Posts Tagged ‘Grief’

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Psalm 1 Tree weathering a storm – © by Ross Cochrane

Psalm 1:1-3 – HOW CAN I WEATHER THE STORMS OF LIFE

It was just a breath but it felled the supports of her life that day, and for a moment she was a lone tree in a forest where hundreds of carefully nurtured hopes and dreams had been uprooted in the storm.

“What will I do now? We were together for 67 years”.

Alone, vulnerable but still standing, briefly she had wanted to join him and no longer feel the pain of her loss.

But as Elaine (not her real name) looked around her once more, it seemed that other parts of her world had survived the storm after all. With the Pastors words and prayers, she realized that Faith was still standing, though some of its branches and foliage were in bad repair, and there was Love’s support, strong and unmoving, reaching out with hugs and tears as family members came to her side. She glanced through a haze of grief and for just a moment saw Hope still standing wearily in the distance.

Psalm 1:3 says, “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”  

Their roots are anchors, and they are storm sturdy. They are secure in life’s ragings Ephesians 3:17-18 (NLT) says “Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.”

Colossians 2:7 (NLT) “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Elaine gives thanks through her tears for Jim, a codebreaker in the war and a wonderful husband and father, and a man of faith.

For Elaine, this storm has made her aware of the depth of her roots in Christ and in her old age she gives witness to Psalms 92:12-14 (NLT); “…the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age, they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.”

Psalm 1:3 says “They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”  

Grounded in the principles of the Scriptures her roots have gone deep to that which of eternal value, that which is unmoved in the storms of life, that which is solid and sustaining, an anchor of hope for the future.

“What will I do now?” she says again, tears coursing down her wrinkled face. She hears the words of Christ through the noise of grief. His invitation to Elaine and to us is “Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. … I am the vine; you are one of My branches … Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Hear the wind of the Spirit blowing through the trees and feel the warmth and light from above, as Christ says, “abide in Me.” (John 15:4-5 NLT).

Pastor Ross

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

 Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 75

No-one dared to stop Joab. The door was nearly unhinged as he thrust it open and roared at David with the gravelly voice more like that of a war-cry, “Today you have covered this city with shame. Everywhere I go the faces of the warriors who saved your life and the lives of your family are filled with a sense of regret. Your sons and daughters, your wives and your concubines are alive today because of them but it seems that you love your enemies who hate you and use you, and you hate those who proved their love by killing your enemies. I don’t understand you at all. You have shown today that those who serve you mean nothing to you. If Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead, maybe then you would be pleased.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. How am I supposed to feel about the death of my son? What do you expect of me?”

“I expect you to go out to your servants who fought hard to save you today and have some kind things to say to them, instead of heaping guilt upon them. I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out to them now there will not be one man left to stand with you by the time this night is through. You don’t seem to realise that if they leave you now this could be the worst thing that has ever happened to you.”

“All right, Joab! Leave me!” It seemed that the spirit of Absalom still had the power to wrest a kingdom from David’s hand, this time by using his grief.

David came to his senses and despite the ache in his heart, he went out and sat between the inner and outer gate of the city. The news travelled quickly and everyone came to see their king and to share their victory with him.

Many people were already making their way back to Jerusalem. Absalom was dead. They wondered what the future held for them but they could do no more than to return to their homes.

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

Zadok and Abiathar wasted little time with preliminary greetings but said, “King David has sent word to us. He has told us to speak with you. His message is, ‘Why is it that you are the last to bring your king back to Jerusalem and to his palace. All of Israel waits for you. You are my brothers; bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Why then should you be the last ones to take action?’” Relief swept across the elder’s faces as sat together at the gate of Jerusalem, except for Amasa, Shimei and Mephibosheth who were among them.

Zadok continued, “King David also says to you, Amasa, ‘You are my own flesh and blood, my nephew. May God deal with me severely if I do not appoint you to be commander of the army in place of Joab.’” David intended to replace Joab because he had disobeyed him concerning his son, but to place such trust in the man who led the opposing army against him was almost more than these men could comprehend.

Humbly, Amasa gave voice to their thoughts. “What kind of king could forgive in such a way as this? King David bears no malice. He truly is a man after God’s own heart.”

“Perhaps he will find it in his heart to forgive me also.” said Shimei.

A message was sent to the king immediately, inviting him to return.

There were no stones in Shimei’s hands this time as he met king David at the Jordan. “Forgive me, my lord. Please do not remember the wrong I did to you when you left Jerusalem. Please don’t take these things to heart. I know that I have sinned. That’s why I am here. I wanted to be the first to meet with my lord the king.”

Abishai had no sympathy. He said, “This scoundrel deserves to die! He has cursed the Lord’s anointed! What reason do we have for not putting him to death, my lord? What would you have me do with him?”

David spoke directly and firmly to Abishai, “You have also opposed me when you all disobeyed me concerning Absalom. Perhaps the question you should be asking is what will I do with you? Let me make it quite clear that it is not a good idea for you sons of Zeruiah to make mention of the death sentence concerning those who have cursed the Lord’s anointed.”

Looking out at a sea of serious faces, David smiled and said, “Why should any man be put to death in Israel today? This is a day to celebrate! This day I am king over Israel!” There was much cheering and a shout went up that seemed to echo in eternity and down the corridors of time, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

The king crossed the Jordan with his people. David forgave those who had opposed him such as Amasa, acknowledged those who were disabled such as Mephibosheth, and honoured those who were old like Barzillai, the man who had provided for him in Manahaim.

“Such a king as David will rule with justice.” Barzillai said to his old friend Obed-edom, “It seems that as our king returns, the very presence of God is also returning to Jerusalem with him.”

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 39

Those in court seem to instinctively and collectively step back towards the door to distance themselves from the presence of God as Nathan speaks. The courtroom empties as David slumps forward from his throne with nowhere to escape but to his knees, tears streaming down his face, the full weight of months gone, now pressing upon his shoulders. Only Absalom and the amanuensis remain, but they are in the shadows. The spotlight of God’s presence rests heavily upon David’s conscience. He speaks, but the words are no more than a groan that comes from somewhere deep within,

“I have sinned against the Lord.”

Silence envelopes the room and it seems that God reaches down and touches David, for his body trembles as Nathan says, “The Lord also has taken away your sin. You shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that is born to you shall surely die.” Absalom slips from the room unnoticed. Nathan is gone almost as quickly as he had come and David lies prostrate before the Lord for some time.

As predicted, the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David became very sick.

Grief-stricken, David retreated in prayer for his child; He fasted and lay prostrate before the Lord all that night on the ground. Friends and counsellors in his palace encouraged him to eat but he was unwilling. As kings advisor, Absalom came to David and said “Your people are waiting for you to judge their cases. Why won’t you listen to them?” David remained silent, prostrate before the Lord. He had lost the power to act at all on behalf of his people. Then he murmured with a voice of deep anguish, “How can I seek justice for my people when the judgement of God still rests heavily upon me and upon my innocent son? You don’t seem to understand that he is dying in my place. Now leave me.” Absalom left and pondered this situation to see if he could gain any advantage.

It seemed that David lost his interest in hearing the cases of his people in court from that time on. Absalom’s interest, however, increased. As one of the kings sons and advisors, he determined to judge their cases. It will be good practise for when I am king. For now, I cannot do it from the throne of course, but in time…

Each night the others who sat at the king’s table were quiet, waiting to see what would happen. David, absent from the table, continued his fasting and praying day after day while the child lingered. Then, on the seventh day, the circumstances of the child changed.

The servants were afraid to tell David at first. They were afraid that he might do something to harm himself. But David noticed his servants whispering together and understood that the child was dead.

When he knew for sure, he got up, washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes; and went into the Tabernacle to worship the Lord. He accepted fully the consequences of his sin and thanked the Lord for His justice mixed with His mercy. His life had been spared yet forgiveness had come with so great a price. Then he went back to his own house, and requested food. When Absalom saw the change in David, he was confused. He asked the servants what had happened to bring the king back to his right mind. They related David’s words to him,

“While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; because I thought, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.’ But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?”

For a while he had thought that his father may have lost his sanity. Certainly, he thought, he had completely lost his ability to rule. In David’s absence, it had been he who had been hearing the cases of the people. He felt that he was the only one aware of what was needed in the kingdom. In conceding that his father was well again, he said simply to David,

“Despite your absence, you will find your kingdom is still intact. We have not lost the war with the Ammonites and your people’s needs are still being cared for”.

David said “Thankyou, my son. I knew that I could rely on you.” The comment was fleeting as David left the room to be with Bathsheba in her time of need.

GOD’S PHOTO BOOK OF ENID FLORENCE SHEDDEN

IMG_1472Julie produces a photo book every year. She writes so beautifully about the journey of our family and as the year is captured through her eyes and words I always see and read of the intertwining stories of the generations. Perhaps it is most obvious when Julie visits her Mum with our grandchildren in the Donald Coburn centre, an aged care facility in Sydney.

I have read some well-crafted fragments beautifully woven together from the fabric of our lives in her books, and now our grief will also be shepherded gently into the pages. Enid, my mother-in-law, Julie’s Mum, our children’s Nan and grandchildren’s great nan went home to be with the Lord on Saturday morning, peacefully slipping away in her sleep.

She valued the book Julie made about her husband Colin. She loved looking at his face on the cover and the treasury of photos within became a source of reminiscing of days gone by.

Enid and Colin’s love story, in fact, was like a beautifully crafted novel, but for us it now seems like the last page has been turned, and although we worked out what would happen, the ending still took us by surprise. Perhaps that’s because the story is not quite complete. The Author expects us to capture the moments and write the end of the story.

This week has been trying to find a fitting way to fill the empty pages, and so we, by way of a eulogy and what we share in conversations, create some kind of conclusion to a story that encapsulates Enid’s life in the words we say and the memories we have of her.

IMG_3224For me what is written in my memory is a woman who didn’t like me much when she first met me. My hair was too long and I was too quiet. Still, almost imperceptively, I remember times in the little country town of Tumut, there in her kitchen, opening up to her as she cooked.

Mostly we talked about the Bible, faith and family. She loved Colin so much and I have never seen a couple more in love with each other or more dedicated to their relationship with Christ.

Her faith in Christ was genuine and she had an assurance that she would one day be with the Lord in heaven – “absent from the body, present with the Lord”.

I had never known that such a family existed and wanted to know more. She came to love me as her favourite son-in-law. I know it’s written differently in the memory of the other son-in-laws, but that’s how I felt. Loved. I value that gift.

GOD WRITES A DIARY

God also writes. He has an ongoing diary, especially of our grief. He sees more significance in our sorrow than we do, perhaps because our attention is drawn to eternity.

Psalm 56:7-9 says “You Lord, keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have RECORDED EACH ONE IN YOUR BOOK.”

I was thinking of the way God writes last night, about how God has written a generational diary called the BOOK OF TRUTH, the Bible, and the BOOK OF LIFE where the names of those who believe in Christ as their Saviour are written.

His Book of Truth made such a difference in Enid and Colin’s life and it inspired them to make an investment in the lives of many people. I remember the string of missionaries they supported and the way they were always willing to help us on our journey in life.

Psalm 139:13 speaks of yet another book, a DIARY. It says that “You (God) saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was RECORDED IN YOUR BOOK. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Our life before God really is an open book.

LOVE STORY

IMG_9576When God wrote Enid’s life, perhaps it was an historic novel, a long book to depict the 87 years of a full and fruitful life. Many chapters.

Somehow I think God had a love story in mind, a romance novel, love for Colin, love for her children and their spouses, love for her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, but undergirding all that was her love for Christ.

The Holy Spirit wrote into Mum’s marriage words such as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit characterised their life together. It is expressed best by the words of the verse Julie chose to characterise her Mum. She had “… the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4 NIV).

THE DEDICATION PAGE

IMG_2730The dedication page of a book always catches my attention. The Romance novel of Enid’s life includes a dedication page. As you would expect it is dedicated to the Lord, to Colin and her family.

She leaves behind the pages of a legacy of faith and love for us, as her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She prayed for every one of us to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Enid and Colin would pray every day for us.

THE LAST PAGE

Have you ever read a book that you just couldn’t wait to finish but when you got to the last page it was missing? I once read a version of The Pilgrims Progress and the last few pages had been torn out. It was years later that I finally discovered the ending.

From our point of view, that’s what Enid’s book looks like. We have read only the first part of the book. God holds the other pages for the next chapters of her life. He has totally restored the book, crafted to last for eternity.

THE FIRST EDITION

We have only the first edition copy. It’s way out of date, constantly being revised. The rest of the book will never be finished for us, but God is a prolific writer. There is no ending, no tears, no more crying in eternity for Enid and Colin.

PLAGIARISING

I don’t think that Mum would mind if we plagiarise some of the material for our own lives, especially her faith in Christ. What God writes on the remaining pages of our lives has now become of vital importance and significance as we step up.

I wonder what Julie’s Photobook diary will say about our family this year. Perhaps more significant is – I wonder what it is, in the way we live out this year, that will move God’s hand to write another page of the heritage we share.

Pastor Ross – son-in-law to Enid and Colin

Matthew 16:21-24 – THE COST OF SAYING GOODBYE

The Cost of Saying Goodbye

The Cost of Saying Goodbye

I move close to his right ear. “Gidday Dad. It’s Ross. I know you are going through a tough time. We love you. You have had a stroke and we are here to pray for you.” My father-in-law breathes out a rasping “Thanks”. … then, all too soon, at 84, he is gone.

The numbing shock of his funeral is now over and his memory leaves ineffaceable marks, raw but beautiful on our hearts. So soon, and now the morning saps strength from my lovely wife as she is confronted with her loss afresh in the waking moments.

This morning I read Matthew 16:21 (NLT) “From then on Jesus began to tell His disciples plainly that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem, and that He would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day He would be raised from the dead.”  

I am reminded that God is intimately acquainted with our grief; the gravity of death and sorrow. Jesus has spoken of his death before. Now in the light of Peter’s confession; “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”, He says it more plainly. No more parables, pictures and symbols, just simple, direct words that cut to the core and whisper grief into the air. Peter’s confession of faith marks a tipping point in history that now inexorably hurtles Jesus towards the horror of the Cross. Everything within us opposes such utterances of loss. The cost of commitment on our hearts is too deep, even in the light of the resurrection.

So it is not surprising in Matthew 16:22 (NLT) when “Peter takes Jesus aside and begins to reprimand Him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,”He says. “This will never happen to You!” 

It is not an unusual response of the human heart, but it is not accurate and not at all helpful. Rebellion and denial rise up in us when faced with the death of those we love. Peter has just been commended by Jesus for hearing from God. He is given the Keys to the Kingdom but in a wave of grief he now seeks to lock the doors of heaven’s will from the earth. The rock becomes a stumbling stone.

“Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Get away from Me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to Me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23 NLT). No longer is he blessed as one who has heard from God, but rebuked as one who he has spoken blasphemy in denying the reality and inevitability of the Cross.

Peter is desperately urging Jesus to bypass the Cross. How tempting for Christ to compromise rather than be committed. Jesus had heard such temptation in a wilderness 3 years earlier and recognised the voice of Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan it seems also sees things from a human perspective. God’s perspective was for Jesus to suffer and die for our sins, not avoid the Cross for a crown? To be an adversary to the Cross is to be an adversary to God. The way to God is through surrender not through selfish presumption. To war against Satan is to take up the Cross, not refuse it. “… Jesus says to His disciples, “If any of you wants to be My follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24 NLT). 

In a hospital room Jesus is not distant even though we don’t want to think about suffering or death. He insists that things must flow from heavens point of view not ours. We may not always understand the “Why’s” but we are called to hear God’s voice and trust in Him.

When death is thrust upon us there is no choice but to accept it, but when death is planned and deliberate and willed by God Himself through all eternity, we stand in awefilled disbelief. Yet 1 Peter 3:18 (NLT) says “Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit. “

Jesus does not burden us with more than we can endure or with anything that He has not borne Himself. The joy and hope of spending eternity with Christ encourages us to bear the barren heartache of seeing someone we love die. We prefer another way but there is no other door but death to lead those with faith in Christ to the Father’s throne. There is no other invitation so important as the one Christ gives to turn from our selfish ways, take up the Cross and follow Him.

Reluctantly at the service we release into the hands of God Colin Malcolm Shedden, Dad, Pa, Great Pa, a man after God’s own heart. David Brainwood plays so beautifully the hymns of faith as we recoil at the cost of grief. His father Rev. Ernest Brainwood the evangelist, long ago, led Colin to the Cross. Now the music of the Son echoes in the corridors of heaven to accompany Colin safely home.

Pastor Ross

SWAN LAKE REQUIEM

Posted: July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO HAVE PASSED AWAY RECENTLY

Swarn Lake Requiem

Rebecca Warren writes beautifully. One phrase that stood out as I sat reading her article made me think about a funeral I have conducted recently. “In the exhausted depression that too much grief can bring”. 

 http://beckslovelyblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/resurrection-in-dark.html

So let me begin with those words. “In the exhausted depression that too much grief can bring”, there where sorrow tries to hum its requiem, I still can picture the faces of those who have recently passed away, and I hear the joyful music of their influence, dancing its way around my heart.

What song can you sing when there are two different melodies, one sad and one joyful melody, competing with each other? What can you sing when eternity envelops our existence and draws the life of someone away, someone you have loved?

Not even the most experienced of musicians can adequately capture on a manuscript the musical score of what plays inside our heart when someone dies. The crescendo of an old and well-lived life seems to falter until all voices are silenced, and we are left feeling hollow and empty.

A few days ago, there I was once again, as the Chaplain of Shalom, with an empty manuscript, feeling that I was unskilled, but ready to create a tribute for someone who had recently passed away, hoping that it would be like an orchestral piece for a ballet or a beautiful song to honour a life well lived.

At those times, I need God’s help. He has created the original score for all our lives. He is the Master Musician. We all need His help when He comes to compose the finale of our time on here earth. 

Psalm 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.”

As a Chaplain working in an overtly Christian organisation, I always try to encourage people to put their faith in Jesus Christ, who has died for our sins and offers us the gift of eternal life to those who have faith in Him. I have found that faith in Him is a great strength to those who face the final stage of their lives. I think we all need His help and strength, but especially then. 

All we can do is say goodbye when someone dies, but faith in Christ gives me hope for the future for my own life. Psalm 30:11 says…“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever”

Pastor Ross