Tag: grace

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.

holy week

Can we be too cheap sometimes?

I wonder if any of you are like me, too cheap, at times.

Sometimes we need to quit thinking so “cheap”. “Cheap thinking” is, by my personal definition, trying so hard to save a dime that we work against our own natural energy and strength.

For example, I’ve been changing things up a little in my home. My mantle has always presented a challenge. I had this great little card table that used to sit in front of the fireplace on the floor. (Naturally, I didn’t take pictures.)

Anyway, it was a card table I painted white and in the middle was a deer head. I had a brain spasm one day and decided, “Hey, I’ll take the table apart and hang it on the wall.”

Great idea, huh?

Well, it would’ve been had I not decided the deer head was too small. So, I took it down, peeled off the deer head (it was paper), enlarged it, traced it on some heavy board, cut it out, re-pasted to the table and put it back up on the mantle. Still didn’t like it.

So I spent a considerable amount of time looking around the house for something I could put together quickly. Nothing caught my eye.

That’s when I gave in and decided to go shopping. Now, to me, that’s a failure. It means I’m going to spend money on something I wanted to make myself.

I do this all the time. I can be so cheap, I put extra stress on myself. So I gave in bought this rusty windmill.

mantle 2017

 

I’m not particularly fond of the other items;   I need more “bulk”, but that’s going to have to wait.

 

Besides, this is Holy Week.

holy week

 

A reminder that while:

Grace is free, it isn’t cheap.

Grace was purchased at a huge price. Grace could’ve been purchased “cheaper”, maybe without the death of God’s only son. But God put too precious of a price on our heads; it demanded a huge sacrifice.

Thank goodness, God looked down on his people and decided not to hold back. Thank goodness, God is not like me, cheap.

God bless and have a wonderful Easter weekend and remember that God considers you priceless.

 

When I think about “cheap” I sometimes think of people who “cheapen” the grace of God.

As I’ve said often:

Grace is free but itsn’t cheap.

 

 

saying good-bye

Sometimes we just have to get through it

My mom is coming home so she can “go home”.

heaven

We heard some more hard words yesterday. I know the Palliative Care PA was right but it was hard to hear. Today we have an appointment with the Hospice representative.

I wish you knew my mom. She’s funny, smart, and without a doubt the most generous and giving person I”ve ever known. She would give you her last dime if you said you needed it. I am not her daughter in that regard. I would have all kinds of “criteria” in place before I would give from my resources. Not because I’m selfish but because I know what the Bible teaches about money management. We are to be generous, yes, but also smart with how we give financially. There are way too many scams and scam artitsts.

But not my mom.

Last week I saw a news report about a ninety-nine year old man who runs, three miles, three times a week. Are you kidding me? He’s written a book called, “The Running Man”. I am definitely going to read it. Why can’t that be her?

So there you have it. The comparison is acute. How do I reconcile how two people in their nineties can be so different? What did they do differently, if anything? I don’t know about him, but my mom has never smoked and never drank. She has never been overweight. So why her? In fact, she had never even been in the hospital until she fell.

How often have I said, “Life is not fair.”? How much I thought I knew what it meant until I saw it up close.

But it’s always like that, isn’t it? We spout a lot of ridiculous statements, don’t we? We Christians can be the worst sometimes, taking scripture verses out of context to support our already decided upon views. Boy, could I write a lot about that!

I try hard to avoid popular, trite phrases but I fall victim as well. But sometimes I find one that touches me right where I live.

For example, “Put your big girl panties on.” I understand that to mean that I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself. But I do. I hate what has happened to my mother. I’m embarrassed for her when she says things that spring from her confused state. I don’t want people laughing at her I hate thinking about how uncertain these next few weeks or months will be. I hate the anticipation of the inevitable.

And yet:

There’s a certain painful beauty in all of this. I have the opportunity to go on this journey with my mother. I have the opportunity to see how God will provide. I will emerge from this, not necessarily a stronger person (that’s one of those trite ideas I mentioned earlier), but a person who will know that I couldn’t have walked this journey without God’s grace. Because I can’t. I don’t have it in me. I know myself well enough to know that.

And to be honest, I’d rather not be on this journey at all. I would like my mom’s final days to be ones where we have meaningful talks and quiet precious moments. We will not. Her confusion will only get worse. Those opportunities are gone.

But I can kiss her goodbye when I leave. I can tell her I love her. I can have a cup of coffee with her. I can do for her. 

As you know my brother was gone the last week of February. I was so dreading it because it would require even more of my time. But guess what? Not only was my mom almost her normal self, she was actually conversing with me. We cleaned out some drawers and talked about the items we discovered and the memories they invoked. She actually mended a lace tablecloth; we hemmed some of her pajamas. I finally brought her over to my house for maybe the last time. It was a week I won’t forget.

I don’t believe there are “reasons” for everything, meaning some cosmic spiritual purpose that underlies all of life’s events. If that were the case, we’d all just be puppets and God would be the Master Puppeteer. I can’t find anything in Scripture to support that. And I also don’t believe there is a big lesson to learn from everything. Sometimes we just have to get through something. Period.

I sure hope this post didn’t sound discouraging. I’m a realist and an idealist through and through. I’m a realist because I face things head on. But I’m an idealist because I always have hope until I hear God tell me otherwise. I know now that praying for her return to health isn’t going to happen. I will pray instead that she will experience peace and contentment in her own home for whatever time she has left.

Life can be just hard sometimes and there’s no need to pretend otherwise.

God bless and I really do pray you have a good day.

zentangle

How God changes drudgery into glory

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For the most part wouldn’t you agree that our lives are largely composed of the mundane? Our daily tasks take on a feel of drudgery and boredom. We don’t see how God is glorified through doing our job, whether at home or in a workplace or both.

But I think that our “drudgery” becomes transformed when we perform our duties and let God’s light shine on them. We do this be realizing that God speaks most often through the commonness of our life, not the exceptions.

How many times do we read about feet washing in the New Testament, a true act of humility if ever there was one.

As Oswald Chambers says:

“When the Lord does a thing through us, He always transfigures it.”

I don’t think we can expect to see that transformation. It’s kind of like “air”. It surrounds us and yet in most circumstances, we’re not aware of it.

We breathe in God’s grace and we breathe out his glory. I have no clue how that happens but I firmly believe we either make the world a better place or not depending on our actions. If in God’s eyes, even the most humble act of washing feet (John thirteen in the Bible) is worthy enough to be mentioned in a book that is chock-full of miracles, then it is obviously important for us to understand why it’s there.

Why did God want the mundane recorded amidst the amazing?

To remind us that life is almost never about the amazing and almost always about the drudgery. It is in the most ordinary of life’s events that God is glorified the most.

So for today, I encourage you that if what you do today seems insignificant, it doesn’t have to be. Anything we do today can bring glory to God. Colossians 3:17 says:

New International Version
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

God bless and I hope you have a good day.

ps. You know the posts of the last three days? I have something so wonderful to share with you, I can hardly wait. But I want my words to capture the experience and the lessons learned in the most precise way possible so I’m taking a few days to process it all. Keep a watch out for that post. I’ll let you know a day ahead of time. All I can say is, it might well be the most important (and from God’s viewpoint the hardest lesson he’s ever had to teach me) spiritual insight I’ve ever gleaned.

ashamed

What to do when you’re ashamed of yourself

Boy, have you ever gone through a spell when you were thoroughly and completely ashamed of yourself?

ashamed

I sure have.

I sure am.

Not because I’ve done anything to be ashamed of but because I feel my heart has been so lacking in compassion.

We can be so hard on ourselves. We prefer to punish ourselves rather than confess our dark heart to the Lord.

In our humanness, we feel we need to be punished. Isn’t that the way the world works? Isn’t that what we deserve?

I'm ashamed

To bring it to God and have it washed away just for the sincere asking seem preposterous to our feeble minds. And yet that’s what God says we are to do. That’s why his son was sacrificed, that’s why his son was resurrected.

And yet some make forgiveness so cheap. Ask and you will receive. But it isn’t quite as casual as it sounds.

With confession and forgiveness must come a change. James McDonald, famous author and pastor, says, “If you’re faith hasn’t changed you, it hasn’t saved you.” I buy that.

Words are cheap. Maybe we can’t change all at once but if we’re not seeing any progress, our sincerity might be in question.

And I think sometimes we are too quick to ask for forgiveness. If we give ourselves a little time, we might learn that what we think we need forgiveness for is not where the real problem lies. For example, a person might ask for forgiveness for snapping at someone when the underlying issue is really jealousy. The first requires an apology; the second forgiveness.

So let’s not be too hard on ourselves but let’s be honest and thoughtful with our confession.

forgiveness

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