We Know Each Other

I knew I would be walking on Holy Ground as I prepared a brief Memorial Service for my friend who has just learned that her daughter has taken her life. There is no such thing as routine circumstances for the acknowledgement of a suicide. In this case the mother is 82 years old and is at the end stage of an eleven year old battle with aggressive Parkinson’s Disease. Her daughter, who died by her own hand this week, was 55 years old.

I have always felt the tension of ambiguity when talking to a grieving family about suicide. If someone comes to me and says they want to take their own life, I boldly state that life, when it starts and when it ends, is a decision that God reserves for Himself and is, therefore, not ours to make.  On the other hand, when the family struggles with the eternal state of a loved one who has committed suicide, I look for evidence of faith in the deceased ones’ story and focus on the goodness and grace of God.

For this service. I chose some verses that incorporated the concept of “always” in reference to God’s unfailing presence and love.

Psalm 73:21-24New International Version (NIV)

21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.

Matthew 28:19-20New International Version (NIV)

 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 I Corinthians 13:7  

(Love) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Psalm 16: 8

I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

As we read these verses, I asked the grieving mother to read the word “always”. Then I presented her with this little box and the stone that she could symbolically place in the box when she was ready. I encouraged her to keep it near her and use it to answer the inevitable question: Was God faithful to my daughter?

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Our focus and our memories were precious.

Those of us in attendance prayed fervently.

AND THEN. this grieving mother prayed: “Father, I have no words, but we know each other.”

A hushed silence fell over our little gathering. Now we knew we were on Holy Ground.

How can a prayer be more powerful? A simple acknowledgement of knowing and being known with such intimacy that words are not needed.

May we live in such intimacy with God that when we have no words we can simply look into the eyes of Jesus and say, “We Know Each Other”

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Jesus Rescues Broken Worship

I knew I wouldn’t be joining a group for corporate worship today, although that is what I usually do on a Sunday Morning.

But just since last Sunday, I am looking at life through a new lens.

My husband, (age 90 with the limitations that have come with stroke and heart surgery), had been able to care for himself independently.

Now he can’t.

On Monday, a dramatic loss of strength led to this man having a number of medical assessments, a short hospital stay, and then a discharge with Home Care Support and the need for 24/7 supervision.

Since I have not been given time to process this, I am doing so as I write. It seems major changes in life come without forewarning and then the realization that some preparation should have been made.

This applies personally to me in that I am a community health nurse and have helped hundreds of families through the dilemma in which I now find myself.

Yet, it’s always different when you are the subject of the story rather than the observer.

Even the routine of morning hygiene for a bed patient, which as nurses we do without cringing, feels like punishment when the patient is your husband.

So, it is from this “in process” frame of mind that I make the determination that even though I will not be a part of corporate worship, I WILL worship personally.

I find a place to sit where I can be quiet but still see my husband’s bed. I gather my Bible, ITunes, and paper, finding myself writing words that gradually become this poem.

This is the day You have made for me                                                                                             And I WILL give you Praise!                                                                                                                 I lift my eyes oe’r the mess I see                                                                                                          and gaze into Your face.

I’ll watch ‘til Your eyes tell the story                                                                                                    Of Your hidden design in these days.                                                                                                    I trust that the trash most important to you                                                                                                Is stashed in the folds of my ways.

So, pull me deeper to Your heart                                                                                                          and do the work I need                                                                                                                             I’ll try to be still Neath the scalpel                                                                                                      and move only as You lead.

I’ll try to sing You a song of Praise                                                                                                         I’ll try to make the song new                                                                                                            “Relax, my child”, You then gently say,                                                                                           “Today, I’ll sing over you”.

I ask that you not focus so much on the poem, itself, but look for the tender way that Jesus Himself enters our broken worship and leaves us with effortless praise; calling friends to tell them God had met with us!!

Ephesians 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” NIV

 

 

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You will regret that…

It all started when I tried to think of a way to divert my eleven-year-old granddaughter’s attention from my little Maltese dog. This dog, Molly, is accustomed to a quiet environment. This granddaughter’s persistence in wanting a constant response from Molly prompts me to look for ways to give both of them a rest.

I offered, why don’t we color for about fifteen minutes? My granddaughter agreed and went to the “Toy Box” where she knew I kept the adult coloring book and colored pencils.

To her dismay, she picked up the oversized crayon box and they all spilled into this box that was already a crowded clutter. As we tried to rescue the crayons, she sighed and said, “I think we just need to take everything out.”

“Good”, I said. “I have been wanting to sort out dog toys from children’s toys and this will be a good time to fill one bag for donation and another for trash.

We were working well together. Each little stuffy brought back memories for me but you can’t keep everything just because it is attached to a memory.

When we got to this monkey

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I said, “Let’s give this away.”

My granddaughter’s response was immediate. “I think you will regret

that.” Then she locked eyes with me and said with a quiet confidence and compelling authority, “I really think you will”.  She went on to remind me that we had played with this monkey when she was a baby.

The locking of our eyes was another priceless connection with this child. The first time I experienced love for her was when she was a few hours old. I remember taking her in my arms and being flooded with love. It was a surprise to me because I thought I would learn to love her with time, but it “happened” with no time or experience needed.

Now, we were having another “moment” of deep connection. This child was, for the first time in my awareness, looking at things through my eyes, for my contentment and emotional protection.

There is an awesome mystery in watching a baby become a child and then evidence the maturity of being able to see “for the good of another”.

This grandchild is my teacher.

The monkey is contentedly leaning into the corner of the toy box having secured a permanent home.

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When Goodness is Hidden

“God IS Good” is a declaration that is stated and sung by those of us who have responded in faith to the invitation from Our Lord Jesus Christ to exchange our life for His.

For some of us, the statement is easily reflected by our life circumstances; our health, our wealth, our relationships and our dreams.

For others of us, in order for the statement to have validity, we need to reach into our faith conviction and say, even though this doesn’t feel good today, I choose to believe that God is good.

Finding a promise in scripture and following through on the prerequisites for that promise to be claimed can produce either joy or sadness. When we are surrounded by other believers, we look forward to sharing our joy and that which led up to the experience. It is not as easy to share our disappointments.

Probably the most difficult exchange happens in the depths of our own soul. Even while reading scripture, our common enemy (who knows scripture well) can whisper, “If that is true about God, why did He do nothing when you were desperate?”

We quickly say, “Well, our thoughts are not His thoughts” and we know that is true but it doesn’t answer the nagging doubt that even though God is generally good, He can and does miss some chances to prove it.

Because this is my confession, of which I am not proud, I was deeply impacted this morning by Amy Carmichael’s treatment of Psalm 31:19 from “Edges of His Ways” where she uses Rotherham’s translation: “How great is Thy goodness which Thou hast hidden away for them that revere Thee?”

What if, in the spaces where God’s goodness is indiscernible, He is saving it as a surprise, as Amy puts it “a surprise of love?”

Wanting to check this out for myself, I looked up the verse in the old KJV and read “Oh, how great is Thy goodness which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee”.

I then went to Strong’s and found the original meaning of the word translated “laid up” in the English language. I was comforted to see one of the choices to be “to hide, hide from discovery”.

Because, at my core, I trust that God is good, I am waiting with great expectation for Him to reveal the goodness that He has hidden from me. I celebrate today because I am convinced He is good.

I even believe that the “good” I will eventually embrace will be better because I am trusting Him while I wait.

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Well, that’s a first!

Thought it would be fun to hear two views of the same story. Thank you, Rachel.

It seemed like a normal invitation. “Would you like to attend Molly’s birthday party and lunch afterward?” What made this invitation interesting and a FIRST for me is that Molly is, wait for it…a DOG! The party planner happens to be eleven years old and possesses quite a few administrative gifts.

Once she knew I was interested, she approached me with her mini tablet in her  hand, “Could I have your email address? She asked.” I’d like to send you some details and a reminder that you agreed to bring chips.”

A few follow-up emails and reminders came. Today, in below zero temperatures,  Molly’s party was held. Pink balloons marked the house’s outside entrance. Yep! this is it!  These two sisters had both taken the time to decorate with party pink.

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Molly was barking with excitement and was delighted when I arrived. I noticed all of the home-made party details as they pointed them out to me. “Could I take some pictures because this is my first party for a pet?” I asked. (I had no idea it would be this blog post.)

“Sure!” they said.

I loved the drawing of Molly posted on the back of this box. The girls even decorated the stair railing with pink touches of crepe paper and balloons marked ‘Molly’s 6th’. The eldest was in charge of making contact, the menu and the party agenda. They were both so proud and took ownership over their involvement and I was proud of them.

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My young friend purchased, with her own money, the pink party dress bedazzled with pearls and rhinestones. Molly was sporting it quite well. It was so cute on and made me feel a bit under dressed. (Just kidding) We took time for a bit of “show and tell” as they brought out other outfits in the dog’s wardrobe which included two beautiful red Christmas outfits. This was a first for me in pet fashion.

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I said at one point, “I’ve never been to a birthday party for a dog before! You’ve set the standard for any pet party for me.”  I seem to remember my first of anything.

I recall my first:

  • solo
  • kiss
  • time flying
  • time out of the country
  • passport stamp
  •  pregnancy
  • birth
  • sip of coffee
  • time eating different ethnic foods

Okay! So you get my point. I remember my “firsts” quite well. This was definitely a first for me. We gathered in the kitchen before lunch and circled around the island, held hands and prayed. My friend blessed each of us in the circle and the food.

As soon as AMEN was spoken. The young coordinator made a suggestion. “Let’s sing Happy Birthday to Molly now!” Without any deliberation we began. “Happy Birthday to you… Happy Birthday to you…” As we joined in chorus, Molly enjoy the festivities and spun around a few times as we finished. “Happy Birthday, dear Molly, Happy Birthday to you!”

Nest we moved to the round wooden dining table. During lunch, we talked about our recent Christmas gatherings and family activities. Molly was invited to join us as we visited and was quite content to sit with us. At one point she laid her head up on the table with it cocked slightly listening attentively to our conversation.

“Oh, my!  Someone has to get a photo of Molly.” I said. “It’s like she knows this is all for her.” I didn’t know if I should get up from the table during the meal and I was concerned we might lose the magic moment. Molly responded to the commotion and disruption and got down from the table only to jump back up again.

They all began talking at once asking, “Molly put your head own the table again. Just like you had it before. Can you put your head back up there Molly?” It wasn’t tilted exactly the same way, but Molly did pose once again on cue.

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Finally, we indulged in chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with pink frosting. While Molly ate her own version of a birthday treat,  a ground beef, egg and cheese “cup-cake” with peanut butter and banana frosting.

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If you really knew me you would know I’m a bit pet-impaired. But at one point while sitting on the couch, Molly snuggled right up to me, laid her body up against my thigh and laid her head on it. I buried my fingers into her furry head for quite a while. She was just so cute as she lay there in bliss. Well, that’s a first! I thought.

I’ve been asking God to surprise me. He has been doing that a great deal lately. I’ve been asking him to do a new thing. This certainly was a FIRST and new thing! “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past, See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18,19

I will remember this DOG party. It was simple and sweet. I will also remember it because of the delightful young party planner. I was touched because this precious eleven year old wanted to invite me, a woman in my mid fifties, as her and the dog’s guest. I was the only guest other than family. That is the way my young friend wanted it.  I was truly honored to be present for my first ever birthday party for a dog.

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Pause and reflect back on some of the” firsts” you’ve experienced recently. Think about the ways God is doing a new thing and thank Him.

 

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Love Through a New Lens

“Could we have a birthday party for Molly?”

I answered, “Sure”, without really thinking much about what my adopted granddaughter was really wanting to do. It didn’t occur to me, at the time, that I had never even heard of a birthday party for a dog let alone hosted one.

Molly is a Maltese dog that I inherited almost a year ago when my friend died. This dog is a ball of white fluff that is usually under my feet or pushed against me in such a way that my hand is on her back. Molly has navigated a lot of loss for an eight pound six-year-old.  I think that’s why I try to make space for her Velcro attachment.

But, her story isn’t all about loss and trauma as in this transition process she has gained the extraordinary love of my granddaughter.

Come, imagine yourself a guest at this party and even be present during the preparation for it.  Watch for evidences of love through the new lens of Molly’s Birthday Party.

In the mind of this granddaughter, the preparation has been the focus of attention for weeks. Yesterday, with the party just a day away, was spent packaging up all she would need to make the day fun. She had found a recipe for a doggie birthday cake so a couple of bags of baking ingredients and supplies were mixed in with pillows, blankets, crepe paper streamers and a tooth brush as an overnight at Besta’s (Norwegian for Grandmother) would be necessary in order to get everything done.

Our first stop, after loading the car for the overnight was to stop at the Pet Store.

This child had $10 and she wanted to spend it on a gift for Molly.  Once she spotted the pink blinked princess dress the decision was made. It was sacrificial and expensive but did not appear to cost the giver anything.

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Then came shopping for the food. It went quickly because this child had come prepared with a list of what would be needed. Invitations had been sent and responses received so it was possible to buy exactly what we would need for the guests and what would be needed for Molly’s cake. I watched in amazement as the ground beef cake was assembled, baked and then frosted with peanut butter and banana. There was joy in this labor as all was done for the purpose of doing something special for the one she loved.

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Soon my house began to feel like a place to celebrate. Streamers hung from the balcony, the stair rail was wrapped in crepe paper, balloons were secured after being scripted with “Molly is 6”. Love flows from the heart but creates an environment that causes one to pause and ask, “What special thing is happening here today?”

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This child included her whole family in this event. Her daddy grilled hamburgers outside in below zero weather, her mother took time off work bringing a dog sweater as a gift and her sister was by her side planning, decorating and exploding with creative ideas. What is it about love that make it contagious?

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As we filled our plates and found a place at the table we noticed there was an empty chair—but not for long. Molly jumped up on the chair and rested her little head on the table. As I watched her, I wondered how much she understood about being the recipient of unconditional extravagant iconoclastic love.

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I wonder how much I understand about unconditional extravagant iconoclastic love? Is it possible that SOMEONE is loving me in this way today?

Do I need to see love through a new lens?

 

 

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To Love and Be Loved

I have inherited a little white Maltese that I have needed to “choose” to love😘.

I looked up Maltese on Google and learned the purpose of this dog is to love and be loved.

So I wrote this poem:

What is your purpose                                                                                                                           You ball of white fur                                                                                                                            Since you are now mine                                                                                                                       I need to make sure

You wouldn’t be useful                                                                                                                        With sheep on a farm                                                                                                                            But the frenzy of city                                                                                                                        Would cause you alarm

You don’t cook or clean                                                                                                                       You don’t grocery shop                                                                                                                         You don’t really dance                                                                                                                         You just run and hop

So what is your purpose                                                                                                                             You ball of white fur                                                                                                                                      Since you are now mine                                                                                                                      I need to make sure

“To love and be loved”                                                                                                                          Says this ball of white fur                                                                                                                                 To love and be loved                                                                                                                               ”Tis my purpose for sure

Is that not enuf?                                                                                                                                      Stop! Think it all thru                                                                                                                                And you will soon see                                                                                                                          That it’s your purpose too!

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