Monthly Archives: October 2013

Funeral Planning: Selection of Funeral Clergy

An important component of funeral planning that used to be of little concern in America is the selection of funeral clergy. After all, it wasn’t too many years ago when it was common for families to worship together each Sunday and their minister was accepted as their spiritual leader. When the need arose for funeral clergy by the family, it was routine for the family minister to officiate. He knew the family, their loves and beliefs and was well suited for the task of presenting the story of the decedent. And this wasn’t limited to the Christian community; members of most other religious families did the same.

I remember vividly when my father died. Our family attended church as a unit every week and our minister knew each member of the family well. It was just automatic that he would be the one to deliver the Word, speak knowingly about my father and offer prayers for his soul and for those of us left behind. He was already in the living room of our home before I even arrived from school.

With the family being comforted and spiritually cared for, it made it much easier for my mother to spend some time handling the pressing matters of the funeral and family affairs. These included such items as appointing an obituary writer, approving a kind neighbor’s offer to prepare funeral meals, meeting with the family accountant to insure that funeral costs would be covered, and beginning to deal with her own grief and depression.

Sadly, things are much different today. While about eighty-five percent of Americans claim to be Christian, a surprising study by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association identified a huge gap between those claiming Christianity and those who actually consider themselves saved. Only forty out of every one hundred placed themselves in that category and this likely correlates to some significant degree to regular church attendance. The saved Christian is one who religiously tends to his or her church attendance, prayer, meditation, Bible reading and outreach. This would apply generally to the devoutly religious in other major religions as well. Those less active are much more likely not to have a designated religious leader to officiate.

So what does this mean for the family without a close tie to a “person of the cloth”? Basically, unless the decedent makes plans prior to death, the family is left with the task of determining who will officiate at the funeral and what will they be asked to say. Sometimes it can be difficult to find an ordained pastor to handle the service for a stranger. Often ministers are reluctant to officiate for people they don’t know. The spiritual background of the decedent is important to most clergy, and the lack of knowledge of the beliefs that were held might make them feel their involvement would not be appropriate. On the other hand, some will meet with family members and agree based upon what they learn from that meeting.

Another option would be asking a close friend of the deceased to lead the occasion or, in some cases, even a family member might agree to do so. I once attended a ceremony where the son-in-law officiated under a large fruit tree in a family pasture that the decedent dearly loved. She spoke often of her love for God but had a “falling out” with a particular church earlier in life and never returned.

In some communities there are even listings for professional public speakers who can lead a ceremonial event such as a memorial service for the deceased. While they may be appropriate for those not professing or practicing any religious belief, I cannot personally vouch for any of their services.

I think it is pretty clear where I am headed with this. The easiest way for us to find the funeral clergy we need is to develop our basic belief in God into a stronger, closer and more loving relationship by clearly fully and opening our hearts to Him. Let Him infect our lives while we are here on this earth so that we receive His love and guidance and thereby find ourselves in Him. Sometimes something has drawn us away or we are just stubborn and think we are capable of handling all things by ourselves. But when it comes to the subject of “facing the music’ at the end of life, wouldn’t it be better to be at peace with God and show this in our lives with our family and friends. Regular involvement in a Christian fellowship or church, daily prayer and Bible study will loosen our chains of stubbornness and show us the way to Him. And by doing this, we will also solve the issue of funeral clergy for we will have someone who knows us and can present our life in celebration of our finale when our time on earth is done.

If you are active in your belief through thought, word and action, God bless you. And if you aren’t, but sincerely want to be, God will show you how. Let Him unchain your heart and change your life. You will be rewarded for eternity. God bless you and God bless America.
James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

 

The Shame of Dishonoring Our Patriotic Veterans

Editorial Note: This week’s column will be on a subject that saddens me and many other Americans with my background greatly. As an American military veteran, recent events are quite upsetting to my view of the land that I love and served. And while a funeral services blog would normally discuss such subjects as funeral planning, funeral expenses, funeral needs, and grief and depression, I find the recent events of which I write something that is probably also causing much grief and depression for a different reason. I hope it will make you think seriously about the future of America and how it impacts you and yours.
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At the outset of the recently concluded partial government shutdown, someone in a very high place in our federal government had to approve the decision on which services would be temporarily shuttered and which would remain open. While there can be many reasons for a lot of possible options, to pick facilities such as the World War II Memorial, a facility which is in an open area with 24/7 public access and practically no outlay of cost, is an outrage.

This facility, a destination for the Honor Flights program for our still living World War II veterans, was closed at a time when the Park Service knew that flight groups were en route as part of long planned trips. Yet despite this, they still barricaded the facility and only the action of the veterans and their escorts themselves, with a few patriotic Congressmen, saved the day.

Speaking about grief and depression, can you imagine how these heroes felt after taking a long flight to find that the very nation that they fought and bled for was using them as pawns in the middle of a political conflict? I must confess that I myself, a veteran of a later time, had tinges of grief and depression in my soul watching police in riot gear and even with police dogs intimidating elderly patriots with wheelchairs and walkers. I have trouble believing that anyone in America would condone treating these men and women in such a dishonorable way. And there is something drastically wrong with a government which behaves this way.

The World War II memorial, the other shrines, and the national parks do not belong to any party or any administration. They belong to We, the People, and they are of particular significance to those who fought and bled for this country and for the families of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

And this brings me to last Sunday. When thousands of American veterans who served their nation in harm’s way marched on the World War II memorial in support of the Greatest Generation as a protest of what was happening, they were met with a large force of riot clad police. The veterans were boisterous, yet calm and peaceful, and they succeeded in their mission, tearing down the unconstitutional barriers that the Administration selectively chose to place. And what happened next I found to be symbolic of the veterans’ pride and love of country. They carted off many of the barriers in two man groups, walking them to the sidewalk in front of the White House and stacking them there. They even left a sign on one: return to sender. At one spot a Gadsden flag was even seen flying from the fence.

The protesters milled around in front of the White House, boisterous yet calm and peaceful, when suddenly a riot squad marched in and began to form a barrier between the veterans and the fence. They were met with some boos and catcalls but no physical threat. Nothing was thrown at them. The police proceeded to physically jostle at least one older vet although no one made any physical gestures toward them and the crowd stayed remarkably calm. One tall, younger veteran, I would guess a former Marine or special unit fellow from his lean and fit appearance was close to one of the officers and quietly talking. It became clear he was pointing out that what the vets were doing was peaceful and constitutional and that they had every right to be where they were in front of the People’s House. The crowd followed his lead by chanting things like “This is a peaceful demonstration” or “The Gestapo isn’t needed here”. Several members said repeatedly “Stay calm” or “Stay peaceful”.

Looking at the police, many of whom appeared very young and some wearing bicycle helmets instead of riot gear, they appeared edgy and unsure of themselves. I would guess that many of them didn’t want to be there. In any event, after a few minutes of the standoff, a leader of the police unit, wearing a mike on his helmet, was seen engaged in a conversation with someone over the radio, probably his supervisor. At that point he signaled his unit to disengage and walk off. It was obvious that the veterans were not going to be violent and I believe he became concerned that some of his personnel were about to cause an incident.

I salute my fellow veterans who were there for their willingness to stand up for freedom and for sending a message of encouragement to all of us. But, in addition to the fact that government action would even require such a response, there is one other disconcerting thing: the media. The media barely covered the event, not even Fox News, which should have had a crew handling it live. It’s as if even Fox has been silenced by someone. I mean, really, think about it. Look at the drivel that gets coverage from start to finish as news but no one other than internet-based organizations found this to be newsworthy. This is absolutely astounding.

I don’t know who actually made the decision to take this action, but I think it would clearly behoove the President of the United States to make a public apology to America’s elderly heroes. It is something that certainly should be done by the man who is, after all, the Commander-in-Chief of our military. And never, never again should an action like this ever be taken against the people to whom this Administration is responsible.

God bless the United States of America and the flag that we fly in her honor. May she ever wave proudly and with honor over this land that is ours. God bless you all.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

James Dick Book on Amazon

 

The Reality of Christianity: I Am Second

Writing a blog for a funeral planning site can be challenging. While it is important to discuss all aspects of funeral needs including selecting funeral clergy, determining whether burial or cremation services are best, even whether or not an obituary writer or eulogy writer is needed, none of these things do anything for the inner self or soul, both of the decedent to be who is planning in advance, or for his or her family, left behind to carry out the request of their loved one as well as carry on without that special person.

Two weeks ago we talked about the need to recognize the importance of God in our lives. He is the one who can best help our loved ones deal with the uncertainty, grief and depression that will likely surface in a time of sadness and loss. His love and caring, gained through our opening of our hearts to Him, will not only help us while we are still here but will certainly positively impact the future of those we love.

Fortunately, while I thought about how to really “bring home the message” that was broached in my earlier discussion, I came upon a wonderful Christian web site that is clearly a tool for making God’s wishes clear. It is called I am Second, web address iamsecond.com, and it is designed to inspire people to put God first in their lives, to live for Him and, in so doing, follow His guidance on dealing with both routine and major problems that we will face in our lives. None can be more critical than the feeling of aloneness and fear that we all sometimes face, and these fears can often translate into grief and depression. And no subject can be gloomier than planning for your demise or participating in a service for a departed loved one.

Founded by Norm Miller, the Chairman of Dallas-based Interstate Batteries, I am Second was initially developed to lift the Dallas-Fort Worth area to a higher recognition of God’s purpose for us and now has grown to other areas of the country, including Central Florida. Being a good organizer, Miller has set up a leadership team to guide its growth and development, including a working relationship with e3 Partners, a communications production organization that has developed written and video material and tools for use by those who are seeking answers to questions from God. These materials use true stories from real people who found Jesus, decided to put Him first in their lives and, as a result, dramatically changed themselves and have been saved by Christ’s grace and redemption.

What types of people are participants? Well, they include athletes, actors, business leaders and political types as well as regular people like us and our next door neighbors. Also included are people mired in bad habits and a disastrous life style including drug addicts, alcoholics, even prostitutes, you name it and someone meeting the description is probably here. You see, God loves all of us and he wants us to seek Him out, pray and work to change our ways through our love for Him, and put Him first in our thoughts and actions. If we make Him first and relegate ourselves to second, the wonders He can work in, for and with us are incalculable. And while one might think that this is asking too much, remember that the Lord sent His Son, Jesus Christ to earth as a mere mortal to suffer a horrific death as a man, not as God, with all the pain and suffering that a man would feel, so that by dying for us we might find eternity with Him. All we have to do is put him first in all that we do. He’ll take care of the rest.

The stories told in the videos represent almost every imaginable struggle. They include such issues as abortion, abuse, anger, cancer, affluence, divorce and many more. They show how any of these things, including some which seem on the surface as positive factors, can become just the opposite when not handled the way God wants. And each of the stories shows the pitfalls of that lifestyle and its detrimental impact. Eliminating pitfalls and sorrow which can be avoided through Him will play a leading role in precluding much grief and depression which would otherwise come with ultimate regret. You see, God wants us to live happily and we can truly only do this if we have Him in our heart and put Him first. Otherwise, our riches, our passion and even our weaknesses will ultimately consume us.

I am Second also spends time dealing with many of the questions that we have regarding faith. Some of the same people who tell their stories about how God has changed them also offer their views on a variety of these questions. This is an excellent approach since it offers real life, not theoretical, examples of what God has to say about these questions. Some of the questions are:
Does God care about me?
How do I know everything that happens in life is God’s doing?
Why is Jesus the only way to Heaven?
Why does God allow bad things to happen?
How do I become second?
And these are just some of the subjects with which we can be helped. Looking over this short listing, I think we can clearly see how the power and the glory of God and His son, Jesus Christ, can lift us up with brightness, joy and light, just the opposite of gloom and doom, grief and depression. And when we are faced with our own pending demise, or with the loss of someone close to us, we will see it as a road to glory above with Him and a time for celebration.

I would highly recommend that all of us who want to develop a deeper relationship with Our Heavenly Father should consider taking a close look at iamsecond.com. It’s open to everyone, it can be a strong inspiration to those seeking to really get close to God and it can help you understand that He is first and we are designed to glorify Him in our lives by being “Second”.

Have a wonderful week ahead and I’ll look forward to meeting with you again next week if the good Lord is willing. Bless you all and God bless America.

James Dick
Hawthorne, Florida
www.northfloridawriter.com

James Dick Book on Amazon

 

AACC with Gary Webb and Norm Wright

Brian, Gary, and Norm at AACC


I recently had the privilege to meet and have breakfast with H. Norman Wright and Gary Webb. Norm is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist and his current focus is in grief counseling, trauma counseling and critical incident debriefings. Norm is the author of some 70 plus books and other media resources. Norm is also a frequent speaker on the topic of grief care. Gary is the CEO of Christian Counseling Professionals of New Mexico. Gary leads a team of 25 professionals based in Albuquerque that include a wide range of counseling services including grief and loss.

It’s always interesting the first time you meet an individual, especially meeting them over a meal, you don’t know what to expect. But with both Norm and Gary, you immediately know that they enjoy helping others and there’s a genuine warmth to both of them. It’s easy to see why both men are well respected and have helped thousands of individuals and families. They are trustworthy, good listeners, well respected by their peers and clients, and they are men of faith. If you’re looking for a grief counselor and some excellent grief care resources, you need to check out their websites:

www.hnormanwright.com – H. Norman Wright
www.ccpnm.net – Gary Webb, Christian Counseling Professionals of New Mexico
www.sharedsorrows.com/griefcare/ – Grief Care Resources at Shared Sorrows

Norm and Gary were gracious enough to pose in this picture with me.

Brian Beaman
10/2/13