You Have Something to Give, Someone to Serve (Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr)

Thankful for the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, whose words truly spoke for justice, freedom, and life. Here are a few of his quotes that inspire me:
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Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

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Blessing the Soul

The greatest gift my friendship can give to you is the gift of your belovedness.” Henri Nouwen

Today’s post is compilation of lovely, encouraging words from the book Embracing Soul Care, Making Space for What Matters Most by Stephen W. Smith:

“Each of us is the beloved of God. Helping others claim and realize their belovedness is a privilege and sacred responsibility. This means we learn to be “for” our friends and family and not against them. Being for people means that we believe they are God’s beloved.

“When we are told that we are the beloved, we learn to recognize the voice of love that speaks into our hearts. It tells us who we are apart from what we have done or accomplished … Friendship at the soul level is where these words can and should be spoken.

“We are image bearers of God. In each face, then, is the image of God. Your spouse, child, parent, friend, coworker, pastor, and teacher each reveals to you a certain aspect of the image of God that no other person offers (pages 59 – 60).

“God made us with souls that need and long to be blessed … By speaking a blessing into the life and soul of another person, we participate in an act of affirmation and validation. As the world seems eager to invalidate the true identity of sons and daughters of God, blessing affirms it.

In Numbers 6:23 – 26, the Lord says to Moses – Tell Aaron and his sons, “This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

“The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make His face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn His face toward you
and give you peace.”

“The Latin word for blessing is the ancestral root of the word benediction, and it literally means “speak good.” A blessing happens when one person speaks good things into the soul of another … God fashioned our souls to need words that encourage – that literally speak courage into the soul.

“A blessing allows us to hear again who we are and to lift our countenance to face the road ahead” (page 267).

Dearest readers, you are treasured by me but even more so by your Creator who longs to see your face upturned to Him. You are the Beloved. Look to Him today, and receive His grace and peace.

Gratefully ~ Renee

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say. 2 Thessalonians 2: 16 – 17

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“It Made a Difference for That One”

It’s only noon on Tuesday, and I want to tell you what I’ve seen this morning –

Neighbor, I saw you helping the motorist with a flat tire.

Friend, I saw you asking your small group to pray because God is stirring your heart to join what He’s doing in an unsafe country.

Ma’am, I saw you set down your things to offer your arms to the young mother struggling with the car-seat and the stroller.

Fellow shoppers, I saw you rush to the aid of an elderly pedestrian struck by a car in the parking lot. Before I knew what was happening, you were calling 911, tending to her injuries, and running after her rolling groceries.

First responders, I saw you cradling the head of the injured, speaking to her with compassion and doing what God has equipped you to do in times of crisis.

Motorist with a flat tire, I saw in you myself, stranded and relieved to have a trustworthy and capable helper.

Small group, I saw in you a stand-in-the-gap spirit that can stretch across the nations.

Young mother, I saw the person I was about 12 years ago, thankful to have an older woman assure me that I would be okay.

Elderly pedestrian, I saw you wave in gratitude to your helpers as the EMTs lifted you into the ambulance. None of us know when life will knock us off our feet, and in your face I saw the unmistakable truth that we need each other.

None of us can do life alone. Because we’re made in the image of a relational Creator, our calling is to enter into reciprocating relationships where care and grace and love are freely & mutually exchanged. The New Testament, in fifty-four verses, commands us to live in a “one another” way.

But sometimes, in this fallen world, our relationships won’t be equably reciprocal or mutually giving. We will serve and give to people who will never be able to offer a return, maybe not even a ‘thank you.’ And that’s where we live out the Gospel.

I think we can get so overwhelmed with the needs of this world that we immobilize or insulate ourselves. We think, “how could I possibly make a difference when thousands upon thousands are thirsty, starving, abandoned, exploited?”

Before noon today in South Charlotte, I didn’t see anyone thirsty, starving, abandoned, or exploited. But I did see ordinary people, perhaps having an ordinary day, suddenly in a place of need. And I saw ordinary people, perhaps having an ordinary day, suddenly becoming the helpers. And I believe that God has given each of us a heart that can’t help but respond to another human. Let’s not let the world harden us or overwhelm us to the point of indifference.

There was a time when I wrote something in a blog post about the smallness of my place in a colossal online world. And a friend replied to tell me about the starfish. I knew the story, as you probably do, but his reminder gave me courage to keep on writing.

I believe that hope lives for “starfish” because of you. Because you help a person on crutches with her bags of groceries.  Because you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a hungry man. Because you fervently pray when your friend is facing a Red Sea moment in her life. Because you trim the widow’s shrubs.

You matter, and your washed-up world needs you to walk the beach and do your part.

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Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus. {Colossians 3:17}

Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley:

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,

It made a difference for that one.”

 

From Life’s First Cry to Final Breath

By now you may have read 29-year-old cancer patient Brittany Maynard’s story and seen Kara Tippetts’ moving response to her plan to die by assisted suicide on November 1.

Kara Tippetts is a Christ-follower, wife, mom, author, blogger, and church-planter who is living faithfully in the midst of suffering. She wrote a letter to Brittany as only someone in her shoes can – a fellow young woman staring death in the face. It’s titled: “Dear Brittany: Why We Don’t Have to be so Afraid of Death and Suffering that We Choose Suicide.”

Knowing Jesus, knowing that He understands my hard goodbye, He walks with me in my dying. My heart longs for you to know Him in your dying. Because in His dying, He protected my living. My living beyond this place. – Kara Tippetts

To the issues surrounding assisted suicide, I can only speak as a healthy woman and a griever. My perception of these women’s experiences is based solely on what I witnessed in my Dad’s dying from cancer. Reading Brittany’s story and Kara’s response is hard for me. It’s triggered painful memories because up until Daddy’s death, I had an idea of what a godly, elderly, family man’s death should look like, and his passing wasn’t it.

But, at the same time, as a Christ-follower I have come to accept that life isn’t lived on my own terms, and death – being a part of the life process – is no exception.

Two things have comforted me supremely:

Romans 8:18 ~ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Daddy’s final hours, as they still play out in my mind, are not necessarily lost to me, but they are as if vanished compared to the victories of Heaven.

From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.

Daddy’s funeral was on a Saturday, and on Sunday I sang In Christ Alone with my family in church. “From life’s first cry to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny” always releases the waterworks, but I’ll say through tears that this truth is my peace.

Although Daddys’ death still raises “what if” questions in my mind and it wasn’t the romanticized experience I had hoped for, it was reverent. Even right, I’d say now. Every doubt is quieted when I remember that God is the decider.

See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39)

As humbly as I can, I want to say that I think I understand, having spent days in cancer centers, why a person wants to die with dignity on his or her own terms, but in the midst of suffering it takes life-giving courage to let God call us when He’s ready.

The life-giving part is the legacy that you pass on to your loved ones. Such faith will not be forgotten.

I encourage you to read Kara’s story and her letter to Brittany. As she says, this is a discussion that needs to be brought out of quiet corners. I’m concerned that our culture is increasingly embracing a worldview in which a person’s life is valued only if he or she can contribute to society.

It seems we’re moving in a direction in which the desire to not become (or birth) a “burden” is valued more than the fundamental value of image-bearing.

“In this country, our self-centered insistence on personal rights has created a culture of death. Because when the exercise of personal rights becomes the end-all, be-all, it takes God out of the picture and places man squarely at the center of life.” ~ Joni Eareckson Tada

Like abortion, assisted suicide cannot be compartmentalized in political arenas & contentious conversations. A worldview with Jesus at the center upholds the value of life in each place on the continuum and in any condition. Revering God as the decider preserves life’s dignity, even in death, and sustains hope, even in death.

As Kara Tippetts says, “When we trust Jesus to be the carrier, protecter, redeemer of our hearts, death is no longer dying.”

In Kara’s dying, she is showing us how to live.

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Thank you, dearest Kara. You and your family are in our most heartfelt prayers.

We have a Good Shepherd, we will not travel this road alone.”

  • Psalm 139:16 ~ All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

And please watch this:

PS – I should mention that Daddy’s oncologist gave him the options of a last-resort treatment or hospice care, and Daddy chose the treatment. He wanted to live. While we were just beginning to have these exceedingly difficult conversations, God decided to call him home. I imagine that hospice could have alleviated Daddy’s suffering in the final hours, but now we can only place his last days in the God’s hands, trusting in God’s sovereignty and thanking Him for the mercy to take Daddy quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yours Are the Hands and Feet

As I write about speaking life, I’ve learned many things, especially that it is not a solo effort. Rather it is a symphony of voices, each uniquely gifted, rising in reverence for Imago Dei in every person.

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You are the image-bearers, the speakers of life. God created you with something to offer, and you – with your encouraging word, smile, prayer, open door, or gesture of forgiveness – add to a chorus that can change a world one life at a time.

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May the following words encourage you – infuse courage into you – to present your offering, embrace the ordained ordinary, see your weaknesses not as obstacles but as opportunities, and surrender the outcome as your opened bag of loaves and fishes.

Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those who sang best. Henry Van Dyke

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Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
~ Saint Teresa of Avila

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The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. ~ Fredrick Buechner

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I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I’m praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” ~ Mother Teresa

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“We are all in full-time Christian service. It’s just that some of us serve the Lord in secular jobs and others in ministry jobs. But either way, we should be using our gifts to represent Christ in the best possible way …. What has God given  you? Moses had a stick (remember chapter 7?). David had a slingshot, and Paul had a pen. Mother Teresa possessed a love for the poor; Billy Graham, a gift for preaching; and Joni Eareckson Tada, a disability. What did they have in common? A willingness to let God use whatever they had, even if it didn’t seem very useful … We may not be clear on just how God wants to use us. But that’s no excuse for doing nothing. Just jump in, and start doing.”  Richard Stearns, The Hole in our Gospel

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“… turn down the volume on your inner critic and move courageously into whatever makes you experience God’s smile. That’s the person you most deeply are, and Sunday isn’t the only day to present your offering.” (To Those Who Doubt They Have Anything to Offer)

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“Sometimes when we look out, the world seems so dark. War, violence, hunger, and misery seem to abound. This makes us anxious and helpless. What can I do in my private little corner of life that could have any effect on the march of world events? The usual answer is: nothing.

“We then decide to do what we can for our own, and leave the great events to their domain. Thus, we opt out, and join the largest majority in the world: those who acquiesce … When we yield to helplessness, we strengthen the hand of those who would destroy. When we choose indifference, we betray our world. Yet the world is not decided by action alone. It is decided more by consciousness and spirit.

“Therefore, the way you look at things is not simply a private matter … We have no idea the effect we actually have on one another. This is where blessing can achieve so much. Blessing has pure agency because it animates on the deepest threshold between being and becoming.” John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us, page 217.

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~ Romans 15:13

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Who is My Neighbor? {Teaching Gratitude and Generosity}

“I’m a firm believer that an entitlement attitude is in direct correlation to perspective. When you’re only looking and thinking about yourself, you can only see what you want. But when you remove the blinders and see needs around you and in the world, it alters your perspective. Exposing our kids to other cultures and how most of the world really lives, stirs up gratitude like nothing else.” Kristin Welch

Amen, sister!

I sat with a small group of young women recently (they were 20-something; I was the elder in the bunch), and we talked about engaging with the world outside our zip-code. All of them admitted that they had never been exposed to less-affluent cultures or eye-witnessed a scarcity of basic needs in our own city (I assured them that the lack is indeed there).

I was troubled until I realized that my 20-something self would have said the same thing.

It’s important to my husband and me that our daughter will grow up with the blinders off, and we’re grateful for our church family and friends who have exemplified what it means to be a neighbor.

When the expert of Mosaic Law asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus turned the question back on him (see Luke 10: 25-37).

And according to Jesus, the educated man replied correctly when he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and Love your neighbor as yourself.” But the expert went a step further, perhaps in an attempt to limit the law’s parameters with the question “who is my neighbor?”

The word “neighbor” in the Greek means “someone who is near,” so that the word is interpreted in a limited sense, referring to a fellow Jew only. But Jesus then gives the parable of the Good Samaritan to take the blinders off; that is, to tell the expert that everyone, with no exclusions, is indeed his neighbor.

Can I tell you how much I love being around people for whom everyone is a neighbor? They are willing to, in Jesus’ words: “Go and do likewise,” in the spirit of the Good Samaritan who didn’t allow ethnic differences to excuse his duty to his neighbor.

Our friend Kim introduced us to the Harvest Center. The hot meals outreach program is one of the Harvest Center’s ministries, and this is where Kim shines. As a small group leader for 6th grade girls at our church, Kim disciples our young ladies and shows them what it means to be the Church beyond the church walls.

Many years ago, Kim and her family got involved with the Harvest Center, and their calling to serve is contagious. They’ve widened the circle to include their school and church families in what can happen on “the other side” of town.

In the past year, our daughter has been a part of wrapping forks and napkins, making stacks of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with her friends at Beth’s home, and serving the homeless. When I accompanied Kim and a few of the girls to a hot lunch at the Harvest Center, I can’t tell you how touched I was to see my sweet one pushing a cart of turkey patties amongst the tables.

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Yes, she was a tad uncomfortable, which made me so glad because I believe that our comfort zones are breeding grounds of complacency, and I don’t want that for her or myself or our family.  I don’t want that for the Kingdom.

I love this from Beth who hosts sandwich-making parties:

14 loaves of bread
4 large jars of peanut butter
3 large jars of jelly
1 large box of sandwich bags
1 box of disposable gloves
8 willing children to serve…
…many PBJ sandwiches to share love in Jesus name!

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We’re also inspired by families who are intentionally connecting their kids with the nations through mission trips or sponsorship programs like Compassion International. Our friends who call themselves the K-team (because their last name begins with K) have encouraged us in the way that they go above and beyond for their sponsored child. The K-team’s girls have lemonade stands and sell veggies from the garden that they plant each year with their dad. They even created a cookbook along with other crafts to raise more funds to support the child they’ve come to love.

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As a family, this kind of engagement has a greater impact than the monthly deduction from the parents’ bank account. The monthly funds make an enormous difference in a sponsored child’s family, but I would say that the K-team girls live differently too, with a less entitled attitude about getting and a more excited attitude about giving.

Kim, Beth, and K-team – thank you for being the kind of neighbors who help our family see our neighbor in everyone. Thank you for “going and doing likewise.” Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel and for showing my daughter that she’s not too young and her contributions aren’t too small to make a difference.

** If you’re inspired like I am, you can find an excellent series by Focus on the Family on teaching servanthood to our children at this link.

** Also – “100 Ways for Your Family to Make a Difference” – I love this!

** And more practical ideas for service here at the Humbled Homemaker’s site (particularly helpful if you have younger kids)

To Those Who Doubt They Have Anything to Offer

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I recently experienced a lovely day “At the Barn” with artists and writers who love Jesus and are generous in expressing His image because have released the outcomes of their efforts as acts of worship. And so, their offerings, even if they come from a place of weakness or self-doubt or plain old humanness, shine with God’s glory. They are living out His workmanship, and this takes courage and community.

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I’ve attended writers’ conferences that are focused upon the mechanics of writing, the technicalities of savvy blogging, and the tools of platform building. But when I sit with writer Emily Freeman, as I did at her sister’s barn, I feel free and inspired because Emily assures me that I’m already an artist. Not because she knows me but because Emily understands that everyone created in God’s image is wired for creativity and expression.

And so we are all artists. The differentness of your art doesn’t diminish its value; in fact it enhances what you have to give to the world. We need you to give the art you’re given and say it your own way.

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Wherever you are is a good and important place. Start there. Gary Morland

Emily and her partner in inspiration, singer/songwriter Christa Wells spoke life into the artist in me. And like them, I want to en-courage the artist in you even if you’re not a writer, blogger, or artist in a “traditional” sense. Whatever you do, you were designed and ordained like no one else to say something unique and purposeful and God-glorifying.

As Emily says, creating a life of meaning (and speaking it into someone else) is not about finding that one great thing you were meant to do. God has created you, Image Bearer, to know Him and to express Him in a million little ways.

So turn down the volume on your inner critic and move courageously into whatever makes you experience God’s smile. That’s the person you most deeply are, and Sunday isn’t the only day to present your offering.

I hope you’ll take the (well worth it) time to lean into these hope-filled lyrics and lovely melodies by Christa Wells. And may you step forward with your beautiful gifts and (yes, even) your broken places into a needful world.

Shine
Yes, it’s hard to believe
When you’re well aware that you’re not what you mean to be

And your house is full of unfinished rooms
’Cause you’re fond of starts, but you find it hard to follow through

You think you’re recognized by your faults
But the mirror that you hold is false

’Cause you shine
He shines His light through a prism

We give back what we’re given
To color this, to color this, To color this world, color this world

Be the friend you never had, Be the one to take a stand
Say it your way, say it your way, Say it your own way

And it’s hard to believe
That I count as much as those on either side of me

’Cause I don’t have it, whatever it takes
To be like them, they are gifted in so many ways

Yes, we could lay our talents in the earth
We could pile on the doubt like dirt

Or we can shine
He shines His light through a prism
We give back what we’re given
To color this, to color this, To color this world, color this world

Be the friend you never had, Be the one to take a stand
Say it your way, say it your way
Say it your own way

Thank you to Emily Freeman, Christa Wells, and Myquillyn Smith for offering your art and speaking life into my soul. And thank you to my sweet friend Michelle who accompanied me to the barn and shared her lovely photos.

Shine on,
Renee

You Are Important – A Letter to My Daughter

Dear C:

Do you remember that conversation we had a few nights ago, right before you went to sleep? It went something like this:

You (in a sleepy little whisper): “Mommy has a new job – Mommy is important!”
Me (trying to sound casually curious): “So … I’m important now that I have a job?”
You: “Well … yeah.”
Me: “Honey, it’s not a job that makes a person important.”
You: “Oh, okay …” zzzzz

I know you were only half-awake. But I want to know what you really think about this. And you need to know for yourself –

What makes a person important? Is it a job? Your parents? Friends? Talents? Accomplishments? Possessions?

Who decides whether a person is important – or not?

Because I like to know where words come from, I looked up the origin of the word “important.”

Important(adjective): of great significance or value; likely to have a profound effect on success, survival, or well-being

This adjective stems from the verb “import” which was first recorded around the early 15th century. Materials that a country could not produce with its own resources were “imported” (brought into port) from another country. Because these imported goods typically became vital to a country’s well-being, they were considered “important.”

So, according to the original meaning of the word, a person is important when he or she delivers or produces something of value:

– Can you make this company more profitable?
– Can you help this team win?
– If I hang out with you, can you make me popular?
– Can you cook, do laundry, keep the house clean?
– Can you earn a scholarship?

Our culture equates importance and worth with success, fame, and productivity. But as followers of Jesus, honey, we must live by the Word and not the world.

  • The world says “Your worth is based upon what you do.”
  • The Word says “Your worth is based upon what Jesus did.”

While you’re young, I pray that this truth is impressed upon your heart: when this life is finished, what matters most is not what you have achieved but Who you have received. If you remember that, sweet girl, you can live with a purpose that delights you rather than a pressure which drives you.

Ultimately, our worth doesn’t come from what we bring into this world. Our worth comes from what Jesus has brought to us. He has brought us peace with God and freedom from self-righteousness, from the performance-trap, and from the opinions of this world.

Our worth doesn't come from what we

You DO bring something, however.

  • As the recipient of His love, you bring God delight and joy – Zephaniah 3:17.
  • As someone who is chosen and adopted into His family, you bring God great pleasure – Ephesians 1:4 – 5.
  • As a child who is being transformed into His image, you bring your Father glory – 2 Corinthians 3:18.

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My child, You ARE important. And as the Father’s child you always will be.

I love you,
Mommy

Glorious {The Elderly Speak Life}

Today’s post is a tribute to my dear friend. Muriel’s legacy testifies that the elderly are image-bearers who are able to inspire and live purposefully. Since I wrote this post in 2013, Muriel has graduated to Heaven, but she lives on in my heart, my faith, and my cherished memories.

Many elderly people have no one who touches them in a loving way or who takes time for their stories and experiences. The biblical model is for the younger generations to learn from our elders, but I fear that our current culture increasingly lacks the patience and perspective to do so. Let’s see these precious ones as God does, listen as they speak, honor who they have been and who they are now, and let them know that they are not alone or forgotten.

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I’m reflecting on autumn in a new way, thanks to Ann Voskamp who, in a recent post, ponders the thought that the leafy trees in their full array of color “make dying look glorious.”

Now every time I take in the reds, oranges, and yellows around my neighborhood, I remember that the colors represent the process of death – a literal and figurative picture of letting go.

Thanksgiving falls in the midst of this dying season, and this year I am thankful for my faith in Christ which enables me to look upon death as hopeful and glorious.

As I reflect upon these things, I visit with Muriel. Being 94-years-old, Muriel thinks and talks about death often. I sit and listen. Her acceptance of her eventual passing is comforting. I don’t change the subject or pretend that her best days on this earth are ahead.

Sometimes Muriel speaks practically about her death. Just this afternoon, she shared the details of her own funeral, as she has planned it: “…and after the graveside, we’ll come back and have sandwiches…” Other times, she longs for death as if it is a cracked door just beyond her reach.

Muriel tells me about her obedience to God’s call upon her life, even when it cost her dearly.

Today we talked about the fiancee she left behind in the States because he didn’t share her love for the people of Africa. Sometimes she wonders what life would have been like if she had made different choices. But she always comes back to this: “God told me to go.”

And I remind her of how, as a medical missionary, she served countless people in the leper colony, how she saved a woman’s sight after a viper spit into her eyes, and how her compassion and courage brought many to Christ. Muriel smiles and remembers that it was worth it.

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When I visit with Muriel, and she talks about her life, I’m reminded that Christ calls His followers to die daily. Surely Muriel died a thousand deaths to her own comforts and dreams. Her sacrificial life reminds me of these words penned by C.T. Studd:

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done.”
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all.
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

As Muriel was losing her sight, I volunteered 3 years ago to assist her. Our visits, in her tiny apartment, were task-oriented. Muriel supported and prayed for missionaries across the globe. She wanted to keep up with their prayer letters, so I read her mail and organized her correspondence in a special file.

I first found Muriel to be gruff and down to business. She was focused upon her letters being filed properly, but if I was lucky, I could get a story or two out of her.

After Muriel broke her hip and moved to a nursing home, our relationship started changing. She knows that she will never walk again and, unless the Lord calls her soon, she will be completely blind. Now I handwrite her letters as she dictates her greetings and prayers for missionaries across the world. She takes my hand, and we pray together for the Gospel to reach the ends of the earth.

Muriel used me to refer to me as her “reader.” Now she calls me her “friend.” When I say goodbye, Muriel says that she is glad that I love her and don’t treat her like “some chore.” Inside I cringe because I was stressed about taking time for our visit today. As I leave, the fallen leaves crunch under my feet. I remember that Muriel is dying, and how could I not be honored to spend this precious time with such an extraordinary woman?

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Muriel’s longing for Heaven reflects her satisfaction with the life that she’s lived. Most of us aren’t so ready or satisfied. And while I may think that my 94-year-old friend’s death will be glorious, I can’t so easily say the same when someone is taken unexpectedly or much too soon or in the midst of agonizing suffering.

Still, I take comfort in knowing that God is the God of all mysteries and the righteousness King. Death will not rob Him or His children of glory and ultimate victory. We trust that to live is Christ and to die cannot be but gain. Glorious.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees
    and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.

For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
    They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green. Psalm 92:12-14

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—
    this is God, whose dwelling is holy. Psalm 68:5

Learn to do good.
    Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
    Defend the cause of orphans.
    Fight for the rights of widows. Isaiah 1:17

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkdIryk1c3U

The Gift of Compassion

Simply sharing these beautiful words today from Henri Nouwen:

Compassion is something other than pity. Pity suggests distance, even a certain condescension. Compassion means to become close to the one who suffers. But we can come close to another person only when we are willing to become vulnerable ourselves.

A compassionate person says: “I am your brother; I am your sister; I am human, fragile, and mortal, just like you. I am not scandalized by your tears, nor afraid of your pain. I too have wept. I too have felt pain.”

We can be with the other only when the other ceases to be “other” and becomes like us.

This, perhaps, is the main reason that we sometimes find it easier to show pity than compassion: the suffering person calls us to become aware of our own suffering.

How can I respond to someone’s loneliness unless I am in touch with my own experience of loneliness?

How can I be close to handicapped people when I refuse to acknowledge my handicaps?

How can I be with the poor when I am unwilling to confess my own poverty?

When I reflect on my life, I realize that the moments of greatest comfort and consolation were moments when someone said, “I cannot take your pain away, I cannot offer you a solution for your problem, but I can promise you that I won’t leave you alone and will hold on to you as long and as well I can.”

There is much grief and pain in our lives, but what a blessing it is when we do not have to live our grief and pain alone. That is the gift of compassion.

nouwen

Here and Now: Living in the Spirit, pages 104 – 105