Archives For December 2011

Take time for your heart

Jeff Olson —  December 22, 2011 — 3 Comments

Every morning I take a baby aspirin. Heart disease runs in my family, and my doctor says it’s good for the health of my ticker.

The particular brand of aspirin I take etches the shape of a small heart on the side of the pill. At first I thought it was corny. But every time I see it, it reminds me that I’m taking this little pill for the good of my heart.

Just as it’s good to take care of our physical heart, it’s also good to take care of a different kind of “heart.” I’m referring to that unseen place inside each of us that houses our deepest desires, hopes, convictions, and feelings. It’s that place within us where we experience the deepest joys and heartaches of life.

The heart is the center of who we really are. That’s why the book of Proverbs puts a high priority on taking care of it:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
(Proverbs 4:23)

During this Christmas season and even as you enter the New Year, take some time to care for your heart that Jesus was born to rescue and renew. Take a break from the frenetic pace of life and give yourself time to breathe again.

Maybe grab some solitude. Read a good book. Reconnect with a friend or relative.

Do whatever you need to do to tend to your heart. It is the central part of who you are. It is the place out of which you love God and others.

 

A Grief Revisited

Tim Jackson —  December 20, 2011 — 12 Comments

I spent last Friday with the HelpForMyLife video crew capturing the story of one of our coworkers, Kevin Burgess and his wife Dawn. Kevin works the audio magic to “sweeten” the audio of many of the RBC radio productions. (I have no idea what “sweetening” entails but I don’t think is has anything to do with the little sprinkles we like to shower over Christmas cookies.)

For those of you who have followed the HelpForMyLife.org blogs over the past year,  you may remember Kevin and Dawn. I featured them in my December 22, 2010 blog, A child is born . . . and one is taken. What a privilege to be with this amazing couple!

Their story is one of sorrow and grief, courage and compassion, endurance and hope. Having lost their precious son, Braeden, to cancer just a little over two and a half years ago, just shy of his 4th birthday, they allowed us to take the journey of grief with them as they shared their story.

And it’s a story worth telling.

Our hope in this new year is to launch a new portion of our website that features the stories of real people with real struggles that requires real faith. We’re thinking of calling it, The Journey Through . . . series. It’s because we’re always in process. We don’t arrive until we’re finally and fully restored in the presence of our good God. So on this earth, we’re all journeying through something.

For Kevin, Dawn and their remaining children, their hurt hasn’t evaporated over the past year. They quickly dismissed the notion that “time heals all wounds.” It doesn’t. Braeden’s absence at their Christmas celebration this year is just as poignant and painful as last year and the year before. But they also reflected something that only they can through this journey through grief . . . hope.

Kevin and Dawn readily admit they’re not immune to grief. Neither are they incapacitated by it. Instead, they are inspired by hope. They are using their experience to touch others who have lost children too. They want to share what they’ve learned on this journey they never chose, but that chose them.

What became very clear to all of us who witnessed their story first hand is this:

They have a story to tell. And we have the privilege of telling it.

Their story is not about a destination, but a journey through grief.

Their story is not over yet. They are still on the journey, they haven’t given up . . . because they have hope.

Why? How? As they would tell you emphatically, “God is in this.”

And their story inspires me to hope too.

So as you celebrate this holiday season with your family and friends, be grateful for those who are present, grieve over those who are not, and always remember the  glorious Hope that arrived under the cover of darkness to a couple in a stable 2000 years ago who is our Prince of Peace who heals the brokenhearted and brings comfort to the grieving (Isaiah 61:1-3).

Merry Christmas.

And, look for Dawn and Kevin’s story of hope in the new year at HelpForMyLife.org.

Born to die

Jeff Olson —  December 15, 2011 — 1 Comment

We are well into that special time of the year where our focus turns to the celebration of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:1-20). The world has never been the same since that supernatural night in Bethlehem so many years ago.

Once, however, you get past His birth in Bethlehem, the Gospel records of Jesus’ life make it clear that He knew He was born to die. Jesus spoke of His death (and His resurrection) early in his early ministry (John 2:19-21) and often (Mark 8:31).

Have you ever wondered why? Why did Jesus have to die, and at such a young age? Couldn’t He have accomplished so much more if He had lived for several decades and died of natural causes?

Imagine all of sickness and disease Jesus could have healed and the mind boggling miracles He could have performed. Think of the additional teachings He could’ve imparted and the problems in the world He could have righted.

The reason Jesus had to die is simply this—we needed Him to die so that we wouldn’t have to. We desperately needed Jesus to give his life so that we could live (Romans 6:4).

As we celebrate and remember the miracle of His birth, let’s also remember why He was born to die.

“Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone” –Romans 5:18 NLT

 

 

Slow down and talk it through

Jeff Olson —  December 8, 2011 — 3 Comments

Today I came across a story about Kevin Sorbo—the muscle bound actor who played Hercules from the television show with the same name. Playing the mythic Greek hero, Kevin fought epic battles against evil forces and rescued damsels in distress. Yet ironically, while filming Hercules, this seemingly robust actor suffered three debilitating strokes at the age of 38.

Kevin, who recently received high praise for his heroic role in the Jesus-centered film Soul Surfer, had the following to say about recovering from his illness:

“‘Before my illness I was fully preoccupied with the material side of life. Moving at the speed of light, I ignored the spiritual side, the unseen. But being sidelined with time to spare, I had a lot of conversations with God and told him my problems.

Kevin’s reflections are a good reminder to us all. It’s important to talk to God about the problems in our lives. Invite Him into what’s going on, share what’s on our hearts, and listen for His Spirit to minister to our hearts.

We can’t “see” God, but if we slow down enough we can discover He’s there to talk it through.

“In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.” –Psalm 118:5 NLT

Compassionate Friends

Allison Stevens —  December 7, 2011 — 5 Comments

I talked with a friend today about the death of her son.  She’s dreading the holidays without him. She and her husband are consumed with thoughts about him and seeing him again someday.

I remembered that I had read an article in the newspaper about an organization called The Compassionate Friends, a place to help grieving families after the death of a child. I told my friend about Compassionate Friends and an event CF started 15 years ago: The Worldwide Candle Lighting night. Each year, the second Sunday in December is dedicated to remembering, honoring, and reflecting on the lives of children who died. December 11, 2011 is the Worldwide Candle Lighting night, and this is a time where families can attend a special service in their area or light a candle at 7:00 p.m., wherever they are, to honor their child.

Holidays can be difficult for many reasons, but especially for those whose child has died – at any age and from any cause.  Whether this is the first Christmas without your child or the 25th, you will never be the same without your son or daughter. Your child’s death has markedly changed you.  The grief you feel and the changes that take place as a result of your child’s death validate the significance, meaning, and love of your relationship with your child.

If you have lost a child or you know someone who has, I recommend this website as a source of hope and healing:  www.compassionatefriends.org.  There is also a place to post a remembrance note about your son or daughter. It’s one way a family can express their grief, share their memories, honor their child, and maybe even find new friends who can help them along this arduous journey.

The executive director of CF, Patricia Loder, wrote that the reason they do the Worldwide Candle Lighting is so that the child’s “light may always shine.”

What a beautiful picture of a child:  light; like a star’s light breaking through the darkness.

Let’s pray for the families that are grieving the loss of a child this holiday season. We can help carry their burden by praying for them, lighting a candle for their child, weeping with them, listening to them, and allowing them to grieve naturally. There is no time table and parents who’ve lost a child never ever “get over it.”  They need to grieve their incredibly deep loss for as long as it takes.

If you’d like, please use this space to post a remembrance note about your dearly loved and missed child.

Truth & Consequences

Tim Jackson —  December 5, 2011 — 11 Comments

“But I told the truth!” Through her sobs it was clear that she understood how wrong she was in what she’d done. She’d broken the trust of her husband yet again with another affair. This one she’d managed to keep hidden for the past 5 years.

“I’ll never do it again!” she promised, pleading with him to not follow through with the separation. “I told the truth! Why won’t you believe me?”

In spite of her pleading, her husband had had enough of her lies. She had violated his trust one too many times and this time she lost him for good.

Unfortunately, this scenario is played out in numerous venues and relationships far too often. People who have done something wrong, finally get caught, “tell the truth” after a litany of lies and then are shocked that there are still consequences for their choices.

Some Christians will often respond with indignation, “Why won’t he just forgive her? He needs to show her grace! Jesus came to demonstrate truth and grace (John 1:14) and so should he.”

Somehow this distorted idea has crept into our present value system. What idea? That once I confess to the truth of what I’ve done, that all painful consequences should magically melt away like the dew in the morning sunlight because I “fessed up.” The rationale goes something like this:  “After all, we are to be gracious and forgiving of one another as Christians.” Sounds good. Right?

Sorry. While that may sound biblical, it’s not. A biblical understanding of Truth and Grace is that grace doesn’t exempt us from consequences for foolish choices. Grace means we don’t throw someone away and brand them as worthless.

Forgiveness can be offered to us when we finally confesses to what we’ve done, but what we must also accept is that we may still lose our job, our marriage, our home, our children, our reputation and our friends because of our choices.

Telling the truth doesn’t exempt us from the painful consequences of the truth being known. It’s not Truth or Consequences but Truth And Consequences.

present but not always felt

Jeff Olson —  December 1, 2011 — 7 Comments

Hearing an infant cry at bedtime can be one of the most unnerving situations for young parents to handle.

When my wife and I first encountered this, we struggled to resist the urge to go into our baby’s room and console her little heart. We would peek through the door from time to time, to make sure she wasn’t hurt in some way, but we refrained from going in.

Good grief! Why do parents put their infants and themselves through so much misery? For one, we are giving our little ones the opportunity to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. Okay, maybe it does when they are infants–but we don’t want them to know it.

Parents also refrain from picking up newborns every time they whimper to help them develop a resiliency to move through difficult situations. And even though it didn”t feel like it to them at the time, we were there with them through all of the sobs and all the tears.

We don’t always feel God’s presence in the midst of difficult times, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there, working behind the scenes.

Joseph was a person who had reasons to feel like God was not present or working in his life. He was sold away into slavery by his jealous brothers. He was carted off to a foreign land where he was falsely accused of and sent to prison for sexually assaulting his boss’s wife.

It could easily seem like God had abandoned him.

But many years later, when Joseph was the governor of Egypt and he had the upper hand, he graciously explained to his brothers that “It was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:8).

Joseph would later tell his brothers (who were afraid he was harboring a grudge against him), “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20).

Can you look back and see God’s presence and hand at work in a particular situation that you once could not see?