Tag Archives: Wonder

Loss [Memory Lane]

Each Thursday in August we’ll be taking a trip down Memory Lane! I will be posting some of my favorite stories ever published here, part of celebrating ten years of blogging—August 2003 to August 2013. Some posts are taken from books (like today’s) and others have only been published online thus far. You’ll read stories that are funny, stories that are sad, and several heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. If you missed any, you can use the series navigation at the end of this post to read more. I invite you to enjoy these moments from the journey with me, too.

Not all memories are “good” memories. Though, as you’ll see from this account of a very tough day in our lives, tough and good can somehow coexist when our loving Father is present. He makes all things beautiful.

Loss

Loss

November 11th, 2004

“I came naked from my mother’s womb,
and I will be stripped of everything when I die.
The LORD gave me everything I had,
and the LORD has taken it away.
Praise the name of the LORD!”

Those were the first words – words of worship – immediately following Job’s hearing the news that his children had been killed in a horrible accident. And just before that he had lost much of the wealth that God had blessed him with. An amazing reaction to an extraordinary circumstance. His first thought was to worship the God who had given him life, even in the midst of the demise of the life he had known.

There is a song by songwriter Matt Redman called Blessed Be Your Name. It echoes those lines Job spoke so many years ago,

“You give and take away, you give and take away,
my heart will choose to say, Lord blessed be your name!”

Those words reverberated loudly – even confidently – through my head as we learned that the child we had been eagerly preparing a space for in our family, had stopped developing inside mom’s womb.

“You give and take away… You give and take away…
My heart will choose to say… Lord, blessed be Your name.”

The first moments were just hard. Shocking. Deep sadness. Life hoped for, now lost. And this was not the first time we faced this.

About one week into our tour, there was such a shocking occurence that we thought we had lost the baby. That was on our anniversary. Not the way we wanted to end the day. The drive to the hospital was a little over an hour. Of silence. Of doubting. Of wondering. Of self-pummeling. I felt completely culpable for the loss of this baby’s life. Our lifestyle, my missed chances at reminding Jen to rest, my busyness keeping me from helping Jen with the three kids on the outside. All things were pointing to me being the reason we had lost the baby.

But God was beyond gracious.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were greeted by a friendly nurse who was fairly convinced that the baby was doing just fine. The doctor who followed happened to be at the church we had led in worship the morning prior, and he echoed those sentiments, but they needed to do an ultrasound to make sure.

My heart skipped a beat or two in astonished joy. My soul gasped for air! I can’t describe the feeling of life from death. How the Father must have felt when his son was given breath again! Even knowing the plan ahead of time, his heart must have exploded with joy knowing that not only his son, but all of us who trust in him were given back to him that day!

We went from that place, with images of a dancing baby in our head, and the hope that through a rough 6 or 7 months ahead we would emerge with a miracle baby from God.

“You give and take away…”

Yesterday, following the weekend of God giving wildly to us through his people, we experienced the pain of loss again.

Jen had been experiencing signs of trouble again (we thought) and so we went to the doctor, who put the monitor on Jen’s belly to listen for the heart beat. After about 10 awkward seconds, she said, “Sometimes it’s difficult to find the heartbeat with that machine.”

That had not been our experience, and so we were already thinking the worst.

She turned on the ultrasound equipment, and we began looking at the baby inside. It had grown since the first time, but it was lifeless. No movement. No heartbeat. No life.

No words were said for a time, until the doctor broke the silence, “I’m afraid I have some very bad news…”

My heart sank. It was quite final. The baby was gone. Again.

But this time, the words to that song kept replaying in my head. “You give and take away… my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be your name…”

And I meant it. Though I was not necessarily comforted by it just yet.

We discussed the next steps and headed out to the van to go home. The song continued in my head.

When we got to the van, we just sat there in silence. We were both attempting to understand what was happening. To process it. Why would God want to give us a baby for 12 weeks, and then take it home?

There were tears. There was silence. We prayed together. We talked. But the most amazing thing was happening inside my head and heart.

Instead of sadness, there was supreme confidence in God’s love for me. More than just confidence, there was palpable reality. Almost like his hands on my shoulders.

And the song would not leave.

I knew the scripture was from Job, so I looked it up on the computer we had brought with us.

The first thing that stuck out to me was in the NIV translation: “Job got up, tore his robe and shaved his head, then he fell to the group in worship.” His first response was a brief moment of agony and mourning, and then he worshipped. Instead of blaming God for letting this happen, he was compelled to worship him.

That’s where I lost it.

I was too! That’s what I had been feeling the whole time in silence. Strong images and feelings of God’s love and provision for me, for us, were present in my head. I was not conciously thinking of them… they were just there. I was not dwelling on the loss, but rather on things gained from the Giver of all good things.

And that’s exactly what Job experienced.

God’s bigness, his caring, his inividual attention to my life, his unfathomable love — all of that had never been so near to me, so palpable, so REAL.

Words do not do the experience justice, but I really wanted to try. I was astounded by the love God has for, and was showing to ME. I was crying, not out of sadness at our loss as much as out of overwhelming joy and gladness at my Father who loves me.

In a moment, literally less than a second, God also gave me a strong series of images that reminded me of his goodness.

There were three sets of two images. First was the hopsital back in Arkansas. Image one was the deep sadness of losing the baby, and image two was the unspeakable joy of getting that life back! Second was from the weekend just past, where image one was the empty bank account and actually having zero cash being 3000 miles from home with many big bills to pay, and me asking God in a parking lot, “God, what are you going to do??”. The second image connected to that was of the generosity of our Father through his people this weekend, we were given nearly $2000 by people and places that wouldn’t normally be a source of such abundance. The third image was our present circumstance, the final loss of our baby, and attached to that image was a future provision from God that would blow us away with greatness as much as this loss had brought us low.

I had a very specific image, but as I am not claiming to be a prophet, I will guard that image in my heart and will let you know if that does indeed come to fruition. I don’t think God gave me those images for you… but I KNOW he gave them for me.

In less than a second, all of that imagery of God’s attention to our lives came into focus, and I was full-on reminded of his incredible provision and love.

And again, I was brought to tears… not of sadness, but pure, unthinkable joy!

Our God is so good. So, so good.

We are sad, and still dealing with loss. Loss costs us. We won’t know this member of our family until heaven. I see images of families with kids, or even our kids, and I miss the face of the baby we lost. We are definitely hurting.

But there is over all of that, a far greater peace and hope. God made me SO aware of his presence and love in my life today, right now. He is so good that way. And I am not alone in that experience. Which makes it even cooler. Friends today have shared a similar experience, and I believe the reason Job reacted when he did was that God was as overwhelmingly present for him that day as he was for me. And Jobs loss exceeds mine by such a volume as I can’t imagine.

He is so good. Today, yesterday, forever.

The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Praise the name of the Lord.

The Rolling

rolling

Each day rolls on, paying no mind to me. My waking happens without my choosing, weariness creeps slowly back, until my body begs me to rest once more.

My body requires, and it returns. Food, water, air—all are processed by this body without my doing, though I do receive some pleasure in parts of the intake.

Heart pumps, lungs contract and release, even thoughts seem to fire across the pathways of my brain without my initiation.

And the days roll on.

If we are not careful, we slip too easily into the thoughtless thrum of life. So much happens without our say. Days unfold and close up again, one after another, so much the same. So many the same.

It’s easy to let life live itself.

But we are here. We have a part. We can choose to step along with the relentless autonomous. We are not merely observers, though some things we have not the capacity to alter. Nor even the desire.

Yet we stop to smile. To breathe. To love. To listen. To live.

Then we do it all again, with the next Rolling.

Today, I want to take part. Partake. Be part. I am. I will.

Breathe, taste, see, know, be. While all is rolling on, I have the power to do those things. And more. Think, make, read, consider, create. Care, share, serve, do. So many ways to exert my own unique additions to the Roll.

And though I exert, or pause to observe—still it rolls.

Even when our bodies weary to the point of expiration, all will continue. Ceasing our participation in the perpetual cycle, in a way exercising one last influence, breaking free.

Sun up, body up. Another day. Rolling. Lived, regarded, perceived, communed. Until all of me is spent by choice and by the Roll. Weary, welcome rest. Renew.

And roll on.

Alex’s Fish Story [Memory Lane]

This week we’re going to take a trip down Memory Lane! Each day this week I’ll be posting one of five of my favorite stories ever published here. Some are taken from books (like today’s) and others have only been published online thus far. These are some funny, some sad, some heart-warming moments from the life we’ve lived. I invite you to enjoy them with me, too.

Alex's Fish Story

Alex’s Fish Story

July 3rd, 2005

“I was waiting for Dad to come get me,” Alex calmly explained to his mother. Stifling back a laugh at first, she finally came to realize the amazing depth of trust in that statement.

You see, there’s a bit more to the story.

On a hot, muggy Virginia morning, the three Campbell boys headed out to a small private pond to do some fishing. One day prior, the eldest and his father had enjoyed a leisurely hour or two catching a dozen or more little fishies with the owner of the pond. It was so great, we wanted to do it again, and this time with younger brother, Alex.

We drove down in the golf cart, which was a bit of an adventure of its own, and got ready to do some fishin! We had even brought some fish food to entice the big catfish up to the surface. It worked! They were amazing! Really big fish with big mouths that they opened up wide and swished across the top of the water from side to side, catching as much of the floating food as they could with one gulp.

Once we had gotten a bunch of fish around the dock, we loaded up the hooks with worms and tossed in a couple lines. One for Ian, and one that Alex & Dad shared. I was thinking as we did, “What if we actually catch one of those catfish?!” I didn’t really want to try and take them off the pole! And, I was warily watching Ian, as I was not sure he could reel one of those suckers in!

We had a few nibbles, even a few times the bobber went completely under the water… but no luck for a while. Alex was having enough fun just feeding the fish the food we had brought, so he did that and Ian and Dad fished.

We were on a little twelve-foot by eight-foot dock at the edge of the pond, so we had a nice spot to fish from, but a bit dangerous as the boys like to get close to the edge to see the fishies, which Dad was none too comfortable with! So, with the occasional warning, we had no problem.

Not long into the hot afternoon, there was finally some action! After all those nibbles, we finally had something! I started reeling in something larger than a little brim and told the boys to come look! Ian was getting excited too, but had to pay attention to his own bobber out on the water. I finally caught a glimpse of it. It was a bass! About twelve inches long or so. Nice!!!

As I reeled it in and brought it up on the dock I called to the boys to get them to come see it up close. I was reaching for the fish to pull it off the hook when it happened.

SPLASH!

I couldn’t really believe I had just heard it. I thought for a second that I hadn’t. But, I had. I turned toward the sound to find Alex was gone! Just… gone! So as Ian continued fishing, not really knowing what was happening, I hurried over to the edge of the dock, and I don’t remember if I put my pole down first or after I got there, but it still had the bass on it when I did! As I reached the edge, I looked over the side and there was Alex’s orange hat… UNDER the water! The water was quite murky, so that’s mostly all I could see—his hat and his slightly raised arms floating under the water, appearing to be heading down.

I just froze. I looked down, incredulous, and I was sort of waiting for him to at least try to come back up. Then I would reach down and get him. It was only about two and a half or three feet to the water surface, so I could probably do it. But… nothing. Not any movement at all!

So I jumped.

I couldn’t see the bottom, but it sure did look like he was sinking, and he wasn’t moving! So, I jumped in with visions of other frantic parents you see in the movies searching to no avail through murky, child-stealing waters. I was not sure what I would find, or what I would do, but love for my son just made me jump!

(I hate even the idea of swimming in ponds, by the way.)

Thankfully, I hit the bottom not long after the surface. The water level was about half-way up my chest. I immediately grabbed Alex and pulled him out of the water. He gasped quickly, and I set him up on the bench on the dock to catch his breath. He coughed a bit, and I asked repeatedly—but calmly—“Alex, are you OK?” His first response was a very shaky, “No…” But, I could tell he was breathing mostly normally, and all was going to get better soon.

It was at this point, Alex being out of danger, that I noticed that the bass was still on my line. Not only that, he was swimming right next to me! For some reason, he had not tried to escape, and drag the pole with him. He ended up in the water, and just stayed there during my rescue efforts. So I removed him from the hook, and let him go.

I got out of the water, and tried to reflect on what had just happened in that five to seven seconds that felt so much longer. I sat next to Alex, who was still shaking, and put my hand on his back. We just sat there in silence for a few moments. Perhaps he was soaking it in as well. (No pun intended…)

Ian broke the silence with a classic Ianism. “This is a day I will never, EVER forget.” (You have to actually say it out loud the way Ian would for it to be an Ianism.) Ian continued to make sense of it in his own way by saying a few more things, but I don’t remember exactly what they were.

Within a few short seconds or minutes, I am not sure, I noticed Ian’s pole dip way down. He had something!!! And as Ian struggled to hold on and reel in the beast, I thought, “Oh no! Ian’s going to get dragged in too!!!” So I jumped to my feet and grabbed on to his pole too! Even with me helping, that fish was putting up quite a fight! We figured we had caught one of those giant catfish, or maybe a whale. That was my second guess. We shall never know as the fish broke the line just as I was trying to figure out what in the world to do with a 2-foot catfish caught by a not quite 4-foot little boy.

Lucky break.

“I think it’s time to go back inside, boys,” I said in my fatherly wisdom. They concurred.

We packed everything up and went for a therapeutic ride through the woods on the golf cart. We approached the house, and found that Mom and sister had just headed down to the pond to visit with the boys, unaware of all that had transpired. We met up with the girls and began to explain the whole sequence of events, finally heading inside to clean up.

Still processing everything by recounting the story to Mom, Alex came up with a line that just stunned me upon hearing it. I actually heard it through Jen’s retelling.

“I was waiting for Dad to come get me.”

He was submerged under water quickly and unexpectedly, and he does not usually find himself in such a predicament anyway! No struggle. No attempt to swim. Nothing. He was just “waiting for Dad to come get him.”

What kind of trust does it take to do that? Perhaps a bit of ignorance of the danger he was in? Perhaps. But just the fact that he would say that was so incredible. How many times do we fight and struggle and kick and flail—and it gets us no where—because we aren’t waiting for our Dad to come get us?

He can, and He will.

It was quite a day. I will not ever forget that image of my son floating to the bottom of a pond, looking already quite dead and lost. I am sure Alex will not forget the experience either, as Ian has already declared for himself.

But I hope I never forget the lesson in trust either.

“I was waiting for Dad to come get me.”

Life in the Rearview Mirror: Reflections on Life Lived by Greg CampbellThis post is a chapter in the book Life In The Rearview Mirror: Reflections on Life Lived by Greg Campbell, available through Amazon.com. If you’d like to purchase the book, please click the book title in the previous sentence. Thanks for reading, sharing, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments below, or wherever else you can reach me.

The Amazing World We Don’t See

A friend of ours made a movie that will be in theaters this September (A Strange Brand of Happy. Go see it!) A little while ago an image appeared on the Facebook page for that movie that I really thought was the work of Photoshop.

“That can’t be real!” I thought. But a quick Google search proved otherwise.

That got me thinking. I just love seeing this crazy stuff that exists in our world that we never see. God made entire worlds and galaxies that, without the help of ridiculously powerful technologies, are just tiny lights in our sky—if even that!

In the other direction, to the infinitesimal, there is unseen beauty, intricate detail, and even some things that will light your face with an smile of “Wow!”

I included links at the end of this post to the source of these images, and a few sites that include more.

So take a moment today and enjoy the amazing beauty of the worlds what we never see. Incredible!

Really neat microscopic images:

Found across the web…

Cross-section of Marram Grass

Happy grass!
Cross section of marram grass

Bluebottle Fly Maggot

Or… microscopic walrus?
Maggot of the Bluebottle Fly

Moth

I love the intricate detail.
moth

Bedbug

No wonder we don’t want them to bite!
bedbug

Human Flea

Um… it doesn’t look human to me??
human-flea

Nerve

Incredible. Like fiber-optics, but much more impressive.
nerve

Bone

Wonderfully made. And blueprint for future buildings?
bone-structure

Lens of the Eye

Holy cow.
lens-of-the-eye

Mosquito

Not my favorite creature, but an amazing view of it.
mosquito

The Inner Life of the Cell

(This is not by Steve Gschmeissner, but it is another fascinating animation of what goes in inside ONE cell! There are over 100 trillion in the human body!)


LINKS:

Roots

tree_with_rootsDeep under the flourishing leaves, and the towers branches, and the succulent fruits which garner all the deserved and proper attention, are the roots.

Hidden roots spread far and wide, providing the foundation of what you see above the ground. The visible draws from its roots the beginnings of its life, mixed with the elements added to it above, producing that which we know and see and of which we partake.

This is not only a simple overview of the biological processes of flora—it’s also true of us.

This past week we spent many hours and days intentionally tapping into my roots. There were celebrations of decades of marriage and long decades of life. My mother’s oldest sister celebrated fifty years of marriage, and my father’s father celebrated ninety years of breathing the air of this planet. Both occasions worthy to note and commemorate.

As these were noteworthy events, they drew family from far and wide. Relatives from many branches of the tree assembled in one of the main roots. The branches now extend far across this country and the next, but just one, or two, or three generations back, all seem to find their roots in Southwestern Ohio.

And so that is where we gathered. At the root.

But it’s not just a place. The roots were remembered through stories and photos and more stories as we gathered in this place.

Stories of a grandpa that I really don’t know—he died when I was barely a teenager, and was mostly estranged from all of his family for much of my mother’s life.

Stories of a tall, kind, gentle great-grandpa—a cherished favorite of my oldest aunt. After hearing the stories, I would have loved to have met and known him, too.

Stories of current generations of family whom, because of geographic distance, we only see very infrequently. Learning of the lives they currently lead upon their various branches of the tree.

Stories of a distant, foreign land which was once my home. Different language, different culture, but part of my root system. And thankfully, plenty of time to enjoy tales from, and new friends from this part of my roots.

New Faces of those who also share this tree whom I have either not seen since my childhood, or some whom I have not ever met. Most of those gathering to celebrate the man who is father to my father completing nine decades of life.

Stories of relatives I only know as a concept. Not always positive stories. Life is messy.

But it is part of my root system.

What a week. So full of life, present and past. Embraces, laughs, even tears. Tapping nearly every root, drinking deeply of as much as we could soak up in seven short days.

And we are full. We leave refreshed, replenished.

And still wanting more.

Thankfully, this is not an end. Not yet. There will be an end. A turning of the page. And a new page beginning. New branches. New fruit.

But the same roots.

Today I am thankful for roots. And I want to know more. Explore different root systems. Deeper root systems. Even just look closer at those we tapped a bit this week.

And I’d encourage you to do the same. Perhaps you already do… but if you do not, please schedule a conversation, or even better, a trip … to know your roots.

What we are right now, today, is built upon our roots. Mixed with the conditions of our lives (sun, water, air, weather) but built on our roots.

And today, I am so grateful for a week of exploring my own.

Full of Life

Seedling in fertilizerRecently, I was fascinated by poop.

(Yes, you read that correctly.)

Actually, it started in a public outhouse-style “restroom”. If you’ve never used an outhouse, or a “port-a-potty”, it’s just a big container collecting all the liquid and solid waste, rather than flushing it away down a nice, convenient pipe—out of sight, out of mind.

(And, if you’ve never used a toilet that doesn’t flush… well… that is also fascinating!)

At first, I was grossed out. And rightly so, I believe. It’s gross. I really don’t even like using public bathrooms with plumbing, let alone the variety that collects all of the waste for you to view while you’re adding your own.

But a secondary thought (thankfully) crossed my mind before I left.

Wow, what if we didn’t have toilets that flushed? We’d just have to find some place for all this gross stuff… but then… it does make really good fertilizer. Hmm…

And then I remembered that we use various animal waste products as fertilizers, to enhance the soil and to grow better food. (That’s oversimplified, but generally true.)

God is so full of life that even the waste from his living creations produces more life!

That is both amazing, and completely understandable.

Then the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person.1

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life… 2

For in him we live and move and exist.3

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.4

It’s obvious that the One who could, by a simple command, give life to all that is would be abundantly full of life itself. And that life being so fantastically complex that we’re still trying to understand it. We’re even looking for—and even finding—signs of it on other nearby planets, created by this Giver of Life.

That the waste generated by the Life he has breathed into his creation would also produce life is indeed astounding, and yet, it is as it should be.

God is life. Life beyond our wildest imagination. And he has breathed that same life into you and me.

Incredible.

Oh, the things you learn from a pile of poo!

Question With Boldness

Thomas JeffersonThough most people nowadays can conceive of no better poster child for agnosticism (or, at the very least, deism), Jefferson himself may have had a bone to pick with such people.

In a letter to his nephew, on the topic of forming his own views on religion (a topic which he labeled “important”), Thomas Jefferson wrote the following, now reasonably well-known words:

Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

(Somewhat of an aside: My favorite quote from Thomas Jefferson’s autobiography regarding his own faith, “…I am a REAL CHRISTIAN…”. Well that about says it.) 🙂

There are (many) times when I think my being appropriately labeled a “Christian” might be questioned by those who determine such things. I believe I’ve written about my borderline-heretical thinking at least once or twice.

In fact, just the other day I was reading through the Old Testament book of Ezekiel and wondering things like, “Wow, this voice of God does not seem to be the same as even the book of Jeremiah, one book before—and he seemed pretty peeved in that book, too! I wonder if some of the books in what we call the Bible are even supposed to be in there? Who says that council got it right?”

Now, proceed with caution here. I am NOT SAYING that I unequivocally, irrevocably believe and hold to be fact that such questions even might be “true” (in the black-and-white sense of “true”) …

But perhaps my reason for such an emphasized statement above is that, in dealing with things of God, it’s sometimes considered heresy merely to question.

And, folks, that is plain wrong. Really, really wrong.

So, I may be a heretic, but I’m going to keep questioning.

Turns out, by the end of Ezekiel there was some really neat stuff in there kinda flipping the “rules and regulations” voice of God (being interpreted through Ezekiel) on its head. Chapter forty-seven has a really neat image of God abiding in a temple from which living water flows, giving life to everything it touches, including dead things. Hmm… the Living Water… giving Life… where have I heard those things before…?

I believe Thomas Jefferson had it right when he urged his nephew to throw away all bias and personal opinion and really dig into the facts, evidences, truths, and his own reason. Think. Don’t be afraid of the truth (or that it might not be the truth). Find, and know what is true. This is important! To know and understand the Creator is much more important than anything else.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. —John 10:10

I am the way, the truth, and the life. —John 14:6

And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. —John 17:3

We believe in education in this home. Not school, or curriculum—although those can have their place.

Real education. Seek out original sources; find people who are not only knowledgeable but passionate about a subject and learn from them (whether in person, or through recorded words); then, find someone else and hear other voices. Putting all of these pieces together, along with your God-given intellect (reason), and asking the Spirit to guide the entire process. (He is the one who teaches us, after all.)

Question with boldness, even the very existence of God.

And the world—starting with you—will be better for it.


If you wondered about that “I am a REAL CHRISTIAN” quote from Thomas Jefferson, here’s the full text of his introduction to what some call the “Jefferson Bible” (but he titled otherwise). It should give an even more convincing context to that quote!

I have made a wee little book from the Gospels which I call the Philosophy of Jesus. It is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen. It is a document in proof that I am a REAL CHRISTIAN, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call ME the infidel and THEMSELVES Christians and preachers of the Gospel, while they draw all of their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature. (Thomas Jefferson: In His Own Words, Maureen Harrison & Steve Gilbert, editors. ©1993 Excellent Books, New York, NY.)