Soul Food for Those Who are Grieving

I wrote last week that one of my deepest desires for this space is that it would delight and refresh your soul. I want there to be laughter and fun and creativity mixed in with some of the more intense stuff of life. My hope is that “Soul Food” posts will provide some ideas and resources that you’ll look forward to like a kid looks forward to a day at the State Fair.

Recently I read a great business article  that brought to mind all the creative ways that people ministered to us around my brother’s death.

I’ve written about relational and practical stuff, and we have treasured every note that was written to us, but this is different.

Today I want to share some of the creative ways people used their spiritual gifts, talents, and resources to minister to us in the hopes it may inspire us as we minister to others.

  • In the midst of the emotional roller coaster ride with David towards eternal life, we had friends who one day said, “Are you free for dinner? Come out on our boat with us and let us care for you and you just breathe.”

They gave us hugs and listening ears and dinner and beauty. We cruised on Lake Minnetonka and ate and talked and relaxed, and it was a gift.

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  • One day I received an email from a friend who lives in Australia. She is a talented photographer and gardener. Her note said “Come, let’s take a virtual walk in my garden together and soak up God’s goodness.” She attached a power point with photos and thoughts as if we were walking through her garden together! You can take a look at part of it here: Winter pruned 1
  • Two friends made CD’s – mixes of songs they felt would be comforting during this hard season. For Susan and David there were many trips to and from the hospital in Chicago when these provided a strengthening sound track. This song, Nearness, on one of the CD’s was sung at David’s memorial service. If you’re having a hard day, this is for you.

There were also really meaningful gifts after David died in addition to people who blew us away by contributing in his honor. We were surprised by how moving these gifts were.

  • Like I said, there have been many kind gifts, but I want to mention one – a family sent us a delightful memorial wind chime with a quote on it. It is a beautiful, meaningful reminder whenever the wind blows.
  • While I was still in Chicago with family, a friend dropped off 5 dinners to our home in Minneapolis that she had made and frozen for us. Yes, of course I have time to make dinner (I don’t have kids at home and it wasn’t my husband that died), but what I’ve discovered is how exhausted you are after a crisis, or in a season of grief and how nice it is NOT TO HAVE TO THINK about dinner.
  • My small group, who had been part of an indefatigable prayer team for David, created one of the most meaningful gifts. They wrote verses that we had clung to during David’s cancer and notes of encouragement on a hurricane with a candle. We’ve talked often about how God’s light shines through the broken places in our lives and the gold lines represent those places of healing.

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  • I was moved to tears when I opened a card the other day and a friend in MN had laminated the newspaper obituary of my brother (which I helped write, but had not seen). She said she thought I might want to keep it in my Bible.

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All of these gifts were creative, thoughtful and personal. They communicated care and a desire to remember with us someone we loved.

Are there some additional ways people have ministered to you when you have been grieving?

 

Moving Through a Crowded Life, part 2

One of the scariest moments I’ve ever experienced was standing in the middle of Paris on Bastille Day.  I was packed, shoulder to shoulder with one million people like…well like one million people smushed together.

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One spooked tourist moving quickly and many would be trampled to death.

Reporting on that day, CNN didn’t see individuals. It saw a crowd.

But Jesus doesn’t see crowds.

Jesus saw me in the middle of Paris, His beloved child who has blue eyes, and is a little goofy, and is afraid of being left out and gets impatient easily.

I wonder if the woman in Mark 5 felt the same way. Was she afraid of being trampled? Or just afraid of being overlooked by Jesus and a crowd with more important priorities? Was it hot and dusty? Was she perspiring with hope?

Monday Jesus let Jairus, a synagogue ruler interrupt Him, but he was a man, and an important man. What about someone like you or me, who’s just…ordinary? Jesus is heading to Jairus’ house when He gets interrupted again.

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

The woman was a distraction to Jesus, but He moved slowly enough through the crowd to notice and respond to her as an individual too.

I love it that Jesus saw the woman who touched Him, and Zaccheus in the tree, and blind Bartimaeus waiting by the roadside…The unimportant folks like you and me.

He sees you, and you are oh so precious to Him. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing. 

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In the middle of a crowd or all alone in your room.

A discipline I sometimes try is to stand at the edge of a crowd, or on a balcony and just look. Look for anyone who is standing alone or looking uncomfortable and then go to them.

When we truly see and value others, maybe it’s a small reminder that Jesus does too.

 

Moving Through a Crowded Life, Part 1

A few Sunday mornings ago I was rushing a young staff member through our crowded church Great Room between worship services, trying to get to John’s office to shoot a video resource with her and get home.

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“Didn’t you once tell me the more successful you get the more slowly you need to walk through a crowd” she asked pointedly.

“Yeah, yeah, but this is an exception!” I tossed over my shoulder as I simultaneously “Excuse’d” my way around bodies, wishing for a parting of the Red Sea.

People (including my young friend with her annoying memory) can be so…inconvenientright?

I had quoted a mentor of ours whose line had really impacted John and me even though I resist the word “successful” because I’m definitely not. But being in ministry I seem to know a lot of people, so I’m trying to learn this discipline of walking more slowly through crowds.

When I rush through a crowd

  • I’m saying I’m a big deal because I’m busy.
  • I’m saying tasks are more important than people.
  • I’m saying my time is valuable and you’re not a priority.

Ouch, ouch OUCH!

My words sometimes often almost always come back to bite me.

This morning I was looking at the passage in Mark 5:21-43 that is about Jesus and crowds and individuals. I may or may not have heard the Holy Spirit say, “Ahem…”

And IF the Holy Spirit had eyebrows He/She might have been raising them looking meaningfully at me.Unknown

Can you put yourself in this setting with Jesus?

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders,named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.

We all live crowded lives. But Jesus did too.

Even in a crowd, Jesus is present to individuals.IMG_1332

Jairus was a distraction to Jesus, but Jesus moved slowly enough through the crowd to notice and respond to him as an individual.

You’re single or married, a coach, an employer, a mom, a leader, a pay-check earner, and you have a crowded life. You want to be like Jesus – want to respond to the “holy interruptions” that come your way, but it requires discernment.

Maybe the best we can do today is to start moving more slowly through the crowds, look people in the eye, and pray,

“Lord help me to be present to You and others. Show me what love requires of me today.”

 

 

Soul Food

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I know, I know…I’ve been really off and unpredictable with posting lately. Sorry about that, but well, August. We all need a break, right? But I’m pulling it together and will do better. I’m excited to dive back in, so you’ll hear from me, but  I’d love to hear from you too!

One of my deepest desires for this space is that it would delight and refresh your soul. I want there to be laughter and fun and creativity mixed in with some of the more intense stuff of life. I’ve been trying to think of a name for posts where I share resources, and so far I’ve landed on “Soul food”.  If you have other ideas, let me know!

How about starting with a great song to remind you of your identity? Continue reading

3 Things We’re Learning from Loss, part 2

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Yesterday I posted some of the more relational things we are learning from crisis and grief. In case you need reminding, we are a mess of cluelessness – toddlers tripping and tumbling our way through this season. What I’m sharing is just stuff we’ve found to be helpful to us.

Today I wanted to share some of the hands-on stuff. In both posts it is super hard to limit the number (and I’d encourage you to add more in the comments), but here are three: Continue reading

3 Things We’re Learning from Loss, part 1

We have an incredibly close family that has been referred to as the “Leave it to Beaver Cleavers”. You know – the all-American family who goes to church every Sunday, and takes family vacations. They love the boy scouts and the 4th of July, and the major drama is when the family dog gets hit by a car (but of course miraculously survives).

All that to say, we’re rookies at pain, and loss because, well, life has gone pretty well for us.

There are many, though, who will read this who have a Phd. in pain and suffering and have much to teach us, and I hope they’ll add their thoughts in the comments.

There are others who have a limited experience with grief, but who care deeply about their friends and want very much to minister to those in pain.

But whatever group you fall into, all of us, I think, want to get better at being companions who walk well with our brothers and sisters through the dark, confusing alleys of crisis.

Over the past 4 months, we had the remarkable privilege to sit with my little brother in hospital rooms, and care for him at home in hospice, and mourn when he took his last breath.

We experienced so many holy moments and such thoughtful care from the Body of Christ. Our extended family rallied as a team in ways that brings tears to my eyes as I think of the gift God has given us of each other.

Some of the things we learned ranged from the absurdly practical, to the nuances of EQ. I thought I’d share a few of them and encourage you to add your own in the comments.  Today I’m going to start with the more relational, and tomorrow will go to the more practical: Continue reading

When You’re Tired

I’m tired.

Tired, as in go to bed an hour early and wake up an hour later than usual. Tired, as in afternoon “power nap” required.*

This seems really odd because it’s summertime and that’s usually the season of easy living and filling up, but this summer has been a bit different for us.  Maybe for you too.

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Whether it’s emotional, or physical strain, now, or mid-winter, we all go through seasons of tired and need to be gentle with ourselves and refuel. Can I get an “Amen”?

We need daily and weekly rhythms of filling so that we serve out of overflow but I believe we also need seasonal and yearly rhythms of filling too.

This brings us to my favorite week of the year.

Approximately Wednesday, August 5th to Wednesday, August 12th.

Every. Year.

This week, new ideas, stimulating conversations, prayer, laughter, music, sun, wind and waves win over everything else.

Every single year we have two back-to-back, inviolate commitments – the Global Leadership Summit and right afterwards, our staff family retreat on a lake in northern Minnesota.

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The GLS brings together World Class Leaders to speak at a two day conference. It’s inspiring, challenging, encouraging, motivating. And this year our church is hosting as a satellite site so if you live in the Twin Cities and haven’t signed up yet, do it Here! (and if we haven’t met yet, come introduce yourself to me!).

Bill Hybels says, “As a leader, the best thing you bring to the table every day is a filled up bucket.” 

But this isn’t just true for “leaders”.
As a person, the best thing you bring to the world every day is a filled up bucket.

When my bucket is empty…

  • I’m more likely to speak too quickly.
  • I’m less likely to be patient.
  • I’m more likely to spin my wheels without listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.
  • I’m more likely to overlook God’s beautiful gifts because I’m worried.

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So how do you fill up?

Think of some the different areas of your life – spiritual, physical, relational.  What rhythms do you have that keep you replenished so that you don’t just deplete, deplete, deplete, and then madly try to fill up?

What’s one thing you can commit to today to allow God to fill up your bucket?

  1. Carve out 5 minutes of silence to remember God is with you. Just focus on His character. Check this resource.
  2. Sign up for a class or conference that will inspire or motivate you.
  3. Take a walk or a run and thank God for all the gifts you notice.
  4. Set up a coffee date with someone you want to learn from.
  5. Go to the Abide site or get the Abide app and choose a guided prayer topic that fits your circumstances.

There are a million other filler-uppers. What favorites would you add in the comments?

*I love it that John Ortberg says, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.”

What to do with the Ugly

I was sitting across from a friend, interviewing him for a little video resource when he said something that caught me off-guard and immediately brought tears of hurt and shame to my eyes.

It was like being stung by a bee when you’re cutting flowers.

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I was upset, but more than that, I was upset with myself for being upset. I finished the interview and got in my car with John, silently reflecting on why and where the emotion had come from.

The answer was embarrassing. It was pride, pure and simple.

As I asked my friend a question on camera, he excitedly shared something he learned recently from a cool hipster pastor in our area. It is a spiritual practice I have written about a lot, and church leaders have found helpful since the 1500’s. But here, publicly, it was being attributed to the stupid hipster pastor.

I thought, “What about ME??? What about MY words, MY influence?”

And I felt small and overlooked and inconsequential. And so dang angry that I felt that way!

Have you ever felt dinged for not being acknowledged or overlooked for credit or affirmation you’d like to receive (in your secret heart of hearts)?

What do we do with All Of The Feelings?

What do we do with the ugly?

There is a verse that I think we often whoosh by, that came to mind as I drove away with John.

James 5:16 Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. MSG

So I screwed up my courage (because truly I was so embarrassed that this mattered to me) and confessed to John what I was feeling.

It was so dang hard to be honest about this because I want to appear secure and confident and never petty. But there was this ugliness and when I confessed it, you know what? John wasn’t shocked, and he still loves me, and  the power of the ding, like infection, seemed to drain out of me.

I am in the spiritually challenged slow group when it comes to learning this stuff, but there are three practices I keep coming back to when ugly emotions threaten to derail me: Continue reading

Road Trip – Perspective

Adventure starts where plans end.-3

This is the last post in our “Road Trip” series of the summer. I’m sorry I’ve been less consistent than I planned. Thanks for your grace! I’d love to hear about your summer road trips – physical, or spiritual – and what you’ve learned!

A few weeks ago I sat in seat 19C waiting to take off when the pilot came on over the P.A.

He said, “For those of you on the left side of the plane, if you’ve looked out your window you may have noticed part of the wing is missing. Don’t worry. we know about it.”

What the what??

“We’ve made adjustments.” he added, seemingly as an afterthought.

Well okey dokey then! I’m putting my life in your hands Mr. Voice on the P.A., but if you – a person I’ve never met before in my entire life, a person whose age, credentials, and performance record are unknown to me, says you’ve “made adjustments” for the absence of a major part of equipment that is necessary to get us off the ground and safely to our destination, I’ll just trust you. No sweat.

You can’t make this stuff up.

This experience on a plane (yes,  we took off and landed without incident) made me think of Paul’s experience on a “road trip” that is actually a “boat trip”.

In Acts 27, Luke writes of being taken with Paul by boat as a prisoner, to Rome. They get behind on their schedule and winter is coming. Paul warns the guy in charge, that they shouldn’t continue because the weather will be disastrous, but his captors ignore him and they sail.

13-15 When a gentle southerly breeze came up, they weighed anchor, thinking it would be smooth sailing. But they were no sooner out to sea than a gale-force wind, the infamous nor’easter, struck. They lost all control of the ship. It was a cork in the storm…

18-20 Next day, out on the high seas again and badly damaged now by the storm, we dumped the cargo overboard. The third day the sailors lightened the ship further by throwing off all the tackle and provisions. It had been many days since we had seen either sun or stars. Wind and waves were battering us unmercifully, and we lost all hope of rescue.

I know this feeling of losing “all control of the ship”.

I felt out of control on the plane.

I felt out of control when our daughter got sick in the slums of Nairobi, thousands of miles away from us.

I felt out of control when I was told I couldn’t have a job I wanted.

I felt out of control when my brother died.

You? Where do you feel out of control? In what area of life have you “lost all hope of rescue”?

21-22 With our appetite for both food and life long gone, Paul took his place in our midst and said, “Friends, you really should have listened to me back in Crete (Read: “I told you so”). We could have avoided all this trouble and trial. But there’s no need to dwell on that now. From now on, things are looking up! I can assure you that there’ll not be a single drowning among us, although I can’t say as much for the ship—the ship itself is doomed.

23-26 “Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet—and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what he told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.”

I love the phrase “stood at my side” because it reminds me that we have a 360 degree God. He goes behind, before, and beside us! He’s not limited by time or space. (Ps. 139:5)

And the bottom line? God doesn’t need a boat to rescue you. He walked on water.  If your hope is in the boat, when the boat goes down, your hope goes down.

On my trip, my hope couldn’t be in our defective plane. Instead I had to trust the pilot, and well…God.

Our hope isn’t in the boat. Our hope is in the One who made the wind and the waves. 

The storm continues, but…

33-34 With dawn about to break, Paul called everyone together and proposed breakfast: “This is the fourteenth day we’ve gone without food. None of us has felt like eating! But I urge you to eat something now. You’ll need strength for the rescue ahead. You’re going to come out of this without even a scratch!”

35-38 He broke the bread, gave thanks to God, passed it around, and they all ate heartily—276 of us, all told! With the meal finished and everyone full, the ship was further lightened by dumping the grain overboard…

44 Everyone made it to shore safely.

Do I want to do my best to make sure my boat is strong and safe? Absolutely. That’s just wise and responsible. But what are the signs that I’m trusting the boat more than the Maker?

  • When I am so busy “doing” – taking care of boat maintenance that I can’t take time to be still and rest or thank God.
  • When I fret instead of pray.
  • When I act quickly on what I can see, instead of asking God what I might be missing.

So, this morning I’m delighted to be put in my place as a passenger, remembering what God asked Job:

Have you ever given orders to the morning or shown the dawn its place? Job 38:12

Nope. But I’m trying to trust the One who does.

Have you had an experience of God reassuring you when you felt overwhelmed by the storms battering you and out of control?

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Continue reading

What to do When You Don’t Know What to Do

I’m trying to get my feet back on the ground after a stretching season, so today, a re-post from 4 years ago. 

I ran into a 23-year-old friend the other day and asked how she was doing. “Being in your twenties is…awkward!” she answered.  “All these questions about what you’re going to do with your life…who you’ll be, where you’ll go…what to say ‘yes’ to.”

That same day I had coffee with a fifty-something friend who said her son is wrestling with some of the same unsettledness, and she herself is in a time of transition that has raised questions about God’s direction.  She said, “I thought by this age I’d have it figured out and be cruising along!”

24 hours earlier I had had dinner with a thirty-something friend who said, “My life looks a lot different now than I thought it would.”

Each person’s situation was different, but there was a common theme.  If I were God (a job that’s apparently already taken) I’d give detailed instructions like:

“Susan, I want you to move to 673 Elm St., Provo Utah,  join the Church-of-People-on-the-Right-Track, take the job with State Farm, (not General Mills), and order the tomato soup at Panera for lunch.”

And sometimes in the Bible God does that, like when God gives Ananias specific instructions (Acts 9:11) to go to the house of Judas on the street called Straight, (Love it!), but often it’s a bit fuzzier, like in Acts 15:28 where Paul writes, “It seemed good to us and the Holy Spirit…”

When I’m in seasons of discernment and transition, the three words that I feel like God often whispers to me are “Open your hands”

  • Open your hands…to release your plans in favor of God’s. Acknowledge your dreams, but don’t clutch them.  Release them to God to change, add, refine…
  • Open  your hands…to receive counsel from wise advisors who know you well, but don’t clutch it either.
  • Open your hands…to use what God has put in them, whether that seems like saying “yes” to dramatic invitations, or something that seems very small and quiet.  Respond to what God has put right in front of you.

That’s just me.  What has been helpful to you when making life decisions?  What have you sensed God whispering to you?

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