Mourning Until Heaven

On Friday I was talking to a friend about the death of a parent. We have both lost our dads. He asked me how long do you mourn? I said “until heaven”.

Stuart Miles, published on 26 August 2011<br />Stock Photo - image ID: 10055137It is true that it gets easier and the missing of them gets less painful. It is true that as time goes on we adjust and learn to live without them. We will live days, weeks, and months without thinking of the loss.

It is true that there are still moments of mourning, remembering, tears, and sorrow. These moments will come unbidden and when you least expect it. I remember one day drive down the road and the tears just began to flow, then I began to sob. I missed my father.

My Father has been gone for over 40 years and it has taken me almost that time to realize that it’s okay to stop and remember, to mourn once again and then move on. It is not a sign of weakness. It is not a sign that you haven’t gotten “over it”. It’s just part of the mourning of a loved one.

When we lose someone we love deeply there will always be moments that we need to breathe in the memories of the one we have lost and as we breathe in those memories there may be a tear or two. It’s a sign of loving deeply.

So give yourself permission to remember. To mourn. In the midst of it all allow the Spirit of God to bring comfort once more.

A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. (Ecc. 3:4)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (2 Cor 1:3,4)

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles, at www.freedigitalphotos.net

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3 Ways to Help Create an Eternal View in our Children

Ambro, published on 02 November 2011<br />Stock Photo - image ID: 10063272Anytime we look back over our life we often see so much clearer. There are many things I wish I would have done, or not done, as a mother. I wish I would have seen then what I see now as the most important seed to plant in their young hearts. I don’t suppose I did it all wrong, they both are serving the Lord and following Him. But I can’t help but wonder if I could have done a better job cultivating eternity in their hearts. Could I have done better teaching them to live with an eternal perception? Could I have done more to help them live a life pursing eternal rewards instead of the worldly rewards?

Here are a few things that I believe give our children a better start to living with an eternal perspective. These are things I have done, seen modeled and wish I would have done better.

The first two things I see come from Duet 11:18-20 “You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul ; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall teach them to your sons,talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates,”

1. Make time for God. This does not mean take them to church every Sunday or make sure they attend Sunday School, Awana, VBS, and have family devotions, although all of these things are good and valuable. But the problem comes when we separate “religious” training and our everyday life. If all that we do is the above without including God in the everyday moments of life then we begin a pattern of separating the sacred and the secular.

God should be spoke of daily, not in a forced way but in a way that is natural. A parent should look for ways to point their children to God in the everyday ordinary ways. Look for teachable moments. Look for opportunities to teach your children about God’s character and His truth.

For example, during the summer my granddaughter and I were outside when she spotted a bunny. She was so excited and began chasing it. She said to me after she realized she wasn’t going to catch it, “Nana I wish I could catch him and take care of him, he is so cute and cuddly!” My response to her was, “Isn’t it wonderful that God created something so cute and cuddly! God will take care of him because God cares for all the animals he created.” From there she began to ask questions about God and wanted to know others things He created. It was a small thing, and yet it planted truth in her little heart and opened up a conversation about the Creator God.

2. Make time for family. This is so important. Today in the pursuit of the “American Dream” we have lost the importance of the family unit. Quality and quantity time has been replaced with mom and dad pursuing their careers, and children pursuing sports, dance, music and the next top video game.

Today more than ever I believe the family is being sacrificed. Family no longer spend much time together. They are busy running to sport games, dance recitals, karate, and so much more that there just isn’t time for the family to sit together at meal time. Our family tried to spend several meals a week eating together around the table. I still cherish those meal times. It was there that we had wonderful conversations, laughed until we hurt and yes we even had some of out biggest arguments. But the point is we were talking, sharing and together.

Another way to build the family up is “unplugging”. Take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and go for a hike, a picnic , go to the beach or camping for the weekend. As a family we loved all these things and our boys still speak of them with fond memories. Our boys didn’t have cell phones until they were about sixteen and driving, but even then it was before texting and the ability to get online with your phone. Today I think in order to help with the unplugging I would lock all phones in the car or maybe only carry one in case of emergency. (just a thought)

Be willing to make sacrifices for the family. What I mean is in light of every decision you make as husband and wife make sure you are putting the family first. I remember on one occasion when my husband had the opportunity to take a better paying job, it would have meant a lot more money and more opportunity for moving up. We talked and prayed about it for quite some time. Are boys were older and so we talked to them about it too. I remember one of them saying something about if we have more money they could have more things. THINGS. That wasn’t what we wanted for our children.

My husband ended up not pursuing the job for one reason, the family. This job would mean more traveling and more hours. Instead of being away from the family 40-50 hrs a week it would be 60-70 hrs. They let him know up front that those kind of hours would be expected. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice his family. As a result of that decision when it was our son’s senior year he was able to attend every home and away basketball game. He was also able to be there for every soccer game for our other sons senior year. My husband was able to be an involved father even during those moments that they might not care if dad was there or not.

3. Make time for others. John 13:34 reminds us that we are to “ love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  Galatians 5:13b says “…but through love serve one another.” We had an advantage in teaching our children to serve others since they grew up next to their grandparents. Even when they were quite young they would be over there helping in the garden, cleaning up the yard and collecting eggs from the chickens. As they grew there help increased to chopping wood, mowing, getting snakes out of the house and many other needed chores. They loved helping their Pop-Pop and rarely was it something they were “made to do”. The advantage of this was them learning to serve.

There were other ways we tried to help instill this principle also, like serving in shelters, helping with Angel Tree, mission trips, and serving a summer camp. I remember our youngest son desiring to serve at a youth camp for inner city kids the summer after his senior year of High School. We weren’t thrilled with the idea due to the fact that there would be little to no money saved for college, but we allowed him to go and it was life changing for him. He also had the opportunity when he was 15 to go to Japan on a trip to teach soccer and share Christ, it was another life changing trip. These opportunities should be encouraged even when we as parents may feel they should be pursuing a job or other things. It’s in service to others that our children learn the joy of serving the Lord and making sacrifices to do so.

As I said above, we didn’t do these things perfectly. I wish we would have spent more time in all three areas. I wish we wouldn’t have “bought” into the worlds views when it came to what was important to spend our time on. Our boys were involved in school and outside activities but God, family and others always were most important. We weren’t willing to make sacrifices in these areas, which included our children not being able to play in town sport leagues because they would have to play on Sunday.

Yes I know, I can hear the arguments now! But you know what? Our boys still played school sports in High School, and one even got offered a scholarship to play in college. (Unfortunately he blew his knee out his senior year and the scholarship offer was taken back.)

I am sure there is so much more to this topic of creating an eternal view in the hearts of our children, but I think these three things are a good start.

Called to Live and Preach Christ

There is a quote that has often bothered me. It just didn’t sit right in my heart. The quote is often attributed to Francis of Assisi and says “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

Quite honestly it just doesn’t make sense to me.  I mean if my neighbor sees me living my life in service to others and being a good neighbor, loving those I homelessmeet, all he will think is that I’m a nice person. He doesn’t  come to know the content of the gospel  simply by watching me live my life.

Shouldn’t  I also speak the gospel so that he will know?

So, I sat down to do some research on the quote. I wanted to know the context of the quote. Maybe the context had been distorted over the years. Interestingly enough what I found was that Francis of Assisi never said it. Read more here.

Mark Galli of Christianity Today says this about the quote, “First, no biography written within the first 200 years of his death contains the saying. It’s not likely that a pithy quote like this would have been missed by his earliest disciples. Second, in his day, Francis was known as much for his preaching as for his lifestyle.”1

I love what Jeremy Carr writes about the quote on his blog One Thing, “ While it commends us to live out the Gospel through our life, it falls short of what it means to preach the Gospel and it actually makes no sense at all. I recently heard D. A. Carson comment that it would be like telling a news reporter to “Give the news and if necessary use words.” After all Gospel means good news. News is something you tell people.”

Some might say who cares who said it, after all it’s still a good statement. Maybe,  but I wouldn’t want someone to say I said something when I didn’t, or take something I said and misquote it. Would you?  I imagine not. So it is import to understand that Francis of Assisi did not say this.

But is it a good quote regardless of who said it? I really struggle with that in light of what scripture says. God’s word is very clear that we are to live out the gospel and we are to preach the gospel.

We live the gospel when we love one another. What if the body of Christ so loved one another that they actually did 1 Thess 5:11-13 and encouraged, built up, showed appreciation, encouraged the fainthearted, helped the weak, was patient, and sought what was good for one another. Wouldn’t that speak volumes to the world if they saw the church living out the gospel in such a way? So yes,  we absolutely must live out the gospel before the world.

We are also told to preach the gospel. Jesus tells the disciple to “go preach the gospel.” (Mark 16:15) and Paul says “for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Cor 9:16) In fact as I searched scripture (but did not do an in-depth study) it seems that the New Testament writers often preached the gospel to those outside of the body. They did not leave it up to the idea that “if I just live right before them they will know I am a believer”. No they PREACHED Jesus! (2 Cor 10:16; Rom 15:20; Mark 15:15)

A quick look at 1 John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” John is telling us that if we speak love only with words and no actions it is not love. When taking the gospel to a dark world we need to both live and preach the gospel. It’s not one or the other. We are called to live and love as Jesus did. He IS our example.

My dear beloved, Jesus both lived and spoke the gospel. His life both showed and spoke the love of the Father. We should go and do likewise.

1 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/mayweb-only/120-42.0.html

The Truth About Forgiveness

Forgiveness can mean that you must forgive again and again.

choosing to forgiveRecently I’ve had several hurtful things come up to surface again. They were hurtful experiences of betrayal by those that were thought to be on my side. Those that I considered friends. The wound was deep and I must admit caused me to withdraw from relationships once again. My standard in the past has always been to withdraw, build the walls higher, thicker and resolve within to never let hurt come again.

This time God wouldn’t let me build my walls. Instead God came worked on tearing them down. It took a while. He was patiently faithful in helping me see the need to forgive. To forgive not just in this but in past betrayals, past hurts that have caused me to prefer isolation over community.

As I said, He is faithful and forgiveness came. With forgiveness came glorious freedom and healing.

So now as I face this same emotion, remembering the past betrayal and hurt I am faced with a choice. Do I allow the enemy to use it making me angry again and feel the hurt all over? Oh my flesh wants to cry, kick and scream! I want to go back and make this right! I was wronged and there was no apology, no setting the record straight! The emotions and hurt threatened to rise up! In this moment if I would listen to my flesh (my enemy) I would sin.

But I  choose to forgive. Again and again.

Just so you understand, I am not speaking of one who hurt me again but of allowing the memory of a hurtful experience hurt me again. Both would require the same response. That response would be to forgive.  I use to believe that if a hurtful memory came up again and again it meant that I didn’t really forgive the first time. I no longer believe that for I understand that often my enemy will take those opportunities to tempt me to sin.

So when those times of painful memories arise thank our Father for the opportunity to forgive once again.

 

See Matthew  11:25; 18:21-35

Season, Reason or Lifetime Friends?

Recently I posted this picture on Facebook.friends The private comments I received were quite interesting. Since then I have thought a lot about friendship, friendships that last a lifetime. This is what I am processing…

When I think of my circle of friends I always find myself looking the example I see in the relationships Jesus had while on earth.

He had the multitudes whom he definitely had influence over as He traveled from place to place. He had His followers, those that would often follow Him from town to town to hear Him. There were His twelve, then His three, and some even narrow it down to His one.

I have those who are on the peripheral, those that know me to say hello or who may know my name and face but our relationship doesn’t go beyond that. They know me because we attend the same church, or they have sat in on one of my workshops.

Friends for particular season and reasons: Then there are those who know me because we have spent time with one another over a mutual project, ministry or for a particular crisis or event. We know each other a bit deeper but often it can still be a bit of a surface relationship for once the reason of the relationship is done we have very little contact.

I think along this same line is friendships that develop during certain seasons of our life. For example when my boys were of preschool age I attended a Bible study with other moms where we spent much time together encouraging one another. If it had not be for some of those mothers I don’t know what I would have done. But as we each began making different life choices about how to school our children or what church we would attend and become involved in I found those relationship fell by the wayside.

Even though I have not seen some of these season or reason friends for a long time I still consider them friends. When we run into one another on the street we hug, catch up and encourage one another with a smile. We will even connect from time to time on face book, following along as their lives change and grow.  And if they had a need, a prayer request, I’d like to think I’d be there for them just as they would be for me.

Lifetime friends: Then there are lifetime friends. These friends have been through practically every season with you. They have stood by your side through the good, bad and ugly. These friends often can begin as season/reason friends but they grow to be much more. Two of my lifetime friends came out of the young moms Bible Study, our friendship grew to depths beyond the time in study. Our commonality was more than the season/reason relationship.

Lifetime friendships develop out of a mutual connection of the heart. Just because I have known someone for more than 7 years doesn’t mean we are lifetime friends. A lifetime friend is one to whom your heart is connected. Neither time nor distance can separate you. You have cried over prodigal children, and hard seasons of marriage. You have cried with each other during times of suffering, bearing one another’s burdens, confessed sin and allowed them inside your heart and life.

We may not see eye to eye on everything, and there may be times of hurt feelings, but the relationship is far more important to us than a disagreement. We will talk it out with grace, love and forgiveness.

I do not know about you but my group of lifetime friends is small. In fact I can count them on one hand.  I have known these women anywhere between 7 to 25 years. But it is more than just knowing them for a long time, it is about our level of consistent, intentional involvement in one another’s lives.

So what is my point? I suppose bottom line is that just because you have known someone for more than 7 years it doesn’t mean we are “lifetime” friends. On the other hand we will always be friends. We will always be friends because of the moments we shared, the impact that was made, the season we walked. But lifetime friends go beyond that. They go to a deeper level of the heart and soul and they stay connected throughout the various seasons of life regardless of whether or not you still live in close proximity.

So what do you think? Would love to hear your thoughts!

When A Heart Weeps

TearMy heart is heavy. Broken. On days like today I wish my heart didn’t feel so much. I wish it didn’t hurt so deeply. The pain, at times, is unbearable.

There is One who weeps with me when my heart weeps.

My heart aches for the mother whose child has lived the first year of his life broken. He has spent more time in the hospital than at home. She holds him tight not knowing how many more days she has with him. Her heart weeps.

There is One who weeps with her.

A family torn apart. A father leaves. Another family, another marriage falls through the cracks of the church community. No one seems to notice.

There is One who sees. One who weeps.

A discouraged woman sits in the pew. She is considering suicide. She wonders if anyone would miss her. Does anyone see her tears, her pain, her loneliness.

There is One who not only sees but feels her tears as her heart weeps.

A man comes and sits in church Sunday after Sunday looking for answers. He is in bondage. He wants to believe that he can be free. He wants to believe he is loved. No one reaches out to him. No one takes the time to know him.

There is One who knows Him. One who loves Him.

I look around my community and see those who are dying a spiritual death. I see those who need a hug, an encouraging word. I see that woman whose marriage is failing. The mother who cries each night for her wayward child. I see the one who wonders where God’s people are in the midst of suffering.

Why aren’t we being the hands and feet of the One who has called us to Preach the Gospel. My heart weeps for I know I should do more. I know I can do more. But I struggle, for I am only one and a weak one at that.

My heart weeps. It is broken for the brokenness I see in my community. There is One is weeps with me. He has promised that He will be with me. He will be my strength, my Rock, my Counselor.

My heart weeps for I know I can not help them all, I am only one. But there is One who whispers to my heart, “minister to the ones I send you, it is enough.”

I will go. I will do the work of weeping with those who weep for I know there is One who also weeps with us.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time know that I begin each new year with a verse and a word or theme for the year. My verse came to me in looking-back-moving_thumb.jpgNovember. In so many ways I was blown away by it. It fit. It was right. It was time. But first, last year God worked in my heart to destroy some idols that had deep roots. God showed me that “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies. They will receive the Lord ’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their savior. Such people may seek you and worship in your presence” (Ps 24:6)

It was a hard year looking into the heart and seeing those things and people who had become more important that my relationship with God. But mostly I saw that my biggest idol was self and the need to control. So for the largest part of the year God had me study who He is. I mean what better way to destroy the idol of self then to see who God truly is. When we come face to face with the Holiness of His character we have no choice but to bow in humility and surrender all that we are.

So in November when God brought me to Is 61:7 my heart was deeply moved. Isaiah says “Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, Everlasting joy will be theirs.

You see, my life verse is “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted ; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted , To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners ; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn…” (Is 61:1-2) So this verse spoke loudly. Not only because I had spent a year looking into the character of God and seeing my utter sinfulness and my enemy often tried to have a field day with pouring shame and humiliation upon my head but God had also used the study of His character to apply deeper balms of healing to my soul.

When God binds up the brokenhearted, frees the prisoner and brings good news to the afflicted we should shout for joy! Somehow I have lost the importance of joy, His joy. God has healed me of my sin, of my abuse, of my afflictions and so much more so instead of shame and humiliation there should be joy.

This is my journey for 2014, to find joy in all life’s circumstances. I was so moved by the fact that Everlasting Joy can be mine that I began a new blog titled Everlasting Joy. I believe this is the beginning of a new season. A season of finding joy in Christ alone. A season of finding joy in all of life’s circumstance because my joy is found in Him alone.

Thank you for joining me. I look forward to this walk with you. Eventually I will move Quiet Reflections over to Everlasting Joy, I think. For I am not sure I can keep up two blogs!

You will make known to me the path of life ; In Your presence is fullness of joy ; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Ps 16:11

 

Photo courtesy of  Stoonn at http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/