So I Know It’s not Easter!

This week our pastor encouraged us to realize committing our live to God was not a one time event. Neither was it a “get out of hell” card. Rather that commitment to God was only the beginning of what God wanted for us. She shared with us this verse:

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7

One of her suggestions was to “turn off the noise and be silent.” How can we hear from God when we have such noise all around us?

I thought a lot about that yesterday. We get in the car and turn on the radio; we spend too much time on social media, the news. None of that is bad – but sometimes it can become overload. So today while cleaning my kitchen I turned off all the “noise” and just let my heart and mind pray as I polished the dining table, underloaded the dishwasher and swept the kitchen floor. How peaceful I felt.

Then I put on an old CD to hear a song I have not listened to in years. It is a song that used to be sung in church and played on Christian radios every Easter. But we seem to only want to hear songs that have been written in the last two years 🙂 and some powerful songs are forgotten.

Today, I am reminded of the wonderful story that Jesus died not only so I could look forward to eternal life after this life, but could have joy and peace today – joy and peace that come to me when I take time to worship Him.

If you have not heard this song before, I hope it speaks to your heart. And if you have, I hope it reminds you that we serve a God who is able to help us no matter what our circumstances. And I think we need to celebrate this more than just one Sunday in spring.

One Way Jesus

Recently I begin studying the Tabernacle in the Old Testament.

Many who study the Bible never really look at the Old Testament and the truths of the Tabernacle found there. But much of the Bible is revealed in a study of the Tabernacle.

  • More than 50 chapters are devoted to the details of the Tabernacle.
  • In Exodus chapters 25-40 give guidance on the construction of the Tabernacle.
  • Leviticus contains 18 chapters on the function of the Tabernacle.
  • Deuteronomy has 2 chapters on the Tabernacle.
  • Hebrews shares a New Testament commentary on the Tabernacle in 4 chapters.
  • Revelation gives images of the Tabernacle (Temple) in heaven.

The people were told that the purpose of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament was so God could dwell with them.

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8

We see in Revelation that God’s desire is still to dwell among us.

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3

We know that was the point of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus – to make us able to have a relationship with God.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

As we look at the Tabernacle, we notice that there was only one gate – only one way to enter.

This clearly points to Jesus:

“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” John 10:9

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father by through me.” John 14:6

I AM – Jesus used these words several times in the Gospels. In Matthew 22:32 He basically quotes Exodus 3:6.

‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. So he is the God of the living, not the dead.” Matthew 22:32

 “‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:6

Later Jesus made it plan that he was calling Himself God. The people recognized His claim because they tried to stone Him for blasphemy.

“The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am! At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.” John 8:57-59

THE WAY– Jesus did not say I am “a” way. He said He was “the” way. In today’s culture, I know it is not politically correct to say there is only one way. A person can reject Christianity, but if they accept the Bible, they have to accept the claims of Jesus.

THE TRUTH – Again Jesus used the definite article to that He is the only truth. Jesus demonstrated this on HIs Sermon on the Mount. He pointed out different commandments they had and then said “but I say unto you” placing His truth above what the culture of the day said.

THE LIFE – Strange in a way that as Jesus is talking about his death, He claims to be “the” source of life. He claimed because He lived, we would too.

“Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:19

He claimed He was giving us abundant life.

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

As a follower of Jesus I believe He was promising eternal life after this life. But more than that, I believe He was promising a real life of freedom from condemnation, of joy even in difficult times. Abundant life consists of abundance of love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5.

In following Jesus I have found true joy. I love this picture of Jesus! To me, this is how I picture Him.

The Day I Was Mad at God

My computer of almost nine years is about to die on me I think. It is getting slower and slower. I purchased it when I retired and never thought it would last this long. Today I began saving files, pictures and other documents on the computer to flash drives so I will not lose everything if and when the computer bites the dust.

Going through my files I found this article I wrote but never posted. The story took place many years ago but reading it today I was reminded of that day I got mad at God. I am so thankful that we can be honest with Him and He does not reject us when we share our deepest thoughts and feelings.

The two grandchildren I mention in this post are now all grown up. Robert has two handsome boys with his wife, Amy, and Barbara is almost though law school. God has blessed my husband and I with many more grandchildren – and great grandchildren.

To be honest there have been a couple more times when I have found myself upset with God. But He has been faithful to me for over 73 years and I am thankful that He loves me – at all times, in all seasons.

So – here is that article I never posted.

I remember the moment I held my daughter in my arms.  It was overwhelming to realize I was a mother, personally responsible for this tiny baby.  Looking at her, I whispered that we were going to be the best of friends.  I shared with her my hopes and dreams of the hours we would spend reading, playing in the park and listening to music.  Four years later I once again held another daughter in my arms.  How happy I was – two beautiful daughters!

My girls were my world.  As a mother, there was nothing I would not do to make them happy.  As time passed, my oldest daughter and her husband gave me the joy of being a grandmother.  Robert was born and his first year was filled with precious memories watching him beginning to walk and say his first words.  One year later a beautiful granddaughter was born.  As I walked into the room where my daughter lay holding this new grandchild, my heart skipped a beat when she held the baby out to me and said, “Mother, meet Barbara Rose!”  She was named Barbara after me! 

In the midst of this joy, my heart was torn.  In just a few short weeks I would have the honor of dedicating this little child to God.  However, a few days after the dedication I would get on an airplane with my husband and youngest daughter and fly to the other side of the world to serve as a missionary in the Philippines. 

Several months before Rebekah had become pregnant with Barbara, God had opened a door for my husband and me to work in the Philippines for a couple of years teaching in a Bible College.  At the time I felt everything would be okay because by the time we left Robert would be over a year old and Rebekah and Rob would do fine as new parents with this little boy.  While I would miss Robert, I would have had that first year to share and treasure while we were gone.  But now my daughter, who had married very young, had not one, but two children less than twelve months apart.  She and her husband were both college students.

As I looked at them struggling to keep up with their home, their studies and two little babies, I wondered how can this young couple make it.  Holding Barbara Rose on dedication day, my heart ached as I realized I would not be there to see her sit up, take her first steps, and say her first words.  When I came back, she and her brother would not know who I was. 

Yet, I knew God had called us to go.  I thought of the verse in the Bible that speaks of loving God so that in comparison it may seem we hate our family. 

Rebekah and Rob went with us in the airport as far as they could go before security barred their way.  The last look I had was the two of them standing there, each with a baby in their arms, and the saddest, forlorn look on their faces.  I felt my heart would break.  I was deserting them when they really needed me.

We settled in the Philippines and while my heart still ached, I became busy in the work and prayed the time would pass fast for them.  A couple of months later, we had a call from my daughter.  Our little granddaughter was having digestive issues and it looked as if she might have to have surgery.  How I longed to go home, but we had just arrived and our budget did not really include money to make a trip home.  Rebekah assured me they would be fine and did not need us, but I could hear in her voice the longing for her mother.

Hanging up the phone, I went into my bedroom, laid on the bed and told God how mad I was at Him.  I said, “I sold everything I had, gave up my time with my grandchildren to obey You.  The least you could do is take care of them.  I feel as if I am turning my back on my daughter.”  God did not strike me with lightning for speaking that way.  He understood the love of a mother for her children.  But quietly I felt that “still small voice” of God speaking to me.  He said, “I turned my back on my Son for you.” 

For the first time in my life I got a little idea of how much God really loved me when He sent His Son to die on that cross.  John 3:16 took on new meaning for me.

And the end of the story – Robert and Barbara quickly developed a love for Grandma and our relationship is very close.  God also has given me many more grandchildren and I believe the example we set putting God first in our lives has had a tremendous influence on my children.  Putting God first is sometimes hard, but always in the end, brings great blessings.    

Mountain or Valley – He’s Still There!

Our pastor has been doing a series on Psalm 23 – taking one verse at a time. Today she spoke on one verse that has been such a blessing to me throughout the past almost 20 years. It is the verse that says:

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou are with me.

That is the verse that came to my mind the day of my first visit to the oncologist following surgery for breast cancer. His first words to me were “The odds are not in your favor.” Immediately the above verse came to my mind.

I did not know if the Lord was assuring me I would walk through this valley to health and life on the other side or if I would walk through this valley into death.

What was comforting to me was the assurance that He was going to be with me through this time.

Looking back on my life as I near the last years of life I am so thankful to see all the times He has been there for me.

What comfort I find in knowing He will continue to walk with me through the rest of my life – both on the mountain times and the deep valley experiences life may bring.

At this point in my life I would say I’m mostly experiencing those “mountain” times. Last week my husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage. What a blessing it is to be able to say that he is my bff and our love for one another is deeper and stronger than the day we married. We are blessed with good health for our age and we have a beautiful home to enjoy.

Yet I have been facing some “valley” moments these last few weeks. When I had surgery for cancer the surgeon apologized and said that he had done quite a bit of nerve damage as the lymph nodes were full of cancerous cells and he wanted to make sure he removed all the cancer. That plus the extensive radiation I had has left me with pain ever since. The damage done to my side has, with age, also led to a damaged rotator cuff. Surgeons now do not want to do surgery to repair the cuff because there has been so much nerve damage already done.

For whatever reason – old age I guess – the chronic pain that I have learned to live with has recently become much worse. It is especially difficult when I try to lay down and I have come to dread bedtime.

This morning my church family gathered around me and prayed for me. What an encouragement that was. One young man put some legs on his prayers and offered to come help me with my housework, even to vacuum my floors. My husband is able to help me and I refuse to just sit and give in – got to keep moving. But it was so kind of him to offer. That’s what real love is all about.

How blessed I am – how good to know not only that God is with me – but He has given me friends to love and support me.

Whatever situation dear reader you may be in – let me encourage you to lean on God. He is our Good Shepherd and His promises to be with us in “all” seasons I have found to be true.

Church – Simple and Fun?

Recently I saw a church sign that invited people to come because their church was “simple and fun.”

That sounded great! Who would not want to go to a church that was “fun” and keeping things “simple” in the chaotic times we have been experiencing sounds like a good idea.

But is it? Is that the purpose of the church – to keep things fun and simple?

I grew up in a very legalistic church. The furthest thought then was for church to be fun. Often I joke when I wondered if some activity would be sin I just had to ask myself, “Would I have fun doing it?” If the answer was “yes” then clearly it would be sin.

Of course I am exaggerating a bit, but church was never simple. There were many man-made rules to follow. Those of us who questioned were considered in danger of losing our salvation.

So, believe me – I never want to go to a church that is not fun or that makes the message of the love of Jesus Christ complicated.

But seeing this sign that seemed to be attempting to appeal to people as a place that would be fun and simple, I could not help but wonder if we are moving too far away. Have we thrown the baby out with the bath water?

It seems churches, like political parties, social norms and fashion all move like a pendulum.

Webster defines pendulum as:

a body suspended from a fixed point so as to swing freely to and fro under the action of gravity and commonly used to regulate movements (as of clockwork); something (such as a state of affairs) that alternates between opposites.

As I have watched my church it seems like it started swinging away from the legalism that was so wrong toward a practice and teaching that was based more on the Word of God rather than man-made laws. That is good.

I cannot help but wonder if the pendulum is swinging too far in the opposite direction. In the desire to free us from the rules of man and to make the gospel of Jesus Christ appealing to others, are we moving too far once again from the Word of God – in a different direction – but still away?

On the one hand, the message of salvation through Christ is simple. Acts 16:31 sums it up very simply.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.

However, any reading of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount would tell us that following Jesus Christ is anything but simple. Jesus called his followers to a much higher standard than any they had heard before. To be a true believer requires much more than a simple “I believe.” It calls for a change of heart. That is not easy or simple. On the one hand following Jesus can be fun. There is no greater joy than having a heart filled with God’s joy.

However, again I do not think the death of Jesus was meant for me to have fun. Listen to His words:

Matthew 16:24 – Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Luke 14:28-30 – Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you.  They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Perhaps I am being too hard on this church sign, reading more into it than was meant. Still, I wonder – are we swinging too far away – are we more interested in what is “new” forgetting that while much of what was “old” should be discarded, there was much there of great value.

Wisdom from my Daughters

As a mother, I like to think that I am a source of wisdom to my daughters, that they look to me for advice and counsel.

But it is really great when my daughters share words of wisdom for me.

Recently my youngest daughter, who is a pastor, spoke something in a sermon that has really been meaningful to me. She said:

“We don’t draw lines to keep people out. We cross lines to bring people in.”

The more I thought about that statement, the more I realized that sometimes I have drawn lines to keep people out.

  • They did not meet my “standards.”
  • They were not dressed “properly.”
  • They were not of my political viewpoint

How many times have I missed an opportunity to share the love of Jesus Christ because the lines I drew shut them out? Made them feel unwelcome.

Then my oldest daughter, who is a school teacher, shared with me her experiences this year with the Covid crisis in school.

She had a coworker whose dress was eccentric, whose walk was strange. This coworker greeted her every morning when she came to work with a cheerful “Good morning Mrs. Thomas.” My daughter was struggling just to make it to school on this stressful year and that last thing she wanted when she came in was a “sunny side up” greeting. She said for awhile she just gave a quick reply and hurried past the coworker to her room.

But one day the Holy Spirit quickened her heart and she began asking God to help her see this person as He did. She began stopping to talk each morning and listen to the person.

She knits caps for all her students and when the coworker commented how much they liked the hats, she made one for them.

The person did not change – what changed was how my daughter saw them.

Again, I wonder how many times I quickly pass by that person whose personality I do not care for, that person who annoys me. How many times do I fail to see them as God sees them.

So – I have two prayers today:

  1. God help me not to shut people out because they are different from me – help me not to be judgmental but to reach out and show them your love.
  2. God help me to look past what annoys me and help me to see people as you see them.

When I was pregnant with both my daughters, I used to put my hand on my stomach and pray that they would grow up to be people who made a difference, who shared God’s love.

How grateful I am to see that prayer was answered.

Now I’m trusting that my two new prayers will also be answered.

What a better world we would live in if we all prayed those prayers.

Is My Worship Healthy or Lame?

A son honors his father,
And a servant his master.
If then I am the Father,
Where is My honor?
And if I am a Master,
Where is My reverence?
Says the Lord of hosts
To you priests who despise My name.
Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’

“You offer defiled food on My altar,
But say,
‘In what way have we defiled You?’
By saying,
‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’
And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice,
Is it not evil?
And when you offer the lame and sick,
Is it not evil?
Offer it then to your governor!
Would he be pleased with you?
Would he accept you favorably?”
Says the Lord of hosts.

Reading in the Old Testament book of Malachi this week I found a verse that made me stop and take a look at my own relationship with God.

The prophet Malachi was speaking to the priests (the religious leaders) of the nation of Israel. The Law of Moses had clearly stated that the animals used in the sacrificial worship were to be perfect specimens. They were to have no blemishes, to be healthy animals (Leviticus 22:17-33). It appears that instead of bringing the best of their flock or herd, they were bringing animals that were sick or lame and keeping the better animals for their own use.

God sees this action as “despising His name.” He suggests they invite the governor and serve him a meal with a sick or blemished animal for the main course. Certainly they would not do that. They would want to serve the governor the very best they had.

Malachi tells them that their very attitude toward their worship of God is apathetic and worse than no worship at all.

You also say,
‘Oh, what a weariness!’
And you sneer at it,”
Says the Lord of hosts.
“And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick;
Thus you bring an offering!
Should I accept this from your hand?”
Says the Lord.

Today our worship does not consist of bringing an animal sacrifice. Still, I wonder, how my worship can sometimes be just like theirs. Bringing God my “leftovers.”

  • Giving him a few minutes of devotion after hours spent watching TV, shopping, posting on FB.
  • Giving a few dollars to support the work of my church or a charity after spending much on my own entertainment.
  • Giving a few minutes to write a card to someone after spending hours doing my own thing.
  • Walking into church for worship five or ten minutes late, coming in and distracting those who are trying to praise God. Casually entering into the song without any real thought of what worship really means.
  • Coming to worship now and then when I don’t have other events scheduled that are more important than being in God’s house.

I am reminded of a poem by Frederick Ohler that says it so well:

Great and holy God awe and reverence fear and trembling do not come easily to us

for we are not Old Testament Jews or Moses or mystics or sensitive enough.

Forgive us for slouching into Your presence with little expectation and less awe

than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.

We need neither Jehovah nor a buddy—neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”

Help us to want what we need…You God

and may the altar of our hearts tremble with delight at Your visitation

amen.

Sad, Somber Saturday

First, the cross

We talk a lot about the cross and how terrible the death of Jesus was.  The story of Peter’s denial of Jesus and the rest of the disciples fleeing from the garden where he was arrested are familiar to us.  It is good that we take time to reflect on the agony, the pain, the shame that Jesus suffered for us on that Friday.

The Resurrection

Then we jump to Sunday morning and the wonderful fact of the resurrection!  The surprise, the doubt, the joy as they realized that Jesus was alive.  Again, it is good that we celebrate this tremendous event, this foundation stone of our faith.

But, what was that Saturday like?

Have you ever wondered what that Saturday was like for the followers of Jesus as they hid behind locked doors?  After the shock, the horror of his death, can you imagine the range of emotions they felt on Saturday?  Sad, somber Saturday!

Of course, there was the sorrow they experienced at the loss of their friend.  I cannot really begin to understand the pain his mother must have felt as she reflected on the suffering he had experienced.  Perhaps she could not even sleep, or fell asleep only to wake up from a nightmare seeing him once again being viciously beaten.

There must have been great confusion.  Questions as they remembered all the miracles he performed, all the parables he had told.  Wondering how he could have come to this end.  Had he not made tremendous promises?  Had he not proclaimed that he was the only way to God?  Had he not even raised a dead man after four days in the tomb?

There must have been great disappointment.  What were they to do now?  They had left their homes, their employment to follow him.  They had been so excited about the kingdom he would set up, even arguing over who would sit on his left and his right hand in that kingdom.

There must have been great fear.  Would the Romans come after them now?  How could they get out of Jerusalem and back to their villages and their old life safely?

Had they really heard Him?

We have the advantage of looking back on history, on knowing how the story turned out.  So it is easy for us to say, “Did they not really hear him?”  After all he had told them that he would be killed and would rise again on the third day.  Did any of them think about that and wonder if it could be true?

We have our Saturdays too

But before we berate them for not really hearing Jesus, not really understanding, not really believing what he said about his death and coming back to life, are we any different today?

When our Fridays of suffering and difficulty come and we face a sad, somber Saturday dealing with the problems we face, do we forget his promises?  He said he would never leave us.  He said we would have tribulation in this world, but to be of good cheer because in him we could overcome.  He said he gave us his peace, not the peace of the world, but that peace that comes from knowing who is in control.

Today, before I rejoice at the resurrection, I ask God to help me in my times of sorrow, confusion, disappointment and fear.  I ask him to remind me that Fridays come and we have sad, somber Saturdays dealing with the problems of Friday, but for the child of God, Sunday is always on the way!

Being a Christian in a non-Christian World

Growing up in church I often heard a quote from the gospel of Luke that tells us Jesus said “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Often this would be followed by an admonition that as Christians we would have crosses we must bear for Christ.

I wondered what my cross must be. Life seemed pretty good to me. Oh yes there were some heartaches and difficulties, but a cross? When I read about the death of Jesus and the sufferings of the Early Church, then looked at the American church, I found it hard to see that we were bearing crosses as they did.

We often had bible classes on bearing our cross for Christ. No doubt we have had difficult times that seem like crosses – death, accidents, sickness. But these are things that come to everyone – Christian and non-Christian and as far as I can see have little to do with suffering connected with sharing Christ. It is true that when we face these difficult times we can be a witness for Christ when we show faith and strength in the middle of these difficult times. It can be a chance to tell others of why we have hope and even joy in the midst of bad times. But I am not sure we can call these things crosses in the sense Jesus meant when He told us to take up our cross and follow Him.

Looking at the suffering Christians face in North Korea, China, Indonesia and many countries in Africa, I realize that cross-bearing is not a discipleship topic for them. They do not have the luxury of sitting in an air-conditioned classroom while viewing PDF slides on “How to Bear Your Cross.” Many of them could avoid suffering if they would simply stop talking about Jesus and/or agree to renounce their Christian faith. They face what Jesus called for – taking up a cross of suffering and danger daily.

Still, as our culture seems to becoming more anti-Christian, I realize the day is fast coming when we may begin to face real persecution. I mean beyond just being called a name or made fun of. I mean real persecution like losing your job, not being allowed to go to school or church or even having your life in danger. When I think about the possibility of the American church being called to “really” bear a cross, I wonder if we would be up to it.

According to World Watch List this past year:

  • Over 340 million Christians are living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination
  • 4,761 Christians were killed for their faith
  • 4,488 churches and other Christian buildings were attacked
  • 4,277 believers were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned

Open Doors tells us that

Looking in from the outside, we often want to pray for the trials of the persecuted church to cease. We hear about the decisions parents are forced to make to protect their children, or the prison sentences so many serve because of their beliefs. It’s only normal and seemingly right that we would want to pray for the persecution to end. Yet the reality is that believers in the persecuted church around the world often don’t wish or pray for their trials to end. The No. 1 request Open Doors receives from persecuted believers is prayer, but they don’t ask us to pray they will be removed from persecution. Time and again, persecuted believers tell us that persecution builds the church and their witness. In the midst of persecution, they still live out their calling to glorify God. Instead, persecuted believers ask us to pray with them that they will stand strong and witness with faithfulness.  This “ask” is straight from Scripture. This “ask” is straight from Scripture. Throughout the Bible, we see God’s people and His Church persecuted, but Scripture never tells us to pray for persecution to stop or end. We’re even told that persecution will often accompany us on our journey as believers, with John 16:33 assuring us that “in this world, we will have trouble.” While Scripture tells us that God lavishly blesses and provides for His people, our idea of blessing differs from God’s perspective (the perspective of the first-century persecuted church leaders). Rather, in His Word God shows us that being blessed and having joy come not through our Western mindset of wealth, success, fame or even leisure–but rather through His presence and eternal salvation. In Scripture, we see how persecution is transformative: We are called to find joy in our trials, knowing what God is able to bring about through it: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Rom. 5:3-4). Knowing that whatever we face for God and His glory on this earth doesn’t compare to the eternal joy He has in store for us, which helps us persevere: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17). As we are called to become more and more like Christ, facing trials for His Name helps to sanctify us: “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

My prayer for the American church is that we will grow strong in His word and be found faithful as our culture moves to a non-Christian world.

March and Its Bitter-Sweet Memories and Emotions

This time of the year I find myself remembering events from years ago that generate both sweet and bitter memories with all the accompanying emotions.

March has been a month that has brought both good and bad events into my life – events that changed me forever.

The first one that brings sweet memories occurred 52 years ago on March 29. That day I walked down the aisle at church and promised to “love and cherish until death do us part.”

For almost 13 years I kept that promise. Every year as that date approaches I remember those years with my first husband. We were happy and shared a lot of joy but the best part of those years was the birth of our two beautiful daughters. Memories of those times make me smile and I am grateful for every moment we shared. Those events changed me – made me a wife, a mother.

The second memory is more painful. It was 39 years ago in March that I got a call at work that I will never forget. My eleven-year-old daughter called me and said, “Momma, I think Daddy is dead.” Those words changed our lives forever. My first husband had been working on our car when an accident occurred that took his life. Ironically it was just four days before we would have celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. So March brings also feelings of great sadness as I remember the shock and horror of that day. The pain my daughters still feel today. The older one grieves as she remembers all the times she had with her daddy, while the younger grieves because she was so young her memories are few. That changed me – made me a young widow with two little girls to raise.

So – every year in March I deal with these memories and these conflicting emotions.

That would be enough to make the last of March an emotional time for me.

But last year added another event that adds to my emotions this time of year.

On March 19 last year my second husband fell and hit his head on the concrete floor of his art studio in the basement of our condo.

By the 22nd he was in pain and we went to the emergency room of our local hospital. From there he was rushed by ambulance to the main hospital in Lansing – the capital of our state – where they did emergency surgery. He had a major brain bleed and they said without the surgery he would not survive the night.

As I remember the next couple of weeks I still can feel the knot in my stomach as I waited at home (because of the virus I could not be with him) wondering if the next call would be to tell me I was a widow again. I wondered how I could take it if he died on the same day as my first husband had died. As the next few days were “touch and go” while they tried to get him off the ventilator, I kept telling God “please, not again, not this time.”

I am so grateful to God that he not only survived the surgery but after a few weeks he was back to his normal self. The doctor said he might have trouble walking, swallowing, communicating. While he had some of these symptoms for a couple of weeks, he was soon completely okay with no lingering symptoms.

One major concern of mine was would he be able to paint again. Would he even be able to walk down the stairs to his art studio. That prayer was again quickly answered. Our son-in-love brought his painting equipment upstairs and within two weeks he painted a beautiful lighthouse scene. Soon he was able to return to his studio downstairs and continue painting.

So along with the knot in my stomach, I also must rejoice with a great emotion of gratitude that I am not a widow for the second time, that my husband is not only alive, but well and strong again.

One of his first paintings also was of a beautiful rainbow which symbolizes hope and a reminder that God keeps His promises. He called it “Hope in the Storm.” It now hangs in my kitchen as a reminder to me that no matter what troubles come, with God there is always hope.

When my first husband died, when my second husband survived, regardless God has been there – and He brings me hope. Hope for whatever next March or any time may bring. Good times or bad – He is faithful.