Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Finding Jesus in the Dark

Grief is a strange human experience. It can knock the breath out of you one minute, and bring a sense of relief, even hope the next minute. I have lost several people who are important to me to death through the years. Each loss is different. Each memory unique. As unique as each person who once was with me in this life. Just as each person and each loss is unique, so too, is the process of healing and remembering peculiar to that particular scenario. In short, every person processes grief differently.

I still miss all of my grandparents dearly. Their legacies live on in their children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren. My father-in-law and my dad are both deceased. The impact that losing these two men, in the season of life of being a young father is something I wrestle with nearly every day. So many times, I wish I could ask them a simple question or share a moment of joy and even frustration with them. Like getting power tools to crank. Taking two weeks to figure out what was wrong with my vehicle and having the spare time to address the issues so that I could drive it again. Getting to see their grands would bring a huge smile to both faces.

I have two cousins, who lost battles with brain tumors and cancer. Cancer...such an ugly word. I sometimes would rather hear the vilest of swear words on repeat than to hear that word uttered. It is ugly, dark, sinister even to those who battle it and those whom it leaves in its wake.

Still, the death that haunts me most perhaps is of a student, Luke. Yesterday was the anniversary of his death, a death that continues to impact me and others in our community because as Isaiah 35 says, God is able to make a river in the desert. Luke's death has given way to life. Just as the seed must die in the ground when it is planted in order to bear fruit. Luke's death has brought life to others through his memory as well as a non-profit established in his honor.

It's funny how much death impacts believers in Christ. We know the end of the story. We know that victory is ours through Jesus. Through his life, death, and resurrection, we cling to the hope of the gospel and the promise of the resurrection so that death never has the final word.

...and still we scratch our heads looking for answers to make sense of it all. We try to put the pieces back together of our broken, fractured selves in our broken, fractured world that needs a broken savior. That is exactly who Jesus is! He is the one wounded for our transgressions. He is the one broken to make us whole. He is the one who experienced death, darkness, and hell so that the darkness we try to fight in this world and the hell we experience in this life is eclipsed by the one who after all brought light out of darkness at the foundation of the world, on a hillside called Calvary, and every moment when the darkness seems to overcome us.

I recently read through Frederick Buechner's two newest collections. They are classic Buechner in every sense. This phrase towards the end of A Crazy, Holy Grace struck me in the most profound way. "Anyone who has ever known him has known him perhaps better in the dark than anywhere else because it is in the dark where he seems to visit most often." Is it possible that death and grief stay with us to remind us of our own mortality, even more, to remind us of our dependence on the one who has claimed the final victory over death.

Darkness is not just about death and grief. Darkness could be lurking in any number of corners of our hearts and lives. Jesus offers light. He offers healing, He offers hope. He offers himself...and that is enough...ultimately!

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Great Omission

The late Dallas Willard probably influenced more people in the art of discipleship and spiritual formation than any other writer in the last 50 years. Willard drew on the best of church history and Christian spirituality to help modern readers understand the essential teachings of Jesus. His books are a worthy investment even though at times they can be challenging to digest.

In The Great Omission, one finds a collection of articles, lectures, and other pieces clustered around the idea of discipleship. At times the book is repetitive given the nature of the compilation, but it is a great introduction to the thoughts of Willard. Willard contends that the great omission of the church is that we have focused on making converts (to a particular stream of Christianity) and baptized them into church membership without ever "enrolling people as Christ's students." The goal is formation of the inner character to be developed that operates out of the mind of Christ.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hope in the Midst of Hurricanes

Watching footage and images and updates from Texas makes me grieve for the people impacted from Harvey. Less than a year after Hurricane Matthew we are still trying to reclaim parts of our property and clean up fallen trees. We know well the damage that a storm like Harvey can bring. We know the reality of repairing and rebuilding that many will face in Texas.

We have family in Houston. Friends in other parts of the affected areas of Texas. Our hearts break with you. Our prayers cry out to God for you. We offer you one thing that we found to be true throughout the last year of post hurricane life, hope. Not in some dime store anticipation of finding that trinket. What I am talking about is Biblical Hope. Hope that raised Jesus from the grave. Hope that transformed a rag tag group of followers into a catalyst to completely change the course of human history.

As rain continues, as you try to rebuild and repair, cling to the hope of God that he has not abandoned you and your family. Cling to the hope of God to make all things new, ALL Things, including you and me.

May God provide for you as only he is able. We found this simple truth to be a source of strength for the difficult journey ahead.

Hopefully expectant,

The Pagliarullo Family

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Befriend: A Book Review

Scott Sauls, a pastor in Nashville is quickly becoming one of my favorite spiritual voices on social media. I have read his books Jesus Outside the Lines and Befriend. In both books the reader senses Scott's heart for God and his passion for people to know God. He gently encourages the reader to join him in discovering what God is calling us to do as we follow Jesus.

Friendship is an interesting topic to tackle. We can have hundreds or even thousands of friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter or Instagram but do we really have genuine, meaningful friendships? Do we even know how to have those type of relationships anymore? Scott Sauls answers these questions and more as he offers encouragement for the believer to rediscover genuine, loving friendships with different types of people, different groups, and even oneself as modeled by Jesus. This is a great resource for a small group Bible study or accountability groups.

New Music and a New Road

Cyd discovered Ellie Holcomb early this year and introduced me to her music. This song captures the essence of what it means to live and walk by faith and not by sight. Too often, I see God rescue me from my "Egypt" only to get to the Red Sea and see the impossible rather than the possible. God has been reminding me lately that he always provides a Red Sea Road to his children.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Centri-Kid Week

This week has been a great week for my girls, all three, to be away at camp with our Kidz Ministry at FBC Statesboro. I am beyond excited that they will be home later this afternoon! Since Cyd was gone, Tripp and I got to spend a lot of time together this week. We have had some funny moments, an occasional tear, and many moments of wanting to freeze time in order to remember that exact moment with him. He has helped me work on some projects for the college ministry here and there, but mostly he has been a conduit for God's grace. His smile, laughter, and even his tears have served as a gentle touch to my at times callous heart. Through our time together (the endless questions, the insatiable appetite he has, the need for affection and closeness with his dad) he has unknowingly pushed me closer to my Abba, Father.

Surely, the emotions that I feel as an earthly father with my son during these times pales in comparison to how God feels about his children. For this truth, I am thankful. Children are not simply a blessing from God, they are at times the instruments God uses to teach us what he is doing, to remind us that we are loved, and to redirect our energy to the things that matter most.