Synchronized Dying?

Perhaps it was several months after I began my second half century of living that I started to face the reality of dying. The decade of the ’90’s was the decade of death for me. Within a short time span my wife’s parents both died, she suddenly with heart failure, and he from a combination of heart ache and lung cancer. It was a tough period of our lives. My wife was not good at grieving and although it was seldom if ever mentioned, her parents deaths were always standing in the shadows of our minds. Three years later my father died and my grief was painful and lasting. And then in December of 1997, only 10 days before her 44th birthday, my Jeanine suffered a fatal heart attack. Now death was really personal, and ugly, and unavoidable forever more.

Meanwhile, in the small community where I lived in North Texas, friend after friend lost battles to cancer, heart disease, diabetes,  and old age. And, back home in the mountains of North Carolina aging aunts and uncles and alcoholic cousins were dying. I started to notice the ages of people whose obituaries were in the Dallas Morning News, and that maybe half of them were younger than me.

After being remarried to a wonderful woman in 1999 and our shared ministry to people in grief for about eight years, my personal mortality is never far from my consciousness. This month, Lord willing, I will have my 66th birthday. Sixty six years of high mileage, mostly on bad roads with little maintenance, has left me with my share of aches, pains, and scars to remind me of the “good old days”.

I don’t mind dying. I don’t dread it one bit so far as I can tell. If God and His Word are reliable (and they are!) I am not only ready, but some days eager for that transition. My problem is the distance between today and that day, whenever it is. You see, my body is aging at a faster rate than my mind. Often I’ll catch myself dreaming the dreams of a much younger man, not one who is riding at a quick gait into the sunset. I have quite a “bucket list” but most of those things are no more realistic than the visions of a little boy who hopes to take on the super-powers of his super heroes on TV.

It isn’t easy to stand flat footed and look reality full in the face. There are things I would like to do that will not happen, not only because of the brevity of life, but other reasons as well. Don’t mistake this seeming pessimism as me giving up on living, nothing could be farther from the truth. I still have a jest for living and count myself among the most fortunate to have the life I have.

I am disappointed that minds and bodies don’t usually age at the same speed. Some people’s bodies function well long after their minds have stopped being useful. Others have great minds, wonderful dreams, and fresh ideas trapped in bodies too worn out and disfunctional to give real meaning to what they imagine.

Give up? Never! Often when I go to my tool box it’s the old tools that are the best ones. Maybe it’s true as well for what some folks would consider old fools. So, I’ll keep hope alive, keep dreaming big dreams, and trusting my God and who knows? It is such hope, a fresh optimism at the start of each new day, that gives texture and vitality to living and causes an old man to walk with his face into the wind and his eyes on the horizon eager for the next challenge.

To my young friends: No, life isn’t fair. But, God is faithful! Even if you put your whole trust in Christ and follow Him the days of your life it might not end well…on earth. Good men and women, holy people, die in auto accidents, fall victim to cancer, and even are tortured and killed because of their faith. The good news is eternal life trumps all of our troubles and trials. One day the eternal day will break out and darkness and every evil will forever be no more. Live, and love, and learn, all day every day. Every life is a gift, use yours wisely.

Life is a unique gift not to be taken lightly.

Royce Ogle

Can you hear the music yet?…

December 9th 1997 was a crisp night in north Texas complete with a star-studded sky. It was the annual Christmas party for the large auto dealership I where I worked as a manager.

My wife and I dressed in our best and drove out west to a beautiful country club where we visited with friends and started to make new ones. A good meal was shared by all, it was indeed a good evening. J had picked out a Christmas present for me to buy her the following week from the club house gift shop. (A custom I still follow…)

The night was so beautiful we decided to take a longer route home to stretch the time of holding hands like newly weds and good conversation. We talked of our future and how blessed we were to be debt free, have a new job with a $12,000 annual raise, and only a few short miles from home. I will never forget that Tuesday night…

Wednesday afternoon I received a phone call from a neighbor, “Hurry home, the paramedics are with Jeanine”. I drove the 6 miles home knowing somehow that J was gone. My fears were confirmed when later that evening, a doctor came into the room and said, “I’m sorry Mr. Ogle, we couldn’t bring her back”.

Seventeen of the happiest years of my life ended with a gapping hole in my life that was loud and glaring and couldn’t be avoided. When I came home from work a deafening silence overwhelmed me. Late at night I waited for her boisterous laughter as she watched “I Love Lucy” or some other old sit-com. ….Only silence.

I’ll never forget the day I finally removed my wedding band. Inside was engraved our initials and the date of our marriage. I had never had it off for over 17 years, but I was not married now. She was not coming back….it was….final.

In the providence of God I met and married Carol who had lost a husband a few months before I lost J. Not very long after we were married she mentioned to me that she would like to reach out to people in grief, to walk along side them, to listen, to encourage, and to bring hope.

In September we will begin the last part of our eighth year of hosting grief groups. We have met some wonderful people, hurting, confused, angry, desperate, hopeless, and helpless, but each one precious to God, and hopefully to us. There have been great victories, healing has happened over and over again, and we have seen wrinkled brows and sad mouths change to warm smiles and tears of joy.

Along the way we met John and Maggie Dobbs. They lost their son, John Robert, just before he was to graduate high school. Even while they were and are still grieving the loss of their son, and John’s step-father, they care for others deeply. So, we are now a team. Carol and I are delighted to minister alongside John and Maggie as we continue to reach out to hurting people who have lost loved ones.

The date is the 2nd Tuesday of October. The place is Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, between Oliver and 19th St. on Forsythe. We meet at 5:30 p.m. If you want more information drop a note to RoyceOgle@gmail dot com. (sorry, have to keep the spammers on their toes!)

Have you lost a friend, a spouse, a parent, or other family member? Know someone who has? The way one person described the loss of a loved one was that it was as if the music had gone silent. The music of life is the joy of family and friends. Death stops the music.

Our only goal is to love people as they walk the dark path of grief until one day we can ask “Can you hear the music yet?” and hear the reply, “Yes, I hear it again”. That is our joy, to bind up the broken-hearted and send them on their way hearing the music again.



The Gospel, Short and Sweet.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Peter 3:18)

Three verses before this one is a verse that is quoted often. I have seen it in print and heard it quoted or read several times just in the last two or three weeks.

“always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect”
(1 Peter 3:15)

I submit that the challenge of verse 15 is clearly answered in verse 18. What do you give as a defense for the hope that is in you? Here it is! The good news about what Jesus has done for sinners!

What a power packed few words is packed into this verse of Scripture!

The anointed one, the Messiah the Jews hoped for, the one prophesied that would come to save his people from their sins, the one announced by angels and called “God with us”, the one of whom John the Baptist preached saying “The kingdom of God is near!”, This One has come to bring sinners to God.

Jesus suffered “once” for “sins“. Never again would a daily offering be needed. When Christ cried from the cross the word meaning “It is finished” it was indeed finished. He had paid the awful price for my sins and yours. The indictment of sin blankets all of humanity, me and you and every man and woman. But that he died “for sins” means then that he died for everyone, because “ALL have sinned” and miss the mark of God’s righteousness. Now that is good news!

He was “the righteous for the unrighteous” in his suffering and dying. This is called in the seminary class room “penal substitution”. Jesus died “for” me and you, he died in our place. It should have been me and it should have been you. The “wages of sin is death” but Jesus died the death, the “righteous for the unrighteous”, “for sins”. Jesus paid your tab to an offended and angry God who hates sin! That is good news!

He suffered the beatings, mocking, being spit upon, having beard pulled out, and being nailed to a cross as a common criminal in shame outside the city “to bring us to God!” In our sinful condition we were apart from God with no way to get to Him. Separated from the Creator with no means to bridge the gap and our certain end was the wrath of God! But Jesus died for us, in our place, “to bring us to God”. That was his only purpose. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself”. This was his eternal plan, the just for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous, and by that one sacrifice we are reconciled to God, brought back to God. That is good news!

Jesus suffered and was put to death, but he didn’t stay dead. He was “made alive in the Spirit“. Just as promised, after three days he came out of the tomb in a glorified body perfectly fit for heaven or earth. We are promised immortality and a body like his. The same Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead will give me a body like his because he died in my place, for my sins, and brought me to God!. That is good news!

When someone asks “What about this church thing? Why are you a Christian?” Here it is. It is the “Gospel”, it is the “good news” that Jesus has solved every mans two greatest problems, sin and death. Jesus has taken sin away forever and defeated death so we can be with God, sinless, forever!

Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel (good news about Jesus), for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16,17)

Here is the gracious offer, “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord”. You can’t be good enough, we have already established that, (He was righteous, we were unrighteous). Your salvation is finished, the debt has been paid, do you believe God’s record about His Son? Then receive the gift!

Do a U Turn, change your mind about the course of your life and turn toward Christ, He is waiting for you. If you depend on Him to do what the gospel promises He will enable you to live a changed life, go public for Him by telling others and by reenacting His death, burial, and resurrection in the waters of baptism. It is the formal and symbolic way of going public for Christ. You are saying I am dying to my old way of life and I am being raised a new man who lives a life of love and service to Christ.

Perhaps you have long been a church member, maybe a preacher or teacher, but something has been missing. Have you ever put your whole trust in Jesus Christ? If not, I hope you will now. He will not always wait.



The Journey of Grief

Have you walked that lonely road, desperately missing a loved one who has died? Perhaps you have recently lost a family member or a dear friend and the pain is still raw and sharp. Or, it might be that even though your loss was several years ago the hurt never seems to heal like you expected it would.

Welcome to GriefShare.

“GriefShare is a friendly, caring group of people who will walk alongside you through one of life’s most difficult experiences. You don’t have to go through the grieving process alone.

GriefShare seminars and support groups are led by people who understand what you are going through and want to help. You’ll gain access to valuable GriefShare resources to help you recover from your loss and look forward to rebuilding your life.” (from the GriefShare website)

My wife Carol and I became vividly acquainted with grief and grieving in 1997. Her husband Terry died suddenly in the summer and my wife Jeanine died the same way just before Christmas and her 44th birthday.

Because we knew first hand how difficult it is for survivors to go through the grief process we decided to offer a hand to those who are hurting  as we did. In just a few days we will begin our 8th year of facilitating GriefShare groups. Our experience has been a mixture of sadness and joy as we have walked along side many wonderful people with broken hearts. We have seen some amazing transformations through this ministry of love and mercy.

Last year we were joined in our GriefShare ministry by John and Maggie Dobbs. John is the pulpit minister at the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe. John and Maggie lost their son, John Robert, several months ago, a few days before he was to graduate high school. John is a prolific writer and has chronicled much of his personal journey of grief at his popular blog “Out Here Hope Remains”.

We began having our groups meet at Forsythe last year after several years at Whites Ferry Road Church in West Monroe. The Forsythe Church is centrally located on Forsythe west of the Oliver and Forsythe intersection.

On Monday, January 11th at 6:00 p.m. we will have a time of greeting and registration for the upcoming series. We will meet weekly for 13 weeks. Each week we will watch a DVD (30 to 40 min.) and then have a discussion time.

You can expect the following:

  • Very helpful information. The series includes ministers, Christian counselors, famous authors and other experts on grief, and people just like you who share their stories of hope.
  • People who really care about you. Our only goal is to love and nurture hurting people in Christ’s name.
  • Tears are welcomed. Tears are the beautiful expression of a hurting heart and God’s unique way of cleansing a troubled soul. Don’t be fearful of crying, all of us do cry, or have, it is normal and expected.
  • A safe place. Your confidentiality will be respected and honored. What you choose to share in a GriefShare group will not leave the group. “What happens in GriefShare stays in GriefShare”.
  • You don’t have to talk. It’s really up to you. Often people are not ready to talk in a group setting. That is OK. You will be expected to talk only if and when you feel comfortable doing so.
  • Christ centered. Our resources are biblical in nature and we readily say that our ultimate comfort in times of trouble comes from a vibrant, authentic, relationship with Jesus Christ. Our mission is not to have you change your church membership or to pressure you into anything you don’t want to do. We only want to love you in Christ’s stead and point you to him.
  • You will get better! I’ll make you a promise. If you attend each week and take advantage of the resources available to you, I assure you that you will realize that you have found comfort, peace, and a new hope that makes daily living without your loved one much more bearable.

Remember! Each Monday at 6:00 p.m. at Forsythe Church of Christ, 2101 Forsythe Ave. in Monroe. Put it on your calendar now so you can’t forget, you’ll be glad you did. I look forward to meeting you!

Questions? Call Carol Ogle at 318.348.2291