Holy Week 2022: Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

It is tempting to forget that there were three long days and nights between the crucifixion and the resurrection beause the way we observe this season rushes us past the pain to embrace the promise.

But it’s not hard for me to imagine how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus was dead.  It was neither what they expected nor what they prayed for.

There were many points in the story when things could have gone a different way:

  • When taken by the religious leaders-surely, they thought, He will explain Himself, they will let Him go.
  • When taken before Pilate-Rome will refuse to get involved with our spiritual squabbles, Pilate won’t authorize His death.
  • When presented to the crowd-no Jew would rather have a wicked murderer released instead of a humble, healing Rabbi.

At every turn, every expectation they had for a “happy ending” was dashed to the ground.

Read the rest here:  Living Between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection

Lenten Reflections: Making Space For Vulnerability

I picked this book up on a whim sometime last year not knowing how wonderful and insightful and helpful it would be as I hurtle toward the eight year mark of Dom’s leaving for Heaven.

Yet every single day when I turn the page to the next discussion and reflection there is a fresh awakening in my spirit to something I need to explore.

I understand how a heart wants to wall itself off after prayers go unanswered (please don’t regale me with, “But they are all eventually answered”); plans fall apart; others’ sinful actions pound a soul to dust; and lives sacrificially poured out on the table of service are abruptly and unceremoniously cut short.

Why hope if hope is never realized (on this mortal plane)?

In this, Jesus’ actions, words and attitude during Holy Week help me choose another path.

The crowd that welcomed Him turned against Him a few days later. The apostles that promised fidelity unto death ran away. Judas ate the sacred meal with betrayal in his heart.

And yet Jesus remained present to the moment. He accepted events as they came. He welcomed people as they were.

And He trusted His Father even when the cup was too bitter for Him to raise it to His own lips.

I have had to make the choice again and again to hold tightly to the Hand that could have saved my child but didn’t.

There may be some among my friends who never share this struggle-I’m genuinely happy for you.

But that’s not me. Some days I can pray with confidence.

Some days I can’t pray at all.

But I’m working hard not to let go.

Crazily enough, favor is not what frees us from self-protection: suffering is. Not suffering itself, but the choice within suffering to trust, to hope and to love….Today, ask the Holy Spirit to alert you when you are shrinking back from God.

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.**

Lenten Reflections: Letting Go of Avoidance and Choosing to Engage

Uncertainty is quite revealing. The unknown triggers different reactions in different hearts and exposes our souls’ defaults. Ambiguity reveals where we instinctively go to feel the illusion of security again.

Alicia Britt Chole

Wow! Can I identify with this!

One of the things I’ve learned in this life I didn’t choose is that the earthquake of child loss revealed all the weak spots in my character and my faith.

When faced with uncertainty and lack of control, I desperately want to bring order to my wildly disordered world.

But faith (real faith) requires I be willing to embrace mystery.

I have got to face the FACT that I do not understand everything God is doing or allowing. I can’t pretend it’s not happening.

I can’t ignore the discomfort the unknown births in my soul.

Avoidance is never a long-term solution in any relationship-not my relationship with the Lord or my relationship with others.

Today, pay attention to avoidance mechanisms that surface when you face the unknown, unknowable, uncomfortable, or unavoidable…Ask God’s Holy Spirit to sensitize you today to the existence of avoidance defaults in your life. Prayerfully consider what beliefs might underlie any avoidance that emerges when you are facing uncertainty.

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.**

Wrestling Toward Trust: Access the Truth

Have you ever walked away from a conversation and thought, “My goodness! I talked WAY too much”?

I have.

I can become so wrapped up in sharing my own experience, spilling my own feelings, trying to communicate my own point of view that I don’t leave space for the other person to get a word in edgewise.

Sometimes I do the same thing when talking to God-I can’t stop chattering long enough to hear what He wants to speak into my pain.

When I choose to listen, He is faithful to remind me of truth. He is faithful to lead me to the green pastures of His word where I can feast on His promises and be filled with hope.

❤ Melanie

“I wake before the morning light.  Every. single. morning.

I get my coffee, sit in my chair and wait for sunrise.

I never worry that today it might not happen.

I’m never concerned that after all these years of faithfulnessthis day may be the one where daylight fails to make an appearance.

There is no fear in this darkness because I know it will not last forever.

Morning is coming.

Morning. Is. Coming.

And that’s the hope I cling to in this longer darkness of the Valley of the Shadow of Death-no matter how many years it may bethe Valley has an end.

Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Access the Truth

Wrestling Toward Trust: Acknowledge Doubt

Some of us have grown up in faith communities where doubt is treated as disbelief.

I’m so sorry.

Doubt is, in my opinion, a precursor to deeper faith, stronger commitment, informed and more solid trust in God and in His goodness and sovereignty.

If devastating loss has brought you to knees or face down on the floor begging God to make sense of it all, you are in good company. So many of His saints have cried out in despair.

If you are frightened you are losing faith, remember this: the simple fact you know where and to Whom to bring your pain means your heart is still turned toward your Savior.

❤ Melanie

Grief forces me to walk Relentlessly Forward  even when I long to go back.

I can’t stop the clock or the sun or the days rolling by.

Those of us who are more than a couple months along in this journey (or any journey that involves tragedy and loss) know that it is ABSOLUTELY POSSIBLE to feel worse than in the first few days.

Because as the edges of the fog lift and the reality of an entire lifetime looms before you the questions form and the doubt sinks in.

Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Acknowledge Doubt and Ask Questions

Wrestling Toward Trust: Admit the Pain

I’ve encountered so many hurting hearts recently struggling to square their experience of devastating loss with their faith in a loving and all-powerful God.

I write about my own struggle over and over in this space but this series of posts is an orderly exploration of doubt, pain, faith and the hope I’ve found in Christ Jesus.

I pray it helps another heart hold on.

❤ Melanie

Child loss is Unnatural-no way around it.

Out of order death is devastating.

When my perfectly healthy, strong and gifted son was killed instantly in a motorcycle accident on April 12. 2014 my world fell apart.  My heart shattered into a million pieces.  And after almost eight years, I’ve yet to even FIND all of those pieces much less put them back together.

So what does a heart do when that happens?  Because, try as I might, I cannot stop time. 

Even THAT awful day only lasted 24 hours.

When the sun rose again, the pain was still there.  And behind that pain and mixed with it was something else-disappointment, disaffectiondistrust.

Read the rest here: Trust After Loss: Admit the Pain

Prayer-Working Through the Questions

So many of us are finding it difficult to face a new year without our missing child.

Sometimes we wonder, “Where is God? ” and “Why MY child?”.

I believe that God invites us to ask our hard  questions. It’s not like we can hide them from Him anyway.  When we speak them aloud, we open our hearts to the healing power of His Spirit.

For most of my adult years I felt like I had a robust prayer life.  I regularly interceded for my family, for my church, for missionaries and for the world. I’ve kept a prayer journal for over twenty years.  

I felt connected to the God of the Universe.  

But when Dominic died I felt like I lost that connection.

Read the rest here: Prayer and Questions

Making Ready for Christmas: Behind The Scenes

I’m not privy to everything God is doing in the world. And, frankly, what I see sometimes looks like He’s not doing much. I want Him to step in and make things right according to my limited knowledge.

But He’s working behind the scenes in ways I can’t imagine or comprehend.

He has a purpose and plan that will not be thwarted.

I do not for one moment believe that God Took My Child. But I absolutely, positively believe that He is using what the enemy meant for evil to accomplish good.

Read the rest here: Advent: Behind The Scenes

Making Ready for Christmas: Blind Trust?

I really, really, really wish sometimes God would give me a dream or a vision or a visit from an Angel to confirm the inklings I have about what He may be doing in my life or the lives of my family.

I’ve never had a vision or visit although I’ve had a few dreams.

What I DO have is His Word, the testimony of His Spirit and a lifetime of experience that tells me His love endures forever.

Doubters may consider that blind trust.

Read the rest here: Advent: [Nearly] Blind Trust

We Always Have a Choice. I Choose Hope.

One of the most devastating aspects of child loss is the idea that we’ve lost agency-the ability to choose anything or impact the outcome of anything.

God invites us through Christ to reclaim that.

No, we cannot control every aspect of our lives. But we absolutely can control where we point our hearts.

I choose hope.

It’s hard and it isn’t always immediately helpful. Even still, it has meant the difference between giving up and going on. Jesus is here. He has conquered death and hell.

I may have to walk by faith for the rest of my days but I know that the One in whom I place my trust will not fail. ❤

Here’s a little manifesto I wrote regarding Christmas and the Lusko family. I encourage you to borrow the idea the next time you are scared. “We will celebrate the birth of the One who came to destroy death and bring life and immortality to light through the gospel. We will sing until our voices won’t let us. We will preach and celebrate seeing people come to know Jesus, just as we did days after Lenya died in my arms. We will party if we can muster the courage, cry when we miss her, and collapse if we have to. Even though He slays us, we will bless His name. We always have a choice, and we choose to rejoice.

Levi Lusko, Through the Eyes of a Lion, p. 165
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