Category Archives: Hope

Clearing Focus

The stars, clear and bright, twinkling in the night sky as I gaze through the window; what a delight. To put things into perspective, I live in city, though small, the lights and some pollution do not give the best of views. I have become accustomed to the way I normally see the night sky so having a clearer view is a delight. I see more stars than normal with a blacker backdrop for them with the absence of haze.

   Having this time of rest (aka quarantine) can allow us down time for reflection and refocus. How often do we get caught up in the busyness of life or the journey we are on, rushing here and there – for this or that, that we do not see other things around us as clearly as we ought?

   I was thinking of the Wise Men following the star, we read in Matthew 2 where they stopped in Jerusalem to ask “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East”? After hearing from King Herod “they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.” Why did they stop in Jerusalem, did they lose sight of the star they originally saw in the midst of their journey? Why after a time of rest in Jerusalem, while waiting for the answer, did they once again see the star which took them where they wanted to go?

   I don’t want to suggest anything into the Wise Men’s story beyond what is intended, just comparing it to some of my own journeys where I started with focus only to lose sight of it along the way, then needed down time to gain proper focus again. Some of those times were not of my choosing, caused extra frustration in the beginning, none the less it was needed and the Lord worked it out for my good.

   I’m certain during this time in our history we are all – all over the place, from time home alone, to being extra busy with children out of school, to a wide range of emotions, missing normal socialization, birthday and celebration gatherings. A question to consider – Lord, what do you want me know, to learn, in this time? Who do You want to be to me, or for me to know You as, in this situation.

   Like the night sky which is clearer and stars more visible, possibly due to decreased vehicle traffic, are we able during this time with decreased activities also see more clearly what is before us? Is this a good time to evaluate life, family dynamics, relationship with the Lord, activities, what we can live with or without, where are we headed from here; what do we want to change? How are we letting the Lord use this time for our good?

Daily Strength

Bible PicThe Lord will be our daily strength as we draw on Him.

Exciting Times

Rita - church top  Is this not exciting times? Who would have thought Facebook would be a place you would see an abundance of gospel messages. I rarely looked through facebook streams because of the post content.  Now I see scriptures and encouraging words posted all over, you could almost do a daily devotion from them.  When contemplating this article I chuckled thinking – I could just use facebook posts.

      All of our lives have been affected in some manner by the coronavirus, COVID-19. We as people who follow Jesus have the opportunity to shine, to not let COVID-19 be a bushel over our light.  To walk in peace with calm assurance in our Savior and not give into panic, fear, and irrational decisions; to not consider just our needs and hoard everything for ourselves, instead to reach out to others in their need. It reminds me of the early church, where they were, from their own resources, meeting the needs of each other. It’s an exciting time for the church to be the church outside the church walls.  To demonstrate what we see in the Bible; to not just read it – but to do it. Hmm, have an extra role of toilet paper or bag of rice – drop it on the front porch of someone that doesn’t have any.

   The phones not dead; let’s celebrate its invention and brighten someone’s day with a call. It’s great we don’t have to lose contact with our family, friends, or neighbors. Perhaps it’s time to reach out to those we’ve lost contact with to reconnect. We can let others know they’re being thought of and prayed for; leave them with encouraging words to ponder. Perhaps our own day will be brightened and gloomy clouds dispersed.

   The Lord told us He works things for good; just look at all the churches that are now streaming services online for their congregates, and the world, to watch while staying home.  The internet is being flooded with the Good News, which is going around the world. Is that not exciting! My church had talked about streaming our services but never got there, well…we are now. Adversity is a good motivator to propel us forward into doing things.

   Then there is the prayer. Everyone is calling for us to pray, from the President down. What a time for us to humble ourselves, pray, and seek God.

   As we rise above the negativity, kicking doubt and fear to the curb, we’ll be able to hear God speak more clearly and view things in a better light. This time shall pass, let’s make the best of the opportunities we have.

The Lord bless you and watch, guard, and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon and enlighten you and be gracious (kind, merciful, and giving favor) to you; The Lord lift up His [approving] countenance upon you and give you peace (tranquility of heart and life continually). Numbers 6:24-26 AMPC

Ready, Set, Live

Margie - Burney Falls #1   I heard of a gentleman who worked in the library of a newspaper agency where files were kept on people. People were divided on shelves between the living and the dead. One day as he was looking through the ‘dead people’ section spotting a file on Jesus Christ, with no one looking he moved the file into the ’living people’ section.

   As we go into the New Year where do we have Jesus filed? Is he in ancient history, gone the way of the dodo bird, or is He alive in our lives?  Yes, He is the Ancient of Days; yes He died, but His story didn’t end there and neither does ours. There is no tombstone bearing the inscription “Jesus Christ, Son of God…He lived, He died, He will be missed”. Jesus rose from the dead, is alive today, as is his promises.

   Some people are just here; they exist but don’t really live.  In John 10:10 Jesus states “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. Abundantly means exceedingly, beyond measure, great plenty, amply supplied. What an offer He has for us! With all offers we have a choice to make, do we accept it by coming into agreement with what the Word says is for us, instead of aligning with the gloom and dread with no hope of something better, that we often hear around us.  I for one lived in that world of no hope for too long, I have no desire to return to it; let’s choose the abundant life as we forward.

    Before we start thinking gold, silver, yachts, expensive mansions, and more money than we know what to do with, I think Jesus’ perspective on abundance is not material possessions. Many people have great wealth and vast possession yet are hopeless and depressed. Jesus is not against money or possessions – after all Psalm 50:10 says “For every beast of the forest is mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills”. Money is a source to meet our needs and a way to be a blessing to others, not the source of our life’s purpose. There are things of greater value than money can buy such as: an abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, true friendships, salvation and eternal life, plus an intimate relationship with the God of the universe.

   This abundance is available through relationship with Jesus, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us”. Paul instructs us to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God”. Is your life hidden in Christ? If not it can be, refer to “Finding Freedom in God’s Perfect Peace”, in this paper.

   Are you ready for the New Year? Are your eyes set on things above? Are you ready to live, really live?

 

Good Grief

Heart sculpture - onlineNormally when I hear the words “Good Grief” I think of Charlie Brown, not a reference to mourning.
Years ago, I heard a gentleman speak on losing three family generations in one accident: his mother, wife, and daughter. He tells of trying to hold on to the way things were, not wanting to face change, but found it was like chasing the setting sun; no matter how hard you run after it – eventually the sun will set, then you will have to face the dark night. However, if instead we turn to face the night – the dawn of a new day will arrive much sooner. I tucked away those words of wisdom.

My family were emotional stuffers. I never saw emotions over a death and those gone weren’t spoken of afterwards. It was like the person never existed and their life never mattered. I, too, learned to keep emotions in check, not realizing that the suppression of negative emotions also affected my ability to express the positive ones.

Why is it okay to express happy emotions over good things, yet not the sad emotions when hurtful things happen? Both are normal valid responses. To me to deny one emotion would seem to say God didn’t know what he was doing in making us emotional creatures. Jesus felt secure to publicly weep; why shouldn’t we?

I didn’t emotionally deal with my parents’ death for 13 years; once I did a heavy weight was released. With my husband’s passing I reasoned, I didn’t ask for it; But like it or not life will never be the same; that I would face the dark night and do this “grieving thing well”.

How does one grieve well? I have learned we all grieve differently; there is not a right or wrong way, or a designated time period. Grief is normal, natural, and necessary; grief provides a healthy way to cope with loss and what that person meant to us.

I’m learning good grief includes allowing ourselves to grieve, to be honest with where we are, acknowledging the loss – that it hurts, that our world has been turned upside down. I’m learning to embrace the emotions in a healthy way, giving myself time and space to cry, to mourn my loss; freedom to politely say “no I’m not okay” when a friend inquires; to not isolate myself, yet not over commit myself. To allow encouraging safe people in who are supportive; relying on the Lord for help; talking with others, reading encouraging material, attending bereavement and GriefShare classes. To give myself grace when I make mistakes and to well-meaning people who unintentionally say the wrong thing.
Though we may not like this season, let’s try to look forward with hope to the day mourning turns into dancing. Moving forward does not mean leaving the person behind, we take them with us in our hearts and the special memories we hold dear.

Trust the words of Jeremiah 29:11.

5 to 6 = 32

In our office when an equation did not equal the expected results we jokingly called it “creative accounting”, then we dove into to find out why the difference. I have found some things in life don’t logically line up; they are better understood with the heart or spirit.
My husband’s prognosis was five to six months, when he passed at only 32 days I felt cheated out of time with him, it did not add up to “what was supposed to be”.
When speaking with a visiting chaplain he stated individuals have more influence over length of time they continue in situations such as ours, whether they are ready to go or fighting to remain. Barbara Karnes writes in “The Dying Experience”, “How we approach death is going to depend upon…, and how willing we are to let go of this known expression to venture into a new one. Fear and unfinished business are two big factors in determining how much resistance we put into meeting death.”
John 19:30 states of Jesus “…He gave up His spirit”. Despite taking our infirmities and bearing our sicknesses they did not kill him, no one took his life – He gave up His spirit. In Philippians Paul talks about being hard-pressed between the desire to depart and be with Christ or to remain in the flesh which is more needful for others. Later, Paul, nearing the end of his life writes ”I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord,…will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”. I am not comparing Gene to Jesus or Paul, just the desire/willingness to lay down the earthen vessel when our earthly journey is over. They had no fear of death or unfinished business.
A gentleman’s actions years ago made a lasting impression on me. Knowing he would soon die he reached out to anyone that he thought there might be unresolved matters with, all was settled, he had peace, he finished well.
32 days was not what I expected logically, but a grieving heart recognized the grace of God and answered prayer as he entered heavens’ gates. We cannot put life in a box and certainly not God who is far greater than we could ever conceive. Thus begins the tension of rejoicing for the one who has gone before us while at the same time grieving our loss; yet we “do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope”.
Like it or not grief is an experience we must walk through in order to be healthy and have a new normal; it’s not a place to campout in; thankfully we do not walk alone for the Lord is with us. He wants to turn our mourning into dancing.

I’m Ready!

Bible PicWhat do you do when your loved one say’s they’re ready to go home – ready to be with Jesus?

   Even when you have heard the doctor’s report, know the test results, and see health declining, it does not fully prepare you for the moment when your spouse says they are ready to stop treatment and to be with Jesus.  It was no more a subject I wanted to discuss then, than I desire to write about now, except that hopefully someone is encouraged. The weight of the statement implied that I would become a widow; something difficult to contemplate. Nevertheless there was a white elephant, figuratively speaking, in the room that must be addressed, to ignore it – though not fully possible, would create its own issues, an uneasy tension, or even shut down communication at a time when it’s needed.  Death is an individual experience, yet, the dying process affects all those connected with the person; and just because they are nearing the end of their earthly life does not mean their feelings and opinions are no longer valid, that they are not concerned for loved ones, or have matters to settle.

   It’s prayer time! Time for a frank one on one conversation with the Lord regarding what’s going on, all the wild emotions, concerns, questions, doubts, and fears;  a time to hide nothing and a time to listen. Then to take time to bask in His loving presence, to receive His encompassing peace, being assured of his promises and faithfulness, to gather strength, courage, and guidance to face what is ahead. I find when I’m at peace it’s easier to have the difficult conversations; to clearly address concerns and know better how to pray for and with others.

   Having first settled matters with the Lord, I was able to discuss all that was on my husband’s heart with relative calm. I was able to see from a different perspective, not by looking down from my point of view at the situation, but from a knelling position in prayer and humbleness, looking up to see from his; with God’s grace I found the strength to say it was okay for him to leave if he was ready to go. For some individuals facing the end of life it helps having permission to go, it lets them be a peace instead of struggling between wanting heaven and feeling they have to remain because of loved ones. A hard prayer is – Lord, you know his hearts’ desire, be gracious to him, please don’t let him suffer; keep him in peace.

   Is it easy? NO! But, scripture tells us God will be our strength: ex: Ps 29:11, 10:17, Isaiah 40:29, 40:31, 41:10, 58:11.   In difficult times we must “Trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean not on our own understanding” Prov. 3:5, and believe God works for the good of those who love him…. Rom. 8:28.
What now? Pray, trust God, love unconditionally.

How To Pray?

  Pray - onlinePray? Yes… I believe that as long as there is breath and life there is a plan and purpose.
  We heard the Oncologist report, did not dismiss it, however – wanted to also look for the Lord’s report. My friend Tammy adds a perspective “did God say he had 5-6 months? God is the one who determines when his children enter this world, He number their days. He is the one who determines when they will be with him on the other side of the physical world. It may be five months or five years, each day is to be lived in Him and He will be there for each day.”
   Most of us have heard stories of individuals given a year to live and passed away in one year, some given a few months then in a couple of weeks breathed their last, yet others given two months were still doing well two years later.
   I appreciate doctors and happen to have a wonderful personal physician who is a believer. I value the wisdom God has given doctors; I respect what they do and how they try within their abilities to help.  I am also of the mindset if I am going to follow man’s instructions to take a prescription three times a day – I should also be praying three times a day to the Great Physician for healing; who knows – perhaps the situation we face is the perfect set up for a miracle.
   The question is how to pray, a broad and varied territory. Praying in great faith has not always been easy, when my faith and belief lacks confidence I pray as the father did in Mark 9:24 “I do believe, help my unbelief”. We are all given a measure of faith, it grows by exercising it. Pray how we know and watch it grow.  Find scriptures to pray that apply to the situation at hand.
   Sometimes my prayers are simply those of tears – but the Lord understands them. Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words”.
   With changing prognosis and passing time it broadened my spectrum of prayers, no longer simply for healing but strength equal to the day, for the plans of the Lord to be fulfilled, peace in the midst of the storm, wisdom in decisions, the ability to show grace, to have an understanding heart for what the loved one is going through, to not become bitter or impatient. When at a loss on how to pray there is a powerful but simple prayer Jesus teaches in Matthew 6:10 “‘[Father let] Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven”.
   What do you do when the loved one say’s they’re ready to go home – ready to be with Jesus?
   Next month…

Five to Six

FB95IMG951441722821172_resizedFive to six months elicits different feelings based on what the months reflect. For one given a jail sentence – it feels like an eternity; for separated lovers longing to be together – the short months are agonizingly long; for the family receiving an Oncologist report of life expectancy  – it’s all too short.

The latter is where my family is. I had not planned to write as the pressure to meet deadlines and having one more thing to do was overwhelming. I was encouraged by the Lord and a message from a reader I’ll call Mr. J, stating “The…message spoke to me right where I am in life… I have some decisions and moves to make and is often the case with your messages, they remind me of His precious promises for all of us! Thank you for the reminder that God is with me (Mt 28:20; Jos 1:8,9), for encouraging me to step out in faith, that no matter the outcome, He is on my side, and loves me more than I can ever know on this side of glory!”.

I praise and give God glory for how he touches people by the articles everyone writes; I’m certain it’s all our prayers that the Lord uses them to minister and encourage others. Late one night I felt the Lord encouraging me to write, not be silent, during the travels into unknown territory. In upcoming articles the intent isn’t to elicit sympathy or bring sorrow, rather to give hope and encouragement when facing troubling times. I’d like to be real and not try to appear super-spiritual, for I certainly have my moments.

For perspective let’s step back in time; my husband was first diagnosed with prostate cancer and treatments seemed a breeze, which was without doubt answered prayer. At the end of treatment we were told it would give him five years; the Lord blessed us with 17 years before once again hearing the words “cancer”, this time it was aggressive and too advanced for surgery and few medical options available. Treatment began early 2018, unlike 17 years earlier the cancer was not stopped; my husband made the decision to stop treatment. He knows the Lord and like all of us looks forward to being with. There are no answers to some questions and sometimes I’m uncertain how to pray; the pause button has been hit, plans on the calendar erased, and priorities changed.

I have my moments but try not to dwell there. I do not know what the future holds but I know the One who holds my future. I know the goodness of my God and His promises; he has a perfect track record. Thank you Mr. J for the encouraging reminder that “God is with me”, “He is on my side, and loves me more than I can ever know”.

Next month… What to Do.

“…lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

You Matter

Margie - Burney Falls #1Your life does matter, you have value you don’t even realize, there is much in you waiting to be revealed. You are a gift to those who know you and the ripple effect touches others you will never know. Live life to the fullest, not in excesses, but in the abundance that comes from a life lived connected to Me.