Lenten Reflections: Making Space For the TRULY Holy

If you’ve ever spent even a minute in an museum of art you’ve probably run across some old paintings where saints are signified with round rings of light over their heads.

Halos were meant to be a shorthand for identifying the truly righteous from ordinary folk.

Problem is, more often than not the standards applied by those making the distinction are not the true standards God reveals in His word and by the example of Jesus, His Son.

So today we are fasting halos-false definitions of holy-and making room for the TRULY holy which often makes us uncomfortable.

Jesus’ emotions and actions in the days following the Triumphal Entry were something less (far less) than placid. He wept over Jerusalem, forcefully cleared the temple, cursed a fig tree, confounded religious leaders, told pointed parables, and experienced emotional distress.

Alicia Britt Chole

It is so hard for those of us who grew up listening to simplified Bible stories to embrace the fact (the marvelous and very critical FACT) that Jesus was fully human and fully God.

He didn’t only come to sacrifice Himself as a propitiation for sin, He came to live an authentic yet perfect human life in fulfillment of the Law’s every requirement.

So when we see Him angry, sad, dismayed, lonely, agonized, grieved-those are not unholy emotions.

I can’t stand the images of Jesus that portray Him as a soft, ephemeral, other-worldly cardboard cutout of a man. I don’t know what He looked like but I’m certain it wasn’t like that.

My Shepherd King is a real Person who experienced real life and real emotions. He understands loss and love and betrayal and passion.

So I don’t have to pretend that I don’t.

I’ve always told my kids that some folks try hard to be holier than God.

And it’s true-trying to circumscribe the human experience so that it fits inside some kind of false holiness is futile.

We can bring all our emotions and experiences to the Throne of Grace where our Great High Priest can sanctify and modify them for His purposes and glory.

Today, fast the halos of false definitions of holy. Ask God where He is weeping in your life and in the world and join Him there. It is never weakness to grieve where God is grieving.

Alicia Britt Chole

**As promised, I am sharing thoughts on 40 DAYS OF DECREASE (a Lenten journal/devotional). If you choose to get and use the book yourself, I’ll be a day behind in sharing so as not to influence anyone else’s experience.**

Child Loss: Missing The Family I Thought I’d Have

I miss a lot of things since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven.  

I miss HIM-his deep voice, his perspective and his thump-thump-thumping down the stairs and the rhythm of who he is.

And I miss how his absence has reshaped the family I thought I’d have.  

Raising four children, investing my time, heart and energy into who they were turning out to be, I naturally projected into the years ahead.  All that love poured into them would create a legacy we’d all enjoy.  Marriages, careers, grandchildren and experience would blend together into a (if not perfectly harmonious) at least a shared future.

desimones uab family

I never imagined turning a calendar page without one of my children to turn it with me.  

Dominic’s death has touched each one of us.  His missing is as powerful a force as his presence.  We are absolutely NOT THE SAME as we would have been if he were still here nor as we were when he was still here.

When Dom first left us, I was primarily mourning HIM.  I still miss him like crazy.  

But a lot of my mourning during the past twelve months has been for the family I thought I would have.  I see each of my surviving children are processing Dominic’s absence in ways that influence their decisions.

In some ways it’s beautiful-I see twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings making choices with wisdom way beyond their years.  In some ways it’s brutal-they set up safeguards because they know by experience that leaving the house doesn’t always mean you return. 

They have back up plans for everything.

Which wasn’t something I even thought about when I was their age.  

My husband and I expected to drift into retirement years full of energy and vigor.  Much of that has been stolen from us by child loss too.  Oh, how we long to be the fun grandparents, the traveling duo, the footloose crazy pair but it’s much more effort than we anticipated.

Sometimes we can’t muster that energy at all.  

I know some changes were inevitable. 

Dominic’s death coincided with a natural progression toward an empty nest.  I’m not a helicopter mama and I’ve always said my goal was to raise children who could function well without me so I think that as much as possible, I prepared my heart for them to grow up and grow apart.

But in addition to normal changes, there’s an utterly unnatural and unwelcome transformation from nuclear family to brokenhearted family.

I am so, so thankful that we have chosen the hard path of running toward one another instead of running away.  

I’m grateful that we have grown from five left behind to a table for seven-a new spouse and a precious grandchild. 

I do not take a single second for granted because I know that seconds are not guaranteed.  

But I sure wish Dominic were here to share it with us.  

dominic at olive garden

Beyond the Headlines: Weep with Those Who Weep (Again)

I wrote this on June 13, 2016 about the Orlando shooting but I could have written it this afternoon.

I had no idea that anything had happened until I got a message from a fellow bereaved mom that sent me scurrying for the facts.

So here we are again-more families have joined the ranks of those who mourn the too-soon death of children and loved ones.

There are not enough tears for this.

Let me begin by saying I purposely remove myself from the 24/7 news cycle that beats our ears and tries hard to hammer hearts into whatever shape a particular organization deems most meritorious.

So it is no surprise that I was unaware of the [Parkland, Florida] tragedy until well into the day on Wednesday.

And I don’t know what the pundits and politicians or social media gurus are saying.

I only know how it feels.  

I know how it feels to have an officer come to your door and tell you that your child is never coming home.

I know how it feels to receive the devastating news that whatever you said the last time you saw or spoke to your child is the LAST thing you will ever have the opportunity to say to them.

I know how it feels to stand, dumbstruck and reeling, with the instant realization that your world has been wrecked beyond repair-To have to whisper to your heart, “you’ve got to make calls, make connections, make arrangements”.

Oh! My!  

Why, why, why can we not as a nation simply step back and embrace those who have lost so much instead of standing on the ruins of their lives and posturing for ratings, rankings and political, social or moral agendas????

I wrote before, when commenting  here on the incident at the Cincinatti zoo:

If we covered the stories of families who have lost children with the same zeal and creative journalism as we do the lives and deaths of endangered animals, that would change.

If the despair, heartbreak, brokenness and utter horror of bereaved parents’ lives were on display like the sickening piles of poached elephants and rhinos then at least we could have a discussion that was more informed and even-tempered.

We are a death avoidant culture-we splatter gore across the screen in video games and movies-but we DO NOT discuss the ongoing impact loss has on the ones left behind.

These lives are not numbers, they are not just names or a sweet little synoptic bio plastered on Twitter, Facebook or an AP newswire.  

They are people-with families, friends and loved ones.

There is a single, appropriate response to this tragedydeep mourning for the lives lost to hatred and violent action and prayer for the ones left behind.

I refuse to entertain the musings and posturing of ANYONE who does not first-and for an appropriate length of time-acknowledge the loss of sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers-each a unique creation with an eternal soul.

Tears.

TEARS are what should be filling the airwaves, the streets, our altars.

weep with those who weep

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