PeRsPeCtIvE

It was Christmas morning and I was savoring the quiet of my home, having celebrated with family the night before. The husband was downstairs reading his news and I, nestled under the covers, a cup of coffee in hand and a sleeping dog at my feet, was remembering the long expected news that I awakened to on Christmas Eve. The message read:

A lifelong friend released her beloved mother to her final destination, after five weeks of hospice care at home. She was a neighbor when I was growing up, one of my own mother’s dearest friends and a woman who touched my life significantly. She spent her first Christmas on streets of gold in a new home specifically prepared for her.

John 14:1-2

PERSPECTIVE

Putting the finishing touches on Christmas eve prep’, I discovered an army of ants taking possession of two pies and a package of dinner rolls. When I say an army, I mean hundreds of tiny black ants that have been terrorizing our home for the last several months. They were currently having a picnic at the expense of my sanity. I frantically summoned my husband and sent him on a replacement mission as I contended with eliminating the swarming soldiers that had overrun my laundry room. I was sharply scolding said ants in very stern tones, feeling very sorry for myself, when I was reminded that my friend lost her mother just hours ago.

How it shoulda been

PERSPECTIVE

Three dozen cookies, baked, frosted and artfully drizzled with chocolate, prepared to be gifted to my neighbors and ready to be transferred to the refrigerator, slide out of my hands landing face down on my kitchen floor after hours of labor invested. Peppermint icing and chocolate syrup splashed onto cupboards and floors mocking any thought of delivery to anyone. Woe is me. Then I am reminded that my cupboards are full and my troubles are few.

How it Was

PERSPECTIVE

An hour later we’re walking into Christmas Eve services when I catch site of my dear friend Nancy, she with a scarf wrapped around her head and a mask over her face as she recovers from a recent stem cell transplant. In the interest of limiting the possiblity of infection of any sort, she has been largely unable to leave her home, let alone worship in our large congregation for many, many weeks. The sight of her fills my eyes with grateful tears and heart to overflowing. Great joy.

Day Made

PERSPECTIVE

A friend shares that in the midst of a trying conflict with one of her children, she gets in her car, upset and discouraged at the failure to find peace. She proceeds to back out of her garage when she catches sight of a neighbor whose own child was killed in an act of violence recently. In an instant she was reminded that despite the momentary disharmony in her own home, she still had her child.

PERSPECTIVE

There is great unrest in our world. We hear news that more Christians in Nigeria have been beheaded by representatives of the Islamic State. Daily we are bombarded by reports of our own leaders slinging horrifying accusations at one another and our culture becomes more devisive by the moment. Those who accuse others of hate, speak their own hate. Facebook reports another missing person every day and what was once shamed is celebrated. Even so, the entire world paused to celebrate the birth of a king who came to save us from our sin. There is still hope in this chaos.

PERSPECTIVE

I give little time and attention to politics or our changing culture, except to pray, for our leaders, all of them, that they would be wise, that they would do good, and that they would be used for God’s purposes here on earth. I don’t trouble myself with the details of who said what. Some may say I’m willfully ignorant of what is happening around me. The truth is, I don’t believe our problems are political or even cultural. I believe our problem is spiritual and hence I take the spiritual road to address them. If I look at the condition of our world, the sorrow of death, the frustrations of daily life and allow them to discourage me, I will be without hope. Instead, my hope is firm.

PERSPECTIVE

They say hindsight is 2020. Well, here we are. It’s 2020. Nostalgia is fine in small doses but to immerse oneself in it too deeply or too frequently generally results in rewriting history, smoothing out the rough edges and idealizing what was while missing what is. Right now. Looking back is useful only if we learn from it and repent from behaviors less than stellar. To repent is to make a u-turn. To learn from the past is useful. To live in the present, with perspective is priceless.

EMMANUEL In the Waiting

“He’s in the waiting…” This lyric from Bethel Music and Kristene DiMarco’s song, Take Courage keeps rolling around my head in this season of advent and reminds my heart to take comfort in His presence as I wait. His answers are coming even as we wait for the celebration of the birth of the Christchild.

What are you waiting for? Advent is about waiting for what is to come. In this case, the coming savior/child in a manger, who came as an infant to die on a cross some 33 years later. The entire world is waiting for Christmas right now, for all the gatherings, celebrations and tender moments we can muster.

For the last two hours helicopters have been circling my neighborhood. Sirens have been wailing. Schools are on lockdown. We’re in our home, doors locked and waiting to be told what the heck is going on. We’re all waiting for something aren’t we? And, sometimes the waiting is a little scary. Whether it’s for a healing, a relationship, a promotion, a broken heart to mend, a conflict to be resolved, a fear to subside or something else; waiting is an integral part of living. And, what we do in the waiting says everything about where our hope lies and how content we will be.

If our hope is in our own ability to create, manipulate, manage or control the events of our lives, we will surely grow weary. We will be heart sick.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

If our hope is in the Creator of the universe, the Saviour of the world, we can release our grasp and trust that not only will He deliver every good gift on time, but that He is, indeed, with us as we wait for events to unfold, trusting that He never withholds what is good for us and what will bring Him glory. He who came down from Heaven to walk this earth with us and who will return to gather us to our eternal home, is big enough, powerful enough and loves us more than enough to manage all the things that confound us, worry us and keep us up at night. Emmanuel. God with us.

I’m waiting for friends to be healed from cancer, people I care deeply for struggling with mental illness to have sound minds, loved ones in need of work to find jobs, grieving ones to be comforted, the faithless to find faith in Jesus and for the peace on earth that only He will bring. That’s a lot of waiting, friends. While I may not understand the delay or even the “final answer” in any given situation, my hope is in the God I believe is good. Believing so doesn’t mean we won’t experience sorrow, tears or disappointment, but it does mean that in the end, our hope is in Him and not in our own screenplay of what our life should be. Spoiler alert: His script is far better than anything we might imagine.

We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses… Hebrew 4:15

Whatever you are waiting for, He’s in the waiting. He knows your heart and He is able to carry you through it dear one, so don’t lose hope. We don’t wait alone. He’s right there with us.

Emmanuel. God with us.

GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST

It Hurts to Write These Words…

“Ben died…”

Those were the first  words I read  upon awakening  this past Friday.

“May he rest in peace and rise in glory”

I hail from a large extended family and some I know better than others.  Ben, not so well.  But, his father, my cousin, is like a brother to me, having lived in our home for a substantial  period of time when I was growing up.  He gave me my first Beatles album.  (Rubber Soul)  He let me drive his pink corvette one day.  He has an infectious smile and laugh.  I have a million memories of and with him.  Like each  of us, he has strengths and weaknesses.  Like me, He loves Jesus.   I have dearly loved him as long as I can remember.  Although he is miles away, I am grieving with him today and will be in the days to come.  There is a hard road ahead.

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Ben was his youngest.  His one and only son,  from a mother I have yet to  meet.  He was the child who most resembled him,  from where I stand. He was the husband of   a kind and  beautiful wife who loved him and a sweet daughter he claimed.  He had siblings who also grieve.  Shockingly,  his exit from this life on earth has been splashed across television screens which omit his name,  for now.  A devastating end to a sometime tumultuous life. But then, whose isn’t?

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In the wee hours of the morning while riding his motor cycle on a deserted street in a town I once  called home, Ben was struck by a car.  His broken body slammed to the pavement and abandoned.    A helmet lay on the ground near a single white shoe.   A lone witness called for help as the driver of the car fled the scene, no doubt fueled by sheer panic and fear.

Emergency crews arrived to  transport him to a local hospital, where a kind young woman tried to reach my sister, several states away,  via Facebook.  Having found Ben’s ID, she searched for his name there and and saw my sister as a friend and attempted to reach her in the hours before dawn.  The kindness of strangers. 

In a sterile emergency room, surrounded by the good people who worked hard to save him, Ben breathed his last breath.  And now,  we, his extended family grieve, praying that he crossed over to glory.

The witness at the scene of the accident shared information allowing  the police  to identify a  suspect early on.  He was urged  to surrender and  tell his story.  His  car was found, windshield shattered and other damage to the front.  But he was in the wind.IMG_1324Truth be told,  there was no where to run.   Adding more sorrow to an already tragic situation,  he was found dead,  from what is assumed to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  My mind shouts “senseless-tragic-why?”   But- I am not God, hence I cannot comprehend the whys.  But, what I do believe, is that God will somehow use it all for His purposes and our good as this sad story continues to unfold.

There is more “collateral damage” than is known to us.  Both of the dead  were 41 year old- young men who  were sons and fathers,  loved by those who suffer in sorrow  today and who will grieve for many days to come. No doubt many  will ask the perennial question, “why?”  1 Peter 5:8 reminds us  that we have a ruthless enemy, described as “a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” He is always anxious to tear us away from everything that is good, every  gift God freely offers us.   By all we can see, it would that the enemy and his lies seem to have  won this battle.

But, God… DSC02948

 

Here’s what I know for sure:

  1. In God’s economy, nothing is wasted or lost.  His Word says that when we submit ourselves to Him, we can move forward from any situation, confident that He will work every situation, every loss, every tragedy and every triumph for our good. Romans 8:28 assures us He uses all things- the good, the bad and the ugly, for our good and His glory.
  2.  God knew both of these men’s hearts and He was there with both of them in their final moments.   While I do know Ben heard the Gospel and acknowledged  the emptiness of a God shaped space in his heart,    I cannot speak for the other victim in this tragedy.   But, God. God knew and knows. By His grace, up until the final  moments of life, He hears the cry of a sinner surrendering to him and responds with forgiveness and mercy, just as He did to the thief on the cross beside him, when he said,  “Today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  3. As we grieve we all  have a choice;  either to grieve as those who have no hope, (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) or to grieve in expectation of being reunited with those we have loved here on earth, changing a hard good bye to a confident,  “I’ll see you in Heaven.”  After his infant son died, David said in 2 Samuel 12:23 that “some day I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.” 
  4. When we suffer such great loss, (and we all will)  we must never forget that He still has work for us to do.  We must war against allowing  our sorrow to consume us.  When it’s time for us to be reunited with those who have gone before us, He will then  bring us Home. too.  Until then, we can either be paralyzed by grief or we can use it for His good, by serving as He calls us, waking every morning with the mindset of a soldier reporting for duty, asking for marching orders.  This is our great challenge and the proof of our faith.  This faith trusts in Him more than in the emotions that might derail us from his plans and purposes for our individual and collective lives. It’s us saying, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

A mere three days into what might  aptly be described as a nightmare,  I have seen God’s hand at work in so many ways…in  the kindness of strangers…in the emergency workers at the scene of the accident…in the  witness who acted so quickly to call for help and to share information with the authorities… in the  media professionals who withheld Ben’s name so as not to be the first to notify loved ones of his death…in the many who have reached out to both grieving families and– in the visit between a father and a son so recent  that it had the finger prints of God all over it.IMG_0960

It is no coincidence that come July, this extended family of Ben and of mine, will once again gather together for a long ago scheduled reunion.  We will  celebrate an imperfect, unpredictable family that reaches far and wide across our country and the love and legacy we share. Unbeknownst to us until now,   we will also  grieve and celebrate Ben.  Some of us  will come to  know him better in death than we knew him in life as we share stories and remembrances from those who knew him and loved him best.  It is going to be a glorious time of remembrance, sprinkled with some grief, but not without joy.

And I, for one, can’t wait.

 

P.S.

The joy of the Lord is our strength.  If you are grieving, and in need of comfort and encouragement, please won’t you open your Bible (or your device) to the following encouraging Words from the God of all comfort. It is  my experience that

| JESUS NEVER FAILS. |

Please Read This and let me know how I can pray for you today:

Joshua 1:9

Psalm 28:7

Psalm112:6-7

Nehemiah 8:10

Isaiah 41:10

Exodus 15:2

John 14:27

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Value of a Smile

I really love retired life.  My days are full and I love the freedom it affords.  Even so, in a moment of  madness,  I accepted a short-term position which landed me back in the workforce for a period of six weeks. Three weeks into it,  I’m musing on the value of a smile.

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A happy face means a glad heart…  -Proverbs 15:13 The Living Bible

Each day of my assignment, I have been given the opportunity to interact with anywhere from  25 to 75 individuals for  a portion of my day and theirs.  What has repeatedly  pierced my heart in these interactions has been  the power of a smile and those who seem unable to give and receive them.

I have long been challenged by a desire to present a smile to all I come in contact with. The humble, quiet, smile can break down walls, lighten loads, ease anxiety, cheer the down hearted and comfort the hurting.  It can encourage the worried, create a safe space for the scared and elicit a mirrored response.  In that moment, all is good and right when someone smiles at you.

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A joyful heart is good medicine…  -Proverbs 17:22

I find it disturbing when humans, both young and old, walk around with blank, angry or hardened faces. These faces appear unwilling to make eye contact and unable to give or even respond to a smile.  They walk around with fences around their hearts that dare anyone to tear them down.  I weep, especially, for the young students I have seen these last few weeks, who enter a room face down, stone faced and unable to receive the warmth of a smile, let alone return it. A smile invites others into your life, if only for a moment.  It says, “you are welcome here in my world for this time we are together”.  It makes you accessible and allows someone to experience a moment of joy.

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If you’re happy, notify your face.  If you’re not, try to smile anyway.  It’s good for your soul.

If you refuse to receive and respond to a smile with one of your own, you are shutting those out who are purveyors of peace and joy. Perhaps fear, isolation or abandonment has caused you to shut others out for fear of being wounded by someone you once opened your heart to. Consider that a smile may well begin to heal what is broken and warm what has grown cold.

Let’s admit right now that it’s not always easy to smile.  Sometimes it is a sacrifice to set aside how we’re feeling inside and to go beyond those feelings to give someone else what they might need.  But let’s also be real.  It’s not that hard to turn up the corners of our mouths even when we may be hurting inside.  What does that old song say?

SMILE

This is some good advice friends. Take heed, because when we smile we not only brighten the person we’re giving it, too, but we are also notifying our own soul that there is still much to be joyful about and to be grateful for.  We cheer ourselves when we cheer others.

Take the smile challenge.  Make it your business to give  more smiles today.  Bless someone with a gift that costs you nothing but may be an encouragement to one desperately in need of it.

Just SMILE.

😍