Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday Thoughts

I want to write, but I'm feeling a little blah today. I've had many good days, today is a hard day.

This isn't meant to be a 'downer' blog, but one to encourage those who are hurting this time of year. GRIEF IS A PROCESS. Even Jesus healed others through process. Sometimes He healed and it was instant, most often there was a process to it...there were steps to be accomplished before the next step, and the next step....leading to the healing!

I think for me personally, it is several things weighing on my heart, and not one thing I can put my finger completely on. The main event; different forms of grief.

Honestly, I'm very much liking where we live. The city is so great...lots of places to go...people are very nice here. God is doing some amazing things!!! I will share those soon! We are beginning to make a few new friends. God is opening up doors of opportunity. Our family is pulling in together and enjoying each other. Husband LOVES his new job! He is really happy in his new job! The kids and I are liking it here very much. I'm having more joyful and happy days, than sad/hard days. Thank you Lord!

There is this part of me that is rejoicing very much! Overall, very GRATEFUL beyond words!

Then, there is this sad part....a blah part I'm dealing with from time to time. It sort of crops up unexpectedly.

Husband and I were talking early this morning...why is this time of years so difficult for the grieving?

We are grieving over different things right now. Not only loss of loved ones, but loss of sharing time with family and friends in western and eastern NC, FL...the recent moves (4 moves in 4 a LOT...don't care who ya are!), dealing with each of our personal issues and working through them, starting over again. New job for David. Finding a new church (which we still haven't decided on). We do have a few stressors.

Starting over again can be good in many ways, but stressful, even sorrowful in some ways too.

There are many positives. Also losses that cannot be ignored. Must move through the process, even though it is not always comfortable.

I've been thinking a lot about my grandparents, father, uncles and aunts on both sides of our family, father-in-law, dear friends and family we have lost...those who have died. Missing them.

There will be hard days once in awhile with missing them. Especially during the holiday season; certain dates, remembering events; things, dates, smells, situations, or people...all things that asssociate or remind us of them. It happens out from nowhere sometimes.

Since my husband deals with death on a daily basis as a Hospice Chaplain, he is a great encouragement to our family. We learn together and from him. Our family doesn't always get it right, but it helps to share together, and learn from the word of God, and from each other too. To continually walk the healing journey with God, and with family and friends. We all need each other.

My husband has served with GriefShare classes, and I went to their website today. These were some comforting words/ideas to acknowledge and honor loved ones we have lost.

Holidays and Other Special Times
Ideas for Dealing with the Holidays and Other Special Days

Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and other special days can be extremely difficult and are often dreaded by those in grief. Here are some practical suggestions from GriefShare* group leaders and participants on how to make it through these emotionally challenging days.

*Ask yourself questions to help you identify and face the specific feelings and concerns you have about the coming holiday. Questions could include “Which traditions will be different this year?” “Which traditions are important to maintain?” “What plans do I have on that day?” “What do I dread the most about the coming holiday?” “What will I miss the most about not having my loved one here on that day?” “Whom can I ask to pray for me and be my spiritual support on that day?” “How do I plan to take care of myself on that day?”

*Consider having an “escape plan” in place. If you plan to attend a family or group gathering, you could make arrangements with the host/hostess ahead of time to be excused if needed. This plan involves an acknowledgment of the grief process, while also avoiding potentially awkward situations with others.

*Volunteer to help others in need on that special day. For instance, working in a soup kitchen or at the Salvation Army. Your church pastor may have suggestions of other places to volunteer.

*Have a candle-lighting ceremony with your family or close friends to remember lost loved ones. As each person lights a candle, he or she may share something meaningful about the loved one. People could also share a picture, song, poem or a tangible item that was special to the loved one. End with a time of prayer.

*Plan a night of remembrance not only in honor of your lost loved one, but including other friends who have lost a loved one. Provide ornaments or have people bring a special ornament to hang on the tree in remembrance of their lost loved one. Invite people to share a special Christmas memory about their loved one. Include food, music, Scripture and prayer.

*Read a book such as The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions by Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. De Vries.

* We encourage you to attend a GriefShare grief recovery support group at a church near you. You will have the opportunity to spend time with others who know the deep pain of grief and who can better understand what you are going through this holiday season. You will also learn how to take steps forward and grieve in a way that is healthy. Make a commitment to visit a group for at least three sessions.

© MMVI by Church Initiative. All rights reserve

Here is the GriefShare link. Click Here for GreifShare
You can go on that site and they will let you know where the next class will be in your area.

Another great article by the Hospice Foundation. I found this encouraging....and found it here: Click Here

Coping with Grief During the Holidays
Hospice Foundation of America's New Campaign Offers Advice

Washington, DC - A question commonly asked by bereaved people at this time of year is, "How can I get through the holidays?" There is really no single answer of what one should or shouldn't do. Hospice Foundation of America stresses one guiding principle: do what is comfortable.

"When we are already experiencing the great stress of bereavement, the additional strains of the holidays can create unbearable pressure," commented Jack Gordon, President of HFA. "The key to coping with grief during the holidays is to find the way that is right for you."

Some people find it helpful to be with family and friends, emphasizing the familiar. Others may wish to avoid old sights and sounds, perhaps even taking a trip. Others will find new ways to acknowledge the season.

Here are some key points from HFA's Holiday Grief Campaign:

Plan for the approaching holidays. Be aware that this might be a difficult time for you. The additional stress may affect you emotionally, cognitively, and physically; this is a normal reaction. It is important to be prepared for these feelings.

Recognize that holidays won't be the same. If you try to keep everything as it was, you'll be disappointed. Doing things a bit differently can acknowledge the change while preserving continuity with the past.

Be careful not to isolate yourself. It's alright to take time for yourself but don't cut yourself off from the support of family and friends.

The holidays may affect other family members. Talk over your plans. Respect their choices and needs, and compromise if necessary.

Avoid additional stress. Decide what you really want to do, and what can be avoided.

Web site at:

The College Conspiracy?

I continue to find this video quite thought provoking......

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mind over Matter? If You Don't Mind... You Don't Matter!

Sometimes I wonder if some forms of the 'EXTREME positive thinking' we christians push onto one another, is nothing more than mind over matter...which is more of 'self power' instead of 'Holy Spirit' power. Even a form of spiritual pride in some cases... (I'm guilty of it!).

You know like: Be happy and all spiritual, and be 'positive', never say ANYTHING otherwise, or else you can't associate with might bring us down.

Yet, God says in the word, things like: associate with the lowly-Romans 12:15-17, better to be lowly-Proverbs 16:19. There is a time for everything-Ecclesiastes 3. I know....the Bibles says a LOT about a LOT!

Any extreme is disfunctional (the Bible didn't say that, but so true!). I'm just continually evaluating my own heart, and things I need to work on. I found myself doing this to a friend...being all "Ms. Positive", and I believe I did more crushing of the friend's spirit than I did encourage for Christ. :-/

Yes, we are given free will to make choices, christians should think on 'good and lovely' things...things of good report-Phil 4:8...encourage others with God's word.

Not too sure if 'our will' should be 'taking full control' to accomplish this by never saying anything negative or questioning...never expressing or allowing others to express sadness, anger or hurt/pain, or anything other than happy all the time mentality.

David in the book of Psalm sure expressed his feelings!

I realize there is a respectful way to express some of these emotions, and personally I've not 'always' been respectful about expressing my feelings.

Doesn't the whole mind over matter sort of cheapen what Jesus did on the cross when we 'WILL' things into being by our own strength? Where's the full surrender in this? It's like willing to diet, but not really having the 'life change'. Which has never worked for me either.

The beauty and power of the cross, by God's word, and FULLY surrendering and trusting JESUS for HIM to transform us, there is Holy Spirit power in the cross! In the RESURRECTION! Thank you JESUS!

Point others to the cross, not in a way that puts pressure on them to be positive ALL the time. Receive grace...and extend this grace to others? Encourage with God's word, not force them to be happy when they are not.

Love others...which Jesus says is above ALL the greatest of God, love others.

Remind each other that yes....the Bible says, "In this world WE WILL have trouble, but take heart, JESUS has overcome it!" JESUS, not anything in OUR own power or strength.

Sometimes, it can really hurt the body of Christ to dismiss others when they struggle, and treat them with ZERO compassion or treat them with less value....or as if they have not 'arrived' at some spiritual plateau. The Bible says to treat others as better than ourselves-Rom. 12:10. One version actually says to OUTDO one another in showing HONOR to others. It didn't say, only honor those who get it all right. I think we change the world when we live it out more than anything.

I'm thinking outloud here...that's all...and I SURE DO have a LOT to work on myself!! There is NOTHING GOOD in me, accept Jesus Christ. I'm guilty of doing the same of these things to others in their struggles and pain.

If we are to love as in 1 Corin. 13...maybe instead, point each other to Jesus, share scripture, but patiently bear with them in their pain and struggles...take time to listen and HEAR their HEART. I think sometimes when we don't hear someone's heart, we are really saying..."If you don't mind, you are wasting my time and you really don't matter enough for it. How does that fit into putting others before ourselves?

Only wondering... I know...sort of heavy thinking for a Monday. I need coffee. ;)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friendship from the Christian Perspective

This is a wonderful article that I found HERE

Friendship from the Christian Perspective

by Dér Stépanos Dingilian, Ph. D. © 2001

One of the most important areas where the maturity in spirituality becomes apparent for these faithful is in the area of friendship. Here is what Addison states about the value of friendship: “Friendship improves happiness, and abates misery, by doubling our joy, and dividing our grief.”

The Exalted Vision of Friendship - Perhaps one of the most needed persons in life, while also one of the most difficult to find is a good friend! Sometimes we forget that when Christ wanted to raise the standard of spiritual living for his Disciples, he told them something very interesting: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (St. John 15:12-15) So from the perspective of Christ, being a ‘friend’ is no simple matter; it is a true commitment and responsibility! Henry Home adds this insight: “The difficulty is not so great to die for a friend, as to find a friend worth dying for.”

Helping at Time of Need – Human beings have a natural tendency to help others at time of need. So it is of no surprise that most friendships begin when one or both persons need help. Perhaps the best illustration of the way friends are expected to help at time of need is the story of the Good Samaritan, which you can find in the Gospel according to St. Luke verses 10:30-37. In this story, a traveling Jewish person is attacked by bandits, robed, and beaten, and left to die along the road. Christ points out that other travelers such as another Jewish person and even a Jewish spiritual leader, passed by but did not help this wounded person. Yet, a traveler who was a Samaritan, from a people who were generally considered to be enemies of the Jews, helped this Jewish person and even paid for his lodging so he can get rest and recover. The point that Christ makes is that ‘neighbors’ are truly those who help, rather than those who are simply tied through kinship or call themselves ‘servants of God.’ So the desire to help others at a time of need must surpass the kinship, title, and position. “Life has no blessing like a prudent friend,” observed Euripidies. In fact, the more unexpected is the source of help, the stronger is generally the friendship bond between two persons. Although, most meaningful friendships begin in this manner, yet unless two people demonstrate a sense of reciprocity towards each other, where they help one another at time of need, even what may have been considered a ‘friendship’ at the beginning fades away into being an ‘acquaintance.’ Emerson said “The only way to make a friend is to be one.” Still though, in order for a friendship to grow, the relationship must progress from two people needing each other’s help at time of need, to wanting to share their accomplishments together. This takes us to the next stage of friendship.

Sharing the Successes – Helping each other at times of need is certainly important for two people. However, if it remains so, it simply becomes a utilitarian relationship, meaning that people stay together in order to use each other’s abilities, and not because they care or have respect for each other. Though the friendship remains, but there is hardly any spiritual growth. Spiritual growth comes when two friends share their successes, and actually rejoice for the other’s success. “He is our friend who loves us more than admires us, and would aid us in our great work,” wrote William Ellery Channing.

One may think that two people ought to be happy for each other’s success, and that this is a very commonplace experience in friendships. Surprisingly though, this is not very common. As one parishioner told me once: “When you are in need, everyone pitches in to help you survive. But the minute you begin recovering and moving forward, then everyone pulls back, begins gossiping about you, and saying ‘look at his dumb luck!’” Although this was the observation of an Armenian farmer, yet it is an age-old reality that is described in the Bible, St. Luke 14:16-24. In this parable, a rich man gives a banquet and invites his neighbors. Do his neighbors come and rejoice with him? No! They all make excuses and do not come to the banquet. One of the points of this parable is that people generally do not want to see someone become better or more successful than they are. It is interesting in that many of these people neither want to work hard and excel themselves, nor do they want to give credit to someone else who works hard and excels! Not only do they have that sick attitude of striving for mediocrity, but worse, they stand in the way of those who want to reveal God’s goodness to humanity, and make life a more meaningful and fulfilling experience. For this reason Christ ends this parable by saying: “I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.” In other words, none of those people who oppress or stand in the way of others who want to serve God will ever get a taste of fulfillment or joy in life. Instead, they will remain miserable and pitiful, and die bored from suffocating in the stench of cowardice, mediocrity, and hypocrisy!

Therefore, in order for the relationship between two friends to grow, it must move beyond helping each other, and to creating an environment where both persons freely and with respect share their views, aspirations, and joys. Unless this joyous sharing takes place, the friendship remains a utilitarian one. Of course, one would think that there should be friendship and trust among the clergy. After all, they are called to be followers of Christ, and in so doing they must love each other and be friends. Recently I met one of my students and as we were talking, he said something that really struck me. He said, “Dér Hayr, do you remember all those things you taught us about loving each other, being friends, and cooperating together?” I said “Yes, I am glad you remembered all those principles that I taught, and I am pleased that you remembered that I emphasized those beliefs.” Then he continued, “While we were classmates we were friends and served together until we were ordained. The minute we were ordained, suddenly, our group of friends stopped trusting each other! We were the same people, yet we stopped trusting each other. Can you tell me why that happened?” The reason is jealousy! Although not all clergy have this experience, but “Jealousy is the sister of love, as the devil is the brother of angels,” wrote Boufflers, and clergy as much as laity are vulnerable to this temptation. Most friendships stop growing at the stage of Helping, and do not attain the stage of Sharing because of jealousy. Oh yes, some people do share – but what they share is the gossip about others! That is not true joyous sharing, but rather sharing in each other’s misery. As the saying goes: “Misery loves company!” The Spiritually Mature persons respect such friendships, but they neither trust them, nor invest a great deal of spiritual energy in them. They know that the person who will be gossiping to you about another person today, will be gossiping about you to that person tomorrow! The Spiritually Mature know that very few friendships ever get to the level of trustful sharing of joyous successes and visions! When they find such a relationship, they nurture it and cherish it!

Lasting nature of friendship Developing a friendship where joyous visions are shared as described above is difficult enough. However, maintaining such a relationship over the years is even more difficult. Socrates wrote “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when you are in it, continue firm and constant.” Usually complacency takes over a friendship, or excuses become the norm of conversation. Eventually, the “out of sight, out of mind” principle darkens the beaming light that guided the friendship. For this reason, the Spiritually Mature know that a friendship is not just for a short time, but rather over a lifetime. They also know that such friendships are very few in a lifetime. True friendships take decades to build, but few unwise and jealous words destroy a friendship in minutes. The Spiritually Mature know that true friendships are so rare, that they must be God sent, because they require all the attributes required of a Christian - true love, commitment, trust, and praying for one another’s well being and success! Robert South, a British minister wrote, “A true friend is the gift of God, and He only who made hearts can unite them!”