Archives For emotions

blood-moonIt was a very normal sort of Monday. I had taken Caroline to school and arrived at the church office early, around 8:00 a.m., as I usually do. That’s when my brother called me on my cell phone to let me know that Dad was not doing well. Somehow what we thought was a somewhat routine hospitalization shifted into what would inevitably be his final one.

When Keith’s voice cracked with emotion, I knew I needed to leave for Mississippi. Soon. Despite my earlier assumptions, this Monday would not be ‘business as usual.’

I made a few contacts to cancel some meetings and let our staff know what was going on. Then I gathered everything I needed to take with me and headed home to pack hastily for an unplanned trip. I knew I’d be hanging out at the hospital most of the time, so I threw some random casual clothing in a suitcase. But something told me I needed to take dress clothes too — just in case.

The six-hour drive from Little Rock to Jackson was filled with mixed emotions: concern, fear, anxiety, regret, hope. It was a mixed bag indeed. Mainly I filled the time with prayer and praise music, thanks to my handy iPhone playlists.

I’ll never forget this particular anniversary, and not just because it was tax day. Shortly after I stopped for lunch, my phone started going crazy with news alerts about the chaos at the Boston Marathon. Explosions. Injuries. Fatalities. Confusion. Mass hysteria. My drive from Lake Village to Jackson was filled with constant live coverage from news radio in Boston.

Though in a much different way, I remember thinking to myself that all these people were also dealing with an unplanned interruption in their day. And like me, most of them were probably feeling pretty powerless to do anything about the situation they were facing.

Life is filled with many unexpected twists and turns. Just as I’ve come to understand that real-life ministry often happens during the interruptions of life, so too does personal and spiritual growth. As much as we love the view from mountaintop experiences with God, we know in our hearts that we can’t stay there. And that’s by His divine design.

Anyone who has spent time in the mountains knows that the views are surreal, but there’s always evidence of the order of His creation. The treeline ends well before the peaks of high mountains. And the air gets very thin — too thin to support life for very long. Just as God didn’t intend for humans to set up house on the top of a physical mountain, He doesn’t intend for us to ‘camp out’ on the periodic emotional mountaintops either. Those ‘big moments’ like weddings, the birth of a child or grandchild, graduations, and such, are Kodak moments precisely because we know they are quickly fleeting.

Mountains always co-exist with valleys. In fact, they are mutually dependent on each other for their very identity. Valleys don’t provide the panoramic vistas, but they provide the practical necessities of life. That’s where we find water, food, and oxygen. From a spiritual perspective, our souls find their nourishment in the valleys — in the low points of life. It’s when we acknowledge our need for God that He steps in with just the right amount of grace, at just the time when we’ve exhausted our own energy and effort. His grace shows up in different ways — sometimes through an overwhelming sense of peace, sometimes through the quiet presence of a trusted friend, sometimes through special memories and recollections of other hard times when His grace has been more than enough.

Here I sit in the wee hours of a very chilly spring morning so that I can catch a view of the total lunar eclipse. It’s kind of funny, actually. One of the last conversations I had with Dad (during a visit home last March) was marked by his fascination and enthusiasm for the tetrad of ‘blood moons’ that he had heard San Antonio pastor John Hagee talk about many times. Dad always had a keen interest in Bible prophecy — so much so that as a child I can remember being frightened by some of the conversations I overheard. Dad was absolutely convinced that Jesus was coming back today — and I still wanted to hang out on earth for a while.

Tonight I again have some very mixed emotions. I didn’t always have the best relationship with Dad. And I’m not sure, to be quite honest, exactly how I feel right now. That’s pretty bad for a counselor, isn’t it?

I don’t know for sure if Dad really even knew I was with him those last few days of his life. But this I do know: relationships are hard, but reconciliation is worth the effort. Life is short. Life is wildly unpredictable. And I don’t understand how people make it through life without faith in Jesus Christ who will ultimately restore everything to its pre-Fall perfection. I get excited just thinking about it!

For now, I’m resigned to the reality that Dad has a front-row seat for tonight’s viewing of the much-anticipated ‘blood moon.’ And I know he wouldn’t trade seats with anyone on this ol’ planet.

Tonight, for me, God’s grace is the moon.

All of us have hard times in life. For most, these hard times don’t represent the majority of our days. However, there are definitely people who struggle for extended periods with problems, difficulties, and situations that just don’t seem to improve.

I have some friends and family members who are presently experiencing difficult days. While I won’t claim to have all the answers, I would like to offer four suggestions for helping those who are hurting:

1. Pray for them. Why is it that even for Christians prayer is often our last resort rather than our first response? I believe that prayer changes things, so I pray for my hurting friends, knowing that the God of the universe hears our cries and cares deeply for His children. I’ve found that praying for people is something easy to promise when asked — but just as easy to forget once I’m distracted by the busyness of life. Never underestimate the power of praying with your friends in their time of need. We bond with one another when we pray aloud together.

2. Be present with them. So many times we struggle to find the right words to say. Often that’s because there simply are no words. Nothing we can say will change the situation or alleviate the pain. Be willing to be present with your friends. When I minister to people who are gravely ill or to families who have just lost one to death, I’ve found that just being there is enough. In our busy society we’re prone to try and fix things. Just be present and available to listen or pray or cry. Your presence is an invaluable gift.

3. Allow them an opportunity to have a get-away. This one is not always possible for every situation, but there’s usually some way to pull it off. When emotional burdens drain your friends’ life and energy, offer to watch the kids . . . or take your friends for a drive in the country . . . or give them a gift card to the movies. Just a little time away — a change of pace — can provide a much-needed respite from the constant cares and stresses of life.

4. Take them a meal. No matter what is going on, at some point your friends have to eat. A nutritious, home-cooked meal — or even a restaurant gift card — can provide a practical help. Many Sunday School classes and ministry groups now use a handy, user-friendly website to coordinate meals for those in need. Click here to check it out.

In almost every situation, we can find some way to be helpful to those who are hurting. Just remember that if you’re not hurting now, you will be one day. Do something for others that you’d like to have done for you in your time of need.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” – Galatians 6:10

What are some practical ways others have been helpful to you in times of need?