Missing a Great Prayer Warrior

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An Ode to My Mother-in-Law: A Brief Tribute to a Quiet Woman of God

(Notice that this was Originally written on the 15th of January)

January 15, 2015

Heaven rejoiced yesterday evening as the angels ushered my mother-in-law, Fern, into the presence of Jesus. I will miss her dearly. Though not one for many words, she was one for many prayers. She was one of my major prayer warriors, constantly covering my wife, our daughters, their husbands & children and me in prayer.  When she asked, “What can I pray for you,” I knew she would. …

As only a faithful prayer would say, some of her last words were, “I pray for you everyday.” And nearer the end she deeply apologized for not having the energy to pray as she once had….

I know with her passing there has been a great disturbance in the prayer “Force“. Nonetheless I am most grateful to our Loving Lord, in Whose arms she is now being tightly hugged. In His Grace and Mercy, He provided almost 40 years of prayer cover through my mother-in-law. Mom, I will miss you.

Coach Mike

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“Grieving is not for Wimps”

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Date: 01-10-15

Text: — Nehemiah 1:4 — 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: We dare not minimize the loss—ours or someone else’s, but likewise, we dare not minimize the time it takes to grieve over it.

My Thoughts: 

In other cultures, when someone dies or is killed in a bombing, we wailing and funeral processions; but not in ours. Instead, “Weeping’s for Wimps” sports a bumper sticker philosopher. “We’re strong; we can make it.” And because of this cultural philosophy when tragedy strikes on any level, we do not allow others time to grieve—let alone ourselves. “I need to get right back to work.” Keeping busy somehow helps me cope. So we stuff our feelings of loss and move on, but the weight of the loss doesn’t dissipate. In fact, it seems to get heavier with the passage of time.

And if we are really honest with ourselves, getting an emotional kick in the stomach—no matter how washboarded the stomach—takes us down.

First of all, let me briefly define grief: Grieve is any change or sense of loss. The greater the sense of loss or change the greater the grief. Likewise, the lesser the sense of loss or change the lesser the sense of grief. So losing a paperclip does not generate as much grief as losing your wallet, etc….

If we define life as change or growth, and any sense of change as loss, life (lower case “ l”) is grief. Handling life in a healthy way leads us to the fact that we need to learn to deal with change & loss on many levels. I have found that allowing time for grief is one way to deal with it.

As I was reading the verse noted above, I observed what Nehemiah did: He gave himself time to grieve. In doing so, it appears to lessen the weight of the grief, and even give space for perspective. I know when the sense of loss or change overwhelms me, my vision is blurred through  the tears and the vertigo of change knocks me off balance. I have a deep and profound empathy for those who have lost a loved one, especially a child. I have seen that this grief seems to never pass, but in time perspective widens as the tears are less frequent. Perhaps, then we can see—but a glimpse—of how the Lord might use this tragedy for His glory….

Lifestyle worshipers, we dare not minimize the loss—ours or someone else’s, but likewise, we dare not minimize the time it takes to grieve over it. To me, it takes a very strong person to face the sense of loss and change. It is the wimp who runs; the strong stand firm—even when our knees buckle under the emotional weight of the grief.

What has gotten me through many a loss and change is clinging to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have found that because He never changes, there is no grief in Him. And because He is Life (with a capital “L”), His Life is not grief, but a joy overcoming the sorrow of this life.

Yet I have discovered a rather fascinating irony in all this: Although in the Lord Jesus I have Joy & Peace, He Himself was described by the prophet Isaiah as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV). The Lord Jesus was no stranger to sorrow, grief and change. He experienced first hand many of the very losses and changes we encounter in our lives.

But Isaiah doesn’t stop there. Instead he continues in that passage to offer us Hope that our grief will be taken away someday: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4 ESV). The very one who offers us Life has Himself experienced life.

This is almost too much for words….

Below I have noted two places in the Gospels that record our Master grieving. There are many more. And to me, He is the strongest of us all. He endured the cross and scorned it shame making no threats or even whines. I’d rather have His Life coursing through my veins in my moments of loss and change than attempting to stuff the sorrow—only to explode later (been there and done that, too!)

When it comes to grieving and dealing with the sense of loss and changes in our lives, then, I am learning to be gracious to others allowing them “some days” to mourn (see verse 4 above). Oh, and I am learning to  be gracious to myself, as well, allowing myself some space and time to grieve. How about you? Are you a wimp and run when it comes to grieving? Or do you stand firm in the One Who has grieved and conquered it? Your thoughts.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus wept.  — John 11:35 (NIV)

   Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

— 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV)

   and [Herod] had John beheaded in the prison. …  John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place….

— Matthew 14:10, 12-13a (NIV)

Heavenly Father,  as I give myself time to grieve, open my eyes to the larger perspective. Though I may never fully understand what glory You are getting out of this, I trust that You are Good all the time no matter what.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“Messages in Winter”

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Date: 01-04-15

Text: — Nehemiah 1:1-2 — 1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been burned with fire. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Very sad (or even ‘bad’) news in your life—right now—can be but the prompting for a great work the LORD has prepared in advance for you to walk in.

My Thoughts: 

Winters for some are fun. They love the snow and the cold and the bundling up. But for others winters can be cold and dark. Howling wind and biting cold. And yet it is even when things seem the darkest and the coldest, we can receive messages from the Lord. These messages are not necessarily obvious invitations, but they are nonetheless ‘messages’ from the LORD couched in human circumstances.

We discover in v. 1 of the above passage that it takes place in the month of  Kislev, which is Nov-Dec in our calendar. We also find Nehemiah at the citadel of Susa, which is the winter palace for the King. While there, Nehemiah receives very sad news: His people are in great trouble and disgrace. Now we who know the rest of the story know that this is merely the prompting for a great work the LORD has prepared in advance for Nehemiah to walk in….

And, Lifestyle worshipers, some very sad (or even ‘bad’) news in your life—right now—can be but the prompting for a great work the Lord has prepared in advance for you to walk in. So how do you receive this news? I know I am often concussioned by any sad or ‘bad’ news. Although I no longer burp out, “Why me,” I still get a gut retching feeling coupled with a weak-kneed wobble….

I often wish my response was like Qui-Gon Jinn’s when he heard about the trouble with the engine of their transport ship: “A solution will shortly present itself.” His confidence in the ‘Good’ of the universe and the Force clearly infused this statement.

But I have to ask myself this same question: How do I respond to sad or even ‘bad’ news? I know we have to read ahead in the Book to see how Nehemiah receives the news, but I truly want to be like him here. He was available to hear the news from his brother, and his heart was open to receiving it, even though it was devastating news. His confidence in the Lord gave him perspective and courage that, “A solution will shortly present itself.” Join me in seeking YHWH’s face as we look with hope to the future through this very sad news. I cannot imagine what the Lord has in store for us? Can you?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

— Matthew 6:26 (NIV84)

    For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

— Ephesians 2:10 (NIV84)

   Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

— 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father,  I wait on You to lead me into the good work You have prepared in advance for me to walk in. Lord Jesus Christ, be courage in me as I take the first steps towards it.  In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike