Category Archives: Grief

Faith of Our Fathers…and Other Inspiring Father Figures

Have you ever noticed how some people are larger than life? I remember when my spiritual big brother’s father passed away, he said having his father in his life had been like seeing a big mountain out the picture window every day…but on the day his father died, he felt like the mountain disappeared. I’m guessing that’s how Uncle Milt’s sons must have felt when their dad passed away last week. Do you remember my writing about “Filling Cinderella’s Slippers” a few weeks ago? That story recounted the life and loss of Milt’s beloved bride of almost 72 years, and within a few weeks of her death, he also graduated to glory. Diagnosis? Well, Larry (his son and Alan’s lifelong friend) told us that his dad died of a broken heart. Uncle Milton was amazing to everybody…and that included me. Just one example: One night thirty years ago while Alan was in medical school and we were poorer than church mice, Alan and I were trying to get home to the Soo from Detroit in our leprous old car. Our little Vega was so rundown that the windshield leaked and the heater was broken, so I’d wrap our two toddling boys up in blankets and hold them on my lap while we traveled. We had just enough gas money to get home and back with nothing to spare. (These were the days before seat belt laws or credit cards.) Our car died on the freeway, but Alan was able to get it to glide off the highway and near a gas station, where he called his dad. His dad was sick and couldn’t come get us, so Alan’s mom ran across the street to Milton and Faye. Milt drove all the way down to Saginaw to pick us up and drove us home through the night. He even went to work the next morning!! The church (which he helped build) was full; the pastor’s voice cracked, and there were lots of tears shed. To know him was to love him, and everybody in Dafter knew him! Milt was also a man of quiet faith, and I want to share just one more story. He was diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he wouldn’t live six months about 17 years ago. God miraculously  healed him! I know most people die when they have a terminal illness, but I also want you to know that sometimes God chooses to extend someone’s life miraculously, and God chose to do that for Uncle Milt. If anybody deserved some extra innings, I’d say he was one of them!  When Aunt Faye passed from this life to heaven, her kids sang “Blessed Assurance,” but this time Milt’s four sons and their beautiful brides sang “Faith of Our Fathers,” and one of his grand daughters signed “I Can Only Imagine.” Uncle Milt wasn’t my father…or Alan’s father. In fact, he’s not really even our uncle, but he was like an uncle to us and a most inspiring father figure. I hope everyone who knows  him or reads this also embraces faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins, and in whom we can have life eternal just by asking God to forgive us for our sins and save us through the blood of Christ! Uncle Milt and Aunt Faye are now in heaven together. I hope we all join them someday!!

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)

Faith of Our Fathers
(—Frederick W. Faber, 1849, public domain)

  1. Faith of our fathers, living still,
    In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword;
    Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious Word!

    • Refrain:
      Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
      We will be true to thee till death.
  2. Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
    Were still in heart and conscience free;
    How sweet would be their children’s fate,
    If they, like them, could die for thee!
  3. Faith of our fathers, we will strive
    To win all nations unto thee;
    And through the truth that comes from God,
    We all shall then be truly free.
  4. Faith of our fathers, we will love
    Both friend and foe in all our strife;
    And preach thee, too, as love knows how
    By kindly words and virtuous life.

Filling Cindarella’s Slippers

Wednesday Alan and I headed up “home” to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for the funeral of a beloved friend’s mother…perhaps the last of the older generation who has been a mentor and inspiration to me. When my family moved to Michigan from the west 57 years ago, I had 27 cousins, almost all of whom lived in Colorado where both my parents grew up. Within a few years, I had latched on to the family of my closest girlfriend, Brenda, and the family of one of my dearest guy friends, Larry, who was like a brother to me. Larry’s parents became “Aunt Faye” and “Uncle Milt,” helping ease my sense of loss over being so far from extended family. Milt and Faye were the type of people who had their arms open wide for anybody and everybody, so they never batted an eye!

Although I didn’t really see a lot of them over the years, I was definitely impressed by Faye’s gracious heart and sweet spirit. She was one of those very rare “virtuous women” eulogized in Proverbs 31. Faye had four sons, who all turned out great. I had six sons, who are still in the process of turning out, but I hope they end up as well as hers have! Her sons and their wives sang “Blessed Assurance” at the funeral, and I told Alan that I would like our seven (I also have one daughter!) and their spouses to sing “Blessed Assurance” at my funeral too! I love that song! It was the first song I ever sang as “special music” at our little church in the Soo after I became a Christian, and it reflects not only Faye’s life story, but mine as well!   Faye was 90 and in the midst of enjoying her 72nd year of marriage to Milt. No one is ever ready to lose their mom, but Faye was ready to join her Savior in heaven…along with her sister—as her oldest grandson surmised—so they could get busy making heaven even cleaner.  Her grandson made everybody laugh and cry more than I’ve ever seen at a funeral, and there was standing room only at the back of Hovie’s overflowing chapel. Even two of her caregivers came (which Alan says he’s never seen before), and the place was jammed. How often does that happen for somebody who’s 90?!! Anyway, it was very sad to lose her, but it was also a celebration of a beautiful life beautifully lived, and I left so inspired that I’ve got my funeral all planned out now! You think I’m kidding? I am not!  At any rate, I hope you are ready to die, and when I die, I hope people celebrate my life with the sense of peace and joy that undergirded all the sorrow flowing Wednesday. I would love to be remembered the way Faye was. One daughter-in-law mentioned how she made each of her sons feel special and loved. Another daughter-in-law mentioned how Faye made each of her daughter-in-laws feel totally loved and accepted. None of her sons could speak…which also speaks volumes to me about how much they loved her, because they are usually full of life and tales. 🙂  Isn’t that sweet? I guess if I want to die like Faye, I’d better work hard at living like Faye. She has beautiful, transparent slippers to fill!

        Blessed Assurance
(—Fanny Crosby, 1873)

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels descending bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, all is at rest;
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love…

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalm 32:1-2).

 

Sharing our Poetic Hearts for National Poetry Month

So, I’ll start with a haiku that mourns the loss of my beloved dog, who has passed from this life. The thought came me as I was shooing the geese off our dock  …yet again! 😦  I don’t mind the geese claiming our yard as their nesting ground, but they have absolutely no sense of decorum concerning appropriate dock etiquette and care!

“Oh, Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?”   Geese are on our dock.   I will have to shoo them off.   Where did my dog go?

From earlier this April:

“Cast Away”   Dreams, like branches, fall.
Casualties of stormy springs.
Half buried in snow.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

The Lord gave this next poem to my friend…as she sat in silence during the early morning…lamenting the death of her beloved son:

“As I come downstairs early in the morning
You, O Lord, are waiting for me
You meet me in the darkness of the early morning
You meet me in the darkness of my life..my grief
As the light of day appears
Your WORD pours LIGHT into my heart
The LIGHT I need to face this day…..”
(—she prefers not sharing her name)
You, Lord are my lamp; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
(2 Samuel 22:29)
“PEARL”
(by a dear friend since college days, Phyliss Hammerstrom)
Every poem begins
with some uncomfortable,
aching,
irritating grain,
around which I layer
word
after sibilant word,
encasing it with shimmering
veils of opalescence,
until its sharp edges are smooth,
until I can live with it.
–Then the knife
that digs the treasure out of my flesh!

Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects: therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty: For he makes sore, and binds up: he wounds, and his hands make whole” (Job 5:17-18).

Carri Cassarino“Anxiety”
(by Carri Nelson Cassarino, September 20, 2017)

When anxiety was great within me,
Your consolation brought joy to my soul.
You say worry is against your kingdom,
So we must seek and must know.

Truly your best effort is to shield us from worry.
Your best hope is to keep solid for you and be in awe.
For the joy before us is your great joy,
And the way forward to trust your law.

For the glory of Him who loves us is His great and wonderful love,
We must ever trust him and give him our love,
For the way forward is to obey what He says.
And never seek our own way and be His beloved.

For the joy is found in obedience.
And the glory of Him for us is love.
For the hope He gives is eternal.
Then He will take what is His, above.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Rise Up, My Love (264): Overcoming Trials

Song of Solomon 8:5 “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?”Are you feeling all clear and cheery today? No clouds in the sky of your heart? Or, are the clouds gone but you’re burning under the heat of the sun? You’ve laid your burden at the foot of the cross, but you’re still wandering through the wilderness?

Healing is always miraculous, and sometimes God heals us completely in a moment, but often giving our struggles to Jesus is like getting a cast on a broken leg. It begins the healing process, but it may take months before we can walk without a limp. Or, as in the case of Jacob who became a “prince” with God, we may limp for the rest of our lives (Genesis 32:31-32).

Whatever the consequences of our sins and trials may be… Jacob came through his wilderness experience as a prince, and so can we. In case you’re still struggling, let’s consider this verse again. We all have wilderness experiences in our lives. We all have times in our lives when we feel very alone, very lost, very betrayed…very hurt. We feel pain. Often we feel great loss…loss of love, loss of trust, loss of the presence of those we love.

Most of us have experienced the anguish of, “Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). Our whole world turns grey. Our minds race like rats running a maze, but all we can find are dead ends. There is no way out. There is no way of escape. We can run, but will that help? Which way is the right way?

I used to always want to run away from pain, but I’ve learned over many years that running away doesn’t work. Yes, there are some types of physical pain that can be avoided by running, but we can’t run away from spiritual and emotional realities. In the spiritual realm, we must learn to make the painful journey out of the wilderness—not by running wildly away from trouble—but by leaning on our Savior and finding all we need in him.

No matter how wonderful our spouse, family, and friends are, there are times when they will fail. No matter how much our parents love us, they can’t always be there for us. I am one of the very blessed ones. Some have no parents or spouse at all, or the ones they have are cruel and wicked. Some people have no friends or family at all…good or bad! They are alone in this world…not just part of the time, but all of the time. What then?

No matter what the circumstances of your life are today, if at some time you have come to the Lord repenting of your sins and asking Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior, then you are a child of God and a part of the family of God and bride of Christ. In that case, whatever the wilderness…he is with you. How shall we escape? “How shall we then live?” By leaning on the everlasting arms of our Savior. By looking into his eyes and sensing his love…by being filled with his peace and presence. By following his example and walking beside him.

What is the wilderness? Most of the time it is the sense of emotional desolation we feel when we are disappointed by the circumstances of life. Really, it is the Wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:1), and at its heart—the wilderness of our own sin, created by looking inward and feeling sorry for ourselves instead of looking upward and rejoicing in God when we are suffering tribulation.

Yesterday (fifteen years ago!) I called a former pastor’s wife whom I knew was suffering with vision problems and bruised ribs from a fall in the bathtub. When I asked her anxiously, “How are you?” expecting to be empathetic with her pain, she responded with incredibly cheery faith, “Oh, I’m just rejoicing in the Lord.” Wow! What a testimony to the realness of her comfort in God’s grace. This is the true secret of overcoming!

Just today (while editing this), I talked to a friend wh0 just come out from anesthesia after a hip replacement. I asked her, “How are you feeling?” to which she replied, “Oh, we had a fun day. They wheeled me into the wrong surgical suite, but they figured it out before they took out my appendix, and we all had a good laugh.” What a great attitude!

During the biggest test of my life, I “failed of the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15). Under the torch of God’s hot refining fire, I gave up in many ways. I gained fourteen pounds in six months. I lost all desire to live and just wished I could die and go to be with the Lord, “which is far better”(Philippians 1:23), more absorbed by my own pain that moved by the needs of those around me.

Have you been in the wilderness? Have you come to the foot of the cross? Have you found the way out? Please take the time to read Hebrews 12 slowly and carefully. In my (Scofield) Bible, the heading for this chapter is “The walk and worship of the believer-priest.” That’s you and me! Don’t forget our calling and responsibility. What are we to do? Look up, and know that God is all wise, all powerful, and present everywhere…even here this minute.

Understand that not one sparrow falls without his consent, and not one person falls without his consent either. We may feel alone, but we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us through terrible suffering…perhaps similar to our own…perhaps even worse. Most of all, “Consider him [Jesus] that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:3). Trust Jesus. Lean on him. As soon as you can, stop crying and wipe away your tears!

Eventually it’s possible to find peace and joy again—even after terrible trials—and feel like being alive once more. It’s possible to come up out of the wilderness. I know. It happened to me.

Rise Up, My Love (263): How to Survive Heartbreak

Song of Solomon 8:5 “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?” This is a magnificent verse. It is speaking—of course—of the bride. From whence is she coming? The wilderness. How is she coming? Is she alone? No, not at all. She is coming in the company of her beloved, enabled by his support.

This is a verse that gleams like a gem lying openly atop the burning desert sands of life…no digging to understand what’s meant, just scoop it up and it’s yours! Better yet, it’s like the glitter of light reflecting from an artesian well, marking an oasis in the desert of life…no need to dig the well, just draw out the water and be refreshed. You know what the verse is saying…just meditate on it…”chew on it” for a while and allow its truth to become your own experience!

Have you ever been in the wilderness? About fifteen years ago, I lost my mother after ten long years of her suffering with Alzhiemer’s, and shortly thereafter I learned that one of my dearest friends had betrayed me in a most devastating way. I felt desperately lonely and heartbroken…I believe it was the lowest point in my life, and my husband was totally unhelpful. (He is now very supportive, just for the record.)  At any rate, it took me many years, but I learned a very painful lesson. When we’re in the desert, we’re never going to survive unless we start taking one small step at a time…putting one foot in front of the other even if we’d really rather die and go to heaven. Nobody can do this for us. God wants us to lean on our Savior and walk out of the wilderness with him, but there are certain steps we have to take or we’ll never really get out.

*We have to confess our own failures: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

*We have to forgive those who’ve injured us: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

*And then, we have to consciously refuse to think about the past hurt, just as our dear heavenly Father does: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jeremiah 31:34).  *Finally, we have to start walking up and out of the wilderness, like someone who’s trying to recover from a broken leg (or for us older folks—a hip or knee replacement), leaning heavily on our beloved spiritual husband, Jesus Christ, for support. Slowly but surely, without even realizing it, we’ll start to heal and find joy again, but it comes from leaning on Jesus and communing with him with an iron-clad resolution to refuse looking back.

Will you take time to stop for a few minutes and sort through your life relationships? Are there injuries that rumble like thunder through the back of your mind and send a bolt of jagged pain ripping through your heart when you remember them? If so, how about taking a few moments to visualize something with me. Imagine gathering up all these terrible memories one by one as if they are billowing black clouds that you can reach up and pull down into a bundle. Imagine taking the bundle and bringing it to the foot of the cross, giving it entirely to Jesus so that it is no longer yours. Confess and forgive: “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil” (Luke 11:4).

Have you given your burden to the Lord? If so, it is his. You don’t own it any more. Don’t try to take it back; don’t open the bag; don’t try to sort through the memories anymore. They belong to Jesus, and he wants you to choose to “remember them no more.” That chapter is finished. Over. Done. Look forward.

One night while our family was leading worship at our local rescue mission, a big, handsome, fierce-looking African-American man with dread locks came to the front of the room at an altar call carrying a long knife, which he lifted over his head, holding one end with each of his hands. For a moment we all held our breath, not perfectly sure what he intended, because carrying concealed weapons was strictly forbidden at the mission, and no one had known that he was armed with such a deadly knife.

However, when the man reached the front where my husband was standing, he kneeled down and laid his weapon on the floor. This is just what we need to do with those killer thoughts that we’ve kept hidden within us! Lift that lethal bundle over your head, come straight to the cross, and lay it at the feet of Jesus.

“This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing” (Isaiah 28:12). “Casting all your care upon him: for He careth for you” (I Peter 5:7).

A Time for Heaven Contrived By God

 A Time for Heaven is one of those “fact is stranger than fiction” stories that would seem contrived and “too good to be true” unless it is, and they say it is!! A Time for Heaven is definitely advertised as being “based on the incredible true story about a tenacious nurse who helped people that had reached the end of their lives come to terms with God and heaven.”  I couldn’t find any more information on line to test just how closely the story line followed the realities, but I did learn that the real nurse was fired from the hospital for being too open about her faith.  A Time for Heaven (2017) is G-rated and has a 7.6 from IMDb, so it’s a well done movie your whole family could enjoy together (or at least those old enough to deal with the issue of impending death).  It showcases hospice care at its best, starring a compassionate young nurse who is assigned a very grouchy patient.  Although he’s hard on her, she’s up for the challenge, and eventually the patient is loved into peace and contentment about his imminent death.  Despite (but also because of) the amazing coincidences, A Time for Heaven is a beautiful story about life, death, abandonment, forgiveness, and hope, and it has a wonderfully happy ending.                                         So, what’s not to love about that?   Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

Thanksgiving, Thanksgetting, or Both? (With Illustrations from India and Nepal to Give Perspective)

I have four of the world’s best daughter-in-laws, and my one and only son-in-law is right up there with the best of them too! He is warm, quiet, affectionate, generous, always helpful, devout, ingenious, artistic, and usually has a bit of a smirk on his face, which I presume is his creative imagination kicking in to add a bit of humorous (albeit silent) commentary to life.    I wouldn’t trade him for a barrel of monkeys or anything else you might offer!  All this intro is so you don’t misinterpret his wry pseudonym for Thanksgiving, which is (as you’ve probably guessed) “Thanksgetting.”   So, what are you doing for Thanksgetting tomorrow? Lord willing, we’ll do what we most often do: Gather with those of our family who are able to come and share a Thanksgiving “feast,” and then we’ll sit in a circle around a candle-lit coffee table in our living room and play “The Thankful Game.” Do you ever play that game? It’s a time of reflecting on all the blessings we’ve received over the past year from God, and we go around the circle sharing one by one, round and round until we all seem content that we’ve remembered to give thanks to God for all the most important things we’ve gotten from him. It’s really an opportunity to recognize God’s goodness in our lives and a great way to worship Him, whether you’re alone for Thanksgiving or in a big group.
However you celebrate, I hope you focus on what you’ve gotten rather than what you’ve given this year, and if it’s been a terrible year where you’ve suffered great loss, perhaps you can think about what you still have.  I have a number of friends who’ve had serious physical problems this year, and some who have lost someone precious to them, and my heart grieves for them.  Still, after visiting India and Nepal recently, I am reminded of how “good” most of us have it in America.  King David suffered terrible losses in his life, and yet he wrote beautiful psalms of praise to God for His goodness and graces.  I pray that whatever your circumstances, you’ll be able to say with David: “I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116 :17, emphasis mine; notice that sometimes it is actually an act of sacrifice to believe in God, surrender to him, and find reasons to give him thanks in the midst of anguish). Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2). Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (Psalm 100:4).   And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing” (Psalm 107:22).   “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8).