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

 

Frequent Flyer Miles

Hospital Christmas Tree, hospital, medical, ID, identification, patient, band

Travel frequently with any major airline and before long you will accumulate Frequent Flyer Miles.  Gather enough points and you can start planning a getaway weekend to someplace warm or maybe remote enough to forget the cares of everyday life.  Oh how I want to cash mine in soon . . .

So I walked into our neighborhood hospital for a test and the gal at the reception desk greeted me by name!  She had my red radiology folder already in-hand, clearly expecting me at any moment (with most of my “HIPPA” paperwork already started!).  Talk about customer service?  Er, no.  More likely it’s a function of my frequent visits to medical practitioners and departments within the past week:  SEVEN OF THEM!

It’s the week before Christmas so I thought I would photograph a few hospital I.D. bands within the bright green branches of a Dwarf Mugo Pine.  Kinda looks pretty, doesn’t it?  Ugh.  I digress. I’m alright, Gentle Reader.  The choking coupled with increased nightly seizures turned out to be symptoms of a sinus infection and all are gradually subsiding with a course of antibiotics.  I’m getting back to baseline.  Too bad they don’t award Frequent Flyer Miles for taking care of yourself or enduring a bumpy flight!

Overall, I am grateful to have these healthcare “destinations” to guide me along my journey towards recovery.  Various medical appointments are my daily occupations of late, mixed in with wrapping a few gifts and trying hard to focus on serving others in this season of giving.   It really does help to put your eyes on the needs of others to help lessen the burden you may be carrying.  I was reminded of this in the middle of this past week, sitting alone in the chapel of our local hospital.  Ever visit one?  They are a sweet oasis when needed.

Thank you my Lord, Jesus Christ, for meeting me there in my own time of need.  So glad you always take a flyer on me when I call . . .  JJ

 

Taking Turns

He needs me not but benefits just the same

And I am there to fill his tummy, help out at river races.

Then the nights return with my special kind of hell

And he brings me this or that to get the ravages of illness to stop.

Both are love in their simplest forms:

Meant to serve, to go beyond what is comfortable to desires of the heart.

Oh that my end could be gentler, the wretchedness, the pain

Making the care less traumatic between seemingly timed screams for hours on end.

But that is not our story at least for this season of life

(We define our bond in sickness and in health)

In moments at edges of the extreme . . . for over five years now.

We are weary from the journey with bodies broken with fatigue

Where only the Holy Spirit can infuse us with grace to carry us through the nights and days.

So when those pundits talk formulas of 50-50 or equations of sort

Plunge them into our caldron and see how the overflow of energies exceeds the common core.

Marriage is simply the art of taking turns without keeping score

The Heavenly Father sees the man, the woman and makes you what you are:

Instruments of His hands, ministers of His peace

Care that makes love come alive, pictures of His glory.

One day we will know why

 

 

kayak, canoe, racing, paddling, awards, ceremony, St. Joe River, Fort Wayne, competition, C2, Stellar, Steve Horney

Steve on the right, congratulating C2 Aluminum Canoe paddlers George and Tilman during awards the Three Rivers Fest 7.15.17

this all came about

In the meantime I will take my turn when it comes

And serve my beloved for a purpose beyond . . .

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.

No Day But Today

A long time ago I made a decision to use the word “love” a little more freely.  That decision came with another which was to not let concerns of what others would think of that get in the way of expressing that love.  For example, if it was a female friend then she would get that the “love” was within the context of loving a fellow believer in Jesus Christ, love like a sister that I never had, and possibly a bond that simply comes with walking through many years of life’s ups and downs together.  The transition would be instant, from “Take Care” at the end of an email to “Love, Julie” if we had just endured a crisis together.  When one heart is hurting, there is no other word that will suffice.  Love covers things well.

Born again believers know the author of love as God himself.  The scriptures instruct us that:

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.  1 John 4

The Lord is the perfect reflection and expression of what love looks like.  I do believe that those who are not in Christ have a sense of what love is like too.  That is why I feel comfortable including a video in which 1) two women are kissing and 2) there is a man dressed as a woman embracing another man.  If the relationships were real, they must have a sense of connectedness to express their love outwardly.  I am not condoning homosexuality.  I just might understand it a little more since my late Uncle Fred lived and died within the context of “the gay lifestyle.”  I still loved him despite this decision.  Oh how I wish he and others knew the deeper spiritual connectedness that comes in a God-fearing and God-honoring relationship!  The Lord blesses those Who love him first!  (Hebrews 11:5-7)  But that is not my focus here today.

My focus is the importance of expressing love everyday to those you care about.  It’s not weird!  I am reminded of this today in the middle of 8 days in which my husband and I will attend two funerals.  I had only met his Uncle Don one time and was more “acquainted” with Dave than knowing he and his wife Jane more “personally.”  It didn’t and does not matter.  As fellow believers in Christ, their character and lives had impacted my life with that level of connection.  Uncle Don warmly accepted my marriage to Steve that had come at a time when most of Steve’s children still could not.  Since I knew without a doubt that the Lord was blessing our marriage, it was refreshing to feel loved by his family.  I thank the Lord for this.

Also when Steve and I married and started to attend his church home, he pointed out couples with strong marriages that he wanted to model our relationship after.  Dave and Jane was one of them.  They had been married for decades by then yet still had a sense of fun, a spark, and a deep love for one another that was palpable.  They worked separate jobs outside of their home yet were usually together at church and other important events.  Dave served the body of believers, his community, his employer, and his family with equal enthusiasm.  Thank you for pointing out this great example of a Godly man, Steve.  And yes, you are much like him for sure!

Today I am unable to attend Dave’s funeral service due to complications of a serious, ongoing illness.  Last night was particularly wretched.  I had a sense that it would be risky to go to the funeral home and be around so many people and potential exposures that trigger convulsive episodes.  I went anyways. I am also in the middle of re-shuffling my treatment plan and have no idea what made things so much worse.  The only good part about that hellish 2 hours was the toning of my abdominal muscles from flexion posturing, writhing, seizing, moaning, and more.  Oy vey.  In the middle of it I asked for the Lord to remove this hell.  I begged for His mercy.  It must have come since at some point I passed out and woke up about 7 hours later . . .

Today I am beat up from all that has transpired in the past day.  Somehow I am still alive!  Though my heart is heavy with grief on many fronts, I do not regret pouring out the strength that I had to be with friends in their time of need.  I got to be out with my beloved husband and do one of the important things of this life.  Going to the wake reminded me of the truth told a gazillion times before:  there is no day like today.  There is nothing like love between two people, magnified and blessed when they are one in Christ.  And lest it be forgotten or unknown, it is important to express that love out loud and often.  For me this includes the love of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  For just as it says in the song,

I die without You!

Talk about perfect love! Oh Gentle Reader, won’t you join me in sharing a little love today? 

With love, JJ