Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Unbearable Loss

How can “the church” better serve families in crisis? Well, the first thing we have to do is actually care about families in crisis.

Sadly, I know many moms and dads who’ve suffered the unbearable loss of a child. My heart aches at the thought of their empty arms and broken hearts.

The Church is usually very kind to the families who’ve survived horrific loss. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m a tiny bit jealous of the support given to them. Before you stone me, let me explain.

We went through a dark and tumultuous period when all three of our children rebelled in dramatic fashion. Our oldest son and our only daughter became addicted to the insidious drug, Meth. We found ourselves in the middle of a nightmare from which there was no waking relief. Eventually, our son went to prison and our daughter went to rehab for 7 ½ months.

We’d attended the same church for many, many years and all three kids were dedicated to the Lord by the pastor we loved. But when the going got tough, the church told us to go. The church washed their hands of us and we were asked to take our troubled kids and leave.

We walked through the fire of the next few years alone. I can tell you stories of amazing miracles, and we are so blessed to have had front row seats to God’s love, comfort, and handiwork. The aloneness, however, broke our hearts in ways we could never have imagined.

Because of our experience, I have reached out and walked with many a parent of prodigals through their painful journey. Every one of these families have their own horror story of how the body of Christ disappointed, disappeared, disapproved, or disowned these precious children of God.

The family of a sick or dying child has overwhelming needs—financial, physical, and spiritual. I think it’s admirable and wonderful when God’s kids rally together to help the grieving families navigate the challenging waters. I’ve seen the bank accounts of these moms and dads inexplicably grow, food appear on their doorsteps, yards and homes cleaned, and gifts delivered into their arms.

The parents of prodigals are lonely, broken, sad, and sometimes guilt-ridden. They suffer financial devastation, emotional breakdowns, and spiritual brokenness. More often than not, the body of Christ does nothing for these families except heap more guilt, judgment, criticism, ridicule, and pain on all the hurting people involved. Shame on us!

The only difference between the incarcerated and many of us, is that we were never caught. We’ve got to stop throwing stones. I know the needs are overwhelming, but we can do so many things to tell the parent of a prodigal you care. Pray with them, send their imprisoned child a birthday card, bring meals to the mom who is exhausted from searching for her missing child, or take up an offering to offset outrageous legal bills.

As I said, we’ve had front row seats to some of God’s most amazing miracles. We’ve seen the prodigal come home, and we were led 160 miles by God himself to find our lost child living among the homeless and addicted.

If you choose to walk alongside the parent of prodigals you too can have an all access pass to God’s miraculous handiwork. If you walk away or push them away you might just miss out on the experience of seeing God Himself.

Get off the pew and walk toward the hurting. Don’t walk away, but rather walk with them through the fire. You will see God’s face—I promise.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Picket Fences

Once again the Westboro Baptist Church has made national headlines. As usual, they’ve shined an unflattering light on Christianity.

The fringe church from Kansas is mostly made up of family members of the founder, Fred Phelps. To put it bluntly, they are wackos! The Westboro faithful travel around the country picketing funerals of dead soldiers. They feel that the brave men and women deserved to die because in fighting to defend America, they are fighting for a country that defends homosexuality.

This past week the Kansas Crazies picketed the funeral of Elizabeth Edwards. They had two reasons to slam Mrs. Edwards. First, they believe that her choice to have two more children after the death of her beloved son, Wade was a rebellious act. She should have—in their view—accepted God’s decision to leave her with just one child. Secondly, Elizabeth Edwards defended the rights of the homosexual community.

The Westboro group has been in my community a number of times to picket funerals of our local hometown heroes. How can they afford to travel across the country spreading their hatred? Well, they stir up anger and rage and invariably someone ends up taking a swing at one of the picketers. They then file an assault and battery charge in court and they win monetary damages!

A Christian is supposed to be a Christ-follower. Can you imagine Jesus walking up to the mourning Mary and Martha and saying, “Your brother Lazarus was a sinner and he deserved to die. Now stop your whining and shape up or I’ll see to it that your life is cut short just like that of your brother’s”? Of course not!

We are on the front lines of a real battle—the fight to defend our Lord’s reputation. Of course He doesn’t need us to do that for Him, but the world needs to see Jesus with skin on. That is who we ought to be.

As I see it, there are two ways to battle the Kansas Crazies. First of all, speak up. These people are NOT Christ-followers. They are radicals who are slandering the name of Jesus. Secondly, go out and be salt and light to a world in need of love and comfort. For every act of hatred perpetrated by the Phelps family, we need to offer up dozens of acts of kindness.

Some motorcycle enthusiasts have formed a group called, The Patriot Guard Riders. Whenever the Westboro group comes to town with their picket signs, the Patriots rally their members together to also attend the funerals. They line their bikes up, peacefully stand side by side, and form a loving barrier between the grieving family and the picketers. What an amazing group of men and women! They become a living breathing picket fence—surrounding the families with love and protection from the enemy.

Now get of the pew and be Jesus with skin on. Defend the defenseless, love the unlovable, bandage the hurting, and speak the truth! Get off the pew!