"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Monday, November 15, 2010

Contemplating Loss

Next Spring, I have an opportunity to deliver a message about loss. Naturally, I am thinking about a broad outline for the talk, and asking the Holy Spirit to guide the pen, and eventually the tongue. Loss is potentially a “glass half empty” subject, as it can easily focus on what was and no longer is.

Loss comes in many shapes and sizes. Loss of a loved one (through death or end of relationship), loss of career, loss of hopes and dreams, loss of health and independence…all these kinds of loss commonly intrude our existence on planet Earth. The extent to which we find ourselves affected by the loss comes in direct proportion to the degree of attachment we had to the object of our loss. Reading obituaries of those we did not know rarely engenders gut-wrenching grief, because we had no attachment to them. But the loss of a significant person can feel like a slow amputation, without anesthesia. And it can last for years.

The subject is huge and potentially overwhelming. Preparing a message will involve a process of elimination, I think. The other challenge I face is to present the subject of loss without depressing people. It is like a message about grief, really. We know it is an unpleasant part of life. Mostly, we choose not to think about it. Until we have to. Then we are poorly prepared. We rarely contemplate loss, or its origins.

When God created the world, and put man in the center of Eden, He called it “very good.” What was not good was for man to be alone there. So Eve emerges from Adam’s rib, and the first human relationship is born. Adam and Eve were meant to walk hand in hand in fellowship with God forever. There was only one thing God asked of them, that they not eat from the fruit of one particular tree in the garden. He warned that if they did, death (a foreign concept at the time) would enter their world. The outcome of their fateful decision continues to produce consequences to this day. When they were driven from Eden (the first loss) we were driven from the garden with them. Since that day, nothing on earth has remained the same. Nothing is permanent. All is subject to loss. As I wrote in a previous post about seasons, a silent river of sadness runs through the Eden we have lost.

Strangely, this is not all bad news. In a reality where nothing remains the same, we long for Someone unchanging. And there He is. Arms stretched out, tears of compassion and love brimming his eyes. Jesus loves us. Leaning into Him provides our comfort and strength until the day his promise to make all things new is ultimately fulfilled. And he provides others along the way, to be his hands, his feet, his comforting tongue. We all eventually walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but not necessarily alone.

In his mercy and love, God provided a plan to redeem all that we have lost. One day we will awake in a golden place, in bodies untouched by the effects of sin and decay. He even has a plan to redeem fallen creation by way of a new heaven and a new earth. All our loved ones in Christ will meet us there and we will do what we were meant to do from eternity past. Hand in hand, we will walk in fellowship with our Creator. All mysteries solved, every tear wiped from our eyes by His own hand.

This is what the scriptures describe as our “blessed hope.” In the meantime, we grieve for certain, but not as those without hope. It was man who brought the consequences of sin into the world, and that is why we need a Redeemer. Bless his holy Name.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, enters on our behalf.” Hebrews 6:19

“For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Revelation 7:17

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Discerning God's Will

Recently, I stayed in a hotel in Hayes Kansas on my return trip from Aunt Sallie’s funeral. I opened facebook and a couple of ads in the margin of the wall caught my eye. These had to do with getting published.

Some of you have encouraged me to consider organizing the content of this blog into a book. I have to admit, my introverted personality likes the idea of writing a great deal. What a way for a naturally retiring guy to contribute to the Kingdom!

So I did some minor revisions, rearranged the order, and sent about 15 of the posts off to a couple of publishers who do not require a literary agent to look at your work. Recently, I heard back from one of them, and they offered me a contract on the manuscript, working title “On the Road Home.” This is the very moment for which aspiring writers pray!

The thing is, these writings do not belong to me. They are God’s first, and the reader’s second. So I ran this by some people I trust, soliciting prayer for guidance and discernment. Each one was encouraging, and most understood the dilemma.

A rookie author is lucky if his published book actually hits a bookstore shelf. It may be available on Amazon and other internet cyber-stores, but the exposure of the book is generally pretty limited. This blog on the other hand is read by about to 1,000 of you per month and in over 30 countries. While it would be neat to have a book to hand to people as another tool, there are the readers of the blog to be concerned about. And the publisher owns the material, so the blog would have to be overhauled (at least), or removed (at most).

A particular man I respect greatly summarized it kindly, “You are on solid ground spiritually no matter what you do here. You are contributing to the Kingdom.”

I talked with some local bookstore managers, and they were encouraging about stocking the book, and were willing to consider signings. I went through my photographs of Colorado scenery and selected 15 of them, editing them for possible use in the book. Late last week, I asked the publisher for a contract to review and sign.

I actually tried to open the signature page to the contract and had some difficulty. So, I started looking at the blog and doing some revisions. I really hoped to keep the same number of blog posts, making revisions on the posts used in the book, so that the blog would remain intact. I revised several of them. However, they seemed lifeless and flat. I began to feel a sense of grief.

It was as if I were deciding to malnourish this flourishing newborn blog. A closer look at the publishing contract revealed that it is prohibited to publish the book, or revisions thereof, in any media for the duration of the contract. It was just not going to be possible to keep the blog alive and publish the book.

Then a peace settled in. I knew beyond a doubt what would please the Father most. I will wait for a time and nourish the blog as I have been. Possibly, in a year or so, when there are 50+ posts, and these are old and neglected, it will have minimal impact on the blog to cut some from the deck. If the opportunity is not there in a year, I will have no regrets.

If I am not writing for my own profit, benefit or ego, it comes down to this: “Which path will take more territory for the King?” Decision made. Peace comes. Now, on to the next opportunity!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding, but in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5

"Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2

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