Forgiveness: Facing-Off Evil In The Love And Mercy Of Christ . . . .

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Matthew 6:12

It is difficult to make sense of forgiveness, especially when it is extended to someone who brutally snuffed out the lives of innocent family members.  Such was the response of a Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Amish community in 2006, when five young girls were brutally murdered and five others severely injured.  Not only did they forgive the shooter (who committed suicide at the scene), the Amish community extended their forgiveness by caring for his wife and three children who were left without a husband and father.

A similar scenario played out this past week in Charleston, South Carolina, where a stranger, welcomed into their church’s Bible study,  murdered the pastor and eight others.  Though still reeling from the loss of their loved ones, family members none-the-less made their way to the courtroom to extend forgiveness to the shooter as well as his family.

Where does such strength to forgive–such determination to face-off evil–come from?  After years of working with people in the Counseling Room, as well facing my own personal challenges, I can assure you that such forgiveness never comes easy.  Humanly speaking, we want to hold onto anger and hate; we desire to repay evil for evil.  Yet even from a health perspective, we know that to allow such things to hold sway for very long, is to allow the acidic erosion of our thinking to separate us from the God who saves.  James 4 speaks to the inward struggle we face:

"What causes fights and quarrels among you?"  James 4:1

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?” James 4:1

“What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
You desire but do not have, so you kill . . . .You do not have because you do not ask God.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

James 4:1-3

The good news is that God desires better for us and calls us to Himself as the Shepherd of our hearts.  In the end, forgiveness is God’s means of deepening a faith relationship between Himself and His people.  Jesus said,

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
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.… “

Matthew 11:28, 29

That rest for your souls, is embedded in the knowledge that God, who is merciful as well as just, will not forget the burden you surrendered to Him.  If not repented of, God’s justice will prevail.  With this in mind, God asks but one question, “Will you trust Me in this?”

Forgiveness, pure and simple, is a God-thing . . . it is not something we can conjure up alone.  What is the critical ingredient needed to face-off evil when life hits us hard?  Forgiveness . . . that is grounded in the love and mercy of Jesus.  As forgiveness is applied in humility and faith, the evidence of God’s Presence in the hearts of His people is revealed.  

The declaration Paul made to his friends in Galatia, when they were in danger of entering into the bondage of legalism, is a good reminder to us when we are tempted to hold on to bitterness and anger:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Galatians 5:1

  • Forgiveness is a decision, that reflects the mercy received through God’s only Son.
  • Forgiveness comes alive and is believable, only as acts of mercy follow it.
  • Forgiveness chooses, to trust in God’s ultimate justice.

Forgiveness is the ultimate means whereby God’s people are truly freed–
to live for, love and serve Him with glad hearts.

All to His Glory!

 

 

Simple Kindness, Prayerfully Applied . . . .

It wasn’t until we lived in England, that I learned there is a difference between niceness and kindness.  As one friend put it, “Kathie, ice cream is ‘nice’, kindness goes deeper.”  Looking at several dictionaries this morning, I found the distinction between the two terms is best understood by considering what is at the root of what niceness and kindness do and do not communicate:

Niceness: Synonyms–befitting, correct, decent, well-bred, proper, polite, respectable, seemly.  Antonyms–improper, inappropriate, incorrect, indecent, indecorous, unbecoming, ungenteel, unseemly

Kindness:  Synonyms–benevolence, courtesy, grace, indulgence, favor, mercy, service.  Antonyms: coldheartedness, hard-heartedness, inhumanity, inhumanness, mercilessness, pitilessness

Niceness can tend to be a bit flashy (i.e. “Look at what I just did!”), kindness is more simply applied as it focuses on the needs of others.  It all boils down to this:

Love is kind . . . .

Love is kind . . . .

Niceness is about outward appearances,
Simple kindness, is often sacrificial as it reflects what is in the heart.
Simple kindness is a fruit of God’s Spirit.
Simple kindness, prayerfully applied, is rooted in God’s love. 
“It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 

I Corinthians 13:5

When asked, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story about two societal “nice guys” and another man, viewed a societal reject in that day, who none-the-less, demonstrated simple kindness:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him  . . . beat him and . . . left him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He . . . bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’  (Luke 10:30-35)

Jesus then asked this very important question,

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (verse 36)

The “expert in the law” responded to Jesus’ question–avoiding even mentioning the word, “Samaritan”–answered,  “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him (and continues to tell us), “Go and do likewise.”  (verse 37)

The Scriptures continue to call you and I to,

GO . . . “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:29),

GO . . . “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”  (Romans 12:10)

GO . . . “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

What I have learned this week as I have thought about kindness is that:

To act in the simple kindness of Christ, does not require a lot of fanfare,
but for it to be truly effective as a fruit of God’s Spirit,
prayer is essential.

In my last post I wrote about the Duggar’s, a Christian family featured on a reality TV program called, Nineteen Kids and Counting.  Normally I would not write about people on a television program, but as I have watched this family be (essentially) ‘beaten and left for dead’ by elements of the societal elite of our day, I have been challenged to think about MY role in their story.  Am I one of the “nice guys” full of self-importance, who says, “Too bad for them”, as I continue on my busy way?  Or, do I stop and apply simple kindness by praying for the family and asking, “God, what would you have me do?”  

How about you?  Are there people or situations that you are aware of, but manage to “pass by on the other side”, because you feel like you cannot take on one more thing?  Perhaps you avoid listening to the news (like I sometimes do) because it is always seems to be so . . . dare I say it? . . . not very nice.  What I am learning is that, although the world is not a nice place to live and sometimes is even scary, simple kindness applies prayer to every situation, looking to Christ for wisdom as to when and how to help.  Simple kindness challenges each one of us to set aside fear, and even our busyness, as we learn what living by faith is truly all about.  

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
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.”
Colossians 3:12 & 17

All to His Glory!

Sin That Cannot Be Undone . . . .

Last week I was sickened by hatred spewed by elements of the media, aimed at destroying a Christian family featured in a reality television program–Nineteen Kids and Counting.  I have been fascinated by how this unique family of nineteen homeschooled children seeks to live out their faith according to biblical principles.  To be honest, I have been humbled by their example of kindness and mercy extended toward others, even as they have been ridiculed for their faith.  I am not sure how long the program has been on, but I do know that it has been long enough to have featured the courtship and weddings of three of the Duggar children–long enough for the oldest son,  Josh, and his wife Anna, to have grown their family to include four children (the fourth child due some time this year.)  I have especially appreciated programs featuring Anna, as she has navigated the challenges of being a young wife and mother after moving to Washington, DC for a job opportunity that opened up for Josh.  Were I to say I have a favorite in the family, it would be Anna–as she has grown and matured tending her little “flock” with humor and grace, reached out to others in their new community and sought to be a good helpmate to Josh.

I admit that learning about Josh abusing some of his sisters when he was fourteen-years-old (he is now twenty-seven) was shocking.  Josh, to his credit, has not denied it.  In fact, he made a public apology that said (in part):

“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret. I hurt others, including my family and close friends . . . . I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I would do anything to go back to those teen years and take different actions. In my life today, I am so very thankful for God’s grace, mercy and redemption.”

Responses to his apology have been mixed, at best.  But, far more troubling to me were comments expressed on Facebook, by some who obviously enjoyed exposing “every dirty little secret” they could dig out about the family.  I found myself wondering about the source of such hatred that appeared to come so easy.  Of the two Facebook posts I read last weekend and the sixty-plus comments made in response to those posts, only one individual wrote what I found to be a helpful, credible response to Josh’s confession:

“I am a victim and mom who has had to walk this painful road
because of someone else’s sin. The difference”
(contrasting Josh Duggar’s response with her experience)
“–never has the perpetrator sought forgiveness
nor been quick to accept with such humility that they screwed up.
My heart is so broken for this family–and praying for them . . . .
The world holds Christians to a perfect standard-we are NOT perfect.” 

DSC02168 - Version 2

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously, without finding fault . . . .” James 1:5

SIN . . . whatever form it takes, is vile stuff.  In the Counseling Room we refer to sin as, “puke on God’s Throne” (II Peter 2:22) to emphasize the vileness of it.  Part of my role and responsibility as Counselor, is to help those I serve deal with sin that has impacted them–either their own sin or sin imposed on them by others.  By far, the sin that is the most challenging to address, is sin committed in the past that cannot be undone.

In no way can I excuse what Josh did, but there is some comfort in knowing that he has expressed his regrets and repented of his sin.  Also, I was grateful to hear that before marrying Anna, Josh owned up to his past–giving her the opportunity to walk away if she wanted to.  Anna chose to marry Josh and, as my grandma used to say, “The proof is in the pudding.”  It has been in watching Anna’s confidence grow in her role as wife, mother and friend that, I believe, reflects something good about the character of the man she married.

As Christian’s, we are challenged to respond to this family tragedy in a manner that honors Christ.  While it may be tempting to enter into the fray of condemnation encouraged by social media, we must take care that we avoid “puking on God’s Throne” as we consider the broken and prayerful example given us by a true victim of abuse.

There is much to be gleaned from the wisdom of Scripture to guide us.  A personal favorite of mine we frequently look to in the Counseling Room, is this passage in Romans:

“Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath,
for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”e
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Romans 12:17-21

It is always comforting to remember, that as much as we may hate the pain and suffering sin inflicts on us and on those we love, God hates it more–“Vengeance is Mine, I WILL repay” the unrepentant sinner.  While we cannot know fully the depth of anyone’s confession, God’s Justice will ultimately prevail.

Our Challenge as Christians,
is to take care that we avoid heaping our own sin/puke on others as we pray for them,
rather than delighting in and exposing sin that cannot be undone.    

All to His Glory!

“No Wallet, One Shoe, So Grateful . . . . “

When I woke up this morning, it was the first time in ten days that I felt no pain in my head.  In fact, I only remembered my accident after glancing at my reflection in the bathroom mirror–though improving after passing so many days . . . oh my, what a shiner!  This week has been full of lessons about gratitude, humility and the difference they make in how we navigate our lives:

LESSON ONE:  Last Monday, while visiting my daughter and her family, I took a bit of a tumble.  Okay . . . truthfully, it was more like a crash and burn on concrete . . . SPLAT.  I counted it a blessing that I could pick myself up and made my way up the stairs–nothing broken except maybe my pride.  I kept an ice pack on my head and laid low for several hours, but was grateful to enjoy a good finish to our visit.

“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

LESSON TWO:  On Tuesday, I was no worse from my “tumble/crash” so was grateful to fly home with my husband.  As we traveled I saw several reports in the news about a study done by the Pew Research Center’s findings titled, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”  According to the report, while Christianity still dominates the American religious identity at 70 percent, “dramatic shifts” have taken place as “people move out the doors of denominations, shedding spiritual connections along the way.”  (USA Today)  I watched an interview featuring a thirty-something year old man, who was “raised in the church” but who “had no need” of “religion.”  None of this was a surprise to me, in fact, it confirmed what I have witnessed in my own community.  What caught my attention though, was the countenance of the young man who was interviewed–I saw a joylessness (a spiritual deadness) that weighed heavy on my heart.

Reflecting on the report, I shuddered as I wondered about the correlation between such spiritual deadness and the horrific violence being reported around the world.  It was then that I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul, who wrote in his final letter to his young friend Timothy:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving,
slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous,
rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—
having a form of godliness but denying its power.
Have nothing to do with such people.

 II Timothy 3:1-5

How are Christians to respond to such a world?  We are called to love others when given the opportunity, as Christ has loved us, in grateful humility–

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless,
Christ died for the ungodly . . . .
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

(Romans 5:6, 8b)

LESSON THREE: Wednesday morning, we woke up to the news of a deadly train derailment that occurred the previous evening.  Eight people were killed and hundreds injured.  The reports were grim, however, one bright spot stood out to me.  It was a tweet from one of the survivors at the scene,

“No wallet, one shoe, so grateful . . . . “

“No wallet, one shoe, so grateful….”  

As I processed the words of the tweet, I was surprised when I realized that tears were welling up in my eyes–what was that about?  It struck me that sometimes it takes our being stripped of everything we hold dear–truly humbled--that brings us to the point where we are grateful for the gift of our lives.  But here’s the proverbial “rub”:

What is the focus of such gratitude?

Is our gratitude simply for life itself?

Or, is our gratitude extended to the Giver of life?
Is there a difference?
Absolutely!  

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary defines gratitude as, “Having a due sense of benefits received; kindly disposed toward one from whom a favor has been received; willing to acknowledge and repay, or give thanks for . . . a grateful heart.”

The problem is:

♦  When there is no appreciation of favor having been extended to us by a merciful God, we end up serving ourselves (or others) as we fulfill what has become popularly known as our, “bucket list”.  

♦  With that, the benefits of gratitude and humility before a Holy God are totally lost on a world that is self-focused rather than esteeming God as Creator.

So what is our call?

“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken,
and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship,
with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”  
Hebrews 12:29,29
(ESV)

LESSON FOUR: Remember that “tumble/crash” experienced on Monday?  On Thursday morning, I was shocked to see a dark purple “shiner” around my right eye when I looked in the mirror.  (Remember, I hit my head, not my eye!)  Also, the shooting pains in my head were increasing, growing from those sparklers used to celebrate special holidays to an ice pick.  Pride started to creep in when I thought about the Clients I had promised to see that day–should I cancel?  I remembered the Thessalonians 5 passage that encouraged me on Monday, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances . . . .”  With that, I started to put my makeup on extra thick–hoping they would not notice.

Of course, they did notice . . . but God was faithful in blessing both Sessions.  However, towards the end of the second Session my head started to throb.  I called my doctor; he sent me to the Emergency Room where I was immediately humbled when told, “Anyone in their sixties who hits their head needs to have a CT-scan.”  I was also told, “The idea that being fifty or sixty is ‘the new forty’  is a lie–period.”  I was too miserable to argue.  Thankfully, they found no fractures or blood clots formed so I was released to go home.

Since then, I learned that the flight may have exacerbated my symptoms.  In any case, even though I did not hit my eye when I fell, I did enough damage in my head to cause the internal bleeding to move to the soft tissue around my eye.

So what have I learned about gratitude and humility from all of this?

  1. l am grateful for how the accident caused me to slow down enough these past ten days to begin thinking about their importance before God.
  2.  I guess it all boils down to the reminder in Lesson Three: “No Wallet, One Shoe, So Grateful . . . .”  If God is the focus of our gratitude, our response will keep Him at the center of what we think, say or do.

All to His Glory!

When The World Around You Crumbles . . . .

I saw it in her eyes . . . a glazed fatigue that said she was just barely hanging on.  After stowing her backpack under the seat in front of us, she settled next to me with her 17-month-old daughter and a paper cup filled with a large scoop of ice cream.  Perhaps seeing the concern in my face or . . . just needing to talk, she said softly, “We have been flying for the past thirty-six hours . . . from Kathmandu.”  Having watched many reports of the devastating earthquake all week, the only thing I could think to say was, “Welcome home.”

Popular 200 ft. tower landmark in Nepal, gone in an instant.

As she fed her daughter spoonfuls of ice cream (the only thing the worried mother could get her little one to eat on their long journey) she talked about her experience.  She and her daughter had flown to Nepal to attend her sister’s wedding.  When the quake hit, my seat mate was the only one in the house–the rest of the family (including her daughter) was out in the back garden.  She said several times, “I thought I was going to die,”  before adding,  “My only comfort was in knowing my family would take care of my daughter.”  

Thankfully, she survived.  But I could tell she was still reeling from having seen the world she had known since childhood literally crumble.  She described “the wind that seemed to form with the quake”, filling the air with all sorts of dust particles that made survivors prone to eye and respiratory problems for days after.  Over the next three days, she and her family “camped” (along with countless others) in an open-dirt area with no power, water or even a blanket to form a shelter.   Finally, she and her daughter were admitted to the American Embassy, where they stayed two more days until a flight out was arranged for them.  (Her comment here, “I have never been more grateful to be an American citizen!”)

She spoke softly about the historic sites as well as the majority of the city being flattened.  To help me appreciate the significance of what she had witnessed she said, “Imagine the White House in Washington, DC, being demolished in just a moment . . . that is the magnitude of what has happened in Nepal.”  

How does one respond to a story such as this?  It took some careful thought before I responded with, “During times when I have felt like my life was crumbling, the Bible has provided me with the strength and courage I needed to continue moving forward.  Psalm 139:16b is one of my favorites,

‘All the days ordained for me were written in Your Book,
before one of them came to be.'”

A gentleness settled across her face as she said, “I know that what you are saying is true, that God can often bring much blessing out of tragedy.  That is what I am clinging to right now.”  We spoke for some time about the blessings that could come out of the catastrophic shift that had taken place.  Soon, as her little one finally relaxed and fell asleep in her arms, she also closed her eyes and drifted off in exhaustion.

I watched them as they slept, grateful for the privilege of hearing their story as they traveled this final leg home.  I thought about her husband,  waiting at the airport, hungry to see that his wife and daughter were truly alive and safe.  Sitting there I also thought about how “life” can crumble around us in a myriad of ways–relationships broken, dreams squelched, a devastating health reversal, missed opportunities never to return . . . .  The truth is, life on this earth is full of danger.  I remembered the words of Psalm 46, where I have found comfort in the midst of trials:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
(Verses 1-3)

There is no tower we can build that will be high enough, nor any wall we erect that will be broad enough to keep trouble away from our door.  Only God can provide the comfort and shelter we need during such storms.  I love how the rest of Psalm 46 draws us ever closer to the God who is our only Hope and Sure Shelter:

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts His voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
the desolations He has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
He burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
(verses 4-11)

When the plane finally landed she opened her eyes and smiled–HOME!  They were finally home!  Doing what I could to help, I gladly held her little one briefly as she gathered their few belongings.   Then, almost in an instant, they were gone.  Only when they were finally out of sight, did I realize that I would never forget her–even though I never learned her name . . . .

All to His Glory!

Christian Joy Is Not Man-Made . . . .

There is a difference between “joy” as it is experienced in the world and Christian joy.

  • Joy in the world is much like that of happiness contained in a helium balloon.  Such joy can appear to be almost wondrous as it floats high into the sky.  However, the enjoyment is only temporary as it drifts out of sight and ultimately “pops” as circumstances change.
  • Christian joy is not tainted by adverse circumstances or the actions of others.  Christian joy is instead filled with the hope and wisdom of faith in Christ Jesus.  

    Christian Joy is not man-made

    Christian Joy is not man-made

If you are struggling with circumstances that are out of your control, or are trying to make sense of the hateful ugliness being reported in the news, then I encourage you to stop and consider the wisdom of James.*   In his letter directed to, “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations,”  James sought to encourage and exhort God’s people living in uncertain times (times similar to our own) to persevere in their faith to discover the “pure joy” of an ever-deepening relationship with Christ.  What is the essence of Christian joy?  Here is what James says:

“Consider it PURE JOY my brethren,
whenever you face TRIALS OF MANY KINDS . . .
because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work
SO THAT YOU MAY BE MATURE AND COMPLETE,
NOT LACKING ANYTHING.”
James 1:2-4 (Emphasis mine.)

The first time I read James, I thought his call to “pure joy” was some sort of weird, masochistic invitation to delight in suffering.  (You can bet I kept a wide berth between myself and James for quite some time!)  However, after going through some personal trials of my own, I remembered James and went back to discover the blessing I did not appreciate before. That last bit, about needing to persevere in my faith (trusting in God’s goodness rather than allowing hurt or disappointment to darken my perceptions) hit me like a fresh shot of sunshine that suddenly burst through a massive bank of dark clouds.  As I thought about God’s goal for my life–to work out a mature faith within me–all the defenses I had erected in the past to protect myself crumbled.  I realized then, that the joy James described was what I wanted too.

But, how exactly is Christian joy to be worked out?  Is it just a matter of “keeping a stiff upper lip” and trusting that everything will somehow work out?  Thankfully, I kept reading James and found the answer to my question:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God,
who gives generously to all without finding fault . . . .
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt,
because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

James 1:5-7

So, what is the essence of Christian joy and how is it even possible in the world we live in?

  • To rejoice in trial means that we refuse to doubt God’s Goodness as we seek His wisdom by faith.
  • Christian joy refuses to give way to fear but is strengthened as we resolve to stand in faith.
  • Christian joy is not naive but rests in knowing that the things of this world are only temporary, that our Hope (and therefore our joy in Christ) is eternal.

Christian joy is about going deeper in your faith to gain maturity.
It stretches beyond mere ascent to belief in Christ,
as it determines to embrace the benefits of maturity God affords under trial.  

No matter what you may be facing, James directs us to rejoice in the sure knowledge that this is not all there is.  In essence, James is calling you and I to step out of ourselves (like Peter stepped out of the boat so long ago) to gain a maturity of faith that is out of this world.  So-o-o-o-o, what are you waiting for?  Give thanks to God for His Goodness as a mature faith is worked out in you . . . .

All to His Glory!

*An  interesting side note: James was a half-brother to Jesus yet only refers to himself as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (James 1:1)

Perspective on: “A Healthy Death . . . .”

“Perspective is everything.”  I don’t know where I picked it up, but it is a phrase I find myself repeating a lot these days.  Yesterday, as I prepared to make the half-hour drive to attend the funeral of my friend Pat, I remembered back to when she told me she had cancer, two and a half months ago.  (Even then, that conversation was so remarkable that I decided to share Pat’s story with you in, A Healthy Death.)   In that conversation, still shaken by the news of Pat’s battle that had been ongoing for three months, I found comfort and blessing as Jim (Pat’s husband) told me how they had decided to pray,

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

Since writing that post, I have thought often about writing its follow-up . . . hoping to write to you about Pat’s miraculous healing.  Yet inwardly, I also wondered, “If You decide to take Pat Home, Lord, what would You have me write?  What exactly does a healthy death look like?”

As I drove to the funeral home, all I could think about was the pain of separation being experienced by Pat’s family and friends.  It was good to greet and feel the hugs of friends I had not seen for many years.  It was also amazing to see the crowds of others, whom I had never met, but who also had been touched by Pat’s life.  As I watched Pat’s family offer comfort and reassuring hugs to all who came, I was struck by how they reflected the love and strength of the One carrying them.  This, I realized, was my first lesson on what a healthy death looks like–the Body of Christ ministering to one another.

The Service for Pat began with this simple story:

Around 125 A.D., a Greek by the name of Aristeides wrote to one of his friends, trying to explain the extraordinary success of the new religion, Christianity.  In his letter he said, “If any righteous man among the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God, and they accompany his body with songs and thanksgiving as if he were setting out from one place to another nearby.”

I was struck by how very much the Christian walk is about pilgrimage–then and now.  The pain of death is nothing new.  However for Christians, the sting of death has been taken away, because of the Hope we share from this life into the next.  In fact, the second lesson on a healthy death, relates to it’s uniqueness to the Christian faith.  There is no possibility of experiencing a healthy death apart from the saving work of Jesus in the heart, mind and soul of the individual.  

During the Service, hearts were ministered to as some of Pat’s favorite songs and hymns were sung. I found the wisdom and perspective of the Scriptures shared to be strengthening and uplifting.  Certainly tears were spilled and will continue for some time, as we remember Pat.  However, as we rely on the Hope embedded in the Resurrection of Christ–promised to all who trust in Him–we are strengthened to persevere on this journey and into the next.  What the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21 reflects our third lesson on a healthy death: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”

This morning, I thought about Pat as I remembered the words from an old hymn:

” . . . and when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on!
And when from death I’m free I’ll sing on!”*

The thought of Pat presently experiencing such freedom brought fresh delight to my soul.   This rendition of Fernando Ortega’s, “What Wondrous Love Is This” is a favorite of mine.  I offer it to those of you who may be suffering loss or who are facing uncertainty in your life right now.  What does a healthy death look like?  Take a moment to reflect on this question as you marvel in His Wondrous Grace.  Truly . . . PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING!

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:16b

All to His Glory!

*What Wondrous Love Is This, Author: Unknown, first published 1811.