Like a Life and Death Decision

 

Monet Japanese bridge at giverny
Japanese Bridge at Giverny by Monet

 

Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.  Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

To receive salvation granted by grace is our greatest opportunity in this life.  In accepting this invitation, we will know Who holds our future in highest regard and security.  We will then enjoy the freedom to live our lives as God designed, as God intended.  Our lives will be meaningful!  He gave us so much goodness to enjoy in our lifetimes:  enough to encourage us when things are not so good or down right evil.  Through it all, with Him, we can live without fear and are never truly alone.  We can live life with abandon!  We can love fully and receive the fullness of love from others especially from our Creator.  Indeed His gracious gifts mean even more than “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness!”

I believe in saving grace and it came despite horrific trials.  Many trials.  Years of trials.  A lifetime of trials.  Hey, while my life has not been easy it has not been all bad either.  I am grateful for much blessing and my eternal security in Christ Jesus.  It is because of the trials that I no longer fear the worst possible outcome:  death itself.  I have faced death many times.  For example, on my own could I ever be free in my spirit after witnessing attempted murder?  Abandonment?  Poverty?  Abuse?  Physical pain?  Agonizing seizure attacks for years?  The answer to all of these is YES I CAN.  I can be free and yes I am free in Christ Jesus.  With His amazing grace I am also free of the fear of death.  With that out of the way, I have a new sense of LIFE and I am exceedingly grateful for it!

Lately I have considered launching a new business.   As I pondered the best and worst-case scenarios of starting my own company, a question arose about life and death that is stirring my soul.

What if a customer someday dies because of a flaw in my product or services?

O.k. so you might not be the type who “starts with the end in mind” yet this is where my mind goes more often than I care to admit.  In other words, what if either the products of my company or something related to my design or advice are to blame for the loss of life of another human being?  That person would be someone’s son or daughter; someone’s mother or father, sister or brother could be gone forever!  Someone dying because of me directly or indirectly would be tragic.  I would be devastated!  Surely my family and employees would be affected too.  We might lose the business that we worked so hard to create.  Our grief could make it difficult to recover emotionally in the years thereafter.  How could our lives go on with the guilt, the pain, the horror, the shame?

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There is another, hidden layer to my character that relates to this subject of life and death.  It’s a part of me that I have never really understood until now.  A handwriting analyst in the 1960’s nailed it down for me when I was a girl struggling to find my way through childhood.  Everything in my life at that time had to be just so and if it was not, I was very vocal about it!  Imagine a 6-year old kid criticizing the way her teacher was reading a book to her first grade class!  After all, Mrs. C was not doing it the way that Mrs. B read books in my kindergarten class and that was not right.  I understand that I was sent to the coat closet for such offenses more than once!

I have come to understand that the ability to be flexible, spontaneous, open to new things including CHANGE, comes from an inner sense of security.  If at an early age we are 1) affirmed in ourselves, our abilities, 2) believe that the world around us is relatively safe, and 3) there is love and affection to comfort us (from a parent or heavenly Father), then we can deal with the imperfections of life.  If any of those three elements are missing then our ability to live outside our comfort zone flounders.  We will strive for things to be “black and white” when much of life is simply “gray.”  Letting go of control and dealing with the ambiguities of life is easier with the character qualities also known as gifts of the Holy Spirit:  patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.  Further, the gifts of peace, love, and joy will follow for the mature believer in Jesus Christ who can live in the world just as it is.  A controlling person is told to somehow, “grow up and smell the roses.”  I have found that this is impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me.  Who knows what growing up means anyways?

At one time, deep in my character I did not care about the things that I should.  For me in the past, having a severely controlling nature went beyond my birth order as the oldest in both of my parent’s families!  (Bossy sister?  Yeah, I heard that one more than I care to admit.)  There was a disconnect that went deeper.  At the core of my character I knew that I could harbor hate, malice, distrust, anger, jealousy, and much more ugliness than I care to disclose.  Somewhere in my unrepentant gut was a self -centeredness that put myself above all others in such a sick way that I might not care if another human being got harmed around me.  This is a horrible quality to have.  This is the consequence of woundedness.  This is the result of growing up without the safety and security needed to fully bond to the human race.  This also made me feel profoundly alone.

At it’s core, I believe that my disconnectedness ultimately did not come from me.  I believe that this kind of strife comes from our sin nature that is part of the human condition; I just got a boost in the wrong direction in the form of a largely unhappy childhood.  What I would do with all of that was up to me when I was introduced to the plan of salvation through our redeemer Jesus Christ.  We are all born with the propensity to sin until truly loved and trained away from it.  Just watch a 2-year old rip a toy out of the hand of a younger sibling!  Yes, even a darling 2-year old has a sin nature!

Jesus came to earth to re-connect us to our heavenly Father by washing away our sins with His grace.  Those who believe in His work on the cross receive forgiveness, a new nature, and the spiritual gifts noted above.  Unshakeable peace, love, joy and more come into our lives.  Jesus came and through our walk with the Holy Spirit we become freed from the character flaws of our sin nature.  This process continues until the day of our death.  And deep within our character we can heal and deal with all that is not quite right with our world, growing to become the man or woman He intended for us to be.  We can be whole.  As we do so, we can fully love one another, forgive those who trespass against us and live victoriously beyond our temptations.  We can be free to receive much goodness, do many good things.

When someone passes away, a person with a right heart grieves the loss.  Jesus showed us this tender quality when His friend Lazarus died and at the cross.  I know that my heart is more full now than ever before as evidenced by my ability to recognize and feel grief when someone dear leaves this life.  I feel very sad.  I also feel more compassion now than ever before as a result of healing from the losses in my own life.  So while I am aware of the character flaw I once carried of depersonalization, I know that the Lord is filling the ugliness of my sin nature with His perfect love.  I know that He loves me more than anyone else can ever love me.  I feel His love directly and through the people His has placed in my life today.  I feel more connected to the other wonderful sojourners in my life than ever before and it is good.

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If I start a new company and there is a tragic loss of life or injury for any reason, I trust that the Lord will go before me to guide my thoughts, my heart, my actions, my speech.  I pray that between now and that day, should it ever come, that He will grow me in His character so that I may fully love that grieving family or person.  Lord help me to do what I can to make things right should a tragedy come to pass.  Thank you for breaking the bondage of my past.  Most importantly today, help me to design products, services, and educational materials that preserve long and happy lives for others I may serve.  May my future customers and employees see Your touch of grace upon my life as it shines through the company I believe you are entrusting to me.  May I hold everything gratefully, responsibly, and lightly:  ready to carry it or let it go as You desire.  You are most important to me, my dear Jesus.  You saved me from sin and death for such a time as this . . .

Gentle Reader:  shall we start a two step solution together that makes life easier for everyone?  Hmmmm.  My mother was a gifted writer and my father was an amazing inventor.  I have learned much from their skills and abilities.  Ah yes, I see a Business Plan coming together.

Step 1:  Make a decision.

Step 2:  Do it!

Alright.  I’m in!  Witness the birth of Two Step Solutions.  Now let’s go!  :J

Julie Horney MS, OTR/L

Finding Love Again

It’s as if I always knew that something was missing . . .

My first wedding day was lovely:  filled with pretty flowers, pearly alencon lace, and all the details that were meaningful at the time.  I was a new believer in Jesus Christ and in love with a young man named Craig.  We settled in the west suburbs of Chicago, worked in healthcare, and got busy with the tasks of fixing up our townhome.  In time Craig would lead us to a smaller Bible church from the seeker-friendly mega church that helped lead me to faith in Christ.  In time I joined him at that little church.  I also learned that Christians really do know how to have fun, meaningful lives rich in the knowledge and living out of the Word of God.

Then when Craig had to leave and decided never to return, my life turned upside down for about 4 years.  My last surviving grandmother, my youngest brother, and my mother all passed away out of state from where I was living.  I moved five times and my personal items were either donated to charity or stored in seven different places.  I had to change jobs three times and endured two work-related injuries.  The condo fire followed, displacing me for three months in a bare rental unit provided by my insurance company.   It was there, staring at the blank walls devoid of all of my earthly possessions and reminders of who I was that I discovered what else was missing:  my Heavenly Husband.

Isaiah 54:5 (NIV)

For your Maker is your husband— the Lord Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

The Bible is full of analogies comparing our relationship with the Lord as a marital relationship.  Jesus is the Bridegroom and the church is His bride.  Our Heavenly Father is the husband and we are His beloved.  The imagery of an intimate relationship is too much for us to grasp fully yet challenged me to make Christ real in my life on a daily basis.  So I went for it fully:  when I got in my car and was in a down mood I invited Jesus to ride with me, take the wheel, and be my constant companion.  Before long I realized that I had placed Craig in a place in my heart not made for him.  Some of the disappointment I experienced in our marriage came from not understanding the VERY LARGE place in my heart reserved only for the Lord.  In time, that place grew larger, infilling the emptiness in my heart, filling me completely.

When I met my intended beloved, of course I still had a few kinks to work out in the man-woman relationship department.  One shift was clear however:  my need for wholeness was to be met by my Heavenly Husband not my earthly one.  Placing too much responsibility on my new husband to meet all of my needs, love me, provide for me, and guide me wasn’t fair to him or me.  The One who will always be there perfectly on-time with all the right stuff will only and always be my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  I am grateful that Steve is a mighty good second I must admit!  Pastor Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Community Church said it best one Sunday service:  trust God.  Love people.  Trust God to meet all of your needs.  Love people including your spouse as imperfect brothers and sisters in Christ . . . just like me.  All of us have much to give and will fail at some point as well.  Only God is perfect.  The Lord is to be our first love.

With a perfect God, and a personal relationship through His son, Jesus Christ, we are free to live more lightly each day with the ones we love.  We can extend grace, grant forgiveness a little more easily.  We can love others and grow closer in fellowship despite all of our foibles.  And if you’re like me, you will find love again in all the right places.

Psalm 84

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young— a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka,  they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.  They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.

Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob. Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold     from those whose walk is blameless.

12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

He knows me so well

There comes a time when you know that you just don’t know what the plan is.  There you go, Mrs. Wesolowski, my late English teacher and queen of everything in life but the dangling participle.  Forgive me but in 11th grade I would have no idea where I would land just past mid life.  The dangling participle is apropos.  I am lost as to my exact location.  All I know is how I got here.  I have no idea what the game plan is.  Thankfully, to Him I am right where I am supposed to be.

I don’t believe I have ever had so many noxious symptoms at the same time for such a long period of time.  Just when I believe that the Lord is bringing me some relief or leading me to some new insight into what to do, I find that I am still clueless.  I am working hard to no avail (i.e. extremely restrictive diets, daily treatment logs, internet research, networking, and so on).  And then a new problemmo emerges.  Perhaps if I could scope my own gut or brain I would feel a little better about things, more in control I suppose.  That won’t happen of course so I am left at the hands of overstressed and overworked medical professionals who need to make sure their butts are covered and tracks are documented in a government database.  Type, type, type during my appointment, noting the results of some test.  “Look me in the eye!”  is all I am asking.  Just once look me in the eye and ask me, “how are you feeling today?”  After all, that is why I am there!  I know that I “have a lot going on,” and am “sensitive” to virtually all of the treatments prescribed.  Then again who really knows if just one more test or consultation will really make a difference at this point.  While I do believe that I will be well someday  even if it is in heaven, I have no idea how to live until then anymore.

The bottom line for me is this:  I am not well and it is not changing.

Now with that out of my head and onto the page I find that there is nothing left to write.  There is nothing left to say.  I am at my wits end with a beat up body and depleted spirit.  There is only one place to go since crashing in the bed did not bode me well earlier this evening.  That place is the foot of the cross of my Lord, Jesus Christ.  You know my aching heart.  You knew me before I was born and all of the days of my life.  You saw this breaking point long before it came.  All the breakdowns that have gone before were just a warm up.  I give up.  Take me as I am.   crucifix

Sorry, Gentle Reader.  This blog has no insight or answer by its weary end tonight.