Wednesday, July 3, 2013

the valley

Somewhere along the way I have come to look on Psalm 23 as scripture to be read at a funeral.  It is often printed on the back of a brochure, often read as the scripture.  For that reason I have come to think of the one who has died as the one walking through 'the valley of the shadow of death', the one who has found comfort in this Psalm.

While this is true, while many people find comfort in the knowledge of God being with them in that valley, I am seeing a different 'view' of the valley these days.

Over the last months, years, I have watched as family, friends, acquaintances grieve for their family, friends or acquaintances.  I watch as they walk deep into the 'valley of the shadow of death'.  They walk into that valley suddenly without any warning.  Or they may walk slowly with someone who slowly is overtaken in the valley.  But for the ones left here the valley goes on and on and on.....  It seems to have no end, it seems to become deeper, darker, more lonely as the days go by.

I watch from the upper bank.  I so want to throw down a rope, a ladder, build an elevator, do something to bring these ones I care about out of the valley.  I feel helpless, guilty for watching and not 'doing' anything, carrying on with my normal living.  I call out once in awhile trying to bring hope and encouragement.  I love them..... but what can I do.....

The Psalm continues: '...I will fear no evil for You are with me.  Your rod and your staff they comfort me...."

Ah.... they are not alone down there.  God IS with them.  And the rod and staff? not instruments of pain or rebuke but gentle, kind instruments for guiding, for pointing the right way, for hedging in and around all the valley's rocks and pitfalls.

One day, one day..... these friends will find a little more light penetrating the dark.  One day they will find the walls of the valley are not quite as high.  One day they will venture into a different pasture where there is green grass, where the waters are still, they will find a new normal.

In the meantime.... I ache for them, I ask God for them, I struggle to find words or ways to love them. I wait with them......

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

prenuptial agreement, cowboy style, old-time cowboy style!

These were the three conditions presented to the one he wanted to marry:

1.  I believe in tithing.  We have to agree to tithe what we know is God's.

2.  I can't be trusted with much money so I know we will never have a lot.  Our needs will be met but there won't be much extra.

3.  Don't try to talk me out of horses.

She didn't seem to have any problem with these conditions!  So, she agreed to marry this handsome cowboy from Youngstown.  That was well over 60 years ago.  I know they kept tithing.  (I only know because if that is what they said they would do they did it!).  It appears they never had a lot of money but they always had enough.  She never talked him out of the horse issue but after a tangle with a particularly ornery one he settled for quieter involvement that did not include having to break them.

When it became clear they would not be able to have their own children they began caring for others who did not have parents who could.  And now, these adult kids are there to help the parents who provided for them.

At one point when health issues started to arise, the doctor asked is he had ever had any serious injuries.  "No", was the reply.  "But I was dragged across the prairie behind a wagon one time.  Then there was the time a horse........  But no, nothing serious."  Yeah. Right.

Uncle and Auntie still live in their own home, home care helps as needed.  Auntie bakes bread and buns, makes all the meals, sews drapes and bags from leftover drape fabric.  (anyone who visits will probably take one home!)  Uncle loves a phone call once a week from the JD Salesman and also the company that stops from time to time.

Thanks for the example of commitment!  We love you!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

from the JD salesman

My JD Salesman was asked to 'give a tribute to Jesus' at the Good Friday service.   Here it is:

"I feel I need to give a bit of an introduction so you will understand where I am coming from.  I was raised in a solid christian home with God fearing parents.  If the church was open, we were there.  I learned of God's love, protection and provision.  I thought I understood God fairly well but my God was pretty defined, predictable and therefore in a pretty small box.  I believed in heaven and hell and that salvation was through Christ's shed blood and His resurrection and my admission that I was a sinner and needed to accept Jesus as my Saviour and sin-forgiver.  I knew that God was in total control and that He designed everything both good and bad.

For the past dozen or so years God has been showing me how He was and is much bigger than my original concept of Him.  Just a couple of weeks ago we buried the daughter of very close friends, mother of a 2, 5 and 8 year old, loving wife to a young husband.  I was wrestling with how a loving God could either design her death or even allow her death.  On top of being very sad, I was troubled and somewhat confused, searching for answers, searching for truth.

 In our small group study that week we were studying in Luke, just happened to be on the Lord's prayer.  The phrase 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven..' was heavy.  Did God really will that Danielle die or did He just allow it?  The Lord showed me, through the comments of one of our  group, that either way the outcome was the same.  Danielle had died.  Did God design it or allow it,  it didn't really make any difference.  Karin often says that God is God and God is good.  I had been keeping God in a box, a much bigger box than before but still confined to what I could understand.  I am thankful that Jesus, through the Holy Spirit it showing me that God, our God, is bigger than any boundaries I could imagine.  He is limitless, huge and I am slowly realizing that God is God and God is good.  I don't need to understand the whys of the tough situations of life. and there is so much true freedom for me in that.

Isaiah 55: 8&9 'For my thoughts are not your thoughts neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than the earth so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.' "

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

and life goes on.....

As the 'unlikely group of people' met a week ago there was good discussion which came out of Luke 11, the "Lord's Prayer".  What does God allow, what does God plan or design for our lives. ( I was not all that pleased to realize how I hold on to my own 'ideas'!)

But near the end one quiet, gentle lady who has gone through sorrow, the like of which I know nothing about, spoke truth into the situation.  I write what I 'heard'.  It is not a direct quote!

She said that whatever we might believe about 'thy will be done', does God allow or design the situations we find in life does not change the outcome.  People get sick, they die, they have accidents.  But what we do with the outcome of these things in life is what will affect the remainder  of OUR lives.  She spoke of the 'size' of God and again I realized how small I see God to be.  I said in my last post that God is God and God is good but I don't think I really know what that means, I don't comprehend God. My God is too small, again.....

The encouragement that comes to me is the reality of God's love,  He does not condemn me for my lacking of understanding.  He loves me and shows me once again His goodness.  He knows I am frail but continues to gently teach me.  Such a safe place, this God of love and grace.

And when I doubt and wonder and question I come back to the reality of what God has done inside of me.  I am often blind to His involvement in the situations of life but I know the change He has made and continues to make inside me.  Then I come back again to trust and faith in a God who is good.

For Danielle's family life must find a new normal.  And we ask God for grace and strength for them  to do life well as they grieve and live.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

a year later

In March of last year I blogged about Danielle and encouraged others to follow her blog.   She had recently been diagnosed with cancer and wished to share with others the journey she was taking.   It soon became clear to Danielle that she had to have a 'closed, a private' blog.  She was being harassed by strangers who mocked faith and alternative medicine.

Danielle's story has been amazing and she has written honestly of her cancer story.  There were so many ups and downs, joys and sorrows which she openly talked about.  We have laughed with her and cried.  We watched her parents grieve as Danielle struggled with the battle.  Her Mom has spent most of the last year with Danielle and family, a province away from her own home, helping when and where she could.

In the last few weeks there was a down turn in her health and on Sunday night, on her 36th birthday, Danielle went home to heaven.

I know we all grieve in different ways.  We are all affected in different ways.  The JD Salesman and I are by-standers, friends who love them.  Our grief is not the grief of the family but we grieve, we ache, we are weary with grief.  It makes no sense.  There is no explanation.  It is not God's will that this lovely Momma should die.  Maybe I push the limit with words when I say that because I can accept that God allowed Danielle to die but I cannot believe it was God's will. We heard a friend once say with regards to a different sorrow that God made a perfect world, in the end all will be made perfect but here and now, in between the two ends of perfection bad things happen, people die tragically, people get sick, crap happens to people.

I believe God is good.  Danielle's husband said that he is so thankful that God is love.  Good. Love.
I choose to trust this God.  I certainly don' t understand Him.  For that I am also thankful.  He is God and I am not.  There is a thought in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" that often comes to my mind.  I am told that Aslan, the lion, is a figure of God.  Someone asks if the lion is safe and the answer is no, he is not safe but he is good.

In my 'terms' I don't think God is safe but I trust Him because the longer I live, the more I get to know Him, the more I believe He is good and He IS Love.

I hold on to that when I think of Danielle's husband, his extended family, her three young children, her two brothers, their wives, her nieces and nephews, her kind and gentle Mother, her do-anything-for-you loving Father, her huge extended family and multitude of friends all over this world.......

Saturday, March 9,  10:30 a.m., we will gather in a church in Sherwood Park Alberta, to join her family  to honour Danielle's short life and to meet God.  If you are so inclined, if God puts it into your heart, could you please pray for this family?

Thank you.