A New Year: Thrive 1/19

a-new-year-thriveOur home telephone rang on the morning of January 1, 2003.
Still recovering from a youth lock-in the night before, I hardly noticed it. The phone was on Sara’s side of the bed, so I did not even move. But after answering the phone, Sara woke me and said I needed to get on the phone with her.
Strange.
My father-in-law was on the phone. Immediately, I felt something was wrong. I could hear it in his voice. Indeed, the news he had to deliver…well, you can’t mask it and talk as though everything is okay.
“Jared, your Dad went for a walk this morning…”
He didn’t have to say anything else. Somehow I knew.
My Dad had died.
I don’t remember anything else that was said.
I dropped the phone, went to the living room, dropped to my knees, and wept. Instinctively, I yelled, “No!” I must have said it a dozen times. My wife came moments later and wept with me.
Up to that point in my life, I’d never really wept over anything. Sure, there had been times I had cried, but I had never experienced loss like this. And I haven’t experienced anything like it since.
My Dad was my best friend. I always felt loved and valued in his presence. And there was a deep sense of warmth and joy when we were together. In an instant, those days were over…
Fourteen years later, I stood in my kitchen surrounded by my wife and kids. I was telling my kids the story of how I asked Sara to marry me (that’s another story for another day). Dad played a key role in that story and so I began to tell my kids about him. And surprisingly, as though it happened yesterday, I suddenly began to weep.
As it turns out, after fourteen years and at a moments notice, I can reenter that world of grief.
Having experienced grief for myself and having observed grief in others while serving as pastor, three thoughts come to mind.
Weep. Jesus wept. There’s a time for us to weep also. Grief is a glorious ruin. We live in a broken world. The Bible takes it as a given people will weep. In weeping we acknowledge things are not as they should be. We are restless for God to set the world right. We join with others and say, “How long, O Lord?” We look at the world as it is and with deep grief, yell, “No!” 
 
Hope. Though we say, “No!” to the world as it presently is, we are assured the brokenness is fleeting. Why? Because Christ has overcome death. One day we will chant with all the saints, “O death, where is you victory? O death, where is your sting?” O, to utter those beautifully powerful words! In hope we boast in the victory of our great God and Savior.
 
Learn. Losing someone often drives us to think more critically about life, our relationships, and our purpose. We realize our time is short and life is fragile. Grief can help us gain greater focus on what matters and clarity on why we are here. Paul encouraged his readers to make the best use of the time for the days are evil (Ephesians 5:15-21). Walking through grief can motivate a person to take this admonition more seriously.
In the end, I remain deeply thankful for the time I had to spend with my Dad. I recommitted to love those closest to me, making the most of the time we have together. And one day, I know I will be reunited with Dad in the presence of Jesus, where there is fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore.
Jared Burt
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A New Year: Thrive 1/18

a-new-year-thriveMy name is Madison. I am a teenage girl and this is my story.
As a very young toddler, weekends were a struggle. While my mom worked weekend shifts trying to keep our family afloat, my Saturdays were often spent taking care of my younger brother’s most basic needs, feeding us both while my dad was MIA or incoherent. By age four I was left without a father and the struggle to survive was greater. At the age of six I had a second little brother come into my world, but when I found out he was physically disabled and unable to communicate, my entire world came crashing down.
Over time, I learned to cope with the difficult days, but with my littlest brother Caleb needing special care and attention, I often felt pushed to the back.
At age seven I accepted Christ and have great memories of those tween years.
When I turned ten we moved away from our home town. Moving was difficult because it meant leaving the home, friends, and family I had always known. Two hours away seemed worlds away.
My mom remarried and I found myself in a new family. With now six kids under the roof, I again often felt overlooked for the next five years. Yelling and arguing became the norm with that many personalities colliding together.
The marriage didn’t last, and after the divorce, we moved back to the city I had once called my home. I was now thirteen and starting my eighth grade year. Eighth grade year began less eventful, and seemed smooth sailing until Christmas. Caleb, my youngest brother, took a huge dip in physical health and at the time, we thought he wouldn’t make it to Christmas Day.
I was shaken so hard when I was told.
I stopped eating for a while. I lost my appetite most days and I lost a lot of weight.
When Christmas Day finally came, he was still with us and I was ecstatic. I couldn’t believe it.
The summer went well, ninth grade year rolled around, and I was doing great. Then, at the beginning of January, I told my mom I needed help with some depression issues I was having. I felt I was almost to my breaking point. Once I started talking to my counselor, things got better. But it seemed just when things were taking a turn, I found out my one year old cousin, Mabry, was sick and in the hospital. I went to visit her and could not stop crying. I was so afraid to lose her and I still am. One of my biggest fears is to lose anyone I love. Whether it be by death or a lost relationship.
God has helped me through all of this by sticking by my side. One verse that helps me is,
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”
Philippians 4:13
Christ will always be there. He’s always with you, so lean in and accept His help.

A New Year: Thrive 1/7

a-new-year-thriveTwo years after my husband passed away from cancer, I was still grieving . I had known the comfort of the Lord and of family and friends, but that ache cast a pall over everything. It sapped my strength and I felt I was functioning on autopilot. I was living and working in West Africa with people I loved. I loved my job. My son was a soldier in Iraq and my high school daughter was with me. So I had plenty material for prayer.

One morning during my prayer time, I was reading Psalm 84 when the Lord opened my eyes with His truth about my situation. I read verses 1-4:

 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!

 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

 Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Selah

That was it! I so desperately needed the Living God! I imagined myself as that little sparrow nestling up near the altar. I thought, “If I could just stay here and never have to move, I would have everything I need!” But then, I read on.

 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion

What? Did I really have to get up and continue the journey? Then I realized I had been in a valley. In fact, the word for valley, Baca, means “tears.” Truly, I had been in a valley of tears. The Lord was saying to me that He would be my strength, that He would make something good come from this valley of tears. He would make it a place of springs (life-giving water). He would give me strength after strength till I see Him face to face.

Alice Statler

 

 

A New Year: Thrive 1/2

a-new-year-thriveFear and Hope

As we begin another New Year, many uncertainties tend to cross our minds. Some can even cause great concern and fear of what is to come. Let us go to God’s Word for some encouraging words. First, what does Job have to say? He certainly faced many hard times.

“But as for me, I would seek God, and to God I would commit my cause, who does great things, and unsearchable, marvelous things without number.”

“He sets on high those who are lovely, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success.”

“But He saves the needy from the sword of their mouth and from the hand of the mighty, so the poor have hope, and injustice shut her mouth.”

(Job 5:8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16 ESV)

Isaiah also had encouraging words appropriate for the New Year.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

(Isaiah 40:31 ESV).

May the New Year fill you with God’s hope and blessings and may you “mount up like an eagle.”

Kathleen Holland

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