What is the worst thing you’ve been told in the earliest stages of grief?

Whether you lost a loved one, a career, or a dream; chances are that some very well-meaning person has said the exact wrong thing.

“They are in a better place!”

“God won’t give you more than you can handle!”

“God must have known that they would need a special​ mom like you!”

They are intended as offerings of kindness and validation but often land like salt in an open wound.  We’ve all lovingly offered, and received, these mostly unhelpful gifts.

The scripture that inspired this week’s prompts is John 11:1-45: the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, a story unique to the Gospel of John.  In it we find the shortest verse in all of the Gospels (and in the entire English translation of the Bible):

Jesus Wept.  (John 11:35)

He wept.  But…Jesus knows he is going to raise Lazarus.  Why is he crying?

There is something about the time that passes between a person’s death and the arrival of the clergy that is difficult to describe.   People start to gather and basic logistics start to form.  In this liminal space you can still remark about the weather, someone’s new blouse, or poke around at some snacks.  But once the Pastor arrives, the gates open.  That grief, momentarily deferred to allow for reinforcement (or maybe an 11th hour miracle), crashes down.  A new reality has come.

This isn’t a time for platitudes.  This is a time for comfort, for empathy and compassion.  And, if it isn’t a time for words at all, it might be a time for weeping.

Mary, Martha and their friends are waiting for Jesus; they know that whatever comes next, he is the gatekeeper.  They are full of questions, as we are when we lose that which we love.  They know that Lazarus will rise again “at the resurrection on the last day” but why did he have to die here and now?  Couldn’t something have been done?  We called on you, Lord.  Where have you been?

They didn’t receive an answer, at least not one that they could understand.  But they saw Jesus weeping and saw how he had loved Lazarus.  They saw how he grieved with them.

Because Jesus knows he is going to raise Lazarus – he absolutely knows.  But we can believe in the ultimate ending, and still cry for how it has to be.

I have seen hearts change for Christ because of how a body of believers responded and consoled them after the loss of a loved one.   I have heard powerful testimonies about how families survived a catastrophic loss of resources because of how a church carried them through the crisis.

The Lord never promised us a life without hardship, but the presence of God and of each other is the reward of a persistent faith.  We weep together. We show up and walk through the darkness together.  We never forget the first responders of love, and their consolation is what turns our test into a testimony of grace.


When my son was little, doors were everything.

Before there were words – before there were songs, before “I love you”, and “ee-i-ee-i-oh”: there were doors.  His love was not discriminating; he loved the doors at Target, the doors to the closets at church and the doors he constructed himself with legos, cards, books or even his own hands.  Anything similar enough to trigger his imagination would do.

If you have known us for a long time you have surely encountered some of Danny’s doors.  If he trusted you enough, you might have even played the game a few times!  It was repetitive – more like a ritual or a ceremony – and it was a lot of fun, if only because it was endlessly delightful to my boy.  The game was complex and methodical in his mind but we understood the only rule that mattered:  only Danny opens the door.

Things became more complicated as he assembled his language skills, but the basics were always the same.  Our job was to knock; he would decide to let us in.

The game evolved into a coping mechanism for Danny as he grew older.  When the world threw unpredictable things at him, he would retreat to the stability of his doors to keep his cool.  Unfortunately, he was far more reluctant to open the door for the world than he had been in his earlier games.   That meant that, though he often seemed like he was present, he was really just peeking through the cracks from the other side of his mind.  He didn’t trust the world, so he was – for all intents and purposes – closed.

I don’t need to tell you that is a difficult way to live.  We wanted his life to be an exchange of hope and possibility, not a cage of his coping.  So we knocked, and we hoped.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…”  Revelation 3:20

Danny’s doors were uniquely his, but the process of working with him to find the key was a spiritual practice for me.  I spent several seasons out on his doorstep, knowing he was looking for me in a place where he had not yet allowed me to go.  I was certain that he was as desperate to know that I was there as I was for an invitation in.  But no matter how much I loved him – no matter how much I ached to comfort him, to know him, to help him:  only Danny opens the door.

And goodness, doesn’t that sound familiar?  Isn’t that how we respond to Jesus sometimes?  We feel isolated, abandoned or ignored but we haven’t done the thing he cant do for us.  We need to open the door.  

If you are feeling closed this season;  if you are feeling alone and unknowable, trapped behind something that once served to keep you safe…consider this your invitation to press your ear to that door and listen.  Love is knocking, right on the other side.

Be opened.  


The cycle begins with strategic planning.

As you determine what crop to grow, one might consider many factors: climate, cost, appetite or even sale potential.

The agricultural cycle moves forward with soil preparation, followed by planting.  Planting is followed by consistent attention and care during the growth season.

Finally, growth is followed by harvesting.

Prepare, Plant, Protect, and Harvest.   So goes the cycle of agriculture; so goes the cycle of life.

I think it is interesting, though, how we readily accept this process as a circle when we apply it to our gardens but so often perceive it as a line when we apply it to our lives.

We know that we need to plant the seeds of this season’s harvest for the soil to bear fruit again.  We know that the harvest is not the end of the story when it comes to flowers, or vegetables.

But in our lives the process can feel more terminal.  After we have carefully chosen to plant what we would desire to reap – after we have so tenderly protected our investments as they’ve grown – isn’t it so tempting to harvest our reward and be done with it?

The concept of harvest is all over the Bible; from literal talk of the riches of the earth to metaphors meant to explain the labor and rewards of our faith.  But I wonder if the most significant message of harvest might be as simple as, “keep going”.

We are not created to live in perpetual harvest.  Harvest is an action, not a destination. It is essential to the fruit you will go on to bear in another season, even if along the way you determine that you need to change the crop.

What are we called to do with what we have sown?   I think that is a question we are called to ask many times in our lives.  The good news is that our God is ready with the answer:

Plant new flowers.

Don’t just grow; grow forward.


“He got this very serious look on his face after I told him, and he said something to me I don’t think I will forget this semester or ever. ‘Charlie, we accept the love we think we deserve.” 

― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower 

What is it that you deserve?

If the adds on my Facebook newsfeed are to be believed, I deserve plenty!  A vacation, a new car, and any number of charming little items from the online window shopping I enjoy indulging in…it’s all on sale!  The algorithm knows what its doing; these adds are trying to get into my head and override rational thought with “oh yeah….I want that…I work hard…I shouldn’t worry about spending extra money because I deserve it!”  

But what about love?  The world isn’t so sure that I deserve that (and would probably like to sell me something that promises to fix that).  

We all long for acceptance and love.  These things may not literally keep us breathing but they are essential to feeling alive.  We are so desperate without love that we try to use the same rules that apply to material things to get it and don’t understand when we fall short.  We get frustrated after working so hard to achieve, we often settle for second best or good enough because we are tired of trying.  We may end up settling for what is easy, but we deserve so much more. 

In our time on Earth we are many things:  parents, leaders, lovers, entrepreneurs.  Sinners and saints.  But God sees us as only one thing:  His beloved child.  (1 John 3:1) We might believe that consciously if we hear it often enough but, even so, many of us struggle to really know it.  Deep down we believe the voices telling us that we’re not enough, that we need to do more and be more to be worthy.

On the surface it feels pretty logical and fair, doesn’t it?  Do the work, reap the reward.  We understand that transaction pretty well; it’s the rhythm of the human world that we live in.  And that line of thinking isn’t entirely wrong;  there are certainly many wonderful milestones that we can reach by doing.   But don’t be fooled:  there is nothing that you can achieve that makes you more or less worthy of the love and grace of God.  

When you feel tempted to settle for less than you deserve – for less than you have already been given – instead of praying for some kind of transformation that you think will make you compatible with something or someone, pray for the ability to see yourself the way that God already does:  a beloved, perfectly imperfect masterpiece; a living miracle of love.

God made you on purpose.  

You do enough,  You are enough. 

Allow yourself to love.  Allow yourself to be loved.