Category Archive: Christlikeness

post by carolnl | | 8

COVID MEMORIAL

How do you hold a memorial service during a pandemic? This is a relevant question for many whose loved ones are dying either from or despite COVID-19.

My brothers and I brainstormed ideas of how we could grieve together as a family and honor our mother during this time of Shelter in Place. And we took a page from the playbooks of many churches. Through Zoom, we held a virtual memorial service for immediate family yesterday and hope to have a broader service or burial at some future date.

While we couldn’t hug, be in the same room, meet together as a family for a light meal before the service, or share stories with extended family and friends afterward, we did have a meaningful time.

I was just one part of the service, which we recorded. But here’s what I said about my beloved Mother.

After Mom’s death I found an index card in her room on which Mom had written some of her favorite verses. The scriptures I share here were among those favorites.

Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the people of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since your birth,
    and have carried since you were born.
Even to your old age and gray hairs
    I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
    I will sustain you and I will rescue you.

Isaiah 46:3-4

Mom lived her faith. I think of that aria we just heard her sing (“I Know that My Redeemer Liveth”) as her signature song. While she had questions and doubts at times, she loved Jesus with all her heart.  She spent a lot of time reading His love letter to her, and talking with him in prayer. She beamed when she spoke about her Lord. And often when I shared a concern with her, she said, “Let’s pray about it.”

Mom encouraged others. Many of the cards she received over the years talk about her thoughtful notes, phone calls, visits. She prayed faithfully for each of her family members. And she and Dad were hospitable from as far back as I can remember. When we were still in Winnipeg they hosted parties for nurses and grad students. My little girl eyes loved to peek out of my room to see the pretty young women, all dressed up, and their handsome boyfriends.

Mom as a young woman

Because Mom treasured her relationship with Jesus, she wanted others to know Him too. She and Dad worked in Bible clubs, street meetings (Mom sang and played the accordion and Dad preached), and Sunday school. The longevity of her impact is reflected by her decades-long relationship with Sylvia Sigurdson, who was a child in Winnipegosis, Canada when Mom led her to Christ. Sylvia has kept in touch with Mom these 70-odd years.

And when as a teen I doubted my salvation, Mom listened to my fears and gave me John 6:37: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” I began to rely on Jesus’ work and Word rather than on my feelings for my assurance of salvation.

Isaiah 41:10 was another favorite:

So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Five years ago, Mom wrote this:

“Before God revealed himself to me I was … a young girl (7 or 8). I did not have conviction of sin. Now I am … a mature, 93-year old woman who has been a Christian for 85 years. As I study God’s Word, it becomes dearer to me! I love the verses in Isaiah 41 and others that state that God chose me even before I was born! He loves me – so precious to me!”

Mom’s Diary

Zephaniah 3:17 concludes:

“The Lord your God … will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing.”

Music was a vital part of Mom’s life. Hymns were a significant way God spoke to her. When I broke off an engagement eons ago, she and Dad worried about me. She wakened one morning with a song that reminded her to trust God that all would be well, and her heart was at peace.

Mom sang to us a lot as children: not only hymns, but classical songs and “Auf dem Baum ein Kuckuke sass” (the cuckoo song) which Mel, and perhaps Arnold, have sung to their children and grandchildren.

On October 25, 2012 Mom wrote:

“Today it’s 10 years since John left this earth. I have shed tears this morning and I hurt. I have the assurance of Jesus holding me fast, assurance of reunion, that John is in heaven, happy. Am so thankful for that! For over 90 years Jesus has kept, protected, loved, guided, forgiven me! He will keep doing that and I’m grateful for all his promises!”

Mom’s Diary

After Dad died, and again after Jerry died, Mom and I took several out of town overnighters –to Napa, Sonoma, Winnipeg – even the Ukraine where Dad was born. Whenever we had relaxed, extended times together, whether for several hours or a couple of days, we had wonderful, deep conversations about life, love, faith, family. Oh how she loved her family!

And when Don and I started dating, and Mom had a good male friend, we double dated several times. Now that was both fun and interesting!

Mom always felt she was too serious. She wished she laughed more easily, was more fun. In these last months and years life became more difficult, communication more challenging because of her hearing and memory. But on occasion her chuckle reached her eyes so they twinkled. It was at those moments that I thought “There’s my Mom.”

Mom with her son Arnold

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.

Psalm 143:8

Mom longed to go home to Jesus, and to see Dad again. She was not only ready, but eager to go. And on April 4th, her prayer was answered.

I love you and miss you Mom. See you soon!

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints!

Psalm 116:15

Should you wish to access the one hour memorial service online at your own convenience, please let me know and I will share the link with you.

Undivided Attention

As I sat behind my desk, ready to write, Paigey (our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) looked up at me from beside the desk. Then she pulled her ball out and brought it to me.

“Okay, here you go.” I tossed it over the desk and our pretty red and white girl chased it. But she wouldn’t bring it back to me behind the desk, no matter how much I cajoled her.

Paigey

Finally I got out of my chair and walked around to stand in front of the desk where Paigey had my full attention. We played ball ’til she tired and lay down on her carpet.

Don’t we want that from those we love, and who love us? I love it when Don sits and listens with undivided attention. I feel heard, understood, loved.

And God has promised that kind of attention to us. “Casting all your cares on Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:7). We can approach the throne of God with confidence, knowing He hears, loves us, and cares about our needs. And while His answer may at times be different than what we ask for (my first husband died despite thousands of prayers wending heavenward for his recovery), He has promised always to be with us, never to leave nor forsake us.

His goal for us is not to be our personal genie, but to work in our hearts and lives, purifying us for His purposes–and for heaven!

I love the Psalmist’s words in Psalm 71, his confidence in God, his Rock and Defender!

“For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth…

Do not cast me away when I am old;
    do not forsake me when my strength is gone…

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
    of your saving acts all day long—
    though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
    I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
    and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
    you who have done great things.
    Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
    many and bitter,
    you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
    and comfort me once more.

22 I will praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
    Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
    when I sing praise to you—
    I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
    all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
    have been put to shame and confusion.”

Psalm 71:5-24

The Psalmist reminds me to praise God for His faithful works in my life and the lives of others, for His comforting hand in all my ways, His ears that hear my heart’s cry for His complete love and attention.

So I will praise Him.

Togetherness

Two weeks until Super Bowl Sunday … and yesterday our 49’ers fought their way into the SB game. Some of you may be delighted that KC is the other team entering the fray for February 2nd.

It was an exciting day, with my mother, brother and sister-in-law and one of their sons’ families here.

As we watched and cheered and sidelined the plays, we also visited. I enjoyed some conversation with Mom and saw her reading to her great-granddaughter on the couch.

Kyle, Don and I enjoyed time together before the others arrived. Sheila, Heather and I talked about how life might change for Heather once her Cadence starts kindergarten this Fall, and some of what Don and I have been discussing regarding priorities.

I am grateful for events that bring family and friends together … whether it’s a bi-weekly Family Night, as we generally celebrate with those of our family who are still in the area; a football game, or Super Bowl; or a special holiday; or even when someone is ill and others draw alongside to comfort, encourage and help. And I recognize that in our world we have many opportunities for such gatherings to which individuals in other countries and cultures may not be privy.

God has given us the family as a wonderful system of support, encouragement, accountability, training and love. Because of evil in the world, the family often breaks down into abuse, dysfunction, greed. But when family members love and care for one another, the relationships are a tremendous gift.

And there’s another Family God has given us.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as Christ is pure.

I John 1:1-3

Amazing to think that when we trust Christ we are called children of God, and are therefore brothers and sisters with each other. This family, too, can become dysfunctional. Selfishness, greed, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, all enter at times. Despite the forgiveness and grace of God, we are still sinful persons in process of becoming like Christ. And we are challenged to forgive and receive forgiveness, to restore relationships because of God’s great love and sacrifice for us. To be freed of the guilt of sin, the shame of hurtful actions, is an amazing gift.

Last Wednesday and Thursday I enjoyed an overnight get-together with six delightful women with whom I was in a Bible study for several years. Half of the group has moved away from our area, so this was a rich and fun time to be together. We laughed and commented on fashions and interactions as we watched the Downton Abbey movie; as five of us converged on one bed Thursday morning to chat; and as we opened our hearts to share a rich time of sharing and praying for each other. Another wonderful gift!

So today I’m thankful for both my families–the relations by blood and by marriage, and those I received by entering the family of God through faith in Jesus Christ. I pray that I will be willing to ask for, and to give, forgive-ness in both; and to humbly receive forgiveness offered in love. And that I will rejoice in any opportunity to be with either or both families for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and loving each other.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32

What’s a special tradition you celebrate with family or friends?

Resolutions?

Someone said yesterday, “If you never make a resolution, you won’t break it.” True … so what do you do for New Year’s?

Make resolutions? (and if you do, how long do they last?)

Choose a scripture, or a word, for the year? (Like “courage,” “wait,” “rest,” or “kind.”)

I haven’t made specific resolutions in years, knowing they are often made on a whim–lose weight, spend more time with God, travel more, say yes to less–and don’t have the spiritual or emotional muscle to continue as real goals or objectives that are attainable and measurable.

But this year I’m thinking of choosing a word.

Praying, listening for what that word might be. Where do I need to focus? What word might God put on my heart to hold my attention?

I love what I read in Sarah Young’s JESUS TODAY:

Gaze at Me; glance at problems–this is the secret of living victoriously. Your tendency is to gaze at problems for prolonged periods of time, glancing at Me for help. This is natural for someone with a fallen mind living in a fallen world…

…Ask My Spirit to help you fix your gaze on Me. Invite Him to alert you whenever you get overly focused on problems so you can redirect your attention to Me. This is hard work, because it is not only unnatural but also counter-cultural…Ask Him to help you deal with difficulties as needed, while reserving the bulk of your attention for Me–your constant Companion.”

Jesus Today, p. 58

Maybe “Gaze” will be my word. Not sure yet. But I need to do this in deeper ways as I tend to get frustrated easily, discouraged readily. I need to gaze at Jesus, rely on Him in new ways, allow His Spirit to work through me. I’ll keep you posted.

Do you have a word for the year? Would you share it with me?

Blessings!

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2

Harvesting

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23 ESV

So if we want these qualities in our lives, how do we get them? Is it by trying harder? By putting reminders on our mirror or fridge to say “be kind today.” “Be patient with the crazy driver in front of (or behind) you.” “When you get angry, hold your tongue.”

We so often try to produce these ‘fruit’ by working harder. And yet, God says that doesn’t work…and how well I know it. Just before these verses Paul describes the works of the flesh, i.e. those qualities and behaviors that come naturally to us, as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (verses 19-21).

I can think of a time when I exhibited four of these in one incident when my temper got the best of me. So first of all, I’m grateful, deeply grateful, for the forgiveness of God that wipes out my sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I John 1:9 ESV

Second, I was reminded by our pastor today that these fruit of the Spirit i.e. love, joy, peace … are HIS work in me, not mine in myself. My challenge is to spend time with Him, focusing on Jesus, loving and worshipping Him, allowing His Holy Spirit to produce these characteristics in me.

What a joy. It’s not my job to make me like Jesus. It’s my job to rest in Him, trust in Him, and allow Him to change me. That’s His job! And He can do what I cannot do myself!

Thank you Lord, for producing more of your likeness, for growing a good harvest in me as I focus on, spend time with you. I love you.