Category: Life Update

Little Feet that Run the Earth, and the Tension of the ones that Do not.

My daughter is one of the great joys of my life, but after losing a child to Miscarriage and Infant Loss, this is the tension I live in now.

Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner

I have been thinking a lot lately about my March 2018 article: My Baby Had Feet as I have tried to finalize thoughts for the book by the same title and search for a publisher for it. One of the final chapters goes by the same title as this piece. Readers and followers of this website know that in August of 2019 we announced a new pregnancy and in February of 2019, 13 months, and 2 days after we lost the first baby, our daughter Erin was born. These are exciting times to be sure, and we celebrated them thoroughly, just as we celebrated her first Birthday in February. I have loved almost every minute of being a father, almost because there are things that you struggle with, especially when its your first full term child. There were some ups and downs as we navigated finding an eye doctor and surgeon to remove the congenital cataracts she was born with. There were sleepless nights and near sleepless nights, we both almost gave up hope as we struggled to finish seminary and help a newborn adjust to life outside the womb. It has been exciting to hear her find her singing voice (already, at 18 months) and start to speak and even say “amen” when we finish praying together, or when she comes running to me when I get home from the church yelling “Daddy!”. As her little personality develops, we are challenged in new and exciting ways as we seek to shepherd her, even now. To a faith that we not only pass down, but she also owns as her own as early as possible.

Still, there is a tension here, a tension that I hope to zero in on in the last chapter of “My Baby Had Feet.” This tension is this: If we had not lost the first child, the child we have now would not exist. The child we miss, and never got to meet, the child who we loved and had started to bond with and whose still, tiny frame only saw this earth for a moment, had that child lived, our daughter would not. That is a strange and yet necessary thought as you see their ultrasounds sitting side by side on the bookshelf in the living room (pictured above). Instead of grieving one and rejoicing in the other, we would have rejoiced in the one and been ignorant that another even existed or was in store for us (although by now we may have been expecting another).

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Some may say I am being overly dramatic, but this is part of my healing journey, so please walk with me. As a theologian, I am okay with such tensions, after all, we live in the liminal space of the now-but-not-yet tension of our salvation, saved, being saved, already saved, going to be saved. I am used to tensions and okay with them…as a theologian. As a human being, I am not okay with tension, I hate it, it is uncomfortable. There have been times when I want to take that ultrasound picture and throw it across the room and shout at God for taking that Child from us, even though I know it was the fallen world and not God who took that child from us, but my human instinct is to blame him. Even though I know it was He who could have let the child live and also He who brought around us friends and family who supported us, prayed for us and loved us. Even though I know it was Him who provided the tickets to the Rend Collective Concert where we started to heal, as a couple and as individuals. He did not cause my child to die in the womb, He could have prevented it, but He also had something else for us, a little girl who belts our Rend Collective, even though she does not yet have the language to do so. Maybe this is something we need to develop, along with a better theology of suffering, a theology of tensions. As I said, theologians have one, we are willing to hold in tension what seems totally contradictory, such as Man is created in the image of God, and Man is fallen, broken and utterly depraved. Like Suffering, we need to learn to sit in the liminal space between two events or two ideas or points of tension.

Like tension, we do not like suffering either, American Evangelicals and American Protestants in general are “Suffering averse” and to avoid tension we will hThe Adventuresold a completely heretical or anti-biblical position and demand others hold it too. We will downplay suffering, even ignore it, so that we can remain in our happy-go-lucky bubble. We scream or grumble at pastors who make us feel uncomfortable, we refuse to listen to any leader or government official who disagrees with our established viewpoint. We generally hate being challenged on anything, and yet, if we really dig down and dig deep in scripture, we will find a challenge to everything this world has taught us to hold dear. We will also find a lot of teaching about suffering….A LOT of teaching about suffering.

Take the book of Philippians, we love to polish this book up, to make it some great letter of affection from the Apostle to the Church which has supported him, and it is. That is not the entire story though, Paul is saying all that he says in Philippians chained to a Roman Praetorian Guard, waiting day-in and day-out to hear whether or not he is going to live to see the year 62. Nero has risen to power, and while he is not yet persecuting Christians to the extent he would in a few years, he is uttering murderous threats, and this may have concerned the Philippians. On top of that, there has been a divide among them, certain people in the church have allowed Pride to well up and cause divisions in the Church. Add to that the fact that other teachers were in the area, trying to damage Paul’s ministry, even thought they were preaching the True Gospel. Finally Paul is concerned about the Circumcision Group gaining a foothold in Philippi, likely because they had done so much damage in nearby Galatia. It is under House Arrest, chained to a guard, with detractors attacking him and a myriad of concerns for the spiritual welfare of the Philippian Church, which He loves, that Paul writes the oft misquoted and misapplied: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation, I am to be content” (4:11). And “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (4:13)

Image may contain: 3 people, including Rachel Faulkner and Jonathan Faulkner, baby and outdoor

But it is hard for me, as a Pastor, to apply contentment in tension like this to any and ever situation. It is even harder for me to apply them to the loss of a child. To live in the tension, as Paul did, between prison and freedom in Christ. That is uncomfortable, it is also uncomfortable to live in the tension between wanting to meet and hold a child you cannot while playing tag with, singing with and dancing with a child you can. But that is where I live, between saying: I am content with this child, but I miss the one we lost. I am happy this one exists, but I wish I had these experiences with the other as well. It is the tension ever Christian lives in, “Thy will be done father” alongside “please intercede on the behalf of so and so.” I do not want to be content, I do not want to live in Liminal space, the sinful world took something from me, and I want to make them pay, I want to be angry, I do not wish to be content and focus on Christ in my pain. But this is what Scripture challenges me to do, to suffer well, because it is in suffering that God will be glorified (John 9:1-15, Phil 1:14) whether that suffering be because of the fallenness of nature (miscarriage and infant loss) or from the sinfulness of human kind such as persecution. I do not want to “Rejoice in the Lord” that is, Rejoice in all that God has done for me and for the Church in general, but at the same time, I know this is what is best for me. Christ, after all, was able to live in the tension between suffering and life, and he chose to give his up for my sins, to glorify God the father, whom He was equal with, by humbling himself and taking up the towel and then the cross. I can glorify Him through these momentary afflictions and losses without grumbling and complaining as I look forward to the day of Christ Jesus. In doing this I know I will show my salvation, and the destruction of my detractors, as well as shine as a light to the world which is depraved and fallen (Phil 1:27-2:30, 2 Cor 4:17).

I may not be saying anything here, just working out thoughts and hoping to have some good. Maybe a dad is reading this who lost a child and then had another one in the next year and they are saying: “yes, I know this tension, thank you I am not alone.” Or maybe the theologians who read this post will spend the day dissecting me and correcting me because my theology of suffering and tension needs some work or to be better fleshed out. The latter of that is true, since this post is short, and Bonhoeffer wrote books on the Theology of Suffering. But I hope I can speak clearly to one father who has gone through this experience, who is living in this tension, and help you sort out your thoughts a little bit. Because, while we focus so much on the mother after a miscarriage or infant loss, you too lost a child, someone who carried something of you and was in your image, as well as Gods. Yet, you are often left to suffer alone, and usually long after your wife has started to heal, since you have walk with her in her pain, often delaying your own grief in the moment. I know, because I have been there, just as I am here now.

Or maybe you’re a father who has never had this experience, how can reading this, gaining knowledge of this tension help you reach out to those who have. The father whose wife has struggled with infertility, or now inhabits the tension I am talking about here. How can you reach out and better walk with them through this? Or maybe you are a father who has lost many children to infant loss and miscarriage and infertility. Yes, you are a father, even if those children are not living with you on this planet, they are yours and you were part in creating them, just as I helped created Shalom. I know that it seems now that your hopes and dreams of beginning a family are smashed against the rocks, and that you live in the tension of wanting to hope in the Lord, and curse his name from grief. But hold on, you are not alone and you are not forgotten, by God or by me. Stand firm in the tension, and know that whatever happens, Christ has not abandoned you or not heard your cries. He is there with you, weeping with you and holding you up so that you can endure all things though Christ who strengthens and redeems you.

I praise God everyday for every second I get to spend with my little girl, I do not take her for granted and cannot imagine life without her, and I thank God for everything He has given me through her. But that does not mean I do not miss the child we lost, do not love the child we lost, or at times think about what that child would be like. Praise God for his mercy and the fact that I can, in fact, live in the tension.

If this is you, or this is your story and you are looking for someone to talk to or council you on this subject. I would love to listen to your story and even walk with you where I can. You can contact me through this site, and I pray you will.

 

12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oRev. Jonathan David Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife and daughter in Northern Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

 

November Update:

First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center

 

Hamilton MA. We were sort of joking when we said to our friends and family at our home church here in Hamilton on the first Sunday of November that we would see them in December, however, the first Sunday in December is next Sunday and other than a Thanksgiving Eve service we have barely even driven by our home church. It is safe to say that November was one of the busiest months of our marriage so far.

What were we doing?

The second Sunday was the Sunday of Rachel’s shower, so she went out and spent that weekend with her family. Back at home I came down with a twenty-four-hour stomach bug and did not make it to church. The third weekend we were in Buffalo Center Iowa so that I could preach a candidacy sermon at First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center IA. This was my second time out, but it was Rachel’s first and gave her a chance to see the town and meet the people. The third weekend we were at Rachel’s parents for Thanksgiving and found ourselves making an early drive home so Rachel could rest after having a slight fever. That particular morning was so foggy we had to drive at a snail’s pace down RT2 for the sake of safety. Once we had done some grocery shopping (which we had not done in 2 weeks) we were unable to make to our home church and settled in to wait for the call from Buffalo Center concerning the vote that took place Sunday.

The call came at 11:46 on Sunday November 25th.

With a vote of 41-2 First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center IA has voted to call Rachel and I as their next pastor (and his wife). This timing, a process that started the day after the CCCC annual gathering, and which has been guided by prayer and faith that this was God’s will has ended with the beginning of a new adventure. We are now sixth months from graduation so we have a little bit of time before we have to make the move from Hamilton to Buffalo Center, but this gives us time to organize and prepare and maybe even ship a few things out west for the sake of lessoning the work on the front end of the move. God has opened a door and made it quite obvious we are to walk through it.

We do have some prayer requests moving forward, as we enter the third and final trimester we pray for continue safety and good, solid growth for our little girl and continued good health for Rachel. Pray also for the transition for Rachel as she has lived in New England her entire life. Pray for me as I finish out this semester, with one chapter left to go on my Thesis and all other written work done (and most of it turned in) I can focus on that. I have to defend in March or April of 2019. Pray also for a smooth delivery next February and, if possible, a mild(er) winter than the one we seem to be in for. Pray for the Lord’s protection and strength for all of us as we enter our final 6 months in New England and prepare to embark on the next adventure God has put before us.

Also, I want to personally thank you for continuing to read and support God’s Heart as we strive to be faithful to the Gospel while addressing the issues before us.

In Love

The Faulkner’s

LIFE UPDATE: The Baby…It’s A….????

HAMILTON MA. I have come to have a love/hate relationship with fall in New England. On the one hand it is cooler on the other hand there are some days that are pretty dreary and which make me want sleep all day. That is counter to getting everything done, the papers, the studying, the reading for my Thesis and of course, updating all of you. I have even missed sharing several key articles from Gods Heart that I hope you’ll go back and read.

Anyway, I was watching Patriot Games the other night and was thinking back to the book, in both the book and the movie Clancy leaves us with the suspense of finding out which gender the Ryan’s next child is going to be. So the title here is a nod to Tom Clancy and the fact that I wanted you to get this far without telling you that our little Baby, the one we will welcome into the world and which we announced in August is a Girl! We are beyond excited and have gone even further into nesting mode. So far, this little girl’s hobbies include kicking her mother, sleeping and sucking her thumb.

A dear brother in Christ told me the other day that in his home country of Sierra Leone in Africa having a girl first is considered to be a blessing. As much as I want a boy, I cannot argue with him, any child is a blessing from the Lord and I was crying when they told us we were having a daughter.

Now to fly to Iowa….more on that later though.

 

In the Love of Christ –

The Faulkner’s

LIFE UPDATE 3: Vacations & the Beginning of The Final Year.

Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Northfield MA. This morning I find myself sitting at my In-Laws kitchen table with Hebrew Syntax and Vocab sitting next to me while the late Bibleworks boots up so I can do some Hebrew translation. Meanwhile, Wolves At the Gate streams through my headphones and my coffee sits next to me. I have come to love our time at my In-Laws house. It reminds me of my grandparent’s farm in Illinois, my escape during college and my closest family during my time in Kansas. It is cool and peaceful here with a big backyard where a year and three months ago Rachel and I said “I Do” and enjoyed Ice Cream Sundae’s with our dear families and friends. I wish more seminarians had a place like this to escape too, where they could rest and recover.

August was a good month for us, we sent out resumes and enjoyed a short vacation to North Conway New Hampshire with some close friends whom we asked to be our babies godparents. Our time with them was such a blessing though it started with a 3-hour drive through a New England Downpour. The weather while we were there was absolutely incredible even allowing us to take a train ride on the North Conway Scenic Railway. We visited shops and outlets and just relaxed, no school, minimal life worries, just a chance to breathe. Then we headed to Rachel’s parents and I had the blessing of filling the pulpit for my Father-In-Law (You can hear the sermon below).

We came back out here this weekend because Rachel had a four-day weekend and we wanted the last chance to relax and help Rachel’s mother with worship one more time before the school year begins with Orientation on Tuesday (for me) and with new students (for Rachel) and a month of September that includes two weekends away for me (including this one).

It is hard to believe I am entering my final year of Seminary and how much has changed in my life since February 2016, how much I have changed since February 2015. With the healing of my brain I have discovered a new calm and new peace that I had not had before as well as a new resolve to stand up for those who cannot. God’s work, since the brain injury, has been painful and wonderful in my life and I pray it does not stop. As for the coming semester, I have already begun working on my Thesis and am studying for a Hebrew Competency Exam scheduled for Friday the 14th.

Pray for us as we continue to talk to churches and send out resumes, it looks as though we will likely be headed to Midwest, which we both have peace about and are actually looking forward too. Pray for continued health for Rachel and the Baby who we felt move for the first time yesterday and pray for me as I being this final year with Thesis and class schedule and the joys of Peer Mentoring. Pray for us too as we continue to wrestle with the Seminary and struggle for the health, physical and mental, of the students here. There have been some improvements that will ultimately end up saving money in the long term, but it remains to be seen how much these changes will save. As we are bombarded too with the story of pastors committing suicide and the hut and pain in the world, pray that we would be united as one in Christ sharing in that perfect peace and far outlasts all things and is well beyond understanding.

Life Update 2: CCCC Conference, this Crazy Life and a BIG announcement.

 

Wow, what a month July was…and beginning to August for that matter. We started our journey into pulpit supply on July 1 by preaching at a small church in Dunstable MA. Then spent a week with Rachel’s family, had two normal weeks and then this past week has been one of the busiest I have had since I left Sterling almost 4 years ago now.

 

In fact, this week alone I have put almost 60 miles on my bicycle riding the 6 miles back and forth between Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell as I have gone between the annual gathering and an intensive class on Preaching Reconciliation. On Tuesday we enjoyed the beauty of the opening worship service and a beautiful message on biblical peace from Conference Minister Ron Hamilton and on Wednesday Morning I was officially welcomed into the denomination two years after being approved to come under care.

 

God has been faithful in so many ways as we have gone through this year, showing us both his ever present care and love in the midst of the trials of a hard New England winter and hot (hottest since I moved here) summer. God has walked beside us through everything, allowing us to get away to Ogunquit in May for our 1 year anniversary and allowing us to get away again in the latter half of next week with some close friends down the hall. We have also had a brother who was deployed returned to us and have shared in the joy of welcoming him home.

 

We have also had the chance to share the blessing in private, and now to you, that in the midst of our crazy year we found out in June we are expecting again. Now that we have come through the 1st Trimester we can share our joy with you, our readers and supporters and friends as well!

 

DID YOU KNOW: the baby after a miscarriage is considered a Rainbow Baby, I did not, now I do. It’s a beautiful reality, that as Rachel and I have dreamed of being parents, to see God creating a little life inside Rachel. The ultrasounds we have had show that they definitely take after their father, jumping and moving and leaping and even doing head stands. They have a strong heartbeat and have reached every milestone Shalom did not after 8.5 weeks.

 

We are excited to announce this news to you and ask that you continue to pray for us as we move forward with our final year of seminary and preparing to welcome this precious little life into our small, one bedroom apartment.

 

God’s faithfulness abounds, we are so in Love with who He is and all He has done. He really is who He says He is.

 

God Bless You

Jonathan & Rachel Faulkner

Godsheartforthose.com

LIFE UPDATE: Website Changes, Beginning Job Searches, Health and Wellness, life after February 20th.

The following is an brief, personal update from me about life in general, changes to the website and future changes in life.

 

HAMILTON MA. God has never ceased to amaze me, yesterday I was riding alongside Gordon College’s Chebacco (spelling) Lake watching the sun rise before returning to my bike and completing the 7 mile bike ride that has become a regular part of my morning. As I sit a few days away from my first Annual Gathering of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference (CCCC) and my final summer class (both occurring in the same week AHH!!!) and how this year has gone so far, from academic success to the loss of Shalom to being added to the CCCC pulpit supply list and getting a call for supply within five minutes of being on the list. God has cared so much for us this year as our hearts have healed from the miscarriage we suffered in February. He has surrounded us with so many amazing people, some of them we have never met in person but who have reached out to us through GodsHeart and the GoFundMe we ran to help cover the counseling bills. You and so many others have loved us with the complete love of God and we cannot thank you enough for your love and support.

You will notice, and may already have noticed, that God’s Heart is going through a number of changes in the previous week. That is because this site, while continuing to function as a resource and commentary on the intersection of Theology and Cultural Issues will also serve as a portfolio for me as we enter our final year of seminary and begin the search for a post-seminary call. God has seen fit to plant us in a denomination that is in need of pastors and who supports its pastors while maintaining congregational government in its member churches. Next week I will be fully affirmed as a conference member and then the trickle of resumes that have gone out already will become a flood as we seek God’s call. We know where we would like to go, the great state of New Hampshire, but ultimately where God has called us to minister to and alongside His people while we raise a family. This change in the website will mean more activity, more posts, more sermon uploads as I re-record the sermons I lost when my computer crashed last summer. This means you, the reader, will have a greater chance to get to know me and interact with me as we will also use this medium to share updates about our family, time in Seminary and the search. We hope this will mean we can get to know you better as you get to know us better. This means you will get more content, more recommendations and regular life-updates as well as new sections for churches looking for information that you too can peruse at your leisure.

Rachel always tells me that she wants me to be around as long as I can, there has even been something about her having to go first when we are 90 so that she does not have to live without her. I kind of hope we go together in our sleep so neither of us has to live without the other, kind of like The Notebook only, we can remember who we are. For this reason I have begun a more stringent exercise plan to go along with the many dietary changes that have come with marriage. There is a stigma about Pastors that we tend to not take good care of ourselves, and that can be true, though sometimes we are trained to burn-out cycles (as I was in my first church) and not to a healthy work-life balance. Seminary has been partially about establishing a healthy balance to avoid the disastrous and nearly deadly consequences that came with my last burn-out. That means exercising and putting away the work to spend time with Rachel and our friends. All while making my relationship with God a priority through prayer and scripture reading and investing in my hobbies (I have taken up the Banjo) to make sure that I am not just physically healthy, but emotionally and spiritually healthy. I want to get to spend life with my wife for a long time, I like her, and love her, and so I am going to make exercising a part of my daily routine beyond the weekly game of ultimate frisbee.

As I said, God has been good to us in-spite of the pain we have felt this past year. He has surrounded us with beautiful people and showered us with love and grace and beauty. As we look to the future, which includes a weekend in New Hampshire with some close friends and a Christmas trip to my parents in Ohio, the writing of my thesis and untold other adventures. We renew our invitation to come after the beautiful, wild, loving heart of God with us as we seek to do His work both online and off.

Jonathan David Faulkner