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A Heart for Others

A Heart for Others

There is much hardship in the world. That certain “been through it” look can be detected in the eyes of pain ravaged people everywhere. It is captured in Photo Journalist’s depictions of starving children with their bloated bellies, or in the aftermath of national disasters and catastrophes, with people tearfully sifting through the rubble of destroyed homes. Lobbies of emergency rooms and intensive care units are places we see it often, as loved ones gather to strengthen each other and to mourn. When we share in the sorrows of another, we become a balm for the hurting soul, however slight the comfort may be.
Most recently I saw the same look in the eyes of a homeless man as he sat extending a pauper’s paper cup for change. His face tried to smile, but it was as if he had forgotten how. A half raised mouth corner is all he could manage, as his brow remained scrunched and wrinkled. We want to look away, to pretend we didn’t notice. It is too sad to think about; we don’t want to feel that pain along with them. Yet ignoring it does not make it go away.

Until experiencing the harsh realities of life through much anguish of heart and physical pain, and deep suffering, it is difficult to fully empathize with others. Everyone at some time must pass through the dark valley of sorrow and suffering or loss. The unifying effect of sharing in the hurt of others is synergistically powerful. Jesus was moved with compassion for the hurting multitudes, saddened over the effects of sin on the world. The now cliché, “What would Jesus do?” has never been so pertinent as it is today for our responses to fellow mankind.

The earnest desire of my heart is to do whatever I can to help alleviate the hurt that many people go through. If by God‘s love, I can erase just one scar, salve one heart, bandage one injury, or only point someone to a better life, some of my own suffering abates. Yet what is needed most is someone to enter into the hurt with us, to come along-side and weep with us–experience it with us. No words will do.

That homeless man’s response was amazing! I sat next to him on the sidewalk and we shared a candy bar. We didn’t speak much at all. His eyes brightened. Someone cared. Someone was willing to stop and feel the pain and show an understanding that, no, I don’t really know what you’ve been through. But I care. His goodbye was accompanied by a broad smile, a glimmer of hope for tomorrow.

Though I still have pain of my own, God has taught me of its benefits. The grace He gives is not to keep, but to give and to share with others. Suffering is a good teacher. It forces us to either grow, or to just break down. It teaches us of our dependence upon our loving Creator and upon one another. Once we learn of its potential: the wisdom and caring it brings, its power to unite, we no longer fear what once terrified us. Instead we reap the supernatural peace and joy that comes through relying on God for strength and comfort. He leads us through the valley of suffering that we may go back there, as escorts for our fellow man.

by Sheldon Bass

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Grief, Mourning and Lament

Grief, Mourning and Lament
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Summary: Having recently lost someone close to me this author explores grief from a scriptural standpoint as he grieves his personal loss.

Grief is emotional suffering brought on by bereavement, mishap, or disaster.

Grief and morning come in different forms in the scriptures. It also comes in different forms in today’s world. Grief is emotional suffering brought on by bereavement, mishap, or disaster. To grieve is either to cause or feel sorrow or distress. The concept is found in the Scriptures under a variety of circumstances. Isaac and Rebekah experienced grief when their son Esau married a Hittite woman (Gn 26:35 KJV). God mourned the misery of Israel brought upon them by disobedience (Jdgs 10:16 KJV). Hannah was so sad because she had no son that she appeared to be drunk while praying (1 Sm 1:16 KJV). Similarly, Samuel, distraught at King Saul’s disobedience, prayed all night. Job was exceedingly sorrowful over his personal loss (Jb 2:13; cf. 6:2; 16:6), and the psalmist poetically demonstrated distress and sorrow (cf. Pss 6:7; 31:9, 10; 69:26 KJV; 73:21 KJV; 95:10 KJV; 112:10 KJV). The Book of Lamentations is devoted to the expression of grief, and the prophets in general speak of judgment because Israel had grieved a holy God.

Jesus experienced sorrow and distress (Mk 3:5; Jn 11:33), including the death of a friend (Jn 11:35). The Jews are said to have been grieved as the apostles taught about Christ (Acts 4:2 KJV). The apostle Paul instructed believers not to grieve one another (Rom 14:15 KJV) and did not want to cause any sorrow himself (2 Cor 2:1–5 KJV). Most of all, the believer is not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30). A believer may, of course, suffer grief and suffering in an alien world (1 Pt 2:19 KJV). In Bible times grief was given particular expression at a time of death by means of shrieks, wails, and laments (cf. Jer 9:17, 18; Am 5:16; Mk 5:38)( cf. Baker encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House).

Human grief has been defined as: “Keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret; a cause or occasion of keen distress or sorrow” (Dictionary.com). Grief is the profound human experience that accompanies major loss. It entails cognitive, emotional, and spiritual processing. While much has been said about the course of grief (e.g., Kübler-Ross’s well-known stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) for most people grief is a convoluted and complicated process that waxes and wanes. Despite the fact that each individual has a unique journey through the valley of grief, there are common aspects of grief that nearly everyone experiences.

Grief is an awareness of the pain of having lost someone or something significant in one’s life.

Grief is an awareness of the pain of having lost someone or something significant in one’s life. It can manifest on an emotional level as sadness/depression, emotional numbness, mood fluctuations, anger, resentment, guilt, hopelessness, or loneliness. The individual may be flooded with recollections or attempt to quash all memories. He or she may experience cognitive impairment in concentration and memory. Relationships may be disturbed. Physically, disruptions of everyday functioning in sleeping, eating, and sexual activity are typical. Fatigue/lethargy or somatic symptoms, such as headaches or digestive disturbances, may occur. Spiritual manifestations include anguished questioning of God, anger at God, and/or deep longings for which words are inadequate. A grieving person may feel a need to cry out to God almost constantly or, conversely, feel that his or her prayer life has dried up completely. The pervasive way that grief affects all levels of functioning can lead to a sense of disorganization, inducing fear that the pain and other symptoms may render the individual completely nonfunctional.

Some people attempt to circumvent the pain of loss by avoiding embracing grief, but this only serves to foster psychological and spiritual dysfunction.

Grief is a necessary emotional response to loss, a healthy and normal healing process that parallels the healing process the body goes through in reaction to physiological damage. Some people attempt to circumvent the pain of loss by avoiding embracing grief, but this only serves to foster psychological and spiritual dysfunction. Social support, attention to one’s spirituality, and consistent self-care facilitate the grief process. Resolution of grief occurs when one has been able to accept and express all the feelings the loss generated and to move on into a “new normal” life. Spiritually, people often discover that navigating through a profound grief experience strengthens their faith and fosters spiritual growth (assistance by G. G. Scorgie, Ed.)Dictionary of Christian spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).

Jesus grieved. After his long outburst of anger against the Pharisees and teachers, Jesus grieved for Jerusalem. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. “Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! “For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’” (Mt 23:37-39). He has longed to gather and protect his people, but his love has been spurned. Soon he will leave the temple for the last time, and the presence of God will no longer dwell there. Jesus will not return unless and until the people welcome him as their Lord and God.

Jesus was grieved at the Pharisees hardness of heart. “He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there with a withered hand. And they (the Pharisees and religious leaders) were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him… And He said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored” (Mark 3:1-5). This indignant anger was not inconsistent with the love and pity of Jesus. Murder was in their hearts and Jesus knew it. Anger against wrong, as wrong, is a sign of moral health (Gould). He was grieved at the hardness of their hearts. Mark alone gives this point. The anger was tempered by grief. Jesus is the Man of Sorrows and this present participle brings out the continuous state of grief whereas the momentary angry look is expressed. Their own heart or attitude was in a state of moral ossification (πωρωσις [pōrōsis]) like hardened hands or feet (Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament).

At Gethsemane Jesus was grieved to the point of death. “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me” ((Matt. 26:38;Mark 14:34). Jesus grief was so severe that He sweated blood (Luke 22:44). Throughout history, there have been reported cases of hematidrosis, a bloody sweat that emits from the forehead of a person under extreme emotional stress. When the tiny blood vessels of the forehead rupture from the stress, it combines with sweat and forms the bloody sweat. The stress would have to be intense for hematidrosis to occur. A stress like facing death.

Isaiah 53 describes the man Jesus and describes His afflictions and grief. “He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him…Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted” (Is 53:3-4, 11). Jesus took our griefs upon Himself and bore the torment thereof. Yet man (we) had no idea of what He bore on our behalf. “WHO has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (v. 53:1).

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus and Jesus grieved along with Mary and Martha. “When Jesus therefore saw her (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who came with her, also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, [grieved] and said, “Where have you laid him?” (John 11:34-35). One of the most moving scenes in the life of Jesus is the death of Lazarus. Here we see not only the power of Jesus to raise the dead, but the emotions of Jesus moved by the grief of those around Him. Martha’s faith is evident as she approached Jesus, four days after the death of Lazarus, and professed belief that He could save her dead brother. When Mary came as well and Jesus saw her grief and the grief of those with her, he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (11:33). Scripture then tells us that Jesus wept (Jn 11:35).

Weeping and lamentation are part of the human experience.

A lament (noun) or lament (verb) mean collectively: “To feel or express sorrow or regret for; to mourn for or over. To feel, show, or express grief, sorrow, or regret. To mourn deeply.
an expression of grief or sorrow”. Weeping and lamentation are part of the human experience. So it is not surprising that there is a rich literature of lamentation in the O T. Well over a third of the psalms in the Psalter are laments, individual (e.g., 22, 42–43, 139) and communal (e.g., 44, 80). Most of these follow a lament form that moves through complaint and petition to a testimony of praise at the end (Anderson, 1974:56–58; Martens: 301–2). Chapters 3 and 5 of the book of Lamentations follow this lament form.

The laments in Isaiah 15:1–9 and 16:6–11 present the experience of lament, but not its formal character. This experience is described by using the words and emotions of grief and despair (weeping, wailing, mourning, tears). Moab is both the subject and the object of lament.
What is in view here is a national lament, not merely for the loss of wealth and possessions, but also for the loss of a homeland. The means of production is gone. Security is gone. Well-being is gone. The tragedy is all but impossible to imagine.

Probably most important is that we can grieve the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 says: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”. How do we grieve the Holy Spirit?

Lying grieves the Holy Spirit Eph 4:25). The Holy Spirit is “the Spirit of truth,” and He hates with immeasurable hatred all falsehoods—all lies—black lies and white lies. It causes great grief to Him when a lie escapes the lips of a child of God. We also grieve the Spirit by uncontrolled anger (Eph 4:26). The next thing that is mentioned as grieving the Holy Spirit is stealing (Eph 4:28).

The Holy Spirit is grieved by corrupt conversation (Eph 4:29). The Holy Spirit is grieved not only over our use of corrupt speech, but also over our neglect of good speech. There is a whole class of actions, words and feelings that grieve the Holy Spirit (see Eph 4:31).
1. Bitterness.
2. Wrath, sudden anger.
3. Anger, settled anger.
4. Clamour. That means the noisy assertion of our own rights and wrongs.
5. Evil speaking.
6. All malice. That is the root of all the rest of the evils mentioned.

In contrast with these actions that grieve the Holy Spirit cited in v. 31, verse 32 sets forth the attitude of heart and life toward one another that is well pleasing to Him. Unless we are thus “kind, tender hearted,” the Spirit is grieved.

Why should we not grieve the Holy Spirit?

Why should we not grieve the Holy Spirit? First of all we ought not to grieve the Holy Spirit out of consideration for Him. The claims of the Holy Spirit upon each of us are infinitely greater than those of a mother. We should have a more tender consideration for Him than for her. Not only is He a being of wondrous dignity and glory, a Divine being, whose rights are supreme, but He is a being of wondrous, matchless tenderness and love.

We ought not to grieve the Holy Spirit out of consideration for ourselves.The results of grieving the Holy Spirit are very grievous to ourselves. What are they? The Holy Spirit cannot do His whole work when He is grieved. He is hindered from doing in us what He would do. For any measure of blessing and power in any direction we are absolutely dependent upon the Holy Spirit. See the similarity of grief experienced by the Spirit and human grief. When we grieve we cannot accomplish our full potential in the Lord.

If the Holy Spirit is grieved our prayers will be hindered. The great secret of profitable Bible study is studying the Bible under the Holy Spirit as our teacher. If then the Holy Spirit is grieved we lose something of our joy in Bible Study and almost all of our profit. True joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). If, then, the Spirit is grieved our joy will be hindered. We may even lose altogether the joy of our salvation. Power in service is lost by grieving the Spirit. The warning of our text is a very important and very solemn one. How much depends upon our heeding it. Anything that is unholy or wrong in deed or word or act grieves Him (parts from Torrey, R. A. (1901). How to work for Christ a compendium of effective methods. (pp. 387–388).

Jesus said: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. “And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come” (Mt 12:30–32). Blasphemy against the tender, loving Spirit, grieves Him to the point that forgiveness cannot thereby be found. It thus affects our entire salvation that the Holy Spirit was commissioned to bring.

However in the end the Lord turns grief to joy His true purpose.

However in the end the Lord turns grief to joy His true purpose. “THE Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives, And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1-3).

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Love Never Dies (Poem)

Love Never Dies (Poem)
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Love Never Dies

Love will not die
When we take our last breath
But keeps going strong
Long after our death
Love is a life force
That lives on and on
Giving comfort and hope
When our strength is gone
LOVE LIVES FOREVER
Beyond our living
Reaching and touching
And continually giving
LOVE LIVES FOREVER

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Victim of Grief

Victim of Grief
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Victim of Grief : “But You, O God, do see trouble and grief; You consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless.” Psalms 10:14 NIV

As a victim of grief we must commit ourselves to God.

As a victim of grief we must commit ourselves to God. A victim is a person who is hurt or harmed by something or someone. Loss hurts; loss can harm. Loss can trouble us and leave us in a place of sorrow and heartache. Our anguish will never see its end if we refuse to commit ourselves to the Lord.

Committing ourselves to the Lord involves entrusting Him with our pain, handing our unanswered questions over to Him, and assigning ourselves to His care. Entrusting God with your pain is simply being honest with Him. He knows how you are hurting. He longs to comfort you, but that comfort will escape us if we are not honest about our feelings. Some try to disguise grief; some try to avoid it. We need to know that our pain does not make us faithless or less of a Christian. Pain is a normal emotion. We can entrust Him with our pain.

…Sometimes, we must be content with God’s Divine plan even when we do not understand it.

We must also be willing to live without all of the answers we may like to have. Living by faith is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God; sometimes, we must be content with God’s Divine plan even when we do not understand it. The Word will comfort us as we abide in it and those questions will become less essential as faith takes over.

As you are mourning, you must assign yourself to His care. Assigning yourself to His care is nothing more than abiding in His Word. When we assign ourselves to someone’s care in the natural, we are placing ourselves in their hands. We are lodging where they lodge; we are depending on them. As we abide in the Word of God we will begin to depend more and more on Christ; this is the key to the transformation from victim to victor. Place yourself in His care; abide in His Word!

Our God longs to comfort us. He longs to help us; however, we must receive what He is offering. Let God help you; commit yourself to His care.

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Child Loss: Never Really Mine

Child Loss: Never Really Mine

 

He was never really mine,
this child whose birth angels foretold.
Though I cradled him in my womb for many months,
labored, gritted, bore down until he was expelled,
this child, my achievement, was someone else’s from the start.

There was never a burden so wonderful as the weight of him in my arms.
The heaviness of that little body kept all of the loose ends in my soul
from flapping about. My heart was happily tethered to him.

His scent was a hint of heaven, like a breeze suggesting
things to come. He smelled of sweet innocence and wood shavings,
bright and clean. I would breathe in all that was good and true and real
as I held his silken head beneath my chin. Joy would ignite in my chest
expanding so that I thought my heart might burst from happiness.

As I watched him grow from a boy into an awkward young man,
I was reminded of who he really was. I tried SO HARD to forget.
After all of those years, I thought that maybe God
would let me keep him, my firstborn.
Many times he would be missing and each time,
after hours of frantic searching, we would find him in the temple.

Although I wanted to warn him away, I knew that I could not.
Though my heart denied it, some small piece of me knew that was his home.
Scholars and priests were astounded and pleased at his understanding.
I saw in them the gleam of greed as they angled to make him
their protégé. If he wasn’t really mine, he certainly wasn’t theirs either.
That realization assuaged some small part of my feelings of loss.
I even had to smile at these men, so unaware that they
were unaware. And I, a poor woman of an obscure tribe
could see what they could not.

A young man grew into a man of no small influence.
He began to wander, speak, heal. I felt him slipping from
my grasp. My heart cried, “Not Yet! I need more time!”
It took scrabbling through crowds of sweaty, dusty
men just to catch a glimpse of him. I had to elbow my way
to the front so I could hear the low, clear timbre
of his voice. His voice was the song of my soul.

Oh how the people loved him! Fickle, Fickle fools!
He was no threat to you! He desired no wealth, no fame,
no acclaim. Your robes may be white, but there
is blood on your hands!

As I stand here beneath him at the foot
of this barbaric cross, I can see
that he is very nearly gone. My
entire life’s purpose has been caring for
him and here I am helpless.
As his mother, I can offer no comfort, ease no pain.
The flies surrounding him have greater power than I..
At least they can touch his beautiful face, the
cheeks that I’ve kissed many thousands
of times. I would give my very life to
kiss him one last time, but I can’t reach even
the soles of his feet.

As he breathes his last breath, It takes
every last bit of my reserve to
draw one more. It
would be far easier to stop breathing
with him.

This is not how I thought it would end!
My soul is torn; my heart is crushed!
Where is God in all this? Why send an angel to
herald his birth and then let my son, HIS son
be murdered at the hands of greedy cowards?
How can my greatest gift become
my greatest source of grief?

My heart, the heart of a mother, will
forever expect him to stride through the door.
I will forever see him in my dreams and long
never to wake. As I stroll the market,
I will remind myself to breath when
I remember he isn’t here to enjoy
his favorite meals. I will strive
to remember every contour of his face.
I will search my memory straining to recall
the sound of his voice.

Others will whisper, there is Jesus
mother. Maybe they will believe that
he was a traitor, but I will know the truth.
I will hold my head high.
My precious little boy was God‘s own son.
By a miracle I conceived, by a miracle
I was chosen to carry the Christ.
Though I may grieve all the days of my life,
I will find beauty in the sorrow.
My son was never really mine alone.
But I will see him again on the other side
of eternity, and he will be the king in Heaven
that I thought he would be here on earth.

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Dying Words

Dying Words

“You see my calamity, and are afraid.”

Dying Words: These are the words of Job to his friends. Job’s friends made great efforts to solve and explain Job’s suffering. Job saw through the thin veil of their compassion to the naked fear shivering beneath. We want there to be explanations for the bad things that happen to good people. In the presence of terrible human suffering we are afraid. We look for explanations and solutions. Life doesn’t make sense and we want it to. As Christians, we are literally groaning with all of creation for the Day when all things will be renewed. That Day has not yet come, but the seed has been planted.

The dying usually don’t want to be dying. They wonder how their loved ones will get along without them. So they often try to take care of us. The dying caring for the living.

The dying usually don’t want to be dying. They wonder how their loved ones will get along without them. So they often try to take care of us. The dying caring for the living. Dying people learn intuitively what the living want to hear. We like it when dying folks have a sense of humor. It serves our own feelings when those at the threshold of death make light of their predicament or act dismissively of their pain. We especially like it when the dying mute their fear and face the Inevitable with confidence and courage. These things make us feel better. We then reward the dying for their “strength”. We say things like, “She is so strong.” “I can’t believe how positive he is.” “He is holding up really well.” “Wow mom, I wish I was as strong as you.” Their posture toward death lends us hope that maybe death isn’t so bad after all.

For some, death is a welcome stranger. The dying process can be so cruel and prolonged that death is a blessing. In these cases death is good only by comparison though. Death is still monstrous, an affront to the living. In the Christian tradition death is viewed as a natural consequence for sin. It is cancerous in nature. Jesus wept when beholding how we mourn our dead loved ones. For the Christian it is promised that death will be “swallowed up in victory.” In Revelation we are told that death itself will be thrown into the lake of fire in the last judgment. The death of Death.

Dying people usually have very complicated feelings around their experience. Our culture has developed a terrible allergy to all that is unpleasant and uncomfortable. Dying people make us very uncomfortable. Dying people are acutely aware of how uncomfortable they make people. Many of them will take their cues from us and act accordingly. In death, they will try to be what we need them to be. Some won’t cry because, “I need to be strong for my kids.” But in private moments, when given sacred space – they weep for the life they are losing. Others will say things like, “Well there is always someone who has it worse than me.” The implicit message is that my loss isn’t so bad after all – so don’t feel too bad about it. Then there is a whole host of dismissive statements employed that suggest the dying person’s demise is ‘no biggie.’ “Gotta go sometime.” “Well, it was a good run.” “Can’t live forever.” Or, as one particularly ornery nurse in the Emergency Department likes to remind me, “None of us gets off the planet alive!”

Dressing death in a clown suit can have acute therapeutic value in some cases. Those statements are often uttered to manage our feelings by blunting the sharp edge of grief. The person dying has intrinsic value in God’s eyes though. Their death is sad. Grief expert Alan Wolfelt explains that to grieve well is to love well. Anticipatory grief is the grief that begins before our loved one dies. Bereavement means to be “robbed, deprived or plundered.” The sadness we feel as our loved one fades away is real, healthy and deserves a place at our emotional table. We do no service to our loved ones when we collude with them to undersell their experience. If your dying loved one tells you that he needs to be strong for you, remind him that you don’t need that from him. Encourage him to feel whatever he is feeling and to feel it fully. If she tells you she is fine but you sense an ocean of emotion beneath the surface, she may be holding it back for your sake. Let her know she can stop trying so hard to keep the outside from looking like the inside. The dying have enough work to do without having to take care of our feelings.

Maybe you can be the safe place where your dying loved one can feel the freedom to lament, rage, cower or confess.

Maybe you can provide him or her sanctuary. One of the last things Jesus did before he died was despair.

The despair and forsakenness of the cross was an overture to his Resurrection. But he also did work on the cross, serious work for our sake. Most but not all people experience an urgency to get their inner house in order as the time draws near. Our need for the dying to “be strong” can hinder this vocation. As the dying soul is freed to work openly on her own position with God, the result is often peace. The ancients called this “Shalom”. Shalom is when we have made peace with God and our neighbor through Jesus. “Some glow before they go” as Hospice staff have been known to say.

What we can offer the dying is relationship. Relationship is the great promise of the Christian faith. As the Psalmist reminds us, “I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” God gives us nothing less than Himself in the blackest nights. In their hour of travail we can companion with our loved ones and be honest and loving sojourners. The hope is that someone will walk the long walk with us when our time comes.

The dying are like prophets. They have very important things to tell us. Their vantage point is unique as they stand at the cusp of the living and the dead.

The dying are like prophets. They have very important things to tell us. Their vantage point is unique as they stand at the cusp of the living and the dead. They have much to teach us about life and death, regret and joy, forgiveness and hurt. For Christians, dying is a season of meaning-making and life review. Blessings are bestowed, curses are lifted. It is a time of ends and beginnings, rending and mending, embracing and letting go. Death is the birthing pains to new life. Echoing our Christian ancestors we say, “Maranatha!” (Come, O Lord!)

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Mom Is Dying: A Son’s Love

Mom Is Dying: A Son's Love

My sister called me at work and informed me that mom is dying.

In late March of 2013, my mom who had been in a nursing home for about four years, health took a bad turn. She was in the final stage of renal failure. My sister called me at work and informed me that mom is dying. We didn’t know when. She could live for weeks or months. I started to visit her daily after work and kept my sister updated on my mom‘s condition.

At some point Hospice was called to help keep her comfortable. My sister had talked to me and told me not to tell my mom that she was dying.

One day when I was visiting my mom, she was confused and asked me what was going on. I told her that Her health was going real bad. She didn’t understand and was afraid. I did my best to encourage her and went home.

That night I prayed and asked God what to do.

That night I prayed and asked God what to do. God answered telling me my mom deserved to know what was going on. God told me how to approach my mom and tell her she was dying. I prepared myself for what would be the hardest thing I have ever done. Rising to God‘s call to offer my mom hope and peace.

The next day at work I thought about it all day long and told God I can’t do it. Who am I to prepare my mom to meet the Lord? I realized there is no one else and it was my duty to do it. If I loved my mom, I would do it.

After work I went to visit my mom with my bible in my hand and asked not to be disturbed, that I needed to talk to my mom. I think the people at the nursing home knew what I was about to do.
I walked in and my mom was crying. I pulled up the chair and cried with her. She was confused and afraid. It became clear to me that I had to tell her in order to clear up her fear and confusion.

I asked her if she remembered what she learned about Heaven in Church. I took her hand and started talking to her about what Heaven would be like. I read scripture to her about there being no more sickness or disease. I showed her verses about how we would get new bodies that would never fail.

As I continued, I felt the presence of God in the room. Still holding her hand, I told her that Jesus is getting ready to take her hand and lead her to Glory. I noticed right away that her confusion and fear had lifted.

I went on to tell her she needs to think about what’s coming for her. Not think about leaving me.

My mom looked down for a minute and then looked up at me saying she didn’t want to leave me. I explained to her that it isn’t her choice. That it is God‘s will and she has to accept it. I went on to tell her she needs to think about what’s coming for her. Not think about leaving me.

As her time drew nearer and nearer, she lost consciousness but was still here. I talked her as though she were awake. I told her when God calls her, to leave and not look back.

On Thursday April 25, 2013, my father and I arrived because her time was very near. I sat next to her bed and watched her breathing get shallow. I talked to her and told her I was there. I held her hand and at 6:30 P.M., Jesus took her hand and lead her to glory.

I knew that God has transformed my mom, giving her a new body that will never fail. She knew until the end that I loved her. God used me once again to help her until it was time to let her go.

Preparing my mom to go be with the Lord was the greatest act of love there is. If I had to do it again,I would without hesitation.


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The Loss of a Child: A Picture of the Heart

The Loss of a Child: A Picture of the Heart

Love filled my heart as I watched my husband holding our newborn son in his arms.

Love filled my heart as I watched my husband holding our newborn son in his arms. He gazed at his tiny form with a warm expression of tenderness. As we shared that love, an image was etched on my mind that would become a precious memory. In the wonder of that moment, we were unaware that Kevin would be with us for only a few days. As I look back, pleasant and sad memories start to emerge, but with new meaning now. These memories were not forgotten but were stored away in my heart.

Del and I had two children when Kevin was born. We enjoyed the first day of excitement on the arrival of our third child. As we held our baby, we noticed how much he resembled his brother and sister. We marveled at how God made each of our children with their own identity, yet with a likeness of our family. From that day Kevin was born, his calm and quiet spirit was evidence of a gentle personality. Naturally, my affection for him began to grow and I couldn’t wait to take him home.

The next day, the nurse told us that the doctor wanted to talk to us. A look of concern was displayed in the doctor’s eyes. “We suspect that your baby has a problem regarding his heart,” she said, “We’d like to keep him for a few more days to take some tests, then we’ll send him home with a heart monitor.” And that was the way we thought it would be.

After answering all of our questions, the doctor reassured us that she’d keep a close watch on him throughout the night. I remember the nurse asking if I had noticed a blue hue to his complexion. I had noticed his little features and wisps of platinum blond hair, but only his eyes were blue.

I looked at my baby as he snuggled content in my arms. Gently I touched his soft cheek, then handed him to the nurse.

Early the following morning, Del nudged me to wake up. Kevin had to be taken to a heart specialist for a cardiac catheterization. “This is hard for me to tell you, but I discovered that the left side of Kevin’s heart is abnormal with incomplete valves. Since this is the major side of the heart, there is nothing that can be done to save his life. He has only a few hours left…I’m terribly  sorry.”

We could hardly believe what was happening. We looked at each other and our hearts were crushed with anguish. We felt so alone and confused. But the Lord had never intended to leave us alone. He used the heart specialist to meet that immediate moment of distress. She not only explained that he had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (a malformation of the left side of the heart) but she showed an unusual amount of empathy toward us. She had lost a child the same way a year earlier and understood how devastated we were. Her personal experience helped her identify with our situation.

Soon after we called our pastor. He came immediately. His presence was fresh with God’s compassionate love and concern for us. After he went to see our baby, he stayed with us and prayed, and shared several verses from the bible. During that time of waiting, the Lord sustained us through the pastor’s love.

About an hour later, the doctor returned. Thee was a distinct sadness all around us. I knew…Kevin had peacefully gone to heaven to be with God. When I went home, my arms were empty and so was my heart. At the funeral, I stared through clouded eyes at the small white casket which held my baby whom I would never hold again. All I could do was remember him as I last held him in my arms. Even though I understood that my baby would be with God. I couldn’t deny the tremendous loss I felt. I thought I would never feel normal again.

During the months that followed, depression battled with my perspective on life. 

During the months that followed, depression battled with my perspective on life. My husband and I were already going through a time of uncertainty. Our lives were balancing on the border of living our own way or choosing to follow God. Now that we had lost our baby, whatever newly-developed faith we had was now being shaken.

Ultimately, the Lord stayed close to my aching heart, and in my grief I turned to His waiting, open arms. As I was drawn closer to Him, I found emotional healing through His Word. I especially found the Psalms to be tranquil to my grieving spirit. God’s word became my consolation. Faithfully, He revealed His presence through the compassionate love of others. Through their prayers, concerns, and encouraging Scripture verses, I was gradually lifted to life again.

Since then we have had another son and daughter. But the few precious days we shared with Kevin will never be forgotten. Just like our four other children, he’s a part of us. The moment of love that my husband and I shared with our baby is always vivid in my mind, and my heart sometimes aches for him still. But we have his picture to remember what he looked like, and we will always have his memory. His memory will be kept in our hearts until we see him again in heaven.

Going through this experience has given my life a different meaning.

Going through this experience has given my life a different meaning. Although the process of sorrow was emotionally painful to endure and the depression was overwhelming, it turned out for good–that I may know God “who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 cor. 1:3, NIV). My heart reaches out to share the comfort God gave us. We were touched in a way we would never have known if we had turned away from Him. But He was there waiting.

He knew what we would need in our time of sorrow. He gave us peace beyond understanding–a peace that conveys a picture of the heart of God.

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Senseless Violence- A Prayer for Seal Beach.

Senseless Violence- A Prayer.

Heavenly Father – It happened again.

No rhyme, no reason, no sense at all. Just a tormented soul in the guise of a man expressing his anger in the most destructive way; all the while destroying eight lives in the process. Eight families had a loved one ripped from their presence today. Eight people that had plans for tonight, this weekend, the holidays that are fast in coming, all those plans are now shattered. Now the surviving families have to think of funeral arrangements and not get togethers.

Dreams about the coming future are now torn to shreds, like tree limbs through a chipper. And for those that remain, they must now deal with grief, shock, sadness, anger, and disbelief that something this horrendous could ever have happened. It’s one thing to have someone die of a terminal illness or a tragic accident or even war; but when someone is murdered, that’s a whole new depth of grief. That’s anger at its worst. Now I understand why you told Cain that he must master his sin; if he didn’t…well, his brother is proof that he didn’t master it….

In this world, tragic things happen that we have no control over. When they have run their course, those who have witnessed such tragedies are often drained physically, emotionally, and many times spiritually. And the word on their lips is “why?” And most of the time, there’s no response, just silence from Heaven. But if we quiet our hearts enough, we just may realize that the silence from Heaven is that of a Father, holding, protecting His children from a nightmare.

Fear grips us like a thief with intent to steal away our valuables; leaving us naked, vulnerable and scared. 

Words are hard to come by tonight. Fear grips us like a thief with intent to steal away our valuables; leaving us naked, vulnerable and scared. So we remain silent while the thoughts of the day linger and fester in our minds. Our joy, our anchor in times of trouble, seems so far removed from us that the only thing we feel is a never ending ache; laughter, on the other hand, is an enemy to us. In time though, they will return and be welcomed like a long lost friend.

But Father, this tragedy has a special significance to me. A friend of mine had a friend, more of a brother, that died in this rampage. However, what has come out since then, is that he died a hero.

He went to work to earn a honest pay with the skills of his own two hands – bringing out the beauty in women, while making men presentable; a noble career, indeed. He had no clue to what lay ahead in the next hours as he opened his business that day, but he’s called to do something heroic during the day and when the job is done, he passes from this world to your loving arms as the result of his bravery. And while we admire such courage, we still weep, because he is gone from our world as well as those he tried to save. Randy, as well as the other seven, are in your arms now, safe from all harm.

But what about those who remain? While we rejoice that Randy and the others are safe in your Home, we still hurt here, as if our hearts have been ripped from our chests. Everything that life means to us makes no sense now. For some, their whole world is gone forever. the hurt, the anger, the disillusionment that comes with such adversity, keeps us from calling out to you with voice. Only guttural utterances escape our throats and praise be to you, O God, you understand them!

Days are hard and nights are filled with tears, but your healing words will mend those who are broken.

This is the time in our lives that you really do shine. You pour out your mercy on us, like a soothing balm, at the same time, bathing us in your grace and then clothing us in your love. Days are hard and nights are filled with tears, but your healing words will mend those who are broken. And many times, this is where faith begins, from knowing that you are there, ministering to those who are terribly hurt and shaken by life’s hardships.

Healing starts with you, O Lord, minister to your children today. And restore the joy that we once knew….

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Seven Things You Can Do to Help a Grieving Co-Worker

Seven Things You Can Do to Help a Grieving Co-Worker

Here are seven things to consider in supporting someone you work with who is mourning the death of a loved one, and help him/her adjust to the loss. The funeral or graveside service is over and someone you work with is back on the job. Is there anything you can you do to help the person in the transition he or she is facing? Plenty. Remember, your willingness to be with anyone who is grieving, your presence alone, can be a factor in healing from a major loss. Being around pain is a challenge and an essential factor in helping the bereaved.

Here are seven things to consider in supporting someone you work with and help him/her adjust to the loss.

1. Most important of all, let the person know you are willing to be of assistance. If you were, for whatever reason, unable to attend the funeral or service express your condolences in a way you feel is most appropriate. Some people are uncomfortable in simply saying “I’m sorry” and say “I wish there was something I could do to ease your pain.” Others apologize for not being at the funeral and offer to be of help in any way possible.

2. Talk about the deceased person. Reviewing the relationship with the deceased by asking a question about the person is a good starter and gives the mourner an opportunity to talk. You could ask where the person died and if the co-worker was there at the end, inquire about the nature of the illness, or if the person had been ill for a long time.

3. Always allow the co-worker to dictate the pace and content of the conversation. If  you sense the person does not wish to talk about the deceased follow through and  ask if this is the case (Would you rather talk at another time?) and if there is anything else you could do at the moment.

4. Many employers, after three or four days, expect the co-worker to be working at his or her previous level of output, which in most cases is highly unreasonable. Be willing to give your co-worker an assist if it is obvious that he is behind in his work.

5. Each day inquire how your co-worker is doing. Commonly, the response will be okay or fine. When you hear this follow up with, “How are you really doing?” Often you will hear some important responses that the person would like to say but holds back so as not to appear to be hurting or looking for sympathy. Mourners often shape their grieving to please those around them and not themselves. You will be giving the co-worker an opportunity to express how she is really feeling and not have to suppress a natural response.

6. At least once a week call the person at home, especially if the person is now living alone. Evenings are frequently the most difficult for widows and widowers who are living alone. At the appropriate time, invite the person over for dinner or out to a movie.
7. Finally, be on guard to help a co-worker who might be holding on to some of the old myths about grief: you shouldn’t cry too much; you must be strong; you’ll be your old self again soon; and there is a predictable course of grief. Give the person permission to cry, not be strong, and follow her own individual course of grieving.

As time goes on, allow the person to repeat the story of what happened to their loved one. The repetition of the mourner is often what is discouraging for a caregiver. However, it is important for the mourner to replay the story again and again as it is an aid to the healing process. Grief is not an orderly and predictable process. With all of its ups and downs repetition is useful and meaningful for the mourner.
Again, to repeat, being there is half the battle. You don’t have to say a lot. However, be willing to be open with the person and make frequent contact as you sense the need.