Archives For loss

Christmas. A time to gather with friends and family to celebrate the joys of the season. Of a year ending, and a new one to come. A time to celebrate the birth of Christ, a Savior born (like we all are) in blood and pain. Unlike, His tiny body was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a feeding trough hewn from cold, hard stone.

They didn’t have Apgar scores, or incubators, in His day. No one was standing by with a nasal aspirator to suction the mucus from His nose and throat. What a risk! Eternal God to come and be made man! Think of all He forswore to be contracted into such a span!

The minds reels at the thought of the incarnation. That the God Who made it all could limit Himself to such a lowly estate, and not only, but to be born amongst stinking animals, too.

I don’t think we spend nearly enough time thinking about what Christ lost coming into our world. What He laid down for our sakes.

As such, as someone who knows sorrow (“a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief”), Jesus is very tender towards those know loss this season. Maybe this is your first Christmas without that special someone. Jesus knows. Or maybe tour loved one died on (or around) Christmas.

Jesus knows.

And He loves you. He knows your loss, and grieves with you. As I know He is grieving with my family now, having lost a cousin just before Thanksgiving, and a great aunt on Christmas Eve. Forever will the holidays be associated with these events.

There is sorrow, yes. But there is also the  joy of hoped for reunions one day, and the happiness of being able to hold our living loved ones near.

Christmas: A Season of Hope and Loss.

“He shall wipe away every tear.”

How are your holidays? Do think of those who have gone on before, and hold you family tight?


    James Thomas Harthan, age 75 of Geneva, PA passed away on Monday, November 24, 2014 at his residence.
    James was born April 6, 1939 in Sharon, Pennsylvania, the son of the late Thomas and Elsie Eldridge Harthan.
    He had a long career in retail automobile sales, working for several car dealerships in Mercer, Erie and Crawford counties. Later in life he established his own auto sales business.  He enjoyed buying and selling cars.  He also enjoyed watching old movies.
    James is survived by his son Bradley Harthan and his wife Audrey, several cousins, nieces and nephews, and a close friend Jenny Palmer of Emlenton, PA.
    In addition to his parents, James was preceded in death by his younger brother Edward Harthan and his significant other Verla Shaw of Emlenton, PA
     Services will be private and at the convenience of the family.
     Memorials can be made to the Northwestern Community Educational Foundation, Harthan Character
Award, 100 Harthan Way, Albion, Pa. 16401.
Please sign the online guestbook at
Arrangements have been entrusted to the Dickson Funeral Home & Crematory, Rocco R. Tedesco III, Supervisor, 130 N Second Street, Conneaut Lake, PA 16316

'Happy Ending' photo (c) 2012, HarshLight - license:

Sometimes, there are no happy endings. Scratch that. Many times, there are no happy endings. We need look no further than the world around us: that car accident we may have passed on the way to work, the cat’s corpse laying dead in the street (some would say this isn’t a bad thing. Tell that to the child whose cat this was), the death of a spouse, parent, grandparent, friend… a marriage’s end. These are not happy tidings. No, this is more par for the course in this place the Scriptures term a “vale of tears.” Life isn’t fair, things don’t work out the way we want.

In this, we find ourselves in august company:

Abraham, who looked forward to the promise, yet died before it was fulfilled.

Righteous Lot, whose soul was vexed, living there in Sodom.

Moses, who through anger, lost the Promised Land.

David, whose hands were too blood-soaked to build the temple he longed to erect as testament to his love of God.

Solomon, who despite his much-vaunted wisdom, piddled away his kingdom via compromise.


Yesterday, I wrote of being disappointed in the movie Oblivion. This stems, I think, from its kitschy, tacked-on happy ending. I understand why Hollywood is in love with the happy ending–it’s embedded deep within us. Somewhere, buried down deep in our marrow, we know the world as it is is not how it’s always been. Call it Eden–call it what you will–we know there was once something better, instinctively that we are something more. Hence our love of fairy tales, of happy endings. Thing is, as John Eldredge says, we live in the Third Act of history. The in-between. There’s no going back to what once was, but the Fourth Act has not yet begun. We’re stuck between the now, and the not-yet. Every happy ending we posit is a kind of wish fulfillment–either a looking back, or a questing ahead. We try to regain what we’ve lost, or grab hold of what’s not here yet.

But it never quite works out.

Truth be told, God has a way of shattering our illusions. The truth is: life is hard, and then we die.

But in dying we find life.

That is the truth of the Gospel. It has the quality of fairy tale, but it is no mere wish fulfillment. Christ had to die, else there would be no resurrection.

Likewise, sometimes (oftentimes) our hopes, dreams, all that we have lived for, given our lives to has to die as well… For God to bring new life.

Yet we fight Him, wanting our happy ending now–without putting in the hard work. Lest we forget: Christ emptied Himself of divinity, became a cluster of cells, a zygote, an embryo, and squalling shitting baby (no matter what Martin Luther tells us about “no crying He makes.” He lied). From infant to toddler, toddler to child, child to young man–all the while learning from, and being obedient to, His parents. By all accounts, He learned the trade of carpenter from his stepfather, Joseph. By all accounts, though not included in Holy Writ, He lost Joseph sometime before His earthly ministry began. Think on it! The Holy One, God the Son, born in ignominy, toiling in obscurity: He emptied Himself of all divinity.

And eventually humbled Himself to become obedient to death on the cross!

“Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.” And He “learned obedience through those things which He suffered. ”

Think on that! Christ, God the Son, learning obedience! That is the crux:

Sometimes (oftentimes), happy endings have to die, privations must be endured, for joy’s sake.

Make no mistake: there will be a consolation of history. But we are not there yet. Like Job–like Jesus before us–we must patiently endure.


Until the faith shall become sight.

Sacrifices must be made, hopes will fade, and dreams will die. But “unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone.” The trick is, in this vale of tears, to keep the true light alive:


'Hope' photo (c) 2007, *USB* - license:

Fan the embers into flames, my friends. Go with God, and walk in the light.

In the wake of tragedies such as the shooting yesterday in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, people will ask the inevitable question:

Where was God? The answer is that he is the same place he has always been: on his throne. Objections will be raised: God could have, should have, or…

Some will conclude there is no God. Some will conclude that he is powerless to act. Neither is true.

But the fact is that now is not the time for theological speculation.

Now is the time grieve, to be present with the bereft, to offer not a word, but arms.

As the Bible says: “Weep with those that weep…”

In time, healing will come (though life will never be the same). But right now, parents of surviving children are having conversations they should not need to have. Yet other parents are standing in the doorways of empty bedrooms wishing for one more night of:

“I can’t sleep.”

“I’m thirsty.”

“Read me a story.”

But the silence is deafening, a roaring in their ears, and in their hearts. Because these parents will never again hear those things, and are instead standing in the doorways of empty bedrooms contemplating funerals.

Those parents deserve our respect–and our silence. Now is not the time to push agendas–political, theological, or otherwise. Now is the time to weep, to be Christ’s hands and feet.

It is a time pray, to reflect, and hold our loved ones all the closer. For as John Donne said: “Do not sent to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”

The less of this, or any tragedy, is that life–not even young life–is not guaranteed.

But it is a gift. A gift which must be mourned when it is lost. Telling to me is that, before raising Lazarus, Jesus wept.

And if he wept, knowing what was to shortly come, how much more us?

Someday death will be swallowed up in final victory. Someday the faith shall be made sight.

But today is not that day.

Today we grieve. We grieve, and we remember.

God give us the grace to someday, somehow, heal.

Today, at the altogether too young age of 27, Amy Winehouse was found dead. (Having never heard her music, I’ll not comment upon it–though one does not take home five Grammys in a single evening without being hugely talented).

'Amy Winehouse' photo (c) 2009, VersusLiveQuizShow - license:

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> © 2010 Mikko Luntiala | more info (via: Wylio)

If you’re a dad (or a mom), then you know the importance of teaching your kids to play fair. Win, or lose, it’s how you play the game that’s of the utmost importance.

On the other hand, you also know the importance of boosting their self-confidence. So you, like I have in times past, will throw a game to make them feel good. Not very often, mind you, but just often enough to ensure the challenge doesn’t discourage them.

Is this a good thing? I think so. You just can’t let your child know that you purposefully lost. Compete hard enough to make it feel fair. It’s truly a boost to their fragile psyches.

You may counter my contention here by saying that this doesn’t reflect reality, that perhaps does more harm than good. Perhaps you’re right. That we should be teaching our kids how to handle disappointment. Certainly, there’s a time and place for that. We can’t always let them win. We’ve got to strike that balance, teach them how to be sportsmanlike with either outcome.

This is where I totally missed the mark.

What I mean is: the male ego is a frail, fickle thing. Which you should take to mean that my twelve-year-old son is far better than me at video games. Makes sense: he has far more time to practice.

This fact did not make me feel good this past weekend. In fact, I had what could only be described as a tantrum. I’m not proud of it; in fact, I write this to my shame.

You know what my son did? He started throwing games to make me feel good! Thing is, I knew he was doing so! Which only served to make me more upset.

And thus–in this regard–my life has jumped the shark!

In this, he is the master, and I’m but the padawan! This does not make me feel good. Not one little bit.

It didn’t help at all that my wife was there, witness to the entire sordid affair. (Let me tell you: this really helped my ego. Not!).

Lunch was served shortly thereafter. I had two things to eat that day: crow sandwich and humble pie.

I have come to grips with the fact that, in this area, my son is better than me.

The truth is–with regard to video games–I suck.

If you like, please feel free to share the areas where you are experiencing suckage in your life in the comments.