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Thursday, April 28, 2016

When one Mama grieves, we all do

Yesterday four UGA Mama's got up never expecting that April 27 would be the day they had to live the nightmare that every parent fears - the loss of a child.  And every other UGA Mama - probably every single Mama everywhere - is heartbroken for them.
And while I didn't know these young women, I do not have to in order to grieve for their families and friends.  And to want to help, to ease their pain, to carry their burden with them.
Every parent's nightmare.  I wish my computer could type out some words that could help but all Mamas everywhere know there just aren't any.

But for those of us walking beside the hurting, here's some things I've learned to do...and not to do.

When those five precious GSU students were tragically lost this very same week a year ago, here are some of the things I shared.  Maybe they will help some of those alongside these grieving UGA Moms...

1.  Don't say you know how they feel.  You don't.  Unless you have been exactly where they are (in which case, you probably know not to say this anyway), you do not know how they feel. 

2.  Don't try to make sense of the tragedy.  There isn't any.

3.  Don't tell them "time will heal".  It won't.  The empty place at the dinner table, the absence at Christmas, the birthdays that won't be celebrated - those don't "heal".  While it is true that they can and may very well learn to live and love and even laugh again some day, right now they don't need an empty promise that time will heal.

4.  Don't say "let me know if I can do anything".  They won't.

5.  Don't tell them what they ought to feel or what they ought to do.  That's not up to you.

6.  Don't tell them "she's in a better place".  That may be true (if the one that was lost knows Christ, it is definitely true!) but that's not what they are grieving.  They are grieving that she isn't in the place of being beside them and never will be again.

7.  Don't avoid seeing them because you don't know what to say or do.  I have some suggestions.

Here goes:

1.  Be there. if you are connected to these families, go. Yes, it matters if you go.  And if you don't.  The grieving person knows you can't fix this and they don't expect you to.  But being there says you care.  Go.  That helps.

2.  What to say?  Just say "I'm sorry and I am hurting with you."  Let them see you grieve, cry, and hurt.  Shared pain is healing.  Hurt with them. 

3.  What to do?  Mow their lawn.  Take food.  Clean their house.  Take their kids to get their haircut (or whatever!!!!).  Look around at what needs to be done and just do it.  Someone close to the situation will know their needs - ask that person and then just do it.
(I am not advocating taking over all their decisions and controlling their lives but I am saying to take care of what needs to be done so they don't have to do it right now)

4.  Do talk about the one that's gone.  The ones that are left want to talk about them.  They need to know that someone else thinks about them, remembers them, loves them still.  A dear neighbor of mine in NC lost her college age son and she shared with me that she loved it when friends would talk about Bryan.  She thinks about him every single day and to know that someone else does too is a tremendous comfort.

5.  Share a specific memory or significance about the one who is lost.  A letter is a great way to do this because it can be read and re-read, treasured forever.

6.  Remember their birthday. 

7.  Make a gift that will honor the person who died.  Maybe to their favorite charity.  Or a tree that can be planted in their memory.  One of my fav things is to give daffodil bulbs - those are my favorite flower and when they bloom, it's a reminder that  I love them as well as that their loved one will always be remembered.

8.  Give them space. Let them move along at whatever pace they need.  It takes divine wisdom to know when to go and when to leave but grief is not an orchestrated dance.  It's more like a staccato rhythm and if we want to help, we have to be sensitive enough to realize there will be different needs at different times.  Adjust.

9.  Don't compromise Truth but be content that it doesn't have to be absorbed all at once or on any particular schedule.  In God's time, there will be appropriate ways to comfort them with the Truth that we don't grieve as those without hope.  In other words, it's really OK for them to feel angry sometimes.  Let them process.  Let them grieve.  God doesn't reject our emotions.  Read the Psalms if you doubt what I say.

10.  Just LOVE.  Love wins.  Love heals.  Love never fails.  If you are at a loss for what to say or do from time to time, that's OK.  Just love them. Follow up next month and six months from now and next year and six years from now.  Do not disappear once everyone else goes back to "normal".

11.  And remember the ones who survived the wreck.  That is a whole 'nother level of pain.  Don't think they aren't hurting as well.

To all the UGA Mamas, to the whole BullDAWG Nation, we are all grieving.  Athens is a small town , we all love our University, and when pain touches there, it touches us all. This is inestimable loss and it is right to grieve.  For as long as necessary. You are not alone.  Our community, our state, even our whole nation is right beside you.

And while I do not have answers, I do have Jesus and  He has not left you.  He will carry you when you cannot walk.  He will hold you tight when you are scared.  He will wipe your tears with His own scarred hand. 

I do not know why He allowed such devastating loss.  But I know He will never leave you and He has not forsaken you.  He loves you.

So do I.

Go Dawgs.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How's your lamp?

Her lamp does not go out at night
Proverbs 31:18b

I have often joked that long ago I tore Proverbs 31 out of my Bible -- too intimidating (and convicting)!  Seriously, some woman is writing about the kind of wife she wants for her son - who in the world can live up to that!

In my now, uh, mature years, I see this passage in a new light.  It's still quite convicting but no longer am I intimidated by it nor tempted to obliterate it from my Bible.  Today I want to focus on one of my most favorite lines.....Her lamp does not go out at night.

For years I read that and thought, yeah, this woman must live in a constant state of sleep deprivation.  Having barely survived the foggy brain months of helping a newborn adjust to life on the outside, I  truly wondered how having a lamp on all night could be considered worthy of emulation.  For the life of me, it seemed to be something to avoid like the plague.  And, if this was just merely describing reality, well, I just could not join that place on the pedestal.  I mean, I really need my sleep to function.  Much less to be superwoman.  (Thank goodness for TAB)

Then I learned what the verse means.  Very helpful.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Love does not...

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  I Corinthians 13:4-7

Love does not insist on its own way.

In other words, love is not selfish.  As we’ve seen in the other descriptions, there is not a particle of selfishness in love.  It seeks the good of others above self.  It’s as though the inspired word of the Holy Spirit wants to underscore that thought for emphasis.  In case we missed it before, we see it spelled out explicitly here – love does not insist on its own way…it is not selfish.

Being “not selfish” requires humility.  Not assertiveness.  This flies in the face of much of what we are instructed by the world.  Stand up for yourself.  Claim your rights (even as a Christian!). Look out for yourself.  At least, take care of yourself!  But God instructs us differently.  In Philippians 2:3-8, He says

 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

Nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.  Wow.  That’s a tall order indeed!  But that is what love does.  It submits to God’s way, gladly yielding to His will and obeys His Word.  How can we do that?  It seems impossible!

It is only possible if we trust Him.  If we know that He is our defense, that He is at work to accomplish that which  is good for us, and that His ways are always good.  Then we can abandon our own selfish agenda and entrust ourselves to Him.  Because He loves us and gave His Son for us…and freely gives us all things.

That’s love worth trusting.



Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Love is NOT..

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  I Corinthians 13:4-7

We are working our way through this passage…now we come to this description of love –

Love is not arrogant or rude.

Some translations say “it is not arrogant and does not act unbecomingly”.  I like that explanation. 

First, let’s address the arrogance.  Simply put, LOVE esteems others as more important than  ourselves.  When we love, we seek to lift others up, prioritize what is best for others, and not assume that our position/opinion/view is the right one.  Now, just a word of caution – I do not think that Scripture is advocating a miserable existence where we denigrate ourselves and consider our lives to be worthless.  That is actually just another expression of arrogance! Because arrogance is self-consumption and deflation of others.  Love is, instead,  self-forgetfulness and the valuing of others.  Love is not arrogant because love does not focus on self.

 That’s why the “love is not rude” admonition follows – rudeness is a lack of consideration of others.  Plain and simple.  From civility of  manners to common courtesies  to respectful public behavior (including social media…), love is not rude.  It does not treat others in an impolite, thoughtless or mean way.   It just does not.

I wonder how many relationships could be repaired if we just would choose to reject arrogance and rudeness.  And I wonder how many relationships are fractured because we didn’t…

I believe that Christians should place a high value on treating others with respect and courtesy. We need to train our children to do so…and we need to model it ourselves.  Ask God to show you if there is a relationship or a situation where you have displayed arrogance or rudeness.  Then repent and be reconciled.

That’s what Love does.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Love does not envy

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  I Corinthians 13:4-7

Today let’s look at “love does not envy”.  It occurs to me that we don’t hear many messages preached on envy.  Not too many books on this topic and I rarely hear myself or others confess this particular sin.  And yet, it is a major problem among those of us who are alive.  Major.  If we dig down to discover root causes of many other sins, we often find envy lurking there.

Think about it – have you gossiped recently?  Or criticized someone?  Or treated someone unkindly?  Resented a friend or complained about something you did not have?  Is there envy underneath those things?  Could it be that we covet what someone else has  - be it  a lovely home or thoughtful husband or successful children – and that causes us to react in unloving ways to someone… if we can somehow even the score?