Category Archive: Authenticity

“Go about, preaching the gospel, using words where necessary”

“She kept things ship-shape here. Kept the doctors in line–and they still loved her.”

“Oh, I miss her! Please tell her hi.”

Shirley and Fritz (right) on a girlfriends’ weekend with me.

One of my best friends, Fritz Buschman, retired two years ago from Washington Hospital’s Institute for Joint Repair; now I was there for a total knee replacement.

“She was always smiling. Very approachable.”

I was on an overnight stay in the hospital following my surgery on Thursday. As I’d asked hospital personnel if they knew my girlfriend Fritz, I got loads of wonderful comments expressing appreciation for Fritz, her hard work and her spirit. And I was delighted to hear these great comments about one of my dearest friends.

Fritz and I have been close friends for about twenty-five years. Not long after we met, she called to tell us her husband was in the hospital, needing immediate surgery. My late husband and I rushed to the hospital to sit with Fritz and their daughter, waiting to hear the results of Frank’s emergency stint in the OR.

Fritz was one of the close friends who visited me in Florida when Jerry was dying. She helped me understand the monitors. I remember her lovely blue eyes, full of compassion; her smile, which welcomed others in; her patience in explanations; and her loving support (along with other dear friends) after Jerry’s death.

He gave His life for me, and for you

So I totally understand why Fritz was admired and appreciated in her workplace. Hearing these warm sentiments, I was reminded of  II Corinthians 2: 15.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.”

Through her competence and compassion, Fritz has been a pleasing aroma of Christ to those with whom she worked. She has let her love for Christ show in how she respects and treats others.

I want my life to be such a sweet aroma for Christ, one that reflects His character. At times I fail miserably. But I thank God for forgiveness and clean slates that allow me to start fresh, clean, whole.

And I’m grateful for Fritz’ lovely example.

 

The Greatest of These …

Love God, Love Others

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

That was YouVersion’s “verse of the day” on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day 2018. And I thought of these three great characteristics.

Faith. Hope. Love.

So why is love the greatest of the three?

The apostle Paul says that without love, faith is meaningless. If I have faith that can move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. And hope will end one day, when it is realized. But love never ends.

Love encompasses many other characteristics. It covers a multitude of sins. When I truly love, I don’t look for things to complain about, to criticize, to change. I accept, believe in, trust the person I love. And in reverse, knowing my husband’s–and my heavenly Father’s–great love for me, I never want to deliberately cause them hurt.

And it’s because of God’s great and unconditional love that we can have a relationship with Him, one that leads to our internal (and external) change and to the promise of eternity with Him.

Real love is shown on an ongoing basis in how we treat others. In his great definition of love in I Corinthians 13:4-8a, Paul writes:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.”

Shari’s Berries from my Valentine

    Valentine’s Day flowers and Shari’s Berries are lovely and deeply appreciated; but if that’s all the expression of love we give or receive, there’s a long drought between expressions of love! The kind of love Paul speaks of is shown in daily service to others.
    • One of my favorite definitions of love was written by a boy of about six, who said “Love is when you know your name is safe in their mouth.” Wow! I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that Don never speaks ill of me. My name is safe in his mouth, and I feel loved!

 

Love is reflected:

  • In my mother’s daily prayers for her children and grandchildren;
  • In my husband’s fixing the leak in our pantry wall, repainting and putting the shelves back on the wall, all without complaint – then helping me reload those shelves.
  • In the faithful prayers of God’s people for comfort and peace for the families of victims of this week’s school shooting in Florida;
  • In prayer and care–calls, food, respite–for those in need in our circles of influence, and for people around the world, hungry for the love and grace of God and His people.
  • By responding kindly to the woman who rudely told me to move my grocery cart in Safeway (at which I’m sorry to say I failed!).
  • In acts of service, in speaking up when someone expresses prejudice, in giving to help those who are ministering in ways I cannot, like the Mercy Ships and other Christians loving our world’s under-served.
  • In listening; in affirming others’ value; in extending grace to others, as grace has been given to me.
  • In telling others of God’s amazing love and desire for relationship with them.

What do you think? Why is love the greatest of these three?

Grief at Christmas

At a memorial for our dear friend this week, close friends celebrated Steve Stybor’s life and faith through sixteen years’ struggle with cancer. The pastor spoke of Steve’s love for Jesus Christ. Friends spoke of this man’s care for them, always wanting to know how THEY were doing in the midst of his own struggles. I experienced this too.

“How’re you doing Steve?”

“Not great. But how’s your shoulder healing?”

Steve made friends everywhere he went, from the Safeway clerks he knew by name, to the orderlies, nurses and doctors in the oncology ward and chemo unit, to friends at Bible Study Fellowship and at church.

We miss Steve. Conversations, shared memories, and his humor. He had two memorable caps he wore often: one embroidered with “Chemosabe;” the other with a fringe of fake red hair sticking out the top. Steve could laugh at himself as well as at, and with, others.

I expect some of you are either experiencing your own grief over the loss of a loved one, or know someone who is grieving this Christmas season. Somehow all the “firsts” hit especially hard as the loved one’s absence leaves a gaping hole as we go through the motions, hearts numb, minds unfocused, eyes either wet from unstoppable tears or dried out from the sobs that have already wracked our bodies.

So I thought I would repeat a blog I wrote two years ago.

It was Christmas, 2005. Eighteen days after my husband had moved from my arms into the waiting arms of Jesus.

All I wanted to do was crawl under a warm blanket for about three years, until the aching void in my heart had eased, the elephant on my chest been removed. But you can’t sidestep grief. I slept about eleven hours a night, often with a two or three-hour nap in the afternoon. The ache felt so HEAVY.  It weighed me down. In a daze, I moved from one thing to another, planning and communicating with friends about his memorial, filing for insurance and social security benefits, and taking care of immediate needs.

I thought my life was over. “How do you go on when half of you has been ripped away?” I sobbed. And yet, the very day of Jerry’s death God gave me Jeremiah 29:11 to claim as my own: “For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” I knew that withdrawing into myself would not honor either my Jerry or my God. I stumbled on, with a deep void I thought would never leave my heart, tears accompanying me to bed and again on waking, the body pillow I hugged a very poor substitute for that living, breathing man beside me. And yet, the God who is FAITHFUL and TRUE promised never to leave nor forsake me.

I felt His care through family and friends who loved on me, who didn’t try to “fix” me, who let me cry or talk or be silent or a distant guest, lost in my own thoughts as others laughed and talked around me. My brothers supported me in a myriad of ways during and after Jerry’s death. My nephew and niece, who rented an apartment from me, came to my back door every night for weeks, to check in and hug me. My sister-in-law and niece prepared and froze quite a few individual meals for me. On each Tupperware container was a scripture or note of encouragement. And, having been widowed three years earlier herself, Mom listened and prayed and grieved along with me.

A very loving note from my then five-year old niece

A very loving note from my then five-year old niece

As we celebrated Jerry’s life a few weeks after his death, I knew my family and many friends who also loved Jerry, grieved with me. But two days later, during our family Christmas, I felt like I was in a bottomless hole. With hollow, red-rimmed eyes, I watched others open gifts. Their muted affirmations of thanks swirled around me. I wasn’t quite “there.” This was my first Christmas in 24 years without his love, laughter and teasing, his presence, his gifts, and gifts for him. It seemed surreal that life could continue when mine had been so radically altered.

It must have been hard for my loving family to watch me, as they reached out to me with hugs and tears throughout the day. They were dealing with their own loss, of a son-in-law, brother-in-law, and uncle.

Friends expressed love in a variety of ways. The day after Christmas, a dear friend sat on the floor in front of me and listened. The first person to whom I told the whole story of Jerry’s last day on earth, she loved me by squeezing my hand and murmuring words of compassion as I spoke.

How about you? Are you lonely this Christmas? Can you reach out for help, to a friend, a local church, a counselor? Be with people who will allow you to grieve at your own pace and in your own way?

Conversely, if you know someone who is having a hard time this Christmas, look for ways to encourage them.

  • Don’t try to “fix” your friend. Listen meaningfully and hug appropriately.
  • And oh, avoid giving advice (unless asked) or telling the person “this must have been God’s plan.” A woman approached me very soon after Jerry’s death, asking “What is the Lord teaching you through this time?” She must have caught my look, which said “Teaching me? Friend, I’m just barely hanging on by my fingernails.” “Spiritualizing” is NOT helpful. Listening IS.
  • Prepare a meal, or invite them to attend something with you. (And if they say no, ask again later–they may not have been ready yet to do anything public.)
  • Send a card or note telling them you’re thinking of them.
  • Offer practical help, such as grocery shopping, a ride to an appointment, or help finding resources such as grief recovery groups.
  • Allow your friend the freedom to express anger, pain, disillusionment, whatever he or she feels, without judging or trying to challenge those feelings. They need to be expressed in a safe place. LISTEN!
  • If many others are asking how they can help, offer to be the point person to coordinate so the grief-stricken individual doesn’t have to handle logistics at this difficult time.
  • Pray for them.
    • Now.
    • On the phone.
    • In person.
    • Privately.
    • However the Holy Spirit suggests.

Click on the link below for more ways to help a grieving friend.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-devSupporting a Grieving Personine/death-and-dying_b_4329830.html

May you experience the love and comfort of our God, through Jesus Christ, no matter your circumstances, this Christmas season. “Immanuel” — God with us!

 

 

 

Keep me Safe ‘Til the Storm Passes By*

Generosity – largeness of spirit. So often we think of generosity relative to finances, to money. Earning it, keeping it, spending it, sharing it. But scripture speaks about much more than money in relation to generosity. Pastor Rene is teaching on this and talked of how generosity is the “overflow of a heart filled with gratitude.”

In studies compiled in GRATITUDE WORKS, Dr. Robert Emmons says grateful people sleep better, have lower blood pressure and increased alertness and energy, better stress coping mechanisms, and improved cardiac health, among other physical and emotional benefits.

When we realize how much God has done for us, our gratitude leads to a response of generosity. It may be expressed through time given to listen or help others; through welcoming others into family times; or through personal sacrifice that allows another to thrive.

Learning to sleep after surgery, while protecting my right shoulder, has been a process — several nights I’ve been unable to sleep. Don has gotten up with me, tucked me in for comfort and security, and done extra to cover what I can’t do right now. The other night I got comfortable and was able to doze off in Don’s arms, with our Cavalier Paige at the foot of the bed.

Paigey often wanders awhile before settling into sleep. She leans against Don’s body, then mine, checks to be sure she has her chew bone, then wiggles around a bit more. As I started to roll over onto my own pillow later that night, I found I couldn’t. Paige had rolled up against me, moving from my shoulders to my knees, securely tucking my blanket around me.

I had to laugh in thanks. I have a loving provider in my husband, who cares for me in little and big ways. Friends and family express love through calls, meals, visits, notes. And I even get tucked in by my little canine.

There are many who are finding it difficult to feel any gratitude right now: between mass shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes and fires, our country is in a world of hurt. I can’t imagine the horror country fans in Vegas felt as they began to realize what they thought were firecrackers were really bullets. Or the agony of watching your home and belongings burn before your eyes in Sonoma, surrounding counties, and in Southern California. And my heart breaks for these.

There was a time in my own life when I experienced severe depression. I wasn’t able to push past the pain to find any gratitude, I asked God to hold me, confessing I had nothing with which to hold onto Him. And He did. Because He is faithful.

As I pray for the many who are in emotional, physical and spiritual pain right now, I also pray for the firefighters and police personnel who are trying to bring stability and order out of chaos. And I pray that we as a nation might lean into Jesus for hope, comfort, restoration, peace, for repentance as we turn our hearts back to Him.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
    therefore I will wait for him.”   Lamentations 3:22-24 NIV

*From a hymn written by Mosie Lister.

Search me O God

I can see it (all)!

Dusty. Sweaty. Tired. Sore. Yup, I just cleaned and reorganized the pantry. And I can see everything I need at a glance. Wow!  I’ve actually left the pantry door open because it looks so neat! Salad and mixing bowls are on a lower shelf where Don and I can easily reach them. It’s several years since I’ve done a full-on job on this. I’ve stretched my sore shoulder to reach for bowls I needed. I’ve forgotten what I had, so bought more of the same. I’ve stored foods I’ll never use. It was time!

And then I think how my walk with Jesus is a little like this pantry. I get cleansed with confession, adoration, and praise; and then life butts in and I allow things back into my heart that I should reject–anger, worry, self-centeredness … I forget to confess something and carry it with me. And then my life feels chaotic, my mind cluttered, my heart not free.

And I forget God’s marvelous, unchanging grace! And yet, Jesus is always there ready to forgive and to cleanse me.

I’m going to try to keep my pantry clean and organized; but I know disorganization will creep in. I hope to use it as a reminder of any cleanup I need to do between my Father and me, or between myself and others.

But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins. (I John 1:9/TLB)

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. (Psalm 139:23-24/TLB)

I’m so thankful for GRACE!

 What reminds you of your need for ongoing grace?