We were afraid to be alone - my mother, my sister, and I. My father had just passed away; dropped dead from a sudden massive heart attack at the age of 48. My mother was 44, my sister was 18, and I was 14. It happened at a nearby high school where my sister and my dad were taking an evening Parks & Rec fencing class once a week for fun. My dad had been athletic, energetic, health conscious, and fit. All regular check ups, diagnostic tests, and stress tests had come back clean not long ago, and yet, this had just happened. In a split second, our lives were irrevocably changed, and we were somehow thrown into a whirling storm of shock, disbelief, and grief that no one had known to plan for.
The first week after was chaos. The phone was ringing off the hook. There was call after call from the hospital, from doctors, from relatives, from friends, from neighbors, from former coworkers, from potential funeral homes, from florists, from the coroner's office, from the cemetery, from the gravestone carving place, from take out restaurants to feed all the visitors streaming in and out of our house, ... Our home was command central for what was like the opposite of a last-minute surprise wedding that had to be thrown together and pulled off in less than a week.
The second week after, it was silent. There was nothing else to do - no more plans to be made, no one else to call and notify, no one to else to console and restate "We don't really understand what happened. He seemed to be so healthy." The house was quiet, and we sat there in a trance, still disbelieving and not really knowing if we should break the silence, cry together, or just lie alone in our beds staring at the ceiling, wondering what the others were doing in other parts of the house. Even though it was just 1 person that had left our presence, the entire house seemed empty. The silence was deafening.
Then there was a tap at the door. It was my aunt. She just quietly came into our house and joined us in sitting around and doing nothing. We ate in a trance, slept whenever, and roamed aimlessly through the house. My aunt washed dishes, folded clothes, read magazines on the couch. When my aunt had to go, my uncle came over. After school hours, my cousins came over and did their homework at our place. And then my aunt came back, sometimes with a different aunt, sometimes with a different uncle, sometimes with my grandma. Slowly, we noticed that our extended family had somehow arranged their schedules and created shifts to make sure that the 3 of us, my mom, my sister and I, were never alone in our house over the next two weeks. Someone was always there when we fell asleep, and sometimes, a different someone was there when we woke up in the morning. Long before, we had already stopped thanking them for coming by to check in on us, because we had said it a million times already. It was ok; they already knew we were so so grateful to have their support and their presence. Their presence was worth 1000 times more than anything else they could have given to us.
Over the next few weeks, my sister and I started having to go back to school again, and my mom went back to work again. Somehow, a new normalcy emerged, and coming back to a sometimes-empty home became bearable again. 21 years later now, it is still painful to write about it. I will never never say that I am glad that it happened, but it did serve as an opportunity to observe that in times of darkness, love finds a way. Even now, I constantly dread with great fear when bad things happen. But I do know now that family will always be there, and I will be there for them.
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A professor once told me "You don't really know someone until you know what makes them truly happy and you know what breaks their heart."In 2012 I was filming a short documentary in Uganda about a wonderful pastor and his wife who adopted 60 children.One of the young girls I interviewed was Florence. Bright, personable, and a natural leader, I knew that singing was her true joy-- so I knew the happiness part.But during the filming the question arose, “Do you have any brothers and sisters?” The answer, predicated by an unnerving eight seconds of stunning silence, revealed what "broke her heart."Lips quivering, tears forming, she answered "yes.. two…they died. I was three, they were older.” And the tears came freely.
Witnessing the return of this tragic memory and Florence’s heartbreaking reaction to it completely opened my heart to her. I now felt I knew her, understood her, cared about her in a personal intimate way.It was like a gift, one that I would always honor.
The shortest verse in the Bible is John11,verse 35. two words: “Jesus wept “
He cried when He witnessed the broken hearts of his dear friends whose brother had died. His heart went out to them and it brought Him to tears.The remarkable truth is He cries for our broken hearts too. He longs for intimacy with us. So tell Him your sorrows. Tell Him your joys. Open the dialogue. He wants to know you. Nobody will ever care for you more.
To see more of Florence and the 10 minute documentary go to www.passionvoice.org.You can share your own love story there under story submissions.It could touch thousands of people. God bless!
Have you ever been betrayed by a friend? Or someone you thought was a friend?Several weeks ago we posted a story called Life or Death.(Now removed) It contained a plea to help a woman survive a desperate medical situation. Her friends created a donation site, we shared it, and many people responded. They opened their hearts and their wallets and quickly raised $18,000 to help her pay medical bills and get urgently needed treatment.
Today, that woman is in jail accused of fraud. She was never ill. She made up an elaborate hoax, took advantage of her friends and took their money for personal use.We are all in shock and brokenhearted at such a betrayal. It's very hard to find forgiveness for this lady. We trusted her. We gave her love. She threw it all away.
It's hard to make this into a love story but I'm going to try.I am blessed by the dozens of people who barely knew her yet reached out to her in compassion and love.I am blessed by their messages to her, by the time they took to pray for her and share her needs with friends.I am deeply moved when strangers do that for strangers. I never regret being compassionate.I still believe in man's capacity for goodness even in the face of ugly betrayal.Most of all, I believe in the heart of my God who teaches us to love and forgive as He forgives us, loves, relentlessly – every time we choose a path away from Him."I will never leave you nor forsake you "Jesus said.No matter what.Our betrayer is God's child too. She may reject Him but He will never reject her. That's how big He is--for all of us. No matter what.
If you donated to the Neesh Miracle Fund and wish to seek restitution you can go to these links.https://docs.google.com/…/1e9km6-oeavpbUCXaeCCuHM…/viewform…
And if you have a “Love No matter What” story to share do it here.www.Passionvoice.org Love wins.
Did you know that the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz was once a real man?
In the original book by L. Frank Braun the story goes that he was a woodsman that fell madly in love with a beautiful maiden. The Wicked Witch hated his love and cast a spell on him causing him to repeatedly incur injuries to his various limbs. A kind tinsmith replaced his limbs one at a time with limbs of tin.
However the Wicked Witch finally caused his ax to slip and split his torso in half, which was also replaced with tin but alas, he no longer had a heart.When Dorothy and the Scarecrow rescued him after being rusted shut in the rain, he remarked, "It was a terrible thing to undergo, but during the year I stood rusted I had time to think that the greatest loss I had ever known was the loss of my heart. While I was in love I was the happiest man on earth, but no one can love who has not a heart.”
John Eldridge in his book “Waking the Dead” says "In our world there is a war going on and the battleground is your heart.The Wicked Witch brought the disaster upon the Tin Man. This story reminds us that the enemy knows how vital the heart is and all his forces are fired upon its destruction. For when he disables your heart then he has effectively foiled the plan of God which was to create a world where love reigns.”
Jesus said "the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have life and have it to the full "John 10:10Falling in love with Jesus is a sure way to grow a strong heart. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus called this the greatest of all the commandments.
To love him we must seek Him – spend time with Him – read His word and make knowing Him a true priority. We need to make Him our greatest treasure, examining how the enemy has tricked us into putting so many other things before Him.
"Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:34Restore our hearts Lord. Show us how magnificent they were meant to be.
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Wake up! Wake up! Why do you sleep so late?
My first thoughts were "Are you kidding me? Who is this arrogant kid? He is here as my guest!"Gilbert arrived at our house the day before. My young daughters were instantly enamored by his French Canadian accent, his charm and his skateboard tricks.A friend of mine, a strong Christian, had picked him up hitchhiking in the pouring rain.He was unable to offer him shelter and asked if we could take him for a day or two.He said he was a good kid, a little rough around the edges, but worth helping out .It was a little weird, but he was so uniquely engaging that,after having dinner with him we said "Sure, spend the night."My three daughters were 4,6, and 8 and Gilbert knew how to capture their hearts. After all, he bragged about having a girlfriend in every major city in Europe, having spent the last year on a great hitchhiking adventure there.Indeed he had some very interesting stories to tell although I had to frequently remind him of my daughters’ innocent presence.He was 20 and was living a pretty wild life.After dinner I asked him to excuse us. It was my 3rd try at evening family devotions. The first two had not gone well and this one wasn"t much better. The girls kept reminding me they already knew those stories from Sunday school. Gilbert watched from a distance and was probably not very impressed but he was curious."What book you read? He asked in his slightly broken English."It"s the Bible--have you ever read it?""No. Why do you read it?""It"s God"s word. It"s how He teaches us."No response."Hey Gilbert, It"s late. We're going to bed. I will leave it here if you want to read it." Start here. It"s called the New Testament.That was last night--now it"s morning and Gilbert is pacing back and forth- up and down the hall anxiously trying to wake me up.Finally,I"m up."Gilbert , what"s the matter?THAT BOOK!-- I READ IT! I READ ALL OF THE NEW TESTAMENT!I BELIEVE EVERY WORD !
Never in my life have I witnessed such an overnight transformation!God grabbed hold of Gilbert that night and never let him go.God was waiting for Gilbert and that night and Gilbert opened the door and let Him in. .
Gilbert ended up staying with us for the next several weeks and was able to teach my daughters about Jesus’ healing love far better than I was.He was a living example and they liked that.
Late one evening he asked to talk to me alone. He was anxious,distressed. "I have something to tell you--it"s bad. A year ago,in Quebec, I was in a fist fight with a man. He fell and hit his head. I killed him.I have been running from the law ever since. Now God tells me to turn myself in. I am going back."So Gilbert, filled with a deep,deep love for Christ and His word, made a tearful good bye and returned to Canada to face justice. It was an astonishingly courageaous act for a young man transformed by grace..Weeks went by-- finally we got word.The man was only knocked out. No charges were ever filed. Gilbert was now freer than he could have ever imagined!
Fast forward 15 years,Gilbert married the niece of my friend that picked him up, became a pastor, had 5 children, and delights in sharing how "You can"t run away from God, no matter how hard you try. His grace follows you everywhere !""THAT BOOK" THAT BOOK! I BELIEVE EVERY WORD OF IT!"He still does.We can too.
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