We’re taught to fight for what we want… but to know when to give up. We’re taught to protect ourselves when all looks lost and try to move on. Problem is, these are worldly ways, not God’s ways. And what if all looks really lost, and you begin to grieve and agonize, and question… and it wasn’t lost at all? What an amazing amount of time you would lose in pain and doubt… for no reason!

A good friend reminded me last night, that even if what we think what we heard from the Lord is crazy, unlikely, a stretch, defies all logic… if we walk in obedience, if in that Word we feel we’ve heard, we trust and follow… we will not be put to shame. In fact, our God tends to be a God that doesn’t make sense and does things in weird and unexpected ways. It’s the enemy who likes things fast and simple and will encourage us to stick with our feeble, doubting brains. But how hard it is, to stick with what you think you’ve heard, when nothing around you looks to be headed in the direction in which you expected or hoped. It’s very human to doubt yourself or doubt God. In fact, we have a pretty good list of bible characters that have been in the same boat. Abraham told to sacrifice Isaac? Moses to lead them across the sea that appeared to block their way? Joshua told not to fight, but just to march and worship? I could go on and on. But today I want to focus on Mary of Bethany.

But before I go further, I want to give credit to Kelly Minter, who pointed out to me some nuances in Mary’s life I’d never seen before. Many of these thoughts are my evolution or application of points she made at a retreat last weekend and I always want to give credit where credit is due. Thanks Kelly!

Kelly shared with us some chronology of our dear friend Mary of Bethany. Often because these stories appear in different books, we don’t always understand the order, but it is critical that we do, to understand the growth in Mary’s faith through some real challenges.

    • Martha and Mary – Luke 10:38-42
    • The Death of Lazarus – John 11:1-44
    • Mary Anoints Jesus with Perfume – John 12:1-11

I want to focus on the story of Lazarus. Most know this story. Lazarus is Mary and Martha’s brother. Apart from just loving their brother, culturally, as unmarried women, they were probably highly dependent on him for their care and provision. Lazarus gets sick. It appears he is dying. They send for Jesus, knowing he can help. But Jesus doesn’t come. He stays where he is two more days and then begins his journey to them. He eventually arrives, but by then, Lazarus has already been dead four days.

Kelly pointed out a piece of this passage I never noticed.

“When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home.” (John 11:20). Unless you take this in the context of Mary’s prior interactions with Jesus, you could miss the significance of this small phrase. This is the same Mary that sat at his feet while Martha worked, who wanted to be with him, learn from him. Jesus said “Mary has chosen what is better….” You can infer that if nothing less, she reveres him greatly. Other verses could cause you to believe that she loved him dearly. And yet, when hearing that he was on his way, she stayed home. A little odd maybe?

Starting in v.28, Martha returns to Mary, tells Mary Jesus is asking for her, and Mary goes to Jesus. “When Mary reached the place that Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” She was weeping. It is then just three verses later, when Mary takes Jesus to Lazarus, that we see the famous verse “Jesus wept.” (John 11: 35)

Why did Mary originally stay home? And why did Jesus weep?

Could Mary have simply been too heartbroken and feeling too let down to go see Jesus? She had loved Jesus and listened to him, sat at his feet. She was devoted, obedient, sacrificing… and yet, when she really needed him, he was a no show. “IF YOU HAD BEEN HERE, MY BROTHER WOULD NOT HAVE DIED!” (emphasis mine)  Have you ever felt this way? “God, I feel like I’ve done everything you’ve asked. I’ve listened. I obeyed even when it didn’t make sense, even when it hurt like crazy, even as I felt like I was missing out on things I really wanted. I abandoned so much for you. I trusted you. But then when I really, really needed you, when my heart was breaking and my world falling apart… you didn’t show up.”

If you look at Martha’s reaction, even though she knew Lazarus was dead, she knew Jesus could still pull a rabbit out of the hat. But Mary, she saw it as over. All was lost. And she began to grieve not only the loss of her brother, but the loss of what she believed to be true about Jesus and their relationship.

Her thinking though was premature. It wasn’t over yet. Nothing was lost. In fact, she was about to witness through what Jesus WOULD do, how very much he loved them and that he was indeed willing to do miracles for them. I believe Jesus wept because he was heartbroken to see what he had caused them to go through. He had a plan and it was good. But they couldn’t see. He couldn’t tell them in advance. And the way things looked to them, he’d let them down and they were devastated on many levels.

This has stuck in my head since last weekend and jumped alive to me in even newer ways when talking with my friend last night. I see situations in my life and I think “It’s over. I have to deal with it. Get over it and move on. I was wrong. Or God is mean. But either way, I have no reason to believe this is anything but finished.” And yet, God gently whispers to me… “Don’t grieve yet. It’s not finished until I say it’s finished. And THIS isn’t finished. Please don’t give up. Please hold on and trust me a little while longer. You will be so blessed by what I’m going to do, how I’m going to play all this out. It will be so much better, for you and for my glory, the way I’m going to work this. But you have to be patient and trust my process. Cling to who you know I am… gentle, faithful, kind, redeeming, merciful, protector, provider… and remember that I love to bless and bring joy to the hearts of my children. Hang on, girl.”

So that’s where I am. I think I have a glimpse of what God is going to do. But even if I’m wrong, I have to not lose heart. It’s not over until HE says so. I have to declare who I believe he is and ask him to live up to it in my life. Maybe it will go another way… but that too will be good. I just can’t stop trusting yet.

One chapter later, Mary would again fall at Jesus’ feet and pour out very expensive perfume as an offering of her love and devotion. Her faith had been strengthened again… and I believe pouring out the perfume was a metaphor for her pouring out everything, her whole self and all she had.

How about you? Do you have a Lazarus that looks dead… smelly in the tomb… causing you great grief? All may not be over yet. He may resurrect your Lazarus… or bring something far better in its place. Either way, if you trust, if you hold on a little while longer, you will win. If you don’t trust, if you give up, if you grieve what may not even be done yet… you’ll just end up in the agony I’ve felt the past month. I for one am done feeling that way.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matt 7:7-11
For several years now I’ve been diligently seeking the Lord on something specific. I ask the Lord so many questions and for so much confirmation b/c often what I think he’s saying makes little sense (its not what human logic would recommend). I’m always double checking. I’m often fearful that I’m hearing wrong and out of my mind. I try to focus on other things… but every few days, my heavily weighted heart raises its hand again in panic… and I seek the Lord to calm it down. The verse above was the Lord’s response to me the other day to those concerns. ASK and it WILL be given. SEEK and you WILL find. When we diligently seek the Lord, ask for his counsel, listen, make all attempts to obey… he will NOT lead us off a cliff. Things may not make sense to us. But if we’re asking for direction, confirmation, etc. he’s not going to mess with us. God asked me outright “Do you really think I’m trying to mess with you? Do you really think I’m toying with your life? Do you really think I’m that cruel and my love so absent?” OUCH. My answer is often “Lord, I don’t doubt YOU. I doubt ME. I think I’m wrong, crazy, misguided, disillusioned, overrun by flesh.” But the Lord responds “But you are seeking me. REALLY seeking me in this. Why would I respond to that with a stone or a snake?”
Several weeks back, while in the woods walking my puppy, God gave me a similar image. We were on a new trail. Ben would run ahead a little, but then look back to me to make sure he was going the right way, and that all was good, safe, and he was going where I wanted him to go. God spoke gently… “If that sweet puppy looks back to you for guidance and so badly wants to please… Would you let him go down a path that is unsafe? Would you go run the other way and hide from him when he’s not looking? Would you scold him for going where he thinks he’s supposed to go? Of course not! And its the same with you and me!” That was profound to me. I love that puppy a heck of a lot, but God loves ME far more. Why do I think, that even if I’m the weak link, that he’s going to let me go astray if I’m looking to him for guidance?

Yesterday I received another verse that built on this. In fact, the sentiment was so similar, I thought it was the same verse… until God pointed out a specific piece. “If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. God is generous to everyone and doesn’t find fault with them.” James 1:5

GOD IS GENEROUS TO EVERYONE AND DOESN’T FIND FAULT WITH THEM. I worry that God is getting annoyed that I keep asking and asking. But I really am asking to seek wisdom, to make sure I’m on track. If I had asked, and God told me to do something, and I didn’t… that would be an all together different issue and God might be annoyed (b/c that’s disobedience); but that’s not the case here. God is generous. He’s not withholding info. I keep asking b/c the path he has me on is weird and hard. I keep thinking I’m hearing wrong and waiting for him to tell me I’m wrong and to shift course. But he doesn’t. And he doesn’t find fault in my asking. I’m being obedient to what he asks. I’m not defying him and asking for something else. I’m doing as he asks and asking for wisdom in continuing to do so. 
Another verse I came across a few days ago… “There isn’t any temptation that you have experienced which is unusual for humans. God, who faithfully keeps his promises, will not allow you to be tempted beyond your power to resist. But when you are tempted, he will also give you the ability to endure the temptation as your way of escape.” Cor 10:13
My temptation right now is TO RUN. This situation is hard. But God is promising to give me the strength to endure. This is in the God’s Word translation which is a little different than NIV or others. Most translations say “resist”, but I feel like God needed me to see this translation, to “endure”. 
James 1:3-4 holds a reminder that testing of our faith produces endurance and endurance makes us complete. 
Finally… seems like each time I get in the car this week… the new Switchfoot song “Love is Worth the Fight” is on. God is gently reminding me to, that fighting for love isn’t always active… it can be prayerfully and patiently silent. We fight to control our fears that could cause us to run… and let God do some of the other fighting (Ex 14:14).
So… How about you? What is occupying your thoughts lately? Are you trying to endure something? Are you trying to make a decision on something? Are you waiting on something? How are you handling it? Seek the Lord, trust him in how he responds, let him fight it… and maybe find some rest and peace in that release.

Should I change jobs? Should I move? Should I date this person? Should I help with this ministry? Should I go on this trip? Should I buy this house? Should I invest here? Should I go back to school? We can be inundated by so many decisions. A prevailing question for those that involve God in those decisions is “What is God’s plan?”or “What does God want me to do?” We are desperate to hear from the Lord on so many things. We pray, we read, we try and figure it out. Sometimes we begin to get a sense as to which way we should go or what we should do, but then we’re just not sure. We want confirmation. We hesitate to move without it. When we’re unsure, is it ok to ask God for a sign?

Although we should not demand or even expect it, it is sometimes absolutely fine to ask for a sign. We see this in the Book of Judges in the life of Gideon. Gideon asked… and God obliged. Twice. He didn’t get angry. He didn’t give Gideon a hard time for asking. God saw Gideon’s heart in the question and was more than willing to provide a sign as he knew Gideon wanted to do the right thing. He wanted to honor God and do the best for his people. God even provided a third sign later without even being asked!

“Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised— look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece,but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.” Judges 6:36-40

Patricia Shirer writes, “[Gideon] was cautious and careful, not wholly doubtful and disbelieving”.  It’s an issue of motivation.  Behind caution is a desire to obey. We seek confirmation on what we believe we’ve heard, especially if it sounds odd and/or it could put others at risk, because we want to get it right. We are intent on action, we want to obey, but we want to be sure that by acting on what we believe we’ve heard, we really ARE obeying God. In contrast, behind doubt,whether it is doubt in God or doubt in ourselves, is often a desire to delay or get completely out of doing something we’ve been asked to do or give up. In fact, often in doubt, we have received a VERY clear directive, but because we don’t want to do it, we keep asking for more signs, actually hoping that they WON’T come. We don’t want to obey, especially if it’s hard or doesn’t make sense. We don’t want to trust God unless we understand. We don’t want to act unless we agree. Or at least unless we have lightning bolts and neon signs!

Often we want God to just speak louder! But I heard a profound thing about that the other day. God does not have to shout, because he is so close. We wouldn’t think it polite to scream in the ear of someone right beside us, would we? Funny enough, that’s how I met one of my best friends (by accidentally shouting in his ear), but generally speaking, no, of course we wouldn’t! God’s closeness reveals the intimacy he has and/or wants with us.There are times when we are called to pursue God, to go find him (e.g., Deut.4:29, Jer. 29:13, Matt 6:33). But typically, he is sitting right beside us eager to listen and eager to reveal himself and give us guidance (James 1:5). If you aren’t hearing him, or at least think you’re not, maybe it’s because he’s already told you (even if it’s just “wait on me”) and so right now there is nothing else to say. If we don’t listen to him when he does speak, we may lose sensitivity to his voice!

So is it ok to ask for a sign? It all depends. There are two areas of my life right now that I am pretty consistently asking the Lord about. One, God has been clear, it makes sense, I know it… and I’m just procrastinating. Well, that’s bad on me. No, it’s not ok, in that situation, to ask for more signs. In fact, it shows my lack of faith, laziness, fear, and frankly, just disobedience. But in another area, what God is asking of me makes far less sense, and the impact of getting it wrong could be significant to me and others. So from time to time, as I slowly move forward on it, or hold back when I’m told to do that, I do ask for confirmation. In that situation, I believe God is blessed by my commitment to want to get it right. And in that,he has given me many, many signs to help ease my fears and confirm that I’m on track.

Now, what do you do if you think you’ve heard, you move forward, and then all signs begin to make you think you’ve been flat out wrong (you must have misinterpreted the sign)? That’s a hard one for me. But I’m learning two things: 1) consider the source of the “new” information that caused you to doubt and 2) remember the last thing you KNOW you heard from the Lord. Just as I gained new confidence last week pertaining to “Issue #2”… and began to move forward in that confidence… I was OVERRUN with doubt. But you know what prompted that doubt? Something I saw on Facebook. Something that could be interpreted a million different ways. I don’t really know anything. And I don’t necessarily think what I saw on FB is a new sign from the Lord (in the other direction or of correction). Though he could use FB, I haven’t found that’s where he reliably speaks! The things I heard before came from time in prayer, reading the Word, listening to sermons… places that I know I was in the presence of God and hearing through ways he usually speaks to me. I need to simmer down and go back to what I was last sure he said. Maybe that’s before the thing he said last week and that’s ok. Go back to what you’re sure of… and then begin to move forward again.

You see, in my first scenario, the one where I’m just lazy and disobedient, the enemy has no need to feed my mind with crap to get me offtrack. I’m already doing that GREAT all by myself. But in the second, I really am seeking God and I want to get it right… and the enemy hates that. He’s going to reach into his bag of tricks and see what he can do, based on what he’s observed in the past that messes with my head, and do that. He’s going to make me think things that aren’t true and worry about things that aren’t real. He has a vested interest in getting me to doubt God and doubt myself… not to mention to get me to blow God’s plan for me… because what God is doing in situation #2 may be HUGE… and an absolute threat to the enemy by loosening his grip on some of the people in my life he thinks he has a good grip on.

I need to trust God’s character. He is gentle, kind, compassionate, faithful, loving, and trust worthy. If I got it wrong, he’s not going to correct me by letting me see something someone posts on FB! His ways are better than that. I need to not be so easily thrown, so quick to believe the worst.

What questions do you have for God today about God’s plans for your life? If you’re dealing with uncertainty, are you been wise and cautious… or are you just dragging your feet? How do you handle doubt? Are you trusting in God’s character or are you quick to let the enemy throw you off track?

Father God, we all have so many choices, decisions, and challenges in this world. And we want to get it right. We know your ways may not always make sense, but they are good and frankly, you know more than us, so you know better than us. Help us to understand what you’re asking, how you’re directing, and give us the courage, strength, and confidence to walk in it. AMEN.

“If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.” Numbers 14:8

What if the “Promised Land” isn’t a place, a circumstance, something we acquire or attain, but a state of mind? What if it’s merely the ability to laugh even when life hurts? Or an inner peace that keeps us from worry, in spite of constant uncertainty and/or all signs that nothing is going as we hoped or planned?

I’ve been reading and thinking a lot lately about the Israelites, their flight from Egypt, their testing in the desert, their reflections just before the Promised Land, and then their entry into it. God freed them from Egypt, from what wasn’t good for them, even though at times, they’d be so discouraged they’d want to go back. I have felt that way about things… or people. God then brought the Israelites into the desert to grow their dependence on him and to see if they would learn to trust and obey him. Yes, I’ve spent many years there too. Then before crossing the Jordan, they took pause. Their hardest trials were through, they were almost there, but before they entered, they rested, they reflected on where they’d been and what God had done. They gained their strength. They listened for instructions. I feel like that is where I have spent this past year.  It wasn’t as hard as “Egypt” but yet not my Promised Land.

The Israelites on some level had the Promised Land handed to them. On another level, however, they had to go and take it. They had to overcome their fears, trust the Lord, and go forward. In the first chapter of Joshua, God tells Joshua to “be strong and very courageous” three times. As I’ve read this over the years, I assumed it was because of the battle they’d have to fight against an enemy that could destroy them. But if you really read the story, at first, it was not brute strength that they needed. It was a willingness to trust and obey God in something that frankly, seemed a little ridiculous. God told them to pick a subset of people and walk around Jericho several times. At the end, they were to SHOUT! If it were me… I would have said… “Ummm, excuse me God, what? I certainly heard you wrong. Let me clean my ears and let’s try this again. That makes zero sense. We’re going to look stupid. We’re going to make ourselves vulnerable to the enemy. That’s not consistent with how I’d think you’d do this.” Or is it exactly consistent with how God does things?

If nothing else, I’ve learned in the last several years that God’s ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). They often, frankly, don’t make a lot of sense by any human logical standards. Following through on what God has asked of me has often made me feel foolish… and because it seemed so odd… and because often I had to wait long periods of time before something changed or things actually seemed to change AWAY from the desired goal before it got better… I often have thought I must have heard him wrong. But did I? I’ve come to believe that “be strong and courageous” was not necessarily about fighting strength. It was about developing a trust in the Lord, no matter what, and obedience to what he asks, even if it makes zero sense to us. Yes, that would apply when they had to fight for Jericho… but it also applied before that, when they, in obedience, were called to do what probably made little sense. Our trust in God… and the obedience that flows out of that, means a great deal to God, and can make the impossible possible.

For the Israelites, there was a physical Promised Land. And maybe for each of us, in some way, there is too. But before that, maybe the Promised Land is simply being able to trust God enough and believe in his love for us enough… to develop that inner peace, release, and calm… to be able to obey… or just hang on… without fear, anxiety, worry, the need to know it all, or figure it all out… in absolutely any situation or life circumstance in which we find ourselves. Maybe that’s the Promised Land I need far more than any circumstance I could ever wish for. Contentment may be a far sweeter land than one “flowing with milk and honey”.

Helping Sandy Hook

So many of you have asked, what can I do? I’ve collected a bunch of options.

Snowflakes for Sandy Hook
Please help the students of Sandy Hook have a winter wonderland at their new school! Get Creative!! No two snowflakes are alike. Make and send snowflakes to Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway, Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514, by January 12, 2013.

Primary Fund for Donations
The main fund is the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Checks can be sent to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, c/o Newtown Savings Bank, 39 Main Street Newtown, CT 06470. If you’d like to give by credit card, they have partnered with the United Way of Western CT. Donations can be given online at https://newtown.uwwesternct.org.

Other Funds Accepting Donations for Various Related Causes
  • American Red Crosshttp://www.redcross.org
  • The Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fund. The school PTA will administer the fund, which will provide counseling to survivors, pay for funeral expenses for victims, create a scholarship fund for the school’s students and fund a memorial. Donations: Newtown Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 596, Botsford, Conn. 06404 or http://www.newtownmemorialfund.org
  • Newtown Parents Connection – http://www.newtownparentconnection.org
  • Newtown Youth and Family Services – http://www.newtownyouthandfamilyservices.org
  • CT PTSA Sandy Hook Fund – http://www.ctpta.org
  • Dawn Hochsprung: The family of Sandy Hook’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung, created a memorial fund for the educator, who died trying to stop the gunman. Donations: Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung Memorial Fund, CT Teachers Credit Union, P.O. Box 2121, Waterbury, Conn. 06722.
  • James Mattioli: In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made in James’ memory to the James R. Mattioli Memorial Fund c/o Newtown Savings Bank, 39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470.
  • Charlotte Bacon: Christ the King Lutheran Church, 85 Mt. Pleasant Rd., Newtown, CT 06470.
  • Daniel Barden: In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Daniel’s name to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.
  • Josephine Gay: In celebration of her joyful and giving spirit, a charitable fund is being created in her honor. Information about this fund and her life will be released to the media shortly.
  • Dylan Hockley: Memorial contributions may be made to the Dylan Hockley Memorial Fund, 34 Charter Ridge Road, Sandy Hook, CT, 06482. Money will go to help children with autism and other special needs. To donate via PayPal: dylanhockleymemorialfund@gmail.com.
  • Catherine Hubbard: In lieu of flowers the family is requesting donations be made to the Newtown Animal Center, PO Box 475, Newtown, CT 06470
  • Chase Kowalski: In lieu of flowers please make a donation to the Chase Kowalksi Scholarship Fund, c/o Peoples Bank, 470 Monroe Tpke., Monroe, CT 06468
  • Jesse Lewis: In lieu of flowers, please make donations to: Voice for Joanie Inc., 5 Glenwood Rd, New Milford, CT 06776 voiceforjoanie.org
  • Anne Marie Murphy: In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Autism Speaks, 1060 State Rd., 2nd Floor, Princeton, NJ 08540, http://www.autismspeaks.org
  • Noah Pozner: Memorial contributions may be directed to the planting of trees in Israel. The family has also created Noah’s Ark of Hope Fund to provide counseling, education and basic needs for his four siblings: http://www.noahsarkofhopefund.eventbrite.com
  • Caroline Previdi: Contributions in Caroline’s memory may be made to “The Toy Chest”, St. Rose of Lima Church, 46 Church Hill Road, Newtown, CT 06470.
  • Jessica Rekos: Memorial contributions may be made to the Newtown Rotary Sandy Hook School Fund, PO Box 263, Newtown, CT 06482.
  • Victoria Soto: The family has requested in lieu of flowers that donations be made to the Victoria L. Soto Memorial Fund for Education, through the Funeral Home. For more information or to make an online condolence please visit http://www.adzimafuneralhome.com
  • Benjamin Wheeler: It is suggested that contributions in Benjamin’s memory be made to the Benjamin Wheeler Fund. The B.C. Bailey Funeral Home of Wallingford has been entrusted with the arrangements.
  • Olivia Engel: The family of Olivia Engel created the Friends of the Engel Family Fund. On its Facebook page, a relative says the fund will be used to help the family financially. The family plans to meet this week to decide how to use the donations for a tribute or effort in Olivia’s name that will have a more lasting impact. More information:https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfTheEngelFamilyFund.
  • Emilie Parker: The family of Emilie Parker, 6, created the Emilie Parker Fund to raise donations to help her parents, Robbie and Alissa, take time off from work to be with their two younger children, and to help with funeral expenses and airfare to the family’s home state of Utah, where they will have Emilie’s funeral and bury her. More information:https://www.facebook.com/EmilieParkerFund?ref=ts&fref+ts.
  • Allison Wyatt: Friends of Allison Wyatt have created the Allison Wyatt Memorial Fund and another private fund for Allison’s sister, Lauren. Checks should be made to Allison Wyatt Memorial Fund or for the private family fund to Ben Wyatt as custodian. All checks can be sent to Steve DeMartino, c/o TransAct Technologies Inc., One Hamden Center, 2319 Whitney Ave., Suite 3B, Hamden, Conn. 06518.

Also consider gifts to local law enforcement and first responders in your area.

Requests have been made that people NOT send toys, bears, school supplies, flowers, etc. to Sandy Hook, as they are getting inundated and have no reasonable means to distribute. Instead, they recommend donating to your local hospital or other children’s service or center in your area, in honor of Sandy Hook victims. Thanks!

Twenty Little Angels

So much to share. My apologies that this will be long. But don’t miss some of the end, even if you have to skim. But I will start with a passage from the bible, shared at the funeral…

“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10: 12-16

There is so much we can learn from 20 little angels that left the earth far too soon. Whether it is hearing of children on the news, or at my friend’s son’s funeral today, I am overwhelmed with the witness these children are to us. They are challenging us, as we move forward, in who we should be as adults and how we should live.  These children were excited about everything, full of zest for life. They laughed and smiled.  My friend told me yesterday, that she just pictures her son playing with all his friends in heaven. They’re all there together. My friend did awesome today. I was so impressed by her strength. She read a letter she had written to her son and I loved every word, hearing more about her “little prince”. My heart was overjoyed as the priest talked about him too. He loved baseball, hamburgers, and his bike (yet one more reason I adore this kid!). The priest also talked of the strength, faith, and love of the family. They are amazing me to me. We have so much to learn from each of them.

And other children, I think they’re stronger and handling this better than us, even siblings, smiling through heartache. When I saw his sister today, I went up to her and asked if she remembered me. She said “Yes! DC!” and gave me the biggest smile, remembering our fun in Alexandria. I gave her a big hug and said “I’m so sorry”. She replied, “It’s ok”.

I want to find joy in everything, like this little boy. I want to be strong and smiling, like his sister. I want to be full of love and compassion, strength and grace, like his parents, my friends. They were asking everyone else how we were. Really?! But those are my friends!

So… today was the funeral. The funeral was hard, but like I’ve already said, it was beautiful to hear more about this sweet boy and my friends as his parents. Beyond that, one particular comment during the message really struck me. The priest said, (paraphrased) “When people think of faith, they don’t think of Newtown. But we are full of faith.” Yes, I am overwhelmed by God in all this. They already had deep relationships and they are only drawing closer. I keep praying “Lord, even in what we can’t understand, grow our faith toward you.” And that is exactly what I’m witnessing. This child loved the “Our Father” prayer. He was so proud after he learned it. We said it all together with new resolve. Too often we just recite, but two lines especially stuck out to me today: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” and “deliver us from evil”. Evil descended on Newtown on Friday. But God is prevailing.

Now on to the hardest part to write… the most amazing, painful, beautiful, difficult part of the day, and possibly the longest drive of my life… from the church to the cemetery.

We’d taken back roads to the church to avoid traffic. The only memorial I saw up to that point was at the church itself. Which – sidebar – When we got the church, it was raining. Looking in my car for an umbrella, I found a big green and white umbrella. So perfect (those are Sandy Hook’s school colors). It was left at my house by someone YEARS ago, maybe just so I’d have it today. Anyway… as we left the church, there were probably fifty cars in the procession; we had a motorcade like I’ve never seen. The whole experience was similar to that of a grand military funeral or reminiscent of 9-11.

We turned out of the driveway and I saw to the left two men with a red and white banner “Poland loves you.” I got choked up. They are probably on holiday or something and felt they needed to be in Newtown to lend support. We proceeded up the road. I started to see the memorials. “Pray for Newtown” “Remember our Angels” “Thank You to Our Heroes” “We love you” Balloons, flowers, candles, bears, everywhere. We drove by a shop and the shop keeper just stood on her front stoop with her hand on her heart. She would be the first of MILES of people paying their respects and showing their love. We drove by an empty field, empty with the exception of 26 luminaries that are lit each night. Cars were pulled over and an innumerable amount of people had gotten out of their cars to pay their respects. I lost it so many times I just kept praying “Lord, please don’t let me rear end the nice person in front of me in this procession!” Homes, businesses, people outside all throughout Newtown and Monroe. A construction worker had stopped what he was doing, hard hat across his heart.

The Lord gave me an amazing soundtrack as I turned on my XM Radio for those first painful miles.

Heaven Everywhere by Francesca Battistelli – “It’s funny how it takes a holiday, to show us how the world could truly change. If we all took the time to really care, there’d be a little more of heaven everywhere. Angels we have heard on high, sweetly signing o’er the plains.”

When the Stars Burn Down by Philips, Craig and Dean – “There will come a day standing face to face, in a moment we’ll be like him. He will wipe our eyes dry and take us up to his side, and forever we will be his. Singing blessing and honor, glory and power, forever to our God.”

Forgiveness by Matthew West – “Show me how to see what your mercy sees. Help me give what you gave me. Forgiveness. Show me how to love the unlovable. Show me how to reach the unreachable. Help me to do the impossible, forgiveness. “

I would have thought that last one would have been hard for me to hear. Though peaceful now, I’m sure anger will come and go. But I think mostly, I just feel sad for the killer, and how very, very sick he was.

We finally got on the highway. They closed the WHOLE of Rt. 25 and the Merritt Parkway, all the way from Trumbull to the cemetery for us (25 miles). The police were amazing. They blocked entrance ramps and just let us all through. I’m sure it was inconvenient to many. But it was a blessing to us.

As I drove, though blessed by this amazing show of support, I felt led to pray for all the other people I know who’ve lost a love one  recently or over the past several  years. Your loved one may not have gotten the same public fan fare, but know that your heavenly father had all his angels and his heavenly chorus there for their arrival. The celebration in heaven is more than we can ever imagine. I also felt led to pray for others going through other very difficult times. Some of you are even going through your own personal hell right now. Yes, it is good to put things in perspective. I know I am. BUT you are entitled to whatever pain you are feeling and know that the Lord is catching every tear. Let him help you stand strong. Get people to pray for and with you.

I further felt led to pray for those still recovering from Hurricane Sandy. As we drove down the highway, I was struck by piles and piles of downed trees. Those victims are still suffering. In fact, I started to think of all the requests on where to donate money. I feel like Newtown needs the outpouring of love and support. They need PRAYER. But beyond the rebuilding of the school, I’m not sure Newtown’s financial needs are very great. Many funeral expenses were already donated. Victims of Sandy may need the money more. Law Enforcement and First Responders may need the money more. Something to think and pray about as you consider where you might contribute.

As we got to the town of the cemetery, officers stood at the end of side streets, saluting. Right before the cemetery is a nursery. The whole staff was standing out front, with an amazing, beautiful display… and a sign that said “Welcome, heaven’s little angels.” (Needless to say, I lost it once again.)

We convened again in a little chapel. The service there was short, but I believe the priest there spoke some of the most powerful words of the day. He shared three distinct thoughts:

  1. He mentioned again the amazing witness these children and these families have been. He spoke of how he was overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of everyone on our drive here. And he said “The amazing things a community can do, when it comes together.” Why don’t we do this more? Why does it take tragedy for a community to come together and do great things?
  2. He mentioned one of his favorite songs. The words go something like this: “When we look into the face of hell… we must call on the one… Emmanuel.” On Friday, we experienced some hell on earth. But as we’re all turning to Emmanuel, we are seeing bits of heaven.
  3. Finally… He said many have asked “What do we do now?” He said this: “Be kind to one another. Love better.” This isn’t about guns and mental health. It’s about a culture that has in many ways lost the ability to be kind and love deeply. We have to find that again.

As I left the cemetery, the sun was starting to come out. A former coworker leaned over to me and said “[the child] would have thought that procession and all the cops and that they closed the highway was the coolest thing!” So true. They left, and I was standing alone. I realized I was starving… and craving a hamburger! Odd. But then I realized it was perfect. In honor of our small friend, and his favorite food, I left the cemetery… and went and got a burger. 🙂

I want to conclude with thank yous. There are soooo many people to thank. Thank you to the clergy. I can’t imagine your job. Thank you to law enforcement, Monroe, Fairfield, New Canaan, CT State Police (just to name some I saw). Thank you to each person that stopped to pay their regards as we passed. Thank you to those who were patient with us, as a major highway was closed down for our passage. Thank you to the teachers at the school, rising out of ashes. Thank you to the Governor of CT, who’s been so strong and shown great leadership. Thank you to Monroe for giving Newtown a school and all the volunteers working to get it ready. Thank you even to many of the media, most who knew when to stay away and portrayed these victims with such beauty. Thank you around the world for the prayers, the thoughts – they mean so very, very much. They are restoring joy.  THANK YOU!

Those are all the people that Newtown and the families are thanking, but I want to add a thank you to them, this community and all the families. Thank you for sharing this time with us. Thank you for letting us walk with you. Thank you for letting us grieve with you and be a part of this hard but amazing time. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!!  And we will NOT stop praying any time soon. AMEN!

Many of you have been so kind,  that wanted to share with you about Monday, the day I drove to CT for the viewing of my friend’s sweet boy, killed at Sandy Hook Elementary Friday.

Much to my own shock, it was an amazing day. I can’t believe I’m writing those words, but I believe it is because of all of your prayers – the millions and millions of prayers coming in from around the world. Don’t get me wrong. There is lots of pain and heartache here in Newtown. But there is also joy, strength, laughter, and so much love. I feel like I’ve stumbled into an amazing bubble. The presence of the Lord is palatable. I’ve never quite experienced anything like this and can’t really describe it. But you see it on every face.  You experience it in every conversation. I’m blown away. I expected to greet devastation. But I’m experiencing nothing but blessing from walking with this amazing community.

The Lord has done many miracles and is covering this place in so many unbelievable ways. I want to share a few through some conversation I had yesterday.

A New School! – As you might expect, though some children may need time off, it’s important for most to get back to school quickly. In fact, kids are so resilient; many couldn’t understand why there was no school yesterday! The other Newtown schools reopened tomorrow. But what about the kids who were at Sandy Hook?  RESOLVED! Chalk Hill School in Monroe (on the same campus ad my niece’s school, Fawn Hollow) has been vacant for two years. For two years Monroe has argued about what to do with Chalk Hill. Community Center? Tear it down? I think God wanted it to just sit still until now. Just ten minutes from Sandy Hook, it will reopen, possibly even THIS week, to replace Sandy Hook Elementary! The community is moving EVERYTHING (sans the three affected classrooms) from Sandy Hook. Desks, decorations, signage, all of it, so for the children, it will look just like their school. Some of my family may even help w/the move. My sister sits on Fawn Hallow’s PTO. Monroe basically said to Newtown “whatever you need”. They actually need help from experienced librarians. My mom was a librarian before she retired, so she may help move the library! They also told my sis about a recovery campaign they want to do. They want to cover the school in snowflakes. I don’t have details on that yet, but will send out as soon as I do in case you might want to help.

Filling Holes of the Fallen – The school clearly lost some critical staff, including the Principal and several teachers. Although precious souls are not replaceable, you do need to move forward. How do you do that? There are a few stories you may not have heard. As it happens, in line at the viewing behind us was the school secretary. Yes, the woman who would have been manning the door, the woman who would have been with the Principal, a woman who surely would have been killed… had she not been home ill that day! Talking to her was amazing. SHE is amazing. So much I could tell you about my conversation with her… but most importantly, I believe the Lord gave her the sniffles to spare her because she will be so critical in rebuilding (pray for her!). She is so full of love and strength and will be pivotal in getting the new school up and running. She further shared that the Principal who was killed, had only been their two years. The former principal had retired, but has already agreed to come back to help rebuild. PRAISE! Also absent that day, was my friend’s son’s teacher. Every person in that class was killed with the exception of one child. Had the teacher been there, she too would have been killed. But she was not. On the flip side, many of you have read of Victoria (Vicky) Soto, the teacher that was killed hiding her children. From what I hear (not confirmed), a few children in that room, were also unfortunately killed. However, most survived thanks to Vicky’s heroics. Hmmm… teacher without a class and a class without a teacher, both first grade. Sounds like God’s provision to me!

There were so many more amazing conversations and experiences today, but forgive me that I’m too exhausted to share more tonight. Maybe over the next few post.

Several of you have asked specifically about the family that I know. For the sake of privacy, I and where I’m posting it, I won’t use names or details, but know that they are doing well. It’s clearly a hard time and will be for some time. But I have shared your thoughts and prayers with them and they are thankful. They can very much feel them and are so grateful for the abundance of kindness. They state with confidence that they are getting them through.

Funerals for the children will continue this week. Keep each family in your prayers. Also please remember to pray for the teachers and staff (many going to 5, 6, 10 funerals!); law enforcement and investigators, and the clergy serving all of these beautiful families. I don’t even have words for the strength in them I’m observing.

On behalf of myself, the families, and the entire Newtown community. THANK YOU!!!!!!!