Archive for June, 2009

Scripture: (Psa 32:6, 7 NKJV)  For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found; Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him.  7You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

Observation: This a Psalm of David.  In it he claims God’s protection during times of crisis.

Application: I love the words of this psalm and see it as an invitation for couples to pray together.  If anything, or rather Anyone, can help us and protect us when the floods of challenges, problems, and difficulties threaten to overwhelm us and destroy our marriage, it is God.  When the economy threatens to take our job, our house, our financial stability and security away from us, where do we turn for help, the government?  To the very institutions that have brought us to this place?  And when we argue more time than we spend in enjoyable conversation, and when the thought of divorce swim in our heads like a piranha threatening to devour any romantic thoughts we may have toward our spouse, who are we going to turn to?  To secular psychology which tells us to look for the solution within us?  If we’re in water up to our eyeballs, and don’t know how to swim, nothing inside us will help us float or keep us from getting eaten alive.
But praying as a couple, praying for each other, and praying together is our salvation.  I have advised every couple that has come to me for counseling to do just that; it’s one of the assignments I give couples in trouble if they are to receive the help they need for their problems.  There are many benefits for couples when they pray:
1. As we come close to God we are also drawn to each other.
2. It is a good time to pray for your spouse – it’s hard to not have a good, positive attitude toward your spouse when you’re praying for them.
3. It’s good to know that your spouse is thinking about and praying for you.
4. It’s a good time to confess to God, and to each other, our faults and frailties, to apologize, to forgive the other, and to receive forgiveness.
I have advised couples who have not or are not praying together, and who may even be in great conflict, to begin by praying at opposite sides of the bed, but to pray out loud, and then to gradually move closer together as time goes by.  Also, to pray for their spouse’s success, safety, and for everything good for them.  I tell them not to use prayer as a weapon or a finger-pointing device, to not pray for their husband, “Make him a good husband,” or “make her a good wife,” or “change his nasty attitude,” or “help her to see what a good husband she has,” or anything like that.  Rather pray that they may enjoy good health, that God’s greatest blessings fall richly on them, that they will enjoy God’s protection, that they may have a great day at work, that they may have a good, restful sleep, and things like that.  Those prayers, verbalized by your spouse, can bring great healing the each and to their relationship.

Prayer: Father, bless our spouse, this very moment.  Bless them with life and health, with joy and peace, with the assurance of salvation and with the knowledge of Christ.  Make them successful in their job, in their studies, and in their life.  Protect them, and save them, and have them ready for the second coming of Jesus.

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Scripture: (Psa 25:2, 7 NKJV)  O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed; Let not my enemies triumph over me. . .  7Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; According to Your mercy remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.

Observation: A psalm of David in which he expresses his confidence in God and his plea for deliverance from sin and for forgiveness if he sins.

Application: In verse seven David pleads with God to not remember the sins of his youth.  I guess I find it encouraging to know that David was not the only one who faced challenges, stumbled, and fell dujring his youth and pleads for forgiveness.  Sometimes those are sins or ignorance, at other times sins of commission, and may times sins of omission.  Not having been brought up in a Seventh-day Adventist family I can look back at my youth and see a life tainted with sins of ignorance – drinking and smoking, because that’s what everybody else did.  Or not always applying myself to my studies and causing my parents great aggravation, sadness, and pain.  Or other things which were acts of disobedience or rebelliousness.   With David I can I can cry out, “God, do not remember the sins of my youth.”  And I know that God’s love and mercy covers those times.
What bothers me, though, is not the sins of my youth but the sins of my adult age, after I came to know him, yesterday’s or even today’s sins.  I can’t claim ignorance anymore.  I can’t claim inexperience, lack of maturity, or bad luck either.  My sin today is a sin of outright rebelliousness, something for which I have no excuse.  And so with David I also cry out – “My God, I trust in You; let me not be ashamed; let not my enemies triumph over me.”  I don’t want to bring shame on my God or His cause, nor do I want to bring shame to my wife and family, so I get up every morning to spend time with Him, to study His Word, to talk to Him and to listen from Him, so that I may be changed from my selfish life of sin to His selfless life of love.  If I fall and my enemies rejoice it’s sad enough, but when I sin and my enemy laughs at God, it is a true shame.

Prayer: My God, I trust in You!  Help me to live in such a way that I Will not bring shame on You or my family.  Help me this day to live in such a way that there will be no cause for me to be embarrassed for my actions or my words, and that my family may never be harmed by them.

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Anger Management

Scripture: (Psa 4:4 NKJV)  Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah

Observation: This is one of the first of Dasvid’s many psalms.  It is a plea or prayer for safety for the faithful.

Application: I chose to entitle my words today “Anger Management” and not “Anger Suppression,” “Anger Elimination,” “Denial of Anger,” “Absence of Anger,” or any other name that would indicate that anger should not exist.  Anger is a normal emotion, one that even God experiences.  And while God’s anger may be different than ours, it is still anger.  David writes, “O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger, Nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure” (Psa 6:1 NKJV).
We need to accept anger as a normal emotion; but we need to learn how to manage it in a healthy way so that it does not become sin, and so that it causes no harm to anyone.  According to marriage researcher and therapist John Gottman, during the heat of an argument with their spouse husbands tend to “flood” faster.  By flooding he means that the blood “rises to the head” and prevents more “rational” thinking.  Maybe this explains why so much of anger in men develops into physical abuse.  When some  men feel anger rising, they retaliate against the person they feel is causing them to get that way – for instance, their wife.  One of the things we recommend is that when either spouse begins to feel “flooded,” that they take a time out.  The key, however, is to make sure there is a time limit to that time out as opposed to an open-ended break.  For instance, as the discussion begins to heat up, the husband may say, “I need to take a time out; please give me an hour and we can sit down and talk about this and try to resolve it.”  Gottman’s research shows that it takes at least twenty minutes for a person to calm down  when they’re in the middle of a discussion (as measured by their body reactions such as pulse, heart rate, etc.).  To simply walk away would cause more harm as the wife feels like the issue has not been resolved and is not being “stonewalled’ by her husband.  But a timed time out can help both calm down, give them time to think about their own contribution to the issue at hand, and maybe come up with some possible solutions or compromises.
May use relaxation techniques – breathing, going for a walk, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, listening to soft music, taking a warm shower, etc., to help them calm down before resuming the conversation.
Denial or suppression of anger won’t make it go away and will cause more harm to the relationship than dealing with the issue in a constructive way.  So go ahead and  be angry, if the case warrants it, but deal with it in a healthy way, and do not sin against your spouse, your children, other people, or God.

Prayer: Father, thank You for anger.  Thank You for the anger that makes us act in the face of unfairness, injustice, evil, and sin.  Help us, Father, to manage it in a healthy way that we may not become instruments of pain and destruction but agents of peace and healing.

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Scripture: (Job 19:17 NKJV) My breath is offensive to my wife, And I am repulsive to the children of my own body.

Observation: While Job’s friends continue trying to convince him of his wrongdoing and si and to get him to repent and seek God’s favor, Job defends himself from their accusations and pleading with God to defend him. We know he has not despaired because he pronounces some of the most beautiful, faith-filled words ever written: For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; {26} And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, {27} Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me! (Job 19:25-27 NKJV) In our text for today we read of Job’s sadness that even the close relationship with his family has been affected by the smell coming from his body and from his breath.

Application: Willard Harley, in his book His Needs, Her Needs, talks about the ten most important emotional needs of men and of women. He says that in general terms, men have the same five emotional needs, and women have the same emotional needs, although men’s emotional needs are in general not the same as those of women. A comic strip I found many years ago shows that difference between men and women:

Men and Women

Understanding that, Harley says that one of the five most important emotional needs of men is Physical Attractiveness, by which he means That the wife should keep physically fit with diet and exercise and wear hair and clothing in a way that her husband finds attractive and tasteful. He also explains that if the attractiveness of your spouse makes you feel great, and loss of that attractiveness would make you feel very frustrated, you should include physical attractiveness in your list of important emotional needs. Among the various aspects of physical attractiveness, weight generally gets the most attention. While physical attractiveness can’t endure as the basis for a relationship, it does meet certain strong needs that some people have. Another area where physical attractiveness can derail romance and passion in marriage is personal hygiene. Even Job declares that “my breath is offensive to my wife,” which many women could identify with. No wonder some couple may share a quick kiss, but the passionate kisses they shred while dating are probably nonexistent and the passion it accompanied has left long ago. Other simple personal hygiene problems are showering or bathing daily, the use of deodorant, brushing your teeth, flossing them, and having them cleaned at the dentist regularly, shaving, wearing clean clothes. While all of these seem so logical, so many seem to forget how important they are I order to maintain passion and romance in their relationship.

Prayer: Father, help us to maintain cleanliness of our bodies, not just for health reasons, but also that we may be able to maintain a healthy, passionate relationship with our spouse.

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Scripture: (Job 14:12-15 NKJV)  So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, They will not awake Nor be roused from their sleep. {13} “Oh, that You would hide me in the grave, That You would conceal me until Your wrath is past, That You would appoint me a set time, and remember me! {14} If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes. {15} You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands.

Observation: It is now time for Zophar, the third of Job’s consolation friends, to try to straighten him up.  Job responds to his accusations by declaring that he feels there’s nothing he could do to fight God, if God were angry with Him.  In chapter 13, verses 20-27 we can read his stirring, heart-felt prayer to God, opening his heart to Him.  And then in chapter 14, he expounds as to his understanding of what happens when a person dies; here are a few examples of his theology of the state of the dead:
10  But man dies and is laid away; Indeed he breathes his last And where is he?
11  As water disappears from the sea, And a river becomes parched and dries up,
12  So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, They will not awake Nor be roused from their sleep.
21  His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; They are brought low, and he does not perceive it.

He also expresses His hope in God and for the salvation He offers us all: My transgression is sealed up in a bag, And You cover my iniquity.(v.17)

Application: It’s amazing how well-intentioned, yet heartless, Job’s friends are.  They see their friend suffering through all of his losses, and yet instead of helping him through these tragedies, they assume the judgmental stand that wants to set people right and they set out to prove to Job that all he’s experiencing is the result of his own sin, and he would only repent, God might just forgive him.  Their accusations do not bring any consolation to Job.  In the same way, well-intentioned friends and relatives feel compelled to say something to their loved ones or friends who are terminally ill or who have lost a loved one, and at times use old cliches or explanations that do nothing to alleviate the pain.  The result may be more pain, more confusion, or if they are fortunate enough, they may not even remember what  has been said.  When you think of it, no explanation, no matter how good or theologically correct it may be, can take away a person’s pain.  What good is it to say to a mother who’s lost their child in a tragic accident, “God has a plan for you”?  Or how does it help someone dying of a terminal illness, “I know how you feel”?  Or how can it possibly help your widowed friend to hear the words, “One day you may find somebody else who’ll make you happy again”?
Several years ago I wrote an article which was published by the Adventist Review giving practical steps to take to help a friend or loved one who is dying of a terminal illness.  Here are the suggestions I offered:

1. The ministry of presence. Most people feel uncomfortable, maybe even afraid, to talk about death and dying. Therefore, when they hear that a friend, loved one, coworker, or schoolmate has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, they stay away. In reality, what you say is not what matters to the terminally ill person or their family, but rather the fact that you cared enough to come be with them. However, respect their privacy and always call beforehand. If they are in a hospital, you must not only respect visiting hours but also be conscious of the fact that those visiting hours may be the only time the family gets to spend with their loved ones. Make your visits brief.
2. Listen. More important than what you say is how much you listen. While most people’s greatest fear is not knowing what to say, if you go prepared to listen and let the terminally ill lead in the conversation, you might find that death is not all that’s on their mind. They just want someone to talk to.
3. Empathize, don’t proselytize. If the person who is dying does not share your beliefs, this is not the time to try to convert them to your belief system; to do so may cause more anxiety than assurance. For instance, several of my patients talked about going to heaven after their death. Rather than lecturing on the state of the dead, I would say something like “As Christians we have a special hope, don’t we?” or “That’s a comforting thought, isn’t it?”
4. Offer practical help. Many people take the easy way out at the end of a visit with the standard offer “If there’s anything I can do, just let me know.” The reality is that during these difficult times the challenge for the patient includes thinking about what needs to be done or asking someone to do it. It would be better to offer to do specific things for them–mow the lawn, wash clothes, or run errands such as grocery shopping. Sometimes an offer to stay with the person who is ill to relieve the caregiver for a few hours can be the welcome help they need.
5. Watch for special events. People who are terminally ill seem to have control over when, where, and how they die. One of my patients waited until the day after his daughter’s birthday, and the night he died he was so restless that his wife decided to sleep in the living room. When she woke up the next morning, he was dead. He had chosen not to die before or on his daughter’s birthday, and he didn’t want his wife to see him die. Others wait for loved ones’ or their own birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, baptisms, weddings, and other special occasions. Be aware of this fact as it may help you get an idea of when they might die.
6. Fear of dying or of death. One of my patients told me he was afraid. I asked him if he was afraid of death or of dying. He said, “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to die in pain.” Most people are afraid of the dying process, and not of death itself. In his case I assured him that we in hospice would do all in our power to keep him comfortable and without pain or discomfort. That assurance helped him relax and enjoy the last few days of his life. If the person you’re visiting expresses such fears, clarify what the source of their fear is, and if they are uncomfortable or unable to answer, ask someone else who may be better able to answer.
7. Help them to die in peace. In hospice we have learned that those patients who struggle the most in their dying process seem to be the ones who have strained relationships with someone. It may help them to ask, “Is there someone you would like to see or talk to?” Offer to contact the person they’d like to speak with. If the other person is not willing to speak with the terminally ill patient, you can facilitate the expression of their feelings by offering options such as, “If you could talk to them, what would you tell them?” You may offer to help them write a letter that they can then choose to mail or burn, thus symbolizing their having taken the step of reconciliation. Many patients wait to die until after they see someone they care about, so you could offer to help make the contact.
Another way to help them die in peace is to pray for and with them. The medical field has come to recognize the benefits of praying for those who are ill. We need not feel the obligation to pray for healing; it does not reveal a lack of faith, but recognition of the inevitable. When I pray with and for members or patients who are terminally ill, I pray for comfort and peace, courage and strength, hope and renewal of love for themselves and for their loved ones.

Instruments of Peace
Dying can be a difficult and painful experience, or a special memory for their loved ones. You can be instrumental in making it as comfortable and comforting as possible by carefully doing for them what they need as they write the last chapter in their earthly life.

Prayer: Father, help us to be such instruments in Your hands that we may bring Your comfort, not so much by what we say but rather by what we do to help those experiencing illness, sadness, or pain.

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Talk Grief Away

Scripture: (Job 10:1 NKJV)  “My soul loathes my life; I will give free course to my complaint, I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.

Observation: Bildad, the Shuhite, one of Job’s friends who came to be with him in his sorrow, attempted to “correct” Job and to show him where he was wrong.  Job responds from the depths of his pain.

Application: In talking about “The Inner World of Grief,” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross encourages those in bereavement to talk about their grief and to talk about their loss and their loved one who is no longer with them.  I will quote her words: THE STORY
When your loved one became sick, there were medical visits, case histories, and physical tests.  Then they found the lump and your world immediately began to change. (62)
Now you sit alone remembering the story of your loss.  You may find yourself retelling the story to friends and family.  Immediately following the loss, everyone wants to know how it happened.  You tell your tale through your sadness and tears.  You talk about it after the funeral.  When friends come to visit, you discuss the parts of the story you continue to grapple with, like “I didn’t see it coming,” or “They told us she was sick, but none of us realized just how sick she was.” (62)
As time passes, however, you may see others grow weary of hearing the story, although you are not yet tired of telling it.  You may not consciously notice this, but when you encounter people who haven’t heard it you are grateful to have their ear. (62)
Telling the story is part of the healing of a traumatic event, no different from the trauma of large-scale disaster. (62)
While you try to comprehend and make sense of something incomprehensible and your heart feels the pain of loss, your mind lags behind, trying to integrate something new into your psyche.  It is something that moved too fast for your mind to understand.  The pain is in your heart, while your mind lingers in the facts of the story, reenacting and recalling the scene of the crime against your heart.  Your heart and mind are joined in one state, pain remembering pain. (63)
Telling the story helps to dissipate the pain. Telling your story often and in detail is primal to the grieving process.  You must get it out.  Grief must be witnessed to be healed.  Grief shared is grief abated.  Support and bereavement groups are important, not only because they allow you to be with others who have experienced loss, but because they provide another forum for talking about the devastating events that befell your world.  Tell your tale, because it reinforces that your loss mattered. (63)
You will find the story changing over time; not necessarily what happened, but what part you focus on.  Telling the story may also offer the opportunity for important feedback or information, as the listener may have missing pieces of the puzzle or insight you previously lack. (63)
The stories we tell give meaning to the fact that our loved one died, which is why, in American Indian cultures, stories are given the highest priority.  In fact, the function of the elderly is to tell the stories of the lives and deaths of the ancestors, the stories that keep their history alive. (64)
Our stories contain an enormous amount of pain, sometimes too much for one person to handle.  In sharing our story, we dissipate the pain little by little, giving a small drop to those we meet to disperse it along the way. (65)
Sometimes a loss is so great, you need a larger platform.  Sometimes people create videos, write stories about books. (65)
Some speak about their losses to groups. (66)
When someone is telling you their story over and over, they are trying to figure something out.  There has to be a missing piece or they too would be bored.  Rather than rolling your eyes and saying “there she goes again,” ask questions about parts that don’t connect.  Be the witness and even the guide.  Look for what they want to know. (66)

When I worked or volunteered as a Hospice Chaplain, and later as a Grief and Bereavement Counselor, I reminded my families or clients what I once heard, that Pain Shared Is Pain Divided.  When we talk about our loss, our pain, our loved ones, we are sharing the load with others who are stronger  than we are at that point and who, hopefully, by listening can help us carry that heavy load until we are able to stand again on our own.
I have been asked often by people who want to help their friends or loved ones who are terminally ill or who have experienced a loss (a relative, their job, their house, etc.) what they should say to them.  They’re afraid to go visit their friend or loved one because, “I just don’t know what to say.”  What I always tell them is, “The best thing you can do for them is not what you say but that you are willing to just listen.”
Bildad, Job’s friend, got many things wrong, both about Job and about God.  But the one thing he did get right were his words: “He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, And your lips with rejoicing”  (Job 8:21 NKJV).  There will be a time when your friends or loved ones are ready to listen to words of encouragement and hope, and they will appreciate you reminding them that death is not forever, that grief and pain are not forever, but that one day death, pain, and suffering will come to a permanent end.

Prayer: Father, thank You that while we experience pain in this life, it too will come to an end when Jesus comes.  May He return soon so we can enjoy the peace and the happiness You intended from the beginning.

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Cry Grief Away

Scripture: (Job 7:11 NKJV)  “Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.

Observation: Job’s friends came to visit him and or seven days said nothing but simply sat there with him – that’s what we call the ministry of presence.  But Job’s pain was so heavy that he grieved out loud.  His friends, one at a time, began to try to console him while at the same time trying to convince him of his own wrongdoing which resulted in his own problems.  Job then responds with his own defense and talks more about his own pain.

Application: Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, who wrote the classic book “On Death and Dying,” followed it up with another classic, “On Grief and Grieving,” in which she speaks of, among other things, “The Inner World Of Grief.”  Among other things she writes:
Everyone experiences many loses throughout life, but the death of a loved one is unmatched for its emptiness and profound sadness.  Your world stops. You know the exact time your loved one died – or the exact moment you were told.  It is marked in your mind.  Your world takes on a slowness, a surrealness.  It seems strange that the clocks in the world continue when your inner clock does not. (29)
No one can give you words to make you feel better; there are none. (29)
Your loss and the grief that accompanies it are very personal, different from anyone else’s.  Others may share the experience of their losses.  They may try to console you in the only way they know.  But your loss stands in its meaning to you, in its painful uniqueness. (29)
We all play roles in our lives: spouse, parent, child, family member, friend.  You know your loved one in a way that no one else ever did or ever will.  One person’s dying touches many people in many different ways; everyone feels that loss of individually.  Your task in your own mourning and grieving is to fully recognize your own loss, to see it as only you can.  In paying the respect and taking the time it deserves, you bring integrity to the deep loss that is yours. (30-31)

She lists some of the experiences that form part of the task of grieving.  I’d like to mention and quote her in one of them: TEARS
Tears are one of the many ways we release our sadness, one of our many wondrous built-in healing mechanisms.  Unfortunately, too often we try to stop this necessary and primal release of our emotions.(42)
People. . . avoid crying for fear that they might cry forever.  But of course you will stop crying, even if you don’t believe you will.  The worst thing you can do is to stop short of really letting it out.  Uncried tears have a way of filling the well of sadness even more deeply.  If you have a half hour of crying to do, don’t stop at twenty minutes.  Let yourself cry it all out.  It will stop on its own.  If you cry till your last tear, you will feel released. (43)
We live in a society that view tears as a weakness and a face of stone as strength.  Whether you cry or not may have more to do with how you were raised than with the nature of your loss.  Some of us were raised with permission to cry and others were not.  For some, crying privately may be okay and crying publicly is unacceptable.  Whatever you were taught, the loss of a loved one can tip the scales and bring up the tears you never thought you could cry. (44)
At times, you may start to cry as if for no reason at all.  It may seem it just comes out of the blue, because you are not even consciously thinking about your loss.  Unexpected tears remind you that the loss is always there.  People often find they are reminded unexpectedly of a loved one and start crying in a situation they were not prepared to handle. (45)
Marion knew the importance of taking the pain inside and releasing it outside.  Then she was done when her sadness was fully expressed.  Unexpressed tears do not go away; their sadness resides in our bodies and souls.  Tears can often be seen as dramatic, too emotional, or a sign of weakness.  But in truth, they are an outward expression of inner pain. (45)
Others have their own reactions to seeing someone crying.  For those around the person crying, people may feel grateful the person is able to cry.  Or they may feel uncomfortable, thinking, “If they cry, I might.”  Or “If Cindy, who never cries at anything, is crying, things must be really bad.” (45)
Our perception about crying is public is cultural.  In some places, not crying is a sign of dignity, whereas in other cultures, not crying for the deceased is considered a sign of dishonor. (46)
Tears are a symbol of life, a part of who we are and what we feel.  They live in us and through us.  They represent us and reside in our pain.  This symbol and representation of sadness can appear anytime.  Since it is so tied to life itself, we are often surprised when laughter breaks spontaneously through tears. (46)
The humanity we witness often causes us to laugh at ourselves, but never mistake laughing through tears as a reason to feel guilty.  It is the life we have, mixed with the sadness we feel.  It is a fail-safe mechanism we have for managing the pain. (46)
“Everyone has to grab their own tissues.” – when someone hands them a box of tissues – while this may be an act of comfort, it often sends the message “hurry and stop crying.”  Also, if we go into the role of caretaker, we avoid our own emotions. (46)
The truth is that tears are a symbol of life and can be trusted. (46)
Acceptance of death is part of the work that must be done if we are to grieve fully.  If crying is part of our outer culture or inner sadness and we have tears to cry, then we should use this wonderful gift of healing without hesitation. (47)
Long periods of denial are worse than crying.  Crying is much better, but you have to cry your own tears because no one can do it for you.  If you see someone else crying and you cry, it is triggering some sadness you feel inside.  Sometimes you’d rather cry for any situation but your own, but regardless of your preferences, you are always crying for yourself. (47)

Tears are a way to process through our grief and a healing balm to our hurting soul.  In our culture, people try to refrain from crying or medicate themselves to prevent them from crying.  This will cause them more pain later and more emotional difficulties.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the gift of tears which help us to process our own grief.  Please bring the healing our souls need when the pain that death brings comes to our life.

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Come Mourn with Me

Scripture: (Job 2:11,13 NKJV)  Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. . . 13So they sat down with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his grief was very great.

Observation: Job had lost everything he owned, but his worst tragedy was the loss of all his children.  When he became physically ill, his wife had had enough and told him to “curse God and die.”  But then we read that his friends came to be with him and to comfort him, and they sat with him for seven days straight, without saying a word, just being there.

Application: One of the most tragic results from the death of a child is the demise of the marriage.  Many couples simply can’t handle their pain and end up drifting apart and eventually separating and divorcing.  It is very difficult to offer support and encouragement to your spouse when your own heart is breaking.  At the same time, nothing can bring a couple together like experiencing a loss and growing together out of it.  My wife and I have gone through the loss of my mother and both her parents, and several other family members.  Those times, as difficult as they have been, have strengthened our relationship and are part of our history that keeps us together.
But there are times when we need help from outside too, and the tragic death of a loved one is a perfect time to offer or receive the comfort and encouragement of a dear, close friend.  One of the questions many people have in their minds when visiting someone who’s lost a loved one is, what should I say?  Job’s friends teach is a very important lesson: when visiting a grieving friend it is more important to just be there and listen than what you say.  After all, what can you possibly say that would take their pain away, or make their burden any easier?  But what is very therapeutic and very cathartic for them is to talk through their pain and what better person to do so but a close friend.  Someone said that “pain shared is pain divided,” which means that when we share our pain with others, we all get to carry it together, which makes it easier and lighter for the one experiencing it.  That’s why being there for the mourner is your gift to them, the ministry of presence.  Don’t be afraid to be with those in mourning; it may be the best, most kind, and most loving thing you can do for your friend or loved one.

Prayer: Father, in the midst of our pain, you listen to us and come close to us to comfort us.  Thank You for the healing You bring us through our pain.

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The Way to a Man’s Heart

Scripture: (Est 7:1-2 NKJV)  So the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther. {2} And on the second day, at the banquet of wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!”

Observation: Esther was made aware of Haman’s plan to destroy the Jewish people, and after a period of fasting and prayer she invited the king, her husband to a banquet.  After that banquet, she invited him to a second banquet the following night.  It was at that banquet, when he was very pleased with the food, and with Esther, that she made her request on behalf of her people.

Application: It’s been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.  One of the things I appreciate about my wife is that since we were young and dating, she made efforts to learn from my mother how to cook those things that I like best.  I have to say that she not only learned how to fix some very typical Colombian food, but learned to made them very well.  Pretty regularly she will fix for me one of those special dishes which not only take care of my appetite but also warm my heart.
At the same time, if a woman thinks that just by feeding her husband he will love her, she’s going to find herself with a very overweight man that simply likes to have a cook living with him.  It is not that men like to eat and want to have a woman to cook for them.  What men like is to have a woman who loves them enough to cook for and take care of them.  Statistics show that married people enjoy better health.  Single men are notorious for poor health habits.  Married men enjoy the benefit of a wife who cares about them, fixes healthy meals for them, encourages them to take good care of themselves by exercising, going to the doctors for regular physical, eye, and dental exams.  So really, a way to a man’s heart is not through his stomach, rather, the way to a man’s heart is through her heart.

Prayer: Father, thank you for the love of a wife, expressed through good food, but also expressed through loving, caring actions for her husband.

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Scripture: (Est 1:10-12 NKJV)  On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, {11} to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold. {12} But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command brought by his eunuchs; therefore the king was furious, and his anger burned within him.

Observation: King Ahasuerus demanded of his wife, Queen Vashti, to come and present herself before those gathered at his party.  A Bible commentary states that, “The refusal of Vashti to obey an order which required her to make an indecent exposure of herself before a company of drunken revellers, was becoming both the modesty of her sex and her rank as queen; for, according to Persian customs, the queen, even more than the wives of other men, was secluded from the public gaze. Had not the king’s blood been heated with wine, or his reason overpowered by force of offended pride, he would have perceived that his own honor, as well as hers, was consulted by her dignified conduct.”
In her devotional, Conflict and Courage, Ellen White adds, “When this command came from the king, Vashti did not carry out his orders, because she knew that wine had been freely used, and that Ahasuerus was under the influence of the intoxicating liquor. For her husband’s sake as well as her own, she decided not to leave her position at the head of the women of the court.
“It was when the king was not himself, when his reason was dethroned by wine-drinking that he sent for the queen, that those present at his feast, men besotted by wine, might gaze on her beauty. She acted in harmony with a pure conscience.
“Vashti refused to obey the king’s command, thinking that when he came to himself, he would commend her course of action. But the king had unwise advisers. They argued it would be a power given to woman that would be to her injury.” {p.243}

Application: Willard Harley, in his book, Love Busters, speaks uses that term to refer to those things that one spouse does to hurt the other and which therefore damages the romantic and caring love that should exist between them.  Among those Love Busters, Harley cites Selfish Demands as one of them.  He defines them as “Commanding your spouse to do things that would benefit you at your spouses expense, with implied threat of punishment if refused.”  Then he goes on to say that “People who make demands don’t seem to care how others feel.  If you make demands of your spouse and expect obedience, you are being controlling and manipulative.  Demands are nothing short of abuse.”  Instead of selfish demands, Harley suggests Thoughtful Requests  – respectfully explaining to your spouse what you would like and allow your spouse the option of granting or denying your request.
Vashti’s response to the selfish demand of her husband, even if he was the king, shows that she was not pleased anymore than any spouse today would be at the selfish demands of their spouse.  A thoughtful request would have a more positive reception, although it doesn’t mean the spouse has to agree, accept, or do what their spouse is asking of them.  In other words, a thoughtful request may not get you what you want, but a selfish demand certainly will not promote any warm, caring feelings toward you.

Prayer: Father, selfishness and rebellion began the biggest battle ever in the universe; may they never be present in our marriage or family.

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