Monday, August 25, 2008

Thank You...

Paula and I want to express to all of you how grateful we are for the incredible outpouring of love over the loss of our son, Josiah David.  You have ministered to us in countless ways as you have shared our burden and grief.  We had a beautiful funeral on Saturday and during the service Rev. Terry Yancey, District Superintendent of the Kansas District of the Assemblies of God shared a journal entry that Paula had written in her journal five years ago!  It has ministered to us in many ways, and many of you have expressed that you also were touched deeply by these words.  We wanted to make them available to all of you, that you too may be encouraged by them.  with heartfelt love and gratitude - Jerry and Paula.

June 2003
This morning I ministered in Scott City. At lunch with the pastors, the idea came to me to go and visit the cemetery on my way out of town. They told me where it was and I went. It was an absolutely beautiful afternoon – clear skies, pleasantly warm but a cool breeze, and birds singing everywhere. The grass was green from the recent rains. There was such a peacefulness there! I wanted to find Stephanie Lynn’s grave, but upon seeing how large the cemetery was, doubted if I could ever locate it. I called mom and dad (remarkably, phone coverage in that remote area!), and dad gave me an idea of the general area, but he wasn’t able to be very specific. I headed that direction, parked under a shade tree, and approached a section of graves to see if they were in the children’s section. Amazingly, the very first stone that I came upon and read, was Stephanies’!

All I can say is, I felt a strange and special connection to my “big, little sister”, one whom I never met. I didn’t want to leave that place, it was just so serene, and I felt I was supposed to be there. Kneeling beside her headstone, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Lord had taken her in order to make a place for Rhonda. Did the Lord choose to bring Stephanie straight home, because there was another baby girl, who didn’t have a home, and who would need all the love and grace and prayer that Ron and Pauleta could give her? And isn’t the exchange of those lives another expression of God’s design to bring Rhonda into His wholeness?

I could just imagine a 24 year old Pauleta and 28 year old Ron, kneeling there at the headstone, on a freezing January day, devastated. How could they have known that 40 years later, they would hold 3 daughters in their hearts, and 3 grandchildren? At that moment, their hopes and dreams were crushed and the future was far away.

That tiny baby, was as a seed planted in the ground. Her life, of course, was never buried – it was released into the arms of God. What was buried in the cold ground that winter was a mother and father’s hopes and dreams. They buried joy, and love – their very hearts!—but they buried in God. And in the perfect and unfailing heart of God, every seed planted there must spring to life again. It was a very bad winter, but what a springtime, what a summer, what a harvest! In a lifetime of raising a family and shepherding God’s flock—what joy, trust, and love has flourished in those deeply plowed hearts.  

Grace me, Lord, to bury every disappointment, every loss in You. To accept and embrace what You do and what You don’t do, what you give and what you take away. And to respond in faith, recognizing that with You, the resurrection far surpasses the natural life; the harvest greatly exceeds the seed planted; the latter is greater than the former.

God spoke to me today, in the stillness of a cemetery, through my baby sister. He reminded me, that though life can be desperate at times, seasons change. Things are not always as they seem. His ways are infinitely higher than ours. And He is causing all things to work together – and accomplish His work of reconciliation, restoration, and perfection. Hallelujah!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Forceps and Fatherhood

On Saturday Paula and I attended a birthing class to help us get ready for the baby and while I knew this whole having a baby thing wasnʼt gonna be easy (for Paula that is), I have to say, truthfully, I was pretty clueless.

I learned more about amniotic fluid than I EVER wanted to know and we watched videos that were apparently made by folks who feel deeply that there should be no secrets about anything that happens during a birth and that in fact we who are about to have a baby should actually see it happen up close and personal – you know, salad tongs and all.

Despite the initial shock – (“Oh my. Why, thatʼs a....Oh my!”) I found all of it quite helpful. I mean, I have had my apprehensions about actually being in the room during the labor because truthfully, I am sort of on the squeamish side and I could just imagine myself passing out and hitting my head on a stirrup or something and having to be carted off to the E.R., leaving Paula with nothing to comfort her but a “Songs of the Dolphins” CD and a cup of ice chips.

But now that Iʼve had an 8 hour class giving detailed (very detailed, I might add) descriptions of everything that is supposed to take place, I feel like maybe Iʼll be O.K.

I suppose more than anything, this class reminded me what a miracle life is, that life doesnʼt just happen and that when it does the fingerprints of God are all over it.

Something the nurse said towards the end of her presentation though I thought was particularly profound. She pointed out that when the baby is born they immediately place the baby on the motherʼs chest. She noted that they do this, even if the mother isnʼt breast feeding, because as she put it, “this will help the babyʼs temperature and breathing to stabilize.”

You know, the same is true of us. Our nearness to the heart of God is what more than anything will cause our lives to stabilize and find rhythm. Our nearness to the One from whom we came is the ultimate source of our peace and comfort because as it says of Jesus in the book of Acts, “For in him we live and move and have our being...we are his offspring” (Acts 17:28).

And truthfully there are times when my life gets out of synch and I flounder about looking for something to validate who I am and to give my life significance. I think if I just preach one more good sermon, or write a profound blog, or get another degree, then my life will have the order and peace I long for. But the truth is, during these times what I am really thinking, perhaps without realizing it, is that my life belongs to me, when in fact it doesnʼt.

And so as I contemplate that weʼre about to bring a life into the world who will be totally dependent on us for everything, and as I contemplate becoming a father, I am reminded again of my own infancy and dependency.

And Iʼm reminded that peace is not about how we perform or what weʼve achieved, but about our nearness to the One who gave us life, so that we might sense His heartbeat and know the comfort of His breathing.

Not to mention that I am sure that after Saturday, Iʼll never look at salad tongs quite the same again.