Each year, June 3rd brings 2 celebrations of life.
One life is my dad! June 3 is his birthday. He is a man who has seen struggles, some consequential and others circumstantial; but today, he is fighting hard to be the man God has called him to be. I am thankful for him and love him so much!
The other life is daughter Carsyn Marie. She was stillborn on June 3, 2007. This morning I have reflected and read through posts from 2012 and 2013. Some thoughts from previous years can be found below.
But this year, I am reminded that the fact that these 2 lives are connected to the same calendar day means a great deal to me. My ability to deal with loss and life’s struggles was, in a large part, learned from my dad. As I said, he is man who has seen many personal struggles in his lifetime, and today, he stands firm fighting against those struggles toward Christlikeness. His example, along with other’s I have seen, wrapped in the mercy and graciousness of God gives me hope. Hope to press on. Hope that God is working things our for good according to His purposes and glory (Romans 8:28). Hope “that He who started a good work in [me] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Finally, I would be negligent if I failed to mention the steadfast faith of my wife, Janna. Through an emotionally devastating situation, she exemplified the peace of God unlike any I have personally witnessed. Paul said, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). She lived this back in 2007. And I’ve seen it over and over again since then. She is one of my greatest heroes.
My encouragement to you is this: struggles come and go, some last a long time and some only a short time. Jesus told His disciples, “In the world you have troubles, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
Original post: http://jeremypcarroll.com/today-she-would-have-been-6
Our daughter, Carsyn, would have been 6 years old today, had she not been stillborn. In one sense, it seems like a lifetime ago; in another, like only yesterday.
Each year, we try to set aside this day to be together as a family. We talk. We do things together, some fun – some somber. We pray. We remember. The goal is not to idolize our daughter but to simply be together and to remember and celebrate, as a family, the mercy, grace, and faithfulness of God in our life during a dark time.
May God encourage you by what we continue to learn.
Below are some excerpts from last year’s post (to read in full: http://jermpc.com/?p=505)
My dear, sweet daughter Carsyn. Today would be her 5th birthday (2012) had she not been stillborn. Her birthday serves as a reminder for our family of one of the darkest seasons we have encountered. In a moment like that, there are no words of comfort for someone who has just been told “I’m sorry; we cannot find your baby’s heartbeat. She has died.” There is grief. Even though, we never heard her laugh or saw her smile. Even though, I never comforted her when she was crying or read her a book or played with her and her dolls…there is grief. There is sadness. She is, to this day, part of our family, though. Her picture hangs on our wall with the rest of the childrens’ pictures. She come up in our conversations.
I find myself reflecting often on the circumstances of 2007 in hopes that the Lord will not allow me to become complacent and stagnant in life. Of course, I do not desire that to return to that valley, but I, also, do not want to forget the lessons that God taught me during that time.
What did I learn then that I do not want to let go of? (note: this list is certainly not comprehensive)
1. Life is in God’s hands. Pretending I have any control or hand on life and death is pure foolishness. Furthermore, I do not need to understand death any more than I need to understand birth. I should not ask “Why did Carsyn die?” any more than I should ask “Why was Carsyn’s life created?”
2. Circumstances change; God does not.
3. Contentment in the Lord must be of highest importance to my family. Paul writes, “I have learned to be content in all things.” and so must I (1 Timothy 6). Not just contentment with stuff but with His power over the ebb and flow of life.
4. One of the most often misquote…and misapplied verses in Scripture is 1 Corinthians 10:13. It says:
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it. (HCSB)
I’ve heard it many times with this verse as support, “God will not allow anything to happen to you that you can’t handle.” This verse does not say this, nor does the Bible, in any other place, teach this idea. This verse is talking about the temptation to sin not the trials of life. The whole point is that we can’t handle many (perhaps argument could be made for all) of life’s circumstances. We need God. We need to Him as focus of our praise in the good times lest we think too highly of ourselves, and we need Him to sustain us during the difficult times by His peace.
5. The peace of God really does surpass all human understanding.
Why is this so important to me? Because as difficult as that season of life was for our family, God has shown us great mercy & grace over the last 5 years since. He has added 2 more amazing children our family and granted us loving relationships from our amazing church staff and church family…to name just a couple. God has shown us His kindness in more ways than I can name…and that is something I never want to forget!
The following is from a series of posts of reflections and/or quotes from “Cultivating Responsibility” by Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller of the National Center for Biblical Parenting.
Any parent with more than one child must honestly admit that peaceful moments can be hard to come by, but we must not value peace in-and-of-itself so much that we miss opportunities to encourage and challenge our children in their journey toward maturity.
Though the task is hard, parents, let us keep our hearts and minds focused on our parental calling.
Children often train their parents to jump at their every request by making life uncomfortable. Parents sometimes become more interested in peace than character development and are quick to comply.
The following is the first in a series of posts of reflections and/or quotes from “Cultivating Responsibility” by Scott Turansky & Joanne Miller of the National Center for Biblical Parenting.
A convicting statement about the importance of both the content and the delivery of our verbal communication with our children:
Many kids feed their emotions with negative thinking. Psalm 19:14 reminds us that the things said in the heart are just as important as those that are spoken. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Many times the words of parents become the script that children say in their own hearts, so it’s important to manage parental speech, even when you are frustrated or angry.
A friend asked me if I would be able to “clean up” some old pics for a family project she was working on. Since I enjoy a good digital challenge, I accepted. While not perfect nor professional, I was please with the results! Drag the line in the center of each pic to see before and after. (NOTE: This plugin may not work on mobile devices. I apologize!)
Reflections on Philippians 3
Our pastor recently preached on Philippians 3 so it’s been a topic around our staff table. As others have rightly noted, this chapter speaks deep to the topic of spiritual maturity. Paul seems to define spiritual maturity (v. 15) as living an active life in the constant and continued pursuit of a relationship with Jesus and the resulting fruit-bearing Christlikeness that accompanies this intimate relationship. In other words, salvation (being born again) is not the equivalent of acquiring a ticket to heaven, and once acquired, the ticket holder is simply waiting to board his plane to heaven, as if waiting in a “spiritual layover” with nothing more to do than to enjoy to food, scenery, and amenities of the locale.
No. Paul says “I consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of know Christ Jesus my Lord” (v. 7) and “my goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings” (v. 10). Our salvation is meant to propel us into active pursuit of Jesus and building/serving His church.
Paul’s goal in life and the reality of his salvation, as he recorded for the church in Philippi, was to know Jesus more and more each day. In verse 14, Paul says, “I pursue as my goal the prize of God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.” I love this language! Pursue… it carries a such vivid imagery of action. I picture someone running as fast as he can, maybe in a race toward a finish line (which is imagery used elsewhere: 1 Corinthians 9:24, Galatians 2:2, Hebrews 12:1) or after someone or something highly valued. His eyes and mind are focused on the end goal, but the race isn’t over. With each step, he works hard, “reaching forward to what is ahead” (v. 13). Salvation is active. Earlier in Philippians 2:12, Paul said, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It seems by both Paul’s teaching and his lifestyle that he did not understand being born again as limited to something that happened at a single point in history (for him on the Damascus road in Acts 9). His life as a Christian began at a point in time, but it did not end there nor was it placed “on hold” there. He said in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make EVERY EFFORT to take hold of it…” (emphasis added). Paul worked out (not for) his salvation… growing in Christ… learning about Him… worshiping Him… sharing Him with others.
In contrast to pursuing Jesus and subsequently becoming more Christlike, Paul later says that “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ” (v. 18) and “they are focused on earthly things” (v. 19). While Paul does not use the same intesity of active imagery for those who are worldly, he does set the 2 things against each other. The Christian’s “citizenship is in heaven, from which we EAGERLY wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 20; emphasis added). Enemies of the cross are focused on earthly things; Christians must be focused on heavenly things. Enemies of the cross pursue their own appetite and desires through the things of this world (3:19). Christians must “seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2) as we “stand firm in the Lord” (Philippians 4:1) and filling our minds with “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, [and] whatever is commendable” (Philippians 4:8).
From a physical standpoint Paul learned how to be content in whatever circumstances he was in (4:11-12), but from a spiritual standpoint, he never settled for where he was or felt like his sanctification was complete (3:12).
My prayer is that I will follow Paul’s challenge and that you will, as well:
We should live up to whatever truth we have attained. Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. (Philippians 3:16-17)
In the last few years, many resources have been produced to help guide families in celebrating the season of Advent and Christmas together. You can find a few of them of the under the “Articles” link at ttownparents.org.
At FBC Tuscaloosa, we encourage families to set aside time to worship together throughout the week, but we realize that having family worship times can, sometimes, seem intimidating and overwhelming. We want to encourage you to use this Advent season as a time to begin, restart, or just continue to worship together as a family. To that end, we are providing a simple resource to help you.
During Sunday worship, beginning Sunday evening November 30, we will celebrate Advent corporately as a church. Coming alongside our corporate worship, we are providing a Family Advent Devotional to help guide you in leading your family through the season of Advent.
“How do I get a copy?” Glad you asked. There are 2 ways:
- Click here for the digital version (or the Family Advent Devotional link in the top menu).
- Printed resources are available in the foyer of the Children’s Center and the Hub of the main building. Look for this:
We pray you will find value in these resources! May God bless your time together as a family!
Minister to Preschool & Children
Recently I was reading through 1 John and was struck by the phrase “walk in the light as He is in the light” from verse 7. My mind immediately jumped to Ephesians 4:1 in which Paul instructs Christians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called” and then to 5:1-2 he says to “be imitators of God…and walk in love.”
As I began to reflect on these passages about walking, I recalled a time earlier on in my life when my wife and I would take walks together.
As I reflected, I realized that these are some of my fondest memories of our early days of being married. My wife and I first moved to Texas to go to Southwestern Seminary in 2002. We had been married for about two and a half years and it was before we had kids. It was a much simpler time.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has a beautiful campus that encompasses several city blocks, and my wife and I would often take long, quiet walks around campus. Just talking. As I look back, I think of how close we became during these walks. How our relationship grew. Sometimes these walks were filled with vibrant conversation; other times, we walked silently enjoying each other’s company. I learned a great deal about her, myself, and our relationship during these walks. Sometimes we talked about the future: wondering what life would look like for us after I graduated or after we had children. What I realized now, though, is that even though we often discussed the future, what was really happening, in those moments, with each step and each conversation is that we were growing close as couple. God was knitting our heart together in ways that we could not see.
As I think about these memories, an old phrase we don’t often use anymore comes to mind: “your walk with the Lord.” Many of you will remember when that was common vocabulary in the church. Personally, I miss this terminology because, at least to me, it conveys a slow, steady pace and investing time in the relationship. Sadly, this phrase might be lost today in our busy day-in-and-day-out lifestyle. In fact, one of my sons asked me recently, “Dad, do you think there will ever be a time when we won’t have to walk anywhere?” I fear many see walking as a necessary evil.
This scene comes to mind:
Back on track…
When the Bible talks of our relationship with Jesus & our Christian life, I believe this is what Jesus wants for us (the slow, steady walk; not the Wall-E picture above). He wants us to set aside time each day to read His Word. Not in preparation for teaching or just to check it off a list of things to do, but to He wants us to hear Him… to get to know Him. Talking (praying), yes, but listening. Listening to the truth of His Word… how He loves us. So I want to encourage you to pause during your busy week and “take a walk with Jesus” (sometimes it helps to even literally take a walk).
As parents (and teachers), the most important gift we can give our children is investing time in our own relationship with Jesus. We cannot merely teach kids into loving Jesus; we must lead them into loving Jesus.
Hebrews 2 warns us to pay close attention to what we have heard so that we will not drift away. The thing about drifting is that it happens so subtly we often do not even know it is happening at all.
I think of floating out in the ocean just off the beach. The waves roll around me. I am tossed ever so gently. Unless I keep my eyes on the beach and exert effort, before I know it I’ll be further into the water than I planned and further away from where I left my things.
Paul paints the same picture in Ephesians 4 when he says that, as we mature in our faith, “we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” In this context, Paul describes some of the things we must do (our own efforts) as we grow in Christ. He commands us to “walk worthy of our calling… with all humility and gentleness with patience accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.” He goes on to explain that we are to utilize our spiritual gifts for the edification of the church (active service).
As parents, we must remember that spiritual maturity takes intentional effort. We have to guard our own hearts so that we do not drift away from those foundational teachings of Scripture. Guarding our hearts is a defensive strategy. We must also actively learn from those who authentically teach the Bible and serve the Body of Christ, which is an offensive strategy. If we are going to be equipped to teach our children, we must first pay close attention to ourselves.
Final caution: It is too common that, as adults, we think “Oh. I know that Bible story.” or “I’ve been in church my entire life.” And we allow pride and complacency to be our excuse for laziness. Let us put away pride and admit that we too must daily abide in Jesus, even as adults. Speaking specifically of temptation but applicable across our lives, Paul says “whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). Too often, we drift and are not even aware of it because of our pride.
Final encouragement: In a different illustration, the author of Hebrews says in chapter 12 “let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus.” Back to our original example on the beach, we must fix our eyes on where we want to stay (Jesus & sound doctrine) and intentionally put forth effort so that we do not unintentionally end up somewhere we do not want to be.Note: This discussion of work and effort is not meant to imply we are working to earn salvation. We work to serve the church and to not be carried away by teaching that is contrary to the Word of God.
Sometimes as pastors we say things like “When is the last time your shared the gospel?” or “Are you living a gospel-centered life?” But often times we forget or neglect that there are many who, though born again or saved, do not understand what the term “the gospel” entails. This is especially important for parents who want to make sure that their children hear “the gospel,” but don’t really know what to say or how to say it. Sometimes it’s because parents have heard it so many times that their memories (hearing it over and over again years ago) cloud the simplicity of the gospel, and sometimes it’s because parents are just learning it themselves. In any case, “the gospel” is “good news,” and as Jeffery Reed (lifeway.com/kidsministry/author/jeffreyreed) recently said “The gospel is good news, not a good recommendation or suggestion.”
The most explicit place in the New Testament in which the gospel is laid out is in 1 Corinthians 15:1,3-8 —
I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed…For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time;most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep.Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me.
A good way to summarize this good news is to biblically unpack the words God, Man, Christ, Response.
- God. God is the creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). He is perfectly holy, worthy of all worship, and will punish sin (1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:11, Rom. 2:5-8).
- Man. All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature (Gen. 1:26-28, Ps. 51:5, Rom. 3:23). From birth, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
- Christ. Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life (John 1:1, 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:26, Rom. 3:21-26, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor. 15:20-22).
- Response. God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21, Rom. 10:9-10).
My wife and 8 year old son picked up a book from the public library last weekend that, as it turns out, is quite helpful and informative. It is a short little book called “Cell Phone Safety” by Kathy Allen.
Most parents will have to deal with the issue of their children having and using a cell phone. Many parents want to help their children learn to use their cell phones responsibly but don’t know where to begin in talking with them. I believe this book gives parents a good track on which to start. For children, it asks the right questions to help children begin thinking for themselves about this responsibility
The book is written directly to children, most likely younger teenagers (older teens might find it “immature”). While it’s certainly not perfect nor comprehensive, I believe there are several good things to note about it. Addressing topics like “Phones are not toys,” “Public v. Private Info,” “Identity Theft and Dangers,” “Cyberbullying,” “Think Before You Send,” and “Screens Taking Time Away from Real Life” makes this a book from which both parents and children/teenagers can benefit.
A few notable points:
“Cell Phone Safety” encourages open, honest communication between child and parent. On several pages the statement is made “Talk to a parent or trusted adult.” The book elaborates a “trusted adult” to be a teacher or someone similar. Parents definitely need to be intentional about keeping the lines of communication open, but children need to be reminded often (from outside the home helps tremendously) that their parents are not the enemy.
While cell phones certainly enable fun aspects of social life, they are not toys. Owners/users of cell phones, regardless of age, must remember that these devices are a tool for sending and receiving information, and that’s not a game. This book doesn’t gloss over or minimize the reality of the dangers of sharing private information publicly.
In light of the “it’s not a toy” point, “Cell Phone Safety” encourages and emphasizes responsibility on the part of the child, not just the parent.
Dealing with questions like “What’s the harm in telling posting about where I am?” and “What’s the harm in responding to a number I don’t know?” undergirds the serious nature of information sharing and helps children understand the risks.
Similarly, kids and adults alike should adhere to the point of “think before you post/share” and in many cases, you simply cannot “un-send.”
Kids and adults alike can, also, benefit from periodically and intentionally unplugging; I know I can.
Boundaries are not a means to end fun but a means to ensure safety, just like crosswalks and traffic lights are on the road. Working with your child to set and understand boundaries will go a long way toward cell phone and online safety.
All in all, if you are struggling with how to help your child understand the importance of online/cell phone safety, this little book is a pretty good place to start. If you are just beginning crossing into the territory, as we are, of adding an additional cell phone in your home, this book will give you a path to walk on as you begin.
Note: This is simply a short review of a book I read. I have no affiliation with the author, publisher, or anyone else associated with this book. I have found its contents helpful; perhaps you can, too.