Don’t Let Grief Change Your Name

Grief-To-Be-Classified-as-DepressionToday, I had the honor of doing the funeral for Luke Foster Nagel.  Luke passed from this life, into true life, after a little more than 40 hours of life.  Anytime there is a tragic death, our words often fail us, we are overwhelmed with grief, loss, and confusion.  Today, at the funeral, I shared the stories of two women in scripture that dealt with terrible loss and what we can learn from them.

First, Naomi.  We read Naomi’s story in the book of Ruth. She was a widow, and her three sons died as well.  She turns to her daughters in law, and tells them to return to their people, for she has nothing to offer them now. Two return, but Ruth stays with her.  As Naomi and Ruth return to to Naomi’s home, this is what happens in Ruth 1:19-21:

19 So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

After this loss, she changed her name.  In the Bible, your name isn’t just what you are called, it’s who you are.  It deeply reflects who you are. Thus, quite often in scripture, when someone meets God, their name is changed (Abram to Abraham, Sari to Sarah, Saul to Paul, to name a few).

Here we see Naomi say, no longer call me Naomi. Call me Mara.  Mara is the word for bitter.  She is saying that all of her loss has changed her name.

Loss changes us. It shapes us.  It is something that is so impactful.  But don’t let it change your name.  Don’t let it change who are you are at the core of your being.  Don’t let it turn you.  Don’t let it harden you.  Don’t let it break you.

Yes, you will, you must, you should grieve.  Yes.  But don’t let it change your name.

Ok, how do we keep that happening?

The other story I think of is Mary in garden, on Easter morning.  She knew Jesus, she loved Jesus, Jesus healed and saved her. And now she believes, not only has He been killed, but they have taken His body. And she’s weeping, and she’s broken.  Listen to what happens in John 20: 11-17:

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary knew Jesus.  So, the question is, why didn’t she recognize Him?  Why didn’t she know that it was Jesus standing right there?

Scripture doesn’t say. But I’ve got a theory.  Perhaps she couldn’t see Jesus because of the tears in her eyes. Perhaps she shouldn’t see Him because the grief was too much, the pain was too great, and the tears had disrupted her vision.

She knew Him. But she couldn’t see Him.  It wasn’t until He called her name, that that she could see it was Him.

Don’t let the tears that you are crying hide the presence of the risen Jesus Christ from you. Today, He is here.  He is with us.  He has not left us, nor will He.

Listen for Him.  Listen for Him calling your name.  Listen for His voice in your grief.  You are not alone.  You will never be alone.  He will never leave you.  Listen.  Listen. When you can’t see Him through the tears, listen for His voice.

He honors our tears and our pain and our loss. But, do not let the tears we cry keep us from seeing that the risen Christ is with us.

Today, don’t let grief change your name.  And don’t let the tears you cry hide presence of the risen Christ in your midst, even now.

An Honest Place

psalmsOne of the things that I love most about the book of Psalms, is that each of the Psalms is written from a very honest place. The Psalms are basically songs of praise that we were written to be sung as worship to God.

I love them.  I try to read a few of them each day. They are inspirational, they are hopeful, they are encouraging, and they are honest.

They are written from a very honest place. And that means that sometimes they don’t sound very safe.  Or even nice. But they always sound very true.  Listen to what I read today in Psalm 69: 19-21:

You know my reproach,
and my shame and my dishonor;
my foes are all known to you.
Reproaches have broken my heart,
so that I am in despair.
I looked for pity, but there was none,
and for comforters, but I found none.
They gave me poison for food,
and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

The Psalmist pours out his heart, his anger, his brokenness to God.  He lets God  really know what’s going in his head, in his heart, in his world.

He lets God know. And the hurt comes pouring out.  The pain is unleashed.  He gives it God.

And that’s such an honest, healthy thing to do.  Such a good thing to do.  Because here’s the thing.

If we hold onto our hurt, our pain, our loss, God can’t help us with it.  When we cling to it so tightly, there’s nothing He can do.  But, we when we release it, give it Him, He can actually do something to help us with it.

But, we’ve got to actually give it to Him. I put it like this.  We need to pray honest prayers, not safe prayers.  Honest prayers actually tell God what’s going on, and let Him help us.  Safe prayers don’t tell God the truth of hurt, pain, and fear. And if we don’t give things to Him, He can’t really help us with them.

Today, this Psalm comes from an honest place.  Today, may our prayers do the same. May we actually tell God what’s going on. And may we find His grace there in our moment of need.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phone.

A Slow Death

Some of the ways that we hurt ourselves are quick and painful.  Some things that we, intentionally or unintentionally, to ourselves can very quickly cause great pain, great damage, and great hurt to us, to others, to so many relationships.

But, not all the things that hurt us are fast.  Some are slow.  Some are a slow death.  In 1 John 3, John talks a lot about love, about being there for each other, about helping each other out in whatever way that we can.

But then, he says these words in 1 John 3:14-15:

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

poisonHating others is a slow death.  It’s so slow, you may not even know that you are dying.  You may be unaware of the pain that you causing to yourself, and the pain that you are causing to the relationships in your life.

When you hate, when you don’t forgive, when you hold things against others, when you allow pain to turn into hate, you are slowly, but surly, dying a slow death.

The only way to live, to know peace, is this.  Forgive.  Let God.  Give it God.  Allow His grace to take away the hurt, the pain, the loss, everything.  Allow His grace to wash over you.

Allow His grace to make all things new in your life.  Allow to allow you to forgive.

Allow it to allow you to love.

aWhen we  hate, we die a slow death. Today, may we be truly alive.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phone.

O Be Careful Little Mouth What you Say

As I was reading today’s text, I thought of the old children’s song, O Be Careful, Little Eyes.  I know that you’ve heart it before, but the last verse of that song goes like this.

O be careful little mouth what you say
O be careful little mouth what you say
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little mouth what you say

I thought of that when I read the words that Jesus spoke in Luke 12: 1-3:

In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

whispering-smallThere is that great truth that we see in both the children’s song, but more importantly in God’s Word, for us to be careful what it is that we say.  For our words matter.  The way that we talk about people matters.

How we live, it really does matter.  The little song reminds us to be careful about what it is that we say.  Jesus reminds us to be careful about what it is that we do. And what we do, even in secret, is seen by God.

That’s not a scare tactic by Jesus. It’s not there to beat us up. But it is there to remind us that our lives matter.  How we live matters.

And we we engage or talk that is hurtful, it isn’t just hurtful to them, it’s hurtful to us. What we do in the dark, it causes us hurt.  It causes us pain.  It causes us destruction.  It hurts us too.

So, be careful today.  Live loved, because you are.

And love each other. Because we all need that love.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

Seek Peace

the-peace-of-the-lodToday, seek peace. It could be very easy to seek trouble. To respond in anger. To respond in hurt. To respond in pain. To give back for what we’ve been given. To strike first. To lash out.

Don’t do it.

That doesn’t make things better. That doesn’t help. That doesn’t bring life or joy or peace. It only brings hurt. Listen to the words of Psalm 34: 11-14 today:

Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

Keep your tongue from evil. Turn away from evil. Do good. Seek peace.

Today, when you are tempted to respond from a place of hurt or pain or anger.


Today, when you want to give back to them for what they’ve given to you.


Today, when you want to strike back or lash out.


Seek peace. Do the right thing. Even it’s hard or it hurt or it is not easy. Seeking peace is the right thing. It will bring life. Even when it’s hard. Striking back is easy. But it will bring pain. Seeking peace is hard, but it will bring life.

Today, do the right thing. Seek peace.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones

Where God Lives

Today in our reading, we look at Isaiah 57:14-15. This passage really spoke to me.

Take a second right now and read this. Slow down. Breathe. Listen. Listen to what it says.

And it shall be said, Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

When I read this, this morning, the thing that jumped out at me is this thought. Where God lives.

This passage tells us where God lives. Or, the word it uses this morning is where He “dwells.”

This is where His spirit is. Where His presence is. This passages gives us that info.

His presence inhabits eternity. He dwells in the high and holy place. He is eternal. He is holy. He is the Lord God. He is the everlasting rock of ages.

That’s who He is. That’s the very being of God. He is high and lifted up.

He is God.

And we get that. And as awesome as that it, that’s not the part that really hit me this morning. It’s the last part that really spoke to me.

Where else does God live? He dwells with him who is contrite and lowly of spirit.

To be contrite means to be sorrowful. To understand your sin and your need for forgiveness. To understand your need for Him, and to know that we are needy.

Lowly of spirit to understand our place in things, to know that we are not the end all and be all, that God is God, and we are not.

So, God dwells in the high holiness of eternity. And God dwells in the humble heart of the one that knows that they need Him.


Today, do you know that you need Him? Do you know that you are not what you need to be? Do you feel inadequate, do you feel like you are in need of forgiveness, a new start, a new hope?

Do you maybe even feel unworthy?

I am telling you, based off what the Bible tells us this morning. Right now. In this time. In this place.

God is with you. God is with the contrite and the lowly in spirit. God is with the ones that are in need. God is with the ones that understand their need for Him.

Today, no matter how broken, unworthy, unloved you may feel, God is with you.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.