Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lament for a Drop

Tomorrow in Denver, the temperature will drop thirty degrees. This is just a quirk of this mountainous region for many; for others, it is horrible and (literally) dread-ful. They dread what it does to their fragile and pain-wracked bodies. Those with many chronic illness are given a body blow by these barometric plunges. All their symptoms exacerbate, and they can rule out most meaningful activities on these cold-before-much-warmer days.

I lament for all of you--wherever you are--in these times. Truly the whole world groans together in travail awaiting its final redemption. We, too, groan; and we all groan differently. The chronically ill groan in ways little understood by others. But I understand. I groan and lament with you all.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Being in the World

Our being in the world is determined by presence and absence, by fellowship and loneliness. We are never truly alone because our life is conditioned by others. This is so obvious, but one notices it when either a loved one loses much of their previous personality through illness or one simply loses a loved one to death. After this, one is not the same. You are alone; you are lonely. The other is not available in the same way (because of illness), or not available at all (except in memory) through death.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Art of Condolence Writing

As I read cards and Facebook posts and emails of condolence, I wonder over the art of writing a condolence message. What, exactly, makes it apt? A few elements come to mind.

Of course, one should express genuine sorrow, which may or may not be captured by a prefabricated card. But if one used a set text from such a card, one needs to add a few of one's own words in one's own handwriting. The sorrow should not be despairing (which is the sin of giving up on God), but respectful and tender.

Another aspect of condolence is remembering and appreciating the life now over: a few words about the deceased smile or laugh or kindness. This sparks bright memories that dispel a bit of the harsh darkness of death.

The better condolences also offer hope for the bereft, the bereaved, the grieving; they offer some non-cliched reason to believe your sorrow will lighten, your life will move into brighter places, that this death will one day be swallowed up in victory (if that can be honestly said of the newly dead).

Other condolences are less wise; their vices include overused phrases robbed of meaning through overuse: "earth's loss is heaven's gain," and so on. Better to use your own faltering words than to steal such stock phrases. Yes, "its the thought that counts"--but why not try to match the right words with such sentiments?

Perhaps the most grievous failure in words of condolence is silence--no words at all. Those close to you and your beloved deceased write nothing. Why is this? Perhaps these souls are overwhelmed by the prospect of writing such weighty words. Instead of failing (after all, how many of them are professional writers or pastors or counselors--people who are supposed to know how to do such things?), they succeed by doing nothing, claiming an inability that renders them mute, thus making the bereaved even more lonely in their losses.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My mother died on Dec. 6, 2010.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

In Praise of my Mother, Lillian C. Groothuis

As my mother's earthly life draws to a slow and sad close at age 80, I want to give her tribute. She was always motherly in the best sense: supportive, encouraging, appreciative of my gifts and ministry, even when she did not completely understand them.

She was as thoughtful as anyone could ever be to her family and friends: never forgetting an important event to commemorate with a card, gift, or call. She was frugal in her own finances--living simply--but was always generous toward others. She put me through college on a working class salary and as a single mother. (being a dunderhead, it took me years to realize what an achievement this was.) This allowed me ample time to study and to enter deeply into the world of ideas, which turned out to be my divine calling in this short life. See Psalm 90 on this.

Mom was a cheerful person, interested in others (even servers at restaurants), and a passionate lover of children. Although she wanted six children, she had only one surviving son. She compensated by being motherly and grandmotherly to many others.

Mom was a superb cook, particularly of Italian food and Christmas cookies, the latter of which she shared with many to their great delight. I will miss them so much this (and every following) year.

Even after the death of her first husband, my father (Harold Fred Groothuis) in 1968, Mom never lost her faith in God or questioned his wisdom. She regularly prayed specific prayers and the Lord's Prayer. During the last few months (and especially during the week I was with Mom in Anchorage), I have assurance that she knows Jesus Christ as Lord. She said so. Thus, I need not grieve as does the world, but hope in our reunion one great Day.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jesus, Death, Life

The only one who has met death and conquered is Jesus of Nazareth. The only way to find hope in the face of death and eternal life and resurrection after death is through trusting in the matchless, death-defeating Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. By this truth, I shall live, and die, and live again.