Lost and Found

This post would be it. The grand finale, that is, the third part of an online blogging assignment involving the lost and found theme. I knew it would, indeed, be grand the moment the following sentences lit the writer portion of my mind, giving foundation to the first and second installments.

Philippians 3:7-9a (Amp) But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ’s sake. Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One), and that I may [actually] be found and known as in Him . . .

Something happened between the first and third assignments to change this post’s thrust, though I didn’t recognize it at the time. What I had planned from the beginning had lost its luster, though I tried to continue unwavering. The truth it elucidated needed a different delivery vehicle. No grand finale, after all. The Lord wanted, instead, to use the pain of loss I desperately desired to avoid.

The first assignment challenged us to write about loss, instantly reminding me of the recent deaths of an elderly friend and my 14-year-old dog. Besides the lingering sadness and pain associated with those, I faced the imminent death of another elderly friend. Deciding I’d had enough of all this death and sadness, and having written about it once, I decided on a different object of loss. I’ll add my own twist, I thought, and use, “counting all as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ,” as the springboard.

Installments one and two were published, so I had begun jotting down notes in anticipation of the finale. The sense of victory I’d experienced at the beginning of the project was waning, though, not building. Glimmers of understanding touched my heart as I read of a family who left the comfort of England for Uganda to share Jesus’ life and love with those who had no hope – untold poverty found in the slums where sewage ran down every street and into the homes, rampant treatable illness untreated, leaving children and adults dying before their time. Yet this family and others with them continued to serve, continued to love, continued to share life in Christ Jesus.

despairWith every story, the struggle in my heart intensified, as I related it to my world. These elderly became friends because I deliver meals to their homes. A few minutes of weekly interaction led to blossoming friendships – ones that continued even when they moved into assisted living, no longer needing our meals. They shared their lives with me as I did with them, each of us gaining from the other.   One-by-one, they have left me behind, multiplying the pain in each loss.

Self-preservation said I should distance myself emotionally from those who remain, to avoid further pain. It went on to suggest getting involved with children’s groups on some level (totally out of my calling,) because they won’t likely die before me. That way, I could greatly reduce additional pain, I deduced. Those were Kay’s thoughts, not Daddy’s. When I read the challenging words of Nicola Neal, the clarity of His heartbeat took my breath away:

What would you be prepared to give for love’s sake? . . . Would you love knowing that pain will inevitably come? Will you love even when it hurts? 1

Shaken to my core, my mind erupted in a certain, “Yes!” as more rhetorical questions arose.

“Would you rather not have known these precious women, these sisters in Christ, to avoid the pain of losing them?”

“Would you prefer to miss the personal enrichment gained from those you may not have begun to serve, again as self-effort to avoid future pain?”

“Is it possible you are the vessel through whom I share parts of Myself and My love in the latter days of their lives? That you could be helping prepare them for the day when they see Me face-to-face?”

I am undone. The loss remains, but I have ceased the fight against the pain. It is a reality of this life, no less so when living in Christ. My greater loss – temporarily – has been focus on Jesus Christ, the only One Who comforts, encourages, and is my Hope. What I’ve needed all along has been in those quoted words, but I was too focused on my hurt to see. The pain of loss I have felt is as nothing compared to the priceless privilege and supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. In Christ is the strength and joy of continuing to love even when it hurts.

spring hope

1 Nicola Neal, Journey Into Love: The Unfailing Power that Restores Lives (Shippensburg, PA Destiny Image Publishers, 2014), Ch. 18, location 2304 (e-book)

Death is Never Convenient

(Though I veered far off course of the actual blogging assignment today, I needed to write this. Further, I needed to publish it, because I cannot sit back silently any longer, hiding behind my lack of eloquence, while black is turned white and upside down becomes right side up. Others may write and speak much more succinctly, but I must add my voice.)

Supporters of the right to die law feel a terminally ill individual should have the right to determine the when and how of their final moment, thereby avoiding some of the pain and misery of waiting for a natural shutdown. Consideration for family and friends is also eschewed, reducing their time of struggle in watching and waiting for a loved one in the process of death, as well as reducing medical costs for longer care. This is referred to as dying with dignity, though assisted suicide is another term used.

Wait. Think about that phrase a moment – assisted suicide. Suicide is self-killing, self-murder. When the word assisted is included, there is now an accomplice to murder, if not the murderer himself. But assisted suicide sounds so much more acceptable. Someone is killing another person; albeit, with their permission and at their request (for now,) and legally in some states. Nevertheless, someone in the medical profession – a profession that is supposed to do no harm – is now intentionally killing another person.

Having agonized through the slow deaths of both my parents, I am not without understanding of the struggles involved. In the last days of my mother’s life I wanted her freed from the cancer ravaging her body – and me freed from the suffering of watching. Yet it was not up to her or me or the caring Hospice people to say, “Enough.”

Years later, my father’s dying process was much slower, much less convenient. In addition to some other pretty severe physical issues, we had years of the long goodbye, as Alzheimer’s Disease is frequently called. In the hardest of days, whether his or mine, I wanted his life, such as it had become, to be over. I didn’t want my father to suffer any more of the cruelty of this disease, ending up curled into the fetal position on his bed, unaware of anyone or anything. I also wanted to be free of the pain of seeing the decline day in and day out, as well as the responsibility for caring for him. Yet, even in those helpless and almost hopeless days, my prayer was always that his last moment not be even one breath too soon.

They were shells of their former selves by the time they took their final breath – my mother hardly recognizable because of cancer, and my father unable to communicate or discern his own family. Both, however, died with dignity, their care having been given in love and compassion, their pain having been eased without being overmedicated.

Regardless of what is allowed by government, humans were not given the right or responsibility to determine the date and time of death any more than the moment of creation and birth. Every day is given by God, and there is purpose in every breath given by God – every single breath – though we may not understand suffering that comes with it.

bright crossThe root problem stems from the Garden of Eden, when the serpent convinced Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil so they could “be like God.” It’s the same story today. We still want to be the god of our life. Only the truth is, there is no one like God. Further, His plans are good and for the good of each one of us. And . . . He works everything together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. He has promised, Jesus Christ being the proof of His faithfulness.

We are not god, nor God. We don’t know enough, though we think we do, to determine our life and death. But that’s a good thing, for we can know the One Who does, and trust Him implicitly, even in our lack of understanding. Therein is peace. Therein is rest. Therein is freedom. Therein is life – real life.

Living For the Big Waves

I found encouragement from God’s perspective in another journal conversation with Him.  I hope you will, too!

You feel dry and unenthusiastic right now.  I know.  You want to feel that brimming over with excitement and enthusiasm about Me, about what I’ve done, about the freedom that is yours in Christ.

wave ebb and flowSteady.  That’s what I see.  You know what you have been excited and enthusiastic about is still true, though it’s not causing any feelings right now.  You’re not turning away, Kay; rather, you’re riding it out.  Yes, you heard “ebb and flow,” and you saw a beach with the water coming in and going out. Right now, there are hardly any waves – the water gently lapping at the shore without the crashing of big waves.  But it’s still there.  You know there will be big waves again – much more exciting.

The question for you is, “Are you living for the big waves?”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t think so, Lord.  Maybe there’s a part of me that is, and that’s why I feel in a bit of a funk at times like this, when it seems like I’ve been living too long in the “humdrum.”  You’re reminding me of that time so many years ago when I cried out to you from the depths of my being for another experience of Your presence because I felt so dry.  When finally I ended my cries, by Your Spirit I declared that even if I never felt Your Presence again, I would be thankful for what You had already revealed.  You are real and you are for me, and that doesn’t require feelings.

These many years (and, by the way, many feeling experiences later), I’m aware that You continue to teach me and reveal Yourself to me every time I read the Bible, even if no feelings take place.  I no longer doubt Your Presence with me at all, for which I thank You so much, Daddy!

By the same token, though I don’t know when or how, I know the big waves (and their corresponding emotions) will come again.  I don’t want to live for the big waves.  I want to live in the meantime – truly live – in Christ Jesus, living in Your love and grace in the midst of all that does or does not happen in my natural life.  In other words, I want to enjoy the simplicity of “unexciting” days in You.

That’s the steady to which I referred Kay.  You’ve been walking in that place, but there’s been a battle in your mind against the peace and rest of walking contentedly in those unexciting days and seasons.  Instead of fretting about what you’re not experiencing, you choose to continue to walk in Me and all that I am – not focusing on when you might have another great experience. 

No, you’re not living for the big waves, Kay.  You’re simply living in Me through Christ – every day.

*  photo credit for first picture is Zo-jo at http://www.zo-jo.com

Up, Up, and Away

Most of you know I am a journal keeper, since journal entries have made their way into an occasional blog post.  Aside from the regular journal, I also keep one specifically for my international adventures.  In it, I pray and prepare for upcoming trips, as well as using it to jot down a few thoughts while actually traveling.

jet in flightWhile preparing for at least two trips, the Lord helped me envision myself in a luxurious jumbo jet – in the comfort of first class seating, no less – while He piloted the craft.  Sometimes, the lesson was in the flight itself.  At other times, we “landed” in places needing intercession before our return flight.  The following journal entry turned out to be preparation and perspective change for far more than a physical trip. Please fasten your seat belts, sit back, and join me on this journey.

Why don’t you climb up here in the cockpit with Me?  You’ll see it differently here than from the side windows.  You might see the why for the what. 

You’ve been graced.  Now you realize the reason things are the way they are is because I have already poured forth My grace so that what was deserved – what should have been – is not what is received.  It doesn’t seem fair because it isn’t – not in the natural world.  But aren’t you glad I do the same with you? 

Now look carefully and you’ll see it’s Jesus I see when I look out these windows – no matter where I look. So, why would I fret about anyone or anything?  It’s not possible, for one thing.  In seeing Jesus, I see the fullness of My justice enacted.  And, I see the fullness of glorious eternity.  All in One. 

Kay, Jesus never was upset by facts, for though He lived among facts, He resided (dwelt) in a higher realm than facts.  He resided in Me.  Yes, He had to suffer agony beyond agony that you will never know.  Yet, He was completely at peace because He was in Me.

That is the life I have for you, Kay, for you are in Me by Christ Jesus.  You dwell in me regardless of facts.  Let Me do the leading – always – and you cannot go astray . . . even if it looks for a time as if you “missed” Me.  Didn’t Jesus look like He messed up when He arrived four days after Lazarus died?

In Me, Kay.  It’s about dwelling in Me.  Yes, this is for your trip, but it’s for so much more.  It’s for your living, real living.

Enough Already!

“This is how it is for the believer when the gospel of righteousness takes root in their heart.  The first reaction is one of sweet relief.  “Really?  Jesus did it all?  I don’t have to work to impress him?  I can stop studying for the exam?  Oh happy day!”  Many are dreading the final exam.  The good news is there is no exam.  Jesus already took it on your behalf, and guess what?  He passed.  School’s out forever!1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had spent so much of my Christian life trying to do more for God, to prove how much I loved Him, because that’s what I thought Christians were supposed to do.  No matter what or how much I did, I knew it was never enough.  I was always frustrated and felt guilty.

I have become one of the believers described above.  One who realized I had been trying to do for God what I never could, and that Jesus had already achieved it all at the cross for me.  His blood not only paid for my sins, but for my self-efforts, too.  Every righteous requirement of God’s law He fulfilled.

To put this good news into the language of the quote: Jesus not only passed the final exam, but He gave me His grade!  In Him I am now completely righteous.  I graduated simply by receiving Christ and the work He finished for me so long ago, and His righteousness is my diploma.

Jesus is enough – already and forever!

1  Paul Ellis, The Gospel in Ten Words (KingsPress, 2012 version 1.0), Kindle edition, chapter titled Righteousness