Truth About Loss and Grief

July 3rd, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

My wife and I have experienced loss and grief and have watched a number of others work through various types of grief.  Whether losing a job, a child, suffering through an accident; life is full of times of loss, pain, grief, and uncertainty.

Although a deep subject written about exhaustively by a myriad of authors, three things seem true to me and are not talked about much:

1. Everyone is going to experience loss and grief.

The question is how we mitigate risk and how we deal with the physical and emotional fallout when it happens.  Outside of the “don’t-be-stupid” kinds of common-sense decision making, mitigating risk to avoid potential loss is an empty pursuit.  Many people try to sanitize life.  They expend incredible amounts energy wrapping their lives up in bubble-wrap trying to avoid the inevitable.  Many support government regulating everything to prevent anyone from getting hurt.  They miss out on adventure as they seek insulation from potential pain.  They can’t accept the fact that risk is one of the things we are created to take and make life a joy to live.  When loss and grief hit, these people are ill-prepared to work through it.

2. Everyone has brokenness.

Sin comes with brokenness.  We are born into it.  Depravity comes with damage and malfunction.  Those of us who are Christ-followers have an “Old Man” that is riddled with this and a “New Man” that is healed of these things.  We are supposed to put off the old man and put on the new.  This is hard without loss and grief, which leads me to the third truth:

3. Loss and grief do not break people.  Grief exacerbates brokenness.

As we have experienced difficult times along with the side-effects that come with them and as we’ve watching others suffer through grief, I have noticed that there is a big difference between natural pain and unnatural pain:

Some things in life are inevitable and natural.  Death, taxes, disappointment, loss, and grief.  Although part of this fallen world and a result of sin; they are “natural,” inevitable, and are just going to happen.  We are built to withstand these things.  There may be no more painful thing than losing your own child – whether a miscarriage after striving to get pregnant or a teenager dying in a tragic accident; but we are built to work through these things.  Life has loss built in.  Life has grief built in.

Some things in life are unnatural.  Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse are not natural.  When a person is abused by another, especially someone who should be caring for them, these things cause new breaks.  The old man is inherently broken but these kinds of unnatural injuries to our minds and bodies cause breaks that are new and extraordinary.  Often debilitating.  When I say “loss and grief,” I’m not talking about these kinds of unnatural blows to our humanity that must be addressed as brokenness that requires restoration and healing in their own unique ways.

So…what’s my point?

Grief and sorrow as a response to loss is a natural reaction.  Loss is inevitable in some form or another.  Some losses are brutal.  Others are just disappointing.  Either way, there is a process of dealing with these things.  My hypothesis right now, based on my experience, is that loss and grief do not break us.  They don’t create brokenness.  We aren’t damaged by it.  Grief simply dredges up and exacerbates brokenness.  That “old man” becomes harder to put off.  Our “new man” grieves too and is harder to put on.  Cracks in the old man are more visible as grief pours over it and exposes old wounds.

This should be encouraging those grieving and feeling broken.  Although brokenness is there, it can be put off!  If we “embrace the suck” and allow ourselves to grieve as we reach out to God and ask for help putting on the new man, eventually we’ll find that we not only find a new normal in our lives but we have tools and experiences at our disposal unique to our experience and useful for the Kingdom.  God, in time, heals.  Grief doesn’t make us more broken – it should only remind us how beautiful and precious the gift of the “new man” really is.

The Little Moments That Shape A Life

March 21st, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

I had a dream last night that encapsulated a few little moments that shaped my life.  Awkward, embarrassing moments… and disconcerting ones.  Here are a few examples of some true stories from my past:

A Moment of Extreme Hypocrisy

After becoming a believer during my sixth grade year and spending a Summer with my uncle learning about my newfound faith, I came back to school my 7th grade year ready to share my faith with my friends.  Overall, I did a decent job of embracing my new lifestyle and I, generally, had more hope and joy in my life than I did previously.  But I was still a punk kid.  Without any cash.  And I was thirsty.

After spending a number of minutes sharing the Gospel with my classmates at the lunch table, I was extremely thirsty.  Not having any money and being too proud to admit it, I  walked through the lunch line, grabbed a chocolate milk, and walked right out toward the table I was sitting at.  I was busted.  A male teacher in a loud voice called after me: “You had better be paying for that!”  I quickly feigned a lack of a quarter and every intent to borrow one.  After a friend coughed up the requisite coin, I walked back and paid for my milk before making the walk of shame back to my table.   » Read the rest of this entry «

Confounded By Those Who Write Others Off

February 21st, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

I am confounded by those who write others off.  I don’t think I’ve ever done it in my life. Disagreements, awkwardness, relational struggles, and/or distance? Sure. But to simply write someone off?  Weird.  To those who have written me off: it won’t be reciprocated. I’m always here.

I have friends who, through the awkwardness that comes with conflict they’ve had with mutual friends or family, will no longer engage in a relationship with me.  I have friends who were legitimately hurt by my actions or words and who will not respond to communication or apologies.

I can’t understand it.

Relationships are hard as most good things are.

I’m currently reading “Life Together” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer and this concept reminds me of something he said about human interaction and community:

“Human love has little regard for truth. It makes the truth relative, since nothing, not even the truth, must come between it and the beloved person. Human love desires the other person, his company, his answering love, but it does not serve him.”

He also states his belief that people cannot live in true community and love without coming to each other in love that comes from God.

I think I agree.  One fundamental truth about love is that it believes the best about people, it bears all things, and it is patient.  Human love – the kind that humans are capable of in and of themselves – is incapable of this kind of patient selflessness.

I fail at loving people the way they should be loved as friends or family all the time.  But one thing I have never struggled with is the confounding, downright cruel act of writing people off.  I’ve experienced friends I love break all ties with me because of a disagreement, a lack of proximity, their awkwardness when we experienced great loss, and over doctrinal or worldview differences.

I’m not sure anyone who is pursuing Christ can write off anyone.  There are those who mean to do us harm or those who are foolish and should be avoided.  But even these deserve open arms and unconditional love should they come seeking it in humility.  The cruel sickness that is the abrupt ending of a friendship stings more than it should.  And it stings forever.

An Interesting Post On Thomas Merton

February 12th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I’d never heard of Thomas Merton before my wife sent me a link to an interesting post on him:

7 Reasons Why Evangelicals Should Read Thomas Merton

There are parts of of the article I love.  One line, however, I found disconcerting:

sola scriptura ecclesiology easily leads to an iconoclastic view of history. Or to say it another way, if you skip over two thousand years and use Acts as a blueprint to recreate a pure church, your cloud of witnesses will be on the small side. That’s the tradition I grew up with, and it left many people feeling untethered.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/fuller/2015/01/7-reasons-why-evangelicals-should-read-thomas-merton/#ixzz3RYt5EBNB

I believe some touting sola scripture ecclesiology are iconoclastic, narrow-minded pharisees.  No doubt.  But to say that sola scriptura “easily” leads to issues any more than those who don’t have the bedrock of Scripture as their base is ridiculous.

That being said, I highly recommend reading the blog post and letting the rest of what he has to share soak in.  I might just need to read a little more about and from this Thomas Merton character.

Embrace Your Weaknesses

November 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Embrace your weaknesses…and then strangle them.  Just don’t try to do it by yourself.  I write these words as a man who is still at the beginning stages of figuring out how to do this.

As a follower of the Scriptures, think about all the exhortations to overcome who we naturally are:

Ephesians 4:17-24 – “…put off…the old man…”

Romans 8:26 – “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.”

There are many.  I have times when my thoughts and behaviors are just not pleasing to me…let alone a holy Creator.  But how do we overcome our depravity, lack of self discipline, and bad habits?  Embrace them.

I’m not talking about the embrace of acceptance.  I’m talking about the embrace of subjugation.  We all know this.  And we try.  But the emphasis is usually on the most dangerous letter in the English language: “I.”  You cannot do this on your own.  Romans 8 says “the Spirit” also helps in our weaknesses.  So we must, as Ephesians suggests, make a conscious effort to and take ownership of our actions and our issues.  We must embrace our weaknesses and diligently seek God for His help in choking the life out of them.  We must embrace them until He takes them.  We must subjugate our weaknesses with His help.

We don’t conquer a weakness to please God.  We work with God to conquer our weaknesses because that pleases Him.  It’s His work but, for some reason, He seems to want us to seek Him out, participate with Him, and conquer with Him.  Sounds like He’s training us for something bigger…maybe something eternal…

What is the role of friends, family, and the rest of the Church?  Well, that’s probably a series of blog posts.

Five Things Christians Should Stop Saying

May 14th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m not sure any commentary is needed.  I agree.  Click below and let me know if you do too.

5 Things Christians Should Stop Saying

Debating Others

February 26th, 2014 § 1 comment § permalink

I’ve come to the conclusion that one should never debate another unless there is a sincere care/love for the other person. Debating almost never changes hearts or minds. But a civil, factual debate with sincere love and care for the other creates mutual respect and a chance at agreement.

Wisdom is knowing when to shut up, when to debate, and when to fight.

There is no honor, however, in having to fight because you were too foolish to shut up or engage with caring when you had the chance.

The Antidote to Anemic Worship

August 19th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The antidote to anemic worship, if bottled, could also be the elixir for a suffering generation.  My friend Shane Vander Hart posted the following article on Facebook and I appreciated the overall message in the post.  You can click the following link.  It’s a quick read:

Expository Preaching—The Antidote to Anemic Worship

A few things about this post:

1. The author, Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., rightly describes the problem facing evangelicals: that they have bought into the entertainment culture of the church and are so focused on music and multi-media that the teaching of the Scriptures has taken a back seat – or been kicked out the door in many cases.

2. He makes an interesting statement:

“Thanks be to God, evangelism does take place in Christian worship. Confronted by the presentation of the gospel and the preaching of the word, sinners are drawn to faith in Jesus Christ and the offer of salvation is presented to all.”

It’s hard to argue with that…except to discuss what is supposed to happen at “church.”  Are we there to evangelize or is the purpose of our church gatherings to “equip the body/saints for the work of ministry?” (Eph. 4:12)  Can you conclude from Ephesians 4 that the gathering of the saints on Sunday (or whenever the Church meets) is not for the work of the ministry itself but to equip the body of Christ for the work of the ministry?

If so, then I fully agree with Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. that evangelism often takes place when a person attends a church service and the Holy Spirit moves them to the point of salvation or repentance.  I simply would postulate that this act of “evangelism” is incidental to the purpose of the gathering and is a wonderful thing that God often does in the midst of the equipping work of the church service.

3. I could not agree more with his final paragraph:

“The anemia of evangelical worship—all the music and energy aside—is directly attributable to the absence of genuine expository preaching. Such preaching would confront the congregation with nothing less than the living and active word of God. That confrontation will shape the congregation as the Holy Spirit accompanies the word, opens eyes, and applies that word to human hearts.”

A church fellowship without solid expositional teaching is like a person who is never weaned from spiritual milk and refuses to mature past weekly playdates.  We are created for so much more.

I hear many people who attend mega-churches, “seeker-driven churches,” “emerging churches” (does anyone still use that term?), or churches with plenty of bells and whistles and little meaningful teaching justify their choice by saying: “I feel like I’ve found a church where I finally get fed.”  They are insinuating that they are getting what they need to mature as believers.  Maybe.

I would argue that most choose such places to worship because we have fallen into the trap described in 2 Timothy 4.  Here Paul exhorts:

“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Tim. 4:2-5

Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers must, by way of example, “preach the word,” “be watchful,” “endure afflictions,” and “do the work of an evangelist” before we can expect the Church as a whole to follow suit and fulfill its ministry.

Thank you to Dr. Mohler Jr. for hitting the nail right on the head.

Happy Summer!

June 20th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Happy Summer!  It’s been interesting this year for me.  Usually, I have a rather protracted break right after the legislative session that gives me time to chillax.  Not this year.  Here is a summary of my session:

You can click on the Iowa Association of Christian School’s newsletter link to see their take on our work this session.  I was very proud of the Board and member schools for supporting me so well this year and getting some amazing things done for private schools and parental choice in education.

The results on the pro-life front weren’t as laudable.  We were attacked by the Personhood-only crowd, undermined by groups claiming to straddle the fence between pro-life groups and hateful personhood-only groups, undercut by legislators that had last minute demands on the webcam abortion bill minutes before it needed to be moved to avoid being killed by the funnel deadline, etc. etc.  The biggest enemy of progress on the life issue isn’t the abortion industry.  It’s “pro-life” groups and legislators that refuse to save any baby unless they save them all…their way.  We have plans to overcome this.  It will take some time but we’ll prevail in order to save lives and end the practice of elective abortion in the U.S. for good.

On a spiritual note, I’ve been reading through a chronological reading plan on YouVersion’s iOS app.  I’m loving it.  It’s interesting to see the character of the books come out in the prophets as they often describe the same king’s stories with emphasis on different aspects of the events.  I’m also really learning more and more about the intersection of wisdom and holiness.  My job makes it a constant challenge to be shrewd and innocent, positive and resolute.  How do I check emotion while maintaining passion?  I have been diving in to God’s character on this.  Sovereignty and the fruits of the Spirit.  It’s fascinating.  Ask me about it sometime.  I may not shut up for 30 minutes.

That’s it for today.  I’ll try to post from my adventures this Summer.  There is a trip to Colorado with the in-laws and extended in-law/out-law family, RAGBRAI, and a trip to Florida on the horizon.  Fun times!  Hope you have an amazing Summer.

Why Christian Radio?

February 28th, 2013 § 1 comment § permalink

Radio is a powerful medium for communication.  In the U.S. alone there are over 550 million radios in use including more than 170 million in vehicles as standard equipment.  That amounts to almost six radios per household! Additionally, a huge percentage of Americans have access to streaming radio through Apple TV, Roku box, a browser, or apps on smartphones and iPods.  Americans utilize radio more than any other medium during the workday, averaging over 2 hours per day listening in their cars alone!  Granted, the average commute varies greatly from metro area to metro area, but those listening averages are mind blowing! An incredible 96% of adults age 25-54 listen to radio on a regular basis with the 12+ demographic not far behind!

Why is radio so compelling that most every American family has six radios and spends hours per day listening to it?  It is, like broadcast TV, a free and over-the-air medium.  Unlike TV, however, it is a more “psychological medium.”  It draws out the listener’s imagination, emotion, and sets a creative stage in the theatre of the mind more than TV because we feel the need to picture what we are hearing, to guess at the DJ’s face, to respond to the spirit of the music, and react to advertising messages that beg us to intersect our lives with the advertiser’s product.

So one obvious question is how best to utilize this powerful medium for the Kingdom of God.

» Read the rest of this entry «