Photography is a popular hobby, particularly during June and July when weddings and holidays and family gatherings bring people together. Photography becomes even more popular during Fair time, when displays and judging classes bring it to the forefront. Lying on my table today are a number of photographs that need to be matted for Fair competition.
Photography can also play a major role in dealing with grief, for the very reason that we take pictures when families are together or when significant events such as births, weddings and baptisms are happening. Our use of photography in that way began when our children lost a favorite pet and could go back and see him in happy times with each one of them, playing and working as a ranch dog. A picture lends itself to a story and to emotions.
Recently we attended an event with dear friends where pictures were taken. As I was adjusting the camera for a picture of their family, I became acutely aware that one person was significantly missing, a person whose sad and untimely death changed family numbers and dynamics forever. They will always be a close family, but never the same family again.
At that moment, I was in two different time frames with two different groups of people. Family and friends like us can always combine the memories with the present. Then in a moment of clarity, I saw all of us through the lens of God’s camera, He who knew us before we were in our mother’s womb and knows us throughout all of our existence for eternity.
Just as the slide show captured all the stages of our son Josh’s life at his funeral, so God holds in His hands all the stages of our lives. The scenes include many who die before us, many whom we mourn and then miss at every family occasion, many whom we would like to fit back into the picture at least for the moment, if we only had the means.
Photographs can be so celebratory and healing if we only see them through God’s eyes, as capturing a moment of life which for one reason or another we will never get back yet which is part of the whole and reason for thankfulness and praise.
Recently I shared ideas in a program at the Methodist Church in Havre, Montana, on grief, depression, faith and healing. I enjoyed renewing acquaintance with a friend whom I had not seen for about 45 years, and her arrangements brought in a group of very nice people who appreciated what I had to offer.
The only cloud In this sunny scene was that due to fatigue and recent events, I was often teary. The people were understanding and sympathetic, but it does hamper a program a bit when the speaker is dealing with tears.
Dealing with tears gave me reason to contemplate the place of tears in our lives. We all know that tears are at times frustrating and at times embarrassing, but more often they are outward signs of God-given emotions which play a mostly healthy role in our lives. As babies and toddlers, we cry a lot, sometimes as the only means of communication, but as we age we work on control of tears, saving them for serious sadness.
Then where do tears fit into the adult Christian life? First, because we know from Scripture that Jesus wept over Jerusalem and we always do well to follow Him, we know that tears are appropriate when we are hurt and grieving as He was for His people. Second, any time that we commit to loving and caring for people – one of Jesus’ new commandments – we are going to experience not only joy but sorrow and the tears that accompany sorrow.
Just as He calmed the storms, Jesus promises comfort in our life storms. He was always – and is always – sympathetic toward people and understanding of their sorrows. When we cry either openly or inside, we should feel His arms around us and His compassion radiating through us. Sometimes it is His will that these tears be healing, and that should give us hope.
Finally, it is significant that one of the descriptors of Heaven in the Bible is that it is a place where tears will come to an end, along with pain and sorrow. What a promise! While we accept suffering, sorrow and tears as part of the human condition, we can look forward to the day that He takes all of those things away. Hallelujah!
I have been enjoying time in Colorado with friends, mostly attending three ball games at Coors Field starring the Colorado Rockies vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. The games have been wonderful, with some spectacular home runs and plenty of action, and I have liked learning about players like Charlie Blackmon, whose homers and other hits have spurred the team to win against a team they have lost to in the past.
Why am I talking about baseball in a column related to grief and depression and Christian faith? Watching these players and reading about them leads me to speculate again on the subject of resilience. How do people with hundreds of thousands focused on their abilities, their histories, and their performance exist under that pressure? Even more important, how do they bounce back and continue to function when they make mistakes or fail momentarily?
We expect these “stars,” whether they are professional athletes or professional performers always to be at the “top of their game,” always to be pleasing us, not losing or failing or even hesitating. What happens when expectations are not met? Often they face losing their popularity, their positions, perhaps even their careers. As a result, resilience is essential so that they immediately reconnect with the top of their games again.
Thank goodness, our position as Christian people in need of resilience is a different matter. Are we under pressure and in need of making successes out of our lives and relationships? Of course! However, do we need to do this alone? No, not if we believe in walking with our Lord, the Light of the World, the Savior of us all? Not if we know that He loves us so much that He gives us reason to be resilient.
My major concern is that all people, including importantly our children and young people, need to know that Christian faith gives them not only the promise of future everlasting life and forgiveness but also the promise of a present way to live. In that way of life made clear by Jesus, we can embrace all of our opportunities and relationships and we can find the resilience to go on no matter what happens.
What an amazing gift God has given us in His Son and our faith! Let’s play ball!!
“Into each life some rain must fall.” I think we all have heard this saying which originated with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and then became a song sung by Ella Fitzgerald and also the Ink Spots. Of course, Longfellow was simply alluding to the fact that we all deal with cloudy days and troubles.
The saying is appropriate right now because my area of Montana has been dealing with too much rain – sometimes flooding, sometimes just delaying work – combined with a late, cold spring which has further delayed growth, garden production, and flower blooms. People in areas like Seattle or Atlanta probably would laugh at the idea of this being too much rain, but perspective is an interesting thing.
I bring this up because the rain has caused my husband a great deal of trouble. Gumbo mud has made it nearly impossible to get to places to repair fences or to try to round up yearlings who took advantage of places that needed repair. Swollen creeks have made crossings and sometimes bridges impossible to use. And rains have stopped branding over and over so that the crew is still branding close to the first of July.
He is lamenting the rain. However, he also knows that later in the summer the grass and water will be plentiful and the cattle will do well, although if the year continues to be wet the weights on calves and yearlings will be less because washy grass has less protein. Also, the reservoirs are full, and water which lasts into the fall is a godsend in this country.
Once again, we have a lesson on God’s reminder that ALL things work together for good to them who love and serve the Lord. Even the rain when it causes problems and even the “rain” in our lives which seems nothing but troublesome. All of these things are in God’s hands, and we are called on to trust Him that sooner or later we will understanding how things are working together for good.
Don’t you wish we could always see the rainbows? Always see the sunshine coming tomorrow? Always rejoice in life despite the troubled days? That’s something to pray for, this day and every day.
Because of delays caused by rainstorms and the impossibility of getting around on gumbo mud roads, the ranch where my husband works and has his cattle is still in the midst of branding calves. He is busy from dawn to dark gathering cattle a-horseback, sorting cattle, being part of the branding crew, and making sure mother cows and calves are “mothered up” in the summer pasture.
Yesterday, I helped where I could including with serving the big meal which follows each part of branding. It was an unusual Father’s Day for my husband, but he was doing what he loves where he loves to be, and he knows he is blessed with children and grandchildren who care deeply about him no matter what he does on that day.
A crew of hardworking ranch people worked together to complete a job amidst mutual efforts and frequent laughter. My husband roped calves with his usual expertise and took turns with handling the brands and other branding duties – allowing the younger men to do the “calf wrestling” which gets harder as one gets older. The riding and gathering part of the day involved using our son Josh’s horse Tucker, a beautiful big bay horse who was expertly trained by Josh, and also Josh’s saddle.
All that was missing from this perfect old west picture was Josh himself. He rode and worked with his dad for so many years, including a week before his sudden death. The ranchers of the area where he was living and operating his mechanics shop valued his help with riding and ranch events as much as the ranchers in this area where he grew up, and all of them assumed as we did that he would always be around to be part of things.
I tell this story because one thing people need to realize and honor about grief is that it is never “done” – and often a simple act or a simple sight, smell or sound brings a loved one back so strongly that we are catapulted back into memories and longing beyond description. We just have to realize that the pain would not come if the precious person and events had never been part of our lives. God’s blessings embrace both aspects. Praise Him!
I just want to continue to share ideas about grief and life with people who long as I do for comfort and understanding.