Category Archives: Christian life

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!

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!

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!

 

 

 

 

Little Blessings

When we think of blessings, we think of the big things, right? Buying a home, buying a car, graduation, retirement. But today, I find joy in the little blessings. For the last couple of months, I had been walking such a dark journey through my depression that it has been hard to see the little blessings.

They came out in full force last night though. My younger son had a baseball game so we packed up to go to the ballpark shortly before 5:00. We were all excited because one of the original coaches of our team was in town and was coming to the game. Shortly after we arrived, the other young men on the team started showing up, and shortly after that, the coach arrived. There were hugs and handshakes all around and good conversation. The hallmarks of friendship or should I say family. It was a neat thing to see and certainly was a blessing to me.

As game time moved closer, I began talking with some of the fans who had come to cheer the team on. They were family members of the other young men–some I was just meeting and others I had known for a while. It was interesting to talk with people who were from different parts of my state. We noticed that no one from the other team had shown up. Our guys were all warmed up, and we were waiting. The umpires showed up, and we were still waiting. Finally, my husband, who is also one of the coaches, made a few phone calls and found out the other team wasn’t coming. Mistakes had occurred, and he hadn’t been notified. An aggravation to be sure, and I hated that our old coach wasn’t going to see a game. It didn’t seem to bother the team that much though, and they ended up practicing.

The little blessings continued through the practice. A friend of mine came out, and we all had a good time talking about anything and everything. I also had the chance to reflect over the last five years which is when my older son started playing in this league. We have been blessed by having both of our sons play in this league. They, and we, have gained forever friends, and both of my sons have learned important life lessons. Neither of them will ever play baseball professionally, but that’s not the point. They have spent time learning how to work hard and to get better at something, to form relationships with people, and to be physically active. All valuable lessons and all little blessings to me.

The end of the practice did not result in the end of the little blessings. My family, our old coach, and one of the other present coaches all went out to dinner. We had a great time talking about baseball and sharing memories of the last five years. My older son even Face Timed from college so he could say hello to his former coach and to the rest of us. We were there long enough that we closed the restaurant down. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that. Since college, I think. This time though made me see much more clearly how God has been there for my family and has given us so many little blessings. May we all see the little blessings in our lives!

 

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Endings that Result in Beginnings

Celebrating Easter and Jesus’ resurrection yesterday brought this thought to mind, and I started thinking of how many endings that result in beginnings we have in our lives.

There are many of them, and they start from the earliest moments. There is the day we quit drinking from a bottle or breastfeeding; there is the day we are toilet trained. How about our first day of school? How about the ending of each year of school with the promise of a new year in just a few short months? How about graduations? It used to be that only high school and college graduations were important, but now we mark graduations from kindergarten, elementary school, and middle school.

And then there are the endings of adulthood that result in beginnings. College graduation that results in a first job. Leaving a job for another job. Leaving singleness behind as a result of marriage. Having children. Moving somewhere else for a new opportunity. Going through all the stages with your own children. Empty nest. Retirement. There are many endings that result in beginnings.

It might be noticed that I didn’t include one of the most important endings in that list. Death. It’s pretty important, I would think. It’s an ending, but most people don’t think of that ending as resulting in a beginning. I’m here to argue differently today. If you are a Christian, death results in the ultimate beginning. It’s when we go to be with Jesus, to be with Him forever in heaven. To be with Jesus and to be with God, Our Father. It was a profound thought. From when I accepted Him into my heart to the moment of death and then beyond, it’s amazing to think about where I’m going to be. Jesus made that possible when He was resurrected from the grave. Amazing and profound!

So, why do churches insist on focusing on the minutia instead of God’s amazing love and grace in what He did for us through Jesus? Why can’t we, the church, love people like Jesus loves us? God doesn’t want any of us to miss this opportunity as it says in I Timothy 2:3-4. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.”

John 6:40 also expresses this thought well. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

God doesn’t mean for any of us to perish and wants all of to have the chance for the ultimate beginning that results from an ending. May we all take that step of faith!

God’s blessings on all of you today!

God’s Presence

Some people think that God can only be present in a church, and others think the only place they can find Him is outside of the church. I’m here today to tell you that both of those are incorrect. God can be found anywhere–in the church and outside of the church. In fact, this past weekend I found him in many more places besides the church.

The action started Friday night when we traveled to our older son’s college to see the show he was going to be in. He had talked about this for months and had asked us to make a point of coming. So, my husband, younger son, and I piled into the car right before 4:00 to drive down to his college. It is usually a trip of under two hours, but it took two and a half because of all the traffic on the interstate. We were going so slowly at one point that I despaired of getting there on time. But, we passed the accident that was blocking traffic and were able to start driving at a more normal speed. We made it to the college shortly before the program started and found our seats. No time for dinner, of course, but I ate a candy bar and was fine. I was excited. I hadn’t been to a show like this in a long time. Before long, I was tapping my toes and having the time of my life. My husband had his arm around me, and we were enjoying our time as a family. The songs weren’t Christian; in fact, most of them were unfamiliar. That didn’t bother me though. We were spending time together as a family with none of us having any responsibilities, and I could feel God’s presence around us. It was fun. There were several solos, and there were three shows put on by the social clubs. Our son was in the last show, and the group did a wonderful job. In fact, all of the clubs did. After the show was over, we saw our son to congratulate him, ran an errand for him, and got some dinner before getting back on the road to our hometown. It was amazing! Even the journey back in pitch black darkness held God’s presence. I got to witness His amazing creation as we spoke of the show, and everything that had happened. A good time was had by all.

The next day consisted of sleeping in and then running errands. Just normal things. We had planned on sleeping in since we knew we wouldn’t get in until late the night before. As we rode to our first errand at a local store, I saw the blueness of the sky and the puffy white clouds. I felt a calmness of spirit I hadn’t had in a while. God was present in the normalcy of life. We finished our errands and went back home. I was able to get some lesson planning done and to take a nap that afternoon. A calm and relaxing day.

I didn’t feel calm and relaxing the following morning. Sundays are usually busy and frantic for us during baseball season. Couple that with feeling like I needed to put on my standard shields of pretending like everything was wonderful, and I was not in a good place. At least I wasn’t until I got a text from my husband who had left for church early to work on the sound board. He said that someone was waiting for me and was looking forward to seeing me. In fact, two people were–the young children of his colleague on the sound board and two of my favorite people. They always greet me with excited hugs and have the purest joy. That’s what I like about being around young children. There’s no pretense with them, and there’s no pretending. I played with them until Bible class and we all went our different ways. After class, I went to get them as their mom was working that day, and they sat with me during worship service. I saw God’s presence during the sweet time I spent with them even when I helped them with communion.

I took them to children’s worship shortly thereafter and went back to listen to the sermon. My attention drifted because I was still thinking about my time with the kids. The relationship I have with them contains an honesty that I think God wants to have with us. But we, being adults, think we have to be guarded around our Christian brothers and sisters. At least, I do. Not sure about you, but I’m betting nine times out of then, you probably think the same thing.

Anyway, after the service, I got to minister to a friend of my mine who has a family member with health problems. Two other friends came up, and we were all sitting and talking. The prognosis doesn’t look good, and she was struggling. I told her I would pray, and we all told her that God would meet her family member wherever she was, that it didn’t have to be in church. God is everywhere, not just in church! I could feel God’s presence in that situation too.

And finally, I went to my younger son’s baseball game. He plays in a high school rec league in our city, and yesterday, we had the opportunity to play in a historic ballpark. Every time we have been there, I feel like I have been transported back in time. I took pictures and had the chance to relax while I watched the game. I enjoyed getting to be outside in God’s creation. This was where I especially felt God’s presence. He ministered to me where I was, and it didn’t matter that I had not been in a church for most of the weekend. God is everywhere, not just in church, and I pray you feel His presence today.

God’s blessings on all of you!