FREE Seminar – Protecting Children from Pornography

Dangerous Access: Protecting Children from the Path of Pornography

This generation of young people is growing up with unprecedented access to pornography. Despite precautions parents may take, it is likely that all adolescents will be exposed to pornography at some time in their childhood (including girls). If you are a parent (of children at any age), grandparent, youth leader, or other concerned adult, please join us October 12th for an informative FREE evening aimed at educating adults about the dangers of pornography and how to protect children from it.

This seminar is presented by local therapist, Forest Benedict, MA, Sexual Addiction Treatment Provider, MFT Intern (#63601). Forest specializes in treating sexual addictions and has studied the effects of pornography on children. He presently works in a local outpatient treatment program for adults (LifeSTAR) and youth (YouthSTAR). Forest is passionate about equipping parents with practical knowledge on protecting children from the highly addictive and accessible medium of pornography.

Recent statistics, brain images, relevant stories, and practical tools will be shared at this seminar. Please note that this seminar is NOT APPROPRIATE FOR CHILDREN under the age of 18, due to the content and details on accessing pornography that will be shared (sorry, no childcare provided). Please share this information on this FREE event with others. The seminar will take place from 6-8pm at Action Community Church – 101 Sunnyside Ave, Clovis, California 93611. Click here to RSVP on Facebook and share the event with others (RSVP not necessary to attend). We hope to see you there!

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The Science of Self-Control: Why Christians are Called to Self-Care

As a Christian who values health yet finds maintaining healthy habits difficult, I’ve sought scripture that commands self-care. It seems that I would gain something if the Bible directed me to exercise or eat healthy or get a good night’s sleep.

Does God care about our physical health or is spiritual vitality all that matters? Certainly, we are to be good stewards of what God has given us, including our bodies. Likewise, if our bodies are the “temple” of God, does that obligate us to maintain its through regular upkeep?

A recent discovery crushes all arguments that minimize the importance of self-care for Christ-followers. As the article below attests, neuroscience shows that basic self-care like sleep, exercise, and healthy eating play significant roles in boosting self-control. Without them, self-control is significantly weakened.

Without question, Christians are called to be self-controlled. Self-control is not only a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) but a quality that is commanded numerous times throughout scripture (1 Peter 1:13, 2 Peter 1:5-9, Titus 1:8, 1 Thess 4:3-7, etc). It applies to resisting temptation to actively sin (i.e. in anger, lust, gossip, etc) and to maintaining disciplines that promote spiritual health (i.e. prayer). Certainly, we depend on God’s Spirit to strengthen us. We have the responsibility to do our part as well.

The recent article I wrote called “The Neuroscience of Sleep: Strengthening the Brain to Resist Relapse”, specifically focused on the science of sleep and self-control. This is life-giving information. Tiredness equals temptation. Think about it – when Jesus was near death, praying in the garden, the tiredness of his disciples was problematic (Matthew 26:40-45). In a moment when Jesus needed their support, they slept. Their self-control to stay awake and prayerful diminished because they were too sleepy. It seems their tiredness stole their experience of meaningful prayer in a historic moment.

We too have countless “divine moments” and opportunities to resist temptation and to spread love. If our brains are poorly functioning because we get 5-6 hours of sleep or fail in other significant areas of self-care, our strength to carry out these parts of our purpose will be diminished. In recovery circles, sleepiness is viewed as a “trigger”, meaning it is common for those who are sleepy to be weak when it comes to “falling off the wagon”, returning to addictive and self-destructive behavior.

All of us suffer when we don’t start our day rested and energized. We suffer when we seek immediate gratification over eternal reward (impulsivity) and others suffer as they experience the consequences of our sin. When we are careless or distracted, our communities miss out on experiencing Christians who are infused with excitement, expressing God given gifts that bless the world. May we seriously consider the weight of this challenge to care for ourselves in ways that boost our self-control, propelling us toward the abundant life Christ promised to those who follow Him.

Click here to read about the neuroscience of SLEEP

Click here to read about the neuroscience of EXERCISE

Click here to read about the connection between NUTRITION and addiction

*If you found this article helpful, encouraging, or inspirational, please FOLLOW my blog to receive future articles….and please share this with others! Thanks!

-Written by Forest Benedict

Prayer of a Fatherless Father

Do you relate to this powerful prose? I watch in tears. These wounds have hitch-hiked across my lifespan, like unwanted passengers, seemingly since the beginning. They are often overlooked. I prefer performing as though they don’t exist.

Yet the term “father”, though I’ve despised it, demands attention when I become the overseer of my own little ones. Like me, their future faith is molded by their image of fatherhood.

As parents, the startling reality is that how we love our children prepares their hearts to trust others and to ultimately trust God. As time ticks, love lingers and connection continues. Conversely, many of us know firsthand that pain is passed, shame is shared, and disconnection is dealt downward from generation to generation. Our wounds and scars attest to this.

Aware of past personal lessons of loss, we feel lost in loving well. How can we pass a torch that was dropped decades ago? How can healing begin here?

I wonder, is our Abba the answer? His Word says that we “have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry ‘Abba’, it is that spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (see Romans 8:14-16). When we are invited into our divine Daddy’s family, does that not change us? When God’s fathering eclipses experiences with our faulty fathers, does it comfort us to the core?

Maybe many followers have failed to have this experience, acting as if their earthly father’s face is painted upon God’s. But our projections do not parallel reality. Our heavenly Father is drastically different.

Brennan Manning explains how “scripture suggests that the essence of the divine nature is compassion and that the heart of God is defined by tenderness”. He shares that “the experience of a warm, caring, affective presence banishes our fears. The defense mechanisms of the imposter – sarcasm, name-dropping, self-righteousness, the need to impress others – fall away. We become more open, real, vulnerable, and affectionate. We grow tender” (p 64-65).

Abba’s love does not erase our wounds. Instead, like a healing balm, it soothes them. He meets us in our wounds, comforting us, that we may comfort others in the same way (2 Cor 1:4). This new father experience is necessary. It frees us to love and lead our children from tender, healed hearts.

As we experience God’s affection and tenderness, our children will experience this in us as well, planting seeds of faith that will someday blossom. Our children will learn to trust that the true heart of a Daddy is attentive, caring, and responsive. They will grow up freed from the burden of mistrust and suspicion toward a God that seems all too absent. As we enjoy the authentic fatherhood of our adoptive Abba, may we pass that torch forward through time, that our children would bless, not curse, the name “Father”.

Prayer of a Fatherless Father

Father, love me. That I would sense how a father loves his child and love my children tenderly.

Father, teach me. That I would learn how a father teaches his child and teach my children patiently.

Father, guide me. That I would know how a father guides his child and guide my children faithfully.

Father, comfort me. That I would comprehend how a father comforts his child and comfort my children compassionately.

Father, delight in me. That I would experience how a father delights in his child and delight in my children joyfully.

Father, hold me. That I would feel how a father holds his child and hold my children securely.

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-By Forest Benedict

*If you found this article encouraging, uplifting, and/or inspiring, please follow my blog to receive future posts via email.

Accepting Abba’s Affection

If you’ve browsed around my blog, you’ve likely noticed a theme throughout my writings. My focus is often on “attachment” or connection with God. This is a theme with those I work with and is also a key element of my spiritual journey – learning to connect with God as a responsive, caring Father. Attempting to connect with Him in this way has been incredibly rewarding. Certainly, my relationship with my earthly father was far from ideal, even abusive at times. So, experiencing God as loving and affectionate, rather than a manipulative, punitive, or angry authority figure has been a challenging journey….and I’m still walking down that essential path.

One gift on this journey was a book that found me last year. On a camping trip with my family a year ago, Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning sat amongst many random books that were offered for the taking. It was only recently that I began reading it with any consistency. Manning speaks bluntly about the imposter in us that seeks outward praise yet keeps us disconnected from God. Our identity as God’s “beloved” is expertly explained.

Manning writes, “When I draw life and meaning from any source other than my belovedness, I am spiritually dead. When God gets relegated to second place behind any bauble or trinket, I have swapped the pearl of great price for painted fragments of glass.” Click here for more valuable quotes from this book.

Ultimately, this is a book about restoration, transformation, and connection. I believe those who have suffered abuse – whether in relationships or religions – will find this book to be like fresh water, quenching the soul’s thirst for real, lavishing Love. May Manning’s wise words usher all of us into a deeper intimacy with the God who Jesus taught us to call Abba.

*I hope you invest some time in watching the above video – it is powerfully healing.

Falling into the Everlasting Embrace

Part of the human experience is the reality that not every day is our best day. Sometimes we “fall apart”. Some days we feel disconnected from ourselves. We don’t always have the courage to move forward with boldness and strength. Some moments, pain pours out of us uncontrollably.

How we respond to ourselves in those moments is paramount. We can lash out against ourselves in self-punishment or criticism. We can run to distractions and temporary pleasures. Or we can fall into God’s empathetic arms, look into his compassionate eyes, and listen to his calming voice.

Maybe you’re having a day like that today, when all you have the strength to do is fall into His embrace. I wonder if his words to you now would be something like this:

“My Child, know that I’m with you today. Know that I care. Know that my heart aches with your heart. I am right here with you. Holding your hand. No need to reach to that which does not satisfy, that leaves you lifeless, hurting, and wanting. Climb into my arms, my warm embrace. Rest here. Know that I cherish such moments with you, when you humble yourself and cry out in your neediness to Me, trusting that I will run to you in your distress. No lectures. No rejection. No condemnation. No shaming. No criticism. Just comfort, connection, and reassurance. Stay here as long as you need to.”

May the music, lyrics, and imagery of this song remind you that “The everlasting God is your place of safety and his arms will hold you up forever” (Deuteronomy 33:27a).

May we call out to Him in our pain, grief, doubt, weakness, and imperfection, knowing that God’s “ears are attentive” to our cry (Psalm 34:15).

Our Lives, His Excerpt

This is a great article about our mutual friend’s battle with cancer. In the midst of suffering that is so difficult to understand, this post provides helpful perspective.

Marcy Pusey

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It is well

with my soul

It is well

with me.

I woke up singing this song. Perhaps it’s my new anthem too.

So let go my soul and trust in Him, the waves and wind still know His name.

I sat on a deck with the ocean in my view.

The ocean that still knows His name.

Images flashed of Ericlee lounging on patios and decks, seeped in the Word. Even with what proved to be a terminal diagnosis, he continued to love God’s Word, to lean into it and grow from it. To teach it to his daughters and wife. To my own family when we were together.10502062_10152975594872571_6266086793850406544_n

It’s a new morning and he’s still not in it. His memory and legacy continue to do its work in hearts. It carries his ministry, God’s ministry. And it gives courage to his wife and daughters.

But this isn’t the story I would…

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Dear Daughters

Dear Daughters,

I know today is a confusing and difficult day for you. Today we said goodbye to your Daddy, celebrating his life as a community. This has been hard for all of us. We loved your Daddy so much. And I know you did too.

I know for months you prayed that God would heal your Daddy. We all asked God for this too. We watched his sickness worsen and just this week his body failed. For reasons we do not know, your Daddy passed on from this world into the next, and that saddens us all. We don’t understand why this happened the way it did. What I know your Daddy would tell you if he was here is that even though God did not heal his body, God comforted him in his pain and has loved him and your family in so many ways through all of this. God’s love remains and will never leave you.

This morning at the grave-site was the last time I asked God to heal your Daddy. Just as I prayed that God would raise your Daddy to life, I suddenly realized that maybe your Daddy was praying the same prayer for us. As he rejoiced in God’s presence, I wondered if his one wish for us was that we too would be “raised to life”.

You may wonder, “how can we be raised to life when we are still living?” Your Daddy was a man who lived life to the fullest. He died at age 40 but he lived with more passion, courage, and faith than many people experience who live much longer lives. He set an example for all of us, showing us that trusting God is a marvelous adventure. I am reminded that all of us die and what matters most is not how or when we die but instead how we live in the time we all have here. Driven by God and his values, your Daddy inspired all of us. We too are “raised to life” when we live out the timeless values that fueled your Daddy’s life. It is my hope that remembering these values will inspire you to live more fully the lives you were created to live.

Daddy’s Values

I urge you to remember the qualities that you loved about your Daddy. I remember him as courageous, faithful, humble, disciplined, loyal, loving, generous, encouraging, healthy, joyful, and compassionate. In a very real sense, when we live out your Daddy’s values, it is like he continues to live among us. This is one way you can keep him alive in your hearts.

The Bible says that “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Your Daddy’s life brightly reflected all of these essential values.

Faith

Your Daddy was a man of bold faith, trust, and conviction. He knew who God was and who he was in God’s eyes. For these reasons, he lived a courageous life, following God wherever he was meant to go. That’s one reason your family experienced so many adventures, because your Daddy trusted God wholeheartedly. In this life, all of us are tempted to stay comfortable and seek personal pleasure above God’s will. Your Daddy found his pleasure in God’s purpose.

As you live your lives, may you discover God’s glorious purpose for creating you. Each of you have unique gifts, personalities, and purposes. Your Daddy faithfully followed the path God had for him. You too will come alive when you find what you were created to do and do it wholeheartedly, like your Daddy did.

Hope

Out of your Daddy’s faith, came a steadfast hope. He had hope for himself and hope for others. It seems so often he believed in others more than we believed in ourselves. Your Daddy did great things for God in this life because he trusted and hoped that something beautiful was to come. Whether serving in Haiti, training for challenging events, maintaining his health, or doing “devotions”, your Daddy continued to hope for something better to come.

Your Daddy’s greatest hope was in God’s presence. Sweet girls, God is always with you. Even though the events of this week may feel hopeless, God is not done with the story. May the memories of your Daddy remain with you and guide you as you watch how God gloriously unfolds the rest of your years on earth. Despite the pain in the present, there is great hope for the future.

Love

Your Daddy’s was a passionate lover of both God and people.

One reason why losing your Daddy hurts so badly is because he loved you so deeply. As we remember your time with your Daddy and look at the pictures of him with you, it is obvious that he adored you and your mother.

He also loved God and others. When I think about your Daddy, I’m inspired to serve selflessly, to pray passionately, to lead with love, and to persevere through pain. His example showed us all how to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

I know I am not your Daddy. Still, I commit to being one of many godly men in your life who will love you, encourage you, cheer for you, carry you, play with you, read to you, and tell you great stories about the Mighty Man who loved you so dearly. As we remember your Daddy together, his love will live on in us.

The Future Finish

As time passes, all of us will continue to remember your Daddy. It is normal to cry and mourn and there is no time in the future when you will be expected to stop missing him. I hope that in those moments of sadness you will reach out to those who love you and find comfort for your hurting hearts.

All of us, including your Daddy, wait in anticipation for the day when you will finish your race of life and your Daddy will be waiting to embrace you, his dear daughters, as you cross the line into his arms.

Until that day, I look forward to seeing all that God does in and through you. As these lyrics say, we will all “watch and see and we will be amazed” what God does with your lives as you run forward trusting in Him, just like your Daddy did.

“The Glorious Unfolding”

*Watch the video through to see the special message at the end

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight
Don’t try to figure it out
Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart
‘Cause I know this is not
Anything like you thought
The story of your life was gonna be
And it feels like the end has started closing in on you
But it’s just not true
There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart
Has been to show His glory and His grace
Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of
His unfailing Love
And the story has only begun

We were made to run through fields of forever
Singing songs to our Savior and King
So let us remember this life we’re living
Is just the beginning of the beginning

*If you found this post inspiring, please “follow” my blog and “share” this with others who would benefit. Thanks!

“A Connected Grief: The Gift of Comfort in the Midst of Mourning” by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C

Grief is part of the shared human experience. All of us feel the sting of loss, whether through recent tragedies or the anniversaries of past events, such as those we remember today on September 11th. This week my community sits in shock as we ponder the quick death of a local leader who influenced many. The cancer swiftly swept through his body and finally took him two days ago, leaving behind dear family and friends who are now preparing for his farewell service.

I’ll be honest; as a therapist, I am not an expert in grief work. But the topics I have researched, written about, spoken about, and practiced personally in depth are attachment & connection. Most of the work I do is focused on helping individuals learn how to connect with others, with God, and with themselves (see several links throughout this article for further study). Thus, the focus of this article is answering the question, “How do we connect in times of grief?” Finding connection in the midst of mourning is a meaningful gift.

In times of grief, when intense emotions surge within us and those we love, our responses to them have profound consequences. We have a powerful opportunity to experiences connection in times of emotional suffering. This truth was proclaimed through Jesus’ words: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). The key to connection is comfort. “Wherever we go for comfort in times of anguish is where we connect. When we connect with sin through an experience that numbs our inner turmoil, we no longer need God (or others) for that and we miss opportunities of meaningful connection”.

This concept is foundational if we want to learn how moments of suffering can lead to rich and deep connection. I want to share some foundational tools I’ve learned throughout my journey in learning how to connect and helping others do the same. As we walk this grief journey together, it is my hope that these resources will open up new possibilities of intimacy, comfort, and connection for those who choose to apply them.

Empathetic Connection

Have you ever seen a friend suffering and felt the awkwardness of not knowing what to say or do? When tears well up in others, we so often resort to responses that may not necessarily do harm but certainly do not lead to an experience of connection. When people are in a state of mourning, so often I hear others share responses such as “he’s in a better place” or “at least she’s not suffering anymore”. These perspectives may be true but what they fail to do is provide empathy. Dr Brene Brown explains the difference between sympathy and empathy in this short, simple video called The Power of Empathy:

In this video, Brene Brown shares about how “empathy fuels connection and sympathy drives disconnection”. She speaks about how “empathy is feeling with people”, which is a vulnerable experience. She shares that sympathy, on the other hand, misses the pain and focuses on the “silver-lining” of the experience. Such responses are usually rooted in the kindest of intentions but do not lead to a deep sense of connection.

Proverbs 25:20 frames this interaction in more blunt terms: “Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound”. Ouch! What wisdom poured from Paul’s pen when he shared the strikingly opposite response to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Could it be that holding a crying friend with tears spilling down our own cheeks allows them to feel love and connection more deeply than reminding them that “at least” their loved one is with Jesus? What a touching experience it is when these lyrics ring true, “The tears aren’t our alone, let them fall into the hands that hold us”.

I’d venture to say that the Christian church was meant to be a family that loves each other in this kind of way, providing a depth of comfort and connection that frees us from the loneliness of isolated pain.

When my friend recently died just a few days ago, I found myself up late that night, sitting across from my wife at the kitchen table, on our separate computers. As I shared a touching song about grief, I began to cry, holding my face with my hand. My wife lovingly reached across the table and grabbed my hand. I looked up and saw her moistened eyes. We sat and wept together. In that moment, nothing could’ve felt more connecting.

Comforting Kiddos

In the chaos surrounding the death of a loved one, children can easily get lost in the shuffle. How we respond to children in times of turmoil will have consequences that ripple out into their futures. The biggest predictor of our ability to connect with others as an adult is how adults responded to us as children in moments of pain (for more info, click here). Teaching children that people can be trusted to respond in nurturing ways when they are sad is a powerful way to “safeguard” them from many future problems, especially addiction.

The previous comments on empathy fit with children as well. Responding to them in ways that helps them feel “seen” and cared for will go further than saying “you don’t need to cry, your Daddy is in heaven”, even though that may be true.

Normalizing feelings of grief is also essential. Recently, when I was talking to my friend’s daughter the day after she lost him to cancer, I shared with her what my wife and I did the previous night….listening to music and crying about her Daddy’s death. I talked about how crying is a natural response when somebody dies. Children need these reminders. More-so, they need to see adults responding to their own grief in healthy ways. Seeing parents in pain who cry, pray, and call and hug friends is a much different experience than witnessing them drowning out their sadness with alcohol, sugar, excessive work, etc. Our children watch and learn from what they observe.

For additional insights on how to talk to children about death and loss, working with a therapist who specializes in this area can be extremely helpful. Often, there are community resources for children experiencing grief as well.

Caring for Personal Pain

When we suffer emotionally, we can choose to react in unhealthy ways or respond in healing ways. This foundational choice leads either to further suffering or the experience of comfort and connection. Many of the ways we choose to “disconnect” from our emotions include:

In my article “The Courage of Self-Connection”, I wrote about this dynamic, sharing:

“Something is under the surface, can you feel it?…You keep moving forward, keep staying busy, keep ignoring it, keep pretending everything’s fine. But it’s not. Something is unsettled inside. But you’re too busy to feel. It’s moments like this when addiction whispers to you messages like “escape there” and “run here”.”

Too often, we resort to “self-neglect” when we experience emotional pain. Instead of seeking the connection and comfort that are possible, we too often run from our pain. I’d like to invite you to consider the following alternatives:

  1. Connection with God
  2. Connection with Others
  3. Connection with Self

Let’s look at some specific tools for finding comfort in these three places.

Divine Connection

In my article entitled “Moving Beyond Belief: Cultivating Connection with a Responsive God”, I shared about how many Christians “know about God but find connecting with his love difficult” and may “understand Biblical theology but find themselves reaching to addictive or unhealthy behaviors to manage their emotions instead of reaching out to God for help and comfort”. Sound familiar?

There are a handful of tools I’ve learned for deeply connecting with God in times of pain that are extremely helpful for those who are mourning (see article for more details). I have found visualization to be the most powerful way I have ever connected with God. The images and interactions I have had with God in my own mind have provided amazing experiences of feeling comforted and connected with my Father. I understand that for some that may sound strange. Really, it is similar to prayer and meditation. It is basically inviting God to soothingly speak through our imagination, which literally rewires our brains to become more securely attached to Him (see Anatomy of the Soul for more information). It is one thing to read verses about God’s love and quite another to envision Him wrapping us up in a warm embrace. The first speaks to our head, the latter to our heart.

Recently, when I was praying for God to heal my friend from cancer, I imagined myself sitting on the peaceful beach I always go to, holding my frail friend in my arms. I saw God with me in that moment, as I asked him to heal my friends’ wounds. The imagery that came to me was not what I expected. I saw my friend lifted in a basket-like bed, up through the sky, into the sun. I did not know my friend would die a few days later. This is one example of the powerful imagery that has been revealed to me in the past using this spiritual connection tool.

This is one of many tools for connecting with God in our grief. There are ways to use journaling, scripture, and other exercises. What is more important than the means we use, is that we make the courageous choice to turn to God in our pain, instead of running to the arms of the many idols and “adulteresses” that call to us in our daily lives. May we choose to run into the arms of God, finding that he sees our pain, that he cares, and that he truly does respond to us, bringing reassuring comfort and connection.

Connection with Others

The process of connecting with others in times of pain was described earlier but now imagine being the one who “reaches out” in your sadness, rather than the person who responds. In my article called “Connection Calls”, I wrote about the powerful opportunity we have to reach out to others when we are hurting. I reflected on the Swedish Proverb “Shared joy is double joy; shared sorrow is half a sorrow”. It is my hope that we will all find “safe” people who will respond to our pain with empathy and caring, avoiding sharing too deeply with people who wont. Many in deep mourning will also benefit from seeing a caring, qualified therapist.

Connection with Self

One of the most helpful discoveries I’ve made in my research on connection is that self-compassion is incredibly effective for those who are experiencing emotional suffering. I have written about self-compassion several times and spoken about it as well. Most importantly, I share this great tool whenever I can and try to practice it often. The research shows that self-compassion decreases depression, increases happiness, and has several other wonderful benefits.

You may be wondering, “what is self-compassion”? Dr Kelly McGonigal describes self-compassion as “being kind & supportive to yourself whenever you’re experience suffering.” It means learning to show yourself care and concern in the same way that you would with someone you love who is going through a difficult experience, whether it is the result of personal choices or challenging life circumstances.

For those from Christian faith backgrounds, can you imagine treating yourself with the same kind of love, forgiveness, and compassion that God generously pours out on you? Weird concept? Maybe for some. But I can attest to the benefits of using self-compassion in moments of suffering.

When my friend was in his “season of suffering” with cancer, I shared the simple yet effective tool called The Self-Compassion Break (Click on the following link to hear the Self-Compassion Break in an AUDIO format). It was moving to watch him provide himself with soothing touch, as he lay on his bed in physical pain. Initially this part of the exercise sounds strange, but it literally produces “Oxytocin, which leads to feelings of nurturance and safety”. I recommended The Letter of Self-Compassion to both my friend and his wife, who was also suffering emotionally, as his partner and loyal caregiver. I strongly recommend this self-connection tool for those who are grieving as well.

Whether you use self-compassion, journaling, mindfulness, or other self-connection tools, I believe this area should not be neglected for those who are grieving. When we connect with our own feelings, we have a much greater opportunity to connect with others because we can communicate about what emotions we have, allowing others to more effectively offer the comfort we need. Giving ourselves permission to feel whatever we feel can be a liberating experience.

Conclusion

It is my hope that as all of us grieve the pains of life and loss, that we will also learn how to use these experiences to connect more deeply with ourselves, others, and God. May all of us in mourning genuinely receive the gift of lasting comfort that “blesses” our suffering souls (Matthew 5:4).

Mourning Has Broken

Today started with an unexpected call, notifying us that our friend had crossed “his last finish line into the arms of Christ“.  This news echoed through the community and we are mourning together. For once, I’m finding myself with few words to write. My hope is that all of us who knew him will allow ourselves to grieve and find God’s soothing comfort in the midst of our pain. Let us remember that “Jesus wept” and compassionately cares for us in our sorrow. The following song reflects many of my thoughts and feelings about my friend’s passing. May you they comfort you as well.

“With Hope”

This is not at all
How we thought it was supposed to be
We had so many plans for you
We has so many dreams
But now you’ve gone away
And left us with the memories of your smile
And nothing we can say
And nothing we can do
Can take away the pain
The pain of losing you

And we can cry with hope
We can say good-bye with hope
‘Cause we know our good-bye is not the end
And we can grieve with hope
‘Cause we believe with hope
There’s a place where we’ll see your face again
We’ll see your face again

And never have I known
Anything so hard to understand
And never have I questioned more
The wisdom of God’s plan
But through the cloud of tears
I see the Father smile and say ‘well done.’
And I imagine you
Where you wanted most to be
Seeing all your dreams come true
‘Cause now your home
And now your free

We have this hope as an anchor
‘Cause we believe that everything
God promised us is true

We wait with hope
And we ache with hope
We hold on with hope
We let go with hope

Goodbye my friend. You ran strong and you finished well. You will be greatly missed.

Fasting in Faith, Hoping for Healing

Have you ever hoped for a miracle in the face of dire circumstances? When weighing the evidence reveals a discouraging reality, it sometimes feels foolish to believe in something better. That’s the place I find myself now, as I continue to pray for healing while my friend suffers through his brutal battle with cancer.

But is not the hallmark of our faith believing in the impossible? Hoping in what is unseen? Trusting there is something invisible that is purposeful and powerful and meaningful? Even when our physical eyes see circumstances beyond our control, we have the audacity to believe in something more. We trust in what is unseen. More importantly, we trust in Who is unseen. And we trust that He cares.

Would we dare to be like Esther, who sent out the historic message, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16).

Esther did everything in her power to seek change in a moment when the reality was dismal. She admitted that her plan had no guarantees. In fact, she knew she would die if God did not do something spectacular.

We too are taking steps forward in the midst of disappointments. Even though our friend’s strength dims, yet we hope. Like in Esther’s circumstance, our efforts will not guarantee a specific outcome. We could fast and pray and seek the Lord and see sickness prevail.

When I consider the choice before us to either resign or keep a steady course, my friend’s wise advice echoes in my ears. This great man that we continue to pray for has trained many of us to race. Because of his leadership, I ran my first half marathon several years ago. He taught me how to pace myself to endure the long, grueling course. “Then”, he would say, “when you’re getting near the finish line, maybe in the last mile, you give it everything you’ve got, finishing the race in one last burst of energy”.

We are there now. Some of us are discouraged as we see signs that our friend’s finish line may be near. It is not time to give up hope. No, it is time to sprint! Instead of resigning to hopelessness, let us run this last leg with strength and perseverance.

Join us as we fast and pray, not with diminished faith, but with emboldened trust in the One who can breathe life into dust. Whether God heals or doesn’t, we can testify that in this last leg we gave it our best, that we finished this race with a fighting spirit our Coach would be proud of.

Whether our friend wins or loses his run against cancer, at least we will know that hopelessness did not have the final word. Our many voices, joined in unified prayer will either bring the miraculous healing our hearts hoped for or provide our dear friend with a thunderous chorus that cheers him across his last finish line into the arms of Christ.

 

Crossing the Finish Line