Thursday, August 27, 2015

A New Resource For Grief and Widows Ministry: Grief Care Fellowship

So many of you were blessed by the testimony of Joan Wyrtzen Bagg this week that I want to let you know about the Grief Care Fellowship ministry that she and her husband, Doug Bagg, founded. It's one of the newest grief ministry programs for churches so you might want to pass this information along to one of the leaders in your local church.

Joan mentioned Journey in Grief Care yesterday, and that's the DVD training curriculum for teams of lay people to become grief "mentors." I know we often think of grief support being done in a group like GriefShare (which is also excellent), but this curriculum is more versatile and churches can use it to train their mentors. The mentors will then be able to minister to individuals OR groups. Here is the FAQ page which will give you the grief care journey "in a nutshell:" Grief Care Fellowship

I was personably able to take this training a few months ago and am looking forward to helping local people (plus you all, or y'all J) during the holiday season this year. The training consists of modules which are graduated in three parts.
  • Level One training for an Associate Grief Mentor (4 modules)
  • Level Two training for Grief Mentor (8 modules)
  • Level Three training for Master Grief Mentor (12 modules)
The instructor, Fran Welch brings years of church experience in helping thousands of grieving people, conducted over 250 funerals, and taught many ministry teams and seminars. Besides the comprehensive topics of grief, there are over 20 interviews with people from a variety of grief experiences. You can learn volumes as you watch their interaction with Pastor Welch and hear of their faith and hope and the best things people did to help them.

But there's even more! The latest offering from Grief Care Fellowship is Grieving Through the Holidays, a short DVD seminar to bring to your church on say, a Saturday morning for example. It will help grievers face holidays, anniversaries and birthdays year round, but especially the big three
---Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year---
which come so close together like rounds in a boxing match. Click here to see all that's provided for such a low cost.

"Grief Care Fellowship is a 501(c)( 3 ) not for profit ministry. The staff are professionals, who happily volunteer their time and wisdom to serve God in this capacity. No salaries are accepted by board members, consultants, and other staff." (from the website).
Please call the Grief Care Fellowship office at 727-856-3530 if you have any questions. They just want to get this helpful material into the hands of as many churches as possible so that people can be ministered to and grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. I hope you'll consider these resources today!  

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Widow's Story: Joan Wyrtzen Bagg, part 2

I believe that when God wants to move you He makes it clear by a restlessness in your life. I didn't know what it was, but I had grown very lonely even with my daughter's family very close by. They all had lives of their own now and didn't really need a Grandma to care of them anymore. In the spring of that year I visited some friends at Word of Life in Hudson, Florida. While there I enjoyed fellowship with some old friends which lead to me buying a Park Model at Word of Life RV Park to be near them again. Returning to Oklahoma I wondered if my actions were right or not. I thought I might have been too impulsive.
Image result for palmtree
The following fall I returned to Florida to spend the winter and to see if the Lord did have a plan for me there or if I was just caught up in the moment when I bought the Park Model.

I prayed and tried to get involved with the activities at the Bible Institute and the RV Park, but nothing felt right. Then at the end of February an old friend, Doug Bagg, came to Word of Life in Florida. He had just lost his wife to cancer and came to the park to be near friends. One day he asked me if I could take some time to tell him about grief as he was really having a hard time coping with his grief. We went to coffee and a friendship began to develop between us. Then came the choices again, stay with the familiar, return to my home in Oklahoma or risk a new life again.
After much prayer and Bible study the Lord made it clear that my choice was to be the later, risk a new life again. God's plan was for me to marry Doug Bagg and together start a new ministry teaching people in the church what grief is all about.
That was five years ago and now "Journey in Grief Care" is being used in churches. We have yet to see all God will do with this ministry. We are keeping our focus to the future and asking God to bring Glory to Himself through this ministry.

I feel like Naomi and Ruth now...I am at home doing what God wants of me.

If Naomi had not had the faith to put one foot in front of the other in her journey back to Bethlehem she would have never known the blessing God had in store for her. And the same with Ruth, if she had not been willing to step out and risk starting a new life somewhere else she too would have missed God's blessing for her. I wonder what kind of a blessing, if any, Orpah had with her choice to remain with the familiar. The Bible never tells us what happened to her.

Many times all we can base our choices on are God's promises to us as widows and our faith to follow Him in obedience. It is so true that obedience to the Lord brings blessing, even at the cost of leaving the familiar and struggling forward to an unknown future. It's worth the cost to make the change. I know because I have been on that journey of choices---remain with the familiar, return to my roots, or risk an entirely new future--- five times over the past 30 years.

Copyright 2015 Joan Wyrtzen Bagg. Used by permission.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Widow's Story: Joan Wyrtzen Bagg, part 1

My email inbox should be called a surprise box; I never know what it holds for me. I hear from widows all over the world and from all sorts of situations. Just yesterday I heard from a lady who had recently moved from South Africa to Germany! Moving state to state is hard enough for me. How does one move to a different continent, with young children in tow? That's astounding, isn't it? 
But there's one thing that doesn't surprise me anymore because I see God work it over and over again ---The Bible guides each of our paths! Psalm 119:105 "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."
Recently I was surprised to hear from Joan Wyrtzen Bagg, a lady I've admired from afar over the years; how cool that she'd write to me! And even better---once again I saw how God guided in her life with His Word, and that the Book of Ruth revealed God's guidance to her many times and in many ways. She'll be sharing her story directly with you too, today and tomorrow. Her account is laced with wisdom and God's grace that will bring surprising hope to your heart too.
I have been re-reading Ferree's "Postcards from the Widows Path." It's a great book about a widow's journey and three widows from the book of Ruth. Chapter 7 entitled, "Three Choices" caused me to look back over the choices I have made as a widow. I could relate to the choices that the three widows in the book of Ruth made:
  • Orpah chose to remain with the familiar.
  • Ruth chose to risk an entirely new life.
  • Naomi chose to return to her roots.
When my first husband, Loren Steiner, passed away from cancer I wasn't sure what to do. I didn't understand why the Lord took him home at age 50. One night all alone I asked the Lord why this had happened and what did He want me to do now? The Lord brought to my mind Proverbs 3:5,6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding; in all your ways knowledge him and he shall direct your paths."
The Lord told me that I didn't need to understand why; He wanted me just to trust him and let Him direct the rest of my life. That night I surrendered my life to the Lord.

Image result for word of life schroon lakeShortly after that I was a faced with two choices, like Orpah, remain with the familiar or like Ruth, risk an entirely new life with someone else in a new place. I chose to take a risk on a new life somewhere else. It turned out to be the choice that the Lord, wanted me to make. For the next ten years my life was wonderfully blessed being the wife of my Boaz, Jack Wyrtzen, evangelist and founder of Word of Life Fellowship.

Then abruptly it came to an end when Jack passed on to his heavenly home. And there were those choices in front of me again, stay with the familiar, risk something new, return to my roots. I remember sitting in Sunday School class when the Lord told me to "stay with the familiar" and I did.

Image result for florida mapTwo years later I felt a restlessness in my soul. I was visiting Don, my son, in Lakeland, FL, and helping him in his office. He was starting a new ministry and as I sat there I remember the Lord saying, "I want you here." Then came the choices again, stay with the familiar or take a risk with a new life. This time I chose to take a risk with a new life.  

I moved to Lakeland, FL. I became a part of the new ministry, Wings of Eagles International. It was a very fulfilling time as I worked in the offices and enjoyed my son's family.

After 5 years the ministry was established and I felt restless again. The Lord was saying, "I have something new for you." This time the choices were return to your roots, like Naomi, or stay with the familiar, like Orpah. Returning to my roots had a lot of unknowns as I wouldn't be returning to a familiar place but to a familiar person---close to where my daughter, Kathy, lived. Although 300 miles south of my hometown, I'd be much closer to my hometown roots too.
I made the choice by moving to Oklahoma and there I started to put down some roots. It was nice being within a few hours driving time of more family members, as well as being very close to Kathy's family. I lived there for 7 years when I got that restless feeling I had come to know only too well--- the Lord had new plans for me....

I hate to leave you with this cliff hanger, but return tomorrow for the next surprising chapter of Joan's life! 


Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday Fun: The Stuff Kids Say!

It's Friday, thank goodness! --time for a grin about the things kids say.

My first two friends in South Carolina were Ben, age 2 and Alli, age 4. They made me feel so at home!

Ben called me "Mrs. Party," instead of Mrs. Hardy; and Alli decided my name Ferree was just too complicated, so she'd yell, "Hey, Ms. Ree!" from across the street. I'm glad she didn't call me "Miz-er-y" because that would have been pretty close to how homesick I was before I met her.

Please comment today and add your cute kid stuff too, OK? I'd love to hear from you, and your story just might 
be a bit of grief relief  another person needs today...
Here are some I've gotten in the past, but buckle your seat belts because you might fall off your chair laughing....
A Naughty Mom
My daughter was about 4 and was rather annoyed with me for telling her No about something or other. She looked up at me with a scowl on her cute face, put her little hands on her hips, and said with a very serious voice, "You know, Mom, I'm not very happy with you right now." It was all I could do not to break out laughing.
A Mortified Mom
This happened when I was in my early 20's when I was in the grocery store. I'm quite tall and a mom with two little kids were in front of me. The kids looked up at me and started to get all excited. They pointed at me and said to their Mom. "Mom! Look, it's a GIANT!". The Mom was clearly embarrassed and told her kids to turn around. They didn't and they kept saying "..but Mom, look, it's a real giant!" I just stood there smiling. The Mom apologized. I just laughed and said it was fine. The kids continued and asked me how I got so tall. I wasn't sure how to respond, but I finally said. "I drank lots milk and I never smoked." Cute kids!
A Confused Mom
This is an actual event that took place when my daughter was about 4 yrs. old. She couldn't talk plain and her sentences were usually backwards. This is so funny -
She had been constipated for about a week, so I went to the store to purchase her a laxative.
Also at the same time she had a loose tooth which was hanging only by a thread and she WOULD NOT allow me to pull it!
The weekend was upon us so she went to her Grandma's. Late on Sunday afternoon she called me very excited and said “....Mom, Mom my tooth came out!”
I was so excited and said "Well, did you save it?"
She said “NO, Mom!”
So I said “Well, honey, go get it and wrap it up and we will tuck it under your pillow.”
And again she said "NO, MOM!"
and again I said “.......yes.... go get it and bring it home and the tooth fairy will give you some money.”
She said “NO MOM, NO MOM!” and I said “Why not?”
Then finally as plain as she could speak she yelled over the phone, "Mom, I said my poop came out!” I was hysterical, because I’d kept telling her to get it and bring it home.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

My Utmost For His Highest---The Work of A Widow

My Utmost for His Highest is one of the best known daily devotional books in the world. Pastor Dean even mentioned it here on this blog on Monday. Although Oswald Chambers’ name is on the cover, it was actually compiled by his wife, Biddy, after his death. She was an incredible stenographer and had verbatim notes from his lectures at the Bible college they founded during the first years of their short marriage right before World War I. From her notes, she compiled the 365 devotionals that have impacted countless believers all over the world since uninterrupted publication in 1935.

Gertrude “Biddy” Hobbs and Oswald Chambers met on an ocean voyage to the United States in 1908. Going their separate ways, they began to write letters to each other after that voyage. In 1910 they married. In 1911 they founded the Bible Training College in Clapham, England; and in 1913 their only child, Kathleen was born.
In October of 1915, Oswald left for Zeitoun, Egypt. World War I had started and he was commissioned as a YMCA chaplain. Biddy and Kathleen went to Egypt to join him in December. Imagine Biddy and the 2 ½ year old Kathleen traveling from England to Egypt during WWI!

But in 1917 Oswald Chambers died from complications of a ruptured appendix. He was 43 years old. Biddy and Kathleen made their way back to England where they continued in a writing ministry and hospitality the rest of their lives. Remember, My Utmost for His Highest book wasn't published until 1935. I wonder what those in-between years were like?

A young widow with a 4-year-old daughter, traveling between Egypt and England during WWI, persevering for eighteen years to transcribe and garner devotionals from her husband’s sermons to benefit others . . . ? How'd she do that?

And Biddy is just one of many examples of amazing widows. Many other amazing widows are among us today, reading this blog and interacting with godly wisdom and great fellowship on Lifeboat, one of our Facebook support groups. Widows are my heroes! I wish everyone knew what a hidden treasure they are!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Not to Say to Widows

Sometimes people ask me what they can say to their widowed friends.

Let's start with the "what NOT to say" answer. I heard this in church a while back and my heart responded "So true! So true!"
In the story of the blind man in John 9:1-17 the Pharisees ask the wrong question: who sinned that this man was born blind? In other words they asked why did this happen?

Asking Why? or worse yet Who sinned? are the worst things you can say when people are suffering--whether that person is yourself or another. If you're going to ask this question--well, you may as well just get out a whip. Same thing.

God hasn't revealed the "why" to suffering except that we live in a fallen world.
You know this is true. Just look at the book of Job: God devoted an entire book proving how useless man's efforts are when trying to explain suffering.
There is no answer worthy of suffering except that Jesus died to save us. His death is the only death that can bring comfort. Through Christ's death on the cross He conquered death through his resurrection, and offers eternal life to us through faith. That's the only time death made any sense or brought any comfort.

And then there are those who think our suffering is due to lack of faith. If we had "enough" faith we could move mountains. My husband Tom got this pitch when his wife Marilyn was dying of cancer. They could "overcome with enough faith." Ha! There are many things on earth that faith overcomes, but what God allows is not one of them: we all have our appointed day.
So what can you say to someone who's suffering?

Platitudes and cliches will sting when grief is raw. Unless you have the sort of relationship that has earned you the right to be heard, you don't need to say anything. Just be there. Weep with those who weep. Don't even tell them you'll pray for them. Just pray for them--later on you can tell them you are still praying. One woman I met for the first time months after Bruce's funeral told me she had prayed for me every day since she heard Bruce died. I was amazed at her compassion and appreciated her gift to me of taking the time to pray for me. Try doing that for people you know who are suffering.
The best way to say you care is with your deeds and help and friendship. Show that you care in practical and appropriate, need-meeting ways--pay their utility bills anonymously or buy them gift cards to the stores where they shop. Phone them. Invite them to dinner, take them to a movie. . . Don't ignore your widowed friends or act like it never happened.

Real compassion = time + commitment

What would you tell someone who wanted to know what to say to someone who's grieving? I'd love to hear from you and I'll post your comments as soon as possible.