Friday, December 21, 2012

About Grief - in my humble opinion

Everybody has an opinion, including me. But let's admit, some opinions are lame and some are great - it depends on the mindset of one giving their opinions and their audience. That being said, it's Christmas time and a lot of people are expressing opinions and emotions ranging from gun-control to whether or not saying Merry Christmas makes you divisive. None of us will ever agree on everything, but that won't stop us from promoting our own opinions, will it?
Having worked with hospice patients and families for several years in the area of dealing with grief, I do just want to share a few of my thoughts during this critical time of year when emotions and life's challenges always make people a little more melancholy than usual. But this year personal grief and loss is magnified as families grieve a senseless act that left many families without their loved ones - mostly little children - to love and hug this Christmas. Depending on your mindset, you can read on or don't bother. Warning: there is some opinion involved:-)
Dealing with grief is different for everyone and some cases can be more complicated than others. There are still some key things to remember.
We don't always have to come up with the right words - usually there are no right words. What is most important is that you just let someone know that you care about their loss. Tell them you are sorry and that you are there for them. Then....just be there and listen. Your presence and availability is so much more comforting than what you say. What they feel comfortable saying is so much more important. Expressing one's grief is necessary for them to begin a healing process. Keeping their thoughts and emotions inside is not healthy. However, they will share when they are ready. Just give them a safe and inviting environment to do so.
And sometimes we can say the absolute wrong things - steer clear of this. Don't tell someone you know how they feel - we can never know how another person feels in their loss. We can know how we feel or felt in our own losses, and those experiences sometimes are helpful when supporting others, but each person's experiences and feelings and reactions to such are different. Don't presume to know how another person feels. The same rule goes for cliches such as, "they're in a better place" or "everything happens for a reason". While there could be some truth to such statements in some cases, one should never say these things because they are just not things a grieving person needs or wants to hear.
To wrap it up, just "zip it" and "show up". Offer your condolences, listen, love, support and pray for them. Here is where my opinion and my beliefs come into this piece. My opinion is that genuine prayer is the best thing one can do for people who suffer losses and are struggling with grief. Of all the families I've counseled in their grief, it was those who had a hope and faith in God, that weathered the storms most successfully. Yes, they hurt and grieved like everyone else, but they had an outlet for which they could unload their burdens. They cried out to God and asked Him to share their burdens. It may take a lifetime to get over some kinds of pain and loss, but no one has to do it alone. God can carry our burdens and He can carry us. He can also send caring people to come alongside of us and lock arms with us. Even in grief, there is hope. There is hope that we can enjoy life again with the help of God and friends. And there is the hope that a loss only separates us from those we love temporarily. For those that have faith in our LORD, we know that an eternal perspective gets us through a life that is not exempt from pain and hurts, but can still be filled with joy again if we keep our eyes and hearts on Him.
Yes, this is my personal opinion, and all may not agree with it, but I live and will die by it. We all will die somehow, some way, some day. The Hope of the World will always comfort us when we call out to Him as our lives are torn apart with grief. Our Father puts the pieces, and our hearts, back together, one little piece at a time. One day we will smile again, after a loss or a grief. That is a hope we can hang on to. Take it one day at a time.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Perfect Gift

Are you in a frenzy to find the perfect gift to give this Christmas?  I've got the answer for you.  It is so simple, yet so difficult, for most of us to receive and give this amazing gift.  Let me tell you about this gift - the best gift I ever received or gave away.  The gift I'm speaking of is simply the love of Jesus.

If we have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have been given a free gift.  Yet it costs so very much for Jesus and our Father God to give that gift to us.  Jesus came into our world in a simple fashion that had no material trappings with which to confuse such a gift.  His mother and earthly father had to beg for shelter in which she could give birth.  All that was available was a manger in a stable; not a usual place for humans; such an unusual place for a king.  Yet the gift was the embodiment of love - LOVE from our Father God.  When He came to earth as the baby Jesus, He came to be with us; Emmanuel - God with us.  When He came to be with us there was a greater gift within His purpose.  His purpose was to ultimately give His life for our sins, to be the only sacrifice that could ever atone for the sins of mankind.

Because of God's great gift to us, we can have life.  We can have an abundant life now, in the love and grace of Jesus.  We can live with the peace and guidance of God's Holy Spirit within us - a peace and wisdom that the world cannot otherwise offer.  We can be assured to live forever with God, in heaven, when we leave this earth.  It doesn't take someone well-educated; it doesn't take someone with lots of material wealth and riches; it doesn't take someone who is perfect to give or receive this gift.  It take someone who is willing to say, "I need a Savior and I accept this free gift"!

So, are you scrambling for that perfect gift to give someone this Christmas?  Why not give everyone you encounter this Christmas - loved ones, friends, acquaintances, and strangers - the love of Jesus?  Let me go one step further.  Why not give people this gift throughout the year?  We don't have to wait until Christmas.  God's love can be given to people every day of our lives.  We can tell people who don't know about Jesus who He is, what He has done for us, how His love changed our lives and has given us a hope for eternal life.  We can encourage those that do know Him that He is faithful and His grace is sufficient for our every need.  We can offer love and community to people with authenticity and passion.  We can let the light of Jesus shine brightly within us and spill out all over everyone we encounter.  Such a gift cannot be matched with material aspiration or gain.  Such a gift is immeasurable and incomparable.  Such a gift is priceless.

Everyone needs the gift of Jesus.  Be the one to give the most precious gift one could ever give or receive.  It's so much better than a sweater, a scarf, a pair of socks, or underwear.  Yeah, I think you get the picture....what are you waiting for....give the love of Jesus away this Christmas and everyday.  It's a great way to make this world a better place - one person at a time.