Sunday, April 22, 2018

Needing All the Help We Can Derive

https://pixabay.com/en/country-church-landmark-2413911/
As I have already said, the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers.
~ Charles Spurgeon, from his sermon, The Best Donation

Image via pixabay
by leoleobobeo

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Documentary ~ The Exodus Decoded

After a busy day of study and cleaning, I popped some popcorn and we settled in this evening to view the documentary The Exodus Decoded, which was first aired on The History Channel in 2006. Directed by Jewish-Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobavici, it chronicles the work of archeologists, researchers, geologists, and theologians as they examine the veracity of the biblical account of the Exodus, its time in history, its crossing of the Red or Reed Sea, the pharaoh at the time of the Exodus, the plagues, the location of Mt. Sinai, and other interesting and enlightening findings.

We had viewed a couple of other documentaries of the Exodus that corroborated some of the same findings, but what was especially intriguing to me in this one was the plagues and how God may have harnessed His natural laws to do His bidding against the Pharaoh. I've mostly thought of God's miracles as just being out of the clear blue, sort of poof! and there they are, but this documentary enlarged my understanding as to how God often uses what is at His command, which is anything and everything. The consideration of the plagues made me marvel at God's control of the physical universe. Of course, He can just wave His hand and do whatever He desires, but I found it intriguing to consider the possibilities.

We watched the documentary on Amazon Prime. You can watch the trailer here. As a caution, there's a YouTube video listed as The Exodus Decoded, but it is not the same documentary.

Friday, April 20, 2018

From the Book Shelf ~ Loss and Grief

A required reading in a biblical counseling Bereavement course that I'm taking this month is All Our Losses All Our Griefs by Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson. It's one of those books that I wish I had read many years ago. It would have saved me a lot of bewilderment in my grief. I had a significant loss in the past, but I didn't recognize my feelings as grief, and it took me many years to move on. Had I recognized it for what it was, the time of grieving could have been lessened.

The book considers six types of losses that have significant influence on our lives: loss of relationship, material loss, functional loss, loss of social/familial role, systemic loss (loss of that part someone plays in a group rather than the person himself), and intrapsychic loss (death of a hope/dream/purpose/perception of oneself).

All of these losses cause us to grieve to some extent, some more than others. Grief can take on a feeling of emptiness, loneliness, or isolation and can be a sense of loss of self. Recognizing our feelings as grief is essential to being able to move forward. The authors also make the point that administration of calming medication tends to suppress the pain and its necessary expression, which often results in longer, more intense grief. The sooner grieving can begin, the less intense and lengthy it may be.

The authors emphasize the personal ministry of caring, that the Christian community is the primary source of comfort as they care for the grievers. Significant loss can often cause us to question God's goodness in our suffering, and those who come alongside, through their benevolence and words of care, bring comfort and acknowledgement of the faithfulness and goodness of God that brings hope to the bereaved to move forward in life.

Some of the book goes into some psychological explanations of the origin of loss and grief that may not be necessary to understand or agree with; however, the book has great value beyond that, and I highly recommend it. You may find yourself somewhere in the book as I did. I've ordered three more copies for family members. I know it will help them to understand their feelings a little more and strengthen their faith when they face their own times of significant loss.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It Makes Space for Remembrance

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hanus_Knochel_1850-1927_-_Na_brehu_more.jpg

Freedom to grieve intensively from the onset of loss
is what makes space later
for a remembrance of Christ's suffering
and
a reaffirmation of the loving will of God
that seemed so strange

when the pains of grief were so acute.
~ from All Our Losses, All Our Griefs by Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson

Image ~ On the Seashore, 1879
Hanus Knochel, 1850-1927
public domain via Wikimedia Commons


Monday, April 16, 2018

Grief Exposes Our Faith

“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.” 
~ C.S. Lewis, written through his grief after his wife Joy's death

We've begun a study in our women's Sunday School class on 1 Peter, and yesterday the discussion was on trials and the testing of our faith. As was pointed out, trials are varied for each of us in our own unique situations and life experiences. We each have our own. We all experience grief, sorrow, suffering at some time. It is inevitably universal.

Perhaps you can relate to the thought C.S. Lewis expressed. Sometimes suffering finds us as laws of nature unfold. There is much sorrow and suffering in our world that is also the result of its brokenness and sinfulness. Often it is not our own sinfulness, but we are sometimes the target, or we are impacted by its ricochet.

How do we respond to the suffering? What good can come from our trials and sorrows and grief? They all show us if our faith in Jesus Christ is genuine, for trials always test our faith. Even though trials may be outside of us, they test what is inside of us. God already knows whether or not our faith in Him is genuine, but the trials and sufferings of life let us know for ourselves of its certainty.

And we are thankful that He sent the Comforter when Jesus went back to heaven, for He is the one who knows how to comfort in all our trials and grief.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).


Sunday, April 15, 2018

On Grieving A Child's Death

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hans_Bachmann_Liebevolle_Mutter_1881.jpg
Our church family is mourning the death of a precious six-month-old baby boy, lost to SIDS. The grief and hurt are deep for the dear parents, the 4-year-old brother, the grandparents, and others in the extended family who had rejoiced in his birth. Only God can bind up their broken hearts, for He is the Great Comforter.

But others of us can offer comfort by our ministry of presence. What is to be said at such heartbreak? I believe the less said the better this early in the bereavement. Just being there tomorrow at the visitation, without knowing what to say, without saying much except to express the sorrow we feel for the loss that has overshadowed their lives. And to let them know that they are in our prayers.

I'm reminded of Job and his friends, of how they were a comfort to him the few days they just sat with him and said nothing. After they began to fill the air with words, he called then "miserable comforters."

When we've not experienced such heartbreaking loss, it's often difficult to know how to comfort someone who grieves. We can be advised on what may be helpful and not helpful from the heart of others who have walked through that valley. In her article What My Son's Death Taught Me About Grief, one mother shares her own perspective. One thing that was surprising is her advice to keep God out of the conversation. I've heard that before, that those who have a great loss (even believers) can sometimes feel betrayed by God. Reminding them that God will work good out of their loss is not a comfort at the moment. God still comforts, however, in His own way, for He knows the needs of the heart. We can rest assured of that, even though it might not be through our words. I found that mother's helpful article here.

Everyone grieves differently. For many, being reminded of God's love and care is very meaningful. It's a unique and personal expression of emotions, and so we wait for a sense of what may be helpful.

Another insightful article is here on Grieving the Death of a Child.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we have received from God. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Image ~ Liebevolle Mutter, Hans Bachmann, 1881
public domain via WikiMedia Commons

Saturday, April 14, 2018

From the Book Shelf ~ The Art of Aging

https://www.amazon.com/Art-Aging-Christian-Handbook/dp/1885904606Today's post rides on the heels of the last couple of posts that are somewhat along the same vein. I hadn't intended it that way, but we attended Dr. Eyrich's seminar on The Art of Aging today at our church, and I wanted to recommend his book by the same title. We found the seminar to confirm much of what we've experienced in helping to care for my aging parents.

Dr. Eyrich has degrees in gerontology, theology, and has been in the biblical counseling field for many years, holding related positions at colleges, universities and churches. The Eyrichs have additional experience in caring for a parent who had alzheimers, so there was also that aspect to his presentation.

Throughout the seminar, Dr. Eyrich reiterated the need to be today what we want to be in our later years and emphasized that God is active in a person's life and gives purpose as long as we live. In that way, the seminar spoke to all age levels looking forward. This book covers much of what was said today.

Friday, April 13, 2018

How Do You Feel About How You Look?

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_William_Waterhouse_-_Mariana_in_the_South_(1897).jpg
Yesterday I wrote about embracing the season we're in, about accepting the aging process as our bodies are changing. Today I'd like to share a link to a post by a gal from a younger generation who writes about women who tend to think a lot about their bodies. It's both those who think they look great and those who think they aren't attractive enough who have the same problem. (And it isn't just the younger generation.) Here's a brief excerpt, but click here to take you to Melissa's full post.
I wonder how many women out there, if we really admit it, spend a large portion of every day obsessing about the way we look? How many times a day do you have a hateful thought about some body part you despise? How often do you long for a body or face like someone else? Have you ever, like me, left the house for church on Sunday morning completely crushed by the feeling that you are not attractive enough?  
Or maybe you are on the other side of things. Maybe you love your body so much that you show it off at every opportunity. Maybe it is what defines who you are in your mind. Maybe you love your face so much that you spend large chunks of your day taking selfies so that you can get the approval of the world on social media. ~Melissa @yourmomhasablog.com  
Image ~ Mariana in the South, John William Waterhouse, 1897
public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, April 12, 2018

No Matter Your Age ~ Embrace the Season

https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/sunset-behind-the-hill_758471.htm#term=winter%20sunset&page=7&position=6

The grandchildren have left after an 8-day visit and all is quiet again. Much activity, love, and talking while they were here. They seem to grow older by leaps and bounds between visits. I grow older to them as well, at least that's what little Anna (5) seems to think. "Nana, I know why your hair is gray. Because you're old, old." Don't kids say the cutest things? (not)

I grayed early several years ago and so did my grandmother. I always remember her as gray, but I never thought of her as old, old. Maybe that's because she died a few years younger than I am now. Maybe it's because we weren't as bombarded back then with ads about staying and looking young. Whatever the reason, we currently live in a youth obsessed culture.

Why is that? I think several things are in that stew. For one, it sells products. If we were allowed to be satisfied with how we look, there would be no profit in that mentality for the cosmetic industry, the folks that do the nip and tuck, the chiseling, firming, implants, reductions, color enhancers (spray on, wash on), whitening, darkening, spot removers, wrinkle removers, pedicures, manicures, fake lashes, waxers, or the new fill-in scalp powders for thinning hair. It even comes in white. Hmmm....maybe I should seriously consider the scalp powder.

No matter how much we fix up or cover up, we inevitably age. That's just how life is. The more we shadow box, the more we lose out on growing old gracefully. No, the hair isn't the same, the skin isn't the same, and I cannot make it across the ring bridge at the playground now (tried it last week with the kiddos and was rather surprised that I couldn't).

But one thing I've learned as I've aged is that there's so much more to life than how young or old I look or feel, or whether I can still do the things I used to do. There's so much in life still to enjoy that we simply change the things we do and enjoy the things we now do. Real, live conversations are richer, quiet music is more pleasant, a slower walk through the neighborhood or the park can let the fragrance of the flowers drift by, a late-night or early-evening bedtime is at my bidding. And there is extended time to sit, meditate, and contemplate as I read God's Word. There may come a time in my later years that I cannot do even what I do now, but I know that God's grace is abundant. I've known many older saints who exude much joy even in their limited capacities. It has more to do with the spirit than the body.

I don't think we were meant to age when Creation began, but the Fall of Man brought it to us all. However, God in His great mercy redeems what Satan intends to take from us--the joy of our years. Our hope cannot be in clinging to youthfulness, for that is inevitably hopeless. Our hope and joy is found in the One who gives abundant life, in the here and now and ages to come. So I embrace the here and now. The winter season has its own beauty and peacefulness.

Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! 
I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you. 
~Isaiah 46:4-5

Image ~ from Freepik by RyanMcQuire

Monday, March 12, 2018

From the Book Shelf ~ Running Scared

https://www.wtsbooks.com/running-scared-edward-welch-9780978556754
Recommending Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Edward Welch. It was required reading for a biblical counseling class, and I'm ever glad it was! Welch is writing from experience and wisdom. A brief excerpt from the preface:
Like most writing projects, this book is aimed squarely at myself. Although I can be angry or melancholy, I am a fear specialist. In this I have found that I am not alone. Not everyone is a fear specialist, but there is no doubt that every single person who ever lived is personally familiar with fear. It is an inescapable feature of earthly life. To deny it is...well...to deny it.
Welch discusses how natural fear and worry can be and shows us how to recognize it. He says there are themes that run through our fears, and he gives instruction on how to face them. Danger and vulnerability are key aspects, and this is where spiritual realities come to light. Welch shows us how to turn to God when fear and worry prevail, how we can find freedom and have peace reign in our hearts and minds.

I have only one negative about the book--I don't particularly like the cover design. Kind of petty, I realize. I had seen the book before, but I was put off by the cover. That was not a good decision. I would have missed Welch's deep insight. Goes to show that you can't judge a book by its cover. I should have looked beyond the cover because anything written by Ed Welch is a treasure trove of wise counsel. However, I would recommend a new cover design on the next edition. :-)
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