March 23 | Grief

Grief

How appropriate that today’s word is ‘grief.’ I took a little hiatus from my daily posts (but not from Bible reading) because life got a little topsy-turvy after my grandmother died two weeks ago today. I went to Illinois for the funeral and time with family and then when I got back, we had family from my husband’s side visit for the week. They left this morning, so before I travel out to Seattle to see one of my sisters, I have a couple days to regroup and gather thoughts (and do laundry).

My grandmother Jane was a lovely lady. I know this, and my family knows this, but what I found out by standing in the receiving line at the visitation is that everyone who knew her knows this. For almost two hours I introduced (and re-introduced) myself as ‘the oldest granddaughter Elizabeth’ to people who played cards with her and my grandpa, people who attended to church with her, people who cooked with her in the church kitchen, people who worked their land, and I’m pretty sure that her entire floor of the retirement home came to pay their respects. I wish I could have recorded all the nice things people said about her in that line.

Her full name was Eleanor Jane, but she always went by Jane. Eleanor and Jane mean respectively ‘bright shining one’ and ‘God’s gracious gift,’ and let me tell you, she embodied her name. My husband and I had our children’s names picked out for years, but I told him the day of the funeral that if we ever had a girl, we would name her Eleanor Jane in place of the name we’d picked out. He said he wouldn’t even argue with that. I lightheartedly told him that was a good decision.

My grandmother left an amazing legacy of faith that was quietly and steadfastly lived out. During the memorial service the pastor read her statement of faith that she wrote in a Bible study class, and in it she said that when she was a young girl, she went to church when she could, with family members, with the neighbors. She loved to be in church. She always encouraged my faith, and I tried to go to church with her when I was in town, especially after my grandfather passed away.

She didn’t suffer. I’m happy for that. I’m also overjoyed for her present victory, but so overwhelmed at times with grief that this world (and I) lost a bright, loving, giving soul. God gave her an earthly vessel for 87 years. That, coupled with heartache, loss, and joy, makes for a long full life. I can only hope to come close to that.

I’m grieving still. My family is grieving. My dad has now lost both of his parents. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. It’s especially hard when I want to call her to tell her about our recent visit with family, or about my upcoming trip to the West Coast. My heart aches when I realize that I can no longer speak with her.

But I don’t think I’ve ever understood our eternal destiny in Jesus more until she passed. I have never had such a sense of the truth and power of the Resurrection, nor have I ever had such a concrete moment in life attached to the Lenten season.

The message at church this past Sunday talked about how disciples suffer with Jesus. Our pastor, just hours before church began, lost his brother to a long battle with cancer. In the midst of that, he spoke about how we can’t have light without darkness. We can’t have the true and full joy of the Resurrection on Sunday without the tragic and sometimes infuriating events of this holy week. The timing of all these events is not happenstance; it’s the mysterious workings of God, perhaps to remind us where we’ve come from and where we’re going, and what our purpose is while we’re here. There is darkness, death, grief, and sin in this world. But Jesus has already overcome it. We can have freedom and resurrection with Him.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Defending our faith

Yesterday I was enjoying a book and the late summer sunshine on campus when two girls approached me. The conversation went like this….

“Hi! We have a Bible study here on campus and we were going around asking people to see what they know about the Bible. Do you believe the Bible is true?”

“Yes, I do!” In my life, the Bible is 100% truth, infallible, and the guide for living our lives and a way in which God speaks to us. The Holy Spirit brings the God-inspired words to life.

“What if we told you that in the Bible it says….”

For an hour we went through the Bible together (it was the New International Version; I asked) and these girls tried to convince me of things not accepted by mainstream Protestant doctrine by using Scripture out of context. I asked them if they had looked up certain things in the Greek or Hebrew, and they told me that “Well, no, but it’s pretty much the exact same thing in English.” While I agree that we have some amazing translations of the Bible in English, in order to get the absolute entire picture, we need to cross-reference these verses with the original languages in which they were written. Even comparing other English translations can shed light onto tough passages of Scripture.

I’m by no means a Bible expert. However, just in the past few years, I really started studying more and learning how to debate (thanks Petr and Gabi for your Christ-centered debate group!!). By God’s grace, I stumped these girls on the issues they were trying to convince me of. They were like robots; they had many verses highlighted with Post-It strips indicating where to go next if the person being interviewed posed a certain question.

My purpose for writing this is not to nit-pick every issue we talked about, nor is it to bash other people or denominations. It’s to illustrate how important it is for us to know what we believe, why we believe it, and where to find it in the Bible.

If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything. Even a Christian who attends church and reads the Bible can be swayed by tactics such as these. Do you know where you stand on issues such as creation? Sin? Salvation? Heaven? Hell? The divinity of Jesus? The oneness of the Trinity?

Debating these issues can get heated and sometimes offensive, but I thank God for the grace He gave me and I hope these girls could see what I was showing them out of love. Above all, this is what is important:

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you

to give the reason for the hope that you have.

But do this with gentleness and respect..” I Peter 3:15

and

“But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed,

but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10:39

>Our insecurities, magnified

>

I was thinking about this since I read a blog similar to it at Jamie the Very Worst Missionary, and since we had a rough morning at worship practice before church this morning.
Our insecurities don’t just disappear when we begin to get involved in ministry. In fact, our shortcomings can be magnified. That’s what the enemy wants.. for us to feel guilty, bitter, remorseful, and become so ineffective for the Kingdom. Who cares if we actually fall away from church… if we are lukewarm, we might as well have fallen away in my opinion.
My biggest strengths in ministry, and in life for that matter, are also my biggest weaknesses. I’ve been a musician for almost twenty years of my life. Piano lessons, guitar lessons, band, choir, worship bands.. you name it. I love being in a band, and having the freedom to go crazy on the keys. I love worship with all of my heart, and it’s brought me to my knees sometimes.
However, along with my passion, comes my critical side. Even on Sundays when I’m just out in the congregation worshipping, I listen to every little thing and quirk in the sound mix or whatever and it almost prevents me from taking hold of those awesome moments in God’s presence. Like I said, it’s what the enemy wants.
He wants me to become so critical and have such a condescending attitude that I will be rendered ineffective. Sure, I’ll play and sing with grace and feel something during worship.. but I’ll only be giving 5%.
So, I admit, I had a poor attitude this morning. Why can’t they play that right? Why can’t everyone be on time? Why why why.. blah blah blah. And guess what? I had my own humbling experience when I forgot what song we were playing after communion and Patrick had to tell me what it was. Embarrassing, yes. Without grace and precision, yes.
As I sat there at the keyboard staring at the keys in utter embarrassment (because you know, I never make mistakes.. ha!) I started to feel this bitter and self-deprecating attitude come over me. Then I realized that I’ve been through much more embarrassing things. I was not about to let the biggest joy of my life (besides being married, of course) be stolen from me in that moment!
Who cares what anyone else thinks? I made a mistake. I’m quite entitled, since I’m human. It’s inevitable. But it’s done, over with, and I have some worship to do.
In the past I would have let that one moment of confusion let me down for the rest of the morning. I still had another service to play through, and heck if I was going to waste it.
Part of maturity is recognizing and admitting to our shortcomings. Another part is realizing how detrimental living out our shortcomings can be to the Church. If I were to sit there and not engage in worship because of one little mistake that people won’t even remember in half an hour (we hope!), then I’m allowing myself to become rendered ineffective as a leader for that moment.
Of course, this little life lesson went right along with what Pastor Rick was preaching about… relating to people.
Hebrews 2:17-18: For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Jesus had to be made human in order to be relevant. How would it be if Jesus came in all His deserved glory, ruling over the earth with a spotless white silk robe and golden scepter? What if He were sitting on a throne, with thousands of servants obeying His every command? Because He’s God, He could have done that.
But He didn’t. He worked manual labor as a carpenter for almost twenty years before even beginning His ministry. He dealt with all temptations that we have, and was successful in overcoming them.
Sometimes we have to go through our manual labor for a long time before we’re ready to totally, 100%, embrace our calling. It’s hard at the time, but there is a great reward for our patience and diligence. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (I Pet. 5:6) 
Be prayerful and diligent in whatever ministry you are a part of… be faithful to the needs of that ministry and pray for its members as well. The Lord uses all things for good… maybe not good in our eyes. We deal with all our insecurities for a reason. I love what A.W. Tozer said,
All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure. Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined.”