Bereaved Parents Month 2022: Hardly the Time for Being Taught

I’ve done it myself.

Jumped right in with all kinds of suggestions designed to “fix” someone else’s problem.

Or worse, heaped my own experience with something more or less (often less) similar onto an already overburdened heart.

Read the rest here: Hardly The Time For Being Taught

A Few Random Sunday Thoughts

Sometimes church is hard for me.  

Not because I am angry with God, His people or His Word. 

But because my experience is an outlier for Western “Sunshine” Christianity.  

I don’t fit in with the folks who smile and wave and pretend that they have all they ever wanted, heaven is a nice place to look forward to, and they are “living their best life now”.  

Read the rest here: Random Sunday Thoughts

Lenten Reflections: Proximity Does Not Equal Intimacy

Hey friend-I’ve been there.

Many of us who’ve spent decades in church can attest to filling a position because it answered a need deep inside of us rather than because of our love for Jesus.

It’s entirely possible to be near the things and people of God-even God Himself- and not be attentive to or aware of the Presence of Christ.

There were lots of folks around the cross.

Some were paid to be there-for the Roman guards it was just another day at work. Some were there against their will-the two thieves were going to be crucified somewhere it just happened to be next to the Son of God.

Some wished they weren’t there as they watched their son (Mary) and beloved rabbi (John) die. Some were just walking by and were either curious or not depending on their dispositions.

Today Chole invites me to think about where I am in relation to the cross-am I near but not listening?

Am I “doing” but not “loving”?

Is my body occupying a pew or a pulpit while my spirit is far away?

Paid to be close to Jesus: nearest and yet farthest away. The paycheck can change your perspective whether paid in cash or praise. The soldiers valued Jesus’ stuff more than His life. As they kept themselves busy around the cross, they numbed themselves to His voice.

Today, fast God-as-job. Whether your check comes from a church or not, consider ways in which you, too, may be near in body but absent in spirit, taking care of Jesus’ stuff but now attending to His voice. Proximity does not automate intimacy. Only love transforms “near” into “for”.

Alicia Britt Chole

How We Can Make Church a Safe Haven For The Brokenhearted

f you have lived a blessed life where the greatest challenge to your faith has been disappointment and not destruction then I am so, so happy for you. Really.

Some of us have dragged our broken hearts through the church doors out of habit with little hope we might find the genuine comfort we need to survive inside.

Because experience taught us that while it is perfectly acceptable to raise a hand and ask for prayer one or two weeks in a row, it better not become a predictable pattern. Patience with unsolvable and messy ongoing situations runs thin as leaders turn the discussion toward “victory in Jesus”.

But that isn’t what Christ came for-not that we don’t have ultimate and even some temporal victory through Him.

He came for the broken and breathless. He came in the flesh because our flesh is weak and life is hard and bad things happen.

We’ve got to do a better job welcoming and ministering to hurting hearts.

We have to.

❤  Melanie

I am a shepherd.  My goats and sheep depend on me for food, for guidance and for their security.

And every day I am reminded that a shepherd’s heart is revealed by the way he or she cares for the weakest and most vulnerable of the flock.

But most of us are far removed from the daily reminder of pastoral life that was commonly accessible to the authors and readers of the Bible thousands of years ago.  So it’s no surprise that we tend to forget the connection between a shepherd’s life and a pastor’s calling.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: How the Church Can Serve Grieving Parents and Other Hurting People

Making Our Churches Safe Havens for Hurting Hearts

If you have lived a blessed life where the greatest challenge to your faith has been disappointment and not destruction then I am so, so happy for you. Really.

Some of us have dragged our broken hearts through the church doors out of habit with little hope we might find the genuine comfort we need to survive inside.

Because experience taught us that while it is perfectly acceptable to raise a hand and ask for prayer one or two weeks in a row, it better not become a predictable pattern. Patience with unsolvable and messy ongoing situations runs thin as leaders turn the discussion toward “victory in Jesus”.

But that isn’t what Christ came for-not that we don’t have ultimate and even some temporal victory through Him.

He came for the broken and breathless. He came in the flesh because our flesh is weak and life is hard and bad things happen.

We’ve got to do a better job welcoming and ministering to hurting hearts.

We have to.

❤ Melanie

I am a shepherd.  My goats and sheep depend on me for food, for guidance and for their security.

And every day I am reminded that a shepherd’s heart is revealed by the way he or she cares for the weakest and most vulnerable of the flock.

But most of us are far removed from the daily reminder of pastoral life that was commonly accessible to the authors and readers of the Bible thousands of years ago.  So it’s no surprise that we tend to forget the connection between a shepherd’s life and a pastor’s calling.

Read the rest here: Loving Well: How the Church Can Serve Grieving Parents and Other Hurting People

Bereaved Parents Month 2020: Singing Hymns That Hurt My Heart


I grew up singing hymns.

I was introduced to praise choruses in my mid-twenties.

I love both.

I used to hear or sing along to them and feel them feed my spirit.

My family sang in choirs, served on worship teams and was rarely absent from church for over twenty years.  Music was part of everyday life with a special bonus on Sundays.  

dominic at gray haven

Now I find it hard to hear and even harder to sing some hymns I used to love. 

Read the rest here: How I Sing The Hymns That Hurt My Heart

The Opposite of Faith Isn’t Doubt

The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s certainty.

Anne Lamott

Somewhere in the pursuit of truth and light, the Protestant reformation embraced at least one of the very practices it sought to discard.

I absolutely believe that by the time Martin Luther tacked his theses to the door the church needed reforming.

Men’s traditions and human “wisdom” had adulterated the pure truth and freedom of Christ’s Good News. No longer a source of liberation, it had been transformed by those in power into a form of bondage.

But humans are a stubborn and prideful lot and it wasn’t long before the liberators became slave drivers.

“Sola Scriptura” didn’t allow for any deviation from the accepted interpretation of those Scriptures. And the interpretation often went past the text and included making absolute assertions about how God works in the world.

Men began to once again place God in a box.

My intentions are not always yours,

        and I do not go about things as you do.

    My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you,

        just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth.

Isaiah 55:8-9 VOICE

So much of the “faith” handed down today through Sunday School lessons and sermons is one that simply doesn’t leave room for mystery or for doubt or, honestly, for many of the actual Bible stories if you read them straight from the Book and not get them second hand from a loose retelling .

Jesus Himself-the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3)-didn’t greet skeptics with absolute proof. He pointed to the work He was doing, the truth He was telling and the miracles He performed but He left it to the audience to decide if that qualified Him as the Christ.

Yet we treat those who bring questions to the table of grace at best as immature and at worst as apostates or faithless wannabes.

How far we have fallen from Paul’s declaration: “We walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Worse, we often condemn those who want desperately to come trembling to their church to seek other people and spaces outside the community of faith where their questions will be tolerated.

I love how Philip Yancey spoke of this in a recent blog titled, “A Time To Doubt”:

Jesus had the opportunity to subdue doubts for all time. He could have appeared with a choir of angels on Pilate’s porch the Monday after his resurrection and triumphantly declared, “I’m back!” Or, he could have staged a spectacular display before thousands in the Roman Forum. Instead, he limited his appearances to small groups of people who had already demonstrated some faith in him—which tells me something about the kind of uncoerced faith that God values.

In one of those small gatherings, the apostle who would earn the nickname “doubting Thomas” confronted Jesus. I love that scene, for two reasons. First, it shows the gentle way Jesus treated a doubter, when he had a perfect chance to scold him or pile on the guilt. Listen to Jesus’ approach: “What proof do you need, Thomas? Want to touch my wounds? Shall I eat something for you?”

Second, I note the poignant fact that the other disciples, who had already encountered the risen Jesus, included Thomas in their midst. To them, Thomas was a heretic: he defiantly refused to believe in the Resurrection, the cornerstone of Christian faith. Even so, they welcomed him to join them behind closed doors. Had they not, Thomas may never have met the resurrected Jesus.

Perhaps that gives a model for how the church should handle doubters now. Can we provide a safe, welcoming place for those who need more light?

Philip Yancey, “A Time to Doubt”
Image result for doubting thomas"

I know so, so many people who suffer greatly-often through no fault of their own and sometimes due to the fault and sin of others-who struggle to square their experience with all the declarations they’ve heard about “how God works”.

Image result for i tried to put God in a box c.s. lewis quote"

I know others who have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” on the long list of “what good Christians do and God rewards” and are living a life of desperation and sadness because life hasn’t turned out anything like what they thought they were promised.

Is it any wonder they are trying to figure things out?

Doubt is not denial.

If someone is asking questions, they are still seeking.

John Drummond points out that Jesus consistently made a distinction between doubt and unbelief. “Doubt is can’t believe; unbelief is won’t believe. Doubt is honesty; unbelief is obstinacy. Doubt is looking for light; unbelief is content with darkness.” (quoted by Philip Yancey, A Time to Doubt)

Jesus invited honest questions.

He only chastised the religious leaders who thought they knew it all.

Perhaps we could do the same and make space for those who are walking through a desert place to refresh themselves, renew their hope and restore their faith.

Image result for the church more than any other space should be a safe space to ask questions"

**If anyone is honestly searching, they are welcome to use the “contact” option to send me an email and begin a dialogue. ❤**

Repost: Faking a Smile Doesn’t Make Me a Better Christian

Heartache (which is very real, and often outside our control)  crushes a spirit. 

That’s a fact, reality, truth, cause and effect. 

I understand how those who have not been visited with hard, unchangeable, traumatic life circumstances can be tempted to see only the “choice” side of this verse.  But those of us who have had our hearts shattered, our worlds destroyed, our lives ripped asunder know that sometimes there is no choice in heartache.

And we should not be guilted into smiling when our hearts are breaking. 

Read the rest here: https://thelifeididntchoose.com/2018/09/06/faking-a-smile-doesnt-make-me-a-better-christian/

How I Sing The Hymns That Hurt My Heart

I grew up singing hymns.

I was introduced to praise choruses in my mid-twenties.

I love both.

I used to hear or sing along to them and feel them feed my spirit.

My family sang in choirs, served on worship teams and was rarely absent from church for over twenty years.  Music was part of everyday life with a special bonus on Sundays.  

dominic at gray haven

Now I find it hard to hear and even harder to sing some hymns I used to love. 

One of the most challenging is “It Is Well”-really, IS it well? 

Can I sing these words with conviction or am I lying my way through just to keep others from asking questions?  

I know the story behind the hymn-at least the part every worship leader or pastor likes to share.  Horatio Spafford wrote the words as he passed the very spot where his daughters drowned in an ocean crossing.  His life didn’t end on a high note.  It’s often introduced as an amazing testimony of victory over grief and death.  If I only cling harder to Jesus, I, too, can experience perfect peace in the midst of great trial and suffering.

it is well hymn music image

We sang that hymn in church a couple of weeks ago and I realized that it is a prayer as much as (or instead of) a declaration.

In many ways, after 5 years, it IS well with my soul.

I’ve reached a place where I can rest easy with unanswered questions and where I have finally received this blow with open arms. I’m not fighting the FACT of my son’s earlier than expected move to Heaven.

On those days, I can sing the chorus as an affirmation of truth.  

i thessalonians 3 peace

But I have days (and sometimes weeks) where life and memories and anniversaries and random stress unsettle me again. So then I sing it as a PRAYER like the psalmist who turns his heart to the only One Who can fill it again with grace, peace and hope. 

It may not be well right NOW, but it WILL be well.  

sings with song

I can trust that He who began a good work in me will complete it.

I can lean on the truth that in Christ every promise of God is “yes” and “amen”.

I know, deep in my bones, that all this heartache will ultimately be redeemed and that whatever I have lost in this life will be gloriously restored in Heaven. 

Blink of an eye heaven

Repost: The Danger of Rushing To Serve After Loss

There are all kinds of doubts that creep in and take up residence in a mind after child loss.

Most of them have to do with the child that ran ahead to heaven.

But many are also about me:  “What should I be doing? Where should I go from here?” 

For those of us active in church ministries, we wonder, “When do I return to service?”

Read the rest here:  The Danger of Rushing to Serve After Loss

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