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September 2019 Newsletter

WWW.GOSPELMUSICFESTIVALS.COM

This Month's Featured Writer

Donna Brown

In the Valley of the Shadow of Death – Forest Chapel Church of the Brethren


Have you ever gone through something and felt alone or that others were avoiding you?  You may feel that way, when you’re going through grief.

 

We all have experienced grief in our lives.  But, what exactly is it?  A short description is “the natural response to loss”.  And, in a sense that’s true, but that doesn’t really explain grief.  So, here’s a definition that will give us a better idea.

 

“Grief is a powerful and extremely raw emotion.  It’s caused by the loss of someone or something that we loved.  Years ago Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross researched grief and the dying process.  In fact, she lived in Highland County for many years.  She identified five stages that could be associated with death, dying and grief that included denial; anger; bargaining; depression; and acceptance. 

 

People grieving don’t have to go through the stages in the same order, we don’t have to experience all of them, and, we may even repeat or add stages that Dr. Kubler-Ross never dreamed of.  In fact, the actual grief process looks more like a roller coaster than a neat set of steps. 

 

Everyone grieves differently.  Some people, like me, wear their emotions on their sleeve and are outwardly emotional.  Others will experience their grief internally and may not even cry. 

 

But, every emotionally healthy person will experience seasons of grief because death and loss are part of this earthly life. 

 

Grief may be over events that others wouldn’t even consider worth grieving over such as a job loss, a pet’s death, a divorce, children leaving home, the sale of a childhood home, or many other items that could fall in this category.

 

God never wanted the human heart to suffer and He included and promises in His Word to help us get through the journey when we experience loss and hurt.

 

Jesus grieved the loss of His friend Lazarus.  Not because He didn’t know that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.  But because of his deep love and compassion for his friends.  He knew the sadness they were experiencing.  This follows Romans 12:15 ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.”     

 

In the few months since Jack has passed, I’ve learned to understand more fully how unpredictable and mind boggling grief can be. 

 

I’m not talking about those first days or weeks right after a death when the shock and blurs every thought and every waking moment. 

 

I’m talking about the grief that follows.  This grief lies quietly just waiting for something to trigger it.  It can be a smell or a certain song.  It can be a glimpse of an almost familiar face.  For me as you might expect, it’s the sound of a trumpet.  And suddenly – it’s like we’ve been hit up side of the head and the tears start flowing.

 

This is the forever after grief. 

 

We’ve all heard the saying that “time heals all wounds”.  I truly believe that time will decrease the extreme pain of grief but there will always be a scar.  This scar is a testament to the loss and to the healing that has occurred so far.  This scar will never fully go away until Christ “wipes away every tear from our eyes” as written in Revelation 21:4.

 

In this world, there’s really nothing we can do to take the pain away.  We can try to numb it, medicate it or desensitize it, but underneath it all, it will still hurt.  The best advice is to allow the pain to be released in healthy ways. 

 

When a painful emotion arises, it’s our instinct to pull back from it.  Instead, the more we embrace these painful emotions, the easier they are to overcome.  After a loss has occurred in our life, we have to take the time to go through the process.

 

Sometimes that means being angry and beating our pillow.  And, sometimes it means crying until we fall asleep.  Or perhaps, it even means screaming at God for taking our loved one.  We must be honest with ourselves and with God.  There is one way that will guarantee for the pain to be lessened.  Find someone to help and that becomes our focus and our loss is lessened, at least for a period of time.    

 

Remember, when we grieve, it is OUR loss and not for the one who has passed.  We have the assurance that if our loved one was a believer, they are with Christ.  They have reached their eternal home; the home where we are striving to be some day.   

 

Sometimes the pain is so great that we actually wonder how we will ever make it - especially through the holidays, or an anniversary, their birthday, our birthday, or the date of the loss. 

 

And then there are times following a loss that we start looking at the past with regret and grow anxious.

 

We may even spend hours thinking and rehashing how we could have done things differently.  Maybe we said words in anger.  Or, we may have missed opportunities for time spent together.  And, perhaps, there were times that we could have said “I love you” and we didn’t. 

 

We can’t change our past but we can forgive ourselves.  And, we can recognize that we feel this pain because we loved someone so much.  Following a loss, there are very few people who don’t experience some type of regret.  I experienced extreme regret. 

 

Jack’s death was so sudden and so unexpected that there were many things that I wished I could have shared with him.  I met with a Christian counselor to discuss my feelings.  He reminded me that Christ gives His children grace and that I must give myself grace AND I must give grace to Jack.

 

That very night, I had a beautiful dream.  I can still see it.  Jack was standing in front of me with his trumpet, playing Amazing Grace.  He would play a line of the hymn, in his own style that always seemed to make the trumpet talk.  He would take the trumpet from his lips and give me the most beautiful smile.  Yes, as God’s children, if we ask for forgiveness, we have His grace.

 

Grief plays awful games with our mind and our spirit.  Remember that’s Satan wanting to destroy us so we must immediately say out loud, “Satan, in the name of Jesus, I rebuke you.  I put my trust totally in the Lord”.

 

When we’re going through grief, we must also remember to take care of ourselves and to think about our health and daily habits.  There are times that we can’t eat or sleep and we really don’t care if we do.

 

Counselors recommend not to make major decisions during the beginning stages of grief because our mind will not be functioning at 100%.   And, I can tell you first-hand, that is true because initially I made some real doozies that I’ve had to forgive myself and to forgive others who took advantage of a person in grief.  If any decisions must be made, it’s best to have a trusted family member or friend with us.

 

Eventually relief WILL slowly follow.  Psalm: 30:5 promises us that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”. 

 

When we have a loved one experiencing grief, how should we handle it?

 

Let me share a few of the items that people have done for me:

 

 

God understands our grief and offers to be with us and to comfort us with a “peace that passes all understanding”.

 

Let me give you an example of that peace.  Jack played at a church service the Sunday night before he passed on Monday.  The last song he played was “When we all get to Heaven”.  He was asked to give his testimony during that service and he did. 

 

The next morning, which was Monday, something awakened me at 5:31 a.m. and I jumped out of bed.  He was lying beside the bed, he gurgled twice and he was gone.  When the rescue squad arrived, he was blue and there was no brain activity.  EMTs shocked him and got a heartbeat but lost him a second time and a second shock was given.

Because we did not have a signed ‘do not resuscitate” he had to be taken to the hospital and placed on life support.  After two days, there was still no brain activity, dialysis was needed and he would have remained on life support as a vegetable, so a decision had to be made.  

 

I was told that he had a brain aneurysm and it was not heart related issues, as I initially thought.  I’ve also been told that his soul probably left his body when he hit the floor which happened to be his Mom’s first birthday in heaven.  She had passed five months earlier at age 97.

 

God’s bubble of peace and protection was around me the days following his death preparing for the service, talking with visitors and even during the service when I gave his eulogy.  I was so at peace.  It was a peace that I can’t explain even today but know that it was God’s hand of protection on me.

 

Three days following the service, God allowed the bubble to be removed and for the emotions to pour out and pour out, they did.  These emotions had to be released in order for me to follow the journey and to begin healing, regardless as to how long it might take or how hard it would be.

 

I had to remember what Paul wrote in I Thessalonians’ that Christians do not grieve the death of a fellow believer in the same way that unbelievers grieve and that he also reminds us to think of death for a Christian as ‘temporary’.

 

The grieving process is hard but at some point, we are able to begin recognizing some blessings that appear when grief comes into our life.

 

 

Six years ago I was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  Jack and I believed in the power of prayer and we also believed and claimed that I would be healed.  We never spoke the stage of the cancer out loud because the Spirit was telling us that I would be healed and we knew that what the mouth speaks, the heart believes.

 

Through the prayers and faith of our family and friends, and with medical technology, I was healed and we shared this testimony with over 50 worship gatherings.  What a mountain top and glorious experience that was for us!

 

When Jack was in the hospital on life support, many of the same people who prayed for me were now praying boldly and believing for his healing.  But, in God’s own way and in His time, God did heal Jack.  His plan, which we know is the perfect plan but one that we do not understand, was to take him to Paradise.

 

In this experience, I walked through, and I continue to walk through, the valley of the shadow of death but I will always Trust my God.

 

God met me in both places in very real and unique ways.  On the mountain top I was healed from a devastating illness and experienced joy and wanted to share the news with everyone.  Jack and I wanted others to know the power of God’s goodness and mercy to us.

 

Through the sudden loss of Jack, God has walked with me in this dark valley.

 

BUT, even during these dark times, even when life threw me something that I didn’t want, it has been verified time after time that God is always with me.  He has guided me through this loss and has carried me because I couldn’t do it on my own.

 

On my knees as I pour my heart out to God, I feel His presence and know that I don’t have to fear or worry because God IS ALWAYS faithful. 

 

And once again, I want to share with others the power of God’s goodness and mercy, just as Jack and I did following our mountain-top experience.

 

One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 43:2 which is quickly becoming my life verse, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.  And, when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.   For I am the Lord, your God.”

 

That’s His promise to His children – and, as His child, as I have walked through the valley, He has been with me every step of the way.  He is my Father, my Healer, my Comforter, and my All in All.

 

I am not alone.  I trust Him and know that seasons of hardship and even this deep, dark valley will come to an end, for God’s glory and by His grace.

 

Jack was a man who loved God; he loved me, his family and friends, in that order.  He clung to Jesus Christ as his Rock and wanted everyone to know that.

 

Jack was a talented musician and loved playing the old hymns on his trumpet.  When he would go somewhere to play by himself, he usually would have his box of rocks.  He would open the box and take out a rock and say, “This is just a rock.  There’s nothing special about it.  But, put it your handbag or pocket and every time you touch it, remember that Jesus is our rock.  And, if you cling to Jesus, you will be fine.”

 

So, if you’d like to carry a “Rock” as a gentle reminder that “Jesus is our Rock” please get one after the service.

 

Thank you for allowing me to share with you in a very transparent way.

 

Traveling the journey of grief is one of the hardest ones we will ever take, but we have the assurance that with the Lord holding our hand we will be like refined silver.

 

Extreme heat is uncomfortable but if we submit to the heat, we are day-by-day being transformed into the image of Christ.  The process will end on the day when we meet Jesus face-to-face and He looks into our face and can see His clear reflection.

 

Let us pray:

 

Lord, we praise and worship you.  We thank you for your grace and for today’s sweet time of fellowship.  We ask, Lord, that when we experience trials and tribulations, that we submit to the heat appropriately and that one day we will be transformed into Your image.  We love you, Lord, and thank you for being our Father.  In His name we pray.  Amen. 

 


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