He Loved Well, He Lived for Christ

The passing of John Sr. brought sorrow as I considered the impact this man had on my life.  And I was not alone.  Everyone knew John’s love for his family and friends, the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of believers united by our faith.  It wasn’t until I started to describe three key scenes in my past where his care was palpable to me that I started to grieve the passing of this faithful servant of the Lord.  Surely the heavenly hosts are celebrating your coming home sir . . .

My connection to John Sr. was initially tainted by the critical viewpoint of my former spouse.  I suppose it’s easy to criticize someone else for faults that the two of you may share?  Years later this appeared to be the case.  So when I ran into John Sr. just 3 weeks after my former spouse left me, I was not prepared for this gentleman’s reaction to the  news.  He asked how Craig was doing and I was speechless for a moment:  did he not know what had happened?  I guess not.  I had to tell him.  John Sr’s face fell as I shared the devastation that was just beginning to unfold in my life;  John Sr. looked at me as if someone had punched him in the gut right there in the store!  He could barely speak, mumbled a few condolences, and shuffled away obviously affected by my story.  In the moment I was stunned as well.  Why was he walking away when I had just shared my heart with my elder brother in Christ?  Much later I supposed it was a type of grief reaction.  Not long afterwards, I experienced the most important message from our encounter that day:  my brother in Christ loved me as his sister in Christ, like a father I did not have at the time.  He was hurting for me, hurting for the fall from grace of our brother in Christ.  I also learned that day just how profoundly adultery affects many others in the body of Christ in addition to the spouse.

John Sr. didn’t live anymore in the town of that grocery store where I had encountered him.  I would not see him again until a few months later when visiting with his daughter who had become a good friend of mine.  Deb and I had traveled from the Chicago suburbs where we lived to her parents’ home in the Wisconsin countryside.  A neighbor and fellow member of our church (where we had all met) came along for what was to be a fun time of fellowship, food, and relaxation.  Their youngest son played classical guitar to everyone’s delight and John Sr. told amazing stories of missionaries they knew, places they had been, and so on.  We were one big family for the weekend!  That is, until nighttime came.

The Y family always had a menagerie of sofas with hide-a-beds, cots, and blankets to accommodate everyone.   Me and my neighbor, Ardie, made our beds in the living room while the family tucked themselves to sleep in their respective bedrooms throughout the modest home.  But I could not sleep.  Instead of feeling full from the lively fellowship and activities of the visit, I was filled with grief and sorrow from the tremendous losses in progress in my life back home.  I lain in the dark with tears streaming down my face like a crack in a retaining wall holding back an avalanche of tears.  Finally I could not hold it in anymore.  Everyone was asleep in the dark starry night whilst I was coming unglued!  I gathered myself as best as I could and walked out into the cool blackness that received me outside.  The tears and whimpers gushed easily then uncontrollably.  “Would they ever stop?”  I wondered.

Before long I could hear some wrestling of the folks inside the house.  A light went on in one of the bedrooms, illuminating the front porch where I was holding myself up against a wall.  Arlene and John Sr. were up!  Despite my best efforts to weep quietly, they had heard me and came to comfort me.  John Sr. muttered again with the same type of sorrow I had seen in the grocery store.  Arlene wrapped her warm, motherly arms around me and brought me inside to sit on a handmade bench with her for as long as I needed.  He got me a blanket.  She stayed with me until the tears flowed no more.  Eventually I spoke a little while she simply listened.  What a gift she gave me that night!  No one said much about it all the next morning.  Somehow they just all understood the pain I was going through.  They did the best thing that they could do to help me through that traumatic time in my life:  they just loved on me like one of their own.

John Sr. and Arlene were the best at loving on people, a model we know comes from the love who is embodied in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  That love is as pure as it is convicting with the truth of His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit.  The two of them shared scripture often and how the Lord had led them through their lives, how He too may encourage and lead your in your days as well.  I experienced this witness in an unexpected way about 3 years later.  The Lord had begun the process of restoration in my life and brought me a wonderful man of God named Steve.  We were engaged that September and I wanted to visit the important places and people of my life before moving to Indiana to marry him.  I brought Steve to meet John Sr. and Arlene, this time without my friend Deb, their daughter.  I wanted them to see my happiness and thank them for being an important part of it coming to fruition.

We had a wonderful visit.  After Steve and I returned to Illinois from that long weekend, and after Steve had already gone on home to Indiana, I got a call from John Sr.  He didn’t waste any time chatting about our visit and got right to the point:  check yourself and the truth of God’s Word, the Bible, before you take this step in marrying Steve.  I was a bit taken aback by him questioning things but heeded his advice.  The next few weeks were filled with prayer, scripture reading, pastoral counselling, and looking honestly with Steve at our Biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage.  All counsel pointed to a blessing for us so we proceeded to get married by the end of the year.  The counsel of John Sr. was a necessary part of our preparation that brought clarity that would be needed when others would pass judgement on our union.  We have complete confidence and peace that  we made a God-honoring decision to be together forever.

I have often quoted Mark Twain at key times in my life who said that the un-examined life is not worth living.  Indeed we can find rich value and meaning by taking a closer look at our lives within the context of God’s plans for our lives, ways He gifts each of us, orchestration of events, our limitations, and the stuff that He crafts for each of us as we live out our days on this fallen earth in which we dwell.  If we are honest then our search for meaning will lead us to the Creator: the person of Jesus Christ.  If we heed the call to recognize our sinful nature, receive His gift of salvation and redemption then choose to grow in knowledge and character of our Lord, then the transformation of our lives will shine for all the world to see.  We will become a witness for His transforming power, His love, His grace, His mercy, His goodness.  And a life seasoned by the love of Christ, never tainted by the trials we all endure, can become a life well-lived, well-loved for the glory of the Lord.  This is who John Sr. was.  This is the legacy that he has left for those who got to know him, were ministered to by his love and care, who witnessed his walk with the Lord every day of his life.

Well done John Sr:  faithful servant of the Lord!  Well done!  May God be the glory for the faithful witness of my brother in Christ.  May He also bless your beloved bride Arlene, until she joins you one day in the presence of our Lord.  Thank you for bringing me into your spiritual family through the faith that we share.  You have made a difference!  JJ

couple, Christian, husband and wife, Wisconsin, visiting, friends, woods, Fall, sunny day, engaged

Steve and Julie in Wisconsin, September 2, 2007

 

Just sitting at the table

 

My beloved opened the door

And my evening suddenly brightened,

Knowing he would be close with a listening ear

Makes handling the “nasty” less bad and more good afterwards.

I just don’t get used to

The evening ritual of torment

When my world goes dim from sickness

No matter the resting gone before, the mini successes (or so I thought?).

sitting, chair, upset, anguish, grieving, prison, torment, grief, hurt, person, woman, man

I was just sitting at the table

When my eyes pulled closed and shook

My head and neck followed next then I knew

There were just seconds to get lying down before all hell broke loose.

So I did run to the bedroom

Head turned to soften impact bedside

Eventually pulling the comforter over my broken frame

As the sputtering gave way to shouts of terror, gasping for air, legs drawn up too.

In waves the torment continued

Just when I thought I might cry for help

No words came when Steve came to my rescue

Trying to figure out how to get a remedy inside me as I twisted before his eyes.

Tis trauma for us both

When a Monday night isn’t anyway alright

For I will never accept that fifteen hundred of these nights

Are the way it should be forever, oh Lord deliver me please!

Try again the new this or that

Until we or the Docs get it right or even better

Til that night we will sit talking about our day eye to eye

Then ready ourselves for bed with a tender embrace as it should be.

Oh I know others have their trials

And I grieve for theirs with ours in there too

Let me know your need for prayers, Gentle Reader

Allow me to make good use of this time before the altar:  His throne of grace.

My Jesus cares for me, for you

He loves us and lives for our coming to Him

No matter the reason TRUST:  all will be new one day

Until then pray for me too, k?  I am tired from this ungentle cross at my tableside.

JJ

 

You not Me

If my eyes can gaze upon you not me

To care, to serve, to pray, to worry some

Then maybe my burdens will soften a bit

For I have fixed my angst off my tender frame.

If I can plan my day to give more away

My time, talent, and resources to you not me

For a new challenge that maybe stretches me a bit

Then we shall both emerge stronger when tomorrow comes.

For what good is a man if he gains the whole world

And weakens his soul by burying it deep in self-pity

When we can travel together for awhile

You and I, carrying your bags then you lifting mine.

Seems like a better deal dontcha think

For the moments when I do return home to rest, to reflect

Will find new meaning in what it means to live

When the Lord dwelling in my heart spills over to you.

He is the One Who makes all these things possible

These ups, these downs, these trips veering off that away

We must but trust in His gracious plan, every detail

As He is the reason for you, for me, for glory and goodness too.

Waiting

Psalm 130 New King James Version (NKJV)

Waiting for the Redemption of the Lord

A Song of Ascents.

130 Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord;
Lord, hear my voice!
Let Your ears be attentive
To the voice of my supplications.

If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I do hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning—
Yes, more than those who watch for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
For with the Lord there is mercy,
And with Him is abundant redemption.
And He shall redeem Israel
From all his iniquities.

Psalm 130

Like a River Glorious

In his first solo CD, Huntley Brown clinked the keys of a grand piano with such magnificent flow that it sounded like  the rushing waters of a mighty river.  Check it out yourself on You Tube at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=up1ygB0ZYes  I first heard this amazing piece when he was first performing in churches across the United States about 20 years ago.  This native born Jamaican had surely witnessed the glory of majestic waters crashing upon the sandy beaches of his homeland.  Yes!  I can picture it.  How about you?

The imagery of a river is meaningful to me.  When I was a child I fell into a river when helping groom a trail along the Clinton River in Michigan.  It was part of a day camp experience and I was scared then upset because I had to stay in my muddy, wet clothes for the rest of the day!  Oh the trials of childhood!

Trials indeed.  When I would break down into tears as a young girl my brother, Mike, would taunt me mercilessly.  He stood in front of me with the palms of his hands facing upwards and sneered, “cry me a river!!!”  I burned with anger.  He had no idea the pain underneath those tears that finally spilled down onto my face after holding so much hurt inside:  hurt with no safe place to go.  I had endured two of three sexual abusers by this age:  the damage was done.  No river could contain my tears, or at least that is how it felt, should the “dam ever break open.”

Flash forward 40 years.  The abusers are now deceased and forgiven; my heavenly Father has filled the hurt with His amazing grace and love.  I married my intended beloved and he introduced me to kayaking on the rivers of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  We began on the water together in a Hobie Oasis (i.e. a pedal-driven kayak) until I progressed to a solo Think Fit Sea Kayak.  By October of 2011, I was in the best physical shape of my life despite an underlying chronic pain condition and had upgraded to a beginner surf ski kayak:  the Stellar SR.  For almost three years my husband and I had enjoyed  kayaking with a local recreational group on Tuesday nights all summer through the early Fall.  The wonder of the rivers and waterways we explored together eventually changed my perception of them; after all I had grown up by the polluted Detroit River, downriver from the steel mills!  Rivers?  Yuck!  Boating on the water back then for me meant exploring the Five Great Lakes and clear blue inland lakes of Michigan by speedboat not human-powered slo-mo vessels!

DSCF8629

Me in my Stellar SR

Well who knew that Indiana was so beautiful?  We witnessed young deer up close, sneaking to the edge of the water for a drink and Great Blue Herons feeding their young in the tops of trees.  Paddling with a gaggle of 20 or more colorful kayaks with double-bladed paddles gently sliding through the water was a really cool sight to see.  For the first time in my life I felt “cool!”  The evening excursions were sweetened by the chocolate chip and peanut butter monster cookies from a fellow kayaker as the sun was setting over the boat launch at the end of the day.  The sunset is simply glorious on the waters of a river winding through the woodland . . .

It sure is a curious thing that the most significant episode of illness in my life would begin after kayaking in a local reservoir and river.  The complicated course of events that followed prevented me from all but limited excursions on the water for the next two and one-half years.  I’ve now sold both kayaks mentioned here and we have replaced them with  solo and tandem outrigger canoes.  My balance skills have suffered of late so the Hawaiian-style outrigger provides stability with maximum performance.   After all, Steve is a competitive kayak racer so we are grateful to have fast and great gear along with really cool looking boats!  Lord willing, I look forward to getting on the water again sometime this year.

And so I was praying, crying out to the Lord recently when the most difficult parts of this illness had led to feelings of despair.  Perhaps you read the previous blog entitled, “Psalm 71?”  Yeah, I hit rock bottom a couple of nights ago.  Within a day the Lord led me through His Holy Spirit to an understanding of where I am and where all of this might be going.  This did not come with exacting answers of time or place initially.  I came to understand that the process of searching a new treatment option was like that of waters moving from one place to the next.  The Lord placed me in the middle of the stream of new research and methodically led me through the steps of discovery to a new treatment modality.  I will write more about what it is another time.  What I will say here is that I am in awe that there were no barriers along the way just an open current, if you will, of information even when I could not see where the research was leading me.  When I finally landed at a decision, like putting-in or taking-out at a boat launch that both sends you on an adventure or returns you home, He showed me the symbolism of a river, glorious.  The image of a river made sense to me.  The residual pain from my brother’s comments so many years ago finally faded.  The Lord gathered my cries for help like a gentle stream at the mouth of a river leading to His heart.  I believe there will be a significant measure of healing this time.

Psalm 98:7-8 

Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;

Song of Songs 8:7

Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
    all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.

Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Lamentations 2:18

The hearts of the people cry out to the Lord. You walls of Daughter Zion, let your tears flow like a river day and night; give yourself no relief, your eyes no rest.

Amos 5:24

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!

John 7:38

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

Revelation 22

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Tonight I rest along the banks of my Heavenly Father’s river of life.

Thank you, Lord, for carrying me downstream as far and as long as was needed to bring me to this new place of hope. Oh my Lord, forgive me for my desperation, for not trusting You.  Help me to trust you, to continue to abide in your streams of righteousness, wisdom and grace. Renew my faith, strengthen my sea legs if You will, until it’s time for me to come home.  I love you.  Julie

river at sunrise