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Posts Tagged ‘Loss’

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This Saturday morning in Dallas, Texas, dawned partly cloudy. A pleasant spring day stretched before me as I bowed my head and poured out my praise for the joy-filled celebration sure to come in the morning—Easter Sunday morning!

But my thoughts braked and turned back to that Saturday morning over 2,000 years ago. Have you ever thought how the disciples must’ve waked up feeling that day? Perhaps they hadn’t slept much the previous night. Perhaps Mary didn’t sleep at all. Remembering all those years—the baby, that day coming from the temple, the wedding miracle—and the…the brutal tragedy…the pain…the loss—

Could be you’re right there with them this morning—a grief, a loss, a pain you don’t have the strength to handle.

Perhaps these men who’d been with Jesus every day for over three years, didn’t know what to do with the unspeakable emptiness, guilt, and fear this morning brought. Maybe they grabbed their nets and headed for the boats like the walking dead. Dreams crushed, hearts mangled, and the pictures of their crucified Messiah splattered across their minds’ eyes.

Nothing to live for, I’m sure the evil one whispered to each of them in his first-person-singular with a Jewish hiss. Less we rush by this twenty-four hour span of time, think about their despair, and remember they didn’t understand the rest of the story. They didn’t have a Bible to pick up and find comfort and understanding from the Words of God.

Remember the time—the day after you’ve watched a loved one laid in the grave. And consider how you felt. And you know the rest of the story. They didn’t…or their wounded minds wouldn’t allow them to connect the dots.

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I’m sure their Saturday was a blur of depression beyond our ability to conceive. So why should we ponder the disciples’ Saturday? So when our times of unbelievable tragedy and grief visit our days, and they will, we can raise our eyes and remember:

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore, I have hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him…For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, then He will have compassion according to His abundant lovingkindness” (Lamentations 3:22-26, 31-32 NAS).

If only they’d understood, but they didn’t have the whole story.

We do! But I’m afraid we rush right over the times of tragedy in our lives, racing to get to the good parts. Failing to understand learning takes place during hard times, the painful moments, when our hearts are humbled. We are always in a hurry…seeking comfort rather than sitting silent and learning from the pain.

Saturday night I’m sure they all tossed and turned, probably nightmares of the crucifixion stormed their dreams.

But what a difference a day makes! As the joy of Jesus’ resurrection exploded their sorrow, they rushed to the empty tomb! Weeping! Remembering! Rejoicing!

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Would that the next time you’re consumed and overcome with grief you’d remember. Remember that one day, in a moment, in the twinkling of eye, you’ll stand face to face with King Jesus—see the love in His eyes and the splendor of His glory will explode all the sorrows you’ve ever known.

Have a blessed Easter. An Easter to remember how much God loves you—enough to die just for you!

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“Angry?”

“Me, angry?”

My face heated and my heart twisted. “Well, yes… I have a temper, but my Dad had a temper too. Don’t we all?” My spirit squirmed.

I focused on the lane stripes zipping by on the black-top. Tension from my heart slipped to my foot and I shoved the gas pedal to theDSCF6475 floor, but Dr. Ravi Zacharias’s words echoed in my head. I always listen to him on my way home from Longview. This morning he related difficult relationships in his family when he grew up in New Delhi, India.

His father was a well-know man in their city. A man held in high esteem by many, but a man with a horrible temper. Dr. Zacharias told about an evening his father’s temper had exploded, causing great discomfort and misery for his wife and children. But what pierced my heart was his mother’s reaction.

Dr. Zacharias, then a teen, suggested they go to a neighbor for help. But his mother said no. Her husband’s reputation would be harmed. She chose to be quiet and endure the discomfort. He repeated an old Indian saying his mother lived by.

“When your basket is bumped, what spills out defines your character.”

These words shot an arsenal of conviction into my heart. What comes out of me when I’m bumped? My mind shifted gears to a few DSCF6482days before. I had been bumped and what spilled out of me was oxygen-deprived-pond-scum that grew in dark isolated corners of my heart—toxic waste.

Oh, I’m usually fine when everything goes according to plan. When I feel good. When there’s enough of me to go around. When life is smooth and pleasant and you do things my way. But what are the mathematical odds for that being a consistent way of life?

So on that super highway at 80 mph, I faced, admitted, and confessed—I have anger issues.

Oh, that’s a too politically correct confession to leave staring at you and me on this page.

I’m angry! There. I admitted it.

Not the screaming, yelling in-the-moment rage. No. But the deep caustic kind that eats rust when expectations and reality are too far apart, leaving me frustrated with unrealistic expectations which lodge in my heart to grate, grind, and grab my peace.

So I pulled into the slow lane, turned the radio off, and asked God to show me exactly what He wanted me to know—something I should never do unless I’m ready to hear. And show He did. In HD. It was and is still painful.

My response to trouble, difficult situations, and conversations in the past has been to back the offender in a corner and verbally slice and dice, using words that twist the situation to my point of view so I end up the victor. Talking rather than listening. In other words, controlling the moment so I win—you lose.

Why? Because like you, I’ve grown up in a world where we are made to think success is based solely on money, power, and status. That’s a bold-faced lie and a wrong definition of success. But we’ve been indoctrinated to live in this fast and furious lane of life. Too much to do. No time to accomplish. Zero dependence on God and total dependence on self. A recipe for disaster, doomed to end in divorce court, criminal court, and/or counseling.

All because we’ve pushed God to the background, neglected His Word, and wedged ourselves in the driver’s seat.

Don’t look down your nose at me and say, “Well I go to church every Sunday. I pray and read God’s Word when I can.” Yep. So do I, and yet, how long are we out of church on Sunday before someone bumps us and we spew? If not on the outside, in those creepy-heart-corners to acidify along with the long list of offenses already stored there—waiting for a prime-time moment to slosh out with the next bump.

This past week I’ve come to understand the most dangerous type of anger is anger that hides, seethes, corrodes and turns into bitterness.

My younger brother was given the privilege of going to college. Didn’t know it at the time, but we were poor, and you know boys needed the education…blah, blah, blah. He didn’t make it through the first year and I was angry. Angry at him, angry with my folks, just plain angry. Even typing this account I feel my face heat. For years I held onto this anger. Nursed it, and reveled in self-pity and excused my faults. And all these years our relationship traveled a rocky road. But in His sovereignty, God allows situations in the lives of His children to wake us up and teach us, but how many times do we choose a tantrum rather than deal with the source of the anger?

We’ve birthed several generations of angry kids because we excuse behavior, lie to ourselves, and become mannequins of one another. WeDSCF6490 are an angry people. Devoid of humility, forgiveness, and thankfulness. Captured in self-deception and pride. And it’s contagious.

There have been moments of abject shame this past week dredging up and naming the well-kept bombing ranges of anger in my life. Scars from childhood. A broken marriage. Emotional damage I caused my children. The pain of broken relationships. Secondary losses occurring after our daughter died. All tucked away and allowed to fester. But this morning, as He always does, God led me to Ephesians 1:3.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

To the best of my understanding God’s Word said:

God has given me every spiritual blessing in heaven in Christ. Everything I need to live life in Him. I’m good to go! He has given me the ability to exhibit all the fruit of the Spirit. And He says, “The fruit of the Spirit is…” Not the fruits are…I don’t get to pick and choose. Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Gentleness. Goodness. Faith. Meekness. Temperance. But I must desire them. I must seek after and choose to learn to use what He has already given me. I am responsible, with the help of the Spirit, to pin-point areas of sin in my life, confess them, and turn away, because He has put my sins behind His back. They are gone forever. He promised.

One of the reasons anger seeds flourished in my heart are the psycho-buzz-words—unrealistic expectations. The truth is the distance between my reality and my expectations determined the size, meter, depth, and manifestation of my next explosion.
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Another person cannot fulfill my expectations, meet my needs, or satisfy my longings. The reality is everything I need and long for can only be achieved through a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. All other relationships tempt me to latch onto unrealistic expectations which are Satan’s yellow-brick-breeding-ground for anger.
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God the Father instructs me, learn to do what is pleasing to the Lord. Then anger won’t be an overwhelming struggle. God issued the edict—I don’t have to stay bound in chains of hateful aggression. Not if I use the power He’s already given to name and forsake the sin. But I’ve often chosen to disobey Him and have grieved His Spirit.

“Be angry, and yet do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil and opportunity”(Ephesians 4:26-27 NAS).

Does that mean we’re going to be perfect all the time? No, not in this lifetime, but remember the words God used, “trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” God knows my heart. And my heart desires to crucify the anger I’ve allowed to reside in me. To live each day in a manner demonstrating to others what God has done in my life and invite them to come, taste, and see that the Lord is good.

What’s the desire of your heart? Is Jesus your reality? Next time you’re bumped what will spill out of your heart, somersault off your tongue, and pollute all those within your sphere of influence? Or will you choose to run to God’s mercy seat for “help and hope in time of need?” But the decision must be made each day—before the explosion occurs. Daniel “purposed in his heart” before the meal was served, he would not taste defiling food from a pagan king. Will you?

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When our daughter died, the children moved in with my husband and me for six months while our son-in-law completed required Army schooling and relocated to his next duty assignment.

After that I relocated with the children to the new Post to help establish their household. My husband, the children’s Papa, stayed behind in Dallas to keep our home fires burning. Yet another loss for me.

My list of secondary losses grew day by day. Only I didn’t know what they were or even that they were. I just knew I hurt and everything in my life spun out-of-control. But there were more important issues to address—children who had lost their mom, and a father who had lost his wife. So I put my grief aside.

I thought.

Papa came for weekend visits once or twice a month. During one visit I gave him a box of vintage Madame Alexander dolls to take back home for safe-keeping until our granddaughter was old enough to care for them. Some were her mom’s dolls and some were my mine. Treasures. Waiting to be passed to this child of my child.

Papa rented a car for his trip and when he returned it to the rental company, he forgot the dolls were in the trunk. Half-way home he remembered and backtracked, but the dolls were nowhere to be found. Like so many other things that had vanished during the past six months, they were gone forever.

The emotional rip-tide of tears eroded deeper trenches in my aching heart.

He apologized, over and over again. But I could do nothing but weep, snarl at him, and pile this new heartache onto the mounting stack of losses. I had no idea, nor did I care how he felt.

I’ve come to understand that during the grief process husbands and wives are total  strangers. Unlike a woman, the worst thing a man ever has to face are his emotions. Now Papa had to deal with his emotions as well as a wife drowning in her raging ocean of grief. He was clueless. And I did nothing to ease his guilt.

We are all like porcupines during this anguish.  If threatened or aggravated, our quills extend, aim, and fire at the first shift in the landscape. We are so self-absorbed, we don’t recognize that other family members are also grieving. We focus on ourselves. On our pain. On our loss. Unable to comprehend that our hemorrhaging hearts need a transfusion.

But the old saying—the bumps are what you climb on—holds true. And eventually these losses are rocks we must climb and conquer. Some are not too bad, but others are jagged boulders that feel like we’re scaling Mt. Everest.

So how do we begin managing these troublesome after-the-fact losses?

One profound fact is, Hurt people hurt people.

That’s true among family members where death has intruded.  Understanding this doesn’t take the sting out of hateful words or actions we’ve received or inflicted, but it encourages us to think about why and then choose to forgive whoever caused the pain and anguish. Just like Jesus forgives us when we cause Him pain and anguish.

A few weeks after the lost dolls, I was reading the Word and crying out to God when I heard that still, small voice inside me ask, Would I withhold anything from you that you needed?

I had to answer, “No Lord. But her dolls? Lord, why?”

My mind flew back to the verse that had become my life-ring, The secret things belong to the Lord. The things revealed belong to you and your children forever…”(Deuteronomy 29:29). This would be another one of those secret things.

Again, another question.  Do you trust Me?

My pathetic voice, saturated with fear and very little faith said, “Yes, Lord. I trust You, even with those dolls.”

And for the moment His peace reigned in my heart.

That’s what the grief journey is about—a rollercoaster ride through heights of His peace interrupted by heart-stopping plunges into the abyss of the next secondary loss.

This pain and confusion you’re going through will not last forever, but it lasts longer than you ever imagined. The goal is to accept the fact you are mourning the loss of someone you loved and you must let tears come when they may. Jesus wept over Lazarus, even as He knew in the next moments He would issue the command and Lazarus would walk out of that tomb—Alive.

Over the years, I’ve wondered if perhaps some father or grandfather who worked at the rental company saw those dolls and his little girl had no dolls. Could those dolls have brought joy where there was none? I choose to believe God allowed those dolls to be held and loved by a little girl He knew needed them. And I thank Him. I’ve also come to understand that God never wastes anything. But we’ll talk about that next week. That’s right. God never wastes anything—even your grief.

Prescription #2:   Be still and quiet before the Lord God and read and listen to His Word.  Then make a commitment to compose a Loss History. Take a sheet of paper and list every loss you can remember experiencing. At the edge of the paper make two columns Historical and Current.

As you list each loss, evaluate whether you’re still grieving. Even if it was fifty years ago. If you are, mark Current. If there is no churning or anger, mark Historical. Every loss must be individually dealt with.

Every grief is unique. You can choose to forgive, even when your heart and mind want to raise a ruckus. Cast your pain on God and leave it there. Refuse to hurt people because you’re hurting.

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