Dying, in Death and in Life

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Nothing shocks our lives more than the sudden death of a loved one…lives forever changed. We surround the bed hopping for a miracle, hoping our loved one will rise up and walk, but it does not happen. Would witnessing such an event lead those present to seek the Lord? Perhaps. I am reminded of the Rich man and Lazarus, both having died, but their destinations at opposite ends. The rich man believed that if his brothers would see Lazarus rise from the dead, certainly… they would believe in Him.  Scripture says different…
Luke 16:27-31 (NKJV)
27 “Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’”

You were in your car driving to place you can’t even remember, in the shower, in bed sound asleep, in class, at work taking care of customers, playing with the kids, eating, you were doing something, or just relaxing, then you got a call. The one downfall of cell phones, quick access. You say hello. The person on the other end hesitates… then you cling to your phone in disbelief. Response to the news depends on the relationship. In my case, it was a niece I had not seen since she was a child. The first born of one of my eight brothers… gone in the blink of an eye.

We are a tribe of 14, with ten surviving siblings, ages ranging from 55 to 77. My niece was 42. Our parents had died years ago, along with four siblings, two within the last twelve years. We had yet to experience the loss of one of our children. My niece leaves behind four children from 17 to 22 years of age and grandchildren.

It’s so true that no parent wants to outlive a child. It was not I who lost a child, but the thought of such a thing coming to pass…well…it’s not easy thing to face. I felt bad that one of my brothers had to be the first. If that’s not difficult enough, to realize that anyone of us could have been first…well…it kind of shakes your foundation a bit. So my heart breaks. I can recall, that until the day she died… my mother’s would heart break with tears streaming down her face when she remembered the two small children and her 12 y/o brother she lost to death.

Somehow, experiencing the sudden loss of a loved one is a bit different than dying from an illness, though no less a shock and no less prepared. I can recall watching my friend fading away and feeling so helpless, so I would cried out to the Lord. And when she finally took her last breath I was not there. And worse I had to hear of her death on Facebook. With an illness God’s mercy gives us the time to think about things, even how we’ll get through it and there is so much involved in facing a serious illness. I wouldn’t even downplay it. But even when illness catches us of guard, we can turn to the Lord and pray for strength and healing, but the same cannot be said of sudden loss.  We can only pray for the Lord to give us strength and healing to deal with the loss.   Although we can never know the exact moment we will take our last breath, even in facing a terminal illness, that moment will come. So in  our mortal body we make it our mission to treasure our loved ones while on earth, that’s if…we are so inclined. Not every feels the need to make things right. When we don’t, for whatever reason, we tend to regret it once a love one dies… at some point anyway… at that point it’s too late. No reboot. No turning back the clock. No rewind. No do over. Only flash backs of all the hurtful/ angry words exchanged, pointless arguments, pointing fingers, etc. etc. etc. Life happens.

Life happens, sometimes it’s like a sweet melody that we replay over and over again, or like a Monet painting. Sometimes, it’s like a Jackson Pollack, or Picasso painting, full of stuff splattered and shattered all over, confusion, turmoil, anger, frustrations etc. etc. etc.. Regardless, it’s a life worth examining through the eyes of the living God.

At the start of life, death is far from our thoughts, even though we know that death is inevitable! Death is a big part of living, yet we rarely speak of it. I know most people think it’s morbid to speak of death and that it’s often depressed people that obsess with the idea. I don’t always believe that’s true. I tend to believe that when people accept their mortality they tend to prepare their loved ones for their eventual departure. And that can look different for everyone. I remember, when I would do something asinine, my mother telling…”I’m going to be dead one day, what are you going to do then?” And, of course I always had some lame comeback. After hearing that remark so many times at one point I told myself , that if my mom died, I would die right along with her, but that was long before I had my own children. Nevertheless, it was her way of telling me that she would not always be here for me. It did not sink in the first thousand times, but then she had a stroke, it then became very real. She was already in her 70’s and still me teaching lessons.

My mom taught me quite a bit about how to be a compassionate human, in spite of how the world treated her. The world did not treat her/us well, but God’s mercy was always near. My dad abandoned our family when we were very young, and my mom never seemed to harbor any ill feelings toward him and she also expected me to show him respect. That was not easy for me to do, especially, when he died.

The relationships my siblings and I have had with our children cover the spectrum of childrearing. It’s a birds eye view of how much of who we are… was shaped by the way we were reared. Even the way my grandkids are being parented is much different than the way I parented and the way I was parented. Even our relationships as siblings look different. Still, it’s a travesty that my brother had to grieve the loss of his first daughter in the face of criticism and judgment because of his childrearing practices. I did find it quite interesting to hear various comments on the things my mom would have said… had she been alive to witness this debacle.   And all I heard in my head was … “it does not matter…he is still your father and you will show him respect.” From the time I was four until the day he died… I was commanded to show respect to a man that abandoned me. Believe me, that was difficult. However, God in His infinite wisdom had a lesson waiting for me through that experience. And I am more than sure that many of you have been taught that lesson.

 Although, it appeared my niece believed in God, I am well aware that it’s during these times of adversity, that we tend to turn to God. We don’t necessarily seek Him. We may not live as children of God. We just turn and expect Him to be there to comfort us. And it is His mercy that we encounter. When the time comes that we are able to move on, we make every effort to make our loved one proud, to live to remember their memory, we create alters for them and put them on display. And God is put back in His place. We all mourn in our own way, but that’s been my experience.

The death we experience when we accept Jesus into our heart and allow Him to work out all the muck and mire we have collected since birth…there we die to this wretched flesh, that unchecked can make us do unspeakable things. It is in experiencing that death that will bring us closer to the God that raises people from the dead. I do believe that God can raise people from the dead, if He so chose. My God is a living God and He can do everything He said He would do. I also believe that it’s the spiritual death that we must experience to get to that place…that place where Lazarus sat when the rich man reached out for a drop of water to cool his tongue. That place of comfort that God promises to those who believe is where His children will go when their journey on earth is finished. And we don’t know when that time will be. And that journey will look different for many of us. Thus, I am always reminded that our battle is always against the spiritual forces of darkness. It has taken me  many years to realize that truth.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

So, I had to say goodbye to my niece with a heavy heart, never knowing if she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, but always hopeful, as only God knows the heart of any man.

My prayer is that the Lord will use this one life, this one loss, unexpected as it was…for us anyway, to bring healing in all its facets to those souls touched by this one life, good or bad.

 Psalm 103:15-17 (NIV)

The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.

Ecclesiastes 9 (NKJV)

For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. All things come alike to all:

One event happens to the righteous and the wicked;
To the good,[a] the clean, and the unclean;
To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice.
As is the good, so is the sinner;
He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.

This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.

For the living know that they will die;
But the dead know nothing,
And they have no more reward,
For the memory of them is forgotten.
Also their love, their hatred, and their envy have now perished;
Nevermore will they have a share
In anything done under the sun.

Go, eat your bread with joy,
And drink your wine with a merry heart;
For God has already accepted your works.
Let your garments always be white,
And let your head lack no oil.

Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun.

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.

11 I returned and saw under the sun that—

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.
12 For man also does not know his time:
Like fish taken in a cruel net,
Like birds caught in a snare,
So the sons of men are snared in an evil time,
When it falls suddenly upon them.

Psalm 27

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life —
of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 27:1, 4-5 NIV

Be Blessed

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Dying denying God

Most of us know someone, or know of someone who has died never having accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Today, many people will die denying God. They will defend to the end their rejection of a Supreme Being, of a risen Savior, of forgiveness of sin, of salvation and eternal life, or any such nonsense. They may also try to convince you that your faith is foolish and misplaced. And they will also try their hardest to make you feel silly for believing in such nonsense.

In November, a dear friend went home to be with the Lord. She served the Lord through the hills and the valleys of this Christian life. To me she was blessed by God tremendously, but as she said…it came at a painful price. A life filled with pain and sorrow, disease and abuse, she lived never taking her eyes of the Comforter. Even in her darkest moments she would not deny her God. Sure, sometimes it was difficult to keep the faith, but she marched on. Now she is with her Lord and all that went before her, singing praises to the one and only true God.

Adversity is something we face at some point in our lives. And honestly, some of us have more than our share and some handle it better than others. Adversity can bring one closer to the Lord, or draw one completely away and still others teeter-toter. It’s about where we draw our strength.

Last weekend a family member, a former believer in God, passed away. Sadly, his faith had gone by the wayside and he passed fully persuaded there was no proof of a living God. And it was not so much that he died rejecting God and His Son, but that on his deathbed he boasted of the fact that he had trained his grandchildren to believe otherwise…in themselves, their own abilities. His children already seem to share his sentiments toward a Supreme Being. I knew he was once a believer, so I encouraged him to reconsider his choice. There was still time, I said. We don’t know the exact hour the Lord will call us home.  His response was so nonchalant. Nah! He took a great deal of pride in his accomplishment. “I trained them! I created them! I stood next to his bed listening to his rant and I could not help but think that truly … this “former Christian” had actually rejected Christ, but that was not enough…he had to teach his future generations that all that God stuff was nonsense. And the only thing we could rely on was ourself.

He knew I was a believer and acknowledged as much, but out of the corner of his eye he gave me this look and said…I would also encourage you to reconsider your belief.

Truly, as a believer in Jesus Christ…how do you respond to such rejection? I prayed for him and talked to God about him for a while. It was sad. Unfortunately, people… people that we love, people that we grow up with, people that we admire…will leave this physical existence completely persuaded there is no God. What a surprise they will get when they get to the other side. While it may be too late for those that died without Christ, the children…they still have hope… We need to pray for our children.

The enemy is walking about…waiting…seriously…

Ephesians 6:12 (NKJV)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

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Hebrews 12

Ok. So… the New Year is off to a bumpy start. I am praying the start of the year, is a test of faith and not an indication of what to expect for the rest of the year. One thing I did want to do was start the year in God’s word. Well, good thing I did. I wanted to start my reading plan with “love is patient…” scripture, but I had the wrong address in my brain. I thought it was in Hebrews, so I started in Hebrews 12. Well, I was wrong, but God in his infinite wisdom is always looking out for us. So, I was wrong, but God knew what I needed to hear. 

It was Peter who said…“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8).

Our enemy, the devil is relentless. He will use anyone that makes him or herself available. Family, friend and foe…without Christ, and often in the name of Christ…all can be vehicles of destruction. 

We need to examine our hearts, our motives in all things. We need to ask God to search our heart and see if there is any wickedness within and confess. 

Hebrews 12 (NKJV)

The Race of Faith

12 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The Discipline of God

3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,

Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;

6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,

And scourges every son whom He receives.”[a]

7 If[b] you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Renew Your Spiritual Vitality

12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

The Glorious Company

18 For you have not come to the mountain that[c] may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness[d] and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned[e] or shot with an arrow.”[f] 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”[g])

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

Hear the Heavenly Voice

25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake[h] not only the earth, but also heaven.”[i] 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may[j] serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

2017 Ready or Not – Here it Comes!

In three short days we will be bringing in a New Year. Even though I can’t wait for this year to end, after some serious thought, I’ve concluded that it’s really not going to make much difference.

It’s so unsettling when adversity strikes a chord in one’s heart. My grandson was in the hospital this past week…for three long days. On one of those nights, so my daughter could go to work, I had to stay over with him. That night was already filled with fear and uncertainty because … well…my grandson had to be hospitalized. I had one of those very uncomfortable pull out beds to sleep on, so as I tossed and turned to find a comfortable spot I had some time to ponder the last few months of 2016. I had been laid off from my job at the end of September, been denied unemployment, which I appealed, but it took almost three months for the Hearing Officer to make a decision, and unfortunately I fell into a financial mess that I won’t be able to pull myself out off, at least not anytime soon. I had not planned on being unemployed ever again, but here I was jobless during the holidays, which always seems to make it worse. The nurses were coming in every couple of hours to check on my grandson, so sleep and getting comfy was not happening. Anyway, I was thinking about my situation and I realized the only change I could count on was the year changing. I was not being pessimistic as much as I was being realistic.

People tend to make New Years resolutions, but for me that never seems to work. I mean I can make personal resolutions like lose weight, or eat better, but in the things that really need to change in my life are really in God’s hands. Even if I do all the right things. Will I find a job? Will I be able to purchase a vehicle? Will I be able to stay in my home? It’s all about faith. Will my faith fail me in the coming months?

So much is in God’s hands. I know, that I know that… He has a plan for all His children, but where His plans will take me and when is what leaves me on the edge of my seat. This waiting on God can get discouraging. It leaves me feeling abandoned. It’s makes me feel like I missed something.And it never fails that the more the Lords reveals of himself to me, the harder the enemy strikes.  Who will save me from myself?! ugh! My Lord, please come quickly!

Waiting on the Lord in the Word and in Prayer in 2017.

Be blessed one and all. Thank you for following me and reading my posts. Have a safe and Happy New Year!

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Merry Christmas!

For unto us is born this day a child which is Christ the Lord…

Mat. 1:23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”[g] (which means “God with us”).

Be blessed.

Psalm 147:7-11

During trying times is when we tend to realize what really matters.  My birthday was yesterday and Christmas is four days out. Any other year these dates would take priority, especially Christmas. 

As a grandparent I want my grandkids to enjoy the holiday season. It’s fun. School’s out, so everyone can stay up later and sleep in, watch more tv, especially Christmas movies, old favorites and new releases, and best of all no homework. 

It was not enough to lose my dear friend in November. I am still missing her. She was my ally. She was my sounding board when it came to my children. We prayed for each other. We had each other’s back. Now she’s gone and only in God can I confide, which is ok. Now my struggles go straight to the ears of God. 

This school break and really most of December has been spent caring for sick grandkids. Ear infections, ruptured eardrums, staph infections, cold and congestion..ugh!!! It’s been messy. My 10 year old grandson’s staph infection required hospitalization. He gave us a scare. His mom was frantic, but she showed tremendous strength dealing with her two sons. I was so proud of her. I pray for my grandsons continually and still they fall prey…

I am so thankful that I serve a God whose eyes are continually on His children. His mercy is immeasurable and His grace sufficient. I am thankful that my grandson made it to the ER before the staph infection could cause more harm. 

These season I am so thankful that my children and grandchildren can experience the mercy and grace of the living God. I am thankful for the nurses that took care of my grandson. He may be 10, but he is just a big baby and the nurses were awesome with him. IV’s are difficult for adults and we understand why we need it, but children don’t always understand that the torture they experience is for their good. My grandson to the nurse…  “I want to wait for my grandma.” Nurse: “No. It can’t wait!” Grandson: “Please! Why are you being so mean? You are being mean!”

Christmas is a time of giving and sharing, but for me it’s a time to remember all the blessings of God that have nothing to do with material gain. It’s a time to remember the mercy that He extends to his children though we are undeserving, but that’s His grace that he gives abundantly. Praise God for His faithfulness this holiday season and all year long.