Picking up the Pieces of a Shattered Life

If you live in “Tornado Alley” between the Rockies and the Appalachians, where warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico smacks into cold, dry air from the Rocky Mountains and Canada, tornadoes are almost commonplace. Especially if you live, as I did for most of my life, in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, and Texas. You have a basement, or an interior closet, or a bathroom that you have decided will be your tornado shelter, and you keep a wary eye on the Doppler radar, but mostly, you don’t worry too much.

During tornado drills in school, we’d pull the desks together in rows and back into the aisles between them on our hands and knees. My main concern was the boys under the desks behind me, particularly when I had to practice using my hands to protect my neck and head and couldn’t use them to make sure my dress stayed down.

RosesThese are probably similar thoughts to those of the teachers and students at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma, last Monday afternoon. None of them knew that the tornado bearing down on them would be such a monster. The teachers were heroic and did exactly what they needed to do—and more—to protect the children in their care, but seven children died in that elementary school.

On May 5, 2012, 19-year-old Joshua Steven Eddy died. I wrote a blog post about him here. Josh was very much a part of the huge homeschooling community in Oregon and Washington, and a dear friend to young people I know and love. Their world was rocked. There is a sense of invulnerability when you are young. Then to have one of your own snatched away in a moment. . . Josh has been gone a year now. Though he is missed terribly, the belief that he is more truly alive now that any of us have ever been is a sure and steady comfort in all of our losses.

Josh’s mother, Stacie, wrote a status update on Josh’s Facebook page on May 5th. She gave me permission to quote her:

The ringing of a telephone, a common sound. Then a friend’s voice on the other end utters words that unleash a darkness so deep and enveloping it is disorienting, numbing. When I am able to see again, I no longer recognize the landscape. All that was once familiar is gone, obliterated. What is left behind is so foreign that my mind struggles to comprehend. As I sift through the rubble, I find one small precious object and then another. Little by little, I gather these treasures and clutch them to my heart: a written encouragement, a picture, a story, each so incredibly meaningful.

A shattered life. . . like a tornado swept through and left devastation behind.

May 5th, 2012. One profoundly dark day that changed our world forever… and yet, it is the most joyous day of Josh’s life. How can one day, one moment, be so horrific and so wonderful at the same time?

I never think of my son as dead, because he’s not. He is more alive than I have ever been. I think of him as “somewhere else”, and though I know where he is, I do not know how to get there myself; I am waiting to be led one day. The fact that Josh no longer walks upon this earth however, is deeply painful. . .

None of this is surprising to you. Even if you’ve never lost a child, you can imagine what that might feel like. So what is surprising? In the midst of all I have described, there is much beauty, comfort, peace and even joy.

If I could speak to the residents of Moore, Oklahoma, and all who have lost a child between one breath and the next, I would say to them what Stacie says here:

If I could only state one truth that has become crystal clear this year, it is this: God is faithful. He is unchanging, unmovable, trustworthy, all powerful, all kind, all loving, all good – I can trust Him. He will not fail me. He did not fail Josh. God loved Josh so much, that He sent His only Son to die for him. He drew Josh to Himself, revealed Himself to him, and faithfully conformed Josh to look like His beloved Son. May 5th, 2012, God completed the work He had begun in Josh, just as He said He would. It is to that impregnable rock that I cling.

 Honestly, it would be enough for me to know that God is faithful and will not leave me or forsake me. The fact that He is full of compassion and mercy also, blows my mind. He’s God. He knows it’s all for the best, it’s good, I’ll understand in the end. . . and still He is moved with compassion for me. He weeps with me, He wipes my tears, He holds me and He feels my pain. This is radical stuff. I’m not talking about god, I’m talking about All Mighty God, the Creator of the universe, giver of life, supreme ruler, the Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end – God. Who am I that He should care for me? And yet He does. Who are you that He should care for you? And yet He does. Though we cannot see Him, He is there. In every moment, the good and the deepest dark, He is there. He is proving Himself faithful to me and to you. Oh, trust Him! Give yourself wholly to Him. He will not let you down. He will never leave you or forsake you!

Oh, what comfort, Christian! And oh, how we should pray for those who don’t know the Lord! I often wonder: “How do people who don’t know the Lord make it through horrific tragedy?” And the truth is—they don’t, not really. They may look fine and say they are fine, but they are shattered, with no way to be whole again. We weren’t designed to live life independent from our Creator God.

. . . A year has passed. I wasn’t sure I would survive. I am weak and fragile. I cling to the Lord with all my meager strength. Some days I barely make it through. I am still here though, and I am one year closer to seeing my beloved son again. One day, we will be together and never part again. Oh, Lord! Thank You for making a way, for conquering death, for loving us and for taking Josh home. I am forever grateful.

Joshua Steven Eddy

Gratitude. . . Gratitude is how we pick up the pieces of a shattered life. Gratitude in the midst of tragedy. This fallen world is not our home. We have heaven to look forward to, Beloved, with the One who loves us more than we can imagine, and who has prepared a place for us with Him. He will come back for us and take us home. There will be no more sorrow, no more tears, no more parting, and no more pain. Forever.

If you have lost a child, please know—there is hope that you will come into a quiet place of rest and acceptance. You will eventually be able to look back with gratitude for the time the Lord gave you here on earth with your child, look up with gratitude that your child no longer has to be subjected to the trials and tribulations of this life, and look forward with gratitude to spending eternity with your child and Jesus.

If you have other children dealing with the death of a brother or sister, Josh’s sister, Mariah, wrote a wonderful blog post, Year of Grace. I encourage you to read it, and use it to comfort your children.

John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:4

Photo credits: Clari Noel Photography; Beverly & Pack

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Apathy…

Apathetic, resentful, defeated, legalistic, overwhelmed. Not good emotions for someone who is steadfast, whose faith is founded on the Rock, and who breathes hope, are they? “Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul would soon have settled in silence.” Eyes Looking DownThe past year has been hard. I write this knowing that the past year has not been nearly as hard as some. But when we are not significantly blown about by the storms of life, we can loosen our grip on what really matters and drift without recognizing what we are doing, and the enemy has us deceived and trapped before we know it.

That’s what happened to me this year. Don’t get me wrong—there have been uplifting times of deep worship, and sweet fellowship with other believers. There have been times when I have wiped tears of repentance and gratitude. But mostly, I have been dissatisfied with my life. Pretty much every aspect of my life as I have slogged along. It’s been like death from a thousand cuts. Without even realizing what was happening.

A friend of mine, Sono Harris, who has been with the Lord almost three years now, said that we are constantly having to be reminded of what we already know. On Mother’s Day, the pastor talked about a long obedience in the same direction. The ditty, “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again” has been running through my mind.

The Lord has told me on occasion about years in my life that will be momentous for some reason. I don’t always know if I will see that as good, though “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” One of those years was when I was 26. I met my husband. One was when I was 36. I miscarried two sons, three months apart. I call them my twins and still mourn them, but we will be together in eternity. Knowing that makes heaven more real.

One of those years is this year. I celebrated my 56th birthday on the first of February. I could hardly wait to turn 56 because I was so looking forward to what the Lord had in store. It’s actually my 57th year, but that is also significant because I was born in 1957. I look for connections between numbers everywhere—it’s a quirk, but a harmless one, usually.

I had some ideas of what I thought the Lord was going to do for me this year—I would finally lose all the weight I need to lose, or my financial situation would ease—those topped the list. But I have figured out that the Lord has better things in store. He is teaching me to truly be steadfast. To truly breathe hope. To not live in condemnation, for “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

It’s easy for me to cling to the Lord in tumultuous times. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” It’s harder when life, though not easy, is not wracked by storms. Then I take my focus off Christ alone and put it on myself and my circumstances, and live an apathetic, resentful, defeated, legalistic, overwhelmed life. This is the trap. By God’s grace He has shown it to me, and by His grace I will truly learn to live steadfast, breathing hope, in the bad times, the good times, and the mundane times when life just doesn’t really measure up to my expectations.

Jesus came that we may have life, and that we may have it more abundantly. When I look at my life from God’s perspective it is rich. I pray that I will learn to get over myself and to do that consistently so that I can be a blessing and encouragement to those around me to be steadfast and breathe the hope of Christ in us, the hope of glory.

Psalm 94:17; Romans 8:28; Romans 8:1; John 6:68; John 10:10

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Book Review — Hidden in Dreams by Davis Bunn

My Review:

I have a dream, the same dream, which I have dreamed for many years. The setting may be different, but the terror is the same. I am in the dark, and I cannot turn on the light.

Imagine my trepidation when I began reading Hidden in Dreams, by Davis Bunn. In this book, the same series of dreams is dreamt by several dreamers. They are dreams of financial ruin, personally and internationally. Hopefully, my dream is not prophetic, but these dreams seem to be, as events occur in the world. The question is the source. Are they from God? Is there a rational, scientific explanation? Must those who place their trust in science give credence to the fact that some things just cannot be explained without reference to spirituality and faith?

This book is a sequel to The Book of Dreams. Though it can be read without reading The Book of Dreams first, you will want to read The Book of Dreams also. Elena Burroughs, the protagonist in both books, is a fascinating character with a strong Christian faith which she depends on for direction even when God is silent.

Elena is only one of the rich characters in the book. She is drawn into the dreams mystery by Rachel Lamprey, the antagonistic sister of Elena’s dearest and oldest friend, Miriam, who figured in The Book of Dreams, giving the book of dreams to Elena before she died. Rachel repudiates everything Miriam stood for, but is really not so different from her after all. Jacob Rawlings, a behaviorist who has in the past brutally flayed Elena in a debate is drawn unwillingly into the dreams controversy when a patient of his shares the dreams. He wants a relationship with Elena, but there is one crucial thing missing. The president of Elena’s college, Reed Thompson, and his daughter, Stacy, are both stronger, more compassionate, and more faithful people because of the death of a wife and mother years ago. Even the chaotic weather in Florida during hurricane season becomes part of the cast of characters, lending its ominous beat to the march of events.

The setting of impending worldwide financial collapse, torn from today’s headlines, coupled with a recent re-reading of Larry Burkett’s The Coming Economic Earthquake, made it difficult to read this book. However, Davis Bunn is one of my favorite authors and I have read most of what has come from his pen. And in true, Davis Bunn style, there is a totally-unexpected twist.

The prophetic dreams shared by fifteen people who live all over the world, some with great financial or political influence, powerful financial organizations and business corporations, murders, conspiracies, and the threat of global financial collapse, not to mention romance, all make Hidden in Dreams a compelling and exciting read. I give it five stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

About Hidden in Dreams         Hidden in Dreams book cover

Just when the world’s foremost expert on dream analysis, Dr. Elena Burroughs, thinks she is getting her life back under control after losing her position at Oxford University and the man she hoped to fall in love with, she is approached by Rachel Lamprey, the product manager of an innovative new ADHD treatment about to hit the market.

Rachel asks for Elena’s help with a clinical trial participant who has had a disturbing dream foretelling a cataclysmic global financial collapse. But even more alarming is the fact that fifteen people scattered across the globe—including Elena herself—begin to experience the same repetitive, devastating dreams of economic ruin just as one bank crisis follows another, suggesting that these aren’t merely dreams.

As Elena searches for answers in her professional networks, she is forced to form an unlikely alliance with her most vehement critic and is drawn back into the spotlight as the public face of the so-called dreamers. As Elena and her collaborators attempt to discover the dreams’ source, the clock ticks down to devastation. Suddenly, it’s no longer just about the dreams. It’s about survival.

Read Chapter 1 of Hidden in Dreams for free. Click here.

Reading Group Guide for Hidden in Dreams. Click here.

Hidden in Dreams video trailer

Davis Bunn imageAbout Davis Bunn 

Davis Bunn is an award-winning novelist whose audience spans reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings. He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write. Visit Davis at www.davisbunn.com.

A Conversation with Davis Bunn                       

Q: How much research did you have to conduct to write this intriguing story?

A: In a way, I suppose you could say I’ve been researching this story all my adult life. I did my studies in international economics and finance. Observing the difficulties our nation and economy has faced over the past three years, as well as what we personally have endured, has been tough. It really was great to have this chance to give voice to what we increasingly hear, that the people at fault need to be brought to justice, and the risk of another economic collapse needs to be halted.

Q: Why is it important for you to write about such timely themes?

A: Economic uncertainty defines the world we live in. I feel it is important to show how the timeless and eternal messages are applicable to every aspect of our world and our lives. And how the gift of peace and wisdom can be used in every circumstance we face.

Q: When you wrote Book of Dreams, did you have plans for this sequel, Hidden in Dreams?

A: Two months after Book of Dreams was released, I had the call every author dreams about and yearns for—a vice president of NBC/Universal suggested we discuss the possibility of turning it into a television series. I was put in touch with one of their producers and over the next six months began working up the basic structure of what this program might look like. One of the ideas I found most appealing became the basis for Hidden in Dreams. There is as yet no firm decision about the television project. But it has been a blast to even be considered.

Q: In writing a sequel it’s always a challenge to include enough back story to satisfy those who haven’t read the first book while still making sure the book stands alone. How do you approach this dilemma?

A: You’re right, it can indeed be troublesome, but this time it all fell together very easily. The structure just flowed. That sometimes happens, where the story seems to create itself. I wish it was true all the time. I can’t even say why it was such a smooth process with Hidden in Dreams. But there was a sense of impatience about the back story, as though I needed to fit in just a few paragraphs, but I couldn’t allow myself or the reader to be drawn too far from this new story’s flow.

Q: Why did you choose to end Elena’s relationship with Antonio? They seemed like a good couple.

A: For this story to work, Elena needed to enter into the dilemma as vulnerable as all the other people who shared the recurring dreams. She was isolated in a new place and forced to be dependent upon her faith and newfound friends.

Antonio (from Book of Dreams) belonged to a different universe, far from what was happening here. I had to make a choice at the outset. Would she remain with Antonio, and the two of them experience this together? Or would she be isolated?

Writing a new story is all about two things: facing the empty page, and choices. It is kind of fun to go back and revisit decisions I made eighteen months ago, when first outlining this concept.

Q: You’re writing about two women in this novel. Is it ever a challenge to write from the female point of view?

A: Learning to write from a woman’s point of view is very difficult for a male writer, as it usually is for a woman author writing a man’s story. Before I was published, I became friends with a husband and wife team who were both opera stars. The woman often sang a male role in a Mozart opera that was originally designed for a young boy, but which nowadays is usually sung by a woman with a slightly lower range, called a coloratura.

I discussed my difficulty with her, of trying to make my women sound real. She told me that my trouble stemmed from working on a woman character from the outside. It wasn’t about making women ’sound’ anything. It was all about making the character live from the inside-out.

As I worked on the point of view issue, trying to put my friend’s challenge into practice, I also began going into any meeting with a woman carrying a secret tape recorder, and taping everything that was said. I then went back and wrote out every word. It was perhaps the most boring month of my entire writing career.

But gradually I found that I could ‘hear’ the speech patterns of these women, and reshape them into structures that fitted around what was happening in my stories. And through this exercise, the emotional content that lay behind the dialogue, the person who was expressing herself, became more real, more solid.

And then I met my wife, Isabella. And the process of instruction at the intimate level of a God-centered marriage began to unfold.

Q: In Hidden, Elena and her colleagues are attacked in Miami. After the attack, why did Elena not take more precautions? 

A: Elena had a choice to make, and so did I. Either she could play the delicate flower – fearing everything and going nowhere – or she could go on the hunt. I liked the balance between her internal fears and uncertainties, and her quest as a professional psychologist. She is, in effect, trained to look for clues – to go on the quest of drawing out the hidden. I felt the actions she took, despite the dangers, to be her natural response.

Q: Is there another Elena Burroughs book planned?

A: I have another idea. The question is, what do the readers want, and how positive is the reaction to this story?

Q: Why do you write fiction?

 A: I became a believer at age 28. Up to that time, ever since graduating, I had been working in international business. I came to faith while working as a consultant in Germany. I started writing two weeks later. Up to that point, I had never picked up a pen in my life to write anything longer than a business report. But I had always been an avid reader. And the moment I started, that very first instant, I had the sense of invitation. It was the first time I had ever experienced that incredible sense of being drawn in a new, divinely inspired direction.

I wrote for nine years and finished seven novels before my first was accepted for publication. Simply because I had received a sense of calling did not mean I was ready to serve. First the diamond had to be polished. Hard and painful as that was.

Q: While you are a prolific writer, you also get out there and live too! What’s been your most exciting real life adventure?

A: It would probably be better to ask, what has been the most exciting real-life event so far this year. Undoubtedly that would be working on the set of a film being shot from a screenplay I wrote last year.

Unlimited has now ‘wrapped’, that is, filming has been completed. The producer and director are now deep into the editing process. The film is due for release in September, 2013. I am currently working on the novel, which comes out a couple of months before then.

I had the whole thing backwards here, doing the script first, but it has been a lot of fun, and the concept remains very fresh. So hopefully Unlimited will come alive on the page as well as the screen.

Q: What is your goal as a novelist?

A: I want to combine a truly entertaining read with a powerful after-effect. My dream is that long after the book is set down with a satisfied sigh, there are still images that surface, lessons that can be drawn, genuine hope and healing and challenges and inspirations. I want my writing to be worthy of the gift.

Q: How can readers find you on the Internet?

My website and blog are at www.davisbunn.com

Subscribe to my blog’s feed (to get my latest posts via e-mail or through your feed reader) at http://feeds.feedburner.com/DavisBunn

Sign up for my e-newsletter (for subscriber-only giveaways and advance notice of my upcoming novels): http://www.davisbunn.com/news.htm

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To Live Is Christ, to Die Is Gain

524164_425212454163649_425207397497488_1601867_804172244_nOn Saturday, Josh Eddy, age 19, stood on the banks of the Rogue River in southern Oregon. The river, one of the original eight rivers designated as “Wild and Scenic” by Congress in 1968 for its amazing beauty and wilderness, was in spate with snow melt and raging with power. Josh, an artist with the camera, adjusted his camera settings, turned to the river to take a picture, and… fell in.

Josh was one of nine children in a homeschooling family that moved from Portland to Grant’s Pass a few years ago. He was very much a part of the huge homeschooling community in Oregon and Washington. I never spoke to him myself, but he was a dear friend to young people I know and love. Their world has been rocked. There is a sense of invulnerability when all life is in front of you, your body works well and you move with confidence, and your mind is sharp and facile. Then to have one of your own snatched away in a moment… Life suddenly becomes, oh, so precious, and oh—so fragile.

I prayed with some of Josh’s friends on Sunday at church. I wanted to just make it okay so badly, but I couldn’t. God is sovereign, and He is always wise and good, and always does what is best for His children out of His infinite love. That is our comfort, our peace, and our joy even when it hurts so much we hardly want to draw the next breath. These children are learning that lesson so early in life. I would have spared them, but I am not God and I don’t love them like He does.

I am thankful that these young people have a staunch faith in God. They hurt, but they know that Josh is rejoicing with Jesus, and they would not wish him back. They know that “precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints,” and “a good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” They know that for a Christian, “it is not death to die.”

Josh was in love with God and focused on His glory. You can learn about the heart of this young man here: The Bright and Hopeful Unknown.  A post dated April 6th is entitled, “To Die Well…” He thought about death a lot, and deeply desired to sacrifice himself for something worthwhile…to die that someone else might live. I have no doubt that God is answering that prayer.

It is easy to speculate about the ministry this extraordinary young man may have had in life, but already people near and far are being impacted by Josh’s writings and by testimonies shared about him. His blog has had more than 10,000 views, almost all of them in the past few days. Visit the Facebook page created on Sunday as a memorial, Joshua Steven Eddy, and read what friends and family have posted about his life and how he encouraged them to fight the good fight of faith.

What the world sees as a senseless, wasted death, God is using to bring Himself great glory.  “God works all things together for the good of those who love God and are the called according to His purpose.” Josh will have a wider and deeper ministry in his death than he would have if he had lived. In God’s economy, nothing is ever senseless or wasted.

Scripture: Psa. 116:15; Eccl. 7.1; Rom. 8:28. Song title from Henri Malan (1787-1864) translated into English by George Bethune (1847).

Another place to learn more about Josh is here: First Impressions: The Movie. Josh was Director of Photography for this movie written, produced, directed, acted in, and filmed by homeschoolers. “First Impressions is an original full-length film based on the book by Jane Austen, ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ set in modern times, but with ‘flashbacks’ into Jane Austen’s story weaved in as the protagonist reads the book.” It is in the editing process, and is projected to be released in the fall. The picture is of Josh poised on the roof, filming.

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The Kingdom Comes Through Weakness and Suffering

Almost daily we hear stories, whether on the news or from friends and family, of atrocities committed against the innocent; teen suicides; broken marriages; loved ones dying; financial devastation. The list goes on and on. How excruciating life is in this sin-sick world, this vale of tears. How often we simply grit our teeth and hold onto the promise of heaven. How often we cry out, “Lord, come quickly!” not because we want to see Him but because this life is untenable.

How do we find joy in the midst of so much anguish?

I don’t always enjoy Easter sermons. Most of the time they dwell on the horrendous suffering of Christ on the cross, and how grateful we should be for His infinite love and that we can spend eternity in heaven with Him. All true. Or how the disciples didn’t know our risen Lord when He walked with them on the road to Emmaus until He revealed Himself. Also true. We are all guilty of spiritual blindness more often than we know.

This Easter the sermon reached down into my soul and brought comfort, healing, and encouragement. It gave me new understanding. For the first time I heard that the kingdom of God comes through weakness and suffering; this is the message of the resurrection.

The resurrection was God the Father’s divine amen to Jesus’ “It is finished” on the cross. He had been weak in the garden, asking if at all possible, the cup might be removed. Then He was obedient even to death on the cross—the most humiliating death possible—after suffering more than anyone could ever imagine, including His Father turning His face away from His Son who became sin for us.

Jesus’ glory is the same glory He had before He suffered, bled, and died for us, but it is a greater glory because of His suffering. Jesus has a glorified body, but He carries His scars still. They are the evidence of His love for us.

Jesus will redeem all of history, including ours. Our failures, weakness, and suffering become an acceptable sacrifice because through them we learn humility, insight, compassion, wisdom, courage, and love: the character of Christ.

Perhaps the truth that affected me most profoundly is that this world is the best that God can give us. Why? Because we have the choice to rise above temptation, and insult, and injury. Because of self-sacrifice, courage, compassion, endurance, and love in the face of evil, bringing glorious victory over that evil. When the earth is restored from death, it will have a greater glory than if it had retained the perfection of the creation.

We find joy in the midst of anguish when we remember that God is sovereign. Not only is He sovereign but He is wise, and not only is He sovereign and wise, but He is good. All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose. All things. It’s all right to be weak and to suffer. Hold fast, beloved. Glory is coming.

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