Three of my Favourite Words

Three of my Favourite Words

I currently have three words that I really like.

They are – in no particular order – HOPE, JOY, and GRACE.

I don’t claim to exemplify the qualities inherent in the concepts that these words embody, but I would like to think that by focussing my thinking on them, they will then become more evident in my life.

Wikipedia describes HOPE as an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.

Kay Warren describes JOY as the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

John MacArthur defines GRACE as the free and benevolent influence of a holy God operating sovereignly in the lives of undeserving sinners.

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Some people criticise modern worship songs and choruses by saying that they are too simple, with not enough depth to them.

I accept that some of the traditional hymns contain an amazing depth of theology, that is lacking in some of our modern worship songs.

However, I think that there’s a place for both.

When I’m in a place of very deep emotional pain, it’s usually not deep theology that I need. Sometimes I need to very simply be reminded of the basic truths of the Christian Gospel.

On several occasions since Leah has died, we as a family have attended a church other than our own, in the hope of being able to worship God, without being engulfed in the inevitable emotion produced by attending the church where our daughter was so involved and where our children have grown up.

It really is impossible however to avoid “grief triggers” completely, so on these occasions I usually find myself crying in whatever church we’re visiting.

On one of these occasions not long after Leah had died, the church where we were visiting was having a family service. The hymns that they sang were very simple – of the “Jesus loves me, this I know” variety. Instead of a sermon, they showed a children’s DVD that taught a simple Bible lesson.

I came away feeling that I had met with God. A full blown sermon could have left me feeling discouraged by my inability to connect with what I was hearing. I was exhausted from grieving and my attention span was very short. Their simple service, aimed at the younger members of the congregation, had been exactly what I needed.

I just needed to be reminded of the basics:

God loves me.

Jesus died for me.

Some day all who love the Lord Jesus will be reunited for all eternity.

Listening to modern worship songs, with their beautiful words, helps me to hold on to these truths on a daily basis.

One of the songs that I’ve been listening to a lot lately is simply called GRACE by Martin Smith:

I was lost when you found me here

You pulled me close and held me near

And I’m a fool but still You love

I’ll be your fool for the King of Love

You gave me wings so I could fly

And gave me a song to color the sky

And all I have is all from you

And all I want is all of you

It’s Grace, grace

I’m nothing without You

Grace, Your grace

Shines on me

And there’ve been days when I’ve walked away

Too much to carry nothing left to say

Forgive me Lord when I’m weak and lost

You traded heaven for a wooden cross

And all these years You’ve carried me

You’ve been my eyes when I couldn’t see

And beauty grows in the driving rain

Your oil of gladness in the times of pain

Your Grace, grace

I’m nothing without You

Grace, Your grace

Shines on me

Grace, oh grace

I’m everything with You

Grace, Your grace

Shines on me

 

How I’m Getting Through

How I’m Getting Through

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 The Voice

3 All praise goes to God, Father of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One. He is the Father of compassion, the God of all comfort. 4 He consoles us as we endure the pain and hardship of life so that we may draw from His comfort and share it with others in their own struggles.

One sermon a week on a Sunday morning has never been enough for me. I’ve always loved listening to Bible teaching at home or in the car. In the ’80s I had an insatiable appetite for the teaching tapes produced by Francis Schaeffer and L’Abri.
Since the arrival of the internet and podcasts I’ve been spoilt for choice – all the sermons I could ever want, at my fingertips.
In late 2012 and in early 2013 I was mostly listening to Joyce Meyer, Rick Warren and John Piper Early in 2013 Rick Warren’s son Matthew took his own life. Matthew Warren died on the 5th April ’13 and I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. My reaction was to sit and cry, in solidarity with Rick and Kay’s broken hearts – just as some of you who never met Leah read my blog and cry in solidarity with our broken hearts. Then I prayed for the Warrens, as many of you do for us, which I appreciate so very much. How could we ever have got this far without the loving and prayerful support of God’s people?
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In September ’13 Rick and Kay Warren were interviewed about the death of their son, by Piers Morgan on CNN – read excerpts from that interview Here
On Sunday 28th July ’13, Rick & Kay Warren returned to the pulpit for the first time since their son died. Rick commenced by preaching a new series entitled “How to get through what you’re going through” I was really excited about this and listened eagerly to the first two episodes while in the bone marrow transplant unit, using my headphones.
However, as time went on and I was increasingly aware of how unwell Leah was, I found that this affected my concentration and attention span and I had difficulty focussing, so I stopped listening to online sermons.
A lifelong favourite pastime of mine has been books and reading. Since Leah was diagnosed last year however, I have found it very difficult to focus on the written word for any length of time. I still read, but it takes me weeks to read a book that used to take me days. I miss the pure undiluted pleasure that reading once brought me.
I’ve also lost my lifelong love of listening to the radio. I used to wear out the buttons on my portable radios – now they lie gathering dust. There’s so much ‘noise’ in my head that the additional noise of having a radio on just irritates me.
However, today for the first time since Leah died, I listened to an online sermon. I felt ready once again to listen to the sermon Rick & Kay Warren preached on the occasion of returning to public ministry after the death of their son: How we’re getting through – I found it very helpful. I also found it quite surreal listening to it again almost a year after I first heard it. The first time I heard this message I was sitting in the bone marrow transplant unit and I was looking for the strength to cope with being on my own, far from home, with my critically ill child. Now Leah is gone from this world and I’m deep in grief.

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Rick Warren describes the six phases of grief and loss as follows:

SHOCK: When your world falls apart
SORROW: When your heart is breaking
STRUGGLE: When you don’t understand
SURRENDER: How to experience peace
SANCTIFICATION: How God turns bad to good
SERVICE: How to use your pain for good

Rick does not however suggest that this is a neat process whereby you go through each stage and can tick it off and say “done that” – grief and loss is all very fluid and we can move backwards and forwards through any of these stages depending on what else is happening in our lives.
After the initial sermon, Rick then preached individual sermons on each of the above “stages” and these are available on iTunes as podcasts or via the Saddleback Church App.
Kay Warren talks about what she has done to help her hold onto hope and joy in her life. She said that she has compiled a playlist of songs to listen to, from which she derives comfort, which includes “Not For A Moment” by Meredith Andrews:

“And every step every breath you are there
Every tear every cry every prayer
In my hurt at my worst
When my world falls down
Not for a moment will You forsake me
Even in the dark
Even when it’s hard
You will never leave me”