Healing From Loss

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Last we spoke I was 2 days into the grieving process after my Moma went to be with the Lord.  Today I am now 2 weeks in.  So I thought I would give you an update. The best I could describe my heart at the time was with the phrase “deep sadness.”  Today it seems like such a distant memory.  Something happened to me that day.  I grieved yes, I bled my heart through the keys of my mac. Yes I grieved and yes my heart was healed through that.  The best description of my feelings today would be, “supernaturally peaceful.”

I’m now days from my most recent tears, I can talk about her, laugh about her and remember her with nothing but wonderful feelings.  (as I typed that I’ll admit a moistening of my eyes.)  But no tears.  I am convinced the prayers of my family and friends supernaturally carried me.  I’ve had great dread for the day, the call, just the news that my Moma was no longer with us, for years.  Two weeks ago today that call came and you know what?  I survived it. Not only did I survive it, I embraced it and can even now celebrate it.

There are both natural and unnatural fears.  There are but two natural born, instinctive fears and those are loud noises and falling.  Every other fear we learn as we live, grow and experience things.  Death, in my opinion, has to fall somewhere in the middle of those two.  Maybe we feel death is like falling into a loud unavoidable reality.  I’ve always known fear to be something that describes that which is unknown.  Knowing this, when my Moma took her last breath on this Earth, I didn’t question what had happened. There was no fear to be found.  I knew her body had worn out but her spirit, the real her, was in the presence of the Lord.  There was no, “unknown” factor for me.  I knew she loved me, yes all of us, that too was no “unknown.”  I knew my Moma gave her life to make others lives better… yet again, there was no “unknown.”  The only unknown at this time is this,  when will I too take a similar path.  We all will you know?

It is difficult for some to understand how I “know” there is a God, how can I be sure, it’s the particular “god” I serve that is “The God.”  How can I trust a book written so long ago by mere mortal men to base my life and my believes upon.  Well, to be honest, much of it is TRUST and FAITH, but you’d be sadly mistaken if you think that is all I base it on.  Sure I have a book, The Bible, that I believe without apology is the Word of God.  But my faith is much deeper than a book printed with ink on tablets of paper.  I have met the author of this book.  He is living, He hears me and when He speaks I hear Him.  It has been said that, “The Bible is the only book in the world where the author is present every time it is read.”

My life is proof positive that myself nor you are accidental.  You can argue my doctrine, my theology and my beliefs but you can not argue with my story.  I may not be able to convince you or explain to you the mysteries of the universe but I can tell you every miracle in front of your eyes, at this very moment, is a direct response to order, yes, a plan.  You are not accidental, you were created by a creator with a purpose.

How can I trust a book printed with ink on tablets of paper speaks the truth about a man named Jesus?  Well guys thats easy… I’ve never seen Jesus but I’ve read about him and his great exploits.  I’ve also never seen Abraham Lincoln but I’ve read about him and his great exploits.  I have never once had a moment of ‘disbelief’ in the existence of our 16 President.  These are both matters of history.  There is no two paths of history, we have but one history and both Jesus and Abraham Lincoln existed in it.  The real question is this, “how do I know Jesus is who he claimed to be?”

C.S Lewis wrote:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

I will go to my grave one day, in body only, believing with my whole heart that I will be reunited with my family who have chosen to follow Christ.  I will proclaim that Jesus is Lord and Savior to all who will call on His name.  I must to remain earnest in my faith say too that, there will be many who will not call on his name and spend eternity in Hell.  My spirit has been healed in the physical death of my Moma, due to an indescribable force, a power, a healer, my God.  No amount of reading a book could have done this, no number of explanations could have done this.  You see when things happen we all look for explanations.  Well scientifically any number of people can explain the death of my Moma and not a single one of those explanations would give me peace.  No, peace comes from God, not explanations, and I have that peace.

The question must be asked… “what if I’m wrong?” well, I’ve lived a great life, loving and being loved in return.  The better question that should be asked is this, “what if I’m right.”

Matthew 7: 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ 24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” 28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

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The HEART Thinks

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Dealing with grief can be a touchy subject especially in the midst of dealing with grief.  I am writing one day into the loss of my Moma.  Let me tell you where I am right now.  As I type this i’m sitting up in my bed.  I was trying to nap but every few minutes a new wave of emotion comes over me.  It makes me breath hard and tears stream down my face.  I miss my Moma already and my heart is not sure how to respond.  So I got up to write this.

My Moma, her name was Annie.  She was by birth my Grandmother and that is the last time you’ll see me refer to her as that.  At 52 years old after raising 5 of her own took me in at the age of 3 months.  I could write catalogs of books about her and what a special woman she was.  Even now as I write about her in past tense (insert: I’m having that quickened breathing and tears) i’m struggling with using the term “was.”

The description that comes to mind when thinking about my feelings right now is, deep sadness.  That heart ache that almost feels like my rib cage is crushing my lungs.  I take many deep breaths, sighs I guess and then I’m fine.  I can and do have normal feelings and it reminds me of the hope when the pain will be gone.  Deep sadness is something we will all experience in some form or another. So I write.

I’ve noticed during this grief i’m on hyper awareness of every word and action done by others.  There is something in me almost seeking out injustice and a wrong response to my lose.  I am well aware that my Moma and I are loved more than anyone could ever express.  My heart and my head tell me, “Doug you know better,” but something tries to offend me internally. I recognize and expose it as the Devil and move on to the next incident.

That leads me to this.  I don’t think it’s our response to situations that necessarily leads to victory, but it’s our repeated responses to them.  That can work in the positive and negative aspects.  Negatively it’s not the responses that you have made incorrectly, it’s the unwillingness to correct those behaviors.  As far as Positive, I know I have originally responded correctly to situations only to revisit them in my head and then act incorrectly.

We want to hurry through these stages of life.  I’m not so sure we ought to do that.  During these past few weeks God has spoken to me in life altering ways.  A verse I preached on several weeks ago echoes in my heart. Psalm 139:23 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart;Try me, and know my thoughts;”  God is working out things I’ve never wanted nor thought I suffered from, like pride, even writing that I so want to qualify it with the statement, “not that I’m prideful” and that tells me I am.  Even in these times of “deep sadness” God uses the pain, the confusion, the suffering to bring Himself glory and I want Him glorified too!

You and I will go through these times and they might be for the exact same reason, the loss of a loved one.  But if there were 100 people in the same boat they also might experience 100 different feelings.  So i’m not going to waste the cliché “I know how you feel.”  At some value I guess I do, but not being you puts me at a great disadvantage in saying that.  No one knows how I feel, (insert breathless tears) I was raised by a Moma who chose me.  She didn’t have to have me, I wasn’t forced on her by God, this woman at 52 said I want him.  And for 37 years showed that she loved me and never once made me feel like, she felt, she had made a mistake.

My 7 year old Paxton just walked in to my room. He see’s my face and knows.  He brought me comfort in walking up to me and just hugging me.  He didn’t even say a word other than, “your welcome,” when I said, “thanks.”  I keep worrying if my grammar or punctuation is right as I type this.  Please know this is not a term paper but my heart and I’m not sure if it knows either grammar or punctuation.

Here is what is real, my pain.  Here is what is fact, God’s love.  Here is what I feel, God’s love in the midst of my real pain.  What is it that has you in deep sadness?  I can tell you from my deep sadness of the past, it does get better.  I can tell you that it does so because I decided to allow it to.  You can hold the pain in, deny the reality of it, act like your ok and hurt forever.  Or you can express your hurt, deal with your pain, and act like you feel.  I want to heal, so I write.

Tomorrow I will stand before my family and friends like I have done countless times before.  Speaking over the life someone who has gone on wondering how can anyone with words ever adequately sum up a life, especially one well lived.  This time will be different, this is MY MOMA.  The lady I looked up to though she stood a full two feet shorter in stature.  The lady who rocked me to sleep and calmed all my fears.  This time I will stand and speak directly to my biggest fear growing up, losing her and tell the enemy, Satan, you are defeated even in her death!

What’s your deep sadness?  Maybe you haven’t experienced it yet? Maybe you have.  Be prepared for it.  Don’t let it take you off guard.  Make a plan! Mine? ….. well I write.  The Lord is my Shepherd and ye though I walk through the shadow of death, I fear NO evil for thou art with me.  How do people cope without Christ.  He is not just a “make me feel better moral standard bearer” no,  He’s God, He’s real and He is love.  Love that never fails!  That strengthens me right now as I type this. His love never fails.  Not even in this test!  Not even in the next test!  I want to sing “I will survive” right now, but I wont.. that made me smile.

You know what else makes me smile.  You!  You who have text, emailed, your Inboxes and calls.  And on that note, to those who have called.  I appreciate it, I just can’t talk well yet through my tears.  The voicemails make me smile though.  We have food coming, we’ve had food brought.  I love food. : )

Tomorrow I will have many of you standing there, sitting there and just being there and it will help my heart more than you know.  (insert tears, but not the quick breath) I’m getting better see.  I really wrote all this for me to get it out of my head, I’m only sharing this with you in hopes that you can understand the deep sadness you may have been through, going through or will experience.  Waves upon waves of injected thoughts have come over me in the past few days and many more will be submitted to my mind to process.  Here’s what I will do.  I will take every thought captive.  I will not allow every thought to shape my response, neither now or later.

If you’ve read this far…. Well, bless you and thanks for listening.  To write any more would be to say more than is on my heart.  And remember this is not a term paper but a heart paper.

2 Corinthians 10:5

New International Version (NIV)

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

A Piece of My Heart, Unedited

ImageIs it what you expected?  That is the question I’ve found myself asking me lately. By “it” I mean life, life itself.  I want to go on record saying it’s everything I hoped it could be plus more and yet it’s different.  You see I’m in the same cycle I’ve heard so many others before me discuss.  For example, life really does pass much more quickly than you can imagine. One minute I was learning to read the next I was graduating.  My life changed yet again when I got married and certainly with the birth of my boys.  You and I if blessed by God we will live to see our parents are no longer there and we have become the  patriarchs of the family.  Even then only to discover that this too is brief and the cycle will continue in your mortality.

I’m not writing this from a place of vanity and or sadness. Oh no. Quite the opposite in fact. This life is amazing.  I drink in it’s rays of joy daily.  A kiss from my wife, the warmth of holding my sons and the comfort of holding my mom.  You see I live a blessed life.  I am amazed and humbled to be one who is living and walking in my dreams.  I hesitated to write that because I know many of you who read this may not be.  Make no mistake, I could write about the “less than perfect” circumstances I’ve found myself in but I would rather tell you the TRUTH. The truth is in everything, yes every part there is not one missing thing or place.. God has been in control and held me safely from being consumed.  Even to the point I feel embarrassed somewhat by my happiness when I know many of you deal with such heart ache.

The difference guys is not found in me.  I haven’t done anything to deserve what I have in reality there are areas I deserve to be punished not rewarded.  See it comes down to this really.  God is good, I am not.  Everyday is laced with obvious and not so obvious decisions that require my attention.  The decisions I make today will determine my place in tomorrow. A favorite quote of mine is this, “Wisdom is the ability to see into the future the consequences of your choices in the present.”  Lord give me wisdom.

A word of encouragement to you, don’t stop dreaming, believing and taking steps to see them fulfilled. It is at the moment we give up that we will cease to grow and ultimately cease to live.  I have a roll to play, its not the staring role it’s more of a supporting actor gig in this life.  God has called me to live in such a way I see His glory and I help others discover His glory too.  I know who God’s called me to be and it’s enough that I am one of God’s favorites, I don’t have to show the coat He’s made me.  I’m excited about the future, my life both here and my eternal home in heaven.  To be honest I’m becoming more excited about the latter.  That reality keeps me focused on things that matter and less focused on things that do not.

I will part with these questions I want you to consider and answer yourself.  First, Is the life i’m living making an eternal difference or does it just occupy my time?  Second, If God is real to me do the choices I make reflect that?  And finally, to borrow a line from Garth Brooks of all people, “if tomorrow never comes will she (they) know how much I loved her (them)?  We are created for one another, to love and be loved.  We only find contentment when we know who and who’s we are.  Some of you will realize this wonderful life, I hope you are one of those.

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…”

Make Sure You Know Your “WHY?”

I want to share an article with you all that was sent to me this morning.  This is written by Lauren Hunter.  Many times as leaders and volunteers and people in general we want to make a difference and wonder if what we are doing is really making a difference.  Here is some wonderful information and number one is the question “WHY?”  It’s something I base everything I do on.. I ask myself, “self, what or who am I doing this for?”  The answer keeps me going when things are not so easy.  Enjoy!

ImageWhy do you serve or volunteer at your church?  Some people serve because it’s the right thing to do.  Others serve because there’s an opening.  Someone needs to help out, right?  I’ve known people who serve because someone asked and they couldn’t think of a good excuse why not to.

Churches have a problem, though — burnout.  Whether it’s after a week or several years, a lot of volunteers and church staff experience it. What if there was a way to help prevent this problem before it starts?  I don’t know if it’s 100%, but in my years at my church, I have learned a lot of ways to stave off burnout.

1.Know the why.  If you serve for approval, out of guilt, just to help out, or because you couldn’t think of a good reason not to, you might be headed for trouble.  Your relationship with Jesus is what should guide your serving, but you also need what I call a “big why:”

What motivates you to get up when you’d rather sleep in?  Why do you stay a little longer when you’d rather go home?  For me, it’s people.  At my church lives and eternities are saved every week and I get to help.

2.View what you do as a privilege.  A few years ago I noticed a change in how a lot of leaders referred to what they did.  It’s a simple thing, but it’s profound.  Change the word “have” to “get.”  I get to arrive early on Sundays at my church’s satellite campus.  It sounds odd, but it really helps me.  When I see what I do as a gift, I find it easier to do difficult things.

3.Learn to expect hard things.  Sometimes it will be difficult.  We live in a fallen, imperfect world.  Jesus said, “In this world, you will have trouble…” (John 16:33 NIV), don’t act surprised when it happens.  Is it relationship trouble, money trouble, equipment trouble?  Whatever it is, decide in advance to make the right decision.  Don’t leave it up to the heat of the moment.

4.Forgive early and often.  Everyone you’re around will eventually disappoint you, make you mad, treat you poorly, etc.  They’re human and imperfect just like you are.  Give them the grace that you’d hope others would give you.  Forgive more, not less.  See if you can be the most forgiving person.  I’d rather err on the side of forgiving more, not less.

5.Trust your leaders.  I’ll admit that this is hard.  I spent years harboring resentments and thinking I knew better.  When I finally gave that up and started trusting people, I was amazed at how light I felt.  When everyone around you is always wrong, your head toward disaster.

The path to significance and meaning isn’t paved with dollars or fame. It’s paved with sacrifice and humility. While some people make a difference through their own selfishness, at the expense of others, most of us can put aside our plans and ambitions and really make a difference, a difference that outlasts our lives, a difference that changes lives and affects generations.

Life Change! Real?

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The Word of God is powerful. I don’t think any of us who believe have a problem with that statement. Where we find the disconnect is in the Word’s effect on our daily lives. It seems we have very little to show for all the Word we have encountered. This is what caused me to question, just what is missing here?

I’ll first begin by stating I am a “career” Christian meaning I was born into a Bible Belt wearing family who read the word and attended Church regularly. Oh and by regularly I mean we did not miss! We believed and to some degree followed scripture. However we were missing a lot that we knew to be true in daily exercising our faith.

There was fear in our home. Fear of lack, fear of sickness and general fear of the worst that could happen just might.  We knew what The Word said about fear yet we felt genuine cause to allow it to hang around us; influencing the decisions we made.   In that aspect the Word really was more in our heads than in our hearts.

There in lies the problem. The word is not meant to grow in our heads but in the fertile soil of our hearts.  We can gain access to the portables of our minds and recollect scripture but how many of us can gather the fruit of a seed well planted in the soil of our heart?  Here and only here can the Word accomplish what it has been sent to accomplish .

So here it is a quick statement on what it would take a book for me to explain. There is no problem with the Word nor is there a lack in it’s power. The problem is in our soil. We are not preparing the soil of our hearts to receive the seed of scripture. We will never see the fruit we all desire until we plant the right seeds in the right place.

Too many times we plant seeds of fear doubt and unbelief in our hearts through music, video and television and are shocked when these seeds begin to sprout and bear fruit of distrust, addiction and rebellion. Listen, if you want to see a different crop in your life plant something different… The Word.

Ok so now we know what to plant, the Word. Now we know where to plant it, in our hearts. This might be the most crucial step we’ve missed. What kind of soil  is our heart? Is our hearts good soil? Are the “birds of the air” stealing from us? Is our soil too shallow to take the pressure? Might the thorn seeds we’ve planted in our past be choking the word?

I’ll write more about this in the near future right now read mark 4 and the parable of the soils. Do a spiritual soil test. Secondly read Ezekiel 36:24-30. Lets start here with new soil and fresh seeds.

by Pastor Doug Bell

Christmas MAGNIFIED

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Mary was asked to carry the unbelievable. Mary’s response was, “My soul magnifies the Lord.” Luke 1:46. Did she realize what she was saying? I think so. In the midst of what could have overwhelmed her she was choosing to magnify something greater than her fear, the opinions of others and the certain pain she would surely face. Mary chose to focus not on what she was going through but on the one who would carry her through.

In Luke chapter 2 Simeon sees the salvation of the Lord and speaks again to this soul of Mary, the same soul that magnified the Lord. Luke 2:35 Mary is told her pain has only just begun, verse 35 “a sword will pierce through your soul also.” This sword would not pierce her body but her soul. Could she have known that as the sword would pierce her babies side that same sword would be thrust through her soul?

What is it that you are facing? Is it unbelievable? Does it cause pain that surely will not end now but sometime in the future with a final event? Let me encourage you with a question, what is it that you are MAGNIFYING? Is your focus on an event, circumstance or an unavoidable pain; or is it on the one who will carry you through it?

Let our answer by as Mary’s, “My soul does magnify the LORD.”

When I Want To Roar

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LifePointe’s recently has become more of my life with Paxton and Cooper. So sit back and enjoy this latest installment. As our family was driving the other day Brandi and I was listening to the singing coming from the back seat.  Every parent knows this to be true, we can tolerate singing of any type over sibling bickering secessions. So we listened rather than tuning them out.

The words to their song went like this, “when I’m feeling mad and I want to roar, I take a deep breath and count to 4”  yes I just sung that and truth be told so did you.  This originally sung by Daniel Tiger hence the term “roar”. Immediately I turned to Paxton and said, “Son you just taught me a valuable lesson about knowledge vs. wisdom.  See Paxton has a short temper and can get fired up fairly quickly.  Yet he knows this song, this truth really, that we should take our time and think before we respond.  This rarely happens for him right now.

We are all like this in different areas of our lives.  We know the truth in our head but we don’t apply the truth in our lives.  Knowledge is the truth we know, wisdom is the application of that truth.  Take this passage for example, Luke 2:10-11 “do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  We all have knowledge of this scripture both believer and nonbeliever but the question is this have we applied this knowledge in our daily lives?  Are we still living in fear?  Are we still living in the knowledge that a Savior exists or are we seeking Him with our lifestyles?

This Christmas season ask yourself are you reciting the words or living in the promise?  Remember, “when your feeling mad and you wanna roar take a deep breath and count to 4.”  Take note of the songs you are singing then ask yourself, are they more than words?