Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I am Listening

Speak for I am listening

When I was 19 years old, I used to take my mother to work in the morning before attending classes at Pensacola Junior College (now Pensacola State College). On the drive one day, it seems that my mother was giving me a discourse on doing well in school, taking care of chores around the house and blah, blah, blah. During this 10 minute lecture, my thoughts drifted off to other things which seemed far more interesting to me at the time. When arriving at my Mom’s workplace, I snapped out of my day dream just in time to hear “….and don’t forget this because it’s really important”. Of course, I had to confess to Mom that I really hadn’t heard one word that she had said throughout the whole time. Most surprising to me was that she took it very well. It was a relief to her to know that I really was interested in listening to her “sometimes”. She wanted me to pick her up from work at the end of the day because my father wouldn’t be able to. That was pretty important to know.

There have been other times in my life when I didn’t listen.  I haven't listened to God, either because I was distracted by other things or too focused on myself and what I wanted to do. Yes, I missed out on some things that were pretty important to know. Today, when I reflect on those times, I feel called to remember the spirit of Samuel.
 And the LORD came and stood forth, calling as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for thy servant hears." And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. (1Samuel 3:10)

I truly believe that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason-so we can listen twice as hard as we speak. As a result when we offer support to others we need to be an “active listener” rather than being ready to offer advice or form judgment on what we hear.  Active listening involves being truly engaged and present to the other person’s words and message. That then allows our Brother or Sister in Christ to hear his or her own words, as we reflect their content, feelings and spiritual concerns, and God then begins to work in that person making  changes.

While he was yet speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold, a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (Matt 17:5).

Most people think of listening as a simple, natural, and passive activity, but it can be powerful as a caregiving tool for others in need. Using Jesus as our model, Stephen Ministers at St. Paul’s learn the skill of active listening, which involves true commitment and patience from them. Our Stephen Ministers learn to listen for more than just words. They seek true understanding and empathy. Here’s how a Care Receiver once eloquently expressed how a caring Stephen Minister helped her:

"I had lots of people around me but felt like the loneliest person in the world. Everyone told me what they thought I should do, but no one wanted to hear me." "My Stephen Minister is very special to me. I was listened to, cared about, prayed for, taught, loved, and nurtured. I have a true sister in Christ"

If you need someone to talk to about the challenges and problems that you are facing, a Stephen Minister will walk with you in Christ while truly listening to you in a non-judgmental way. Listening is the cornerstone of this ministry and Stephen Ministers consider what you have to say as pretty important to know. If the message in this blog is speaking to you, consider contacting Carmen Guttmann at 475-2514 or Nick Thorpe at 484-4854.   JG

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida:

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Sign of the Cross: A Lenten Reflection

I am reading Edward Sri’s "A Biblical Walk Through The Mass: Understanding What We Say And Do In The Liturgy." First, he covers the Sign of the Cross, stating that we, first, are expressing our desire to be set apart from the corrupt ways of the world in our own day and, secondly, that we are invoking God’s protection for our lives, asking Him to guard us from all harm and evil.

This caused me to pause and examine myself. Is it really my desire to be set apart from the corrupt ways of the world? Mr. Sri continued: “…making the sign of the cross can express a firm commitment to live according to Christ’s standards, not the world’s. While the secular world holds up money, pleasure, power, and having fun as the essential marks of a good life, Christians pursue a higher path to true happiness, which is found only in the sacrificial love of Christ on Calvary—the love symbolized by the sign of the cross.” This caused me to question whether I honestly loved God. What does it mean to love God?

We are commanded to love God with all our heart—which encompasses my whole mind, emotions, and strength. This means not seeking paths of my choosing, by seeking the path of God. The Sign of the Cross will be a way of reminding me to pray that God give us the grace to “desire to be set apart from the corrupt ways of the world” and then to give us the grace to turn our backs upon them, having a greater desire for holiness.

By God’s grace, this will be a good preparation for the Mass. If, during the week, we are doing the Sign of the Cross, expressing our desire to be set apart from corrupt ways, how much more will the impact be when we come into the literal presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, preparing to receive Him—body, blood, soul, and divinity—into our very bodies.

I am a sinner, yet I must move my mind forward. I am not invoking God Almighty in order that I may continue in my sins. We are sinner-saints, sinners on a journey to being saints. Confessing that we are sinners is a sign of humility; nevertheless, we cannot become comfortable in our sins. Our Lord compares sinners to the sick. The sick need to be healed; sinners need to be healed. If there is no progression towards holiness, then there is no faith. T.T.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lent: It is Not Just About Me

In this Lenten season my mind keeps returning to Advent and how fitting it is that Lent comes so quickly after Advent. John 3:16 would not have the effect it does were it not for the season of Advent.

Think of the animal or insect that you dislike the most, and then think of the person you hold in the highest esteem. What would you think if that esteemed person willing and of his own ability became the animal or insect you dislike the most. You would probably look at that animal or insect more close and in a different light. This is how I look at Christ. Oh, how God must love humanity and how great His desire must be that we not perish. The Incarnation—how marvelous it is!

The short period of time after Advent gave me some time to contemplate on the greatness of God’s love for humanity--the little that I am able to do because of sin. It gives me fuller enlightenment to the phrase in Eucharistic Prayer IV, “yet you, who alone are good, the source of life, have made all that is, so that you might fill your creatures with blessings…” When the human race fell through original sin, He did not cast us away, was not willing that we should perish, so much so that His Only Begotten Son became Incarnate that He might redeem us. Jesus did not become Incarnate, suffer, die, and rise again in order that I might be saved in my sins, in order that I might continue sinning; but in order that we might be freed from sin and live holy lives, holy lives pleasing to a Holy Father. By the grace of God, may this Lenten season give me more meaning to denying myself and taking on more things which are pleasing to our Triune God.

When I was a Baptist, I heard almost every Sunday that we needed to “accept Jesus as our personal Savior.” That is not necessarily incorrect, although it keeps the focus on self. As a Catholic, I find myself focusing more on the Body. It is not only about me. Perhaps, my prayers may be about matters which others neglect to see; and, perhaps, they are praying for matters which I neglect to see.
May this Lenten season, by the grace of God Almighty, lead us to a more meaningful Easter season. T.T.

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Life was a Revolving Door: But I knew I needed Christ

LORD, teach me the way of your statutes; I shall keep them with care. Give me understanding to keep your law, to observe it with all my heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for that is my delight. Direct my heart toward your testimonies and away from gain. Avert my eyes from what is worthless; by your way give me life. For your servant, fulfill your promise made to those who fear you. Turn away from me the taunts I dread, for your judgments are good. See how I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life (Ps 119.33-40).

What strikes me in this passage is the psalmist’s inability to do anything good. He says, “[If You] LORD, teach me…I shall keep…; [if You] give me understanding…; [give me understanding] to observe [Your] law…; lead me…; direct my heart…; avert my eyes…; by Your way, give me life…”

As a teenager, when I first read through the Gospels, I came to the conclusion that obeying the New Testament was more difficult than the Old Testament, that the requirements were more stringent and, frankly, impossible. I have met people who think the requirements of the New are easy: All you have to do is love. They fail to understand the true definition of “love,” that it is a continuous, sacrificial love. When I read through the Gospels as a teenager, I gave up because I realized the impossibility of salvation if I had to “love my neighbor,” for it was impossible to love God without loving your neighbor.

I joined the Marine Corps, but I could not let go of God. I kept returning to church, but then would quit again when I became burdened with the difficulty of deeds, which was “love.” I had this “revolving-door” effect when it came to Christianity and church. I knew I needed Christ. I would pray, read, pray—give up.

Of the Protestant denominations I attended, Presbyterian was my favorite. I loved Calvinism. Because of the impossibility I saw of “loving neighbor,” this afforded comfort and a somewhat “assurance:” I was a sinner, totally depraved, incapable of any truly good thing; God chose me, changed my heart; and, because He loved me, He would not let me escape from His hand, from Him. I believed that He would cause me to do whatever good was necessary because He “saved me unto good works.” This made reading Scripture a pleasure. However, it was difficult to explain the sin which remained.

What is intriguing in our passage is the fact that we can envision the psalmist an invalid, incapable of doing anything when it comes to obedience of the law of God; but one fact stood out: his desire. Oh, how the psalmist desired to be obedient. LORD, teach me the way of your statutes; I shall keep them with care. Give me understanding to keep your law, to observe it with all my heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for that is my delight. Direct my heart toward your testimonies and away from gain. Avert my eyes from what is worthless; by your way give me life. For your servant, fulfill your promise made to those who fear you.

The question that arises in my mind is: Where did the desire come from? It goes back to what must be a mystery hidden in God. What caused me to give up on Christianity? Free will. What force caused me to turn back again? It was not my free will, for my will had determined to go with the world. I gave up again, but the force would not leave me alone. St. Paul hated the Way with such ferocity that he persecuted it. St. Monica cried out to God constantly on behalf of her son, St. Augustine, asking Christ to overcome the will of her son. We pray for our children, praying for their salvation. Do we desire that God leave them to their will, or do we desire that God pour a grace upon them that overwhelms them, causing them to repent?

Nevertheless, we cannot deny free will. Not only with our children, but do we not truly desire God to overpower our free will when we use our will to sin willfully? Or do we cry out as St. Paul did, “That which I desire to do, I do not do; that which I do not desire to do, I do; what a wretch I am”? Many people who advocate for free will get their assurance from the fact that they believe they chose Christ of their free will (Molinism), while others see the overwhelming grace of God at work (Thomism). “Pope Clement VIII in order to settle the dispute convened in Rome a Congregatio de Auxiliis (1598-1607), and to this the Dominicans and the Jesuits sent, at the pope's invitation, their best theologians. After the congregation had been in session for nine years without reaching a conclusion, Paul V, at the advice of St. Francis de Sales, permitted both systems” ( Nevertheless, as stated previously, I do not know a Christian parent who prays that God leave their children to their free will when it comes to salvation.

It is in Jesus Christ that we see strength. I do not believe that we pray that we be Him; but, as a commentator on EWTN stated, we see Jesus for who He is; we desire to be His companion; and we pray that He gives us the desire to be so. We should even pray that He gives us the desire to pray for the desire. T.T.

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida:

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Saturday 02.16.2013 reflections on Luke 5: 27-32

Levi was a tax collector, or a tax agent; he was a Jew who worked for and with the Romans to collect the tolls or taxes that were demanded by the Romans, just to allow the Jews to do what they had always done. It was bad enough that the Jews were almost prisoners in their own sacred land, and that the Romans made them pay for it…but to have one of your own actually collecting the money…and keeping a hefty cut for himself…added insult to injury. It’s no real surprise that the tax collectors were nobody’s favorites…tax collectors and sinners were frequently mentioned in the same breath.

And Jesus calls Levi…Jesus calls Levi. And just like Peter, James, and John, when Jesus says “Follow me”, Levi leaves everything behind and follows him. Not only does he follow him and leave everything behind…he throws a party! He is so excited that Jesus called him that he throws a party. And who comes to the party? All of Levi’s friends who, no doubt, are a lot like him, and Jesus right there in the middle of it all, with his disciples…ministering to those who need him most.

“Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. I have not come to call the righteous to repentance, but sinners.” That’s what Jesus tells the Pharisees and their scribes. Sin is the disease that makes us all sick, and the physician can only heal us if we go to him and repent. Levi left everything behind and followed Jesus. What a powerful example of repentance that is! He surrendered everything that he had become because Jesus called him.

We also know Levi as Matthew, and tradition identifies him as Matthew the Evangelist. Jesus called a parasitic, blood-sucking opportunist and transformed him…transformed him…into one of the great writers of the Good News.

Here we are at the beginning of Lent 2013. We are all trying to think about repentance, about changing our lives; we know that we are all sick, and we need the doctor. But here’s the reality…just like Levi, Jesus is calling us.  He looks into our hearts, and says “Follow me.” We can do this! We can repent and leave our sins behind us. Sure, we need help, and he’s right there just waiting to heal us. He surely can…and he surely will when we follow him. After all, look what he did for Levi…    WW

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Lacking No Good Thing

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want (lack); he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters (by waters of rest); he restores my soul (life). He leads me in paths of righteousness (right paths) for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (the valley of deep darkness), I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely (only) goodness and mercy (kindness) shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever (as long as I live).

In the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Our Father,” not “My Father;” but, here, it is personal: “The Lord is my Shepherd,” not “The Lord is Our Shepherd,” or “the Shepherd.” This is because we are disciplined individually, although it is for the benefit of the entire Body. The Body of Christ will persevere, but I must also persevere individually; hence, “the Lord is my Shepherd.”

“I shall not want.” This means not only will I not lack in heaven but I do not lack now. Many times I forget this. At this present time, I lack no good thing. Jesus had no place to lay His precious head while He was here, yet at no time did He lack any good thing. During His Passion, He lacked no good thing. As a matter of fact, He was made perfect through His suffering. I must remember that we will be made perfect through our sufferings. Too often, I allow the desire for worldly goods distract me. When unpleasant circumstances confront me, I too often forget that it is a good thing ordained by God, that it is His will, and I react adversely. Because everything that is good belongs to God, under His control, He gives to us abundantly.

“He makes me lie down in green pastures.” This is the Catholic Church and the Sacraments. This is where I meet Christ bodily, resting in His presence. This is also where I am taught and fed His Body and Blood; this is where I am forgiven in the Sacrament of Penance. “He restores my soul,” my life. In St. Augustine’s words: “In a place of pasture, there has He placed me. In a place of fresh pasture, leading me to faith, there has He placed me to be nourished. By the water of refreshing has He brought me up. By the water of baptism, whereby they are refreshed who have lost health and strength, has He brought me up.”

“He leads me in paths of righteousness (right paths) for his name’s sake.” Once again, He does this through the teachings and Sacraments of the Catholic Church. To quote St. Augustine again: “He has converted my soul: He has led me forth in the paths of righteousness, for His Name's sake. He has brought me forth in the narrow ways, wherein few walk, of His righteousness--not for my merit's sake, but for His Name's sake.”

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death (the valley of deep darkness), I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” This world is “the valley of deep darkness,” yet I often forget this and treat it as “home.” It is deep darkness by virtue of its wickedness and enticing temptations. It was Enoch who built the first city, encircling it with wall, while the line of Seth lived in tents. Seth knew he was a pilgrim in this world, but Enoch made a permanent dwelling for he had no faith: He saw this world as home. Christ’s rod and staff comfort me although they are at times painful. The difficulties with which He confronts me are for my good, for my salvation. I am comforted because He is mindful of me—using the words of St. Augustine.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely (only) goodness and mercy (kindness) shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever (as long as I live).” This can be nothing less than the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Eucharist. No matter what persecutions may arise, “only goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”  TT

Sunday, February 10, 2013

How do we wait for the Lord?: In Waiting, He Waited

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the desolate pit, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.

What was the psalmist going through at the time he wrote this? What does it mean to “wait on the Lord”? Do I wait on the Lord, or am I waiting on the Lord?

I have read that the Hebrew, literally translated, is “in waiting I waited.” The Lord drew the psalmist upon from a “desolate pit,” or—in Hebrew—“a pit of tumult.” “Desolate” is a state of bleak and dismal emptiness, feeling or showing misery, unhappiness, or loneliness; utterly wretched and unhappy). “Tumult” is confusion, disorder. As for “pit,” I am utilizing the definition: “the very bottom of something.” “Miry” can be “thick,” or a “difficult situation.” “Bog” is a swamp, quagmire. I sense that our psalmist was in deep, deep depression, making it difficult to get his thoughts off of himself, his situation, feeling as though he was in a tar pit. Nevertheless, he understand that his situation was ordained by God, that it was for his good, for his salvation.

One commentator writes: “The beginning of this psalm is an expression of thanksgiving, in which David relates that he had been delivered, not only from danger, but also from present death. Some are of opinion, but without good reason, that it ought to be understood of sickness. It is rather to be supposed that David here comprehends a multitude of dangers from which he had escaped. He had certainly been more than once exposed to the greatest danger, even of death, so that, with good reason, he might be said to have been swallowed up in the gulf of death, and sunk in the miry clay It, nevertheless, appears that his faith had still continued firm, for he ceased not to trust in God, although the long continuance of the calamity had well nigh exhausted his patience. He tells us, not merely that he had waited, but by the repetition of the same expression, he shows that he had been a long time in anxious suspense. In proportion then as his trial was prolonged, the evidence and proof of his faith in enduring the delay with calmness and equanimity of mind was so much the more apparent. The meaning in short is: that although God delayed his help, yet the heart of David did not faint or grow weary from delay, but that after he had given, as it were, sufficient proof of his patience, he was at length heard. In his example there is set before us this very useful doctrine, that although God may not forthwith appear for our help, but rather of design keep us in suspense and perplexity, yet we must not lose courage, inasmuch as faith is not thoroughly tried, except by long endurance. The result, too, of which he speaks in terms of praise, ought to inspire us with increased fortitude. God may succor us more slowly than we desire, but, when he seems to take no notice of our condition, or, if we might so speak, when he seems to be inactive or to sleep, this is totally different from deceit: for if we are enabled by the invincible strength and power of faith to endure, the fitting season of our deliverance will at length arrive.”

Another commentator writes: “’In waiting I waited.’ That is, ‘I continued to wait.’ It was not a single, momentary act of expectation or hope; it was continuous; or, was persevered in. The idea is: that his prayer was not answered at once, but that it was answered after he had made repeated prayers, or when it seemed as if his prayers would not be answered. It is earnest, persevering prayer that is referred to; it is continued supplication and hope when there seemed to be no answer to prayer, and no prospect that it would be answered.”

It is necessary to apply this to our Lord Jesus Christ because the Old Testament is about Him. I think that our minds would initially go to our Lord praying in the Garden of Gethsemine. This is true, but I do not think it entails only that since this was a period of hours, not days. I think it would be more accurate to say it began when our Lord set His face toward Jerusalem, when His “hour” had come. Perhaps—and this is how I am leaning—it began at His baptism. In all the instances the Gospels refer to Jesus going out by Himself to pray, what was He praying about? Probably, us—the human race, but also strength, courage. Jesus was wholly God, yet He was wholly man. I think His “desolate pit,” “miry bog,” culminated in the Garden. Hence, in waiting, Jesus waited. At His resurrection, His feet were set upon a rock, His steps made secure.

In His prayers, let us look at what He did not pray for. He did not pray for health, wealth, and prosperity; He did not pray for long life on this earth. Yes, He healed the sick and raised the dead; this was to show His divinity and what was going to occur to those who trusted in Him. St. Luke tells us: “One of the multitude said to him, ‘Teacher, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; for a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’.” If our Lord’s “in waiting He waited” began at Baptism, likewise my “in waiting we wait” began then also. Many times I have an enormous problem: I am not waiting. Too often I allow circumstances and things of the world to let me forget holiness, to forget my goal. I forget that God is looking at my salvation, what is good for me. I forget Psalm 16: “The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your godly one see the Pit. You show me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.”

The “pit” is this world, this “life.” Too often I am distracted by the tumult of this world. It causes confusion, causing me to lose sight of my goal, forgetting that I am a pilgrim, journeying to our Father’s country. I fall into confusion by desiring “the good life” now, desiring the “low” happiness over the “high” happiness.

Now, this “pit” causes a paradox. It is bad in that I have strayed; yet, it is good in that it is God who puts me in the desolate pit, in order that I cry out to him in repentance. Therefore, it is for my salvation and sanctification. However, if I fail to see God’s will and allow myself to be angry and blame others, refusing to see my own sins, it could be to my detriment. It is a “desolate pit,” a “miry bog;” it is very unpleasant. However, my soul rejoices if I recall that it is ordained by God, from His tremendous love. The desert is desolate; yet it is beautiful. T.T.

This theological reflection courtesy of the parishioners of St Paul Catholic Church in Pensacola, Florida:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How can you help a grieving person?

 How can you help a grieving person?

A person you know at St. Paul’s has just lost his wife. You have decided to attend the wake to express your concern and sympathy. As you drive over, you get this uneasy feeling because you don’t know what to say and you’re afraid of being uncomfortable, saying the wrong thing, or having that awkward silence. Despite these feelings, you continue your drive remembering the words from John 11:33-36 about Jesus’ great compassion toward Martha and her sister, Mary as they were grieving the death of Lazarus.

 "When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Sir, come and see.' And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, 'See how He loved him."

Know that it is okay to feel a little anxious. Perhaps the best advice for anyone in that situation is to keep things simple. In many cases, the grieving person will not remember the exact words you said at the wake. What he will remember is your comforting presence – just quietly being present and being compassionate. You may want to simply say, “Hello, it is good to see you,” or possibly a reassuring touch on the arm, a gentle handshake or a hug. Or perhaps, “I’m so sorry you have to go through this” or “I’m so sorry to hear of your loss.”

Beyond those comforting words, you need to clearly follow the other person’s lead in understanding to what extent he wants to share what’s on his mind and heart. In fact, he may not be ready to share anything with you at that time. If he wants to talk and express his feelings, you could say “Fill me in on what’s happening” or “Bring me up to date.” And always remember that crying is healing. Although you might not be comfortable with it, this is not about you. It’s about the grieving person. Crying is good; it releases tension and gets painful feelings out in the open. That’s part of the healing process for all of us.

Unfortunately for some of us, who want to help, our well-intended words or actions can sometimes end up adding to the person’s burdens instead of easing his pain. Thankfully, pastor and clinical psychologist, Kenneth C. Haugk offers some help in his book Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart. The tips that he offers are drawn from many years of experience as a pastor and surveys that he has done with over 4,000 grieving individuals. Here’s some advice from Dr. Haugk as to what not to say:

             I know how you feel. You don’t know and saying you do robs that person of his unique identity.
             It’s for the best (or he’s not suffering anymore, he’s at peace etc.). It can come over that you want him to see the situation as you do. He needs to arrive at that conclusion independently.
             Keep a stiff upper lip statement (e.g. I have a friend in a similar situation and he is at peace now; What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, etc.). These are unrealistic and unhealthy expectations on the one hurting. The message within the message is why can’t you respond to the situation like someone else I know?
             “At least” statements. They tend to minimize the pain of the suffering person by saying it is not as bad as it could be or that other people have experienced worse.
             You should/shouldn’t statements. It is an unpleasant experience for the suffering person and also tends to shut down communications.
             God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle. This is a bible verse (I Corinthians 10:13). However, the verse refers to resisting temptation; not bearing up under pain and suffering. Making this statement certainly doesn’t lighten the load of the grieving person but adds more pain.
             It’s God’s Will. According to Dr. Hauck, this is one of the most carelessly used religious phrases purporting to offer comfort. In the research, 93% of the surveyed participants who had been told that their suffering was God’s will react strongly and negatively.

“Like a moth in clothing, or a maggot in wood, sorrow gnaws at the human heart.”  (Proverbs 25:20).

In contrast to platitudes and clich├ęs, just know how our Lord, the Great Comforter can work through your mere presence in bringing comfort to a grieving person. Also, a heartfelt personal note sent with your sympathy card can provide a powerful healing message and your prayers offered up for peace and hope for the grieving person is always heard.

Please remember, after the funeral is over, there will be a long period of time in which this person will go through various stages of the grieving process. At St. Paul’s, we have a special ministry that can help  in which trained Stephen Ministers  walk in faith with that person throughout the grieving process  however long it takes. They are the “after people”. Once everyone else has forgotten about the griever’s pain and is expecting him to get over it, the Stephen Minister is still there caring, listening nonjudgmentally, and helping the “care receiver” understand that he is not alone and his grief can take as long as it needs to take. If you know someone who could use the assistance of a Stephen Minister in that way, encourage him to contact Nick Thorpe at 484-4854 or Carmen Guttmann at 475-2514.  --J.G.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, The Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.  ” – (2 Cor. 1:3-4).