Grief at a Wedding by Sarah Johnson

Just a couple of Saturdays ago, I was a bridesmaid in a dear friend’s wedding. Of course, we had the wedding rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner the night before so the whole weekend was wedding centric. In all the prep and celebration, my mind lingered on the many tender father daughter moments I witnessed: the bride’s father tearing up while practicing giving her away, his gently teasing speech at the rehearsal dinner, him walking her down the aisle during the ceremony, the two of them dancing at the reception. My mind focused on these moments in particular because they filled my heart with both joy and pain and a longing for something I will never experience.

My friend’s wedding made me remember my sister’s wedding almost two decades earlier, when my own daddy’s eyes filled with unspoken emotions from giving his daughter away. It’s an expected rite of passage for many fathers and daughters. After my sister’s wedding, I would often imagine my daddy’s reaction to my wedding day and what he would have to say about his baby girl getting married. I had the song for our father daughter dance picked out by the time I was twelve years old. But, these things will never come to pass. 

The cancer took my daddy fifteen days before my twentieth birthday. I didn’t even know who I was at that age and my daddy would never get to know the woman I would become. During the months that followed his death, the weight of all the moments that we would never share crushed me. No proud daddy at my college graduation. No concerned father to check in with during my solo trip overseas. No sage advice as I purchased my first car. No wedding dance. Any children I have will enter the world down one grandfather. I have long since healed from feeling crushed by my daddy’s absence but I still grieve these lost moments whenever I’m reminded of all the nevers. 

 

“The guilt and shame slid away when I realized that my pain didn’t fail Jesus. Grief becomes a blessing, as sadness and joy intertwine to remind me how passionately I am loved.”

In the years I spent processing and healing from the loss of my daddy, I encountered some churches and ministries that reacted to my grief as though my feelings were sinful. They told me that my grief failed to show the Savior’s redemptive work in my life. My sadness made Jesus-the-giver-of-unconditional-joy appear to be a liar. I should just choose to be happy. All this well-meaning advice only served to heap guilt and shame on top of my grief.
My need for healing brought me to a Restoring Your Heart group, which helped to undo the good intentioned but terrible advice about grief I had received. Through RYH, I learned that my feelings of grief weren’t sinful because God created all emotions, including the so-called negative ones, for our good and His glory. The guilt and shame slid away when I realized that my pain didn’t fail Jesus. Grief becomes a blessing, as sadness and joy intertwine to remind me how passionately I am loved. 
As I recently celebrated my friend’s wedding with all the father-daughter moments, I didn’t just mourn the loss of what I’ll never have; I also rejoiced that I am a precious daughter of the King of the universe. I may never have a father-daughter wedding dance or someone to walk me down the aisle but I do have a Heavenly Father who knows me intimately and loves me deeply. While father-daughter moments remind me of what I’ll never experience in this lifetime, they also reflect how my God loves me, which is a comfort that reaches to the foundation of my identity.

Throughout all of Scripture, God promises He will meet our needs for value, security, acceptance and connection

Throughout all of Scripture, God promises He will meet our needs. In the second chapter of Genesis, God says that it is not good for the man to be alone. That’s because when God formed the man from the dust and blew His breath into him, He blew in the needs for value, security, acceptance and connection. And by creating a woman for the man, God was meeting those needs. He was at once revealing Himself to the man and drawing the man close to Him.

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When I was a kid, my family lived in Dallas, Texas. It so happens that Dallas is the hometown of the famous department store, Neiman Marcus. In the 1950’s, Neiman Marcus was THE place to shop in Dallas. There was only one location, and it was downtown, since the shopping mall had yet to be invented. A visit to Neiman Marcus was a special adventure.

My daddy, who was a family-oriented kind of guy, was pretty involved in my life, especially for activities that were outside the home. So, around the age of 5, when I needed new “dress shoes”, my daddy took me to Neiman Marcus downtown to get them. The only details I remember about that outing were actually being in the shoe department of the store and spying THE shoes. They were soft black suede Mary Janes with rhinestones all around the front edge. I instantly fell in love with them and saw no need to look at any other shoes. I remember trying them on and my daddy saying, “Now are you SURE those are the ones you want?” They were indeed the ones, so he bought them for me. Although I don’t remember many details of the outing, I DO remember the feeling of being loved by my daddy. He wanted me to have the shoes I liked and was taking the time to make sure I was satisfied. And not only that, he was glad to be with me as I picked out something he otherwise would have no interest in at all. He wanted to be with me and he wanted me to be pleased.

In just that one simple outing to buy new shoes, my daddy met my needs for value, security, acceptance and connection.

Why do I remember that one random outing with my daddy?

When that memory plays back in my head, I instantly feel valued, secure, accepted and connected. Since those are the emotional needs that God Himself created within me, when I remember that day, not only do I feel all those things from my daddy, I also feel them from God. Remembering makes me smile.

When we are children, our parents (or other caregivers) don’t always adequately meet our emotional needs. When they don’t, we as children will figure out some way to get them met, and it usually won’t be a very healthy choice. When our needs aren’t validated by an adult, we might assume that our needs are wrong, or that there is something wrong with us for even having needs.

The beauty of the RYH process is that it helps us understand and accept those needs. We learn to look to God and also to healthy relationships with people in order to get our needs met. In the process, God reveals Himself to us and draws us close.

 


Have you ever felt confused and frustrated by the behavior of another person? Or been confused by your own behavior? “Why did I say that?” “Why did I do that?” Understanding people—both ourselves and others—is important to our own personal growth and to our ability to impact the lives of others.

This series of Pocket Principles is designed to help us begin the process of understanding people.

We begin with several benefits that understanding people can bring us.

First, understanding people helps us to understand what motivates their behavior. When God created man, He created him incomplete, and this incompleteness drives a person to try to get his needs met. For example, one of the greatest needs all of us have is for value and worth. We see this need revealed in the ways people seek acceptance, recognition, and approval. From the child’s attention seeking to an adult’s basic insecurity, this need is evident. Driven by this need, a child will often act out to get negative attention, which is preferable to being ignored. An adult will make all kinds of sacrifices to win some positive feedback and may even demand it from others. Even if we deny our needs, we still are driven by them, and our words and actions betray us.

Second, we need to understand people so we can be sensitive to them. The more we understand people, their struggles and needs, the more we can come along side them in helpful, significant ways, communicate their “specialness” and show them their need for God and spiritual growth.

A third reason to understand people is to correct inadequate views of man. There are many wrong views of man both outside of Christianity and within. Our understanding of people must be derived from the Bible. What does God say about man? Since God created us, He knows even more about us than we do about ourselves. In the Pocket Principles that follow we will explore how God has created us, the effect of the Fall of man and the restorative ministry of Christ.

In this Pocket Principle we will begin to define and understand what it means to be made in the image of God.

Biblical Teaching about the Image of God in Man

Scripture makes many clear statements about the image of God in man. The first one is found in Genesis 1:27. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.”

Although it seems so, this passage is not redundant. The repetition is a Hebrew expression designed to communicate emphasis and builds to a climax. In fact, everything in the creation account builds to a climax: God creates something, steps back from it, admires it and pronounces it “good”. He does this over and over until He comes to the creation of man.

God saved the best for last. It was as if He said, “Okay, what We have done so far is pretty good, but now We need to do something that is even more spectacular. Let’s create man. We need to make him greater than everything else in all of the universe. Let’s do that by creating him in Our image. Let’s make him like Us.”
Mankind was God’s masterpiece, His high point, the climax of creation. Indeed, everything else was made for man, not God. The rest of creation was to be the place where man would dwell and live and move. Man was to rule over, maintain and develop God’s creation. Though all other parts of creation bear God’s mark and design, only man bears His image.

Often Christians don’t appreciate the unique place that God has given them. Psalm 8:3-7 puts it this way: When I consider Your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than “elohim” and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. 

Christians may become too focused on the problem of sin and lose sight of the dignity of man. While it is true that all men, including those who are believers, have an ongoing serious problem with sin, it is also true that all men, including nonbelievers, have been created in God’s image. Psalm 8 tells us that man was made just a little lower than “elohim”. The Hebrew word “elohim” is the name of God used to reveal His might and sovereignty. It is probably best to understand this passage to be saying that God created man just a little lower than Himself. Out of all of creation, man is the only one who reflects God’s image. There is none other like him.

The Meaning of the Image of God in Man

Being made in God’s image means that we are like God in many ways, but not in all ways. We are like Him in that we have a personality, an intellect, a will and emotions. We are also creative, as He is. Look around and see what man has done in architecture, art, medicine, science, and technology. We are advancing in our understanding and in our ability to control the world we live in because God has given us the ability to learn, invent and create, to plan and carry out those plans. We communicate with complex, abstract language. No other animal is able to do this, only man. Man alone bears God’s image.

God’s image is shown in still other ways. Because God is the standard of right and wrong, all men have an inner sense of right and wrong, a moral compass of sorts, a conscience (Romans 2:14-15). Man has a spiritual dimension so he is able to have a relationship with God. He has an innate desire to worship God, although at times it may be misdirected toward false gods (Romans 1:21-23). He has deep longings for a better world, deeper relationships and a more meaningful life. He is capable of having significant relationships and joining with others to do incredible feats (like putting a man on the moon) and creating almost unimaginable objects (such as a space station). Man reflects God more than any other created being.

The Restoration of the Image of God in Man

The fall of man damaged the image of God in man. Although God’s image was marred, it was not destroyed (James 3:9). Mankind is like a classic car that has deteriorated; that seems like a piece of junk. It is rusted, dented and broken. It is easy to discount it as something that needs to be discarded. But it is not a piece of junk. It is a classic car desperately in need of restoration. This is how man is. God’s image in him is marred, but he is an image-bearer who is desperately in need of restoration.

God sent Christ into the world not just to win our salvation, but to restore what has been lost. The goal of the Christian life is to become like Christ. Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). So to become like Christ is to restore the image of God in fallen man. This is God’s goal, His commitment to us.

Although God is renewing us on the inside (our spiritual selves), the outside (our physical selves) is increasingly wasting away (II Corinthians 4:16). This wasting away of the outside will eventually cause us to die physically. In eternity God will instantly finish the work on the inside, and when Jesus returns to earth, He will also restore the outside. We will have a new body fashioned after Christ’s resurrection body that will be suited for the new world that God will create.
In light of what it means to be created in the image of God, we should celebrate the majesty of man. Man is God’s supreme creation. All men, whether believers or nonbelievers, are created with great worth because they are created in the image of God. It is that image that makes the weak, the downtrodden, the defenseless, the old and the disabled significant. We cannot reject them as the world often does because as image-bearers they reflect Him and represent Him in this world.

While God’s image in man gives him value, it does not give him salvation. Although all men were created for eternal life, no man is guaranteed eternal life. It is only as a person comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ that he receives eternal life and Christ begins to restore God’s image in him. As God’s image is restored, the person begins to be changed from the inside out. He begins the process of becoming more like Christ and is enabled by God’s power and guidance to use His abilities to glorify God and advance His Kingdom. Man was created for great things but his true and full purpose cannot be realized without God. The great tragedy of hell is that some who were created in God’s image and therefore were destined for great things will spend eternity separated from Him.

There are many significant implications of being created in God’s image.

• It should bring forth praise to God for the unique place and abilities that God has given mankind.

• All people have worth and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

• It removes all basis for racism or feelings of superiority or inferiority.

• It is the basis for saying that only God has the right to take a life or prescribe when a life should be taken.

• It is the only true basis for having a high view of man.

• It provides a basis for the argument that man should play an important role in living the Christian life (Colossians 1:28,29; Philippians 2:12,13) as opposed to God doing it all.

Application Suggestions:

• Meditate on Psalm 8.

• Meditate on and worship God for the high place He has given man in the created order.

• Celebrate the majesty of man as you see God’s image reflected through music, art, architecture, technology, etc.

 

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Building a Worldwide Discipleship Association

Philippines 2017

Partnerships, Partners and Friends

This year, WDA expanded its work in the Philippines on a scale that is somewhat overwhelming, yet very exciting and humbling..  What is most impressive is that it hasn’t  even been a full year at all,  but rather just 8 months. Since last May our local partners- Sowers of the Word (SOW), The Philippine Bible Society ( PBS ) and The Center for Community  Transformation (CCT) have all done amazing work.  There have been dozens of training sessions lead by James, Remi, Perry and Dennis which have already resulted in more than 20,000 people participating in small groups.  Now that our books are being translated and printed in Tagalog these numbers continue to grow.  In our most recent conversation with Dennis Monong (CCT Leader) he reported great interest in Life Coaching and Restoring Your Heart  this will provide even more opportunities in addition to our established ministries with Cornerstone.  As a result of WDA ministry growth and impact, Filipino financial partners have provided donations to hire 2 additional trainers to help with the demand.  The overall strategy is to continue to train leaders who begin groups using Cornerstone and follow that initial training with Life Coaching, Restoring Your Heart and Phase III (Equipping for Ministry). A three year plan is in place that addresses publishing, translation, training and leadership development.

God has been continuing to build momentum for discipleship in the Filipino church through the ongoing work of our partners and support provided by WDA.  The potential impact of our WDA Training, Materials and Philosophy of Ministry should not be over looked.  When people understand that our approach to disciple building is not merely curriculum driven but is part of a wholistic approach toward Christlike Maturity, where people “Think, Feel and Act” like Jesus, they begin to ask for more!

Significant portions of this trip were designed to live our philosophy of ministry.  In addition to training, coaching and teaching WDA staff  had the opportunity to live with and among pastors, to visit schools, seminaries, orphanages and factories, to visit over meals,  and enjoy one another.  The first stage  in Disciple building and our R-CAPS model is Relationship!  Our time together resulted in many in-depth multi-day discussions about how WDA could have a wholistic impact on the lives of Filipinos.

These men, women and children who span the spectrum from extremely impoverished villages and street-dwellers to influential Chinese-Filipino businessmen, have all had just a taste of what WDA has to offer and are eager to continue to know and roll out more.  Here are a few of their stories.

“Miles to go before I sleep”

Just how many miles are you willing to drive to help a small rural church learn about Discipleship?  James Tioco drove 15 hours to the northern city of Tuguegarao where he met with leaders who are eager to begin our WDA Cornerstone ministry.  These leaders were getting trained following the same orientation program and same material that WDA staff and board members presented last May.  The week before our team arrived (January 28, 2017) our friend and brother James Tioco, drove to meet with a group of leaders.  James used materials printed by the Philippine Bible Society.  They were given our Getting Started/Knowing God (translated into Tagalog) which is now printed in the Philippines as a “flip” book.  James also taught from Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework and A Small Groups Manual.  Each Training done by Sowers of the Word (WDA Philippines) prepares leaders to start a group themselves with leaders who will often begin a new Cornerstone group in their churches. The goal is not to just learn new information but to begin groups using the curriculum. To date over 300 groups have been started.

“MGC New Life Christian Academy”

After the 15 hour trip back to Manila James met our WDA team at MGC New Life Christian Academy where David Parfitt, Buddy Eades and Hugh Kirby were to meet with teachers and students.  Hugh presented his testimony and we were able to challenge the students to consider how they would be able to disciple others.  The staff was so impressed with what they heard that 2 weeks later our team was invited back to MGC Christian Academy to present WDA’s ministry and give them an overview of our materials. Since our return it has been decided they will use our materials in their schools and training has been set up in order for them to begin!

“Leaders Gather for Celebration, Stories and Orientation”

WDA leaders met together with the national leaders, who have been part of our ongoing discipleship training since our initial trip in May, for a  2 day Leadership Conference. Keynote speakers, Dr. Ruth Callanta and Dr. Melba Maggay, from the Center for Community Transformation (CCT) taught us the wholistic ministry approach that CCT employes. During this conference Jack Larson, Hugh Kirby (New Hope Church), David Parfitt and Buddy Eades presented  an overview of Life Coaching and Jesus ministry as it relates to WDA’s Philosophy of Ministry.  Each participant was given a copy of the Life Coaching Manual and learned how to develop a NGP.  NGP (Needs Goals Projects) is a Life Coaching disciple building planning tool.

“PBS: Host and Ministry Partner” 

The Philippine Bible Society has become a significant ministry partner.  It should not be underestimated what PBS means to the roll out of WDA’s materials and training.  PBS hosts local Manila training in their headquarters.  PBS is designing, publishing, translating and providing distribution and sales of our materials (both in their book stores and on their web store). They are part of a the International Bible Society and as a result of this relationship they have committed to becoming a conduit for providing our materials and training to other countries where the International Bible Society is located.  Each Bible Society has the same capability to print, design, translate and sell our materials.  WDA partners in other countries would have the same opportunities as our Philippines ministry is using to provide WDA materials at a low cost with the same quality, consistency and format.  The implications would be that WDA has the potential to print worldwide and local churches would not incur shipping costs.

“Factory Workers see Transformation” 

WDA has a goal to see people transformed into the likeness of Christ.  One worker at a factory run by Center for Community Transformation has seen her life change! “I was once a loudmouth and now I am different because of being part of WDA.”  She and her co-workers are part of small groups provided for every worker.  These men and women are not just part of groups but also lead groups themselves.  Each factory run by CCT has a pastor who oversees discipleship and manages a process that ranges from management all the way  to the line worker. Over 20,000 factory workers are now using WDA material in their small discipleship groups.

“Leaders Meet for Training and Planning”

At the CCT Retreat Center in the Tagaytay Highlands we met with leaders from Sowers of the Word, Leaders and Students from Febias Bible College and Seminary as well as Pastors from the Makati Gospel Church.  These men and women were able to receive training on the Restoring  Your Heart Ministry and also learn more about the Ministry of Christ and Philosophy of Ministry of WDA.  All of these leaders were part of previous training with WDA.  The benefit of returning to meet with them is that we are able to reinforce the information that they have learned by reading Disciple Building: A Biblical Framework, doing groups using Cornerstone and also by going thru training in small groups using WDA’s A Small Groups Manual.

The Pastors for the Makati Gospel Church were looking at using WDA as their main discipleship focus for the church.  MGC has many small groups and were looking at many different approaches to discipleship.  Our time with them over meals, during meetings and in individual conversations has resulted in them choosing to now only roll out WDA as the main equipping curriculum but also were part of helping us use the Cornerstone in the MCG Christian Academy. MCG Academy will use Cornerstone with 7-12 grade students as well as with faculty.

Along with MCG, one of our WDA trainers , Sis. Remi, along with Sis. Joy, Dean of Students at FEBIAS (Far East Bible Institute And Seminary), invited Jack, David and Buddy to meet with students and faculty to introduce our Disciple Building approach.  FEBIAS is also looking at WDA as a significant part of student development and small groups at the college and seminary level.

The Restorative Ministry

The Restorative Ministry also sent a significant team to work with Rich Smith, WDA Staff member in Quezon City, Philippines.  Rich has been in Quezon City developing a ministry with local pastors who have been very interested in starting Restoring Your Heart groups.  The RYH team led 6 trainings over a 3 week period for people who were committed to start RYH groups.  The challenges that face WDA with these prototype groups are providing ongoing feedback and training while receiving feedback about how the experience is going. WDA will use the feedback with these leaders and also with groups started by Sowers of the Word to begin a national strategy this coming year.  In addition to Quezon City groups, 3 more groups have begun with Leaders at the Makati Gospel Church, the Philippine Bible Society and at FEBIAS.

What we see in these stories is but a small number of ways WDA is becoming a Worldwide Discipleship Association.  WDA has a commitment to serve the Church Worldwide.  Ministry partnerships around the globe will have ongoing impact as WDA provides the training, service and materials necessary to begin national movements where people grow to maturity.  We would greatly appreciate your prayers and financial support in making these endeavors possible.

the heart tree

the heart tree

Because children interpret events with their emotions, it is important to protect your child’s heart. Many of the people I work with have been wounded by parents who have not been protective of this treasure. Some of their parents have been wounded themselves and have done the best they could. However, their own woundedness has driven them to make decisions that are harmful to their children. The following story was written by a 26 year old that I work with and is being shared with permission. It describes the events of a day that turned her life upside down. (All names have been changed.)

“That Day”

“That day. I will never forget it. It’s etched in my mind, clear as yesterday. It’s like a slow motion scene playing against the backdrop of melancholy violins. My world changed forever. The foundation broke beneath my feet into a million pieces. I was sinking, but there was no one to pull me out. I can see that little girl on that fateful day in my mind’s eye. She stands still, frozen as the unimaginable scene unfolds before her eyes; it seems unreal, like she is watching some twisted movie.

“This can’t really be happening,” I thought to myself. I had just returned from playing video games and eating chips and salsa with my brothers. My big brother, Charles, whom I loved and admired so much, had just given Richard and me the time of our lives at El Azteca. I remember on that sunny Saturday afternoon how happy I was to feel so loved as I played packman with my brothers at the local Mexican Restaurant.  In that blissful moment, I had no idea that Charles was shielding us from the hell that was unleashing at home. I had no idea that in a matter of hours, minutes, life as I knew it would change forever.

When we pulled up to the house, immediately, I knew something was going on. My dad’s car sat in the driveway with clothes piled high in the back seat. The car door was open. The front door of the house was open. My dad walked out of the house, still in his work clothes from the day before…only the front of his white collared dress shirt was unbuttoned, exposing his undershirt.  He carried a box in his hands. He didn’t look at us. He walked towards his car, and then I saw his back. His shirt was torn. He had scratch marks, and he was bleeding.  Confused, I stood there, not knowing how to make sense of what I was witnessing.

Charles put his hands on mine and Richard’s shoulders like protective wings. The fight must have drug out longer than he had expected. He must have brought us back too early, and now he was trying to figure out what to do. He led us inside, perhaps hoping that the worst was over. I was confused when I walked in by what I saw- objects overturned, broken glass, wax, presumably from a lit candle that had been thrown, plastered in dripping runs on the wall. WHAT WAS HAPPENING!? I didn’t understand. I heard my mom yelling. I can’t remember what she said, but I knew it wasn’t good. Every time my dad made his way up to the stairs to get another load, more screaming…I think I heard “GET OUT!”

I don’t remember how long this went on…time didn’t exist in that moment. But, I do remember, that whenever my dad would come down the stairs, he would offer Richard and me this sad look…of regret?  We stood still, absorbing this surreal reality. Once the car was packed, my dad made his way over to Richard and I as we stood in the dining room. He was lost for words, trying to explain to us what was happening with pain in his eyes.  My mother made her way over. She was furious, high on adrenalin, and impatient with my dad’s stammering. She butted in and, with vengeance in her tone, blurted out, “Your father slept with another woman last night in a hotel!”  Time froze.

I immediately looked at Richard who is two years younger than I.  He stared in shock.  Although, at his age, he could not comprehend the full extent of what my mother was saying.  However, at 11, I could.  “You have something blue on your lip,” I commented to Richard about the residual stains of the blue gumball he had chewed at the Mexican restaurant. “I don’t care,” he said, not breaking eye-contact with my parents. The details of what happened after this world shattering news are a blur to me.  At some point, it was explained to me that my dad was leaving to live somewhere else. I ran to grab a recent art project I had made at school, and I gave it to my dad to remember me by.  It was a box cut-out of a magical, beautiful world of flowers, rolling hills, and a majestic sunset, like the sunset I had watched with my parents set over the Gulf of Mexico just a few short months earlier on our first beach vacation. That time seemed like a different life now. My whole world was turned upside down in a matter of moments. I didn’t know if I would ever see my dad again.”

This young person’s self image has been wounded by the events of her life. The power of the Holy Spirit is enabling her to heal and recover. **We appreciate so much the prayers and support you give staff and to all the people with whom we work. Nancy currently is meeting with about 15 people on a regular basis, all of whom have been wounded by people who loved them. Our prayer is not only that their hearts will be restored but that all parents with young children will learn how to protect their children’s hearts.

**Please consider making a regular part of your prayer life, praying for the individuals who participate in our Restoring Your Heart Groups but the individuals many of our staff and restorative staff meet with regularly.

Other blogs relating to this subject:

 Hide and Seek: Where did I hide my emotions

The Philosophy of Pain by Nancy Higgins

More by Nancy Higgins

[edited by our communications team]