Category Archives: Grief

A Time for Heaven Contrived By God

 A Time for Heaven is one of those “fact is stranger than fiction” stories that would seem contrived and “too good to be true” unless it is, and they say it is!! A Time for Heaven is definitely advertised as being “based on the incredible true story about a tenacious nurse who helped people that had reached the end of their lives come to terms with God and heaven.”  I couldn’t find any more information on line to test just how closely the story line followed the realities, but I did learn that the real nurse was fired from the hospital for being too open about her faith.  A Time for Heaven (2017) is G-rated and has a 7.6 from IMDb, so it’s a well done movie your whole family could enjoy together (or at least those old enough to deal with the issue of impending death).  It showcases hospice care at its best, starring a compassionate young nurse who is assigned a very grouchy patient.  Although he’s hard on her, she’s up for the challenge, and eventually the patient is loved into peace and contentment about his imminent death.  Despite (but also because of) the amazing coincidences, A Time for Heaven is a beautiful story about life, death, abandonment, forgiveness, and hope, and it has a wonderfully happy ending.                                         So, what’s not to love about that?   Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

Thanksgiving, Thanksgetting, or Both? (With Illustrations from India and Nepal to Give Perspective)

I have four of the world’s best daughter-in-laws, and my one and only son-in-law is right up there with the best of them too! He is warm, quiet, affectionate, generous, always helpful, devout, ingenious, artistic, and usually has a bit of a smirk on his face, which I presume is his creative imagination kicking in to add a bit of humorous (albeit silent) commentary to life.    I wouldn’t trade him for a barrel of monkeys or anything else you might offer!  All this intro is so you don’t misinterpret his wry pseudonym for Thanksgiving, which is (as you’ve probably guessed) “Thanksgetting.”   So, what are you doing for Thanksgetting tomorrow? Lord willing, we’ll do what we most often do: Gather with those of our family who are able to come and share a Thanksgiving “feast,” and then we’ll sit in a circle around a candle-lit coffee table in our living room and play “The Thankful Game.” Do you ever play that game? It’s a time of reflecting on all the blessings we’ve received over the past year from God, and we go around the circle sharing one by one, round and round until we all seem content that we’ve remembered to give thanks to God for all the most important things we’ve gotten from him. It’s really an opportunity to recognize God’s goodness in our lives and a great way to worship Him, whether you’re alone for Thanksgiving or in a big group.
However you celebrate, I hope you focus on what you’ve gotten rather than what you’ve given this year, and if it’s been a terrible year where you’ve suffered great loss, perhaps you can think about what you still have.  I have a number of friends who’ve had serious physical problems this year, and some who have lost someone precious to them, and my heart grieves for them.  Still, after visiting India and Nepal recently, I am reminded of how “good” most of us have it in America.  King David suffered terrible losses in his life, and yet he wrote beautiful psalms of praise to God for His goodness and graces.  I pray that whatever your circumstances, you’ll be able to say with David: “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116 :17, emphasis mine; notice that sometimes it is actually an act of sacrifice to believe in God, surrender to him, and find reasons to give him thanks in the midst of anguish). Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).   And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22).   “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8).

What About Dead Parking Meters and No Outlets? Is There No Hope?

Have you ever gone up to put money in a parking meter only to discover that it’s dEAd? Today is my son Daniel’s thirty-second birthday, and when I asked him what he wanted for a gift, he said a little wistfully, “You know, I think time is about the most precious gift.” I wasn’t exactly sure how to buy him time, but after reflecting on it a little, it did occur to me that I could offer him a little of my time to babysit their two little ones so he could take his wife out on a date!

It also occurred to me that their toddler, Samuel, likes donuts, so I decided to stop at Van’s Pastry (which has some of the best donuts in town) and pick up some donuts to make his day a bit brighter.  Can you believe this parking meter? In all my years, I’ve never seen this before, but it did make me think about what it means to be “dEAd.” On the way to their home, I also pass a cemetery, and I’m always taken with this sign: “NO OUTLET.”                                Once you’re dEAd, is there really “no outlet?” Over the weekend, Alan and I watched two movies, both based on true events that dealt with life and death issues. In one movie (A Tale of Love and Darkness, based on the youth of Amos Oz, who lived through the terrible years of Israel going from a British Mandate to an independent state), one of the main characters became terminally depressed and looks at Death (personified) as a comforting protector. The other story, The Unmiracle, is  about two brothers (one an ex-marine) trying to cope with the tragedies of life, although in their situation, they began to see a glimmer of hope even in the midst of all the darkness. Quite a few years ago, I bought three cups and let my two sons (who were living with us at the time) each choose which cup they wanted. They chose “Love” and “Faith,” leaving me with “Hope.” At the time, I don’t think I completely appreciated the value of “hope.” I knew that God is love (1 John 4:16), and that to love God above all else and our neighbor as I love myself is God’s highest command (Mark 12:29-31). I also knew that without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) and through faith we’re justified and have peace with God (Romans 5:1-2). But, I didn’t appreciate the role of hope in life. Hope is what gives us joy and makes us happy (Psalm 146:5). It’s what gives us the courage to go on. I read about a study on what helped people survive during World War 2. It wasn’t physical strength and health (although I’m sure that gave people more of a possibility of surviving). The strongest factor was the will to live, and that was usually based on the person having a sense of hope.

Are you lacking hope today? Do you feel dEAd and like there’s no outlet? Please, please, please turn to Jesus and cry out to him for help and hope. Trust him. Call on him. Let him help you! Truly, He will!

*Here are a few readings from the Bible to get you started if you’re wanting more hope:

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these Mark 11:29-31.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:1 6).

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).

Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).

That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God” (Psalm 78:6-8).

Some Healing Balm for Grief and Loss

Becky Baudouin’s book, Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy was so full of helpful ideas on grieving loss (not only cancer but any loss) that I want to share just a few of the multitude with you this morning:

“Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same.” Gerald Sittser, A Grace Disguised

“Sometimes you will never know the value of something until it becomes a memory.” Dr. Seuss

“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when your pain has caused you to forget it.” Cherelea A. Purcell, Restored

“Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.” David Augsburger

“Grief and pain are the price humans have to pay for the love and total commitment we have for another person. The more we love, the more we hurt when we lose the object of our love. But if we are honest with ourselves, would we have it any other way?” C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“Grief is not a one-time visitor…Grief comes, always uninvited…Grief demands acknowledgement…So invite grief in. Take your time and unpack the bags. Listen to the stories and feel the feelings. Don’t rush the process. Do the hard work of grieving—and make no mistake—it is some of the hardest work  you will ever do.” Becky Baudouin, Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy

“When you make your way through grief, you don’t leave that person behind. You bring that person with you, where your memories of that person and your thankfulness for that person [become] a happy experience and not filled with so much pain.” Susan Lutz, GriefShare

“Resignation is an outer posture; surrender is an inner one. Resignation is giving up; surrender is accepting…Surrender invites us to a radical but always freeing posture of nonresistance to reality.” David Benner, Soulful Spirituality

“You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.” Corrie Ten Boom

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning…Face it, friend. He’s crazy about you.” Max Lucado, A Gentle Thunder

“I did not get over my loved ones; rather I absorbed the loss into my life…until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.” Gerald Sittser, A Grace Disguised

The rest are all by Becky Baudouin from her book, Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy:

“Like a GPS processing new data so it can determine a new route, we do our best to recalculate—to adjust our thinking based on what we know to be true. Our changed reality forces changes in us. In some ways we become a different version of ourselves, a different version of who we were becoming. We are shaped and forever altered by these moments.”

“I am beginning to see that maybe the best way to lead my children is to let them walk with me.”

“Cancer threatens our future time together, but the gift is that it also fully opens us up to the present.”

“It is a profound privilege to walk with a loved one on an unwanted journey, because in the midst of the darkness and the fear, when we can’t see where we are going, we find out that we are not alone.”

“Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers.”

“I’ve searched the Bible for this verse promising that God won’t give us more than we can handle, and I can’t find it…I believe that God is in control and does allow trials to come our way, and that he is always working for our good. but it’s not our own strength that determines how we will weather the storms of life; it’s our dependence on him that matters most.”

“When we put our faith in God rather than in a desired outcome, we are empowered to take the next step, even when we can’t see where we are going. We can rely on God’s unfailing love and goodness even through life’s darkest trials. We can worship him even in the midst of crushing grief and loss, holding on to the promises that he will see us through and heaven awaits us. ‘We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2, New Living Translation).”

“Fast-forwarding is great for skipping television commercials, but it would not be good in real life, even for skipping over the hard moments, because God is in those moments.”

“It’s often difficult to know what to do when our loved ones begin to lose their independence, their health, or their abilities. It is a transition that is never easy or smooth. There is a delicate, impossible-to-find balance between encouraging and pushing, between helping and enabling.”

“Life is best lived in community. She showed me that healing comes as we make ourselves vulnerable and tell our stories…Our stories have the power to become a transforming force in the lives of others.”

“I didn’t expect the sorrow to be laced with beauty. In some ways, it remind me of childbirth…I see my mom being born into heaven.”

“Some people call it grief brain. It feels like your head is stuffed with cotton, and you can’t think clearly…Here’s my explanation for why we can’t think clearly after a tragedy or loss: Part of the brain is processing what happened and another part of the brain is protesting. Amidst this tug-of-war between acceptance and disbelief, there is a whole lot of remembering and mental reorganizing taking place. All of this requires enormous amounts of energy, and it is absolutely exhausting.”

“In pretty much any given moment, if I quiet myself, I can imagine what my mom would say to me. I can still hear her voice and feel her love. Now I know what she was trying to tell me. Her love has become internalized inside my heart, and in a way that means she lives on in my thoughts. It means that she is always with me, in my heart.”

“I don’t think true happiness is found by escaping our everyday lives. I think it’s available and attainable in the mundane, ordinary, less-than-perfect places. I think it’s found by loving God and loving others.”

“Spending time together as a family is one of the best things we can do this side of heaven…loving and accepting one another is the greatest gift we can give, and…together we can make it through anything. We were never meant to walk alone.”

 

When Faith Brings Unexpected Joy to the Cancer Journey

If you’ve had any experience with cancer, you can’t read Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy: What My Mother Taught Me About How to Live and How to Die without feeling the profound weight of grief Becky Baudouin experienced as she walked through the great shadowlands with her mom.

My husband appears to be healthy today, but he’s a survivor of prostate cancer, and once “The Big C” enters your life, it never quite leaves, hanging like a gloomy cloud perceived somewhere at the edges of your peripheral emotional vision. The husband of my dearest friend from childhood is going through chemo treatments right now, so the fear is fresh again in me…the hope for healing…the longing for health…the insecurities about the future…

Becky’s book is like a basic 101 course in dealing with life and death issues!   However, it’s also like taking medicine, so I was very ambivalent about starting. It’s painful to reflect on past losses; it’s even painful to process present challenges! And, it’s downright terrifying to consider possible future worsts while hoping for bests. Therefore, reading Becky’s book was an exercise in faith and hope…hope that faith could bring unexpected joy even in such tragic circumstances as the loss of an irreplaceable loved one.

Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy was truly therapeutic! Becky opens the doors of her heart and takes you on a journey with her through her own childhood, her mom’s illness, grieving the loss of her mother, and coming through the depths of grief back to life. Interwoven throughout the book are some of the treasures she learned from her mother about faith, life and death. The author’s motivation is obvious—she wants you to know that you are not alone in your suffering, that all the crazy stages (such as grief brain) are pretty much universal, and that (as her mom taught her) you don’t have to be afraid of death.

Shining through the weight of grief is the weight of glory. One of my favorite thoughts was this: When we were little, sometimes our mothers would call us home, but we wouldn’t want to stop playing. However, at other times, we would realize how hungry and tired we were and would be glad for the dinner bell! Reflecting on this, Becky writes, “…surrendering in death is accepting God’s timing when he says, ‘It’s time for you to come home now.’ When we live a surrendered life, when we’ve learned to listen to his voice and follow where he leads, we trust him because we believe he loves us and knows what’s best. And hopefully when he calls us, we will realize how hungry we are for heaven, how ready we are to go home.” Amen? Amen. I think that will be the greatest unexpected joy for each of us as we anticipate death! We will see Jesus coming for us, and suddenly, we’ll be overjoyed to go!

Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

Learning to Accept~This is Where I Leave You

(-By guest author, Jane Anderson)

It’s been a while now, but I still remember the effect. My breath caught as I heard the title of a new movie showing in theaters. This Is Where I Leave You.

How often has my mind wandered the void of an empty room, sensed the hollow feeling trailing a wave, felt the finality of a closed door? Have you ever spent time with someone you love, seizing every moment before their journey takes them one direction while yours takes another?  You knew the words were coming but couldn’t bear to hear them, “This is where I leave you.”

If you’re breathing, you know the hopeless feeling of saying goodbye, or maybe you avoid the goodbye, choosing instead the softer, “See ya later.” I recently talked to a friend whose youngest child went off to college leaving her with nobody to drop off or pick up at school, no sporting events claiming every weekday evening and a pretty lonely dinner table. There will be holidays and long weekends, but this season has brought new colors to the landscape – not the colors she is ready for.

Four years ago when my grandson joined the Marines we said goodbye to him as he left for 13 weeks of Basic Training. He insisted on no tears and we bravely complied … up until he said, “Well, this is where I leave you.” There are too many events in our life where the only option demands a deep breath and courageous goodbye. Our lives occur in such a blur that looking back we see short vignettes of what used to be. We preserve snatches of remembrances as a salve to soothe our aching hearts in moments when we feel regrettable loss. Life happens when we aren’t looking and we call it memory. We would be wise to honor our present moments and continually ask ourselves, “How do I want to remember this moment?”  Sometimes it isn’t goodbye that rocks our world, but it’s our habits, lifestyle, and what we are accustomed to. Change is inevitable, isn’t it? Just when we feel comfortable, when we seem to be on the right track, at the time we’re most confident and we’ve achieved consistency in our routines – something changes! We can dread change. We can even be afraid of change because we know how it feels. Routine is comfortable, it means stability.  God gives us some insight into how futile it is to dwell on fear of change. One observation is shared in Lamentations 3:19, “Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable.” You know? Life is filled with ups and downs, good and bad, gain and loss. Yes, there is also the dreaded goodbyes. But we choose our attitudes. We can be miserable or we can choose to believe what God said in 1 Samuel 12:22, “The Lord has chosen you to be his own people. He will always take care of you so that everyone will know how great he is.”   We all know someone who has been through change after change in their life yet their faith has not faltered. We admire people who have suffered through fire and emerge with their joy intact. Faced with changes and an uncertain future, what separates the joyful from the joyless? Maybe it starts with believing that change is neither good nor bad, it’s only different. Then deepen your faith and believe that God keeps his promises. Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

Life is a contact sport and sometimes we really get beat up. Sometimes tightly gripping what we had in the past only creates defeat in our present and trouble in our future. We need to let go – to relinquish what was. We need to say, “This is where I leave you.” Believe the words of Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

New perspectives don’t magically materialize, nor do problems evaporate. There will always be changes we disagree with, challenges we can’t wish away.  Our tender hearts will be broken by the dreaded goodbye; we will lose parts of us we know we can’t live without, but in these times we must trust in the God that is bigger than all our terrifying problems and wider than the hollow left vacant by changes we didn’t want.  I’ve heard that the Bible commands 365 times to “Fear not.” That’s a command, not a suggestion. We know from 2 Timothy 1:7 that “God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” God didn’t give us a fear of failing, or fear of change, or fear of loss. Be courageous. Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.

 So this is where I leave you.

2 Corinthians 13:11, “Good-by, my friends. Do better and pay attention to what I have said. Try to get along and live peacefully with each other. Now I pray that God, who gives love and peace, will be with you” (Contemporary English Version).

(Amen, and thank you, Jane!)