Suicide and Sympathy


I don’t blame Robin Williams’s daughter for wanting out of social media sites after she received discouraging posts/ unwanted trolls. People will be judgmental in the face of suffering.

Last week visiting a group of friends the topic of suicide emerged in light of the beloved actor’s untimely death.

“I am tired of the comments some visitors make to those suffering from chronic illnesses, “my nurse friend sighed—the undue guilt thrust on a patient when they don’t get well—labeled lack of faith.”

In the book of Acts Paul was hailed as a hero to islanders after he survived a horrific storm at sea and helped rescue all aboard. However, as soon as a viper bit him at a group campfire, his admirers abruptly changed their opinion. Obviously, Paul wasn’t in God’s good favor or protection or he wouldn’t now face a torturous death from poison—which he survived. Superstitious and judgmental, Paul quickly became the brunt of his host’s unmerciful criticism. Jesus said the rain falls on the just and the unjust. At some point stuff happens to all, in this imperfect atmosphere called earth.

When I was twenty-something, a Christian friend from high school committed suicide. Tormented by the mental disease that had aborted his mother’s life, he won a football scholarship pointing toward a promising future—but lost the battles in his mind. He had a deep faith. He loved Jesus and literally handed his jacket to a cold homeless man on the street. He was loved and he was judged.

“He is not going to heaven,”

“How come?”

“Because he murdered—himself.”

How would that theology play out with Jesus who walked with us according to God’s sovereign plan of redemption? He himself endured scathing critics and yet consistently showed compassion to the sick of all categories: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.

 In Luke 18:1 he said, “Men ought always to pray and not to faint.”

Do you think if a person faints that God will then turn his back on them?

It is always difficult to navigate questions that torpedo in bringing a myriad of emotional fallout in the face of unexplained human hellholes. The devil advocates falsely to God’s lack of love and goodwill toward the weak or burdened, sick and harassed.

Yet, According to Isaiah 42:3 the Anointed One will not even throw out a damaged plant. “A bruised reed He will not break. And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish…” He tends the plant and flames the fire.

Isn’t it interesting this prophetic verse is recited by Jesus in Matthew 12:20 in-between healing two illnesses, one physical and one spiritual? Targeted, Jesus is rebuked for healing a man’s hand on the wrong day of the week and criticized for delivering a man who was demonized.

 Biblical references abound where God addresses our human fear. Jesus admonishes His disciples to trust and not fear throughout the gospels. Would His character be consistent to punish the timid? Didn’t he reach out His hand to Peter even as he began to sink with anxiety on the sea, after an initial burst of courage?

Those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord, wear His robe of righteousness. The moment we reach to Him for salvation, for help and deliverance from the ultimate darkness of eternal life without His love and eternal presence, we are forgiven. If we deny we need His Act of Mercy at the cross for us then we are on our own. We have no High Priest to cover our sin, our failures, and our junk. If we believe we are good enough to worship at the Throne of God with all the angels of heaven who adore the Lamb who was slain for us ( Revelations 5:11,12)…then we are truly done.

King David expresses many prayers to the Lord for strength as in Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord.”

Again, what happens if our hearts fail and weaken and we lose hope and courage? Is our Savior One who is unmerciful and unforgiving, non-compassionate and judgmental of our human flaws?

Rather, the Scriptures teach eternal Death comes by pride. And separation from God by haughtiness, not by weakness. 

Hope When Words are a Life Sentence

 

One morning a few years ago I visited a unit at Juvenile Hall. My spirit was low that morning, but it quickly edged upward again.It started with a door and a breeze

My footsteps echoed endlessly down the long corrider, then silence. I stopped to grip the handle of the steel door. A sign peeled at the edges grabbed my attention: “Please make sure this door closes behind you. The wind keeps it from closing. Thank you.”

The sign turned strangely to a spiritual message as I walked through the door. A strong gust of wind met me. I glimpsed my brother through the anteroom window at a desk facing a group of t-shirted teens.

For a moment the door symbolized our human attempts to restrain evil without the wind of God to bring the change and force from the mysterious invisible but ever present  Holy Spirit. Jesus described God’s presence through the third person of the Godhead as being like the wind. Now that wind, just like this strange breeze—must be reckoned with. I leaned my body against the heavy door until it clicked.  God will be reckoned with beyond the efforts of man to shut Him out of our human institutions housing the oppressed, the unhealthy the outcasts of society…I thought.

Soon I listened to the troubled teen before me.

“Pray for my court date. They said I could get 40 years to life.” I cringed inside, That’s a pretty rough statement to digest for an eighteen year old youth.

“But I’m hoping they see it was self-defense. My Grandma said,’God could move mountains.'”

“Yes, He can,” I agreed. “I worked as a nurse for many years. What you have been told and how it feels is no different than cancer patient’s when doctor’s drop news to them, ‘You have 6 weeks left.’ Some told me this had been said twenty years before. My eyes caught a curious glint from the sad brown eyes facing me.

“Men’s words can leave us feeling hopeless. That’s why we have to look to God. He rules. Men may tell us bad news, hopeless words. A man, whether a judge or a doctor, may not know God has something else ahead, something no one knows.” Jesus said ‘What is impossible with men is possible to God.” Luke 18:27

Two months ago a man I know of, married with 2 children, was told he would never use his arms again or be able to work. Can you imagine being told you can never use your arms or hands again? The teenager shook his head, eyes wide. We all prayed for him. He flew out of state to a different medical team. This week, that man is back working at his job using his arms.

None of us knows what can happen to change our life course. God has a perspective, because He is God, no one on this earth can see. It was easy to speak confidently of God’s ways and words. Life experiences provide a reservoir to draw from for older believers as myself.

“Whatever you hear, even if they say forty years for your sentence, don’t take it to heart. In five years God can put another judge to see things in a new light. New evidence, new mercy. Don’t let man’s words steal your hope. Keep your eyes on God like the young man David did in the deserts of Judea with an army after him threatening he would cease to exist.”

The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Today reminded me to trust God for my little friend and trust His words and ways could blast open the doors of hope again and lighten the cross this young man must carry. “Although this is your cross, it is not forever.” We reflected on Hebrews 12:,2  Jesus for the joy set before Him endured the cross.  He gained the heavenly perspective in the garden and then for the joy set before him, endured the cross the next day. He knew it wouldn’t be forever. Our bad times are not forever either. All trials will end on this earth. The path may be steep, and may be long but it is also limited.

Forever is where we will be together with all the overcomers of this life starting today.

What a comfort God gives. What relief His mercy brings.  No matter what human court sentences or scientific mind predicts hurling hope into a dark void,  the sun will come out tomorrow. Hope’s glimmer begins with but a simple acknowledgement God is with us. We are never alone. He can tip the scales anytime and weigh in heavily for us…on life.

Our trials will transition… one day on into forever. Let us encourage one another daily with God’s language– hope.

After all the gusts of wind, the hope of the Holy Spirit can resist any human sign threatening to shut the door to release, relief. God’s Spirit can whip in from any direction at any time, a heavenly current flowing from a power source no human arm can cut-off. Hope cannot be corralled in human halls of doom.

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Bigger than Life; Sherwood Carthen . A Sunday memorandum at Bayside North.

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“He was bigger than life in every way,” this morning Pastor Ray Johnston of Granite Bay Bayside shared the untimely death of fellow pastor Sherwood Carthen of BOSS church. His passing Wednesday saddened many in Sacramento.

The Sacramento Bee honored him and noted his passing left a “grateful city” for the help and encouragement he gave us. Because of his life and legacy, we are a “kinder, healthier, more stable city…we need more people to be like him.” Bishop Carthen touched many beyond family and friends including his church, the Kings (as their chaplain), the Mayor, pastors, the Juvenile Chaplaincy, (he worked with gangs) to mention a few.

Sherwood’s two shining gifts—the “gift of preaching and encouragement” were remarkable as Ray explained.

 I was listening to a CD from his visit a year ago at our church the day before he died. He shared God’s Word and spoke it through the power of the Holy Spirit with application—like no one. Maybe, because as he shared in a clip today, he was a “drug baby.” He was drug to church morning, noon and night by his parents growing up in the south. Of course we, the Bayside congregation, laughed this morning. Sherwood Always made us laugh—not to mention cry and well up with tears or conviction whenever he preached!

He spoke from his heart, his life and his true love for our Savior. Quotes via video of Sherwood talking compelled us to strive, to aim, for excellence –

“The Lord spoke to me; ‘at your best, at your best—at your best, Sherwood—you are a Servant.’”

“I want to hear… well done you good and faithful servant… you were faithful over the few, now I will make you ruler over many… If I do that I will be a success.”

“I just want to be able to say I was the best I could be as a Dad, a Pastor a friend, a Husband….”

The Bayside worship leader explained Bayside’s worship team spent a

week with Sherwood at Mount Hermon this summer. He felt the urgency Sherwood taught, “Pursuing Christ relentlessly.” “Are you pursuing Christ with all you have?” remains his baton phrase.

“On Wednesday, Sherwood changed addresses,” Pastor Ray stated and in the next comment referred to Sherwood’s book, Amen, all by Myself. His quirky phrase visiting white congregations always drew laughter, after a huge point he made in a sermon was followed by—silence!

“Amen, All by Myself,” he would pout {pretend} and mumble into the microphone ‘how hard’ we are to teach!

“He will never be able to say “Amen all by Myself.” He is with the saints now,” Pastor Ray Johnston concluded.

 

The funeral service will be held Friday at Capital Christian Center on Micron Avenue at 10am and will last from 4-6 hours most likely. The Bayside Granite Bay campus will video live stream the funeral for those who would like to drop in and pay respects in a manner their schedule affords beginning at 10am.

Death and Grief Relief

Lately there has been a lot of death around me. We watched the footage of the Asian airline tragedy at SFO saddened this morning at the tragic  loss of two  Chinese teenagers. July 4th a childhood friend’s father, like an uncle to me, died one month after his wife of 63 years,(her mom) passed away. My Lab Sam died at the same time. Two friends have lost two generation-y nieces and another friend her cat of seventeen years in the past month.

Life and death exist side by side. What’s on the other side of death for a Christian brings grief relief.  The Bible bring comfort, as  2 Corinthians 5:6 “We are always full of good and hopeful and confident courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are abroad from the home with the Lord (promised to us).” Verse 9 says “Therefore whether we are at home (on earth away from Him) or away from home (and with Him) we are constantly ambitious and strive earnestly to be pleasing to Him.” (Everyday Bible)

In the June 2013 issue of Guideposts Jennifer Hubbard shared the story of her first grade daughter Catherine Hubbard,  who died at Sandy Hook school. Jennifer said “The greatest comfort, the only comfort was knowing she was in heaven the safest place of all, with no hate, no bullets, only love and life eternal.” Catherine was so gentle and loved creation so much  butterflies would land on her hand and she’d whisper, “Tell all your friends I’m kind.” Catherine made her own business cards. She printed Catherines Animal Shelter across the top and Care Taker under her name, and handed them out at school

Untimely death is extremely difficult and seems to rock the order of all Creation.   When Catherine died her parents had donations sent to animal rescue volunteers who have now turned the $175,000 into an animal sanctuary. Jennifer believes the healing both animals and people can find walking the paths and working with the animals at the sanctuary, has fulfilled an unseen purpose and helped them move forward after Catherine’s death.

All of creation waits for the redemption of man, Romans 8:19 says. The animals are pinned in the same cycle we are, birth, decay, death—here!  But God created us all for Paradise, man and animal, a place of health and love and peace with Him, before the fall. After the fall He prepared the way for Jesus, our Redeemer, for our redemption back to our Heavenly Home.

We sometimes yearn for that place, our heavenly home and our reunion with those who have gone before us, man and animal. When I get teary at the loss of my Lab Sam, I picture him swimming in the river that flows from the Throne of God with my friend’s cat pawing the fish at the water edge nearby.

Today we will sing “What a Friend we have in Jesus,” and “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” the same songs I sang with the guitar at my Grandmothers funeral twenty years ago, the same lyrics that brought comfort then. An avid family man , businessman and born comedian, he leaves 4 older children who grieve him, unlike my Godfather who left 3 children who would not return his calls as he approached the grave.

One of the signs of a life well lived is when people will miss the person or critter departing. May we all live our lives with purpose, even as that little girl Catherine and serve God and others as well as we can until we all meet together on that Grand Day in the Sanctuary God dwells.

 

This Too Will Pass…Seasonal Pain

“Life is like marriage; it’s up and it’s down,” Grandma used to say moving her hand up and down in the air like an elevator on the blitz.

I often thought of her witticism in my twenties because it meant good times and bad times come to all, single or married, even as I longed for marriage to fulfill my life.

Before I had long-lasting relationships beyond the first few months of infatuation, it offered a wise perspective from a woman married many years.  It said unhappiness in a marriage (not talking about abuse of course) is not necessarily a problem with the marriage:  finances, health, purpose, relationships, focus, unfortunate circumstances as well as unforeseen blessings blow in and out of season for each of us. It meant we can’t blame someone else if we are unfulfilled or judge they are not contributing to our lives in some way if life is spiraling and stale.

A friend complained her fruit trees produce tons of apples last year and a lot less this year. We may feel we are stagnating in certain situations and want change now, married or single, when it could be better if we allow God to work with our attitude. Focus on what we have rather than what we don’t even as the seasons will surely change and all things will pass.

When I turned 39—the worst year of my single life because the Need-to-start-a-family-by- 40-Pressure is volcanic—I vividly recalled a conversation with a married friend.

I was single and in pain—love-stuck in an orbiting relationship. She was married and in pain, her husband out of work again, trapped in the mire of financial loss and unsettled emotions pervading their home life again.

“I can’t remember what it is like to live a day, a life, without pain,” she lamented.

“I can’t either,” my voice lilted. “I had a few moments today, at lunch and when I was shopping. Otherwise I’m always aware of the ache.”

Five years later we exchanged another similar conversation—that struck a chord in my memory.

“I’m doing good” She stated heartily. “I’m not in pain anymore,” she mused. “Can’t remember the last day I felt it!”

“Me too!” I rejoined. “Isn’t that amazing how God brought us through that terrible time a few years ago…when we were engulfed in it?”

I  will never forget those two brief conversations with the same friend because it echoes the lives of all of us…at some point and for different reasons. We all go through seasons of pain that God acknowledges in Revelations. It is not just an emotional week or brief encounter with sorrow. In Greek it means anguish. It is the ache of a broken life, an altered dream, an adjustment to a new normal or the hangover of a crisis. It feels like a prison sentence. And it will pass. It is important to know this when it feels like it will never end.

A single friend who married at fifty said she had the aching longing every single day of her forties until she married at fifty. A man who grieved the early loss of his wife bore it for five years after her death.

God separates this deep pain from more temporary sorrows and sadness in Revelations describing heaven, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or sorrow (mourning in Greek) or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.” Rev 21:4

Isn’t it comforting to know God separates sorrow from pain? He created us and He understands our emotional needs.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed (wasting away), for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”                                                           Lamentations 3:24

 

Holding on, Loving God, Reaching out through Loss

 

The lawn is yellow straw. It is dying every day from the summer heat at a neighbor's house. Why? The water is shut off. Divorce has left it’s mark on the property the former owners once tended carefully. A “for sale” sign stands on what was once green grass

It is a symbol of a dry, difficult season in the lives of our friends who once lived there.

   

One of the hardest parts of life is watching our dreams seem to walk away, fall apart, crash and burn—die. There’s so many times and so many ways disappointment and loss can plunge us into despondency.

  • My friend’s son got his “dream car,”He was so happy and excited. Two weeks later it’s crumpled in a ditch.
  • Paula’s boss said her job was secure upon questioning. The next day he said, “Pack up.”
  • My friend married finally in her forties; her husband topped her credit and  left  within months.
  • Joe had a Christian business partner walk away with all the cash and a ton of work orders for him to fill alone.
  • Another friend was horribly ill their honeymoon week in Hawaii. Her groom did everything alone; she spent her time languishing and feverish in the room.
  • A friend’s baby was born with a serious deformity.
  • A woman laments years without having a date, let alone a boyfriend, a husband—a family.

These are all losses. Loss is a large corner in the corral of life, and it is never easy to take that lap through it although we have no choice. We need to do it with others.

The abundant life includes a full circle. The highs and the lows, the pain and the joys. Gain and loss—loss  is common to man. We build our lives with family, friends in community, holding hands with one or more people, so when loss hits us we have someone holding us up, by prayer , by practical help even if just for a time.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9,10

Jesus said, “I have to come to give you life, that you might have it abundantly.” John 10:10.

We wonder, especially when the abundance includes the bottom of the circle. But the hand we hold to guide us through, even the driest of deserts will guide us to the green. To green pastures and running water. After all, he is a good shepherd. The final outcome will be more than we can ask or imagine.

 Paul wrote at a time when believers were suffering in Rome, “ I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18 We can trust Jesus for all our outcomes. We can hold his hand primarily,a hand with a grip that won’t slip—even if our grasp weakens.

In bad news, we can be assured …”this too will pass.” Seasons change. The boy now has another car, the woman is enjoying her life without that job, the baby is doing well, the bride is now a satisfied mother of two… we have to get through knowing life will tip again.

St Augustine said, “we don’t need to prioritize our lives, we need to prioritize our loves.”

Our first love, to love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  This is possible every day. At times as these we must help our neighbors as God has always asked us to.

Just yesterday my friend told me in Tennessee, churches still send crews out everyday to clean up the remains from their 1000 year flood. The city is about ready for rebuilding. People who lost everything and didn’t know where to turn had thirty people show up at their door, “We’re here to help.”

Somehow we need to help eachother bear our disappointments as a gift to God who helps us bear our disappointments. It is a two fold cord, clinging to God and reaching for neighbors, that lifts us out of the miry pit, whether a desert or a flood.

Despite disappointment, the seasons change. New will come. Nothing remains static as the world turns. Life reprioritized, love remains until the end.

Today how can we prioritize our loves?

  

Where Dancing Never Ends

Yesterday I attended a funeral with my Mom, one of the original Classy Tappers, a tap dancing troupe that entertains at private parties, lodge functions and many convalescent homes. It started up in 1992. The leader & choreographer, Laverne, passed away last week.

 

The classiest part about these women was their commitment to each other. They are friends though their ages range from the sixties to the eighties. When their dauntless leader’s health began deteriorating two years ago, they continued to entertain with her in their line-up.

 

Although a perfectionist and beautiful dancer, after mini strokes, Laverne often wore a puzzled expression stepping in the opposite direction of her line or circling in confusion and muttering… unable to remember her own brilliance.

 

Love wears many hats and long suffering is one of them. Although it was difficult for some of the women, they all agreed to let her dance…demonstrating love that is humble, not proud, giving, not selfish. Love that looks out for another’s interest above their own.

 

Another original tapper died recently and her devoted husband sat at our table. Our conversation led to their courtship story and years together before the last dance ending the reception.

 

 “I fell madly in love with her my senior year in high school,” he shared, “although I knew her from the 7th grade. For many years we were just friends.  But when my feelings changed, I wrote a note to her ; then she wrote a note back right away and three months later we were married. That was 56 years ago.”

 

Now, as we watched the tappers at the reception pay tribute to their teacher by a tapping farewell, we also thought of the other member. Her husband’s tears streamed down his face and rose to puddle in mine and others who came by to touch his shoulder.

 

How are you doing?

 “I am getting by one day at a time,” he said quietly.

How was it for you at the funeral? I asked.

“It was good,” he stated.

“Yes, funerals are for the living,” I remembered how surprised I have been by the comfort of gathering with friends and family after a death.

 

He nodded, ”I always told my kids to give flowers to the living. We had 22 years together after we retired and I would say most every day of that whole time… she had fresh flowers.” He smiled through brilliant blue eyes the color of heaven, where we can only imagine his bride—now joined by another terrestrial tapping companion—dance in perfect step in the Heavenly Courts for their King.

 

 Revelations 21:4 "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."

Grief Care

When someone you know has just lost a loved one, it is hard to know what you can do to show you care and provide comfort during the early days of grief. Here are some things you can take (or package and mail) to someone with fresh grief:

  • A Grief Devotional Book.
  • A basket of healthy snack foods for the griever and others who may drop by.  Include: nutritious crackers, cheeses, fruit, dried fruit, popcorn, trail mix, juices, teas, coffee, mints, jerky, chocolate and gum.
  • A journal.
  • Thank You cards and stamps.
  • Stationery appropriate for sending notices of the death.
  • Tissues and toilet paper.
  • Meals are always helpful. It is best to prepare something that can be frozen for later use if needed.
  • Coloring books, crayons, play-doh or other items to keep small children entertained while adults visit.
  • A guest book. (For use at home and/or funeral or memorial-grievers may not remember who stopped by or who attended services.)
  • If you know several people will be visiting the griever, offer to bring a tray of sandwiches and drinks and cookies.
  • Tylenol or Motrin.
  • Gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or fast food franchise.

These are just a few ideas–be creative and remember the most important gifts you can give a griever are your time, your sensitive heart, your strong shoulders and your listening ears.

Republished with permission from http://elizabethmthompson.typepad.com/faithandgrief

Help After a Death

"Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help"

As a griever, we hear it over and over–especially immediately after our loss. But we seldom ask for help.

People want to help, but they don’t know what to do. They feel uncomfortable and are reluctant to intrude in our pain.

The next time someone offers to help:

  • Believe their offer is sincere and they want to help.
  • Recognize that it is okay to ask for help. We need others at this time. We can be grateful when someone wants to help us.
  • Match the person to a task that is a good fit for them.
  • Be prepared with ideas. Suggest practical steps they can take that will lighten your load or encourage you during this time.

Here are some suggested responses next time you hear, "Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help":

  1. Would you please pray for me on (give date of anniversary, birthday, or other upcoming date that might be particularly difficult for you)?
  2. I would love to have your help with planning a reception after the memorial, choosing photos for the memorial, writing the obituary, or selecting songs for the service.
  3. I am dreading going through my loved one’s clothing. Would you come over so I don’t have to do that alone?
  4. Would you read Scripture, man the guest book or pass out programs at the memorial/funeral service?
  5. Could you house-sit during the service to prevent a robbery?
  6. Could we get together for coffee and talk?

Remember, it is okay to ask for the help you need. Your friends and family love you, but they can’t read your mind. Give them practical suggestions and they will help.

Republished with permission from http://elizabethmthompson.typepad.com/faithandgrief

National Tragedy

Death hits us hard. Today I ran into La Bou for coffee passing the newspaper stand. I glanced down, "3 Sheriffs Shot". I couldn’t even think about it . Our country just lost 8 soldiers in Iraq two days ago. These events shadow last month’s national tragedy. Our world seems filled with grief. We grieved the loss of our young students. We hope the families of our nation find comfort from God and others, not to mention the injured. We pray for the shaken survivors from our homes, our offices, our cars…for our youth, for the safety of our campuses. Most of all we pray for a touch from God to all the hardened to-the-core who see no options in life to express their own hopelessness than to rob life from others. Just as the thieves on the cross appealed to Jesus for help; we thank Him for the words to the contrite one remembering where our loved ones, where we may someday rest… "This day you shall be with me in paradise."