Not Church As Usual

I am finding that the best way for me to work through grief is to cry and write, cry and write, play the piano (which makes me cry more), cry and write.

I write here.

So many things, so many emotions. Memories. Thoughts. Under it all, this sense that I almost have no right to be feeling such pain. So many people loved Bob Pino so deeply. His beautiful wife, his sons and daughters, his grandchildren. I almost feel that I am robbing them of their rights and privileges to mourn his loss, should I indulge mine too greatly.

I have no idea how to do this. I look back at other times I have grieved over a death, and I realize that I have never let this sorrow reach into my soul. Which indicates to me that I’m growing. Which is further indication of all that God still has to teach me. Which helps me to see more of what I learned because I was a friend of Bob.

Many months ago, after we knew the cancer was not going to leave, he waved his very detailed plan for his memorial service at me. I ran. Not literally, but close enough. We were in the living room, and I said, “Put that away! I’m not looking at that! You’re crazy! I’m not going there!” He emailed it to me later, and I responded with some lame joke about not knowing they had email in heaven because he wasn’t dead yet so stop already with the service planning.

He knew that I struggled with my grandmother’s passing, that I had regrets about being unable to walk through those last days with her. As much as he could, he coaxed me into places that gently broke those chains. I’m not sure he was always cognizant of what he was doing – if it was deliberate – but he smoothed the way for me. God worked in our relationship to make that happen.

And so I am here; I have opened my heart to the sort of love and honesty and acceptance that makes the resulting loss so unbelievably painful. I think of the Joni Mitchell tune, quoted here some years back:  “Maybe I’ve never really loved / I guess that is the truth / I’ve spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitudes”

But I have loved, and the ice is melting. So I cry and cry, and I let the emotions push in like the tide when they appear, and I do not try to push them away.

I struggled this morning with doing “church as usual”. I wanted to be authentic. I wanted to change the service and program songs that would give voice to my / our grief. I wanted to cry together, to sing his favorite songs, to say together on a Sunday morning, “We miss Bob!” My heart longed for that. As Tony drove us into church early today, I found myself reading through the book of Job, identifying in some minor but very real way with his suffering and loss. I was swimming in that emotional place this morning.

But there is a time to mourn, and we have set that aside for Saturday. We will not be distracted on Saturday; we will not be bound by time. We will focus celebrating a life well-lived, on airing our grief, on joining our sorrow together and trading it all in for beauty. We will make room for our sadness and honor our grief on Saturday. It would not be today.

I made peace with that before service started, but I carried my sadness with me. I reluctantly accepted that we should do “church as usual”.

But then….

….then it was 9:30 and we kicked into gear and the music started and, like always, I just wanted to worship our God. And something amazing happened; for the first time in my life, I experienced the strength of worship carried on the wings of sorrow. It was like the Psalms sang out of my body. It was unreal.

We sang “Lord, You are good and your mercy endureth forever….we worship You for who You are….You are good.” And we sang “We give You the highest praise, for You are worthy to be lifted up.” 

And I lived in that moment, absolutely sure that above and below and beside all my sorrow, God is good. And He can live and move and breathe life into that sorrow. We believe that.  Death does not steal what we believe to be true. Jesus wins. Through our tears, through the pain of loss and the sorrow we feel, He is good.

I sing some version of that every week – every day, often. I believe it. But I knew this morning as I worshiped, that I have been irrevocably, forever changed.

I looked up several times during worship. I feel the presence of God during worship; I am interacting with Him. That’s normal for me. Several times today, I felt so close, so connected. And I’m not sure it’s theologically correct, but listen:  
every time I looked up, I saw Bob Pino’s face
Right beside Jesus, smiling, singing, dancing, and cheering us on like he did every week, whether in the room or watching online.

Today I came to believe something that I cannot prove, cannot argue. I believe it. My faith has changed, my spiritual foundation has shifted slightly. There is something new there that did not exist before.

I believe that the veil between heaven and earth is a lot thinner than I once thought. I believe Bob came to church today.

I don’t have to believe this; it is enough to know that he was a good man, that he was a Christ-follower. It is enough to know that he is in heaven, that I will see him again. I do not feel the need to make up something to suit my needs.

I just know that I know that I know that I know.

I know.


6 thoughts on “Not Church As Usual

  1. I could tell that something amazing was going on with you this morning as you worshipped….and it was powerful for me as I watched you!….it was authentic…..and you really did seem joyful, even in your sorrow.


  2. I echo Karen's sentiments. BTW, worship was incredible this morning. It's always good, but it was inspirational/uplifting/spiritual/rockin' awesome this morning.

    I have also been in seasons of life where I think to myself “is my grief, which feels so overwhelming to me, taking away from the more rightful grief of others? Is there something disrespectful in my emotions and expression of my personal feelings, that it is overshadowing or taking away from others?” The reality is that you and Bob are the only two people who experienced the Beth and Bob “relationship”, so there is no way for anyone else to gauge the depth and extent of your grief for the loss of that tangible friendship. You ARE authentic, and wanting to express your emotions through creation is how you're wired to cope. I don't think that anyone would expect otherwise from you. You'll be in my prayers, friend, and may your song soar to the ears of the One you praise, and to His blessed servant and your true friend, Bob. ❤


  3. I dreamed my grandfather, once, after he died. He showed me a jet and its contrail in the sky, and (of the contrail) he said something like: “It appears as though that line is dividing the sky, but you and I know it isn't. What separates heaven and earth–and you and me–is no more substantial than that.”


  4. Seeing your post on facebook to your blog link I made the conscience decision to use your “Grace Every Day” post as my devotion this morning. There's POWERFUL LEARNING taking place during this Bob Pino process! I mean really…I've never even met the guy! What I'm learning is about the power of love to bond…to heal…to create on earth something that comes as close as anything planetary can to transcend here to THERE! I once took a Sunday School class I taught on a year and 4 month study on the topic of love! I'm still learning it's power…it's transforming soul embracing relationship building heaven touching capability. I/we (Pat will be reading this when she gets up I know!) love you dearly, Beth….and love Bob Pino…a guy who I worshiped with and prayed for in Cyberspace a week ago. “Lord…give me opportunity to implement this fresh learning into action and into the lives of others through this week!! Amen”


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