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)

Finding Freedom Now

Losing the Power, posted earlier this month (click to read), painted a picture of walking free from the power of condemnation for all my wrongs. I had been in Christ many years without experiencing freedom from condemnation due to ignorance, despite reading the Bible. My eyes were opened to what had been mine all along in Christ when I read these verses anew:

Romans 8:1-2 NIV Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

With the help of these same verses, this post will take you a little further on my personal journey of losing and finding. Parking on the latter words of this passage, I contemplate this law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus that has set me free from the law of death. The more I focus on the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, the more all else fades in comparison – even death.

mini-cross of hopeWhen I believed Jesus to be who He claimed – the Savior of the world – I received His Spirit of life. Now I am alive in Christ Jesus . . . forever. Christ Jesus is alive forever, and I live in Him, so I am alive eternally, as well. Already alive forever. Not waiting until my physical body stops working. Now. When my body gives up, my eternal life will continue living in Christ without even a slight pause – simply in a form no longer hindered by mortality. 1

This excites me beyond words and radically changes my perspective on the loss of life as I know it now.   Fear of death is lost to me. What is to fear when I am in Christ? The Romans verse clearly states I am free now (and it’s always now!) from the condemnation that could separate me forever from God. The penalty for my sin, and its justifiable condemnation, was paid in full in Jesus’ suffering and death. It’s gone forever, and along with it, the separation mandated by it. In Christ’s resurrection, I was raised to new and forever life in His Spirit. Death and the fear of it are lost to me now – forever – because I am Daddy’s child.

This is real now, when I’m not at death’s door, and it will be real after my last breath. But it will also be real at the end of my life, evident in the loss of torment often associated with those last days – torment rooted in regrets and remorse and doubts about a less-than-perfect life. Fear of death is lost to me forever, driven out by the perfect love of my Father. 2 Freedom is found – now.

The final verse of In Christ Alone, a familiar hymn, captures the glorious freedom and victory of which I have written:

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath.
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

For the final in this series, click to read Lost and Found.

1 1 Corinthians 15:50-57

2 1 John 4:18

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.

Losing the Power

A long-time companion is missing, the one I can only describe as an invisible faucet permanently attached over my head, endlessly releasing one slow drop after another until its sound overpowers every other. Now I only hear it from afar, and its sound is fading, at that. How did I lose it? Maybe if I retrace my steps, I’ll understand how it happened.

Talk about losing! I lost my temper – again – letting pour from my mouth whatever angry and demeaning words popped into my mind in the heat of the moment. This wasn’t new “shouldn’t do” behavior, the flip side to all those good “should do” things I failed to do. In short, I failed miserably – again – to live the upstanding Christian life. Every other time this happened, once the moment of angry release or the time to act passed, I felt defeated, lower than dirt, and those dripping voices in my head made sure to keep me there. Not this time.

I was still definitely wrong, and definitely didn’t look or sound like Christ. Yet, that leaky faucet was unhooked from my brain, not just turned off, and the guilt and condemnation for my failures was gone with it. This is what the Bible says happens, but I thought it was only for the future, probably not until heaven.

candle flameNow I remember. The last time I read the Bible, the words seemed to jump off the page and into my heart with an intensity, a vitality, I’ve never known. I came away from those moments having been recharged somehow, filled with a new sense of freedom and peace such as I’d never known.

Romans 8:1-2 NIV Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

This has to be it! Even though I messed up again, condemnation and guilt couldn’t have their way with me. Those old companions were making an annoying noise somewhere in the distance, trying desperately to attach themselves to me as they had for so long. But the life in those verses, real Life in Christ, convinced me of my present tense freedom that is not based on my perfect living. I am free from guilt now because in His perfection, Jesus Christ suffered my judgment in the past, forgiving me for my every sin past, present, and future.

That’s what’s different! The power of guilt and condemnation over my life has been lost forever. In actuality, they haven’t belonged to me for more than forty years. That’s when I received the perfect Savior, Jesus Christ, into my life. I just didn’t know, didn’t understand – then. Ignorant no more, I now live in the freedom Christ died to give me!

How much more gain can be found in losing?

Second and third in this series can be found in Finding Freedom Now and Lost and Found.

Glorious Writing Assignment

Explanation: I’m taking an online blogging challenge through WordPress beginning today. The first exercise involves writing whatever came to mind for twenty minutes. The real challenge came in their direction to publish what was written in that time. What follows is the result – no editing.

Twenty minutes of writing whatever comes to mind. And then publish? No way! But this will still be interesting. I have a second second chance in life. Oh, I’m sure there are many more that these two, but I’m thinking of the Big C scare. More than three years ago, it was uterine cancer and it had to be removed surgically – but that was the end of it without any chemo or radiation.

Two weeks ago, with a standard blood test so my doctor would have a baseline to go by before I begin working with another doctor to get rid of some allergies and the root cause, all those plans had to be put on hold. My white blood cell count was drastically low, especially when compared to the counts from last August. Cancel the new doctor appointment and make an appointment with a hematologist at the same cancer center where I still go for follow-up visits with my oncologist.

Today was the day I would meet with him for the first time. Taking Tom with me for an extra pair of ears, we met with the PA first. Just before she did the basic heart check, I asked her if there was any chance the blood test could be wrong. She was less than encouraging in her answer. And then we got to wait longer, this time for the doctor. But not before she described what problems a person has when their counts are low in the areas of white blood cells, hemoglobin, and platelets. Tom and I were both confused, because I haven’t been sick (other than the same upper respiratory infection he had in February), I definitely don’t have a problem with blood not clotting, and I haven’t been tired. It just didn’t fit, no matter what the numbers said.

The doctor told us there was always the possibility the blood work could be wrong, which is why he was having more blood drawn today. He did say, however, that if it was still the same as two weeks ago (0.8, for all of you who are familiar with those numbers), he would schedule me for a bone marrow biopsy on Wednesday. I hesitated, but then asked if I could expect him to describe what I would be facing with that biopsy when he called later today with the results – if it was necessary. He agreed that it would be best not to go there unless it was needed, and we would talk soon.

Blood drawn. Now we wait. But not for long. Just after lunch, not even two hours after the test, the PA called to say that number is now – only two weeks later – 5.0! Well into the normal range. And the other two numbers are now equally as good! In just two weeks???

How do I explain it? Jesus Christ is still I AM! It’s not because I’m so great, or walk without fear, though I definitely had less fear this time than the last. I was in much peace, even with the idea that I could be in for another type of cancer and treatment. But God! It’s His faithfulness. He has given me another chance. No, that’s not right. He is always with me, and it’s not a matter of chances. That would mean He’s working with me till I get it right. I never will. That’s why I need Jesus.

So I guess I just need to leave it at Jesus Christ. Period. What I do know is it has reignited the appreciation for life I found at work when I was told all the lymph nodes they removed during the hysterectomy were clear. The cancer had been eliminated completely. Three years later, I had allowed life here to have too much pull in my attitude. This latest scare has definitely brought me back to appreciate the life I have been given, for however long I have it. And now I want to share the hope in Christ alone, not in what may or may not happen in our bodies. He is life! He is love! He is eternal! And He lives and dwells in me and I in Him!

What a glorious Lord and Savior is my Christ Jesus!