Faith in “Faith” or in a Faithful Father?

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God;

Ephesians 2:8 AMP

This is one of my favorite verses because it summarizes the Gospel-God calls, God saves, God keeps.  

It’s ALL God.

Sadly, my human heart can forget this so easily.  I can begin to lean on my “good works” or “holy habits” or the testimony of my “faith journey” instead of resting solely in the enduring love of my Faithful Father.

So when hard times come (and they do) and my faith falters (and it will) I become insecure and frightened and concerned that I will ultimately be lost.  Because I have shifted the responsibility from God to me.  

And I know I’m not strong enough to hold on.

When Dominic ran ahead to heaven my mind was riddled with unanswered questions. “Why?”  “Where were You?”  “What are You doing in this?”

Those questions ate holes in my faith.  

But it’s not ME holding onto God-it’s GOD holding onto me.

The strength of my faith doesn’t determine whether or not His promise is fulfilled, because if it did, there would be no hope. 

So, I refuse to have faith in “faith”.

Instead I have faith in an unchanging, everlasting Faithful Father.

faith does not eliminate questions but faith knows wehre to take them.png

Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

There are lots of opportunities for offense surrounding the death of a child.

Once your heart is broken open wide with great sorrow, there’s no defense against the bumps and bruises that are a natural product of human relationship and interaction.

  • Friends and family that didn’t show up.
  • Friends and family that showed up but said or did the wrong thing.
  • Friends and family that abandoned me as soon as the casket closed.
  • People that make me feel guilty for grieving or question my sanity or my “progress”.

But I’m learning to let go of offense.

Not only because it is too heavy to carry in addition to my grief, but because the Lord has commanded it.

I grew up reciting what’s commonly called, “The Lord’s Prayer” without much thought to the individual phrases or their meaning. It wasn’t until adulthood that I read it in context and continued on to the rest of the chapter.

What I found there was chilling.  

These are some of the hard words of Christ that most lay persons and many theologians prefer to gloss over.

“For if you forgive other people their failures, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you will not forgive other people, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your failures.”

~Jesus (Matthew 6:14-15 PHILLIPS)

WOW!  The plain reading of this text tells me that if I refuse to forgive others, I place myself outside the forgiveness of my Father.

It makes sense though-if my sins were borne by Christ on the cross, then so were yours.  

If His grace covers me, it covers you.  

If I want to be seen through the eyes of mercy, then I must be willing to look through those same eyes at my fellow man.

At first this feels like bondage instead of freedom.  

But the truth is, forgiveness is liberating.  

It sets me free to operate in the fullness of who I am in Christ.  It forces me to trust Him with my pain, with my sorrows, with my offenses and with balancing the scales of justice.

forgiveness-quote-charles-stanley

Forgiveness opens the path to relationship and community.  It testifies to the mercy and grace of God.  

It shines like a beacon of light in a dark world.  

It is the power of Christ in me.

To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.

~Henri Nouwen

forgiveness_is_the_fragrance_that_the_violet_sheds_on_the_heel_that_has_crushed_it-385646

Inseparable!

In the first days and months after Dominic left us I copied this verse dozens of times-in my journal, on notecards, on posterboard to plaster across the refrigerator and stick on mirrors and doorposts.

I had to remind my heart that even death could not separate my son from Him.  

That even the most wily schemes of the enemy could not rip me from the hand of my Savior and that even my own doubts or fears or questions were not stronger than God’s love through Christ to hem me in and keep me safe within the confines of His protection from eternal damnation.  

God’s Word is living and active.  

It is part of my inheritance in Christ Jesus and I can appropriate it for my own life.  When I am afraid and when I doubt, I try to repeat truth until my heart can hear it:   

“If God is for [Melanie and Dominic] who can be against us?

32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for [Melanie and Dominic]—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give [Melanie and Dominic] all things?

33 Who will bring any charge against [Melanie and Dominic] whom God has chosen?

It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

35 Who shall separate [Melanie or Dominic] from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 

37 No, in all these things [Melanie and Dominic] are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate [Melanie or Dominic] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8: 31b-35,37-39 NIV

nothing can separate1

Rest

For the next few days I’m taking a break from creating lengthy new posts.  So I’ll be posting some short notes of encouragement along with quotes I treasure and maybe re-posting the most popular old entries.

The summer heat is on here in Alabama and I think I need a little “refresh and renew” time.

I pray that each one reading this and carrying the heavy burden of missing a child of your heart will also be refreshed and renewed-that even in the midst of heartache and pain,

you will hear the Father’s voice,

you will know the Savior’s love and

you will receive fresh wind for the journey from the Spirit of God.  

YOU. ARE. NOT. ALONE. 

Love,

Melanie

The Authority of Compassion

I don’t like pain.

I don’t enjoy suffering.  

But deep pain and suffering have left a lasting impression on my soul.  Experiencing the loss of a child has enlarged my heart and sharpened my senses to the pain and suffering around me.

Choosing transparency in pain is hard and vulnerability is frightening.

But when I let others in, they see that I am just like them. I struggle, I cry out for mercy, I need God’s grace, mercy and strength to carry on.

And that lends authority to my invitation to meet Jesus.

It changes a “sales pitch” into a genuine message backed up by the evidence of His compassion and care in my own broken life.

Even more, they know that I KNOW-I understand pain, I understand struggle and I understand desperation.

Jesus came, in part, to embody the heart of God to the world.  He came to give abundant proof that God loves us.  He walked gently among the wounded and healed the sick and hurting.

Jesus has all authority because He was obedient in suffering.  His love for us kept Him bound to the cross.  His Father’s love raised Him from the dead.

When I choose compassion, when I choose to suffer alongside the suffering, I am most like Him.

And my living example of His eternal one is a powerful testimony of His work in my life and a grace-filled invitation for others to receive forgiveness, grace and mercy in their own time of need.

Seeing that we have a great High Priest who has entered the inmost Heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to our faith. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned.

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with fullest confidence, that we may receive mercy for our failures and grace to help in the hour of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16

 

 

The Problem of [Un]Answered Prayer

When it’s not your kid you can think of all kinds of lofty, theologically correct arguments or reasons for why God answers one prayer and not another–for why one person is healed and not another–for why one person survives a devastating-should-have-killed-him accident but not another.

But when it is your child that doesn’t survive or isn’t healed or is stolen through the violent actions of someone else…well, that’s a different matter entirely.

I prayed every day for my children.  I asked God to protect them, to give them wisdom, to draw them to Himself and to guide their steps.

I never thought I was “giving orders” to God, but I did expect that my prayers would be honored-that by praying in obedience to biblical commands and in accord with scriptural principles I was making a difference in the heavenlies.

Like Daniel, who received word that his prayers had helped Gabriel fight against the prince of the air opposing him, I sent my petitions as weapons and armor against any schemes of the evil one  that might threaten to undo my family. (Daniel 10: 1-13)

Herein lies the problem:   when things go well, when the job comes through, the test score is great and the person walks out of the hospital, healed and whole, we say, “God answered prayers.”

And I believe that He does.

But if we ascribe glory and praise and honor and thanksgiving for the blessings received, how are we to understand and talk about the ones denied?

The nation of Israel was looking for Messiah-expecting Him.

Yet when He came, most missed Him.  They had decided for themselves what He would look like, what He would do and how He would rescue them from bondage.

God’s ways are inscrutable.

I’m not arguing that prayer doesn’t matter.

It does.

I am commanded to pray. And God’s faithfulness to answer prayer is documented from Genesis through Revelation.

But I would argue that the way we speak about prayer, as if we understand how it works and how God works in it and through it, is often unhelpful.

The book of Job pulls back the curtain on what was happening in the heavenlies when God allowed Satan access to Job’s life.  We know that Job’s earthly suffering represented a testimony for God against the Accuser.

But there’s no evidence that Job ever knew.

There was no dramatic revelation by God to this man that had lost EVERYTHING except his own life (which he would have gladly given up) and his wife (who, it seems, went on to bear him more children-oh joy!). Instead, God confronts Job with questions, not answers.

My heart wants answers, not more questions.

I doubt that I will have them this side of heaven.

So I have decided to speak more honestly about my experience with prayer, to refuse to pretend I understand how it works any more than I understand how God breathes life into bodies or takes souls to heaven.

I will pray, as best I can-mostly recalling God’s own words to Him-and resist my desire to think that because I pray, I can direct His hand.

When Jesus was in agony at Gethsemene, He asked His Father to take the bitter cup from HIm, but in the end, submitted to God’s will and plan.

That is all I have left for me as well-to submit and be made into whatever God has ordained.

I will trust in the goodness and faithful love of my Heavenly Father, because He IS my Father.

I will lean into His heart even when I cannot see or understand the work of His hands and follow because He is the One Who will lead me Home.

he is faithful who has promised

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

“If we could remember that divine mercy is not a temporary mood but an attribute of God’s eternal being, we would no longer fear that it will someday cease to be.”

~A.W.Tozer

We live in a throwaway society.

Cups, cans, plates and people.   Too often we toss friendships when they become inconvenient, uncomfortable or require more energy than we are willing to give.

Adults trade partners in a frenzied search for happiness and fulfillment and leave children’s hearts in the wreckage as families are ripped apart.

So it’s no surprise that many people find it difficult to believe in a Heavenly Father that is good, and loving and everlasting.

But God is just that:

He is an Everlasting Father.

A Faithful Father.  

A Father whose enduring love lasts FOREVER. 

 Who shall ever separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…For I am convinced [and continue to be convinced—beyond any doubt] that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present and threatening, nor things to come, nor powers,nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the [unlimited] love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:35, 38-39

My mother love is fierce.

But it was not strong enough to keep my child from the grave.

How much greater is the Father’s love that NOTHING can separate us from it?

What fills my heart and soul with hope and gives me strength to bear this great grief is unshakeable confidence that my son is safe in the eternal arms of my Everlasting Father.