Tag Archives: Jesus

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!

 

 

 

 

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 Will Never Leave Us

When I woke up this morning, I was slightly discouraged because I had not heard from one of my Christian friends who I had contacted yesterday to get some counsel. Life has been doing its best to overwhelm me recently, and I didn’t think I was doing the best job of handling it. I’m not the kind of person who tries to contact ten or more people at a time so when I didn’t hear from that one person, I wasn’t sure how to feel or react. Before I could say or type words that might have been damaging, God spoke to me.

First, I should say that I generally start every weekday morning with writing in my journal. It gets me in the frame of mind to write and gives me a pulse on whatever’s going on in my life. Have you ever seen this quote from Pat Conroy about writing? “Writing is the only way I have to explain my own life to myself.” That’s me in a nutshell. Sometimes, the only way I have to understand things that happen in my life is to write them down.

Anyway, back to the journal. I was writing and writing and writing. I turned the page and noticed the Bible verses that were printed on that page and the facing page. The first one I read was Hebrews 13:5. “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.'” Whoa! That was one I needed to read. God put it in my path at just the right moment. Even if no one else is there for me, He will always be there.

The second set of verses was just as profound. Isaiah 49:15-16 says, “I will not forget you. I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” God doesn’t forget us. He doesn’t forget me. Even if my Christian brothers and sisters abandon me, God will never leave me. I needed to read those verses too.

That was all it took. My heart and my load lightened. I finished writing in my journal and had the idea for this blog post. There were more verses than I could count when I employed the search function of my Bible app. I liked this one from Deuteronomy 31:8. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

I also liked this one from Psalm 55:22. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

My favorite though was from Matthew 24:35. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

I’m so grateful that God put these words in my path at just the right moment. They have sustained and strengthened me and reminded me of who needs to be first in my life. Now, if I could only figure out how to stay willing to live in community when my Christian brothers and sisters let me down. But, I think that might be another post. 🙂

God’s blessings on all of you today!

Cliques in Churches

This might be uncomfortable or even a painful thing for some of you to read. You might even be saying to yourself, ‘There aren’t any cliques in my church.’ God is calling me to write this though, and I think your eyes might be opened by the time you finish reading.

First, here is the definition of the word. A clique is a “small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.”

Does that sound familiar? Eleven years ago, my husband and I were considering pulling our children out of public school to homeschool them. There were many reasons. Our children didn’t fit in public school. One was gifted; the other was being bullied. As we did our research, we found so many pluses to this mode of education, we decided to take the leap. It worked out well for us. One of our children has graduated from our homeschool and is on the president’s list at his college and the other is a junior in high school.

Their achievements though are not the focal point of me writing this post. As we got involved in the homeschool community, both online and in real life, we found many people who had been wounded by the public school system. So many, in fact, that they formed their own clique. They didn’t want to be involved with anyone else but homeschoolers. That felt funny to me, but I wanted to be accepted so I didn’t say anything.

Years passed, and we moved to the state we now live in. I was more confident as a homeschooler, and we started forming relationships with people who were schooled differently. I remember the first year my older son played baseball. Even though he had not played for several years and was a homeschooler, he was warmly welcomed onto to the team by his coach and his teammates. The only thing that mattered to his coach was his work ethic. He worked hard that year, and in subsequent years, and became a better baseball player. Those boys are all in college now, but I have fond memories of a group of boys from different backgrounds coming together to play the game of baseball. Not a clique in my book.

But, there were and still are cliques in our current city, and a lot of them have to do with money. They consist of people whose children go to certain public or private schools who think they’re better than everyone else. These students have the attitude of their parents and think they are entitled. They behave badly and think the adults around them should pick up the pieces of their mistakes. And they are exclusionary–both students and parents, a fact brought painfully home to me when my son was given ugly stares last weekend when he was taking the ACT at one of these schools. I’m not trying to say that every family who has students at these schools is like this, but enough of them are that I count these schools as having their own cliques.

Now, to the saddest part of this post and the main subject–cliques in churches. I have experienced cliquish behavior in churches more times than you can count. Conversations that stop when I walk up. Implications that I’m not as good as other people because I can’t do certain things. Attitudes that imply other people are better than me because my child doesn’t go to a certain public or private high school. I gave up on God, for a time, many years ago because of this behavior. If other Christians couldn’t love me, how could God love me? I don’t believe that anymore. I refuse to give up on God or His love for me again just because other Christians are cruel!

If I did, what would be the point of these verses? I John 4:7 says, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

How about I Thessalonians 3:12? “May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.”

Here’s another one. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

And finally, the verse all of us can probably quote by heart. John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

“Whoever believes in him.” Not whoever believes in him and makes a certain amount of money. Not whoever believes in him and has a nice home. Not whoever believes in him and has a certain color of skin. I could go on, but I think you get the point. Jesus accepts everyone who comes to Him.

But, we still have cliques in our churches, and that is heartbreaking. No wonder people come in and don’t want to come back. They don’t see Jesus’ love in the people who are already there. These are people who long to be loved and accepted, who need to be loved and accepted for who they are, by us if they are going to see Jesus’ love. And many times they are not. Instead, they see activities that cost money. They see people who don’t understand the situation they’ve come out of. They see people who are going on cruises together. They see people whose children all go to the same school huddled together in a small group. And they see exclusion from church activities or opportunities for services because they’re not considered desirable enough. So, then I’m left with the question, ‘Can Jesus’ love really be seen when we divide into cliques?’ The answer is obvious, and it is sad.

I’m not perfect with this, not by a long shot. I remember my early years of homeschooling when I would trash public and private schools because of how we had been wounded and because I wanted to be accepted in my homeschooling group. God has convicted me in a big way though especially with behavior I’ve seen in recent weeks and how it has wounded me. We are to love everyone in Jesus’ name and not be a part of cliques in the church. May we all remember what Jesus did for us on the cross this week!

God’s blessings on all of you today!