My last full time pastorate before having to take early retirement due to vocal chord cancer was with the precious congregation at First Baptist Church in Quanah, Texas.
During that pastorate, I had about 75 funerals in a two and a half year period.
I considered funerals as probably the major part of my ministry there.
Hopefully through my messages, God was able to bring the anointment of His tender Grace to the aching hearts of families.
A good friend of mine, Doug Manning, wrote a very helpful book entitled...
"Don't Take My Grief From Me".
In fact, Doug has a wonderful website about his work with grieving people.
Two of our daughters minister to grieving people in their professions:
Jane via her job as a Chaplain with Hospice in Odessa, Tx. uses some of Doug's books.
Kristin as a Prof. @ Texas Woman's Univ. when she teaches 'Death and Dying' classes.
Kristin had her brother Kevin (an Okla. State Trooper for 29 yrs) come speak to her class about tragedies that occur when people drink and drive.
He also shared how he dealt with injured and grieving families during those crisis times.
Kristin said that she learned things from Kevin's speech that none of us knew, as some were too painful for him to ever share...things that brought her and her students to tears. We're sure that could be said of many people who are in professions of helping the injured and dying.
Through the years we wished that La Moyne's precious Mother could have had counseling with her grief over the death of La Moyne's little 1 yr. old brother.
But back in those days, there was not as much help available and sometimes when people don't know 'what' to say, they may say the WRONG thing!
La Moyne said that some of the things that were said to her Mom were:
"Just get over it!"..."He was just a year old, so it's not as bad as if he had been older."
People were mistakenly trying to 'take Mary's grief from her'.
During the years whenever tragedy struck families in our congregations,
La Moyne called upon her Mom for advice on 'how' to minister to hurting people.
Not long after we moved to Norman, we rec'd a call in the night that one of our families' son and little gr'son had died in a fire at their home.
When we got to the home of his parents, the grief was overwhelming!
In her grief, the mother was showing La Moyne some of the presents that they had under the Christmas tree for her son and little gr'son. Then she asked....
"What will we do with these gifts?"
La Moyne called her Mom the next day for help/advice as we were to go back to the home that day. When she asked, " What do I say?" her Mom wisely answered from her own experience, "You don't have to SAY anything Hon, just BE there for them!"
That was advice that we've used over and over~
Counseling might have also helped her parents realize that men and women tend to grieve differently.
How we handle grief is very important as grief inevitably comes to everyone!
We need to let God help us handle grief.
A long time friend of our's, O. T. McCall, died recently here in Norman.
It was a tremendous loss to our community, the University and his church...
First Baptist Church, Norman.
In order to describe his contribution to the world, it took up two whole columns in the state papers.
When we returned on medical furlough from Korea, he was very gracious to us....
even giving me a set of his golf clubs.
Here are some Scriptures on 'Grief' and 'What to do with Grief':
- Psalms 30:5: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning".
- Deuteronomy 33:25-27:
"Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be".
"The Eternal God is thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms and He shall thrust out the enemy".
- Psalms 46:
This Psalm was used by many following the terrorist attack on New York City.
Vs. 1-3: "I will not fear for I have a refuge"
Vs. 4-7: "I will not faint for I have a river"
Vs. 10-11: "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations...
and throughout the earth".
- I Peter 5:7: "Casting all your cares upon the Lord for He cares for you".
Faith (Trust) as a grain of mustard seed....and keep on 'casting'!
In case all the Scriptures that I've given still do not bring comfort to you....
just 'camp in the midst' of Psalm 23 with the Good Shepherd.
This past weekend, there was a Memorial Service honoring 10 men who were associated with the Oklahoma State University Basketball Program who were killed Jan. 28, 2001. They were on their way home following a game against Colorado University when their plane crashed in a field near Denver.
During the tribute last weekend, OSU Assistant Soccer Coach Karen Hancock put a 'smiley face' on the card that she left with flowers at the memorial.
Karen's husband, Will Hancock, was one of those killed that night.
Their only child, daughter Andrea was 10 weeks old when her father died.
Last week Andrea left some roses with a card that read "To Daddy with love".
There were many other tributes left by family and friends of those killed in the crash.
Will Hancock's parents (Bill and Nicki) are both from Hobart, Okla. where La Moyne was born and raised, so the Hancock's tragedy touched us as well as many across the nation.
Bill is an avid bike rider, so as he was dealing with his grief, he biked across the U.S. (with wife Nicki following behind in their car).
He shares that 'journey with grief' in his book entitled "Riding With The Blue Moth".
Some thoughts and poems on 'Grief':
- Help us NOT to feel as Lord Byron when he wrote:
"I now have ashes where once I had fire. The soul of my body is dead.
The things I once loved, I now merely admire; my heart is as grey as my head".
- "Tears are a language God understands" (John 11:30-38)
- Jesus wept over the death of his friend Lazarus, so He understands!
- Jesus wept to know and experience God's Will (Matthew 26:36-46)
- He wept over the 'lostness' of Jerusalem. (Luke 13:34-35)
Someone has well said, "The worst enemies of Christianity are:
and tight lips".
It is good to have Theology (what we believe) in our heads...
but more important is the Doxology in our hearts!
One of the greatest challenges is 'learning to love'.
William McLin (Home Missionary in Los Angeles) was told by a Jewish neighbor....
"What we need here is for you to love the hell out of us".
Someone else once said, "The world is going to hell and we don't give a damn".
Keith (my 'preacher brother') likes to emphasize....
"We must keep the main thing, the main thing!"
Our prayer should be....
"Lord, break my heart with the things that break the heart of God".
God uses broken things:
The sky breaks and rain comes....
The ground is broken and crops are planted and later, harvested.
The Apostle Paul never 'got over' getting saved. (Romans 9:1 and 10:1)
Jeremiah is called 'The Weeping Prophet'.
"Yes, I have loved thee with an everlasting love;
therefore with loving kindness have I drawn you." (Jer. 31:3)
"Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and mighty things...
which thou knowest not." (Jer. 33:3)
The founder of the Salvation Army, William Boothe, was asked...
'What is the secret of revival? He replied, "Try tears"
Truly, tears are a language that God understands.
"He Died Of A Broken Heart" (T. Dennis and arranged by B. B. McKinney)
"Have you read the story of the cross, Where Jesus bled and died?
Where your debt was paid by His precious blood that flowed from His wounded side?
Have you read how they placed the crown of thorns upon His brow for you?
When He prayed 'Forgive them, oh, forgive, they know not what they do".
Have you read how He saved the dying thief when hanging on the tree?
When He looked with pleading eyes and said, "Dear Lord, remember me".
Have you read that He looked to Heaven and said, "Tis finished, twas for thee"?
Have you ever said, "I thank Thee Lord for giving Thy life for me"?
He died of a broken heart for you, He died of a broken heart.
Upon a tree, for you, for me....He died of a broken heart."
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Thank you for discussing such a very sensitive subject! I've learned that grief is intensely personal; it's very difficult to 'give' anyone just the right advice about it. But, I am also learning that once you allow Jesus into your fortress of grief, He will take your hand, and not let go. God Bless.
What a very timely message to one of your own. I just left a Spanish speaking only family who lost their Husband/Father/Grandfather today. This man was a mighty man of God and when I met him he was singing songs about going home. He meant "heaven." With an interpreter I was able to minister effectively to him at that time. The same today with an interpreter I asked God to help me show His love to this family. Love in any language heals a grieving heart. It is not what I say that is most important in times like these. It is my willingness to reflect Jesus love either in word or silence that ultimately makes the difference.
Thank you for this sweet and comforting article Tavis. We most certainly can depend upon the everlasting arms and trust Him to be our refuge. He is our strength in time of trouble. I love you both, Sharon