Dreading Headstones

I’ve been subconsciously, and even more recently, purposely dreading writing this, and by the end of this, you’ll feel it too. It started almost a year ago, I guess, and this picture sets this thought in stone quite appropriately:

Not the actual tombstone

Almost a year ago, our son Oliver passed away (no, this post isn’t entirely about that event, but more about the emotions surrounding it). Someone blessed us with money to pay those dreadful hospital bills related to Oliver’s birth and passing, and we even had just enough money leftover for the tombstone.

So, last March, we reluctantly stepped into a local funeral home after consulting several others to compare cost, and the funeral director, giving us a discount, expected us to return and place an order for Ollie’s headstone.

Except we never showed up.

Sure, we talked about it some, every now and then, saying, “Oh, we still have that money for the headstone in our safe. We should take care of that” and things of that sort.

Yet gloominess must have slightly set in, as I chose not to get the headstone. At one point, I thought, “What’s the point?”

In the gray skies of early 2018, I went to the funeral home to have the contract drawn up.

Talking with one of the head guys there, he revealed the reason why many people erroneously wait to get a tombstone and the detriment behind it:

Tombstones provide closure, and some people want the wound to stay open.

Don’t get me wrong: nowhere in my wildest thoughts would I ever want to keep thinking of the searing pain of losing a second son. But, subconsciously, isn’t it easier to deal with pain by stuffing it away, keeping the tombstones of our pain off the growing grass of our hearts?

So, I shared with Mary the reason I had reluctance in acquiring the headstone this whole time… only to wait a couple more weeks afterward to actually pay for and execute the contract.

You and I aren’t too different, you know?

We both stuff our pain, keeping the tombstones away from the grass in our lives.

That’s not healthy.

We should have our sketch back for approval soon, and then the tombstone will be delivered, and there it will sit, right next to Alex’s, our first son, and maybe then I’ll be able to get closure.

Question is, what are you afraid of facing, giving your fears prime property among the grassy knolls of your heart and mind? Friend, may I encourage you today? Let’s lay those fears to rest.

Rest In Peace, fear.

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Doubt the Default

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Writer’s Block and the Angle of Approach

Have you ever stared at a screen for what seems like countless hours, only to come up with this?

I remember one day when I was in high school English, and we were given the assignment to write a paper on Voltaire’s Candide. There. In class. The teacher gave us the whole class hour to do it.

It should have been easy to write a paper on that poor excuse for a waste of time. I loathe that book. Can’t stand it. Never have. Never will. To me, its only contribution to the literary world was political satire.

You’d think, with my intense feelings regarding that book, that I’d have been able to write a paper on Candide blindfolded.

But I just sat there. Staring at my paper. And occasionally, I’d turn to my left, and stare out of the window, just for a change of scenery.

It was like I was trying to get a handle on what angle I wanted to take.

For me, that’s where writer’s block develops: how do I want to approach this subject? I’d assume that for some people, they develop writer’s block from this: what subject do I want to write about? But for me, that’s never been the case. I don’t write when I don’t know the best angle of approach.

Because, for me, the introduction is just as important as the message. If you don’t grab my attention in the beginning, then I won’t be intrigued, or my curiosity won’t be piqued, or my heart won’t feel connected, and I ultimately won’t read the rest.

Here are good examples of proper angle of approach:

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” A Christmas Carol, Dickens

“I was born a slave on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia… My life had its beginning in the midst of the most miserable, desolate, and discouraging surroundings.” Up From Slavery, Washington

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tied. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.” Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston

“It’s strange to see an Amish girl drunk.” Dug Down Deep, Harris

“Life is the tale of two stories – one finite and frail, the other eternal and enduring. The tiny one – the story of us – is as brief as the blink of an eye. Yet somehow our infatuation with our own little story – and our determination to make it as big as we possibly can – blinds us to the massive God Story that surrounds us on every side.” i am not but i know I Am, Giglio

“No one is ever really at ease in facing what we call ‘life’ and ‘death’ without a religious faith. The trouble with many people today is that they have not found a God big enough for modern needs.” Your God Is Too Small, Phillips

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” Let the Nations Be Glad, Piper

Sure, several examples of different works. Some are fiction. Some are autobiographies. Some are books about a more fulfilling life with Christ.

The point is, if you write, if you speak, if you create,

approach your work with the right angle, and people will gravitate towards that.

How do you get past writer’s block? I’d love to know!

The Unseen Miracle Part Two

Did you read part one?

Jesus works in the unseen middle, performing miracles we may never see. Unseen miracles happen everyday.

When Water Drops Collide

But sometimes those miracles aren’t just for you. Sometimes Jesus does a miracle for you, but it benefits someone else in a way you’d never imagine.

My wife pointed this out to me.

Look again at that text:

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana… When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine”… Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew)”… John 2

At the end of that passage, we see another amazing thing (that’s the beauty of God’s Word; He likes to reveal Himself to you and to me in many ways):

The servants were there the whole time, and they experienced the miracle from a different perspective.

Sure. There’s the unseen miracle.
But then there are the servants who listen to Jesus say, “Fill those jars”. So they find some water themselves and then they fill the jars, themselves. And then Jesus says, “Take some water out of the jar you yourself filled, and bring it to Kid & play (ok, maybe that wasn’t the name of the party thrower, but they did throw a house party, right?).”

And they did. And that’s when it happened, right before their eyes: the master tasted wine, not water.

The miracle meant for the house guests was now seen from a different perspective. John writes, “The servants who had drawn the water knew [where the wine/miracle came from].”

They knew. They knew that Jesus performed an unseen miracle.

Sometimes your miracles aren’t just for you.

Knowing this, what should you do the next time an unseen miracle comes your way?

Bankrupt Aspirations For Wealth

The coast of Mississippi is lined with miles and miles of beach front property. The homes along the beach are gorgeous. Some are tall. Some are ornately designed. Some look like they are straight out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Some look like they belong in “Southern Living” or a history book of the South.

Bottom line: these are the types of houses that I want to live in — forever.

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Here’s the problem: Mary and I were driving down the beach the other day, and I caught myself admiring the houses. Like normal. Nothing out of the ordinary.

I then remarked to Mary, “You see that house? They threw a huge party the other night, complete with a private concert, a phenomenal light and sound setup, and lots of dressed up wealthy people…”

“… I want to make friends with the owner of that house.”

As soon as that statement came out of my mouth, I immediately felt something stir in me, something uneasy, as if to let me know that line of thinking was wrong.

Do you ever think like that?
Do you ever look at the rich or the wealthy and say to yourself, “I want to be that,” or, “I want what they have,” or at the least, “I want to be their friend”?

It’s what I call aspirations for wealth.

Now, before you throw stones, I don’t necessarily see a problem with aspirations of wealth.
It’s certainly good to be wealthy if God made you that way, or put you in that circumstance, or if you’ve simply managed God’s resources well and so He simply followed the pattern of the parable and gave you more.

Wealth, according to the ancient Greeks, means “fullness of goods.” To be wealthy simply means that you are full of something — finances, love, friends, family, understanding, wisdom.

So, wealth is ok. Aspirations of wealth can be good.

Aspirations for wealth — to be rich like someone else, to want/desire rich friends — leads to bankruptcy, be it emotional or spiritual. It leads to that hollow, empty feeling. Like something is missing. And that feeling of discontentment will overtake you.

Plato and Aristotle thought, “Moderate wealth is best; the uncontrolled wealth that finds security in the constant accumulation of material goods leads to political ruin and renders the individual a-social” (TDNT).

When you aspire to become wealthy, you’re essentially saying that you are not full of goods. That you’re not full of something — of kindness, of grace, of love, of friendships, of ideas, of joy.

Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t sell your family short. Don’t sell your circumstances in life short. Don’t sell God short.

You’re in a particular place in life. Own it. Be the best you that you were made to be.

And if you do that, you’ll be rich.

What do you want to be rich in?