Category Archive: Grief

The Grand Puzzle Master

Swirls of red and white. No specific pattern. Does this piece fit here? There? Turn it around. Nope, still didn’t fit.

During these 16+ months of isolation, I purchased several puzzles. The first was of a lady in a Venetian mask and gown. While Don and I did pretty well with her face and mask, which had more definition than the red and white fabric and gold beads of her crown and gown, we would struggle to get one piece to fit, then give up for the day.

Then our grandniece and grandnephew, Cadence and Cole, came over with their parents. These children are 6 and 10, Their eyes are younger than ours (so is the rest of them)! Cole and his father filled in the bottom of the puzzle, a mix of those red and white pieces with gold braid or beads here and there. Cadence would pick up a piece, look at it and say, “I think this goes here.” We’d try and it didn’t fit. “No, turn it around.” YES!

Amazing. We didn’t finish the puzzle that day and, without their quick eyes we finally gave up on it and put it away, perhaps for a later day. Perhaps not!

I pulled out another puzzle. Same number of pieces but much more specific detail to help identify the pieces, which are larger than in the first puzzle. Cole and Cadence helped us on this one again, but Don and I were quite successful in putting sections together. We finished it!

You may not like puzzles but, if you do, you know working on them can be quite addictive.

Would you have guessed where this piece fit? It was one of the later ones we identified. Was it a football? Did it fit with the chess pieces and orange floor? No–it was part of the tennis shoes by the door. But it took us a long time to realize those were shoelaces.

When we only see the immediate circumstance, whether it’s a loss, a humbling experience, hurtful words, or even joy, we don’t always recognize how it fits into a pattern for good in our lives.

I thought of my friend Tom, who says he loves watching God move the chess pieces. God is not arbitrary, playing a game. But he is sovereign and so often brings situations or people into our lives in unexpected ways. While we may see the back of the puzzle–all the same color and different shapes, he sees the complete picture, right side up, colors and pattern intact.

So for those I love who face special challenges this week–surgery, loss of a loved one, grief, marital discord–I urge you as I urge myself, to continue to look at our sovereign God. He knows what is happening and what good he will bring from each difficulty. And if we look at him rather than the one puzzle piece, we can walk in faith–yes, sometimes with great pain–knowing that he cares about our heart struggles. In his economy, nothing is wasted, not even our tears.

You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book?

Psalm 56:8 ESV

I just read that God never looks over his balcony and says “Oh my!” Illness, loss, wars, fires, floods may grieve his heart, but they are no surprise to him. And he has promised never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

And he cares about our tears, even as he looks at his grand puzzle which will one day be complete.

What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

Words and lyrics by Jim Hill

On the First Day

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

Luke 24:1-3, NIV
He is Risen – Just as He promised

Don and I shared this morning in worship and praise for the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. I thought of all the resurrections that have happened since, because Jesus conquered death. Most prominent is my mother’s homegoing on April 4th last year, Easter Sunday this year. Today is the first anniversary of her Resurrection Morning!

Jesus’ cross was framed by criminals, one on either side of him. One mocked Jesus, saying “You say you’re the Son of God. Save yourself and us.” The other said, “Don’t you fear God…since you are under the same sentence?…We are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he turned to Jesus. “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied to that criminal, dying in agony on the cross next to him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, NIV)

In John 10:14-18, Jesus tells his disciples that he is the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for his sheep.

The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.

John 10:18a, NIV
silhouette image of person praying
Photo by Rodolfo Clix on Pexels.com

While there’s a lot of talk about who is to blame for Jesus’ death–

  • Herod, who wanted to release him but gave in to the crowd;
  • Judas, who betrayed him;
  • the chief priests and elders, who caused the crowd to riot and demand his crucifixion;
  • the Romans, who nailed the Son of God to that blistering, rugged cross–

Jesus says he lay down his life by his choice, in obedience to his Father. And he did that because of his love for you and me. All we need do is receive that gift.

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Romans 10:9-10, NIV

So how shall we live in response to God’s great love?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV

I think of that great cloud of witnesses–Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, the apostles, and also the ordinary people like me who put their trust in the Savior and are now with him in glory. And I think of those near and dear to me. My first husband, my father and mother, parents-in-law, nephew Greg, grandparents, and several dear and precious friends.

I’m sure you can add your own to this list, those for whom you grieve, yet with the hope of heaven! Below is a stunning, poignant Easter duet sung by two sisters. I hope you will take three minutes to listen to the beauty of this song. May it, and the Jesus for whom we celebrate this Resurrection Sunday, give you great hope today.

https://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=1C911JNU
https://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=1C911JNU

Friday Looks Bad…but Sunday’s Coming!

Forecasters predict the weather. Newspersons predict behaviors. So as we look toward Easter, we can paraphrase that well-known line to say “Friday looks bad–but Sunday’s comin’!”

lightning strike on city
Photo by Philippe Donn on Pexels.com

What an amazing gift! Thinking of Jesus’ pain recently has brought back memories of prior Easters. The joy of celebrating the resurrection, covering a cross with flowers to reflect the “beauty instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:3) that came out of Jesus’ suffering, happy times with family members. Then there was the Easter shortly after Jerry, my first husband, was diagnosed with terminal liver disease. I was in Japan on business (of course I’d asked his doctor and Jerry before going) and celebrated the Resurrection in a local English-speaking church. Meanwhile, Jerry and our friend, Lee Todd, went to church together in California and were invited to Mom’s for Easter lunch. Jerry broke down and couldn’t go. I came home early, soon after that. And last Easter, my mother passed from death to Life the night before Palm Sunday.

Scripture tells us there was “darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” – i.e. from noon ’til 3 pm, when Jesus died. That darkness symbolizes the pain of separation from God. Even Jesus, God’s only Son, was separated from the Father, with whom He is One (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). Our Savior could have walked away from the Cross. He walked away from the mob trying to throw Him over a cliff.

All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.

Luke 4:28-30, NIV

He could have called angels to rescue Him. But no, He accepted the scorn and agony in obedience to the Father, in our place. Amazing grace!!

motivational simple inscription against doubts
Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

Have you experienced that darkness? The feeling of separation from God and from others you love? I have. For my father, first husband and my mother–Resurrection! But for me, there were times of great darkness and grief.

Imagine the pain of Jesus’ disciples. They believed He was ushering in a new kingdom. And He was. They just didn’t understand that it was a kingdom that was not of this world. Now their leader, Rabbi, hero was dead. I imagine they felt not only grief, but betrayal. What happened to Jesus’ promises?

Before He died, Jesus told His disciples,

… “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

John 14:6-8, NIV
black cross on top of mountain
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Amazing grace indeed, that He would die in our place.

So what is our response to His sacrifice?

Do we ignore Him, assign Him a “good man/great teacher” role, or accept Him as our King?

At the moment of Jesus’ death the heavy curtain at the entrance to the Temple was torn. That incident symbolized the opening of the veil–that through Jesus, all have access to God the Father. The good news was not only for the Hebrews, but for all people, including you and me! Forgiveness was granted to the man on the cross next to Jesus; to Saul, who persecuted and killed Christians before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and became the apostle Paul. No sin too great for God to forgive!

I have questions that may not be answered until eternity. I don’t have it all together. I question why my mother’s body had such a hard time letting go when her mind and spirit were so ready to be in the presence of God. But this I declare–Jesus is my King! And one day, all my questions will be answered, my fears resolved, peace restored to the world as God intended.

So I encourage you this week to remember, “Today’s Friday … but Sunday’s Comin'” (you can listen to the whole piece at the link below). God be with you this Easter week!

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-norton-ext_onb&ei=UTF-8&hsimp=yhs-ext_onb&hspart=norton&param1=0a6ef5af-06c6-4c78-90af-877a4392b851_2020-06-18_cr&param2=ds_nag_may20&param3=ngc_22.20.2.57_wk25_2020&param4=1000&source=nag&p=this+is+friday%2C+but+sunday%27s+coin&type=cr_ds_may20_wk25_2020#action=view&id=20&vid=f2df1939757237945cd3489b31759ccc

Three Weeks

Just three weeks until we celebrate the greatest event of all history–no, not the victory at the Battle of the Bulge. Not the election of whichever Presidential candidate we supported. Not man landing on the moon. In three weeks we will celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from death, conquering it for all eternity.

light people art silhouette
Photo by Thgusstavo Santana on Pexels.com

Imagine those last few weeks of Jesus’ life on earth. He knew the Cross was coming. I would think he experienced anticipatory grief. Mobs tried to throw him off a cliff, but he calmly walked through the crowd and away. Pharisees tried to catch him in a misstatement (but couldn’t–he called their bluffs). He was accused of not making his disciples follow the traditions that the Chief Priests and Rabbis had put in place, which were neither in scripture nor in Jesus’ teaching. The religious leaders wanted control. Jesus wouldn’t give it to them until it was his time.

He fed a crowd of four thousand men (plus women and children) with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Mark 8:8 says “And they ate and were satisfied.” After the meal his disciples picked up seven basketsfull of leftovers!

The religious leaders tested Him over and over again, but were astonished at his answers because they couldn’t trip him up!

He healed the blind, the lame, the woman with chronic bleeding, and many others. He foretold his death to His disciples. Peter rebuked Him for talking that way, and Jesus rebuked Peter, saying he needed to focus his mind on the things of God rather than man (Mark 8:33)!

Then he called the crowd and his disciples together.

“If any of you wants to be my follower,” he told them, “you must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross, and follow me closely. If you insist on saving your life, you will lose it. Only those who throw away their lives for my sake and for the sake of the Good News will ever know what it means to really live.

“And how does a man benefit if he gains the whole world and loses his soul in the process? For is anything worth more than his soul?”

Mark 8:34-37 TLB

As we enter this Easter season, let’s remember that we can’t be neutral about Jesus Christ. He said ““Whoever is not with me is against me…” Matthew 12:30a NIV.

Most of us aren’t in a court trial for our faith. But the reality of our confidence in Christ shows (or doesn’t) in our daily life. That’s where we’re on trial, day after day. Will we identify with Jesus? If I feel led to speak to a stranger, pray for my manicurist in her shop (and I do ask permission first), or reach out to someone in need, my thought is often “What will others think?” But isn’t that obedience the test of my faith? And how often do I fail because of unkindness, selfishness, or lack of love for others?

I want to write more about those weeks and days before Jesus’ death and resurrection. But I challenge you to join me in thinking, not just what can I give up for Lent, but how can my daily life reflect more of Jesus in my life?

I’d love to hear your reflections as you focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection.

NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US

Jan died Tuesday morning. She told me awhile back that the doctors said the cancer that lay dormant for a few years had returned with a vengeance. She had six months or less to live.

We met Jan, our next-door neighbor, before we ever moved to our current home. She phoned to say the fence was broken and ask if we would split the cost of repairs. Of course we agreed.

After we moved in, we often met Jan walking Sophie, her golden Lab, while we walked Paige. After Sophie passed, Jan’s daughter gave her Harley, a handsome black Lab. Jan’s pockets always carried an abundance of Charlee Bears, which she freely shared with other dogs along her walk. First Sophie, then Harley, was “just perfect”. She loved these canine companions dearly.

close up of dog relaxing on bed
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Don and I prayed for opportunities to serve her, and to share the love of Jesus with her. One day I asked, in the context of the conversation, if Jesus was her Savior.

“Yes, He is. I talk to Him every night.”

Jan continued walking Harley ’til about two weeks ago, when she simply was too weary to continue. Harley went back to Jan’s daughter and was reunited with old buddies there.

Over these months we took baked goods, flowers, replaced light bulbs, sent cards and assured her of our prayers, so grateful to know Jesus was on this journey with Jan.

Monday morning Don and I read Romans 8:38-39:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

sky sunset person silhouette
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I felt those verses were for Jan that day. We hadn’t seen her in a week, so didn’t realize how quickly she had declined. I wrote the scriptures in a card and called to see if we could bring it over.

One of her daughters answered the phone. “She’s unconscious, on morphine, but you’re welcome to come talk to her.”

Entering Jan’s room that afternoon, we saw her unconscious form. As we stood at her bedside I took her hand and said, “Jan, it’s Carol and Don.” She seemed to try to respond as her lips moved, without sound. “We brought you a card, and I’ll just read it to you.”

I read the verses aloud. Medical professionals say hearing is the last sense to go, so I wanted these scriptures to be in her heart and mind as she transitioned. “NOTHING will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Unknown to me, two of her three daughters had entered the room and listened. As I told Jan “When you see Jesus calling you, just go to Him – just let go.” Her daughter murmured, “yes.”

Jan let go Tuesday morning at about 6 o’clock.

Isn’t it just like God to give us a scripture that we’ll need for something that very day? Don and I were so glad to see Jan and say goodbye, tell her we look forward to seeing her again at Jesus’ feet.

And yes, walking out our garage doors feels empty now, just knowing our Jan is no longer here. And yet we rejoice knowing she is in the presence of Jesus Christ, Lord, Savior, Messiah. And because of God’s provision for our sin through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we will see her again.

Thought: if you have a loved one in a coma, or near death, keep talking to them, asking God to allow your words to sink into their spirit.