Responding to Loss

On Sunday night, April 27, a tornado came through our area resulting in loss of property for many and loss of life for some. Included in those who lost lives was one of my co-workers and two of his daughters. This man was a godly father of nine children who dedicated his life to caring for family - not just his but countless others as well. And he was putting his family's safety above his own when the house collapsed around him. His daughters were faithful followers of Christ as well.  If ever there was a Christian family, in the true sense, this was it. loss

That next morning, as I was processing through the tragedy of the night before, it was as if I was hyper sensitive to everything going on around me. Everything that would normally seem "ordinary" was suddenly worthy of notice. I wrote the following post on my Facebook page, even as I sat in my vehicle willing myself to walk into the office.

It's trash day in our neighborhood, and recycling day. We dutifully lugged the trash and recycling receptacles to the curb. The kids made their school buses on time. The local fitness center parking lot was packed. A large garbage truck blocked the path of the car in front of me making us wait unnecessarily. The drive through line at the local Starbucks was wrapped around the building, as usual. A large SUV tailgated me for a mile or so as I drove to work, arriving just a little later than I'd planned.

Just observations made, all so normal for a Monday.

And yet this Monday, I sat at our dining table in stunned silence, weeping.

This Monday, I held my wife in embrace a little longer.

This Monday, I didn't want to let my kids go.

This Monday, I felt guilty for packing my running gear so I could get out for a lunch run, for even packing a lunch. Yet the need for normalcy and release seem to take over.

This is the wake of disaster, of tragedy striking close to home.

Yet I am not without hope or purpose.

"But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words." (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 ESV)

Even as I was writing that, another passage of scripture came to mind. It's the story found in 2 Samuel 12:16-23. You can read it for yourself, but here's my paraphrase:

King David's child - the child conceived because of adultery with Bathsheba - is deathly ill. David fasted, laying out all night on the ground begging God to save the child. But the child dies anyway.  David's servants are afraid to tell him the child died, but David figures it out by the way they're acting. Then he gets up, cleans up, gets a bite to eat, and carries on with his life. His servants are confused. If he was so grieved by the child's sickness, why is he not even more upset about the child's death? David's reply: "I fasted while I could still do something about it. But there's nothing more I can do, now that he's dead." Again, that's my paraphrase, but that's the general story.

Dealing with Loss

I know that everyone deals with difficulty differently. But it would seem that seeking normalcy in the face of tragedy is actually pretty common. I'd go so far as to say that going about one's usual routine is actually a way of dealing with grief - actually a form of grieving itself. For me, even in my routine I find myself processing - going all foggy headed one moment and then all of a sudden having extreme clarity. Having muddled thoughts one moment followed by new epiphanies the next. Feeling extreme sadness in one instant, even weeping, and then joy in the next - and more tears. All while doing what is routine, what comes as "second nature." Because, after all, life goes on...at least for a time.

I know it's likely that you may be reading this and experiencing a difficult time in your life right now. I just want to say that it's okay to find solace in routine.  It's okay if you don't know how to act, what to say, what to do. If everything seems inadequate or maybe just too much. And it's okay to have those feelings of fogginess and clarity. That's just part of grief. It's okay if things make sense one minute and then not so much the next. Maybe you'll find some comfort in these words. I guess that's what I'm aiming for.

Or maybe I just want you to know: you're not alone.

How can you help victims of the tornado in Arkansas?  Go here for more information.  Also, go here to listen to a special FamilyLife Today® broadcast.   

 

IT'S ART OF MARRIAGE TIME!! We've got two events in May, will you join us in Kinston or Pikeville, North Carolina to work on the masterpiece of your marriage? 

AOM

FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember gave us God's blueprint for marriage and continues to strengthen and transform it, it can change yours, too!

weekend to remember

Want to unplug on FamilyLife's Fifth Annual Love Like You Mean It Cruise 2015? Book with our group and sail away with us! 

christian cruise

Enjoy Al Mohler, Crawford & Karen Loritts, Dennis Rainey, Chris August, Andrew Peterson, Shaunti Feldhahn, Ron Deal, David Nasar, Jimmy McNeal, Kerri Pomarolli and Ron McGehee...and Intentionally Yours' Scott & Sherry Jennings at I Still Do, a one day marriage event that will strengthen your marriage and rekindle the romance!

ISD-I-Still-Do-Fall-2014

We're linking up with some AMAZING bloggers…check out the links at the bottom right of the page.

Intentionally Yours is a 501(c)3 organization committed to sharing God's truth, hope and vision for marriage until every home is a godly home. Will you partner with us in this mission? Thank you for your support!

Christmas Eve Prayer for the Hurting

"Your father is dying and you need to come quickly if you want to say your last goodbyes."  I remember receiving that call in the middle of the night on a Christmas Eve several years ago. At the time, it zapped the life from me and momentarily destroyed my hopes for all anticipations of  any Christmas Day laughter or joyous family festivities. hurting

Immediately, I called a close friend who came and spent the night with our children so that they could stay at home and open their gifts. I  recall wanting that for them, realizing that I would have to later break the news that Papa had passed away.

My father had been placed on a ventilator and the next few weeks were spent sleeping in an ICU family waiting room chair awaiting his prognosis. Miraculously through medicine, a team of great medical nurses and physicians and a mighty, powerful, divine touch from the Great Physician, my dad escaped that near Christmas death.

It's Not Always a  Holly Jolly Christmas

You see, for many the Christmas season is not always filled with the jolly sounds of laughter. For some there are tears, questions, hurts and even grief.  My prayer for you this Christmas is that no matter what you are going through, no matter how critical your situation, that God will encamp around you, give you peace and mend your broken heart....

Christmas Eve Prayer for the Hurting

Father God, I pray right now for those who are filled with grief, anxiety, sadness and fear on this Christmas Eve. I pray that You will surround them with Your holy presence and that You will give them clarity, divine wisdom and peace for their circumstances.

I pray for Your healing balm to saturate every heart and mind and to soothe broken spirits. Lord, I pray that You will begin to restore crippled, broken relationships, that You will comfort those who are grieving the death of a child, loved one or close friend, that You will provide miraculous provisions for those who are struggling financially, that You will touch those dealing with the pain and fears of disease and cancer, that You will be with those who are away from families and fighting for our freedom.

Lord, we ask that You will send Your angels to hover over those who are crushed because of shattered hopes and dreams. We realize Father that we can not fix their wounds, but You can.

God, You care deeply for the brokenhearted people. You declare in Your Word that You bind up their wounds. We ask in the name of Jesus, that You will release Your healing power and begin to remove bitterness, past hurts, anger, unforgiveness, and any critical spirit within us. Fill us with Your love and cause us to seek you with all of our hearts, pointing our hearts toward You and reconciliation.

Lord, above all, help us to realize that all of the gifts we may receive, there is only one that we really need and that is Your presence for Christmas. Help us to trust You with all of our broken pieces. Thank You, God, for the true miracle and hope of Christmas found in the birth of Your Son, Jesus. Now may Your favor, love, hope and joy rest upon each home. In the name of Jesus we pray,  Amen.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14 

 

WHAT'S HOLDING YOU BACK?? BREAK FREE IN 2014!! Dove recording artist Sarah Groves, Sherry Jennings and I will share from own personal struggles and how you can be set free from your bondage in the name of JESUS! That's not all! We will have over 50 vendors on site with shopping, a concert and a TONS of PRIZES!!!! Tickets are on sale at www.bridgechurch.cc Bring your church groups! Bus and van parking is available!

IWM 2013 cc

We're linking up with some AMAZING bloggers…check out the links at the bottom right of the page.

Intentionally Yours is a 501(c)3 organization committed to sharing God's truth, hope and vision for marriage until every home is a godly home. Will you partner with us in this mission? Thank you for your support!

I blame the movies

I blame the movie Fireproof. Or maybe I blame the book of Job. Maybe Probably Definitely both. No…I’m sorry. It’s neither.

It’s Disney! Definitely Disney, and maybe Oprah or Joel Osteen too.

What am I talking about, you ask? What, you can’t figure it out? It’s the happily ever after mentality. Think about it.

blame the movies

Okay, that’s not quite it either. But isn’t it true that we often just expect life to go “happily ever after” if we simply do the right things? I mean, just go through the Love Dare. It’ll fix your marriage. Just remain faithful. God will give you everything back that you lost. Slay the dragon, destroy the wicked witch. Be good enough. Do good enough. Everything will fall into place – almost magically. Aren’t there plenty of biblical, fictional, and even life examples of this? So what’s the problem? Why doesn’t it work for me!?! Why isn’t it working for my friends, for those I pray for regularly, for my own family??? Why does divorce still happen? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why isn’t my life easier?

These are just a few of the questions I hurl toward God, sometimes with no small amount of animosity. I see my friends who are hurting, whose lives, marriages, families, careers are just falling apart. I can’t help but wonder...

How can God let this stuff happen?

Did you notice what I said at the beginning, though? I didn’t say I blame God. And I don’t really blame those other things either. Romans 3:23 says “the wages of sin is death.” Okay, is it just me, or does it bug you that the sentence structure of this passage doesn’t jive? Shouldn’t it say the wage (singular) of sin is death? Maybe not. Because I must admit, I’ve seen a lot of death so far in my lifetime. And not just physical death. Relationships die. Dreams die. Everything around me is in a perpetual state of decay and headed toward death. That’s the ripple effect of sin. My sin.

I heard it said recently: “Today’s difficulties are often the result of yesterday’s disobedience.”

And I know. Every mess in my life and every mess I see around me is a result of one thing: sin. But sometimes my difficulties are not a direct result of my disobedience. Sometimes – or maybe often – it’s someone else’s sin that has encroached upon my life. And I have no control over that. And it makes me mad, sad, upset, depressed. Even despondent sometimes. Not often would I ever just “cherry pick” one verse out of scripture, out of context, and then use it for my own purposes. But one verse really grabbed my attention recently. In John 13:7, Jesus makes the statement “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” I encourage you to read the context of that statement for yourself. I think you’ll decide that my application is appropriate and within the context of what Jesus was really communicating in that moment.

There are just gonna be times when life doesn’t make sense.

Sometimes I think we make life more difficult than it has to be. In fact, another quote (origin unknown) that I’ve latched onto is this one:

“Life wouldn’t be so difficult if we didn’t expect it to be so easy.”

I recently watched a movie about a tough topic – a young child experiencing the effects of her parents’ own selfishness and subsequent divorce. The movie was chaotic, harsh, and troublesome. And then, there was no “happily ever after.” The movie just ended. What? They didn’t package it up all nice with a big red bow? Actually, I was very relieved. I didn’t want it to end well. I didn’t want the writers or producers to make light of this seriously difficult situation! That’s just not reality. The wages of sin IS death! Every conceivable form of death. But as Jesus said, one day we will understand. We will come to the full realization of what Christ’s humble life of servanthood, most shameful death, His burial, and His resurrection were all about!

“What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” ~ Jesus in John 13:7

 

Cafe Chocolate

Whether your marriage needs a tune up or an overhaul, REGISTER today!!

 

BOGO

We're linking up with some AMAZING bloggers…check out the links at the bottom right of the page.

Intentionally Yours is a 501(c)3 (pending) organization committed to sharing God's truth, hope and vision for marriage until every home is a godly home. Will you partner with us in this mission? Thank you for your support!

Come And Rest

There is so much pain. So many people are reading this blog and hurting.

The ache is so deep it feels as if it will never end.

Hope is distant; unseen.

Hearts are broken.

Marriages are destroyed.

Feelings of love and adequacy have long faded.

And you are left, holding the pieces of your broken heart, as it crumbles in your hands.  The only thing you feel is betrayed, or despair.  You look back and think, "What could I have done to fix this? What could I have done better to change his/her mind?"

Come and Rest Here is the reality.  Living in the past is not truly living.  Focusing on what could have been said or done, wondering how you could have fixed it, will do nothing except distract you from God and the truth He wants you to hear.

God isn't finished with you yet.

Just because you are hurting and broken and afraid does not mean that you are alone.  It does not mean that there is no one who cares, and no one who understands.  If I have learned anything through the pain and trauma of my own broken marriage vows, it is that my focus and perspective were wrong.

Sometimes the only way to truly begin to heal is the hardest place to begin.  It requires humility and setting aside the anger and desire to lash out.  It requires laying your burdens down at the feet of the One who already bore them on the Cross.  Healing requires resting in Him.  There may be absolutely nothing tangible that you can do to fix your current situation.  Sometimes, in the midst of the pain and the chaos, we need to simply rest.  I'm sure you've heard it before from a well-intentioned friend, or in a sermon..."Be still and know that I am God."

 

comerest

And maybe, if you're like me, you thought "What on earth does that mean?  I mean, seriously?!?  What does that even look like?"

Having been there before, I'd like to say that I can give you the answer.

I can't.

What I can give you is a song.

A song that I hope helps you to understand what you may be called to do in this very moment.  Right now, maybe what you need to do is to come and rest at the feet of Jesus.  To let go of the weight you are carrying, set it down at Jesus' feet, and simply rest in his arms.  There is safety in the arms of Christ.  God can and will carry you through this.  When life seems as bleak as it can be, and you are alone and your feelings consume you, may you remember this song and allow God to use it to put things back into perspective.

Be still.

Come and rest.

 

Ladies, join us as Beverly shares lies women believe about themselves, hang out with your girlfriends at Ladies Night Art:

1013464_545791462143762_1865199795_n

Great getaways to get to change your life, marriage and family, whether your marriage is thriving or barely surviving:

WTR Cover Spring 2013AOM at Sea Rotating Slide

We're linking up with Yes They Are All Ours, Becoming His Eve, Marriage Mondays, Matrimonial Monday, Time Warp Wife, The Better Mom, Marriage Moment, Messy Marriage, Wifey Wednesday, and No Ordinary Blog Hop!

Intentionally Yours is a 501(c)3 (pending) organization committed to sharing God's truth, hope and vision for marriage until every home is a godly home. Will you partner with us in this mission? Thank you for your support!