Thursday, August 07, 2014

A Time to Grieve

By Debbie Baskin
August 7, 2014

            Tragedy can enter into one's life in various ways. The most insidious involves the loss of one's child whether through death or kidnapping there can be no greater agony.

            Recently, two couples we know have lost a young son - one through an auto accident and another through suicide. I wish with all my heart that I could ease the horrible nightmare that these families are going through. But, there is one humble truth - I cannot. I can pray. I can send expressions of love but I cannot rip that pain from their hearts. This new pain will forever be part of the fabric of their lives.

            I remember over twenty-five years ago receiving the phone call that would forever change my life, challenge my faith, cause me to question truth, and bring an anguish so intense to my soul that breathing was a excruciating experience. Our phone call was from our attorney who coldly stated to my husband, "Mark, that thing you said could happen, has happened. Marvin and Sandra have kidnapped your children."

            Disbelief. After battling my parents for a year on horrible allegations of abuse and neglect, with all being disproved in court, we had been told that the following Friday our children would come home. Unknown to us or the court, the guardian ad litem had given my parents permission to take our beloved children out of school for a week for a vacation from which they never returned. We were already beaten up by the slander and thought that at last this horrible period was coming to an end. Instead, we were informed, "They have been stolen."

            When Mark hung up the phone and told me, I fell to the floor and became violently ill. Mark was able to get me up and we stood clinging to each other. No language has words to describe the unfathomable emotion we were feeling. Yet, we had to continue. We had to pack a suitcase, find a seminary friend to keep Michael, and drive to Tennessee so we could press charges and appear in court to be told that we were wonderful, self-sacrificing parents. I remember little of those days except the pain. I prayed to wake up from what had been the hell on earth we had lived through for the past year. I prayed to wake up to hear the sound of my three children's voices talking or singing. But, I never woke up from the nightmare because the nightmare had become our lives.

            At first I thought that surely the FBI or the TBI would find them any day. I believed that God would restore what the enemy had stolen but as the hours turned to days, the days to weeks, the weeks to months, and the months of years my faith faltered and grief, mourning, pain, anger, and hatred began to grow in my heart.

            People had no clue as to what to say. Most folks (even to this day) want to minimize the pain. Folks said things to us like, "Well, at least it was your parents who did this. You know that they love your children." Really, that was supposed to give me comfort? I thought that my parents loved me and yet they slandered me and stole my children. We had those who wanted to spiritualize everything and advised me to thank God for allowing me the opportunity to walk through this tragedy. And, of course there were questions. Questions that could not be answered: "So, why did they do this?" "How are you doing?"  And my all time favorite, "So, where are they?"

            A friend once told me that I did not act like someone with kidnapped children. I remember wondering where the rulebook was on how to act when one loses the loves of her life. I had no idea that I was supposed to act in a certain way. There was no script to follow. My response as best I can recall was, "If I acted how I felt, I would never stop screaming. No one would be able to stand to be in the same room with me. My thoughts, my sorrow, my pain is only between my God and me. I can only go to Him with these feelings because only He already knows."

            Only God was able to comfort me during those early days and years. Yet, most of the time I did not recognize that it was His strength and love that was carrying me. While I instinctively knew that only God could understand, I was also very upset with Him. I wrote a song that I defiantly sang throughout our seminary apartment about I how I was no longer going to praise an invisible God who had abandoned my children and me. Finally, after weeks or months (I do not remember the time frame), Mark asked me why I was singing this song to God if He did not exist. Without pausing to think about my answer I responded, "I am singing it loudly to make sure He hears me." Mark remained silent for a moment, looking at his aching wife for which he had no comfort. Finally he quietly stated, "So, you really just want God to know you are hurting." I never sang that song again. Even at my blackest moment, I knew that God was real. However, I felt like his forgotten stepchild.

            Most people, even well intentioned folks, attempts at comfort only brought more pain. Blessedly, I can recall a few souls that God put in my path that seemed to have an understanding that I needed time to grieve. They were the ones that gently embraced me and cried with me. I remember Jack and Carol Davis. They were fellow seminarians and the first people I told. Jack was getting his PhD in counseling. As I stood wailing in their living room, Jack made this statement, "I am so angry." He did not try to counsel me. He voiced an emotion that was real. I could recognize that I too was angry. Carol grabbed me and we stood crying. I know God led me to them because nothing reckless or insensitive came out of their mouths. They let me cry, grieve, and scream. They did not quote Bible verses; instead they stood as the reflection of Christ and wept with my husband and me.

            While at a meeting at church, Debbie Thomas came up to me and said, "I wish I could bear your pain one day for you." Later, I found out from another friend that she thought that was a thoughtless thing to say. It was not. I knew she meant it. If there had been anyway for her to carry my pain for that day, she would have gladly endured it. Knowing that she was willing to do this actually relieved some of my sorrow that day. Without realizing it, she was reminding me that Christ was carrying my sorrow.

            On another occasion, Denise Tillman showed up at our house one day with bags of groceries. She stood in my kitchen with red-rimmed eyes appearing very unsure of her actions. "I wanted to do something for you. But, there is nothing that I do about this situation. So, I bought you groceries. I hope this doesn't offend you." She recognized my pain and gave me groceries. I do not remember one thing in those many bags, but I remember her act of kindness. Groceries have nothing in common with the loss of a child; but she gave of herself and her time. She did not offend me; she loved me by helping to care for my family’s needs.

            God revealed a truth to me in the people who came to us as consolers over the years. There are two kinds of people - those who literally ache with you and those who try to sympathize but are really there hoping for information.

            The only questions that should be asked of grieving parents are, "What can I do?" "How can I assist you?" Never ask them how they are feeling. Never ask them how they are doing.

            Let me tell you, they are hurting beyond human expression. They are trying to function when in reality they want to sleep and never wake up until that child is back in their arms. That's how they are doing.

            Do not tell them that God is in control. Because honestly, when you lose a child it does not "feel" like He is even in the room let alone in control. Later, I realized the God was not only in the room but it was He holding me up from the inside. I could not see Him in the room because He had planted himself in the deepest places of my soul. It was He who was giving me the courage to face each day. But, at the beginning of the sorrow I was unaware of His presence.

            Also, do not tell them to thank God for viewing them worthy to walk through this fire!  People said, “God choose you and Mark to walk through this because He knew your faith was strong.” My faith may have appeared strong but it was only hanging on by a thread. I assure you as a person who has physically been on fire and also stumbled through the emotional fire of losing two of her children, no one thanks God for the fire when they are still burning and the flesh is falling off their body. That is an insensitive thing to say. I did not want to be His chosen vessel if losing my children was the cost.

            Often, the best expression of empathy is a hug. Hold them. Listen to them. Do not correct their feelings. Do not minimize their pain. Clean their house. Wash their clothing. Cut their yard. And, keep your mouth closed. I found those were the people that I poured my heart out to when I was ready.

            Most importantly, let them grieve. Accept their grief. Grieve with them.

            Later, much later, God may give you words of comfort for them. But at this moment, there are no words.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Do I Give Thanks?

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NASB).

            Today, I have been pondering this short passage that the apostle Paul wrote. Many, many times in my life I have had people use this very passage to tell me that I needed to thank God for the kidnapping or thank God when suffering occurs. Yet, I have never been able to do so. How does one thank God for something incredibly evil? How does one thank God for a terrible sickness? Unfortunately, these well-meaning Christians have taken this passage and applied terrible hermeneutics.

            Paul was not saying thank God for evil; instead, he was reminding the Christians to give thanks “at all times” to Christ Jesus. God wants us to thank Him for the hope we have in Christ and for the truth that God will continue to work in our lives despite present sorrow or difficulties. I am facing the possibilities of yet another health challenge. Last night, as I was sitting in church, I became acutely aware that I was not going to fight anymore. I am tired. I am tired of praying and hoping for word from Christi and Bobby. I am tired of dealing with tiredness, severe pain daily with my eyes, and simply tired of the world. I began to think instead on the hope and promise of heaven. And, as I sat in church, crying (though no one knew since I do not make tears when I cry) my thoughts drifted to those that I have loved and have now died. I thought of my grandfathers, grandmother Kuykendall, Dub Ruchti, my nephew, and my niece. I decided that seeing them soon would bring me joy. I thought of my mother and decided that either God, in His tender mercy, had heard my pleas for her forgiveness and that I would see her again or that at least the pain would no longer be remembered.

            Lastly, I thought of Jesus. I wondered if He would see me hiding in the corner of the throne room and allow me to feel the light of His perfect presence. I wondered if He would at last let me understand the patterns of my life and let me bask in His presence and experience true and everlasting joy? These were my thoughts as I sat in church. I decided that if I received bad news from the doctors, that I was done. Simply done. My strength felt as though it had finally departed from me.

            As we were leaving church, a sweet member said that we were lucky to only have boys and not to have the stress of planning for a daughter’s wedding. I thought that my heart would erupt and split my chest into jagged pieces. I finally managed to say that I had hoped and prayed all these years to plan my daughter’s wedding. I walked away. She came after me and told me to thank God for what He had allowed in my life. Honestly, I wanted to slap her in the face. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit fortified my self-control and I refrained. I simply smiled and nodded and hurt beyond what words are able to convey.

            So today, I have sat and thought on this scripture, “Give thanks in all circumstances: for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I can give thanks to my Lord at all times. I know that God wants me to rejoice in my position as His daughter because of the gift of salvation that Jesus provided to me. I can thank Him. I can praise Him. But, I will never thank God for evil. God is light and in Him is no darkness. Evil is the result of sin. Why would God want me, as a Christian, to thank Him for sin? I do not believe that was the intention of Paul’s words. Sickness and sin are the result of the fall. Crimes are the result of sin. I recognize that I live in a fallen world. But, I hang on to the hope of the future. This world is not my home. I am an alien awaiting a new dwelling place.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
     We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:28-37, NASB).

            This sorrow and these illnesses that I experience daily in this life are not a result of my Lord’s pleasure. I believe that my Savior stands and weeps with me as He stood and wept with Mary and Martha. Christ is not immune from the misery that has layered itself in my life. He bears it for me. He holds my heart in His hand when I cannot endure the suffering and anguish. That is what I thank Him for – for His abiding with me and the knowledge that no sickness, kidnapping, or evil people can separate me from the love of God, which is in my Lord, Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Thoughts

Being Obedient

"Jesus Christ expects to do with us as His Father did with Him. He can put us where He likes, in pleasant duties or in mean duties, because the union is that of the Father and Himself. 'That they may be one, even as We are one'” (My Utmost for His Highest).

This Chambers' writing really inspired me to pause and reflect on Christ and His submitting to the Father's will and death on the cross. In that act, one can see the great evil that is in mankind as the religious leaders plotted to kill an innocent man in an abhorrent and torturous way. They did not just desire his death, they wanted him to suffer both physical pain and humiliation. And, as I think on it - I am always and forever astounded that God decided to give His life as a ransom for my soul - for our souls. Jesus decided to have no pride, no prestige, no power - and instead He obeyed the Father. Where would mankind be today if Jesus had refused the cross because it was not a pleasant duty? We would have no hope and be hell bound. A sobering reality.

Christ's sacrifice happened so long ago that I think that it sometimes loses its divine meaning. A meaning that is directly related to me and to those I see daily. The cross of Calvary is ugly, blood stained and represents agony. I do not like to stay there in my thoughts long. I would rather think on the other stories of Jesus - his birth, walking on the water, feeding of the thousands, allowing the children to come to Him, healing the blind, the lame and raising the dead.

The cross is not the story that I want to dwell because it points out a harsh truth: my sin was part of the ugliness. My sin .... therefore, my act. I do not enjoy thinking of myself as not just one of the bystanders but one of the accusers. Therefore, I quickly push past this story. I turn away from this scene from antiquity and quickly look to Sunday and the resurrection. After all, a risen Savior is much more pleasing to to ponder. But, the harsh horrible reality is this - if the cross had not transpired - if Jesus had said, "No way, this is much too much to expect," I would still be standing alone in my sin and have no hope.    

Gratefully, Christ did not shun His Father's request. He submitted. This week, I have thought on these truths. I wish that I would constantly keep in my mind the obedience of Christ. But, Holy Week will pass and life will continue. Responsibilities, joys, sorrows, the daily activities begin to plant their presence in my mind more than Calvary. Yet, I continue in my religious actions. I read the scriptures. I pray. I sing. I worship. And, I foolishly think this is all God requires. Quietly, God makes His will known. He requests something of me. If the task is pleasing to me, I will respond happily but when it is not one that I find appealing my heart begins to harden. I have great difficulty in understanding why God would want me to do unpleasant duties. Unfortunately, I allow my pride to come between me and my obedience to God and His design in my life. I have forgotten Calvary. I question God especially when the task is painful and I do not understand the purpose and I come to a faith crisis.

Because I know the scripture I turn to James and read,

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing...  Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has [m]been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:2-4 & 12, NASB).

My prayer this passover season is that I will remember Jesus and His obedience all year long. That I will hold it in my heart as a reminder that suffering is indeed part of the sinful world. But, this knowledge holds a great promise.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:18-23, NASB).

Be Blessed,

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Review of Noah directed by Darren Aronofsky

         The 2014 movie, Noah, has been the subject of controversy among many conservative Christian groups. I tried to limit my readings of reviews (on both sides) and basically only saw a few things linked on Facebook and heard some comments from Father Jonathan Morris on Fox and Friends. I was not expecting a great Christian epic or a true rendition of the Genesis account of Noah. This was probably a good thing. I wanted to see why I was hearing the many negative rumblings of the movie. I realized that the director, Darren Aronofsky, was raised in the Jewish tradition. I fully expected that the writer had taken liberty in the telling of the story. I imagined that I would also enjoy a good performance from Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins.

         First, do not go to this movie if you are hoping to see the narrative of Noah as told in Genesis. You will be disappointed. Actually, this movie has little to do with the Genesis account of the flood story. I would put this movie in the genre of fantasy. Neither the storyline nor the characters bear much resemblance to the Jewish/Christian version. Instead, Aronofsky’s movie has been cast as another one of the flood accounts that is incorporated into more than 500 civilizations’ myths or legends of it. In these accounts there are some major components that appear in most of them: 1) warning of pending storm, 2) a boat is built, 3) animals and vegetation are stored, 4) a family is spared, and 5) birds are sent out to find dry land.[1]

         Aronofsky’s Noah contains those elements. The scripture contains those elements; however, even the components in the movie are altered from the Biblical account. I need to point out that Aronofsky asserted in an interview with Christianity Today that he told this story based on the midrash tradition, in which Jewish teachers create stories meant to explain the deeper truths of the Tanakh.[2]

         Aronofsky’s version begins with Lamech, Noah’s father, being killed while Noah was a boy. By my calculations using the ages and years provided in Genesis 5, this was not the case. Genesis 5 asserted that Lamech was 182 years old when Noah was born. He lived 595 years after Noah’s birth. Noah became a father when he was 500 years old to Shem, Ham and Japheth. Noah’s sons would have known their grandfather for ninety-five years. Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah lived 6 years longer than Lamech.  In Genesis 7, it is recorded that the floods came when Noah was 600 years old. His father would have been dead only 5 years and his grandfather was still living. According to Genesis, Methuselah died the same year as the flood. We do not know how he died – whether in the flood itself or before the flood. Aronofsky had a scene where Methuselah died in the flood. This could have happened. This leads to another question: was Methuselah an unbeliever or was he a martyr?

         Genesis affirmed that God gave Noah detailed instructions as to what was going to happen to the world, how to built the ark and the numbers of living creatures that would be saved on the ark. Aronofsky’s account has Noah greatly confused and needing to find his grandfather to seek his advice.

         In Aronofsky’s account Noah decided that man would die out with his family. Supposedly, a girl that Noah rescued and raised as his daughter was barren. She was to be Shem’s wife. Noah did not allow his other sons to have wives. They were not on board the ark during the flood. This created a conflict between Ham and Noah. Ham became aware of an intruder on the ark (the man in the movie who had killed Noah’s father when Noah was a lad) and he nursed him and allowed him to live.

         The barren wife becomes pregnant and gives birth to twin girls; therefore, Noah decided that he needed to kill them in order to obey God. However, at the last moment he spared his granddaughters because “love wins out.” There is no mention of Shem having twin daughters while aboard the ark in the Genesis account.

         Finally, one the oddest parts of Aronofsky’s movie were these giant stone monsters with lights shining forth from their eyes. According to the rock beasts, they were the fallen angels who (unselfishly) came to help Adam and Eve after they were evicted from the Garden of Eden. Because these fallen angels had compassion on Adam, God punished them and covered them with rock. These creatures were shown throughout the movie as helping Noah and his family. They were also portrayed as the major labor force for the ark. Right before the flood, they were shown as being repentant and were freed from their rock prison. Where each was emancipated a powerful light left the earth. Everywhere they had stood – the floodwaters from below the earth were released.

         I have no problem looking at this movie as fantasy. My complaint with Aronofsky is that he used the name Noah and then tried to incorporate sections of the Bible into this story. Clearly, this movie does not portray the biblical Noah. However, that is not my issue. This story comes across as fantasy and myth while pretending to tell a Jewish and Christian story. The ridiculous nature of the events in this movie will serve to alienate non-believers who see the movie. My fear is that Aronofsky has helped to promote a world that was once ruled by superstition but that Noah’s sense of love and morality over-ruled God’s design to kill out mankind. Noah is cleverly designed, New Age propaganda that promotes man’s version of righteousness as superior to God’s, thus allowing mankind to continue after the flood.

            [1] “Flood Legends from Around the World,” NW Creation Network: Defending Biblical History, April 13, 2014, accessed April 13, 2014,
            [2] Peter T. Chattaway, “Darren Aronofsky Talks to CT About 'Noah'”, CT: Christianity Today (March 25 2014): 1, accessed April 13, 2014,