Thursday, January 16, 2014

Stones of Remembrance: Where Roses Grow

Stones of Remembrance -- those markers on our spiritual journey that highlight important turning points -- refer to events that are vividly stored deep within our memory.

Turning points that -- whether in a crisis moment or more of a process -- helped to shape who we are now as followers of Jesus. These are the times we look back on and recognize God's hand at work.

But truth be told: not all of Stones of Remembrance are positive experiences, at the time. Part of everyone's spiritual journey will include dark and difficult times.

Moments and seasons that test us, when our sense of God's presence is blunted, and we resonate with David's lament: "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:4)

There have been numerous times over the years that Wendy and I found ourselves living on Hard Times Blvd. Easily the most difficult and devastating time was the death of our first son, Dallas.

We were eight months into our first pastorate, and had just recently had a "break-through" youth retreat with our fledgling group, with many God-moments in the lives of youth and youth leaders alike. We were all flying high with excitement and gratitude for what God was doing in our midst.

And just two weeks later, we were standing in the pouring rain, numbly watching as a tiny white casket was lowered into the earth. The guy from the funeral home got out of his car and just tucked the casket under his arm as he brought it to the graveside. For some reason, that simple gesture hit me like a bolt of malevolent lightning -- Caskets should never be that small.
Remember that scene in LOTR: The Two Towers, where King Theoden says to Gandalf, "No parent should ever have to bury their child?" To this day, I've never been able to watch that scene without fighting back tears.
We had the support of a good church family during that season. The youth leadership team (the "Dead Prophet Society") were gifts from God to us; they supported us, prayed for/with us, and went above and beyond week after week in the youth ministry at our church. Neil, Heather, Daryl, Bonnie, Drew, Cathy, Janet, the "other" Daryl, Yvonne, Paul, Glenn, Tanya, and Marie: I wish everyone could experience community with people like you.

The ringleader of a disruptive group of guys in the youth group came to visit Wendy in the hospital; he sat quietly with her for awhile, and then prayed for her. He went home and said to his younger sister, "If I'm going to call myself a Christian, I guess I'd better start living like one." To this day, the change that began with that decision continues to bear fruit in his life.

Did you know that 45% of the Psalms (67 out of 150) are Psalms of Lament? Songs of pain, turmoil, fear, doubt -- and yet a faith in God that was the anchor/balm for the soul. Today, we'd called these songs "the blues". We can sing our struggles to God.
The truth is, we often grow more when we're the most desperate before God. Sometimes, we learn what it means to be "the Body of Christ" best when we are at the end of our rope. We learn to receive because we have nothing to give.

Yes, some Stones of Remembrance are painful to recall. We don't have all the answers this side of heaven. Sometimes all we have is faith, hope, and love. We learn to trust God even if we don't understand (yet). Knowing that when the Kingdom comes in its fullness, it will all be good.
We will run where roses grow, our feet unbound at last
Laugh as morning dawns, the night forever past
See the face of glory, feel the river flow
Hear the voice of God, and run where roses grow
('Where Roses Grow' by Resurrection Band)


  1. That sentence from Theoden is the same my grandparents used when we buried my father, now about 30 years ago. Can't listen to that one without a big lump in my throat too.
    And thanx for this blog, again.

  2. Oh you afflicted, storm-tossed and not comforted, behold, I will set your stones in fair colours - in antimony (to enhance their brilliance) and lay your foundations with sapphires. Isaiah 54:11 Amp