Comfort for Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” – Matthew 5:4

It has been seventeen years since the terrible day of 9/11. It is a day I will never forget.

There was nothing special about the day of 9/11 initially. In fact, I would consider it an extraordinarily ordinary

day. I was in the third month of my new career and busy sorting through stacks of printed manuals. I had the monotonous job of separating and rubber banding the manuals by hand. It wasn’t the most exciting task, but I did it with the enthusiasm of a college kid entering the workforce for the first time (because I was).

On the way to my desk that morning, I visited three of my coworkers in the second floor conference room. They were preparing a plan for coordinating communications with South Florida offices for a tropical storm that was projected to hit Cape Coral, Florida. A small, old television on a cart was displaying the latest news cast, as they hoped to get an update on the storm.

A little over an hour later, David, one of the three coworkers from the conference room, peeked around my cubicle wall. “Would you like to take a breakfast break and watch some news with us? We have some donuts and juice in the conference room.”

I shook my head, “No, thanks. I have twenty more of these manuals to go.”

David nodded and disappeared back into the upstairs conference room.

A few minutes passed, and I suddenly heard the hallway along my cubicle become strangely silent. There had been plenty of the usual busyness and movement just a few moments ago. The stillness caused me to get up from my chair and walk the length of the empty hall.

Where did everyone go? I wondered, peering into the empty offices.

Sensing it had something to do with the TV, I ran up the stairs to the conference room where my coworkers were watching the news. To my surprise, several coworkers from my floor were crammed into the relatively small conference room. When I approached the doorway, I was met with stares of shock and disbelief.

“A plane just hit the World Trade Center,” one of my coworkers said, trembling. For a moment, I had trouble comprehending what she said. The words seemed off. Something didn’t feel right.

Everyone in the room was now facing the television, and I suddenly began to understand. Heavy smoke billowed from the side of the North Tower where a commercial plane had hit it only moments before. The news reporters were scrambling to figure out what had happened — was it an accident? It must have been an accident.

As the live camera feed on the World Trade Center towers was focused on the damage done to the first tower, another commercial plane struck the South Tower. A collective gasp and sudden stunned silence filled the room. It was suddenly painfully obvious: this was no accident.

Without warning, the towers began collapsing. People were jumping to their deaths. It was the most horrific event unfolding before my eyes that I’ve ever witnessed. My shock and terror only deepened as I heard later that morning a third plane crashed into the Pentagon, partially destroying the building. And I felt those emotions again as I heard about the courageous lives lost when a fourth commercial plane was hijacked. The passengers on that plane refused to allow the evil men to reach the destination of Washington D.C. and crashed the plane in a field in Pennsylvania.

I don’t remember much else from that particular day. I cried off and on. Offices and businesses closed. Schools and colleges shut down for the day. For a few days, it seemed the world stood still. My young, barely 18-year-old mind could hardly comprehend what happened.

A few days later, school resumed; and I was in a math class. But it was no ordinary school day. It felt like no day would be normal ever again as a young woman sat beside me, sobbing uncontrollably. She kept apologizing for the inability to control her tears and explained that she was a stewardess who was assigned to one of the flights that was hijacked. She wasn’t feeling well that day and switched shifts with another stewardess who ended up dying on one of the planes. Other students tried to comfort her, as another student talked about a missing uncle for whom first responders were still looking under the piles of rubble at the site of the World Trade Center.

My family was spared. No one close to me was impacted, but as I learned in the days and weeks that followed, many other people in my social circles had people dear to them or close to their families who lost their lives. As a result, I was thankful, but also felt guilt. I felt numb. I felt anger. I felt helplessness. I was traumatized. But I’m sure the grief and trauma I experienced paled in comparison to those whom were affected that day. I can’t even imagine what they must have felt and still feel.

Every year is a reminder of those who were lost, and the lives they touched that day. My heart mourns for those who still experience painful memories and for those who lost friends and family close to them. However, I am also reminded God reigns and is sovereign during terrible events like 9/11 (Romans 8:28), and I can be a light to others in the midst of tragedy as I allow Him to fill the broken and confused parts of me and heal and, in turn, help others through the healing process.

We cannot change the past, but we are not helpless as lovers of Jesus. We can encourage those are struggling. We can pray for them and over them for peace. We can hold their hands as they go to counseling and therapy sessions. For

those who are tormented by memories, we can speak to the spirit of trauma and cast it out in the name of Jesus (yes, Child of God, you can pray for deliverance for the oppressed). We can intercede and agree for the Lord to bring strength and inner healing to the suffering. We can lead others to an encounter with the Lord by asking them to pray and ask Jesus where He was in the middle of the painful event. The peace and comfort people experience through this sort of encounter is often transformational by understanding that He experienced the event with them. They were never alone (Joshua 1:9).

And, heaven forbid, should another event like 9/11 come in the future, we can and must be the hands and feet of Christ. We must not be paralyzed.

“He heals the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18

Today is a Good Day

Have you ever had “one of those days”? I’m talking one of thosesmiles can’t do anything right, your car dies, you’re sick and nothing is going right kind of days? Sometimes, it’s hard to feel thankful when the day seems to exist just cause pain and misery. Today has been one of those days — um — weeks for me. The transmission died on my car. My health has been poor. Fire ants invaded my house by the hundreds (counted by the number I saw/squished as they crawled across the floor). The electricity inside my house went bonkers and has already knocked out a panel in my television, ruined one telephone and drained my smoke detectors. And to add to all of those things, the electrician forgot to show up this morning. I spilled scalding, hot soup all over myself. It seems everything I have touched has gone terribly lately! Sigh…yeah, it’s been one of those kinds of weeks.

On days like these, how do we find joy, peace and grace? As I ponder this question today, I am reminded the blessings in my life far outweigh the bad things. Even if I lost everything tomorrow, I am still the richest woman alive. I have wonderful family and friends. I have a good, stable job. I can pay my bills, and I have food to eat. My health issues, although annoying, are few and temporary. I was born in a country where I can worship how I like and write blogs like this one without fear. I have the love of my God, and He calls me “highly favored.” I have carpet and tile under my feet, a big squishy chair to sit upon as I type this blog entry, heating and air conditioning and fresh, clean running water. Yeah, life is pretty good.

So instead of feeling sorry for myself for the cruddy day/week I’ve experienced, I’m determined to say, “It has been a good day. I’m a daughter of the King, and I’m highly favored.” I choose joy. I think the day is looking up already. 🙂

rainbow

Old and New Testament Parallels, Symbols, and Ponderings Series Part 2 – Noah’s Ark

Old Testament stories like Noah’s Ark ( Genesis 6:5-9:17) sometimes conjure thoughts of an angry God fatally sweeping away humanity and life in a torrent of water. Sound familiar? Although the logistics of the story of Noah’s Ark are hard to imagine, it seems the impossible task of gathering pairs of animals and rainbowcramming them into a large boat is not the number one issue that bothers people. Instead, the most difficult piece of the story seems to be the not-so-obvious answers to perplexing questions about our Divine Creator: “Why does God seem to oscillate between two extremes — the angry, jealous God of judgment of the Old Testament and the loving, merciful Father of the New Testament?”, “Did God change His mind about humanity and decide we weren’t worth the grief we caused Him?”, “Does God hate humanity?”, and “What signs and symbols of mercy, if any, exist in stories like the one about Noah?”

God’s Character

Hollywood movies and the mainstream media sometimes typecast God inaccurately as a tyrannical master who can’t wait for humanity to slip up so He can wipe them off the face of the earth; but I encourage you to consider how Old Testament stories like Noah’s Ark reveal God’s grace and mercy and can be paralleled with Christ’s death and resurrection (like many other Old Testament stories believe it or not!).

God does not enjoy the destruction of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). As the ultimate loving Father, He always provides hope and a way out of judgment. If you read closely enough, you will realize the Biblical account of Noah is a wonderful story filled with signs and symbols of a gracious and merciful God. As the Divine Creator, God could have chosen to wipe mankind from the earth, especially since the Bible says our wickedness was so great it caused an outcry from the heavens. The Scriptures say it deeply grieved God that His creation had become so morally bankrupt that no one except Noah was found to be righteous. How great is our God that He allowed man’s legacy to continue through Noah’s family line (Genesis 6:5-8)? Why would He do this? Although man’s wickedness grieved God, He loves us and promised to repair our broken relationship with Him (Isaiah 53:5-12).

Symbols of Grace – The Ark

floodAlthough God promised the flood would come, He also promised Noah a way to escape destruction onboard the Ark. The Ark provided complete protection from the flood in the same way the blood of Jesus covers us and provides grace over judgment. God invited Noah and His family into the Ark and sealed them inside to secure their protection (Genesis 6:9-7:24).

Symbols of Grace – The Raven

After several days of floating around on the flood waters, Noah released a raven. The Bible says the raven flew back and forth in the sky continuously until the Ark found its resting place in the mountains of Ararat. When I first read this statement, I was somewhat perplexed. In modern times, the raven is often used to symbolize death. I suppose it could be said the raven could not perch on anything because the earth was covered in water which symbolized death while the waters existed. Also, ravens were considered to be unclean birds because they feed on the dead (“Genesis 8 – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible”, Bible Gateway).

Is it also possible there is a dual meaning to why the raven was sent out? In my research about Noah’s raven, I found several websites that indicated the bird is often used as a symbol of provision (see “1 Kings 17 – Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible”, Bible Gateway, “Vincent of Saragossa”, Wikipedia, and Luke 12:24). I have to wonder if the raven is meant to symbolize God’s provision for Noah, his family, and all the living creatures on the Ark while there was only death everywhere else upon the earth.

Symbols of Grace – The Dove and the Olive Branch

The dove shows up in many different passages of the Bible to symbolize the Holy Spirit, purity, peace, and new life. In the story of Noah’s Ark, the dove was sent out three separate times to find dry land. The first time the dove and olive branchdove was sent out, it flew back to Noah because there was nowhere to land (death upon the land). The second time the Noah released the dove, it returned with an olive branch, symbolizing peace. When the dove was released a third time, it did not return, symbolizing freedom and deliverance after the world’s submersion). Just as Noah’s Ark is often compared to the finished work of Christ, the dove can be compared to a believer’s baptism after salvation, signifying the Holy Spirit being with a follower of Jesus (“Why is the dove often used as a Symbol for the Holy Spirit?”, Got Questions.Org).

I love this interpretation from the Biblical Research Institute:

One could also argue that the dove is, in this particular case, a symbol of deliverance. The dove as a symbol of the love of God appeared, telling us that, as with the Flood, the storm of sin is not powerful enough to keep us permanently separated from the Father. Our planet is now connected with heaven through Christ. In accepting His Son, God signifies to us that we are also accepted in the Beloved through faith in the provision He made on our behalf.

Symbols of Grace – The Rainbow

The rainbow is a symbol of God’s covenant with Noah that He will never destroy the earth again by flood. The rainbow is a sign to God’s people of His enduring faithfulness (“Christian Rainbow: Christian Symbols Illustrated Glossary” by Mary Fairchild, Christianity.About.Com).

If you are interested in the meanings and symbolism of the colors of the rainbow, I would highly recommend the article found on Bible Study.Org titled “What does a rainbow mean in the Bible?”. There are multiple layers of meanings and so many interesting things to study on this topic that it would be easy to make a whole other blog post about it (and I just might!).

Parallels to Christ’s Work on the Cross

The parallels to Christ’s work are incredibly rich and detailed, and I would encourage you to explore the web and study it on your own. You won’t be disappointed. Here are a couple of interesting sites I found while I was doing some research:

“Noah’s Ark: Bible Story, Lessons, and Questions” by Jack Wellman, Christian Crier

“Seeing Jesus in Noah’s Ark” by David Armstrong, Looking into God’s Word

My Savior’s Embrace

I want to share a beautiful vision with you that I had about a month ago. At the time, I was walking through a set of trials and was asking God to protect me, give me peace, and guide my steps.  On the eve of the climax of the trials, I had a dream of tremendous peace. In many ways, I am still speechless by the captivating imagery that flooded my mind.

I found myself standing in a long, white gown inside an alabaster building.  At first, I wondered where I was because everything seemed unfamiliar, but I quickly realized I was inside a gazebo nestled within a garden. Staring out the window

My breath echoed softly throughout the stone building, providing a complimentary rhythm to the gentle flapping of the luxurious purple curtains hanging across the entrance. I listened to the comforting sounds as I slowly walked across the cool floor towards a window overlooking the garden.

As I looked through the window, my eyes were immediately drawn to the vibrant wildflowers filling a meadow before me. They overwhelmed my senses in a vibrant kaleidoscope of rainbow colors as they swayed and nodded to the wind. I stared upon them for a long moment, enjoying their silent song, but they paled in comparison to the man who stood among them.

The man in the flowers was slender and adorned in a purple robe. His shoulder-length chestnut colored hair played gently in the breeze, joining the flowers in their harmonious dance. The man appeared to notice me the moment I saw him and slowly lifted his arms towards me, beckoning me to come to him.  Although he never said his name, I knew it was Jesus.

Excitement welled within my soul as I quickly ran out of the gazebo and down the alabaster steps. I bound through the flowers towards Jesus; but the more I ran, the more I realized he was the same distance away as when I started. I stopped running and stared at him curiously for a moment, realizing I couldn’t reach him.

“Don’t come to me.  I will come to you,” his voice echoed gently in my mind.

“Okay,” I obeyed as I closed my eyes, focusing on his words.

As I stood very still, I felt his comforting arms across my back and shoulders; and I leaned my head into his chest.  I drank in the scent of his robe which smelled of the sweetest roses and wildflowers.  The warmth of his embrace and the rise and fall of his chest comforted me the most. I couldn’t help but think it was a similar embrace to one my father and mother gave me as a child to comfort and protect me from the pains of this life. 

“Don’t leave,” I begged as I opened my eyes and gazed upon the flowers around us. 

“I’m always with you.  Trust me to protect you,” he assured.

“I will,” I promised.

For the first time in my life, I remembered His words and trusted Him completely to protect me, and He did!  He is always faithful.

In His love,

Heather