Grief and Loss and MLK Day

So it is Martin Luther King Day and with all my heart I want to honor what this day means for our country, for our collective memory, for our future of unmet dreams.  I truly do.  But I confess my heart is still stuck in the muck of last week’s events in the life of my church staff family.  And so I’m going to try and wrap it all together if possible.

MLKThis has been one of those weeks that you never want to live through again but will never forget.  When the phone rings and life will never be the same again.  Jonathan Brake, one of the Associate Ministers on staff at Centenary, lost his youngest son, Sam, age 11.  It was an unexpected death and it sent his family and those that love them reeling.

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Prayer candles for Sam

Four nights later I received word that our youth director, Tammy Pollock’s house caught on fire and received extensive damage.  Thankfully no one was hurt but between the fire and soot damage and the water damage from the fire hoses, another traumatic kind of loss.

It has been a week filled with prayer and supplication for the deep hurt and loss of friends.  My chest has literally been heavy with sadness for these friends.  And I find myself at the crossroads between faith and life.  That place where you wonder if life can get any harder and if God is paying any attention at all.  And it is at these crossroads that every time I am reminded that God is even more present and doing God’s best work during these excruciatingly difficult times.

We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

I know in my head this to be true but sometimes it is hard to feel it in my heart.  And then I stumbled upon these words from Henri Nouwen in my daily devotional.  I think it ties up both MLK Day and the profound sense of loss this week has brought.  It is about the difference between hope and optimism.

“Optimism and hope are radically different attitudes.  Optimism is the expectation that things- the weather, human relationships, the economy, the political situation, and so on- will get better.  Hope is the trust that God will fulfill God’s promises to us in a way that leads us to true freedom.  The optimist speaks about concrete changes in the future.  The person of hope lives in the moment with the knowledge and trust that all of life is in good hands.

All the great spiritual leaders in history were people of hope.  Abraham, Moses, Ruth, Mary , Jesus, Rumi, Gandhi, [King] and Dorothy Day all lived with a promise in their hearts that guided them toward the future without the need to know exactly what it would look like.  Let’s live with hope.”  – Henri Nouwen – Bread for the Journey

Let’s be people of hope!

11 thoughts on “Grief and Loss and MLK Day

  1. What a beautiful and honest expression, Lory Beth, of the deep sense of sadness and loss that still weighs on our hearts just now. And, yes, my tears are flowing once again, not just because of last week’s events, but also because you reminded me of the hope and comfort to be found in God’s ever-present and infinite love. Thank you for that and for your example of strength and faith in the midst of tragedy.

  2. Lory Beth, I like this very much. My life is lived with hope and not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for that gift. And what a gift it is. Some where on Facebook, just a little back this past year someone wrote about thanking God for life, hope, mercy, grace, love, etc. I thought that this would be a wonderful way to START my prayers thanking him for this and the others I have added —– forgiveness, the wonderful gift of faith, provision, (and in my aged case) protection, and especially for JOY!!!! How blessed I am and how blessed with all these God given gifts. I do thank him. It was so good to be back in the fold yesterday after 9 weeks —-being back with fellow (ship) Christians was so joyous. I know that this has been a hard week for all our church family but we have each other and the prayers of many and the love of our Father. No matter what comes against us we have HIM!!!!

  3. Thank you Lori Beth. I find the book Hope for each day (Morning and evening Devotions) by Billy Graham very helpful and inspiring. Sending prayers.

  4. Thank you, Lory Beth, for your thoughtful and helpful words as we struggle in our sorrow. I am reminded of Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Hope is the Thing with feathers – That perches in the soul -“. I believe we can be people who live with Hope, just as MLK did.❤️😟

  5. Thank you Lory Beth! It has indeed been a week where my heart is heavy and overwhelmed with such emotion for these wonderful families. I appreciate your openness and I am so touched by your wiliness to share your thoughts and feelings. It truly helps a member feel connected to you, and this wonderful church we are a part of.
    Dee Hettinger

  6. A superb entry, Lory Beth! I’m a Nouwen fan. It occurred to me that being a person who lays one’s life in God’s hands finds it easier to be optimistic, whereas just being an optimistic person (without the faith) can easily lead one to feel hopeless – when things don’t go the way as expected.

  7. Thank you Lory Beth. We all needed to hear that. We also all need to remember that we as a church are one body, here for one another. No one needs to share any burdens alone. Sam, the dot man, an old artist here paints pictures that say “If we all hold hands, we can’t fight” I think we could make that our motto changing it slightly to say, If we can hold hands we can conquer anything.

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