Category Archives: Grief

A Unique Friendship

October 4, 2015

Many of you know that a dear childhood friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Unless the Lord touches his life, Wes has only a few months to live. In fact, he is already spending most of his day in bed. Although I have experienced the death of many good friends and family, I was not prepared for the emotional impact that Wes’ cancer has had on me. I can hardly think about it without tears and sometimes I cannot speak because of the emotional grip on my vocal cords.

As I thought about it, I realized that Wes as been a very close friend of mine for all of my life. We first met in the Nursery Sunday School class in the church we both grew up attending. We were youth together in that church, including participating in many church activities and ministries. We went to high school together (although Wes was a year younger than me). We attended college together, carpooling the daily drive for most of those years. I worked on the family farm of Wes’ family and we even worked the same part time job together, cleaning the shop floor of an Oldsmobile dealer.

Wes and I were both married about the same time in life and both felt called to be pastors. We both attended seminary (although we went to different schools) and our kids are about the same ages.

About two years after I was called to pastor in Devils Lake, ND, Wes was called to pastor in North Dakota too (an Evangelical Free Church in Wilton). Then, when I came here to be the pastor, it was not long before Wes moved his family to a rural church near St. Cloud. Wes was the pastor there for 24 years before resigning about a year ago.

In all those years, Wes and I shared many phone calls, visits, letters, emails, sermons, and most of all the common challenges of pastoring similarly sized churches. It is no exaggeration to say that Wes and I have shared life for 60 years. We have shared life more closely than most brothers ever have a chance to share life. When I thought about it this past week, I realized how truly amazing that gift from God was for me.

I went to see Wes on Friday. Our 2½ hour visit flew by. We talked about the life we have shared. We talked about heaven and the amazing life that heaven promises to us. I read to him at his request and as he grew tired, I read to Wes from the Bible, II Corinthians 4 and 5. “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands… so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life…God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” As I finished that last verse, Wes said AMEN. You see, that is the Good News, Jesus took our sin, so that we might receive His righteousness and the hope of an eternal home in Heaven. What a hope! Amen, thank you, Jesus!

D-Day Faithfulness

June 7, 2015

“On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s troops.” (Department of Defense facebook post yesterday.)

Today, very few of those who lived through D-Day are still alive, but the memory of their heroism lives on. I doubt that many who were part of D-Day understood the great ramifications of the event in which they participated. Some leaders did, but the men who assaulted the beaches in France were mostly there simply because they followed their orders. In fact, I doubt that few of those soldiers wanted to be a part of that invasion. They knew very well the risks and the terror of war. Still, they did their duty. They were faithful.

Sometimes, I think of my Christian life in that same way. I may never know the big picture of God’s work and how I fit in. I may do my part and it will seem small, insignificant, or unimportant. But in the end, like the soldiers at D-Day, my job is to be faithful and leave the end results in the hands of the One I serve.

I began my service many years ago, and at that time, I signed over to my Savior the right to tell me what to do. Since that time, I have been responsible to do what He places before me. Marriage, parenting, pastoring, preaching, teaching the Bible, prayer, sharing my life, helping others, serving organizations, and many other responsibilities have been mine, simply because I told the Lord I would be faithful, the best I could understand His directives. I did not aspire to lead Bible studies with Chinese students, to be a chaplain for baseball or a local business. I did not set out to help start a Christian counseling center, chair the board, or be the president of a convention. I did not even know for sure that I would preach and teach the Bible (although that was something that I wanted to do).   Instead, I just said to the Lord, please use me and open the doors that You want for me.

Yes, some days I want to quit. Some days I wish I could stay home and hide from my responsibilities, but a soldier needs to show up, give his best and in the end, he must be faithful.

Will you join me in being faithful, like those soldiers 71 years ago?

Ministry to Ron

April 12, 2015

It was an honor to serve JoAnn and Ron’s family at his memorial service yesterday. It was a bit unusual to have a memorial service 3 months after someone’s death, but that was the way Ron wanted it to be. He knew that winter weather in our region can make travel difficult and even dangerous, so when his death was imminent he asked JoAnn to have the service later in the spring when weather was less threatening. The weather was wonderful yesterday, just as Ron wanted.

As we finished the service yesterday and waited for the lunch, Katie and Linda told me privately that they did not remember meeting Ron. That made me realize that many in our church probably did not know Ron. When Ron and JoAnn first started coming, Ron was taking strong chemo treatments and did not feel well. Later, it was dangerous for him to be in large groups because his immune system was very weak. As I think back on it, most of the time Ron was here, it was our adult Bible study class (Sunday School) that got to know Ron. Those who were not in my Bible study class probably did not know Ron if at all. Worship services are not designed for sharing and personal interaction in the same way the Bible study and other small groups are. It was not a fault of Katie or Linda, rather it was the nature of church activities that isolated Ron and limited his acquaintance with others in our church family.

This observation from yesterday’s memorial service leads me to two challenges. First of all, remember that the ministry of our church, yes, even our small church, is much bigger than most of us realize. More people are touched by our church than we know. There are people who participate in limited ways who are touched by what we do. The Lord knows EVERY individual, He loves them, and He has brought them into contact with us so we could influence their lives and show them God’s love. None of us, including me, know the full extent of how the Lord uses our church. If we will live our lives, obediently, faithfully, and lovingly, God will use us in the work of His Kingdom. What a calling!

Second, be involved when and where you can. You never know when the Lord might bless you through the life of someone you meet. That is why we do small groups. Not just to learn, but to have opportunities to know each other. Those who could be in my Sunday School class when Ron was there were blessed by his humor, his faith and his testimony. Also, when you attend, you can bless others who are there. You can share your life, and in sharing, you can find the fellowship that we all need. The Lord will use others to bless us, if we will give Him that opportunity. Often, all we need to do is simply show up. So, don’t miss out, be a part of what happens here.

Your Pastor,

Dude Garrett

Sanctity and Sin

January 18, 2015

Today is our recognition of the Sanctity of Human Life. Although we do not focus very much on special emphases for the Sundays of the year, this is one that I have followed for a long time. Those who are regular attendees of our church know that most years, I preach a message that focuses on the Sanctity of Life and its biblical foundation.   Today I will do that again and even the music will follow that same theme. It is my prayer that this emphasis will help us fight the trend in our world to devalue life and miss the wonder of being God’s special creation, “made in His image.”

As I work on this message, I am struck by the affect of sin on the sanctity of life. It is not a correlation I have considered before. Yes, I know we are all sinners and that our sin has separated us from God and His holiness, but I am more attentive today to the fact that sin keeps us from accepting the wonder and beauty of our simple daily lives.

When we sin, it pushes us away from God and when we reject God, we lose the reason for seeing life as wonderful and special. Sin makes us think that life is what we make it, rather than a gift from our Creator. Sin convinces us that some lives are not worth as much as others and even that our lives may not be worth enough to keep on living. My sinfulness pushes God out of my life and when He is kicked out, I loose all reason to see life as valuable, significant and worth living.

However, when I repent of my sin, turn back to my Creator, I discover that life is valuable just because it is a gift from God. He is the author of life and when I give Him His rightful place of authority, I can receive His gift of life in its beauty and simplicity. The wonder of being God’s child is far reaching. It makes each day special. It gives me worth without the baggage of accomplish, peer pressure, wealth and even happiness. Even something as simple as happiness is tied to what I’ve done, what I have, or what I want. All of those are centered around ME, my sinful self-centeredness. When I release that sinfulness to the Savior, in return He gives me the simple job of just being His child. That relationship of trust brings our Creator great glory and brings us great satisfaction.   I love John Piper’s insight, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

Psalm 8 says that God “made man a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” If we can believe that, it gives each one of us a reason to experience the joy and wonder of the Sanctity of Human Life. We need to turn away from our sin and receive the great gift of God, LIFE. Will you turn your face to the Creator and receive that gift?


Your pastor,

Dude Garrett

God Knows What He’s About

November 10, 2013

As I worked on the message for today, I ran across this anonymous poem that for many years has encouraged me.  I first read it in a book by Joni Tada, A Step Further.  Since then its words often helped me find purpose, hope and even inspiration in the difficulties of life.

When God wants to drill a man,

And thrill a man, and skill a man,

When God wants to mold a man

To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart

To build so great and bold a man

That all the world shall be amazed,

Then watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects

Whom He royally elects!

How He hammers him and hurts him,

And with mighty blows converts him

Into shapes and forms of clay

Which only God can understand;

While man’s tortured heart is crying

And he lifts beseeching hands!

Yet God bends but never breaks

When man’s good He undertakes;

How He uses whom He chooses,

And with might power infuses him;

With every act induces him to try His splendor out

God knows what He’s about!

Noah lived through a flood that killed almost everyone he knew.  Abraham and Sarah left home and never had a home again.  Rebecca and Rachael left their prosperous and secure homes to live in dysfunctional nomadic families. Joseph was hated by this brothers and sold into slavery.  Moses lived as a foreigner among his people and barely escaped with his life after becoming a killer.  David lived years in exile because of his faithfulness to an insane king.  Jeremiah preached God’s word faithfully and died hated and exiled from those he served.  Hosea’s wife spurned his love and returned to prostitution.  Mary was a single mother alone in years of great suffering.  Jesus died for those who despised and rejected him.  And the list could go on. Yet, in every case, God knows what He’s about.  We can trust Him!

Your Pastor,

Dude Garrett

Want to talk to Pastor Dude?  Give him a call on his cell phone (701)261-0931.

Death in Our Family

Death in our Family
June 16, 2013

As you probably know, this week the Garrett’s newest family member (Dan and Kelly’s unborn son) died.  His death was very sudden and unexpected.  We knew there were complications to Kelly’s pregnancy and we knew those complications could be life threatening to their unborn baby.  But they were under the best of medical care, going to the clinic at least two times a week so we did not expect such a sudden and drastic thing to happen.

It was Monday when Kelly went into her scheduled ckeckup and the ultrasound verified Kelly’s fears that there was no heartbeat.  Monday afternoon Kelly went to the hospital to have labor induced and at 2:00 the next afternoon, James William was still born at the hospital.  His parents, his grandparents and his sister and brother cradled his lifeless body, offering the love that was stored up and ready to be given at his anticipated birth in just about a month.  That love, so precious and so life giving was not canceled out by the grief and loss of his tragic death.  Love and sorrow mingled as we stared death in the face and declared, “Death, you do not win! By faith we believe the promises of God and while we take your blows to our hearts, we also hold onto the hope of the promise of life that swallows up death in victory.”

On Friday, our family gathered at Dan and Kelly’s church for a funeral for James William Garrett.  There were others there who loved and respected Dan and Kelly.  Those who gathered shared the parent’s grief, sang songs of faith, listened to the words of scripture and said “we love you” in both words and actions.  It was a time of healing and support.

Monday (tomorrow) James’ tiny body will be laid to rest beside his maternal grandfather in Holy Cross Cemetery just a few blocks from our church building (1502 32nd Ave. N. in Fargo).  Dan and Kelly have gracious agreed that if some from our church family would like to come to the short graveside service they are welcome (the service is planned for 11:00 tomorrow morning at the cemetery).   Peggy, James’ other grandmother is a part of a Bible study and that group of ladies is providing a lunch for the family at our church building after the graveside service, but they are not planning for a very large group, so if you would like to attend this service tomorrow morning and come to our church building afterword for lunch, please let me know so plans can be arranged accordingly.

Through this sad week I have often thought of Job’s words, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (1:21) He has been a partner with me in our grief.  I find His sovereign Hand to be comfort.  Maybe I know a little of what Job meant.

Your Pastor,

Dude Garrett

Want to talk to Pastor Dude?  Give him a call on his cell phone (701)261-0931.