"Conversations from a Birthing Room"


writes . . . A precious baby is entering the world today. As we watch the contractions on the monitor, the birthing room fills with grandparents, aunts and uncles; everyone coming with anticipation to greet the newest member of their family. Yet, the conversation I have with my friends, the expectant parents, is quite different than any other. To understand, you need to know more.

Not long ago, friends and family gathered at this same hospital to welcome Kade - see sweet Kade on the left. Last summer, on August 28th, Kade entered this world. Sadly on October 28th, at just two months of age, Kade slipped into eternity in his sleep – cause of death: SIDS.

His parents have deep faith in God, and continue to trust Him with this loss. All the same, their faith does not lessen their sorrow. They still grieve . . . they grieve with hope – a hope of that blessed reunion when they will hold dear sweet Kade once again.

Just before Christmas, my dear friend discovered she was expecting again. In fact, she was already about 10 weeks along. Calculations indicate that she actually conceived this baby the week before Kade’s death.

And therein lies some of the tension in Kade’s story. I have heard her lament – “If you wanted me to have a baby, God, why would you take my sweet Kade, only to give me another one?”

These questions of “why” – so much a part of one’s grief journey – often do not have an answer. They are questions that express our deepest longing for understanding, for meaning, for some way of knowing – "How do I go on living with this tremendous burden of loss?"

So this morning in the birthing room, amid the contractions and medical personnel, we talk about Kade and sorrow and Gethsemane. We talk about our theology of grief – what is God like and what does God do in times of loss. We remember David’s Psalms of Lament. We talk about the Garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus’ death. It is truly an example of lament. When the reality of the loss became clear to him, Jesus enters Gethsemane deeply grieved. There in


, the Hebrew word meaning

olive press

, Jesus utters his prayers of protest, that his life will be crushed under the burden of sin. There Jesus climbs into the lap of Abba Father and pleads for this cup of death to pass from him. In fact, three times Jesus brings his pain to God, and then finally rests in submission to the Father’s plan – a plan that will glorify God and draw people to Him.

Today is not a redemptive moment because there is another birth in the family. Today does not redeem the loss of precious Kade. No, the Redemptive Steps came months ago. When Kade died, there was the potential for his parents to be destroyed by his loss. But they are choosing daily to be transformed by it. By God’s grace and mercy, Kade’s parents choose to rest in the everlasting arms of God, to trust Him with this loss and in the process, their lives glorify God and draw others to His Kingdom.

Revelation 21:3-5 promises: And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new," and He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."

Post Script: At approximately 3:30 pm this afternoon, Kade’s little sister, Tori Ann, came into this world.

Sexual Misconduct vs. Redemptive Pre-Activity

When our kids were much younger, Bonnie and I would practice a pre-activity talk with Amy and Scott prior to entering an outing or event where they might be tempted to misbehave. In essence, we talked about what we were about to do and the consequences of poor decisions. Most of the time our children made us proud! I think the pre-activity talk made the difference as they were empowered to redeem the moment and not yield to behaving badly.

Honestly, I think church leadership needs to have more pre-activity talks. I have had too many experiences hearing about, ministering to, or mediating conflict centering around leadership misconduct - specifically sexual misconduct.

The following letter comes through Don Byers, a friend and a wonderful part of the family. Don writes, "I share this unusual blog from a fallen pastor because such repentance appears to be the exception these days, rather than the norm."

Open Letter to the Elders and to _____________ Church of ________________ in the State of _______.,

One year ago today, I spoke for the last time at _________ Church. For the first time since ________, I have gone a year and have not spoken in a church, not served in a church, not volunteered in a church, and have not been asked to...just months ago, I began attending a church again (sit in the back, head down, anonymous.)

It seems like the one year mark would be a good time and place to write this letter. I am so sorry for the pain and emotional upheaval my life and actions have caused you and the precious bride of Christ.

I'm sorry for the deceptions, the irresponsibility, and the sin of adultery that came from my life and infected others. I assume full responsibility for my actions with no excuses and no rationalizations.

As you can also attest, this has been the hardest two years of my life, with this past year especially crushing. With the help of our Lord, a dear Christian counselor, some medication, and a few close people in my life, I am seeing light at the end of a self-inflicted tunnel.

This is not the life path I would have chosen for myself or dear family...no one wakes up and decides, "Today I will destroy my life and do harm to those around me." This path was a gradual one with many calls from God to stop, which I did not heed. HE was faithful. I was not.

The Bible says that when sin is fully formed, it yields death. So much has died in and around my life. What I cling to these days is the belief that God specializes in resurrections. He brings life to places there was once death.

_______________ Church, I loved you; and in many ways, served you well. My legacy, however, is one of failure and sin. I can't undo that.

I can only walk with Christ in authenticity--no longer hiding imperfections and failures, but living truthfully--honestly and with integrity (inside and outside matching). Will you see sin in my life? Yes. Am I striving to grow in Christ? Yes.

What I MUST do is offer this public confession, my sincere apology and my heartfelt request for your forgiveness.

With Sorrow...and yet with hope,

(signed) ________________

Pre-Activity Questions: If you had an affair, how would would you write this letter? How would you fill in the blanks?

As I read the letter, I could not help but think of an activity that Dr. James Cecy uses in his profoundly sobering conference on sexual purity, Ambassadors of Purity. This is one of the best conferences I have ever attended. Dr. Cecy does an excellent job communicating the harsh reality of sexual misconduct. He says, "If you decide to have a sexual affair, you better make sure it is the best sex you have ever had . . . because it will cost you the most."

To drive this point home, he uses a pre-activity to bring the notion of falleness to reality. He invites the attendees to ponder the devastating results of immorality. Dr. Cecy asks everyone to do the following assignment using names and stating specifics, "If you were caught in the act of sexual immorality, what would be the effect on your relationship with your Lord? Your family? Your spouse? Your church? The community at large? How might it hurt you physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially and economically?" Then he asks, "Considering all the consequences, is it really worth it?"

Thoughtful pre-activities can redeem us from the post-activity's devastating results and brokenness. Pre-activity can create the blessedness and wholeness of no-activity.

Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

"And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead." - Hebrews 11:4b

I am one of five, four brothers and one sister. Here's a picture of three of the brothers. Yes, I am the little guy sitting on the crossbar of my oldest brother's bike.  Jerry was thoughtful enough to provide me with a blanket to sit on. It was probably my na-na.

None-the-less, I want to talk about Marshall, the brother in the forefront. Marshall is a very important person to me. Marshall led me to my first concepts of God and in a way . . . he led me to Jesus when I was seven years old. That doesn't sound too strange until I tell that Marshall died when I was just under two years of age. He was almost five when he died. Yes, I did say he led me to Jesus when I was seven.

You see, through the years, I visited Marshall's grave many times with my bereaved mother. One time I started asking myself questions about eternity. Where was Marshall? And the bigger question for a seven year old - Where will I be when I die? Talk about coming face to face with death.

I grew up in a house of grief and I seem to understand the verse that says, "The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in the house of pleasure." Was I wise at such a young age? I don't know, but I am thankful for the questions I struggled with at my brother's graveside. Why? Because the redemptive value in my brother's death was the very fact that through my brother my heart was touched in such a way that made me ask the hard questions.  The answers would change my life forever. Was death the end?

Thank God my mother took me to church. One day my Sunday School teacher (Thank God for SS teachers!) told the class of boys about Jesus and eternal life. This was the information that I was looking for - talk about good news. This was the gospel! God's gospel for me! This is what Marshall was showing me. You see, he led me to this point as the destination of all those countless times I visited his grave and stared down at his grave marker with so many deep questions. Marshall, though he was dead, spoke to my heart and led me to my Savior and Lord.

Is there redemptive value in the death of a child? I have to say yes. God works with us in all situations to bring good - even in a situation like Marshall's.

Oh, my dear brother, I had to say goodbye before I even said hello! Marshall, how sweet the reunion will be!

Hope that Redeems!

Bonnie and I went to Israel about a year after Scott died. Our most meaningful experience was our visit to the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. I never realized just how much we would be impacted by that spot.

Before we left for the trip, I asked God to show me hope while I was in Israel. God gave me a theme verse for the tour: Hebrews 6: 19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

As an answer to my prayer, God showed me hope.

When we were at the Garden Tomb site, an older English gentleman gave us a tour. He lectured on the significance of certain artifacts in the area of the tomb. As we listened, our small group of friends stood in front of Jesus' empty tomb carved out of rock.

The Englishman told us, “While we cannot know for certain that the Garden Tomb was in fact the very tomb where Jesus was buried, we have found many Jewish and Christian symbols in the area.” He turned our attention to the outside wall of the tomb and started to trace a carving with his finger and said, “For instance, carved in this wall is an early Christian symbol of an . . . anchor.”

I don’t think I heard anything else he said. There was the answer to my prayer! God showed me a symbol of hope – an anchor carved into the side of the tomb of Jesus. This was my symbol of hope. The tomb is empty! Death is not the end! There is hope in Jesus Christ and His empty tomb proves it. This is my anchor of hope!

Searching for a redemptive moment . . .

"Children's children are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children."
Proverbs 17:6

Searching for a redemptive moment is a precious and yet seemingly a futile activity when looking at my 88 year-old mother's health fading away. Even so, with eighty years between them, this picture of my now frequently-dozing mother with her loving great granddaughter, Kaitlyn, captures one of those moments. When confronted with the reality of pending death, it is good to remember there are moments to celebrate, meaningful memories to make, hurts that can be healed, and a great sense of God's grace. It is good to trust in Christ - and where else would we go?

"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."
John 6:68

Redemptive Ricochet

In a Perspectives class, Brian Hogan, former missionary to Mongolia, finished his heartbreaking story of losing his precious baby boy on the mission field. Amazingly, he spoke of the redemptive value of such a loss. The redemptive value of his son's death was that a breakthrough in his ministry came about. Brian and his wife, by being living parables, showed the people of the small village how to grieve with hope of which the village people had no concept. Grieving with hope was good news to a people who had no hope in the face of death.

I spoke to Brian after the class and purchased his book, There's a Sheep in My Bathtub. (Yes, many sheep in Mongolia.) I introduced myself and told him that I was also a bereaved father. He took the book and wrote in it: "Compensation is coming. Nothing will be forgotten." He then signed his name.

He did not explain what he wrote he merely handed the book back to me. As I pondered his two thoughts I could not help but link the statements to Scripture.

"Compensation is coming": Matthew 19:29, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life."

"Nothing will be forgotten": Hebrews 6:10, "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."

Ah yes, "Praise be to the God and Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God."

Seeing the redemptive value in loss is a huge blessing that keeps pouring out into the lives of other broken people. It truly is a redemptive ricochet reverberating into infinity as we encourage others who encourage others . . . who encourage others! Spread the words of comfort. Let them ricochet into and off the hearts of others.

A period placed. before the end of a sentence

Someone once said, "The death of a child is like a period placed before the end of a sentence." I have sat with a number of parents who know what this means. I am also counted among those who mourn over the loss of a precious child.

Scott was born on November 23rd . . . on a Friday . . . just like today. Bonnie went into labor on Thanksgiving day . . . just like yesterday. Today Scott would have turned 28 years old. But the period came too soon. The sentence was assumed to go on. But it stopped shortly after birthday number sixteen.

How does one find redemptive value in the death of a child? My only hope is to be profoundly transformed in my soul; to be shaped by my child's life and death but yet not be totally defined by it. The death of a child is not to be wasted. That would be a double tragedy.

As I remember Scott today, I also remember Mindy, Claire, Oaks, Maci Jane, Anthony, Louie, Alyssa, and Kade. The last fourteen months have been very hard on our community. May God redemptively bless the families of those with periods placed. before the end of their sentence

A Redemptive Laugh

“We cried like beavers,” the young boy responded when I asked what he and his mother did when they visited his daddy’s grave site. Admittedly, I was perplexed by his answer.

So, I looked to his mother for some help. She explained that as they stood together looking down at her husband’s and his father’s headstone, her son asked, “Why are we crying so much?” She told him, “We are crying because we are bereaved.”

Oh, thank God for the humor and grace only little children can bring to tragic losses. True, sometimes we just have to “cry like beavers” as we face the reality of losing a precious loved one.

What helped us in our grief.

(Picture: The last fishing trip - 1995, Tony & Scott Redfern)

The church is truly the church when God’s people practice the one-another teachings listed in the New Testament Scriptures. While all of the “one-anothers” are important to living in a redemptive faith-community, when we choose to bear one-another’s burdens, we have a unique opportunity to minister to people who are experiencing perhaps the worst tragedy they have personally known.

In 1996, our family experienced such a loss. Our son was killed in a bizarre woodshop accident at his high school. Scott’s death changed us forever. Since his death, we have been asked by several people to comment on what helped us during our first year of grief and mourning.

People tend to ask for two reasons. Some people, who are recently bereaved, want to know what helps. Some people, who are trying to help the newly bereaved, want to know how to help

While we cannot speak for everyone who has lost a loved one, the following list speaks to what helped Bonnie and I in our griefwork:

1. People being present to us. Friends and family who just came by the house to be with us.
2. People crying with us without ever saying a word to us.
3. People letting us tell and retell our story of loss. Hearing is believing and it brings reality from the head to the heart.
4. People who said Scott’s name.
5. People telling us “Scott–stories.” “Something I will always remember about Scott was … ”
6. People calling just to check on us.
7. Mourning and knowing the difference from grieving. If we chose to mourn, we chose to heal. (Grieving is on the inside. Mourning is on the outside. Mourning is grief expressed.)
8. Giving ourselves permission to grieve and mourn.
9. Giving each other the space to grieve and mourn.
10. Realizing that we both grieve and mourn differently.
11. People calling just to read us a verse from the Bible.
12. A friend coming over to tell us how he was mad at God over Scott’s death and how God came to him and helped him process his anger.
13. People giving us books.
14. Reading the Bible. (I read the Gospel of John over and over.)
15. Other bereaved parents calling on us.
16. People letting us try to spiritualize everything.
17. People who followed our lead as we taught them about our heartache.
18. People who understood when we declined their invitations.
19. People who let us be alone and private when we wanted.
20. People who extended grace to us when we did not respond to their acts of kindness and concern; knowing that we were overwhelmed.
21. People listening to our theological–babble without criticism or evaluation.
22. Praying real gut-wrenching raw prayers - Everyone needs a safe place to really express how he/she feels.
23. People accepting us in the reality of our grief.
24. People NOT prescribing a time line for us – when to feel happy again, when to take down and remove Scott’s things from the house (every experience is different).
25. People going to the “dark night of the soul” with us.
26. Friends gently rubbing our backs and sobbing with us.
27. Letters and notes. (We appreciated all the cards but it was the personal notes that meant so much to us.)
28. People remembering Scott’s birthday . . . and death day.
29. People writing songs and poems about Scott.
30. People making life–changing redemptive decisions because of Scott’s life and death.
31. Recognition by pastors, civic leaders, and even politicians.
32. Grief Counseling.
33. Working a four–day week. The lethargy of grief is real. Bonnie took every Friday off for the remainder of the school year.
34. Practical help:
a. Meals, meals, meals. Not only provided to our home, but placed on a plate and put in our laps during the first week or so. We would have forgotten to eat.
b. Friends who cleaned our house many times – actually for several months, as we were too exhausted. (After that, we hired a housekeeper.)
c. We were hardly alone during the first few weeks, except from bedtime till breakfast. We slept with the light on some nights because the darkness seemed raw.
d. A neighbor cleaned our pool.
e. A friend washed our cars.
f. Men from the church pruned our trees.
g. A father sent his son to mow our lawn.
h. A friend stopped by on her way to the store to see if we needed anything.
i. A local market donated paper goods (plates, napkins, plastic utensils, cups, etc.) and cold cuts and bread for sandwiches as people dropped by the house.
j. Two ladies planted all the donated live flowers and plants. They literally landscaped our front yard.
k. A friend dried all the flowers for us.
l. A friend took care of all our bookkeeping, dealt with the insurance companies, and filed our tax returns for us. Dealing with all the paperwork was a BIG help.
m. We were given gift certificates for restaurants, hotels on the coast, and massages.
n. People who constructed physical, financial, and living memorials in Scott's name.
o. Those who helped us do the hard things and understand the reality of Scott's death: verifying Scott's body before cremation, receiving his ashes, preparing his ashes, helping us understand the mechanism of his death and his last moments of life.

What did not help:

1. People trying to spiritualize everything. If we wanted to find comfort in where Scott was (heaven), that was one thing. But when the loss, or our response to the loss, was spiritualized for us, it was not helpful.
2. People who tried to make some trite pithy statement to “ease our pain”. “At least you had him for 16 years.” “He is in a better place.” “He was ready, so God took him.” “God needed another flower for his garden.” “You must be so strong or God would not have allowed this.”
3. People who tried to avoid the obvious and act like nothing was wrong.
4. Sometimes doing the familiar was hard – going out to eat where we had been with Scott – and holidays. The hole seems so great in the routines of life.