Perspective in Loss

My good friend, Janelle Bentley, brought an article to my attention today. John Canzano, writer for the Oregonian Newspaper wrote a piece on the Bentley family, who lost their beautiful 9 year-old daughter, Jaclynn, this week last year. I originally wrote about her passing here. Mr. Canzano’s editorial may be found here. He is a sport’s writer; a very good one at that, especially when it comes to writing human interest stories.

In this case, his article touches very close to home. For many years the Bentley family attended the church where I am Children’s pastor. I grew to know their family quite well, especially their kids. I remember vividly Jaclynn’s love for Jesus and for her family. Her face lit up the room. She had an indomitable spirit which was characterized by faith in God and devotion to her family. When Dad (Jeff) and Mom (Tracy) would arrive to pick her up from Kids church she would run into their arms, as would her siblings.

They are a family which understands the cooperative tension between spiritual formation in the home and within the larger church family. Clearly, Jaclynn and her siblings, twin Jacob (now 10) and Roselynn (now 9), grew up in a family full of love for God and each other. I admire them. I grieve with them. My words seem so inadequate, and they are. Yet all I know to do is to continue praying for them, loving them, and trusting God that he will minister to them at the level of their need.

Grief is potent, especially during the holiday season with its memories and expectations. I won’t pretend to know what they are feeling. I don’t. But I do stand with them in prayer. I grieve with them. I hope. I pray. I remember.

Artist for God– Trent "TC" Combs

While surfing the net I came across seekfirst.com. They posted a notice that a young man, Trent “TC” Combs had won a 2004 national art competition entitled Art For God. Later on, in June of 2005, Eugene Weekly ran a story about TC’s accomplishment, delving more deeply into the inspiration behind his work and its relevance to the culture. As I view the available samples of TC’s art, I marvel at the degree of its complexity, its intuitive interface between text and form, and its culturally relevant, yet biblically sensitive imagery. Truly this is an artist with a bright future.

But that is only part of the story. You see, I used to know TC and his family while serving at a small local church in the Eugene area as the Children’s Director. It was in those initial days of my learning how to relate to kids and parents that TC and his family so graciously encouraged me and allowed me to be a part of their lives. I remember even in those early years as a young child, how TC would produce stunning works of art. So I am not at all surprised to learn of his accomplishments and that he is continuing to serve the Lord.

This is a belated congratulations to you, TC. I am proud of you. You and your family are in my prayers.

Blessings,

Glen Woods

Reflections on the Fourth of July

I am a follower of Jesus Christ, first and foremost. It is to Jesus Christ that I give my highest allegiance. Yet I am located in geographically in the USA, having been born and raised as a US American citizen. Like my family and my forefathers, I am privileged to live in a land which truly understands liberty and the price required to secure it and maintain it. One of my ancestors, Philip Livingston, signed the Declaration of Independence. Robert Livingston, another of my ancestors and cousin to Philip, helped to draft the declaration. My grandfather (my mother’s father) served in the military in WWI. My other grandfather (my father’s father) served in WWII in the South Pacific theater. My uncle (my mother’s brother) served in WWII in the European theater (he is one of the ones that was busy saving certain nations which now spit in the face of his memory by their current actions and statements). My father served stateside during the Korean War. Because of their sacrifices and God’s grace, my own life has been one of relative peace and stability.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

The Declaration of Independence marked the casting aside of temporary safety. It was not a victory party. It was a statement declaring the unified independence of the 13 colonies from Great Britain’s rule. In his Gettysburg Address President Abraham Lincoln underscored the importance of the declaration, saying: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Whether you are a citizen of the USA or you are observing from abroad, I invite you to reflect upon the sacrifices made by brave men and women then, and now. In those early days, it was an act of incredible bravery to sign the declaration. The 13 colonies stood up to an empire which had imposed its will from distant shores. Even now, the USA stands up to a much more sophisticated, motivated and resourceful network of enemies who hold the free world in disdain, and who regard as vile, liberty and honor.

There are some here and abroad who question the task set before America’s troops. I hope they are grateful for the privilege they have to engage in civic debate, a privilege bought by the blood of fallen USA soldiers.

For those of us in the USA, I would encourage us to use our minds independent of potential media bias, corporate interest or even government propoganda. Let’s engage in a discussion of the issues based principles and facts, not hyperbole, pesonality and political advantage. And while we are at it, let’s be thankful for the brave men and women who even now are placing their lives on the line to secure liberty for hurting people around the world.

Based on the tradition of pursuing liberty for the downtrodden and standing up to evil empires who seek to impose their will on the world, it is with humility and honor that I call myself an American, a USAmerican. God bless you. God bless the USA.

Blessings,

Glen Woods

Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend, I intend to visit the gravesite of my uncle at the Willamette National Cemetary in Portland. He fought in the European Theater in WW II. When first I visited the site last year, I was struck by the enormous swath of humanity represented by the grave stones, stretching as far as the eye can see, most of whom had served in the United States military at some point. But my uncle was the only name I knew; obscure to others, but loved by me. He was gentle and gracious, a man of God. He fought in WWII by going to another state to enlist when Oregon refused him. He was a patriot who believed that Hitler needed to be stopped. Like so many others of that great generation, he put his life on the line to protect not only the USA, but also those countries in Europe who were being overrun by the Nazi war machine.

I remember weeping at his graveside, finally having a chance to mourn properly a man I hardly had a chance to know due to my relative youth, but whom I have come to know through my mother who loved her brother dearly. His is the legacy, along with my grandfather who fought in the South Pacific in WWII and my father who was drafted during the Korean War, which inspires me to follow their example in doing my part to strive for justice in the world. I pray that others also will take time to remember those who lost their lives striving to protect liberty not only in the USA, but around the world.

Blessings,

Glen Woods

Virginia Tech Shootings

My heart goes out to the students, faculty, staff, administration and families of Virginia Tech University. On Monday, a horrible tragedy occurred with 33 people dying in a mass shooting by one lone gunman who also killed himself. I do not know all the details. However, I offer my prayers and deepest condolences to those who are affected by this. I pray that somehow healing will come to a hurting community. I mourn with them.

Blessings,

Glen Woods

Celebrating a life

The gathering spilled out into the foyer with standing room only to celebrate the life of a precious little girl. Many tears. Many hugs of comfort. Words, songs, photos and memories. And silent wonder at a life well lived, if even for a short time. There were faces I had not seen in a long while. It was a comfort to see them again. There were moments of intense sadness interspersed with radiant joy and laughter.

I spent private moments with numerous people, young and old. I wanted them to know I love them — that I am praying for them. We forget too easily in the everyday bustle of life. Life is so precious, so brief this side of eternity. If I must be alone, at least I can do it in the community of faith with the fellowship of saints. For that I am thankful.

You may view Jaclynn’s tribute here.