I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

Those who are trying to make the biggest difference, those who are fighting extreme poverty and injustice, those who are under-resourced, under-manned and overwhelmed at the size of the task get tempted more often than others to want to quit.

Many times their courageous looking exterior is masking a very discouraged and tired interior.

Just recently I talked to some heroic, selfless people in my life, who were at the brink of possibly throwing in the towel.

I had sent a few emails to people who inspire me. They are making such a huge difference when it comes to global hunger, trafficking and our local homelessness issue. At the end of my emails, I tagged the scripture, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

Their responses back were, “Wow, that verse couldn’t have come at a better time.” And then they shared with me their discouragement, weariness and doubt that they were making a difference. They said that verse reminded them again that Jesus said it would never be easy to serve the hurting and broken, especially when the rest of the world tends to look the other way.

The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”

It is always easier to start something than to finish it.
The thought of changing our world is much easier than doing it!

How many of us have ever started a diet but within a week we had given up? Within a day? Within an hour? It’s just human nature:

When we want to follow Jesus and the prophets who said to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, father the fatherless, take care of widows and fight against injustice, the scriptures remind us that it will cost us something, maybe everything, but the scriptures also remind us that God will give us the power we need to do his will.

You can have the greatest intentions in the world but without a power supply greater then yourself, then you will run out of gas.

The apostle Paul reminded his prodigy Timothy that “God had not given him a spirit of fear, but of POWER, love and a sound mind.”

How do we live in God’s power?

It starts with surrender.

Something very powerful happens when we finally say the words, “I can’t do this on my own anymore!”

On Fifth Avenue in New York City, in front of the RCA building, there is a huge statue of Atlas, with all his muscles straining hold the world on his shoulders.

Atlas is facing Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, which is right across the street, and in the lobby of the church there is a shrine of Jesus as a boy, with no effort, holding the world with one hand.

You and I have a choice. We can try to carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, “I give up, God, here’s my life, I give you my world.”

I also think it is important to remember that it is normal to get knocked down, fail, and to want quit.

But we must remember the words of Paul who said, “Even when we don’t know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us. And when we are knocked down we get up again.”

Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all time leading rusher, ran over 10 miles in his record breaking career. His career yards per carry were 4.2. That means Emmitt was tackled 4370 times in his Hall of Fame career.

Imagine this: In the midst of running 10 miles, Emmitt was knocked down 4370 times by sweaty, angry 300 pound linemen.

Now imagine getting up this morning and because you know that jogging is good for your heart, cholesterol and weight management, you put on your running shoes and short shorts and you start running through your neighborhood. How far do you think you could go?

However long you decide you can run, now imagine doing that while getting knocked down every 4.2 yards by angry, sweaty 300 pound men. How long would you last? How long would I last?

That’s life isn’t it? About every 4.2 yards, in the words of John Madden, “BAM”, life hits you hard. Life seems to have 300 pound linemen hitting us from every direction. It seems each year these 300 pound linemen get faster and stronger.

Every 4.2 yards Emmitt Smith had a choice, “Am I gonna get back up again or am I gonna stay down?” He got back up 4370 times.

I’m sure he didn’t always feel like getting back up.
I’m sure there were times when he was hurt, discouraged and just plain tired.

Emmitt Smith kept breaking records, winning super bowls and motivating teammates because he kept getting back up.

A very wise prophet said thousands of years ago something that is just as relevant today. “The LORD gives strength to those who are weary. Even young people get tired, then stumble and fall. But those who trust the LORD will find new strength. They will be strong like eagles soaring upward on wings; they will walk and run without getting tired.”

Norman Vincent Peale wrote, “If you have no problems at all, I warn you, you’re in grave jeopardy. You are on your way out and you don’t know it! If you don’t have any problems, I suggest that you immediately race from wherever you are, jump into your car and drive home as fast as you can, and go straight to your bedroom and slam the door. Then get on your knees and pray, ‘What’s the matter, Lord? Don’t you trust me anymore? Give me some problems!’”

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

Struggling With Hope

Wrestling with my emotions, I wrote this shortly after my sister Rhonda went home to be with Jesus much too early:

My body sweats, soul shivers
Senses numb, spirit quivers
Eyes smile, heart aches
Walking strong, legs break

I look so good, feel so sad
I have so much, give so bad
I know so much, still can’t find
I see a rainbow, I’m color blind

I need to know, I need to feel
I need to find, I need to understand
I want to celebrate, I want to smile
I want to dance awhile
I want to feel love

The sun is bright, my body’s cold
Promises new, my faith is old
Past is clear, future hole
World stands still, spinning out of control

I love so much, nothing to give
I try so hard, tired to live
I cry so deep, no emotions to find
I run so fast, while I am getting behind

Can I live again?
Can I trust again?
Can I dream again?
Can I spread my wings and fly?

Many people, all alone
Pressing deadlines, postponed
Beautiful sounds, deaf ears
Echoing laughter, salty tears

I talk so much, people bemused
Search for meaning, more confused
Asked to be strong, silent fear
I am asking the same question……
IS IT HOPE THAT I HEAR?

I need to know, I need to feel
I need to find, I need to understand
I want to celebrate, I want to smile
I want to dance awhile
I want to feel love

Can I live again?
Can I trust again?
Can I dream again?
Can I spread my wings and fly?

Can I finish as I began
I am asking the same question……
IS IT HOPE THAT I HEAR AGAIN?

“The Lord is there to rescue all who are discouraged and have given up hope.” Psalm 34:18 (CEV)

Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.

It was on a hot summer day, in 1971, where two care-free 8 year old girls, one with blonde hair, the other brown, were running, playing, laughing, and doing what 8 year old girls do, in the basement of the brown hair girl’s home.

As they were playing, they found an abandoned freezer that opened from the top. They thought it would be fun to make that freezer their own little hideaway. So they climbed in and giggled and laughed and told scary stories and told each other who they thought the cutest boy in school was. It was their own little world where no one else knew where they were.

When they had had enough of the dark, and when it began to get a little warm and stuffy, they decided it was time to get out, but when they tried, the latch had shut and these two little care-free girls were trapped in an airtight freezer with very little oxygen left.

They screamed and yelled and screamed and yelled…and when they began to get weak…they prayed and sang Sunday school songs and then prayed some more.

The little blonde girl had asthma, and she was struggling breathing and she began to pass out, so the little brown haired girl would sing and pray louder while she was pushing her back as hard as her little 8 year old body could push against the top of the freezer, trying to get precious air for her best friend.

The blonde girl’s asthma overcame her and she passed out, while the brown haired girl would pass out and then wake up and start to pray and sing again. And then she would pass out once again.
Meanwhile, the brown haired girl’s mother, who had been frantically searching for them with no luck, heard an audible voice from God saying, “Go to the basement!”

So she did. She heard the cry of her daughter and lifted the freezer door to find her beautiful dark haired girl barely breathing, while the little blonde girl was not breathing at all.

They could not revive the little blonde girl, but the little brown haired girl lived. It is a day she will remember the rest of her life. She will never forget her best friend with the beautiful blonde hair. “Safe with Jesus” was the theme of her funeral.

She does not know why God wanted her blonde haired friend to come home to Him so early. She doesn’t know why God wanted her to stay. But she does know this. Every day is a gift from God to be lived fully.

You see, that little brown haired girl is my wife.

There is a prayer in the Bible by Moses that says, “Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.”

Here are some ideas to live wisely:

Stop and thank God, right now, for the gift of life.

Call, text or email someone who has positively impacted your life and tell them how they have blessed you.

Forgive someone who has hurt you.

Smile, laugh, sing…in front of a mirror.

Breathe deep.

Tell your kids how awesome they are! (Even when they drive you crazy.)

Listen to a song that brings back great memories and dance.

Turn off the T.V. and computers and play cards or board games with friends and family.

Pray for those around you and around the world who are less fortunate.

Look for someone during the day to compliment and encourage.

Serve at a local food giveaway.

Go on a mission’s trip to a place that is different culturally than where you live.

Exercise.

Eat a bowl of ice cream without feeling guilty.

Invite someone over for dinner who never gets invited anywhere.

Take a cooking class.

Visit a nursing home.
Tell someone, “Jesus loves you.”

Do something that is hard, not putting it off until tomorrow.

Sponsor a child through “Compassion International”

Be a father or mother figure to those who need a positive parental example.

Stand up against injustice.

Wake up every day praying the prayer of Moses, “Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.”

These are just a few ideas, but you get the idea.

Never take a day for granted. Live fully. Live passionately.

Don’t let a day go by without telling those who are close to you how special they are.

Don’t let a day go by without telling God how thankful you are for His Grace.

I think often about how that brown haired little girl has been the greatest gift of my life, and 27 years later I thank God for speaking to her mother about the basement, and my wife looks forward to the day where she will meet her blonde haired friend once again, this time, serving and laughing and celebrating for eternity.

Holding Up The Sky

 

There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Women hold up half the sky.” If that is the case then sadly, “The sky is falling!”

Conservative estimates state that over 60 million girls and women who should be alive are “missing” from our world because of violence and other gender discrimination.

In China, 39 thousand baby girls die every year because parents do not give them the same medical care as baby boys receive in their first year of life.

In India, a “bride burning”, to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so he can remarry, takes place once every two hours.

Atrocities against women rarely are reported and even more rarely make the news.

When 5 thousand women and girls, in Pakistan, were doused in kerosene and set fire in front of their families because of a perceived disobedience, it didn’t make the news.

When a celebrity is caught having an affair, or changes the color of her hair it makes headlines, yet when 100,000 girls are routinely kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, it isn’t even considered newsworthy.

The best estimate is that an Indian girl dies from discrimination every four minutes. Where is the outrage!?

Author and Pulitzer prize winner Sheryl WuDunn writes, “The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the 20th century. More girls are killed in this routine “gendercide” in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.”

She goes on to give us our marching orders for this next generation, “In the 19th century, the central moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was the battle against totalitarianism. We believe that in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world.”

The devaluing of women leads to all kinds of horrific situations.

The sex-trafficking trade is a global epidemic where young girls are being sold and kidnapped into brothels where their spirits are broken through humiliation, rape, threats and violence. “The Lancet”, a prominent medical journal in Britain, calculated that “1 million children are forced into prostitution every year and the total number of prostituted children are estimated to be 10 million.” Other experts think that is too low of a number.

And the epidemic is not just in a far and distant land.
In 2005, the Department of Justice reported there have been an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 sex slaves in the U.S. since 2001.
In 2009, a University of Pennsylvania study estimated nearly 300,000 youth in the United States were at risk of being sexually exploited for commercial uses – “most of them runaways or thrown-aways,” said Ernie Allen, president of the NCMEC.

Young girls, precious in God’s sight, wonderfully and beautifully created, are raped, exposed to AIDS, and many are dieing because of the unrestrained lusts of the johns and the malicious greed of the pimps and brothel owners.

Experts state that there are far more women and girls shipped into brothels each year in the early 21st century than African slaves were shipped into slave plantations each year in the 18th or 19th century. And just as that slavery was ignored for far too long, so, it seems has this new horrific slavery of the 21st century.

Yet, news is getting out. The good news is there is a new awareness about this 21st century holocaust. And there are wonderful organizations and individuals going into these very dark places to not only raise awareness but to rescue and help these young girls find a new life. A life of healing, hope, dignity and purpose.

From the “International Justice Mission” (IJM), who is rescuing girls from brothels and prosecuting the offenders, to the global “Agape International Mission” (AIM), and the local “Bridget’s Dream”, who help rehabilitate rescued girls, showing them their true worth and value in God’s eyes.

These are wonderful, powerful, courageous, passionate organizations leading the way in trying to end this historic tragedy. But we need more awareness and participation.

There is another organization that needs to wake up to the opportunities to rescue these girls. This is the church.

During Jesus’ ministry here on earth, he looked at Peter and told him, “I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

In my opinion, Jesus never intended for the church to look like it does today. There is a lot of talk, a lot of meetings, a lot of discussion, a lot of judging, a lot of hiding, a lot of debate, a lot of inward focus, a lot of resources going to the “already convinced,” most programs designed to placate the “already convinced,” and a lot of empty buildings and wasted space except for an hour or two on Sundays.

Jesus always intended the church to be on the leading edge of rescuing people from hopelessness, brokenness, darkness and despair. This is not for the faint of heart.

The church should be doing everything possible to rescue these girls!

This is the mission of the church.
To literally storm the gates of brothels who are imprisoning young girls.

I want to be respectful to the church I grew up in. It taught me that God loves me and sent His only Son to save me. I really do appreciate their commitment to share that amazing truth with me.

But, my church was very benign. We sang songs, heard truths from the Bible, talked a lot about how evil the world was, and sent money to missionaries who were doing heroic things in very dark, desperate places. They were literally “storming the gates of hell.”

While they were “storming”, we were being told to stay as far away from hell as possible. So the church set up camp on a Christian cul-de-sac, so that we were safe from the evils of hell. The key mission was, “stay away from hell”, it is a scary place.

Once a year we would go on a church controlled, organized missions trip where we would do a “fly by” hell, and then as quickly as possible return home to our safe cul-de-sac. We would feel good about ourselves that we went on the trip, but quickly we reverted back to the philosophy of playing it safe, thinking that darkness was more powerful than light, hunkering down, waiting for Jesus to return.

We were not taught that Jesus literally meant, “I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.” We missed so many opportunities to help people. We missed so many miracles because miracles happen when we storm the gates of hell.

When we “storm the gates” of modern day slavery, trafficking and “gendercide”, we not only rescue precious young girls, but we also can change our world, because statistics make it very clear that when women are given equal rights, that communities, villages, countries can be lifted out of poverty. Women are not the problem, they are the solution!

Sheryl WuDunn states that, “Evidence has mounted that helping women can be a successful poverty-fighting strategy anywhere in the world…investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world…investing in women is a “double-dividend” by elevating not only women but also their children and communities…Women are the key to ending hunger in Africa.”

Lawrence Summers wrote when he was chief economist of the World Bank, “The question is not whether countries can afford this investment in women, but whether countries can afford not to educate more girls.”

Sadly, the church I grew up in is closed today. Not because they were not good people, but because the mission was to play it safe. It was a mission to stay far away from where God was.

The power of God is waiting at the gates of hell. The power of God is waiting at the gates of those brothels. He is waiting for men and woman to proclaim, “We are the church and we are expansive with so much energy that the gates of hell will not be able to keep it out.” That is where the power is.

If a church wants to be powerful, then it needs to “Go to Hell!” That is not my opinion, but it comes straight from the Holy Scriptures..

Now is the time. This is our legacy. This is not an obligation but an opportunity!

At the church I go to, “storming the gates of hell” looks like this:

Sponsoring 1200+ children through “Compassion International” http://www.compassion.com

Giving backpacks and gift cards to the FBI, for girls who have been rescued from local trafficking.

Creating after school programs for at risk youth and children.

Supporting the “International Justice Mission” (IJM)
http://www.ijm.org

Supporting “Bridget’s Dream” (recovery program for locally trafficked women)
http://www.bridgetsdream.org

Supporting “Agape International Mission” (AIM) (recovery program for globally trafficked women) http://www.agapewebsite.org

Supporting “Courage Homes” (helping girls who have escaped trafficking both locally and globally) http://www.couragetobeyou.org

Supporting “The Landing” (helping at risk young people with their hurts, habits and hang-ups)

Supporting your local “Boys and Girls Club”

Supporting “Fair Trade”

Supporting “House of Acts” (urban after school programs) http://www.servesacramento.com

Investing in a local boy’s transition home

Supporting “Opening Doors” (partnering with and mentoring victims of international trafficking victims and refugees as they learn to live in the United States)
http://www.openingdoorsinc.com

And there is so much more!

There are so many ways churches can be involved. If you want more information about how you can get involved with these amazing organizations go online and check them out or email my churches community care director Ginger Jacob at jacobg@gvcconline.net

I would also encourage you to read, “Half the Sky” by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn.

Where is Jesus?

During the week before his death, Jesus said these words, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

As I am reading this I am wondering what kind of criteria is he going to use to separate them? Is it church attendance? Tithing? Correct theology? Abstaining from evil? The right political affiliation? Abstinence? I wonder what it will be?

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”

Really!!? When I was growing up in church I was told I was making it to heaven by staying away from bad people and bad things.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Wait a minute! You mean to tell me that is where I could have hung out with Jesus! I was told you meet Jesus through a really cool church service or worship song. I realize now that Jesus was all around me, I just didn’t recognize him.

Ken and C. J. have been married for many years. They live and run a deli in Bodega Bay. Bodega Bay has one homeless man, a man named Garland. Garland dressed poorly and acted a little strange and slept in the city park. But being Christians, Ken and C.J. befriended Garland and offered him food and kind words.

When their store was broken into everyone in town accused Garland. But Ken and C.J. knew it couldn’t have been their friend. In fact, they prepared a very expensive gift basket for Garland and gave it to him. The next morning the police showed up with Garland, who was holding the expensive gift basket, certain they had caught the burglar of their store.

Ken and C.J. to protect Garland from embarrassment said, “Oh, Garland! Thank you for bringing your basket back. We forgot to put some things in it we wanted you to have. And by the way, here’s the change I forgot to give you.” And Ken made up a number. In front of the police he opened the cash register and gave Garland $38.67. The police let Garland go without saying a word.

A few mornings later Garland died in the park in his sleep. Ken and C.J. were called to the attorney’s office. They were told that Garland had made them the sole heir in his will. He wrote “The entire contents of my travel bag are
yours.”

Inside the bag was a bag of birdseed, a Bible and a bankbook. The names on the savings account were Garland and Ken and C.J. The last entry in the savings account was the day before for $38.67 bringing the balance to well over three million dollars.

The bankbook had been used as a bookmarker in the Bible. Garland had put it in a unique place and the Bible lay open to Matthew 25:35 and the verse was underlined. “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was alone and away from home and you invited me into your house. Jesus said, ‘When you did it for the least of these My people, you also did it for Me.'”

Garland had hidden wealth that nobody knew about.
When Jesus Christ hung on the cross very few of those standing there knew how wealthy He was.
He was God. He was the creator of the universe and He owned everything.
We have a hidden wealth and power that many times we underestimate.

Jesus quoted the prophet Isaiah when he gave his mission statement, “The Spirit of the Lord is with me. He has anointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. To heal those who are brokenhearted. He has sent me to announce forgiveness to the prisoners of sin and the restoring of sight to the blind, to forgive those who have been shattered by sin, to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Where is Jesus?

He’s the homeless person looking for shelter.
She’s the abused mom who is looking for safety.
He’s the dying aids patient looking for someone to care.
She’s the prostitute who is begging for intimacy.
He’s your co-worker who’s depressed.
She’s the mother from Niger wondering how she is going to feed her 3 children.
It is the forgotten widow barely getting by on her social security check.
It is your neighbor who is facing bankruptcy and losing his home.
It is the elementary student who was abandoned by his father.
It is the drug addict looking for another fix.
It is the foreigner who faces another day of prejudice.
It is the Garland that leaves you 3 million and 38 dollars and 67 cents.

Author Max Lucado says, “Jesus lives in the forgotten. He has taken up residence in the ignored. He has made a mansion amidst the ill. If we want to see God we must go among the broken and beaten and there we will see them, we will see Him.”

Author and Speaker Tony Campolo says “Jesus never says to the poor come find the church. But he says to those of us in the church, go into the world and find the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the imprisoned.”

 

This Happens To Other Families, Not Ours

Loss is the great leveler of the human race. It is no respecter of age, race, gender, net worth or spiritual affiliation.

One of the darkest times of my life happened over 20 years ago, when my sister Brenda, who was 29 at the time, was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was married with 3 children, and the diagnosis rocked our family’s world! Fear, confusion, anger, sadness hit us so hard, that we were stunned. It was as if it wasn’t real.

This happens to other families, not ours.
This happens to older women, not young ones.
This happens to people with unhealthy lifestyles, not health conscious ones. This can’t be true.

Our family was numb. We were in denial for a while. We cried for a while, then we sucked it up and got strong, believing that she was young and she would overcome.

And why shouldn’t she? She loved God. Thousands were praying for her. God knew she had 3 young children. We all knew, through prayers, family support and doctor’s wisdom that she would make it.

My sister was in remission for two years. But she didn’t make it. (Her faith was strong, her body weak.)

The emotions in me 20+ years later are still surreal. All these years later, it still hurts. It’s still confusing. I’m still not alright with this. I’ve been real honest with God on this one. I don’t understand.

There is a void in my family that will not and cannot be filled by anyone else. There is a pain in my mother and father’s heart that will not go away this side of heaven.

I’m just being as honest as I know how. All these years later the loss still aches. It was a pivotal point for my family. This loss could break us or focus us. We had a choice. Give up or grow through this tragedy.

Slowly God refocused and grew us, because the alternative was death. The alternative was to quit, maybe do destructive things but that doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t honor my sister and it doesn’t honor the gift of life, no matter how short it is.

A few years ago, like a combination punch from a prize fighter, my other sister, Rhonda, acquired a rare blood disease that was incurable, (again, too young, and a healthy lifestyle) and on December 26, 2009, she passed away and went home to be with Brenda. She left behind a loving husband and two intelligent, God-loving young adult children.

My family once again was staring at a loss that was unimaginable. Losing one sister, was devastating enough, losing two, and you are not sure what to do. For my parents, I cannot even imagine.

Once again, reality has smacked my family upside the head and we are faced with a choice. My parents have led the rest of us by example, that even through their broken hearts, they will not give up, they will not lose hope and they will not grow bitter.

There are a few things my family and I are learning about loss, life and not losing hope. Let me share with you a few of them.

The first is that “bad things happen to good people”.

Brennan Manning writes in his book ‘Ragamuffiin Gospel’ that, “Most of the descriptions of the victorious life in following Christ do not match the reality of my own. Hyperbole bloated rhetoric and grandiose testimonies create the impression that once Jesus is acknowledged as Lord, the Christian life becomes a picnic on a green lawn. Idyllic descriptions of victory in Jesus are more often colored by cultural and personal expectations than by Christ. The New Testament depicts another picture of the victorious life. It’s Jesus on a cross. It’s Jesus dying for our sins. It’s Calvary. The biblical image of the victorious life reads more like the victorious limp. Jesus was victorious not because he never flinched, never talked back or questioned but having flinched talked back and questioned he remained faithful.”

When we experience loss, God says it is totally ok to flinch, talk back and question…God just says, “Please remain faithful…I still have plans for you.”

God never asks us to participate in a pretend, religion that says “Follow Jesus and everything will be fine.”

The reality is bad things happen to good people. And that doesn’t make you weird, it doesn’t make you strange and it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.

Jesus once said, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust…you will have trouble in this world.”

My family has experienced that reality first hand, but we have also experienced the reality of the promise of the psalmist who wrote, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

The second thing we have learned is that you have to “grieve while moving forward.”

I’ve seen people either getting stuck in the past or moving onto the future so quickly that they have denied the real hurt and the real pain of loss.

Dr. Terry Sandbeck, co-author of the book, “Renewing your Mind” says, “The number one reason people are depressed is because they have not mourned the past. They have not gotten angry, they have not cried. They have tried to move on too soon.”

I have met so many people who have had deep loss in their life, and they are feeling guilty for still being sad. Friends have asked them why they are not “over it” yet. The reality is when we have deep loss, we will never be “over it”, nor should we.

My family will grieve the rest of our lives. But we are grieving while moving forward.

Moving forward is different than “moving on.” “Moving on” implies that I am not going to think about the past. I am going to pretend it didn’t happen. I am moving on, forgetting the joy and the grief of the past. That is very destructive to the healing process.

Moving forward is remembering and grieving and celebrating the past while knowing that, while we still have breath, God is not finished with us. He still has plans for us.

Grieving while moving forward honors those we have lost. We actually leave a legacy for them by doing this! Many times it is through loss that God directs us to a new purpose. That has certainly been the case for my family.

The prophet Jeremiah, who experienced personal, relational and spiritual loss lived out the principle of grieving while moving forward when he wrote, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all…the feeling of hitting the bottom. BUT there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering it, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, His merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great is Your faithfulness!”

My family and I are still learning how to live this out, and there are still many days when our hearts hurt and are heavy, but there is one more thing I would love to share with everyone who is reading this.

LIFE IS PRECIOUS, DON’T WASTE A SINGLE MOMENT.

Life gets busy, we get involved in petty differences or petty interests and we think that we will live forever, but life is fragile and life can be short. Let us live out the words of Moses when he said, “Teach us (Lord) to use wisely all the time we have.”

Love those who need love.
Forgive those who need forgiven.
Serve those who need served.
Honor those who should be honored.
Encourage those who are discouraged.
Hug those who need a hug.
Give thanks to those who have given you hope in this life.
Tell someone today that you love them!

Life is fragile and a gift. Don’t let it pass you by with a frivolous focus. Celebrate and live fully each day.

Author Richard Evans reminds us that, “The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.”