Where, O Death, Is Your Sting?
“'Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
Gerald Owen Page with his three children, from left, Stephen, Mary and Deborah. My Uncle Gerry passed in September 2020, just shy of turning 84. He was the Hazel Park postman that swept my Aunt Margaret off her feet at age 16. They had three children in three years and were married for 62 years.
My dear Aunt Doris Shellnut passed on April 8, 2021, at the age of 83.
Mark. Tim. David. Charlie. Bob. Doris.
These are the names of six in my circle of family, friendship and acquaintance that I know who have died in the last month. Heart, kidneys, lungs gave out. Only two made it into their ninth decade of life, the rest left prematurely.
In every case, a parent, spouse or children lost a child, spouse or parent. In every case, hearts have been torn asunder.
It has been heavy observing death multiply, especially in the spring, a season for new birth and budding life. It only serves to remind, life is brief. Unpredictable. Tenuous.
As my friend was grieving the very recent and devastating loss of her dear husband, I made the mistake of using a trite phrase, attempting to comfort her. As the words slipped from my lips, I knew they were lame, unhelpful: “It’s going to be ok.”
“No,” she said, “it’s not.”
When Yeshua/Jesus wept for his dear friend Lazarus, I wonder if he may not have only been weeping for his momentary loss, but also for the fact that he knew Lazarus would eventually face death again. Would Mary and Martha live to bury the same brother twice?
Yeshua knew things were not ok. He knew this—death—is not how it was supposed to be. He knew (Luke 4:14-20) his purpose in coming was to set things right. In the midst of his humanity, he felt the sting of death. And even though he knew he would have the victory, momentarily and permanently, he didn’t suspend reality and act like things were gonna be ok.
Then he acted.
And repeatedly he showed us how to live an abundant life before laying his down for us.
“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” ~ Mark 8:35-38
This season of death has made the reality of the resurrection and the absolute necessity of a RISEN Savior all the more real to me. He IS the resurrection and the life. He IS alive!
In Hebrew, Yeshua means “salvation”. He IS what his name means. He IS THE way, THE truth and THE life. No one can come to the Father except through the Son.
Physical death is an inevitability for us all but what awaits you on the other side depends on how you live. Yeshua did not mince words:
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” ~ John 11:25-26
“Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Yeshua is the Messiah. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” ~ 1 John 2:22-23
Just as Nicodemus learned in his surreptitious meeting with the Messiah (John 3), we must be born again, by confessing who we truly are (sinners, Romans 3:23) and who Yeshua is (Savior, Romans 5:8) and transferring our loyalties from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:21
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” ~ 1 John 1:7
Road Trip with Mom
I have had the great pleasure of traveling with my momma this week, from Michigan to Florida. Thank the Lord, we had dry roads and a relatively uneventful trip down the 1,121 miles, not counting the two semi-trucks that attempted to occupy the same space as we, or the front grill of a truck lying in the highway which I had to navigate around at high speed.
Two of my mom’s four living sisters (she is one of six girls in her family) live in central Florida. I adore my dear aunties and always love to visit and be spoiled by them. All my mom's sisters are smart, sweet and strong women. Dear Aunt Dee passed on prematurely from Alzheimer's in 2012 just shy of 75.
My grandmother, Joyce, with six of her eight children, from left: John, Margaret, Mary in front of Betty, "Mommy" holding my mom--baby Bonnie, and Dee (Billy and Shirley not pictured). ~ 1945, Harold's Branch, Kentucky
My Momma, Bonnie, with her Mommy ~ 1948, Harold's Branch, Kentucky
"For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." ~ Psalm 100:5
As we traveled, my mom and I listened to a compelling historical fiction novel, Before We Were Yours, by Lisa Wingate. It chronicles the fictional tale of five siblings and the real-life woman—Georgia Tann—who sold people for profit. Her human trafficking operation in the mid-20th century required a sordid network of complicit individuals.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" ~ Jeremiah 17:9
It was heartbreaking to hear about the mothers and fathers whose children were stolen. In the follow-up story, Before and After: The Incredible Real-Life Stories of Orphans Who Survived The Tennessee Children’s Home Society, there were more incredible details, including a mother and father who purposely birthed multiple babies to sell.
My birth mother was from Tennessee. Had I been born there two decades earlier, who knows but that I—the child of a rapist and a college sophomore--may have been a commodity on the baby-market? If so, Tann may have re-branded me to be the promising progeny of consenting college-educated parents who just weren’t ready to parent.
My Aunt Margaret holding me in 1971 ~ Hazel Park, Michigan
Aunt Margaret and I at Juniper Springs, one of our favorite National Forest areas in central Florida ~ April 8, 2021
It was a delight to visit with my aunties and mom, the four of us together. I asked a lot of questions, sparking memories of the deep past, some pleasant, some painful. One sweet story they each love to tell is the one about when my parents “got me” in August of 1970.
Days after my adoption placement, my parent’s congregation—First Free Will Baptist in Hazel Park, Michigan—had a big baby shower for them. Aunt Mary remembers the preceding church service, “Your mom and dad had Pastor Hill dedicate you.”
It is the same building where seven years later I was baptized, professing my trust in Jesus, the Messiah.
"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." ~ Proverbs 22:6
I am ever so thankful that despite becoming pregnant by rape, my mother cared for me in her womb. Despite the fact my maternal grandmother wanted me aborted (she told me this via a social worker 21 years after my birth), my mother loved me, gave me life and chose adoption. Life is good! L’chaim!
As we reminisced after one of our many delicious early-bird Florida dinners, I told my aunties and mom, I never felt adopted. Even though I am and I always knew I was, I was just their child. I am just their child. My parents, my aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings never treated me any differently. I am wonderfully blessed in myriad ways.
“God sets the lonely in families,” wrote the Psalmist, and godly parents set the course of my life, for good.
Aunt Mary, Aunt Margaret, Bonnie, my momma and I after a farewell dinner ~ Summerfield, Florida, April 9, 2021
A Photo Essay: From Seder to Summerfield
Preparing for a quiet Passover in Paris, Michigan, with a beautiful Seder plate and cup that a brother and sister in the LORD brought us from Jerusalem. ~ March 27, 2021
Scott has an existential moment on his birthday ~ March 29, 2021, Clarkston, Michigan
Scott's pick--birthday brisket at the Union Woodshop, from left, Aaron Ray, Scott, Bailey and Isabella
John Douglas Drake and Mary Louise Belcher on the Boblo Boat midnight cruise ~ Detroit, Michigan, 1957
Uncle Doug and Aunt Mary Drake, married 63 years ~ Summerfield, Florida, April 2, 2021
Sister Walk, Bonnie and Mary arm-in-arm on a Good Friday
Sweet Aunt Mary and I enjoyed finding a gopher turtle climbing a curb on one of our walks; she admires one of the many plants that Uncle Doug maintains so beautifully in their yard.
Sister Shenanigans ~ Resurrection Day Celebration, April 4, 2021, Summerfield, Florida
Meanwhile, on Maui...Dege and Bailey June celebrate at the wedding of dear friends ~ April 4, 2021
Meanwhile, in Waterford, Michigan, a dejected feline wonders where the females of his house have gone? Scott is left alone with Tikvah who begs for attention while he attempts to work.
Bonnie, Shawn and Gerry on the Gulf of Mexico ~ Dunedin, Florida, April 7, 2021
A mid-week adventure took my Mom and I to Clearwater to visit with my in-laws, Gerry and Ken Spry. We enjoyed lunch followed by beach fun at the gorgeous Honeymoon Island State Park before trying to break in to their house (finding the key just before Ken could bust some glass!), April 7, 2021
Hailey and Jacob enjoy a birthday dinner in Terre Haute, Indiana. Both are April babies. April 7, 2021
My mom surprised me with a trip to Tarpon Springs, Florida, and some fabulous Greek fare. My mom is sporty (hence the visors, mine on loan from her) and she can also be spontaneous. We have a lot of fun together and only argue on the rare occasion when one of us is wrong ( ; ~ April 7, 2021