tomb, the early sun begins to crest the horizon and spills effortlessly out upon the garden igniting it in hues of orange and red.  Mary doesn’t know what to do.  She is dumb-founded.  Mary peers again into the tomb to make sure she has seen it correctly, as grief can often cloud the ruffled edges of judgment and understanding.   Then…something catches her eye – two angelic forms standing beside the place where dead-Jesus had been laid.  They speak to her.  “Woman, why are you crying?” they ask…as if the meaning of death and loss meant nothing.  But Mary swallows back tears and replies “They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have put Him.”    Uttering this very statement is like releasing the floodgates in a dam and her resolve breaks and so does her heart.

Suddenly, a shadow passes between her and the fire branded sunrise.  It is the silhouette of a man.  It MUST be the gardener coming to tend to the property before the hot sun engulfs and wilts the plants.  It must be someone who knows something about where Jesus has be taken.  Once again, the question is asked of her, this time by the man standing silhouetted in front of her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”  Again Mary sniffles and forces out a tired, bitter response amidst her flowing tears “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

She is at the end of her strength.
She is beyond heart-sick.
At the very least this can be done – recovering Jesus’ body.

Then, something remarkable happens – the dead speaks.
The man before her says one word that brings water to a desert.
This one word means more than the content of thousands of words meticulously strewn together in a book.
He speaks this one word and the storms of mourning cease.
He speaks this one word and shattered pieces of her heart become whole again.  mary
MARY.
In her weakest state she recognizes just who He is.
In her tear-blurred eyes and flood of grieving heart, she finds renewed strength in His presence.
She calls out to Him by His respected title – ““Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Mary is overwhelmed with joy.
She is filled with relief.
The sun, now in its fuller light shines upon the son of God in all of His resurrected glory.
He is alive!
_____________________________________________________________________________________
I keep coming back to this story because often we too keep going to back to the empty tombs in our lives.
We keep coming up with the wrong conclusions.
Doubt casts its shadow upon our faith and it weighs heavily on us.
Doubt blurs our resolve and shakes our foundations of belief.
We stoop down into that tomb time and time again and we forget that we do not serve a dead-savior, but a risen one.
We need to look up and see Him.
We need to recognize our teacher.
We need to find Him once more for ourselves.
He wipes away our tears and longs for us to cry out to Him.

Will you?
Something more to ponder today.
To God be the glory!

The Right To Live And To Die: Brittany Maynard

Brittany has died.

It is not my intention to glamorize anything about death or the choice to die.
Life is worth living…
but what happens when the life you have is cut short by a terminal illness?
What then?  I have a very hard time justifying suicide for anyone…but can we find fault in the search for dignity in death?

I look at the story of Brittany Maynard and her very difficult choice and I am saddened.  No one should ever have to face the knowledge that they have an incurable, terminal illness.  No one should ever have to face the knowledge that they only have months, even weeks to live.  Yet millions do each day.  Lives irrevocably changed.  It boggles the mind.

Brittany  Maynard chose to die while she still had the human faculties to remember her husband.  She chose to die while she still had the capacity to speak.  She chose to die while she still had the capacity to say goodbye.  Did you catch that, SHE chose.   I know I might receive a lot of heat from this, but I find it hard to equate her choice here to suicide when her life was utter agony and would soon end terminally anyway.  I find it hard to see this kind of suffering continue.  I don’t advocate suicide in any manner and even in this context it can become a very slippery slope in determining who and why one would choose this.

Yet…I mourn today.
I mourn for Brittany’s husband.  I mourn for her family.  This isn’t some sort of glamorized Hollywood movie, this is life…and death.  This is visceral.

I believe in a mighty God whose capacity for grace and mercy far exceeds my own understanding of it.   I believe in His ultimate healing for all afflicted lives and those who seek Him.  Of these things I cling to, for He holds the keys to life and death.  There is one thing that I do know, I am not the ultimate judge, God is and no one else can or should step into that role.   Despite our comprehension of right or wrong and our understanding of even life and death, I don’t think that we truly know the answers beyond the veil on this side of heaven.  What we can do, however, is to live our lives in such a way that others see Christ in us regardless of the circumstances that we face.  Does living for Christ provide us answers to these troubling questions?  Yes, Someday, but until then let’s be the best representation of God’s grace in a world that desperately needs that hope and Grace. -Just a thought.

Brittany Maynard Story

More to ponder…

The Right To Die…

Brittany Maynard is 29 and she has a terminal brain tumor.
She wants to die on November 1st.  Her story can be found on most news sites today: Brittany Maynard Story

It is a sad situation.  I cannot even begin to image someone so young facing the certainty of death at this point in life.  My heart aches at this story.

Questions that I ponder today:
Is there dignity in death?
Are there times when doctor assisted euthanasia is appropriate?
How does faith fit into to all of this?
Can we reconcile our faith with a due date for death?

I have no answers for these ponderings today.
I mourn at Brittany’s difficult decision…but I honestly can’t see where her decision is wrong.  Perhaps you might disagree with me, and that’s fine.  I’ve been in the hospital rooms of the dying and the recently deceased.  I’ve watched and witnessed what cancer can do to a body as it wastes away.  There are fewer and fewer moments of clarity…fewer and fewer moments  of “last words” while there is a lingering, painful death watch for the family to endure.  Usually all that the doctors and nurses can do is make someone comfortable with pain medication and other such drugs.  I can understand why Brittany doesn’t want her husband and family to go through that.  I don’t think it’s selfish for her to consider this means to an end.  I don’t believe in giving up hope.  I do believe in miracles, but when in the face of death is there are right and wrong in the way one will meet the Father at the hands of knowledgeable doctors?

If faced with this similar decision, would I choose differently?  I don’t know.
Would I want my family to suffer through the last stages of a horrific battle?  Probably not.  Would I want to end it before I’m too far gone?  Probably.

Morality and Ethics:
I know what it means to assist with another person’s end of life decision.  I understand the preservation and sanctity of human life.  Yet in this case and cases like it I have to believe in a God of grace and understanding far beyond our own comprehension.  There are no clear cut black and white answers here.  I have to believe that life wasn’t supposed to be this way for anyone.  We do live in a fallen world.  We do live in a world wrought with incurable diseases and at times, hopeless situations.  I am not arguing theology here, nor do I wish to debate the right or wrong of euthanasia or assisted suicide…I just wish to ponder the ins and outs of this specific sad, sad situation for Brittany.

I may not have any adequate answers for this equally complicated end of life situation, but I can tell you what kind of answers I do have. It makes me want to hold my kids and my wife a little closer. It makes me truly appreciate the time that I have on this earth a little more…and to not take it for granted. It brings the choices I make and how I treat others in this life (including my friends and family) that much more important.

My prayers go out to her, to her husband and her family.  I cannot even begin to imagine what she is going through, but I do believe there is a God who loves her very much and longs to end her suffering with an eternal healing.  My thoughts and prayers are with Brittany and the family today.

Finding Freedom…stop the madness!

What are you 
                            Enslaved to?

ImageWhat holds 
You
Captive? 

 

So many victims…
                                          so many chains.

Enslaved to the things we own…
                                                  or is it the things which own us?

 

 

Image what is it that is clasped to your life
                                                                   threatening to drown you?   Image

 

How the pressure builds and builds
                                                     and
                                                          builds.

What holds us back, keeps us chained
refrained and sometimes
 Insane? 

Image
Wouldn’t you rather be 
set free? 

To find relief.
                    from the grief, 
                                        the chaos
                                                      this burden?  

Image

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to lug this anymore…
To push and pull 
and never improve this lot…

 

Why would we EVER
be satisfied with this? 
When there is real Peace
                       real Hope
                       real Life
                       real Freedom Image …

BUT…
The burning question is…
Image
Why do we still live like we are still enslaved

                                                 still imprisoned
                                                 still chained…?  

 

Something to ponder today…and find freedom, live freedom, be freedom for others still blind and chained.  

                  

Perspectives Day 1 – Featuring Shanais Strissel (Captain) “On the Other Side of the Veil”

“On the Other Side of the Veil”

Image

Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid that when you woke up it took you a few moments to realize that it actually was a dream and not reality? It takes a moment for the mist to clear, the world to turn right side up and reality to realign itself once more.

I had a dream like that last night, vivid, stingingly emotional, deep and filled with rich, longing emotions.

I had a dream in which my mother showed up, she wasn’t what the dream was about or even a large portion of it, she just showed up for a moment…

I was sitting in a small room, with a small stage and when I glanced up I saw my mother walk out on the stage and begin to speak (which if you knew my mother she would NEVER intentionally get up in front of anyone)

            It wasn’t what she said, it was how she looked that struck me like an arrow through the heart…she was wearing blue jeans, an old t-shirt, her hair kind of wild and a huge cup of coffee in clutched her hands, with a nervous smirk on her face.

             The feelings that overtook me were so intense in my dream that I couldn’t even bare to look upon her face, in my dream I got up and walked out to the hall and cried, I cried a deep longing, emotion filled, slightly angry filled moaning cry.

            Why…because even in my dreams I know that my mother is gone and I can only glimpse her through the veil of death…it was her essence in my dream that connected my heart directly to hers because this WAS who my mother was, her look, her mannerism, her spirit...

            My dream was my subconscious creating an illusionary moment of a reality that I desire- a desire that I cannot fulfill….yet.

 

For now I wait patiently on this side of the veil.

 

Death is not a fixed point and heaven isn’t some misty, foggy place “out” there in the sky somewhere…it is just across the veil and closer than we think, or at least closer than I used to think.

            When death visits close to home and comes to take someone we love, whether violently or silently, it never comes gently- it cannot- it is not its nature, because it almost always leaves behind a gaping hole of loss or uneasy questions.

            But the good news for us is that even though we must, for now, stand on one side of the veil or the other it will not always be so.  Death may separate one life from another for now but someday that veil will be torn and we will not mingle with each other in death but in a real and tangible incorruptible life…

            When Jesus hung on that cross he didn’t just save us from our sin, he saved all humanity from desolate separation…We could not face God in a corruptible state but when Jesus tore the temple veil on his death, WE can now walk through that VEIL of death and arrive before God…and just as the temple veil was torn, so will this veil that separates the corruptible flesh, what we are now, to what we will someday become.

Someday, I will see my mother, my grandmother and those who are now on the other side of the veil and someday I will see that veil fall…

For those we celebrate on this day of honor and sacrifice, for the loss of loved ones, let the pain and sorrow of that loss gently flow into healing and hope…

            Healing because we know life does not end at death

And hope because we, for now, may get glimpses through the veil of death from time to time but someday it will be gone and we will be free to live and love the way we were meant to…without the fear of separation.

So on this day, let us not celebrate loss, but let us celebrate our future hope…

Because someday I will be able to go across the room and embrace my mother because nothing will separate us anymore, and you will be able to do the same…

 

Shanais Strissel’s Blog Site: http://shanaisstrissel.wordpress.com/

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Is the traditional family close to death? 4 threats that will flatline the family.

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The divorce rate in the United States is at an all time high – 50% and climbing.  For married couples, the busy world around them and the drive to be successful can be both rewarding and detrimental to their relationship.  If that issue were not enough, children within the family structure are facing greater societal pressures and visual/auditory simulations than ever before.  From images and videos on the web to television and online streaming accounts, the standards of moral living and what accepted behavior is, which should be taught by the parents are being contradicted by these outside influences.  

The argument can be made (and rightly so) that it is the parent’s duty to monitor and regulate the “data” consumption of their children yet all too often parents are either too busy working or have little to no interest in correctly parenting their children.  This is just one danger that threatens families today.  A sociological description of this is summed up in the phrase: “if you want to change society tomorrow you must teach the children of today!” The question is, who is teaching our children if the parents are not?  

4 threats that will flatline the family:

1 Societal Pressures: As mentioned above, who is teaching our children and what sort of influences are we allowing to infiltrate our homes?  Sometimes these influences seem innocuous yet just beneath surface there looms a greater threat which could potentially disrupt the teachings of the parents.   I don’t wish to sound like an alarmist or fire the danger flares without a clear sign of danger but parents be aware of what you allow your children to see, hear and do while they live in your home.  You have the greatest power to mold and shape your children, don’t let these outside influences disrupt or distort the godly principles that you are displaying and teaching them!   

2. Busyness: 
Parents, this is a warning to all of us.  Do not let your work and your job become all that you do!  Your first ministry and profession is to be a good parent!  This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work, but rather prioritize your schedule where possible in order to be there for your children.  The threat of “busyness” can be translated by your children to mean that they don’t matter to you, they are less important than your work, and this is how they should in turn become parents to their children in the future.  

Do you remember the old song “Cats in the cradle”?  In the chorus there’s that haunting lyric:
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then

You know we’ll have a good time then.”

And the song goes on and the son becomes just like his Dad and never has enough time because he is always busy.  
Spend time with your children.  Don’t let this threat flatline your family and your relationships to your children!  Someday, if we allow the busyness to consume us, we will come to regret all of the broken promises and unfulfilled plans that never happened because we never took the time.  

3.  Materialism: 
This might get personal, am I stepping on anyone’s toes yet?  Good! 
This whole “keeping up with the Jones'” needs to end in our homes!  We run the risk of becoming so “stuff” focused that we lose sight of the precious relationships we have right in front of us.  God gave us these living and breathing miracles to watch over, to teach and to love, and if we are so consumed with “stuff” what will our children see and want to become as well?  There are some things we absolutely need in this life, but then there are those things that we crave and desire and even covet.  Has materialism become an obsession in your household?  There is no doubt that in our media saturated world the “tech craze” has perpetuated our wants over our needs.  It has driven people to spend beyond their means and even at the risk of their families and livelihoods.  If we have become obsessed with stuff, not only do we run the risk of our kids following close behind us in our footsteps but perhaps we have removed God from His rightful place as well.  Does materialism rule you?  Beware of this family threat that could flatline your family.  Perhaps this threat may not flatline you right away, but gradually over time it has the propensity to wreck havoc in your lives and the lives of your children. 

4.  Financial Pressures: 
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One of the biggest threats to marriages today falls within the realms of finances.  Some of these financial pressures are interconnected with the third threat of materialism.  Families dream of buying that bigger or better house only to find that they have a bigger and harder mortgage to pay per month.  Financial pressures build and create fissures within the marriage relationship.  Married couples have to then work harder and slave over longer hours to help pay for the financial mess they find themselves in.  Along with the housing pressures come the credit card pressures (I’m beginning to sound like Dave Ramsey now).  Credit cards can be useful at times but it can also perpetuate this never ending cycle of debt in some and the dependence on borrowing money that we do not posses to pay off.  “At the end of the second quarter 2013, there was approximately $850 billion in outstanding revolving debt, mainly credit cards.” (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/five-shocking-credit-card-debt-statistics/) 

Here’s another credit card statistic: “the average credit card balance per consumer was recently reported to be $3,779″ (Source: http://www.credit.com/debt/average-credit-card-debt/) 

Many families are living from pay check to pay check and at times have become enslaved to their credit card debts because they have overspent and lived without a backup plan and/or financial understanding of realistically “living within their means”.  This isn’t a discussion about poverty or the rich vs. the poor, this is a discussion about understanding how dangerous credit cards and debt in general can be on the family structure.  Financial pressures can be inherited and taught just as moral principles of living can be taught.  This doesn’t mean that all children will emulate their parents all the way into financial woes but certain habitual traits within finances can leave unhealthy blueprints for our children’s future.  

Get out the paddles and jump start the family heart: 

 

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Spend quality time with your family!  Regulate and filter what your children watch and hear in a media saturated world!  You are the parent so take the time, live like it and share your love and passions (those things that matter) with your family!  Don’t let these threats flatline your family, instead jump start your crew by intentional time and care!  Plan creative family events.  Do a family movie night.  Talk around the dinner table.  Invest in your children and in what they love to do.  Go to their school events when you are able!  Show up, don’t merely attend!  The family is your first ministry.  From your home stems all other avenues of God’s love for the world around you!  Don’t let your family flatline, it’s far too valuable to lose!  

-Just another thought to ponder.  

 

 

 

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