Jesus is Faithful

faith_blocks

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

(1 Thessalonians 5: 24 ESV)

I truly believe the highest response, the absolute and ultimate primary response Christ so desires in all His followers is their undying faithfulness.  We read in Christ’s ministry how He commends those for their faith, even those who were considered scandalous, sinful, and/or unclean.  The Centurion who desperately wanted his servant healed and thought himself unworthy of Christ’s visit was told, “…Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matt 8: 10 ESV)  The sinful woman who risked everything to walk into the home of a mighty and “righteous” Pharisee just to be near Christ is told, “…Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7: 50 ESV)  The two blind men who referred to Christ as Son of David…and begged for His Mercy, and Jesus intently asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matt 9: 28 ESV)  It was according to their faith that their eyes were opened, when gently touched by the One, their eyes were opened wide and they were able to see. 

Then we can examine His disciples.  Christ’s disciples were weak and ordinary men.  Peter denied Him, Thomas doubted Him, and almost all fled Him in fear when the authorities drew near, but almost all were tortured and killed for their undying faith.  The great apostle Paul mentions in Scripture, “For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7: 15 ESV)  Anticipating debate here, let me clearly state Paul was just another ordinary and sinful man, for no one walked sinless on this Earth except Christ.  Yet Paul mentions to Timothy late in his life the one and only valuable possession he held tightly and securely to throughout his life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4: 7 ESV) 

        Christ also desires obedience, humility, love, worship, submission, and service in His followers, but I have failed miserably at many times and at various stages of my life in one or all of these other “godly” attributes.  I am fallen and sinful. I still at times, flee and rebel.  I am weak and ordinary.  I stand as nothing before Him, yet through His blood which was spilled and painfully… brutally covered the stained crimson red Cross of Calvary, I am given a free gift!   “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Eph 2: 8 ESV)  It is absolutely nothing that I do, but ONLY what CHRIST has done for me, and all He asks of me in return is simply, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  In my many seasons of darkness and despair, in my continual sinfulness and doubt, in my discouragement and sometimes overwhelming grief…I can honestly say… I still believe!  “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1ESV)   I will openly admit I have failed Him miserably throughout my life, and throughout my many long and suffering days, yet I still believe when my life is complete and as I struggle to draw my very last breath here on Earth, I will quickly awaken in His gentle and warm embrace and I will at once, simply fall to His feet and shout, “Jesus, I always believed you could do this…. And now you have… and I am finally…finally with You… always and forevermore!”

JUST AS HE PROMISED!

faithfulness 3

Advertisements

A Very Personal and Loving Tribute to my Brother

pic of Bruce as a baby

“For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

(Romans 3: 23 ESV)

Dear Friends,

 It is through painful tears and a very heavy heart… I post this brutally honest blog…on the 9th anniversary of my brothers’ death. Let us all PLEASE remember… EVERYONE needs Jesus and all of us are NOTHING without Him (John 15:5) … and in this turbulent and changing time in our society….it is not us who decides who He calls…but the One who came and died so we may have everlasting life… and only through Him. We are just simply His messengers. Thank you for taking the time to read this memorial for one of the most loving, broken, and sensitive souls I have ever known! 

Kathy

Nine years this month since you left me that early and bright September morning and you promised me you would never leave me……but we truly have no control when that mysteriously pre-destined… yet mournful day will arrive for those who remain.  The day when our mortality catches us in the most unlikely moment and permanently delivers us behind the veil.  Autumn is so hard, so brutal… losing you…and losing our mom… many, many years before…but I try to remind myself just how much you loved this time of year….the cool and crisp autumn air slowly mixing with the old summer warmth…and in exuberant anticipation… you clothed yourself in old flannel shirts and torn up blue jeans and sat near the many evening campfires…and dreamed about achieving the great things in life …dreaming until very late into the cool autumn nights.  Love covers a multitude of sins and many chose not to love…but I loved you much…

bruce and i young

pic of me and my brother 2

You were a life-long seeker of fatherly love and affection, but you became the young recipient of fatherly rejection and abandonment…and not just once…but twice.  You possessed a huge and forgiving heart…forgiving those who constantly hurt and rejected you…and loved with a great and overflowing heart… for both God and man… until in your desperate search… you took the wrong path and fell prey to sin and deceit…and then you found yourself further shunned and rejected by our family, rejected by man, rejected by the community, and even rejected by the church…perhaps because your sexual sin was more difficult to conceal behind a mask… for even the forgiven often wear masks to disguise their own varied sins but their masks always grow heavy and burdensome, so to compensate for this burden…some grow more humble…and more dependent on God…yet many grow more proud, more self-righteous… and less dependent on God… and they grow ever more hateful towards the fallen world…and hatred stirs up conflict… but love covers over all wrongs…

You were a great refuge for all of the animals lost and frightened…and you were a loving and skillful caregiver to all of the people who were sick…old…and frail… under your care.  The very painful… yet beautifully bittersweet memory still persists in my mind of you sitting at mom’s bedside… just days before death would take her away …and you methodically and systematically attempting to feed her liquid nutrition using a small 5cc syringe…so tedious was your task…so loving was your heart…and it was you… the only one left clinging to hope…you the only one still choosing life over imminent death.  And it was only me who thought you still worthy of God’s love… and the forgiven kept busy loving and evangelizing the saved…the proud…and the self-righteous….and forgiving each other of their sins.  Yet, love is not arrogant or rude… it does not insist on its own way…it is not irritable or resentful…..it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth…and so… I continued to love you much…

Pic of me and my brother 1

pic of wedding with bruce

You were my brother… my greatest and only confidante…and my very best friend. I reminisce often…still with overwhelming grief… about the happy times we shared…when our laughter and joy filled the room and love was in abundant supply.  You did not have a political agenda…nor a personal vendetta wagered against others…just only seeking peace, love, and tranquility in your very brief life…  and always searching for the fatherly love only Christ could possibly fill….And my heart is still filled with overwhelming sorrow and pain when I realize that no one seeks to be identified only by their sins…as they forced you to be… and Jesus, my Lord and Savior… would NOT have identified you only by your sin…for when He calls out to us sinners…He calls us with uncanny familiarity and love… He calls us… by name and simply says to us, “Follow Me”….And those who choose to follow Him never again find themselves walking in darkness, but only will have the light of life….and the forgiven confess Him with their lips…yet some deny His Sovereignty…. most deny His power to transform…and many deny to all those still wandering in the darkness… His gift of salvation which is offered freely to all… because while we were still weak…Christ died for the ungodly….and we only love others because He first loved us….just as God demonstrated His very own love toward us….in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us….

older pic of us and bruce

pic of bruce in snowy Michigan

As I prepare to spend another autumn without you….Jesus is asking me to forgive all those who hurt you….and He has paved the road to my forgiveness with such undeniable perfection and detailed precision…..and although He is insisting that I forgive… He is NOT asking me to forget.  And if I remain resistant to forgive….my heart only continues to breed hatred….and I stand as guilty as those who once hated you….and it is not in the act of forgiving… but only in the act of forgetting there exists a risk of growing into the hateful, prideful, and self-righteous “enemy” some once were…and I promise NEVER to become that person…

Your departing last words will always echo loudly deep within my broken heart….For the last word you spoke was my name…..but the second to last word you spoke was His name….and it is now I finally realize and only through His insistence… I must do as He asks of me and forgive…. For the day will soon come when my own mortality catches me in the most unlikely moment and delivers me behind the veil… and there I will finally face my Savior…and this forgiven sinner will fall to her knees and crawl to His feet… but until I do, I will always cling to the hope I will find you there…. finally at rest…and far removed from all the hatred, self-righteousness, and rejection… of this fallen world …….. For love bears all things, believes all things, HOPES all things, and endures all things…

I loved you much………..I love you still….

pic of Bruce with puppy

November 1st, 1957——September 19th, 2006

A Beacon of Hope

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

  (2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)

We must first prepare mentally and emotionally for our yearly journey….a pilgrimage of sorts to our past childhood land…. A rather short journey but seemingly so very far away… down a stretch of highway to a place where I once loved and belonged…and quite honestly……still do……..

I grow in increasing fear and trepidation while traveling west-bound down this small stretch of highway to once again see my childhood place for I remember my last visit where I found increasing ruin and even greater and growing poverty.  A type of poverty which deeply injures my heart, and causes me to grieve for those who appear to have lost all hope. 

We exit the highway to this well-known place with child-like familiarity…..  Of familiar roads I once traveled regularly… and of familiar sidewalks I once walked regularly.  I soon notice a frail and sickly elderly woman sitting on a bench near a bus stop…her face sullen and distraught…her seemingly twisted pain so very apparent….as she sits and stares motionless at this temporary world passing her by……and I wonder momentarily of her huge life’s story and of the once lively treasures and memories which must be deeply hidden within, the type of treasures and memories which I currently seek to re-visit today.

We travel north-bound… up the familiar streets which leads directly to my childhood home…I wince in pain briefly at the thought of this future sight… and I brace myself for what I may… in just mere minutes…… eventually find…..this safe place which once sheltered me from harm and contained all my hopes and dreams…this fun refuge where young friends were once abundant…this protected shelter where my beloved youngest brother and I once shared laughter and tears trying desperately to mask the unspoken pain… this safe and loving haven where l last saw my beautiful mother alive and heard her voice so tenderly…. so very long ago……Oh the vivid memories this yearly journey brings…….

childhood home 1

Childhood home 3

It still stands…for yet another year…….My profound sadness is overflowing as I look among the ruin…and the poverty….and the hopelessness of community…and I quickly think of the One who resides deep within me…the same One I share with this hopeless and impoverished community… with all communities rich or poor……..the One who remains the same and never changes….…..and my heart screams out in pain with the name of my Savior…. Jesus…….and I immediately think of my sacred childhood sanctuary……where HE and I were first formally introduced….

Just a few blocks west of my childhood home once stood my very sacred childhood sanctuary……but it has been decades since I last passed by this sacred place…and I wonder and I ponder in hopeful desperation……..What will I now find there among the ruin and poverty of a hopeless community? 

childhood church

It still stands…A Beacon of Hope……Still very much alive and well……..and welcoming all those who are hopeless and impoverished to come…..  To hear…. And to accept His glorious gift….

“The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.” (Proverbs 29: 13 ESV)

Are you living within a type of poverty, where all hopelessness is lost?  Spiritual poverty is what you must greatly fear…..for if He is residing within you…….. Your riches reside inside….

Your riches are not of this world….

Your riches are yet to come….

Do not lose hope…….

Do not lose faith……..

 

“There are many forms of poverty: economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty.  As long as we relate primarily to each other’s wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community.  Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts.  Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.”

—Henri Nouwen

Generations of Time

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I m sure, dwells in you as well.”  (2 Timothy 1:5 ESV)

Sadly…88 percent of Christians leave the church before the age of 18.  Unfortunately, I am one of those Christians who left the church before the age of 18.  My ideal Christian family was shattered by a father who fell into sexual sin and selfishness.  There was no parental modeling of authentic Christian discipleship in my home, only abandonment, hypocrisy, and rejection. But to my great fortune, in the midst of sinful darkness and human despair, Christ’s presence endured. 

          My paternal grandmother was an authentic Disciple of Christ.  As a very young child, I accompanied her to church on Sunday mornings.  She felt confidently comfortable enough to occupy a pew only a few feet away from the pulpit. My grandfather was a gentle man of few words; he would sit guarding the outside of the pew, I was safely tucked on the inside, and my grandmother sandwiched between the two of us, was the matriarch of strength and endurance.    As an adult woman and mother, I now realize the great depths of grief and heartbreak my father’s actions and behaviors must have been for her…the pangs of maternal doubt and failure she must have struggled with…  but she faithfully continued to walk according to God’s purpose and stay on mission with Christ.  This obviously included taking her newly fatherless and frightened granddaughter to church faithfully every week.  I fondly recall and delight in remembering the Sunday mornings spent in the wooden pew with her just a few feet from the pulpit.   The church service would start promptly with the congregation standing in unity to sing the doxology, as our pastor would quickly raise himself to join in praise and song,  from a red velvet upholstered gold chair which was fit for a king.

           My grandmother was aged and worn by life, warm and plump, her dresses simple and plain, her Bible tattered and torn, and her arms provided the perfect soft and fluffy pillow for my sleepy head to sneak a nap during the sermon.  My naps would not last long though as I was usually aroused violently from sleep by the screaming sermons of a fire and brimstone pastor, preaching a lot of God’s wrath and a little of God’s grace but I eventually came to know my Prince of Peace in that distant far away church and I committed my life to Him there in my weekly sheltered sanctuary. I was baptized in His living water and in the midst of uncertainty, rejection, and abandonment, Christ accepted me as I was, a young child who was just beginning the long and lonely road of a fallen humanity. And much later in life, as despair and darkness reentered like a dagger, His hand is the only one I thought to reach for when I found myself teetering at the edge of a darkened cliff.  I knew for certain I would find Him there for I found Him there many decades ago in the youthful despair of an abandoned childhood and indeed He was there …patiently waiting to welcome me back home.

IMG_0659

IMG_0583

“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”(Psalm 78:4 ESV)

My husband and I were blessed with four children… all adults now… two are now happily married with children of their own; two are still living in my home and none of them currently and consistently attend church. They were not raised in church as I was then estranged from the body of Christ.   Last Christmas, my oldest daughter and my beautiful four year old granddaughter accompanied us to a Christmas musical performed at our church.  Sitting there in the wooden pew with my granddaughter planted securely and tightly on her grandmother’s lap, her sleepy head resting on my chest and shoulder, she appeared so excited by the sounds of the various instruments mixing together beautifully and the singing of a harmonious Christmas choir, the angelic sounds of beloved Christmas hymns echoing through the air.   I held her tightly and trembled as I felt myself being transported back in time momentarily to a distant time and in a distant place, and in the painful memory of my broken past where I once laid in the secure and loving embrace of my own grandmother’s arms in my weekly sheltered sanctuary of long ago, this was the blessed and sacred place I initially found my loving Savior waiting.   And in the aching conviction of His Spirit residing now within me, the painful and brutal reality…my own pangs of maternal doubt and failure became known in my present…

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

Two photographs capturing a moment frozen still in time… two photographs eerily similar yet profoundly different.   Two photographs representing over a century and five generations of time…linked by a familial heritage which began thousands of years ago…yet only a few days may have truly come to pass in my Savior’s eternal paradise.  So much has changed, yet so much remains the same.  And Christ endures and remains the same yesterday, today, and forever and never re-defined by the whims of men.  One loved one is now in the joyful everlasting presence of her loving Savior; and one loved one has yet to discover Him … in her fleeting and brief moment of time here on earth. 

 

          Do you have a weekly sheltered sanctuary?  Do you long to return?  Who do you find waiting in your blessed and sacred place?   Do not fear the pain of your past for He is waiting for you in your present.

 

For My Grandma:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise Him, all creatures here below;

Praise Him above ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Amen.

I Am Not Worthy!

“…Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.”

 (Luke 7:6 ESV)

“When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”

(Luke 7:9 ESV)

 

A centurion was a professional officer in the Roman army.  The centurion in the Roman army would fall somewhere between a high-ranking non-commissioned officer and a captain in the modern army. He oversaw and had authority of 100 soldiers.  He had to be tough, fair, courageous, and authoritative to be a Roman army official.  In Scriptures, this particular centurion is also depicted as a loving, kind, compassionate, and generous man, concerned with his servants’ declining health, which in the first century, not even the average citizen would show concern for the welfare of a servant. Also practiced in the first century, Jewish citizens would not have entered the homes of Gentiles for fear of becoming impure.  Most importantly, he demonstrated an understanding of and believed in Jesus’ authority and power, yet he did not see himself as worthy enough to expect a personal visit from Christ!  Not only was his servant healed, Christ commended him for his faith!

unworthy

Being unworthy is defined as not good enough to deserve something or someone.  A feeling of being insufficient in worth; and undeserving.  We all have experienced feelings of unworthiness. It’s a human feeling or condition that cannot be resisted or avoided.  Either as a parent, spouse, employee, student, friend, athlete, son or daughter, feelings of unworthiness creep in and paralyze our lives.  It can be brief and fleeting or long in duration. It can keep us from life’s events or change our course in life.    Unworthiness makes us second guess our actions, motives, and desires, and what we fundamentally believe in. 

brian and me at wedding

I have had my personal share of feeling unworthy!  I have experienced moments of unworthiness as a wife, as a mother, and even as a nurse. I know I’m in great company to this unwanted nuisance of feeling unworthy.  The struggle of always feeling “not good enough” or “not fitting in” makes it more difficult to navigate through life.  Just admitting I have, on many countless occasions struggled with unworthiness is hard to even admit but I know honesty would force all of us to agree it infects human life every second of every day.  Unworthiness is always lurking and waiting to attack us, especially in our weakest of moments.

 

 

Last month I experienced such a weak moment.  To be painfully honest, I have struggled with feelings of unworthiness spiritually for most of my life.  I feel I am THE MOST UNWORTHY of unworthiness in front of a Holy and Righteous God.  The origin of my spiritual unworthiness is none other but ME for I have no one to accuse, no spiritual experience to substantiate my allegation of unworthiness, no justification or validation to indicate its presence, it’s just there! 

 

On the day of my father’s funeral, I experienced a weak moment where unworthiness crept in filling me with the doubt of Christ’s love for me. I felt unworthy to be called a child of God.   I did not attend my father’s funeral because I was unable to face and hear stories of how great a father he was to children not his own. Envy and anger began filling and overflowing every fracture of my broken being. The strong desire to numb my conscience and ease my pain was palpable.   Stories I wish were my own, life narratives to cherish and treasure, sweet memories of a father and his love and affection for his little girl, were not mine to remember, embrace and share.  As I lay there grieving the broken emptiness and crying in prayer, I asked myself the following question:  Which God do I follow?  As a self-described “unworthy” follower of Christ, I saw only two options:

 

The Christ standing at my bedside saying, “my child, you must not weep, for I am with you always and I am here with you right now!  I will one day take away your pain and sorrow, but you must keep the faith and be patient, for your day has not yet come.”

 

The Christ who turns away from me in disgust for He is unwilling to look at me in my time of distress, unworthiness, and grieving pain.

 

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God; and so we are…” (1 John 3:1 ESV)

“And when the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, do not weep.” (Luke 7:13 ESV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

(2 Timothy 4:7 ESV)

“He will swallow up death forever; and wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth…” (Isaiah 25:8 ESV)

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)

 

In times of our unworthiness, Christ restores us to worthiness!

What Christ do you follow?  Do you allow your feelings of unworthiness to keep you from life events?  Does it change your course in life?

IMG_0252

 

 

“Do you believe that God loves you?  Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity, that He loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain, that He loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, and your whole being rejects him?  Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be?”

—Brennan Manning