Category Archives: Grief

Always in His gaze

Refining SilverThe woman asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined. “Oh yes!” he replied. “I cannot take my eyes off the silver. If it is left in the furnace even a moment too long, it will be destroyed.” The woman suddenly understood the beauty and comfort of Malachi 3:3: “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”

Yes, there are times when it seems as if we will be swallowed whole by the fires of hell itself. The pain seems too hard to bear. The fear is paralyzing. The doubt is overwhelming and the questions flood our hearts and minds…

Our trials are not random persecutions. Heaven is not in a panic. Where we are and what we are going through is no surprise to God. We may be knocked down and kicked around by life, but if we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we will not be destroyed.

~ Excerpted from Trusting God by Sharon Jaynes, Gwen Smith, and Mary Southerland

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2014. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Encouragement, Faith, God, Grief, Hope, intimacy with the Lord, Relationship with God, Religion and Spirituality, Suffering, Trusting God

May God bless you…

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done,
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Amen.

– Franciscan Benediction

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Authenticity, Christianity, Compassion, Grief, influence with the world, Justice, Kindness, Loving others, Religion and Spirituality, Serving, Suffering

A God of mercy?

What follows is a personal account from someone in the theatre in Aurora, CO where a gunman openned fire two days ago.

So you STILL think God is a merciful God?!

(Maybe, just maybe God spared my life because He loves YOU and wants you to hear this..He wants you to believe that He loved you so much He gave His only begotten Son that if you would believe in Him you would have eternal life.)

So, you still believe in a merciful God?”  Some of the comments online are genuinely inquisitive, others are contemptuous in nature. Regardless of the motive behind the question, I will respond the same way.

Yes.

Yes, I do indeed.

Absolutely, positively, unequivocally.

Let’s get something straight: the theater shooting was an evil, horrendous act done by a man controlled by evil.  God did not take a gun and pull the trigger in a crowded theater. He didn’t even suggest it. A man did.

In His sovereignty, God made man in His image with the ability to choose good and evil.

Unfortunately, sometimes man chooses evil.

I was there in theater 9 at midnight, straining to make out the words and trying to figure out the story line as The Dark Night Rises began. I’m not a big movie-goer. The HH and I prefer to watch movies in the comfort of our own home…where I can use subtitles and get a foot rub. I don’t like action movies. And I don’t like midnight showings.  But, as I wrote in my last post, parents sometimes make sacrifices for their kiddos and I decided I would take my fourteen year old and sixteen year old daughters who were chomping at the bit to see this eagerly anticipated third movie in the Batman Trilogy. Twice I had the opportunity to back out and twice I was quite tempted. But something in me said just go with your girls. I did.

So I was there with them, fidgeting in my seat, some forty or  fifty feet away from the man with the gun. It’s still a bit surreal, but I do know that when the seemingly endless shooting started, as my girls were struggling from whatever gas or chemical had been released, and we figured out what was happening, we hit the floor. I threw myself on top of my fourteen year old who was on the end of the row, straight up the aisle from the shooter.  In that moment, as the rapid-fire shots continued, I truly thought I was going to die. And I realized that I was ready. I have put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the redeemer of my soul, and there wasn’t the slightest doubt that I would be received into heaven, not because of any good thing that I have done but because of His merciful nature and the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Still, as I lay over my daughter, I began praying out loud. I don’t even remember what I prayed, but I don’t imagine it really matters. I’m sure it was for protection and peace. It drew me closer into the presence of God. When there was a pause in the shooting, people began to clamor for the exits. The girls and I jumped up and joined the masses. We had to step over a lifeless body, not knowing where the shooter was. We raced to our car and I dumped my purse, frantically searching for keys, looking all around, prepared to hit the ground. I yelled at Michelle to call Matthew and find out if he had made it out of the theater next door. She did. He did. We booked on out of there.

Why would you think such a tragedy would make me question the goodness of God? If anything, both of my girls said it made Him a much more real presence to them; the youngest shared this verse: Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being caught.

He is not the cause of evil, but He is the one who can bring comfort and peace in the midst of evil.  It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of love from so many people after this unthinkable act.  Yes, there was one evil act, but it is being covered by thousands, possibly millions of acts of kindness.

We have not yet slept, so the girls and I are overtired and a bit emotional.  But overall, we are praising God and resting in His Goodness.   I love this word of wisdom and encouragement from a former pastor of mine:

Up to this point I haven’t had words to say that would matter. Of course we are all glad that you and the family are safe. Of course we would all state the obvious that this is horrific and senseless. But those words still don’t carry weight that remain in the midst of the questions. Then it hit me… Do you know what the difference was between Job and his wife in their response to the tragedy of losing everything… Job 1:20 Job was the only one that worshiped in the midst of it. Marie, I know your heart and I’ve seen your worship lived out before your family. Before the weight of this becomes unbearable… worship. Your profile pic was not coincidence, not by accident that you changed it on July 15th, but a beautiful foreshadowing of your need to hear the cry of your heart and give Him praise. 

Though we don’t have all the answers, we do indeed listen to the cry of our hearts: When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What  can mere man  do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

God is always good.

Man is not.

Don’t get the two confused.

We will continue to praise and worship our mighty God, anticipating that He will bring beauty from ashes, as only He can do.

If you want to know how to pray for us: first and foremost, we need sleep. Somehow our bodies seem too wired. We also want the life that God has graciously allowed us to continue to live to not be a gift given in vain, we want our lives to draw others closer to Him. We do not want fear to dominate, for God has not given us a spirit of fear. We want His joy to be seen and experienced in all that we do.

Pray for the families who lost loved ones, and for young people who witnessed such horror. Pray for this to be an opportunity for God to manifest Himself in mighty ways.

As for you…we will pray that YOU might know His goodness.

Still grateful for this wonderful life,

Marie

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Please join me in continuing to pray for all those affected by this terrible tragedy. Thanks, Rick

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, God, Grace, Grief, Healing, Heaven, Hope, influence with the world, Mercy, Peace, Praise, Prayer, Suffering

I’m sick and tired of the hype about new Easter ideas!

I’m all for new thoughts and ideas. They usually help to stimulate my slow-moving and limited brain cells. So I subscribe to various ministry newsletters.

Most of the articles come from men and women seasoned with plenty of ministry experience. And most usually have some nugget of wisdom or insight to offer.

But I’m sick and tired of the hype of new Easter ideas! 

We are still weeks away from Easter but here is a list of the articles that have already come across my computer screen:

  • 16 Tips for Better Easter Impact
  • 6 Preaching and Teaching Tips for Easter
  • 11 Keys to an Explosive Easter Service
  • Easter Challenge to Pastors
  • 40 Easter Outreach Ideas
  • 4 Ways to Keep Easter Guests Coming Back
  • 12 Ways to Make Sure Easter Guests Don’t Come Back (A creative way to express what we should avoid doing)
  • 8 Vital Elements of an Easter Sermon
  • Church Will Give Away $1000 on Easter

If you add all of these magical numbers together they equal: 1 nauseated pastor!

What do you suppose the disciples of Jesus were doing after His death but before that first Easter morning?

Mourning: They were grief-stricken over the death of Jesus. They felt lost.

Examining: How did this happen? Did we miss something? How did we get here?

Praying: “Dear God, do something!”

What if we approached Easter this same way? What if we used this season of Lent to really get ready for Easter?

Mourning: Are we grief-stricken that our sins and the sins of the world led Jesus to be crucified?

Examining: What am I doing with my life? What are my real priorities? Am I putting God first?

Praying: “Dear God, do something! And let it begin with me!”

The only way for the world to experience the effects of a risen Savior is for me to first experience the effects of a risen Savior!

“Lord, stir my heart and quicken my spirit. Draw me closer to You and awaken me to live in the reality of a risen Savior. Transform my head, my heart and my hands as I give myself to love broken people in a fallen world!”

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Christianity, Discipleship, Easter, Good Friday, Grief, influence with the world, intimacy with the Lord, Lent, Loving God, Loving others, Morphing, Prayer, Priorities, Reflection, Revival, Sin

We grieve with hope

Yesterday I helped a friend grieve and say goodbye to a son he never got to hold. He and his wife lost a little boy about 12 weeks into the pregnancy. His name is Benjamin James.

Benjamin is face to face with our Creator but my friend and his wife are walking through a valley darker than any they’ve ever experienced. And it sucks!

This is not how God intended life to be. That’s why He’s busy creating a new place for us to be with Him forever. A place without death or suffering or tears. But until that day comes we endure some serious heartache.

The Apostle Paul tells us that all of creation is groaning under the strain of a fallen, broken world.

Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. ~ Romans 8:18-22 (NLT)

Seasons of suffering, like what my friends Brian and Karen are going through right now, add to the groaning mentioned here by Paul. But no matter how deep our sorrow runs, God’s grace runs deeper… and wider… and stronger.

So for now, we grieve with hope and wait for the day when God’s glory will make it all fade away.

With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman was shared as part of the memorial service for Benjamin.

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© Richard Alvey and iLife Journey, 2012. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Brokenness, Glory of God, Grief, Heaven, Hope, Suffering

What really matters

I’ve been in ministry long enough now to have handled probably 50-60 funerals. While they are certainly not my favorite part of being a pastor they offer an opportunity to comfort and encourage folks in their moments of grief. And they serve as a reminder to those of us still living.

It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart. ~ Ecclesiastes 7:2 (NIV)

It’s easy to forget that every day is a gift from God and not to be taken for granted. Funerals remind us to pay attention to those things in life that matter most; namely relationships. The funeral I conducted yesterday was difficult and served as a reminder in two ways.

One lesson was about resolving broken relationships. Though I had never met this family it was very obvious that there were some strong breaches in their relationships. Now that “dad” is gone those issues may never get fully resolved. Don’t wait for the other person to make the first move, do everything in your power to mend broken fences and enjoy life together.

The other lesson has to do with hope. On occasion I get called to conduct a funeral because the family has no church connection. That was the case this time. While the funeral of a loved one that knows Christ is very difficult and heart-wrenching, the despair and hopelessness of losing a loved one with no hope of eternity is horrible!

Do you have family members not in a relationship with God? Pray for them daily and look for every opportunity to share the grace and mercy of God with them. Once they are gone, there are no second chances!

I know today’s blog was a bit heavy but sometimes we need to be reminded of what really matters!

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Filed under Evangelism, Family, Grace, Grief, Hope, Loving others

Not for everyone

There are a lot of things that make this time of year special!

  • The festive spirit!
  • Sparkling Christmas decorations!
  • A first Christmas for a newborn or newlyweds!
  • The fun of giving and receiving presents!
  • Fun-filled gatherings with family and friends!
  • Lots of great food; especially the sweet kind!
  • The beauty of a first snow that covers the earth in a blanket of white!
  • The hope of Immanuel – celebrating the birth of Christ!

No wonder we call it MERRY Christmas!

But it’s not so MERRY for everyone. For some this will be a season of very real pain and grief. It will be their first Christmas without a loved one. A father or mother, a son or daughter, a wife or husband… Death has visited their family and life will never be the same again.

Or perhaps there is a loved one enduring a very serious illness; battling some life-threatening health issue. Maybe it’s the weight of financial trouble or job uncertainty. A strained relationship that will keep a family separated when others are gathering for the holidays.

If you are fortunate enough to be enjoying this holiday season, remember those who are not.

  • Pause and remember them in prayer.
  • Drop them a note to let them know you are thinking of them.
  • Go out for coffee and give them a chance to talk about it.
  • Fix up a plate of holiday treats and drop by for a visit.
  • Invite them to A Service of Hope and Remembrance on Dec. 21st and the Methodist Church in Hagerstown sponsored by the Nettle Creek Ministerial Association.
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I sincerely hope you have every reason to celebrate a MERRY Christmas but if you don’t please know that you are loved and that God will walk with you through this less than merry season.

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Filed under Christmas, Encouragement, Grief, Hope, Loving others