How Hudson Reminded me of What Resurrection Means and Why It Matters

30026_10150185277700328_2981872_nYesterday was the anniversary of my dad’s death. I say death, and not passing, because death sounds like a harsher word. And it is a harsher word; it speaks the hurt that happens because of it.

Since I was feeling quite down, I thought the best thing would be to talk to my sons about why I was feeling sad. I didn’t want them to think it was about them, and thought I could share a bit about their grandfather with them.

So Hudson sat with me and I told him that I was feeling sad because my dad, his grandpa, died on this day a few years ago.

Hudson didn’t know quite what to make of that. So he tentatively asked, “He…died.” I said yes he did. He said, “Like this”, and proceeded to make a face with eyes closed and tongue stuck out. I said yes like that, and thought maybe having this conversation was a bad idea.

The next 10 sentences we shared together I doubt I’ll ever forget. They sound made up, but they were true and unforced and untouched. I believe God can speak to us through anyone, and I think he chose to speak to me through my son. And this is what he told me, and why I think sometimes 4 year old are closer to God than anyone.

He said, “It’s okay dad to be sad, but just for a little while. I miss grandpa too. He loved me, and loved to scoot me around and he loved you. Grandpa told me I was special. I miss him too. So you can be sad because he died but just for a little while.”

I asked him why just for a little while. And this is what he said, “Because daddy, Jesus died too right? (I said yes he did). But Jesus is here now. He’s alive. He told me so, and so did you. So grandpa is with Jesus now. He died and is living just like him. He’s here too, and he loves us daddy. So its okay to miss him, but it just for a little while because he’ll be back again right…just like Jesus”

And I said the only thing I could think of, “Of course you’re right Hudson”

Hudson then gave me a big hug, and said “I love you daddy, and I love grandpa too” And then because he is also a four-year old he asked if we could play trucks tomorrow, and if Jesus had wings, which we then talked about.

I write all this because sometimes in the hard times, you just need to be reminded of what is true. And sometimes that takes a 4-year old who remembers what you teach him, so he can remind you of what matters.

Dealing with Feelings of Loss

432071_70194656Today I’m thinking about loss. In the past few weeks in our church family, we have had two wonderful men go to be with the Lord. Their passing has left a hole in many people’s lives and hearts. So the question I’ve been thinking about today, is what do we do with feelings of loss? We all have these feelings at one point or another, so what are we to do with them?

Well I think one response is to try to bury the feelings. This is where we seek to avoid dealing with the feelings of loss, and where we hide from the feelings or refuse to “feel the feelings”. Another response is simply to avoid the feelings of loss altogether. We keep busy, we seek to move forward, or we don’t give ourselves space to process what has happened. But I don’t believe that either of these responses are helpful or healthy.

For me, I think the best response to loss is to acknowledge it and lean into it. And while this may sound odd, or even counter-intuitive I think it is helpful. Why should I try to pretend that I’m not feeling loss, hurt, and sadness? Why should I pretend that the passing of two men whom I deeply respected doesn’t affect me? The truth is I am feeling loss today – because there has been a loss.

So for me I’m not shying away from my feelings, or avoiding them. Instead I’m acknowledging them and entering into them. This is the only way I believe that we find comfort and hope. Jesus says that those who mourn will be comforted but we cannot be comforted unless we mourn. Unless we actually enter into the loss, acknowledge it, recognize it, feel it, and ask God to help with it.

This is how I think we best get through the difficult times of life. We don’t avoid it, pretend its not there, we recognize it, share that it is difficult, and ask God to meet us where we are at. Because I truly believe that’s what God always does, comes to us wherever we are. So wherever you are at today, may God meet you there, and carry you forward.

God is Moved By You

1295779_44452649On Sunday we are going to be having communion, and exploring an interesting passage in Exodus. The passage we are going to be looking at is this Exodus 3:7:

Then the Lord told Moses, “You can be sure I have seen the misery of my people. I have heard their cries for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt.”

I think this is a beautiful passage because it reveals who God is.

In this passage God is one who hears, and who acts.

I think this is so crucial to so many of us, because when we are in difficulty our temptation is to believe we are alone. Our temptation is to believe our prayers are futile. Our temptation is to believe that nothing will change. Our temptation is to believe that the God we worship is distant and unmoving.

But here in this passage we see a totally different God. We see a God who is intimately involved with his people. We see a God who hears the cries of those who are suffering, and is then moved by them. Our God is not some unmoving, uncaring, distant deity. Our God is someone who is involved in the world being moved by injustice, not just to hear the cry but then to act.

So this passage gives me hope that whenever I feel alone, and hurting I know God is not removed but listening and acting.

On Sunday we’ll discover how God acts, and what he promises to us. But today why not simply rest in the fact that your prayers are heard by God. Your prayers and cries do move God. You are not alone but actually connected to the Creator who hears and responds. Hopefully that gives you hope, because it gives me hope.

Death, Darkness, and the Fallacy of “Good” Friday


Today is Good Friday.  A day that is only good in hindsight, and even then it’s obscured through darkness, pain and difficulty.

Today is the day that Jesus entered fully into our darkness to provide a way out. It’s today that when we look upon Jesus and his sacrifice we realize how unable we are to make our lives work as we would want. We see our struggle for coherence, meaning, and power. We see in Jesus’ naked body nailed to the cross our own betrayals of friends and family. We see how our desire to create empires of meaning and worth are empty, and filled with dust and dirt. We ask ourselves “what have we become”?  We look at our lives in light of the sacrifice of Jesus, and we are moved to silence. We see God die and ask ourselves why, and when does the darkness break? But the darkness won’t break for another three days.

For three days doubt, darkness and death reign.

So today is not an easy day. Today is not a good day. Today is though a necessary day.

Today, like on a day many years ago Jesus’ body was broken, like bread, so that we might be made whole.  Jesus poured his life out, like wine, as a sacrifice for our sins. Jesus gave up his life so that we might find it.

This is the message of today: life, breath, blood and brokenness all mix together so that in the end death might be beaten. But on this day we remember that before death was beaten, it seemed as if it had won. Before darkness lost its final battle, the light of the world was lost. So today we remember that before light and love burst forth…they went through death and darkness…

Lenten Reflections: Stations of the Cross, Station 10

Station 10: Jesus is Stripped of his Garments

Written Reflection:

Jesus is now stripped for his garments. He is now totally open, vulnerable, able to feel the shameful looks and angry stares of the crowd. As the soldiers rip off his garments it opens the poorly closed wounds and fresh blood is seen.

Jesus stands naked, bloody, as people jeer at him. He is completely defenseless before them, as a lamb led towards the slaughter. And as the people look at him, Jesus looks to heaven. Picture the anger of crowd, the condemnation, the pride, and the arrogance. Take a moment and confess when you too have looked down at someone. Confess to Jesus moments when you have been like that crowd, and receive his forgiveness

Overcoming Obstacles and People Named Sanballat

On Sunday we talked about how to overcome the “Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s” in your life. These are the people who seek to hurt, harm, and wreck your God-given and driven dream. These are the people who when you share, “I feel called to….” immediately say “You?” You can’t do that, you’re not ready, you’re not the right person. We saw how in Nehemiah 4 they attack Nehemiah’s person, purpose, and progress. And ultimately when that doesn’t work they actually try to personally destroy him by sending an army against him to kill him.

The question is how do you overcome people who attack you, seek to destroy your vision, and oppose you?

Well, what we learned from Nehemiah is to first pray. Rather than wasting energy arguing with your enemies, take your hurts, anger and emotions to God in prayer. Nehemiah goes to God in prayer, and then gets back to work on God’s vision. He doesn’t let his enemies suck up his time, energy and emotions.

Next he prepares for the future challenges. Nehemiah knows that each great story has conflict in it. He doesn’t expect God to save him from experiencing the conflict; he expects that God will get him through the conflict. Nehemiah knows that all those who chase after making a difference in the world are not exempt from challenge, but will encounter challenge. So Nehemiah takes his responsibility seriously and plans and prepares for the challenge believing God will use him to get him through it. Donald Miller writes: “Somehow we realize that stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master story-teller”.  Nehemiah though embraces the fact that God is a master story-teller and begins to prepare for God to use him.

Lastly, Nehemiah trusts in God. Once he has learned that enemies are going to swoop down and kill him he says to the people, “Remember the Lord”. He is trying to remind the people that God is in it with them. He is trying to remind them to trust in the God who gave them the vision because he is the one who will ensure its completion.

So how do you get past the Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s in your life? Simple – pray, prepare, and trust in God. Pray to God for faith in the difficulty, prepare for ways to push through the challenge, and trust that God will get you there. That’s what he did with Nehemiah and he wants to do the same with us!

Adult Discussion Questions:

When have you had someone attack your person or dream? How did it feel? How did you respond? What is your personal vision you are chasing after? How can you prepare for some of the future challenges that will come? Why do you think “Remembering the Lord” is so important? Can you trust that God will get you through the difficult times? What helps you to trust in the difficult times?

Learning to Forgive

Forgiveness is really hard to do. I mean true forgiveness is extremely difficult to give and to do.

Forgiveness is easy:

  • When the person realizes the hurt they caused
  • When they feel regret, and a sense of responsibility over the hurt
  • When they ask for it and truly mean it
  • When they learn from the mistake and don’t repeat it.

When all of those things happen forgiveness seems almost natural and it is almost easy.

But what about when those things don’t happen? How do you forgive when someone doesn’t want it? How do you forgive when someone doesn’t even think what they did was wrong? How do you forgive when someone intentionally hurts you and is happy about it?

It is in those instances that forgiveness is truly tough. We know holding onto hurt for years just causes bitterness and isn’t healthy. But the other option of just forgetting about it and letting it go doesn’t seem to do justice to the depth of hurt we feel. So we end up with two options that aren’t helpful or healthy. We can either hold onto it, or forget about it when really what we want is to deal with it. But how do you deal with it when the other person or party doesn’t care and doesn’t want to?

This is the complexity of forgiveness. This is the importance of the topic and on Sunday we’re taking a look at how to practice forgiveness in the truly tough situations. But before we get there have you ever had to forgive in a difficult situation? How did you do it? What helped and how did God work in you to heal?

And for all we still hold onto, on Sunday we’re going to explore how to give it to God…

Don’t Pick Up the Jawbone

On Sunday we talked a bit about forgiveness. You can download it here. We looked at Samson and saw how violence, anger, and hurt can just escalate and grow if we don’t deal with it. That, unless we actually learn to deal with our hurt, it can end up driving us, depressing us, and distancing us from our loved ones. We looked at Judges 15 and how when you pursue revenge you never get even, you simply get worse. The story begins with a man, a goat, and a troubled marriage and it ends with hundreds dead, an economy wrecked, and a man hated by both his people and his enemies.

We ended our time thinking about the last scene with Samson where he picks up a jawbone to go another round with the Philistines. This can happen so easily in any relationship where we get hurt and so we want to hurt back. We take a swing with a “jawbone” through words, actions, and thoughts. We lash out saying “they made us do this” (Judges 15:3), trying to get even (15:7), and paying them back for what they did to us (15:11).

The problem is that’s not how Jesus acts or treats us. Jesus gives us a different example where we don’t respond to hate with hate, or hurt with hurt. Jesus shows us a different path where forgivness leads to life. Jesus reminds us that avoiding forgiving simply leads to prolonged hurt. C.S. Lewis’ says “Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.” I agree forgiveness isn’t easy, but it is right…

So we ended with this challenge for this week: don’t pick up the jawbone. This week when you are tempted to lash out, to say something snarky, or to get even, break the cycle of hurt by stepping up and forgiving. And next Sunday we’ll be looking at how to practically forgive…

Questions for Discussion

  • Adult Discussion Questions
  • How have you seen violence or hate “cycle” in your life?
  • Why is so hard to break the cycle of revenge, hate, or violence?
  • Is there any cycles in your own life that you need break? To take the first step and “drop the jawbone”?
  • Questions for Young Families
  • Ask your kids what they want to do when soemoen hurts them. Get them to share about the feelings. Ask them what the right thing is to do when someone hurts them. Share with them how if we try to “get even” it always “get’s worse”.
  • Weekly Challenge: Don’t pick up the jawbone – practice forgiveness

What to do with Betrayal…

On Sunday we briefly talked about what to do when we are betrayed, through following the example of Jesus. Jesus, as he is being nailed to the cross says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do”. From this we realized three things. First, was that hurt people end up hurting people. We also talked about how Jesus doesn’t see his betrayers as enemies, but as broken people needing forgiveness. And lastly, that Jesus takes his betrayal to God, praying to the Father for their forgiveness.

The main point we ended on was that if we want to deal with our betrayal in the way of Jesus, we need to be like him. We need to take our betrayal to God. To give up our desire for justice our way, and give it over to him.

By this I don’t mean that we don’t create good boundaries, that we forget what happened, or that things go back to the way they were. Broken trust creates consequences. What I am saying is that the personal hurt that happens to us needs to be dealt with in a Jesus-like way. And the way Jesus deals with his betrayal and hurt isn’t to see those who betrayed him as enemies; but instead to see them as broken people needing forgiveness. Jesus also chooses to forgive, and pray for their forgiveness. In essence, he takes his betrayal and he leaves it with God.

I believe this is what we are called to do.

The problem is I often don’t want to. I want to hold on to my betrayal, bitterness, and judgement. I don’t want to give it up. My hurt starts to feel normal, justified, and right. And sometimes it is so hard to give over those deep betrayals. We feel we need to hold onto them and to fight for justice. I’m not saying those feelings aren’t right. What I am saying is that I have stronger feelings when I look at Jesus. When I see him, I want to be like him more than I want to hold onto my hurt. I want to be like him more than I want to hold onto being right, or my version of justice.

So I’ve decided to give up my hurts, betrayals, and give them over to God. I am in no way saying it’s easy; I’m just saying it’s Jesus-like. And that’s enough for me. What about you?