Tag Archives: grief

Isaiah 16-18; Romans 13

A woman I love lost both her parents and her sister within the same year. They were a close family, and this loss was understandably enormous. There were things she said that touched me so deeply. I have not forgotten her words.

In recent years, many events have caused me to examine myself and my beliefs. Where did I place my hope? Who did I trust? So many questions surfaced in a time of change, loss, wonder and grief. I’ve sought understanding in the wrestle. When life as I knew it and believed it to be was turned inside out, it became a time of challenging perspectives and making new connections. I focus forward. I cannot rewrite the story of the past.

11 This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. 13 Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. 14 Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires (Romans 13:11-14, NLT, emphasis added).

This dear woman lost her family, and many years later, I would come to know that type of void. God reminds me and underscores that I am His. There is a darkness that would delight in distracting me from walking in God’s light, in dressing me in rags of condemnation and wounding.

I meet the Lord at sunrise every day. I belong to the day. I belong to Him. He called me Daughter long before I ever called him Dad. There is shining armor with my name on it, and I am clothed in His presence. It is an embrace.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Kings 19-21; 2 Chronicles 17; Matthew 24

I listened to a podcast where the host remembered an interview with a businessman about priorities, and he said that taking care of health was the single most important thing one could do for his business. I wonder if business classes teach the importance of self care?

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

So he got up and ate and drank, and the food gave him enough strength to travel forty days and forty nights to Mount Sinai, the mountain of God. There he came to a cave, where he spent the night.

But the Lord said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

10 Elijah replied, “I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of Israel have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altars, and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

11 “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

And a voice said, “What are you doing here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:3-13, NLT)”

I looked up an image of a broom tree, and imagined Elijah there. I emphasized words in this reading that resonated with me–about feeling afraid and alone, weary and despaired. Stress and worry and hustle are killers, consuming from the inside out.

Rest, nutrition, finding quiet before the mountain amidst the storm and chaos, listening for the Lord–are these things so seemingly simple that they get neglected in the flurry and fury of flight/fight mode? These things have become the top of my tending list, not an afterthought behind a lengthy to-do, and not my last resort when I have exhausted myself. Not anymore.

Father God, I am so grateful for your tender care. Your Word often reminds me of your sovereignty and strength–especially when I feel so small and insignificant. Thank you for meeting me daily in my walks. You are my source of life.

Courtney (66books365)

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Job 1-3; Psalm 29; Revelation 10

He was about to lose his life as he knew it. I’m so thankful for these years reading through the scriptures, getting to know the people and my God better each time. But interestingly, the frequency and familiarity don’t make it easier–sometimes it gets a little harder.

I want to hit pause as I read the opening lines of Job–a man of integrity, a man who feared God and stayed away from evil, a loving father of sons and daughters, his home a place of feasting. He was considered rich by his community’s standards, and by my own standards his heart for God and family make him truly wealthy. He was a disciplined man, and his life had a beautiful rhythm.

And he was about to lose his life as he knew it.

This time around, it’s hard to keep reading farther. The loss, the wrestle, the tugging pull of assumptions, accusations, confusion–and a lot of that comes later. His pain is deep; he wonders many things; he wants to erase the wounding and lock it all away from light. There are many things loss dredges up to the surface that survivors must confront. This is hard work.

I know if I sit here longer with Job, I will learn things. Because there will be a time when life feels upended, and life as it was known is lost. How do I look at Job’s grief when I can’t even resolve my own? I turn the pages and focus on this: the voice of the Lord.

Across the seas and among the cedars and oaks, the barren places and wilderness, his voice echoes, strikes, wrings, and strips.

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is majestic (Psalm 29:4, NLT).

I listen for your voice, Lord.

10 The Lord rules over the floodwaters.
    The Lord reigns as king forever.
11 The Lord gives his people strength.
    The Lord blesses them with peace (Psalm 29:10-11, NLT).

Courtney (66books365)

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Filed under 66 Books, Bible in a year reading plan, Job, Old Testament, Psalms

Amos 4-6; Psalm 55; Matthew 14

It was probably ten or eleven years ago, and my dad wasn’t speaking to me, and my heart ached. One day I was out at the grocery store with my kids and a dear friend. I kept seeing an older man with the brightest blue eyes in the store. We had made eye contact several times, and it seems so crazy now (and maybe even a little crazy then), but I had such an urge to approach him. I parked the shopping cart off to the side in an aisle while my friend stayed by my kids. I walked over to the stranger.

“My dad has blue eyes like yours,” I said to him, awkwardly, and he smiled at me. We talked a little, and at the end he opened his arms to me and hugged me (God, bless that man), and I choked back my tears. I looked at my friend and she was crying.

***

Last year within days after my dad died, I was at the UPS Store, my mind scrambled by a to-do list of so much that had to get done that week, and planning a funeral. I walked into the store directly behind a man, who, when he turned, I recognized as a friend.

“Hey!” he said, “How are you?”

I tried to find a way to speak, to respond, and finally I reached out to him and said, “My dad died on Saturday.” And he mercifully hugged me and let me cry. (Thank you, God, for the loving timeliness of friends running errands too.)

***

35 When the people recognized Jesus, the news of his arrival spread quickly throughout the whole area, and soon people were bringing all their sick to be healed. 36 They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed (Matthew 14:35-36, NLT).

There are times when the need is so strong to cry out to God, the desire great to hear His voice, or if I could … at least touch the fringe of His robe–but really to have Him sit across from me and hold my hand and hear my heart. Hard days when I cling to His Word that He has a plan, that He loves me, that He sees me, that He’s for me, that He will be with me, that He sings over me, that He will bring good and beauty from heartache and ashes.

I read these verses in Matthew and imagined the scene, to reach out and touch the Lord. To be that close. To be healed.

“If you could meet with any person from the past,” I asked my daughter on a car ride recently, “who would you pick?”

Thankfully, one day, I truly will get to sit across from Jesus, and He will wipe away my tears.

Father God, thank you that you hear me from heaven. Thank you for your sovereignty and great plan. Thank you for blue-eyed strangers and friends on this earth who comfort and love and help and encourage in all of life’s seasons.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 24; 1 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39

There is something bigger at stake than removing a threat.

After Saul returned from fighting the Philistines, he was told that David had gone into the wilderness of En-gedi. So Saul chose 3,000 elite troops from all Israel and went to search for David and his men near the rocks of the wild goats. (1 Samuel 24:1, NLT)

Saul leaves one fight to pursue another. Could his heart ever be satisfied? Would the threats ever stop tormenting him? Is he the hunter or the hunted?

David’s in a cave with a force behind him. They encourage him–a deliverance of a sort that could be settled in that instant. I watch David from the shadows and hold my breath as he reaches forward and cuts a piece of Saul’s robe. David’s conscience speaks to him–because there is something bigger at stake than removing a threat.

War and gore weren’t new to these men; they were both fighters and leaders–whether for better or worse. What was it fueling Saul? What was it holding David back? While this story reads like a suspense, today, I look past opposing forces and see the heart.

***

A garden untended in a summer gone too fast, and weeds are up to my waist in some places. I climb over the rocky bases and grasp and pull at thorny mile-a-minute, weak-rooted Japanese stiltgrass, and other varieties I know by familiarity than by name–ones that reach, embed, choke out nearby azalea and lilac. This year, I get half through and don’t finish. I think about emotions in a grieving process. I look at the weeds and how quickly they’ve taken over a space. Some being light, but persistent. Others, painful to touch. Some, likely poisonous and tormenting. It is work to remove them. I know the longer I neglect the process, the worse it will become.

I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
    and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
    when the ungodly are around me.”
But as I stood there in silence—
    not even speaking of good things—
    the turmoil within me grew worse.
The more I thought about it,
    the hotter I got,
    igniting a fire of words:
Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:1-5, NLT)

At best, a breath.

I got the proof for my parents’ grave marker yesterday–names and dates.

We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you. (Psalm 39:6-7, NLT)

My only hope is in you.

***

The voice said to me, “Son of man, eat what I am giving you—eat this scroll! Then go and give its message to the people of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he fed me the scroll. “Fill your stomach with this,” he said. And when I ate it, it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 3:1-3, NLT)

Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed for us. So let us celebrate the festival, not with the old bread of wickedness and evil, but with the new bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:7b-8, NLT)

Lord, I turn to your word. It fills me and instructs me. It is a feast, and I celebrate the new bread of sincerity and truth.

Courtney (66books365)

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Judges 17; Acts 21; Jeremiah 30,31; Mark 16

Restore. It’s my word for the year. I notice it throughout the readings.

Micah returns the coins to this mother (Judges).

The Lord speaks in Jeremiah, and restoration pours from his mouth. His words are powerful, and I am encouraged and refreshed by his might.

  • He will bring them home to the land.
  • He will break the yoke from their necks and snap the chains.
  • He will raise up a king.
  • He will give back health and heal wounds.

It goes on, the things he does.

18 This is what the Lord says:
“When I bring Israel home again from captivity
    and restore their fortunes,
Jerusalem will be rebuilt on its ruins,
    and the palace reconstructed as before.
19 There will be joy and songs of thanksgiving,
    and I will multiply my people, not diminish them;
I will honor them, not despise them.
20     Their children will prosper as they did long ago.
I will establish them as a nation before me,
    and I will punish anyone who hurts them.
21 They will have their own ruler again,
    and he will come from their own people.
I will invite him to approach me,” says the Lord,
    “for who would dare to come unless invited?
22 You will be my people,
    and I will be your God.” (Jeremiah 30:18-22, NLT)

My God who turns mourning into joy. He rebuilds upon the ruins. He restores.

Oh, that I can look upon the loss and heartache and circumstances that have hammered against me these months; they have not been for destruction, but for refining and chiseling–restoration. Breaking of yokes. Snapping of chains.

A tomb is empty (Mark 16).

He lives.

We live, restored.

Courtney (66books365)

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Joshua 18,19; Psalms 149,150; Jeremiah 9; Matthew 23

A land promised and parceled. Psalms of praise! Praise! Clanging words like cymbals. Praise.

Eyes, a fountain of tears. Uncircumcised hearts.

“They do not know me,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 9:3b, NLT.

I reach for the hands of a sister. I crave the embrace of a mother.

“Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters. And don’t address anyone here on earth as ‘Father,’ for only God in heaven is your Father. 10 And don’t let anyone call you ‘Teacher,’ for you have only one teacher, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:8-12, NLT)

Lord, teach me. Guide me. My Father, my God, my Hope.

 23 This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
24 But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken! (Jeremiah 9:23-24, NLT)

Lord, you hear the cries of my heart. You delight in love and justice and righteousness. Be at work in our hearts.

Courtney (66books365)

 

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