A Letter To My Beautiful Bride: Happy Anniversary From Your Undeserving Husband

No automatic alt text available.

 

                               Dear Leah, my beautiful bride,

It was a rather simple day, much like any other, as I walked toward my computer, wondering what to do, not knowing my life story was being rearranged,
As God was working something amazing for His glory and my good, as I clicked onto a Christian dating site, my world would forever be changed.
I began searching for a woman, a woman who loved Jesus, who loved Scripture, a woman with character, a woman who cared about right and wrong,
I found you, and so much more; God gave me a woman who loved Jesus, who was a beauty to behold. You stole my heart; I wanted to break out in song.

From the day I first saw your profile picture, an Asian beauty, standing in a pretty yellow dress; I never could have imagined that you would see anything in me,
I never thought that God would so richly bless me, that you would one day pledge to be mine in marriage; Am I imagining this? How can this be?
My mind is still swimming in elation, still thankful every day to my great God and Savior, that this Asian beauty, Leah Francis, has become my bride,
On that very special day, in June of 2008, you graced your way down the aisle toward me; you chose to spend your earthly life walking with me, side by side.

Thank you Leah………….

For marrying me, even with all of my many imperfections,
For caring enough about me, to lovingly offer me correction.
For helping me to be a better husband, one who treats you with care,
Oh Leah, to think of life without you, is a thought I cannot bear.

Thank you Leah…………..

For putting up with me when I’m a total mess,
For lifting me up when I am depressed, and………
For loving me when I am stressed.
And though I have been for you a very difficult test,
Your love doesn’t judge me; you always give your very best.

And thank you Leah……………….

For watching me dance………horribly I must say………and patiently listening to me sing,
And for the day you said “YES” to my nervous marriage proposal, and accepted my ring.
For laughing at my jokes, even though few…….well……none of them are really that funny,
For being so kind and encouraging, making our home always feel so bright and sunny.

You may not think it’s true, but I think you are truly stunning,
When I see your beautiful face, it makes me come-a-running.
I cherish every moment with you; I love to hear your every thought,
How gracious God has been to me! I’m enjoying every moment He has brought.

Nine years after our wedding, it still feels to me like a dream come true,
That I get to call you my bride, grow old together, and share my life with you.
You are too good for me, and I received far better than I deserve, a woman who loves Jesus, an Asian beauty who stole my heart,
I have to pinch myself every day, because I still can’t believe you looked into my eyes and spoke these words, “Till death do us part.”

I hope you enjoy this little poem, even though you’re worth so much more,
For you are more than just beautiful, kind, and gracious; you are the woman I adore.

 

Happy Anniversary Leah!! I love you!!

Your undeserving husband,  Jamie

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Your likes or comments are always appreciated! I will do my best to respond to each one. And if you enjoy my posts, I wouldn’t mind an extra subscriber either. (-:  God bless you, and thanks for stopping by!  – Jamie

10 Things Parents of Stillborn Babies Want You To Know (Part 6): The Power of Parental Bond

Image result for dad holding baby girl

 

Death does not break the bond between parent and child. God is the one who created this bond. And stillbirth does not, and cannot, sever it………ever. You don’t have to change a diaper to be a parent. You don’t have to be awoken at night to a crying baby to be a parent. You don’t have to suffer through a “Walmart fiasco” when your child can’t have their favorite toy. You don’t need to read stories to your little ones at night to qualify as a parent. You don’t need to have tons of cute pictures and videos to upload on social media to qualify as a parent either. Those things happen for most parents, but they are not an option for parents of stillborn babies. But, you know what, we are still parents. And nothing will ever change that.

As we continue on in this series of posts dealing with stillborn baby loss, we come to this vital piece of the puzzle for those who have lost stillborn babies. It is crucial for us as the parents, and others who are part of our lives, to know that we really are parents. And it is so important to us that everyone clearly acknowledges this. Otherwise, we suffer needless heartache. When people don’t have this understanding for parents of stillborn babies, it makes things so much more difficult than they have to be. As weird as it sounds, we feel like we have to accommodate you. We feel like we have to make you emotionally comfortable in talking to us. Like we have to offer the perfect explanation so as to remove all the awkwardness from you. Like we have to justify calling ourselves parents, or referring to our baby. Strange, but unfortunately true.

With that said, we come to #8. Parents of stillborn babies want you to acknowledge………

#8 We want you to acknowledge the powerful bond that we have with our babies, and want you to refer to us as their parents.

 

Yes…….We Really Are Parents

Should be obvious, ha? I mean, doesn’t a stillborn baby have the mother and father’s genetics? Isn’t a stillborn baby comprised of sperm and egg? Doesn’t a stillborn baby grow in the mommy’s tummy? Isn’t a stillborn baby created in God’s image? If you really think about it, why would we be referred to as anything else besides the baby’s parents? But parents of stillborn babies know exactly why I mention all of this. Sadly, many people don’t think of us as parents, at least not in any meaningful, life-changing way. Well, unless of course, we have other children…….then most folks will boldly pronounce us as “Class A” Parents. Top of the line, real, living, “just like us” kind of parents. But even then, an odd distinction is made between living children and stillborn babies. People don’t want to engage you as much regarding your stillborn. Somehow they miss the fact that your eyes just lit up with the mere thought of being able to talk about your baby! They just blow right by the opportunity. And it never gets easy. It is always frustrating beyond belief. Your baby’s memory gets sideswiped like a car on a hit and run that just drives away like nothing serious even happened.

No Bedtime Bible Stories

I don’t have any living children, but the sense I get from people is that a stillborn baby just isn’t as deserving of all the conversation as other kids are. Why is this? Most people make no favorable comparison between a living child and a stillborn baby. What a crying shame this is. It’s almost like the real reason someone is considered a parent is because they have ongoing celebrations and hardships that parents of stillborns do not have. For example, we can never talk about our stillborn baby as being a 2 year old toddler who is out of control, or a 10 year old who made the honor roll again this year, or how long it’s taking to potty train them, or how enjoyable it is to read them the Bible every night. Parents of stillborns do not have these particular joys, heartaches and stresses. We have different ones. We don’t have an experience that the majority of parents can relate to. And because of that, they do not typically acknowledge us as being like them.

Getting Your Hands Dirty

If you haven’t gotten your hands dirty (so to speak), and you haven’t dealt with all the things parents normally deal with, then you just simply fall short. Even worse, it feels to us like our precious little baby is the one who falls short. If you’ve had a lot of experience (diapers, crying fits at night, cute pics, sports, discipline issues, etc.), then you get acknowledged by others as being real parents. And your baby is acknowledged as a real baby. Otherwise, for the most part, you and baby get overlooked. Yes, there are compassionate people out there who are the exceptions. But sadly, those people are few and far between. Achievement and experience should not be the deciding factor in whether someone qualifies as a parent or a baby. Because if that is the case, then all miscarried, aborted, and stillborn babies have nothing to show. And that is tragic.

The Not-So-Terrible 2’s

But what if you were not dealing with the difficulty of child rearing? What if you were only dealing with the difficulty of not being able to rear a child, because your only baby is dead? What then? Is it your lack of experience in raising children that determines whether or not you should be called a parent? Is it somehow an easier burden to deal with a baby’s death than it is to go through the struggles of parenting? I don’t remember where I saw it, but there is a saying out there that goes something like this: “A new mommy can’t sleep at night because of her crying baby. But a mommy of a stillborn can’t sleep at night because she doesn’t hear her baby cry.” Parents of stillborns would do anything for our baby to be with us, even if that means they would have a screaming fit inside Target when they turned 5 years old. We would do anything to have seen their first poopy diaper. We would have loved for our baby to go through the “Terrible 2’s.” But they never made it to 2 years of age. We would have savored even 2 hours with our baby. This is reality for most parents of stillborn babies. Even parents who have other children rarely hear their stillborn acknowledged in the same way as their other kids. This should not be.

So, How Many Kids Do You Have?

This is one of the hardest, most dreaded questions a parent of a stillborn baby ever has to answer. You might be thinking that this should really be easy for us. But is isn’t. We have to be thinking before we answer. And we only have a few seconds to contemplate how we answer. We don’t have a straightforward, one-size-fits-all answer for every person who asks. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve agonized over the fact that I did not acknowledge my daughter when people have asked me “The Question.” I can’t understand why I even do it. That is the most difficult part. I know I should say something like “Yes, I am a dad. And I have a beloved, beautiful baby girl named Ariana who died as a stillborn. I love her and miss her very much!” But most of the time, I do not say this. And even though I can’t pinpoint exactly why, I suppose it is mostly fear. Fear of the type of response I am going to receive from others. Fear of really awkward silences. Fear of people looking at me like I’m crazy for thinking I’m a father when my baby never even took a breath outside the womb. Yes, all these possible outcomes can dart through the mind at lightning speed when you are the parent of a stillborn baby.

Conclusion

So please remember this: God formed our stillborn baby’s inward parts. And just because those parts were stillborn, God still formed them inside mommy’s tummy. Nothing will ever change that. Not even the most awkward conversation. And not even the failure of a father to acknowledge his beloved baby girl, all because of the social fear and awkwardness involved. If death itself cannot break the parental bond we have with our stillborn baby, then it is absurd to think anything else will. God is the One who creates this powerful bond. It is His design alone. And no one can ever undo what He has done.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Your likes or comments are always appreciated! I will do my best to respond to each one. And if you enjoy my posts, I wouldn’t mind an extra subscriber either. (-:  God bless you, and thanks for stopping by!  – Jamie

Happy Mother’s Day to My Mom, Who Now Loves Jesus

Image may contain: 2 people, closeup

Dear mom,

Happy Mother’s Day, I hope you enjoy your day and don’t spend it worried or stressing,
I hope you find great joy in Jesus today, as you bask in what Christ has given you, which is every spiritual blessing.
I have seen you grow over the last few years in the knowledge of God through the Scripture,
Your Bible is worn out whenever I come to visit, and that sight is for me a very beautiful picture.

I hope you know what a joy it is for me to have fellowship with you, knowing that you are not only my earthly mother,
But because we are in Christ, with God as our Father, this means you are forever my dear sister, and I am your brother.
How wonderful it is to hear you on the phone proclaiming your devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the King of kings,
Not worrying about the opinions of others, the cares of this world, or anything else that falls under the “lesser things.”

Thank you, mom, for all your hard work with dad, raising me, caring for me, and watching over me,
And even though we did not know Jesus back then, He is working in us now, He has set both of us free.
How wonderful it is to see how far He has brought you, transferring you from the domain of darkness into His glorious light,
I hope we spend the rest of our lives giving praises to His Name, for He has saved us by grace alone, rescuing us from our plight.

Mom, I don’t know how many more years the Lord will give me on earth with dad and with you,
But God declares the promise of eternal life to those who trust in Christ, and His Word is always faithful and true.
I know that when one of us dies, the loss is only temporary, for one day we will both be in the presence of the King, together with all the saints,
And we will forever worship the Lamb of God, without sickness, without sin, without crying or pain, and absolutely no restraints.

 

You inspire me to be bold in my faith, for I know that you speak to other family and friends about the glorious gospel,
By telling them they must repent and believe, even when they have no interest, and often act offended, like they are hostile.

But you continue to hold to the truth, regarding salvation, the sanctity of life and marriage, not knowing how anyone will react,
And you tell them that Jesus is the only Way, that His Word is the truth; I have even seen you give total strangers a gospel tract.

You have increased in your love for Christ and for others, all of this over the last few years,
The love you have shown for Leah and I, and the rest of the family, could bring me to tears.
You have shown kindness and generosity, sacrificed and given your time, proving that the Holy Spirit is your guide,
And I know you would do it all over again, if it meant that others would benefit, and that Jesus Christ would be glorified.

Thank you mom, for always thinking and praying for Leah and I, for showing us hospitality when we visit, and for cooking all of your amazing Italian food,
For letting me know that God is in control when I’m stressed, and that He loves me; this shows me that you are becoming more like Jesus, that is all I can conclude.
Thank you for recording all those sermons every time I visit, and watching them with me; it warms my heart to know that we both enjoy listening to good preaching,
And don’t you ever think you failed me in any way, just because you came to Christ late in life; you are finishing well mom, and all of your love is providing me some really great teaching.

Thank you for being there when my precious Ariana died, for always remembering her birthdays, for holding her and helping me through the difficult pain,
For comforting me with words that only a mom can give, everything you spoke was done with love and compassion, it all mattered to me, none of it was in vain.
We all know that you are a precious gift from God; Gina, Steph, Leah, Dad, Mike, and all of your grandkids would  agree,
That we all love you; you are cherished by all of us, and most importantly, remember that Jesus loves you; that is a guarantee!

                                          With much love in Christ,

                                                 Your son,  Jamie

10 Things Parents of Stillborn Babies Want You To Know (Part 5): Don’t Change the Subject

Related image


“Hey, did you guys hear about Johnny??!!”
the proud father excitedly asks his fellow co-workers. “He hit 2 home runs, and he pitched a no hitter in Friday’s game!” “In fact, it was the first no hitter in the schools entire history! I can’t believe it!” The crew gives him a nod of acknowledgement, as if to say “We heard you just mouth a few words in our direction, so we are simply agreeing with what you said.” Then, it’s simply business as usual. No congratulatory words. No excitement. No further questions. Just a simple nod is all little Johnny gets from the crowd. Waiting for any kind of response turns into an agonizing silence. The father waits with annoyance. Nothing. Not a peep. Dead silence. And I mean a dead, awkward, rude, painful, you-gotta-be-kidding-me kind of silence. Apparently, this father’s excitement for his son’s athletic performance is not catchy. He is hurt, but there is nothing he can do about it. He can’t force them to be interested. By not hearing a word of congratulations in response to his son’s great story, the father feels like he was dissed……..treated with contempt. The hurt cuts deep. And the hurt isn’t primarily that he was dissed, but that his son was dissed.

As we continue on with my series on how to minister well to those who have suffered the loss of a stillborn baby, the next two points will be condensed into one overall point.

Parents of stillborn babies want you to know…………….

 

#6 We want you to become more comfortable in conversation, and not change the subject so quickly whenever we talk about our precious babies.

#7 When we bring up in conversation that we had a stillborn, we want you to know that simply saying “I’m sorry” is a much better option than total, dismissive silence.

 

Children Deserve Better

The poor, stressed out daddy now figures he can at least brag to the people who attend the same book club meeting he does. He’ll tell them about his son’s amazing performance. “Surely they won’t ignore my own flesh and blood son,” he thinks to himself. “After all the time we’ve spent together. After all the times I listened to their pathetic stories.” This one is a shoe-in, right? After he arrives at the meeting, he goes through the above scenario again. The father repeats, “My son Johnny hit 2 home runs today, and he pitched a no-hitter!!” But this time, things are different. There is a response. As the leader of the discussion group looks toward the others, he says “Oh ok, good for him. Hey, did any of you guys see how many passing yards Brady had last night? He is on my fantasy league ballot, and I missed the box score.” Ouch. The son is dissed yet again. This father may never get over this hurt. And he may hesitate to share anything valuable again. He feels like no one cares about his son. He is feeling the pain of rejection. Not for himself per say, but mostly for his child.

More Than a Baseball Game

As bad as the above example is, imagine that you were talking about more than a performance in a baseball game. Imagine you were talking about the day your child was born. Even more, imagine if you are talking to someone about the day your baby was born……..and died. No parent wants their child to be ignored, either in person or in conversation talking about your child. Especially when you are talking about the painful ordeal of seeing your baby come forth from the womb……….dead. No life. No breath. No smile. No crying. No anything. Then, imagine you try to talk about your baby with others, and instead of being given the gracious liberty to do this, you are shut down because someone had a “more important” topic to discuss. They don’t even give it a second thought. This is so disheartening to parents of stillborn babies. When you ignore our conversation so flippantly, you are communicating to us that our baby is second class. That our baby doesn’t matter. That our baby is too much of an inconvenience to even talk about, or listen to someone else talk about. You communicate to us that you believe that our baby is still born, but not still loved.

Babies Come From God

We all love to talk about things we love. I know……..I’m a genius to figure that out. And since parents love their kids, they also love to talk about their kids. Logical, isn’t it? And parents love for people to listen to them when they talk about their kids. And for good reason. Scripture says, “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3). They are the fruit of a mommy’s womb. They have DNA of both mommy and daddy. They are the miraculous, beautiful result of the one flesh union the Bible talks about (Ephesians 5). And most importantly, babies are human beings created in the image of Almighty God. He has planned for the existence of each and every baby who is ever conceived. Notice I didn’t say born, but conceived. Scripture clearly teaches that life begins at conception, which means that every life of every baby began at conception……..not when the first breath was taken outside the womb.

Could this be why stillborn babies are ignored so much? Is it because he or she never breathed outside the womb? Is it because some people don’t consider them to have ever been fully human? I don’t want to get too far into the abortion issue on this post, but my point is worth considering. Here’s what the Scripture says about personhood in the womb……

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

King David’s personhood is spoken about long before he ever emerges from the womb. Notice the personal pronoun “my” repeated twice in the above verse. If you are the parent of a stillborn baby, remember that God says they were a person from the very moment of conception. It is a good thing to remind the people in your life of this fact as well.

Love Comes From God

God is the one who implants the love within us that we have for our babies.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7).

And even those who don’t know God savingly still have that parental instinct to love and care for their children, and to be zealous for their well-being and their reputation. No matter what the circumstances are of a baby being conceived, or what kind of physical and mental defects the baby may have, or what kind of problems they are born into, they are precious, beautiful, and always a gift from God. He gives the gift of children with the responsibility for parents to love them. And He is the One who empowers us to love them. The fact that parents of stillborns continue to love their babies many years after their death is a God-given emotion. And despite how painful it is sometimes to love a baby you never had the chance to play with, I still wouldn’t trade this pain in for anything. And I’m sure other parents would agree. The pain is evidence of the love we have for them. The memories are even more evidence. Dealing with the pain keeps our eyes focused on Jesus. He dealt with much worse pain. He can handle ours. And one day, He will completely heal our pain.

Sacred Ground

God knows His precious little ones. And the Bible clearly teaches that personhood begins the moment sperm and egg unite together. Remember, God is sovereign over this baby being conceived. He knows and loves the stillborn baby more than even the parents ever will. God is certainly not responsible for sins anyone commits in the conception of a baby, but He does decree the baby’s conception. In fact, He decrees all things that come to pass. No baby is ever a “mistake.” I was not a Christian when my precious Ariana was conceived. Having sex outside of marriage is clearly forbidden by God. But her birth was still known and decreed by Almighty God. This is a great mystery, of course. But it is the truth of Scripture. So, when a parent of a stillborn baby starts talking about how they had a baby who died during the birth process (or shortly before), remember that God knit this stillborn baby together in mommy’s womb (Psalm 139). Please regard this conversation highly. Not only to minister and show compassion to parents who are deeply hurting, but because the baby is the handiwork of the Almighty. When you listen to someone speak of how much they love and miss their own child, and how much pain they are suffering, you are standing on sacred ground.

We Sympathize With You

It may be uncomfortable for you (we know this). You may not know exactly what to say (and it’s ok, we understand). But other times, you may be thinking about that job promotion, or the fact that you really just want to go home and get something to eat. These things may be true to one degree or another. After all, we are all human and have needs. Conversational skill takes time, education, and effort. Ministering to others effectively takes lifetimes to learn. We don’t expect you to be perfect. But we want you to know that it is hurtful when you remain silent when we just want you to ask a question. Just one question about our baby. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just some type of acknowledgement would be worlds better than total silence, or changing the subject altogether. Little things like that mean so much to hurting people.

Saying “I’m Sorry”

If we bring it up in conversation, you can be absolutely certain that we want to talk about our babies. And we do not desire to have a one-way conversation. We are talking to you. We want you to be a part of the conversation. We are inviting you into our world to bear a little of the burden we have experienced, a tiny piece of our suffering in having a stillborn baby. At that moment, we are giving our hearts to you. We are sharing some of the most intimate, painful details of our life with you. It is a golden opportunity for us to vent our hurts, to take joy in bragging about our baby, to remember and cherish those moments we had with them. Please let us have that experience by listening and speaking words of compassion.

And if you don’t have a clue what to say, just look at us in the eyes softly with compassion and say “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” That’s all. Nothing more is needed. But anything less might be taken as dismissive silence. And that is not good either. As grieving parents, we do want some type of response. And if you simply make eye contact and say “I’m sorry”, you will minister more to us in those few seconds than you will ever know. We certainly don’t expect you to have the same raw emotions as we do. And we don’t even want you to pretend to have the same emotions either. We just want your ears, your eyes, your mouth, and most of all………..your heart. Even if only for a few moments.

We Can’t Help It

Parents of stillborn babies can’t help being hurt and upset when their baby is treated like a second rate conversational topic. No matter who you are, whether your children are living or dead, God has given parents such an immense love for them that we simply cannot help how we feel. We make no apologies for our hurts. Parents of stillborn babies cannot help the fact that blogs like this one have to be written. Everyone else in the world may change the topic, or remain silent. But you can bet your bottom dollar that’ll never be us. We will never stop talking about our babies. Despite all the awkwardness, we will keep trying………always. Our babies are worth it. They may have been stillborn, but they are still loved. And they always will be. So everyone might as well get used to it. Stillborn babies never had the chance to enter a human conversation. Hopefully, the parents are doing their best to make up for lost time.

Conclusion

David Platt once said……..

There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes.

Platt is right. And since the stillborn child never comes, the parents will work tirelessly to bring that child to others. And they do it through conversation. It is the only way for them to give others a glimpse into a life that ended way too soon. Don’t make parents regret that moment of opening themselves up to you. It is much too precious to them.

________________________________________________________________

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

Which Sermon Has Made the Greatest Impact on Your Christian Life?

Image result for preaching a sermon john piper

 

I want to know which sermon has had the greatest impact on you. I want to know which sermon God has used to sanctify you more than anything else you have heard. The one that kept you up at night after you heard it. The one that you couldn’t wait to recommend to everyone at church, because you just knew their faith would be strengthened. I’m talking about the sermon that you’ve listened to dozens of times, and it never gets old. The one that convicts you every time you hear it. The one that makes you want to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” And most of all, the one that makes you appreciate and savor the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ above anything else you’ve ever heard. After all, Christ is the reason that pastors preach. He is the reason Christians listen to good sermons. We want to know Him and the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:9). We want to love Him better than we do, and find out what pleases Him. Jesus is the One the Holy Spirit points us to when we hear Biblical preaching. That’s the kind of answer I’m looking for here. I really desire your feedback on this.

Which sermon are you thinking about now, even as you read this? Who’s it going to be?

Charles Spurgeon? John MacArthur? Martin Luther? Conrad Mbewe? John Piper? Paul Washer? Alistair Begg? George Whitfield? Al Mohler? Voddie Baucham? One of the Puritans (Watson, Bunyan, Sibbes, etc.) Jonathan Edwards? A sermon by your own pastor at your local church? The list could go on and on. But I do have one simple caveat: No heretics allowed. Your answer must be the name of someone who preaches the one true gospel. He must be orthodox when it comes to the main thing. Sorry to state the obvious, but it had to be said. So, Rob Bell……not allowed. Joel Osteen………not allowed. Benny Hinn……….well, I think you get the idea. Prosperity preachers need not apply. And if you have in mind that William P. Young guy who wrote The Shack, I plan on………..ahem……..accidentally skipping over that answer when I scroll through the comments.

This survey isn’t necessarily about the most popular preaching. It isn’t about sermons that tickle your itching ears. It’s about sermons that have increased your love and worship for Jesus Christ. It’s not about comfortable sermons that make you feel good about yourself. It’s about sermons that reveal how bad you truly are, but make you look to the cross with joy and adoration that you are a forgiven sinner. We, as the body of Christ, have been so blessed over the centuries with great preaching! It is a gracious gift from God. Listening to good preaching is one of the primary ways we grow in our sanctification. And I think it’s a good idea to let others know sermons that have helped us the most. That way, they can listen and benefit as much as we have. So do your brothers and sisters a favor, would you?

I believe it’ll be a great tool for others to use, especially new believers. Believers who may be unfamiliar with some of the great names throughout church history. Believers who do not yet possess good enough discernment when they google search sermons to listen to. Let us do good to one another by helping each other make wise choices. Please use the “comment” section below to give me your answer. I am looking for the name of the preacher and the title of the sermon. That’s it. Don’t worry about when and where it was preached. Name and title will suffice. If you would like, you can give a brief explanation of why the sermon means so much to you. But it isn’t required. I will publish the results after several weeks.

I am really interested to see what you have to say! Thank you so much for participating and God bless you!

10 Things Parents of Stillborn Babies Want You To Know (Part 4): Be a Good Listener

 

Image result for listener images

 

People will say some of the most vile things over the phone. I know this all too well. I do customer service. I get paid to talk to people on the phone all day long. Most of my working life has been taking phone calls from people I have never spoken to before, and then attempting to help them with whatever their problem is……..as best I can. I’m thankful that people call. And I’m thankful to have a job. Nonetheless, it is challenging to hear some of the words that spew out of people’s mouths when they are not looking at you face to face. Since this is a family-friendly blog, I will not even mention some of the things I hear. Some of it would shock you to the point that you would think I’m lying. Really, no joke. There have been physical threats made against me (yes, I’m serious), insults of every kind imaginable, uncontrolled rage, you name it. Every day I go into work thinking, “I’ve heard it all.” But then, the carpet is pulled from underneath me again, and someone manages to outdo all the others with their tongue. Is it any wonder that we see these words in Scripture: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).

The Phrase I Hate to Hear

With all of the garbage that I hear, there is one phrase I hear from time to time that bothers me more than any other. And it is this: Jamie, that’s NOT what I said!! You’re not listening to me, are you?!” That one hurts. In some ways, it hurts more than anything else they say to me. When customers shout vile insults, they are really just venting because they are not getting what they want. They are, in essence, having a hissy fit over the phone. Although it is sinful behavior, I don’t believe it is anything personal. They are just angry and frustrated. They may also be dealing with other difficulties in their life. I get it. I’ve been there and done that myself.

But when they tell me I’m not listening, it is personal. They are making a judgment about my ability to do my job. They think I am either being careless, rude, or neglectful. Or all three for that matter. No matter the reason for the accusation, I hate to hear it. Sometimes it is simply miscommunication. In other words, I was listening but I misinterpreted what they were asking me for. Or maybe they just didn’t phrase things in a way that makes sense. But other times, as much as I hate to admit it, they are correct in their assessment. I was stressed and distracted. I tuned out for a moment. I was preoccupied. Even worse, I put my own interests before theirs. A shameful thing indeed. In other words, I heard them speaking…….but I wasn’t really listening. And they knew it.

—–

As we continue exploring how to minister to parents who have lost stillborn babies, we come to #5 on the list. Parents of stillborn babies want you to know…….

#5 We want you to know that we love talking about our babies as much as any other parent loves to talk about their own kids, and we want people to at least try to listen more when we do.

 

The Rudeness of Darting Eyes

You know the feeling you get when you are talking to someone about a really important matter, and you know they are not focusing on you. Aggravating, isn’t it? You know how you try to speak with even more emphasis, thinking they will suddenly start giving you their ever-precious attention. You talk louder. You look at them more intensely. It’s like you try to will them into looking at you. But it never happens, does it? Their eyes are still all over the place. They are looking above, below, right, left, diagonal, behind, in front of………..anywhere but at you. Women especially are all too aware of this. You have to experience more than just conversational ADD. You have to deal with perverted men who look at your body when you are talking, but not at your eyes. I’m sure this is a very frustrating, and sometimes even scary, experience. The fact of the matter is this: All of us want eye contact. And for very good reasons.

To ignore someone’s eyes when they are speaking is rude and insensitive, and it can be very distressing to the one who is speaking. Especially when you are relaying something near and dear to your heart. Like say, talking about your dead baby boy or girl, whom you love dearly.  The baby whom you would give your right arm just to hear cry even one time. The one you miss so bad it hurts. The one you never got to take home with you. The baby you think about every time you are in public, when you see another parent with their child. The one you had to bury a few days after the delivery date. Imagine all of that pain and devastation. And now……now…… you can’t even have 15 seconds of someone’s attention when you talk about your baby?! Devastating indeed.

Please Don’t Slight Our Baby

And you know what the real problem is when your eyes are not engaging us? It means that our words are meaningless to you. And to us, it even says that our baby is meaningless to you. To neglect someone when they are talking is more than just neglecting the speaker. It is also to neglect the topic of the conversation. Parents of stillborn babies are protective of their babies. Yes, even though they are dead, we are protective of them. We still love them very deeply. We don’t care if you slight us when we are talking about the Patriots game. We don’t care if you disrespect us when we tell you about the new job we got. It may be rude of you to do so, and it may hurt us to a degree. But we won’t lose any sleep over it. However, we have lost sleep over the loss of our babies. And when you ignore them right in front of our eyes by not listening, you add to the insomnia.

When we talk about our baby, we don’t want them to be slighted. When you ignore us as we speak about our stillborn, and you are interested in everything else around you, you are slighting our baby. You may not think of it that way, but it is the truth. That’s how horrible it feels to us. It makes us both sad and angry at the same time. You might as well walk to their grave site and kick dirt over the top of it. It gives us the same murky feeling inside our guts. To not listen is to count the topic of conversation as meaningless and trivial. Not worthy of your time or your attention. Remember this the next time you are talking to a parent who has lost a stillborn baby. Don’t think for a moment that- because we didn’t get to spend much time with our baby- it somehow means we don’t love them as much as other parents. This would be a grievous mistake. When I talk about my precious Ariana, it means everything to me when your eyes don’t float around the room.

One Simple Request

We are not asking you to take the pain away. We know you cannot do that. No one can do that. That pain will be with us to some degree for our entire lives. For those of us who know Jesus Christ, the pain will all be taken away when He returns. (I can’t wait for that moment!!) So for the here and now, we aren’t asking you for a miracle. All we are asking is that you give us a listening ear. That’s all. You may not realize it, but it would mean the world to us. We notice when people are listening, and when they are not. Trust me………if a customer can tell over the phone that I’m not giving them 100% of my attention, how much easier is it to notice face to face? Those precious seconds we offer up to you, and your response to them, will be remembered for a lifetime………..either with pain, or with a smile of appreciation.

All we are looking for is genuine, soft, warm, and engaging eye contact. The kind that makes the other person know that you care about them, and what they are saying. The kind of eye contact that lets them know that you not only hear them, but you are listening to them. Some of us parents who have lost babies know exactly what I’m talking about here. We know those rare people that can put a smile on our face as we brag on our babies to them. They enter our world. They enter our pain. They give themselves to us as we speak to them. They look at us with compassion. They are not easily distracted. They aren’t checking out the hottie twenty feet away from them. They don’t have an agenda, and they aren’t in a rush to get away from us. This is the sweet spot. Do you have someone in your life like this? I pray that you do.

Be Intentional With Us

We don’t expect you to have all the answers. We know that you were not in the delivery room with us. We know that you do not understand the experience of losing a baby to stillbirth. Think simple, not complex. There is one way really good way to enter into the experience of others. There is one best way to empathize with the suffering of parents who have lost a baby. It is to pay attention to them. It is to focus on them. Be an intentional listener. Give them the stage, and let them pour their heart out to you. Be willing to give them those precious moments they so badly need. We aren’t asking for months, days, or even hours. Most of the time we are asking for seconds. Yes, precious and few seconds. You cannot bring back our babies to us. But you can let our minds run with vivid imagination of just how beautiful our baby is. You can let us have our memories, and enjoy them to the fullest. Remember, those memories belong to us. Please don’t steal them away.

Conclusion

Active listening involves more than just the ears. It involves your eyes as well. It involves your body language. Your entire self is needed to truly love someone else as they speak. And when you are aware of this, your will give better attention to our words. Your mind and heart will be in it as much as your ears and eyes.

To be a good listener means loving the person who is speaking. But it also means loving the one the speaker is talking about. Especially when they are talking about their own baby. A baby who died before anyone could listen to them.

________________________________________________________________

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

 

 

When Mommies Awaken Startled

 

Image result for hands over pregnant tummies

 

Sometimes mommies awaken startled, without warning, in the middle of the night,
Having just realized that something awful is happening, something that just isn’t right.

She wakes up daddy…….

Honey, the baby isn’t kicking. And it seems like she hasn’t been for almost an entire day.
Something is definitely not right. We need to do something…….let’s get on our knees and pray.

Daddy looks on, shocked and with a look of disbelief, in the quiet darkness of the room.

Mommy says trembling………..

It is really strange, knowing a baby is inside of me, to feel only stillness in the womb.

Daddy now just trying to hold things together.

Mommy makes her point clear…….

She was kicking so much every day, and now I am so worried. So scared. I hardly even know how to pray.

She looks more intensely……

I don’t know what to do. Would you please pray? Do you have any words? I don’t even know what to say.

He hesitates trying to say the right words.

And then she, with anger and more urgency…….

Please hurry! Cry out to God now! I cannot feel her kick and it is scaring me to death!

My precious baby might be gone forever, even before she takes her first breath.

Daddy wants to make sure, so he walks toward mommy, eyes welling with tears,
He remains silent, not knowing what to say, as he ponders the worst of all his fears.

But mommy is the one carrying the tiny life within; her heart is breaking. So he says……

Sweetie, are you weeping?

Softly muttering to her…….

Please relax and lie down for a moment. Let me feel your belly while I pray. Perhaps the baby is only sleeping.

He reaches down, placing his hand gently on mommy’s tummy, hoping somehow she is mistaken,
He wants so badly to feel the baby kick, but it never happens. And now he is totally shaken.

He tries to be brave, pretending he has it all together. But he doesn’t. His life is being shattered.
Their little girl is not moving, and he has this sinking feeling……..

We cannot lose her. She is all that ever mattered.

Then, you race to the hospital, barely able to focus, hoping it is all just a false alarm,
That there really is no problem, that your baby has experienced no real physical harm.

Nothing else matters to you; all you want is for your baby to kick, as you hope and pray….

Oh Lord Jesus, please give us a miracle!

But with every passing moment, as your worst fears are confirmed, mommy says….

Help me! I’m going to go hysterical!

The time has come. You have finally arrived at the doctor. It felt like an eternity waiting.
You tell them there is no kicking, no energy, no signs of life; you feel like hope is fading.

Mommy and daddy, restless, tired and stressed; mommy is even very sick and exhausted, and just feeling very crummy.
But that doesn’t matter to her. All she thinks is…….

‘Why is this happening? Why this horror? Is there any life in my tummy?’

But she already knows the answer, as the doctors must only confirm the horrible thing she already knows.
Mommies know before daddies, but daddies hurt too; there is no pain like losing a baby, as the saying goes.
Mommies have to carry a dead baby, and then deliver a dead baby. Unfathomable pain.
So when babies stop kicking, mommies know. But they are certainly never to blame.

When mommies awaken startled, they always know.

They always know.

________________________________________________________________

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

10 Things Parents of Stillborn Babies Want You To Know (Part 3): Please Use Our Baby’s Name

 

As she exits her car on a gorgeous summer day, you notice her immediately. “Hey, it’s that girl from work!!” says that little voice in your head. And as you inch ever closer to your car after a quick shopping spree, you now see her approaching you. She makes direct eye contact. “WOW!!” you think to yourself. Standing about 20 yards away from you is your biggest office crush! She looks so amazing that you feel like you could almost pass out. In the moment, you are thinking about how often you have interacted with her in the company break room……….laughing, joking around, telling stories, even a bit of harmless teasing. She is the girl that you dread to ever say something stupid around, or offend in any way. She loves Jesus. She talks to you about church all the time. You’ve even discussed Bible passages with her. She never talks about a boyfriend. And you haven’t seen a ring on her finger either. You are certain that she is “the one.” And, to top it all off………..the proverbial icing on the cake……… she just so happens to be ultra cute! You’ve thought about asking her out, but just haven’t found the right words yet (i.e. you are too scared to act). And now, this startling reality hits without warning: you are going to cross paths with her on the way back to your car, and there is no way to avoid it.

As she moves closer, you smile at her (probably a goofy one), so as to be friendly and lower her defenses a bit. Your heart starts thumping like you’re in Spain running with the bulls. The sheer magnitude of the moment is getting to you. After all, you have been praying for a godly wife, and now you think this might be a sign from God that she is the one. “How can I impress her?!” “What can I say when she approaches me??”

She smiles back as she recognizes you, totally clueless as to how nervous you are. But soon, you are going to have to………GULP………say something to her. She waves at you. You politely wave back, with your hand trembling profusely. This is not your average “I ran into someone today” kind of moment. This one is a big deal! You don’t want to screw up. So, you decide to just keep it simple. Your brain is screaming to you, “Just say ‘Hello’, followed by her name!!” That’s it. I’m a genius! Simple, but effective. It’s a cakewalk. She will just love it. You become overconfident. You start thinking about how important it is to remember people’s names, and how it’ll show her your amazing ability to remember the important details. Phhheeeewwww!! No problem, right? I mean, what could possibly go wrong now?? Like you said………cakewalk.

……………..

As we continue with part 3 of my series on ministering to parents of stillborn babies, I tackle the all-important topic of names. Just how much does it matter to a parent to hear the name of their baby spoken? Even if, and especially if, their baby is dead. And why does it matter so much in the first place? Let’s find out together……

Parents of stillborn babies want you to know………..

 

#3 We want you to use our baby’s name as much as possible. It is like beautiful music being played in our ears.

 

Tina, Tish, or Tricia??

Our parking lot friend (we’ll call him ‘Clueless Guy’ for now) is now just seconds away from his big moment with the office cutie.

She finally approaches him…….

Cute Girl From Work: Hey John! How are you?

Clueless Guy: Ummm….good…..good”

(your brain now frantically working in overdrive……….Tina????? NO. Wait……Tish????? NO. OH NO. God help me!!)

Then you try to stall her for a moment as you stutter through the next sentence……

Clueless Guy: Yeah, umm, I’m just- uhhh- getting some, ya know, shopping done.

(Brain still pacing crazy fast as you think to yourself…….is it Tricia???? YES, YES, That’s it!! Or wait, is it?? AARRGGHHH!!! I have to take a chance!! Right?? After all, she used my name. And I just know it’s Tricia anyway. I got this one. Thank you Lord!)

In the meantime, she is still awkwardly and patiently awaiting your next piece of conversational genius. As you look into the beautiful eyes of your hopefully future wife, you say…….

“Sooo……..how are you? And it’s…… Tricia, right?”

And just that quick, it is over. You feel so relieved! Time for a fist pump!

Until that is……..she answers you.

“Oh, I’m doing ok as well, but actually, my name is Tasha, not Tricia.”

Oops.

<painfully awkward silence>

<pin is heard dropping>

Way to make an impression dude. Since she is a Christian, hopefully she forgives you. Just don’t say “Tricia” again when you see her in the break room Monday morning. That could be her breaking point. And you may want to wait before asking her out on that first date. Oh what pain we needlessly put ourselves through sometimes!

————-

So What’s the Big Deal?

While the above “boy meets girl” scenario is fictitious and maybe even a bit exaggerated, some guys can probably relate to the terror. But the story is meant to demonstrate something very obvious. And it is this: What a pleasant sound it is to hear our name spoken………correctly! We expect it. We delight in it. Our name has great meaning to us, and the people we love. We often take it for granted when someone simply speaks our name. And when they don’t, we notice. And for good reason. We carry our names with us our entire lives. They automatically go with us wherever we go. They stay with us at every stage of life. They don’t change even when we change. We have heard it spoken so many times that, well, we just get used to it.

We are told to use people’s names often, especially for really important things. For job interviews, we are told to remember the interviewers name, and then repeat it back when shaking hands. On a first date, we are told to use his or her name a lot, sprinkling it through the conversation whenever possible. It shows that you are thinking about them, and not so much about yourself. When I gave my wedding vows, they had me repeat this phrase, “I, Jamie, take you, Leah, to be my lawfully wedded wife, etc.” And that is no accident either. Names have great meaning. And we can’t even escape them when we die. They show up on our tombstone. And in the memories of our loved ones, either for good or bad.

Happens to All of Us

All of us have trouble remembering others’ names from time to time. For example, we run into an old friend eating at the local Starbucks, and we cannot remember their name. So we just say “hello”, hoping they don’t notice our ignorance. And then, we go home racking our brains, trying to remember who they are. We go on a scavenger hunt with Facebook, looking to see if one of our friends is also friends with them. We ask other people who may also know this person. “Hey, do you remember ‘what’s his name’ from our flag football team? Ya know, the tall guy who could never hold onto a pass?! I saw him today at Starbucks! Do you remember his name? It’s driving me crazy!!” Or we see the same new person at church 5 weeks in a row, and it seems like every week we keep asking them the same question, “I’m sorry, I know we’ve already spoken a few times, but what is your name again?” We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Sometimes we just plain forget. It happens. Other times, we have simply failed to do our homework, and neglected to commit their name to our memory.

 

It is Like Music to Our Ears

The famous author Dale Carnegie once wrote, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Strong statement indeed. And there is some truth to what Carnegie is saying here. Yes, there is a sense in which hearing our own name is like music to our ears. We feel appreciative that someone took the time to learn it. We feel like people really care about us when they say our name, don’t we? We feel a deeper connection with them. The relationship moves from arms length to an all-out embrace. Lasting bonds of love are sparked with the simple use of someone’s name. Hearing our name spoken can turn a somewhat detached relationship into something more personal. Or a sour relationship into something sweet. Or it can even be the seed of a beautiful, romantic relationship eventually leading to marriage.

Going back to our story above (clueless guy in parking lot), think about how he must’ve felt when she remembered his name. And conversely, think about how she must’ve felt when he forgot her name! As our romantic feelings grow for someone, we cannot stop thinking about their name. We can’t wait to see them and say it back to them. And we can’t wait for them to speak our own name to us. This is the way it normally works. Our ladies man above, John, just happened to really mess things up. But that brings up a great point: If it’s important for a man to know (and speak) the name of a girl he is interested in, isn’t it safe to assume that parents delight even more in hearing the name of their baby boy or girl, whether dead or alive?

More Than a Statistic

Without the “name” dynamic in our relationships, we feel more like a statistic instead of a person. We feel more like an inanimate object instead of a person to be loved and respected. And who in their right mind wants that?! We are not to be treated like prisoners standing in a line holding a number. We are created to exist relationally with others, and part of that relationship involves the ongoing speaking of our names. Have you ever been somewhere and felt like you were just taking up space……….merely existing, and nobody noticed you? Horrible, isn’t it? And often times, just simply hearing someone call your name will cut through all of that perceived rejection.

So think about this for a moment. If it hurts us to feel like a statistic, imagine how a parent who has lost a baby feels when no one will use their baby’s name. We feel like our baby is being dishonored. We feel like no one understands our pain. And worse, we feel like people don’t care about our baby’s precious memory. Parents of stillborn babies especially have problems with this. Because very few people ever got to see their baby, those who did not rarely take the time to ask questions about the baby……i.e. their name, what they looked like, etc. Sometimes others will- albeit unintentionally- make our babies feel so impersonal. This kind of behavior just adds pain on top of pain.

Keeping Their Memory Alive

In my view, Dale Carnegie isn’t quite right when he says that a person’s own name is the sweetest sound for them to hear. He doesn’t completely capture the essence. For those who have lost babies or a child of any age for that matter, hearing the name of our little one is far more precious than hearing our own name. And I suspect that any parent would say this about their own children, whether or not their child is dead or alive. Compared to our own name, we would rather hear our baby’s name 100 times over. Why? Because our baby’s name is lovely to us, and brings back precious memories. Hearing their name paints an immediate picture of them in our minds. The way they looked when they came out of the womb……the color of their hair and eyes……..the collapsed skull……..the redness of their lips. The hugs. The cries. All of the pain. Yes, these are tragic memories for those of us grieving, but they are precious nonetheless. They are memories we never, ever want to forget. They are all we have on this side of heaven.

 

Related image

Reflex Reaction

When I hear the name of my baby girl Ariana, it’s like a reflex. I don’t have to force myself to conjure up the past. Everything just comes flooding back with the mere mention of her name. It’s like when a doctor tests your reflexes. He can poke all these different areas of your knee, and you have no reaction whatsoever. But then, he hits that one spot, and your leg springs out at warp speed. You can’t control it. I might hear a hundred names every single day. Some of them will produce no emotion, and some will produce minimal. It all depends on the type of relationship I had with a person of the same name. But a child-parent relationship? Priceless. Absolutely priceless. For me, there’s always that one name that will capture my heart every time. And when people say “Ariana”, it sounds like this to me….. ARRR-EEEE-AAAHHHNNN-UUUHHH. It probably sounds slower to me when I hear it. Slower than it is typically pronounced. It’s because I am attempting to savor the moment. For those of you who are parents of stillborn babies, you know what I am talking about. What name brings you such priceless joy?

And when you hear that name, it’s like being transported back in time, isn’t it? You can almost feel like you are in the delivery room again, staring at and holding your baby. I am not talking about some weird, mystical experience here. It’s just that the emotion of thinking about it can be so powerful sometimes. It was over 15 years ago for me, and I can still vividly remember so many things about that day. And all of it can be triggered by hearing the name “Ariana.” I don’t even have to work hard at it. The floodgates are wide open,  producing memories that I cannot imagine living without. I don’t ever want to forget that precious little girl. And neither does any other parent of a stillborn baby. If I ever lose my mind to old age or disease, I pray that I never forget even one single memory of her.

Poet Jessica Blade captured this feeling quite well when she penned these beautiful words……..

I wrote your name in the sky,
but the wind blew it away.
I wrote your name in the sand,
but the waves washed it away.
I wrote your name in my heart,
and forever it will stay.

Conclusion

Most of us love to hear our name spoken. It isn’t being prideful. It is how we are created. God created us to respond to names. So when parents hear the name of their baby spoken out loud, we understand that great significance is being attached to our precious little one. To be sure, the name itself isn’t what gives our babies value. Their value comes from God Almighty, being created in His image and likeness. But using their name is one way of acknowledging the value they already have.

Hearing our baby’s name reminds us the love that is already in our hearts. It doesn’t create the love. Hearing it spoken can never hurt us, but only help us. Sure, it may bring tears. It may bring sadness. But that is part of the grieving process, a process which never ends on this side of heaven. We know that joy awaits those of us who are trusting in Jesus!

And believe me, if we could hear the greatest concerto the world has ever known, it would never come close to the feeling we get when we hear the name of our precious little one. Our babies have a name. And we love their name, because it reminds us of them. Our babies are more than just a statistic. They are more than just a Birth Certificate with some numbers attached to it. They are more than just a distant memory.

They are a body and soul created to live forever and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, the Name above all names.

_________________________________________________________________

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Most Disturbing Violation of a Grandmother’s Freedom of Religion

 

Image result for barronelle stutzman images

 

They’re going hard after the home and personal savings of a kind, lovable, 72 year old grandmother. If that sentence doesn’t bother you, you may want to check the spiritual condition of your heart……..immediately. I would hate for you to pass from this life into the next with that kind of evidence against your soul. As a Christian, I am shaken to the core when I hear stories about my brothers and sisters being persecuted. And yes, I am going to use the word persecution here. The mental anguish being placed upon this woman, and her family, is contemptible. Even if you aren’t a Christian, just plain common decency should cause you to outrage against this. Personally, I didn’t think I would ever live to see the Constitution despised so badly as it is now. Let’s face it. Our nation can’t sink much lower than this. And apart from a miracle of God, it appears like things will only get worse. Michael Brown, host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program, says it is time for Christians to wake up, and stand against the tyranny of the age.

Counting the Cost

Back in 2013, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and the ACLU (along with 2 gay men) were the instigators of an ongoing injustice against Barronelle Stutzman, the owner of a small town shop called Arlene’s Flowers. And these people are relentless. They will not stop until this wonderful Christian grandmother is severely punished. And all of this because she loves Jesus, believes His Word, and desires to live her life according to His Word. Even when she is working. Even when it could cost her everything. Yes, I know. Sheds a different light on everything, doesn’t it? Not something you will hear from Hollywood or the liberal media. Don’t let them brainwash you about this case. Barronelle did absolutely nothing wrong.

The Court is Now Complicit

Just recently, in a highly anticipated ruling, the Washington Supreme Court is now an accomplice to Bob Ferguson’s diabolical schemes. They failed to uphold our precious First Amendment, which has been an important staple of the U.S. Constitution for centuries. An Amendment that much blood, sweat, and tears has been spilled over. And now, in the 21st century, everything has changed for the worst. An Attorney General can suddenly, and without warning, dictate his power to go after a 72 year old grandmother who did absolutely nothing wrong. Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. He disagrees with her conscience, and he believes he has the authority to dictate his own conscience upon others. And that is exactly what he, the ACLU, and now the Washington Supreme Court have all done. And worst of all, they are doing all of this to a 72 year old grandmother. Scripture has something to say about this:

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2…..emphasis mine)

Catch that? Treat older women as mothers. That is a direct command from God. I wonder if the individuals who are going after Barronelle’s assets would ever treat their own mother the same way? According to Scripture, that honor is to be shown to every woman who is older. To be sure, what the Washington State Supreme Court did is wrong, regardless of the fact Barronelle is a grandmother. But the fact that she is a grandmother just makes the whole thing even more heinous.

Also, I seem to remember Jesus condemning men who devour widow’s houses (Mark 12). Barronelle Stutzman is not a widow. But I sure wouldn’t want to stand before God having devoured the home of a dear, sweet, elderly, married woman. Jesus doesn’t give you a free pass if the woman is not a widow. In fact, now you would be devouring the home of both a wife and her husband. You’re putting two people on the streets instead of one. It isn’t safe to play games with Holy Scripture. You’ve been warned. 

How Did Things Come to This?

Attorney General Ferguson got the ball rolling when he went after Barronelle, a woman who has a history of both serving and hiring gay people. Do not let that last sentence pass through your brain without locking it in. Barronelle has a long history of both serving and hiring gay people. But when Ferguson found out through Facebook that she would not arrange flowers for the wedding of two gay men, he stepped way over the line and abused his power. No formal complaint had even been registered at this point. But because Ferguson didn’t like what he heard, he took it upon himself to make sure that everyone agrees with him. And if you don’t, you’re in deep trouble. He will come after you! This ought to deeply trouble anyone who loves freedom, and believes in our First Amendment rights.

Discrimination Properly Defined

According to the Oxford Dictionary, discrimination can be defined as “the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.” For purposes of this article, you can go ahead and throw “sexual orientation” into that definition. Because that is the accusation, isn’t it? That Barronelle discriminated against two men because of their sexual orientation? Ummm…………..no. She didn’t. In fact, she had a great relationship with them, and served them for around 9 years or so. Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Special Occasions, you name it. As much as Barronelle loves flowers, she loves people more. For her, it is always about the people- first and foremost. That is the very reason Robert Ingersoll and his partner Curt Freed decided to go to her in the first place. They claimed it was their favorite flower shop. Why? Because again, for Barronelle, it is about the people. And they know it. She runs her flower shop with love for God, and love for others. The two always go hand in hand.

In the Bible, we are taught to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). But sometimes, even when you do this, people get frustrated with you. They attack you. They seek to destroy you. Not necessarily physically (as in the present case), but emotionally and financially. That is what is happening to this small town flower shop owner. I don’t need to spill much ink on this one. It has been explained over and over again. But just in case you need a refresher, or you’re new to this story, here it is: Barronelle did not discriminate against two gay men. But she could not, in good conscience and in obedience to the Word of God, use her God-given time and creative abilities to arrange flowers for a ceremony that Jesus Christ clearly condemns. Look at the italicized words again: men and ceremony. Or should I say men, as opposed to, ceremony. Not hard to understand. Really, it isn’t. And yet, how many times have I heard the liberal media continue to say that she “discriminated against them because they were gay.” Despicable lies told against this sweet woman should make people ashamed of themselves.

An Unthinkable Ruling

Even as notoriously liberal as Washington State is, this ruling is still unthinkable. In fact, there are three words that come to mind when I think about this recent decision: disturbing, deplorable, and terrifying. But you could also throw in despicable, vile, hateful, ignorant, sinister, and just plain nasty. Make no mistake about it. Of all the ways Christians have suffered under the ever-rising leftist agenda of this country, Barronelle Stutzman has, in my view, endured the worst of the ugliness. It is hard to imagine that anyone who values freedom could be happy with this decision.  Between the lawsuits from the Attorney General and the ACLU, she stands to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. And possibly even her home. The Attorney General isn’t just going after her business, he is going after her. Denny Burk, Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, had this to say:

Barronelle Stutzman’s case is nothing less than an egregious violation of our first freedom. It is Caesar saying, “Conscience be damned. Submit to the new sexual orthodoxy or risk losing everything.”
This is not tolerance. This is injustice that flies in the face of this nation’s laws and traditions. And if this kind of thing can be done to a 70-year-old grandmother running a small flower shop in rural Washington State, then it can be done to you. No one’s conscience is safe if this precedent becomes the norm.

Well, Caesar, I got news for you. Barronelle Stutzman’s conscience won’t be damned for you, or anyone else! Just like Martin Luther, she knows that “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”

A New Level of Hatred

So what exactly is going on here? Is this just extreme fearmongering? Are Christians exaggerating the severity of this problem? Rod Dreher, blogger at The American Conservative, doesn’t think so. Here is a direct quote of his from a recent article about the dangerous consequences of the Stutzman ruling.

When the might of the State of Washington and the American Civil Liberties Union comes down on the head of a gentle, grandmotherly, small-town florist, and seeks her ruin for declining to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, you know that we are dealing with a bottomless well of hatred.

I couldn’t agree more with Dreher. The word “gentle” really catches my eye more than anything. Barronelle clearly loved Robert Ingersoll and Curt Freed, the two men who asked her to arrange flowers for their wedding. If you have any doubt about Barronelle’s sweet, gentle demeanor, and the love she has for these men, then I suggest you listen to her own words. After seeing that video, and how kind and tenderhearted she really is, you will see even more clearly how deep the hatred is. And here’s the really scary part: It is not hatred primarily against Barronelle, conservatives, or even Christians in general. It is hatred against the Lord of glory. It is hatred expressed against Jesus Christ and His glorious, infallible Word. Ultimately, Washington State and the ACLU will answer to Him.

Where is the Outrage?

I thought the progressive left was all about standing up for the marginalized. So then I ask, where are you? A grandmother could possibly lose her home and all of her savings, and yet you have nothing to say. No protest for Barronelle? Oh, wait, I forgot. Unless the person agrees with you on all of your worldview and political ideologies, then they are not worth protesting for I guess. Wow. Talk about insanity. It’s really interesting how the left portray themselves as being so loving and so compassionate, especially to those who are marginalized or persecuted. But yet they are out for blood when it comes to a 72 year old Christian grandmother who is simply trying to make a living, doing what she loves to do. A woman who is simply operating her own private business to the best of her ability, and according to what God has declared in His Word.

Then again, the left has never had much respect for the truly marginalized. For the last 44 years since Roe v Wade, they have supported the murder of the most vulnerable and marginalized of all human beings. Why should Barronelle Stutzman, or anyone else, get any better treatment? And that makes me wonder about something………. In fact, a question to all you progressive, left leaning individuals out there……….

What about all those immigrants you claim to love? What if they tried to enter this country holding signs that said “MARRIAGE IS BETWEEN ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN”? Would you still be protesting for them? Would you let them in??? 

Conclusion

This case may go to the Supreme Court. I don’t know how promising that is considering the landmark ruling two years ago which legalized gay marriage. But I do hope they at least take her case. It’s something we ought to be praying fervently for. Not only for our dear sister in Christ and her family, but for the future of our First Amendment right to exercise our freedom of religion. Also be praying for the wonderful group who are taking up her cause, the Alliance Defending Freedom.

Barronelle is suffering from a great deal of anxiety over all of this. And understandably so. And if our dear sister ever happened to read this, I would remind her of what Jesus said about the lilies of the field.

And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:27-29)

Something tells me she gets more out of that verse than most people do.

In lieu of flowers, please donate to Barronelle here.

_________________________________________________________________

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-:

10 Things Parents of Stillborn Babies Want You To Know (Part 2): We Love Our Babies

 

Most of us get goosebumps when we think about “love at first sight.” We get excited at the very thought of it. For those of us who are married, we might think of our own story as reflecting some level of love at first sight. For those who are single, you have probably  imagined what it would be like if it really happened to you. Scenes like this one from West Side Story give us that classic “Awwwww………I need tissues” kind of moment. Many women (and even some men) could watch the scene over and over again without ever getting bored. And while I don’t doubt that first meetings like Tony and Maria ever happen, I would say that such moments are pretty rare! But it definitely makes for swooning female crushes, and great box office sales. We love to be entertained. We love to see man and woman “fall in love.”

Everything changes when we’re at the movies. We are so easily fascinated. So easily mesmerized. Certain moments seem timeless to us. They lift us up, and make us feel good. We allow the movie industry to create some of the craziest plot lines, as long as the story makes us feel good. We’ll give any story the benefit of the doubt when we’re with our family, enjoying our overly buttered and overly priced popcorn. Even when the story is nothing more than………yes, you guessed it………fiction. And especially when it’s a love story.

But do we give the same allowance to people who are living real stories that don’t come with makeup, perfect lighting, and a lucrative script? 

As I continue through this series on how to minister to parents of stillborn babies, we enter into the ever popular, but often misunderstood, topic of love. To help you keep up with my train of thought, I recommend that you read through the introduction and part 1. For this post, I’ve decided to combine points #2 and #4. They go hand in hand with one another, and it makes sense to condense them into one overall point.

Parents of stillborn babies want you to know…………

 

#2 We want you to know that we love our babies as much as any other parent loves their own children.

and…………

#4 Just because we had only a very short time to bond with our baby (our lifeless baby), this does not make the grieving process easier. In some ways, it makes things harder.

 

The Wisdom of Moving Slowly

Because of our infatuation with “love at first sight”, Hollywood has always heavily marketed the far-fetched romance movie. But in the real world, most people believe the opposite of what these movies typically reveal to us. Most believe that you cannot simply love someone that quickly. And for good reason. It takes time to get to know someone, and consequently, to properly love and receive love from them. It is usually unwise, and in some cases unsafe, to give your heart to someone you just saw for the first time. When it comes to dating and marriage, we obviously need to be wise. We should try not to become emotionally attached so quickly. In fact, it may be more loving to the other person to slow things down. You don’t want to give them any wrong impression. And you certainly don’t want to hurt them, or yourself for that matter.

Context Is Everything

The problem is when we take a general principle (i.e. like dating) and make it binding on every type of life experience. Romantic love works much differently than parental affection. If we confuse the two, it can be disheartening and very frustrating to parents of stillborn babies. Why? Because then we would be insensitive to the fact that parents love their babies inherently. We don’t need to ‘get to know’ them for a specific period of time in order to have deep affection for them. If you make this assumption about parents who either miscarry, or have a stillborn baby, you squelch the love they have for their babies. Ironically, such thinking would be anything but loving to these hurting moms and dads.

Generally speaking, love does require a lot of time spent with another person. Talking to, and listening to, that person repeatedly, and seeking to do them good whenever possible.  Without sufficient time and conversation, learning about someone’s deepest pain, it is hard to have compassion for and meet their needs. Without sacrificing for another, you haven’t really loved them. Without seeking their interest over your own, you haven’t really loved them. This can apply to marriage, friendships, parenting, and church life. But is this principle always true? Can you still have a heartfelt affection for someone, with a desire to help them if you could, even if you never have the chance to put your affection into action?

Let me go further here…….

Does this mean that we cannot love someone unless we have spent months and years of quality time with them? Should we only sacrifice ourselves for someone we know very well, and have spoken to many times? Does heartfelt affection, which would sacrifice anything for the well-being of another, require you to have a specific kind of relationship with that person? What if we never met that person before? Could we still love them? What if our only relationship with them was while they were still alive inside the womb, but not after they were born? Does this change the level of love we have for that person, simply because our time together was cut short? Do we need to see them alive in order to love them?

How Much Time Does Love Require?

Beckie Lindsey has written a tremendous post on how God wants us to love others. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

I asked God how He wants me to represent love. His answer: The way my Son loves is the way you are to love.

That says it all, doesn’t it? Always seeking the well-being of others, even to His own detriment. That is Jesus. And of course, this kind of love took time……and exhaustion……..and effort……….and agony………and the shedding of His own precious blood. And we are called to model, as best we can by the grace of God, this kind of love.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” ~ Jesus Christ (John 13:34)

When Jesus walked this earth, notice how he always loved and had compassion on others. And in many cases, these were others that He just met. He didn’t require a ‘getting to know you’ period as a requirement to love them. Christ displayed both heartfelt compassion and sacrificial deeds for others. Time was obviously required to perform the good deeds, but the compassion was there from the start. Christ felt genuine affection for these people immediately. Compassion emanates from Jesus naturally.

Parents naturally have compassion for their babies. This is a God-given affection. It is automatic, and nothing can stand in its way. And there is no limit to how much you would do for them if given the chance. The only thing that separates parents who have lost stillborn babies to other parents is that they lacked the opportunity to care for their babies  outside the womb. That opportunity died with the baby. That is the difference. The affection is there, and it is not lacking.  My baby Ariana didn’t have to do anything to make me have affection for her. She didn’t have to do anything for me to want her to live again. She didn’t have to earn my love. And no one had to teach me how to grieve for her. It came naturally, because the affection for her was there from the start. Parents of stillborn babies do not lack the affection that other parents have for their babies. And if they could, if they had the opportunity, they would do a million good deeds for them………..just to hear one single cry, or see one beautiful smile.

The Good Samaritan

In the article “Love Trumps Everything” (referenced above), Beckie then goes on to talk about a story we are very familiar with. The Parable of the Good Samaritan. She emphasizes how Christ teaches us that everyone we come in contact with is a neighbor to us. There are no escape clauses in Scripture. We are to love everyone sacrificially, even our enemies.

I believe the Good Samaritan parable can also teach us something about our topic of stillborn babies. It is not an application that the author of Scripture intended, but there is an argument from the lesser to greater that helps us here. Before I make the point, here is the story as spoken by Jesus Christ:

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37)

As most of you know, it is a historical fact that Jews and Samaritans hated one another. The fact that this man- this Samaritan man- would risk life and limb for a Jew was unheard of. This is precisely why Jesus uses him as our example, teaching us to love our enemies. Those whom we least feel like helping, we are commanded to help. That is real, self-sacrificing love. That kind of love is unnatural to us. It is the kind of love that only the Holy Spirit can produce.

What the Parable Can Teach Us

So how does this parable relate to parents of stillborn babies? Think of it this way. The Samaritan had never met the man who was attacked by robbers. Not only had he never met him, but the man was a Jew. A man whom the Samaritan was taught from his earliest days to hate, and avoid at all cost. And yet, even knowing both of these things, the Samaritan had compassion on and loved the man. So here’s the point.………..If a Samaritan has compassion on a man he was taught to hate…… If a Samaritan places his own life in danger to help such a man………. If he provides for and cares for him when a Levite and Priest would not………And if he goes out of his way to help a man he doesn’t feel like helping………..How much more then does a parent of a stillborn feel affection for their own baby? How much more do we wish to see our baby come back alive? How much more do we grieve over their bruised bodies? For the Samaritan, having affection for a Jew was totally unnatural to him- even repugnant. But for the parent of a stillborn baby, all of these loving affections come naturally.

The Samaritan did not have to spend a lot of time with the beaten and bloodied man in order to feel compassion for him. Time spent was not a requirement for him to have love for the Jew. And if that’s the case, then neither would time be required for a mother and father to love their own precious, biological, lifeless, fearfully and wonderfully made baby boy or girl.

Why Give More Slack to Hollywood?

Some of us are not as lenient with people we know as we are with Hollywood. In the scene from West Side Story, we give them kudos when a man goes gaga over a cute girl on a dance floor. I realize that this example relates to a romantic ‘high’ between a man and a woman, and not a compassionate type of love. That type of reaction is mostly based on physical attraction. But that makes my point even more. Many believe that losing a stillborn baby does not bring the same kind of emotion as other life situations can bring. Think about this for a moment. If you accept that people can shed tears over a romantic movie scene, how much more should you empathize with parents who are painfully grieving?

There is nothing wrong or sinful about starry-eyed men seeing a cute girl, and feeling like his whole world is just beginning. At the same time, parents of stillborn babies want you to know something: We want you to accept that we once looked into the beautiful eyes of a dead baby boy or girl, and our whole world felt like it ended. All we ask is that the same allowance you give to Hollywood to experience deep emotions, you also give to us. We need your tears as well. And we need your compassionate words and prayers to deal with our pain. When you make assumptions about how a family should feel in their grief, you do them a great disservice.

We love our babies. Always have, always will. Our longing for them did not die with them, regardless of how little time we had with them. If the amount of time spent with someone were the only factor in having affection, then we will cut short the love others need from us. And in the process, we will grieve the Spirit of God. Don’t allow yourself to believe the lie that a lack of time equals a lack of affection. How many hours, days, or months did this girl spend with her mother before their meeting? None. Now go back and watch the last couple minutes of the clip. Really, I mean watch it. Now…….. that’s what a reunion might look like for a parent and their stillborn baby!

The Hypocritical Husband

We must look at each situation carefully, in its own context. For example, if a husband willfully chooses not to spend time with his wife, he is being neglectful and unloving. If he is constantly choosing his friends, hobbies, and even other family members over his wife, he has not loved her. If he neglects her needs and never sacrifices his own comfort for her sake, he has not loved her. And any “affection” he shows for her is going to be seen as a sham. She will sniff out his motives like a highly trained K-9. For him to behave in such a way brings shame upon himself and anyone who condones such behavior.

On the other hand, to make time the deciding factor when it comes to loving someone does a great deal of damage. If we believe that time is an absolutely necessary component of love, then we have judged wrongly. Why? Because then we assume that love is determined by a specific set of circumstances. In other words, something outside of us as opposed to something inside of us. Look again at the husband in the above paragraph. Time did not produce genuine affection for his wife. And it certainly didn’t bring forth a pattern of good deeds. Even the good things he did were ultimately self-serving. Time didn’t make him get better. Only God can do that. Do not attribute to time something that only the Creator of time can do. Apart from the grace of God, such a man may continue to get worse over time. Time was no helper to him.

Looking to God for Help

The kind of thinking that places time limits on love distorts the true meaning of love. It places barriers in front of it. Love is much more diverse. We can’t pigeonhole it. To do so would be an insult to Jesus Christ our Savior, who is the full embodiment of love. The Bible shows Him loving people He knew well. And it also shows Him loving people He had only known for seconds. Parents of stillborn babies know all too well that love cannot be based solely on any one person’s experience. Let’s learn about love from God, not Hollywood.

The fact that your baby dies before leaving the mother’s womb, or while on the way out, is no consolation. The fact that you did not hear your baby cry, or coo, does not cushion the blow. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you love your baby any less. It means you are a grieving parent, who is hurting deeper than most people probably know. But I do know that God is the One you can always turn to. He knows how much you are hurting. And He knows how much you love your baby, even when others have no clue. If you are hurting, go to Him and pray that He would bring you comfort in all of your messy pain. And in all of your frustration at the lack of understanding you receive. The One who forgives sins is able and willing to do it.

A Many Splendored Thing

Hollywood once got close to a good definition of love. They said that Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing. The problem is that the many splendors of “Hollywood love” usually involve one night stands, getting drunk, and girls wearing flirty clothing. Perhaps if Hollywood showed an exhausted  mother lying on a delivery room bed wearing a hospital gown as much as they showed a villainess wearing spandex, real love would be seen. Perhaps if they showed more bruised and lifeless baby faces with blood red lips in the arms of a caring nurse, real love would be seen. Perhaps if they let you hear the sounds of a mother and father wailing over the loss of their baby, whom they can only hold just one time, real love would be seen. Now this would be one messy, but beautiful, movie.

But of course, not many people would pay to go see it, would they? Grieving parents, churches helping suffering people, baby funerals, and really messy lives. Nope. Not much there to make a buck off of. No swooning females. No West Side Story moments. No box office records. And no Academy Awards. Real love pleases God, but it isn’t always popular.

Conclusion

Time doesn’t cause love to come into the picture. It is no guarantee that love already exists in a given situation, or that it will exist in the future. Time is simply the frame in which the picture of love can be clearly displayed. And in some instances, that frame gives the picture of love a very beautiful holder. Jesus Christ painted the most beautiful picture of love the world has ever seen. We can see the painting written in the words of Holy Scripture. The frame of His love was seen in every one of His words and actions throughout His 33 year life. And ultimately, His time came to an end. The frame wrapped completely around the picture, as it draped over and around a wooden cross for about 6 hours on that Day of days. Those 6 hours are not what made Jesus love us while hanging on the cross. He loved us because of who He is.

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

If time is put to good use, then the frame can only make the picture more beautiful. But for parents of stillborn babies, there wasn’t much time to be had with our baby. Our frame was taken away. And we can never get it back. Unfortunately, time isn’t for sale. You can’t buy that kind of frame at your local store. But God holds the frame of eternity in His hands. And one day, He will make all things new in a Kingdom that cannot be framed with a finite concept of time. It is a Kingdom that lasts forever! To all you parents who have lost babies, there is hope in our Redeemer. Remember, our time here on this earth is temporal. That frame will eventually break apart and will not hold the picture. Time will give way to eternity. However, the picture of love will last forever. How do I know? It is the reason the Apostle Paul calls it the greatest thing. It lasts even beyond faith and hope. It goes on and on and on, forever with our Lord.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. No one ever said anything about the frame.

________________________________________________________________

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you enjoy my articles, you can subscribe to this blog by email. It’s free!  And no spam at all! Simply find the box that says “Stay In Touch!!” and enter your email address. The box will be on your upper right (computer), or bottom part of your screen (phone). I appreciate your support!  (-: