How Do I Pray For My Family?

In my small group at church this week we talked a little about how we pray.  One of the members of our group mentioned reading Paul’s prayers for the church.

Knowing what to pray for my family has always been a topic of concern for me.

I confess most of my prayers are for their needs for the “here and now.”

  • Help this grandchild to find a good job
  • Provide the finances for this grandchild to pay for college
  • Heal this son/daughter
  • Take care of this difficult situation this child is experiencing right now

Looking at the ministry of Jesus on earth I do not think praying for their physical and financial needs in this life is wrong.  While on earth Jesus often spend time meeting the needs of those who followed Him.

  • He fed the hungry
  • He opened the eyes of the blind
  • He reached out and healed the leper
  • His very first miracle was actually supplying wine for a wedding party

Clearly He was and is concerned about all our needs, not just the “spiritual” ones.

Still, when I look at the prayers the early church prayed and the prayers of Peter and Paul in their writings it is clear that their main concern was not for the “here and now.” They were not so concerned for their own needs but for God’s kingdom to be advanced, for “eternal” things.

I say as a Christian I believe  there is life after this one on earth.  I say it is my desire that my children and grandchildren know and serve the Lord.  But do my prayers really reflect that?  Am I more concerned about the “here and now” than I am with the “eternal”?

One prayer the early church prayed which I think really reflects their focus on the kingdom of God rather than their own needs, is the one found in Acts 4.  Here, Peter and John had been in prison for preaching about Jesus.  Upon being released, they were warned to stop sharing the story of Jesus and threats were made if they did not refrain from doing so.

They immediately gathered with the other believers.  Now, today if this happened to our pastor, I believe our prayers would probably be for God to protect us or to change the hearts of the religious leaders.  But I love their prayer.

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give us, your servants, great boldness in preaching your word.  Stretch out your hand with healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”

To help me focus my prayers more in line with the early church, I have been praying one of Paul’s prayers for my children and grandchildren.  It is found in Colossians 1.

“We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.  We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.”

Truly I want all the best for my children and grandchildren.  It is my desire that they have great marriages, successful careers and good health.  But most of all, my greatest desire is that they will grow to know God better and better.

How do you pray for your family?

I Can Only Imagine!

In the fall of 2002 I was diagnosed with an advanced and very aggressive cancer.  Hearing my doctors words, “The odds are not in your favor,” I realized I was heading into the battle of my life.

Would I live or would I die?

Facing your own mortality changes the way you look at the world.  Some things that seemed so important no longer matter.

  • What difference does it make if I do not get that promotion I wanted.
  • Who cares if the windows need washed?

Other things take on a new importance.

  • Reading a book to my granddaughter.
  • Taking a walk with my husband.

During that long year as I lost my hair and my strength became less and less, I thought about the very real possibility that I would never see another birthday.

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We took a picture of me with my Dad and we laughed at how much I looked like him with my bald head.

Throughout it all I had a deep assurance that whatever the end result, it would be fine.  When I first heard those terrible words from my doctor, I immediately thought of the scripture that says:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.

Feeling at that moment God had given me that scripture for this battle, I did not know if it meant I would walk through the valley and come out on the other side alive and well.  Or, did it mean I would walk through the valley into death?

For me, it did not matter which it meant.  What comforted me was the assurance no matter what the outcome, God would be with me.

As the treatment continued and my strength got less and less, I began to think perhaps it meant I was walking through the valley into death.  Thoughts of exactly what that would mean kept running through my head.

Then, I heard a song that had been released just the year before.  It had become the most played Christian single in 2002 and you could not listen to any Christian radio station without hearing it.  In fact, it became a main stream hit in 2003 hitting the top 40, adult top 40 and country radio lists.

In the song the writer talks about trying to imagine what he would do when he stands before God in heaven.  He questions:

  • Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still?
  • Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall?
  • Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all?

Listening to that song over and over, I tried to imagine what I would do when I stood before Jesus?  Slowly in my mind a picture began to take place.  I saw myself standing with my hands raised in the air and dancing round and round the throne of God.

Wanting to live for my family, yet there were moments I wanted to see that vision fulfilled and to dance for Jesus.

I did not share this thought with my family.  For them, I continued to maintain a strong belief that I would live.

When all my treatment was finally over, my youngest daughter took me to lunch to celebrate.  She arrived with a gift for me.  It was a Willow Tree angel.

When I saw it, I almost cried with joy.  The angel she gave me was the exact vision I had of me with hands raised dancing around the throne of God.

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So grateful that I survived that battle and God has given me many years beyond what the doctor said I would have.  Still, as I age I know before many more years pass, I will be facing my eternal destiny.  I have no idea what I will do on that day when I see Jesus, but I hope I can dance for Him.

A movie has been made about the life of the young man who wrote this song.  If you have not seen the movie, I highly recommend it.  It is an inspiring story of what God can do to change a monster into a good father.  The move has the same title as the song, “I Can Only Imagine.”

What do you imagine you will do when you stand before the throne of God?

 

 

When Will Daddy Stop Being Dead?

Yesterday it was 37 years since my first husband was killed in an accident.  He died when the car he was working on fell on top of him and crushed him.  My two young daughters came home from school and found him there.  Needless to say, it was quite a traumatic experience for them.

All of the events surrounding that day are forever entrenched in my mind.  But one memory that still haunts me occurred about six weeks after the funeral.

At the time of his death as I tried to comfort my daughters, my youngest daughter seemed not to really be upset or need any comforting.  As family and friends came in for the funeral she enjoyed playing with cousins and friends and appeared to have no sorrow for her father’s death.

At first I thought it was just shock but after the funeral was over and weeks began to pass she still shown no sign of any trauma or sorrow.

I began wondering what kind of daughter I was raising.

Finally, about six weeks later she came to me and asked a question I will never forget.

“Mommy, when will Daddy stop being dead and come home?”

Oh my!!!

It was then I realized what she had been thinking all this time.

A few months before his death he had injured his back and was in the hospital for almost two weeks.  At that time the hospital did not allow young children in the rooms so when I went to see him I would have them stand in the yard just outside his window.  He would come to the window and wave at them.

When he was discharged from the hospital we had a party!  The girls made a sign “Welcome home Daddy” and we hung it just over the door to the kitchen.  We had cake and ice cream and celebrated that Daddy was home with us once again.

At that moment, I realized my young daughter did not understand what “dead” meant.  She had apparently thought it was just another injury and that Daddy would be coming home again.

That moment was one of the hardest times of my life.

I sat her down and sadly had to tell her:

“Daddy is dead,  Dead means he will never come home again.”

I still remember her face!

Tears swelled up in her eyes and she fell into my arms and cried.  Clearly her heart was broken.

daughters

No one can measure the trauma and pain both my daughters experienced because of their father’s accidental death.  Or the pain I felt seeing them hurting and feeling so inadequate for the task of helping them in this difficult time.

But one thing I learned – and I trust they did too.

Although death – or sometimes divorce or abandonment by a father – can leave us fatherless, we still have a heavenly father who loves and cares for us.

In the months and years ahead I have both experienced that heavenly father’s protection and love for me but also seen His help to my daughters.

I do not pretend to know why my daughters lost their earthly father but I thank God that we have a heavenly father who cares and who helps us when we walk through that valley of the shadow of death – or any other difficult time.

And I praise God that He has given both my daughters a family of their own to love and to have their love.

I also praise God that as a Christian I believe although that little girl’s daddy could not come back home to her – some day she will join him in the new home God has made for them both.

What a great reunion!

 

 

Waiting for My “Forever Home”

My husband and I love to watch HGTV.  Many of the programs show clients who say they are looking for their “forever home.”  A place where they can put down roots and raise a family.  A place where they can make memories to last a lifetime.

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That sounds so good.  To have a place where you live for all your adult life, maybe even living there until you die.

I have never had a “forever home.”  Several times I thought I had found it only to have it slip away.

My first “forever home” was a mobile home situated on three acres in the country in southeast Missouri.  My first husband and I purchased the place, not for the run down mobile home, but for the beautiful land.  It set on a hill overlooking the farm land around it.  There was a small pond at the back of the property.  We made such plans to build our “forever home” there.  We would have a garden and there was enough land to have a horse for our girls and perhaps raise a calf to butcher later for beef.  There were fish in the pond and that would provide some fun time for my husband to spend with his girls.  We spent the winter looking at different house designs and planning just where on the property we would build the house.  Just waiting for spring trying to survive the cold, bitter winter in the mobile home which let in the cold air.  At one point our water pipes froze and we had to go out in the cold and pump water from a well, bring it in and warm it up.  But it was okay because come spring we would have our “forever home.”

house plans

NOT

But two days after spring came, my dream of a “forever home” was destroyed.  My husband was killed in an accident.  Instead of beginning to laid the foundation for our home, I buried my husband.  Without him, I did not have the heart or the ability to make that dream of a “forever home” come true.  So – I moved back to Illinois to be near my family.

After a couple of years, I met another wonderful man and remarried.  We bought a house that I thought would be my “forever home.”  The upstairs was finished with two large bedrooms and a beautiful dining room with large windows looking on a back yard bordered by large trees.  My husband set to work and quickly built three bedrooms for our children in the walk-out basement.  All that remained to make our home complete was to finish a family room in the main part of the basement which  also had large glass doors looking out on the  back yard.

NOT

Before we got the family room finished, we answered a call to sell our home and go to the Philippines to work in a college in Iloilo.  Selling our home and our possessions was a difficult decision to make and even harder was leaving our son who was about to graduate from Illinois College and was getting married that summer.  We also left a daughter and son-in-love with two little babies under two years old.

Off we went to a new home in a new country – a home that would not be a “forever home.”

Phil

After returning to the USA again I thought I had found my “forever home.”  It was a smaller home than the one we had before, but in a nice neighborhood with a fireplace – something I had always wanted.   My husband went to work and built a deck on the back of  the house and began planting some beautiful flowers.  Finally I would have a place to put down roots.

NOT

After two years my husband received a call to become a pastor at a church in northwest Illinois.  So – house on the market – off we went.

This time we would not be buying a “forever home.”  The church had a parsonage and we would live there.  I thought maybe some day when my husband retired I would have my own home again.

After seven years in the parsonage with my husband nearing retirement age we decided to buy our own home.  Living in a parsonage is not an easy thing to do.  It is not your house and you have to get approval from others if you want to make anything extensive changes.  Since it is not your own house you hesitate to spend a lot of your own money making improvements and so you depend on the church board to see the need for improvements (not always an easy thing to do).

Getting our own home was so exciting for me.  Finally, I would have my “forever home” and be able to fix it as I wanted.  We did a lot of work to that home.  We took up carpet and put down beautiful laminate floors.  We added a sun room.  We bought all new appliances and a new furnace and AC unit.  My husband planted a beautiful hosta garden in the back yard with over 200 hostas plants along with roses, lilies of the valley, flowering trees.  At last I had it – my “forever home.”  We would stay here as he finished his years as pastor and then enjoy the home in our retirement.

NOT

It almost worked out that way.  We lived here for seventeen years – the most I have ever lived in one house.  It seemed perfect.

But then – our youngest daughter accepted a position as a pastor in central Michigan.  She and her husband moved taking our youngest granddaughter with them.  The rest of our children were scattered all over the USA and we were now going to be left with no family nearby.  At our age (I’m 70 and my husband is 78) we did not like the idea of no one close to spend holidays with or call on if we needed help.  And although we do not love this granddaughter more than the rest of our grandchildren, she is the youngest.  The majority of our grandchildren are grown or at least teenagers.  Zoe at only seven still thinks coming to Papa and Grandma’s house is an exciting event.  So – you got it.

We said to goodbye to our “forever home” and headed north to Michigan.  This time we are renting a house.  Not knowing the area well, we did not want to purchase a home immediately.  At our age we are not even sure we want to buy a house now.  Easier to just call the landlord if something goes wrong and no yard maintenance for us to do.

So now I realize that I will not have my “forever home” in this life.  But that has got me to really thinking.

I’m nearer now than ever to what will be the best “forever home” I can possibly have.  I love the words that Jesus spoke just before He went to the cross.

“You must not let yourselves be distressed—you must hold on to your faith in God and to your faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s House. If there were not, should I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? It is true that I am going away to prepare a place for you, but it is just as true that I am coming again to welcome you into my own home, so that you may be where I am.”

While I’m not ready to take up residence just yet in that place Jesus has prepared for me, I treasure the thought that there is a “forever home” waiting for me.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from….Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home?    C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

 

 

Where is Your Treasure?

This past year my husband and I did a lot of downsizing in preparation for a move from a nine-room house to a five-room house.  Part of our downsizing also was simply a recognition that we were at the age when we did not want to continue all the upkeep a large home and a big yard required.  At 70 I decided life was too short to spend precious moments taking care of so much “stuff.”  In the middle of our downsizing we also decided to move over 350 miles from one state to another to join our youngest daughter and her family.

Putting our house on the market, we began selling, giving away and simply discarding a lot of items accumulated over a lifetime.  As we prepared for the move, we stored the boxes in our garage.  On the day of our move my husband looked at all we had boxed up and ready for the move and he said,

After 78 years, is this all I have to show for my lifetime?

boxes

Immediately I remembered the words of Jesus:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

treasure

 

As I reflected on my husband’s life I realized he has not accumulated a lot of wealth or possessions.  Yet, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

I think of the hundreds he has baptised, the baby dedications, the weddings and the funerals he has conducted.  To him, these were not just  formal ceremonies but opportunities to share God’s love and rejoice with those who rejoiced and to weep with those who wept.

But I think the one of the greatest things he did was to minister to those in nursing homes – the forgotten ones.  He not only visited them, but he spent quality time with them.  Watching him interact with the residents of the nursing homes was always a proud moment for me.  He took such time to ask about their family, where they lived and worked.  After one visit he always remembered their name and many times the names of their grandchildren.  Their eyes would light up when they saw him.  Sadly, many who had once been very active in their church found they were forgotten after a few weeks in a nursing home.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

So, I believe he has many treasures in heaven.

That did get me to thinking.  As the moving company began loading the truck with our possessions, I wondered:

  • Where is my treasure?
  • If I could see the treasures I have in heaven, would they fit in a duffel bag or would I need a pickup train or a semi-truck to hold them?

 

 

 

 

 

Living in Limbo

I’m not here…I’m not there…I’m living in limbo.

limbo

Limbo – “an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.”

My husband and I recently made a decision to sell our house and move from northern Illinois to Michigan.  Our real estate agent told us our house would sell better if we did not have a lot of “clutter” or “personal stuff” in the home.

So we took down most of our pictures on the walls, boxed up a lot of books, decorations and all our “stuff” storing the boxes in our garage.  We even packed away most of our movies and my music collection leaving only a few to enjoy while we wait for a buyer for our home.

We are now living with much of what made our house our home packed away.  Some of the projects I was working on are in those boxes and I am now limited in what I can do.

I’m not here!

Because we anticipate a fairly quick sale based on current market conditions in our community, I have lost interest in a lot of what is happening here.

  • Knowing I would be leaving in a few weeks/months I gave up writing the newsletter for our church so that they could find someone else who could take over that task.
  • I have said goodbye to friends in a bible study I have attended faithfully for several years.  The study has taken a break for the summer and since I do not believe I will still be here by fall, I no longer am involved in plans for the fall study.
  • I, of course, am keeping my house clean and ready to be shown by the realtor with only a few hours notice.  However, since I have packed so much away there really is not much to do by way of housekeeping.  Also, I have no interest in any projects to paint or decorate or do anything extra to the house.
  • It’s hard to stay motivated and interested in any future plans in my church or community since I do not believe I will be here to take part in them.
  • I have gone through the grieving process of saying goodbye to friends, my home and this community.

I’m ready to move on!

But I’m not there!

But, until our house sells I cannot really begin the new adventure in Michigan.

  • We have gone to the community there to find our new home.
  • We have attended the church where we will be a member.
  • We have already found a great Irish pub with wonderful food.
  • We have located our favorite stores:  Barnes & Noble, Lowes, Costco.
  • We have located our favorite restaurants:  Appleby’s, Olive Garden

I’m all ready to start again with new church, new friends, new community.  But I cannot really do that until our house sells and we can move to Michigan.

So I’m in this place of not belonging here, not belonging there.  Just waiting!

Thinking about this feeling of being ready to say goodbye and not able to yet say hello, of so wanting our house to sell so I can move on to the new adventure, I thought of my own walk with God.

If I truly believe that Jesus Christ will return one day to earth to make all things new, should I not be living with that same “uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.”

Should my thoughts all be consumed with what is here – with no thought of what is there?

I know the old saying that some people are “so heavenly minded they are no earthly good” and I totally agree that while we are here we should be doing all we can to make this earth and our community a better place.  We need to be focused on what we can do to help our environment and those in need all around us.  In fact, Jesus indicated our future depends in part on how we care for others in need about us.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

He also plainly told us:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:1-3)

So just as I try to stay focused on my present location – keeping my house clean, continuing to interact with friends here – I also do all I can to get ready for my new home – researching information on the homes for rent/sale, reading about the community and the stores, parks and other resources I will utilize when I move there, making some friends there via email and FB.

In my walk with Jesus Christ I need to maintain that same balance.  I need to be concerned about doing all I can to make earth a better place.  But I need to also remember that old gospel song:

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21

This “living in limbo” has made me realize I need to recognize that while I am “here” now I need to make sure that I do not get so involved in “here” that I forget the “there” that is to come.

“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)

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When I Get to Heaven I’ll See….

Recently our youngest granddaughter had a sleepover with us.  We took her to a children’s museum.  On the way home we started playing a game we had played with our children when they were little to pass the time on a road trip.

My husband started by saying “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to take….”  He named something you would take on a picnic that started with the letter A.  I then repeated what he said and added an item starting with the letter B.  He then had to repeat those two items and add a third item starting with the letter C.  We continued going back and forth going down the alphabet.  Our young granddaughter loved it!

A few days later as my husband and I took a drive to a restaurant in another town that we love, he decided to play the game with a twist on it.  (He said this game was good for us old folks as it would help keep our minds sharp.)  Besides, it is fun.

The twist he gave us was “When I get to heaven I’ll see….”

When we finished the game (we had to skip the letters X and Z) I thought back over the things we had mentioned.  Interestingly, the items we mentioned were not mansions or harps or things that people often associate with heaven (although I’m not sure any of that is Biblical).

Rather we named our three grandchildren who died before we had the privilege of holding them in our arms.

  • Jacobi
  • Precious
  • William

We named family members that we cherished and that died way too young.

  • grandparents
  • Keith
  • Lonnie

We also thought of many that we have read about in the Bible that we would love to meet.

  • Barnabas
  • David
  • Moses
  • Naomi
  • Obadiah

For me that is what will be the wonder and joy of heaven.  The first joy, of course, will be to see our savior face to face.  But then just think of it:

  • To finally meet those precious grandchildren and share stories of our life and how we loved them.
  • To share with our loved ones the memories we had and also began a new relationship, one that will never require us to say goodbye.
  • And to meet all the saints who have lived before.
  • Can you imagine sitting with Moses and hearing him tell in his own words how he felt when he saw the burning bush?
  • Or Ruth when she left her family and home and set out with Naomi to Israel?
  • I’ll have a few questions for Paul about exactly what did he mean in some of his writings.
  • Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr, William Tyndale and all the millions of people we have never heard of but who, like us, have stories to tell and experiences to share.

Some people think heaven will be a dull place.  Not me!  Since I am by nature a history bluff I will be busy talking with all those who have lived long before me – to hear in person their stories rather than just reading about them in a book.

  • Do you believe in heaven?
  • Are you looking forward to heaven?
  • What/who do you want to see when you get there?