Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I've shared a little about what happened when my Dad was so sick a year ago. Yesterday, my Dad celebrated another Birthday, Happy Birthday Dad! As I reflect back upon a year ago and see how far my Dad has come, I recognize how God never left my Dad's side, not for one minute.
I was reading over the journal we kept for my Dad and I want to share a line or two from there with you. "My Dad is weak right now....but the One who loves him more than we can possibly imagine is always strong. Dad is relying on the Lord's strength now and for now that is enough."
I have always viewed my Dad as a very strong person and I mentioned how devestating it was for all of us to see him so weak and helpless after surgery. In thinking about all that has happened and about my Dad, I realized my Dad's strength has always come from the Lord.
Our strength as we sat with my Dad and waited until his body was strong enough to come out of sedation came from the Lord. Even though, I lived each moment of what happened, as I look back, I think how did we come through all of the trials? I know the Lord carried us through, and helped us deal with each moment as needed. He gave us His peace, which is beyond our human understanding. I truly believe God cushioned us with His love by allowing our minds to not to become stuck in the horror of what was going on. We were able to focus on God and His promises. We know we could have never done these things on our own.
One of the Bible verses I shared in our journal was taken from Psalm 27, it had always been a favorite of mine, but I read it in the King James version. "14 Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD."
I've lived long enough to know we all face struggles in our daily lives. My prayer for each of you is that you will know God's peace. And realize you are never alone, you do not need to rely upon your own strength, He gives and provides all you need for each and every moment.
I've share this Psalm before but I have found a clip on youtube I think you will enjoy it.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Last week I shared with you about my Dad’s heart attack over a year ago and how we almost lost him.
Before our Dad was able to go into heart surgery, he had another heart attack. They were unable to stop the attack and so they rushed him into emergency surgery. The surgery went well and everything appeared to be right on track. Jimella and I were not at the hospital but at home waiting beside our phones for updates from our Mom, Sheila or David. Throughout the day the reports kept getting worse instead of better. Our younger sister has a friend who is a doctor and she was able to view Dad’s reports, she told Sheila; tell your sisters too come. They need to be here.
Thanks to our dear friends, Melisa and David, they agreed to watch the boys for us while I was gone. Troy had just started a new job and had to leave for work at 4:00 a.m. each morning. I don’t know if they will ever realize the magnitude of the gift they gave so I could be with my parents and my siblings.
Jimella and I had a nine hour car trip before us. (It was a year ago today.) We decided not to talk about the severity of our Dad’s health and the “what if’s”. We needed to be alert for driving and not bawling our eyes out. Jimella, I have a confession to make. Even though we didn’t talk about it, my mind was spinning like a hamster wheel with thoughts I could not have voiced even if we had agreed to talk about it. My biggest fear was we would not make it in time to hospital, and Dad would die before we got there. I prayed I could tell Dad one more time that I loved him; it didn’t matter if he was in an induced coma, I had to be able to say it. I had to see my, Dad, one more time. To hold his hand, to pray, to encourage him, please just one more time, God…was the whisper of my heart.
We kept in contact with our Mom by cell-phone on the long trip north. There was no change in Dad’s health. Critical but stable.
We arrived at the hospital in hopes we could see Dad right away. But they had just gone into see Dad and so we had to wait another hour before we could see him. Only three could go in at a time and for only five minutes.
It was better for us to visit with Mom, Sheila, and David before we saw Dad for the first time. They were able to prepare us (sort of) and to remind us, not to let tears fill our voices or Dad to hear concern. Even though Dad was sedated his blood pressure would go up a little each time someone would talk to him.
You know five minutes can seem like eternity when you are waiting for a phone call or for something life changing to happen. But when you have been waiting to see your Dad and you don’t know if he is going to make it or not…five minutes flies by faster than you ever thought possible.
I had prayed all day long for this moment, that the Lord will help me to be strong for my Dad, my Mom, and for my siblings. I know Jesus carried me into my Dad’s ICU room. There was nothing anyone could have said to truly prepare me for the moment I would look upon my Dad’s face. I wanted to run from the room as fast as I could get out of there, I was hoping it was just a bad dream, and that it really wasn’t my Dad lying there so sick. God was holding all of us in His loving arms as we gazed upon our Dad, the one we have always known as healthy and strong. The Lord gave me the presence of mind to stay calm and the right words to say. “My soul finds rest in God alone.” Psalm 62:1 kept playing through my mind. I shared those words with my Dad; they were just as much for him as they were for me. Before I knew it was time for us to leave again. As we left the ICU the tears I had held back for so long came, I didn’t know if I could or even wanted to stop crying. But I knew I needed to pull myself together to be strong for my Mom. I could hear my Dad’s voice in my head; you need to take care of your Mom. For as hard as it was on all of us kids, I knew it had to be the most difficult for, Mom. To watch your husband, best friend, and the love of your life so sick…I couldn’t imagine.
I will share some more over my next couple of writings of some of what happened while we waited to see if my Dad would make it or not.
I have some questions for you. Are you ready for your five minutes? You never know what might happen in your life or those you love? Can you prepare yourself for those minutes? Please don’t fill your heart with worry over what may or may not happen. But there is nothing in life that surprises God. He knows what each day will hold in store for us. He doesn’t plan the bad things to happen, He knows because he is all-knowing. My parents taught me to trust God in all things…and as I have said before…they just didn’t teach us this lesson, they lived it. I learned I could trust God with every aspect of my life and you know He has never let me down.
I have been through situations so difficult; I didn’t know I could ever manage to get through it. But I knew God would walk with me and never leave my side. I knew somehow I would make it to the other side. I can’t take credit for my faith because it is the Holy Spirit working in me that helps me to trust and believe.
I pray you can find perfect peace in the “five minutes” of your life. You can only find it in the One who gave His life for you, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
One of my favorite Easter memories is from the first Easter I spent in Peoria. Because I was involved in the worship service I was part of the processional. The processional Cross was covered with a black hood and the cross on the altar was covered in black as well from the “Good Friday” service. As we started to walk into the sanctuary you could hear the brass boldly and triumphantly playing and as we proceeded down the aisle the black was removed from both of the crosses. It was a representation of the veil of sin and death being removed forever. Jesus had gone to the Father on our behalf and now we too could come before God. It was one of those holy and sacred moments that I will remember forever.
A little later on in the service we were singing “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” and we were singing the fourth verse, “He lives, my kind, wise, heavenly friend; He lives and loves me to the end; He lives, and while He lives, I’ll sing; He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King!” At that moment I looked up at the beautiful statue they have of Jesus on the altar- and for the very first time I noticed the nail scars on His hands. I could not finish the rest of the hymn because I was so overwhelmed with emotion. Jesus, the King of all creation, died for my sins. I put those nail scars on His hands. I knew that I had been redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus, even though I did nothing to deserve it. I couldn’t sing the words with my mouth, but I was singing them in my heart.
Can you imagine the joy that Mary felt on that first Easter morning when Jesus first said her name? That Joy is ours because Jesus is calling us by name. He is saying, “(your name) come and walk with me. I have won the victory over sin, death, and the devil for you; your life will never be the same. You will never have to be separated from your heavenly Father; I have made that sacrifice on your behalf. Come and discover all that I have to offer you, come and rest in the Joy, Hope, Love, and Peace that you can only find through me.”
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Alleluia! Christ has Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
Saturday, April 11, 2009
The irony of all of this is that the Pharisees, who had so many times accused Jesus of breaking the Jewish law, of nothing is to be done on the Sabbath. They themselves, in an effort to make sure that Jesus’ body could never be removed from His tomb, broke one of their sacred laws. This only goes to show the lengths they were willing to take to make sure that Jesus would not cause anymore problems for them.
I wonder: Do you think they were remembering how Jesus had raised people from the dead? Do you think they were maybe a little fearful after they had heard Jesus’ final cry on the cross? Do you suppose this was their feeble human attempt to stop God from fulfilling His plan?
We know the ending of this beloved story. We know that there is not a tomb in the world that could hold the risen, victorious Christ. Their scheming and planning could not hold Him in the grave. We know that anybody who seeks to put limits on Jesus Christ is on a hopeless mission.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Today we remember that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. Sometimes I think we say that phrase without remembering what it really means. The word crucifixion comes from the word “excruciating.” To be crucified is the most horrific and painful death a person can suffer. We can only begin to imagine the physical pain that Jesus suffered. Jesus also suffered spiritually and emotionally in a way that we never will. When He cried out, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” it was because at that moment, Jesus was separated from God. Now how could Jesus, who is also God, be separated from God? That has always been a great mystery – even to the greatest of theologians... He, who was without sin, became sin for us all and suffered separation from God. That is the only way we could be saved. Jesus knew what would happen and yet the night before He told His Father, “Not my will, but your will.” Our sins nailed Him to the cross, but His amazing love for you and for me held Him there.
If we would have been standing there that day we would have also heard Jesus say, “It is finished.” Jesus did not only say this, He shouted it out. “It is finished,” is three words in English; but in Greek it is one “Tetelestai” as it would be in Aramaic. And “Tetelestai” is the victor’s shout; it is the cry of a person who has won through the struggle; it is the cry of a person who has come out of the dark into the glory of light, and who has grasped the crown. So, then, Jesus died a victor with a shout of triumph on His lips.
“Here is the precious thing. Jesus passed through the uttermost abyss, and then the light broke. If we, too, cling to God even there seems to be no God, desperately and invincibly clutching the remnants of our faith, quite certainly the dawn will break and we will win through. The victor is the person who refuses to believe that God has forgotten them, even when every fiber of their being feels they are forsaken. The victor is the person who will never lot go of their faith, even when they feel that its last grounds are gone. The victor is the person who has been beaten to the depths and still hold on to God, for that is what Jesus did.” (William Barclay)
This video has a lot of pictures...could be a little distracting. I found myself closing my eyes and just listening to the words.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed Him. On reaching the place, He said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When He rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, He found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. ‘Why are you sleeping?’ He asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.’” Luke 22:39-46
Did you notice in the beginning of this scripture passage that it says, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives?” I was curious about that and so I looked at my footnotes and it said to look at Luke 21:37 “Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple and each evening He went out to spend the night on the Mount of Olives.” Every night starting with the Triumphal Entry to the night in which Jesus was betrayed, He went out to pray.
Jesus was preparing Himself for the “Battle of all- time” that would change history and our lives forever. He made himself ready by praying and spending time with His Father. Jesus knew what He had to do and He was struggling with it and so He would pour out His heart to His Father.
We cannot even begin to imagine what Jesus went through that night, but I would venture to guess we have all wrestled in understanding God’s will for our lives. Have you ever struggled with something until you are completely worn out?
A year ago, it was a day like any other day. I went through my day taking care of the boys and getting ready for a Doctor's appointment. After I finished my appointment I stopped at the store for a few things...and they had a new kind of chocolate treat. I thought, it would be a nice suprise to leave in the car for Troy.
As I drove home, I called my parents. I knew they were going to spend the day with my Grandma but I had expected them to be home..but they were not. As I walked in the door the boys ran to greet me with hugs and kisses and I continued into the house to find Troy to give him a hug. When I looked into his eyes I could see he was deeply troubled and I knew something was wrong. He hugged me close and told me that my Dad was being taken by ambulance to Duluth as he had experienced chest pains. I felt as if the room was spinning and at the same time my breath was being sucked from me. I went into our bedroom and started to cry. Jacob and Matthew were immediately in there wanting to know what was wrong, why was I so sad. We told them Grandpa Jim was sick and he was going to the hospital to get things checked out. I pulled myself together for the sake of the boys and we sat on our bed and prayed for Grandpa Jim.
My Dad was in an ambulance and it would take five hours to get to Duluth from where he was at. During that time we did not have any contact with the ambulance team, in the rush cell-phone numbers were not given. My Mom and my brother were in route and their cell-phone did not have great service. I knew they would call when they arrived in Duluth and had a report on Dad. For three hours I sat and waited. I prayed my Dad would live...I prayed for another opportunity to see him..to hear his voice...to laugh with him... I "if onlied" myself until I was a basket case. Finally, I asked the Lord to give me peace. I knew no matter what happened, my Dad was with the Lord. Whether he lived or he died he was with Him. There was nothing else I could do. I asked the Lord to prepare my heart and to give me strength for whatever the future held. I couldn't fix it, I couldn't control it, all I could do was trust in the One, whom my Dad and Mom had trusted all of their lives. My parents not only taught me the faith, they lived in faith. Jesus was the center of their lives and I leaned upon the lessons they had instilled in me at an early age.
My Dad made it to the hospital and I was able to talk to him on the phone the next morning. My Dad is still with us and I give thanks to God for his life every day.
God is with you in your darkest hours and He will never leave your side. We want the best possible outcome to our prayers and it is not wrong to ask. But there will be times when our answers feel like God was not listening and think perhaps He has abandoned us and we question His love for us. God listens and He loves you more than you can possibly imagine. I have had plenty of prayers where I have felt those things...but along lifes journey..I have learned to trust. Whatever happens the Lord will lead me and guide me and give me strenght for each moment. May God fill you with His perfect peace today and always.
Monday, April 06, 2009
About 14 years ago at a Good Friday service we had the opportunity to come forward at our church and pound a nail into a huge wooden cross. As we were pounding the nail, we were to say, “Jesus, it was my sins that nailed you to the cross.”This was a new experience for all of us and many of us needed a little time to think about it. We didn’t want to be the only one going up to the front of the church.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed our Pastor’s son moving towards the cross. He was in a wheelchair and when he got close enough he came down out of his wheel chair and crawled to the cross. I held my breathe in anticipation as I watched him get ready to pound his nail into the cross. As he raised the hammer and struck the first blow, it was a horrible sound that echoed through the sanctuary and pierced my heart. I felt distraught as the realization came home to me in a profound and meaningful way. My sins had nailed Jesus to the cross.My eyes became filled with tears as I hung my head in shame. I thought about how I didn’t know if I wanted to be the only one up there and yet I knew that if I was the only one on earth, Jesus would have died for my sins. I got up from my seat and walked to the front of the church. I could hardly see as the tears filled up my eyes and spilled down my cheeks. I didn’t care at that moment if anyone saw me; this was a sacred moment between my Savior and me. I stooped down to pick up the hammer and the nail; I could barely say the words because my throat was tight with grief. I didn’t want to pound that nail into the cross because I didn’t want to admit that my sins had nailed Jesus to the cross.I rose up and I somehow managed to walk back to my seat. I felt a sorrow so great that my heart hurt as it hung heavy with grief. I couldn’t help but think of the words from the hymn
Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted:
“Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
'Tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.”
As I sat there in the silence and thinking about my sins, my heart began to fill with peace. I knew that Jesus loved me and had forgiven me. The fourth verse of the hymn brought even more comfort to me.
“Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ's the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on him their hope have built.”
Sunday, April 05, 2009
Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy week. “The disciples went out and did what Jesus had instructed of them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna, in the highest!’” Matthew 21:6-9 Have you ever wondered as to what the word “Hosanna” means? It is a shout of fervent and worshipful praise. It is a cry of praise or adoration to God. When they say Hosanna in the highest, it means let all who are in heave praise you as well.How could the very voices that are now raised in praise and adoration, become filled with hatred and cruelty on Friday when they shout “Crucify him”.
At the very same time that Jesus is making His triumphal entry into Jerusalem the Passover lambs were coming in through the sheep gate of the city. It is also interesting to note that all of the Passover lambs were born and raised in Bethlehem. The Lambs were being led into the city for the Passover Sacrifice. The “Lamb of God”, the perfect one was also being led in to Jerusalem and He would make the ultimate and final sacrifice for our sins.As we begin this Holy week, let us walk with Jesus the lonely road to Calvary. As we walk we will remember our Savior’s love for each one of us.