GRIEF


Psalm 34:18

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

        Haydee

We all experience losses; some are more devastating than others. The loss of a parent, or close friend can shatter our world. The loss of a child is probably the most devastating loss to deal with. There are other losses that are burdensome such as job loss, or surviving cancer but dealing with the lifelong issues that result from the lifesaving surgeries. Even moving to a new state brings the sorrow of leaving friends and everything we are comfortable with. When you experience loss of any kind, there will be grief and sorrow. We must all deal with these emotions as a part of life.

As I write this, my mother-in-law has just been laid to rest. She had a series of strokes followed by other declines in health, and eventually Alzheimer’s disease. Since that first stroke she wasn’t the vibrant woman who raised my husband. In many ways Gerry has been mourning the loss of his mom for years.

There is such finality to death. This truth can shake our faith. Even when death is expected it’s always catches us unprepared because it is final. There are no second chances. No more holidays or conversations. No more photographs. Even when a loved one is ravaged by an illness that leaves them bedridden and unaware, we mourn the loss.

On April 15, 2000, my husband rushed me to the emergency room where I lost a baby girl. We were devastated. We loved Hailey from the moment we started planning for her. I blamed myself and I felt the loss was unfair. Other women were experiencing the joy of growing their families while I had empty arms. People would say the oddest things to me to attempt to comfort me. Their words usually added to the pain. The grieving process shows us that life isn’t fair.

Psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross explains there are five stages to the grieving process: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As you deal with your grief you will move back and forth between these stages in a unique way. You won’t necessarily move from one stage to the next, to the next, and suddenly be in the acceptance stage because the grieving process is not usually predictable. In fact, grief can take us on a whirlwind ride of emotions. Our journey through the grieving process may change us in other, more subtle ways.

When dealing with grief, remember that it is a process. Your passage through grief and healing will not look like someone else’s journey. It takes time to accept the loss so spend some time remembering. Be grateful for the time you did have. Spend some time with cherished memories and old photographs. Eventually, you will try to balance the pain of loss, while coping with the struggles of everyday life. Allow yourself time to heal and experience the emotions you have. Seek out family and friends as you go through the process. Know that when dealing with grief you may experience physical symptoms such sleeplessness, changes in appetite, not wanting to participate in favorite activities, and changes in mood. This takes time, but If you have been grieving longer than a few months, seek professional help from a godly counselor.

It’s easy to blame God when there is a loss, especially the loss of your child, but we must remember that the Lord is mourning your loss too, and offering you peace and comfort. We live in a broken world. Death is a part of the circle of life; eventually it claims us all. But knowing this truth doesn’t make the pain any easier to bear. When confronted with grief, let the Lord wrap His loving arms around you. Accept Our Heavenly Father’s peace and comfort. In His Word, there are many passages and verses we can turn to help us cope and deal with our loss, and feel God’s healing presence.

The Psalms

 Ecclesiastes 3

 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Psalm 147:3

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Revelation 21:4

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

There is a song that became popular as I was struggling with my grief and helped me thorough my healing process. Some of the lyrics to “Blessings” by Laura Story (Capitol Music Group) are below:

“What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise.”

 Let the Lord comfort you and give you peace in your time of loss.

The Idols of Me, Myself, and I


pride

Romans 12:3

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

Recently, God has been talking to me about the idols in my life (see previous posts). A few days ago I was convicted again. A Christian radio program[i] discussed how we often put too much emphasis on ourselves – with ourselves becoming an idol in our own life. (I don’t remember the exact words, I was driving.) I felt an immediate conviction.  My life has often been about my three best friends: me, myself, and I.

Exodus 20:3

“You shall have no other gods before (or besides) me.”

It seems like a simple, straight forward command. Why then is it so difficult to put God first and love God purely? I think the answer comes down to pride. Pride is the first sin – Lucifer fell due to his pride (Isaiah 14:13).

Pride is subtle and it permeates so many areas of our lives. Pride means we are focused on ourselves. This can take on many forms. Pride can be arrogance, and thinking too highly of yourself or that you are better than others. It’s easy to recognize that attitude as pride. There are many other areas in which we a prideful but we may not be aware of those prideful thoughts. Self-pity for example; we are still focused on ourselves and not God. How about not being thankful, or forgiving? What about always needing to be the center of attention? What about being unwilling to learn (because you think you know it all)? Refusing to admit when you are wrong? Being disrespectful, or even sarcastic? Being impatient? What about jealousy? Seems to me that I am prideful in many areas of my life.

Proverbs 16:5

The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

So how do we get past pride?

The first step many view God as God. We are not God. We know that intellectually, but we must not know it in our heart because we act in prideful ways. Remember that God’s ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is the creator (Job 38:4). He’s done so much that we cannot do.

The second step may be to remember that God is the provider of everything we have. We would not have what we have if God did not create us with our unique talents and personality (Psalm 139:13).

1 Corinthians 4:7

For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?

Being thankful, truly thankful for everything you have (1 Thessalonians 5:18) might be the third step. Next, admit to God how prideful we are. In prayer, ask The Lord to humble our spirit. God cannot use us if we are prideful, but a God can use a humble person.

Matthew 23:11

The greatest among you will be your servant.

I am praying also for a servant’s heart, and to accept the correction and discipline of God. I’m praying for God to lead me to humility.

Proverbs 12:1

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.

I’m praying for God to help me conquer the pride in my life.

 

Blessings on your day.

 

Scripture: Biblegateway.com

Image: Google Images

 

[i] Charles Stanley, InTouch

What Does It Mean to be Truly Thankful?


Bible-thankfulness-gratitude

It’s November and bloggers are writing posts about being thankful. Many are wonderful blogs and well worth reading. It is good to be thankful. The Psalms and many other places in the Bible command us to be thankful. Colossians 3:15b (ESV) states, “And be thankful.” But what does it mean to be truly thankful?

A few years ago I posted 101 Things to be Thankful For (November 24, 2016). I’ve been questioning myself to determine if I am truly thankful or is it that things are going well for me so I have nothing to complain about.

I thought I would start by making sure I understand the word. Dictionary.com explains that being thankful is a feeling, or expression of gratitude and it is being appreciative. Merriam-Webster.com tells us that being thankful is being conscious of a benefit received, it is expressive, and it also means well pleased. I turned to a Bible Dictionary and learned that Thanksgiving is an act of worship.[i] So, thankfulness is a state of mind; a matter of the heart. I also think it means to have the proper perspective in life.

It’s easy to feel thankful when surrounded by friends, and food and things are generally going well in life. But are we thankful in the difficult circumstances of life? Some people are struggling with health issues, or the mourning the loss of a loved one. Others are finding it difficult to pay bills, especially at this expensive time of year. Perhaps there are difficult, even toxic, people in our life. There can be many circumstances in life that cause you to feel anxious instead of thankful.

So what can we do to be truly thankful? I think there are several steps.

  • First, deliberately thank God for sending Jesus Christ as your Savior. Thank him for the people in your life and your material blessings. Also thank God for the trials in your life and his protection in the midst of them. Those trials develop your character and mold you into the wonderful person you are.
  • Second, count your blessings. A gratitude journal is one way to do this. I kept a gratitude journal years ago during a difficult season of life. While my circumstances didn’t change, keeping that journal changed me. I was more at peace and accepting of what was happening in my life. And I felt God’s presence daily.
  • Third, accept where you are in life. It takes spiritual maturity to stop thinking about yourself, and be thankful for all the blessings God has given you. God has control of your situation. You are where you are because of his sovereignty. Thank God for his constant presence and protection.
  • Forth, be generous. There are so many people who are less fortunate that we are. Realizing this and sharing helps rise above our circumstances and gain a godly perspective.
  • Finally, recognize that being unthankful is a sin. Romans 1:21 states, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Instead, remember to worship the giver of all good things.

May your hearts be filled with Thanksgiving.

Blessings on your day.

 

Sources:

Scripture: OpenBible.info

Image: Google Images

[i] Holman Concise Bible Dictionary

The Idols in Our Lives


32-goldencalf[1]

The women in my Bible Study recently had a discussion on the Biblical discipline of fasting. Through that conversation I became aware, convicted in fact, that food is an idol in my life. It has been for a long time.

Let me explain. We’re programmed to eat at various times, whether or not we are actually hungry. While food is necessary to sustain life, we think about food a great deal. In the morning the question is, “what do we have for breakfast?” (And don’t even get me started on coffee.) But that’s not enough. We often make dinner plans before we even have breakfast. At work, we look at our clocks wondering what we will have for lunch, and whom we will share the meal with. And there are so many snacks to choose from. We rush home, possibly making a stop at the grocery store first, where we usually buy more things than were on our list. We then rush to prepare a meal. But we have options. We could go out to eat, spending four to ten times the amount that it would cost to cook our own meal. A few hours later we follow that with dessert.

Food is big business.

Our minds revolve around food in some way: when to eat, what to eat, how to pay for what we eat, how good a certain restaurant is, and getting a copy of that really great recipe. Our minds seem to be consumed with food.

Realizing that food was taking up so much brain power, I began to consider the other things that have become idols in my life. I thought I was a good Christian. And I don’t worship idols, or so I thought. So I looked up the definition of an idol.

A simple google search explains that an idol is an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. The Bible is clear on this particular subject. In Exodus 20:3 God tells us, “You shall have no other gods before me” (English Standard Version). There is a footnote in my Bible that adds clarity to this verse. It reads, “You shall have no other gods besides me.” So God wants to be our only god.

We can consider ourselves safe on this matter because we don’t worship images. We don’t put anyone or anything above, or even equal to God.

Or do we?

What about our families, homes, cars, and jobs?

The next definition goes on to explain that an idol is, “a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered.”

Quite possibly I have many idols in my life.

I thought about that for a while and decided we can recognize an idol by looking at our calendars and bank statements. I pondered this for a while and came up with what I think are the top ten idols in our lives and culture, in no particular order.

1. Food
2. Money/status/possessions
3. Work/profession
4. Relationships – family and friends
5. Technology, including computers, internet, phones, and social media
6. Materialism and comfort
7. Self – meaning our ego, image, status, pride, and beauty
8. Entertainment/Escapism
9. Sports
10. Celebrities

Several others could have made the list, but I limited it to what I consider our top idols.

Ezekiel 14 is a passage in which God condemns those who have taken idols in their hearts. Verses 4 and 5 states (The Message Version):

“Therefore tell them, ‘The Message of GOD, the Master: All in Israel who install idols in their hearts and embrace the wickedness that will ruin them and still have the gall to come to a prophet, be on notice: I, GOD, will step in and personally answer them as they come dragging along their mob of idols. I am ready to go to work on the hearts of the house of Israel, all of whom have left me for their idols.’ Therefore, say to the house of Israel: ‘GOD, the Master, says, Repent! Turn your backs on your no-god idols. Turn your backs on all your outrageous obscenities.”

Wow.

So the question now becomes, “How do I remove idols from my life?” Reviewing my top ten idols list, there are things on there that we need in order to live. We have to work to get enough money to buy food, shelter, clothing, and medicine. Technology is not necessarily a bad thing, neither is entertainment. And our relationships are very important. These things become idols when we love them more than God.

So that seems to be the answer to the dilemma of idols in my life – to love God even more. Be satisfied with God first, then enjoy the blessings He sends my way.

Consider Philippians 3:8. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

It’s up to me to seek God first; to pursue a more intimate relationship with him. To put Him first. Above all else. As I get closer to God, I pray to lose interest in the things I have held in high regard.

Blessings on your day.

 

Earth Day


 

Since April 22, 1970 we’ve celebrated Earth Day annually. As I understand it, Earth Day is designed to make us more aware of how humanity is harming the planet and that we should to take better care of this world. Each year there is a different focus, but the ultimate message is, “stop messing up the planet.” I’m all for that. Let’s pick up the trash, recycle, care for the animals, and plant more trees. But, there is more to the earth than plants and animals.

God did command humanity to take care of the planet. Genesis 1:26-28 explains,

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

There are two words in this passage we might not use every day: dominion and subdue. I checked dictionary.com for the definition of both. Subdue means: to overpower by superior force; overcome. It also means to bring (land) under cultivation.

The word dominion explains further. There are several definitions of the word including:

  • The power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority
  • Rule; control; domination
  • A territory, usually of considerable size, in which a single ruler ship holds sway.
  • Lands or domains subject to sovereignty or control.

So, humanity has authority over the earth. We are to cultivate it, rule it, and take care of it. So yes, the focus of Earth Day is important, and grounded in Scripture.

 

I wonder how God feels about Earth Day.

It seems to me God has a special love for our planet. He created it – before he created man. But He did put man in charge of the earth, “over every living thing.” Perhaps we should remember that in addition to thousands of species of plants and animals, there are over seven billion people on our little planet. And God loves each one. Sometimes we forget John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” We should have at least an equal focus on people.

Let Earth Day include humanity as well. Let us show everyone the love of Christ and help them also become good stewards of the Earth

Blessings on your day.

Scripture: http://www.openbible.info

Image: Google Images

 

 

So Much To Be Thankful For


Thanksgiving Contest - What Are You Thankful For?

During this season of thanksgiving I thought it would be fun to make a list of some of the things to be thankful for. This list is really quite short – there are countless blessings to thank God for. I challenge to you add to this list. May you be richly blessed today and everyday. Happy Thanksgiving!

  1. A Bed
  2. A Home Cooked Meal
  3. Ability to Choose
  4. Animals
  5. Aquariums
  6. Art
  7. Babies
  8. Baseball Games
  9. Beaches
  10. Bicycles
  11. Books and Libraries
  12. Braces and a pretty smile
  13. Bubble Baths
  14. Candles
  15. Candy
  16. Cards and Letters
  17. Chocolate
  18. Christmas Lights
  19. Christmas Stockings
  20. Christmas Trees
  21. Church
  22. Clothing
  23. Coffee and Tea
  24. Color
  25. Creativity
  26. Curiosity
  27. Cute Shoes
  28. Desserts
  29. Dishwashers
  30. Doctors and Dentists
  31. Education
  32. Family and Friends
  33. Family Traditions
  34. Fireplaces
  35. Fireworks
  36. Five Senses
  37. Good
  38. Fountains
  39. Four Seasons
  40. Forests
  41. Freedom
  42. Fresh Bread
  43. Fresh Water
  44. Gardens
  45. Gentle Rains
  46. Glitter
  47. God
  48. Good Manners
  49. Google
  50. GPS
  51. Hairstylists
  52. Holidays and Vacation
  53. Hot Showers
  54. Hugs
  55. Imagination
  56. Jesus
  57. Jewelry
  58. Language/Communication
  59. Lipstick
  60. Medicine
  61. Mementos
  62. Memories
  63. Military and First Responders
  64. Movie Theaters
  65. Music
  66. My Home
  67. My Job
  68. Naps
  69. Pajamas
  70. Parks
  71. Pastors
  72. Paved Roads
  73. Pedicures
  74. Pets
  75. Photographs
  76. Prayer
  77. Puzzles
  78. Rainbows
  79. Right to Vote
  80. Salvation
  81. Saturday Mornings
  82. Second Chances
  83. Snow
  84. Spell Check
  85. Spices
  86. Stained Glass Windows
  87. Stop Lights
  88. Sun, Moon and Stars
  89. Sunshine
  90. Teachers
  91. Technology
  92. The Beach
  93. The Bible
  94. The Ocean
  95. The Radio
  96. Theme Parks
  97. Today
  98. Travel
  99. Trees
  100. Wildflowers
  101. Wine

1 Thessalonians 5:18

Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

 

Images: Google Images

Scripture: Biblegateway.com

In The Eye Of The Storm


storms

Psalm 91:2

I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” 

My family moved to Jacksonville, Florida a little over a year ago. When we made the decision to move I never considered that we would deal with hurricanes. For the second time in as many months, a huge storm drew near to us. Herminie came through Jacksonville as a tropical storm, but Matthew passed dangerously close to our coast line as a category 4 hurricane.  Schools and businesses closed in preparation for the storm. Meteorologists warned of the danger of the storm and explained it could reshape parts of our coastline. We stocked up on supplies and water and made provisions if we lost power. Millions of people living right on the coast were evacuated. As the hurricane drew near to us the wind and rain became frightening, and lasted for hours. I made several Facebook posts with storm updates and asking for prayers. I felt those prayers. Our Heavenly Father saw us through the storm. As I type this blog the storm has passed. We are waiting for morning to survey the damage.

We also face many metaphorical storms in life; job loss, illnesses, infertility, not getting that promotion, betrayal, and death to name a few. We try to control these storms, but we cannot. In some cases we just prolong the pain. The storms we experience leave different kinds of marks on our lives. Some of these storms will change us forever. But the one thing that will never change is God’s love for us. He will see us through these storms; He is faithful and in control. Psalm 33:4 tells us, “For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness.”

I don’t know what storm you are facing, or the severity. All I can tell you is to put your faith in God, and let Him have control of the winds and rain. Something beautiful awaits you on the other side of the storm. I’ve always experienced an unexpected blessing when the storm passes.

The events of the past few days remind me of the song “In The Eye of the Storm” recently released by Ryan Stevenson. May it bring you peace.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?hsimp=yhs-att_001&hspart=att&p=youtube+eye+of+the+storm+ryan+stevenson#id=4&vid=047eeca0aa8530c95519b676266aa85b&action=click

Psalm 107:29  He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Image: Artist Unknown – found on Facebook 10/7/2016