Part of the Family

We have such a blessing in one another. Don’t we? We might fuss and discuss now and then but…

Spending a few days with John and Maggy Dobbs reminided me how wonderful you are. Not to mention reading the dozens and dozens of comments on his blog. Two of our own have been dealt the worst blow of all. Yet, if our common enemy plans on exploiting their pain he will have to fight through thousands of warriors, from around the world, just to get close. Perhaps he’ll be too tired to do anything by the time he reaches them. It’s like two of God’s warriors have fallen in battle (knocked down, not out) and in a dazzling burst of speed a battalion of comrades have encircled them protectively- swords drawn- hearts ready.

None of us can absorb the pain for John and Maggy. Or pray it away. Eventually, in a mystical way we can’t fathom, their hurt will be turned on its head by God Himself. Meanwhile the body of Christ stands hyper-vigilant on their behalf- ready to be of help in other ways. Prayer. Food. Money. Companionship. Prayer. Blog comments. Cards. Calls. Offers of places to get away…

Don’t you love belonging to one another in Jesus? I can’t see how people get by- or choose to get by – without a church family. My wife is a grief counselor for hospice. All of her clients are dying. Many of them have either outlived family or refuse to talk to them. They have no one. No one to mow their lawn. No one to clean their house. No one to bring them food. No one to sit and visit. No one to hold their hand. No one to say goodbye.

What a sad and needless way to die.

I wish there was a way we could a better job of showing the world how beautiful and comforting is the body of Christ. I wish millions of souls now hidden behind negative church experiences could see what John and Maggy have seen in you this week. You are noble. Loving. Supportive. Generous. Listening. Caring. Patient.

Because of Jesus

Blah and other stuff

– Sometimes I can’t tell the difference between not feeling well and being depressed. Such is the case this week. I returned to work today…Amy is out of town…and…

– We got our stimulus check from the gov. today. Amy is out of town so I wonder…

– I’m so blessed to have a friend like John Dobbs. He is an enabler. He enables me to see some good in myself and my gifts. He believes in me…He cheers me on…He invents ways for me to use my gifts. We need more people like him in the kingdom. Ministers can be a strange lot-the gifts they see in other ministers are sometimes seen as a threat. That has never been the case with John. He broadcasts the gifts he sees in others and does all he can to empower them to use their talents to the utmost. Like Jesus would.

–  I want to thank John and Maggy for including me in the service for their son. It wasn’t an honor I expected but one for which I am very grateful. What a gift when a mom and dad ask someone like me to say a few things at their only son’s funeral. I will never forget it.

– Speaking of the funeral- Dusty Rush was awesome. Tender.  Compassionate.  Real.  I wish you could have seen him. He was a true minister to the Dobbs family. Conway is blessed to have him and Crystal.

– I think the service came out as it did because of the man John asked to co-ordinate everything. His name is Al Sturgeon. His gentle, humble spirit set the tone for everyone who spoke.

– I sat between Dusty Rush (cool) and Bill Collins(cool too). Bill, I love you and was glad to see you. Like John you are one of my cheer leaders. Thanks.

– I’m thinking about going on the Jenny Craig Diet. Not that I need to lose weight. It’s just that their new spokesperson, Valerie Bertinelli, has convinced me that I need to be size “lovin’ life.” Like her. Afterall, I do have that stimulus check I’ve gotta spend and I’m thinking that Jenny Craig is probably cheaper than Prozac. I might even have enough money left-over to get Amy a new power tool for “her” next birthday. Which is on May 8th. I mean September 21st.

–  John Dobbs needs to write a book

That Damn Snake.

I doubt this will make much sense to anyone but me.  It’s my way of working through grief.  I’ll de-post it after I work through it.  More than likely it will seem to be gibberish to anyone else.

I said it at John Robert’s funeral and I’ll keep saying it- death sucks. For the living. We just can’t make sense of it. Though we try. Sometimes we say it must have been God’s will. Or it was meant to be. Or God must have needed another angel in heaven (as if the legions He commands aren’t already enough). I don’t believe any of those statements are true. John Robert wasn’t killed because God is some sort of mafia don who put a contract on his head because his time was up. Or because it was His will.

Death sucks for the living because we were not equipped to deal with it. It was never God’s design that we should have to say goodbye to our loved ones. That we must is an aberration. Because death is now a reality we have come to accept it’s pain as normal. It’s actually abnormal in view of God’s original intent (will) when He created us.

Remember- Adam and Eve were free to eat from the tree of life. Although they were flesh and bone they were immortal. As were their John Roberts. The stages of grief would have been as foreign to them as is the concept of immortal mortals is to us.

In the beginning for what, or for whom, did Adam and Eve mourn? Their base of knowledge was wholly limited to their experiences in Paradise. And what God told them. The range of their emotions was confined to what one would feel from perfect provision, perfect creation and perfect trust. They knew nothing beyond this.

But there was that damn snake. And the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And they wanted to be like God. They wanted to know the things God knows. So they ate. And they knew.

Human minds were suddenly burdened by a load they were never meant to bear. The circuitry was quickly overloaded. The simplicity of trust was lost among a jumble of terrible knowledge and confusing what ifs. Now they would share with God His knowledge of infinite possibilities, infinite choices and infinite paths. The human mind is overwhelmed because we were designed to know one path. Trust. In God.

When Cain killed Abel what a shock it must have been for the first parents. They lost two sons. There was nothing in their experience or emotions to remotely prepare them for the death of a child. Heretofore, death had been a knowledge of God matter. Now the human spirit groaned under the strain that came from knowing the deep things of God.

Suppose, for the sake of argument, Adam and Eve never ate the fruit yet Cain still killed Abel. Would they have experienced grief? I think so. With a twist. In this scenario they are not aware of the things God never meant for them to know. They are only aware of what they were created to know and what was given them to know. Their trust in God is complete and perfect. So, when God says, “Abel is in a better place.” or “He isn’t really dead.” Adam and Eve’s response would have flowed from their absolute confidence in God. Their grieving process would have been vaporized by trust. God said it would be okay. God said we would see him again. God said he’s happy. God has never let us down so what’s for supper?

However, they wanted to know as God knows. Consequently, when Abel died that knowledge stole their comfort, robbed their sleep and haunted their days. Like God they were now aware of endless possibilities. Instead of receiving comfort from trust and truth their limited brains strained to understand God things. Such as, “Would he still be alive if we had refused to eat the fruit?” or “What if we had raised them differently?” or “What if I had taken Cain fishing today like I promised?” or “What if I had done this or that differently?” or “What if I had insisted he come home when he called?”

Those questions were introduced into the world of men by their desire to be like God. The road of trust was obscured by myriads and millions of blue and red lines on a map intended for God’s eyes only. I think it’s possible that if the fruit had never been sampled by anyone we wouldn’t even be aware the questions existed to be asked. I think it’s a mercy He pretects us from knowing the answers. That kind of knowledge would cause me to put a bullet in my brain.

Death wasn’t part of the plan. It wasn’t, or isn’t, God’s will for any father or mother to bury their child. If it was I wouldn’t much care for Him. John Robert died because Adam and Eve listened to that damn snake and unleashed a curse from which none of us are immune. John Robert was/is a great person. One of the things I liked/like about him was/is his wit. The guy was/is funny the way I like funny. Flawed? Yes (not anymore). Tempted? No doubt (not anymore). But He dearly loved/loves Jesus Christ. He wasn’t spared from his fate for any of those reasons. Nor was he killed because of them. He died in our realm because it is fallen and bad things happen to good people just as they happen to evil people. If there is to be any meaning in his death it is up to those of us who knew him. Our response to his death is what will empower John Robert to continue his ministry in our world.

Meanwhile how it must grieve the heart of God to see our feeble minds strain under the load of endless possiblities and what ifs. Questions born of having a dim and incomplete awareness of what it is to be like God.

I think mourning is a process in which our minds labor valiantly to reject the deep things of God. Being aware of only a fraction of what God knows prolongs our grief, in a sense, because we never quit wondering what might have happened if another path had been chosen. Grief is one way our original equipment seeks to restore itself. The emotions are striving to reboot our hard drive to its pre-set factory condition. A condition that rejects being like God in favor of trust Him. The heart seeks to purge the mind of stolen knowledge in order to quell the nagging questions. This leads to unconditional acceptance which is exactly the state for which man was designed to cope. Even to prosper.  In this state of non-knowledge when our Heavenly Father tells us our loved one is in a better place we believe Him. And we are comforted. Not to mention happy for those we love.

Perhaps the final stage of grief for a believer is jealousy. As in “Lucky him!”

Going home.

I left Pascagoula this morning and made it as far as Little Rock before I tuckered out. I bet if I was still twenty I could have made it all the way. Oh well. When I got in the car I hit the home button on the GPS I borrowed from Amy. It did such a great job of taking me to Pasacagoula that I sort of didn’t pay any attention to where the silly thing was telling me to go. I was in Cajun country, surrounded by swamps, before I realized the trip home was looking quite different from the trip down. I was so mad at the GPS I wanted to tell “her” to shut-up or I’d find an alligator to shove her in. It didn’t help that I got ticketed in some wayward “town” where the sole source of city income is probably from traffic fines. The GPS probably works for them. I’m sticking to maps from now on.

John Robert’s funeral was awesome. It’s the only funeral I’ve ever been to where there was no sermon. Instead various people took five or ten minutes to say something about John and to console his family. The entire service was over before you realized it. There was such a peace about it I can honestly say I didn’t want it to be over. I’ve never felt that way about a funeral before. One thing I am certain of- John Robert loved it. Present tense because, in reality, he’s more alive than you or me.

When I left the Dobbs late last night I told them that John Robert would come to them in their dreams-in time. Ans I told them he would have new conversations with them- in other words they wouldn’t be reliving old memories. John told me a few minutes ago Maggy has been doing well today. John Robert came to her this morning in a dream. He popped his head in the door, as was his custom when he got home, and told his mother he was fine. He was smiling. He appeared to be happy. He was wearing the shirt he was buried in at four o’clock today.

John Robert I want the next available appointment.

Thursday Night. Pascagoula.

John Robert was loved by many. John stood on his feet for two and a half hours, Maggy sitting beside him, near their sons coffin, as several hundred folks filed by to share their grief. Even in the midst of staggering grief they managed to minister to many of John’s friends. Because John and Maggy are like Jesus.

Out of respect for John Robert the coffin was closed. The coffin itself is beautiful. John told me his son would have liked it. I think he’s right.

John also told me that all of the comments he is receiving on his blog are a “lifeline.” Please know if you’ve left him a comment it matters a lot to a grieving dad. You are ministering to the family, one you may not even know, with your words of comfort. Because you are like Jesus. Keep it up.

I want my Memorial Drive family to know I am sharing your love, sympathy and prayers with John and Maggie.

When you hug your children today please think a special prayer for the Dobbs family.

On the road

I left Tulsa around 4 yesterday. This morning I’m on the Memphis side of Little Rock. God willing I should arrive in Pascagoula this evening. John has posted some links about his sons death on his blog. It is so so sad.

A loss for words.

As you probably know John Robert, son of John and Maggie Dobbs, was killed early Wednesday morning in an accident.  He was only eighteen and was supposed to graduate Friday.  I can’t think of anything to say.  Too sad.  JR and his dad ministered to me in a big way several Summers ago when I wanted nothing more than to remain hidden in embarrassment and depression.  He was my friend.

I’m leaving for Mississippi later today or tomorrow to be with his family.  I’m sure my posts will be slim to none this week.  Please pray for John and Maggie.

craig