Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: grieving

Spiritual mourning

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

There is an obvious way of understanding these words. We encounter sorrow and loss during our lives that are cause for mourning, and we can find comfort in Jesus that is not available anywhere else.

  • But these seemingly simple words also contain a far deeper meaning:We need to mourn for our own sins, like David: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.” (Psalm 51)We need to mourn for conditions in the church: “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it” (The apostle Paul to the church at Corinth). “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (The message in the book of Revelations to the church at Ephesus). Jesus wept over Jerusalem.
  • We should grieve for Christians who are separated from a truly spiritual church fellowship. “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria. . . but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph” (Amos 6:1-6). We often hear the first part of verse one and think that is the message. But God gave Amos a burden for those in the apostate kingdom of Israel, led by the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, sons of Joseph, because they were separated from the true worship of God in the temple at Jerusalem. God sent Hosea to Israel with the message that God sorrowed for wayward Israel just as Hosea sorrowed for his wayward wife.
  • We should grieve for conditions in the world we live in, not only for those in faraway lands, but also for the people who are our near neighbours. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Galatians 5:14). “ But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 John 3:17).
  • The apostle Paul said “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” This leaves us no ground to think of ourselves as better than others. We cannot serve the Lord with that kind of thought in our minds. First, we must grieve for our sinfulness, weakness and inadequacy. Then we see others as being the same as we are. We are in a world ruled by hostile spiritual forces and we have no strength in ourselves to overcome those forces. Our only hope is Jesus Christ.

“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). Isn’t that the meaning of the beatitude quoted above?

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6).

Pookie come home

Pookie wasn’t here to greet me when I came home Tuesday evening after taking my wife to the airport. Pookie,a little flame point Siamese, showed up on our doorstep two years ago in fall, a feral kitten looking for a home. We didn’t need a third cat, but pretty soon he had captured our affection and we couldn’t think of letting him go. He is the Energizer bunny of the cat world, and is always there to give an enthusiastic greeting when he hears the car coming. This time he wasn’t there, and didn’t come when I called.

Finally, after dark, he showed up. He had wounds on his head between his ear and his eye and below his chin. He had been attacked a week earlier by some creature and we were giving him antibiotics to quell the infection from that. I hoped that the antibiotic in his bloodstream, plus the two remaining pills, would be enough to prevent any infection from this new attack. By Thursday evening I knew it wasn’t going to be enough, so I took him with me when I went to the Delisle vet clinic to work on their bookkeeping. He got one antibiotic pill there at the clinic and another that evening.

Our most lively cat had become lethargic and slow moving, yet yesterday morning he wanted to go out. I expected that he would only be out a short time, but the hours went by and no Pookie appeared. I finally called the lady on the farm next to our acreage and she said she had not seen Pookie, but that all their cats went into hiding during the day because of the dogs. Their son and his family are moving back from Alberta and the dogs are staying next door until they can move to their new home. But the dogs are penned up in the evening and then the cats come out to be fed.

Evening came, and still no Pookie. By this time I had worked through most of the grieving process, from denial to anger and finally acceptance that I probably would not see him again. Just before I went to bed, I decided to look once more. In my pyjamas, with slippers on my feet and a flashlight in my hand, I opened the door to go out . . . and in walked Pookie.

He must have found a safe place to sleep the day away and was moving  with greater ease than in the morning. I popped a pill in his mouth, made sure he had enough to eat, went to bed and slept peacefully.

I wondered about my feelings, is it right to be so emotionally affected by the supposed loss of an animal? We humans seem often to be unbalanced in our love. Some people are animal lovers, but have difficulty getting along with people. Some people profess a love for their fellow man, yet are very hardhearted toward animals. I don’t believe either extreme is pleasing to God.

Wasn’t it the shepherd’s love for his sheep that gave meaning to the Old Testament sacrifices? Shepherds knew their sheep, called them by name, took care of their needs, protected them, and loved them. God asked them to take the very best out of their flock and to offer it as a sacrifice for their sins. Don’t you suppose they were reminded again and again how serious their sins were when they had to take a sheep that they loved and offer it as a sacrifice to atone for their sins?

David went from tending his father’s flock as a shepherd to tending his heavenly Father’s flock as king. He never lost the heart of a shepherd. When he sinned by numbering the people and the death angel was sent among the people, David said: “Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house” (2 Samuel 24:17).
Isn’t this why David was a man after God’s own heart?

Finally, it took the sacrifice of Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, the perfect Lamb of God, to bring an end to the slaughter of animals as atonement for sin. Don’t you suppose the Father’s heart was broken when Jesus cried out from the cross “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

No suffering is pleasing to God, He knows every sparrow that falls. He has no pleasure in the death of sinners, yet the death of His own Son makes plain the terrible reality that sin separates us from God.

 

Precious memories

My mother died seven years ago today, December 31, 2006 at 9:00 p.m.  If she had lived another 18 days, she would have been 99.

Not that I would have wished another 18 days for her just so she could reach that landmark.  She began to show signs of dementia in her early nineties and her last couple of years were difficult.  Then she caught a norovirus that was going round the nursing home where she lived.  She recovered from that, but it left her so weakened that she only lived a few more days.

She lived with us until she needed more care than we could provide at home.  Then we placed her in the Mennonite Nursing Home at Rosthern, Saskatchewan.  This was a wonderful place.  It helped Mom that in her confused state she decided this was the house her Uncle Pete had built.  Uncle Pete’s house must have been much smaller than this sprawling nursing home complex, and it was hundreds of miles away.  Never mind, it made Mom feel like she was not in a totally unfamiliar place.

Mom did not want to get dressed in the morning, because the clothes the staff wanted here to put on were not her clothes.  The trouble was that the only clothes she would have recognized by this time were the clothes that she had worn 75 years ago.  The staff people were patient with her and eventually coaxed her to let them help her get dressed anyway.

She fought when they tried to give her a bath and the staff asked for permission to sedate her at those times.  We gave our permission, but they never did use a sedative, finding ways to get her bathed without too much stress.

When our daughter was expecting her first child, almost five years earlier, Grandma was the first person she told and Grandma rejoiced with her.  Later, Grandma had a dim understanding that Michelle had a second child.  Now, in Grandma’s very last days, Michelle brought her third child, four months old, and showed her to Grandma.  The smile that Grandma gave was a little glimmer of light in that dark time.  We weren’t sure by then if Mom even knew who we were anymore, but the sight of the baby must have brought some happy thoughts.

The funeral was in Moose Jaw, where Mom had lived for many years.  We were touched by all the family and friends who came to show that they cared.  There were a few more details to look after and then we were left with our memories.

The memories of the difficult lady my mother became in her last years have faded and I am left with sixty years of memories of the wonderful, sweet lady that my mother really was.  She was born with congenital hip dysplasia and in later years told me that she had never walked without pain.  Yet she went on walks with me when I was little, even ran foot races with me.  She was a hard-working farm wife, cooking, baking, canning, and all the other tasks of making a home.  I remember her singing hymns in the vehicle whenever we drove any distance.  She loved to read and was my first and best teacher.

When I married, she accepted my wife as a daughter and they became very close.  She was delighted when a new generation began with the birth of our daughter.  When we moved to Eastern Canada she came and spent a couple of weeks with us each year.  We tried to get back to Moose Jaw every second year.  When Michelle was nine years old and my wife was going through weekly chemotherapy after cancer surgery, Mom came and spent several months with us, keeping the home running smoothly while Chris sometimes felt so tired.  Just having Mom there made this time easier for us all.

It doesn’t lessen the pain of parting to know a loved one is near death.  When the earthly ties that bind us together are cut, there will be pain.  Healing comes from in facing that pain and going through a proper funeral, sharing memories with friends and family, and accepting that this person who has been part of one’s life forever is not here anymore.  When the pain of parting has healed, the good memories come flooding back.

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