So We Pray

The healing can come when we open our heart and mind to the Holy Spirit.

The inner pain that you didn’t even know about. Physical healing in this life.

A daughter who took her own life. A best friend is in and out of the drug rehab center. Your friend was healed of cancer and the doctors can’t find any trace of it. You never knew your father because he left.

Anxiety when anyone around you is fighting. You often awoke to family members fighting when you were a child. What your mind covered up to protect you. The flashes of memories which are good or bad. The smell of roast beef brings you back to your grandmas kitchen. Picking sides for the dodgeball team in middle school. There are deep fears of running because you were the last one to round the corner of the track. A waft of alcohol calls you back to the false security of comfort.

Oh the ache that comes when you walk past a store that is emitting a cologne smell of your late husband. As the mother and daughter embrace you long for the relationship you missed out on. Riding on the swing, there’s memories of the push from your father. The agony of remembering the slam of the door that last time. You catch the whiff of the cigarette when the man passes you and it tempts you to break that pledge. Guilt laid on you when people carelessly tell you that the abuse was your fault. Hurt cuts deep when someone tells you that your mom would have lived if your family had more faith. A family carrying the burden of a disabled child and all that entails.

Real people. Real issues. Real joys. Real pain.

The sun came out, the waves are rolling but the icebergs are gone.

Life can be like that. Waves roll but the sunshine is here and the ice is gone. The storm of last night is past.

At times it’s His choosing to heal at that moment. Sometimes He takes the person to their heavenly home. Another one is granted 15 more years on this earth.

He is the Great I AM.

It is not for us to know. He is omniscient.

So we pray. We never know what the Holy Spirit may want to do

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Healing Rain

Brillance doesn’t get us to God but humility does.

God is speaking in rumbles of thunder this morning. The lightning occasionally flashes over the lake. A light fog lifts moisture from Lake Michigan. We’re in a safe environment this morning. Safe spiritually. We can each move, grow and be who God wants us to be.

The Lord is showing His omniscience as we sing the song, ” Healing Rain.” The shurring sound of rain outside. It brought a smile to my face.

There are dear brothers and sisters here who need healing in many ways. We all do. Inner, spiritual, emotional, physical, relational. It’s a basic human nature. We all long for a touch from Him. It is not something that only some people need. We all long in our inner nature for His healing touch.

I need the Lord’s touch. Why do I have so much pride to think that those people may need to have healing. Maybe God wants to do a mighty work in me, or use me to help bring healing to someone else today.

Lord have your way with me. I’m just the vessel. You are the potter and I’m just the clay.

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Hallowed Ground

I volunteer for a Hospice in my area.

As a hospice vigil volunteer, we go into the home or nursing facility during the night hours to relieve the family. They get much needed rest while their family member is imminently dying.

Getting a call for a vigil assignment, I’m given the patient’s name, the facility they are in, and room number. I drive up with prayer and an uneasy stomach, anytime between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., depending on what is needed and availability of other volunteers. In most cases, you come into a dim room, with a completely unconscious person and settle in for the night. Hospice teaches us to simply be a caring presence.

When I walk into a vigil, it is hallowed ground. I imagine it like walking into a different dimension. The threshold of the door resembles a dividing line. The room seems to become the space between death and life. Death is knocking and could happen at the end of any breath. Where they go at the end of their allotted breaths is the place where only souls can go.

Last night I did a vigil with a man. I sang “Great is thy Faithfulness,” recited the 23rd Psalm to him, spoke words of hope and comfort. I truly believe that they can hear me. I told him that Jesus was waiting for him with open arms, it was okay to go, how the pearly gates would be so beautiful. I spoke all this to him and more, although I have no idea if he was a believer, as his surroundings gave me no clues this time. The only thing in his room was one folded up quilt on his table. The man had steady breaths until at one point, he swallowed strangely three times, the breathing became uneven, and then he didn’t inhale. I watched his carotid artery. It beat fast, then twitched a few times, and slowed to nothing. As I pushed the nurses’ red button, I held his hand, laid my hand on his forehead, and tenderly checked his breathing. Could this really be it? The only other person I have actually witnessed die was my step mother Pauline. I had only spent one hour with this man and felt a strong connection to him.

On the lonely drive home, I was reminded that this was Good Friday. This man had died on the same “day” as Jesus did. The moon was almost full and shining brightly.

Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (NLT)

On this day long ago, Jesus’ Last Supper with His beloved friends was finished. He had done signs, wonders, taught, cried, loved, prophesied and prayed for three years. He was betrayed by one of his own disciples. Some of them ran away or denied Him. Jesus went to the garden to pray again and was arrested, had a false trial and was sentenced to die on a cross. He carried His cross to Calvary. He died so I might live. He was the perfect atonement for my sin.

On Easter Sunday morning, He rose from the grave and appeared to many people in the next 40 days. He ascended into heaven and rules with His Father. He left us the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, guide and counselor. He is coming back someday soon. I pray that you are ready. The man I was with last night may have decided to believe in Jesus when he was living. I want you to imagine right now what pictures you see when you read this story. You do not know when your last second could be whether you’re old or young. None of us know the day or the hour. If you feel nervous or afraid, please talk to me, a trusted believing friend, or a pastor. Make sure you know-what do you feel in your gut? What do you see when you close your eyes and think about crossing over to eternal life? Any of us can pass over to the other side at any moment and we must be ready. I feel peace and assurance when I imagine Jesus welcoming me into heaven. I want you to have the blessed assurance that Jesus is yours. It is only by HIS GRACE and SACRIFICE.

Hebrews 7:27b states, “He sacrificed for their sins ONCE FOR ALL, when he offered himself.” (NIV-emphasis mine)

Posted in Death, God our Father, God's faithfulness, Grief and loss, Hope, hospice, Hymns, Jesus, Jesus' ascension, Jesus' life, Jesus' sacrifice on the cross, salvation, vigils | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Distress Call

I’ve had a writing block lately which has been bothering me for a couple weeks. Maybe only writers understand this, but writing is not easy. I do love yoga pants and wear them whenever I can. But you don’t just sit and watch novels drift magically out of your computer. Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful to be home and able to write. There are just days or weeks when I feel so stuck and distracted.

At the top of the stairs on our walk, overlooking Lake Macatawa and the channel in the background.

At the top of the stairs on our walk, overlooking Lake Macatawa and the channel in the background.

It’s a constant struggle with humanness.  I suspect people in many professions could relate. Working from home is challenging because of the self-discipline it takes. If I really want to obey God and write what He wants, meet deadlines on devotionals, write stories on my blog, submit articles and edit that manuscript, then I actually have to write. Yes, actual writing.

A famous saying is, that a writer is always writing or thinking about writing.

I never seem to ‘just’ go somewhere. My mind never shuts off. As I listen to the BSF lecture I frantically take notes while ideas for devotionals and stories fill my soul. I read through parts of my mom’s diaries and dream of what her life was like. While driving, seeing a certain cloud formation will make me melancholy. When in the shower it seems that the story I imagined washes away. In church I take notes and can’t wait to get home and expand on them. Interviewing someone makes me want to share their story of hope. Writing or Bible conferences fill my mind with grandiose ideas to inspire the world. On the boat, the warm breezes and sparkling water make me feel like I’m soaking in creativity itself.

Big ice chunks drifted back into the harbor today.

Big ice chunks drifted back into the harbor today.

But when I look at those notes later, lots of times they fall flat.  Often I still wonder “What should I write about? These scribbles just don’t seem to inspire me anymore.” Fear crawls in. Amazing ideas fade away easily.

Other writers seem to say similar things…the wash calls, the dishes yell at you, the cobwebs hang there and laugh at you. Even taking down the Christmas icicle lights on the eves of the house looks more appealing than writing many times. We may set a record and just leave them up for next year. Even vacuuming seems appealing. There is definitely something wrong with that.

I’ve learned that the best thing to do, is to pray. When I sat down today I began with prayer. My supportive husband had told me to go spend time writing, as he had some things to work on in the house.

Looking across towards the State Park on the other side.

Looking across towards the State Park on the other side.

I couldn’t get my mind wrapped around a thing to write about.  The normal time-wasters answering a few emails and facebook began to creep in. My Bible was open and I read a few passages. Nothing was coming together. I closed my eyes and prayed again. I was discouraged by a few things that were happening in my life. I felt dry and empty.

Finally a distress text went out to a couple of my precious best friend/prayer warriors. They both discerned what the blockage was and agreed on it before I knew what was happening. Obviously discernment is not one of my strong gifts. I recognized that I had received a strong confirmation though. It made me all jittery and filled with awe what the Lord was showing me right in that moment.

Peering down at our marina for this summer.

Peering down at our marina for this summer.

This is one of the text prayers which came back to me…”I just want to pray right now in the name of Jesus that the flowing of the Holy Spirit will come upon Myrna and that any spirit of discouragement or blockage will fall off of Myrna right now and that your Holy Spirit will give her your words and your thoughts. Give her your direction in what she should write about Lord. May it flow directly from your heart into her heart and mind, and flow into her fingers onto the keyboard. Lord may she close her eyes right now and drink in your peace, grace and mercy and may she take such a huge drink that she will overflow onto the keyboard. May your anointing fall upon her right now and may she begin to write what you would have her to write. May the utterance of your Holy Spirit flow into her spirit Lord. In the name of Jesus Amen and Amen!”

My husband and I had planned to take a walk and I knew the sunshine and exercise would do my soul good. I deliberately left my phone on the couch and took off to a beautiful park on the dunes of Lake Michigan called Sanctuary Woods with my loves~my husband and dog. (yes I am caring for “my” dog again this week which is a wonderful treat) The paths were clear of snow and ice, and it was such a cool, bright sunny day. That cool air cleared my confusion and fear too. When we saw the view at the top of the hill overlooking Lake Macatawa it was breathtaking and began reviving my soul.

Ebony and I taking a breather.

Ebony and I taking a breather.

So tonight, I began over again with a renewed heart and mind. I am blessed beyond measure with extra troops in my life when I need them.

Let it flow Lord, let it flow…

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will”  Rom. 12:2

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Death Doesn’t Have the Final Say

The Lord told Moses, “Aaron will be gathered to his people, He will not enter the land I give the Israelites…” Numbers 20, portrays the story of the death of Aaron. It seems like such a sad and harsh treatment God gave his high priest. Aaron, his son Eleazar, and Moses were told to go up Mt. Hor where Aaron would die, and the priestly garments would be placed on his son.

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We are told to “take off the old and put on the new” in Ephesians 4. It says to put off your old self, and put on the new self which was created to be like God in true righteousness. This reminds me of what Aaron was doing in the book of Numbers. He gave his earthly robes, and exchanged them with heavenly ones.

There were blessings within the painful time. The three men would not face death alone, they were sent together. Aaron was allowed to see his son carry on the legacy of the priesthood. He was not permitted to enter the physical land of promise, but he was gaining the much bigger reward of eternal life in heaven.

Death cannot have the final say in the life of a believer. He knew his earthly life was at the end, but this mountain top experience was his new beginning. Heaven was worth much more than any life in a physical land. His body would return to dust, but his soul was going to his Heavenly Father. There is no greater comfort for those who are left behind, than to know where their loved one is going. They are walking towards their new beginning, into the arms of their faithful Savior Jesus Christ, and more beauty than we can comprehend. We may grieve when a loved one dies, but we do not have to grieve “like” those who have no hope. (1 Thes. 4:13) We live with hope and promise. Death does not win, because Jesus had the final word, as his life, death and resurrection secure our salvation.

March has some bittersweet reminders for me. It was three years ago tomorrow, when Cliff’s Aunt and our good friend, Marianne died. How Marianne loved to sing, and her smile lit up a room. She was so sensitive, friendly and caring.

On March 16, it will be 46 years since my dear mom also walked through the pearly gates. I’m sure she is enjoying the streets of gold and singing to her Heavenly Father. My mom also sang, played guitar, stand up bass, accordion, piano and violin.

My mom and dad's wedding picture

My mom and dad’s wedding picture

My mind goes to beautiful pictures in the book of Revelation. In chapter 5 it tells about twenty-four elders who fall face down before the Lamb of God in heaven. They are each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. It’s so amazing to think that God holds dear every prayer I have ever prayed. In Revelation 7, it goes on to say that he will wipe every tear from our eyes. Ahhh…no more tears, death, sickness or pain. We will be able to join all those loved ones who have gone before in His presence. What a glorious day!

Posted in Death, faithful members of our community, Grief and loss, Hope, Mom, old self/new self in Christ | Tagged , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Beautiful Things

The snow in West Michigan fell furiously on this February day. Snow squalls come through near Lake Michigan at unpredictable times with winds which often cause white-out conditions for drivers. Temperatures have been near and below zero. From inside it is beautiful. I was glad to be out of the weather after going to my Bible study, and sat down to write and read. Stoking up the fireplace, I enjoyed the unusual amount of dusty Ash tree smell it was emitting. Before long, I could barely keep my eyes open, with the heat of the wood burner now warming me to a sleepy stupor.

About six hours after I had come home, my husband came in shouting to me, “Are you trying to start the house on fire?” I hopped up and said, “What?” Hurrying to the place in the garage he referred to, I could not believe my eyes. There was a smoldering cardboard box with a few red embers still showing through the gray mass. Cinders had eaten away over half of it and some had floated onto the top of the nearby garbage container. My car and some other things which could have caused problems were also close by.

I was amazed at God’s protection over me. Earlier in the day, I had placed some ashes into that box. They had been sitting outside in an aluminum pail for at least a day and since it has been so cold I thought there was no possibility of fire. I was wrong! No wonder there was so much more “wood” smell in the house than normal. I recognized the miracle and thanked the Lord for it. No one was harmed and nothing was damaged.

My husband shoveled the box and its contents into the snow bank near the woods. I took a picture of the box, as the wind made it flare up into a small fire until it finally consumed the mess.

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Enjoy this song by Michael Gungor:

Suddenly I was reminded that it was Ash Wednesday. It’s almost humorous that I would have an “ash” episode on this day.

This whole incident caused me to think of the deeper meanings. Ash Wednesday is a day which is set on the Christian calendar to mark the beginning of the Lenten season. It is “40” days before Easter. Many people go to church to receive an ash mark or cross on their foreheads. We ask the Lord to help us put off the old self, and clothe us with the new self. It reminds us that Christ is the only way we can be cleansed from the dust of life. He made it possible to be forgiven of our sins because of his sacrifice of dying on the cross for us. (Eph. 4:22-24)

What a clear reminder for me today. The ashes had hot embers within it. I thought the ashes in the pail were cold and dead. Just as the fire of the Holy Spirit is within our mess of life and needs to have wind blown on it to stoke it up. It then consumes the person and brings it to completion to make all things new. He can make beauty out of the ashes of hurt, pain or loss in your life. He’s done this with me by remaining by my side throughout life. My mom and sister died when I was young and the Holy Spirit was my comforter and never left me. As I walked in the fields and prayed, sang and cried, He was always there. He continues to make my life new every day.

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If you would like to understand more about the history of Ash Wednesday and how people observe it, here are a few links to articles:

https://www.rca.org/resources/ash-wednesday

Heidelberg Catechism question #88:
Question 88. Of how many parts does the true conversion of man consist?
Answer: Of two parts; of the mortification of the old, and the quickening of the new man. (a)

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/ash-wednesday-practice-and-meaning/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/18/ash-wednesday-explainer_n_6705404.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSCxRHxGTqY&list=RDoSCxRHxGTqY#t=0 Another u-tube of Gungor’s song, “Beautiful Things” with lyrics and gorgeous pictures.

Posted in Ash Wednesday, forgiveness, God's protection, Grief and loss, old self/new self in Christ | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Three Strand Cord

 

three strand rope

This is not your normal post about how my husband is my best friend and better than anyone else’s husband. Yes, I love him and respect him greatly. Yes, we’ve been married 31 years today. But it’s so hard for me to swallow posts that come on Facebook and blogs that end up creating comparisons. The ones that say how their husband is their best friend, they can’t express how wonderful he is, and all that stuff you’re supposed to say.

Often when I read these kind of posts, I end up feeling inadequate. I think I have a great marriage according to many women, so I can’t imagine how it might make someone feel who is struggling in their marriage.

We are far from perfect. We’ve had many days or years of just going along, hoping we can make it. The first year we barely had a stick of furniture. I thought I needed my head examined for marrying such a pig-headed guy. We’ve had fierce fights. I’ve dragged him to counseling a few times. Often I really didn’t know how we were going to make it. The blame games. The always and never words. It was “never” my fault and he was “always” hard to live with.

Right.

I’ve had times when I wondered if life could have been better a different way. You look around in this world and think everyone else must have it together. He didn’t always live up to my expectations of what a perfect husband should be. I’m sure I didn’t always live up to his. His parenting style sometimes ticked me off. I thought I knew the right way to do everything. We had teenagers…enough said.

Times were tough sometimes financially. There have been power struggles. I’ve often wanted to change him and make him into the kind of person I think he should be. I have often wished he would share his feelings and talk more. He’s quiet. I’m a super emotional, and “get it all out there person.” I love two hour lunches with a best friend. I wanted to make him put his arm around me more, get away from me, or read my mind. I wanted things both ways.

Marriage is not easy. A good marriage is not easy. But we set our hearts and minds into this marriage 31 years ago today, and it was a commitment.

Commitment.

The pastor who married us, asked us this question in one of our first counseling sessions. “What is true love?” Cliff didn’t miss a beat, before he said, “commitment.” I stared at him with my mouth hanging open and didn’t have a thing to add. He was still 20 years old, and got an “A+” for that answer.

But commitment is THE answer.

As young people, we put our stakes down, with God smack-dab in the middle. Through the good times and bad, He was there intertwined in the rope of our marriage. The main Bible passage in our wedding ceremony was from Ecclesiastes 4…”Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up…A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

So, I’m saying…

God is the center.

God is the difference.

God is faithful.

It is only by His power and grace that we have been blessed with all of these years. I praise Him and give him all the glory.

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