Reverse the Question

I was so happy the kids were off of school today…

What a perfect opportunity to share with my kids the profound impact Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had on our world. I was prepared for this incredible teachable moment…a chance to tell my kids when we use our voices for good and the betterment of all people we really can make a difference.

Oh wait, that’s just what I think all the perfect Pinterest mom’s do on MLK Day. I was just happy my kids were off of school today so this mama could SLEEP IN!!! It has been a long weekend and I am exhausted. I know I can’t be the only one out there that feels this way…and if I am, oh well, now you know my secret. Don’t judge me cause I’m tired and I won’t judge you for having your act together.

Why don’t we have emoji’s for blogs?!?! How does one detect humor or sarcasm without them?! #21stcenturyproblem

Sorry, back from my rabbit trail. Without fail, every morning I have the potential to sleep in…I DON’T!!! This morning was no different. At 4:45am my eyes popped open and even worse my mind started racing. Words floating around in my head. More and more words. I felt like the manic Mozart I once saw in the movie Amadeus. The sounds of melodies and instruments swimming in his head over and over again until the music took over his very mind and it drove him to this frantic moment of putting all the notes down on paper, lest he forget.

Now, I am no Mozart. Comparing myself to his musical genius is not the point of the illustration. It was that manic feeling I could relate to. As my brain raced with this disorganized collection of words and thoughts, I began to think about the reason I was lying in bed with no rush to get up. I began to think about the life and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Began to wonder what he would think about the current state of our country; the divisiveness, the hatred expressed, the lack of open and respectful dialogue between parties that do not fundamentally agree on issues and topics, the racial tension, the war on gender, the list goes on and on.

Who is my neighbor?  ~ Luke 10:29

The Parable of the Good Samaritan. Arguably one of the most famous parables Jesus ever told. Truth be told you don’t even have to follow Jesus or even like Him for that matter, but I bet you have some kind of understanding of this parable. The Jewish man brutally beaten on the side of a dangerous road. Both a priest and Levite, the man’s own people, leave him dying there. Yet, along comes this Samaritan man and he not only gives the man aide, but he brings him to shelter and pays for his recovery. The most extraordinary detail of this whole story is the two men’s nationalities. A Jewish man dying on the side of the road receiving so much more that just help from a Samaritan stranger. Why is the detail so fascinating…so mindblowing?!?! Because the Jews and the Samaritan’s HATED each other. Yet, here we witness one of the most generous acts of love and kindness and it is all demonstrated by a man whose heart should have been hardened by the hatred he was conditioned to have toward another human being just because of their differences.

What is even more interesting about the Parable of the Good Samaritan is the interaction that Jesus has with a Jewish lawyer right before he tells the parable…

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

~ Luke 10: 25-29

Luke tells us the man who is talking to Jesus is an expert in Jewish law. Which actually means he knows the answers to his own questions. He essentially testing Jesus…waiting to see what He would say. The lawyer knew that in a nutshell the law was concerned with two things…our relationship with God and our relationships with others. Do you love God? Do you love others?

Now our lawyer friend is a bit arrogant. He doesn’t even ask Jesus how he should love God, he just assumes that he does because he follows the law. However, he does ask Jesus who his neighbor is. But he’s not asking because he’s clueless and sincerely wants to know.  He already knows who is neighbors are…they are other Jews. The Jewish community had very strict mandates in their law about how they should care for one another. So the parable of the Good Samaritan would have absolutely blown the lawyer’s mind.

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Levite (temple assistant) walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

~ Luke 10: 30-37

This parable would have absolutely shocked the Jewish lawyer. Why? Well, because according to the law that he was an expert in, both the priest and Levite were obligated to take care of the dying man on the side of the road. He was one of their own and the law of Moses required them to care for him. But they didn’t…they just left them him there. Now along comes a hated Samaritan and he is the one that shows the man the love, compassion, and the care a neighbor would. And at this point our Jewish lawyer’s jaw has hit the ground. Everything he knows has been flipped upside down.

The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question and asked, ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The parable of the Good Samaritan was one of the most radical stories Jesus would tell. Because what Jesus did through this parable was redefine what a neighbor was. When Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves He is not merely speaking about the people who look like us, and think like us, and live like us, and vote like us. Jesus is saying He expects us to love EVERYBODY…even the people who do not look like us, think like us, live like us, and vote like us. Why is this Jesus’ expectation? Because He loves EVERYBODY…He died for the salvation of EVERYBODY!!! If we are going to obey His command to love our neighbors as ourselves then we must submit to the authority of His definition of what a neighbor is.

If we profess to be followers of Jesus Christ then our hearts should be conditioned toward love, not hate. The mission of our lives should be to increase the Light not the darkness.

Months ago as I prepared a sermon on the Good Samaritan I came across Dr. Martin Luther King Jr giving a speech where he referenced Jesus’ teaching of the this parable. It was in this very speech that I heard Dr. King speak boldly that the good Samaritan “reversed the question.” Instead of being concerned about what would happen to him if he stopped to help the dying man, his greater concern was for what would happen to the man if he didn’t stop to help him. It is amazing what can happen when we switch the emphasis off ourselves and shift it to love others.

I believe that was the heartbeat of Dr. King’s messages. His desire of equality and peace were birthed out of a strong conviction that we are all neighbors. Race, gender, creed, sexual preference, nationality, etc. does not negate or disqualify anyone from being our neighbors. What Dr. King challenged us all to do was walk in the truth of Jesus’ words. To imitate our Savior and increase His light in a world full of darkness.

For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~ Galatians 3: 26-28

The words of the Apostle Paul reminds me that the change we all wish to see in our world must begin with the people of God. The hope of the world rests in us because we are the lightbearers of Jesus Christ. So as we love another through all the things that make us different, may we also love those in the world so that they too may come to know the love of our Savior.

On a day when we celebrate the life, the work, and the legacy of a man who did so much to create a world where equality is not just a dream but a reality, I would challenge us all to reverse the question. Instead of asking what will happen to me if I love my neighbor as myself? We must ask ourselves what will happen to our world if we don’t.

 

Echoes From The Heart

There is a price you will have to pay to activate your calling. ~ Levi Lusko

The price was high because the love was so deep…

The depth of a mother’s heart cannot be explained by mere words. A bond that begins in the secret place as the Father knits life together.

Before a breath is drawn love abounds. The quiet intimacy of life growing is one that only a mother knows. The sacred time when the beauty of heaven kisses earth to spring forth so much promise…so much potential.

The first cries enter the air erasing the pain of the journey that brought them here. Love explodes as the heart is awakened by the sight of tiny fingers and toes.

The price was high because the love was so deep…

The heart that blossomed and bloomed shatters in a million pieces broken by the ache of what has been lost.

The piece of heaven the graced the world has slipped back from where she came. The earth no longer spins and the universe tips out of order as what should be slips into the land of dying dreams.

Arms envelope the broken mother…only the Father can comfort the heart that longs so desperately for what has been lost.

As grief and sorrow threaten to consume the Father stoops low and wipes the tears that never seem to end.

Then she hears it, like a whisper on the wind…

” She was mine long before she was ever yours. While you long for her in this life, she is with Me preparing for your homecoming. So while we wait for you to finish your race we will cheer you on from home. Knowing you will do all that I created you to do because she was the gift that awakened you to your calling…”

The price was high because the love was so deep…

In the whisper on the wind the mother’s eyes were opened for the first time to the depth of the Father’s love. For He too had paid the highest of prices for a love that ran so deep.

Tonight I finished reading Levi Lusko’s Through the Eyes of a Lion. As I finished, tears coursed down my cheeks as his words echoed in my heart…“There is a price you will have to pay to activate your calling.” Those words inspired my writing above…the simple yet complex sentiments of a heart that surrendered completely to God and walked out of the depths of despair and into a calling.

Levi Lusko wrote a beautiful book about how the death of his precious daughter radically changed his life. For the first time I felt like so much of my heart was revealed…by a complete stranger. He stepped into his calling for ministry long before his precious Lenya went home to be with Jesus but make no mistake God has used his sweet girl to take him places he could have never imagined going. The beauty of his legacy will forever be entwined with how sweet Lenya opened him up to God in ways that he never would have been had the story ended differently. In so many ways his story mirrors my own with my precious baby girl, Francesca.

In the end the lesson learned is that in this life we will all walk through painful valleys but if we would choose to trust God, He will turn ashes into beauty. In the words of Lusko himself “As we wait on the Lord, our hearts are strengthened, and we see things that are invisible and can do things that are impossible… Suffering isn’t an obstacle to be used by God. It is an opportunity to be used like never before…”

For now I choose to see a place where Lenya and Francesca play among tulips, squealing with laughter in the presence of Jesus. And until I join them in that beautiful paradise I will continue to praise His name and tell of the hope that is found in Him alone 💖💖

There is Always Hope

We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love ~ Madame de Stael

A blanket of white paints the landscape with pops of evergreen. Trees stand desolate in the quiet serenity that highlights an eerie beauty. A beauty that is diminshed by the frigid air that sinks into the marrow of your bones.

For 10 years I have found myself in this place. The final resting spot for my beautiful girl. It brings me no comfort to be here and when the winter is particularly cold, as this one is, I absolutely hate it. As we pull up, already disappointed that our florist is closed, I find myself gripped with apprehension…I don’t want to go. I will myself to place one foot before the other and to step out of the car. With every whisper of artic air that touches my face and every slip on the icy ground I am dumfounded that once again I am here. I make it there…all you can see is a grave blanket. The snow that gives the cemetary an almost ethereal beauty has also erased the names of the beloved that lie in the ground below. It’s too much…I have to walk away.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace~ Helen Lemmel

January 6, 2008. I’ll never forget it. This first Sunday after the new year. Our family gathered in church, hopeful for the wonderful things 2008 would bring. Blissfully unaware that in just over 24 hours our whole world would crumble and shatter into a million pieces.

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. What a beautiful hymn to sing as you embark on the endless possiblities a new year brings. We could have never known that in just a few short days we would be back in that very same sanctuary for the funeral of our precious baby girl. As we stood together that Sunday singing this beloved hymn God began to etch the truth and the promise of their words in our hearts and minds. Truth to cling to in the days, weeks, and years to come. A reminder that when our world falls apart Jesus will always be there, we need only to turn our eyes toward Him.

We can cry with hope..We can say goodbye with hope…cause we know our goodbye is not the end. And we can grieve with hope…cause we believe with hope…there’s a place where we’ll see your face again. ~ Steven Curtis Chapman 

January 7th, 2008…a day that forever changed our lives. After just 78 days here on this earth God called our precious Francesca Isabella home to Him. As images of her beautiful face flashed upon the screen for all those who came to say goodbye to see the words of Steven Curtis Chapman’s “With Hope” played in the background. An achingly sad song with the promise that what is to come will be the sustainer for the pain and heartache endured now. A reminder that the promises of God are true even when life doesn’t make sense. Matt and I clung to that hope…it was all we had. But I have to be completely transparent, I am not sure we really even knew what hope was in those moments. We wanted so desperately to understand but how can you ever fully understand that which incomprehensible admist such soul crushing pain? How can you find hope when you seem so consumed with hopelessness.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. ~ Psalm 34:18

Hope is not wishful thinking, it is confident expectation. When your heart is broken into a million pieces hope can only truly come alive in the presence of God. That young couple who stood in church on January 6th, 2008 had no clue that as they sang “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus…” God was already there. Preparing our hearts and fixing our gaze on the only One who could bind the wounds that would come and take all the shattered pieces of our broken life and put it back together again. God was coming near and in His nearness hope came alive.

I can almost feel the hand of God reaching for my face to wipe the tears away. You say “It’s time to make every new.” Make it all new. 

This is our hope, this our promise…

He will take our breath away to see the beauty that He’s made out of the ashes…

Out of the ashes beauty will rise and we will dance among the ruins. We will see it with our own eyes. ~ Steven Curtis Chapman

Faith is the reality of what we hope for…

10 years ago I think Matt and I just wanted to survive. We didn’t know what “normal” could look like for us. In the midst of so much pain you cannot help but wonder…is this it? Because quite honestly the thought of ever overcoming that kind of loss and soul crushing pain seems so impossible.

This morning I stood next to the love of my life singing a new worship song. As the words rolled off my tongue the tears welled in my eyes…

“I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains…and I believe I’ll see you do it again. You made a way, where there was no way. And I believe, I’ll see you do it again. Your promise still stands…Great is Your faithfulness. I’m still in Your hands…this is my confidence, You never failed me yet.”

God has NEVER failed us. The heartbroken couple who just wanted to survive has thrived over the last 10 years. God came near, binded our wounds, and healed our broken hearts. The journey hasn’t been easy and there are still tears and heartache. When you love someone so much your heart will always ache for them and quite honestly, you always want it to. But God turned our ashes into the beauty of a legacy that still touches and impacts many. Francecsa was a miracle…a beautiful, precious girl who God used in extrordinary ways, far beyond her 78 days. She will forever remind me that hope is birthed in presence of God…that even when the storms of life come, I can be confident in those promises and the love that God shows us all. He has NEVER failed me yet!!!

There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

No matter how much time passes I don’t think I will ever find solace in going to the cemetary.  Many do…there is a peaceful beauty that can be found in the quiet, serenity of it all. But for me, all I see are glaring reminders of what is temporal.  That’s the interesting thing about grief…each person’s experience is unique and their own. However, my comfort will come not in grieving that which was lost here, but rather in the hope for what is promised for eternity. Because in Christ Jesus there are no “goodbyes” just sweet reunions. That is what I will continue to hope for and find comfort in.

Francesca2

Francesca Isabella Catherincchia ~ October 23, 2007 – January 7, 2008

Remembering You…

And I would choose you: in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d chose you. ~ The Chaos of Stars

I’ll never forget…

In the very early hours of an October morning a piece of heaven left that place so close to the Father. Knit together in a womb…beautifully and wonderfully made…entrusted into the hands of another mother and father. Time borrowed and so precious…more than we would ever know.

I’ll never forget…

As the sun set on that miraculous day 10 years ago the sky was a spectacular display of the vibrant colors God has painted across His creation. Red, orange, and yellow painted the dusk sky. It was as if He wanted to us to know that the precious girl who entered our world possessed a beauty far beyond what was earthly. She was destined to be so much more than what could have ever imagined.

I’ll never forget…

The plans we had. The dreams we shared for your future. A mommy and daddy in awe of this perfect gift from heaven. As we counted fingers and toes we imagined snuggle time, sloppy wet kisses, pig tails and sparkles, painted finger nails and daddy daughter dances, first kisses, true love, and daddy giving his princess away to the one who would love you through this life.

I’ll never forget…

The way we fell in love so quickly. It was instant. You captured our hearts and captivated our lives.

I’ll never forget…

The way your brother’s adored you. The gentle rubbing of your hands as one sat in awe of your presence. And the other’s elation. Knowing you were surely an answer to all he had prayed for. I imagined how they would guard and protect you throughout your life…and even drive you a little crazy from time to time.

I’ll never forget…

The day that the time that had been borrowed, the time that was so precious had run out. The day you slipped through our hands and into eternity.  Forever changing the course of who we were and who we would become.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard. ~ Winnie the Pooh

10 years ago you entered our world. No one could have ever known how brief your time with us was meant to be. But God knew…every day He had for you was ordained before one of them ever came to be. He could see beyond the horizon….He could see what no human mind could comprehend…He could see that when a piece of heaven kisses earth, even for the briefest of moments, it leaves a lasting imprint on the hearts, minds and lives of everyone who was fortunate enough to witness it’s splendor. That even when the beauty of the presence is no longer physically here the memory of the blessing gives us an indescribable feeling of gratitude for ever having the privilege to experience it in the first place…regardless of how brief the encounter was. It reminds us that true love defies time and space…it transcends the confines of this earth because it was always meant to be never ending. The beauty of true love is that it was designed to be as eternal as the One who created it…the One who calls us His beloved.

Regardless of the pain and the heartbreak, if I could go back 10 years, I would STILL choose you. Even knowing what I know now…especially because of what I know now…I would ALWAYS choose you! You are the catalyst that made our family everything it is today…you are the catalyst for everything that Mommy and Daddy have become…You are the miracle that allowed us to experience God’s love…His presence…His goodness…His faithfulness. Without you we would be an empty shell of who we are. You are the piece of heaven that kissed our life and awakened our need for things so much greater than what this world has to offer.

Do you see that? Do you know that 10 years ago you when you entered our world your hand print intertwined with God’s to change people’s lives…forever?

My precious Francesca, there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of you nor is there a moment that I do not miss you, that my arms do not long to hold you. My beautiful girl, do you know that mommy envisioned your 10th birthday with pedicures and sleepovers not a blog post written through tears? But through my shattered expectations and hurting heart…I choose to celebrate you. To celebrate the gift that you are. To celebrate that God continues to use you in this world. To celebrate that I am a better me because I got to hold you close and call you mine even for the briefest of moments. To know with full confidence that today you celebrate your birthday with the One that loves you far more than I ever could because He is the One who created you.

My sweet girl, my mind sees you dancing in all of your heavenly splendor…illuminated by the glory of God…rejoicing in His presence. Dance Bella girl…dance!! And know that here on earth we will celebrate the moment that heaven kissed the earth and gave us the gift of you.

Mommy loves you Francesca Isabella. Until we meet again, I will never forget.