Archive | February 2015

Make them golden

A word fitly spoken and in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Proverbs 25:11, AMP

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Best friends sharing secrets

It’s interesting that the Bible has so much to say about our words. I was searching for a picture that could best be described as decadent. In absence of finding such a picture we will have to rely on imagination. Picture an exquisite silver bowl laden with burnished golden apples. Whether you can imagine it or not, you get what this means, right? Our words, as the text above says, are not meant to harm, but to help, to soothe, to please, to teach, to bless. Don’t you wish they accomplished this 100% of the time? Unfortunately, way too often they do not. More times than I can count, I wish I would have hesitated just a bit longer to allow the alphabet soup of letters collecting on my tongue to filter through my brain to avoid saying something that unnecessarily caused another person pain.

Recently while lounging not-so-comfortably in the dentist chair, I determined to keep my mind focused on other things like: my grocery list, errands to run, bucket list, you know, anything to keep me from focusing on the “jack hammer” in my mouth. It always sounds like the dentist is drilling in Grand Canyon, but of course the sound is just magnified.

So while trying to keep my mind focused elsewhere I happened upon an old memory, one that still makes me cringe. That particular day I was again at the mercy of a healthcare professional and awake. The thought of being awake gave me some sleepless nights prior to the day of surgery even though I had been instructed that I wouldn’t feel a thing. Right. True to his word, however, I was surprisingly comfortable, but of course I had been given something to numb the area he was working on and probably something to put me in “la la land”. Again, I was trying to keep my mind focused elsewhere rather than on the work taking place.

Eyes closed, mind who knows where, I amused myself with voice tones. Some high tones going up and deeper tones coming down. Up, down. Up, down. Don’t think me crazy, or go ahead . . . you won’t be the first. Anyway, it was distracting and somehow to my mind at the moment, entertaining. I assumed there were people talking in the room and I was aware of the sounds around me when all of a sudden, I heard my name spoken by a deep voice, probably the doctor. I was wide awake now, listening to see if I had imagined it. I only had seconds to wait. Indeed it was the surgeon who spoke my name, followed by a stern, “please be quiet so I can concentrate.” What? Why did he say that? Was I talking? Oh, dear. What did I say? I had no idea I was talking and the tones “going up” were mine! Naturally I thought the worst. After all, the subconscious mind has no filter, right? My heart beat faster just wondering . . . and worrying.

At the follow-up visit, I didn’t know whether to play it cool or act embarrassed. Would he remember? The suspense was killing me. Finally I had to know so I asked, “Doctor, what did I say to you while in surgery?” He grinned, then responded, “I’ll never tell.” He pleaded the 5th so I guess he will take my deepest secrets to his grave.

Perhaps you will find this amusing at my expense. I don’t mind. After all, I risked in sharing it. But it is a reminder to me that words do matter. We speak them from morning until night. Are they worthy? Truthful? Considerate? I especially speak to the heart of those who weep. Since I am a suicide survivor I know the tenderness of my heart. I know that I am cautious when approached by someone I suspect will ask how many children I have. And will they probe deeper? And if I answer more questions, will they pull back in disdain if I allow myself to reveal the cause of my child’s death? I can feel a twinge just writing this and no encounter with someone speaking hurtful words has even occurred today. Can you relate? Has this happened to you?

Actions are remembered, but so are words. They are stored in the hard drive, perhaps forever. Here is a sample encounter. Two friends, one in a wheelchair, met a person who knew the woman in the wheelchair when she still had the use of her legs. The acquaintance was surprised to see her in a wheelchair and said something like this: “You’re in a wheelchair now? I didn’t know you’s in a wheelchair.” The words may have sounded pleasant, but they seemed to drip with disdain as she gave her wheelchair friend the once over. No doubt when this woman is feeling depressed about her circumstances she will envision that encounter again. She will try to dismiss it, but it will attempt to resurface to her conscious mind again and again to cause her embarrassment.

Words have power. We elect officials by their words. We hold power over our children with words. We trust and believe in words that may not even be truthful. I agree with Terri DeMontrond, who wrote on social media, “Life is short. Speak your mind.” And I’m going to add, “but do it with care.”

Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire.  James 3:6, NLT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on February 27, 2015. 2 Comments

The sweetness of silence

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A picture speaks a thousand words when words aren’t even needed.

In spite of the tragedy that struck our family, I can recall a sweet memory. It involves one of the younger members of our family. God bless him.  Everyone had gathered at our place except this young man. I was walking in the back yard, seeking to be alone where I could cry without the pressure of prying eyes observing my every move.

I heard someone approaching. I turned around to see him walking slowly towards me. He was looking down; only glancing up in my direction once or twice. He was wiping his eyes. As he got closer I could hear him sniffling. Closing in, this huge hunk of a guy grabbed me and squeezed me tightly, his head pressing against my neck. His warmth caressed my aching heart.

Not a word was spoken, but eventually he released his grip . . . and I could breathe again. We sat down on the grass facing each other. Still, no words were spoken, just a pattern of soft sniffles. Finally he broke the silence by asking a question or making a comment, I don’t remember which. But I remember these moments we spent quietly in shared grief. No lofty words were necessary. In fact, this precious shared silence with someone who deeply loves me and loved my son, was enough.

This young man had no idea at that moment, that he was the hands, arms and tender heart of Jesus “with skin on” . . . just for me. He didn’t have the perfect phrase on the tip of his tongue to ease my burden of pain. Instead, he came boldly and unafraid  into my space, and with transparent emotions, enveloped me in a giant hug. No more was needed and I will always cherish his act of kindness and love this memory has given me.

I am reminded of a book I read, Just Like Jesus, by Max Lucado:  “Oh, the power of a godly touch. Haven’t you known it? The doctor who treated you, or the teacher who dried your tears? Was there a hand holding yours at a funeral? Another on your shoulder during a trial? A handshake of welcome at a new job? A pastoral prayer for healing?  Haven’t we known the power of a godly touch?”

We fear saying the wrong thing or using the wrong tone or acting the wrong way. So rather than do it incorrectly, often we resort to doing nothing at all.

Aren’t we glad Jesus didn’t make the same mistake? If your fear of doing the wrong thing prevents you from doing anything, keep in mind the perspective of the lepers of the world.  They aren’t picky. They aren’t finicky. They’re just lonely. They are yearning for a godly touch. Jesus reached out and touched the untouchables of the world.  Will you do the same?”

If you ever feel uncomfortable and uncertain about what to say at a difficult time, remember these words from Max, reminding us that Jesus got up close while He walked this earth.  Our Creator, who flung stars into the night sky and keeps the heavens humming in perfect orbit, was not so heavenly minded that He could not get down and earthly, touching a leper or listening to a mother’s concerns or holding a child while planting kisses on each sweet cheek before she’d wiggle off His lap to run and play.

This same Creator promises to wipe away all tears from our eyes. He will touch us, love us, give hugs and be our Best Friend for eternity. I am drawn to a God like that. Aren’t you?

The Sovereign Lord will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes and take away the disgrace his people have suffered throughout the world. The Lord himself has spoken.  Isaiah 25:8, GNT

 

Meet the Thirst Quencher

O God, you are my God, and I long for you. My whole being desires you; like a dry, worn-out, and waterless land, my soul is thirsty for you.  Psalm 63:1, GNT

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Come, all you who are thirsty. Isaiah 55:1, NIV

Have you ever known someone who did not fit in? We are about to meet such a woman . . . from another time and another place. Let’s take a peek into her story.

It’s high noon and the stage is set for an encounter between Jesus and a sad, empty woman. The story begins at the well in Sychar. Jesus is tired and needs a rest so He sits down by the well. His disciples have gone into town to buy food. In His humanness, Jesus is thirsty, but the water is out of reach and He has nothing with which to draw. But His focus is elsewhere and she is walking towards Him right now. He knows all about her as she approaches for her daily chore. Essentially she’s an outcast in the village, so she comes to fill her jug during the heat of the day when she can be alone. All the other women come to the well early to avoid the blistering heat, but she is an exception. She is the topic of town gossip. The women talk about her behind her back. They don’t like her. She has a checkered past, so she is bullied by the women and gawked at by the men.

She approaches in spite of the stranger sitting next to the well, a bit too close for comfort, but she needs water and must get it now during the daily siesta. She plans to ignore His presence even though she is so close she could reach out and touch Him. She sets down her jug to catch her breath and Jesus asks her a question,

“Will you give me a drink?”  

Startled, but trying hard not to show it, she looks up and meets His gaze. He foiled her plan by asking her for a drink of water ~ He has some nerve, she thinks to herself. She notes His heritage and in her discomfort and nervousness she attempts to divert the conversation elsewhere by bringing up a hot topic which usually sparks a debate, since Jews and Samaritans did not associate with one another. The conversation exchange is priceless. Note how quickly Jesus confronts the woman’s heart ~ and instead of immediately dipping her jug, she dares to point out their racial disparity by asking,

“You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”

  Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”

“But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water? And besides, do you think you’re greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us this well? How can you offer better water than he and his sons and his animals enjoyed?”

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Jesus knows her daily struggle trying to live peaceably as a scorned woman. He has her attention and is about to get personal.

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her.

“I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

Ouch! Instant exposure! Can you imagine your surprise at hearing your private life aired before you by a total stranger? But there is a heart connection that Jesus wants to make; He wants to share a priceless gift, a life-changing gift with her. She is eager to receive so He pours it into her thirsty soul. She becomes so excited she forgot all about drawing water and rushes back to the village to share the good news. Suddenly she has something so special to share that it overcomes her previous feelings of inferiority and emptiness.

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.”  So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days.  And because of his words many more became believers.

They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”

I have a thirsty soul too. Mine is from loss. I am a mom outliving my child who died by suicide. It is a death so overwhelmingly tragic that it can leave one curled up in a fetal position  and hoping to die. This was not the story of the woman we are reading about today whose failed marriages, one after another, had left her scarred and bone dry, but we are all broken and bone dry in some way, are we not?

The living water Jesus offers is eternal life, forever quenching the thirst of hurting hearts. And there is not a soul on earth who does not need what He offers and only He has the answer. Does my heart thirst today like hers did then? It’s so like Jesus to zero in on the innermost part that is in need of healing refreshment. Liquid love, the healing springs of living water Jesus offers, cuts across all barriers of human existence, demonstrating once again that the ground is indeed level at the foot of the cross.

Scripture story taken from John 4:8-18, 39-42, NIV

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted on February 13, 2015. 4 Comments

Hymnlines: “Rock Of Ages”

My soul is quiet and waits for God alone. My hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and the One Who saves me. He is my strong place. I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:5-6, NLV

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Sadly, one of God’s kids has lost his battle with life; another unsung hero has fallen. He may not be a hero in the eyes of the world, but he is definitely a hero in ours. A family friend has died way too young. This piece is in honor of him and in honor of yours, if you, too, have recently lost a beloved someone.

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

When I seek comfort, my mind searches through its archives for just the right song, it’s usually an old hymn. An example is “Rock of Ages”. Perhaps you remember it? I know there are versions that change the old language, but I love the original. And I can hear it now . . . being belted out by Vestal Goodman of Southern Gospel fame.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

I am praying and seeking comfort for another family who has just lost their child. It doesn’t matter the cause. It’s just so devastating to have to bury one’s own child! You don’t know this family, but please join me in heart and song or prayer, seeking peace for a family from my community; a family who has been thrust into the midst of a raging storm of pain like no other they have ever encountered.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I come before Your throne asking for You, the Creator of all things and the one who loves us most, please be with all those who mourn, some for years and many more who have just begun their journey into grief. We shudder just thinking about the pain that is so intense it shatters human hearts. But You know this pain and You love us more than any human on earth. Comfort, hold, cry, wipe tears, with these dear families. We long to be reunited with our children once again. Already this family longs to see their precious child again. May it be soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

The last stanza talks about death. We accept it as the other half of life, but we don’t like it, and in fact, we rebel against it! There are many “if only” and “I should have” statements, but the words fall by the wayside unnoticed. Once again when we hear of yet another young person who will not lived out a full life, we are reminded how very fragile life is.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.

Yes, Lord. Let us hide in You. There is no other safe place. We cling to, rely on, and trust in You alone.

Augustus M. Toplady, preacher and song writer, 1776