Tag Archives: loss

Monday Morning Moment – Healing from Sorrow and Grief – with Adam Young, Francis Weller, Curt Thompson, & Jesus

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Allume

So much sorrow and grief in the world…if you clicked on this blog at all, with such a sober title, then you are facing what is true for you, and for all of us.

Take a moment more and let’s sit together over this. Or if you have 2-3 friends or family members you deeply trust, gather them for a talk that will begin the healing of both a current grief or a distant sorrow. Losses, whatever they are, endure in our minds and bodies. If we leave them unshared, we still attend to them, either by the work of keeping them buried or by numbing them with the aid of our idols or addictions.

“When I stopped trying to block my sadness and let it move me instead, it led me to a bridge with people on the other side.” … I learned that sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that.”Barbara Brown Taylor

When you think about a sorrow, grief, or loss in your own life (current or past), what comes to mind? Something always comes. We are all experiencing a global sorrow in the war brewing in the Middle East. Here in my town, a young widow and an older one are daily finding their way forward through grief. For you, maybe it is a past loss of great import…or even one you think is only important to you. If it’s important to you, it matters to those who care about you. We self-edit and compare our sorrows, but they stay strong and real in our own life experience.

What can we do to heal the ache of these sadnesses? To refuse to isolate ourselves and our losses from community? To experience hope again?

Just today I came across the incredibly helpful series of podcasts on sorrow and grief by the therapist Adam Young.

How to Heal from Sorrow and Grief – Part 1 of 5 – Adam Young Counseling – Podcasts 132-124, 137, & 138

Adam Young describes the four conditions needed to allow us to work with sorrow and grief:

  1. We own that our sorrows and griefs matter and should be taken seriously.
  2. We need to gradually move from a posture of contempt toward our sorrow and grief to a posture of compassion and kindness and welcome.
  3. We need to find a few people who can be the village for us… allowing us to risk sharing our sorrow and grief with other people.
  4. We need to move our bodies in a way that allows for the integration and release of our sorrow and grief. Adam Young

We can be very hard on ourselves regarding our sorrow and grief, because somehow we think we should get over it or not care so much or ___________________________ (fill in the blank). Even when we push our grief into the deep interior of our minds, or we try to forget through our “drugs” of choice, it is present. Closer to the surface than we imagine.

Photo Credit: Francis Weller, Pilates Embodied, Pinterest

In the above podcasts, Adam Young quotes psychotherapist Francis Weller extensively, which is a huge help for those of us who have yet to read Weller’s book The Wild Edge of Sorrow. Weller emphasizes the impact of grief over time, on our minds and bodies and relationships. He encourages community as the place, or people with whom, to release our sorrow.

Francis Weller Quotes from his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

I’ve been reading The Deepest Place by Dr. Curt Thompson (the fourth book he has written and the fourth book of his I have devoured!). Thompson talks about the common nature of suffering in all our lives. Once we embrace that fact, then we can be more open and honest with “villages” of people who are there for us…and we for them. This has been so healing for me as I’ve opened up about my own sadness regarding the rupture of my extended family and the pain we have all suffered from it.

A group of us just today were hearing an update from a friend who has endured through a chronic illness for which her doctors have found no solution…yet. She is tired and struggling. Reading Thompson’s chapter on perseverance reminded me of her ordeal. Her faith in God and her determination to keep open and close to her community have given us all hope that the future will be brighter for her…and we will be there with her for it.

Healing from Trauma: the Power of “Being With” – Parts 1 & 2 (Podcasts episodes 141-142) – With Curt Thompson MD and Adam Young

That new landscape that C. S. Lewis talks about (in first image above)? It’s one we have the privilege of seeing together when we show up for one another…especially in sorrow and grief.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Being Known Podcast – Season 7 – Confessional Communities – Curt Thompson MD

Monday Morning Moment – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Photo Credit: Vanhercke Christiaan, Geograph

[Adapted from the Archives]

Yesterday was Father’s Day with all the sweet and hard of such a day depending on your situation.

Photo Credit: Refuge in Grief

Today is Juneteenth – a huge day in American history that I never learned about until the last few years. Our Daily Bread Voices has provided an incredible documentary on Juneteenth – beautiful and redeeming.

This morning, rolling out of bed, I have so many thoughts pinging around my mind…thoughts and accompanying emotions. Missing fathers from our lives. A young woman with three small children facing eviction because of a father who abused and then deserted them. Afghan refugees and friends sorting through their own losses and fighting to build their lives here. Taking in the intensity of Juneteenth and the experience of freedom for all of us.

As happens sometimes, a simple song, and the not-so-simple question in its title, settles in my brain.

“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”

Whether the Bee Gee’s epic original or Al Green’s amazing cover. Here’s a more recent Bee Gee’s performance (2001):

The Bee Gees, Al Green, and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” – Alyson

Even when our hearts are not presently under attack, we share space with those we love whose hearts are breaking. A dear friend whose husband wants another future. A friend who spent his Father’s Day without his children (because his ex-wife chose a different future). Friends who lost their fathers before this Father’s Day…or parents who lost their children (whether to death or to an estranged life). Friends heartbroken over the what-ifs or what-may-never-be’s.  Fill in the blank with your own. #BrokenHearts.

[Too heavy for a Monday morning? It does get better.]

Maybe you aren’t so aware of broken hearts. Maybe you haven’t had the experience of sitting on the phone of a friend scream-weeping at the hard reality of her life right now. Maybe you haven’t worked beside a friend whose stone face and deep quiet haven’t touched your awareness of what is going on under the surface of his silence…his pain.

Broken hearts can take us on spirals that lead to self-protective withdrawal, confused anger, terrifying isolation, or hard bitterness.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Or we can heal.

One of the best TED talks I have ever heard is on “How to Fix a Broken Heart” with psychologist Dr. Guy Winch. Check out its 12 minutes of wisdom and helps.

I also found some helps in a somewhat odd place: Kristin Weber‘s Adulting for Jesus. Whatever you currently think about Jesus, this book on adulting is refreshing, funny sometimes, and so real. Midway of the book she talks about developing something she calls Godly grit.

“Adulting requires learning how to fall and get back up again, and again, and again.” – Adulting for Jesus, p. 89

Weber presents 10 ways to shift perspective on the struggle (our heartbreak) and develop that grit:

  • Expect hardship.“Western comforts have lulled us into the false assumption that life is meant to be easy and the hard moments few. In reality, much of life is hard, and the easy moments are the exceptions.”  We can learn to live in such a way that difficult situations/relationships don’t catch us off guard.
  • Depend on God.  “…when a relationship [ends] abruptly, failure hurts – often deeply. We can be honest about our hurt and struggles while still trusting God.” We don’t ignore the pain of our broken heart, but we recognize that God hasn’t gone anywhere. He sees; He hears; He will work on our behalf.
  • Ask “What’s Next?”“Rather than ask ‘Why me?’…ask a different question about life: ‘What’s next?’ Obstacles, especially a long string of them, can make us short-sighted. By asking ‘What’s next?’ we recognize this failure or hardship isn’t the end of our story…Hardships will undoubtably change you, but keeping a long-term perspective will prevent them from destroying you.”
  • Look at Adversity through Eternal Lenses.“As a child of God your trials, both big and small, have an expiration date.” When our hearts are broken, we are consumed and exhausted by our loss. We can’t see down the road but so far. “Do the next thing”. Eternity comes but until then we grieve the loss, but we also train ourselves to stay in the moment and hope for a better future…a different future. We have that confidence in God’s care.
  • Appreciate the Bottom. “A lot can be learned on the bottom step of the ladder”. Our broken hearts can bring us low…but that is not where we stay. That is not where we belong.
  • Develop Thick Skin and a Tender Heart.“Try to be slow in getting offended and quick in extending grace. If someone causes you to have a knee-jerk reaction, that person controls you. That person has all the power…Choosing a calm response and keeping a level head, you remain free to live your life.”
  • Be Teachable.“Though we don’t need to let the opinions and critiques of everyone we encounter control our lives, we do need people who can lovingly speak truth into our lives…Our natural instinct is to make excuses or get defensive when someone corrects us, but adopting an attitude of teachability puts us on the track to growth and maturity. We need to take ownership of our actions and be humble enough to receive input about where we can improve.”
  • Do Something.“Big changes happen through tiny actions, and tiny actions require doing something.” Every day…step by step. #MakeYourBed.
  • Laugh. “Once I learned to laugh at myself and find humor in situations that didn’t tip in my favor, I became less stressed and anxious about every little thing. I didn’t dread life or failure as much…Our hope isn’t ultimately in everything going our way, and humor keeps the weight of our circumstances from crushing us.”
  • Count Your Blessings.“Instead of focusing constantly on everything that’s going wrong, take time each day to remember what’s going right. We might find our ‘gratitude attitude’ changes our entire outlook on life.”

Thanks, Kristin. I can tell you’ve known heartbreak and have learned to come out whole on the other side.

Closing out this Monday Morning Moment, for those of us who are sharing space with one or many dealing with broken hearts, we need to remember its pain, and have patience and compassion…be present, listen, and, when we can, speak the truth in love.

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Lanny Henninger

P.S. The Scripture verses are strong anchors and the links below are super helpful. None of us are in these broken spaces alone.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.Psalm 73:26

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

“I have chosen you and haven’t rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:9b-10

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28-30

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – the Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson, Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Avalon – Deb Mills

4 Bible Secrets to Heal a Broken Heart – Dudley Rutherford – really excellent and rapid read.

How to Heal a Broken Heart – Cecil Maranville – another excellent read (also from a Biblical standpoint)

How Can I Recover From Heartbreak? – GotQuestions – another.

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Go Rest High on That Mountain – Vince Gill

Photo Credit: Emilys Quotes

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you.Philippians 1:3

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.”Isaiah 49:15-16

“I can forgive, but I can’t forget”. We’ve all heard it, and maybe we’ve even said it. Forgetting is a tricky business. Too often we remember and keep the wounds open when forgetting could pave the road to healing. What if we decided not to forget, BUT chose to not forget that which is best remembered.

The offense can be taken down a notch if we remember the offender is a real person with terrible failings and maybe even regrets…maybe like me. Flesh and blood. Needing a savior just like I do.

I can forget details of an offense in the remembering of a person who mattered…to God, and to me.

Remembering people who are no longer in our lives is a beautiful thing. None were perfect but some came close in the sacrificial way they loved and the authentic way they lived. They may have failed us at times, but we will do the same to our children and grandchildren. Hopefully they will remember us kindly one day. I want to lead by example in remembering those who made a difference in my life.

What brought this to mind for me this week? A young woman, 21-year-old Megan Danielle, powerfully belting out a country song, the performance of which she dedicated to her late grandfather.

American Idol is a dazzling reality TV show, bringing incredibly talented young people from small-town obscurity into the spotlight of mainstream entertainment. It’s a competition over several weeks where contestants are coached and groomed for stardom. Megan, as of this week, is in the Top 8 of the contestants. I had never heard the song “Go Rest High on That Mountain” until she sang it for America’s vote.

So beautiful. For Megan, it was for her grandfather. As I listened to her performance, precious ones now gone came to mind. In recent years, we have lost several friends, colleagues, and family members. Twenty years back, we lost Mom. She did not have an easy life, but she reflected a life surrendered to God and was always willing to forgive and to show mercy. The last three years of her life were spent dealing with a rentless cancer and treatment that failed, but that was a darkness that did nothing to quench the light of her beautiful life. I am so thankful to be her daughter. I am also thankful she has entered her rest, but I want to remember her until the day we see each other again.

Thankfully not a day goes by that Mom doesn’t come to mind. Every. Single. Day. That is something I rejoice over. She was an incredible grace from God to her children.

Who’s that grace in your life? They may have failings…they may not even be in your life right now…but you know in your heart of hearts that you are known and loved by that person…as imperfect as the relationship may be. Remember. Be reconciled if possible. We have the exquisite witness of a loving God who remembers us…who knows us by name…He will never forget we belong to Him.

Worship with me to this beautiful Vince Gill song…as we remember those glorious souls who went before us.

[Verse 1]
I know your life on earth was troubled
And only you could know the pain
You weren’t afraid to face the devil
You were no stranger to the rain

[Chorus]
So go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son

[Verse 2]
Oh, how we cried the day you left us
We gathered round your grave to grieve
Wish I could see the angels faces
When they hear your sweet voice sing

[Chorus]
So go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son

[Verse 3]
You’re safely home in the arms of Jesus
Eternal life, my brother’s found
The day will come, I know I’ll see you
That sacred place on that Holy ground

[Chorus]
Go rest high on that mountain
‘Cause son, your work on earth is done
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son

[Outro]
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son*

*Lyrics to Go Rest High on That Mountain – Songwriter: Vince Gill

YouTube Video – Vince Gill Drops Devastating New ‘Go Rest High On That Mountain‘ Lyrics

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

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Photo Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

This is the morning of exhausted grief. Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Sent One; His Only Son lay dead in a tomb. Dead. How is this possible?

The disciples, his family, those followers whose lives were transformed must have been numb with the stark reality that he was not with them…not on that Saturday. What would they do without him? What would happen to them? What? What? What?

There is only one scriptural reference to this day and it related to the threat of Jesus’ power and influence, even in death:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard. – Matthew 27:62-66

Because for the Jews, days begin and end at sundown, most probably this visit with Pilate occurred Friday night. At his command, guards were placed. The tomb was sealed. Jesus would be no more trouble….

He is dead: this man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With His dying breaths, He spoke words of forgiveness, finality, and faith.

But now the breathing has ceased, and the lungs that exhaled forgiveness are deflated. My Jesus – dead.* – Trevin Wax

Read the rest of his poem here.

[Inserting here a talk done on Good Friday by a friend of ours – on the cross – fitting for today – then after her talk, I will close on Black Saturday.]

“What does the cross change?

“Everything” is perhaps our knee jerk reaction. The cross changes everything. But that can’t be right when we worship an unchanging God. God did not change at the cross. He was perfectly just before the cross and remains perfectly just today and will be perfectly just forever. He was perfectly loving before the cross, he remains perfectly loving, and he will be perfectly loving forever. He was sovereign, is sovereign, and will be sovereign forever. God did not change at the cross. 

I think to see what changed we have to go back much earlier than Jesus’ lifetime. We have to go back to Eden. God created a perfect garden with a man and a woman and plants and animals. It was an oasis, idyllic, peaceful. And by peaceful I don’t mean free from worry or stress. I mean the hearts of Adam and Eve were at peace with God. It’s hard to imagine that. Hard to imagine no shame, fear, uncertainty. Hard to imagine walking and talking with God, completely vulnerable, knowing you were free from any sort of culpability. Adam and Eve were at peace with God, each other, and themselves.

Then they went to war with God. And each of us makes that same decision, to go to war with God, to sin against him and against our nature as image-bearers. We do not choose peace or freedom, we choose war and shame, darkness and loneliness. When I say war I mean we declare that there must be bloodshed. There must be death. Sin is a declaration that we will not live as God intended. God intended perfect peace. He intended that we all walk with Him, unashamed, in the light. We sin and we disrupt that plan. We may not desire the outcome of that sin, which is death, but the outcome is unavoidable.

So Adam and Eve sinned and that perfect peace was shattered and the cross became inevitable. As we read through the Old Testament, the cross feels like it’s in every story. We see God using men and women to foreshadow what is to come, the perfect prophet, priest, judge, shepherd, and king. We read the Old Testament and we see all the plans God set in motion to reach the cross. What we see also is imperfection. Imperfect prophets, judges, shepherds, and kings. Imperfect sacrifices leading to imperfect relationships. God is with His people but they cannot be at peace with him like they were in the Garden. 

So, does the cross take us backward, to Eden? No. There’s no going back to Eden. That’s not the plan. 

The cross is the culmination of the battle that started in Eden. We declared war in the garden and Jesus Christ declared victory at the cross. Oh death, where is your sting? We can ask that because the battle is over. Jesus Christ conquered death and we who believe have the promise of eternal life, starting today.

It’s strange though. It doesn’t feel over. I don’t feel at peace. Not with God, or others, or myself. It feels like the battle is very much ongoing and it often feels like I’m losing. So, what has the cross really changed?

I’m reminded of my favorite passage in the Bible, which is where Jesus is walking on water and Peter calls out to Him and Jesus says come. It’s an amazing story in so many ways but I’m always struck by the fact that Peter sinks and, it seems, is going to drown. Even with Jesus standing right there, standing on water exhibiting power over nature, declaring he is God, Peter is sinking under the waves. Jesus saves him, of course. But I imagine Peter, while grateful, was a bit unnerved by the sinking part. I’m reminded of this story because the reality of this Earth is that, while God is sovereign and He has won the battle over death, we do not live in Eden. We do not live in the new heaven and new Earth. We are waiting for Jesus Christ to return and while we wait, we will struggle. We’ll perhaps almost drown as we try to walk with God. But because of the cross, we will walk as freely as Adam and Eve walked with God. Death no longer has a hold on us.

So, we have victory over death because of the cross, which is our hope for the future. But what do we cling to in this daily battle? What else does the cross give us today?

I’d like to talk about just one thing. 

When God looked at His Son, He was pleased. It’s such an amazing thought. That God looked from heaven at a man and was pleased. Picture it. Jesus is a man on Earth and God looks at him and addresses him and says He is pleased with him. That’s what the cross changes for us. When God looks at you who believe, He does not see your sin, He sees Christ’s holiness. He sees you, an individual He created in your mother’s womb whom He has loved from the beginning of time. But instead of your sin, He sees Christ’s holinesses. And He says, this is my daughter, in whom I am well pleased. This is my son, in whom I am well pleased. Imagine it. The sight of you pleases God. The cross means that we no longer have a broken and distorted relationship with God because we, unlike any person living before the cross, are holy in God’s eyes. No matter how putrid our sin is, no matter how many times we have declared war with God, for those who believe and repent, we can walk in the light, free from the burden of our sin. Like Adam and Eve, we walk with God in peace. Like Jesus, God looks at us and is pleased. I pray you can feel that today. Feel that God knows you, knows your name and your face and sees you and is as pleased to see you as He is to see His own Son. Not because you’re obedient or you are bursting with the fruit of the spirit. To believe that your good deeds can make up for putting Jesus Christ on the cross with your sin is folly. Our sin led to the death of God’s one and only begotten Son. We cannot make up for that with our good behavior. To try and do so is to deny Christ’s sacrifice. 

The cross takes that burden away and replaces it with freedom. We are free to walk in peace with God and to know and feel that God is pleased with us because of the cross.

So what does the cross change? Us.” – Amanda, Good Friday reading, Sideris Church

We have the great knowledge of the risen Christ, but his followers, on that Saturday, only had dim recollection of his words of promise. Shrouded in grief, they found themselves quite “in between” – in between the death of their Savior and the life of his glorious promises.

Another dear friend of ours, Beth, shared this message by John Ortberg from a conference where he spoke on Black Saturday, well, “Saturdays” in general. He describes so well this day in between.

“Saturday – the day between the crucifixion and the resurrection. What do you think the disciples were doing on Saturday? Here they have seen their friend and their Master killed the day before but also have this vague promise, which probably seemed ludicrous at the time that he would rise again. Most of life is Saturday…It`s waiting in faith and hanging onto the promise that God is going to come through for us in spite of how bad things look. Most of life is Saturday. — I don`t know where you are this Holy Week. Maybe you`re in a Palm Sunday kind of mood wanting God to get on board with an agenda and maybe he will, but if he doesn’t, know that his plans are always good…Maundy Thursday means that God loves us no matter how dirty our uniform gets from the game of life. Maybe you`re in a Saturday kind of place – between a hard time and a promise you only half believe. Know this for sure that God`s Easter irony is still at work, and he can use even the worst tragedies for good, and he always has at least one more move left. No matter how bleak and dark Saturday gets, Sunday`s coming, and it`s coming sooner than you think. “John Ortberg

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Blog-Garden-Tomb-from-imb.org-Holy-Week-Black-Saturday.jpgPhoto Credit: IMB Resources

Saturday is the “in between day”. Did those who loved Jesus most remember this? Was their grief so consuming, so deafening to His promises, so numbing there was no room for hope? We have the great experience of knowing, for sure, that Sunday is coming!

Today is the waiting day.

We wait like schoolchildren for the final bell.

We wait with tapping foot, huffing breath, rolling eyes.

We wait like a mother for the gushing of birth water.

We wait like branches holding pink petaled secrets.

We wait with tears of frustration or eyes filled with anger.

We wait with tears of joy or eyes wide with wonder.

In the waiting rooms of life, our hope is mixed, our longings more so. But still, we wait. Forgive us for our impatience, Lord. We believe, help our unbelief.

We carry the sorrow of loss even as we hold on to hope of gain. We watch and we wait for your resurrection life. Even though we may not see the evidence, we wait with hope.

Because today is the waiting day.  Emily P. Freeman

The Day Jesus Stayed Dead – Waiting in the Heartache of Holy Saturday – Gerrit Scott Dawson, Desiring God

YouTube Video of John Ortberg on “Saturdays” – American Association of Christian Counselors Conference, October 2011 – So good!!! (starting 5 minutes in)

*My Jesus – Dead by Trevin Wax

On This Holy Saturday: Here at the End of All Things (Triduum Series) – Tea with Tolkien

YouTube Video – Jesus Paid It All (lyric video) – Fernando Ortega

YouTube Video – How Deep the Father’s Love For Us written by Stuart Townend – with David Wesley

YouTube Video with lyrics – In Christ Alone  written by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

P.S. All the days of Holy Week are described in my posts below.

Photo Credit: Knox United Vancouver

Palm Sunday – Day 1 of Holy Week – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross

Photo Credit: Fig Tree by Bob Orchard

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Photo Credit – slidesharecdn.com

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Photo Credit: Baptist Press

Worship Wednesday – Jesus & Holy Week – Day 4 – A Day of Quiet Before the Storm – & We Worship

Photo Credit – Baptist Press – Courtesy of DeMoss News Pond

Jesus and Holy Week – Thursday, Day 5 – Passover Celebration and His Last Supper Before the Cross

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Photo Credit: GoodFridayQuotes2015.com

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 6 – Good Friday – His Trial, Crucifixion, & Burial

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Photo Credit: Catholiclane.com – Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

Jesus and Holy Week – Day 7 – Black Saturday – the Silent Tomb

Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

Resurrection Sunday of Holy Week – Day 8 – Risen, Indeed! Thank You, Jesus!

Worship Wednesday – Stand Firm – for We Are “Almost Home” – Matt Papa, Matt Boswell, & MercyMe

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.1 Corinthians 15:58

Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand. Stand firm then…Ephesians 6:13-14a

My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber.Psalm 121:2-3

Stand firm. So what if the ground seems to tremble underneath our feet?

We have the great witness of the earth shaking (Matthew 27:50-51) on the dark day when Jesus died, for us, on that lonely cross. The earth shook again three days later (Matthew 28:2) – as the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb revealed it empty – a dead teacher now a risen Savior.

Clearly, there is a shaking going on right now, all around us. We can’t explain it away…nor can we be sure the meaning of it theologically. The mind and intention of God are beyond our human understanding. However, we know for sure that He is good and His love surpasses anything we can understand this side of Heaven.

Therefore, we stand firm. With hope, extending comfort, and showing His love as opportunity arises (which is a fairly constant experience). As His people, God means for us to ever come alongside.Photo Credit: Heartlight, George Swinnock

In Curt Thompson‘s book The Soul of Desire, the chapter “Trauma and Shame” reveals a word of wisdom for this time we find ourselves:

“Everywhere we turn the world appears to be enduring pathos without end…We know this not just because others “out there” are encountering pain or foisting it upon us: we carry it in the center of our own souls, and it courses through our own bodies…Perhaps this is why the Old Testament prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel are so full of words of warning and judgment while offering, by sheer number, far fewer words of comfort and hope.”

Thompson goes on to explore how our thinking strays from the beauty God intended for us to create in this world and fixes onto analyzing, judging, and processing what’s going on around us. Rather than being attuned “to the present moment and being open to creating with God whatever may be in front of me”, we struggle with “the anxiety of the future or the regret of the past”.

As we ruminate on the losses of the past and a dread of the future, Thompson reminds us: God is literally in the middle of all places and events, not least those that are the most appalling, debilitating, and anguishing; he is never away from us but always willing and working (Philippians 2:13) to use even our most painful experiences to create beauty in the context of vulnerable community, the likes of which we are otherwise unable to imagine.”

In the last page of the above chapter, we are called to remember that we are an Easter people. For our sinful sakes, God provided a substitution for us – a Savior – to shake up eternity for us – in this life and the next.

What are we to do? We are to stand firm. To stay at the plow. To keep our eyes fixed on Him. To flourish in community. To hold fast to hope. To comfort in word and deed. To rest in the Lord…always.

“In this scene set in shadows
Like the night is here to stay,
There is evil cast around us
but, it’s Love that wrote the play.
…In this darkness Love can show the way.”David Wilcox

For the truth of the matter is we are almost home. The struggle won’t last forever. In fact, the battle belongs to the Lord. Period. Full stop.

Worship with me (Matt Papa‘s and Matt Boswell‘s Almost Home).

…and with another – MercyMe‘s Almost Home.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off every encumbrance and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with endurance the race set out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

MercyMe Share the Heartwarming Story Behind the Little Astronaut in Their ‘Almost Home’ Video – Deborah Evans Price

YouTube Video – On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand – Michael W. Smith

YouTube Video – Firm Foundation (He Won’t) [feat. Chandler Moore & Cody Carnes/Maverick City Music/TRIBL

YouTube Video – A Mighty Fortress Is Our God – Matt Boswell

Photo Credit: Fitting Farewell, Pinterest, Henry Van Dyke

5 Friday Faves – Life Without Forgiveness, the Power of Words, the CALM Superpower, COVID Close to Home, and the 20th Anniversary of 9/11

Here we go!

1) Life Without Forgiveness – An article on  life without forgiveness by Dave Burchett got me thinking even more about forgiveness. I’m in a study on Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa Terkeurst. Writing about it, too.

Life without forgiveness sounds truly awful. We imprison ourselves to the past and drag it into our present day and future with treasured grudges. Grudges we feel we can’t afford to lay down. They become part of our identity and how people relate to us – either protecting, justifying, or, at times, “returning evil for evil”.

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy, William Arthur Ward

We have the power to release ourselves and all these entrapped with us…through forgiveness. We need God to help us, for sure. We however must make the decision to forgive. Pretending to do so while hatred gains strength in our hearts is a delusion. God help us.

Here’s a bit of what Dave Burchett says in his article (read the whole here):

“There is no way I have found to release grudges without the healing power of forgiveness. Author Will Davis wrote this powerful insight.

‘Once you decide to forgive, you initiate the healing process. Forgiveness gives your soul permission to move on to the higher and healthier ground of emotional recovery. Forgiveness is to your soul what antibiotics are to infection. It is the curative agent that will help to fully restore your soul. It doesn’t immediately remove the pain of offense but it does start you on the road to recovery.’

I really like that perspective. The decision to forgive initiates but does not complete our healing. You will, in time, heal. I am asking you to pray that you can begin the healing process of forgiveness knowing that only time and God’s mercy can fully heal. That will start you down that road to forgiveness and empowerment to let go of the grudges that are weighing you down. You won’t get there today or tomorrow. But you will never get there without taking the first step of faith.” – Dave Burchett

Photo Credit: Spark People

Burchett refers to the song “Without Forgiveness” by Jerry Salley. Here’s a sweet cover by Jason Davidson:

2) The Power of Words – Words mean things. In fact, they are more powerful than we can imagine. Author, speaker Jackie Hill Perry has referred to a poem which says “Words make worlds”. Now I haven’t been able to find that poem, BUT I have read Genesis 1-3 with the account of God speaking the world into existence.

Photo Credit: Lidia Yuknavitch, @Seek5, Pinterest

Perry spoke on the power of words at a women’s conference. She used the text of the Apostle James’ epistle. James 3. This passage focuses on the influence of the tongue. She elaborated on three points:

  • The tongue is accountable. [We are responsible for our use of words. When we have torn down instead of building up, we will experience consequences. It does not go unheeded.]
  • The tongue is powerful. [We must control our tongues…what we say. Self-control has a wide reach, especially starting with “restraining our speech”. Words can hurt, but they can also heal.]
  • The tongue is inconsistent. [We say one thing to one person and turn around and say another thing to someone else. We may bless God and then curse a neighbor, made in the image of God. Perry talks about the huge disconnect when we speak with reverence of God but with contempt or disdain toward another human being. Words can be a “restless evil”. Pay attention. Are others’ names and personhoods safe on our lips?]

Listen to this fascinating and charged talk by Jackie Hill Perry.

Words Create Worlds – The Language We Use Shapes the Culture We Lead – Eric Geiger

3) The CALM Superpower – Author, leadership trainer Carey Nieuwhof recently interviewed psychologist Jennifer Kolari on his podcast. She spoke on dealing with irrational people, and, in fact, any situation of conflict. I learned so much.

[I’ve written about the brain, decision-making, and dealing with crisis many times. Such fascinating issues!]

Dr. Kolari introduced her CALM technique of dealing with conflict (including helping children in conflict with you or others). In brief, “the CALM method is a way of deep listening using language, compassion and empathy literally as medicine. It will soothe and calm AND bring both participants in the conversation into brain-heart coherence.”

Here’s a brief outline of the framework:
C – CONNECT – connect before correcting; deeply listen; give the sense that you are “for them”.
A – AFFECT – match the affect of the person in front of you; don’t say how the other person SHOULD feel; show understanding.
L – LISTEN – deeply; take that affect above into what you’re hearing; wonder at it; choose your responses based on what is being said to you, including the emotion. Respond not react.
M – MIRROR – allow what’s going on with the person to “hit you right in the heart”. Be in the moment with them/him/her. We do this with babies intuitively. Communicate with your face and body even more than with words.

Listen to the podcast. Check out the resources below. We too often go to correction, with other adults and definitely with children, when they need connection first…and maybe only.

Connect With Your Kids Using the CALM Technique

YouTube Video – Jennifer Kolari – The CALM Technique and Child Brain Development – really fascinating and informative

YouTube Video – The CALM Technique for Babies and Toddlers

4) COVID Close to Home – I’m not saying much here, but COVID has hit very close to home this week. I have friends and family with COVID. Check your thoughts if you’re going straight to “oh…not vaccinated”. Not so in every situation. People who did everything “right” – vaccination, mitigation, all the preventions – can still get COVID. The graphic below is updated often and is super helpful.

Photo Credit: Wesleyan College

The most important points in this conversation are these:

  • COVID is real and we will have to deal with it for some time (not at a pandemic level forever but definitely as endemic).
  • Everyone has to make personal decisions on how to prevent and treat it. To not make a decision is to make a dangerous decision. I’m not saying what to do (enough people are telling us what to do), BUT I am saying to think through our risks and that of those around us, and make informed decisions.
  • Be prepared. You don’t want to start searching out what to do to lessen the impact of COVID when you are already sick.
  • Test early. Even if it might be something else. Testing early helps you and all those who may come in contact with you (if it turns out you test positive.

The pieces below are actually not in support of one methodology or another. In fact, they expose the hard decision-making needed in determining how to act with the threat of COVID. We can depend on (or react against) mandates from government, or we can make the best possible decision we can, given the information we receive.

By the way, my friends and family members are all on the mend… except for one. On a ventilator, with family called in. We are praying still. This is why we can’t be cavalier with our decisions.

Let’s Stop Pretending About the COVID-19 Vaccines – Buzz Hollander, MD

Impact of Masking – Twitter thread – Buzz Hollander MD

FDA Vaccine Regulators Argue Against COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters in New International Review – Andrew Joseph

5) 20th Anniversary of 9/11 – Part of why Friday Faves is coming out on Monday is because I’ve spent an enormous amount of time this week watching, reading, and listening to stories about 9/11. It’s the 20th anniversary of the bombings.

In the twenty years that have passed since 2001, our country has changed so much. We are divided in really unhealthy ways. On that day…for awhile, we came together. We may have had very conflicted views on what happened after (Iraqi War, immigration issues, and the long engagement in Afghanistan). Whatever our opinions are on these, the stories of that day are so worthy of our time and attention.

Photo Credit: Beth Wayland

One of the most beautiful pieces I read this past week was by writer Jennifer Senior for the Atlantic. It was really long, but she did justice to the loss and grief of just this one family. 27 y/o Bobby McIlvaine died that day at the bottom of the World Trade Center. Son, brother, friend, fiancé. His was just one of thousands of stories that day…it matters and it also reflects the many other stories that we don’t know.

The two videos below speak to the day after September 11, 2001 and to the day 20 years later. Take the time…

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.” – Naomi Shihab Nye

___________________________________________________________________________

Bonuses:

Community – “Every arrow needs a bow: William Wilberforce” — the power of community. If Wilberforce was the arrow that pierced the heart of the slave trade, the Clapham Fellowship was the bow that propelled him. As Pollock writes, “Wilberforce proves that one man can change his times, but he cannot do it alone.” The Clapham fellowship lived by Wesley’s maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” And this was no mere slogan: tensions developed in their relationship that would have splintered most associations, even Christian associations, had they not been so radically centered on Christ.” — “Every Arrow Needs a Bow,” by John Hart, CHRISTIANITY TODAY, July 1998 [This was a quote in my folder of quotes; I can’t find the source online today, but it rings even more true now.]

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar, Twitter

This Is What Happens to Your Brain When You Declutter Your Home – Kelsey Clark

“If we major in criticism, we become polemicists, rather than agents of redemption. Often polemicists excuse their loveless rough edges by the demands of truth. But they lose more than they realize. In fact, when love and the growth of positive truth are lost, truth is also lost. Biblical truth loses its scope, balance, depth, applicability, savor, and growing edge [in this disordered priority]. … Words that are not constructive, timely, and grace-giving are rotten and non-nutritive, whatever their formal likeness to Christian content (Eph 4:29). To lose charity, tenderheartedness, sympathy, and generosity is always to simultaneously pervert the redemptive nature of biblical revelation. Narrowed “truth” may bristle enough to defend one city wall, but it is not good enough to conquer the world.” – David Powlison’s “Cure of Souls” (2007)
Recipe for a Quick and Easy Cherry Cobbler – my husband’s favorite
Photo Credit: Lena Vo, Facebook

 

8 Ways to Build a Strong Foundation for Your Kids – Frank Sonnenberg

Remembering 9/11 – 20 years Later – and the Day Before – a Story about God and a Girl

Genessa (l) and April, Cairo, Egypt

[From the Archives – “Remember 9/11 – and the Day Before – a Story of God and a Girl”]

Today marks the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient, walked into the elevator. His face strained (me thinking it related to the patient with me). Then he said, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that had traveled instantly from the States about the 9/11 bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.

It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday of 9/10, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.

Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.

When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.

Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.

Dave, our Egyptian friend, and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Genessa-with-team1.jpg

As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God, in His great goodness, alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.

She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.

Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.

That was 20 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US and to other work.

Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. Toward the end of the song you can hear Genessa’s tears in her voice, singing to the Lord. We would sometimes have the opportunity of being in the room when Genessa led worship in those days. She couldn’t hold the tears back. So in a space just God and her.

If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.

This God…and this girl.  Genessa

 I Long for the Day by Dennis Jernigan

I long for the day when the Lord comes and takes me away!

Whether by death or if You come for me on a horse so white

And anyway You come will be alright with me

I long to just hear You said, “Now is the time. Won’t you come away?”

And I’ll take Your hand, surrendering completely to You that day!

And no, I can’t contain the joy that day will bring!

Chorus:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment I’ll be celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

O Lord, while I wait, I will cling to each word that You say.

So speak to my heart; Your voice is life to me, be it night or day.

And anything You say will be alright with me.

You see my heart’s greatest need

You and me, walking intimately.

You’re my only love, and I am waiting patiently for Your call.

When You call me to Your side eternally.

(Chorus Repeat)

Lord, I celebrate You!

Forever with You! No crying there.

Forever with You! No burden; no more worldly cares.

My heart is anticipating eternally with you celebrating You!

Forever with You I long to be;

Forever worshipping, knowing You intimately!

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

I’ll spend forever just celebrating You.

I’ll see all my loved ones gone before

I’ll get to be with them, laugh with them, hold them once more

There’ll be no more separating! [No separating]

Together we will be celebrating You!

Together we’ll worship You and sing.

Forever praising Lord Jesus, our Savior and King.

When You say, “Child, no more waiting” [No more waiting, children]

Enter your rest, and start celebrating, too.

Forever Lord, I’ll be celebrating You.

Chorus Repeat:

When I get to see You face to face

When I can finally put sight to the Voice I’ve embraced

It will be worth all the waiting for that one moment of celebrating You!

When I get to feel Your hand in mine

When I can finally be free from this prison called time

When You say, “Child, I’ve been waiting for this one moment of celebrating, too!

For this one moment of celebrating you!”

Dennis Jernigan, from the album I Belong to Jesus (Volume 2)

Worship Wednesday – His Eye Is On the Sparrow, and I Know He’s Watching Me – Civilla Martin

Photo Credit: Heartlight

My heart is suffering, withered like grass; I even forget to eat my food. Because of the sound of my groaning, my flesh sticks to my bones. I am like an eagle owl, like a little owl among the ruins.
I stay awake; I am like a solitary bird on a roof.Psalm 102:4-7

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted.  So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”Matthew 10:29-31

I have a friend who is sad.

She has reason. A series of losses and almost-wins have knocked the breath out of her. She loves God and trusts His goodness, but she still struggles with why life has gone the way it has…at this moment.

In praying for her and searching the Scripture to encourage her, it didn’t surprise me that even in my down time, the Lord spoke through an ordinary passing moment. A scene in a little-known TV movie. Settled on the couch, during a rain shower, I watched a film where one of the characters quoted part of Civilla Martin‘s poem “His Eye Is On the Sparrow”.

Wonder shot through me (once more) at the beauty of this truth and the song inspired by it. I searched out “His Eye Is On the Sparrow” online. So many lovely renditions of the old hymn on YouTube (see a few of the links below).

In my search, I came across author Gail Johnson‘s blog (written during the COVID summer of 2020) on the same song. Ironically, she had just seen a film which inspired her post as well (I’m pretty sure it is the same one). It was another gift from the Lord as I prayed and sought His face on behalf of my sweet grieving friend.

Johnson’s blog is wonderful, and you can read hers…or just stay here briefly, to worship with me, on this page. The quote below is from her blog, and it’s so to the point on today’s dilemma…how to deal with loss and our sadness over it.

The person who has the habit of hope also has the habit of remembering. Hope needs memories the way a writer needs notes. This is partly because hope depends so much on imagination. Our images of the future are sweepings from our remembrances of things past. If we expect to keep hope alive, we need to keep memory alive. Happy memories of good things we hoped for that were fulfilled, and grateful memories of bad things survived.Lewis Smedes

Photo Credit: Tonkin’s Growing Around Grief Model

I really have no doubt that my sad young friend will find her way through this dark tunnel to the glorious light at the end. Watching her persevere through this time of suffering is to see the radiance of the crucified AND risen Savior in the life of His child. Grief is an unwanted gift which can grow us up in Him…and with each other.

Worship with me.

Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Refrain:
I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise,
When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.*

Photo Credit: YouTube

Postscript: A member of my family told me recently that she wasn’t going to have a funeral. She didn’t want her family to suffer through one and she didn’t want all that sad music. I’ve thought about that a lot since. First, funeral gatherings can be amazing times of healing. They are a strange mix of sadness AND joy. We’ve lost some dear family members, colleagues, and friends in recent years. The times of the visitation, “wakes”, and even the funeral service have brought both tears of joy and sadness. With actual laughter in the halls as old friends and distant family reunited, honoring and celebrating a life too soon passed. So…a funeral can be a very good thing. Then the sad music. Sure some of the old hymns are sad…heartbreakingly so. I’ve played through this particular song several times this week. Turns out it is a favorite funeral song (in fact, it’s in this top 100 list of Southern Gospel funeral songs). The words are not at all sad to me. They are triumphant, glorious, even defiant, in the face of loss, suffering, and grief.

“When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies,
I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.

I sing because I’m [defiantly] happy, I sing because I’m [gloriously] free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

*Lyrics to His Eye Is On the Sparrow – Civilla D. Martin, 1905

History of Hymns – His Eye Is On the Sparrow – Dr. Hawn

Story Behind the Song: ‘His Eye Is on the Sparrow’ – Lindsay Taylor

Lyrics to God Will Take Care of You – Civilla D. Martin, 1904

YouTube Video – Ethel Waters – His Eye Is On the Sparrow

YouTube Video – His Eye On the Sparrow – Lauryn Hill and Tanya Blount

YouTube Video – Larnelle Harris – His Eye Is On the Sparrow

YouTube Video – Whitney Houston – His Eye Is On the Sparrow

YouTube Video – Why We Sing (w/ lyrics) – Kirk Franklin & Family

Worship Wednesday – the Answer for the Sullen and Inconsolable – Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Surely my soul remembers and is humbled within me. Yet I call this to mind, and there I have hope:  Because of the loving devotion of the LORD we are not consumed, for His mercies never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. Lamentations 3:21-26

We need to teach our little ones how to lament. Otherwise, those children (especially bent toward the cup being less than half full or entirely empty) will develop habits of being sullen or inconsolable. In fact, as our children grow into adulthood, knowing how to lament will be a worship tool for handling all the painful and seemingly unfair losses.

What is Biblical lament? Its definition is, in Hebrew, “to passionately cry out, to wail, to express sorrow, to mourn, to express regret”.

“We live in a fallen world. We experience the consequences of sin and death on individual, cultural, and global levels. God knows we need a way to express and release the pain of these losses or we risk becoming numb to even the joys of life or allowing momentary sorrows to infect our entire being. The tool He’s provided for this release is lamentation.”Lori Stanley Roeleveld

Yesterday I was spending the afternoon with our 5y/o and 3 y/o sibling grandchildren. We had a schedule, and they both understood it. Then the 3 y/o decided to change up the schedule. His strategy was to be miserable and make his sister and Gram miserable as well. He was successful. I don’t do sullen well at all. [My own struggle with responding to inconsolable children needs its own blog. Surely, I can do better.] The afternoon finished out fine enough, but we were all three worse the wear on feeling bad and making each other feel bad. Thankful for another day of learning to love well these precious ones.

Through the evening, I was reminded of my own children’s struggle with hardship and losses and how their dad and I tried to help them navigate them, growing up. Our sweet daughter’s struggle with our many moves, leaving friends behind and forced to start over in new places. Our darling youngest son who was different different (being both American and Korean living in Africa), and sometimes endured hard attention from other children. Our talented older son when his heart broke, not making the soccer team as a middle schooler.

[Sidebar: When this loss accentuated our son’s struggles later on his high school basketball team, we understood there would be dark times. Dave remembered last night about us giving him an after-dinner back yard task of 100 completed free throws. I can’t believe now that he actually went along with us. Hot, mad, and sweaty,  he shot and shot until he got those 100 successful attempts. His confidence grew through the season with his practiced proficiency.]

Our sullenness and inconsolable hearts must have their origins in entitlement. This is something we fought against with our children from toddler-hood. Still it creeps in (to all our lives). Life should be better for us. Life should bring successes. Even for Christians, we are shocked, at times, when we suffer because we think it is not right. Not fair. [We never responded to that expression with our kids growing up. Just moved on. It might have been a teachable moment to sow lament in their hearts.]

Dare to Hope in God – How to Lament Well – Mark Vroegop

Writer, pastor Mark Vroegop (in piece above) gives four elements of lament (from Psalm 13):

  1. Turn to God. – Tell God what’s happening. Talk to Him about everything about it, including how you feel.
  2. Bring your complaint. – Tell Him what’s frustrating you. All of it. He can take the struggle you are having.
  3. Ask boldly for help. – Don’t give into silence and despair. Ask Him for help. “Dare to hope.”
  4. Choose to trust. –  “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:5–6). More than the stages of grief, this prayer language moves us to renew our commitment to trust in God as we navigate the brokenness of life.

Lament is definitely something we can choose as we walk with God. Teaching our children to turn their struggle away from themselves and toward God will move them to maturity. Just this week that basketballer son of ours gave counsel to treating perceived failure with perspective and perseverance. A good word for anyone.

C. S. Lewis talked about a joy as having a “stab, an inconsolable longing”. He also describes how we seem never to be fully satisfied here…because we were made for another world.

[Lessons From an Inconsolable Soul – John Piper is an excellent piece on the life and faith of C. S. Lewis. For a short read start at his point 2 “Why Lewis Is So Helpful to Me”.]

For today, let’s turn our longing, our ache, our sorrow into a lament and a praise. Allow gratitude to flatten our fear. Worship with me with the help of this great old hymn that I’ve referenced before (see links below). Remember that our beloved Comforter, and Consoler, is ever and always faithful:

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, thy compassions, they fail not;
as thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Refrain:
Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see:
all I have needed thy hand hath provided–
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon, and stars in their courses above
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love. [Refrain]

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside! [Refrain]*

“I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.”The Traditional Jewish Prayer Upon Awaking

*Lyrics to Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Songwriters: Thomas O. Chisholm and William Runyan

Great Is Thy FaithfulnessStory of John Piper’s extra verses for Thomas O. Chisholm’s classic hymn

Worship Wednesday – When Storms Come, We Still Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

Worship Wednesday – No Matter What I Will Trust in You – Lauren Daigle

Saturday Short – Give This World Back to God – Reba McEntire – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Gratitude Flattens Fear – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – No Shadow of Turning – Great Is Thy Faithfulness – Austin Stone Worship – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Photo Credit: Vanhercke Christiaan, Geograph

[Here we are two days post Juneteenth and one day post Father’s Day. What’s on my mind? Recovering from a bad fall with back pain slowly dissipating, and its resultant writer’s block. Hard to sit at a computer and write with brain drain from this pain.

However, the pain is improving…and inspiration is returning. In fact, the weekend’s events have spurred so many thoughts and emotions.]

This morning, I slowly rolled out of bed with so many thoughts pinging around my mind…thoughts and accompanying emotions. Then, as happens sometimes, a song, and the question in its title, settled in my brain.

“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”

Whether the Bee Gee’s epic original or Al Green’s amazing cover. Here’s a more recent Bee Gee’s performance (2001):

The Bee Gees, Al Green, and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” – Alyson

Even when our hearts are not presently under attack, we share space with those we love whose hearts are breaking. A dear friend whose husband wants another future. A friend who spent his Father’s Day without his children (because his ex-wife chose a different future). .Friends who lost their fathers before this Father’s Day…or parents who lost their children (whether to death or to an estranged life). Friends heartbroken over the what-ifs or what-may-never-be’s.  Fill in the blank with your own. #BrokenHearts.

[Too heavy for a Monday morning? It does get better.]

Maybe you aren’t so aware of broken hearts. Maybe you haven’t had the experience of sitting on the phone of a friend scream-weeping at the hard reality of her life right now. Maybe you haven’t worked beside a friend whose stone face and deep quiet haven’t touched your awareness of what is going on under the surface of his silence…his pain.

Broken hearts can take us on spirals that lead to self-protective withdrawal, confused anger, terrifying isolation, or hard bitterness.Blog - Bitterness - Lee Strobel quote - azquotesPhoto Credit: AZ Quotes

Or we can heal.

One of the best TED talks I have ever heard is on “How to Fix a Broken Heart” with psychologist Dr. Guy Winch. Check out its 12 minutes of wisdom and helps.

I also found some helps in a somewhat odd place: Kristin Weber‘s Adulting for Jesus. Whatever you currently think about Jesus, this book on adulting is refreshing, funny sometimes, and so real. Midway of the book she talks about developing something she calls godly grit.

“Adulting requires learning how to fall and get back up again, and again, and again.” – Adulting for Jesus, p. 89

Weber presents 10 ways to shift perspective on the struggle (our heartbreak) and develop that grit:

  • Expect hardship.“Western comforts have lulled us into the false assumption that life is meant to be easy and the hard moments few. In reality, much of life is hard, and the easy moments are the exceptions.”  We can learn to live in such a way that difficult situations/relationships don’t catch us off guard.
  • Depend on God.  “…when a relationship [ends] abruptly, failure hurts – often deeply. We can be honest about our hurt and struggles while still trusting God.” We don’t ignore the pain of our broken heart, but we recognize that God hasn’t gone anywhere. He sees; He hears; He will work on our behalf.
  • Ask “What’s Next?”“Rather than ask ‘Why me?’…ask a different question about life: ‘What’s next?’ Obstacles, especially a long string of them, can make us short-sighted. By asking ‘What’s next?’ we recognize this failure or hardship isn’t the end of our story…Hardships will undoubtably change you, but keeping a long-term perspective will prevent them from destroying you.”
  • Look at Adversity through Eternal Lenses.“As a child of God your trials, both big and small, have an expiration date.” When our hearts are broken, we are consumed and exhausted by our loss. We can’t see down the road but so far. “Do the next thing”. Eternity comes but until then we grieve the loss, but we also train ourselves to stay in the moment and hope for a better future…a different future. We have that confidence in God’s care.
  • Appreciate the Bottom. “A lot can be learned on the bottom step of the ladder”. Our broken hearts can bring us low…but that is not where we stay. That is not where we belong.
  • Develop Thick Skin and a Tender Heart.“Try to be slow in getting offended and quick in extending grace. If someone causes you to have a knee-jerk reaction, that person controls you. That person has all the power…Choosing a calm response and keeping a level head, you remain free to live your life.”
  • Be Teachable.“Though we don’t need to let the opinions and critiques of everyone we encounter control our lives, we do need people who can lovingly speak truth into our lives…Our natural instinct is to make excuses or get defensive when someone corrects us, but adopting an attitude of teachability puts us on the track to growth and maturity. We need to take ownership of our actions and be humble enough to receive input about where we can improve.”
  • Do Something.“Big changes happen through tiny actions, and tiny actions require doing something.” Every day…step by step. #MakeYourBed.
  • Laugh. “Once I learned to laugh at myself and find humor in situations that didn’t tip in my favor, I became less stressed and anxious about every little thing. I didn’t dread life or failure as much…Our hope isn’t ultimately in everything going our way, and humor keeps the weight of our circumstances from crushing us.”
  • Count Your Blessings.“Instead of focusing constantly on everything that’s going wrong, take time each day to remember what’s going right. We might find our ‘gratitude attitude’ changes our entire outlook on life.”

Thanks, Kristin. I can tell you’ve known heartbreak and have learned to come out whole on the other side.

Closing out this Monday Morning Moment, for those of us who are sharing space with one or many dealing with broken hearts, we need to remember its pain, and have patience and compassion…be present, listen, and, when we can, speak the truth in love.

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Lanny Henninger

P.S. The Scripture verses are strong anchors and the links below are super helpful. None of us are in these broken spaces alone.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.Psalm 34:18

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.Psalm 73:26

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.Psalm 147:3

“I have chosen you and haven’t rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:9b-10

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28-30

Worship Wednesday – Jesus – the Friend of a Wounded Heart – Wayne Watson, Damaris Carbaugh (with the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir), and Avalon – Deb Mills

4 Bible Secrets to Heal a Broken Heart – Dudley Rutherford – really excellent and rapid read.

How to Heal a Broken Heart – Cecil Maranville – another excellent read (also from a Biblical standpoint)

How Can I Recover From Heartbreak? – GotQuestions – another.

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God – Deb Mills