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Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: Bronner: A Journey to Understand by Sherri Burgess

Bronner: A Journey to Understand
Sherri Burgess
New Hope Publishers
Released January 2016

*I am not a professional book reviewer, but I love to write and when a new book particularly touches me I like to post a review here. *

I had to catch my breath before I could write a review of this wonderful book. I've read several works written by grieving parents over the years. My own family experienced two such losses and so I read these books from time to time to see how others process so terrible an event as a child passing. This, however, is no ordinary "grieving parent" book.
I have read books that obsessed for endless chapters about Heaven, in an effort by the author to draw comfort from the fact that their child now resides there.
I have read books that were on the verge of dabbling in the occult with their repeated claims of signs and sightings and "God nods" that somehow signified that their lost loved one was literally making their presence known on this plane.
But until reading this book, I had not read someone who rushed headlong into the awesome and terrifying truth that this is a fallen world, and the God whom we love and confess, the God whom we trust and obey, is the same God who can permit something so tragic because it is part of His greater plan. Harder still is facing that truth and somehow believing that He is no less good and loving that He was before the tragedy struck.
Sherri Burgess has done a masterful job of expressing the immense pain that she and husband Rick and their family experienced that dreadful January night. But beyond that, Sherri has dug deep into the scriptures to offer the hope and comfort that only those who truly trust God will know. When Paul speaks of the "Peace that passes understanding..." he is not referring to some mystical numbness that overtakes your devastated and shattered heart. He is talking about the deep, under-the-surface peace that comes from knowing somewhere in your soul that even this is somehow part of God's plan. The Burgesses lived it. They still live it. This is a story about the home-going of a precious child, but also of the dreams, plans, visions and hopes that are always wrapped up in our children. It's about arms that ache for a hug that doesn't come, ears that listen for a voice that has fallen silent, and a special place in the heart of a mom and dad that is for now filled only with memories and yearning. Thankfully it's also about the truth that those disappointments and sorrows are not eternal.
Sherri and Rick's story is breathtaking in it's pain and also in it's strength. Yes, God has granted them the peace that passes understanding, but He also granted them the Faith to say "It is well with my soul" even when the world is crumbling.
Beyond all this. Beyond the masterful way Sherri relates this story and recounts every painful step on the trail of tears and healing, there lies the fact that she is a masterful theologian. I have a Bachelors degree in Religion and I am beginning seminary this spring, I love the Word and have a deep respect for those who truly know how to "Rightly divide the Word of Truth." Sherri is amazing in her depth and breadth of biblical knowledge. One of the reasons I shy away from these books is because so frequently they contain so much terrible theology. This book is the opposite. This book is truth. It's not just for those who have experienced loss -because in the end, who hasn't- it's for those who know that life IS loss...but to be with Christ, both here on earth and in eternity, is truly gain.

Thank you Sherri and Rick for having the courage to walk back down that dreadful path and share this story with us all.
If you struggle with loss -whether of a child or a parent or sibling, or simply the loss of your plans and dreams- I cannot recommend this book highly enough. 


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Open Letter to Cam Newton

I detest the whole “Open Letter” thing. It’s become passé and overwrought. But, since this is playing out on the national stage I thought I would give it a go.

     Mr. Newton
         I’m writing this to you as a result of your recent comments regarding your behavior after the Super Bowl on Sunday. I have a problem with your behavior, and with your continued sulking and pouting and so, since you played this out on national TV, I thought I’d respond publicly as well.
You need to grow up.
This is life, kid. People lose big games. They lose much more. They lose jobs. They lose houses. Dreams die before ever getting off the ground. Parents lose children at a young age and never get over it. Young couples try and try and never are able to have children.
The love of your life dies too soon, or decides they don’t love you anymore and they leave you suddenly. This is life. This plays out thousands of times a day and the people who face life after disaster have to suck it up, pick up the pieces and soldier on. This is a hell of a lot more important than the Super Bowl.
Your defenders continue to say “Unless you have walked in his shoes, you can’t judge him. You don’t know what it’s like to fail with 150 Million people watching.” Actually Cam…I know something even more heartbreaking. Sure, your loss took place on a worldwide stage. But half of the onlookers were cheering for you. They love you and wanted you to get up and win the fight. It was not to be this time, and they love you regardless. After the game, you pouted, sulked, whined, growled, and finally stalked off like a petulant child, who was just told “No!” for the very first time.
You know what is worse than losing a battle in front of millions of fans? You know what hurts more than your dreams dying in public view?
It’s when your dreams die and not a soul notices or cares.
You want to know how I know? Because I’ve been there.
When the economy collapsed in 2008 I lost my career. The industry I worked in vanished. I was 45 and could not find a job. I lost my home. With that I lost my pets, my ability to have my daughter on weekends anymore. (Thankfully, her mom and I are divorced and so her mom still had a place to live.) I lost my sense of accomplishment and worth. I felt like dying.
And nobody noticed.
Precious few people cared how I was doing, or asked about where I was staying. I lived in my car, showered at the county rec center and nobody noticed. Every single night for the first two years I lived like this. Every single night I wanted to give up. That is tragic. Not losing a stupid football game and then whining about the questions they ask you, or the fact that you could hear your opponent’s statements from the other room.
Life is tough and nobody cares how you feel about things. You put your head down and pick yourself up and do better. And if you are a real man…you do it with dignity.
I tried to do exactly that. I was homeless. I literally slept in a Volvo 850 that I would hide behind a church. It hurt. It hurt more than this loss you just experienced ever could.
I cried myself to sleep some times because I love my daughter and I was worried about how this would affect her. I worried that maybe it was never going to change. I wondered how I could ever change it. But all the while, I tried facing it with dignity because –while you had millions of people watching you falter- I had only one. My daughter. But she was the only one that mattered Cam, and so I endured this battle with dignity because I knew I was setting an example. I wanted to pout, I wanted to scream, and I wanted to bark at every stranger who walked across my path. But instead I did what I could to hide the fact that I was homeless and I faced it all with dignity.
You need to learn what that word means and what it looks like.
You need to apologize to the world for sulking and pouting and making the whole event about you. You need to stiffen your back, face your failings and shortcomings, and have some dignity and some humility. Humility is not the same as humiliation. Jesus was humble. Einstein was humble.
I can deal with your exuberance and your dancing and your dabbing and your youthful ridiculousness. But I can’t sit by while people defend you on the grounds that I have never failed in the public eye. I’ve done something far more painful.
I failed alone.
You drove home to your nice estate and your nice life and your adoring fans. I had a beat up old car and a sleeping bag. You will have another chance next fall. It took me almost six years to get another chance and rebuild my life.
I didn’t have time to sulk. I went back to school and finished my bachelor’s degree…while still homeless. I stayed active in my daughter’s life, while still homeless. I started a business because I still couldn’t find work…while still homeless.
In all that time, I was beaten, I felt defeated, I was depressed, I was sad, and I wondered if things were ever going to change.
But I behaved with dignity.
My daughter was watching. And whether 150 million additional people had been, or if I endured all that alone with only her eyes seeing me…I HAD to behave with dignity.
Manhood is tough. Adulthood is tough. Responsibility is tough. Your profession affords you the easiest life imaginable. Football is hard work. I get that. But you are well paid for your efforts and it affords you a dream lifestyle.
Almost no one else has that benefit. Most of us struggle in anonymity, wondering if anyone cares at all. Most of us have no resources to rebuild after loss, so we work multiple jobs and sometimes…we sleep in cars and finish our degree and hope that somehow we get that second chance.
That’s what being a grown-up is. It’s time for you to be one. You are 27. That’s not “young and immature” that’s a full-grown man. Suck it up, buttercup. This world, the league, these fans, your opponent, the press…they owe you nothing. Everything you have and everything you will gain is because of the fame and opportunity that football provided you. You have the opportunity to live a life that almost every other soul on this planet only dreams of. You have NOTHING in this world to whine about.
I think you are a good man. I enjoy the fun you have and the way you seem to "get-it" that the fans are the reason you play this game. I genuinely like you. So this doesn't come from hate.

Next time, take your lumps like a man. Answer the questions, smile when it hurts, and be gracious. Because if you can’t lose with grace, you will not win with grace. There are lots of people who would trade places with you and they’d be gracious and dignified all along the way.  Time for you to do the same.