Lost and Found . . . .

 

Yesterday I received a phone call that I hoped to never hear: “Hey Kath . . . are you sitting down?  Dad died this morning . . . .”  

How does one prepare for the pain of losing someone you love?  I have faced that question with many a Client and searched the Scriptures for glimmers of hope when darkness threatened to overtake me.  When feeling lost in a sea of emotion, my thoughts inevitably run to the wisdom of Scripture,

My sweet dad . . . three weeks ago.

My sweet dad on “Mustache Day”. . . three weeks ago.

“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”
Matthew 5:4

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

“And God shall wipe away all tears . . . and death shall be no more,
nor mourning, nor crying, nor sorrow shall be any more,
for the former things are passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

My mind ran in snippets yesterday as I remembered my dad as a much younger man.  He was number five in a line of six children, grew up during the Depression on a farm in Pixley, California.  He was loyal, dedicated to loving his family, and was never afraid of hard work.  My first “real” memory of Dad goes back to when I was three years old, after he returned from the fight in Korea.  I remember the strength of his arms when he picked me up and held me close.  The following years are a blur of Dad working hard to care for our family–even as he struggled with the aftereffects of war.  A memory I especially cherish, is of walking down the church aisle on his arm, to marry my husband of (now) forty-four years.  Even sweeter were the decades that followed, when he embraced his role as, “Grandpa Clyde”. . . priceless!

While desiring to find a a resting place for all the thoughts and memories that whirled through my mind, I could not come to terms with the harsh reality of being separated by his death.  This morning, God’s shepherding hand touched my mind and heart through a post written by Heidi Viars.   In her post, Heidi describes a scene that took place in a parking lot on a freezing cold day.  After coming out of a store, she noticed a store worker, standing out in the cold without a coat.  After loading her packages into her car and seeing the woman still standing there, this conversation ensued:

 “‘Are you OK?’, I asked.

She looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, just cold.’

I realized she was watching the car next to us. A man in his eighties, maybe nineties, was occupying the passenger seat. His eyes were sad and his head nervously moving back and forth.

‘I saw him wandering in the parking lot. He was lost and I helped him get back in his car. I think he has dementia. I am just waiting for someone to return for him.’ the woman said.”

I was struck by how the lost elderly man reminded me of my dad in recent years.  Age definitely took a toll on Dad as he fought to retain his independence.  It was hard when he had to admit that he could no longer take care of Mom by himself.  I wanted them to move closer to where I live.  Dad rightly refused the offer, citing his desire to stay closer to his sisters and the rest of the family. The move proved to be a good one.  Mom and Dad benefited from getting their medications on time, eating healthier food and enjoying visits from family.  Even so, the bitter reality of dementia robbed him of the joy of being able to drive when he became hopelessly lost in what had been familiar places.  When Mom died two years ago, Dad’s lostness increased.  “I miss Mama,” were the words he most frequently uttered when anyone tried to talk to him.  Even so, we noticed a sweet gentleness emerge in these final years, more in keeping with the farm boy he was when he gave his heart to Jesus at age thirteen.

Time has slipped away all too fast for our family, but the words of the woman standing watch over the elderly man in the parking lot brought a comforting perspective, “I am just waiting for someone to return for him.”  In a sense, that is exactly what has happened these past two years with Dad.  We have enjoyed him to the best of our abilities as Dad has waited in hope for the return of His Savior.

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time.
He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God.”

I Peter 3:18
(New Living Translation)

Of the snippets that continue to run around in my head, the words from John Newton’s, Amazing Grace, come continually to the forefront,

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

Feeling lost?  Desiring to be found?  There is no one greater than the Good Shepherd of our hearts, to lead us safely HOME.

All to His Glory!

Hearts + Chocolate = Love . . . REALLY?

It was fun perusing Facebook last weekend to see what others had received on Valentine’s Day–flowers, chocolates and other gifts.  However, it was the comments written by single friends that touched me.  For many, our cultural emphasis so strongly bent on romantic love, makes the occasion a painful irritant to get through.  While there is nothing sacred about the day, I do believe that to remember the history behind the occasion provides a wonderful opportunity for Christians to love neighbors, friends and family “more deeply from the heart.” (I Peter 1:22)

I was grateful on that same day to find three posts (also on Facebook) that offered a healthier, more thoughtful way to rethink our approach to Valentines Day as a means of blessing others:

  • The first post was a blatant reminder of the gap between how our culture celebrates loving through romanticism, and the actual basis of Valentine’s Day–sacrificial love.  While our culture has largely reduced our understanding in commemorating the occasion with formula of Hearts + Chocolate = Love–Really?–we can richly benefit from the treasury of sacrificial love demonstrated by a man who truly loved God and his neighbors. 

“Greater love has no one than this,
that someone lay down his life for his
friends.”

John 15:13 (ESV)

  • The second post was a cartoon, taken from the cover of New Yorker magazine.  I totally related to the worry and doubt on the man’s face as he stared at the series of deadbolts and locks lining the inside of his door. Yet, when I saw the Valentine that someone had slipped in despite all off his precautions, I found it to be a healthy reminder that, while we may be tempted to hide in uncertain times, Christians are called to reach out t0 others in the love, hope and mercy of Christ.  Years ago I was challenged by a question someone asked, “If you were accused of being a Christian in a court of law, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”  Rather than allowing fear to rule us, we are called to love and serve others as we live out the gospel of hope.

    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."  I Corinthians 13:7-8

    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
    Love never fails.” I Corinthians 13:7-8

“And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is LOVE.”
I Corinthians 13:13

  • The last post was very personal.  My second daughter, Amy, put up pictures of her family observing  Valentine’s Day in the tradition that developed as our family grew. When my children were small and we were living in England, I helped my daughters (then, ages seven and almost five) make heart-shaped baskets “woven” out of contrasting colored construction paper. We loaded the baskets with handmade valentine cards and small, heart-shaped candies imprinted with such messages as, “love” and “be mine.” Early the next morning, the girls and I left those baskets hanging on the door knobs of our landlord and several neighbors who had become friends. We snuck off quickly, leaving no trace of our identities . . . or so we thought! Later that morning I received several telephone calls, thanking us for the baskets. Puzzled, I asked how they knew it was us? One friend laughingly put it this way, “I saw it hanging on the door and thought, ‘It was the Americans!’. . . we don’t celebrate Valentines Day in this country!”  (It never occurred to me that Valentine’s Day was not universal!)  My children still have fond memories of the parties we threw to love neighbors and friends on Valentine’s Day.
Brother loving brother . . .

Brother loving brother . . .

It was after returning to the States and our children entered their teens that I proactively morphed our family tradition to a more personal level.  The change was prompted when picking up my oldest daughter as a freshman in high school.  It was Valentine’s Day and I was shocked to see so many girls walking out of the school carrying bouquets of flowers, balloons, stuffed animals and other “gifts” that had been delivered to them in school from their boy friends. (In a culture that is so focused on building self-esteem, I find it astounding that such a practice was (or is) even allowed!)  Desiring to override the confusion of equating self-worth and being loved by trivial gifts, we shifted gears within our family.  From that time until our children finally left home we made Valentines Day a special day we all looked forward to:

  1. Special cards were made for one another that were affirming to that sibling or parent that was especially esteemed–“I appreciate how you . . . . “
  2. We dressed up to share our meal in the dining room, where the table was set with our best dishes and candles we burning.
  3. Dinner was kept simple but special since it usually was a week-day.
  4. After finishing our meal came the best part: when we opened the cards stacked at the top of each place-setting we had made earlier.  Every card was read aloud and enjoyed as we took time to love each other.

It was interesting this week when I asked my children (long out of the family nest with families of their own) about their memories of those times.  They all said they enjoyed and looked forward to our family celebration.  The memory we all still laugh about was a card Luke (our youngest) made for Amy (at the time Luke was probably eleven and Amy almost 15) that said, “Dear Amy, I appreciate it when you leave me alone!”  (That one kind of slipped under the radar of what we hoped to accomplish, but it definitely reflected the tension between siblings and their parents so it was allowed.)  Another comment I heard, was how reading positive comments from their family at a time when the tensions of daily life seemed to prevail, was an especially sweet gift.

No matter what your circumstance may be, whether you are young, old, married or single, if you are a Christian I write to encourage you to consider looking beyond yourself for opportunities to love others.  We live in a hurting and increasingly dangerous world that tempts us to run, but if we will live our lives intentionally and sacrificially as a reflection of our love for God and others, the rewards will truly be out of this world!  Hearts + Chocolate = Love?  No way!

All to His Glory!

The Richness of a Spiritually Healthy Life . . . .

 

I learned early in my walk with Jesus, that God uses what He will to direct us toward the path we might otherwise miss.  Case in point: inspired by my last post, “A Healthy Death”, I started thinking about how a biblical view of healthy living differs from the secular view of today.  Several days into writing on this topic, I came down with a miserable flu that then morphed into a severe bronchial and sinus infection–the irony of it was difficult to ignore!

So, what is a spiritually healthy life and how does it differ from what secular culture teaches about healthy living? Where secular culture judges the state of our health by what can be seen or empirically measured, God’s primary concern is with our spiritual health.  (This is not to say such things diet and exercise do not matter to God.  Certainly we are expected to be good stewards of what He has provided for us–including the care of our bodies.)  Also, while secular culture is far more concerned with an outwardly healthy self-esteem, God’s concerns go far deeper as He examines our hearts.  Proverbs 3:7-8 provides a simple formula that effectively hits at the basics of what God prescribes for living spiritually healthy lives:

A spiritually healthy life enriches the soul . . . .

A spiritually healthy life enriches the soul . . . .

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.   

In practical, spiritual terms this breaks down as,

HUMILITY + FEAR/RESPECT FOR GOD + RESISTING WHAT GOD HATES (SIN) = A SPIRITUALLY HEALTHY LIFE THAT ENRICHES THE SOUL

So what are some of the earmarks of a spiritually healthy life?  The first one might surprise you, but I learned its truth when I first began counseling:

  1. A spiritually healthy life is often messy as it reaches out to others.*
  2. Lives daily in relationship with Christ through prayer and seeking to live out the Scriptures.
  3. Maintains an attitude of gratitude for God’s Presence, Provision and Plan for our lives.
  4. Recognizes that while life is not problem-free, steadfastly trusts in God’s Sovereign Goodness.  (James 1; Hebrews 12)
  5. Bears good fruit that honors God.
  6. Looks for the good in others by loving and forgiving deeply.
  7. Takes sin seriously in self and then also in helping others.
  8. Rests fully in Christ.
  9. Speaks truth in love as a reflection of God’s Grace.
  10. Is not long impacted by adverse circumstances . . . .  Just as a compass takes a few moments to adjust when a shift in direction is made, a spiritually healthy life can make whatever adjustments necessary to navigate toward the Hope we share in Christ.

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days,
keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:12-14

All to His Glory!

*I learned early in my career that many times, those outwardly perfect families and individuals are covering deep pain or insecurities others know nothing about.

A Healthy Death . . . .

When I picked up the phone, I thought it was going to be one of those “catching up” conversations that occur when longtime friends have not communicated for a while.  Straight off, Pat told me she had cried when she read our New Years letter about Luke and Shannon’s battle with cancer. Feeling bad about making her cry, I attempted to shift the focus from the pain of the previous year, to the hope we have as Luke and Shannon re-enter the normalcy of jobs and ordinary life. Then I heard Pat say:

“You aren’t going to believe this Kathie, but last October I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.  Regular exams and tests never picked it up . . . they think I may have had it for several years but just didn’t know it.”

Stunned by Pat’s words, I heard little else as the words stage 4 cancer assaulted my thinking.  No longer naive about what the term means, tears welled up in my eyes as inwardly I cried out, “Please God, NO!”

Pat and her husband Jim have been friends of our family for many years.  Pat served our community well as the Director of our local Pregnancy Help Center.  Jim was a Navy Chaplain before coming here to start Hope Counseling Center and eventually to Pastor a church.  I am especially grateful for the godly wisdom and insight Jim imparted to me as he oversaw my counseling internship when I was completing my degree.  I continued to work at Hope for many years under Jim; I continue to value his insights when facing difficult cases or personal challenges.

We focus not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  What is seen is temporary; what is unseen is eternal.  II Cor. 4

“We focus not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. What is seen is temporary; what is unseen is eternal.” II Corinthians 4

As Pat continued to talk, my mind spun in dizzying circles.  I thought about how Pat and Jim had dedicated their lives to Christ; how they sacrificed much to impact the lives of countless numbers of people for Him.  I found myself wondering, “Why must they have to face such pain and heartache?  Couldn’t they (and their family) be spared the ugliness of cancer?”  Inwardly I caved to the growing sickness I felt in my gut.  I searched for words to offer hope and comfort to my friend . . . but the pantry of my mind was sparse that day.

Then Jim got on the phone.  He admitted that they had both reeled with the unexpected news.  He then talked about how they struggled with the age old dilemma Christians face in times such as these: If we have the assurance of heaven, is it wrong to cling to life?   The Apostle Paul also wrestled with this question in Philippians 1:21-21:

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but . . . .”  

I appreciated Jim’s perspective when he answered my unspoken question by sharing how they had decided to pray:

“This is what it boils down to, Kathie, we are praying for HEALING or . . . A HEALTHY DEATH.”

I was pierced to the core as I reflected on the wisdom of Jim’s prayer for his beloved Pat.  Both HEALING and A HEALTHY DEATH honor Christ and keep Him in the center of their thinking.  They would continue to do what they could do to care for Pat as God opened doors of opportunity.  In the mean time, Pat was doing what she could do to encourage others as she passed on the wisdom she was gaining through this process.

When my husband and I went to visit Jim and Pat a few days later, we were blessed beyond measure.  Unable to walk because of the pain, Pat met us at the door on her little scooter.  Once settled in her special chair, it was hard to see her squirm as the pain came and went.  Even so, it was an afternoon I will not soon forget as we talked, laughed and reflected on God’s goodness.

Since our visit, the wisdom of the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 4 has been a constant encouragement:

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed.
We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake,
so that His life may also be revealed in our mortal body.
So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”
(Verses 8-12)

Are you feeling “hard pressed . . . perplexed . . . persecuted . . . or, struck down”?  Then be encouraged that if you are in Christ, you are “not crushed, in despair, abandoned, or destroyed!” Truly, that is very good news!  But it gets better Friend!  As we take hold of the conclusion of chapter four, we discover the key to persevering through any hardship to the other side:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us
an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,
since what is seen is temporary,
but what is unseen is eternal.”

(Verses 16-18)

All to His Glory!

The Danger of Boredom . . . .

 

This week I enjoyed the positive slant of blogger Bunmi Laditan in her post, “Dear Kids: It’s OK to Be Bored,”  

“Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It is an itch to scratch. Boredom is the dawn of ideas. Boredom is curiosity knocking gently at your mind, asking to play.  Being bored is like sitting in front of a blank canvas. Boredom is infinite possibility. You are the captain of your own ship and before you lies an expanse of dark blue ocean and clear skies.”

I have never been able to figure out what people are trying to express when they say, “I’m bored.”  When our children were still at home and they made such a complaint, I took it to mean that they were inviting me to entertain them.  My response curtailed such complaints–“Bored people are boring people. We have plenty of radiators to wipe down . . . let me know and I will be happy to set you up!”  Funny thing, our radiators never did get wiped down (my children found better things to do) and they grew into amazing adults!

But as much as I might want to wallow in the positive perspective of Laditan, I remain convicted that there is a darker side of boredom . . . a dangerous aspect that warns us not to think of boredom as merely a phase people go through.  Webster’s 1913 dictionary affirms my conviction with this definition:

BORED: adj. 1. tired of the world; bored with life.
2. uninterested because of frequent exposure or indulgence. Opposite of interested.

Is it sinful to be bored?  Going by Webster’s definition . . . YES . . . ABSOLUTELY!

Certainly, God did not put us on this earth to be bored.  In fact, God’s plan was simple and rooted in blessing.  From the beginning of Creation, God deemed all that He had made to be “good”; we can infer from Genesis 3:8, 9 that God fellowshipped with Adam and Eve in the Garden until sin entered and spoiled everything.  I wonder if, at the root of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin, was boredom to blame?  Had they forgotten the blessing of fellowshipping with God as they entertained doubts about God’s goodness?

What about when boredom morphs into depression as described in Jeremiah 17:5 & 6?

“This is what the Lord says:
 ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.'”  

(Verses 5, 6)

I must clarify here that not all depression is sin; much that happens in this world is depressing!  However, when we embrace boredom as “cool”; when we become disinterested or we disengage ourselves from relating to others . . . that is a definite indication of sin.  As I watch the news, I wonder if a souless-boredom is at the root of much of the senseless brutality being reported?  I ache for the victims of such evil as well as for their families. Yet I also mourn for the perpetrators living in the hell of dark hatred. Many times, when I see pictures of those who have committed such horrific crimes, the words of Jesus on the Cross flood my mind, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Hope-filled steps into the New Year . . . .

Hope-filled steps into the New Year . . . .

We live in a world where “bored” is “cool”, where the concept of God as a loving Redeemer is increasingly unknown, and where love and simple kindness are thought to be archaic.  So what are Christians to do?  As we press into the New Year, I offer the wisdom of the Apostle Paul who, while living in horrific, uncertain times, encouraged his friends to follow his example,

“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and
straining toward what is ahead,
I press on toward the goal to win the prize
for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 3:13, 14

Powerful stuff, right?  So get going!

All to His Glory!

On Giving Thanks In All Things . . . .

God has proved Himself faithful through the ages and continues to speak to those who seek Him.  That is why, I encourage every Client I serve to get into the Scriptures for themselves through Journey Notes Praise Journaling.  One of my favorite passages we visit is recorded in Jeremiah 29:11-13, where God offers hope to a generation that had forgotten Him:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.Jeremiah 29:11-13

In these weeks and months, as our family has journeyed the cancer trail with our son Luke and then our beautiful Shannon, the challenges have been many.  Certainly, fear has been a constant threat–the thought of losing either (or both) of them have weighed heavily on our hearts.  Yet our faith has been strengthened as we have watched them persevere in trusting God at every juncture.  Since Shannon’s surgery, nearly two-and-a-half weeks ago, we have watched as Luke has gained strength daily but not knowing what was in store for Shannon.

As we have waited for the results of Shannon’s tests, I have thought about the faith of three men who lived long ago, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.   When ordered to bow down to an image of gold or perish in a fiery furnace, they refused to obey the king.  Their response to the kings order, before being thrown into the fiery furnace, bore testimony to a faith in God that saw beyond this world:

“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if He does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”  
Daniel 3:16-18

Shannon and Luke--in all things giving thanks!

Shannon and Luke–Thanksgiving Day, 2014

Yesterday we rejoiced at the wonderful news from Shannon’s pathology report.  Her cancer has been determined to be at “stage one”, so she will remain under observation, but will not have to receive further treatment.  You can bet that many tears of relief fell as the dread of further treatment was lifted from our shoulders!  We are certainly grateful for God’s gracious answer to all of our prayers and yet . . . I pray that we never lose sight of His continued faithfulness to us throughout this trial.

This season of “walking through the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23) has drawn us closer together as a family and to the Shepherd of our hearts.  Many have entered in to bless us with countless prayers, acts of sacrifice and kindness that humbled us all.  Reflecting on all of this, Shannon asked this question a few weeks ago: “If all of this hadn’t happened, what would we be doing?”  The answer chilled us–we would probably be busy and worried about things that really have little significance in the greater scheme of things.

As we move into the New Year, my prayer is that we never lose sight of the lessons learned through this trial.  Certainly, cancer is ugly, horrible stuff.  Yet, in the midst of such ugliness, we have learned to count our many blessings as God has proven Himself to be faithful.  I extend my prayer for those of you who read this.  No matter what you are facing, give thanks to God for the opportunity to deepen your faith; with every breath He grants you, give thanks for His glorious grace!

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I Thessalonians 5:16-18

All to His Glory!

Wrapped Up

Kathie at hisglorysm:

Some seasons are harder than others. No matter what you may be facing today, be encouraged by the wisdom and perspective of Heidi Viars as I am . . . .

Originally posted on Wings of the Dawn:

amazing grace, candle, light 003There, on top of my dresser sits painting a friend painted years ago in return for a favor. It depicts an open empty tomb and a light beam shining on Christ’s burial cloths. Today, as I passed the picture, the sight of the burial cloth struck me and reminded me of the cloths that Mary used when she wrapped Jesus up after His birth.

I couldn’t help but ponder the connection between the two types of linen.

Christ inserted Himself into this fallen world, making Himself a servant and in many ways dependent on His own creation. After His birth as well as after His death, Jesus was cold and in need of being wrapped. He did not let this dependency constrain Him, but showed us what perfect love should look like. We, too (from the moment we come into the world, to the very moment we breathe our last)…

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