Are You Leaning When it Hurts?

Hot, excruciating pain ripped and pulsated through the young man’s weak body . . . the aftermath of an operation meant for his good. Now, the physical therapist asked the man to stand up and walk. How could he walk when he could barely breathe from the pain?

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However, pain had been a constant companion for much of the young man’s life, and he wanted more than anything to convalesce at home. So he squared his shoulders and gripped the parallel bars on either side of him. Sweat oozed from his furrowed brow and rolled down his flushed cheeks as he leaned on those bars for support, and walked. One step, then another. Over and over . . . until he reached home.

My friend told me that watching her son-in-law grip the parallel bars became a visual of how she had to hold onto the Lord during that desperate week when all she could do was “cry for God’s help.”

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Like my friend, I’ve had to helplessly watch loved ones suffer. I’ve begged God, “Remove this cup. Spare them!” However, even in this . . . the Lord responds, “Rest in Me.”

At first, I balked at that term because rest means to cease from activity, and I didn’t want to sit back and be idle. I wanted to do something constructive to alleviate their pain. However, I discovered the word rest also means to be supported and remain confident. And a synonym for rest is LEAN. 

Perhaps you’ve heard the hymn Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.

To Rest—or lean—on the everlasting arms of God means we’re “supported” by Him, as we struggle to walk through each day . . . down every haphazard path. The same way someone leans on a cane, and relies on it to support their weight while they’re walking,  we’re urged to cast all our cares on the Lord and lean on Him.

To rest and lean on the Lord also means we can “remain confident” He’s present and bringing about good from every trial, including praise and glory. (1Peter 1:7) For even my friend praised the Lord for His faithfulness, and bringing so many people to pray for her family.

Sadly, her son-in-law still needs prayer as he recovers at home because the debilitating pain remains, and the physical therapy continues. There’s no way to rest (cease from activity) if he wants to improve his mobility. He has to rise, do the hard thing, and lean on his crutches and walk even when everything in him might shout, “I can’t!”

Likewise, God calls His beloved children to stand up and walk by faith . . . one day at a time . . . leaning on the Lord for strength as well as understanding (Proverbs 3:5).

Photos: Pixabay

Are You Grieving Tis Season?

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken. There’s a pain goes on and on.”

Thus sings a young man (in the musical Les Miserables) after his friends have died in battle. And it was these heart-wrenching lyrics from the song Empty Chairs, Empty Tables that echoed in my mind as I drove to the airport a few days before Christmas.

Although I was over-the-moon excited to hug my son who was coming home from college, my heart mourned for two moms who will never hug their sons this side of heaven.

 

A week earlier, their eighteen-year-old sons were killed in a vehicle accident while driving in our town. I didn’t know the young men. Never met the families. But my heart still aches like an open wound whenever I think of them; pray for them.

Sadly, they’re not alone this Christmas season. I have several friends who celebrated Christ in the midst of a grief that can’t be spoken…

The death of an elderly father. The loss of an infant grandson. A broken marriage. A pre-school child with cancer. Someone facing a double mastectomy. So many lives touched by a pain that goes on and on.

I try to make sense of it all especially during Christmas when hearts are meant to be merry and bright. A friend told me that tragedies like these remind us to hold our loved ones close, forgive and keep short accounts, and share Jesus. Another woman, whose husband was killed, said, “Instead of asking why this happened, I ask how I can live to honor God despite my circumstances.

Wise words, but I also opened my Bible to Matthew because I thought of those ancient moms who grieved for their sons—martyred babes, slain by the sword when Jesus was born.

For even though a bright star led the Magi to worship the Christ Child, the troubled soul of King Herod resulted in the blood-thirsty slaughter of children.

“Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men.

Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: ‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’”

When I look at the current mayhem and sorrow in the world, has anything changed since that blessed year when Christ was born?

After all, one of the Magi’s gifts was Myrrh, a bitter perfume, that breathed “gathering gloom, sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed in the stone-cold tomb.

lamentation-of-christ-by-antony-van-dyck-1599-1641However, outward appearances can be deceiving.

Jesus wasn’t born to spare folks from pain and death on earth. He came as the Lamb of God to take away the sins of the world. To prove God’s great love by dying for us while we were still sinners. And His resurrection guarantees us new life when He’ll wipe away every tear and there will be no more death.

“Rachel wept…refused to be comforted.” Maybe you’re mourning too.

Just remember, when we believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His name, it truly is possible to experience His peace and comfort that defies human logic… 

Even in this grief that can’t be spoken.

 

References: Matthew 2:16-18, John 1:29, Romans 5:8, John 20:31, Rev. 21:4 & lyrics from We Three Kings of Orient Are

Photo of woman: Pixabay

Are You Overwhelmed?

Are you overwhelmed by the news or personal issues in your life? My friend, Susan, has written a thought-provoking blog that I’d like to share. I pray her words encourage your heart. You can find more of her posts on http://Susansage.com

I have been over the last week

Overwhelmed

Discouraged

Sad

Angry at times

Never wanting my husband to put on a uniform again

But, right above my desk hangs a sign a friend painted for me. 

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Question is—do I?

Do I trust Him when pain rips through my body?

Do I trust God’s sovereignty when there is increased violence?

Do I trust He’s got this when another friend succumbs to illness?

Do I really believe He’s in control when an ambush occurs on those who were trying to protect others?

Do rely on Him fully when politics just doesn’t make sense?

Do I hold fast to faith in Him when things and people I thought were unwavering, are not?

What could you add to this list?

Truth is, pain did rip through my body under the stress of all the violence last week. Honestly, I don’t ever want my husband to put his uniform on again and go defend others. And, discouragement began to send tentacles of fear into my heart over the violence and craziness around us.

But, as God often does, He used a small phrase in a big account in the Bible. Remember in the book of Daniel when he asked not to be fed the choice foods but rather the vegetables and water. In the passage in Daniel 1:8Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), it says (depending on your translation) Daniel “resolved” or “made up his mind.”

I was teaching a class at church and that phrase hit me.

Daniel resolved . . .

Have I?

Have you?

If God is really sovereign, then He is trustworthy.

I must resolve each day to trust, just as the sign says. It’s a day by day decision, sometimes it’s moment by moment.

Either I believe He’s sovereign and trustworthy or I don’t.

What does it look like if I don’t? I’ll worry, toil over it, succumb to fear and panic, and keep allowing my thoughts to remain on the issues.

What will it look like if I do? I’ll take God’s advice. There are so many verses in the Bible that remind me what to do when I’m fearful and overwhelmed like Psalm 56:3, or Philippians 4:8, or Colossians 3:2 among many more.

Every day we have to make the decision whether we will allow the crises surrounding us to keep our focus or whether we’ll live as we, as believers, say we believe-trusting God.

By the way, just because we believe that God is sovereign and so in control, doesn’t mean difficult issues will not touch us. But, if He is sovereign, and I believe He is, then often throughout the day I must resolve to stay in that reality, not allowing the difficulties, whatever they are, to keep me weighted in fear.

As my eyes are on Him, I also need to make up my mind how I will react to these troubles. Will I act out in frustration by showing hate and negativity to others or will I allow God’s love and light to work in and through me towards others?

If you want another perspective on dealing with fear and worry, jump over to my friend, Kris Lindsey’s blog. You’ll find her http://krislindsey.com

Do I trust God’s sovereignty when there is increased violence?

Either I believe God is sovereign and trustworthy or I don’t.

Sign painted by Allie Billat at Mad Hatter Salvage Creations

How Do You Handle A New Normal?

My friend could walk and feed herself a year ago.

She could hug her husband, hold her grandchildren, use her mobile phone, drive a car. Pull the bedspread over her shoulders when she was cold at night.

Now Vicki’s life is a new kind of normal.

Physical therapy, medical appointments, caregivers, pain pills, temporarily living with her husband in their married daughter’s home, learning to walk by faith and not by sight.

Doctors predict improvement, but rehabilitation is a slow process. There are never guarantees in life, but there is gratitude. And Vicki is the first to praise God’s mercies and provision in this new normal.

My friend, Terrie, and I visited our mutual friend. A married couple also came. We gathered around the dining room table to eat pancakes, talk, laugh, listen, pray. Tried not to cry.

But it was no small matter—and I doubt it went unnoticed—that a stranger sat among us. The caregiver tried to be inconspicuous as she fed Vicki, waited for her to chew, and swallow. Wiped her mouth and held a glass of orange juice to her lips.

Before we left, Terrie offered to massage Vicki’s feet with lotion.

Vicki smiled. “That’d be great. Thank you.”

Terrie sat on the floor in front of the wheelchair. She removed Vicki’s tennis shoe and compression sock. We mentioned the blue polish on her toenails. My eyes watered (thus the blurry photo) as I watched my friend gently massage and caress Vicki’s feet and the calves of her weak legs.

I thought of the woman in the Bible—who’d been forgiven much—washing Jesus’ feet with her tears; drying them with her long hair.

Did my two friends view this foot massage as a humble, sacred moment?

I snapped a photo to remember how quickly life can change. A visual reminder that no act of kindness is too small if we want others to know that we care.

I wondered how Vicki felt, confined in a wheelchair, allowing people to feed her and massage her feet. Did she swallow her pride? Mentally beat her breast, ‘Why me, Lord?’ Or did she feel loved and cherished?

I can’t speak for Vicki—and wouldn’t share her thoughts if I knew—but I can say this.

From the time we met, this soft-spoken woman’s been a prayer warrior. I’ve seen her rely on the Lord Jesus to sustain her in previous trials, and her stalwart faith hasn’t changed.

Vicki told us that her grandson called her “a Bible-reading Grandma.” She can’t hold her Bible now, but God’s Word upholds her.

For years ago, Vicki chose to immerse herself in scripture. She learned to trust in a sovereign God long before this storm blew into her life. And by God’s grace, she will not be moved even in this.

Thankful I Don’t Have

IMG_5310Although I have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, I also praise God for the many things I don’t have:

Terminal illness

Delinquent child

Empty food pantry

Rat eating my kitchen pipes…like a year ago

Some readers may be dealing with these issues, or worse. So forgive me if I step on toes. And yet, when I’m trudging through the messy circumstances of life, I believe….God’s grace pads my life in ways I can’t imagine.

Crises diverted. Grief avoided. Unspoken prayers favorably answered without my knowledge.

Doesn’t God deserve gratitude for covert blessings too?    

During imperfect days, sprinkled with more discomfort than joy, it’s natural to grumble, “Why me, Lord?” Then I hear the news, or receive a prayer request, and realize the multitude of evil and sorrow that God spares me from each day.

My perspective changed back in the day, when my five-year-old son fell from the Monkey Bars. While I kissed the bruised bump on his head, he whimpered, “Why did God let me fall?”

I responded, “Let’s thank God you don’t have a broken neck.”

It’s not just viewing a half-empty cup as half-full. It’s naming names.

Praising God that I have good health doesn’t have the same powerful imagery as thanking Him that I don’t have breast cancer when my mammogram comes back normal.

That’s because I remember driving my bald-headed friend to her chemotherapy appointment. I listened to her miserable groans afterwards. I’m thankful I still have my friend.

I’m also thankful I don’t have to walk in her shoes…at least, for the time being. But even then, God willing, I’d be glad I didn’t have to go through cancer alone.

Three weeks ago, I sprained my ankle. No big deal comparatively speaking, but rotten timing. I was scheduled to travel in two days to visit my daughter. As I lay on the floor, wreathing in pain, I wailed, “No! How will I drive to the airport? How will I get from my parked car to the terminal gate?   

I hobbled to my couch, placed an ice pack on my elevated ankle. The more I mused on my clumsiness and misfortune, the more gratitude bubbled and spilled over, soothing my taunt nerves.

Thank you Lord, I don’t have a broken ankle. As I massaged my bruised hip, I sighed, “I’m not a spring chicken. Thank you, Lord, I don’t have a broken hip bone.   

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A positive spin weaves threads of have and have not into a tapestry of thanksgiving. And gratitude enables us to look at life like a two-sided coin:

The blessings we have,

The battles we don’t have to wage in this moment.

It’s a win-win~~no matter how the coin lands.

What are you thankful for that you don’t have?

Slippery When Wet

I knew a woman whose mother committed suicide. As she packed up her deceased mother’s belongings, a friend came to assist her. The friend never said a word because in that moment, her presence and help said everything.

I try to follow her example whenever someone is grieving or distressed. But alas, in my desperation to make that person feel better and know that I care, I probably say too much or the wrong thing particularly if I haven’t walked in their shoes.

Have you noticed? Life is Slippery when Wet.

And folks saying “every cloud has a silver lining” or “look on the bright side” doesn’t make me feel dry or safe when I’m in the midst of  a thunderstorm.20141101_143953

In fact, when I’m hurting…emotionally or physically…my first inclination isn’t to look for the greater good even though I believe Romans 8:28-30 to be true.

Some of those slippery paths have included:

·         Three miscarriages

·         A husband deployed during Desert Storm

·         A newborn son hospitalized

·         Family members with chronic health problems.

In hindsight, the intensity and duration of each storm strengthened my relationship with the Lord. They also enabled me to empathize and encourage others.

Even so, I can’t presume to know how others feel.

I’m no longer in that place and depending on where I stand, my perspective changes.  

For when I’m standing at a cross road~~fearful of the unknown, worried I’ll make the wrong decision~~the last thing I want to hear is, “Don’t worry. Everything will be alright!”

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Walking across a wooden bridge, slick from rain, is more daunting than standing beside the bridge with both feet on the ground. So I don’t want someone shouting from a safe distance, “Things could be worse. Don’t be afraid!”

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A young woman whose military husband was deployed overseas told me, “People say they’re praying for me. They quote Bible verses. I know they mean well and I’m thankful. But telling me to think positive, doesn’t help. My situation stinks! Acknowledge my pain. Don’t be afraid to let me cry.”

Her words hit home because I’ve  been there…..slip sliding through life. And frankly, there’s nothing like a good cry to release the pain.

James 1:19 says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak…”

Slow to speak shallow, trite, or patronizing words when someone else is hurting.

How do you want people to respond when you’re in pain?

What has helped you in the difficult times?

When It’s Enough

The woman passed away yesterday.

While I vacuumed pine needles off the floor, debated whether to take down the Christmas tree because it’s hard to let go of things we love.

The frail woman, though surrounded by loved ones had to let go.

One last breath, and her eternal soul flew into the arms of Jesus.

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While I, not knowing she was gone, stripped sheets off my guest bed,

And breathed in the lingering scent of my grown son who had returned to his own home.

I LOATHE goodbyes though my heart says, “We’ll be together again.”

When I heard the woman was “walking streets of gold,”

My heart was heavy.

Like it was on New Year’s Eve when I watched my grown son walk away into the airport.

I longed to run after him for one more hug.

Another chance to say I love you.

Even though we know how much we love each other.

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Driving home from the airport, I thought about the day before, when we put together a puzzle.

Holiday movies were background noise.

Bowls of half-eaten Chex Mix, and empty candy wrappers sat on the table.

My pants snug.

I placed the last piece into the jigsaw puzzle and declared, “It is finished!”

And a voice within me groaned, “ENOUGH!”

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As much as I love the holiday season … family, food, fun … I was ready for routine.

Perhaps the woman was ready.

As much as she loved her family and friends, wanted to celebrate life on Earth one more day,

Perhaps, she’d had “Enough!”

Enough of the endless

Physical pain, medical appointments, hospital visits.

Enough disappointment

As she hung to a thread of hope she’d be restored to good health.

Enough sorrow

To let go and leave behind….

Her favorite things and the precious people she loved.

And be with her Beloved Jesus,

Who “will wipe every tear from their eyes….no more death, mourning, crying or pain.” (Revelation 21:4)

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Today, my Christmas tree comes down.

It’s been up long enough.

I’ll wrap:

A newly-wed couple’s first hand-blown ornaments, faded with age.

Baby’s first Christmas,

A toddler’s photo glued to a felt star

Ceramic candy canes painted by children now grown and gone.

I’ll say goodbye and put them away until …

I was going to say, “Next Christmas.”

But who knows what a year from now brings.

I ONLY KNOW THAT I KNOW THERE’S A HEAVEN.

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One day, I’ll be there with the woman,

I never met,

Whom I grew to love,

Because I prayed for her last year.

Together, we’ll be in HEAVEN

Where Saints meet and re-unite.

AND WE CAN NEVER, EVER, GET ENOUGH OF JESUS.