The Silent Suffering of Miscarriage

There was an eerie stillness in the exam room as the technician and doctor firmly moved the ultrasound transducer against my distended abdomen.  The duo pressed and prodded before exchanging a knowing look.  The doctor gently told me to get dressed Paton in Dumfries and Torthorwald (40) and that they would get my husband who was in the waiting room.

This is no longer a viable pregnancy

 “I’m so sorry but we can’t find the baby’s heartbeat. This is no longer a viable pregnancy.”  Surely this doctor was mistaken.  Wasn’t this the little boy we had prayed and hoped for?

But deep in my soul I knew.  I was 20 weeks into my pregnancy but something seemed wrong; I had not felt the little fluttering movements of the baby for several days now.

Like countless other women before and after me, I had suffered a miscarriage.

I was sent home for a few days to see if my body would expel the baby on its own, but it didn’t.  I was not given the choice of delivering the baby but was scheduled for a D & C.  God must have blocked my understanding of what that involved for it wasn’t until years later, when the sorrow was less acute, that I understood that I could have delivered the baby and maybe even held him.

Silent suffering of miscarriage

A number of friends and family have recently miscarried.  In my child-bearing years miscarriage was a topic people rarely spoke about.  A woman’s suffering was silent and personal and few dared to cross those barriers to speak with her about her loss.

But I was blessed.  My miscarriage occurred when another family was spending a few days with us.  The wife had suffered both miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy.  She shared her grief and experiences and allowed me to share mine.  She encouraged me with kindness, sympathy, prayer and with scriptures that had helped her.

A dear friend and sister in Christ lost a daughter halfway through the pregnancy and twins later the same year.  I asked her if she would share with me things that were both helpful and not so helpful as people learned of her sorrow.  I have combined her suggestions with my own to hopefully give a few ways of ministering to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage.

Helpful things

  • Both my friend and I went to hospital alone; she delivered her daughter and I had a D & C.  I would have liked to have someone with me during that time.  I felt very alone and was still coming to grips with my loss.
  • Ask if your friend she wants company.  Some will need a time of quiet reflection to grow accustomed to no longer being pregnant while others want someone there right away so they do not isolate themselves and mentally plunge into ‘a dark place.’
  • Remember we are to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.
  • Sometimes the best thing you can do is hold your friend’s hand while she cries.
  • Reading the Psalms and crying as I read was therapeutic for me.  Gentle hymns playing quietly in the background helped keep my mind fixed on eternal things.
  • The book Safe in the Arms of God by John MacArthur is a good resource for those who lose a child through miscarriage or untimely death.  In 1 Samuel 12 King David says that he will go to his child who died.  We understand that to mean that young children go to heaven when they die and we will meet them there someday.
  • Offer to take any older children overnight so the couple can spend some time grieving together.
  • Give your friend a journal so she can record her thoughts, prayers, poems, and comforting Scriptures and hymns as she progresses through the grieving process.
  • Just because someone is a strong Christian doesn’t mean there is no pain.  We sorrow, but not as those who have no hope.
  • Remember that it takes time for the woman to return to her pre-pregnancy hormones.  Tears, sadness (but not suicidal thoughts,) extra sensitivity and soreness may be expected as the hormones regulate.  Call your doctor and ask for help if there is concern about depression, prolonged discharge, or other signs that the body is not returning to normalcy or if you have any other medical concerns.
  • Send flowers, a card, an e-card, or a note expressing your genuine sorrow for the loss.
  • Prepare a meal and ask if you can bring it by today.   Or tell them you are thinking of them and you will be stopping by at a convenient time for them with their favorite coffee etc. Arrange for some friends to clean house or run errands if your friend is supposed to be on rest for a while.  When you stop by to leave something ask if they want company then.
  • Be careful when you remind your friend of Scriptural promises.  While it is true that all things do work together for good to them that love God, your use of this or similar scriptures can come across as trite or flippant if you are not careful.

Not-so-helpful things

  • Don’t assume that the wife is the only one who feels the pain of miscarriage. Husbands grieve over miscarriage too.  They may have had hopes or dreams for the little one or begun to plan for all that’s involved in adding another member to the family.  Men may or may not want to share how the miscarriage has impacted them, but it’s good to give them an opportunity to talk out it.
  • Don’t ignore the fact that the family has suffered loss.  Platitudes such as, “You’ll get over this.” “Cheer up! You’re young and can have more.” “You already have (blank) children so it doesn’t really matter.” “You should be over this by now.”  “Well that’s not so bad.  My sister (friend, mother, etc.) had something far worse happen to her!” “Whose fault was it, yours or your husband’s?” are NOT helpful and show an insensitive spirit.
  • Don’t say, “Let me know if there is anything I can do.”  Rarely does the person feel the liberty to take you upon such a vague offer.
  • Be sensitive to your friend’s need for rest.  Don’t stay for an hour if she’s only up to a 10 minute visit.
  • Let the bereaved talk about the baby.  Use the baby’s name if the family had picked a name.  Don’t act as if the baby never existed.
  • Don’t take it personally if you learn the sad news from someone other than your friend.  This is not a popularity contest to see who gets the news first.  This is no time for hurt feelings, idle curiosity, or insensitive comments.

Gaping wounds and scars

Losing a child is like receiving a gaping wound.  At first the wound is swollen, red and tender.  You can barely touch it without pain.  Slowly the wound heals and is not as sensitive.  As time passes the pain of miscarriage subsides, but as with a wound, there will always be a scar to remind you of the painful experience.

It is well with my soul

I love the sentiment of my friend who has chosen to see the loving hand of God in the midst of her sorrow.  “The bottom line is that I’m so thankful that despite this (loss of three babies in a year) I can still have hope because of all that I have in Christ. It certainly doesn’t mean that there’s no pain. Quite the contrary is true… but it is well with my soul because I trust in His unwavering love and in His perfect plan for my life. In this world are many trials and tribulations but Christ has overcome the world. And praise God that I am in Him!!”

Fighting Christians – Taking the Wrong for the Cause of Christ

Christ’s Example

I have been reading the gospels again and have been moved by Christ’s example of humility.  In the hours before His crucifixion Jesus was accused, abandoned, afflicted and abased.  When he was reviled with hateful taunts, He did not respond in kind.  When He was accused and later beaten, He remained silent.  He was provoked, pierced, prodded, and in pain, yet He did not lash out at those who so wrongfully and shamefully treated Him.  He endured this ‘contradiction of sinners against Himself’ for the far greater cause of bringing salvation to mankind through His sufferings.

The Bigger Picture

We are all guilty at times of losing sight of the bigger picture.  It’s not to our credit to love those that love us.  We are also supposed to love those who treat us unfairly.  Wow!  Is that ever hard to do!

In our society it’s considered weakness to back down from a disagreement.  After all, isn’t it important to make sure everybody knows the real facts about an incident?  Or knows who really came up with that great idea?  Or takes our side?  Or that I’m in charge?

It’s More Important to be Christlike than to Be Right

No.  It’s more important to mirror Christlikness than to be right.  Can that be true?  Sadly, we have been conditioned to plant our feet and in no uncertain terms let others around us know that we will not budge.  But that response to conflict is not God-honoring.

I want to challenge you:   Can you take the wrong – wrong behavior, wrong accusations, wrong ideas people have about you for the cause of Christ?

Church Splits

We shake our heads when we hear about churches that split because people can’t agree on the color of new carpet.   Does anyone remember the color chosen?  Do the stories praise the person who was ‘right’?  No, the reputation of Christ and His followers is diminished by this kind of insistence on having one’s own way.  People only remember that Christians can’t get along and they are not drawn to Christ by this fractious arguing.

Expectations

We are children of God and have various responsibilities in the church.  We can’t run away from this or change this.  Right or wrong, people know this about us and because of it have even higher expectations of godliness from us.

I want to challenge you to pray about and study the passages which speak of Christ’s humility and deference to the Father’s will.  I want to challenge you to study the Scriptures which tell us to take the wrong for the cause of Christ.  And then I urge you to practice on each other.

Don’t Be Known as Fighting Christians

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Don’t be known as fighting Christians.  Our testimony before a watching world should be one of love and tender deference to each other.  Our behavior toward each other may be used of God to draw a wanderer back or push a struggler farther away.

He Said, She Said

Our youngest daughter absolutely delighted to have her aunt and uncle here in May.  She particularly loved hearing her father and his sister give their individual accounts of the same childhood event.  They were both involved in the event yet had WIDELY differing versions of it.

When two believers see something differently take time to ask yourself if you might possibly have misinterpreted or gotten it wrong.  Don’t automatically think you are right and the other person is wrong.  Give the other person the benefit of the doubt.

Humility and Deference

By God’s grace let us love each other with humility and deference and allow our relationship as believers become a sweet savor of godliness to each other and to a watching world.

Look to the Lord!

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No person, no hobby, no accomplishment, no possession, no status, no pleasure – nothing in this world brings lasting peace and joy.  We must continually look to the Lord, for only in Him do we find what our souls need and crave.

Temptation

When temptation pounces or when you open the door to let it in, and are sorrowful and grieved that once again you have fallen – look to the Lord!

Relationships

When your spouse or child or parent or other dear one fails you and your disappointment is sharp so that you doubt God’s goodness in relationships – look to the Lord!

Pride of Life

When you discover the emptiness of pursuing money or status or other recognition on this earth and realize the time wasted on these pursuits can never be recovered – look to the Lord!

Failures

When your soul cries out in anguish over your failures and poor influence to those around you – look to the Lord!

Pride

When your labor on behalf of others goes unnoticed so that you grow sullen and sour that your work is in vain – look to the Lord!

Our Past

When wicked or wrong choices from the past rise up to mock your desires to serve God – look to the Lord!

Wicked World

When you waver, wanting to do right, but are buffeted by waves of scorn and derision from a God-hating world – look to the Lord!

Disappointing Christians

When all around you professing Christians quarrel or sow discord or abandon the faith and you are tempted to do the same – look to the Lord!

Disability

When sickness or sorrow or disability renders you incapable of the Christian service you think you should be doing – look to the Lord!

Expectations

When your expectations are dashed and you don’t know what direction to take – look to the Lord!

Look to the Lord!

Remember – He is our Rock, our Fortress, our High Tower, our Anchor.  He has promised He will never leave us or forsake us.  When we are shaken by life, we need to cast ourselves totally on Him and not lean on our own understanding.  He can be trusted to be steadfast in every storm of life.  Look to the Lord!

Being Before Doing

In my last post I shared that I had been struggling with physical problems which have caused some mental, emotional and spiritual Yard friend May 2013upheavals also.

Purifying and Refining Faith

I want to be clear:  this has not been a time of abandoning faith, or even doubting, but of purifying and refining…a type of clarifying borne through the instrument of pain and bringing me to a greater understanding of my own mortality.

Contrast Between Being and Doing

So what have I been learning?  The contrast between being and doing in my walk with God.

When you have been in ministry for a long time, it is easy to evaluate your worthiness by what you do.  That mental checklist of ways that you serve God, others and your community can be the measure of personal spirituality.

But as we all know, these ‘things’ can be done with absolutely no heart for God.  A poignant reminder of this type of ‘doing’ is illustrated in Matthew 7:22.  These people who have done many wonderful works are not even genuine believers!

‘Be’ Before ‘Do”

When the ability to ‘do’ much has been removed because of illness, we are forced to look at how important that aspect of our Christian lives really is.  Yes, it’s important to be doing what God directs us to do, but it’s most important to ‘be’ what God wants us to be BEFORE we do.

The most striking biblical example of this for me is the interaction of Christ with Mary and Martha.  Martha stayed busy preparing the meal while Mary sat quietly at Jesus’ feet listening to the Master.   Jesus commended Mary as taking care of the most important thing, even though what Martha was doing was necessary.

What Does It Mean to ‘Be’?

So what does it mean, practically, to ‘be’? It means taking time to read God’s Word and let the thoughts roll around in your mind throughout the day.  Sometimes in our weakened state we can only grasp a word or a phrase to meditate on throughout the day.  How much better it is to think about on of God’s attributes than focus on our own weakness!

Rehearsing hymn texts – the ones full of biblical doctrine – helps us to focus on the Lord throughout the day.  My childhood pastor used to distinguish between good doctrinal hymns and the 7-11 variety  – seven words repeated eleven times with no substance to the song!  I try and avoid the ‘junk food’ texts and fasten on the spiritually uplifting ones.

God has been teaching me that as long as I have mental capacity I can be praying – praying for peace, grace and contentment in my pain, praying for the needs and salvation of others, praying for God to strengthen and bless my family – and more.  I find as I go throughout the day that I comment to the Lord about situations and concerns much more than I used to.

Struggles Have Lead to Spiritual Growth

All of this is helping to grow me as a believer.  As Christians we have a relationship with a person – a personal relationship with Christ.  Sometimes in our busyness we can become robotic – dragging our eyeballs across the page as my former pastor’s wife used to say – in order to check off a list of spiritual duties.  Learning to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’ has helped put those priorities in order.

Next time I’ll share more of what God has been teaching me through my struggles.

 

 

 

 

 

Struggling

What in the world is UMP????????????????????????????????

It’s been an arduous few months for me.    I’ve stepped aside from writing for several weeks because I have been struggling with UMP – unidentified medical problems.  Constant painful spasms, cloudy thinking, weakness and other symptoms have escalated.  I have been poked, pricked, prodded, scanned, examined, evaluated and scrutinized by an entire cadre of health professionals with more investigating to come.

My wonderful family doctor is willing to think outside the box.  We have worked with diet, vitamins, supplements, remedies, medicines, physiotherapy, massage therapy and more to try and alleviate the problems.  I have been able to share more and more about the Lord with her as we talk and try to find solutions to my ailments.

Gluten-free for me

I’ve had arthritis for years.  One of the changes I made six months ago was to go gluten-free and it helped much more than I expected.  A couple of weeks ago test my doctor ordered showed I also had dairy and egg allergies.  Last week I had additional testing to determine if I have any other allergies or food intolerances.  Making changes to eliminate these foods can be challenging and takes time to master.

The one medication I was on seemed effective at first but grew less and less helpful.  My doctor took me off that one and after a couple of weeks put me back on a previous medication which has some possible serious side effects.  My mobility has improved and I am praying I can get in to see the rheumatologist soon.

How can I help others when I’m struggling?

All of the symptoms and changes associated with my UMP have caused me significant struggles, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually too.  Changing meds, foods, and supplements all brought physical and mental changes which my poor old body had to adjust to.  I stepped away from writing because I thought I could not be a help to others when I was struggling so.

Then the Lord brought to mind some of the missionary biographies I’ve read over the years.  Some of the greatest help to me came from those agonizingly honest passages where the missionary, in great grief, or pain, or discouragement cast themselves upon the Lord for help and deliverance.  They were willing to bare their souls for the cause of Christ; maybe God could use my experiences to help others who are also struggling.

Sharing while struggling

So I will, by God’s grace, share weekly what He is teaching me, the painful and the joyous, with the prayer that God might use my experiences to encourage someone else.  Stay tuned for the next post in a couple of days.

 

The Crabapple Tree

Crabapples up closeThe first hints of spring always remind me of the lovely crabapple tree which graced the front yard of our previous home.  With the first breaths of warmth you could almost see the tree stretching her branches and within days little green leaves would pop out in response to the welcome sun.   Soon after, cheerful white blossoms burst forth like lightly buttered popcorn in glorious announcement of a new season of growth.

Not Promising

We first moved into that house in July.  Our first introduction to the tree was not promising. A gnarly trunk, shoots sprouting out of the ground all across the yard, a tangle of leafy boughs, and tall, skinny, leafless branches jutting helter-skelter from various junctions in the tree greeted us.  There were few signs of coming apples, and those wild shoots absorbed the nutrients from the lawn leaving patchy spots all over.

 Visions of Crabapples

I’ve always figured that if God provides something, He would like you to use it. Before me was the anticipation of a crop of crabapples.  “Hmm. What DOES one make out of crabapples?”  After some research (in pre-internet days I might add) I had visions of crabapple juice and crabapple jelly and crabapple sauce and crabapple crisp – you get the idea.

This Tree Needs Some Serious Pruning

Bud worked his way through college as a landscaper.  He shook his head as he looked at the crabapple tree and told me, “That tree needs some serious pruning!  You’re not going to have any crabapples to make anything with unless this tree is pruned.”  “And” he added, “You probably will not like the way it looks when I first prune it.”

And boy, did he prune it!  When he called me out to look at his work I was horrified.  No shoots, no boughs, no skinny branches and no leaves were left, only three sad looking stumpy, naked branches protruded from the trunk.  “You’ve killed my tree!”  I gasped.

 Without Pruning, No Apples

Then my husband explained the purpose of pruning.  The gardener plucks, cuts, and pulls away all of the useless growth which sucks nourishment away from the tree.  Instead of drawing nutrients to help apples grow, my out-of-control crabapple tree was using up energy to grow sprouts and shoots which would never bear fruit.  Left untouched, the tree would never produce a proper crop of apples as it was designed to do.

 Delightful Results of Pruning

The first year after pruning the tree had amazingly begun to grow back, but still needed shaping and more pruning.  There weren’t many apples that year, but the tree and lawn looked much better.  However the second year, and the years after that, the tree was well-shaped, and full of apples, delighting us each spring with its blossoms, and blessing us each autumn with ample fruit.

 Spiritual Pruning

Sometimes we forget that we are under the care of the Master Gardener.  We find ourselves spending our time and energy on unprofitable pursuits and the Lord needs to step in and ‘prune’ us.  He cuts and trims and shapes us to be more conformed to the image of Christ.

These past few months of unresolved health issues have helped me to think about this process more.  Before my mobility challenges I filled my time with ‘doing’ things in the Christian community.  My health issues have forced me to think more about ‘being’ in a proper relationship with God and allow Him to make clear what He wants me to do with the limited time and energy I end up with.

 Cutting Away Useless Things

A number of useless things have been stripped away these past months – from my thinking, my behavior, and my ministries.  Instead God has been teaching me to ‘Be still, and know that I am God.”  I am more careful now to go to Him in prayer for others and for direction on what He wants me to do.

 Fruit-Bearers for Him

Sometimes we just wish God would leave us alone and stop all of the painful pruning He brings into our lives.  But this would not be the consistent with His character.  By stripping away all of the useless branches which waste our time and energy, God is shaping us to be fruit-bearers for Him.  By God’s grace when seasons of pruning come to our lives we can honor God, learn the lessons He has for us, and be a blessing to the body of Christ.

Prairie Pride

Snow in the darkBlizzard!

The snow swirled angrily around us as we inched along a remote western Canadian highway in the darkened solitude of a late December evening. Returning from my father’s funeral in Ohio, our third parent to die in six months, we were oh-so-weary and yearning for home.  Soon the winds began to howl, driving the blinding snow across an obliterated prairie landscape.  A blizzard!  Bud could no longer see anything but white; we had to get off the road and stay off until the storm passed.

Following the reddish blur of a 16 wheeler’s taillights we pulled into a parking lot where a bevy of truckers were gathered discussing the blizzard. “Supposed to last all night.”  “They’ve closed the road ahead due to zero visibility.”  “Guess we’ll park here and wait out the storm.”

Prairie Pride

Behind a dimly lit old convenience store was an equally dimly lit derelict building bearing a flickering sign  ‘Prairie Pride Motel.’[1]  Even through the snowy blast it was obvious that whatever pride had once been there was long gone. I was dubious about getting a room in such a run-down looking place, but Bud had been driving for over twelve hours and was exhausted.  And we certainly did not want to sleep in the car during a blizzard.

A single light bulb swinging crookedly from a wire in the ceiling threw wisps of light across the narrow interior hallway. Scraped and scuffed, the room doors hung loosely from their hinges, as if the slightest puff of wind would dislodge them from their frames.  A skeletal middle-aged woman, cigarette dangling from her lips, ignored us as she carelessly slouched over the cleaning cart she propelled down the hall.  This was not promising.

Where’s the Pride?

Well, we reasoned, maybe the rooms themselves were in better shape.  Ha! Ever watch one of those spy movies where the hero has to hide out in a decrepit old building in some bleak place like Siberia?  A set designer could not have created a more convincing setting for that kind of scene than our lodgings that night.

Our room was ‘decorated’ in early garage sale with no two pieces of furniture or linens matching anything else.  A microwave with the glass door bashed in sat on a rickety table and two double beds slumped against opposite walls.  Totally worn out, Bud dropped onto one of beds and fell asleep.

Our daughters lead me over to the overstuffed armchair.  “Here, Mom, you rest while we tidy up.” Gratefully I sank down in it…all the way to the floor!  Choking down our laughter (we did not want to wake Bud up!) I thrust my arms up while the girls each grabbed an arm and, with Herculean effort and a modicum of noise, hauled me out of the chair.

Still Looking for that Pride

I wanted to freshen up after the long drive but the bathroom …..well let’s just say some abandoned gas stations had cleaner bathrooms than this place.  I carefully examined the well-worn face cloth and took the plunge to wash my face and hands.  No way was I getting into the shower which was a graveyard to generations of entomological specimens and boasted multiple layers of dirt.

After shoving a rickety chair up under the doorknob (at least the clattering chair would wake us up if someone huffed and puffed and blew the door in!) I gingerly sat on the edge of the bed trying to figure out how to lie down without rolling to the middle or disturbing my husband. My weary mind finally settled on a plan – balance my torso on the very edge of the mattress and hang an arm and a leg off the bed so I would not roll to the middle. (OK – here I tried not to think about what might be under the bed that would find dangling appendages enticing.) The girls covered me with my coat (no way was I going to sleep between the sheets!) while I tried to settle in for some rest.

This Place Did Not Live Up to Its Name

The stuffy room reeked of smoke so, despite the bitter cold, our daughters opened the window.  Ah! Fresh air!  A parking lot light brightened  the room allowing me to watch with weary amusement as the two girls finally laid down to get some sleep, each promptly rolling to the middle of the bed while the sides of the mattress flipped up engulfing them like a giant tortilla.

Arms and legs thrashing about they finally figured out how to balance themselves so sleep might be possible.  Soon all was silent…..for a few moments.  Two truckers walking around outside stopped directly under our open window and began arguing – loudly.  What a night!

We slept fitfully that night and were relieved to find the storm had passed before we drove off early the next morning.  A parting irony was the hand-scribbled sign taped to the office door:  ‘No Vacancy – (Tonight Only.)’  As if!

We Bear the Sign ‘Christian’

Since that experience our family has used the phrase ‘Prairie Pride’ to describe anything which sounds like one thing but delivers something entirely different. Not one thing about that location offered anything which a typical traveler would call pride.

I began thinking about how we can wear the sign of ‘Christian’ and yet sometimes not live or act as Christians should.  Like it or not people hold us to a higher standard when they know we are believers.

And they should, and so should we.  Our standard is God’s Word.  Not culture, not personal opinion, not ‘flavor of the day’ theological ideas, but the Word of God.  We are to model ourselves after the person of Christ and be Christians, or ‘little Christs.”

Is Your Sign a Joke?

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When we saw the ‘Prairie Pride’ sign we had certain expectations that some pride would be taken in how our room looked.  When that was not the case the name seemed to be a joke. When others see the ‘sign’ Christian, what do they expect?  Something that follows a biblical standard.  What do they actually see? Are we a joke to them because we say we are Christians and behave in an ungodly way?

We should not be surprised when someone rejects Christ and Christianity because of Christians’ blatantly ungodly choices.  Let’s NOT be like that.  We need to ask God to help us live out our name Christian in every aspect of our lives.  Unlike the Prairie Pride which did not live up to its name, by God’s grace we can be Christians who do live up to theirs!


[1] There are several reputable (and clean) motels bearing the same name.

Thanks for Your Godly Influence, Mom!

Janet Zook circa 1950 001It’s funny how the older you get, the more you appreciate your parents. Today would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday.  I wish she was still here for me to talk with, and thank, and ask all of those questions about her life that I never thought to ask when she was living.

I Learned a Lot from My Mom

I learned a lot from my mom.  She wasn’t perfect and she would be the first one to tell you that.  But she loved the Lord and tried to serve Him with every fibre of her being.

Mom taught me many practical things:  make your bed before breakfast; turn out the light when you leave a room; close the door when you come in; work hard; recycle; do your chores first; enjoy God’s natural beauty; don’t fight with your sister. (Sorry sis, I did not do very well with this when we were young. Love you!)

My mother was very organized.  Before her marriage she had been secretary to the president of a company.  Dad with his military background teasingly alternated between calling her the General and Sarge.  Mom was thrifty, kept everything clean – loved to do laundry and hang it outside to dry (saves money and smells better) – kept impeccable finances, and was a stickler for punctuality.

“Look It Up!”

Mom would type our papers for us as long as we had the piece word perfect and would dictate the entire thing to her as she typed.  No composing on the fly for us and absolutely no help with spelling.  “Mom, how do you spell ____?”  “Look it up. The dictionary is on the coffee table.”  Now to my childish mind that did not seem logical.  How can I look up how to spell it if I don’t know how to spell it?  Well guess what?  Not only did my spelling improve, so did my vocabulary and skill in using resource materials.

She had a whole stable of these pithy sayings she would throw out when we were trying to wheedle our way out of or into something.  “Mom, can I do (something ridiculous or dangerous)?”  Then I would make the big mistake of saying, “Everybody else is doing it.”  She would shoot back, “If everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?  Of course not.”  And then to ensure we had something profitable to occupy our time she would add something like, “Now go weed the garden.”

Spiritual Influence

The biggest influence mom had on me was spiritual.  My mother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 29.  It threw her life and marriage into a tizzy. She tried to find herself by studying with a cult but my dad sensed something false in it and forbade her from continuing.

In His providence God placed Christian neighbors on both sides of our house.  One day while chatting over the hedge, our neighbor lady told mom that she needed the Lord.  Mom started going to church with this lady and trusted Christ as her Savior from sin.  She started taking my sister and me to church with her, and one Sunday after church mom lead me to the Lord.

Mom’s illness was severe and though she was very careful and very regimented, it was extremely hard to control.  While her illness limited her at times, it never defined her.  Mom’s practice was to be church for all of the services.  Even as she struggled with the effects of cancer in her last years, Mom was in church until she could no longer go anywhere.

Saved to Serve

During our growing up years my mother served the body of Christ.  She would teach Sunday School, host neighborhood Bible clubs, teach VBS, entertain missionaries, help in ladies groups and serve in the choir.  After my sister and I were grown, Mom began selling Tupperware.  At one time she was number eight in sales for the entire US but always clearly told her co-workers and clients she was doing the job to help support missionaries and would never hold a Tupperware party on Wednesday nights or Sundays so she could be in God’s house.

Small Spaces – Large Devotion

The biggest example my mom left with me was that of devotion to God.  Our house was tiny.  Aside from the living room, kitchen and laundry area there were two little bedrooms, one very small bathroom, no attic, and no basement.  My dad worked shift work and would often be sleeping while the rest of us were awake. Finding a place to be alone with the Lord was a challenge for Mom.  She bought a narrow, short bookcase and placed it in the bathroom.  In it she placed her Bible, devotional books, hymnal and missionary prayer letters.  Mom would rise early, lock herself in the bathroom and meet with the Lord.  Every day.  Without fail.

A godly heritage.  A godly example.  A godly mother. I’m grateful for this blessing.  Much of this was done before my father ever professed Christ.    Thanks for all you taught me mom.  I pray that we can have the same kind of influence on our children. Wish I could tell you face to face……..someday I will!

He Is Not Here; for He Is Risen!

Jerusalem Graden Tomb sign

The Garden Tomb

Visiting the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem was my highlight of our tour to the Holy Land.  Our site guide gathered the group and before the tour started and gave a clear gospel message interspersed with cultural facts and archeological information.  Walking through the well-groomed gardens brought amazing clarity to my previously fuzzy impressions of the biblical setting of the resurrection.

Earlier in the day we stopped at Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives and read the scriptures describing Christ’s agony in prayer as He anticipated the cup of suffering and separation from the Father facing Him. Such a sobering reminder of His submission to the plan of redemption for mankind!

Good Preaching

What a blessing it has been to hear messages on each of the seven sayings from the cross these past few weeks!  The reminder of Christ’s fulfilling Old Testament scriptures and considering the needs of others, all while experiencing the humility and excruciating pain of crucifixion, helps us to better reflect on the great price that was paid for our redemption.

He is not here; for He is risen!

Jerusalem at Garden Tomb

Jerusalem Tomb entrance at Garden TombThough seeing the garden and the hill of Golgotha was impressive, the most joyous moment was stepping down into the empty tomb.  ‘He is not here; for He is risen!’  My heart overflowed with gratitude as I stood inside that empty tomb and realized anew that Christ had broken the bonds of sin and death on my behalf!

One of my favorite newer hymns is ‘His Robes for Mine’ by Chris Anderson and Greg Habegger.  The hymn, full of rich theology, speaks to the heart of every believer who has accepted this undeserved exchange. Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

His Robes for Mine

His robes for mine: O wonderful exchange!

Clothed in my sin, Christ suffered ‘neath God’s rage.

Draped in His righteousness, I’m justified.

In Christ I live, for in my place He died.

 

Chorus:

I cling to Christ, and marvel at the cost:

Jesus forsaken, God estranged from God.

Bought by such love, my life is not my own.

My praise-my all-shall be for Christ alone.

 

His robes for mine: what cause have I for dread?

God’s daunting Law Christ mastered in my stead.

Faultless I stand with righteous works not mine,

Saved by my Lord’s vicarious death and life.

 

His robes for mine: God’s justice is appeased.

Jesus is crushed, and thus the Father’s pleased.

Christ drank God’s wrath on sin, then cried “‘Tis done!”

Sin’s wage is paid; propitiation won.

 

His robes for mine: such anguish none can know.

Christ, God’s beloved, condemned as though His foe.

He, as though I, accursed and left alone;

I, as though He, embraced and welcomed home!

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Bear One Another's BurdensDay of Prayer

Saturday we’re having a day of prayer at the church. This provides an opportunity for the church family to set aside distractions, meet together, and pray for each other and for the needs of our church.

If you do not have other obligations, please try to come, if even for part of the time.  Shy about praying? Come and join in as others pray.

Bear Your Own Burdens

Last week’s post brought up some questions about what it means for a church family to share the burdens and blessings of its members.  How do we bear one another’s burdens and show compassion for the body of Christ we have been placed in?

Bearing burdens does mean that you dump your worries, concerns and problems onto someone else and expect him to fix everything for you.  Galatians 6:5 reminds us that ‘every man shall bear his own burden.’

Remember, God allows troubles to either correct us or to teach us. He promises He will not give us more than we can bear. (1 Corinthians 10:13) and promises that these things are to glorify God and cause Christian growth in the believer. (2 Corinthians 4:17.)

Bear One Another’s Burdens

But we are also instructed to bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2) There are times when we are so overwhelmed by heartache, sadness, grief, disappointment, or fear that we need others to pray with us as we go through a trial.  God wants us to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.’  (Romans 12:15)  People do not know to pray for you if you do not let them know that you need prayer.

We have many first generation Christians in our church.  A number of them have been saved for only a few months and are excited to learn about Christ and godly living.  These dear brothers and sisters live their joys and trials in front of us.  If someone is having a rough week their burden is shared with the church family so we can all join in and pray with them.

Our pastors encourage a transparency which is both refreshing and challenging.  If I am struggling with something in my life and share that with others, won’t that case them to be discouraged?  I kind of had that idea for a long time.  If you are in leadership, you should appear as if you have it all together, regardless of any struggles you may be having.

Without Me Ye Can Do Nothing

How does that model dependency on Christ?  It doesn’t!  If others cannot see that leaders as well as the average church attender must depend totally on Christ, we are not pointing people in the right direction.  Christ tells us in John 15:5, “Without me ye can do nothing.”  Nothing.   Not one thing.

How to Connect with the Church Family

So what’s involved in bearing one another’s burdens?

Get to know one another.  Come to church.  Come to prayer meeting.  Invite people over or out for coffee.  Participate in special meetings, studies, and events sponsored by the church.  Take a few moments to talk with people after church.  We’re not typically going to meet someone and have them immediately pour out their burdens for us to share.  It takes a bit of time and effort to connect to people in the church.

If you are prevented from regularly attending church, ask for the church prayer sheet.  Contact one of the pastors and ask for your requests to be included on the weekly prayer sheet.   Make this a reciprocal ministry – you ask others to pray for your burdens, and you pray for theirs.  Make sure you understand enough to know who and what you are praying for.  Ask for updates when you see that person.  (If it’s something too personal just ask for an unspoken prayer request to be remembered – God knows what it is!)

Praying throughout the Day

Some people make lists and divide requests so some are prayed for each day.  Others pray for urgent matters of health and safety and others may remember requests as God brings a person or situation to mind.  When I am unable to sleep at night I often ask God if there is someone specific He wants me to pray for.  I pray as I drive along in the car or as I’m busy with mundane chores at home.  It’s not an exact science – we just need to be talking with God throughout the day.

So as we refine this process of showing compassion to each other by bearing one another’s burdens, let’s ask God to help us model our dependency on Christ as by praying for the needs of others as we ask them to pray for us.