Helping loved ones through Grief

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I am still very much in this world…but with the passing of several dear ones lately, it occurred to me that NOW, while I am still alive, I have the ability to do at least some small things that might bring a measure of comfort to the hearts of those I love. Were I to pass suddenly, I might even be instrumental in helping them keep their sights firmly where they ought to remain. Purposefully living, while loving fully…

My Dearest: You are a Survivor.

There is surely pain in the realization, because right now, if you are reading this, you more likely feel alone, abandoned and afraid.

But be assured, my precious one: you are not.

Whatever befell me was simply my doorway into Eternity with Jesus – and you need to draw comfort from knowing with absolute certainty that I am whole, healed and happy – and rejoicing with Jesus! I Thes. 4:13-18

Believe me, I understand how you are feeling – that’s why I am writing this reminder to you – for you to find when I am gone, that it might bring you comfort in your grief.

I love you. You must know that of all the gifts from God’s good hand, that of Family has been the very dearest to me!

And so, at this low point, in this trial, I want to linger a bit with you. I wish I could stroke your hair and dry your tears…but through these words, I pray I might offer help to your hurting heart. Oh my loved one – do not despair! We have such a glorious Hope!

As I write this, my mind fills with memories of happy times, so many days bright with promise…what a marvel, really, that in a sin cursed world there can still be JOY – Isn’t that a remarkable gift from God?? Oh honey: embrace LIFE and all it has to offer! Do not be dismayed, defeated or lose hope…Satan would love to shake your faith. Surely doubt follows pain – but you must remain steadfast in your Trust. You must see the Possibilities – what man sees as tragic, senseless, futile and Final, God in His Sovereignty has already victoriously defeated. So Death, in His hand is just a tool – to build a platform from which we can proclaim His sufficiency, His sustaining Power and His comfort. The truth is that trials and hardships ought to be used (and often are!) as a wake up call to those who have wandered, or have let their faith dim… (Yes, I know I am lecturing now – permit me this small indulgence – now that I’ve passed, it will be my last J)

Where was I? Oh yes – reminding you, my treasured one, that you must make the most of the opportunity afforded you by my passing. You will have no end of those sympathizing with you – after all, such a loss of our loved ones brings out great compassion in people.

Let their affections warm your heart; do not close yourself off from the reach of Comfort. Grieving without hope is left to those who have none – but that is not US – we have Hope!

I guess that is the crux of what I want to say…and yet, while I am still afforded time, I will write a bit more, that the looping figures on these pages might themselves bring a small amount of peace to you…like an old recipe written out by a loved one – not only does the actual dish offer a remembered joy, but the familiar scrawl as well, brings a smile to the one who misses the owner’s hand.

We have shared plenty of conversations through the years for you to be grounded in the knowledge of the Gospel. You must continue the work – the task and joy of sharing the Good News with others who need yet to hear of it. It is every Believer’s obligation to carry on the proclamation of God’s salvation through the cross of Jesus…and we – you and I together – will have Eternity to rejoice and revel in His provision, love and grace.

Together…isn’t that such a lovely word? This parting of ours is temporary – only for a while – oh, what a comfort we can have knowing that Christ bore separation from His Father while on the cross, to make possible the fact that we will be together forever! Amazing!

And so, though death holds us for a brief second, and we grieve its sting, it is a temporary pain, a necessary reminder to the fact that our sin cursed world groans in agony.

Aren’t you so grateful, my dear one, that “we have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll, fastened to the Rock which cannot move, grounded firm and deep, in the Savior’s love”?!

You’ll be humming that one for the rest of the day, I bet. J

What more can be said? I began by calling you a Survivor – for that is what you are…I like that term – it’s not necessarily ‘heroic’, though it could be. I think I like that within it is the very essence of ‘one who rises above their circumstances’. Life is full of tragedy. Uncertainty and danger lie all around us – human beings have a tendency to try to skirt all threats and snares – and understandably so…

BUT the believer in Jesus has the steadying truth that God is IN CONTROL.

Do you remember my quote, “Do not worry…God has already measured out all the days needed for you to get done whatever He has called you to do, so take time to do things well, and as unto Him.”?  Well, I thoroughly enjoyed each day measured out to me, with the pleasure and joy of walking my journey with YOU, my treasured family by my side.

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” II Tim 4:8

I love you. May you always know how deeply thankful I am to God for giving me the gift of you! I could fill pages more with a steady flow of praise for you! (In fact, be sure to read my journals, the baby books where I related many wonderful stories that you’ll want to remember and pass along – oh and my prayer journal, and the basketfuls of cards and notes and letters…I’ve left enough material for you to be reading for months. J)

I only hope that your discovery of this letter has brought you some healing, my darling… There is a delicious little thrill in my heart knowing that this awaits your discovery. I seal it with a prayer that you find great comfort in this, our final time ‘together’ on this side of Heaven’s Gate.

Know that I’ll be looking for you when your time comes ~ and we will delight together, forevermore! Now dry your tears ~ LIFE Awaits you! And it’s a wonderful Gift from our Father’s loving hand! Live it out fully, for Him and you won’t regret a moment…

All my love,

Sarah

Wife, Mom, Daughter, Sister, and Friend, but mostly,

Follower of Jesus Christ, my Savior

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Hope for the Hurting!

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Life is complex and complicated; evil flourishes, and trouble comes swiftly. The problems of today rarely resolve, but rather, they multiply, muddying the waters even further.

Thousands of mega problems crowd our daily newsfeed: what is the solution for the starvation crisis in Venezuela? What to do with the refugees fleeing war-torn countries? How to stop horrific sex trafficking, the drug epidemic, or the threat of worldwide terrorism? Is there an answer for abortion, corruption, or abuse; political disunity, bullying, or flagrant rebellion of authority in our nation? And what to do about vicious dictators of nations who misuse their power, bringing tremendous suffering on their own countrymen? Which battles to fight? Do we have some responsibility to fight for the plight of the weak and helpless, or is it all just too much? Compassion demands some sort of action, and yet… what to do?? … The endless list of twisted and tangled gargantuan issues leaves one reeling!

Sifting through all of these impossibly massive “macro level” problems, while coping at the same time with “micro level” problems – the individuals we each know who are languishing in their own personal agonies – battles with cancer, grief of familial suicide, loss, pain, disease, heartache and despair. How to walk alongside the many who are facing such overwhelming challenges?

And what about the more “minor” struggles – even for those not facing persecution, or poverty, death or disease, what to do with the heartache of errant children or loss of a job? Stress from bad relationships, or pain from the past? Disappointed hopes, dashed dreams or searching for significance?

The fact is, our entire world is groaning under the weight and curse of Sin, and there are no “simple solutions” that will automatically fix the consequences of it.

Overwhelm: to defeat completely; bury or drown beneath a huge mass.

So, is that it? Are there no answers to be found? Or is there some hope to escape the immense fallout from the depravity of sin and its devastating consequences?

Thankfully, yes!

Satan’s strategy is to leave us feeling overwhelmed, powerless and alone, but God’s solution has already been set into motion: the victory won by Jesus Christ when he sacrificed his life on the cross for All the sins of All of humanity for All time…and then rose again, victorious over death. Jesus conquered for us what we could not win for ourselves: Victory over death, and over the pull of sin on our lives. (I Corinthians 15:55-57)

Because God loves people so much, He made a way out from the bondage of sin and the hopelessness that every human being faces – Don’t believe the lie that all roads lead to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned – every one- to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

So for the person who puts their trust in the finished work of Jesus, there is a precious hope, and a peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4:7, Isaiah 26:3) More so, we are no longer bound by sin, and sin’s curse, but can live abundant and joy filled lives, despite the pain that surrounds us, knowing that God is working all things together for good for them who love Him and are called according to His purposes. (John 10:10, Romans 8:28, Galatians 5:22-23)

Our hope lies in a future place as we await Christ’s return, sharing the truth of this Good news with others while there is still time, and using every opportunity to show the love of Jesus to a dark and hurting world. (II Timothy 4:6-8, John 9:4)

If you like me, have put your faith in the shed blood of Jesus for your sins, but still find yourself struggling with the heartache of the consequences of sin (which we won’t fully escape until Heaven), I pray you find wonderful encouragement from this poem I published in my book, Still She Speaks:

What do you think when you see the plight

Of our fellow humans who suffer the blight

Of this earth and her troubles? Of pain and distress

Of disease and poverty, anguish and death? 

 

As they wander and ponder the meaning of life,

Observe all the scandal, partake of the strife, 

They can glimpse of the beauty that lies all around

But have no understanding, no footing, no ground

  

They persist in the cycle, but long to be free.

What must they think of you and of me,

When they see that true joy can exist in this place,

Despite all the trials and chaos and waste?

 

Are we fragrant? Inviting? Attractive? Or no?

Do we carry deep sorrow, and reek of the woe

That they long to escape? I must ask this dear friend:

Does your life reflect hope for a better end? 

 

Do we bask in God’s goodness despite earthly pain?

Trust that our Savior has a perfect plan?

Keep our eyes trained on heaven where eternity dwells?

Are we offering hope while the world offers hell? 

 

This world’s pains are hard, prolonged and deep,

But for those without Christ, it’s the best they will see.

Are we sharing our faith while there is still time? 

Or getting bogged down in the muck and the grime?

 

Are we resting in Him when the storm swirls around?

Clinging to Him when our enemies hound?

Running to Him when lonely and scared?

Praying and soaking our mind in His word?

 

Storing His scriptures away in our hearts,

When the enemy comes with his fiery darts?

Do we thank Him –yes, thank Him for allowing us pain

That would tether us to Him again and again?

 

This is difficult – no- an Impossible task –

Except we have Jesus to whom we can ask

To carry our burden and fix our eyes,

So our load becomes his   ~ he’s our fortress and prize!

 

Rejoice in the gifts that his love has bought!

Oh friend – this is big – has your heart been caught? 

We have The Answer, the Hope and the Key~

Are we sharing with prisoners that they can be free? 

 

Bondage and heartache should not be the plight

For the child of Jesus who is offered delight –

Yes – delight that our troubles though hard and so deep,

Are temporary afflictions – they will not keep!

 

Our hope lies in a future place

Where pain does not live, where sorrows cease.

Where tests and tears do not abound,

Where heartache and death cannot be found. 

 

Where His will is done and perfection reigns,

Where right does rule, and joy remains!

This place does exist and it’s free to the one

Who would come to the cross and believe in the Son

Who has paid all the debt we owe for our sin –

Impossible, yes – but not for Him! 

 

He’s building a mansion – working details out –

And soon He will come back with a shout!

And take us home to be with Him there –

Can you picture it friend? Are you fixing your stare

Toward the place we’ll reside forevermore?

 

No more death, or mourning, or crying or pain!

Where glory goes on and on and on.

Rejoice in this truth! And share it with men 

Who need to hear it again and again!

 

So I ask once more time: What does your life say?

Are you trusting in Jesus, or throwing it away?

Let’s get our eyes off our troubles, and our knees on the floor –

Seek Jesus – we’ll find Him…His grace ~ and much more! 

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Being a Truth Teller

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It doesn’t always matter what you think.

Do you believe that? That there are some things not up for ‘debate’?

For example, wouldn’t it be foolish to argue against the fact of gravity? Although there may have been a time where people couldn’t explain how it works, or have an actual word to ascribe to it, nonetheless, gravity exists. Wouldn’t it sound ridiculous to hear someone say, “I don’t believe in a natural pull that causes mass to fall towards the earth, and keeps us from flying off into space”? Yes, it would. Some things are simply factual.

But what if that person were to say, “but that’s what I believe. You can’t question my opinion. It’s how I feel”? Would we rush to accommodate their belief, to try to make them feel that their “opinion” on the subject held value; or would the loving thing be to tell them the truth, “It doesn’t matter what you think about it, the fact is that gravity does exist, whether you want it to or not. You need to change your way of thinking.”

We would want to move toward that person, and share truth with them, desiring them to come to a place of understanding, wouldn’t we?

That is what our response should also be toward people who deny the existence of God, or the fact that He has a standard of righteousness, by which all who are not found in Christ will be judged. Those of us who have put our trust in Jesus stand in his righteousness, not our own.

Psalm 14:1 tells us that, “the fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God.’” God calls the person who refuses to accept the truth of His existence, a “fool”.

Rather than rushing to affirm them and make them feel like their ‘belief’ holds value, it ought to cause us to lovingly correct their incorrect thinking, pointing them to the truth that a loving God created them, with a glorious purpose and value. But our own sin has separated us from Him.

The rebelliousness in human hearts is called sin. The refusal to look at things God’s way: sin. Choosing corrupt life patterns: sin. Seeking to come up with alternative methods to Heaven outside of His revealed plan: sin.

What hope has anyone, to break free from the grip of sin? The only way that God provided: through the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, for us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 That is the Good News of the Gospel! God sent hope for sinners into the world – and his name is Jesus!

Are we lovingly sharing with hurting people the fact that Jesus loves them, and died for sinners, so that those who put their faith in him can escape the coming judgment of God’s wrath? Those of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus must use our time well, sharing the truth with men and women who need to hear this Good News. We need to be praying that hearts will be convicted of sin, minds be opened to understand truth, and souls have their eternal destination changed.

We don’t change the standard; we ask God to change the hearts of those who don’t yet understand the truth.

Paul instructed Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

Are we prepared with the message that offers life? Its a privilege to share in the ministry of the gospel that brings salvation to all who hear and are changed by it’s message… let us be about our Father’s business, and tellers of the truth, while there is still time.

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The Fruit of the Spirit in Action

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In this red-hot environment of political debate, both “sides” have fallen into pits of self-righteous indignation, having ‘clays of opinion’ that quickly harden, without allowing outside thoughts to permeate that might soften the jagged edges that have formed.

The subject matters are more numerous than there are Olympic sports; stretching from Immigration, Abortion, Taxation to National defense, Cabinet picks, Supreme Court justices and beyond. Everything’s up for battle.

The methods of dissemination vary as well: protests, arguments via volatile comment threads, op-ends, Facebook posts, Twitter jabs, late night TV skits, University rallies and, far too rarely, discussions over cups of coffee. (Best not choose Starbucks for now)

Worn and stale labels are slung like so many horseshoes, each side hoping for a ringer, while both are guilty of assumptions of understanding, without actually communicating anything fresh.

But the truth is, no one understands fully the vast majority of the problems that beset us. The issues have become far too complex and complicated; cloaked in controversiality and beyond human reasoning.

Oh sure- I can say that I stand on God’s standard when I stand against such a thing as abortion. (And frankly, I do believe that). But my friend, with equal claim to the grace of God through the blood of Christ, stands just as adamantly for the legitimacy of organizations such as Black Lives Matter, citing past wrongs that caused the formation of such a group to begin with.

Who is “right”, and who is “wrong”? And who gets to decide? And what to do with the umpteen other topics, some that intertwine like bowls of spaghetti, confusing and chaotic? On principle I believe we all have the right to our opinions on many matters if based on the framework of God’s Word. But where does that get us as far as actually persuading anyone?

Certainly I would like to think that every human being could agree that a recent example, a woman, a teacher of pre-schoolers, no less, who was recorded screaming racial epithets and demanding that “all white people give up their @!$& homes and money and give it to black people now!” would be unanimously given a thumbs down. That it wasn’t is highly disturbing, and a clear sign of our times.

The fighter in me wants to insist that “the liberals had 8 years of policies enacted that conservatives had to cope with, and it’s our turn to show them the wonderful good that conservative principles can do for all, if only given a chance.” However, that just inflames the already heated atmosphere.

The weary part of me wants to pass along non-controversial pictures of funny pets and dinner recipes, and hide away from the raging debates. But if Christians won’t engage in the public discussions, are we ceding our voice of reason, and the ability to fight against our nation’s cultural and moral decay? Passivity and apathy are avenues to usher in tragedy, as seen in plenty of world horrors where good people did nothing to fight evil.

But, I wonder if there is another option?

One that invites differing opinions to be heard in an arena of open, respectful discussion; where labels are prohibited (as well as name calling and nasty language). Where thoughts are presented, with the underlying belief that everyone participating has our nation’s best interests at heart, and that one’s allegiance to and love of Jesus Christ isn’t debated, even if perspectives might be challenged, with kindness and cordiality.

That such a board of banter and thought, diverse yet fraught with – dare I say it?: Love, could exist, gives my heart a tug of hopefulness.

Perhaps, by adding a “water” such as Love to our clay, our opinions may form more gently, giving a chance to smooth those jagged edges away with which we have been slashing at one another, preventing the cuts that wound deeply, and instead, helping one another arrive at conclusions based on truth, justice, respect and love, as well as a willingness to wait patiently and prayerfully for one another as we walk this journey of life together. In fact, evidencing the fruit of lives that are controlled by the Holy Spirit –  of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

In this age of rages and rants and rampages, imagine how much better it would be, how mutually beneficial and edifying (let alone, providing a model for our children!) to come up with a better way to conduct public discourse that is solidly built on a platform of respect, kindness and love.

Is it possible? I don’t know… but I am willing to try it and see.
I Corinthians 13:1-13

What do you think? Let’s talk – you know – between friends.

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Broken by pain, mended by God

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Her confession that came to my ears delivered a crushing blow to my gut. Unsuspected. Unforeseen. Unbearable.

I was devastated.

Where could one even go from there? Where to find any hope? Any healing? 

The beginning of that journey brought me to my knees, renewed my trust in my Savior, and caused me to cling all the more to His Truths. Journaling was cathartic. And, it turned out, became the nugget at the core of a work of fiction, borne from our pain.

Still She Speaks, my first published work, was wrought from the discovery and the journey of healing that we went through with our precious daughter. God’s faithfulness surrounded us during those dreadfully dark months; my heart wavered between lamenting, and rejoicing. Some days, grief flooded hope. Other days, hope won. Pride toppled as I learned that even Love cannot forbid entry to sin. As a parent, I had to rethink the foundations of my trust – they’d been built on a flimsy platform of thinking “that couldn’t happen to us” and “my kids are doing great”. Truth came crashing in that day. And with it, the walls of pride fell down around me.

Oh – but HE is faithful! And together, we rebuilt my understanding of what it means to be a “Good Parent”. Instruction? Yes. Love? Certainly. But more than that – more than my modeling as best I could; more than serving and helping, praying and providing… Going deeper with God was a must. Trusting in His sovereign hand became my lifeline.

As I learned what it means to cling to Jesus, our daughter was also on her journey of healing and growing, and taking ownership of her own faith. As much as I wanted to – ached to! – have my ever deepening faith grafted into her own heart, I could not. It was something she was going to have to embrace on her own, and for herself. Thankfully, she did.

My journal sat on the shelf, successful in it’s initial goal of bringing me a sense of therapeutic healing. But in my spirit, I wondered, “Does God have a greater purpose in bringing us through this heartache? What if someone else can glean some encouragement from hearing this story?”

And so began the work that eventually became Still She Speaks. Overall, it is a work of fiction; certainly I draw a few things here and there to add the personal touches that make it mine; but mostly, it’s fiction. Excepting the core, the nugget that sits nestled in the middle of the story, poignantly reminding me that for all it’s highs and lows, characters and plots, joys, tears and sorrows – really, I guess, just like the timeline of life itself… we have a Hope, that the hurting world cannot understand. And His name is Jesus.

I pray that you are blessed hearing the back story of how this book came to be; and that you find tremendous blessing in reading my book. If you do, would you take a minute to share a word of how it ministered to you? Reviews left on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com are extremely helpful and very much appreciated! Thank you!

And if you have a word to share, or a journey you’ve been on that you have seen God’s faithfulness – let’s rejoice together! Or if you’re in the middle of a season of hurt, and need prayer – please leave a comment here – it would be my privilege to lift you up in prayer. (I won’t ever publish any comments that people prefer remain private – just mention it when you post)

May you be blessed, as we walk this journey of life, together. And let’s talk- you know – between friends.

 

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