Living In The Tension

This morning in my medieval theology class we watched a short film depicting the life of a large group of Byzantine monks that live on a secluded mountain in Greece. It’s fascinating to see their way of life, their commitment to constant prayer and meditation. At one point in the film, one of the monks talks about how the goal of their life is to prepare for death because then they will finally be fully present with God.

There were a lot of things in the film that stood out to me, but nothing struck me more than this idea that a monk spends his life waiting to die.

I think that there are many things that we can learn from the monks, about their devotion to daily prayer, their work ethic and their commitment to reflection, but I have to admit that the idea of spending my days preparing to die does not appeal to me whatsoever. Perhaps, it’s due to the fact that I’m pretty grateful for life. You only have to hear a few stories of people fighting cancer or some life threatening condition to realize that while some are waiting to die, others are fighting to live. Is this not the tension of life?

The tension is that while some people are wasting their time in meaningless pursuits, someone is trying to suck every last drop of meaning from their pursuits. The thought that one person hates their life enough to take it, and in the same city another person would give anything just to have one more day. We live in the tension.

And yet I can’t seem to forget that Jesus was the one who said he came to bring life and bring it to the fullest. I can’t help but wonder what we miss in the present while spending our time focusing on the future. One day I want to be with Jesus in heaven but right now I want to be with Jesus on earth. I want to experience him in my everyday life. I want to see heaven crash into earth; to watch in wonder as the presence of Jesus transforms the dark corners of the world and the deepest places of people’s hearts.

I don’t want to focus on death when I’ve been given the gift of life. These days go by so quickly and we aren’t promised tomorrow, but we have today. A few summers ago I got the opportunity to work at a community church in Kitchener, Ontario. During my summer I got the opportunity to hang out with a very special family. Megan and Nathan Maier have 4 beautiful boys, all full of life and spunk and each with their own unique personality. The second oldest is Leif, who is 5. The Maier’s just found out that Leif has an inoperable brain tumour. My heart breaks at the thought of sweet little Leif and his family having to face this. I ask you to pray for healing for Leif, for strength and extra grace for him and his family. I don’t understand why these things happen but I know Jesus is fully present with this family, and with this little boy. They don’t have to wait to experience His presence, He is with them right now. We plead for a full life for Leif, for time to run and play and learn and grow, but more than this we plead that Jesus would be so very real to Leif and to his family. May they know the strong and healing presence of Jesus in life, despite what may happen.

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Jesus invades our darkest moments, hears our deepest cries and His presence fills the emptiest of spaces. While some are begging for more of life, others are wishing it away.

May you spend today living life to the full, because Jesus came so that you can. So do it today, because today is the gift we have been given.

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How The Coptic Orthodox Church Taught Me About The Meaning of Being Welcome…

PJ-BQ082A_copti_G_20130821163526About a year ago I wrote about my struggle to find a church home. I spent some time learning what it was like to be the new person at church, not knowing anyone, not knowing where to sit, feeling awkward and alone. I got to the point where I didn’t even want to go because I knew it would ultimately lead to me driving home after the service in tears. There were some mornings I would visit a church and I would leave without one person even talking to me. For a girl who grew up with the church as my safe place, this period of time was extremely difficult.

I can see now that it was important for me to experience a different side of church. Because for a lot of people, what I experienced is exactly why they don’t go. The church isn’t a safe place for them, it’s a place that reminds them that they don’t fit the mould. And why would you go to a place like that?

I needed to learn this lesson, as painful as it was at the time. It’s made me so grateful for my church community now and it’s taught me about how to think about creating a safe place for new people to come.

For one of my classes this semester, I was required to attend an Orthodox Church on a Sunday morning and then write about the experience. So this past Sunday, myself, along with three other classmates went to a Coptic Orthodox Church in Toronto. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. We looked up Orthodox Church etiquette before going and so I made sure to wear a dress, below my knees of course, and I tried to remember not to cross my legs during the liturgy, since apparently that’s a no no! So in we marched, dressed in our best.

The air in the church was thick with incense, an ashma sufferer’s worst nightmare. The lighting was dim and the architecture ancient. We made our way into the sanctuary and sat near the back of one of the four sections of pews. Since we clearly stuck out like a sore thumb for not being Egyptian, we didn’t want to sit near the front and draw too much attention to ourselves. Immediately 2 young adults approached us to welcome us, and inform us that we had entered the Arabic service and had just missed the English service! Our bad! They went on to tell us about the church and some of the events for young adults. They even offered to give us their numbers so we could get connected. It hadn’t even been 5 minutes and we had been sought out and welcomed.

A few minutes later after the young adults had left, a deacon dressed in the full gown (I thought he was a priest at first) came over and said there was an English service going on in another room that was for youth and families with young children. So he escorted us to the other side of the church and into the English liturgy. We sat near the front of a room full of kids, parents and youth. The boys were all seated at the front of one side of the room, all wearing long white robes. The older boys instructing the younger ones, concerning proper worship etiquette. The priest was assisted by several young men throughout the liturgy. The priest came over to us right away and shook our hands, welcoming us. Several times throughout the liturgy he told the people that we were guests and that they should make us feel welcome and after the service to bring us downstairs and feed us, with middle eastern hospitality. He mentioned this to the congregation more than once.

I wasn’t exactly sure about all of the things that happened throughout the liturgy, lots of incense, lots of chanting, and we never quite knew when to sit or stand. A few times I sat when everyone stood. A few hours later when the liturgy had finished, following communion, we were swarmed with people. They shook my hand, told me their names, welcomed me and my friends over and over again. They apologized for the noise from the kids, which I actually loved. They told me to come again, and then at some point we were ushered downstairs and put in a room. Then they brought us food and drinks. Several people came in and out of the room to welcome us. One deacon came in and sat down to talk with us and said that the priest was going to come down and meet us but had been slightly detained. So we waited, not sure what to expect. The Father finally came down and sat and chatted with us for about 40 minutes. He asked us about ourselves and told us about his story. I was able to ask him all of my questions about the Orthodox traditions and things that happened during the liturgy that I didn’t understand. Before we left they made sure we knew that we were most welcome anytime.

As I drove home I couldn’t get the experience out of my mind. I’ve actually been thinking about it all week. I honestly never expected that the kind of church where I’d feel most welcome would be at a Coptic Orthodox liturgy, full of people I’d never met before and with a service where I didn’t really understand what was going on. But do you know what? If I didn’t have a church home that I loved, I’d go back. Even though the service is really long and it wouldn’t be my first choice of how to worship, I’d still go back.

Because I’ve never felt more welcome and wanted in a church ever before, in my entire life and in my entire experience with the church!

Well done.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

This will teach me to judge a book by it’s cover, or a church by it’s name and style.

Lesson learned, and thankful for it! Sometimes it’s the places you least expect that will teach you the most meaningful lessons.

Why The “Christian Life” Isn’t Worth Living: A Blog by Kurt Willems

I have a friend named Kurt, who is a prominent blogger from the States. He’s been a big inspiration for me concerning all things in the blogosphere. He’s graciously allowed this post from his blog to appear here on my site. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

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For most of my life, I focused my faith on knowing Jesus through morality management. More accurately, Jesus was savior and the Spirit was the voice that helped give me the strength to avoid things like cussing, gossip, lust, and pride. Getting through a single day where those sins were avoided meant a major victory as I walked closer to Christ.

In college, a new sort of emphasis emerged in my Christian journey. Instead of seeing discipleship as a system of sin management, I discovered the red letters of Scripture. These words of Jesus (along with the actions of Christ that aren’t in red) propelled me in a new direction: justice.

Compulsively, I would give a few bucks to homeless people as they asked. In my youth curriculum (while I served as a youth pastor), more of the emphasis moved toward Christian activism. That is not to say that I didn’t care about relational aspects of knowing God, but that justice (at times superficial forms there of) became a primary emphasis. As a result many areas became important in my personal life: signing every progressive petition that would lead to influencing the system for the poor, avoiding stores that are known for their social Darwinism, and purchasing anything I could find that is organic.

It would be safe to say that I went from conservative evangelical focuses to a progressive faith emphasis. Still holding to the essentials of the Christian theology, but believing that true discipleship meant doing certain things. It’s interesting to me looking back: at one end of the pendulum of my faith journey I tried to avoid things, and at the other end of the swing I tried to do things. Both attempts at living the Christian life miss the point of discipleship – completely!

Which begs the question: What’s the point?

I’m becoming convinced that both polarities of holiness miss the point. We aren’t supposed to live as though God is a cop, ready to bust us each time we sin. Neither does God call us to work ourselves so hard that we become void of spiritual vitality.In this sense, the Christian life isn’t worth living.

I’ve quoted Dallas Willard elsewhere but this is worth noting a second time:

“Jesus never expected us simply to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, bless those who persecute us, give unto them that ask, and so forth.  These responses, generally and rightly understood to be characteristic of Chrsitlikeness, were put forth by him as illustrative of what might be expected of a new kind of person – one who intelligently and steadfastly seeks, above all else, to live within the rule of God and be possessed by the kind of righteousness that God himself has, as Matthew 6:33 portrays.  Instead, Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one’s enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do.  For a person living that life, the hard thing to do would be to hate the enemy, to turn the supplicant away, or to curse the curser…  True Christlikeness, true companionship with Christ, comes at the point where it is hard not to respond as he would.”[1]

This “responding like Jesus would” impulse comes to us in many places – like the Sermon on the Mount – but also in 1 Peter 2:

21 You were called to this kind of endurance, because Christ suffered on your behalf. He left you an example so that you might follow in his footsteps. 22 He committed no sin, nor did he ever speak in ways meant to deceive. 23 When he was insulted, he did not reply with insults. When he suffered, he did not threaten revenge. Instead, he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

Did you notice the reason that Jesus was able to endure such horrendous violence? Jesus “entrusted himself” to his heavenly Father. Prior to enduring the sufferings of the cross, with beads mixed of sweat and blood dripping down his brow, he humbly accepted the will of God the Father. In that painful, yet intimate moment, Jesus’ relationship to God took the ultimate leap forward, a deep knowing that led to a profound trust.

Jesus had chosen to know the Father’s will so much that it determined the natural impulses of his actions toward his enemies. Peter invites us to model our lives in the same way. How do we live as people of peace? The answer begins with “entrusting” ourselves to God, allowing the life of God to transform our character. When this happens, enduring unjust treatment via nonviolence will become part of our second nature.

The same is true of every other justice issue. God empowers us to become the sort of people whose impulses are bent toward love, and this happens when we create space in our lives to know God intimately. Justice and spirituality go together!

And, what of my former moral management approach to faith? Well, the sort of morality that God desires is a morality formed by the Spirit of Christ. Anything that looks like self-help strategies to administer a sin prevention plan misses the point of holiness all together. Christ wants to make our impulses bent toward holiness, including social justice, not dependent on our own legalistic strategies.

Certainly, we ought to also practice doing justice and living morally, even when we feel spiritually deflated. Those moments also work toward intimacy with God. In fact,in serving is how many people come to know Jesus the most. The risk is that we allow all of our doing to replace moments with God in our own Garden of Gethsemane, when some of the most profound “entrusting” and character formation by the Spirit takes place. No wonder Jesus often got alone for prayer before major Kingdom moments.

The Christian life isn’t worth living as I used to understand it. Instead, what if we all chose to allow the life of God to live in and among us? With such a reframe, holiness coupled with justice might just become more like second nature.


[1] Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives,7-8.

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378429_307809582593130_190381821_nKurt Willems (M.Div., Fresno Pacific) is an Anabaptist writer and pastor who is leading a church planting project in partnership with Urban Expression and the Brethren in Christ in Seattle, WA.  He writes at The Pangea Blog and is also on TwitterFacebook, and Google+.  Kurt is a contributing writer for Red Letter Christians, and has also written for Relevant MagazinePrismIn PartThe Ooze,Emergent VillageMennonite Weekly ReviewConverge Magazine, and Sojourners.

unthankful…

escapingbitternessCanadian Thanksgiving has just come and gone. For many people it was a time of getting together with family and friends and eating turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes, while sipping tomato juice. It’s was a time of sitting around the table and sharing about the things that we are thankful for in life. It was a holiday perfect for a hike in the great outdoors, pumpkin carving and playing in the leaves.

I love Thanksgiving, it’s one of the my favourite celebrations. I think that as a person of faith this holiday reminds me to be thankful not only when sitting around the table and eating turkey, but each and everyday to give thanks. I’m starting to realize that there is a large correlation between how much I give thanks and how much joy I experience in my life. But having just celebrated Thanksgiving I want to recognize that for some people, being thankful is just plain difficult.

For some Thanksgiving is a reminder that their family is broken and full of dissension. For some, there is no sitting around the table giving thanks. The coming together of family only means fighting, tension and bitterness. Thanksgiving, for some, is a reminder of the deep sense of loneliness that they feel, the kind that hasn’t always been their companion.

For some, Thanksgiving means being unthankful.

As human beings we can experience every emotion under the sun. We go through seasons where it’s easy to be thankful and laugh and love others. We also go through seasons that are full of pain and it’s an inner struggle just to force a smile. Somebody asks you what you’re thankful for and you just feel like smacking them (we’ve all had this moment)! It’s what I like to call the “why me moment”: the moment where we give into bitterness and pity and we wonder why me, why now, why this, why not him or her, why why why?!?

I think asking why is a normal human response and sometimes we just need to shout it out loud and release it from our systems. The problem is that sometimes we pitch a tent in the “why me moment” and we don’t leave. We stay bitter, we stay mad, we stay in the place of self-pity, and we want the whole world to know it. We take every opportunity to let those around us know that our life sucks. We show it in our face, in our posture, in the way we walk and talk. We take jabs at people without thinking, our humour becomes edgier and we think about ourselves a lot. So easily, our “why me moment” can seep into a lifestyle of being unthankful. Ask me why I know this, I’ll tell you that it’s because I’ve lived there, staying in that place too long.

I used to work in a job where I did a lot of volunteer recruiting. The longer I did it, the more I began to believe that people needed to serve and be involved somewhere. They needed to help others because it affected the way they lived. I saw this regularly; someone would come into a situation feeling tired and blue and for one hour they would pour into the life of a kid, and 8 out of 10 times that person would leave in an entirely different mood. Thinking about someone else changed their situation, their mood and the way they felt about themselves. Giving thanks does the same thing. When we start to speak out the things we can be thankful for it begins to change our situation. Gratitude paints our lives with colour. Learning to laugh and speak our thankfuls in the midst of even our darkest days somehow enables us to move past the “why me moment.”

There is a place and time for brokenness, for tears, for anger, and even for the “why me moment”, but don’t stay there.

Don’t pitch your tent in the land of unthankfulness.

Force yourself to leave, even if it hurts. Find something to be thankful for, find someone who is worse off than you and show them some love. You might not even know in the moment why you’re forcing yourself to do it, but do it anyways.

Because sometimes the best things in life are worth fighting for, and thankfulness is surely one of them.

Making Room for Grace…

Well I think I hit a nerve.

Yesterday I wrote some honest thoughts that I have about a recent conference that was held for men. I wrote these thoughts to share a side of a story that I think rarely gets attention. Let me tell you first why I didn’t write that post.

I didn’t write to speak against the opportunity that people have to meet Jesus, which I fully admit can happen at a conference like this one.

  • I didn’t write to discuss the theology of Harvest Bible Chapel, and how their leadership chooses to govern themselves.
  • I didn’t write because I had the 411 on what went on at the conference and wanted to debrief.
  • I didn’t write to discuss marriage, homosexuality, or the role of women in the church.
  • And I didn’t even write to slam Mark Driscoll, although I did admit I wasn’t a fan.

 

So allow me to set the record straight and tell you why I did write that blog.

  • I wrote it because not everyone thinks the same and not everyone is moved by the way some people choose to communicate their ideas. Can we not make room in our evangelical christianity for differing opinions? For different expressions?
  • I wrote because there has to be a place where people can talk about things openly and honestly. Without fear of being yelled at or belittled, and without the fear of some man or woman going on a theological power trip.
  • I wrote because I think coming against opposition in terms of what we believe sometimes helps to form our thoughts about life, about faith and about people. It’s actually healthy.
  • And I wrote because for as many people who are really impacted by these leaders, there are  a lot of people who are just not ok with some of the messages that are being sent and some of the ways they choose to send them. I recognize this works both ways.

 

So let the record be set straight…

It’s awesome that people came to know Jesus! It’s fantastic if there were some guys that left wanting to love their families more! It’s wonderful if men felt empowered to rise up and take responsibility for their lives.

Why would I be against any of these things?

The point that I wanted to make was two-fold:

  1. We have to make room for people who don’t fit the mould, who don’t find themselves empowered by this type of language, and for people who feel like they don’t fit into this picture of what it means to be a “real man”.
  2. Christ is the goal, not a culturally, man-made definition of what it means to be a”man”, even if this is what the conference tried to get at, and whether it succeeded or failed, Christ should always be the goal. We can be united in Jesus.

 

It’s clear that many of us land on opposite sides of the spectrum. I think this is ok. More than that, I think having healthy discussion around these issues actually helps us to grow in our faith and understanding of one another, like I mentioned above. What’s not ok is when you take an opportunity for discussion and turn it into an opportunity to bully, to belittle and to shame each other.

We are all in progress and we are all just working our faith out, and even better, we get to work this stuff out in community.

So let’s keep that in mind and remember to have grace towards one another and for one another, wherever we may find ourselves on the spectrum.

Act Like Men…

ImageIt’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Mark Driscoll or his Acts 29 movement. It’s also no secret that I have some major issues with some of the theology of Harvest Bible Chapel. But when it comes to this issue, I’d like to say for the record that “this” is not about “that.”

There’s a conference going on in Hamilton this week. It’s a conference put on by some of our American friends and by golly, aren’t we lucky that they managed to add a Canadian city to their tour. The “Act Like Men” conference has been held in Hamilton this weekend. Here’s the description:

Look around. What’s so desperately needed where we live, in our country and in our world, are men who embrace all that God created them to be. Men who are loud and ruthless about their own sin, but patient and full of grace in leading others. Men who follow God without limits and meet the needs of those around them without hesitation. To get there need radical surgery. It’s time to cut deep and get it all, and not be afraid of what that means. We challenge you to join thousands of men for a two-day conference this fall – to step up with us and Act Like Men.

Their title is based off of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong, let all that you do be done in love.” (ESV) Although many translations choose to omit the phrase “act like men” and simply add “be courageous.”

I heard that this conference was coming to Hamilton a few months ago and couldn’t help but wonder if people would actually want to attend. I’m curious to know if it’s the idea of a group of men getting together, or the call to rise up and “be men” that draws the crowds? Perhaps guys get something from Mark Driscoll standing in front of them and yelling at them? I’m not really sure I’ll ever understand it.

Here’s the thing, I don’t have a problem with a conference for men. There’s lots of conferences that are have a gender specific focus like “Promise Keepers” or “Women of Faith.” I think that events like these can often be beneficial for people. But I do have a problem with a conference owning the title “Act Like Men!” And I have a problem with a few complimentarian male leaders standing in front of a group of men telling them how to be men.

Who defines what it means to be a man?

Does Mark Driscoll? Or Matt Chandler? Or James Macdonald? Does Driscoll yelling at you empower you to go out and get a job and be a leader?

What happens to those guys who just don’t make the cut?

I’ve asked this question before after listening to one of Mark Driscoll’s rants about men but I’ll ask it again. What happens to those guys who just aren’t so cookie cutter when it comes to the definition of a “man?” We all have those guy friends that are just not what the world defines as “manly.” We so easily label these guys as “gay” or “feminine,” and are quick to put them into a box. But what about them? Does this type of message and language actually demean those guys who don’t exhibit certain qualities? Because I have really good guy friends who wouldn’t know what to do with a hammer, and who aren’t always quick to “take the lead” or who tend to excel in areas we would label as “womanly duties.” So does this make them less of a man? While the conference obviously aims to focus on the ability to show love, I wonder what other messages will be slipped in the cracks. I wonder if there will be some guys in the room who leave secretly feeling like they just don’t reach the bar.

If someone held a conference that was called “Act Like Women,” how do you think that would go over? I can tell you right now that the feminist movement would be

ALL

OVER

IT!

Because who defines what it means to be a woman? Does it mean that she exemplifies the qualities of a proverbs 31 woman? Does she sew and cook? Do she work outside the home? Does she stay at home with her kids? Does she obey her husband? Is she quiet and submissive?

Can I look at a group of women with unique personalities and gifts and tell them what they must do to act like a woman? If they didn’t follow those rules then are they any less of a woman? Is there a double standard here?

Why are we sending the message “Act Like Men” when the message that we should be sending is “Act Like Christ?” Does Christ not reach out and unify male and female, Jew and Greek, those who are free and those who are slaves? Shouldn’t we instead seek to act more like Jesus instead of acting more like the disputed roles that society continues to argue about?

I don’t pretend to know what is actually spoken at this conference, especially since it’s clear that women are not allowed. I’d like to hope that some men do leave feeling encouraged and empowered to love Christ more and love those around them more. However, I can’t help but wonder about the type of message that a conference like this sends to people. I can’t help but feel compassion for those guys (and girls) who silently struggle to feel like they are enough and to feel like Jesus loves them right where they are. Does this type of conference leave room for those people? Could they feel safe there? I have my doubts.

It’s hard for me to picture Jesus standing before a guy struggling to find his identity in such a mixed up culture, and yelling at him to just “ACT LIKE A MAN!”

I have an easier time thinking Jesus might take the guy out for a drink and help him work out his junk.

But then again, I’m just a woman.

The Power of Thank You: A Guest Post from Craig Sider…

Today I was sitting with a friend as we planned his father’s funeral. His dad passed away a few days earlier at the age of 87. My friend said, “we need to find a way to get a thank you note into the memorial service.” He went on, “40 years ago when my father was a locomotive engineer, he gave a little boy a tour of the train. The little boy’s father wrote my dad a thank you note that he held on to for decades.” It’s the power of a ‘thank you’.

Thirty years ago I gave my first public talk. If you measured it against gifted speakers, I might have squeaked out a D- …maybe. In the audience that day was a long-retired leader and public speaker who took the time, several days later, to handwrite and mail me a page-long thank you note. He was encouraging, specific, and even constructive in his thank you. It motivated me to push on. Every year I pull out that thank you, read it, and remind myself of the power of a ‘thank you’.

In neither of these scenarios was the writer attempting to create a legacy statement; they just saw a reason to say ‘thanks’ and took the time to send a note. As a leader, when you observe a reason to say thanks, be intentional and send off a quick note (a quick handwritten note is more effective than an email!). Want to make it easier? Keep a stack of note cards in your laptop bag, desk, or car along with stamped envelopes and a marker. When you observe someone demonstrating:

  • A courageous first step
  • Consistent and faithful service
  • An extra mile effort
  • Generosity with someone in need
  • Outstanding performance
  • An act of kindness

 

Take the time to write them a thank you note. Don’t just think about it…do it. Years ago I read Tom Peters’ pithy little article, “50 Ways to Gain Personal Power”. Number One? Write thank you notes!! You’re leadership won’t go soft if you take this step….it will strengthen you while you encourage and empower others.

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ImageCraig Sider enjoys helping people, leaders, and organizations pursue more intentional lives. He serves as President of The New York City Leadership Center, A Christian organization that serves as a change agent for leadership and collaboration across Metro NYC. . In addition, he has served on various not-for-profit and para-church ministry boards. Craig and his wife, Laura, reside in West New York, NJ.

Like Shattered Glass…

Shattering-Glass1-819x1024I remember looking out my second story window down towards the shed below, my Dad had taken a hammer and was violently pounding the piece of wood on his table. He didn’t know anyone was around and as I secretly watched from my bedroom window, I wept because I’d never seen my Dad so upset before.

He wasn’t fixing anything.

He was releasing.

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My brother Ben was the first child born in my family. He became very ill when he was just a tiny baby. He developed meningitis and began seizing. He  was rushed to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery. There was severe brain damage and as his tiny body laid in a coma in his hospital crib, connected to multiple tubes, the doctors told my parents that if he woke up he would be severely brain damaged and would likely not live very long. Miraculously, Ben woke up from his coma on the eleventh day.

Ben would now be severely brain damaged, blind and physically handicapped. He would never walk or talk or see and he would seizure regularly.

The doctors told my parents that at this point the best possibility for their now disabled child who would likely die very young was to put him in a home and forget they ever had him.

So, they took him home and they loved him.

They learned to feed, bathe and care for him. They learned how to give medications, do physiotherapy, and entered the “disability world”.

My parents had three healthy children after Ben: me, my brother Greg and my youngest brother Josh.

Us kids, we loved Ben.

His loud shouts, smelly diapers, pureed food and consistent seizures were all normal for us.

Ben’s spirit filled our house. Ben would laugh and shout when he heard music, he loved head massages, his favourite food was turkey with cranberries and mashed bananas and he hated being cold and getting his haircut.

When Ben was 19 his health started declining rapidly. We found out that he had been living with a collapsed lung for a year and a half and no one knew, not even his doctors. We knew that Ben was nearing the end of his life; his tired and crooked body had been through so many surgeries and so many seizures.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. I went to the hospital to say goodbye. Ben was sleeping and very heavily medicated but I stood beside him and I whispered to him. I told him how much I loved him and that one day I would see him again.

It was one of those surreal moments. It was like we knew he was going to die and we were waiting and what that can do to you and to your family is indescribable.

I watched from my second story window as my Dad violently pounded the hammer into the wood over and over and over again.

He wasn’t fixing anything.

He was releasing.

Because his son was dying and his family was hurting and he couldn’t do anything to fix it. In that moment I cried out to Jesus because I didn’t know how my family was ever going to be the same.

We were like shattered glass.

The edges cut into the deepest places of us.

Ben went to be with Jesus not long after that.

We celebrated his life and we celebrated because we knew his body was no longer broken; he was free.

And then we grieved.

I didn’t know what grief was. I’d heard the word but I hadn’t lived it and breathed it and despised it. I hadn’t been afraid of it.

Grief feels like an unwelcome guest; you don’t know when it will come, how long it will stay or the havoc it will wreak in your life.

And it changes you.

But the thing is that you get to choose whether you let it make you bitter or you let it make you deeper. By deeper I mean more thankful, more loving & more compassionate.

Sometimes when you lose someone you love it makes you take a hard look at your life. You fear losing someone else you love and so you say I love you more, you hug longer and you think twice about going to sleep angry.

Sometimes you get angry and act bitterly…

And that’s ok,

But don’t stay that way.

Don’t let it take over,

Don’t miss what’s in front of you; the opportunities to use your story, to use your pain because right now someone else is going through it too and they need to hear that it is going to be ok, they need you and your story.

So please, don’t stay that way.

Greif is on its own schedule and sometimes it comes right away and sometimes it comes years later.

My Mom and I began grieving right away. We began looking for special things each week to help us get through those really tough moments. We started creating special things to look forward to.

You have to do these kind of things in those moments. You have to talk it through and cry and laugh.

It’s all ok.

If I could tell you one thing I learned it’s this…

It will get easier….

There will be a day when it doesn’t cross your mind every minute and every hour.

It will get easier to talk about.

You will feel normal again.

It won’t always hurt this bad.

And when you give the shattered pieces of your life and your family to Jesus He will make something beautiful out of it,

something whole.