Grief…how long?

“She seems very quiet and withdrawn, she hasn’t been sleeping well and she has had some bad dreams…is this normal?”

The little girl in question was about 7 years old and she was coming to terms with the fact that her father had died about a month ago after a fairly long battle with illness. The uncle and grandparents I was talking too were naturally concerned and they were asking the question that I find so many people need to ask.

A significant part of my job entails working with people who are facing grief and loss – it is not a part of the job to ‘enjoy’ but it is an important and special place where I am given the privilege to walk alongside people at some of their darkest moments.   The thing about grief is that we don’t really want to know too much about it, we don’t want to experience it and, if we could, we would chose to avoid it for the whole of our lives. However, the reality is that we all will face grief and loss at some time and it is good to be able to recognise it and help those who are facing it.

There is no simple or concise answer to the questions “How do you grieve?” or “How long does grief take?” Everyone is on their own journey and these questions will be influenced by your experience, your culture, the depth of relationship and any ‘complicating’ factors that may be present. One person will grieve one way and another totally differently.

For the inexperienced, grief looks strange, confronting and even a bit scary…people respond in unexpected ways and it can be unsettling. But the truth is that there is a range of responses that fall within the boundaries of what could be called “Normal Grief”. It is not a series of ‘stages’ to move through but a convoluted and twisted pathway which includes complex emotions and re-organisation of our lives. The deeper we love the deeper we grieve.

Quiet support, gentle understanding and appropriate time are the best things you can offer to assist those who are facing grief and loss. It is also helpful to point them towards someone who knows a bit about the process of grief they are traversing. The last resource I would recommend is the support and care of the Lord Jesus Himself who of course was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Isaiah 53:3

If you are grieving today, I pray that peace and comfort will surround you…

The way of life winds upwards

It has been a dramatic four weeks and she is very happy to be finally heading home. My mother went to hospital to follow up on some tests and it became very apparent, very quickly that she was going to need immediate, significant, surgery. She underwent a quadruple bypass operation and she has been recovering ever since.

The operation went forward without incident, it was very successful and we again are thankful for the skill of the doctors and nurses and for the quality of care that is available in our nation.

I visited my mum each day and, along with everyone else, I was greatly concerned as she initially came through the operation. People look so vulnerable in ICU and time seems to pass so slowly. But the next morning I found mum sitting up in bed and changing channels on the TV! Every day from there she showed improvements – it was not without its pain and challenge but each day she grew stronger. She was able to stand, to walk, her ‘foggyness’ departed and she slowly returned to her old self. She undertook rehab and it seems that she will be even better than she was before… it is a great and pleasing outcome.

Not everything in our life automatically and consistently improves, we have times that can be difficult and our circumstances can spiral out of control.  It is at these times we must careful not to give into despair and we must hold onto hope. The book of Proverbs tells us “The way of life winds upward for the wise, so that they may turn away from hell below.” (15:24)

It promises that if we are wise then our lives will ‘wind upwards’ – that doesn’t mean that our lives will be perfect and without challenge but it promises hope that better things are ahead.

The fact is that ‘this life’ is not just about ‘this life’.  Our time on earth is limited, flawed and filled with both good and bad…our response to this life, our response to each other and our response to Christ determine our eternity.

Your life may currently be on the ‘up and up’ or it might be spiralling downhill and out of control, or it may be somewhere in the middle….but wherever you find yourself, I hope that you are making a ‘wise’ response, because then your road will wind upwards. Yet another proverb caps it off… (9:10) “The fear and knowledge of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”

Maybe He is the wisdom you really need?

Mount up with wings…

This week I had the opportunity to watch one of my newly hatched budgies take the awesome leap out of the nesting box for the very first time. I had been observing these young birds for the last few weeks, ever since they hatched and I have been amazed by just how fast they have grown. The previous two days I found two young birds flying about the cage but yesterday I happened to be present as the last of the clutch suck its head out of the box, stepped onto the ledge and then took its first flight.

It was not very impressive, it didn’t last long, the landing was less than perfect but the second attempt was better. Within half an hour the young budgie was exploring the whole cage and was being welcomed by the other birds.

Throughout the course of the day his flying improved even more and it is more than likely that he will never return to the nest.

In the last few months I have been coming to terms with two of my own children ‘leaving the nest’. My son was married in September and my daughter is getting married in February. I am excited to see them ‘take flight’ but I am also a little conflicted, as I will miss the way things were. Life presents opportunities for growth but growth leads to change and change is a mix of exciting and uncomfortable.

Some of the birds in my aviary are very young and others (of course) are much older – for some, flight is a new thing but it is normal and even passé for the others. Flight is to a bird as walking is to us – you don’t even think about it until you cannot do it.

But if a bird gets too tired to fly, if weariness grounds it so that it cannot move, then it is in danger: Danger of predators; danger of starvation; and danger of separation.

Weariness has the same effect upon us all and tiredness can make everything seem hard and fraught with dangers, which can hinder us.

 

“Even the youths shall faint and be weary…but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”           Isaiah 40:30

 

So whether you have recently flown the coop or if, like me, you are an older bird – be refreshed as you wait upon the Lord!

Do you need scissors?

“Is it possible to get a haircut?” I asked this question because I did not feel all that confident as I walked into this particular salon.

“I can do a shave or any number you like. Do you need scissors? Because I do not do scissors…”

So, I could have a shave (which I didn’t need because I had already shaved that morning) and I could choose whatever ‘number’ I wanted as long as there was no scissor complexity involved…this, along with the concerned look upon his face, failed to instil me with enough confidence to make the step to sit in the chair. So, I excused myself and left, in search of someone who was not quite so afraid of using the complex machinery that is involved in cutting hair.

I understand that the gentleman who was manning the shop may have been new, he may not have been the first choice and he obviously lacked skills and confidence to complete the task…but I did have a chuckle to myself as I walked out of the shop because a young ‘hipster’ dude was walking in with full beard and long hair! If I hadn’t been rushing off I would have waited to see if he walked out quickly like myself, or emerged sometime later looking like he was off to join the army!

Whenever we pay for someone to do something we expect them to have skills. We have all had moments where we have been in awe of a great job that someone has done but we have also had other moments where we have been disappointed. It may have been a tradesman, a chef, a babysitter or hairdresser.

We would not be satisfied if a tradesman said he knew how to use a hammer but not a drill, if a chef could cook sausages but not a steak, if a babysitter guaranteed the safety of one of your children but not the other… what we desire is skill, the ability to complete the job we are asking them to do.

When you think of spiritual things, what is it that you expect God to do? How do you expect Him to do it? Some have reported to me that they have been disappointed or feel let down at times but as I have constantly explored God’s purpose and plan, I have found Him to lack nothing.

“And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well. He heals both the deaf and the mute.” Mark 7:37

How long and how much?

“So how long do you think it is going to take?”

I asked this question, because I was paying him by the hour, actually, I was paying him by the 10 minutes… $165 call out including the first 30 mins and then $25 per 10 minutes or part thereof. I had watched this technician (from a respectful distance) take the oven out of the wall, take the covers off, scratch his head and then make several calls asking for information about what he was looking at…and the time kept ticking.

At the $165 point I asked him how things were tracking and he told me that he thought the model number was wrong and ‘they’ are just finalising what the problem actually is… at the $240 point I asked again and he told me that he would be able to ‘fix it’ but it would cost between $500-$700.   At the $315 point, he took another phone call and it was clear that he was quickly packing up, preparing to leave. I asked him what was happening and he said that the manufacturer is going to send someone else out to fix it… I only had one other question and that was “How much is that going to cost?”

He told me that because he couldn’t fix the job there would be no-cost for today but I would have to pay the manufacturer when they came… He also told me that this was the first time that he had ever worked on this particular machine!

So I haven’t spent any money yet – but my oven is still not working – hopefully when the manufacturer returns we will be more successful. What I need is someone who knows my machine, understands the faults, has access to the replacement parts and has the skill to deal with the problem first hand. My previous technician obviously had little or none of these skills.

Most of my life works, most of the time – but when things get ‘out of order’ or one aspect ‘breaks down’ I, like everyone else need some assistance – but who do you turn to?

I am glad that I have found a ‘life technician’ who has me covered when I need assistance: He knows me and my faults; He has access to what I need to make me complete and functional; and He has the skill and experience to assist me – Why? Because He has faced everything that I have and more…Maybe you should give him a call…

“For we have a High Priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses…in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Heb 4:15

A fresh flow

I’ve seen it dozens of times in movies and I should have seen it coming but I was lulled into a false sense of security and found myself laughing at my own foolishness.

We recently moved into a new home and in the back corner of our garden is a submerged water tank with a pump attached. This water tank has been on the bottom of my ‘things to fix’ list for a couple of months and last week was the first opportunity I had to look at it.

The problem was that the tank was full but the attached pump was not working and so there was no way of getting the water out. On investigation, the pump was running but was failing to move any water: a little closer scrutiny revealed that water was running through the pump but something was blocking it on the way in. I adjusted the intake valve and tried again but this is where I made my critical error – just like in the movies I found myself looking directly down the pump’s outlet as 10 or 20 litres of black sludge came rushing out, straight into my face covering my whole body!

The problem was that there was about 20cm of sediment at the bottom of the tank and the intake for the pump had been blocked. The sediment had got in because there was no filter allowing leaves and debris of all kinds to slowly make their way to the bottom of the tank and eventually everything stopped.

After I washed the sticky black mess out of my eyes and off my face I thought about the tank of resource that is my life and I also wondered what level of ‘sediment’ is lying hidden within me.

It made me stop and ask the question (which is probably a good one for the starting of the year) “Am I being careful enough about ‘filtering’ what comes into my life or am I allowing debris to ‘clog up’ my effectiveness and my reserves?”

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” or in other words “What you let in is what is going to come out!”

If you are filling yourself with negatives; anger, bitterness, bad television or questionable internet content then the outcome is going to be debris at the bottom of your tank. The choice is yours and mine – let’s make an effort in 2016 to have a tank filled only with fresh and clean water.

What is leaking???

I searched for over an hour before I found the problem and the answer was not where I thought the answer should be.

Following the recent heavy rains, the roof of our Church had sprung a leak and so when things dried out enough to be safe, I climbed up to investigate.

The leak was fairly substantial and so I thought that it would be pretty easy to find…but it wasn’t. I worked out where the water was landing and estimated where on the roof the leak ‘should be’ but when I looked there was no broken tile and no holes visible – so I widened the search – a few metres left, right, up and down…still nothing.

So I was puzzled…where could the water be coming from? I checked the plumbing on the other side of the wall – no issues, I got back up on the roof and had another look – still nothing to be seen – so I finally did the one thing that I try to avoid as often as possible and that is crawling through the roof.

At first I still couldn’t see the problem but as I explored I finally found the signs of where things were going wrong. There was a small hole in a tile right over the other side of the roof and the steady flow of water had been dripping onto a timber beam and a little river had been following this beam to its end point which was right above where the leak was emerging.

Puzzle solved, issue resolved…

When I thought about it I realised that this was a pretty accurate metaphor for our lives…we often have ‘leaks’ but they are not always coming from the source we expect. A ‘leak’ could be anything negative which has a potential for doing you or someone else damage: It could be a harsh word; road rage; financial stress; a breakdown in relationships; or an inability to focus at work. It could be any one of a hundred things, all of which leave their mark and cause a level of pain.

Some problems are easy to identify and easy to fix but others can be particularly problematic especially when you can’t recognise where they are coming from. The truth is that one thing doesn’t always lead to another…sometimes it leads to something else.

For instance, a relationship disaster may be the cause of a road rage incident and yet they don’t appear to be related.

Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak” – so my question today is what is ‘leaking’ out of you and do you know why?