Good Grief

I missed my father yesterday. I had a dream about him, and in my dream he was near me, living his life like normal, but somehow he was out of reach. I couldn’t relate to him or communicate in any way.

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I guess in some way that’s true – his life goes on in heaven, but to me he is out of reach. I cannot call him or go visit or expect a letter in the mail from him.

It’s been about five and a half years since he passed. Eight months since my mother passed. Four months since my father-in-law passed. I wonder if those three have connected in heaven yet as a trio, maybe playing Chinese checkers or having some ice cream together – because I KNOW there’s got to be ice cream in heaven, and it’s not even sugar free because there’s no diabetes there.

There’s something about losing your parents that makes you feel alone in the world. It’s not like I was really close to them and suddenly they were gone. Because of their age and my mother’s memory loss, there was a long slow goodbye over many years. But even though in their waning years they may not have been able to protect or provide for me or give me advice, they were still there. Still sitting in their chairs each day, eating meals, smiling and laughing, and I could go to see them if I wanted to.

Now they are no longer accessible. At moments when this reality sinks in, I feel alone in the world.

There’s a sadness when you lose someone that can’t be covered over. I guess all grief is like that, really. When we lose something, whether a parent or a spouse or a job or an opportunity, there’s a hole left behind that nothing else can really fill.

And so what can we do? Entertainment won’t fill the hole. Neither will shopping or exercise or even chocolate.

All I know to do is to bring my sadness to Jesus.

Jesus always seemed to know what to do when He was around grieving people on earth. He would heal them, or forgive them, or raise their loved one from the dead.

And so I bring my aching heart to Him. I don’t have to pretend it doesn’t hurt. I don’t have to worry that He won’t have time for me. I don’t have to worry that He won’t understand.

He is always near, because He said He would never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

He always cares, because He told me to cast my anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7).

He always knows how to comfort, because He heals the brokenhearted and binds up our wounds (Psalm 147:3).

I know that one day, a day of His choosing, He will raise my loved ones from the dead. We will be reunited. The grieving will be over. One day every tear will be wiped away and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Revelation 21:4).

Until then, I know there will be days where the loneliness weighs heavy. On those days I will acknowledge the hurt, but remember that hurt is not all there is to life. I will let the tears come. And I will run to Jesus.

 

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How to Be a Better Listener

It’s been said that God made us with two ears and only one mouth for a reason. We should listen at last twice as much as we talk.active_listening

For many years I thought I was a good listener. In the last few weeks, that belief has been challenged.

As I begin a new work role in a new setting, I’ve been encouraged by a trusted advisor to spend the first 90 days meeting with key people and being a sponge. Rather than jumping right in and making changes, my first order of business is to simply listen and learn the culture. After all, how I can I know what needs to change if I don’t even know how things are today?

My problem is that I don’t find simply listening very simple.

What I’ve found is that after I’ve listened to someone for a while, I find myself wanting to then offer my opinion. My opinion is probably not very well informed, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to offer it.

I’ve also discovered that when someone shares a problem, I want to try to fix it immediately. I mean, if there’s a problem, the efficient thing to do is jump right in and solve it, right? But jumping too quickly means I often haven’t spent enough time entering in to what the other person is thinking and feeling. In fact, often the other person really has everything they need to solve their own problem. If I jump in with a fix too quickly, I short-circuit the whole process.

If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame. – Proverbs 18:13

 

It’s embarassing to offer a fix, only later to hear more information that makes your proposed solution look really dumb. That usually happens to me when I’m too impatient to listen.

So here are a few practical tips to help you listen better – I am in fact practicing these at home as well as at work:

Be patient. It takes time to really listen. It takes effort to go beyond allowing the sound waves to bounce off your eardrum, but really understand what you’re hearing. Clear your schedule and invest the time needed to get more information. Your effort will pay off.

Be quiet. Resist the urge to share your opinions and experiences. Just let the other person talk and hold your tongue.

…Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak – James 1:19

Be engaged. My goal during these days of being a sponge is to get the other person to talk 85% of the time or more. To stay engaged in the dialog, I do two things: paraphrase what I heard them say, and ask probing questions to take them deeper. There’s an art to asking good questions – become a master.

Be interested. Determine to be a learner. We often don’t know what we don’t know. We increase our knowledge, and consequently make better decisions, as we actively listen to others.

Not only do we gather valuable information from listening, we also communicate to the speaker that we care about them and what they think. Good listening builds relationships and builds your knowledge base.

Question: What helps you be a better listener? Share your answer below.

 

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3 Things Creation Teaches Us About God

I realize there are many in our world who do not believe in God. It always amazes me that two different scientists can look through the same microscope at the same complexity, and come away with vastly different conclusions about the origins of life. One will say there is a sovereign God Who created all things; the other will say life evolved through a set of random mutations.

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With respect to those who think differently, the Bible is clear that a-theists (those who do not believe in God) have no excuse for their unbelief:

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-20

Did you catch the irony in these words? “His invisible attributes…have been clearly perceived…” How? “In the things that have been made.” Creation itself points to the Creator and reveals truths about His being and character.

What invisible attributes are seen through creation?

God’s Power – First of all, I have never been able to speak something into being, which is what the Bible tells us God did:

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. – Hebrews 11:3

Secondly, the power of nature itself suggests a power beyond our human abilities:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance? – Isaiah 40:12

While nature often blows us away with its magnitude – God is greater still.

God’s Creativity – God didn’t have to create such a variety of different trees, fruits, or cats (for sure we could have gotten along with fewer of them). But I confess I love the varieties of food we have to eat, the flavors, textures, colors. And then there are the other senses: sight, sounds, touch, smells – God outdid Himself with variety. Check out this video of bird varieties – I bet you didn’t even know all these exist:

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God’s Wisdom – I am amazed at the delicate balance of nature as seen in our ecosystems – how trees take in carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen, which is exactly the opposite of humans, hence we are designed to meet each others’ needs. And then there is the perfect placement of the sun in relation to the earth in order to support life, and the moon that draws the ocean tides and keeps those enormous bodies of water from becoming stagnant.

I’m am baffled that anyone can look at the elements of nature and deny the existence of an intelligent Creator. For my part, the thought of these amazing elements of creation move me to worship and give glory to a Creator God.

Question: What aspects of creation move you to worship God?

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