Category Archive: God’s Promises

Love’s Celebration

I trust in Your unfailing love. Psalm 13:5

I long for love. Don’t you? And I both give and receive it in a variety of ways and depths. I love, and am loved by, my husband; family; close friends; even my dogs.

While LOVE is one in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the same word is used in our culture for everything from admiration or appreciation, to a deep, self-sacrificing behavior.

“I love my husband”

“I love Gayle’s chocolate pie”

“I love the Warriors”

“I love my mother … children … siblings …. friends … pets … that song … these shoes.”

But the love that is above all, and is foundational to all other loves, is the love God has shown us in providing a way, through the Cross of Christ, for us to know Him, to enter an eternal relationship with the Creator of all. I’ve written about other loves … but today I want to celebrate God’s love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17, NIV)

I once read a story about a man, let’s call him Richard, who was in deep despair, having rejected God in anger. He was staying with a friend who had challenged his guest to submit himself and give his anger and pain to Jesus. While the friend went out for a walk, Richard wrestled with God and finally released his pain to Jesus. He then sat down at the piano and began to play and sing an old hymn he recalled from his childhood. His friend returned to the house to hear his guest’s rich tenor voice, and knew God had met him.

“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.”

(Lyrics by George Mattheson, who was inspired to write this hymn in 5 minutes during a time of distress.)

There was a very difficult time in my life when I had no strength with which to hold onto God. I was depressed, weak, and despairing. Hope was gone. But I asked Him to hold onto me. II Timothy 2:13 tells us, “And if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” I pray that this song will encourage you to trust in His unfailing love.

   “This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.”  (I John 4:10, NLT)

 

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Hairpins and Hope

The dual switchback gave us no visibility to what might be approaching on the one-lane road. What if a local driver comes barreling around that corner? We’re on the cliff side of the road! Much of the drive was enchanting. Every change in elevation exposed different flora and fauna.  Some areas were lush, some covered with red dirt. “Look at this plain,” I said at one point. After climbing mountains and traversing hairpins for miles, the flatland was a lovely surprise. We crossed narrow bridges and stretches where meeting an oncoming car required one of us to pull out or back up, depending on the amount of margin on the side of the constricted road.

Don pulled over at one cliff, where we looked down at the lava rocks below, and spoke at length with the artist recreating the pastel ocean scene. Near Annalise, spread over a rock and colored the same, was a wild pig skin. I didn’t realize it until I saw hooves and a tail … and smelled an odor that was ripe. Some “rite of passage,” according to Annalise.

We drove past a picturesque little broken-down church, heavy tile roof falling in on itself, that was once charming. It sat above cliffs that led down to roaring waves, tumbling waterfalls, and a little village. We’d seen a sign earlier for banana bread so we pulled over at Julia’s tiny green shack.

I stepped up onto the porch behind a young woman who asked about banana bread. “Last loaf,” was the reply.

“Oh no,” I spoke without thinking.

The woman turned to me. “Do you want to split it?” Her husband joined her. “We don’t need to eat the whole thing.”

“Really?” I asked. Really!

I thanked them, and we divided the bread and shared the cost. Waving goodbye, Don and I continued on our journey, enjoying the moist sweetness of the loaf, which almost melted in our mouths.

More hairpin turns. More one-lane passages. More  beauty—orange and yellow-leaved shrubs, magenta flowers atop trees, hot pink bougainvillea, and palm to pine trees. And lava rock, and some small rock slides, and cliffs that plunged into roiling waves below.

And I thought, kind of like life. There’s a great deal of beauty, enjoyment, ongoing blessing as we walk with Christ. At times we need to hear a brother or sister say “You want to share?” … or perhaps we need to offer the shared blessing to others. There is also challenge, and difficulty, and pain, and suffering. Sometimes the road we travel is smooth and lined with blessings of health and love and productive work and hope. At other times the road is dark, the switchbacks prevent us from seeing the next step, and we have to move forward in faith, our hand in the Father’s, knowing He has promised never to leave or forsake us.

Julia’s

I’ve had a few big switchbacks in my life, along with lesser ones. Threats of mutilation while ministering in the ghetto; pain following departure from a work I loved; some health challenges; the losses of a nephew, several dear friends, my father, my first husband. But I’ve also seen the beauty of being carried through those hairpins by a God who loves me and would not let me go; of loving and being loved well by two wonderful men, and by family; of the gift of travel; of the joy of ministering to and encouraging younger women in their faith walks.

And sometimes it’s the hairpin turns, the switchbacks where we can do nothing but pray and trust, that teach us most clearly that our Father is always there, loving, guiding, walking alongside as we navigate  day by day.

So, while there’s no way I want to suffer, I also don’t regret the times my road has been hard. Mixed with the joys, the difficulties remind me to trust and rely on God in both good and bad times. I can’t become an oak of righteousness, rooted and grounded in Him, without His love and pruning and deepening, the same One who promises to give beauty in place of ashes.

The prophet Isaiah recognized his anointing from the Lord …

” … to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:2b-3)

What’s encouraged you during some of the hairpin turns of your life?

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When it’s Hard to Give Thanks

Aargh ...Sometimes giving thanks is just tough.

It was hard for me this week. The cold I caught on Don’s and my flight home from Tennessee developed into a violent cough. Every time it hit I felt like I was tearing apart inside. I produced sticky, yucky green mucous, and lots of it! Tears streamed down my face during these coughing spells, which frightened me as well as any people around me. I was exhausted. Didn’t want to read. No energy to pray. Certainly did not feel thankful.

Oh, I knew I was thankful for the big things … God’s love, salvation, my husband and family; but I couldn’t seem to pull up any thanks in this illness that had overtaken me. This was the sickest I’d been in years.

Years ago I went through a time of pretty serious depression. I couldn’t give thanks then either. But there was a song by a wonderful male quartet that I listened to before going to bed every night for three weeks. With its chorus, I prayed:  “Keep me safe ’til the storm passes by.” I’m so worn down, Lord, I have no strength with which to hold onto you. Please hold onto me.

And He did.

And this week, after days of being worn down, exhausted, emotionally empty, I had to take my laptop in for a repair. Our friend Sam worked on it (extensively) while I waited … and charged me nothing. And it was like the Lord said “See, I’m still looking out for you. I have not forgotten you or your needs. You are my beloved.”

II Timothy 2:13 says that “…if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” And that is reason to give thanks!

Are you able to give thanks this Christmas? If not, how can I pray for you during this time?

 

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He Doesn’t Waste our Pain

Healing following the death of your spouse takes time. Allow yourself the freedom to grieve in your own way and your own time. Ask for help from a pastor, therapist or grief support group. No one can tell you how long you should grieve, or that you should be “over it” by now.

Hope Returns

Hope Returns

But over time, you will again choose to move on. After awhile, I began to write seriously, volunteered with three-year-olds in Sunday School, and mentored a younger woman. A few years later I met the wonderful man who is now my husband. But I didn’t see any of that when in the throes of my grief.

And yet, God doesn’t waste our pain.

The late Senator Harold Hughes, an alcoholic depressive who was holding his gun, ready to kill himself when God stopped him, later claimed the promise that “… I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten.” Joel 2:25a (KJV)

My friend Susan, whose husband passed away a little over two years ago, just told me, “God is giving me new things in my life.” Not returning what was in the past, but giving new life, opportunities, interests.

bottle

God stores our tears; they are precious to Him and do not go unrecognized.

And if our God keeps track of all our sorrows, collects our tears in his bottle, and records each one in his book (Psalm 56:8) , they are not wasted. They may make us more tender to the pain of others; they may draw us closer to our heavenly Father who will never leave us; they prepare us to speak into the lives of others. If we acknowledge and consecrate our grief to the Father, not ignoring our loss or pain, we can submit it to Him for His purposes.

A new believer recently told me, “You encourage me because your life hasn’t been easy; you’ve gone through some very hard times, yet your faith has remained strong.” Praise God–He has not wasted my pain–and He will not waste yours.

I find comfort in the words of II Corinthians 1:3-5.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.” (NLT)

How have you seen God work through your pain to encourage others?

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After the Death of your Spouse – Part II

When you lose a partner, best friend, and lover, depression creeps in like a fog. You may lose social connections you shared as a couple and will need to make some new friends. Your husband may have taken care of the bills, house repairs, and yard. Planning and meal preparation, laundry, and carpools may have been part of your role. Now you have to do it all. Adjusting to single life is not easy, especially if you have children. Here are a few additional tips to help you wade through deep waters to your new normal.

Whatever your grief responses, they are NORMAL.  Grief comes in waves. Sometimes I jumped the wave, occasionally even crested it, then another capsized me and I didn’t think I could go on. You’ll experience the continuum of grief, which typically includes between five and seven stages depending on how you identify them.

Five Stages of Grief

                         Five Stages of Grief

  • Denial (This isn’t happening to me!)
  • Anger (Why is this happening to me?)
  • Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if…)
  • Depression (I don’t care anymore.)
  • Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes.) 
    • from John H. Sklare, Ed.D, LifeScript Personal Coach

Confusion, loss of focus, and profound fatigue are typical and will pass in time. Accept your current scattered mind and, if possible, laugh at yourself. When my father was dying, a kind nurse told Mom, “When you put the ice cream in the dishwasher, don’t worry. You’re not losing your mind; you’re grieving.”

Seven Grief Stages

Seven Grief Stages

The chart below identifies grief in seven stages.

Because you will feel vulnerable and deal with all the painful emotions that accompany your enormous loss, it is wise to take some extra safety precautions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do not meet strangers at your home alone; provide only necessary information; avoid telling relative strangers that you’re widowed. When I sold our second car, I met potential buyers at a location away from my house. No one knew my address until I sold the car and gave the pink slip to the buyer. I also asked either my brother or a male friend to meet strangers together with me for additional protection/safety.

Culprits prey on the vulnerable, lonely, and elderly. Carpet, roofing and painting contractors, repair-persons, and especially solicitors, have no need to know you are alone. I wore my wedding ring and kept “the Nicolet residence” and “we” on my answering machine for a long time after becoming a widow.

Consider joining a support group. After a few months, you may want to participate in a grief recovery group through your church or a community organization. Talking with others facing a similar loss can provide a safe place to express your emotions, share information, and learn ways to deal with your grief. To find Christian resources and/or a support group in your area, contact www.griefshare.org.

Take care of little needs.  Despite my down comforter, I faced many winter nights when, chilled from the inside, I couldn’t get warm. One night, shivering, I called a close friend. She told me to “go to Long’s right now and buy a heating pad.”  With a coat over my pajamas, I did just that, and slept better with the added warmth. I also purchased a body pillow so I had something to hold onto. Your body experiences tremendous shock with the death of a loved one, so sleep when you need to, and can.

Recognize your limitations. For some time after Jerry’s death I continued to mentally rehearse different scenarios. What if we tried another treatment alternative? hadn’t had the transplant? What if we’d had the transplant done somewhere else? But Jerry and I made the best decisions we could at the time, in prayer and with the information we had. So did you. Forgive yourself if necessary.

Finally, take heart. There is hope. Relying on Jesus a day at a time to meet your needs, comfort you, and change your dreams is an ongoing process, and will not occur easily or quickly. I learned to count on God’s promise: “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NLT).  Choose life, one day at a time.

 

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