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Posts Tagged ‘loss’

I’m on the road again, and once again a Redbud Writer has provided a guest post for me.  Margaret Philbrick shares from her journey.

“Can God set a table in the wilderness?”  Psalm 78:19

10 years.  Not really that long when compared to 40 years of Israelites wandering in the wilderness.  But when you’re in your 40’s and 10 years is one quarter of your lifetime, it seems like a long time to be wandering in the wilderness, looking for a home.

Our church, Church of the Resurrection, www.churchrez.org, lost our building when we left the Episcopal Church in 1993.  We met in schools, gyms, even tents.  We became fluid, agile, adaptable to a freedom in the Holy Spirit which can come when we release ourselves from the tangible things of the earth.  Our fellowship grew.  People liked meeting in a school with our money going to ministry and not into a building.

But a few of us longed for a home… so we started driving the suburbs, scouring for empty warehouses or affordable vacant land.  After years of looking, we found the perfect spot, a 22-acre parcel in the midst of a picturesque neighborhood with a large pond, giant trees and an open, flat area to build our church upon.

It seemed like a no-brainer

I was given the task of leading this effort which in the beginning seemed like a “no-brainer.”  Who would not want a beautiful new church in the middle of their well-thought- out cul-de-sacs and country roads?

After 18 months of planning, thousands of dollars of exploration and endless hours of prayer, the County Board voted against our project.  The neighbors didn’t want it and they fought us with a vehemence befitting a mother Saber Tooth Tiger protecting her cubs, even to the point of spitting upon and swearing at members of our church in public hearings.

The end result of our hopeful journey was one of disappointment and pain.  Something I believed in as God’s will for our faithful, loving community vanished in a 30-second vote.  I will never forget how, moments before the vote, as we all sat there holding our breath, one of our pastors turned to me and said, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

“She’s not dead, only sleeping.”

We thought about suing the County and held a tearful meeting in our home, calling upon many church leaders to share what we should do next.  A wise woman shared Luke 8:52 in which Jesus responds to the death of Jairus’ daughter, “She’s not dead, only sleeping.”  We didn’t file a lawsuit and I clung to this verse in the coming years of waiting on God for the next step.

God sets a table in the wilderness by the giving of his word through his faithful people.  As we seek him for His way with our lives, we pray and wait.  In the waiting he comes.  Sometimes in dreams and visions, but so often he comes with the still, small voice of his word.  How many times have you heard just the right verse given to you for a particular challenge you are facing and you say to yourself, “That just can’t be a coincidence?”  It isn’t.  The important step of obedience is our listening and looking for it.

The wise woman was right.  Our church building project was asleep for a time, but the Lord, as only he can do, awakened us to a building that is so much better than the piece of land we thought was “perfect.”  Last night we rode our bikes over to look at it under construction.  Pressing our sweaty faces against the glass we saw steel beams being put in place and staircases ascending.  We hope to move in by the end of this year and we will be inviting people from the neighborhood, who cast us out.

Psalm 23:5  “You prepare a table for me in the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.”

 

Margaret Philpbrick identifies herself as “author, gardener, teacher.”  You can read more about her and from her at www.margaretphilbrick.com and follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/margaret.philbrick.9.

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Today I welcome to Kindling a fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild:  Elizabeth Corcoran.  Be encouraged by her wise advice.

Well, there are a thousand things I would teach them.  So much I still want them to know before they have to handle life on their own.  And Jesus knows, I’m trying.

But I’ve watched my kids navigate a tough few days, both for totally different reasons, and if there were one thing that I would want them to know how to do above all else, it would be this:

When hurting, when life throws you a curveball, when a relationship is painful or ends, how to find comfort in Jesus, how to let God tend your soul.

The tricky thing about teaching this is this is one of the most elusive spiritual disciplines I’ve ever attempted to master.  And I’ve been working on it for all of the 26 years I’ve been following him.

When Your Heart Is Broken

So I would start by telling them, when your heart is broken, God promises to be even closer in ways we don’t understand.  How can he be closer than he already is?  I have no idea, really, but he is.  He loves the brokenhearted in special and specific ways.  Maybe it’s because he totally gets the feeling of being brokenhearted; I’m not sure.

I would tell them that the word of God is the key to his comfort, especially, I’ve found, the Psalms.  There isn’t one emotion left uncovered in that book.  David and the other writers went through it all.  Bad for them, good for us.  Betrayal, unfaithfulness, sinning, being sinned against, being chased, having enemies, feeling far from God, searching for him and not finding him, searching for him and finally finding him.  Relational strife.  Love, loss of love.  Friendship, loss of friendship.  Life, loss of life.  You name it, it’s in there.

I would then tell them that there is a voice that whispers amazing things to you, especially when you’re hurting, but it comes after time and time and time in God’s word, learning what he would say to you, discerning his voice from yours, discerning his voice from the enemy.  (As my dear friend Charlotte once told me, “If {the words you’re hearing} are being said with condemnation, that’s not the voice of Jesus.”)   The Spirit of God brings Scripture to your mind, perhaps even words you don’t remember ever reading, let alone memorizing.  And that whisper is the Spirit of God speaking distinct and intimate things to your heart, things that only God could know would mean something to you.

A Different Kind of Comfort

And then I would tell them that it’s a different kind of comfort from the human kind, to not let that surprise them or mystify them or discourage them.  There are no human arms holding you when you are in the embrace of God.  He doesn’t magically and physically appear.  There aren’t gentle eyes looking back at you.  There aren’t hands to wipe away the tears.  It’s different, but it’s just as real.  It’s different but it can heal, even more than human comfort.

When you let it.  And I would say when you let it because there is a surrendering that comes when you go to God for something, especially when you go to him to have him put the pieces back together.  It’s an admission that you can’t do it on your own.  It’s an admission that you believe in an invisible God, that you believe he is good, that you believe he is loving.

And it’s an admission that the comforts of this world fall short – even the gentlest words and hugs and touches from mothers and friends – they can only do so much.  When you come to God for comfort, you are in essence saying, you are it for me.  You are my only true hope of feeling better, getting better, healing up from this.  You are it.

There is so much more to this.  So much more I haven’t even learned or experienced on my own.  But I would tell them that I have known the comfort of God when no one or nothing else could comfort me, that it is a true thing, that it is something they can have and own for themselves.  And that once they do, they’ll be changed, and they’ll be healed, and they will know it to be true.

 c Elisabeth K. Corcoran, 2012

Elisabeth is mom to Sara (15-1/2) and Jack (14).  She loves spending time with her kids, her friends, reading and writing.  She is the author of At the Corner of Broken & Love: Where God Meets Us in the Everyday; One Girl, Third World: One Woman’s Journey into Social Justice; He Is Just That Into You: Stories of a Faithful God who Pursues, Engages, and Has No Fear of Commitment; In Search of Calm: Renewal for a Mother’s Heart; and Calm in My Chaos: Encouragement for a Mom’s Weary Soul.  All these books can be purchased on Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle.

Visit her website at http://www.elisabethcorcoran.com and her blog at http://elisabethcorcoran.blogspot.com/.

You can follow her on Twitter at ekcorcoran or friend her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/people/Elisabeth-Klein-Corcoran/1301703500.

If you find yourself in a difficult marriage or have gone through a painful divorce and you’re looking for a safe place to find encouragement and hope, you may email at Elisabeth at elisabethkcorcoran@gmail.com and request to be added to her private Facebook group for women like yourself.

Elisabeth is a proud Member of Redbud Writer’s Guild (www.redbudwritersguild.com).

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I wrote this more than a year ago.  But now is a new beginning for many, and I thought it would be a good reminder about ending one chapter and beginning a new one.  And I am glad to report that the new team is doing so well, and the rest of us are well into God’s new chapters for us.

Finishing a good book is bittersweet for me.  I love being in the story, knowing the people, being a part of the action.  But when I turn the last page, I feel sad.  It’s over.  My life will go on, but those brief relationships will end.

Yesterday was such a bittersweet day.

It was the last day of a leadership team I have been a part of for almost nine years.  A smaller, different group, including a number of the previous members, will go forward as a new team.
But this day was the last page for the old team.  We spent it reminiscing and reflecting:
Times of fellowship and fun:  segway races, croquet, sailing, airboat rides, some great meals, visiting in homes.
Feasting around the Word of God:  learning from each other, applying Scripture to our work and our lives.
On our knees:  for personal needs—health, births, weddings, deaths, decisions– and ministry needs—wisdom, finances, resources, ideas.
Lots of hard work:  defining our mission, vision, values and priorities, working through differences, believing the best when we haven’t agreed, pushing through to reach our goals.
Celebrating milestones:  passage of change initiatives, a major student conference,  breakthrough strategies, the right new person.

Honoring each member of the team:  words of affirmation and appreciation, gifts to remind us of what God accomplished through us, humble, inadequate, unworthy servants that we are.
The turning of that page brings loss.  For all of us, but more strongly felt for some.
Today those of the new team are busy forming, defining, anticipating, exploring:  How do we move forward into the future God is leading us to?
But for those transitioning to other opportunities, probably the sense of emptiness is stronger:  “I’m not with them anymore.  This group I have been connected to for many years is no longer mine.  Still friends.  Still working toward the same vision.  But not together.”
Grieving is appropriate.
Then God reminds us that, though “weeping may last for the night, joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
For God’s good plans are for a lifetime.  Closing a chapter doesn’t mean the end, but rather a new chapter begins.  Finishing one task prepares us for the next one.  God made us who we are, for good works He wants us to do.  And at every season of our lives He has a plan for our part in building His Kingdom.
So I turn the page.

c 2011 Judy Douglass

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Meet Babe

Meet Babe.

Her skin is dark and weathered.  Her hair is sun bleached.   Her body is thin, her legs almost useless.

Every day she maneuvers her scooter up the beach crossover ramp till she can see the ocean.  Every day she sits there for hours, reveling in the view, appreciating that the beauty of God’s creation is free!

Babe is 87.

She has lived most of her life in Cape Canaveral.  Back then the streets in town weren’t even paved.  The tourists hadn’t come yet.  She and her husband, Paul, worked for NASA in several cities, then came back to Florida and managed the local bowling alley—they knew everyone in town.

Even today almost everyone who passes her on the way to the beach says, “Hi Babe.”

Babe and Paul had a wonderful life together—married for 59 years.

But life has been hard for her.  Three children all passed ahead of her—children aren’t supposed to die before their parents.  A little girl died at 5 from a liver ailment—it would have been treatable now.  A 28-year-old son was murdered in his apartment.  And a 46-year-old son died in a tragic accident.

She told me about them with damp eyes.  But then the tears flowed as she said her Paul died five months ago.  “We did everything together.”  A fresh wound.  An immense grief.  A deep loneliness.

Babe has three grandchildren spread across the country—they call her every week.  The people from the old  church bowling leagues still pray for her.  “I have friends who check on me—they are all much younger than I am.”

Babe, are you angry at God for all your losses?

“No, not angry.  Sometimes I wonder why.  My children!!  And I miss Paul so much.  But always God is with me.  He shares the entire ocean with me.  He never leaves me alone.

“And I will see them all again someday.”

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