Tuesday, April 26, 2011


It was a glorious day, warm and green. Dominic and Stacia came for the weekend. Our house was filled with kids and laughter. Arielle served breakfast at church with her middle school class. We sang "Christ the Lord has Risen Today." Life doesn't get much better than this.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Parting Words

Psalm 23:4. "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me."

Whatever dark places we have to travel through, God promises to be with us. What a comfort that is! But it would be nice to have a human alongside of us too.

II Corinthians 1: 3-5. "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 may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too."

God has been with us in all our troubles of this life. With the same comfort we have received, we are to comfort others. It's a frightening place to go, taking a friend's hand through the valley of the shadow of death. My first impulse is to run away.

A friend once told me she is a good listener. (I agree.) She says she is good at visiting people in the hospital, just sitting with them and providing comfort. I admire her. I hope if I'm the one in the hospital, she will visit me. I would be strengthened and encouraged by her presence. Even now, this woman is traveling through the stormy night with not one, but two friends of hers.

I'm not so confident of my comforting skills. Maybe I was traumatized when I was a very young nurse working on the oncology floor of a large hospital. The suffering of people was devastating to me. I felt so helpless to comfort, so powerless to help. I still feel that way. Friends, I am praying for courage to walk with you and climb into that boat as you battle the winds and waves.

On this Maundy Thursday, the day we remember as the Last Supper, I am thinking about Jesus' parting words. He washed his disciples feet and said to them, "I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you." Then he said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another." John 13.

"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Storms tore through our area over the weekend. High winds whipped the trees and all night we heard the cracking of their huge trunks as they bent this way and that. Rain pounded the windows as we watched for the tornadoes coming up from the south.

Palm Sunday. Brilliant sunshine shone over the new grass shimmering green. Trees are in full bloom. The storm is over. At church we heard the best sermon ever on Romans 3. We ran errands afterwards, just enjoying our tasks and being together as a family. In the afternoon Fred did what he loves most--puttering around the yard. He played in his shed with all his "toys." He rode his mower around. I told the girls no TV, no computer this day. So they spent hours outside making chalk designs in the driveway. And I did what relaxes me the most and relieves my stress--sewing! In the quiet of my little basement room I can think and relax as I work my fingers in the fabric and listen to the whir of my sewing machine. At one point my friend in the hospital called and we had a nice long conversation and even a few laughs. She is an amazing, courageous woman traveling this scary journey. The storm clouds scattered away momentarily to let us glimpse the sunshine.

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Liana and I were discussing this because these two words were on her spelling list. An optimist has the expectation that in a given circumstance, good will result. This is not bad, and I would say I am an optimist. But this thinking can often lead to disappointment because sometimes, in a practical sense, good does not result. Hope, in the spiritual sense, is different. It has nothing to do with circumstance or results. It is a confident expectation that God is in control and has purpose in our experiences. Here is the Biblical definition:

"And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has been given us." Romans 5:2-5.

I read that early medieval monks would greet each other in the hallways by saying, "Remember your mortality." We pretend that every sickness will be healed and that we will never have our lives threatened. We are horrified when the results are different. This quote made me think:

"Death unaddressed is the bogeyman in the basement. It keeps us looking over our shoulders and holds us back from entering joyously into the days we are given. But death dragged out from the shadows and held up to the light of the gospel not only loses its sting, it becomes an essential reminder to wisely use the life we have.

When we remember the mortality of those around us, they become more valuable to us. Madeleine L'Engle once noted that when people die, it is the sins of omission, rather than commission, that haunt us...And remembering our own mortality helps reorder our priorities; a race toward a finish line has a different sense of purpose and urgency than a jog around the block." Carolyn Arends

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Stormy Seas

"Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side of the sea while he dismissed the crowds. And after dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, 'It's a ghost!' And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying 'Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.'" Matthew 14:22-27.

What I find interesting about this passage is that Jesus "made" them get into the boat, to go on ahead of him. The disciples found themselves in a tempest on the sea, but not because of anything they did wrong. It was not a random accident or because of poor choices they made. They were there because Jesus told them to go there. Jesus knew there was a storm brewing and he sent his friends into the midst of it.

Can you imagine what the disciples thought? First of all, they were fishermen. They had surely seen storms before, but this one really frightened them. They knew what the outcome could be. But they also knew Jesus could calm the winds and waves. Just a few chapters back, Matthew records another bleak night on the sea. Jesus was asleep in the boat when his disciples woke him up to save them from the storm. But where was Jesus now? It was the fourth watch of the night--between 3am and 6am. These men had been struggling for many long hours.

You know Jesus is aware of the storm. He knows everything! But where is he? Why would he do this? His people desperately cry out to him. Then Jesus comes to them. But the disciples are terrified and don't recognize him--until they hear his voice. "Take heart. It is I. Do not be afraid."

When we can't see him, we must trust him. We watch for him when the thunderous waves rage against us and our boat threatens to dump us into the sea. We wait to hear his voice. Jesus is close. He promised he would never leave us to face the storm on our own.

A little verse by Charles Spurgeon sums it up:

"O angel of my God, be near, Amid the darkness hush my fear; Loud roars the wild tempestuous sea, Thy presence, Lord, shall comfort me."

Friday, April 08, 2011

Trials of Faith

"Faith untried may be true faith, but it is sure to be little faith, and it is likely to remain dwarfish so long as it is without trials. Faith never prospers so well as when all things are against her: tempests are her trainers, and lightnings are her illuminators. When a calm reigns on the sea, spread the sails as you will, the ship moves not to its harbour; for on a slumbering ocean the keel sleeps too. Let the winds rush howling forth, and let the waters lift up themselves, then, though the vessel may rock, and her deck may be washed with waves, and her mast may creak under the pressure of the full and swelling sail, it is then that she makes headway towards her desired haven. No flowers wear so lovely a blue as those which grow at the foot of the frozen glacier; no stars gleam so brightly as those which glisten in the polar sky; no water tastes so sweet as that which springs amid the desert sand; and no faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs in adversity. Tried faith brings experience. You could not have believed your own weakness had you not been compelled to pass through the rivers; and you would never have known God's strength had you not been supported amid the water-floods. Faith increases in solidity, assurance, and intensity, the more it is exercised with tribulation. Faith is precious, and its trial is precious too." Charles Spurgeon

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Snow in April


We didn't expect it. It was inopportune, inconvenient, inappropriate, unseasonable. All those "not" prefixes.

Someone I know was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, late stage. I keep thinking about his response, "I'm so disappointed." He had plans for the future, more he wanted to do with his life. Hopes are now dashed.

These shockers are not our plans. We have our own expectations. When you are young, you really believe you have control over the events of your life. As you get older, your foundations are shaken and you realize how helpless you really are to avert disaster and disease. So do we live our lives in fear?

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down, and a time to build up;

A a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to seek, and a time to lose;

A time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to tear, and a time to sew;

A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

A time for war, and a time for peace.

"I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart...there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man." (Ecclesiastes 3)

Enjoy God's gift of life. Only he knows the number of our days.