Uncomfortable Questions

This post was inspired by two conversations I had on Sunday–one with a nurse who spoke of how family members of certain patients were wanting the hospital to do everything they could to save their patient when it was clear they needed to start letting go and another conversation with someone about death. And it got me to wondering–why are Christians so afraid of death? I wouldn’t think there would be any reason to be afraid of death. Those of us who believe are going to our eternal home with our Lord and Savior. There should be no reason to be afraid.

But, some Christians are afraid so I wondered why they might be afraid of death. Is it the unknown? Is it a fear of being alone? Is it….because they’re just not sure? And those are the questions I want to explore today. Some people might be afraid that when they get to the other side, God won’t be there. I’ll be honest. I admit I have entertained those thoughts. Where has God been through all of my husband’s illnesses? Through all of our attempts to gain stability? Through all of our attempts to provide for ourselves and to give money to the church? To do all the things the church teaches that we’re supposed to do as Christians? I don’t understand. I have seen people at church who seem much more successful than we have ever been or ever hope to be. Have we not been the Christians God has wanted us to be. How does all this work?

I type these questions and realize I’m asking the wrong questions. It’s not what the church teaches us. It’s what Jesus teaches us. They get all mixed up sometimes which is why I get mixed up. We put all these rules on ourselves which Jesus didn’t do. And sometimes, the people who serve in our churches don’t speak the words God would have them speak or they speak the words others want them to speak. They’re not perfect just like we’re not perfect, and that is something we and I need to remember. That is why I need to study the Scriptures for myself and know what they say for myself and not just depend on what someone else tells me. Maybe, if more of us did that, we wouldn’t have as many problems in our churches.

Then, there are the family members of the people who are dying. They are scared to let their family member go because they’re afraid of being without them. They’re afraid of being alone. I’ve talked before about how the church doesn’t really know what to do with the person who is alone in church, who is without a family. And I believe that has contributed to why people want to explore every possibility of keeping their family member alive before letting them go or letting them die with dignity.

These are hard questions, and there are no easy answers, but it’s important we talk about them. Talk about what we want. That’s what I did Sunday night with my husband. I told him that when the time came, I wanted him to let me go, to let me go and see Jesus. Because that is what I want with all my heart. To be with my Lord and Savior in my eternal home in praise and worship forever.

I’m so grateful that God doesn’t mind if we ask uncomfortable questions. I’m grateful that He has been there through everything we have been through. He wants to talk with all of us and have a relationship with us even if we have what we think are uncomfortable questions. I pray that all of us would have the courage to ask God the questions we need to ask even if they are uncomfortable questions.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

In My Father’s Arms

I’m trying something a little different today. Recently, I’ve taken to putting earphones on in the morning and listening to Christian music once my husband has left for work and before my sons wake up. This way I don’t disturb anyone (We live in an apartment), but I can still listen to God speaking to me through the music and lyrics of the songs. It’s a win-win for me and for those who still want to sleep.

So, anyway, I was listening to one of those songs this morning, and I realized something. I’ve been depending too much on other people with this mess my family is going through. God wants me to look at Him for my peace, my comfort, and my security. He is our Provider and the One who is always there. I listened to the lyrics again making a point of letting them flow over me, and there was a peace, a peace that passes understanding like I had climbed up in my Daddy’s lap, and He was comforting me. That is the way God wants us to see Him, but too many of us make rules up or have a background where someone made up rules that prevent us from seeing Him in that way. I know this is something I struggle with. But, I want to be better. I want to feel His presence in my life in a way I’ve never felt it before. One of my favorite songs gave me a good start so I thought I would share the lyrics with you. It is the song “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns.

“Hold it all together
Everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere
And barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

If your eyes are on the storm
You’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross
You’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your worlds not falling apart, its falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held (stop holding on and just be held)
Just be held, just be held, just be held, just be held”

Thank you, God, for always having your arms available to hold onto me through the storms of life and I pray you will hold onto those who ask for your help!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Comfort for a Hurting Heart

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve written in here, and I do apologize for that, but there were reasons. You might remember the last post I wrote.  https://alisarussell.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/dealing-with-a-chronic-illness-even-if/ For the last twelve days, I’ve been in a caregiver and management role. There is something wrong with my husband, but we don’t know what it is yet. We are waiting on the results of a scan and for him to go to a specialist this Friday. Waiting is hard. Harder this time than it’s been for a while. It’s even harder because he’s our sole income, and we don’t know what’s going to happen. He is working this week because he has to, but I know it’s at the back of his mind just like it’s at the back of mine.

That’s not the reason I’m writing this morning though. I’m writing because I missed an opportunity yesterday. I missed an opportunity to be ministered to by my Christian brothers and sisters. I’ll be honest here. I have been overwhelmed by all the possibilities of what might be wrong, some of them very serious, some of them requiring surgery. Between being overwhelmed, feeling like I have to pretend everything is all right, and having a natural reticence to talking about what’s going on because others are uncomfortable, it was hard for me to communicate exactly how much I was hurting. It didn’t help that yesterday was Mother’s Day which is supposed to be a wonderful holiday, but is not for me for many reasons. I didn’t feel like I could truly express my hurt because I didn’t want to spoil things for everyone else.

So, I didn’t use words like I should have used them yesterday which is why I’ve turned to writing them down. I didn’t know the words to use. There is an example in Scripture though of not being able to use words. Romans 8:26 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” That comforts me. God heard my prayers and those of the ones who did pray for me even though I didn’t communicate well.

It was also hard, I think, for the people I did speak with to understand how I was feeling because my husband was at church. And that goes back to dealing with a chronic illness. Sometimes, he is okay, and sometimes, he isn’t. When he’s okay, it’s hard to impart that something might be serious at another point, and my feelings are just considered to be feelings of worry which, of course, God has told us not to do.

From Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I acknowledge the reality of this Scripture. I do. I have prayed it a number of times in my life, and God’s peace has been there. But, when I state my concerns and they are dismissed as worry, I feel discounted by my Christian brothers and sisters. My heart hurt badly when one of them stated this exact thing yesterday and walked away from me. I quit talking then. There wasn’t a point anymore. I left church with my family, and they celebrated me well. We went to lunch, and then I went to spend the gift card they had bought me. It was a good afternoon, and God comforted my hurting heart. And isn’t that the point when we’re hurting? God is always with us, and He comforts our hurting hearts. I pray, if you are hurting, that He comforts your heart as well.

 

God’s blessings on all of you today!

 

Dealing with a Chronic Illness–“Even If”

This year marks twenty-five years since I started dating my husband, and for every one of those twenty-five years, I have dealt with his chronic illness. At first, it was the medications he had to take and would it even be possible for us to have children because of the effects of those medications Then, it was the hospital tests to determine what was currently wrong and how to fix it. Then, it was the major surgery where things had to be removed almost twenty years ago. That was a hard one. It was serious, and I almost lost him. He was bleeding internally, and things were more serious than the doctor had thought they were. But, he pulled through, and I am so grateful. We have our younger son because he pulled through which makes me even more grateful.

There have been hospital stays and surgeries since; time missed from work and pain that was unexplainable. Frustration that things were not normal. Hurt that people didn’t understand. Feeling trapped behind a door that tries to pretend there is nothing wrong while at church. Especially while at church. It’s easy to support someone who has cancer. It’s easy to support someone who has heart disease. Those are the diseases that are “fashionable” to talk about. It is not “fashionable” to talk about what my husband has. It is not easy to see the need when someone has an “invisible illness”.

Then, there are the caregivers which is what I am. And this is the tricky part with someone who has an “invisible illness”. There are days when everything is normal, when my husband can work, and when we can do things as a family. There are days when he can coach a baseball team and work on the media team at church. These are the days I need to pull back and just be a wife or mom. This is tough for me because I find myself waiting for the ball to drop, for the next thing to happen which puts us back in the place where my husband is bedridden because of this illness. I have said this before. Being a caregiver is not for the faint of heart.

It has been unbelievably hard for the last few years–the hospital stays, the periods of unemployment and financial instability, and the periods of just not feeling well. I’m tired, and sometimes I feel like I don’t carry it too well. Not feeling like I can talk about it; feeling like all I see at church is brave people; not feeling normal; feeling like we are on the cusp of stability, and it’s taken away from us; and always feeling like the ball is about to drop even when things are going well. They are all feelings I’ve had during this time.

I’ve prayed about this too. I don’t want anyone to think I haven’t. I’ve prayed for healing, for normalcy, for pain and stress free days, for strength for all of us. I’ve asked God to stay close even when I feel alone because sometimes I do feel like I’m alone. I feel like I’m the only one with this kind of pain and have no one to share it with.

But, I do have someone to share it with, and this goes back to the title of this post. Dealing with a Chronic Illness–“Even If”. My son told me about this song by Mercy Me a while back, and I finally had the chance to listen to it. It was so authentic to how I was feeling that I cried when I heard it. Here are the lyrics:

“They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I’m losing bad
I’ve stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it’ll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can’t

It’s easy to sing
When there’s nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I’m held to the flame
Like I am right now

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

You’ve been faithful, You’ve been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You’re able
I know You can

I know You’re able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul”

God seemed to be asking me, ‘Do you still believe even if your husband is never healed, even if things are never normal?’ I had to say yes. It was the only thing I could say. My hope is in Jesus alone even if nothing is fixed here. Jesus is my Lord and Savior no matter what, and I know He is always available to listen to me.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to pretend to be brave or never ask for prayers. God didn’t make us that way. He made us with emotions, and He gave us prayer as a way to communicate with Him. I’m planning to use both of these until the day I die, and I’m with Him in person.

Please feel free to post your prayer requests on this post, and I will pray for them like I hope you will pray for me and my family.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Leaving Everything Behind for Jesus

I’m in a wondering mood today, the second day of May. You might think I made a mistake in that first sentence and wrote ‘wondering’ instead of ‘wandering’, but no, I meant wondering. When I have questions in my brain, it helps me to write my thoughts out so this blog post is the beneficiary of my ‘wondering thoughts’ today.

In the course of time that I have blogged, I have become acquainted with writers from all over the world who blog about a variety of subjects. Recently, I have been reading a blog written by a gentleman from Nigeria, and I have realized that those of us who are western Christians have no idea, have no idea what the title of this post really means. He has written a series of posts reflecting on Christ which have brought my thoughts into sharp focus and brought questions to my mind which I’m not sure anyone can answer. I’m going to take a stab at it though I might end up with more questions than I do answers.

What does it truly mean to leave everything behind for Jesus? The disciples did that. They left behind businesses and families for a man they had just met. It’s hard to know why someone would leap from the known to the unknown, but that’s what these men did. So much courage–courage I’m not sure I would have today, but I want to have it. I want to know what it truly means to leave everything behind for Jesus.

Does it mean we quit our jobs and travel around the country or the world telling others about Jesus? Do we take jobs to provide ourselves with food and shelter while we are traveling? Do we shed the trappings of this world to center our minds and hearts on Jesus?

What about our families? Do we need to be willing to leave them behind and let Jesus be first and prominent in our lives? This is the one that confuses me sometimes. We’re told we need to provide for our families, but we’re also told we need to provide for the people who work in our churches.

I know people who won’t walk into Christian churches (mainly mega-churches) because they see the ministers of those churches as being excessively wealthy while they themselves are not. I know part of that is our sin nature and wanting to keep everything for ourselves. I also know what’s in my heart and soul is very dark compared to Jesus. But, how does all this look when I see people who work in the church or who are elders in the church with more wealth than I ever hope to have? Should I not worry about what I see or hear and keep what I give between me and God? What happens when churches keep asking for more and more money?

Other people say the only people they are supposed to provide for are their families, and they won’t step into a church because they say the people aren’t doing what God wants them to do. We did that for a while like I have said before in this blog. We had been so badly hurt by the church, we couldn’t see what God was doing in the church. There are also others who only worship with their families because they say the institutional church is what’s wrong with Christianity. I feel both of those are wrong now because of what I’ve learned about community. I have met many people who earnestly desire to live in community with their fellow believers. They’re not perfect at it just like I’m not perfect, but they do their best, and, for the most part, they succeed.

I set this post aside for a few hours and have come back to it with a new realization. I know why I am asking these questions, and it all comes back to fear. I fear that people in the church will abandon me or set me aside after they have asked for all the money I have to give. I am afraid, pure and simple. I know what has happened to me in previous churches, and I fear the same thing will happen to me in the one I go to now. I’m afraid I will be completely abandoned by the Christian community I am in now, and all the wonderful things I have learned about the community of God will be put by the way side because of a simple thing called money.

Pain, hurt, tears. Jesus experienced all the same things I’m feeling, and I think that goes to the crux of what it means to leave everything behind for Him. He was alone on the cross when He died for our sins, and He knows when we hurt and when we sin. But, He loves us anyway even though He knows we won’t be perfect until we come to Him. So, that’s what I need to do. I need to love the people around me, even though they might reject me or cause me pain, because they’re not perfect. and I’m not perfect either. I can do no less than what Jesus does for me. And when that is my foremost desire, when all I want is to be and love like Jesus, my Lord and Savior, then the things of this world will pale in comparison, and this place will be a place I am just passing through on the way to my eternal home.

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Forgotten, Not a Chance

All of us worry that we’re going to be forgotten after we’re gone. I think that’s why we have such a strong urge to leave something of ourselves behind. I will admit that’s one of the reasons I write. I want to get my words down so people will know what I thought and felt at a particular time and to preserve a record for my family. Writing is a desire, a gift that God has given to me.

Other people use different forms of creativity to satisfy this drive to leave something of themselves behind. Artists, musicians, architects–the possibilities are limitless. How many of us have looked at works by Monet or Van Gogh? What about listening to works by Mozart or Beethoven? Their names are remembered hundreds of years after their deaths. I’m sure one hundred years from now people will remember the names of artists, writers, and musicians from this age through the works they created.

Still others fulfill this desire by having children and pouring themselves into raising them or having a career that would be characterized as a helping profession. The possibilities are endless, and more often than not, we fulfill these desires in more than one way–like having children and being a writer or being a teacher and being a musician or being a nurse and being an artist. God has given us these gifts.

While I just stated these desires of wanting to leave something of ourselves can be honoring to God, I want to point out that God does not and will not ever forget us. Even if we’re forgotten after we’re gone or we’re forgotten while we’re still here, God does not forget us. It says so in His Word. Isaiah 49:15-16 says, “I will not forget you. I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

Another example comes from Psalm 9:18. “But God will never forget the needy; the hope of the afflicted will never perish.”

Still another comes from Isaiah 44:21. “Remember these things, Jacob, for you, Israel, are my servant. I have made you, you are my servant; Israel, I will not forget you.”

And finally, from Hebrews 6:10. “God is not unjust, he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

I will admit though that sometimes I feel forgotten here–that what I do here does not matter. During those times, I push and push on my writing so the words will come, and I will have something concrete to leave in this world. I run with my feelings and forget what God has done for me so I’m not in His will. Even though the desire to write is God-given and can be God-honoring, God wants it done with Him in mind and not because we are trying to honor and spotlight ourselves. So, when I haven’t been in His will, I have struggled to write and the words have not come. God doesn’t want it to be that way. He wants us to use our gifts for Him and for us to be in the center of His will when we do. That means I need to know Whose I am, to be in the center of His will, and to use the gifts He has given me to touch people for His Kingdom. Jesus, first; me, last. Always!

 

God’s blessings on all of you today!

A Gentle Spirit

I’ve often thought about what it takes to have a gentle spirit. There are writings in Scripture that say God wants us to have one. Writings such as I Peter 3:4. “Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

Jesus also speaks of this in Matthew 11:29. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

I liked what it had to say in James 1:19. “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

And finally, from later in I Peter 3. Verses 8-9 say, “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

So, why have I looked at these verses this morning? As usual, God is wanting to teach me something. Seeking after His heart and learning what it means to be more like Him every day has surprised me, delighted me, and frustrated me beyond measure. I’m at the frustration part today. A situation has arisen in my life where I’m going to need to do something I don’t want to do. This happened because of someone else’s mistake. I spent a lot of time this weekend complaining about it mainly because I didn’t think I should have to do it. Remember, someone else’s mistake. Now, I don’t know how others react to this kind of thing, but when I get myself worked up about something, it starts to affect other parts of my life and my health, for that matter, and I can assure you the effects are not pleasant.

But, I am stubborn, and it usually takes a blinking, neon sign to get me to pay attention to what God is trying to tell me. This happened earlier when I was considering today’s blog topic. It took me thinking about what I should write this morning for this thought to come into my head. ‘Gentle spirit! Gentle spirit!’ God gave me the words He wanted me to write–for you all and for me. He doesn’t want me to complain. There is no room for His presence in my life if I complain. Others can’t see the presence of the One I would most like them to see if I complain.

With that being said, I need to make a choice. A choice to react gently and meekly to the injustices of this life–to keep my eyes fixed on the One who means the most to me–my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I need to let Jesus carry the rest like He states in Matthew 11:29. It is only by doing what He calls me to do and what He calls all of us to do that we will possess the gentle spirit He wishes us to have.

God’s blessings on all of you today!