Graze: To feed on growing grasses.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

-Ps. 23:1-6

Growing up on a farm, I used to watch the cows, sheep & horses graze in the pasture. Each morning we would open the gate to the barnyard and they knew there was freedom from that small pen they were in. They also knew there was nice green grass beyond the barnyard. Once the gate was open, look out because those animals wanted to get where the tall, green grass grew – the pasture! They would take off sometimes even running up the old fenced lane that went up over the hill through the cornfield to the lush green pasture on the other side of the farm. There they would graze for a while then lay down and rest for a while then graze some more. They did this all day long. Come evening we would go over to the pasture’s edge and call the cows – 'come boss, 'come boss. They would gather at the pasture gate. Sometimes we would have to go round up a few stragglers and when all were accounted for, we’d open the lane gate and back over the hill they would go to the barnyard for the night. The next morning was the same routine, day after day.
What a life, huh?!

Oh that we could just graze and rest in shady green pastures all day long! But we can rest and graze in God’s green pastures and restore our souls . . . The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. (Ps. 23:1) I believe God wants us to slow down and “rest” and “graze” and “feed” on His Word. Life throws so many things our way and we are so busy – busy doing good things. But are we running on empty a good share of the time? Are we feeling stretched to extreme? Are we content with who we are in God’s divine providence? Slow down and take some time to just leisurely graze, rest a while, then graze and feed on the good things God has provided for you. Graze, rest, and enjoy the “shady green pastures” of God’s abundant love, grace, and mercy.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Divorce - Cancer / What do you say or do?

A friend just told you she is getting a divorce. What do you say?
A woman at your church just found out she has cancer. What do you do?
Do you feel like you want to help, but don’t know how?
Here are a few sobering statistics about the women in crisis around us:
·         40% of marriages end in divorce (the rate is the same for Christians and non-Christians)
·         1 in 6 women have been the victim of a sexual assault
·         1 in 4 have been a victim of domestic abuse.
·         1 in 8 will have invasive breast cancer
·         1 in 3 women are depressed
Now picture the tables of women sitting at your event or Bible study this month. One woman at a table of eight may have invasive breast cancer. In a room of thirty women, five have been the victim of a sexual assault. At an event of two hundred women, fifty have experienced domestic abuse, and over sixty-six are depressed.
There are a lot of women in crisis around us. And as ministry leaders and friends, we are called to comfort them. To say and do the things that will bring them comfort. But do we really know how?
A few years back I was leading a large women’s ministry and was asked to help write a book called Comforting Women in Crisis. I interviewed women and asked them to share their experiences with rape, infidelity, domestic abuse, and miscarriage. As I sat and listened, cried, and later wrote their stories, my heart bled for them.
Writing the book equipped me to do a better job at comforting women in crisis and in this article I hope to give you some tips to help you do the same.
First, let’s talk about What to Say and What Not to Say to women in Crisis…
What NOT to Say
These are all real expressions of “comfort” people have said to women in crisis, and why they are not the best things to say.
1.       Look at the positive. If it was this easy to adjust our attitudes we would certainly do it. Think about it…saying something like this is like telling a blind person not to be so blind…
2.       Call me if you need anything. Most women will not call, and in the midst of a crisis have no idea what they need. You may mean well, but this is an empty gesture, and you just put the responsibility on her for your action or inaction.
3.       I know how you are feeling. Now is not the time to express understanding by sharing your story. Don’t be surprised if your friend reacts with stony silence if you attempt to comfort her in this way. She needs you to listen to how she feels, not how you feel.
4.       The joy of the Lord is your strength! Be careful how you use scripture to comfort a woman in crisis. Instead of helping her feel closer to God, this type of statement can make her feel like a failure TO God, because she feels unable to “control” her emotions or sense the joy of the Lord in her difficult time.
5.       God won’t give you more than you can handle. This statement subtly puts the blame on God for her current situation. Depending on the crisis, she may already feel distant or even angry with God.
Bonus not to say:
·         If you had told me I could have helped. Most women in abusive relationships are not able to reach out for help, and may keep friends at a distance on purpose. Saying this to any woman in crisis infers it was her fault you were not there to help. The last thing she needs now is to feel guilty for failing in your friendship.
·         I’ve always thought he was a jerk. Imagine how this makes a woman feel about possibly decades of her life, and about herself for being married to “the jerk.” Don’t say it, or even agree with her if she does.
What TO Say
Use these words to extend comfort to a woman in crisis.
1.       You’re doing a great job. Instead of saying “look at the positive,” help her to do it! You can never go wrong giving an encouraging word, and don’t give up even if it doesn’t seem like your words are getting through.
2.       I’ll bring you a meal on Tuesday night. Physical exhaustion is common in crisis and your friend may not even realize her need for help. Take the lead and commit to bringing dinner, watching the kids, or helping with errands. The key is—don’t ask, tell. Recognize that even asking her what type of food she likes can be an overwhelming decision right now.
3.       How are you feeling about this? Listen, listen, listen. This was one of the main things women in crisis identified they needed. Don’t try to fix her feelings: support her through them!
4.       I’m so sorry. Don’t withdraw when she is grieving because you don’t have the “right” words to say. Instead, offer to share in and validate your friend’s grief. There are no better words to say, especially when you don’t know what to say, than “I’m sorry.”
5.       I don’t know what to say. Honesty is important. She’ll know if you are uncomfortable or say something you don’t really mean. Better to just admit you have no words and to offer a hug than to say something that won’t be genuine.
Bonus to say:
·         I’m praying this scripture over you, do you have another favorite? Many women say “I’ll pray for you” and walk away. Instead, let the person know you are active in your promises and convey it with your actions. Pray on the spot. Be a visible support, not an invisible promise.
Praying for you and for your healing words as you extend comfort to the women in crisis around you!

Linda is a contributing author to the book, Comforting Women in Crisis, and has written women’s ministry leadership and training articles, books, and materials with Group Publishing. She has also presented national training workshops for pastors, women’s ministry teams, small group leaders, and volunteer ministry leaders, and developed a three hour workshop, Comforting Women in Crisis, based on her experiences and research in writing the book.

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