Archives For grief

A Servant’s Heart

December 17, 2013 — 4 Comments

servantWhat can I say about my friend, Mark Thompson? He’s a great guy! Everyone that meets him loves him pretty much straight away. I met Mark my first day at OBU, in 1988. I think it was September – it was hot that’s all I know. I was walking out of the GC (student center) and he was walking in. I don’t know why we started talking, except for that’s kinda what Mark does – he just strikes up conversations with strangers, and it’s like you’ve known him all your life.

I found out that my youth pastor who just left my church had gone to his church – so we had something in common right off the bat. Then we talked more and had a lot more in common and just became friends. He has been a blessing to me for the last 25 years, and I hope there’s 50 more coming.

Mark is a hospice chaplain – has been for about 10 years. He helps those who are dying, and those who are left behind. I know this because I’ve seen it – he grieves with them and for them and guides them through every bit of it. He’s been there for me, as a minister and a friend on two occasions – once with my Grandmother, and more recently, when my Dad died.

So what more can I say? Mark’s been a youth pastor, senior pastor, chaplain, professional wrestler, and a missionary. He’s a husband and a father. And he’s awesome at all of it. He’s knocked me out cold twice with folding chairs, which is a whole other story. He once ate a bowl of the foulest stuff I could put together at the college cafeteria, for $10. He loves Jesus, he loves people, and he loves serving both. Mark has a servant’s heart.

Recently he wrote a letter to those who are grieving this time of year – and there are many. The following words shout hope from the highest hills – they cry out, “God loves you, no matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’ve done.” They proclaim that God has a plan and that we are His and that He delights in blessing and caring for those who are His – Please be blessed as you read the following -

April 21, 1997 – a day in my family’s life that will be remembered for all of our lives. Betty Lou Thompson passed away at 11:33 PM. Many people in Tulsa, Oklahoma weren’t aware. Most of the state of Oklahoma didn’t know. But we did. A husband did. Children did. Grandchildren did. A mother did. Friends did.

I was 27 years old when my mom died. 27 is too young to lose your mom…so I thought. Yet in 25 years of ministry having conducted hundreds of funerals, I have seen families struggle loosing a parent of 95, 98, 101.

My mom was 54 years old when she died. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer 18 years prior, and two years before she died, she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Why? I had prayed for her healing. Our family prayed. We begged God for her healing. Why would He not hear our prayers? Did He even hear our prayers? Did he even care??? Real hurts, real questions. God gave real answers.

You, like me, had people offer well meaning anecdotes. She is in a better place. She isn’t suffering any longer. Time will heal your pain and wounds.

I didn’t care. I didn’t want her to be in a better place! I wanted her with us!

People are well meaning but sometimes their words can hurt. Sometimes silence would have been better.

I had a group of friends from Oklahoma City drive over to Broken Arrow to spend some time with me. We played basketball. We sat on the couch. We talked, we cried. We went to lunch. I still hurt. I still hurt….with all of their well meaning words. But…I didn’t hurt like I did when she died…I had been able to laugh and smile.

Psalm 30:5 tells us “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Joy. Joy is a a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.

In the greatest teaching ever – The Sermon on the Mount – Jesus shares these words with us – Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are they who mourn…for they will be comforted.” That word blessed in the Greek language means happy. HAPPY? Happy are those who mourn? YES…why? Because they will be comforted! Comfort is defined as a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint. I have the hopes of being freed from my pain? Yes!

Years ago we went to my uncles house to visit. He had a stone retaining wall. We had a habit of walking on it when we would visit. After many years, it began to deteriorate and the stones and concrete cylinders began to become loose. We had been warned not to play on it. But we did what kids do…we did it anyway! I was walking along and as I put one foot in front of the other, it happened. I fell, and a large cylinder fell on my knee and gashed it open really bad. For some reason, the adults heard my cries for help. Mom began to clean my wound. It hurt…bad. But she had to remove the gravel in my knee. Then she poured 4 bottles of hydrogen peroxide in the wound, and applied Neosporin and a gauze pad. My knee hurt bad and did for several days. Then the healing became more obvious. I developed a scab. Then the scab gave way to a scar. I still have those scars on my left knee. They are a reminder of that day in Stonewall, Oklahoma. I see it….and I remember.

For many of you today, your hurt is still fresh…it still stings. For others you are dealing with a scab. Yet others have a scar. You are reminded when you see it. For some of us, it’s everyday.

Isaiah 9:6 tells us, “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Prince of peace!

Isaiah 7:14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel – meaning God with us. God promised to never leave us and he won’t.

He didn’t leave me…He was with me…He sent friends to support me in the days following my mom’s death. Not only that but He has used my life to help others. He wants to use your hurt. God never wastes a hurt. Today, understand that God loves you, and He knows, and He cares. He really does. You may feel all alone, but you’re not.

I remember that first Mother’s day after mom died. I hurt worse and cried harder that I did when she died. Then Thanksgiving, then…..Christmas. The first Christmas without mom. It was weird. We tried to keep some of the same traditions. It is strange to go shopping and not shop for your loved one who is gone. We ate Christmas lunch, through tears. But we did it….we made it through the first Christmas.

Joel 2:25 tells us, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.” God has been faithful. When my mom had died, I was single. I am now married  to an amazing woman with 3 amazing boys, ages 4 1/2, 2 1/2 and 9 months. God has brought so much joy back into my life! He has restored my hurt.

He cares about you!  He loves you! This year you may hurt more than you thought you had the capacity to hurt. Take it day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Don’t just listen to your heart….the Bible tells us our hearts are deceitful…listen to the spirit of God. Zephaniah tells us “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”  Just like when I walk in to watch my boys sleep and take delight in them, God, your Father watches over you. Take courage. Take a breath. Be loved. You will make it. It will hurt….the pain is real. Hold on to Jesus, He is holding on to you!

Song by Dennis Jernigan

It’s gonna be alright, child

Even through the darkest night, child

I’ll even use the darkness

To teach you how to hear Me

 

It’s gonna be alright now

Even if you don’t see how

I’ll even use your failure

To help you to draw near Me

 

Hear Me. I am calling,

“Child, come falling deeper in love with Me.”

Trust Me, you must let go

Or you will never know any deeper love in Me

 

It’s gonna be alright here

If you will let Me hold your heart near

I’ll even use your sorrows

To teach You how to love Me

 

It’s gonna be alright, child

I’ll hold you really close and tight child

I’ll even use Your woundings

To help you know more of Me

 

Hear Me. I am calling,

“Child, come falling deeper in love with Me.”

Trust Me, you must let go

Or you will never know any deeper love in Me

 

Why do you hold on to the things of your past

Let go and cling to Me and love that will last

How can you know Me if you do not trust My love

Let go! You’ll find My love is more than enough

 

Good Grief

March 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Charlie Brown

I have felt like Charlie Brown so often. At work, when something unexpected happens – AAUGH! At home, when the kids or laundry or both have me at my wits end – AAUGH! Driving in rush hour…well my responses to that are often a little more harsh.

Think about poor Charlie Brown though – nothing ever seems to go right for the guy. Everyone’s smarter, everyone’s stronger, everyone’s more right – all the time. His response to not being as good as everyone else is to seek out Lucy for counselling and scream AAUGH!

A lot of things in my life have gone like that, and I could put some bullet points up to let you know how bad it’s been, but you, being human, already know. People we love die, people reject us, people treat us badly, parents and friends dissapoint us. Those things, for some people, are what makes them know they’re still alive. I was under the illusion for so long that I was made for suffering. I didn’t know much of anything else.

But I found out I was wrong. I wasn’t made for suffering. Suffering is part of life sometimes, but we were made for more! And once I discovered the “more” part, I realized the suffering part was not so bad as I was making it out to be.

What happened was I turned in – when something happened, I knew exactly how to react – with anger, and by shutting down, and by shutting people out.

This weekend, I learned that it’s ok to feel whatever I am feeling. I learned it’s ok to be angry, it’s ok to have grief, it’s ok to admit that you are struggling. It’s ok, and when you allow yourself to experience these things, there is help for the hurt and then you move past it.

We talked about grief at church last Friday for a while, then we were given a chance to feel it, and deal with it. I found out most of my grief had to do with past ministry experiences. I sat and thought for a long time, and God spoke some words to me – he told me what I needed to do.

At the front of the church, on the stage, were some basins of water. God told me to put the water on my head, my eyes, my lips, my tongue, my hands and my feet. I thought it was an odd request. I asked why, and he said so that I could let go of my grief and experience healing.

So, I did it – and as I walked back to my seat, every step was lighter, my tears of sadness were replaced by shouts of joy and laughter! As I sat back down on my chair, God showed me why he asked me to do this – I needed to let go of grief, grief that I had both experience and caused.

God asked me to anoint my head because my plans had become more important than his. He asked me to anoint my eyes because I saw people as things to be used and manipulated into doing my will. He asked me to anoint my lips because my words had twisted the truth and I used them to hurt people. He asked me to anoint my tongue because my speech honored only myself. My hands because my work served only to glorify myself. My feet because I had made my own path apart from God.

Also, I was holding on to pain others had caused me in all these areas. I had held onto this pain and it turned into anger and bitterness.

Now all these parts are holy and His! My past is grieved over and reconciled. I will not dwell on the pain I have felt or caused any longer. It’s done – it’s finished. It’s now a foundation that God will build the rest of my life upon. I welcome him into my life to begin his work!

You can experience this, too! Right where you are, right now. Ask God to show you the things only he can help with, ask him to show you what you have held on to that is poison to your soul. Take time to grieve over those things, then hand them over to God. He’ll take them from you and make you whole. Your whole life can change, right now! Trust him to be big enough to wade into your darkness, trust him to bring the light! He’s not afraid of your messes, he’s not intimidated by your anger, and he’s strong enough to take all the blame you throw at him. He’s YOUR God, and there’s no other name to call upon. Take delight in him – take it! He is offering it to you, and when you take it, He’ll give you your heart’s desires!