Category Archives: Musings

What to say and what not to say to those grieving

For a number of years I struggled to know what to say at funerals, particularly in receiving lines. I actually wrote a poem entitled, when words are shallow, because of that struggle.

As we have gone through the passing of my mother it has been interesting to experience and observe how uncomfortable we as believers can be with death. And I’ve come to realize many of us don’t know what to say in times of difficulty.

One caveat before I write more. We have been incredibly blessed by so many people, which I have shared in previous posts. So, even when some didn’t know what to say and others said things that were not as helpful as intended, the overall care we received from our friends and church were great. But I am trying to learn from my own experience what doesn’t help and what does help.

Personal lessons

What can I do, when I’m the one grieving, to help others?

Be real–don’t try to hide hurt
Be open–people don’t know how to deal with other people’s grief; they take their cues from me
Be humble and grateful–let people do things for me, they care and want to help
Be verbal–detail what I need

What is not helpful to those who are grieving?

Don’t make it about yourself

“I’m sorry for your loss, I…”
“I’m sorry for your loss, I lost…”

Don’t try to equate it to your experience

“I know what you are going through, I…”

These first two are natural, but at the point of loss, it isn’t helpful to hear about the pain of another. That may be helpful later in the process when they are seeking to learn and move forward.

Don’t start giving advice too soon

“I’m sorry for your loss, you know you should…”
“I’m sorry for your loss, I learned that…”

Each person will grieve differently–so particularly early in the process, advice sounds hollow no matter how true it may be.

Don’t treat them as if they were broken

If you are going to hug, hug; they won’t break
Don’t get a sad expression on your face every time you see them

Don’t bring it up every time you see them

Let them bring it up if they want

Don’t expect them to get over it–quickly

Your life will return to normal quickly; their life may be changed forever.

They have a new normal that may take some time to adjust to;
don’t forget to care for them weeks or months after they experience loss.

Most will respond right way; support over the long haul is needed. This may take putting a note on your calendar.

The most common question that people ask–“how are you?”–may be a more difficult question than you intend.
Asking “how are you?” is such a normal question to ask; we often ask it before we even think. But when one has recently faced a loss and it is the primary thing others ask, it may be a bit much.

There isn’t always a good answer
They may not know what to say
It changes from moment to moment

If they want to share their feelings and hurt, they will.  But often they are left responding as if on autopilot–“Okay” or “Managing.”

A better question might be, “How was your day?”

What can I do to be helpful when someone is grieving?

The level of engagement should correspond to the level of relationship.
Those who are closer relationally will be able to do more–that is why establishing relationship prior to loss is so important.

Do focus on them
Do be there, but give them the space they need
Do offer to help with details
Do offer to make a meal–the mundane or routine things of life can be overwhelming
Do support them with prayer and kindness not volume of words
Do tell them specifically what you are praying for–not just that you are praying (though that is also an encouragement)

Knowing someone is praying for comfort or strength for the graveside or memorial service is wonderfully encouraging
Knowing that someone is praying for God’s grace, peace and hope is a faithful reminder and provides kind perspective

Encouraging Words, part 2

Between Facebook, texts, emails and cards we have received countless encouraging words since my mother entered the presence of the Lord.

Encouragement from those with whom I grew up in Guatemala.
Encouragement from those from different churches and institutions we have been connected to.
Encouragement from those whom my mother prayed for on multiple continents.
Encouragement from the faithful family at Calvary Church.
I am really overwhelmed with the kindness that has been expressed.

Another group of rather new friends who have also encouraged me are a group of global workers the Lord allowed me to serve in Asia.  I spent the majority of February in Cambodia leading a study of Doxologies, Benedictions and Prayers (a study I hope to upload sometime). During each of the two weeks I challenged the different groups to write a doxology and a prayer.

When they were informed that my mother had passed into the presence of her Lord, they wrote out their prayers for me. I will cherish these encouraging words. Words that reminded me of the truths I believe and had taught.  As a teacher they ministered deeply as they applied principles and passages I taught.

Though they are personal and all are meaningful, I’m sharing a few here with the hope of blessing and inspiring your hope–your certain anticipation. And as a reminder to me of what encouraging words sound like to hurting hearts.

Dear covenant-keeping, sovereign and loving Father, You know all things and do all things well. You are the healer of hearts and lifter of our heads. Will you lift up and hold up the heads and hearts of Steve and his family at this difficult time so that they see and you love you more. And through their doing this, also help others to see and love you more too. Please remind them of your lasting truth and eternal promises so that they will trust you completely. Through memories of her, remind them of your gracious faithfulness and lavishing love so that they will be renewed in faith and motivated to live in continued surrender to You. Please use Steve in these days to shine your light and love with your strength and wisdom so that You will be seen as very powerful and Your name will be proclaimed and You will be glorified.  In the powerful, life-changing name of Jesus, Amen.

Dear Father, I thank you for sending Steve to encourage us by teachings from your Word. I thank you for his mother who was faithful to your call to go to the nations and who birthed him and reared him to know and love you. Thank you for the many fruitful years you gave her on this earth to influence others into the kingdom and that we could receive some of the fruit of her tireless kingdom focused labor via the ministry of her son. Please open my brother Steve’s heart to have perspective and grateful joy in the midst of this temporary separation so that he may be comforted and not be encumbered from continuing to walk in step with your Spirit as you draw him closer still into the knowledge of your presence. You and You alone have conquered death and are the reason we can rejoice.

Dear loving Heavenly Father, I lift up my brother Steve before you.  May he be sooo secure in the reality of who you are and who he is in you– that he will be able to fully embrace the uncomfortable pangs of grief for himself, for his sister, for his sons and especially for his dad – all mixed with joy knowing where is mom is and how she is rejoicing in the wonder of the infinite God she lived for with her heart, mind, soul and strength.  I pray this so that others around him would see your strength and comfort through his grief.  I pray this so you are glorified as literally 100s of people see the authenticity of Steve’s life as one who believes what he teaches of your overwhelming infinite omni-competence in all areas of life.

Dear Father, Dad, my heart is grieved for my brother Steve, his sister and dad. I know the feeling since you have taken a parent you have given me home (and it still hurts- at times).  Give them your sweet Spirit’s comfort to quench the bitter taste of death.  Bring to their minds the joy of remembering the cherished times you provided for them together and bring to mind and heart the promise of being together again.  Shock those who need it to see the brevity of this life and cause us to number our days so that we will soberly and intentionally go about your business with your grace for your glory. And we ask all these things in Jesus name. Amen.

Father, I lift up Steve Kilgore to your throne asking that you will comfort him by your Spirit in his most inner being, that you will cause your peace to dwell in every part of his heart and conscience, that he will dig down deeply into your loving kindness, that he will comprehend your power to care for him and his loved ones, that you will help him to experience to the full the excelling acceptance that comes with knowing the Messiah, that you will fill him up with all the fullness of your own self, and finally, that you will give him confidence to know that you have already fully achieved this for his dear mom.

Encouraging Words, part 1

What encourages those who are grieving?

Some of the most encouraging words we received as we have faced the unexpected home going of my mother.

I have been praying for you regularly.
I’ve been praying that the Lord comfort and sustain you.

Can I help you with meals?
Can I do grocery shopping for you?
Can I help you with preparing anything for the memorial?

How can I serve you?

Your mother was so gracious in caring and snuggling with our kids in the nursery.
Your mother had such a positive attitude and influence in our ministry.
Your mother was so real.

Those are all things friends of ours have said and done–thank you!

Grieving with Hope

My Mom always said she wanted to be buried with a fork in her hand, because at every church pot luck, someone would say, “Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.”

We often talk about Christian hope, but we have trouble defining it.

In common use, “hope” is either as an emotion— “I feel hopeful” or an uncertainty—“I hope this will happen.”

But in Scripture and through the gospel and the possibility of a relationship with God made right, not based on our own merit but completely provided by the substitutionary death of Christ—our hope, was not just an emotion nor was it uncertain.

Biblical hope is a certain anticipation.
Not just simply belief in a truth, but an inspiring expectation, that the best is truly yet to come.

A young lady my mother had been mentoring mentioned to Mary Anne that she had not seen Christians grieve before.

So we have desired to grief with hope.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13, we are instructed that, in light of the reality of resurrection and the coming of the Lord, “that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.”

But we do grieve.
Grief hurts. There is a sense of pain from the loss.
Grief is numbing.
Grief brings a deep sadness.

Grief comes in waves, and they are cyclical. You don’t just go through them once.
Grief is not something you “just get over”—quickly.

Biblical hope is not a wish—“I hope so”
Biblical hope is not just an emotion—“I feel hopeful” or “I don’t feel hopeful”
Biblical hope is not just the reality of information—“I know there is a heaven”

Biblical hope has a certain focus—a focus not just on truth, but the One, Jesus Christ, who declared the truth.
Biblical hope has an excitement or anticipation to it—it looks to the future and therefore impacts the present.

Biblical hope is a certain anticipation

Biblical hope enables us to focus on the certainty of God’s word, the Person and work of Jesus Christ, including taking our place on the cross—freeing us from the guilt of sin and giving us His righteousness.

Biblical hope enables us to anticipate without fear the joyous, glorious reunion with Jesus Christ in the presence of God the Father.

Biblical hope does not remove present pain and difficulty—it provides perspective for pain and difficulty.

Biblical hope does not just provide an emotional relief—it provides a settled deep abiding peace even in the face of the uncertainty of life, when the tears come or when the hurt rises.

Biblical hope…
Motivates our daily walk
Inspires our service
Comforts our grief
Assures our doubts
Energizes our faith
Directs our perspective

Grief with hope is not a plastic, emotionless denial of pain.

Grief with hope is not fatalistic but believes in an all wise, caring, personal, good God.

Grief with hope should not be a solo role; it believes not just the truth of eternal life or the resurrection but the true nature of the Body of Christ.

Grief with hope is a moment by moment walk of faith that regularly must refocus on the certain anticipation of meeting Jesus.

Grief with hope is the certain expectation that the impact of the curse of sin has been defeated by Christ and that death truly has been swallowed up in the victory of Christ and that death truly has a limited sting.

My prayer is to grieve with hope.
To walk through, not stay in, the dark shadow of the valley of death.
To have a stronger more seasoned faith.
To be able to better comfort others who grieve.
To give a faithful testimony through word and deeds, to the certain anticipation of meeting Jesus face to face, in His full glory—fully forgive, fully transformed, fully alive.

Stephen C. Kilgore

March 2015

Cambodia Update

For the last two weeks I’ve had the privilege of a slower pace with time to reflect on Scripture as I prepared, reviewed and led two different groups of global workers in spiritual life conferences.

A few observations about context:

  • Gracious people with whom I can’t really communicate
  • The cultural differences–everyone selling the same products, even grouped together by same products, rather than finding a unique environment
  • Poverty and materialism intermixed
  • All the physical idols–at least one at every house or business
  • The smell of incense
  • Because of Chinese New Year–the evidence of superstition as people sacrifice to the gods–placing physical representations for what they wish will be true of the coming year

A few observations about those I came to serve:

  • One group fairly new to their contexts
    • Much uncertainty
    • Learning language and the reality that communication is much more than words–one must understand culture
  • Another group fairly seasoned, many in second fields
    • Very educated and very bright
  • One group with general freedom to be open about their beliefs
  • Another group in not only difficult contexts but dangerous ones (all know multiple workers who have been killed for their work)
  • All very compassionate to the needs of the people around them
  • All passionate about reproductive discipleship (discipling individuals to disciple others and so on)
  • All want to see more harvesters added
  • Some want to see peace in their region, so that people can gather to worship, which they dare not

A few observations about me

  • I am humbled by the way God chooses to use me.
  • I’m humbled to see the commitment, dedication, sacrifices and love these people have both for the Lord and those they are seeking to reach and realize I don’t love as I should.
  • I’m humbled by their passion for reproductive discipleship–helping others come to know the Lord, grow in Him and repeat the process with others. I used to do this more, so I need to carve more time out.
  • I truly am an introvert who needs solitude to be reenergized.

Having grown up overseas I can at times related to what global workers experience. But this trip gave me a great empathy. During one of our prayer times earlier in the week some were sharing the burden for grown children not walking with the Lord, the challenges of aging parents and the helplessness that distance creates in both situations. (And on top of that, having negative feeling expressed by family members who don’t appreciate the commitment they have to the Lord and do share frustration/hurt over perceived lack of commitment to extended family.)

I can also better empathize with the helpless feeling of being overseas when a family crisis is occurring back home–my Mother’s massive heart attack and a 12 hour difference make for difficulty in communication. But thankful for the ability to communicate, though frustrated when it doesn’t work as it should all the time. (My mother is progressing and the Lord is answering prayer in amazing ways. Thank you for praying.)

Paul’s amazing impossible prayer

(Updated re-post)

Paul normally includes an extensive prayers at the beginning of his letters. These prayers normally include some combination of the concepts: love, faith and hope along with some form of a challenge to growth resulting in effectiveness. As you read through the Pauline epistles you quickly see that these prayers (they often accompanying thanksgiving sections) are not just habit but very thoughtful. What he gives thanks for and what he prays are specific to the situation he is writing to.

One of the anomalies in the pattern of prayer is Ephesians. Not only do most scholars believe that Ephesians was a circular letter, not just intended for the church in Ephesus but the surrounding area. But this letter includes two length prayers.

The second prayer, is what I call Paul’s impossible prayer. And it has challenged (exhorted) the kinds of prayers I raise to God.

Before reading this passage, ask yourself, “If I could list all I prayed for this past week–what would it reveal about what I value most?”

Ephesians 3:14-19

Paul’s prayer, a response to (“for this reason”) what he has told his audience about their salvation, leads to a profound Trinitarian prayer for the strength of the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16), the indwelling of Christ (Ephesians 3:17) and the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

But it is not just a theological statement, it become a daily challenge when we realize the breath of the prayer.

Big Prayer

Ephesians 3:16-17a that according to the riches of his glory, he may grant you, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith–(ESV)

Paul’s prayer begins with a request that God–according to the riches of His glory… and the strength of His power… This is a big prayer. That the God of all glory, the Creator Sustainer Owner of all, would through His mighty power and unlimited resources strengthen us. How much can He strengthen us?–completely. Is there anything His empowering can’t sustain us through?–no.

But this is not just a statement of a fact about God–He is all-powerful. As wonderful as that truth is, Paul takes this core nature of God and asks God to apply it personally. His prayer is not that God would be all-powerful, He is. His prayer is that the All-powerful will apply that power personally and intimately–in our inner being.

Intimate goal

The big prayer continues,

Ephesians 3:17b-19a that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, (ESV)

Paul wants the strengthening to have a specific focus–to comprehend, to understand, to know the whole vastness (breath, length, height, depth) of Christ’s love. Part of what makes this an impossible prayer is that Paul prays that we would know the whole vastness of Christ’s love which “surpasses knowledge.” He wants us to know something that goes beyond our knowledge and understanding. But is not contrary to knowledge or dismisses knowledge.

Paul’s prayer is that we would have an experiential knowledge, a personal experiential intimate understanding of how much Christ loves us! Not just a realization of the fact of Christ’s love, but to fully personally, intimately appreciate the complete nature of Christ’s self-giving love.

All consuming result

The result of this prayer is that

Ephesians 3:19b that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (ESV)

Again, the impossible prayer, ends with another big request–that we finite creatures be fill with the fullness of the infinite God.

The prayer is that as we are strengthened by the All-power–personally, and as we become intimately acquainted with the comprehensive love of Christ that we might be totally consumed by the infinite God.

WOW!

Impossible or the picture of spiritual maturity?

This passage first challenges me to want a greater connection, understanding and a more intimate relationship with God.

Second, the passage challenges my puny, small, weak, selfish, self-focus, concrete time-bound prayers. Not that we should not prayer for those things, but the vast majority of prayers I pray and I hear prayed are so small compared to Paul’s prayer.

Response

The only possible response? Worship.

Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen

What we ask is an overflow of being consumed by God. To Him be glory.

Realization

1. That we pray to the size of our God and faith.
2. God does not fit the limitations of our expectations.

May we learn to pray in a way that honors the majesty, magnitude and the intimate personal nature of God.

“Give thanks to the Lord for…”

This morning I decided to do a quick search on thanksgiving.  I started with the phrase “give thanks to the Lord for…”

What I discovered was interesting.  I expected phrases like “for he is good” or “he is holy.” But the consistent pattern in the Old Testament is…

“give thanks to the Lord for”

1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

1 Chronicles 16:41 With them were Heman and Jeduthun and the rest of those chosen and expressly named to give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.

2 Chronicles 7:6  The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD that King David had made for giving thanks to the LORD—for his steadfast love endures forever—whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood.

2 Chronicles 20:21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the LORD, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

Psalm 106:1 Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 107:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm  118:1 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm  118:29 Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever. (ESV)

A reminder that whether we are going through difficult circumstances or we are experiencing a time of abundance–the character of God’s does not change.

He is always good.
He is always loyal in His love toward us.

Therefore, we can trust His providence, provision, presence and precepts.

God does not change and His love is indeed steadfast, loyal, unchanging–I thank Him for His faithful.