Death and Grieving

Living in the wake of death is a difficult thing to do. Watching a body retire from this world is not an easy process. The reminders of that person’s life come in small ways. A missing car. An empty chair. A daily phone call that never comes. Little things here and there that add up to the now empty space where a mind, a heart, a soul once occupied. These things aren’t the person by any means, but normal is shattered.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks. In the midst of excitement and movement as things seemed to be shifting, growing moving forward, we received several blows of the hammer of death. It’s a part of living – the dying, but no matter how many times I see it, it never becomes any easier to accept.

Kids feel this loss, too. We do worship responses which include written prayers praising God or asking Him for help, comfort, or wisdom. I read these because I want to see where our kids are, what questions they’re asking, what their prayer lives look like. I have seen so many that are dealing with loss and death. Sometimes they need to write, or draw, or play to deal with the complex emotions that come with experiencing loss. A new normal will need to be built, a different life continued.

Give kids the opportunity to grieve in their own way. Be vulnerable with them while allowing them to still feel safe. Say how you feel, let them know it’s ok to feel sad, or angry, or upset. Take time and let yourself and your family process.

May the God of peace grant you and your family rest, opportunities to process and strength to build the new normal.

Advertisements

5 Tips for Scam Dodging

I was recently listening to one of my podcasts when the topic of scams became the topic of conversation. Reply All, an internet culture podcast, decided to report on a particular scam in the form of a website that claimed to help people find lost items left in New York City taxis. In truth, this website was, and still is, a scam that requires money to list the item on their database, in order to let that information sit uselessly on the internet. These individuals would often have their phone numbers listed, leaving them vulnerable to future scam calls. (Link to the episode at the bottom.)

Now, the best advice I have to give is to fact-check everything. Scams depend on the individual to be in a state of panic or desperation – which impedes thorough thought because our “fight or flight” instinct has inserted itself into the situation. People who end up scammed are quality folks, generally well-rounded, and often feel like they would never end up at the wrong end of one… until it happens. Here are a few tips to avoid scams:

Stay Calm, Fear Is a Weapon Against You

Scam artists are trained to keep you confused, worried, afraid, and alone. Many scam calls will attempt to hurry you along in order to keep you from having time to think through the situation. Scam websites will be vague enough to keep you guessing without giving any solid information. If you are not given time to think, or solid answers to questions, consider the possibility that you may be in the midst of a scam. The more calm you can be, and the quicker you can seek help, the better off you will be, as someone else you trust who is outside the situation may be able to keep a clear head.

The Government Won’t Call You

As a general rule, government agencies, such as the IRS, prefer to communicate through letters. If they have something they’d like to discuss, you’ll get a letter in the mail informing you of the situation and then leaving your response up to you.

If You Receive a Threat, Hang Up Immediately

If you do receive a call that purports to be a government agency, and in response to your reasonable questions the caller then proceeds to threaten you with police or other action, get off of the phone. Often times these calls will require you to not mention the situation to anyone or there will be legal action. Unless you are under previous direct orders from a trusted official not to speak about a pending case, this is not true – you are allowed to seek help. And, truly, if you begin feeling scared, get off the phone and get to somewhere you feel safe.

Google Adwords Don’t Mean a Website Is Trustworthy

If you are searching for help with something you desperately need, don’t always be so hasty as to click the very first website you come to. Scam websites also have the ability to pay Google to have their website (according to search terms likely to be entered) listed at the top of the results pile. Google is continually working to evaluate websites using their service, but some can and do slip through the net, no pun intended. Be aware and double check the website’s credentials by scanning each page for red flags and disclaimers.

Teach Your Children To Think While They’re Young

This may seem like an adult problem, but kids can be scammed as well. Teaching your children to watch for signs of being lied to and misled can help them to avoid fraud and scams. Teaching them to be willing to ask others for help – to not always “handle it themselves” will keep them from becoming isolated. Teaching them to ask good questions will help them to evaluate decisions well. Teaching them to be wise about who they trust will give them the ability to choose not to give their trust naively to others.

Have you ever been affected by a scam? How did you feel during the experience? How did you feel after you discovered the scam? What steps did you take to prevent future problems? What conversations can you have with your children to help them better evaluate situations?

Reply All Episode 76 Lost in a Cab (Some Explicit Language in angry response to these scams.)

HWJR

Reactions are a dime a dozen. We have them all the time to the news, to stories, to friend’s actions, to tragedies and comedies, to world events, and local happenings. The way we react often shows what kind of person we are, though.

Consider your reaction to the following statements, made without commentary:

There is probably a mosque somewhere in your town where Muslims worship in a traditionally Arabic fashion.

There is a group of transgender folks who gather for support and encouragement in a local cafe in your town.

There are several people you know who have either considered abortion or have had one.

One of your family members may be homosexual.

Immigrants are entering the country everyday, both legally and illegally.

The political party you support will probably not make any real changes to fix urgent problems if elected.

What kind of reaction did each of those statements illicit from you? Were you angry? Sympathetic? Concerned? Distressed? Happy? Encouraged? Worried? Aggravated? Sit with that emotion for just a moment and consider why you feel that way? What belief or information is driving that feeling?

Emotions are important, they are a natural part of being made in the image of God. Throughout the Bible, we see that God shows emotion. He is not a being of apathetic distance, but a father to his people. God is shown as happy, sad, angry, pleased, disappointed, all emotions we regularly experience ourselves. Jesus shows these emotions himself, laughing, weeping, becoming angry, and showing frustration. But consider what causes the emotions in God’s case.

His anger comes in the face of oppression, when people scoff at God by exploiting the land and the people. When the poor are not given their wages, and the widows and orphans are left to fend for themselves. His anger burns at those who disregard holiness and the Law, who rebel, intentionally or unintentionally, against what God has decreed. Jesus becomes angry on several occasions, once even harnessing his anger to drive out those trying to make a profit off of worship in the Temple.

God’s joy comes in his people banding together in worship and common cause. He delights when his people show compassion and deal justly with one another. Jesus rejoices when people give up their selfishness and follow his path of giving, love, and sacrifice. He delights in the gifts of the widow and the woman who anointed him.

The questions I need to ask is: How Would Jesus React? When we read through the gospel accounts and then look at the statements above, what reactions can we honestly say Jesus would have at those statements? How would he view these people who are also made in God’s image, who are also God’s children?

Within the same week, I have finished a book and am in the middle of a podcast that seem to work together. The book is titled Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road and it details the life of Mazhar Mallouhi a man who describes himself as a Muslim follower of Christ, meaning he is culturally Muslim (read “Arabic” if that is more comfortable), but he views Christ as his Lord. He seeks to bridge the divisions between Christians and Muslims by pointing to Christ with his life and actions and to point out where tradition on both sides causes more problems than solutions. The Cracked Podcast, which is not kid-friendly, in the episode “How Evolution Made Us Unfit for the Modern World” talks about how our brains aren’t made to handle the amount of anxiety we face in today’s world. They point to how drinking, drugs, and suicide are on the rise as coping mechanisms for the sheer number of stimuli that we face. Consider that some of you are feeling a sense of dread from that last sentence alone.

Consider, then, how Jesus reacted. When he saw a problem that broke his heart, he let it. He wept, he hurt, he shared in the shame of those he met. That was only ever half of his reaction, though, he then did something about it. Then, he let his Father handle the rest. He healed, he forgave, he fed, he welcomed. We see so many problems in the world that break our heart and gives us fear and anxiety. And, to be fair, sometimes anxiety and depression are due to chemical imbalances that need medical attention. Instead of living in that anxiety and despair, let’s do something about it. Whether that’s seeking medical help, donating funds, giving of our time, welcoming someone into our home, or meeting someone we wouldn’t normally speak to, doing something is the second part of the reaction.

Mazhar Mallouhi points out in an interview at the end of the book that “Western” Christians tend to spend a lot of unnecessary time asking about God’s will. Mallouhi points out that if you have read the Bible for any length of time, God’s will is pretty well clarified: justice, compassion, mercy; take care of the orphan, widow, stranger; seek God and his Kingdom; don’t worry, but give everything to God. This also comes from a man who was imprisoned for his faith for over a week in solitary confinement and torture who struggled to see God’s will. He came to the conclusion that he was sharing in Jesus’ suffering and shame, just as Jesus shared in humanity’s suffering and shame on the cross.

When the news comes on tonight and you feel yourself begin to react, ask yourself why and then ask yourself what you are going to to about it. Either get up, and do something, or give it up, and let God handle it. As Jesus says, worrying about it will change nothing, not even change your hair color (you at least have to act to change your hair color.)

How do your reactions to current events affect your children? Do they see that they have agency through God to change situations? Do they see that their only option is worry? How do you discuss the ideas of worry, and giving things over to God?