Paul Walker and the Bereaved

Oh, Paul…
Fans and friends continue to mourn Paul Walker who died in a fiery crash Saturday.

He raced into our hearts as Brian O’Connor although he had been flirting around the outskirts for a good while. The Fast and the Furious was not his first movie nor was it his first time in front of a camera. No, Paul Walker had been around for awhile. But his role as Detective Brian O’Connor changed things. We who like a good action movie with pimped out cars and “lay-me-back-in-my-seat” speed identified with the movie franchise. We could identify with the choices between needing to belong to a “family” and loyalty to the job. We cheer for that guy. We become involved.

Therefore, when Paul Walker, a professed gearhead, and one who in real life mirrored to some degree what we saw on screen – a good-natured car enthusiast who cared about others – abruptly died, it seems like everyone took notice. We stomped the brakes in our lives to find out what was going on.

I was flipping through my cellphone when TMZ first reported the actor’s death. I was shocked. I hoped it was a hoax, and it became my mission to find out as much as possible. Was it true? Could it be? My heart beat so rapidly at the news. Alas, it was true. Paul was gone…and so was his most memorable character, Brian.

While we know that filming for the next installation of the Fast and the Furious – Fast 7 – was currently underway, it is unclear what will become of that movie. Everyone is in grief. My own grief shocked me. Laid me bare. And when I saw the footage of the wreck and how Tyrese responded upon visiting the site … wow. It threw me. What a terrible way to die.

Car = unrecognizable.

Crash = unsurvivable.

It disturbed me to the point that I questioned myself: “Why do I care so much about someone that I NEVER met?” What’s up with that? And then I knew. Grief knows no boundaries. Grief simply is.

Paul and Roger (the driver) were fellow human beings. No one deserves to die like that. It hurt because Paul was so relatable. We saw him at the movies and welcomed him into our homes via the television. He was a part of the fabric of our movie-going experiences. He was “family” – the whole Fast Family felt like people we know and love. And in person, in real life, Paul was a Reach Out World Wide good guy. Those who actually knew him attest to that fact. His actions outside of Hollywood prove the same. Like the time he bought a ring for a newly wed military couple.

He wasn’t the ordinary, fame-loving celebrity. He was different. People would send him pictures of their cars that they were restoring and he would comment back on Twitter. Earnest opinions and responses. No movie star fluff. He loved cars. Especially the fast, performance driven ones (per a video/interview he gave).

Grief is hard. I think I was in shock Satuday night when I finally went to bed. And Sunday, when I went to church, I prayed the whole way there for his family. His friends. For those who mourn in his passing. My heart felt heavy on Monday, and I began to wonder just why was the death of an actor – a person I didn’t know – was consuming me. I prayed more. And then I remembered the simple truth, and it is this. Every man has only a certain number of days.

Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass; – Job 14:5

And when those days are done, they are done. Paul had 40 years. And while I could argue that it was not enough time and that he needed more … deserved more…taking up that stance would mean that I would be in disagreement with the God I serve. I believe that God makes no mistakes. His will is perfect. I also believe that each person has freewill. A right, if you will, to make their own choices. And, as heartbreaking as it is, Paul made a choice. He got into the car under his own freewill. And for whatever reason, be it mechanical or mistake, both he and Roger would not get out alive. I find it eery looking at the last photo of Paul, wearing those dark shades that black out those beautiful blue eyes, looking into the very side of the car where he would die. It’s kind of like looking into your own casket.

Contrary to some reports, I don’t believe that Roger was racing with someone else. I do believe that he was speeding. It was afterall a fast car – a light car – an expensive car. And because Paul is on video admitting that he himself has driven up to 197mph in the past, and they were both race car drivers, I don’t find it hard to believe that speed was a factor. Yet, it’s still sad.

I wish things were different but we all make our choices. And when it’s our time, it’s our time. I can only hope that Paul knew my Lord. I can only hope that Paul had a relationship with God. Roger too. I hope they had “their business straight” and are now at peace.  It’s hard right here at the holidays to say goodbye to cherished ones. So, for those who grieve, please know:

1. It’s alright to grieve.
Go ahead and feel what you feel. Cry. Scream. Let your hair down and do it. You don’t have to be strong. Just let go. Let the tears flow. Your family and friends may not know what to say but that’s okay. Let them know that they don’t have to say anything. By just being with you, it is enough.

2. Don’t be a faker.
This is almost like #1. Too many times, people are waiting for the bereaved to give them some indication of how they are coping with the loss. If you act like everything is fine, you sell yourself short. You deny the people who care about you the opportunity to help in comforting you – and thereby comforting themselves to some degree. So, don’t act like you’re fine when you’re not. Be in the moment. Grieve.

3. Take your time.
Take time to reflect on the person. Take time to mourn the loss of what you had and what you had hoped would be. Your life is different now. And it takes some getting used to. So, take some time to get accoustomed to life without that person. Don’t allow anyone to rush you.

4.  Don’t get stuck.
Now, although it is healthy to grieve, it’s not healthy to get stuck in your grief. I’ve done that before. So, I would encourage you to really take a moment to access your situation. Remember what has been lost. But also, remember what you have to gain. You are still here. And there is a reason for that. Your purpose has never been for just one thing or one person. You are here for a reason – find that out and then live that out. You can be happy again. Take it one day at a time.

So, for those of us who mourn Paul, think of your favorite character and tell him thank you and good-bye. I think of Brian O’Connor most. It’s that character that really raced into my heart. I think of him and Mia and baby Jack…living out their lives in private now. No longer fugitives. Just living. And when I think of Paul the man, his daughter Meadow and his girlfriend Jasmine, I have chosen to take his father’s advice. Since he loved the outdoors and the ocean, I think of Paul on the beach with his surfboard, facing the ocean, about to go out into the waves. He’s smiling. I choose to to remember him like that. Happy.

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Mourning and Living

It is true that we all mourn differently. The appearance of mourning to some will not begin to scratch the surface to others. Indeed, it is an individual thing and unfortunately, it is also a thing that most of us will have to do.
Having buried a friend recently, I mourn the loss of my friend on this side of our existence. But I know that my friend has gone home. And one day, I will see her again. So, in that, I am content. I have peace about the situation.
In other situations, peace has not come so readily. I have lost others and mourned their loss and some of those folks are still alive. Mourning is a companion to death but mourning also has many other companions. We can mourn dead relationships, dead dreams, dead opportunities, dead…well, you get my point.
Over the past few years, I’ve had an opportunity to mourn in some of these areas. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you that it has been a quick process for me. In fact, it has not been quick in the least. At times, my mourning has consumed me. Why? It’s simple; I refused to accept the finality of the situation. I turned my head away from the death certificate and I would not accept the reality. In short, I lived in denial of the truth.
It’s hard to let go of the very thing you don’t want to let go of. But when it is dead, you must unfurl your grip and turn it loose. I wept at the bedside of disappointment; kneeled at the grave of my dreams; and clung fiercely to evaporated hope. I travailed in my will. But when it was all said and done, I still had to accept the very fact that the relationship, the situation, the dream and the opportunity were dead. With a signed DNR (do not resuscitate) order from God, the Father.
Healing came as it always does. But it came when I released my will and accepted God’s will for that relationship, situation, dream and opportunity. I’ve come to know in a very personal way that God’s will is truly what is best for me. And it’s what’s best for you too.
If God is tugging on your heart to let something slip away – and He is asking you to stop trying to breathe life back into something that He wants to let pass away – do it now. Don’t waste another moment trying to resuscitate something beyond it’s expiration date. For in the end, you’re going to have to let it go. Mourn if you need to, but not forever. Don’t keep clinging on to mourning for some indeterminate amount of time. Let it be.  Ask God for His peace and contentment. God has left you here to live. Enjoy a vibrant life, even if it’s not the one you planned. Be encouraged to know that God’s will is the best will for your life and be willing to live in the reality of that truth.

Copyright Beams of Light Ministries

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What are you doing with your life?

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to preach at my home church. What a privilege it was and I was blessed by the experience. One of the things I asked the congregation is something that I would like to ask you. What are you doing with your life?

In the anchor points of your life – your birth date and your death date, will it be known that you believed in the Lord? Does your life show any appreciation, gratitude and love for the Lord Jesus? These are things that I asked that should be pondered by us all.

And if we answer “yes” to these questions, what is the sign? We need to show some sign that we believe what we say that we believe.

If we say that we believe our God is holy and righteous – then our actions ought to reflect that belief. Meaning, if He is holy and righteous, then as His followers, we too need to be holy and righteous to the degree that we can on this side of Heaven. That means that we need to get into the Word and learn about Who we say we believe. We need to be students of the Bible and lovers of mankind. We can’t love the Lord and not do right by others. Those two things don’t agree.

Begin thinking about what your life has been composed of so far – your dash between the dates, so to speak. Does your life glorify God? If you can honestly answer “yes” – then great. Keep up the good work. But if you can’t honestly say “yes”, then start today by giving your life to Christ. If you have any questions about the free gift of salvation, feel free to contact me here.

Copyright Beams of Light Ministries

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Jordan – the Created, my Beloved

I believe that God finds value in all living things. Each living thing has a purpose and each living thing is good – simply because God created it. Genesis backs me up on this. So, it is with a heavy heart that I report that Jordan, my beloved fish of 2.5 years, has died.

Now, some of you may be ready to trip out that I am posting with a heavy heart about a pet fish. But, that’s the difference between valuing the created because of the Creator and being casual about the created. I’m not indifferent to Jordan’s death. I do care. And, I believe that God cares too.

Jordan was a happy fish. He brought me tons of joy. He swam around in his tank with authority and devoured every good meal of yummy bloodworms and Betta bites. Towards the end of his life, he lost part of his vision and some of his color – I told him he was growing gray – an old man in fish years. During the last week, he also lost most of his appetite. I knew his time was coming and prayed that God’s will be done and that I would be able to accept it.

Every morning when I bound down my steps, bellowing out his name, he would greet me by the same side of the tank. But alas, not anymore. In yesterday’s mist and rain, I held a private service for Jordan and committed him to the earth.

I’m posting this private moment as a public plea for you to take time to value every created thing, pet fish or otherwise, if for no other reason than to reverence the Creator.

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I don’t understand, but God does

Wow, what a week!

Sometimes things happen and we don’t quite understand. I don’t understand why my friend had to die when he died. But God knows.

I don’t understand how an airliner crossing the Atlantic could go down killing all on board. Pitot tube? Really? It brought up a sudden and unusual fear in me as I make preparations to go transatlantic next month. But God knows and He cares so He calmed my concerns.

I don’t understand how a factory with some many workers could suddenly explode in one section, killing three people, affecting a community.

I don’t understand how a computer operated train could suddenly crash into the back of another, killing nine people, affecting yet another community.

I don’t understand that after all the international tragedy and local tragedy how yet tragedy can hit us nationally once more. For this week alone, we had seen three celebrity deaths: Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. I don’t understand, but I know Who does.

In thinking about this situation, my heart goes out to everyone that has lost someone – even if that someone is a celebrity that you really didn’t know but felt you knew. For instance, I didn’t know Michael Jackson but I grew up listening to his music and feel a sadness now at his death. I feel grief for his children, his family and his fans.

Sudden death just is not easy; death itself is not easy. And it makes us think once more about the finiteness of our existance. I am not going to spend much time trying to figure out the things I don’t know. What I will do is to pray for the bereaved – myself included. And, I will cast my cares on the Lord for I know that He cares for me. He cares for you too.

So no matter how you are feeling about everything that is going on, know that you can trust God. Know that you can take your cares and concerns to Him. He knows and understands how you are feeling and He will comfort you.

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This Morning’s Goodbye

I got the call this morning; 6:38 am; and quite frankly, I was not expecting to hear what I heard. I was half-sleep, eight minutes earlier, I had just hit the snooze alarm. As I lay there somewhere between awake and not so awake, I was at peace. Only the ringing of my phone pierced the tranquility. I rolled over, morning voice in full effect to say my “hello.” I couldn’t have known that what I would hear was a report of a “good bye.”

It was sad news. I was shocked. My friend that had been in the hospital had said his last “good bye.” I won’t go into the details because they are not necessary. What I will say is this, he was a good man who always treated others well. He was a people person and into the details regarding every single thing. He was more than just a casual friend, he called me his daughter-in-law, even though his son and I never married. He loved me and I loved him. Still do.

I’m going to miss him. My heart has taken a hit today. My lips don’t find words. My eyes don’t find dry places. I’m sure that all of his friends feel this way today. I cannot imagine the grief that hovers over his family right now. My mind just cannot comprehend. He was doing so well…this ending was not expected. I’m calling on God to help me and I’m calling on God to help his family. I was driving to the office when grief hit me hard this morning, but He kept me. As I write this, He’s keeping me. His ways are not our ways but one thing I know, God does not make any mistakes. So, I am asking you to once more join with me in prayer for this family.

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In His Safety

I made it to Friday by the grace of God. It’s been a tough week, but I want to thank each and every one of you that walked with me this week. You are my prayer warriors and my friends.

So, let me give you an update on some of the things we’ve been praying for:

I wrote about my co-worker that had a heart attack. He is recovering. He had some complications but God kept him through them. As a result, he is being released from the hospital and will go back later for some other heart work. God is so good. This man who had 80% blockage on Tuesday, went home to his house on Thursday. That’s amazing! Thank you God!

My co-worker that lost her mother is grieving now. Please continue to pray for God’s comfort. In fact, please pray for my other friend, one that I did not blog about, that lost his grandmother. Please pray for his comfort as well.

God is still moving in the situation with my co-worker’s husband, who is still in dangerous territory. Please continue to pray for God’s protection.

I also wrote to you about another co-worker’s mother. She is still in the hands of the Lord. He is keeping her even as she battles for her health. Please continue to pray for her strength.

A few posts back, I spoke about my friend who was in the hospital who needed a heart transplant, received it and now needs another. He is battling for his health and God is ever-faithful. Please continue to pray for His strength and peace of mind as he walks this road of waiting. I pray that he will keep his focus on God and not get discouraged.

And even while all of this was going on, I received word that the grandfather of one of my friends has been hospitalized for a heart attack. God kept him as well.

All of this sickness and loss moves me to deeper prayer. And that’s why I am so grateful for all of you who have partnered with me in prayer. We’ve had the opportunity to once again experience God as our Jehovah-Jireh, our provider. His provision for us is sufficient. We’ve had the opportunity to experience Him as Jehovah-Rophe, the Lord that heals us. And while we were thinking primarily about a physical healing, I have also experienced Him this week as an emotional healer. Thank you Lord. For in the midst of this storm, God has been my Jehovah-Shalom, Lord You are my peace! I thank Him right now. I worship Him right now unashamed. He has shown me that He is my help – no other name I know. There is no other place to go. And, when I join hands with the Father, although I’m no doctor, on my knees, I can submit my prayers for those lying in hospital beds helpless and in need in prayer. And, in my distress, when medicines don’t work and words don’t find their way to my lips, I know that He is Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord who is there, carrying me through it all, and more importantly, surrounding my friends, my co-workers, and my loved ones. Truly strength is not in me but it is in Him.

I move into this weekend, celebrating the Lord, even more. For He has been more than an on-time God. He has been the God that never leaves. He is El Shaddai, God Almighty – God All Sufficient. We are all in His safety today! Won’t you join me in praise for Him today?!

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Do Make the Time

Death is common to all, yet when it reaches inside your family, it takes on a depth that is unmistakable. A friend of mine lost his grandmother just a few short days ago. And, while I join in support with his friends, I can only imagine the pain that his heart must feel. For when I lost my maternal grandparents, the loss was unimaginable to me.

When my maternal grandmother died, I was young in my faith. I could not understand why her life had taken so many turns that got progressively worse. I could not understand why this sweet woman that loved me and helped raise me would have to be confined both physically and mentally. She spent her last days in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s.

When my maternal grandfather died, I had matured a bit more but I still wondered why he was taken from me. This death felt more personal. After my grandmother died, I clung more closely to grandfather. We would have lunch together and spend the day together. And, by lunch, that meant me picking up some of his favorite fast-food and bringing it to his house. We would sit in the recliners and kick our feet up, talk, eat and sleep (nod off). Going to see my grandfather was a bit of a mini-vacation to me. The pace of life was slower and things that troubled me were checked at the door.

So, when I lost both maternal grandparents, I was thrown for more than a loop. Hearing of my friend’s loss has taken me back to a place of remembrance. The flood of memories of my grandparents have warmed me. I am reminded of their love and their care. I am reminded of their character and their ways. If they were still alive, I wonder what new memories we would have created together. I still have the bicycle that my grandfather purchased for me when I was ten years old. It is stored in my garage now. I still have the patio set that we all sat on time and time again. I still cherish their lives and their ministry that preached to me even when I was unaware. I look back now and can hear their sermons when I reflect on their legacy.

I still don’t understand why they died when they died. I have come to accept that it’s not for me to know. I do trust God and His perfect timing. For the people in your lives that you love, do spend time with them. Do make the time. For if it should happen that you are the one left behind, you will have your memories to cherish, now and forever.

Note: Picture used is from AARP and can be found here.
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