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

 

A Tender Place

Hellebores, hybrid, tender, lenten rose, blog, poetry, prose, Winter, early Spring

So if the Lenten rose can bloom amidst the snow

Yet if I not carry forth my joy past the continuing rain

Does that make me a bad person, my beloved, my dear?

He told his tale with passion once and again and again

Yet I have not seen the same victory these many years

Does that make me ungrateful before my Savior, my King?

To celebrate this one’s renewed life, ’twas hard-won indeed

Doth makes me part of this man’s humanity in Christ

Yes, takes little, no none from my own pool of goodness . . .

And yet I cried and pushed myself away, away for a time

Lest my tears steal more than the punch line to come,

Dost my ingrace keep me from moving forward one day?

Aye this is a tender place whereat I have landed

Not bad, non-indifferent, full of meaning that I like

Where life meets the road upon which it travels and perceives.

My Lord knows this woe:  He cried for the sorrows we do endure

Then gave the breath from His very lips so that we may live,

Be free of it all at last, the strife, every bit, you and I both.

For we two understand what it means to face death

To fear the life places that would ignite some others to thrive

But it took a tragedy beyond belief to get us moving right.

We may have wrestled then let go as our Redeemer carried us along

Finding one day that peace hath returned:  covering the tenderness

Becoming the places that defined us whilst ending the story done well.

[My hope is that I am in one of them right now, Gentle Reader.]  JJ

How do you measure a year?

September 18, 2014 was a day when I rediscovered the power of friendship at a new level.  ‘Tis fitting that we would spend our time reading the Psalms as we shared our lives with each other then tenderly prayed together.  Perhaps this is what women who love the Lord Jesus Christ do, eh?  Except that we were not meeting for a weekly video Bible study at church followed by coffee and treats.  This one touched our hearts more at home . . . literally!

In the past I have enjoyed Bible studies the best when we all meet in each other’s homes.  There is no better way to fellowship than to be immersed in the family pictures, dog hair, and dirty dishes of the ones you come to love in Christ.  In due time the host and hostess let go of having a clean house for everyone each week as we focus on what is really important:  opening up the truth of God’s word.  Prayer time was always my favorite.  The bonds between us became palpable as we lifted up each other’s hurts and victories before the Lord.  I do hope we glorified Him in doing so.

When serious illness struck my life October 11, 2011 my life slowly changed to one of almost total isolation.  Oh there were many visits to medical professionals, clinics, labs, hospitals, and pharmacies.  They were all very nice people, of course.  Going to Walmart became a rare “date night” with my beloved husband when I could not drive myself.  The highlight of my week often became buying groceries; somehow I ended up spending a little more money there than I probably should have perhaps in an attempt to find some alternative type of comfort.  Somehow new pair of sweats or comfy top would jump into the shopping cart on occasion as well!

Then the Lord inspired me to break the isolation beyond this blog.  I had some casual connections to a few of you Gentle Readers which delighted my soul, by the way.  How could this become more personal?  I published a blog in September of 2014 asking if anyone would be interested in starting up a Bible study/prayer time via Skype?  Perhaps there were other gals out there who were largely homebound like me and ready to connect before the Lord’s table.  Two gals graciously responded:  YES!

Each of us had different reasons for coming together.  Each of us had our own blogs and followings, outside interests, and experiences with our health.  We represented 3 different decades of life, 2 different countries and States, living situations either outside larger cities or in the country, and only one blonde.  (She is gonna kill me for writing that!)  We bonded quickly.

One gal who joined our group to be an encourager ended up facing one of the biggest health battles of her life this past year.  Two of us went in and out of relapses with illness and one endured a major upheaval in her husband’s job situation.  Two of us have also met face-to-face twice with hopes of a giggly reunion of all three of us perhaps this year?  I hope so!  Together we (have) cried, we laughed.  We prayed; we shared silly stories.  There were exchanges of recipes, websites, scripture, and more. We were encouraged by the love stories of the Psalms ministering to our feminine hearts.  And most of all we became friends.

So how do you measure the value of a year in life?  As this passionate theme song from the movie Rent speaks of sunsets, cups of coffee, laughter, and sighs, I do know that on Thursday night we three have shared them all this past year.  I agree with the chorus line to:  measure your life in love.  Because of you my dear ones, my year was richly blessed!

Thank you ladies for changing my life and ministering to me in a way that has made a difference.  May the Lord be glorified in all that we say and do, all that we write, and in the prayers that we lay before His throne of grace each week.  In the meantime,

“I am going to Rome.”

You two know what that means!  Happy one year anniversary!

Seeya next time ladies.  Love you, Julie

Who will carry me?

It’s easy to bemoan the slide of morality in the United States recently escalated by the legalization of gay marriage.  What is natural to the human body has now been publicly adulterated by the unnatural.  The institution of marriage, which was created by God, has been changed by a few willful and unlawful men who did not even create the institution of marriage.  Alas another door has opened in our lives that will ultimately hurt everyone when his or her rainbow-colored eyes finally open to see it.  But most of us will never see the damage coming until it is too late . . .

When the truth, the pain of what we have done to ourselves is revealed, we will mourn.  Others will mourn the horror of what our complacency, our tolerance has produced.  Further, things will go horribly wrong even for those who believe that free living is right:  things that they could only imagine in a sex-slave murder mystery will come into their reality and hurt them too.  And those of us who have attempted to shine a light or sound an alarm on the moral decline will realize that what we have tried to do could never be enough to change unbridled evil.  Eventually, we all will grieve but for very different reasons.

So who will carry all of our tears?  Who will carry your grief and mine?  “Who” indeed.

boy and wheelbarrow, trees down, storm damage, carry, wheelbarrow, burdens, Lord carried me, Lord carried me, Footprints in the Sand

Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Five-year old Braxton Davis joined the work crew 6.27.15 at Opechee Way and Nokomis Road, using his toy wheel barrow to remove leaves after a large tree fell in the front yard of his house at the Indian Village intersection.

The cute picture above denotes how we have trivialized the important issues of our day.  The picture above denotes how we have traded our core values and beliefs for a picture of life that feels good in the moment.  We have minimized the significance, the impact that our actions, our public statements, our private thoughts, the work of our hands can truly have in the larger picture of life.  These are not a small issues.  Eventually the magnitude and truth of who we are is always revealed.  Eventually a tiny wheel barrow carried by a child that is supposed to help us feel good about hundreds of thousands of dollars of storm damage will be crushed by the tsunami of horror headed our way.  Our world will never be the same for you and me beginning the events of June 26, 2015.

We cannot fix this.  No one individual, you or me, can carry us through to a better future. No one:  no President, no preacher, no crafty writer, no partner, no one can fix what is coming for us or carry our wheelbarrow of tears.  We are alone to face the consequences of these actions.  If we want the pain, the grief to stop then we will have to take our sorrow somewhere many of us have never gone before . . .  But where?

We understand the dilemma inside our own home too, in another way.  Last night was hell for me and Steve.  In the middle of 3 1/2 hours of  continuous convulsive episodes, I struggled to squeak out a request for him to carry me to the bathroom.  I was also in the middle of a 24-hour urine hormone test procedure so imagine my shame in trying to figure out what to do when my hands or legs were not working right.  Neurological collapse had settled in.  Gratefully as soon as he got me upright and helped me with a sip of water, I could use my hands well enough to position the urine cup myself when sitting on the toilet.  I was able to get the sample and dump it into the collection receptacle resting in the bottom of the tub next to the toilet.  Steve then helped me back to bed just in time for the next round of head-banging, wailing, tears, and terrible pain.  And so it went for the sixth night in a row.

I am grateful that when Steve is home, he is very capable of carrying me.  He has done so a hundred times.  He has held me through the ugliest of moments, fed me, clothed me, prayed, and artfully let his deft gallows humor fly at just the right moment in time when we both needed it!  Then there were the thousands of times when he was not there and I still needed help.  I needed to get to the bathroom but my legs would not move.  My throat was parched from cries of sheer angst, hyperventilation, sweats episodes, and chronic dehydration.  I wondered if my next breath would arrive or not.  My tummy growled for hours and I could do nothing to satisfy the hunger.  My brain became too numb to figure out what was in my ability to do or not anyways.  Oh the neck pain from the seizing!  Fearful thoughts, not my own, pushed into my mind by force of some electrical misfiring that goes with seizure activity.  And I cried deeply, feeling alone.

In those moments, Jesus Christ carries me (John 16:32).  I am not alone!  Jesus Christ carries and equips Steve over and over again for the tasks at hand in our marriage (1 Peter 4:10).  Jesus Christ will also carry those who do not know him whenever, wherever they finally reach out for help (Psalm 10:17).  Our God, Jesus Christ, is worthy of our reach since He created us out of love:  shown to all as He grieved bloody tears for our sorrow, our pain (John 11:35) that we endure in this life.  He existed before the time, space, and material that characterizes our lives (John 1:1-4) and is the very reason that we are here.  He loves us more than we can ever imagine and is always here for us, no matter what is going on around us (or within us!) (Matthew 28:20).

Further, we can never say that what freedoms we want, doubts we have about our lives, or the philosophy in our own minds will have anything to do with Who God is.  God, the triune Holy Spirit, Father, and Son (Jesus Christ), is separate from mankind and is not subject to the constraints of this earthly life.  Our ideas simply cannot match up. We will never fully understand Who He is with our finite minds so rejecting Him won’t get you anywhere worthwhile.  The answer to our questions, our unmet needs in life is belief.

Because we are finite, we must place our belief in that which is infinite:  true yesterday, today and tomorrow.  The only entity that is infinite is God.  He never changes.  He is perfect, all-knowing and we are not.  We can reach out to Him in with our tears, know that He cares (Psalm 139:17-18), know that He has our back (Jeremiah 29:11), and live on with hope for tomorrow amidst our trials, our heartache.  It follows then that our victory over the heartaches of this life is in Christ alone:  the Son of God.  Jesus Christ, manifest in His Word (the Bible), reflected in His creation, and felt through the longing inside our hearts, is not bound by our limited view of the world.  Jesus transcended this life when He died on the cross and rose from the dead.  Jesus Christ will “carry” each of us through the mysteries of life to a better place when we place our trust in Him (John 3:16).

Our Lord Jesus Christ made the difference for me and Steve last night and a hundred other horrible nights.  Jesus Christ will make the difference for you too in everything, Gentle Reader, whether you choose to believe in Him now or at another time.  But why wait?  Why not enjoy His transcendent peace, love, joy, hope, and more right now?

For the believer in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t really matter for our future, what is going on around us in the world right now.  We will live infinitely longer in heaven with God than the time it takes to complain about a Supreme Court decision.  Join me in doing what we can to love people, all people.  Reaffirm in our minds that we ultimately place our trust in only one place:  the Person of Jesus Christ.  He is the One Who matters most.  He is the One who will carry us from here into our blessed eternity with Him.  And that is a celebration worth waiting talking about!

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18 They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19 These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.  (Jude 17-21)

The Lord is the one who carries me for sure.  What do you say we go together?

With love, JJ

The moments that matter

child with umbrella, boy, boy in the rain, blog about sorrow, overcoming sorrow, rainy day, hope beyoneWhen things are not right or even worse

We cry out to the air and wonder, “who is there?”

“Can anyone hear me on my bed of sorrow?”

“How long will this go on, how long?”

Oh the angst for enduring what simply should not be . . .

I could bemoan much pain in my heart this day:

From my spirit through my tender frame.

But why?  What will I gain by wallowing here?

As I listen to a friend who sounds like me over the waves,

I hear wisdom that comes with her years.

She doth declare that in her own time of prayer

The Lord spoke to her so gently.

In all of those times of suffering,

When surely no one cared He said,

“I was there with you.”

And her heart was full, no place untouched.

So today let’s heed this wisdom

Should we, too seek and hear His voice.

Don’t just want for the pain to end.

Reach into the moment to His love so grand.

Find people with mercy for the darkness of our lives

For we all have a burden to carry, each one.

And let us come together in prayer, in fellowship, in praise.

But most importantly

Kneel at the throne of grace often

In adoration of the Person who sees you always.

For Jesus loves you always.

And turn these into moments that matter for all time.

They will be sweet, and soften the burdens we will endure.

We can go on when held by His hand.

Yes, we can indeed.

JJ