Monthly Archives: December 2013

Don’t Be Afraid – A Letter to my Daughter

A letter to my 11 year old daughter:

Dear C,

It’s been almost a year, and I remember that day so clearly. First, I noticed hints of the news as I read words of shock, disgust, and despair on my Facebook page. What in the world happened? I wondered. Soon I learned that the “in the world” answer to my question happened in a little place called Newtown.

And your school bus would not come soon enough for me. I tried to keep the television turned off, but over the course of the weekend, you knew. You knew that something unspeakably tragic happened in a place just like the place where you spend most of your days.

On Monday morning you cried. With an aching heart I drove you to that place where you spend most of your days. Sweetie, I hurt so deeply for your fear and I wanted so badly to keep you home. I promised you that it would be alright, and you asked, “How do you know?”

I didn’t know.

How do things like this happen at Christmas? At anytime, but especially Christmas?

And my heart asks why hospitals and cancer centers and funeral homes have to stay open at Christmas? Seems like December is supposed to be different.

But I drove you to school and encouraged you to leave the comfort of the car. Because I needed both of us to know that we don’t live in fear.

Because Jesus left the comfort of heaven.

The story of Christmas has a message that you and I have to remember every time we step out of comfort and into this world.

Don’t be afraid.” (Luke 1:12; 1:30; 2:10) It was a message for Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds. And it is a message for us:

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High … His kingdom will never end” (Luke 2:32 – 33).

According to the world’s terms I can’t promise you that everything will be alright but because we trust Jesus we have the promise that eternally it will be so.

We hear a lot about the Reverend Billy Graham these days, don’t we? You know, he’s very frail now, like Poppy was in his last days with us. For all the many messages that Billy Graham has spoken and written to millions of people around the world, I think the reason for his hope could be summed up in one of his quotes:

“I have read the last page of the Bible, and it’s all going to turn out alright.”

In Revelation 22, the final chapter of the Bible, we see Jesus. In December we usually think about Him as a baby. But more than ever at Christmas I think about Him on the cross. I’m sorry to have to say it, but you’re beginning to understand more fully that there’s a curse that keeps hospitals, cancer centers, and funeral homes busy, even in December.

Jesus came to pay a price. Without the cross there is no reason for Christmas.

Revelation 22:3 says, “No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb (that’s Jesus) will be in the city, and his servants (like Poppy) will serve him.”

No more curse. No more fear. Don’t be afraid.

Remember that Monday, when you were so upset, I came to eat lunch with you? And a local police officer came to sit and eat and laugh with us? I promise I didn’t say anything to anybody about your tears earlier that morning. That was just God’s special way of giving you (and me) some comfort.

“Advent” means “coming.” Because of the first Advent, we remember that He came to sit with us. Laugh (and cry) with us. That’s God’s way of giving us comfort.

My heart, while thankful for the first Advent, is especially comforted with an expectation of the second Advent:

“He who testifies to these things (that’s Jesus) says, “Yes I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20)

Amen, Come, Lord Jesus.

Sweetheart, it’s all going to turn out alright.

When There Are No Words

As we look back upon the trends of 2013, I’m sure there will be talk about the most recent additions to the Oxford Dictionary, most notably the “selfie” or “phablet” among others. In a digital world there are words that fall out of common usage (“cassette” or “cursive,” for instance) . But for all the words – new and old – in the ever changing English language, sometimes they elude us, and especially when we most want to say something, anything.

Oh, how I know this helpless, frustrating feeling – when there are no words. As when I stand with my family over the freshly turned dirt of a grave. “He’s not here,” I mumble, but the words are sucked into a vacuum of silent grief.

What to say? I had seen this same question in the eyes of the people who had passed by my place in the receiving line. I felt for them. All of us understood that mere words won’t ever fill the void. And although I couldn’t verbalize it, I wanted them to know that it was okay.

Their presence spoke everything they wanted to say.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Without mention of shepherds, stars, angels, or wise men, John sums up the incomprehensible beauty of Christmas.

When there are no human words, there is the Word. Jesus, the Son who spoke this earth into existence, expressed His love to the fullest by becoming flesh and walking on it. By being born to die so that death may die.

As C.S Lewis said, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

The essence of Christmas is presence.

(Not presents.)

Presence requires taking initiative and intentionally entering into another person’s experience. Being present is following the humble Philippians 2 example of our Savior. It is the truest demonstration of love. The people who have truly comforted me and my family are those who have simply been with us. They have set aside their time, schedules, and conveniences to initiative acts of comfort and care. When I’ve been too numb for tears, their eyes have welled for me. And when the floodgates burst, they stayed, unflinching.

So beautifully, Henri Nouwen described the ministry of presence: When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.

Words aren’t necessary when actions point to the Word Himself. Watching my daddy die was the most powerless experience I’ve ever had. The two weeks since his passing have introduced me to new depths of weakness. And yet, I trust more than ever that the Word understands my wordless prayers and permeates my powerlessness with His presence.

Why am I so sure?

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Jesus “pitched a tent” and “tabernacled” among us (the literal meaning of “dwelt” in the Greek). He drew near; He took our flesh; His eyes welled for us; He didn’t flinch from showing the extent of His love, even with nails and a cross.

Friends, I have seen this love in you. In the cold, hard ground you have nailed the stakes of a tent and stayed awhile.

Thank you.


Philippians 2: 5 – 8 (NLT) ~
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

1 John 4: 9 – 12 ~
God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Romans 8:26 ~
And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness (and) prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude