Jill Kelly's Blog

August 10, 2014

“I’m not afraid to die…”


The first time I heard those words I was sitting next to my mom in a New York City hotel room.  It was during an interview my father had with NBC. His response to the correspondent’s poignant question was filled with resolve and conviction, yet tempered with deep humility. My mother and I both looked at each other and started to cry.


Since then, my father has been interviewed numerous times and I guess due to his ongoing battle with cancer, the topic of death naturally comes up. And every time it does, he confronts it with those same words, “I’m not afraid to die.”


I’m not going to talk about football or what it means to be a Buffalo Bills fan this week, instead I’m going to tell you why my dad isn’t afraid to die and why I’m not afraid either.
But before I dive into what might be uncharted waters for some of you, I’d like to make a few things clear: I’m not trying to tell you what to believe. I’m not even remotely suggesting that I’ve got this all figured out.


What I am going to do is share the source of my hope — a hope that is greater than me, greater than my fear, and greater than death itself. A hope that transcends time and reality, bringing light into the darkest valley. A hope I’ve found in the midst of my father’s battle to stay alive so he can walk me down the aisle one day, even if he has to “crawl to do it.”


For though my years aren’t many, I’ve lived long enough to know full well that the next heartbeat is not promised to anyone, and each breath is a gift — to be unwrapped with gratitude, and never to be taken for granted. I am well aware that as sure as the sun rises to bring forth a new day, filled with promise, among those promises is the assurance that life on earth will end someday.


Whether we like or not, death comes to all of us.


I first experienced this when my brother Hunter died at just eight-and-a-half years-old. I remember that day as if it were yesterday — every feeling, every tear as joy intertwined with tremendous pain. Joy because I knew my brother was in Heaven and he wasn’t suffering anymore. Pain because I miss him with every breath I breathe.


I didn’t want my brother to die and I don’t want my father to die either. But, I know that death is real and lays claim to each of us — whether we age-out of this life and into the next, or something intrudes to violate the natural order of things to take us earlier. However, I believe there is something more real than death. Something greater. Something stronger. Something more powerful.


LIFE!


In the Bible, in John 14:6 Jesus said unequivocally, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The Bible is not a book about religion; it’s a book about relationship. It’s the greatest non-fiction story ever told about man’s deepest need and God’s perfect fulfillment of that need. It’s about life and death and the Creator who is beyond both holding all things together in time and eternity for His glory and our good. 1 John 5:12 clarifies what true life is, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”


My dad isn’t afraid to die because he knows and trusts the Author of Life, God. It’s that simple, and yet, it’s the most important thing for us to contemplate and conclude. He has “life” now and when he takes his last breath, eternal life in heaven…not because of anything my father did or has done but solely because he trusts in what Jesus already did for him. Trusting in a God who is greater than our circumstances, greater than our very lives  —isn’t merely a religious experience, or a reason to go to church — it is an ever-present active reality that is meant to be lived out one day at a time and as my mom would say, “one prayer at a time.”


My dad and I, we’ve been changed. As a result of the reality and fear of death we had both experienced we have been ushered into an even greater reality. One that has taken the sting out of death because of the One who conquered it to give us life here and in eternity in all its abundance. 

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Published on August 10, 2014 09:15 • 89 views

June 20, 2014

Monday was our first follow-up visit with both the radiation and chemotherapy teams since Jim completed his treatments on May 28th. Basically, the visit was to determine the extent of healing that has taken place in Jim’s mouth as well as his ability to eat since he’s still using a feeding tube for all nourishment. Jim has lost a total of 44 pounds since the beginning of this second go around with cancer.


 


We are considering another type of therapy in the interim between the last treatment Jim had, and the scans that are scheduled two to three months up the road. However, we are still gathering information and haven’t made a decision about that yet. Additionally, we’ve also been looking into implementing alternative and homeopathic protocols in order to strengthen Jim’s immune system. This is an area that is fairly new to us so we are trying to learn as much as possible and implement what we can as soon as possible. He is still very weak, extremely tired, and he’s not himself — but he’s still “Kelly Tough,” focused on God and the goal line, and victory. He always has and always will persevere and fight the good fight.


 


Most importantly, he is healing.


 


It’s a tough time for us, but we are encouraged and hopeful. We’re not grasping at straws, but instead resting in the reality that God is presiding over our destiny, He didn’t fall off the throne in shock and surprise at Jim’s diagnosis, and He hasn’t changed, meaning He still has a perfect plan in the midst of all this.


 


That being said, it’s…


 


One day at a time.


One prayer at a time.


All in God’s timing…


 


And so we wait.


 


Wait for test and scan results.


Wait to find out if the treatments worked.


Wait to heal.


Wait…


ON GOD…


 


But…


I’m sitting here sharing this update and standing on His promises…But to be honest with you I’m just really sad. Sad that Jim has to go through this. Sad because my girls are sad and they don’t know exactly what to do with their tears. And I feel like most of the time I don’t know how to help them because I’m dealing with my own sorrow.


Honestly, the thing that makes all of this even harder is the fact that I know beyond a shadow of doubt that God is who He says He is. I know that we are not waiting on a result or scan or anything or anyone else for that matter — we’re waiting on God.


 


I also know that He already KNOWS the outcome — and that that should be enough for me. And I guess that’s what makes this all so hard and yet so comforting.


 


My hope in the God who holds the universe and my heart and our lives in His hand is the same God that is big enough for moments like this.


 


Moments when I’m confused and sad.


Moments when I feel like He’s not moving and healing even though He absolutely is.


Moments when I’m trying so hard to hang on to faith when all I really need to do is let go — and let God.


 


This is where I am right now. These are the things I’m wrestling with. And even in this, God is greater…


 


Greater than cancer.


Greater than the outcome.


Greater than this life and the life to come. 


Greater than my heart and hopes and dreams.


 


He’s greater still.


 


And because of this, I can say like the Psalmist, with complete conviction — whether I feel like it or not, “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’” (Psalm 70:4)

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Published on June 20, 2014 16:03 • 43 views

May 14, 2014

 A few days ago, a dear friend of mine, Nicole, died.


Today, I picked my daughter, Camryn, up from school and the first thing she said was, “Did you know that little Ben died?”


Both from cancer.


Ben left behind his 5-year-old twin brother, Jack.


Nicole left behind twin sons, both 5-years-old – Trevor who has Krabbe disease and his brother, Tyler.


 


Lord,


I don’t understand.


I can’t help ask…WHY, God, WHY?


Why not a miracle for Ben and Nicole?


You’re the God who heals all of our diseases.


You still perform miracles in our day.


So many people prayed for Ben.


So many people prayed for Nicole.


SO MANY PEOPLE PRAYED.


Like the paralytic who was carried to Jesus by his four desperate friends…we all carried Ben and Nicole to you.


 


If we can’t run to You with the depths of our despair, where else can we go?


The weight of this pain is overwhelming.


Lord, how will You work all this together for good?


How?


Will all of this bring You glory?


Help us find You in the midst of all this despair and anguish.


My faith is drowning in a sea of tears.


I’m trying to keep my head above water but I can’t seem to catch my breath.


I can’t even move or open my mouth to scream for help.


It’s like I’m paralyzed.


Lord,


What is this?


Is it heartbreak?


Doubt?


Fear?


Grief?


 


Did we focus so intensely on the healing that we took our eyes off of You, the Healer?


Don’t You hate cancer too?


So many questions.


So many tears.


And even now, my heart longs to praise You.


To give You thanks.


Why?


Maybe because, it’s okay that I don’t understand.


It’s okay that I don’t know why.


It’s okay because no matter what, no matter who, no matter why…


YOU’RE STILL GOD .


You’re still good.


You’re still gracious, merciful, loving, kind, long-suffering.


You’re still big enough for my doubt, unbelief, and fear.


You’re still the One who understands.


You’re still the One who saves, forgives, redeems.


You’re the ONLY ONE.


And right now that’s enough.


It has to be.


Because in the midst of this we still seek YOU…in the midst of the tears, despair, doubt, questions…YOU understand it all.


You’re the only One who does.


 


“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.   “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8

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Published on May 14, 2014 17:54 • 52 views

March 21, 2014

His name is Jason.


He’s in his late thirties.


He has just weeks to live.


His body is riddled with cancer,


But his heart abounds with hope.


 


We had the privilege of meeting him as we were anxiously packing up Jim’s hospital room to head out to yet another scan. Cataloging a litany of appointment dates & times, scans, blood-work, diagnostic tests, and clinical abbreviations — the hospital rooms are where we “huddle-up” as a family to call the next play and plan the next move now that the cancer’s back, aggressive, and starting to spread.


Jason graciously entered our world after Jim had endured a very difficult night, and was having trouble keeping food and water down due to some medication. And as the nurse reviewed his final release instructions, Jim interrupted her  “Wait a minute, I want to give away the flowers.”


He does this.


Every time he leaves the hospital, he gives another patient the flowers that have been sent to him so they can enjoy them too. I’m surprised he remembered the whole flower thing because he’s so drained and feels so sick.


The nurse responded, “I know the perfect person.”


 



With flowers in hand instead of a football, number 12 is wheeled down the hall and around the corner into Jason’s room. This complete stranger that will soon dominate our conversation for days to come is shocked and ecstatic to see Jim Kelly in his room. The nurses and everyone else in the room can’t help but feed off of the contagious joy radiating from this man. You would never know he had just weeks to live. He celebrates every heartbeat and acts more alive than most people who enjoy perfect health.


We take a few photos, say our goodbyes, and then Jim gets back into his wheelchair. Before we head out the door, however, we’re interrupted as Jason says, “Jim, can I pray for you?”


A beautiful, overwhelming silence wrapped itself around us followed by one of the most precious and moving prayers I have ever experienced.


I wish I could remember everything Jason said to God. I wish I could adequately explain what it was like to have a young man dying of cancer, given weeks to live — a mere handful of heartbeats… pray for my husband, the man who means the most to me in all the world, who’s fighting for his life because of the same dreadful disease.


I wish you were there because I know you’d be in awe of God as I am right now trying my best to share this with you.


As soon as Jason stopped praying, Jim looked up at him moved by compassion, laid his hand on Jason’s shoulder and began to pray.


After Jim stopped praying, we all just kind of stood there, awestruck.


As we left Jason’s room and made our way to the elevator, his joy went with us. Little was said because we could feel the hope and joy he shared from the depths of his soul take root in the depths of ours — words would’ve fallen so short…


And in a way they still do.


Jason, the one who might not see the sunrise next week, radiated such joy and lived in the light of eternity so profoundly, that the soft glow and promise of the world to come cast its warmth across our souls. It was as if the Son walked into the hospital room to give us a glimpse of what it’s like to suffer well, praise Him in the storm, and walk by faith and not by sight. It gave a whole new meaning to the biblical expression, “living word.”


There’s even more to this incredible story…


We invited our pastor over to pray with Jim today. After some small talk and an update on everything that has transpired over the last few weeks we were ready to pray. The doorbell interrupted us and I jumped up to get it. The house was starting to fill up as the Kelly brothers made their way over one by one, as well as friends and teammates.


Peter John, a long time, close friend of Jim’s, was at the door. We exchanged greetings, made the necessary introductions, and then prepared to go back to prayer. Before Pastor Jerry began, however, he said. “Before we pray, I’d like to tell you something that I think will encourage you,” upon which he recounted how before he came to our house he had had a meeting with another pastor in the area. During that meeting the pastor shared with Jerry how he had visited a young man, a member of his church in the hospital the day before. Jerry went on to explain how this young man was in his late thirties and dying of cancer.


As Pastor Jerry continued to share the story his pastor friend had recounted, I knew it was Jason.  And it was. If you know me at all, this is the point when I start freaking out, ready to jump out of my skin. I could hardly contain the joy!


And it gets even better…


We invited Jim’s brothers and friends to join us for prayer. After an amazing time of coming boldly before God’s throne of grace to find help in our time of need, we decided to share all the details about the incredible way in which God had woven our lives together with Jason’s. Amazingly, as Pastor Jerry started talking about what Jason’s pastor had shared with him, mid-sentence Jim interrupted and said, “Wait a minute, Peter John, we gave Jason the flowers you sent us.” To which Peter John responded with a look of awe on his face, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”


And in all these things God works for the good of those who love Him… You can literally trace the hand of God weaving these destinies together to craft a beautiful tapestry of His glory throughout this incredible story. Those few moments in time where His grace, love, mercy, compassion, and tenderness were tangible — felt by those who were there and now can be shared by all who hear this remarkable story. Through the joy of a dying man, yet another warrior fighting the battle is given hope, and is blessed beyond measure. From a friend moved to send flowers during his buddy’s time of great need, to the prayer of two saints both seeking the heart of their Savior we see the loving, strong, sovereign hand of their God at work. In the midst of suffering we find a contagious joy and shared hope that causes both men, to not just endure this trial they have been entrusted with…But to triumph through it, to the glory of the God who loves them and gave Himself for them.   


 


 

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Published on March 21, 2014 12:41 • 367 views

March 2, 2014

She’s away at college.


She’s got a heavy study load this semester in addition to the navigating through of all things college life.


I get this text from her yesterday: So I wrote a blog.


She doesn’t have time to write anything other than what’s required of her, so I know this is big.


I read it, cry and then…I THANK GOD.


Thank Him for “circumstances” that cause us to cling to the TRUTH.


Thank Him for reminding me that He’s in control and I’m not.


Thank Him because even though I long for her to suffer not, it’s in the midst of the breaking, tears, trials and the struggle where God does His greatest refining in the fire. 


And most of all…Thank Him because SHE GETS IT…though a constant work in progress as we all are…SHE’S HIS. She’s been made NEW…And that’s all that matters!


 


 


March 1, 2014


Often times God moves in great ways through simple circumstances.


I woke up this morning, grabbed my journal, a pen and began to write.


Now here I am. Exactly where I believe God wants me.


 


New month!!!


New journal!!!


Thank You Lord, for all things NEW!!


Thank you for ends because they lead to beginnings.


The beginning of something greater, grander than anything I could ever dream!


I know and believe that on THIS day- March 1, 2014, You, Mighty God, are starting a NEW work in me!


 


Out with the old… in with the new.


Out with fear… in with courage.


Out with worry… in with trust.


Out with discouragement… in with praise.


Out with every chain… in with endless freedom.


Out with wondering… in with knowing.


Out with chaos… in with peace.


Out with concern for tomorrow… in with living for You today.


Out with death… in with LIFE!!!


 


Jesus, You have called me to live this day.


To walk with my head lifted high because I know Whose I am!


I will not follow the lies of this world but will be transformed by the renewing of my mind.


I will keep my eyes and ears open, ready to listen and respond to You. Because You alone bring life – abundant, everlasting life!!


Lord… I will live this day, and remember that I cannot do it alone.


I need You!


You are my strength!


 


I know this road will not be easy, but I CHOOSE this road because it’s the one that leads to You, to eternal life.


Lord, even as I sit here writing, You remind me that this is Your road.


That You knew before time began that I would choose to follow You all the days of my life.


Even if I am surrounded by people who take the detour…


Jesus, I will still follow You. I will follow You because I know and love You.


Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light.


You bring peace.


You bring life.


Apart from You I am nothing.


Lord, I believe that You are making all things new.


I am new and I am free!


And I walk into this day with confidence in who I am because of who You are.


Be encouraged by the God who makes all things NEW!


 

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Published on March 02, 2014 14:28 • 100 views

February 26, 2014

It was just a response to an email I sent the day before.


Or so I thought.


It was all about business initially until he said this – “I wanted to say that I went to your website and followed the links to read about Hunter and your story.  I just wanted to say your testimony is amazing and what God did through ya’lls lives through Hunter’s disease is incredible.”


After I finished reading the rest of his message, I went to my website.


And I started to read and remember.


Remember!


Because, as crazy as it sounds, somewhere along the way, in the midst of a busy life filled with struggles and circumstances, I had forgotten.


Maybe it was because I had been so wrapped up in my oldest daughter, Erin, graduating from high school, then entering her first semester of college so far away, her struggling with missing everything about home – Face-Timing with her night after night, watching her cry but knowing that she was exactly where God wanted her to be and that rescuing her from what I knew would be best for her in every way would only hurt her.


Or maybe it was the cancer diagnosis that Jim had received leading to the unknown world of waiting, scans, surgeries, more scans, medications, and now the relentless pain that brings a strong man to his knees daily. 


Maybe it was my youngest daughter, Camryn, going through the typical teenage girl issues but in a very different culture where social media can suck the life right out of you, where young girls fall hard and fast for the things of this world and Justin Bieber rather than the things of God and Jesus.


Or maybe, it was the recent news that a dear friend, who had overcome breast cancer and a double mastectomy was now dealing with untreatable lung cancer and in the midst of trying to do everything possible, the specialists at the best cancer center on planet Earth find cancer in her brain. And she reaches out to me because she’s my friend and she has a son, Trevor with Krabbe disease. Who will take care of Trevor if God takes his mom?


I don’t know what happened along the way.


Some would say – life happened.


And I suppose that’s exactly it – LIFE happened.


 


But after receiving that email, then going to my website…God showed me.


I forgot.


I had gotten so wrapped up in LIFE, the circumstances and struggles, that I had forgotten LOVE…my First Love…


Jesus.


 


So He reminded me.


He brought me back home. Like the prodigal to the Father’s house, His arms open wide ready to celebrate.


 


He helped me remember…


 


Who He is, and who I am because of all that He is.


He opened my eyes to see again…that death was swallowed up in victory…that I, once blind could now see.


See Him.


Who He is.


What He has done.


 


Even as I write this…


He’s reminding me.


 


I am…


Loved.


Forgiven.


Redeemed.


Chosen.


Set Apart.


Blessed.


Royalty.


Gifted.


Changed.


New.


Free.


Fear-less.


Whole.


 


And there’s more…immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.


Because He’s God.


 


I didn’t just read that e-mail, go to my website, stop, listen, and write this, just for my sake.


This is for you.


It’s for you, because maybe right now, in this very moment, you need to stop and let Him remind you.


Allow Him to refresh your memory.


To bring you back to LOVE, to the Father’s heart where everything about this life gets wrapped up in the greater reality of Christ in us the Hope of Glory.


 


“…You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5


 


 

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Published on February 26, 2014 18:43 • 67 views

June 6, 2013

sc007cd88fI could tell by the look on his face that something was terribly wrong. My heart began to pound as he stumbled over his words and struggled to share the news. Countless thoughts erupted from every corner of my mind in anxious anticipation as I waited — not knowing what to expect…


 


But I never expected to hear the “C” word.


 


Through one connection or another we’ve all been touched and terrified by this fearsome foe.


 


Cancer.


 


We don’t like the way it sounds rolling off the tongue. It’s the demon that takes loved ones causing unimaginable pain, dread, and anguish. So when he told me, I was shocked and scared. But not for long.


 


“God is bigger than this.” I said with conviction. “He has your back. He will make a way. This is not too big for Him.”


 


And yet, as the hours dragged me forward, my mind was assaulted, ambushed on every side with every possible nightmarish thought you can imagine. My spiritual bravado began to falter as the questions loomed like sinister shadows defying my faith:


 


“How are we going to tell the girls?”


 


“Who will walk Erin and Camryn down the isle on their wedding day?”


 


I was already planning the funeral.


 


It’s crazy, but true. When circumstances beyond our control hit home, our flesh grabs hold of fear.


 


We’re human.


 


We realize that we can’t defeat these circumstances so much greater than we are and instinctively run into the gloom even as the radiance of God’s love beckons us to His safe haven. That place where the light of hope is greater than the darkness of our greatest fear and we find rest in the knowledge that even though our circumstances are bigger than we are, God is bigger than they are!


 


I trust God.


I love Him.


 


And although I’m a constant work in progress, I walk by faith and not by sight. But even so, fear tried to have it’s way with me. The enemy of my soul still wants to kill, steal, and destroy. He doesn’t care that I love my husband. He doesn’t think twice about the fact that my daughters need their daddy.


 


So what do you do?


 


You have a choice. To trust God with what you don’t know and understand because you believe that He Knows. And because He knows, it doesn’t matter what you (or anyone else) know or don’t know. Your help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He’s the One who watches over you. Over your coming and going, over your every breath — now and forevermore. You choose to trust the One who said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)


 


 


After the initial diagnosis, we had to go and meet the “C” doctor, the surgeon. I videoed him so that we could capture every single word he said. For over an hour he explained. Words we had never heard of echoed through our minds as he described the worst case scenario and the hope we could hang onto if the cancer was isolated.


 


And…


 


He said, “Only God really knows for sure what the outcome will be.”


 


He said “God.”


 


In the midst of the explaining, the options, the possibilities, and the hard, hard news, he said “God,” and our spirits were lifted and hope renewed. Because he was right — only God knows for sure, and it was enough for me that He knew.


 


“You’ll need to get more scans to see if the cancer has spread to other areas of your body.”


 


Scans were done the next day and then the…


 


Waiting.


 


Waiting.


 


Waiting.


 


Praying.


 


Wondering.


Hoping.


Worrying.


Trusting.


Weeping.


 


And in the midst of the praying, crying, not sleeping, reading verse after verse… God spoke life, taking fear captive…


 


“You’re not waiting on a diagnosis. You’re not waiting on a doctor. You’re waiting on ME!”


 


Oh my…


 


EXACTLY!


 


AMEN!


 


And I recall the WORDS of truth He has so graciously hidden in my heart:


 


“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” (Psalm 27:14)


 


And..


 


“We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you.” (Psalm 33:20-22)


 


“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18)


 


And what about this…


 


“I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:24-26)


 


We wait on HIM, because in all things HE KNOWS.


 


And oddly, yet remarkably, it’s in the wrestling with the unknown, crying out in the midst of fear where it seems He draws us deeper still into His grace and mercy. That place where darkness flees because the radiance of His light cannot be dimmed.


 


Where hope conquers fear.


 


Where faith defeats doubt.


 


Where, in the failure of all flesh, all human strength, even all Christianity — Christ reveals Himself in a depth and reality yet unprecedented.


And we realize, we could never know Him who is life near as intimately, nor learn to face evil and not fear it, if He hadn’t allowed us to walk through the dark valley of the shadow of death. For it is only through His cross, His suffering, that hope can be found in our suffering.


 

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Published on June 06, 2013 17:53 • 98 views

March 31, 2013

cross-of-christ-0105 


I was invited to participate in the Good Friday Together event held at the First Niagara Center. (On Good Friday) Overwhelmed by the invite and the verse I was given to share…I prayed a lot. Actually, I freaked out and prayed a ton.


It was an extraordinary event.


Unforgettable!


To see how God the Father packed that arena for the praise and glory of His Son – well, words fall short. It was like a glimpse of what worship in heaven might be like – every tribe, tongue and nation – hearts full being poured out in uninhibited worship for the King. Absolutely unforgettable. His presence was tangible. His people – ONE in Him and for Him.


No one wanted to leave. We didn’t want it to end. And then we remember that it doesn’t have to end – because – EASTER – and the joy and New Life from that moment allows for life and outrageous joy now.


I was led to write what I eventually shared at the event. We were only given 5 minutes and 45 seconds to get it done. Well…needless to say I had to cut back a lot. So…I thought I might share the entire message.


Have a blessed EASTER! He’s Alive!


 


 


Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on this disciple took her into his home. (John 19:25-27)


 


This tender yet imposing moment that became the third saying of Christ from the cross, is introduced in sheer contrast to what’s being described beforehand ─ the callous cruelty of the Roman soldiers as they arrogantly divvy up and gamble for Jesus’ clothing.


 


In this moment I can’t help but think of Mary ─ especially as a mother.


Her anguish.


Her deep pain


And the helplessness of a mother watching the unthinkable, watching…


Her son die.


 


I can only imagine how she felt, what she was thinking…


 


Maybe she reflected upon the moment when everything changed ─ when she was a young, virgin pledged to be married to Joseph…


That moment when the angel Gabriel appeared to her, announcing to her the unthinkable…


 


That the Holy Spirit would come upon her and create life in her.


That she would give birth to the very Son of God, the SON of GOD…


That she would name Him Jesus.


Or maybe she pondered His humble birth in that curious, unassuming stable ─ greeted not by adoration and pomp but… Instead, the King was met on earth by the animal kingdom; praised by bleating sheep, neighing horses and mooing  cows.


How she wished she could go back in time. Back to that moment when clay covered glory, When God took on flesh and became a helpless baby boy ─ her baby boy with tiny hands that couldn’t even reach for her. Holy hands that in that moment were stretched out on a cross to save her…


To save all of us.

And as blood dripped from those hands, maybe she was struck afresh remembering the blessing and the prophecy ─ the words spoken by Simeon about the child during his dedication in the temple . “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”


 


Mary…


 


We don’t know what she pondered in those moments as her son hung, suspended between heaven and earth.


 


Was she was ready and willing to face the Roman guards and take her beloved son down off that cross?


 


Did she want to get in the faces of those cold-hearted hypocrites hurling insults at her son when just days before they were praising His name and enjoying the leftovers from his many miracles?


 


We don’t know what she was feeling, thinking, or what she said.


 


Because


 


She was…


 


Silent.


 


And maybe she was silent because she was interceding, praying for the miracle of miracles… That just maybe the Father, the One who chose her to be the Son’s mother,  just maybe…


 


He might take this cup from her son, …from His son. Maybe He would take the cup from her.


 


Like Mary, we come to where our deepest need and heartbreak take us,…to the foot of the cross. And we can’t help but feel the profound and extraordinary in this moment .


 


Mary’s silence.


 


Maybe we have no record of what she said because it wasn’t about what she said or did in this moment.


Because in this moment, as in every other moment, including right now.


It’s not about Mary, it’s not about you, and it’s not about me.


 


It’s about Jesus.


 


She’s silent…


So that we will hear HIM.


 


So that we take our eyes off of her, off of ourselves and the multitude of reasons for our coming to the foot of the cross.   So we take our eyes off of all these things and we look at Him.


 


Because when we fix our gaze toward heaven, and look up from the ashes of our despair…


 


When we look up…We see Him.


 


King of kings.


Lord of lords.


The Alpha and the Omega ─ Beginning and the End of all things.


Friend of Sinners


Redeemer


Provider


Lover of Souls


Prince of Peace


Judge.


Ruler of Nations


Creator and Keeper of all.


Humanity’s greatest need, desire, and satisfaction.


Emmanuel.


Savior.


The One and Only Son.


 


We look up…


 And we see Him.


 


Covered in blood that flows freely with life for the lost and hopeless.


He breathes the air of sin all around Him and opens His mouth and…


Words come forth from Holiness and…


He speaks…


And we hear Him.


 


 


Words from the One who is Life break through the


Anguish,


Shock,


And grief


Of the moment.


 


Words from the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us.


Words of love, devotion, care, and compassion.


Words to a mother and beloved disciple.


Words for you and for me.


 


Even as He is dying,


Crushed, by bearing the wrath of God


Paying, the penalty for humanity’s sin,


Gasping, for air to fill his lungs


As His broken heart pours every ounce of its strength into breaking the chains of sin that bound us…


 


While He is dying…


He gives.


He looks down.


He sees us.


 


And He gives…All He came to give…all of Himself.


 


 Jesus reaches down into our pain and gives His life and love.


With more


Of Himself.


He keeps on Giving.


He’s being poured out for His own.


The ones He came for. Prayed for.


He’s there giving all of Himself for His mother and His best friend.


 


He’s giving it all for you and for me.


 


He’s providing for His mom, taking care of tomorrows needs ─ today.


Making a way through every circumstance so that we can know…that


He is the God of your every need.


He’s living beyond himself, beyond His circumstances.


He sees your great need and meets it completely and perfectly in Himself.


Your greatest need and mine will always be


…JESUS.


 


 


 

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Published on March 31, 2013 12:10 • 90 views

March 27, 2013

photoI know it’s true but sometimes (well, often) I forget.


They don’t belong to me.


I don’t own them.


 


They were His long before I even knew them and they’re still His.


Maybe it’s because they’re flesh of my flesh that I feel this way.


Like I have some sort of say in how their lives should be – a claim to what kind of future they will have and what that journey should look like every step of the way – because…


 


I’m their mom.


They were formed in my womb.


I’ve literally poured out my life for them.


 


If you’re a mother, you know what I’m talking about.


 


The cry you recognize in a room filled with infants.


The way they smell.


That birthmark placed perfectly on her right hip.


The sleepless nights. The countless tears. The fear.


The “what if’s”.


The disciplining when it would’ve been so much easier to let it slide.


The interrupted intimate moment with the husband because the sweet one can’t sleep and needs to crawl into bed with you.


The issues with school friends that bring out the Mama Bear worst in you.


The moments when your heart flutters as you watch them fall asleep.


Their soft skin.


Their questions. Oh, their many questions.


The bad word that slips out of their mouths when you least expect it – and you’re still blaming the neighborhood kid.


When they pray!


The innocence you long to cling to that slowly slips away…


The way they call you “mom”…


 


No, they’re not mine. And, they’re not yours either.


 


And I guess in some strange way, I’m grateful.


 


Thankful that there is a God who knows more…loves more…


And can and will do immeasurable more than I could ever ask, think, or imagine for the precious treasures He has allowed me the privilege of taking care of this side of eternity.


 


I’ve been complimented a number of times regarding how Jim and I have raised our children.


But…


When I look at this child…


When I look at Erin, I see how she is His.


And although God has given me the amazing honor and privilege of being her mother, I see His fingerprints all over her life – the countless ways in which she is so like Him. The things about her that we as her parents could never teach her – because we’re still learning ourselves.


 


Today is Erin’s last day in the Dominican Republic!


I can’t wait for her to come home!


But, I’m so thankful for the time that she’s been away – taking in all that God desired to show her and do through her in the midst of what He’s doing in the D.R.


 


As I read her journal entry, I was reminded, yet again.


She belongs to Him.  


 


Today we went to the Emmanuel House! It was absolutely amazing! As soon as I got there two girls came over to me and grabbed my hand and hung out with me the entire time. They were so welcoming and their smiles were contagious. Even though I didn’t understand everything they were saying, it didn’t matter- we were friends immediately.


Later on, a few girls got up and sang some songs in English. I felt so blessed to hear them sing about Jesus in our language along with being able to sing to them in Spanish. When we sang “Mighty To Save” all the kids sang along and the smiles on their faces showed that they knew what the words of the song meant. Although many were young, the love for Jesus and each other radiated from them.


The hardest part is always saying goodbye. Every word, hug and smile is precious and are moments that I will never forget.


 


Erin Kelly

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Published on March 27, 2013 14:43 • 72 views

January 11, 2013

Miracles-HappenThe best way to share this is to just tell you what happened — the way I remember it.


 


But, before I unload I preface all of this by first telling you that I’ve prayed hard and long about what to share. And I trust that God has given me the right spirit and words.


If you watched the local news stations (either last night or this morning) you might have heard part of the story. If you missed it — here’s a link:


 


http://www.wivb.com/dpp/news/buffalo/athletic-trainer-saves-life-of-Referee


 


If you weren’t there, and have now watched the segment, you’ve only heard part of the story. The part the media, Jim Martek (the Ref), the doctor, and the Athletic Trainer have chosen to share.


But, there’s more, and I know that…


Because we were there.


Jim, my mom and dad, Jim’s best friend Chris, Pastor Matt, nurse Judy, Klaire, Beth, the Stone family and many more were there.


 


The CCA Crusaders were playing Mount Mercy Magic. It was the first quarter and already the competition was fierce. No doubt our girls would have to go hard all four quarters to win this one.


 


And then it happened, right in front of us.


 


The “Ref” handed one of the players the ball to take out and just went down. As he lay there, all I remember is the terrifying sound of his desperate struggle to breathe — it was completely silent except for the sound of this man gasping for air. I’m shaking even now as I try to type this all in — as I remember it.


 


It was as if we (everyone in the gymnasium) knew. Immediately, there was a common bond and understanding. You could feel the weight of eternity bearing down into the severity of the moment — almost as if it was being held off while pondering the shared compassion for this fragile man so few of us knew. We instinctively stretched our hands toward the man whose life hung by a thread while reaching our hearts toward heaven praying for that thread to be strengthened. We were pleading. We were crying. We were coming boldly to the throne of grace to find help in our time of great need — on his behalf, for his life, for his soul…


 


I remember well the sounds. It reminded me of the day Hunter went home to Jesus. The memory of that moment with my precious son overwhelmed me as I fell to my knees standing in the gap for “the Ref” — and the Spirit interceded with words that I simply could not muster in my own strength.


 


Honestly, it was horrifying and amazing.


Horrifying in that it appeared we were all witnessing a man die — pass from time into eternity right before our very eyes.


Amazing because God had strategically orchestrated that moment for His sovereign purposes — His people were there and we were all storming His throne praying for a miracle.


We left Mount Mercy Academy that night drenched in tears and deep anguish. The outcome looked grim. We continued to pray. Late that evening, I received this heartbreaking text, “He didn’t make it.” The girls and I prayed for “the Ref’s” family, his children, wife — not even knowing what his name was, or if he even had a family. It was over…


But just like the story of Lazarus (John 11:1-44), who had been well beyond hope, the next day there was amazing news — news that defied reason: “the Ref” was in a coma in the ICU.


What?


We were shocked and thanked God.


But God wasn’t quite finished and this remarkable news was followed by an even more amazing turn of events — he was out of the coma, talking to his family, “the Ref” was going to be fine.


 


A miracle.


 


We didn’t witness a man die. We witnessed a miracle.


And so now, I get to the point of why I’m sharing this with you.


You see, I watched part of the segment last night. And this morning, I watched the link above. And after watching, listening, texting my mother, father, and praying — I’m overwhelmed.


 


Here’s what I just wrote in my journal:


 


Lord, after watching the account of what happened to Jim (the Ref) at Erin’s game, I can’t help but have completely mixed emotions. I’m so thankful that You, God heard the prayers of Your people interceding for that man’s very life and soul. I’m in awe that the doctor said that there was only a 5 percent chance of survival for cases like this and YOU saved him. I’m thankful for all the people that You had there, in that moment, to help this man when every second mattered — when his heart stopped beating and when he wasn’t breathing.


 


And yet, I’m shocked and full of sorrow. There was no mention of You. Mere man can do nothing apart from You. You made sure just the right people who knew what they were doing were there; You made sure that just the right equipment was available in the building. You did all of this. You saved his life. You heard the cries of Your people. You answered our prayers. You performed a miracle. You did all this.


 


And so now, I’m asking You Lord…


How can these people not see it?


How can they not give You all the honor and glory?


How can they not see YOU?


 


As per my typical quiet-time routine, I continued to pray and then I grabbed my Bible and started reading where I left off yesterday. Here are some of the verses I read:


 


“You saw with your own eyes what the LORD did…” Deut 4:3


 


“What other nation (people) is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD is near us whenever we pray to him?” Deut. 4:7


 


“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.” Deut. 4:9


 


“You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.” Deut. 4:35


 


Needless to say, I was a wreck after reading.


Here’s the thing, and I’m not ashamed to admit it — before I read these verses, I was frustrated, aggravated, and so sad. How could “the Ref” story be told without acknowledging God? He’s the Miracle Maker. He’s the only ONE who deserves the praise for rescuing this man’s life. So I was indignant and in my ignorance I prayed and talked to God.


 


And He responded.


Read the verses I shared again…


Do you see it?


 


He doesn’t want us to forget. He doesn’t want me to forget!


He allowed us to witness the “miracle.”


He did it for us


So that we would be reminded…


So that we wouldn’t forget…


 


HE IS GOD, there is no other.


 


It’s all Him.


 


The compassion we all felt.


The praying.


The tears.


The breathing.


The trainer.


The equipment.


The hospital.


The doctors.


The medicine.


 


The MIRACLE.


So that we might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.


 


I believe we all have moments where God reveals Himself to us in ways beyond what we can fully comprehend this side of heaven. This moment and the miracle it brought have been etched upon our hearts. And only by His grace and mercy will we be able to remember and never forget…


He is God


There is no other.

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Published on January 11, 2013 13:59 • 139 views

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