Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 10, 2013
A Thursday luncheon with some beautiful people
Thursday was a beautiful day. I was greeted by a gentle rain when I stepped outside to retrieve the morning paper. Leaves were floating to the ground all over our yard. The cool air reminded me that the fall season has finally arrived.
But it was not the weather that made my day. Shortly before noon I drove from home to Opelika, a town I have loved for a quarter of a century. Along the way I thanked the Lord that I could still drive myself; some people my age can no longer drive. I pondered the talk I was going to give at noon, asking the Lord to help me not bore my audience but to make my remarks helpful.
My destination was the Opelika SportsPlex, a huge facility operated by the leaders of Opelika Parks and Recreation. On arriving I was greeted by my gracious host, Jenny Filush of Hospice Advantage in Opelika. Jenny had asked me to speak at a luncheon on the subject of “Managing Grief During the Holidays.”
What made the day beautiful was my audience, a large gathering of men and women who had experienced the loss of loved ones. They came hoping to find help in their continuing struggle with sorrow. I was pleading with the Lord not to let them go away disappointed for a “speech” often does little to alleviate the pain of grief.
My listeners were beautiful because they encouraged me by laughing with me, shedding a few tears with me and affirming some of my suggestions with applause. That spurred me on since applause always energizes a speaker. It is a good thing they did not applaud too much or I might have preached on until dark.
I admitted that I am not an expert on grief management. I am experienced with death and dying, having lost many friends and family members who were precious to me. As a pastor I have tried to comfort hundreds of families when death had claimed someone they loved. I know the pain that death brings. I know some of the pathways to victory over sorrow. So I simply shared some of the lessons I have learned along the way about handling grief.
One of my convictions is that all of us need the help of many people to make our way through “the valley of the shadow of death.” We can help each other. We can do that by “being there” when people are hurting, by simple deeds of kindness, and sometimes by crying with one another. Most of us can get through hard times as long as we are aware that a few people truly care about our pain.
We don’t need answers so much as loving kindness. We need hugs more than we need “talk.” We need encouragement more than we need lofty “explanations” about why bad things happen to good people. We are wise when trying to help a grieving friend to save the sermons and believe that silence wrapped in compassion can bring healing to a broken heart. We need someone who says “I will walk with you” instead of telling us to “walk on.”
On Thanksgiving Day I will give thanks for my many blessings. But I cannot wait until that Turkey Thursday to express my heartfelt gratitude for the beautiful people who shared with me good food, rich fellowship and laughter last Thursday.
Thank you beautiful people for believing with me that with God’s help we really can handle our grief during the holidays – and any other time! + + +