Light in Brokenness

I have so many dear friends who are going through such deep waters right now. My heart aches for them as they deal with death and cancer and loss of other ones. it makes me thankful that I know the Incredible God of Comfort who has comforted me, (2 Cor 1) can comfort them. As believers we sorrow not as others, but we do sorrow. One of the greatest comforts to me when my father died was the verse, “Jesus wept.” We have an intercessor who knows our grief! He is touched with the feelings of our weaknesses and prays for us with groanings that cannot be uttered. Roms 8:26 And we weep with those who weep! Ecc. 3.  We wonder why we, or those we consider dear, go through hard things. It is because when we are broken our light shines to others around us who need to see Jesus.  His light then enters into their hurting places and gives them peace that passes understanding!  My friends are doing this! Shining radiant lights of Christ in their broken places!

When I was a student at the NBBI, one Christmas my roommate gave me a Precious Moments bell as a gift. I loved that bell and I put it in a prominent place on my dresser. This cute little clown on a roller skate upside down just spoke of joy and for most of my life, I have had that interior sense of adventure. I love music, I love going to new places, I love experiencing new things, I love being with new people, I love the fun of friendship and adventure. One day when I wasn’t paying attention I was moving some things across my dresser too quickly and knocked that bell on the floor and it shattered into a thousand pieces. As I began to clean it up, getting ready to throw it away, I noticed the back piece had not broken. It was still intact, and it said, “Our life will always be in balance when we keep our eyes on Him.” I knew right then I needed to put that bell back together and keep it for the rest of my life. Like another Precious Moments figurine, it has a prominent place wherever I have lived because of the lessons that it taught me. First of all that we have to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross; despising the shame. (Heb 11:1) Being broken, we shine out the light that is inside of us much more effectively than we ever would when we aren’t broken. The light shines through all the cracks in our armor. Then people want to know what that light is inside.  Doctors and nurses need Jesus too! Paul said, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering.” (Phil 3:10.) We all want the power of the resurrection. We do not want to embrace the fellowship of suffering! But things happen in us when we suffer. You don’t get to really know someone till you walk with them in pain and suffering! God in His faithfulness breaks us so that we are more effective in shining His glory and His light to the world than we would be if we kept our nice neat perfect life intact. We have to be willing to deal with brokenness and let it change us and the process that it takes for God to put us back together when our lives are shattered. When he’s done we might look at it and think it’s not perfect anymore but He has put it back together in a way that allows the light to shine for the world to see. “Most gladly, therefore, will I glory in my weaknesses that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Cor 12:9-10) But let it be [the inner beauty of] the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, [one that is calm and self-controlled, not overanxious, but serene and spiritually mature] which is very precious in the sight of God. But in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy–acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord. Always be ready to give a [logical] defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:4, 15 AMP)

“Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, The one that remains faithful. “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You. “Trust in the Lord forever, For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock. The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level. Indeed, while following the way of Your judgments, O Lord, We have waited for You eagerly; Your name, even Your memory, is the desire of our souls. At night my soul longs for You, Indeed, my spirit within me seeks You diligently; For when the earth experiences Your judgments The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Lord, You will establish peace for us, Since You have also performed for us all our works. O Lord our God, other masters besides You have ruled us; But through You alone, we confess Your name. O Lord, they sought You in distress; They could only whisper a prayer..(Isaiah 26:2-4, 7-9, 12-13, 16 NASB)

Wasps and Spiders

This is a true story that happened probably 15 years ago. It is one I love being constantly reminded of and so I kept a visual.
When I was teaching in Greenville County, I taught students who had emotional struggles that made it difficult for them to learn. It took a great deal of emotional energy and spiritual courage to work with them every day and help them grow and learn. I often left my house at 6 in the morning and never got back to it till 7:30 or 8 at night. One thing I did learn early on was I had to leave school at school because with that kind of intense work you can’t take it home, so when you get home you choose to rest.
One particular day when I was especially exhausted I came home to find a problem on my front porch. I generally like most critters but there are some critters I’m not friends with….wood-boring wasps would be one of them. As I stood at my door getting ready to unlock it, I happened to glance up and saw this wasp nest that I have pictured here being built in the corner of my front porch. I looked at it and literally said, “Lord I’m exhausted, you said you would be my father, I need you to take care of that wasp nest. I’m too tired to even play with it and I just don’t have time to go buy wasp killer right now.”
I didn’t give it much thought. I just went in the house went about my business getting supper, went to bed, and slept. The next day I got up and took off for school, worked all day and came home again just as tired.
Out of curiosity I glanced up in that corner thinking I wonder…. and when I did, I saw this Giant spider….to this day I wish I had taken a picture of him….well he may have been a she… I didn’t get the pic…., but he/she was probably a solid half inch across just in the body, forget about the legs. He really was one of the biggest spiders I’ve ever seen in North America ( I have to say North America because I was born in Ethiopia…. we saw big spiders there.) As I stood there watching him I said.. “Really Lord? First the wasps and now a spider? Is my house going to be overtaken by insects?”
And then I stopped and watched more closely. Proverbs talks about going to the ant and watching the insects and learning from them. As I stood there and watched, I realized the spider had methodically built its web so that it completely encompassed and enclosed the wasp nest. That spider was after those nasty wasps. Up until that moment, I had not thought about the fact that spiders eat wasps. I learned something new that day! Within a couple of days all of the wasps were gone and with them, so was the spider. I took the nest down to keep as a reminder!
More importantly, I learned a lesson about God and His care for us. He really does command His little creatures to do what He wants them to do. It reminded me of a story I read once of a man who was in enemy territory somewhere in the world and he was trying to escape for his life and as he ran he saw a cave, so he ducked inside the cave hoping to elude his pursuers. As he lay there hunched in the corner gasping for air praying and begging God to spare his life, he noticed a spider building its web across the entrance. He immediately thought, “Well that’s pretty ridiculous how flimsy is a spider’s web? That’s not going to stop them from coming in to get me!”
But like me, he was too tired from running to do anything about it, so he laid there and watched the spider. If you’ve ever taken the time to watch a spider build its web it’s truly fascinating… I have.
But I digress,… several minutes later the enemy came running, saw the cave and started to come in to check and see if he was in there. But they immediately stopped when they saw the spider’s web and said: “he can’t be in there, he would have broken the web.” So they went on their way. He waited a long time and then was able to get out and escape and tell the rest of the world this amazing story.
Do you watch the little creatures around you? Do you know God has lessons He wants to teach you through them?
My lesson that day was that God truly does take care of his own, He knows our frame He remembers that we are dust Psalms 103:14. He is Our Redeemer our Father and husband as Isaiah 54 talks about. And He is the Good Shepherd who takes care of His sheep. Ps 23, John 15
What’s really sweet is that He cares about the little details of our lives as well as the big ones. I never would have thought He would have taken care of my wasps for me. but on that particular day, He truly understood how weary I was and how much I needed to know that He was going to take care of all of my needs. It reminds me what an incredibly patient caring loving Father we have!

Jada

“It’s yours really it is!”

“No I don’t believe you, I think you are wrong!”  Those words still echo in my mind years later when I  think of this story that happened in 1994. I remember the date because I have it written on the bottom of the figurine and who gave it to me.

In the years that I was working at Boylston Home, I had lots of adventures with the girls.  All of them were wisdom developing experiences.

One spring afternoon Jada came bouncing in the door from school with a beautiful little Precious Moments figurine in her hands. She pranced up to me with a delighted look on her face and proceeded to hand me this little figure with joy. I said “thank you dear, but where did you get this?”  My heart was already sinking because Jada was known for having slippery fingers and coming home with things that did not belong to her.

“It’s for you Miss Ruth! I got it for you!” She gushed happily, pushing the figurine into my hands.

I asked her again, “Where did you get this?”

“I got it at school, Miss Ruth.  It’s for you! I got it for you!”  She was not to be discouraged.

“Are you sure are you telling me the truth or Did you steal this from someone?” I was sure I was going to have to take her to someone again and make her give it back..

“No, no! I got it for you honestly I did.”  She was starting to look a little crestfallen at my continued questioning.

“Jada, I’m sorry I can’t believe you.  You’ve taken things from people before that weren’t yours and I’m afraid you might have stolen this too.  I have to call your teacher and she going to tell me where you really got this from so you need to tell me now.”

She barely paused but firmly reassured me, “Yes, Miss Ruth, yes ! I know you like precious moments, so I got if for you honest!”

I walked away from her with a heavy heart knowing that she had probably stolen it wondering “how am I going to deal with this?  I’ll try to give her the benefit of the doubt and I will call her teacher tomorrow.”

The next morning I called the teacher.

“Hello, Miss Smith? I’m sorry, I hate to bother you, but you know how we have this history of Jada taking things that don’t belong to her?  Well, last night she came home with a Precious Moments figurine.  It’s really cute and I have no idea where she got it from can you help me out?”

“Yes Ruth, I would love to tell you what happened with that. Jada knows we have a prize box and a month-and-a-half ago I brought in that figurine and put some high points on it because it has value.  Jada took one look at it and she said, “I know Miss Ruth loves Precious Moments, I’m going to earn that figurine for her!” She spent the entire month earning the points, by good behavior, by working hard, by doing everything that she was supposed to do and getting along with her classmates so she could “buy” that from the prize box for you. That figurine is really yours!   I have been very proud of her effort and you can be as well!”

I wanted to crawl under the table where I was sitting. Not only had I misjudged this young girl. I had completely missed how deep her love was for me that she would sacrifice her earnings for an entire month, not tell me about it and not pick something for herself, but pick something to give to me!  My mind immediately goes to a couple of different verses when I think about this situation. “No man knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person ” (I Corinthians 2:11). and 1 Corinthians 13 where it says “love keeps no record of past wrongs” and, “thinks no evil.”

When Jada came home from school that day I sat down with her and asked her forgiveness for thinking evil of her and wrapped her up in a hug thanking her for her incredible young sacrifice for me! Needless to say, that figurine has always had a prominent place everywhere I have lived and worked to remind me never ever to misjudge a student/child until I knew all the facts! Many times since then I’ve had other situations where, because I took the time to stop and ask all the questions, I was able to save those students the grief of being misjudged by an adult. In one case because I asked all the questions first and was willing to ask forgiveness of a student it saved another student’s life. But that’s a story for another chapter.

Endurance chapter: a sneak peak.

This is the first part of the chapter I wrote that is published in Endurance going the distance.   If you want to read more feel free to order a copy of the book  here. Endurance: going the distance from the valley to the mountain.

Hebrews 10:35-36  Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great recompense of reward.  For you have need of patience, so that after you have done the will of God you might receive the promise.

Ruth E. Meed BA MAT MS

I keenly remember the unusual extreme anxiety that gripped my chest. The unexplained pain in my back would not ease. The desperately itchy rash covering my body had not subsided with the doctor recommended medications. I was alone, pacing my house, praying, with no answers to handle the pain and itching. As I did, a sudden shock wave of electricity started to burn its way from my neck down through my left arm causing it to curl and stiffen up until I could not move it anymore. This searing sizzle continued down my left side to my leg which then also curled up, then across to the right leg which instantly froze. I collapsed into a chair because I could no longer move and all my muscles were tightening up to complete rigidity. I had just three fingers of my right hand still moving and I used them to dial 911. This began the story of the last seven years. I was getting no answers from the medical professionals. Two days later the paralysis happened again, this time my entire body froze for 20 mins. I was conscious but unable to move. Doctors varied from saying something was very seriously wrong with me to telling me I had a self-created mental problem. I had no answers, I had no hope medically.  I was getting weaker and sicker and helplessly wondered if I was dying.  I had to hope in God or give up and die.

I languished on the couch that next Sunday unable to do much of anything, let alone attend church. I turned on the radio to listen to a local church broadcast. The preacher said, “Today we’re going to talk about storms and how you can handle that storm, so let’s look at the life of Peter and his walk on the water.” (Matt 14:23-34) He spent the next 30 minutes talking about trusting God and how sometimes God puts us in a “boat” and sends us into the middle of a storm to show Himself strong. He also pointed out that even when we fail to trust Jesus, sinking like Peter, He still reaches out to help us the minute we ask Him. I felt in that moment like God in His kindness had reached down to personally encourage me.

When that broadcast finished, another service came on. This next pastor said, “Folks, I want you to turn in your Bibles to the passage in the New Testament about the storm on the Sea of Galilee and today we will discuss how we deal with storms by looking at Peter’s walk on the water…”  I nearly gasped aloud realizing that My Loving Shepherd had providentially orchestrated both of those messages, one right after the other, to encourage me to trust Him when I had no answers.

After lunch, I listened to the morning service from my church. My pastor was reviewing what he had covered so far in Isaiah. He repeatedly rehearsed the theme of Isaiah ‘Trust ye in the Holy One of Israel alone, for He only is salvation.’” He related this concept to how we deal with troubles in our lives. “We can be distressed.  Life can be full of questions and hard things, but we can always trust the hand of our Loving Father to guide us THROUGH them.”  I lay there basking in the feeling of those healing Words washing over my soul.  The almost palpable hug from God, assuring me He was walking with me, through these three messages from three different sources over four hours’ time, could not be mistaken. My Loving Lord in His Sovereignty had orchestrated that day’s programing to tell me that I could trust Him in this storm.

That was August 2010. By January 2011, I could no longer walk, or balance myself.  I could not think straight to read or write. Something was very wrong. The doctor told me there was nothing more she could do and to pray that my body would get better.

Misconceptions: dealing with grief and answers.

Misconceptions about Grief and some Biblical practical thoughts.

A dear friend who has suffered greatly and is now helping others like 2 Corinthians 1 tells us, to comfort, posed a question on FB this week. “What is the greatest misconception of grief that you have experienced?”

In a matter of minutes my mind came up with this list based on the things I have seen, read, heard and personally experienced. I only listed them there, so I want to take the time to develop the answers to each of these Biblically, hopefully for your encouragement and practical use. If enough people express interest I will work on developing a pamphlet that you can order from me.

These are listed as they came to mind so there really is nothing special about the order.  The goal is to supply some key principles to consider when talking to others about their grief. It is likely not completely exhaustive, but it is a good place to start with the common things folks have encountered.

  1. People think they can determine how you grieve is based on how they do.

The Holy Spirit knows our frame, He remembers that we are but dust (Ps 103:14) and because He knows us, He also knows how we handle suffering. If we look at how Jesus handled Mary and Martha in John 11: over the death of their brother, we see very quickly that He dealt with these two ladies differently based on their personalities.  Martha was immediately questioning and talking so Jesus answered her according to her words. Mary was much quieter and Jesus wept with her in silence.

  1. People think they know how long you can grieve.

We know that Job’s friends sat for an entire week in Job 2 before they spoke “because they saw how deep his grief was,” and they only spoke after Job did. (how many of us would sit beside someone who was deeply suffering and not speak for an entire week?) Next, we see that God allowed that discussion to play out for 32 chapters before He said anything.  Then He addressed both Job for his need to develop deeper trust AND his friends for their error in counseling a grieving person!  I was listening to a sermon several years back on Elijah and his “depression.” (1 Kings 19) The speaker proceeded to talk about how Elijah was just on a “pity party” and needed to get up and get back in the battle. This preacher failed to consider some very important things that are noted in the passage. One was the marathon Elijah had just run in Chapter 18. He was utterly exhausted when he was attacked  and threatened by Jezebel. That is when  the devil is most likely to try to take us down. (note that he waited till Jesus was weak and hungry to come after him…Luke 4) More importantly he missed the key phrase where God gave Elijah food,  let him rest, then fed him again with food that nourished him “for 40 days “(1 King 19.8). God knew how long Elijah needed to rest before he could get back to work.  Even when the resting period was done and he was ready to move forward, God did not speak through storms and earthquakes, He spoke in a still small voice with questions.  He never rebuked Elijah for his feeling of being alone, He let him speak and then when he was done saying his piece, God simply told him what he needed to do next. What is even more interesting to consider here is that Elijah was a very outspoken man, so it was surprising to see that when he needed encouragement, he did not get an outspoken rebuke from God. Instead he was given a very gentle question… We can think we are very sure how we need to address people, but we must be careful to ask questions to determine what we are really dealing with first!

  1. People think that your emotional scar is going to disappear/go away.

Emotional scars remain in the same way physical scars do. Like God has given us so many examples through Jesus ministry where he used physical things to demonstrate spiritual unseen things, God also gave us the physical scar to show us what we cannot see inside someone else’s heart.  Scars do heal but the flesh never looks the same.

  1. People fail to see the deepness of the wound.

The verse I think of here is “This kind cometh not out but by prayer and fasting. Matt 17:21.”  I do realize contextually Jesus was discussing why the disciples could not cast out a demon for a man. However, I think the principle applies where we need to consider that there may be harder things going on for a person grieving than we see and we need to be committing them to much more prayer.

  1. People fail to realize that some wounds take longer to drain and heal then others.

I had an experience at one point in my life that helped me learn this principle. I developed this terrible cyst on my back and it was in a place where I could not reach it or do anything to drain it myself. I tried to no avail but it needed to be opened in order to drain. I went to a medical friend. She did not want to hurt me so did nothing. I paid a doctor to look at it.  She said “its not ready to be dealt with yet. ( it was 2 inches across and very painful.) I ended up at someone’s home who took the time to open and do the initial drain that took a couple of hours that day. Then the next days she did more and for days after it continued to drain till it finally healed and I have a permanent indent in a spot on my back from it.  The multitude of applications this produced in my mind are another blog, but the main point here is that some people need more time to talk about, write about, process and work through their grief than others do. Puss needs to be gotten out folks. Some comes quick ,some takes much longer.  I think there is a reason why we are exhorted to forbear with one another. (Eph 4:2)

  1. People think grief is a sin.

Jesus Wept (John 11:32) Nuff said!!

  1. People forget about God’s condemnation of Job’s friends for not speaking right about Him and why God had done what He had done. Job 42:7

 

  1. People don’t know how to answer so say nothing or tell you to stop talking.

Saying nothing is not bad. Just being there in presence and silence can be very comforting. Even Job’s friends recognized that Job 2:13 and they visually looked for the clues to see that Job was suffering.

In reference to telling you to stop talking about your grief. I will develop more in another post about the concept of biblical processing versus venting. Biblical processing in short drains puss and helps to heal a wound. Venting with no desire to understand change or grow is different. The Psalms are replete with examples of anger and frustration expressed, that in the end always turned to a desire to see and understand and rest in the Lord in a new way. That is Biblical processing. Venting is self focused and not intent on growth.

  1. Often People don’t realize that the loss (of an arm to use the physical visual) cannot be just “gotten over.” Life has to be approached completely differently. You simply cannot do the things you did before that same way.

This is simply practical understanding. When you lose a limb you have to learn how to compensate without it. You are never the same but that does not mean you have to be useless. The same is true with a loss. You are never the same and you do have to learn to compensate.  When Paul went through things he talked about experiencing some level of trauma/trial as shown by how he was physically weak. 1 Cor 2:3, 2 Cor 12:-10. Yet even in his weakness Paul realized he could be strong because that is when the Holy Spirit stepped in to empower him. People need time to figure out how to deal with and create a new “normal.”

  1. The first year is not always the worst year. The second and following can be more so because all the support the first year goes away in the years later when things happen that still hit you hard.  My twin was cleaning a cupboard in the years after my dad’s death and pulled a box of Sugar Crisp out and started weeping. ( and then very quickly laughing because of the absurdity of crying over a box of cereal) It was dad’s favorite cereal. You can’t plan for those things! They just happen and you have to recognize the grief, work through it to move on.  I was driving on a highway 10 years after my dad’s death and a truck rolled by with the phrase “jack of all trades.” on the side of it. I immediately started sobbing because my dad was capable of fixing anything completely!

 

  1. Many forget the admonition of Prov 18:13.  You cannot answer till you fully hear or you are a fool.

People need to be willing to ask the right questions before they make quick statements.

  1. Some forget the principle of 2 Cor 1. We comfort how God has comforted us. We cannot help someone else if we have not embraced our own suffering before God and learned how He really comforts. The bible also says the reason the Holy Spirit is our Great High Priest is because He was touched with the feelings of our weakness! Heb 4:15

 

  1. People forget 2 key principles in Phil 3

Verse :10 Paul says he wants to know Christ in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering. We all want the power of His resurrection. We do not readily embrace the fellowship of His suffering!

Verse 13 says “forgetting those things which are behind.” The context of what Paul is discussing here is that he is forgetting all his accolades, all he did well, and he is pressing TOWARD suffering for Christ. So those who try to quote this verse as the reason to just “get over” suffering are, in fact, misquoting scripture.

  1. People forget 2 Cor 12:9 we are strong when we are WEAK and God is strong in us. Suffering and loss absolutely weakens us! But in it, as we embrace our loving Savior, He strengthens us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

  1. In this culture people think weeping is weakness. John 11:35 negates that. Jesus was not weak!

 

  1. The claim that “Time heals all wounds.” Time does heal but it does not make scars go away. Just because a scar is not visible does not mean it is not there. I can’t see your mind but I know you have one.  I can’t see the cancer that ravages someone’s body but it is still there and has to be dealt with. Emotional scars are also there and like a physical scar, if it is bumped or scraped will peel and sometimes reopen, so emotional wounds can be reopened when bumped.

 

  1. Some people think you are manipulating and having a pity party when in fact you are truly confused and need time and help to process the grief.

Carefully asked questions and NOT making assumptions are incredibly important here! If someone says essentially, “I am just having a pity party and leave me alone,” that is one thing, but if someone is genuinely confused in the process of deep grief, they need to be more carefully helped and allowed to process their questions and confusion. Jesus let Martha speak her piece and then answered her. God let Job speak his piece so we all have a clear picture of his areas of confusion and anger etc. Then He answered him with lots of carefully worded questions. 1 Cor 2:11 says that no man knows the spirit of a man except that man. and only when someone states that they will choose to use their grief as a crutch or pity party can you address them this way. Most people who are grieving are genuinely gasping for air trying to survive until they learn a new normal. It is incredibly easy to stand outside of someone else’s sorrow and pass judgment. God gives grace for each person’s sorrow and He times their healing just like some folks get over cancer and others die from the exact same form. We do have to pass through the valley of Baca (suffering) and make pools of hope for those who come behind Ps 84:6 But no one can be the Holy Spirit in someone else’s life. Our job is to listen and ask them what God is showing/teaching them. Or gently ask them what they understand about what a particular verse means. Ps 54-56 are helpful places to start.

  1. People forget that grief is a process not just a moment.

Refer back to my comments earlier about how God handled Elijah and Job. and # 17 we do need to work the process. I have seen information that talks about anywhere from 5 to 15 stages of grief.  The bottom line is  that grief is a process and people have to work through the process at the pace God sets for them and  we need to learn the things God wants us to learn but we have to do this on God’s time table not man’s.

  1. People Misquote verses like “forgetting what is behind and pressing forward.” (see number 13) The context of that is Paul forgetting his accomplishments and pressing toward the fellowship of Jesus suffering…

 

  1. Fellowship is not an instafix. Fellowship means time spent with a fellow in his ship. Ships riding in storms can’t just go dock at the landing. They have to wait for the storm to subside before it is safe to dock!

 

  1. People forget that the skin heals faster than the tissue underneath. My brother had open heart surgery. I tore my baby toe nearly off. I can tell you that the skin heals but the tissue underneath needs more time. I started walking on my foot too soon and reopened the wound because the muscles etc. were not healed under the skin. This is true in loss and grief as well. Deeper grief takes longer to heal.

 

  1. People forget that there are many ways to express grief beyond what they are comfortable with. Some need writing, drawing, talking, hiking, quietness, to name a few.

 

  1. Some People think because you grew up in a Christian home and can quote half the Bible that you know how to deal with grief and don’t need their extended help and understanding. And you should be able to just get over it and be full of joy because we are supposed to rejoice in our trials like James 1 says.

 

While we know the truth of something, we cannot anticipate all the things we will do when we experience it. When you learned to drive a car, you took the paper test but you did not know a thing about pushing the brake or gas at the right time or how much till you got behind the wheel, or how hard to stop or start or how fast to go around corners, or how to maneuver to parallel park. You must experience and work the process and so it is with grief. When I first drove, I ran into a brick wall on a motor bike because I did not know how to turn or hit the brake right. Now that I have driven over 500,000 miles in all kinds of weather and several types of cars /bikes, with various transmissions and axles, there are things about driving I don’t even think about.  But I had to learn. In the days, weeks and months following my dad’s death I could hardly get through an hour with out gasping back sobs. Now 18 years later I can still be caught off guard by a comment someone makes but it does not feel like the “brick wall” of those early days because I have learned how to gently apply the breaks in my mind and redirect after the initial shock of emotion subsides.  Dad is part of who I am, that will NEVER go away.  I have learned how to embrace that while continuing with my life but that took time and understanding from those around me.

Knowledge puffs up. Experience teaches you (1 Cor 13.) You gain wisdom through the things God allows in your life.  God does say He tests us to see if we will follow Him (2 Chron 32:31, Ps 11:4; 26:2; 139:23; Jer 17:10; 1 Pet 4:12) and in the case of Paul He said he would see the great things he would suffer for Jesus sake.(Acts 9:16)  Suffering is part of life and we can have joy in the sorrow but the Bible does say too, that the whole creation travails in pain waiting for the adoption of our bodies. (Roms 8:22) We do feel pain physically and emotionally. Roms 8:26 says the Holy Spirit helps our weaknesses with groanings that cannot be uttered.

From personal experience I can tell you that you can experience an unusual peace and joy at the same time that tears are streaming down your face (or ripping your soul) with deep grief. It is a crazy mix of emotions that is not unbiblical or ungodly. It is the natural process of grief.

“Counting something all joy” like James 1 says, is a thought in the mind first (the word count is a mental process here) it is not instantly an emotion. The emotion takes time to follow.

These truths can be gently shared in small doses when someone is ready for them but they are not the first things to say when someone is gasping for air in a tidal wave of emotion.

Feel free to comment and if needed let me know things you think I should add.

How I learned my philosophy for helping people.

The answer I gave to someone this morning who asked me about how I learned the approach I have taken when I talk to people who ask for my help. First and foremost, it is about 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our trouble, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in every trouble, through the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. “
We must comfort people not with proof texts but with the comfort God has given us! That means we have to be willing to face our daily “stuff!” before we try to “Fix” other people!
My Philosophy when it comes to psychology is quite simply, anything that works in psychology works because it was already in the Word of God to start with. Sadly in some of the biblical counseling world, we have not really dug into understanding what God is communicating in some of the passages. We may want the easy way out. We don’t want to deal with prickly hard things that hurt. It takes some real time and effort on the part of all people involved. I am working on a visual project of this that I will post in the coming days as it is taking time to do what I am doing and I have to work at it slowly as I have strength.
In the meantime, however, the more I have walked this road of growth and healing and trying to understand what God was communicating to me, the more I have understood some very key passages of scripture and exactly what God is really trying to say and how helpful it is to life and godliness! It has become a driving passion with me to never give a pat answer! To always think through things to make sure I understand what’s really going on and to give a Biblical answer that is not trite! God’s Word is like bricks and picked up and used properly they create a foundation that is powerfully strong. But if they are just picked up and thrown at somebody because someone doesn’t want to take the time to understand where that brick really needs to be laid, they cause more damage than help! I call them Bible bricks for that reason. I will never give someone the quick answer of “You just need to get over this and trust God.” Until I have asked all the question, Prov 18:13 I don’t know what it is they need to get over and I also don’t know if they have the tools and support to work towards getting over it. There are an awful lot of incredibly deeply hurting people who need truth given the right way, at the right time, and laid properly to create a foundation in their life! We can’t afford to pick up bricks and throw them and dash off to our next appointment! I have had people in my life who have done both. One approach was life-changing and directional. The other was deeply damaging!

Be Sure Your Sin will Find You Out!

There you are skipping down the road in time to the sunshine, oblivious to everything except the sunshine and your agenda and then it happens…I am thinking about this story because it is pouring rain outside today and that makes me think of water and….well ……you know how the mind jumps from subject to subject…at least mine does…but where was I..? oh yes skipping down the road.. in time to the sunshine…

Actually, this story was not about what happened to me. It is about what happened to someone else because of me and water.

I would love to paint the beautiful sunny ocean scene and forget about the real water in this story and the consequences of my actions.. but sigh… I can’t. It is one of those little tales I have told over and over ….exposing my guilt in the process but also the powerful lesson I learned.

The date was Friday the 13th…If you know me well you know I don’t pay any attention to that date more than any other, but I was at Boylston Home at this time and so the girls I was caring for had, of course, heard all the tales about this supposedly ominous date. As they were getting dressed they told me the tales. I told them hogwash and headed downstairs. I managed to catch my foot on the stairwell and slid down the last 4 steps. They of course hooted and asserted I should pay attention to the date. I logically dismissed it as my carelessness. Some other things happened too and I dismissed them, but I had more to learn about carelessness and lack of diligence and that is where the water comes in… just in case you were wondering what all this had to do with water…

So the girls were happily shooed out the door to school and I was in the kitchen chatting with the other worker on duty with me. I noticed a mug on the counter that needed to be put in the sink so swiped it quickly toward the sink being silly.  In the process, I emptied the half-full contents of water out across the kitchen floor. I looked at Jen, my coworker, who was shaking her head laughing at me because… you know.. the date and all…

I, in disgust at myself, said to her. “Really? That is ridiculous! I am not going to clean that up. It’s just one too many things gone wrong this morning!” She smiled and walked out of the kitchen. It was my responsibility to deal with. I did not.

An hour later, 3 of we childcare workers were all standing talking in the kitchen and my boss, who was over 6 feet tall, came happily waltzing into the kitchen… in time to the sunshine….hit that water and nosedived across the kitchen floor! Yes, ladies and gentlemen this REALLY happened! He gingerly picked himself up and looked around pointing and saying “there’s water all over the floor! Where did that come from?” We all stood completely stunned for a moment knowing this was not a laughing matter. He went down very hard! I swooped for the cloth and got the water cleaned up… The rest of the day the verse “be sure your sin will find you out.” (Num 32:26) came to mind. The context of this verse is when Israel promised to help their brothers and Moses told them they had better follow through or they would be held accountable for it by God…fit my situation. I did not follow through on a responsibility and I caused someone else to suffer as a result. God remembers these things.

Suzie

Oh NO..! I missed my chance!!
I had been at Boylston Home for about 2 years when we had a girl placed with us who was supposed to be with us for several months. She arrived on a Monday. That Thursday night, I was home alone with her as the others had gone to some activity. She had gone to her room and I was busy doing the other things typical mom’s do to take care of a house. The Lord very clearly prompted me to talk to her about how to be saved. I thought about it and then thought, “ah, I have lots of time and I have other things I need to do tonight that are more important.” So, I puttered around cleaning or whatever, just doing my “thing.” He kept prompting me with a clear internal thought. “Do it now!” and being the rebellious, insensitive to the Holy Spirit person I that I was at that time, to my shame, I kept saying back essentially, “but Lord, this thing I am doing right now is more pressing and she will be here for a while.” I kept doing what I was doing. Interesting how I can’t remember what I was doing that night that I thought was more pressing than telling someone about Jesus. I just listened to the lies of unbelief, instead of the truth. I had a lesson I needed to learn and God was about to make it incredibly real!

We had a policy at the home that every girl who came to us was immediately given a Bible on the first night and then we would introduce them to the information as they stayed with us. Many came to us who had never seen one before, so it took time to make sure they understood what it was all about. I had not taken the time yet to walk her through the simple Romans road plan, yet, because I figured I had lots of time. So as crazy as this sounds to me now, I went to sleep and let her go to sleep that night with no understanding of eternal hope!

The next morning, at 8:20 am, I got a call from her Social Worker telling me that there had been an emergency court hearing called and “Susie” would be going home immediately. We had just enough time to get her things packed back up and she was GONE!
I wandered around that house all morning in a daze, stunned that I had let a clear opportunity from the Lord slip through my fingers and I was devastated by my lack of response to a clear prompting from the Holy Spirit! I never let that opportunity slip by again as long as I lived there. I made sure that either I or one of my coworkers had at least shared the gospel plan with every girl who came through the door as soon as possible! I was not going to make that foolish mistake again. I learned my lesson! God taught me well!

3 YEARS later I was sitting at the desk writing a report when the phone rang and a Social worker proceeded to describe to me what sounded like a very troubled young teenage lady. I told her we were hesitant to take someone with those kinds of challenges into our program. She barked back impatiently, “Well I don’t know why not, you had her there before!”
I paused, “Oh really, what was her name?”
“Susie” she replied.
I could not believe my ears! God was bringing her back? I went and told my director what I was being described and what I knew of her from before and got permission to admit her back into the program. I was absolutely marveling that God was so orchestrating things for me to have a second chance!

That night I was scheduled to put the girls to bed and I intentionally took care of all the others before I went to her room. I was NOT going to miss the opportunity a second time! She was sitting on her bed and the Bible was sitting at the foot of the bed.
“Is that the Bible we gave you when you left?’ I asked.
“Yes, it is! I have moved many times since I left here and I have lost many of my things, but I made sure I hung on to that!” She stated it with emphasis.
“Really? Did anyone ever tell you what it was all was about?” I asked.
“No,” she sadly replied.
“Would you like to me to tell you about it?”
To my dying day, I will never forget the look on her face as she turned to me eyes ablaze with wonder and joy and asked me,
“Would you really?”
I had the incredible privilege from God to make good on what He had asked me to do 3 years earlier! She was gloriously saved that night. I know it was real because 3 weeks later she was moved again and after she had been gone for several days I got a call from the Social Worker.
“What did you tell Susie when she lived with you?” She demanded somewhat abruptly.
“I am not sure what you mean?” I responded perplexed.
“She is telling everyone where she lives now that they need to trust Jesus as their Savior or they will go to Hell,” She accused me. I reminded her of the policy at the home that was written in our intake packet that we would share the Bible with all residents who came to live with us and that it was their choice to believe or not believe what the Bible taught. She could not argue with me and hung up disgruntled. I hung up rejoicing that God in His incredible mercy had given me a second chance to finish the work He had asked me to do!

“God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance! 2 Peter 3:9 Behold now is the accepted time. Now is the day of Salvation! 2 Corinthians 6:2 Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3 We wait in hope for the Lord. Psalms 33:20 As for God, His way is perfect; the Word of Jehovah is tried; He is a shield to all those who trust in Him. For who is God besides Jehovah? Or, who is a Rock except our God? Psalms 18:30-31” (KJV, AMP, MKJV Esword)

Lydia (Gideons)

“What in the world? How did you know?”
(This is a Gideon Bible story.)
In the years that I was at Boylston Home, 69 girls came through the doors. (I will never use the real name of any girl unless she has given me permission to do so.) Regardless of whether they were there for 24 hours, or several years we had a few non-negotiable principles that we shared with them. Some of those principles we taught were … they were valuable, …. they could take care of themselves, do laundry, dress, basic house cleaning, treat others with kindness and dignity, etc. and … their past did not have to define their future.
The most important thing we did, however, was to put a Bible in the hands of every girl who came into the home. We shared the truth of the Gospel with them using that Bible, knowing full well that it was entirely up to them what they did with that information. Some chose to believe immediately, some chose to wait and think about it and then believed, and some chose not to believe, at least not in the time when they were with us. Our responsibility was not to force a response, it was simply to tell them the truth from the Word of God and let the Holy Spirit() do His work in their hearts. “Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest… “Hebrews 4:1 – 3 NASB (E-sword)
How God absolutely prepared a heart to hear the truth never ceased to amaze me!
We had a girl come to us in her mid-teens. She had quite a painful story that we would learn in the time that she stayed with us. In the first week of her being with us, I sat down with her with a Bible and started to tell her the basic truth of how to trust Jesus Christ as your Savior. I took her through the “Romans Road” with which many of us are familiar.
Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” I told her that we are all sinners who need a Savior. She readily admitted she was a sinner. I told her that sin had separated us from God.
Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Lord.”
Romans 5:8 “But God commended (showed) His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
I showed her how these verses clearly demonstrated that even though we are sinners, God loved us enough that Jesus came and died for our sins.
Then I took her to Romans 10:9-10 and 13, “That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in your heart that God has raised Him (Jesus) from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness but with the mouth confession is made known unto salvation….Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
I told her how genuine Christian faith requires stating with your mouth that you believe that Jesus Christ is God, that He died for your sins and that He rose again to demonstrate He had the power over death and hell too.
I asked her if she had any questions. She told me she was very interested, but she wasn’t grasping it yet. At that point, I quietly prayed to the Lord in my mind and asked Him if there was another verse I needed to show her that would help? He immediately brought this verse to my memory. (I had been to a Bible study a week before where they had talked about using this verse when you share the gospel with someone, so it was still fresh on my mind.)
John 5:24. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes on Him who sent me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation but is passed from death to life.”
When the girls were old enough, and could,I always put the Bible in front of them and let them read it out loud or to themselves, because it tended to help them take more ownership for what they were reading. She started to read this verse and then stopped with a gasp. She looked at me with an incredulous face and looked back at the verse and then looked at me again and then shook her head and then kept exclaiming, “Wait! How in the world did you know? I can’t believe this! This is amazing! What? How did you know? I don’t get this? Unbelievable!”
I was, of course, completely surprised and had no idea what she was talking about, so I asked, “can you explain yourself? What’s happening here?”
Still shaking her head and glancing back and forth between me and those words she proceeded to tell me this story.
“Miss Ruth, you already know that my dad kidnapped us kids from my mom and that he had us on the run from the police all over the United States. We’ve lived in abandoned cars. We’ve slept on the side of the road or in the woods. He abused us, and we’ve stayed in cheap hotels. Often, when we were in those hotels, he would go off on a drinking binge. I, being the oldest, was left behind to take care of my three younger siblings. I got pretty bored of watching the same dumb stuff on TV so once my siblings went to sleep, I would pull the Bible out of the drawer. Did you know they have these Bibles in hotel rooms with the word Gideon on the front of them?”
I told her I did because I have friends who work for The Gideons and my parents encouraged us to support Gideon Ministries years ago.
“Well,” she continued, “I would pull that Bible out of the drawer and try to read it and I kept coming to this verse…This one you just showed me… I still can’t believe you knew!! How did you know?? I never understood what it meant, but I wanted to! I even talked to my mom about it when we were reunited.”
I, marveling at the Divine leading of God, asked her “do you understand now?”
“YES!” she declared, “and I can’t wait to go back and tell mom all of this and what this really means!”
I felt like Phillip with the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:29cf.) All I did was teach her some basic principles from God’s Word and He had her heart prepared to trust the truth of the Gospel ahead of time because of what she had read before she ever met me.
Love how God works!

Helen

The quietness of that October evening in 1991 was a welcome relief from the hectic, noisy routine of working with 10 troubled young ladies. “My girls,” as I affectionately referred to them, had left for an activity, and I was on duty at the group home where I worked to answer the phone and catch up on documentation. I sank with satisfaction into a chair and mused over the many things I have learned in this place about God’s love and how to show it to some very hurt and often angry 6 to 14-year-old girls. Yes, the hours were long, and the staff relished the few moments of peacefulness we could snatch between crises but mingled with the pain and exhaustion was a very real sense of God-given purpose and joy in having a part in touching their lives.

“These girls really have a way of snuggling into my heart,” I thought, as I wrote down the afternoon’s incidents in the daily log. Each one was special, and I couldn’t help but smile as their faces passed, in quick frames, through my mind. I wondered where they would be 20 years from now and whether they would remember the principles we had taught them about Jesus. Would they remember that He loved them, died for them, and could meet their needs if they would only continue to trust Him?

The phone rang interrupting my thoughts. I reached for the receiver and said “good evening.” A lady introduced herself as Helen. “I used to live at your home and they told me back then if I ever needed a place to stay I could count on the Boylston Home. Is that still true? I’m 58 years old and I’m not poor. I lived at Mercy home ( the name of the home before it was changed to Boylston) from 1947 to 1949.”

I hesitated because we get many prank calls and my initial thought was, “Oh great, another one of those kooky people looking for handouts.” Her speech was slurred, and I wondered if she was drunk or something. I later learned that she was just naturally slower speaking.
“Well Ruth, let me tell you a little bit about the place when I lived there.” She drawled.
I had a desperately hard time trying to make out her words because she spoke very slowly like it was a terrible effort to formulate and express her thoughts. I sat and listened without much comment as she told me about the home she remembered. There was the mean house mother who got very angry with her because she didn’t know what elbow-grease meant. “I thought it was some kind of Dutch cleanser or something and she got so angry that she gave me at least a half a dozen black marks. How was I to know the difference? I never heard that term before in my life.”

She sounded so much like a lost child that I felt even then all she really wanted was some understanding and a friend who cared enough to listen to her. She told me about how she was teased and pick on mercilessly by the other residents and how the house mother made fun of her tears. One day, she told her teacher. “They stopped picking on me after that!” She stated it smugly like she had won a major battle and proved herself. “I think the house mother found out I had told on her and she didn’t dare say anything mean to me after that. She was a nun, you know, and told me I’d never amount to anything. Well I showed her. I showed them all. I got married to a rich man, and I have lived a good life. I paid cash for the Cadillac that I drive now. I have a son in Washington politics.”
She continued drawling on for an hour, telling me about the terrible memories she had of her three years at this home and my heart went out to her.

The girls arrived home and I told Helen I had to go because I needed to help put them to bed. She thanked me for listening and ended with, “now you find out for me and let me know if I can spend the night there if I come to town after dark!” I promised I would, and we said goodbye.
Over the course of the next few months, Helen would call to talk either for half an hour or three or four times in a one-hour period. She always repeated the same stories, sometimes with a few more details and always with her slow, somewhat slurred speech.

Soon she asked if she could visit the home and maybe take one of our girls out for an ice cream, or to supper, or to the mall? She didn’t want our well-behaved girls, either! She wanted to spend her time with the one or two girls who cried a lot and had a hard time fitting in or feeling loved. She wanted to let them know that she knew how they felt, and she was there to show them that someone cared.
She had an interview with the Director and the Board. They said she could take the girls out. Well, she was so excited that she had to call me right away to tell me about it. She wanted to know when she could start?

She kept saying to me over and over, “you have no idea what this means to me that you would trust me, a total stranger, was these dear little girls! I promise I’ll be good to them!”
She came to see me before she took out her first girl. “Just so you at least have met me first and know who I am,” she explained.

When she arrived, I opened the door to a five-foot two spunky little lady. Her hair was dyed a deep reddish brown and her eyes sparkled. Her movements were slow and methodical. She wore obviously expensive clothes without the poise characteristic of natural wealth. Her perfume was a little too strong and her hands were weighted down with very expensive, big rings. But, she was funny, and friendly and the girls took to her mothering.

I took her on a tour of the home. She showed me some of the rooms she remembered and told me what had changed since she was there. “We used to have 40 girls living here you know. We did laundry for money and we did the backyard garden. I used to live in this room,” pointing to one on the landing of the second floor.

She called me after her first visit just overcome with gratitude. She couldn’t get over how happy the girls were, how well-dressed and obviously loved and cared for. She said, “Ruth, you are the reason there is such a difference there, I know it.” I reassured her it was the whole staff committed to the care of the girls. Our desire was to not be just another group home but a family, to give them an idea how real homes functioned. “Well Ruth, I still think it’s because of you but for whatever reason those girls are loved! And they know it! That means so much to me! It’s almost like I’m healing my own memories coming back to visit now and seeing things so different than when I was there.” Once again she told me her story of cruel treatment and feeling unloved and unwanted.

Time passed. She bought Easter baskets for the girls and sent us over $300 to buy Easter dresses and shoes for all of them. “Now I don’t want any of this money going to pay your salary or to fix that house up!” She made me promise! “You make sure this is spent entirely on the girls, but don’t tell them where it came from!” Christmas came around and she sent us little packages with perfume, nail polish and the like. “For the girl stockings” were the instructions. She came over before Christmas that year and spent an afternoon showing the girls how to a make Christmas bag and decorate it for wrapping a gift.

Easter came again and with it the familiar little baskets. I have to admit my little mission to Helen had fallen by the wayside. The same “elbow grease” story was getting old now, and I was too involved in my busy day to really stop and listen the way I had at first. But I reminded myself to be polite and kind. I knew that she was lonely since her husband had died 10 years earlier.

In late April, Helen stopped by to leave some jelly beans for the girls… a whole case of them… I wasn’t there when she brought the jelly beans by and I missed her when she dropped off Easter baskets that year. I was disappointed because I hadn’t seen her in so long. She took such delight when the girls ran up to give her hugs when she came, and always called me to thank me over and over “for letting me work with your girls.” She said it made her feel so much younger and more useful.

In late May, I had a strong burden to call Helen because I hadn’t heard from her for a while. She had been sleeping and I woke her up, but she was delighted to hear my voice. She told me she had just gotten out of the hospital from being quite sick. After we talked for a few minutes she said she was tired and wanted to sleep. Before she hung up, though she thanked me for calling saying, “it made me feel so much better! You made my day.”

3:45 p.m., June 9th, 1993. My birthday! I was feeling down because I had wanted to spend the day with my twin sister, but she was 400 miles away and I was on duty. I was on my way out the door to an appointment when the phone rang. I nearly ignored it because it had been ringing incessantly all day. But I decided I should be responsible, so cordially spoke the usual greeting. The man on the other end of the line asked if I would give him an address for sending donations. I gave it to him, then asked him who he represented for our records. He told me his name and position, but my mind lost that information with his next words. “Helen passed away on Sunday, June 6th, and she requested people to send donations to your home for Memorial instead of flowers.”

I wandered around the house in the hours and days after that call willing the phone to ring with Helen wanting to tell her all-too-familiar story. I even called her house once, hoping I had somehow dreamed that awful call from whomever he was. No answer, obviously.

The next day’s newspaper confirmed the information I had missed. She had died of a massive heart attack in her sleep over the weekend. Her cleaning lady found her Monday morning. The wake was scheduled for this evening. I took several of the girls to give them a chance to say goodbye. As we sat around the room and took turns viewing the casket, people stood around and chatted about Helen. They commented on how she loved to call people and just talk. “Should be buried with a phone,” one guy offered playfully then choked back a sob. “She loved to give people things,” another commented. But they all talked about how she loved the home and how much it meant to her to spend time with the girls and do little things for them. “It was almost like she felt that she never really belonged anywhere until she got involved with you people,” said one lady who was one of the few friends who knew her well.

As I stood for a moment of stillness besides the lifeless form of my friend. I thought, “I have learned something from this relationship. Never take people for granted! You just don’t know when you will lose them. Make sure your last moments with them are always full of kindness and care.” I thank God for the precious memory of a phone call I received on a quiet evening in ’91 and another one I made off-the-cuff one day in ‘93. I will never forget how joyful her voice sounded when she realized I had taken time out of my busy day just to say “hi” and see how she was feeling! I again pondered the principle I have heard often in messages and Chapel Services of how terribly important it is to follow the inner promptings of God’s Holy Spirit to reach out. It may be the last lifeline for a hurting soul and always means more to them than we will ever know.