I get it-media is looking to sell papers, get hits and make money.
But I’m oh, so tired of the only names mentioned when tragedy strikes being ones that make good headlines.
Mr. Bryant was traveling to a youth basketball tournament with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who was also killed in Sunday’s crash. Two of her teammates and their parents also died.
The NY TIMES, Morning Briefing
Kobe Bryant and his daughter were killed Sunday in a helicopter crash.
So were John Altobelli, his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa, Sarah Chester and daughter Payton, along with Christina Mauser and Ara Zobayan, the pilot.
No one survived.
Every family that lost a member in this awful accident will have to walk the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Money and fame don’t protect a heart from the pain, sorrow, despair and overwhelming darkness death brings with it.
But public focus on only the rich and famous can add to the burden when your family member is among the slain.
If you find your heart limping through Scripture instead of gaining strength, may I suggest you try a different Bible translation for a bit? Sometimes familiar words-even the words of God or His prophets-just fall flat.
I can read them and not digest them at all.
So lately I’ve been reading and copying from the VOICE translation and it has helped me see old passages in a new light.
Here’s one of them. I think those of us walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death have a lot in common with Jeremiah.
I love to read familiar verses in different translations or paraphrases.
It helps my heart hear what I might otherwise miss because familiarity DOES breed a form a contempt even when considering the Word of God.
Recently, on my way through verses on HOPE I copied out Lamentations 3: 19-26.
I’m no stranger to disappointment, disillusionment, discouragement and despair.
I have had some amazingly lofty peaks in this life but I’ve also had some terribly low valleys as well.
Some of the stories aren’t mine to tell so you will just have to take my word for it. Some of the stories I’ve already shared in this space so if you want more details you can check out old posts.
Right now I feel likeI’m in one of those valleys.
In fact, I feel like I’m in the locust years the prophet Joel talks about in the Bible book that bears his name.
So I will restore to you the years that the swarming [a]locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. 26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. 27 Then you shall know that I am in the midst of Israel: I am the Lord your God And there is no other. My people shall never be put to shame.
Joel (his name means “Yahweh is God”) was sent by God to encourage the nation of Israel during a time of famine and judgement. Because God’s chosen people refused to follow Him and obey His commandments, they were punished. God didn’t do that to harm them. He did it to draw their attention to their sin and to woo them back to Himself.
I firmly believe that while God may discipline His true children (see Hebrews 12:6) all the punishment sin requires has been paid for by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Still, I feel like there are parallels to the famine and devastation Israel faced and the past eighteen months of my life.
One “disaster” after another.One herculean challenge after another. One hill to climb after another.And with each new hard thing, I find my reserves are fewer and fewer.
Nothing-NOTHING-rises to the level of sending Dominic ahead to Heaven.
But that one giant, life-altering, earth shattering, heartbreaking event has weakened my defenses. It has made me more prone to wearing down and giving up than I’ve ever been in my life.
My faith is intact.
I have absolutely no doubt that every promise of God in Christ is “yes” and “amen”.
I trust the truth that all the enemy has stolen will be restored. Every sad thing will be undone. The world (including my own family) will be redeemed, restored and raised to life in Christ. When I pass my son’s grave facing east, I know one day the skies will open and Jesus will return as triumphant King over all creation.
Even so I am weary and heavy laden.
I take the burden to the foot of the cross over and over and over.
Just as I think the weight is lifted, another heavy brick is added to the load.
Sometimes you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Other times you just have to trust in the dark.
Sometimes the trial is limited. Other times it goes on and on and on.
But I know, know, know God is faithful.
His love endures forever.
And even when I find myself in the midst of spiritual famine, desolation and desperation, He will meet me there.
So I wait.
Holding on to hope.
Looking for the promised bounty.
Trusting that He will redeem, restore and resurrect.
I started writing because of Dominic and my family. I keep writing because of Dominic and my family and all the beautiful souls I’ve met along this journey-many who have never lost a child but whose hearts grieve for someone or something else.
I thought I’d share what I read at my sweet mama’s funeral yesterday-it was made easier and richer by all those who have walked with me so far in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Your comments, your messages, your thoughts and insights helped me express the most important lesson I’m learning in grief: Love Lives Forever.
When we walk through the graveyard or read an obituary, we almost always look for those two dates that bookend a life-for Mama it is September 23, 1938 and September 27, 2019.
Lots of sermons have been preached about that dash in between-about that what we do or don’t do, who we love or don’t love, how we use the years we are given as either a blessing or something else.
And that is very, very true.
We tend to think that the last date-the date when breath leaves the body and the soul escapes the trials of this world to enter the glory of Heaven-as the end. We can hardly help it because our relationship to the one we love changes so dramatically.
I can’t hug Mama anymore, I can’t hear her laugh, I can’t call her up and tell her, “I love you” or greet her in the morning with a “Hi Girlie!”.
It creates a giant void for me and an unfathomably huge void for Papa. We are going to have to find a way to live with that empty space in our hearts and in our lives.
It takes lots and lots of work, lots and lots of tears and lots and lots of time. There’s no shortcut through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
My Mama lost HER mother suddenly, to a stroke, when she was just ten years old. So she lived with that giant hole in her heart for over 71 years. She could have allowed the pain to make her cold and bitter, closed off and unavailable. It certainly would have been an understandable response to a traumatic loss.
But she didn’t.
Without exception, every person who has called, written or come by to pay respects to Patty Hart describes her as gracious, lovely, kind, generous, welcoming, cheerful and bright.
Mama chose love.
In just the past few weeks, before this last hospitalization, I got to see Mama begin to pour that love into a new generation. She had two visits from her great-grandson. One due to Hurricane Dorian (they had to evacuate) and one that was scheduled to give her the chance to meet him.
I won’t fib and say that having overnight visitors in the house was easy for her or Papa with all her medical conditions, but you’d never know it by the grin on her face when I put that chubby little stinker in her lap.
For a few minutes, she was Nanny again-singing, cooing, laughing and making eyes at him. She even got to be the first one to see him turn over. That tickled her!
Truth is, that last date isn’t the end. There’s no period after Patricia Ann Landrum Hart’s life. Of course she lives on in Heaven with Jesus, her mama and my Dominic.
But even here, on earth, love lives forever.
It lives in the lives she touched and will continue to touch through her friends and family as they honor her legacy of love.
Our circle is broken today. Death is awful and it’s hard. It’s a reminder the world is not as God intended it to be and we walk a broken road toward the promises of redemption and restoration.
But the chains of love forged in our hearts are never severed.
The longer I care for my sheep and goats, the more I understand why God put His leaders through this school of discipleship.
Many days it’s a thankless job-my charges often do foolish things that place them in peril, they work hard to tear down the fences I’ve erected for their safety and they wander away forcing me to chase after them and bring them home.
But I never give up on them.
A shepherd’s heart is revealed in how she (or he) takes care of the weakest animals.
I cannot lay my head down at night without taking mental inventory to make sure they are safe, secure and well cared for through the darkness until morning dawns afresh.
David spent years and years in “shepherd school”.
It prepared him to fight Goliath.
It molded his heart to lead God’s people.
The Eternal is my shepherd, He cares for me always. 2 He provides me rest in rich, green fields beside streams of refreshing water. He soothes my fears; 3 He makes me whole again, steering me off worn, hard paths to roads where truth and righteousness echo His name. 4 Even in the unending shadows of death’s darkness, I am not overcome by fear. Because You are with me in those dark moments, near with Your protection and guidance, I am comforted.
Psalm 23: 1-4 VOICE
I could write for days on what these verses mean to my own heart. I could tease out dozens of lessons from the picture David paints of tender care, abundant mercy, amazing love.
But the one thing I’ll share now is this: I never, ever, ever abandon my flock.
If all I had was a stick and my voice, I’d fight off every enemy.
I am never too busy nor too distracted to tend to their needs. I never forget to feed them, water them, check on them and call them home in the evening.
They know my voice.
They follow me because I am trustworthy. They allow me to tend their wounds because I am gentle. They come running to me when they are afraid because they know I am a fierce defender.
If I-a mere, fallible, fragile mortal-am this concerned about my little flock, imagine how our Good Shepherd cares for us!
Don’t rush over these verses because they are familiar.
Go back, read them again.
Know that the Lord God loves you.
Do you remember the first time you encountered this Psalm? Does it hold a special memory?
How has the Lord given you rest in the midst of weariness?
How has God provided necessities for you?
What does it mean to you that Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd? Read that passage in John 10 and notice how He defines what a good shepherd looks like. How might that encourage your heart when walking in this Valley of the Shadow of Death?
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to find an old, lame or nearly blind goat or sheep that wandered off and got lost. I do what it takes to bring them home. No matter how far you wander, Jesus is coming to get you. Can you relate a time when Jesus reached out in a special way and helped you make it back home?
What do you need from your Shepherd today? Ask Him for it.
You ARE the Good Shepherd. You love me. You care for me. You lead me to places of rest when I am overcome with weariness. You walk beside me and offer refuge when I am afraid.
This grief journey is hard. Sometimes I wonder if You are really here or if You have abandoned me. Help me hear Your voice. Help me run to You for safety.
Teach me to follow You always, even when You lead me in dark places and I’m fearful. Thank You for leaving us with a beautiful picture through David’s words of Your heart.