Wednesday, February 19, 2014

From the Smallest Seed: Lessons from Warren, Post 2

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. O Lord, come back to us!
How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good.”
-Psalm 90:12 

Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers on February 8th.  We had a very special family day, complete with a lunch out to the Waffle House and a late afternoon walk at the river.  Two outings with 3 little boys and no meltdowns, a blessed day indeed! 

So, why do we talk about our son, Warren, five years later?  Out of guilt, as though we would be failing him if we didn’t bring up his name?  Certainly not.  In order to make you feel sad or uncomfortable?  No, no, no!  In stark contrast, we talk about our dear son out of love, out of our desire to share him with you and to tell his sweet story.  A mother can never forget her baby. But more than that, Warren’s story actually brings us life.  And is this not the Gospel, but life springing from death? 

Through John, and now through Daniel and Andrew as well, we keep a foot firmly planted on this earth. However, it is through Warren that we have a foot resting in heaven… or more accurately springing toward heaven, as each day brings us closer to that reality. When part of your heart and mind, your very DNA, are in heaven, the hope of heaven becomes very real. It becomes necessary.  More than ever, it matters that our true citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20). 

As a dear and much wiser friend once shared with us a year or two after our son passed, this life simply does not make sense apart from the eternal reality. Warren’s life, his true life in heaven, speaks to that more than anything else in our lives.  He reminds me of the heaven-focus we all need to possess and carry with us as we go about our daily tasks.  With eyes fixed on our true, ultimate home in heaven with the Lord, we are freed up to embrace this life on earth.  We no longer expect it to be everything we long for and desire…. for we know that will come when we get to heaven.  But while we are here, our job is to seek Jesus and walk in the good works He prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10).  In this, we are given the gift of participating in His redemptive works that point toward heaven when all will fully and finally be made new.  As Paul expertly explains, “To live is Christ, but to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21).

At times on this earth, we must bury what we most hold dear. We had to bury our firstborn son, and John had to bury his twin brother. Many of you have had to bury loved ones.  Others have had to bury dreams, careers, or the way you expected your lives to turn out.  I don’t claim to know why this is, and I certainly do not diminish the pain involved.  However, I do know where we must place our hope in light of these losses, the only thing that carries us through… that with Jesus, death does not have the final say.  In fact, with Jesus, life always comes from death. For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross (Heb. 12:2).  He had joy in store, eternal life with the Father, despite the certain death He faced.  Moreover, He had eternal, true life to give each one of us in the wake of His tragic death.  Through His death, we are promised life beyond this broken world… life beyond the crushing blows we face.

In Warren’s brief life, then, we see a microcosm of the Gospel. Since his death, I have been captivated by Jesus’ words in John 12:24: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  In one of his letters to the church in Corinth, Paul adds, “What you sow does not come to life unless it dies” (1 Corinthians 15: 36). From the smallest seeds, seemingly lifeless and forgotten in the ground, new life begins again.  Warren is our sacred planting; we share him with you in hopes you see his life as a display of the Lord’s favor (Isaiah 61:3).  Our hearts still break, yet we sing Warren's song, praying his tune breathes promise into your dead and hopeless places as it has ours.  Sometimes we are given the seemingly impossible task of burying our dreams, sowing with countless tears the seeds we most hold dear.  But with the hope of Christ, they can burst forth and grow, yielding the greater dream of an eternal perspective.  A dream that always comes true.

“For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive…
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable...
‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’"
-1 Corinthians 15: 22, 42, 54-55
"For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations."
-Isaiah 61:11

Friday, February 7, 2014

Holy Ground/19 Days: Lesson From Warren, Post 1

"Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name."
-Hebrews 13:5,15  NKJV

Seeing that this blog essentially speaks to life, loss and redemption, these next few posts around the fifth anniversary of Warren’s death on February 8th and subsequent birth in heaven will highlight a few specific things the Lord has placed on my heart over the years: “Lessons from Warren.”  

Warren taught us the vast significance of all life, no matter how brief in our earthly economy or limited understanding.  Many have told us how Warren’s life taught them to pray, to seek closer intimacy with their Creator. 

February 8th, along with the 19 days following the twins’ birthday on January 21st, is certainly bittersweet.  We still mourn this loss while we also continue to celebrate Warren’s life, singing his song. And I know this actually has surprised some…. Why do we feel the need to talk about our deceased son?  Do we do this out of guilt?  Do we not know how to move forward?  I hope some of these questions will be answered in this post and the ones to follow… but more than that, we hope these posts, like Warren’s life, will point you to Jesus.

While we often find ourselves in the land of “what ifs,” caught up in anger, loneliness and the weight of crushed dreams for our life and future, this weekend we hope to lay the questions and anguish aside.  We hope to instead embrace a spirit of gratitude. Focusing not on what we didn’t get to experience, but instead on what we did.  Focusing not on the time we were denied with Warren, but instead on the time we did have.  Focusing not on why a good God would allow a medical error to abruptly shorten our beloved son’s life (also the life of John’s twin who we had hoped would have his brother throughout his earthly life), but rather focusing on the good God who perhaps prevented our twins from being taken even earlier when complications and hemorrhaging arose on several occasions while the boys were still in my womb. 

A shift from coveting what was lost, as the verse above states, to instead offering a sacrifice of praise for what we have.  God allowed me to meet, hold, and snuggle my twins… to feel their warm bodies against my skin.  To sing to them, pray over them, read to them, love on them.

So today’s lesson from Warren is simple.  We are grateful for 19 days.  Questions aside, despite tears welling, the fact remains that 19 days is what we were given.  And so today, I want to be grateful for that gift.  I choose to be grateful.  Those precious, albeit heart-wrenching, days when in many ways time stood still.  Those days in which every moment, each solitary minute, was savored.  Treasured in a way that I cannot say was experienced in Daniel or Andrew’s first few weeks (although those weeks were precious in their own way, of course). 

When a life hangs in the balance, when you are fighting for every breath, those moments stretch, time slows, hearts seem to almost bleed into one.  When a life is tenuous, and suffering meets love, you truly stand on holy ground where nothing is taken for granted.  Those 19 days were our holy ground, where a slice of heaven came to earth in the form of our twins.  A time in which we lived and loved without regret.  And then one was taken to heaven to be with his Lord, to reside on the true Holy Ground we will also get to experience some day.

What are your “19 days”?  I know it is difficult, unbearable at times, but let's find spaces and moments, even, to join together in offering a sacrifice of praise for the glimpses of holy ground in each of our lives, knowing the Lord will never leave us nor forsake us.  

I will close with a link to the lyrics and music to a beloved throwback, “Holy Ground”:
Holy Ground 
Verse 1
When I walk through the doors I sensed His presence
And I knew this was a place where love abounds
For this is a temple Jehova God abides here
Oh we are standing in His presence on holy ground

We are standing on holy ground
And I know that there are angels all around
Let us praise Jesus now
For we are standing in His presence on holy ground

Verse 2
In His presence I know there is joy beyond all measure
And at His feet sweet peace of mind can still be found
For when we have a need He is still the answer
Just reach out and claim it for we are standing on holy ground

We are standing on holy ground
And I know that there are angels all around
Let us praise Jesus now
For we are standing in His presence on holy ground

Holy holy holy Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee

We are standing on holy ground
And I know that there are angels all around
Let us praise Jesus now
For we are standing in His presence
We are standing in His presence

We are standing in His presence on holy ground