Paradox, or Balance?

Ashley O'Rear

Ashley O’Rear

Sometimes life defies explanation.

How can a heart be filled with joy and sorrow at the same time?

How can twelve years seem like an eternity, but wasn’t it just yesterday?

How can a simple photograph bring tears to a smiling face?

How can unfathomable blessing give rise to unconquerable pain?

The Serendipity of Loss

(cc) Paul O'Rear (Flickr)

(cc) Paul O’Rear (Flickr)

Webster defines “serendipity” as “the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for”. I like to think of serendipity simply as “an unexpected blessing”.

I lost my daughter Ashley to cancer in 2001. She was fourteen years old. I have learned many things about loss and grief in the eleven years since her death. One of those unexpected lessons is that there is blessing in loss.

Until Then

Until Then

‘Until Then’ CD Cover

About four months after Ashley died, Susan and Justin and I took a trip from our home in Texas to visit some friends in Tennessee and then spend a few days in the Great Smoky Mountains. Driving late at night, somewhere between Memphis and Nashville, the idea for a song began growing in my head. It was a tribute to the remarkable life of my Ashley, her profound impact on our lives as her family, and the deep emptiness left in our hearts by her death. But even amidst the palpable sadness of our grief, I found my thoughts, and the emerging song, focusing on the hope that is inherent in my faith — the promise that, one day, we will see her and hold her once again.

The more we drove, the more the song grew and began to organize itself into verses and a chorus. I asked Susan to find some paper and a pen and start writing down the words so that I wouldn’t forget them. I drove and Susan wrote, and by the time we reached Nashville, “Until Then” was a song.

The Santa Claus Factor 4

© Scott Hancock - Fotolia

© Scott Hancock - Fotolia

[PART 4 OF 5]

I believe that the story of Santa Claus is the story of God!

In the last article, we discussed Santa’s list. We noticed the similarities between Santa’s “nice” and “naughty” lists, and God’s. In this article, we will continue to explore the parable-like nature of the Santa Claus story, and its ability to help us understand God a little better.

The Santa Claus Factor 3

© Scott Hancock - Fotolia

© Scott Hancock – Fotolia

[PART 3 OF 5]

From last time:

I believe that the story of Santa Claus is the story of God!

Let’s continue looking at the parable-like nature of the Santa Claus story, and discover more of the things that Santa Claus can help us understand better about God.


Ashley O'Rear (Age 9)

Ashley O'Rear (Age 9)

I had never prayed as hard in my life as I did the morning of March 16, 1997. It was a Sunday morning, about 6:30, and I was driving from Children’s Medical Center in Dallas back to our house about 35 minutes away. Four hours earlier, Susan and I had been told by a doctor at Children’s that our 9-year-old daughter Ashley had a brain tumor.

The Conclusion

(cc) photon_de - Flickr

(cc) photon_de - Flickr

[PART 12 OF 12]

Let’s review what we have discovered from the book of Ecclesiastes. What have we learned by following Solomon’s quest for meaning and purpose?

The first outside piece of the Oreo cookie, the first half of Solomon’s philosophy of life, is the idea that “everything is meaningless!”

The Double Stuff filling is all the stuff he waded through in his search for meaning and purpose, and the resulting conclusions concerning each endeavor:

  • Money – meaningless;
  • Wisdom – meaningless;
  • Hard work – meaningless;
  • Achievement – meaningless;
  • Life is good;
  • There is a time for everything;
  • Injustice is all around us.

And now, finally, we come to the conclusion, the other outside piece of the Oreo, the other half of Solomon’s philosophy of life. After all his searching, after all his attempts to find meaning and purpose, after all the frustration of coming up empty-handed again and again, here is what it all boils down to.

The Next Four Years

(cc) Mark Skrobola - Flickr

(cc) Mark Skrobola – Flickr

One week ago, the United States of America elected its 44th President, Barack Obama. He will be the first African-American in the history of our country to serve in that capacity. Election Day 2008 was truly a historic day in many ways … some good, some bad. Here are my thoughts.


Martin Luther King Jr

(cc) David Erickson – Flickr

[PART 10 OF 12]

Solomon continues his quest for meaning, and in doing so uncovers some more frustrations.

“And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment — wickedness was there, in the place of justice — wickedness was there.” (Ecclesiastes 3:16)

“Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed — and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors — and they have no comforter.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1)

Solomon is frustrated, as many of us are, at the injustice and oppression that he sees around him.

It was Martin Luther King, Jr., who said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”