Category Archives: Autobiography

In Honor of Veterans Day: Out of the Depths

Do you, like me, hate war? Are you looking for something to give you a little hope in the midst of the insanities we’re experiencing around the world? Today I want to join with everyone in our country in honoring those brave men and women who serve in our military, and because it’s Veterans Day, I also want to commend Out of the Depths as one book about war that will leave you with a sense of peace and hope instead of despair. As the author observes at one point, “A man can endure just about anything as long as he has hope. But take away his hope, and all that is left is despair and the relief of suicide.”

Author Edgar Harrell was one of the marines aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis when she was sunk in the middle of the Pacific Ocean by two Japanese torpedoes during World War 2. The ship was sailing through shark-infested waters above the Mariana Trench, and her loss is today considered the greatest single disaster in American naval history.

Harrell’s harrowing account of the lives and deaths of hundreds of men taught me many things. Heroes aren’t just brave, they are “people who overcome evil by doing good at great personal risk.” It taught me more about “Semper Fidelis” (the Marine motto: always faithful). Harrell points out from his own experiences as a young man that the best way to be prepared for war is to be prepared for eternity. He learned that there are not only “no atheists in foxholes” (which we’ve heard since World War 1), but there are also no atheists fighting for their life in the midst of the sea, either.

Out of the Depths is an amazing story of agony, loss, miracles, mercy, grace, peace, hope, and learning to forgive. Does Harrell still have PTSD? Yes. But, he’s learned the secret of how to overcome evil with good…even down to embracing the great granddaughter of the the Japanese captain who sank his ship.

As a girl, I could never read or watch stories about war. They were too terrible. It was like reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (which I could never do either). Instead, it seemed reasonable to simply trust that—like Corrie Ten Boom’s father explained to her—God will give you the “ticket” (strength and grace to endure suffering) when you need it, but not before.

However, once one of my sons joined the military as an army dentist, all that changed, and now I have a deep need to find some hope in the midst of this darkest aspect of history. Out of the Depths helped me, and maybe you’d find it helpful too.One last Veterans Day thought, and then I’ll quit. Like the majority of Americans, I have enough to eat every day and get to sleep in a warm, snug bed every night with a reasonable hope of not being attacked, and that’s a huge blessing… probably more security and freedom than 75% of the world enjoys. As Captain Eddie Rickenbacker said when reflecting on the 21 days he spent floating on a life raft in the Pacific Ocean during World War II:  “The biggest lesson I learned from that experience was that if you have all the fresh water you want to drink and all the food you want to eat, you ought never to complain over anything.” I’ve had nothing to complain about my entire life. Thank you, brave military personnel. I pray for your safety, and for the safety of every godly person in this world, no matter where you live. May goodness and peace triumph over evil and greed.

If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (Psalm 139:9-10).

 

 

Some Healing Balm for Grief and Loss

Becky Baudouin’s book, Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy was so full of helpful ideas on grieving loss (not only cancer but any loss) that I want to share just a few of the multitude with you this morning:

“Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same.” Gerald Sittser, A Grace Disguised

“Sometimes you will never know the value of something until it becomes a memory.” Dr. Seuss

“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” Helen Keller

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when your pain has caused you to forget it.” Cherelea A. Purcell, Restored

“Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference.” David Augsburger

“Grief and pain are the price humans have to pay for the love and total commitment we have for another person. The more we love, the more we hurt when we lose the object of our love. But if we are honest with ourselves, would we have it any other way?” C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

“Grief is not a one-time visitor…Grief comes, always uninvited…Grief demands acknowledgement…So invite grief in. Take your time and unpack the bags. Listen to the stories and feel the feelings. Don’t rush the process. Do the hard work of grieving—and make no mistake—it is some of the hardest work  you will ever do.” Becky Baudouin, Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy

“When you make your way through grief, you don’t leave that person behind. You bring that person with you, where your memories of that person and your thankfulness for that person [become] a happy experience and not filled with so much pain.” Susan Lutz, GriefShare

“Resignation is an outer posture; surrender is an inner one. Resignation is giving up; surrender is accepting…Surrender invites us to a radical but always freeing posture of nonresistance to reality.” David Benner, Soulful Spirituality

“You may never know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.” Corrie Ten Boom

“If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. If he had a wallet, your photo would be in it. He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning…Face it, friend. He’s crazy about you.” Max Lucado, A Gentle Thunder

“I did not get over my loved ones; rather I absorbed the loss into my life…until it became a part of who I am. Sorrow took up permanent residence in my soul and enlarged it.” Gerald Sittser, A Grace Disguised

The rest are all by Becky Baudouin from her book, Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy:

“Like a GPS processing new data so it can determine a new route, we do our best to recalculate—to adjust our thinking based on what we know to be true. Our changed reality forces changes in us. In some ways we become a different version of ourselves, a different version of who we were becoming. We are shaped and forever altered by these moments.”

“I am beginning to see that maybe the best way to lead my children is to let them walk with me.”

“Cancer threatens our future time together, but the gift is that it also fully opens us up to the present.”

“It is a profound privilege to walk with a loved one on an unwanted journey, because in the midst of the darkness and the fear, when we can’t see where we are going, we find out that we are not alone.”

“Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers.”

“I’ve searched the Bible for this verse promising that God won’t give us more than we can handle, and I can’t find it…I believe that God is in control and does allow trials to come our way, and that he is always working for our good. but it’s not our own strength that determines how we will weather the storms of life; it’s our dependence on him that matters most.”

“When we put our faith in God rather than in a desired outcome, we are empowered to take the next step, even when we can’t see where we are going. We can rely on God’s unfailing love and goodness even through life’s darkest trials. We can worship him even in the midst of crushing grief and loss, holding on to the promises that he will see us through and heaven awaits us. ‘We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2, New Living Translation).”

“Fast-forwarding is great for skipping television commercials, but it would not be good in real life, even for skipping over the hard moments, because God is in those moments.”

“It’s often difficult to know what to do when our loved ones begin to lose their independence, their health, or their abilities. It is a transition that is never easy or smooth. There is a delicate, impossible-to-find balance between encouraging and pushing, between helping and enabling.”

“Life is best lived in community. She showed me that healing comes as we make ourselves vulnerable and tell our stories…Our stories have the power to become a transforming force in the lives of others.”

“I didn’t expect the sorrow to be laced with beauty. In some ways, it remind me of childbirth…I see my mom being born into heaven.”

“Some people call it grief brain. It feels like your head is stuffed with cotton, and you can’t think clearly…Here’s my explanation for why we can’t think clearly after a tragedy or loss: Part of the brain is processing what happened and another part of the brain is protesting. Amidst this tug-of-war between acceptance and disbelief, there is a whole lot of remembering and mental reorganizing taking place. All of this requires enormous amounts of energy, and it is absolutely exhausting.”

“In pretty much any given moment, if I quiet myself, I can imagine what my mom would say to me. I can still hear her voice and feel her love. Now I know what she was trying to tell me. Her love has become internalized inside my heart, and in a way that means she lives on in my thoughts. It means that she is always with me, in my heart.”

“I don’t think true happiness is found by escaping our everyday lives. I think it’s available and attainable in the mundane, ordinary, less-than-perfect places. I think it’s found by loving God and loving others.”

“Spending time together as a family is one of the best things we can do this side of heaven…loving and accepting one another is the greatest gift we can give, and…together we can make it through anything. We were never meant to walk alone.”

 

When Faith Brings Unexpected Joy to the Cancer Journey

If you’ve had any experience with cancer, you can’t read Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy: What My Mother Taught Me About How to Live and How to Die without feeling the profound weight of grief Becky Baudouin experienced as she walked through the great shadowlands with her mom.

My husband appears to be healthy today, but he’s a survivor of prostate cancer, and once “The Big C” enters your life, it never quite leaves, hanging like a gloomy cloud perceived somewhere at the edges of your peripheral emotional vision. The husband of my dearest friend from childhood is going through chemo treatments right now, so the fear is fresh again in me…the hope for healing…the longing for health…the insecurities about the future…

Becky’s book is like a basic 101 course in dealing with life and death issues!   However, it’s also like taking medicine, so I was very ambivalent about starting. It’s painful to reflect on past losses; it’s even painful to process present challenges! And, it’s downright terrifying to consider possible future worsts while hoping for bests. Therefore, reading Becky’s book was an exercise in faith and hope…hope that faith could bring unexpected joy even in such tragic circumstances as the loss of an irreplaceable loved one.

Cancer, Faith, and Unexpected Joy was truly therapeutic! Becky opens the doors of her heart and takes you on a journey with her through her own childhood, her mom’s illness, grieving the loss of her mother, and coming through the depths of grief back to life. Interwoven throughout the book are some of the treasures she learned from her mother about faith, life and death. The author’s motivation is obvious—she wants you to know that you are not alone in your suffering, that all the crazy stages (such as grief brain) are pretty much universal, and that (as her mom taught her) you don’t have to be afraid of death.

Shining through the weight of grief is the weight of glory. One of my favorite thoughts was this: When we were little, sometimes our mothers would call us home, but we wouldn’t want to stop playing. However, at other times, we would realize how hungry and tired we were and would be glad for the dinner bell! Reflecting on this, Becky writes, “…surrendering in death is accepting God’s timing when he says, ‘It’s time for you to come home now.’ When we live a surrendered life, when we’ve learned to listen to his voice and follow where he leads, we trust him because we believe he loves us and knows what’s best. And hopefully when he calls us, we will realize how hungry we are for heaven, how ready we are to go home.” Amen? Amen. I think that will be the greatest unexpected joy for each of us as we anticipate death! We will see Jesus coming for us, and suddenly, we’ll be overjoyed to go!

Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

What’s the Cost for An Asian Harvest?

Ready to be blessed and challenged…to have your heart broken but also filled with joy? If your heart bursts with the love of God and you have a passion to share his love with others so that they, too, might experience salvation by faith in Christ, you’ll love this book. Through Paul’s ministry, millions have received Bibles over the past twenty-five years.  Although his story is monumental compared to the quiet, quite insignificant path of my life, I really resonate with his love for Jesus and his desire to share God’s good news, and I’m hoping you will too!

Paul wasn’t just your average kid. He suffered from a loveless home life and was such an underachiever that one of his high school teachers told him his life was “a waste of oxygen.” From his days as a high school dropout in New Zealand and living as a homeless kid hiding out on the top of a public toilet in Australia (in an effort to keep warm and evade vagrancy charges), through his conversion and life of walking by faith, Paul tells his amazing story of grace with humility, candor, humor, and passion.

Some of the low lights include his first job scrubbing toilets, his first “apartment” (chicken coop) with a stench so awful that some of his friends refused to visit, the night he almost died from altitude sickness in the mountains of Nepal, green flies for lunch in Indonesia (and the discovery that mangy dogs served as the family dishwashers by licking the bowls clean), the years of harassment from his exposing a pedophile posing as a minister, and a sudden stroke that left him with only half a brain. Some of the highlights include his challenging romance with the love of his life, all the miraculous ways that God provided for him through the years (despite specific instructions from God that he never ask anyone but God for money), and the great joy of working in his Father’s vineyard so that others may come to know the love of God.

Was it worth the cost? Paul says, “I have been the beneficiary of a completely lopsided exchange. I handed Jesus my futile existence, and in return He gave me a life of purpose and fulfillment…If all the pain and struggles we endured were necessary to open the doors to fruitful service for Jesus, then it was all worthwhile, and those experiences have proven inconsequential compared to the overall plan of God in my life.”

I will very gladly spend and be spent for you” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields;
for they are white already to harvest
” (John 4:35).

 

 

 

I’m the Daughter of Adam: Are You Surprised?!

Although compiling a family genealogy (or “family history,” as it’s more popularly called in Europe) has been going on for all of recorded history, tracing your own family tree is a pretty daunting task. In the U.S., most of us were too proletarian to pursue genealogical connections until Alex Haley’s 1976 novel, Roots, took America by storm. Today, it’s all the buzz! I read in one source that up to 42% of leisure research on the internet today is related to genealogy (don’t know if that’s correct). To be sure, it’s become very popular, particularly since 1999, when internet resources made researching so much easier.  The largest resource for genealogical research in the world is free and is called FamilySearch:   https://familysearch.org/ It was started back in 1894. They have over 3.3 billion records and 12+billion names from over 100 countries, with over 150 million users. This is the resource I’ve been using, although there are several others out there.  My journey took me back through many lines. Some trailed off almost immediately, and some lasted hundreds of years before disappearing.

Other lines were more promising. Following various trails, I appear (perhaps)  to have descended from King Arthur,  Constantine the Great,  Joseph of Arimathea,  Hyrancus II,  Cleopatra,the Caesars,   Ptolemy V Epiphanes of Egypt (BC 210-181…the Rosetta stone describes his coronation),  Pharoah Psamteck I of Egypt,  and even back to Helen of Troy and Paris.

I was feeling a little dubious about the whole Trojan War thing (although history suggests such a battle may have occurred), but when I got to generation 80, which said I was the daughter of Zeus, and that was the end of the line…well, I disbelieved the last bit for sure. I’m not sure who was the father, but I don’t believe it was a god!  Another line from Greece back to Turkey ended after 97 generations with Simeois the River God of Acadia ben Oceanus… “son of Oceanus,” another mythological God. Hmmm.  One line from William the Conqueror went back to Halfdan the Old of Norway (whose relatives also populated Iceland). My Norwegian line goes back 52 generations to “Vifil” the Sea King and ends up after 60+ generations suggesting that I’m the offspring of Thor. Not.  My Irish line ended up being the most promising. Although it’s commonly taught that St. Patrick brought writing to the Irish in the fifth century, they apparently had a rich oral tradition of genealogies, which were recorded by professional families of historians known as senchaidh. I’m guessing it was through this source (although I’m not sure) that my lineage went back through the centuries, sometimes with only names listed, way back to the eighth century BC, where after 92 generations the record says that Princess of Judah, Tamar, Tephi ha-David Bat Josiah, was born in Jerusalem but married Eochaidh Buadhach mac Duach, the King of Ireland around 736 BC, and died in Obhdah, Meath, Ireland. Fascinating! The English do have ancient legends about “the lost tribe of Judah” and their ties to the Jewish people. Once on a London bus taking a tour of London, they played a ballad telling all about it, but it never made the least bit of sense to me until I saw this entry in the genealogical records.  As a believer, I would love to think I have some Jewish roots. That line took me back through the kings of Judah to Adam and Eve after 141 generations. The genealogy was biblically accurate, although they had left out 4 names, which would bring the total to 145 generations.  Through another line, my lineage went back to Moses and Aaron. Of course, all these lines merged at Noah and then went back through the patriarchs eventually to Adam and Eve.  Fascinating? To me, yes!! Fun? Absolutely!! How likely? Well, I absolutely believe in the validity of the biblical genealogies, and so I do believe we’re all descendants of Adam and Eve, but I reject the theory that I’m an offspring of Thor or Zeus.  🙂  I also noticed that the sources suggesting that humans sprang from gods (rather than being created by God) trailed off much earlier than the Jewish record. The Jewish narrative is by far the longest, and goes back to roughly BC 4000. This is consistent with the calculations of James Ussher…but that may have to wait until next week!

What do you think? Do you have any opinion about “In the beginning…”?

If you’ve never heard the biblical account, this is how it starts: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.” (Genesis 1:1-5).

 

The Daughter of a Puritan: What’s in a Name?

My son Joel mentioned not long ago that I’m the most conservative person he’s ever met. He said it kindly, but I don’t think he expressly meant it as a compliment.

Do you know what your name means? If so, has that knowledge impacted your life? My first name is “Kathryn,” which comes from the root word for “pure,” and I’ve always attempted (with plenty of failures!) to live up to my name. However, for the first twelve years of life, I didn’t associate my name in any way with God, because since my father professed atheism and my mom agnosticism, we were never exposed to religious teaching. Still, both my parents ascribed to a very high morality, and I wanted to live up to their “gold standard.” I wanted to be pure!

This was on my mind when my daughter-in-law was visiting and showed me how to access genealogical research online. Various friends and relatives have been very involved in researching their roots, but until lately, I never seemed to find time. This week I want to share with you what I’ve been learning, and the first exciting revelation is that I’m the great great (make that 7 more greats) daughter of two Puritan ministers! So, maybe that’s part of the reason I’m motivated to be pure! Reverend Nathaniel Ward (the earliest record I can find, back in 1572) was a Cambridge-trained Puritan minister who helped his son, Reverend John Ward (also a Puritan) buy  16 acres for 3 pounds along the Merrimack River, where he became the first minister of the the colonial settlement named Haverhill in Massachusetts back in 1640.

Have you looked into your history? I’m finding so many interesting things! Despite my father’s lack of faith (until he came to believe in his 80’s), the description of  Nathaniel Ward fits my dad to a T: “He was an exact Grammarian, an expert Physician and which was the Top of all, a thorough Divine, accompanied with a most Healthy, Hardy and Agile Body which enabled him to make nothing of walking on foot, a Journey as long as Thirty Miles together.”

Names are precious, and roots help ground us, but over the years, I’ve learned to cherish the name “Christian” (little Christ, or son of Christ) above any other name, and I find it even more compelling than the name Kathryn, because Christ was pure and holy to be sure, but He is so much more as well! No matter what our earthly names or roots may be, for all who believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we can be called by his name—the name above all names!

God also hath highly exalted him,
and given him a name which is above every name
” (Philippians 2:9).

“Jesus, Name Above All Names”

“Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.” (—Naida Hearn)

(PS—The likeness is of Increase Mather, a Puritan minister from the same era. I couldn’t find any likeness of Rev. John Ward.)

Coffee, the World, and Jesus, But Not Necessarily In That Order

It’s such a catchy title that I couldn’t improve on it for my post, and frankly, Ron DeMiglio’s entire book continues to live up to expectation! It’s easy to read and hard to put down, makes you laugh and makes you think. What’s not to love?

Ron spent twenty-five years traveling the world selling coffee for a living but following Jesus for a life. His book,  Coffee, the World, and Jesus, But Not Necessarily In That Order, is a collection of 28 loosely spun tales with clever titles like “The Hypocrite Oath,” “A Tale of Two Pities,” “His Grapes, My Wrath,”  and “An Affinity for Salinity.” Ron not only has a way with words, he can spin gold from coffee grounds!

Each reflection starts with a title geared to pique your curiosity and then lists a location (which pretty much includes every continent but penguin territory) and the purpose for his trip. With that fabric, he weaves tapestries from around the world (super fun for me as a travelogian), explaining what he learned with insightful charm and light-hearted transparency. Every story made me smile; every object lesson made me ponder; every chapter ended with this mantra: “Shun Common!”

If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur (or church planter or missionary), I’ll share one particularly helpful bit of wisdom from the book to whet your appetite. In the context of explaining how businesses are unpredictable and don’t all succeed despite outward expectations, he mentions what makes for a prime location: “High visibility, easy access, ample exterior signage, adequate parking, great foot and drive-by traffic, a high per capita income, and good mix of residential and retail, low crime, some form of mass transit nearby, and a favorable lease rate.” Obviously, if you have ministry instead of money in mind, then your CEO is the Holy Spirit, and He might direct slightly otherwise in some areas, but even thriving ministries have to be financially sustained somehow, so I think this list is worth considering no matter what your objective.

Last, but not least, a few quotable quotes. I hope you read the book (if you’re local, you can borrow mine), but if you don’t, I know Ron has a heart to share the abundance God has given him, so here are a few samples from his espresso bean:

“Spotting the Savior’s hand in the obscure and trivial makes me feel uncommonly loved.” (And, I hope it does that for you too!)

“Correction without a Holy Spirit-led concern for the individual is as useful as barbed-wire dental floss.”

“The history of a person has absolutely no bearing on the authenticity of their salvation. If they have truly repented and taken and passed the Jesus-acceptance exam, they are clean and right before God.”

“Life and joy are in the obedience, not the outcome.”

“I don’t feel intellectually inferior for recognizing the divine. I refuse to cower to fiction dolled up as logic.”

“Only the ethically blind can’t recognize and acknowledge their own duplicity.”

“But grace isn’t an excuse for me to bleed my casual sin all over those around me. Based on my acknowledgment of the monumental sacrifice that was made on my behalf, grace should be the tourniquet that stems the flow of my unholy activity.”

One last pearl of wisdom, not from Ron’s coffee table but from our Father: Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established
(Proverbs 4:26).