Tag: Christianity

stones

Why rocks “rock” for me.

I love rocks. Or maybe they’re stones.

If you really want to know the difference, you can look it up here. The upshot is this: All rocks are stones but not all stones are rocks.”  Hmmm.

For me, rocks have hard and rough surfaces while stones are smooth.

I love collecting “stones” of all sizes. I’m trying to make a border around the bunkhouse and the cabin.

bunkhouse

I like to write on stones and have them placed where I can see them.

stones

I love this big one in the middle. It’s almost perfectly round. I’m thinking of writing a verse reference on each one and then one word on the other side that captures the meaning. 

Sometimes I write a reference to a special Bible verse but mostly I write, “Remember”.

This is based on the Bible story where Joshua tells the Israelites to gather stones from the Jordan River for a remembrance of God’s faithfulness. It’s from Joshua, chapter four.

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”

So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.  Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.

Sometimes, especially when I’ve been praying hard about something and it doesn’t turn out the way I want, I get discouraged. I need to remind myself that for whatever prayers haven’t been answered, there have been more that are.

So if you need to have a visual, try it. It really works.

Another thought. I have read that some people carry around a small stone in their pocket, purse, etc, and rub it between their fingers when they need to remind themselves of all God has done for them. I’ve done this as well.

Now some of you may not need a reminder. But I’m just honest enough to admit that sometimes I do.

God bless and have a good day.

How do brownies and tears work together in grief?

Monday was a hard day. My mom is nearing heaven’s door with every breath she takes. I see her footprints getting closer all the time. There are times she reaches with her arm outstretched as though she is, in fact, searching for a door knob.

In my selfishness, I want to tell her to stay just a little longer. I’m not ready yet.

But instead, I come home and move bricks and broken cement blocks. I spread bark and pull up weeds. I take up old landscape edging, crying through it all. It’s my way of dealing.

It felt good. The work and the crying.

Then I thought about brownies. My mom loves brownies. This was one of the last things she might enjoy.

I used to always bake her special desserts. If I saw something yummy at the grocery store, I would buy it for her. She has not enjoyed food for a couple of weeks. But I thought maybe, just maybe, she might enjoy a brownie.

Besides, I had to do something her. It was the only thing I could think of.

A last gift from me to her.

I don’t know how many tears ended up in the brownies.

Isn’t it strange the things grief compels us to do? Like baking brownies for someone who probably isn’t going to eat them, who probably can’t eat them.

But we all handle our grief differently. Is there such a thing as pre-grieving? If there is, that’s where I am.

My husband is scheduled to go on his annual spring fishing trip with my son, grandson, and some other fishing buddies.  They go every year and have a ball.

He’s balking about going but I am insisting. I know me. I know that I’m ok with my tears. I’m ok with grieving. He’ll come home if needed and it’s only four or five hours away.

The cycle of life. Death and birth. Since the beginning of time daughters have grieved their mothers. My grief is no different except that it’s my grief.

I think part of trusting God means we learn to accept heartbreak as a part of life as much as joy.  Even now God is preparing me for this unwelcome journey.

I do not look forward to missing my mother. I think my tears this past week, (and there have been many of them)  are God’s way of letting me know her homecoming is soon. I’m releasing some tears a little ahead of time so when I am needed to think clearly, I will be able to.

God bless.

What does grief “look” like on a Christian?

How does a Christian wear their faith and what does that faith look like when one’s journey is painful?

Here are my thoughts based on years of studying the Bible, reading books by the great authors of past and present, prayer, and my own trials. Faith isn’t necessarily:

  • A smiling face though your heart is breaking
  • Displaying no tears.
  • Saying the right words
  • A lack of questions.
  • Acting brave

It is through tears, heartbreak, and questions that we become more aware, not less, of God’s all-encompassing love.

How can we know a God of comfort if we’re never been in a situation to be comforted? How can we know a God of strength if we’ve never been held up by “divine arms”? How can we have a will to survive when it seems as if God has abandoned us if not by experiencing that “quiet, still voice” during the tough times?

I was a hospital chaplain for about ten years and I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen grief expressed ways you couldn’t even imagine, from screaming to fainting, to stroking the deceased from the top of their head to their feet, to family fist fights, to stoicism, to anger, to not caring at all.

The time we should least judge anyone’s faith is when they’re experiencing grief.  “There but for the grace of God go I“, is never truer than at a time like this.

Besides our time will come.

Guaranteed.

I think sometimes that’s why we judge. We don’t know how to separate what has happened to them and what may, no, will, eventually happen to us. So we project on them all the ways we hope we will behave but aren’t the least bit sure we will. We foolishly imagine we would handle it better.

But we don’t have a clue.

If we don’t want others to judge us during our darkest hour, we’d better not judge them during theirs.

That has been true for me as well. During my darkest times, I’m sure I haven’t acted as others might expect but I’ve walked in the awareness of the presence of God and, frankly, that has kept me from caring too much about what anyone else thought.

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded of what I read not too long ago:

We get through the tough times by learning to walk in the continual awareness that we’re walking in the presence of God.

It’s kind of like walking in the woods. You don’t see a path, but as you walk the branches move back, the ground is swept away, and a   path appears. You don’t see who is clearing your path but you know there is a Presence walking ahead of you preparing a way. It’s kind of mystical and magical and yet Scripture promises that God will, in fact, always prepare the way. But I like to visualize my scriptures, so this works for me.

If my mom’s behavior this past weekend means anything, her passing may be sooner than I want. I grieved for my dad but I will grieve for my mother even more. There’s something about losing a mother.

Will I act the way people think I should? I don’t even know if I will act the waythink I should. I only know I have been grieving for a long time now.

Have you seen some of those commercials that advertise meds for dementia? They present a romanticized picture of an illness that is anything but. Maybe in the beginning of the illness but let me tell you, it’s not sweet and lovely as they make it seem. Dementia is a horrible, degrading illness and watching a loved one deteriorate in unimaginable ways is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to watch.

I will grieve and miss my mother but I will not grieve her escape from this nightmare. I will grieve my loss but will rejoice when I think of her in God’s presence, whole and beautiful once again.

Whatever you’re dealing with today, whether it’s grief, depression or any number of other life’s assaults, I hope that you are aware of God’s presence in whatever way He has chosen to make Himself known to you.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

Maundy Thursday

When you’re worried about making a big mistake

Last night my husband and I went to our church’s Maundy evening service.

A Maundy service commemorates the ceremony of washing the feet of the poor, especially commemorating Jesus’ washing of His disciples’ feet on Maundy Thursday, the night before his crucifixion. 

Our service was a combined service along with twenty other local churches. We expected a big crowd so my husband and I got to church early only to sit and wait for the church to fill up. It didn’t. But there was a nice diversity of people.

At one point there was a re-enactment of the washing of feet with four pastors taking turns. But the best part was the service of Tenebrae.

The word “Tenebrae” comes from the Latin meaning “darkness”, or “shadow”.  The Tenebrae is an ancient Christian Good Friday service that makes use of gradually diminishing light through the extinguishing of candles to that symbolizes the events of Holy Week from the triumphant Palm Sunday entry through Jesus’ burial. Lights are gradually diminished with the increasing darkness symbolizing the darkness of Jesus’ death. When the church gets dark, worshippers are encouraged to take that time to reflect on their life in light of the death Jesus and what it means to them personally.

Maundy Thursday

We had seven different pastors read portions of that week’s events, from the betrayal to the crucifixion. The readers were particularly good. Some of the headings of the Scriptures were, “The Shadow of His Agony and Arrest in the Garden”, “The Shadow of His Death”, etc.

A young man from our church sang some “dark” songs in between each reading. However, at the end, a man from one of our local black churches sang “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?” I can only say, it sent shivers down my spine. This version will, too.

But here’s what it meant to me.

I’ve struggled with some things surrounding my mom’s declining health, including taking care of her finances and getting things in order. It’s been very stressful for lots of reasons I can’t share. I’ve struggled with the “unfairness” surrounding some of these issues.

Ordinarily, I never consider whether I’m being treated fairly or not. It’s not who I am usually. But it has been with this experience.

While I sat there last night, it occurred to me that these circumstances are allowing me to experience on even the tiniest scale how Jesus must have felt about the unfairness of what was happening to him. There is, of course, no scripture to suggest this, but I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to think that Jesus might have had a moment when he thought that way. Remember, Jesus was as human as he was divine.

I felt properly chagrined at my attitude when I considered what I was dealing with compared to the unfairness of a crucifixion of an innocent man.

We usually don’t attend the Maundy service so I surprised myself when I told my husband I wanted to go. Now I know why. I needed a “slap up along side my head”, and I got it.

But as the service went on and I was feeling pretty bad about my former attitude. (Part of being forgiven is thinking seriously about our sin.  If we really are aware of our sin, there should be some feelings of sadness. That’s how change usually happens and accepting forgiveness means a change is needed. We just don’t accept forgiveness and go one making the same mistake. We might for a while till we get it “licked” but it’s not something that continues. If it does, we weren’t serious when we confessed it.)  It also occurred to me that I had been worrying I would make some really wrong decisions during this season of my mom’s impending death.

During the service, I felt God saying to me, “I will never let you make a big mistake if you just keep listening.”

I know that now.

We can trust God to lead us in the right way, if we follow his voice. And following his voice means, praying and listening, and reading his word. There is no other way.

I’m so glad I was there last night. “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” took on new meaning.

God bless and I hope the miracle of Easter Sunday has special meaning for you.

mom

What to do when you feel selfish

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I wrote this post almost four years ago. Because this past week has been filled to the brim and it’s Monday morning, I decided to look back over some older posts and I came across this one. I’m glad I did.

A wonderful benefit of blogging is that you have a written history of how far you have or have not grown in some areas. This particular post has deep meaning for me considering my mother’s health is failing.

I remember this day very well. I really enjoyed it despite how I sort of resented it in the beginning.

In the next few weeks, I hope to figure out a way to group posts about my mom all in one place. I’m going to want to tell you about her generosity, her overall goodness. It will mean a lot to me.

Yesterday I told her something I’d been wanting to share with her for a few days. It was some good news. I wanted to pick a time when she was having a good day so she could understand what I was saying. Yesterday was such day. She actually smiled and said, “That’s really good, isn’t it?” It made my heart leap to see the happiness in her eyes, however brief and however long it took for her to grasp what I was telling her. 

As I wrote this, my heart crept up to my throat. It’s a good memory but I know that soon there will only be memories. Life is truly bitter and sweet at times, huh?

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God can really upset the apple cart, can’t he?

I am a Christian. I believe God directs me when I ask but that he also directs me even when I don’t ask. Today was such a day.

I was supposed to take my mom to a movie. She hasn’t been out of the house much for months. As it turned out the movie was no longer playing. It was a beautiful day and with this change of plans, I was looking forward to working in my gardens. I shouldn’t say work because it’s never work to me. But then my mother decided she wanted to go shopping if we weren’t going to the show.

I thought, “This won’t take long”. She’s usually eager to come home after only a couple of hours. Not today. We were gone most of the afternoon.

She never buys anything. Today, she bought three new pairs of pants, three new tops and a pair of shoes. I was so glad she did. It was good to see her show an interest in life and be good to herself. But for the first few minutes, all I could think of was how much I wanted to be playing in my yard. I am ashamed to admit that. Ashamed to admit I begrudged her even a moment of my time.

Why I’m telling you this, I’ll never know, except that maybe someone else is feeling a bit selfish today and misery loves company and all that.

But we needn’t beat ourselves up about our mistakes if we learn from them, right? I mean God doesn’t do that to us, so why do we? I certainly don’t mean, however, that we just casually accept our shortcomings with an “I’m only human” kind of excuse. Never. When I looked back on this day, I took my shortcomings very seriously.

I’m glad I ended up doing what was right but I’m not happy my feelings took a few minutes to catch up. I’m also glad God looks at me in love and lets me start all over.

Maybe that’s what today is all about. I need to remember I’m human. I don’t always get it right. I don’t have to be harder on myself than God.

I hope this post encouraged some of you today.

God bless and have a good day.

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