Grief Illiterate

I have had a phrase resounding in my mind for the last week that I haven’t been able to shake: “We as a culture, are largely grief illiterate.”

It was reporter Maria Shriver, who said this while she and Tom Brokaw were discussing the historic event of Pope Francis visiting the sobering Ground Zero memorial. The reporters talked about how the Pope’s itinerary was not going to have the religious man visiting the site of horrific terror. Because the former Pope had already been there. Pope Francis insisted he would go to Ground Zero, as well as visit with families of those lost on that horrible day 14 years ago.

Another reporter made the remark that with it now being 14 years since the Terror Attacks, the world has moved on. But that it was good to see the Pope taking the time to do something so visual for the families.

As if he was doing it for the PR.

I don’t know the Pope. I don’t know his thought process, but according to the public persona that he exhibits, I don’t think he did it so he would get good ratings.

Perhaps it was Pope Francis’ way of showing the families that they are not forgotten in a world that has moved on. That he still grieves over the senseless act that brought so much pain.

I agree with Shriver. We as a culture are very grief illiterate. We do not know how to grieve. We don’t know how to react when those around us are grieving. We become very uncomfortable.

We, thanks to an extremely misunderstood psychological model of grief, believe that there are 5 stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance) and once we progress through one stage we won’t slid back into a former stage.

We forget grief is fluid.

We forget because we refuse to really enter into grief, and when we encounter someone who is really feeling their grief, we declare them clinically depressed. Even in that diagnosis, we refuse to allow the needed action of feeling grief.

There is no timetable for grief.

God has given us this amazing ability to cry. To cry tears of joy and of sorrow, and sometimes within minutes of each other. He has created a physical release for the emotions that must burst forth in someway, to relieve the pressure that has settled upon our souls. Salty prisms that pour out of the windows of our souls, reflecting to all who desire to see our deep pain or unbound delight. God created this gift that we refuse to use properly.

Around the world there are many ways cultures show sorrow over the loss of a loved one. Monuments are built to be a standing testament of their love, belongings are burned so that none other may hold what was once theirs, wailing in the streets for hours to let the world know that someone has died, wakes for people to remember, bodies dug up and paraded through town to show they are not forgotten.

Then there are the ones who in their deepest grief, erase the existence of the loved one from the family: names no longer mentioned, photographs removed.

So many ways to express grief.

Somewhere in between these extremes the American culture lies. Even with our morbid fascination with death, we fear it. It is an unknown, with no clear scientific idea of what is on the other side. With our melting pot of religions and cultures, we have a mishmash of ways to show our sorrow, but also an inability to really let it touch us.

Life and grief must go hand in hand. One cannot hold themselves free from emotions. If you do, you never really connect with anyone. But, it is as if we attempt to not feel deeply. We shush those who laugh loudly, turn away from those who cry, all in attempt to not be touched by the emotional confetti they are spewing.

Sorrow, mourning, and grief aren’t bad. They are cleansing in the most base form. It’s God’s release valve.

He commands us to, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) Because a joy shared is multipled and a sorrow shared is divided.

Much like Pixar ‘ s recent movie “Inside Out” says, joy and sorrow must go hand in hand. Joy makes the sorrow easier to handle because it reminds us of happier times, tells us that we can be happy again. Sorrow makes joy sweeter because it makes memories stand out, and teaches us to love deeper.

As a culture, we suck at expressing grief. It’s because we fear to be weak. Grief is all about being ‘weak’ in the face of memories. It’s about letting the memories run you down, chain you and drag you through every moment and conversation. It’s about the release of pressure on the soul and the cleansing of emotions.

Grief sucks. But, it’s necessary. You don’t have to cry to grieve. There is no set rules about how you HAVE to grieve or even when. Just make sure you do, so the pressure doesn’t force a release, ruining other relationships.

We have the ability, we always have the chance, it’s time to stop being illiterate in grief.

Even as I finish this post, we have more to grieve. Another shooting, another school, more senseless deaths. Even when answers might be found it won’t negate the need to grieve. One won’t just get over the shooting, those directly involved will always bear the emotional scars of this day. There will be days in the future when it will suddenly hit them out of the blue, and tears will come. And that will be a release for their beleaguered hearts and souls.

We do not need to be illiterate in grief. Take a moment to realize that Christ himself grieved. He wept over the death of his friend Lazarus, even though he KNEW he was going to bring Lazarus back to life!

Jesus Christ wept. He grieved. He grieved knowing that it was going to be brief. He grieved because it was good to do so.

So, take a lesson from our Savior. It is good to grieve. There is no set time, place, or length to assign grieving. So, please, when you see someone grieving don’t hurry them up, but sit. Stay awhile with their grief, because a sorrow shared is a sorrow divided. Don’t let them feel alone.

“You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same, nor would you want to. ” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler 

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Teach Me to Love

Racism.
A nasty word that gets the dander up around the world.
As it should.
I’ve been watching America become more restless and more divided as accusations of police brutality are reported on while African- American men are being buried.
I watch churches and ‘well-meaning’ Christians be part of the divisions, as angry words are thrown like daggers at their brothers and sisters.
Ferguson and New York, two towns that have created waves across America.
Two men died, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But, they aren’t the only ones.
The spotlight is being shined hard on those with a badge.

Does racism play a part in these deaths? I don’t know.
Does it play a part in the trials of those held responsible for the deaths? I don’t know.
Does it play a part in the everyday life of thousands of people? This, I do know.
Does the church need to step up and really face this issue head on? YES

I’ve been quiet about this issue, not because I’m afraid of working on it, but because so many people are adding their voice. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what you really think when you get everyone else’s opinion. But, silence can be even more damning that misspoken words.
There is so much anger right now.
Righteous anger is good, anger bound in hate is not..
No matter what type of video or reports come out, I do not know exactly what happened because I wasn’t there. I can’t say if an officer defended himself or acted out of hate. I can’t say if the men who died acted in violence or if they were innocent.
There has been accusations on both accounts.

I refuse to add to those accusations.
Adding to them will not help anyone. It just causes more anger.

So, the question I ask myself is this: “What does God want me to do?”

He wants me to love. Love people on both sides of the argument. God does. He commands his followers to do the same. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

There are no distinctions on who to love and who not to love. There is no command to not love someone. It is a blanket command to love EVERY single person that you come in contact with. “One another” does not mean to love the person who looks like you, talks like you, prays like you. God makes no distinctions. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.…(John 3:16-17)”

So why do we decide that God doesn’t mean “THEM”? Why do we, believers, decide that we live in a “Us vs. Them” world? It isn’t God who is causing this hatred, this distrust in our hearts. It’s not just our interactions of white vs. black. It’s all interaction with all races. I’ve heard some people honestly say that racism is only against the ‘black’ population… No.

No matter what color of skin you might have, what culture you might come from, what ethnic identity you might declare– you will have people hating what you ‘stand for’ in their eyes. We are surrounded in a world that ‘-isms’ us to death. And you and I will always be hated by somebody for something.

We do not live in a world that is ran by God’s command to Love one anotherBut, that doesn’t mean that can’t be one who does. I cannot influence one other person to love those that their history says to fear, if I do not live in love. 

The news with all of it’s fear, makes me honestly look at myself. What do I believe? How do I react? Am I fearful of the unknown? Do I believe in stereotypes? Do I let other people’s fear influence my relationships?

The only way the world will change in reaction to racism, sexism, class-ism, etc… is if individually we change. The only way that is going to happen is if we ask God to create that change in us, in all of it’s uncomfortable, painful, awkward, grace.

If you allow me the grace to change, will you be my friend? The only way I will learn, is if you help me understand. Teach me. Perhaps, you and I can change the world, if we look through each other’s eyes.

God loves you. He loves me. I pray we can both love each other. All lives matter. Because God has created us equal. No man has the power to say we are not royalty, for we are God’s children.

Because Satan lets me sleep

Why is it so hard to stay awake in church?

I can’t be the only one to think this. I can rule out boredom because even in the midst of a very intriguing sermon, I still find my eyes closing, my head nodding. I could say it’s because of the horrible back pain that makes it nearly impossible to sleep through the full night. That during the week, I can’t sleep as deeply because I’m at work, always having to be ready and aware of my client, so exhaustion just catches up with me when I’m sitting for an hour and a half in a warm room.

I could say that.

But really? There is a better answer, a truer answer, an answer that shines the light on the depth of the question.

It’s rather simple in its complexity.

Why do I fall asleep in church so easily? Because Satan lets me sleep.

What better way for Satan to disconnect me from learning more about God?
What better way for the Scripture’s truth not to sink into my mind?
What better way for me to not be a part of the Body of Christ’s worship?

Satan lets me sleep at the most horrible time because he doesn’t want me to learn about God. He doesn’t want me to bring God’s wisdom into both my mind and my heart. He doesn’t want me to remember what I learned, to pay attention and really dig into what I know.

Now, I’m not a demon alarmist. I do not think a demon is behind EVERY SINGLE one of my bad actions.

As I have said more than once: I can walk myself all the way into Hell by myself without the help of any demon, but walking to the gates of Heaven, I need the blood of Christ, the helping hand of the Holy Spirit, and an abundance of faith and grace to get to the Father’s side.

I don’t think that I need Satan tempting me at every turn or influencing me.

I am perfectly capable in all my broken sinful ways to cause problems all on my own. But, I do think that if there something directly hindering our ability to learn about God and the Gospels, Satan probably has his fingers in it.

He doesn’t want us to learn ways of keeping him out of our heads. He wants to continue to be the prince of lies in our conscience, and how do you do that? Extinguish the light that the truth brings.

Satan and his minions work overtime on Sundays, I’m sure.

Don’t you find it odd that Sunday is the day you sleep past your alarm?
Sunday is the day that is the ONLY day to get anything done?
Why waste two hours at church when you can be running errands or cleaning your house for the following week?
In a family situation, Sundays seem rift with tensions, parents yelling at each other for not getting something done. Children cranky because their sibling hit them, dogs getting lose, cats making messes. Parties seem to be held on Sunday and you have to travel.

THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING ON SUNDAY!

It’s a choice.

A choice to get up in the morning, a choice to put a smile on your face, a choice to pray instead of yell. A choice to stay awake during the sermon and not get annoyed with the children who are squirming in the pew in front of you.

We have the free will to allow Satan to control us and keep us from hearing the message or the free will to listen.

I’m choosing to do some more prayer before I go in to the service, and hopefully with more discipline I can stay awake this Sunday.

Just because Satan lets me sleep, doesn’t mean I have to.

Eternal Water

May 4th, I was honored by the chance to lead the Youth Fair’s Sunday service at the fairgrounds. I was wracking my mind for something to talk about. I had a week’s notice to come up with a minimum of 15 minutes of talk time.
What in the world would I talk about to a bunch of kids and their parents?
God’s sense of humor took over.
It was the week that we had a torrential downpour for three or so days in a row. We’ve had it before, we’ll have it again. It truly wasn’t that a big of a deal, it’s just the way people react to it. Plus it made the fairgrounds a lake where they nearly had to swim their animals from their stalls. 4Hers were digging trenches in the thick sawdust to try and divert the rain so the animals wouldn’t have to stand in the water.
So, what idea hatched in my mind that week and couldn’t be forgotten? The power of Eternal Water.
yep. God was laughing.
What follows is basically my talk, much to my audience’s amusement:
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This week I had a song go through my mind over and over again, Tenth Avenue’s “Love is Here.” If you haven’t heard it, they take a verse from Isaiah 55 which says “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!”
Then the thought came of how very blessed we were in this nation that we never have need to thirst.clean-dirty-drinking-glass

In a world where 780 million people – that’s 1 in 9 people, lack the ability to get clean water in developing countries- Americans are extremely blessed.
In a world where women will walk up to six hours a day, to gather a ten gallon bucket of what MIGHT be considered clean water, we just have to turn on our faucets.
Where little girls are taken out of school to gather water, our girls just have to grab a bottle of water that they rarely finish.
Where a large slum city uses less water a day than what we waste in one of our showers. 3.5 million people die every year due to the lack of clean water and America is considered one of the most dehydrated countries with 75% of the population suffering from Chronic dehydration.
We are a nation greatly blessed by an over abundance of water, and we don’t drink. We chose to fill that thirst with sugar, caffeine, alcohol and false energy. We mask life giving water with stuff that doesn’t help us, but can actually harm us.
In a nation that if we are thirsty we just have to go to the sink, where even if there is a drought, there is still water to drink, we are so blessed but we ignore it.
We are blessed as well with living water. We have the ability pick up a Bible in our language at nearly any bookstore or supermarket. We can download it on any mobile device or computer in seconds. But we don’t read it.
We fill up on reality tv, and celebrity gossip. We can spend hours on end playing a violent game on our xbox, but we can never find the time to drink the life giving water of the Bible.
In a world where millions will never hear or read the Scripture in their language, we are blessed. We can choose our translation and our version, but we rarely spend time diving into the words.
We choose to believe what someone says about God’s word, rather than reading it for ourselves. We give away our God given right to know his word, because we are too lazy to read them.
We are given healthy, fresh, healing, life giving water to drink, and we pour it out instead.
Jesus echoes Isaiah in the story of the woman at the well in John 4, but shows that he himself is the true living water– When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

We can choose what we want to take into our bodies—dirty water or clean water.
We can choose what we read and watch that affects our spiritual body- the Bible or anything that is not glorifying to God.
Will you go thirsty? Or will you drink deep of healing water that can give you eternal life?
The choice is ultimately up to you.
If we live in a world where people will walk miles to sit at a reading of the Scriptures, in a language that many of the audience won’t even understand fully, while we use our free Gideon Bible to prop up a table, ultimately it is us who will go thirsty while they drink deeply of Jesus’ presence.
The choice is: will you choose a relationship with the Loving, Sacrificial God who died so that you could fill your soul with delight or will you choose to fill your time with false joy watching Keeping up with the Kardashians or playing Call of Duty?
Take in good and never thirst again.
or Take in bad and be constantly looking for more.
choose.
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(And now, this next Saturday I have the honor to speak to the ladies of my church at a special Ladies’ Tea. Attempting to figure out what to speak in regards to Psalm 90:17, so I’m sure I’ll have something up here regarding that talk soon. God keeps giving me great opportunities to speak of him, and I stand amazed at every chance he gives me!)