Monday, February 2, 2009

An Incredible Book and Giveaway

Grief.

It's safe to say that we've all experienced this to some degree in our lives. And it's virtually guaranteed that it will arrive on our doorsteps at some point again in the future. And while the manner may differ in which grief presents itself to each of us -- expected or sudden, through illness or tragedy, young or old -- one common thread is generally true: life takes a sudden turn and we are forever changed.

What do we do when faced with this life-altering event? How do we respond? What enables us to keep breathing and putting one foot in front of the other when we want to pull the covers over our heads and say "Stop the world! I want to get off"? What do we do when the very foundations of our faith are shaken and it seems our prayers disappear unanswered or even unheard into the vastness of space?

I was recently introduced to a wonderful book by Lynn Eib titled When God & Grief Meet: True Stories of Comfort & Courage and am so excited to be a part of the blog tour introducing it. This book is full of hope and encouragement for anyone walking the dark road of sorrow. As comforting as a hug from a friend, this book is not one full of theological gobbledy-gook or cliches but instead offers many warm words of encouragement and comfort. Reminding the reader that "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed" (Psalm 34:18), this book is filled with the stories of real-life people like you and me who have experienced the depths of grief. . . .and who have discovered God's strength and hope in the midst of their pain.

I love what the author says about why she (reluctantly!) wrote this book:
". . .as I share with you God's words to the brokenhearted, I believe you will see that when God & grief meet, His power, peace and presence are bigger and more real than our uncertainties, sorrow, and loneliness." (p. 10)


In chapters with titles such as Feeling Your World Fall Apart, Throwing Rocks at God's Windows, Preserving a Memory No One Can Steal, Hoping for Heaven, and Continuing On When It Doesn't Seem Possible, Lynn Eib and the stories she shares cut straight to the raw emotions of grief. Whether you cry every time you look at applesauce or you aren't sure of your loved one's eternal destination, this book will let you know that 1) you are not the only one experienceing this and 2) God's word is full of tender comfort to lean on.

I was so touched by this book that I ordered a previous book of hers, When God & Cancer Meet, which she wrote as a result of being diagnosed with advanced colon cancer at the age of 36. It is tremendous as well.

If you are struggling with grief, if you know someone who is in this difficult season, or if your spiritual gift is caring and ministering to those who are hurting, I highly recommend this book.

Here is the first chapter of When God & Grief meet.


Chapter 1: TRUSTING THE MAGNETIC POLES OF THE EARTH

Let’s be honest: I never wanted to write a grief book and you never wanted to need one.

Frankly, I like movies with happy endings, fairy tales where everyone lives happily ever after, and answered prayers for miracle healings. But right now you and I are past all those hopes and dreams. Instead we are faced with harsh reality.

I don’t know your exact circumstances. Perhaps this enemy called Death snuck up and unexpectedly stole away your loved one. Or perhaps you had been expecting its arrival for some time. Either way it was an unwelcome intruder which brought the ending you never wanted to see.

So I do understand that you’d rather not be in the position to need this book. But if you picked it up for yourself, I’m honored you have chosen to take my words along with you on your grief journey. If someone gave you this book, I’m praying you’ll be just curious enough about what will happen when God meets your grief that you’ll keep reading. And if you’re not quite ready to read yet, that’s okay with me. Just put the book aside (hopefully on the top of your pile!). I believe that sometime in the coming weeks you’ll know you’re ready. I’ll still be here for you then.


It might seem strange for me to say I didn’t want to write this book. After all, I am a journalist, and writing normally gives me great joy. I write and speak mostly on the topic of faith and medicine, drawing on my years of experience as a patient advocate offering emotional and spiritual support to cancer patients and their caregivers. As a longtime cancer survivor myself—I was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer at the age of thirty-six in 1990—I love working in my oncologist’s office encouraging those facing this dreaded disease. It can be a very sad job because more than half our patients die from their cancer. But at least some become survivors, and there’s always a glimmer of hope that even those with dire prognoses might defy the odds.

With grief, there’s no such glimmer. Nothing I write will change the reality of the loss you are mourning—which is why I was reluctant to write this book. But while my words can’t change your past, I believe these true stories from others’ grief-storms will give you comfort in your present and courage for your future.

These stories come from people of all walks of life who have experienced many kinds of difficult losses. Some have lost loved ones to cancer and heart attacks; others have had their worlds ripped apart by a car accident, a plane crash, a suicide, and even a murder. I have no doubt you’ll find at least one person facing a grief storm who has feelings very similar to yours.

The focus of the stories is not on how the loved ones died but on how those left behind are finding the strength to continue living without them. My hope is that these stories will help heal your heartache as much as they have mine.

I started feeling especially helpless dealing with grief a few years ago as I watched a march of mourning people come to my office searching for answers, direction, and peace after their loved ones passed away. Many had attended my Cancer Prayer Support Groups with their loved ones and really missed the encouragement those groups offered them. I kept sensing God asking me to start a similar group for grievers, but if you’ve read my other books, you know I’m not always eager to say yes to the hard things God calls me to do. (If you haven’t read my books, let’s just say I tend to think I have things all figured out and can convince the Almighty my way is right!)

Starting a grief group sounded really depressing to me. Granted, starting a cancer support group sounded really depressing to me back in 1991, and it turned out to be an incredible joy, but I was certain this time that a grief group definitely would be depressing.

Yet the march of mourners continued to come through my office door, and I found myself spending more and more time each day offering comfort and consolation. I also was having a harder time dealing with my own grief as the deaths of my patient-friends began to add up. Every week another one would die; sometimes a couple of friends would pass in the same day.

God kept tugging on my heart, and I finally asked my boss, Dr. Marc Hirsh, if it would be okay for me to start a grief group at the office. I could tell he really didn’t see the necessity of such a gathering, but if I wanted to do it, he wouldn’t say no.

So I sent out notes to my grieving friends, inviting them to come to a group meeting at our office. Bringing a bunch of sorrowful souls together in the same room still seemed like a depressing plan—especially because I was powerless to change their painful reality.

But I almost had forgotten that Someone else was going to show up. From the very first grief group, it was obvious to me that God was going to do something special in our midst. Sure, there were plenty of tissues and tear-filled memories, but there also were laughs and comfort-filled words. Instead of being depressed by hearing each other’s stories, we all felt just a little better as we realized we weren’t quite so alone. Instead of drowning in our own self-pity, grievers reached out, as if we were throwing life preservers to one another. And instead of feeling far from God, we began to sense His love was very near.

Now, more than five years after that first meeting, the grief group members enjoy each other so much that we also meet monthly for breakfast and dinner and have gotten together for picnics, shows, and concerts. An evening group has been added for those who can’t come during the day. And my boss thinks facilitating our ministry to grievers is one of the more important things I do in the office and one of the best ways our patients’ families can continue to see God meet their greatest needs.

So my prayer for you as you read these pages is that you’ll feel as if you’ve been to some really good support group meetings. You’ll have to add great snacks and jokes if you want them to be more like our group. (Yes, I said jokes. I start every meeting with them because I have found that grievers usually haven’t had much to smile about and need a safe place to learn to laugh again.)

You can “go” to a support group meeting once a day, once a week, or once a month depending on how quickly you read this book. You’ll know what the right pace is for you. (And if you just can’t put the book down, go ahead and have a marathon meeting—but after you finish you’ll probably want to come back now and then to give the words a chance to really soak in.)

As we walk this grief journey together, I think you’ll discover that many others share your deep feelings. And while I can appreciate the popular psychology that feelings are “neither right nor wrong,” I also know that feelings do not necessarily mirror God’s undeniable truth. I witnessed this dilemma of strong feelings at odds with facts a few years ago when my husband and I were out on a boat with my boss, Marc, and his wife, Elizabeth.

The four of us had set out for our annual Labor Day weekend cruise on their thirty-two-foot Bayliner, despite rather foul-looking weather. We were headed up the Chesapeake Bay to a scenic, lively marina called Skipjack Cove on the Sassafras River of Maryland’s eastern shore. Elizabeth had checked with her brother who lives right on the Gunpowder River leading into the Chesapeake, and he had assured us the weather reports didn’t look that bad, despite a hurricane that was heading northward up the coast. (We later learned he had accidentally listened to the wrong forecast.)

So we took off, knowing that Marc and Elizabeth were seasoned boaters—although the whitecaps on the usually calm river should have been our first clue it wasn’t a good idea.

We had a short two-hour cruise ahead of us, but it wasn’t long before the whitecaps turned into three-foot waves. The wind whipped up, and then the thunder, lightning, and rain came. At first we all laughed and enjoyed the warm rain soaking us as the boat pounded through the waves. But then I stopped laughing, and my stomach started rebelling. Elizabeth handed me a supply of Ziploc bags, which I started filling. The waves were now five feet high and crashing clear over the top of the boat’s windshield, drenching us. It was nearly impossible for Marc to see out of the rain-splattered windshield, and my husband and Elizabeth were trying to read the navigational charts and look for the numbered buoys, which would keep us in the correct channel away from large shipping vessels, shallow water, and crab pots. We were too far out to turn back toward home, yet not sure we could make it to our planned destination.

And then it got really bad. Marc announced that according to the boat’s compass we were headed in exactly the wrong direction: south when we should have been heading north.

The rest of us were sure we hadn’t turned around—Elizabeth was especially positive we were still pointing in the right direction. She was convinced she would have noticed if the boat had made an about-face. From past experience, I knew she usually was right whenever the two of them had a disagreement about boating.

The three of us looked at Marc, waiting to see what he would do. (Well, I didn’t look long because I was busy praying there were enough Ziploc bags.)

After a long pause, Marc posed his now-famous question: “Should I trust my wife . . . or the magnetic poles of the earth?”

It wouldn’t have surprised me if he’d gone with Elizabeth’s feelings because she was so adamant about them, but his scientific brain won out and Marc made a 180-degree turn with the boat.

Within a few moments, we sighted buoys, confirming that we, indeed, had been going in the wrong direction despite all of us “feeling” otherwise.

The storm raging around us had distorted reality, and our feelings had fallen fickle.


The same thing can happen in the storms of grief. We can feel as if we are completely alone or without purpose or unable to cope. These are the times we need a compass—something that always will steer us in the right direction. Don’t worry; I’m not suggesting that I’ll be your compass. After half a century of living, I continue to be directionally challenged. (My husband still cringes when he recalls that I once described Spain as being to “the left” of Germany!) Besides, you probably don’t need one more helpful person in your life telling you what you should (or shouldn’t) be doing.

What I am suggesting is that the God of the universe has a special affinity for brokenhearted people, and His words are the perfect compass for grievers. A magnetic compass always will point you to the North Pole, and God’s Word always will point you to His unchanging truths and promises.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those
whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18
He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds.
Psalm 147:3

As our “group” facilitator, it’s not going to be my job to try and solve your problems. I can’t change the reality of your loved one’s death—no one can. But I hope to show or perhaps remind you that a deeper spiritual reality transcends our earthly reality. I’ll do it by pointing to God’s Word as your compass of undeniable truth. If you already think of the Bible as your guide to life, I know you’ll appreciate these tender reminders. But if you’ve not seriously given God’s Word central importance in your life, I hope you’ll give it a try now. You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.
Psalm 119:28
When doubts fi lled my mind, your comfort gave me
renewed hope and cheer. Psalm 94:19

And the truth of that second verse is the reason I decided I would write this book I never wanted to write—because God can supernaturally comfort and bring renewed hope and even cheer to those whose minds are filled with doubts and whose hearts are filled with grief.

If you want a book by a psychological expert, you’ll have to find an author with a lot more initials after his or her name than I have. If you want in-depth theological answers to the questions of suffering and dying, you’ll need to locate some of the resources I’ve listed in the back of this book. But if you want someone to ride with you in your grief-storm and read the compass, then I’m your person. For some reason that only God knows, I believe He has entrusted me with a message for mourners. And as I share with you God’s words to the brokenhearted, I believe you will see that when God and grief meet, His power, peace, and presence are bigger and more real than our uncertainties, sorrow, and loneliness. He is able to be our guiding compass.

The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water
when you are dry and restoring your strength.
Isaiah 58:11
The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway
for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”
Psalm 32:8
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet
and a light for my path. . . .
I have suffered much, O LORD;
restore my life again as you promised.
Psalm 119:105, 107

Like Marc as he captained our boat during that stormy trip, it’s your choice whether or not to trust the magnetic poles of the earth.

TAKE COMFORT: Grief may distort reality, but there is a deeper spiritual reality that always can be trusted.



Book Synopsis:
From the author of When God & Cancer Meet comes this powerful message for mourners. Each chapter contains inspiring real-life stories of grievers from all walks of life who have faced difficult losses. The focus of the stories is not the circumstances of how the loved ones died, but how those left behind are finding the strength to continue living without them.

Written in the heartfelt, hopeful style for which Lynn Eib has become known, this book contains warm insights and true stories illustrating that God is close to the brokenhearted and can comfort and encourage those whose minds are filled with doubts and whose hearts are filled with grief.

Lynn Eib is a long-time cancer survivor, journalist, and patient advocate who has provided emotional and spiritual support to thousands of cancer survivors and their caregivers. She also facilitates spiritually-based grief and cancer support groups. She is the author of When God & Cancer Meet and Finding the Light in Cancer’s Shadow and is the special-features author for the He Cares New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs. Lynn lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and has three grown daughters. Visit Lynn Eib’s website at http://www.cancerpatientadvocate.com/.



The publisher has generously provided 2 copies of When God & Grief Meet: True Stories of Comfort & Courage for me to give away here! So leave a comment on this post by Wednesday (2/4/09) at 12:00 noon CST and I'll draw 2 winners that afternoon (continental US residents only, please).

The book may also be purchased here.

Happy Healing Reading!


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17 comments:

Elle said...

Please register me for this giveaway. My first son died 13 years ago at age 2 1/2 years old. God has placed me in a position of support since then for many grieving parents as well. You never forget the moment, the details of every event that ended one life and began a life of grief. This sounds like an excellent resource for the journey. Thanks.

Kim said...

Wow! For reasons too numerous to mention I would LOVE to have this book as a resource for myself, my hubby and for others. I'm making note of it in case I'm not the winner this time. Thanks for this review and giveaway!

Blessings,
Kim

A Stone Gatherer said...

My sister in law has Cancer. I don't know if this book would help her or not, but it sounds like something we can all use, like you said at somepoint in our lives!

sara said...

I would love a copy of this book and I am going to go look for the other one. My neighbor is battling colon caner!

Mel said...

i like where the author said she was not really excited about writing such a book...it sounds like an amazing read.

Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

This sounds like a great resource! My patients (and families) are all in life or death situations, and this might provide the encouragement they need.

Xandra

Chatty Kelly said...

As an adult child of an alcoholic mother, I have had so much grief based on my sad childhood. I would love to have a copy of this book, Linda. Please enter me.

My ADHD Me said...

I would love this book for myself and for a friend of mine...also, I could lend it to Chatty Kelly when I'm finished!!

Thanks for the review. it looks like this my be worth purchasing if not won.

mindy said...

wow this is a book i can definitely use thanks for the giveaway

sarahw said...

i would love to give this book a try. my uncle died on christmas day over in nigeria and i'm sure it would also be used by my aunt. please enter my name,
sarahwoll at hotmail dot com

kathy55439 said...

I am working threw some loss I would love to read this book....

Lindsey @ A New Life said...

A timely giveaway...about 5 minutes ago my husband and I were trying to figure out how to talk to his mom and give her some biblical direction. She is Christian but does not read or study much, and her mom is Jewish and expected to pass away in the next day or so of cancer. Great grandma has been in hospice in my mother in law's home for 4 months.

lindsey@insideprovidence.com

Have a blessed day!

Lindsey @ A New Life

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Linda for your wonderful review on Amazon and for introducing my book to your web friends. I am so honored to know that you felt God's supernatural comfort through my words. He is awesome and truly able...even when we are not. Blessings on you and your wonderful ministry to hurting people.

Lynn Eib said...

I'm not very good at this blogging and I accidentally hit anonymous when, of course, I wanted to include my name! So sorry--my kids are amazed I am even trying to communicate on line. When I went to journalism school,IBM Selectric typewriters were the big thing!

taterbug said...

I think most everyone could benefit from the book. I'd love to have a copy. Thanks for the wonderful giveaway!

Carrie @ Cottage Cozy said...

Sounds like the kind of book that would be helpful to everyone. I am excited to have a chance at this giveaway! Thanks

Stay Cozy, Carrie

cpullum said...

I would really love to read this!
The part that gets me is that I feel at time I am going down a dark road of sorrow!! This book seems like it will show me God's way to handle it!
Count me in!
Carla
cpullum(at)yahoo(dot)com