Monday, March 31, 2008

On Any Given Day

Mississippi sky

“Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them], as the rest do who have no hope [beyond the grave].

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will also bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death].”

~ I Thessalonians 4:13,14

The column I wrote last week titled “Life after Death,” referred to the life on earth lived out by those who have been left behind after the death of someone they love. As I pondered what to write about today, I started thinking about how, on any given day, someone is going through that painful experience. So I jotted down these words:

On any given day
From life to death someone does cross
On any given day
Someone somewhere feels great loss

This next poem on the subject of life after death as it relates to the hereafter, was written by Connie Hinnen Cook and is being shared with the permission of her widower, Guy Cook.

Last Chance to Weep

By Connie Hinnen Cook

A year has passed and still you grieve,
The tears flow down your face;
You miss her voice, you miss her laugh,
No one can take her place.
But when you think of where she is,
In Heaven's land so fair;
You know you're weeping for yourself,
'Cause there's no weeping there.

Her closest friend is Jesus
And He takes her by the hand,
He talks with her for hours
As they walk in Heaven's land.
There's light once more within her eyes,
Her smile is always near;
So cry your tears while you're down there,
'Cause there's no crying here.
Here is where she's happiest,
Here's where she belongs;
She's praising God with every breath
And joining in the songs.
A joyful glow is on her face
And wonder fills her eyes;
So let your tears flow if you must,
'Cause here, nobody cries.

She has a mansion that is grand,
And friends that she can't number;
Eternal celebrating
In this land where there's no slumber.
She shines brighter than the stars,
And angels seek her face;
So grieve and miss her while you may,
There's no grief in this place.
If she could speak to you once more,
One thought she would repeat:
That now, her happiness is full,
That now, her joy's complete;
That Christ will be returning soon
And all creation waits,
He'll wipe the tears from every eye
Just inside Heaven's gates.

One day you'll be together, Yes!
And that day, time cannot sever;
There'll be no death or parting then
In that Blessed Forever.
You'll see her anytime you wish,
What joy your hearts will reap!
So cry your eyes out while on earth,
It's your last chance to weep.


"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes;
and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain:
for the former things are passed away."

~ Revelation 21:4 (KJV)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Life After Death

A friend of a friend recently lost her husband. The grief seems insurmountable. “I know everyone is worried about me,” she wrote. “They always ask if I’m feeling better. It’s hard for them to understand that as long as I live I will never feel better. I have lost so much.”

Writer, editor and best-selling author Dave Eggers lost both of his parents to cancer when he was just twenty-one years old. He later dropped out of college to become the legal guardian of his 8-year-old brother. Eggers would eventually write a memoir about his parents’ death and the impact it had on his life. The book is titled, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.

"On the one hand you are so completely bewildered that something so surreal and incomprehensible could happen. At the same time, suddenly the limitations or hesitations that you might have imposed on yourself fall away. There's a weird, optimistic recklessness . . . . You see that there is a beginning and an end and that you have only a certain amount of time to act. And you want to get started." (The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Kellor, March 12, 2008)

Life after the death of a loved one can be, and is, so very difficult. Much like walking with lead weights strapped to your ankles. Everyday activities that were effortless before, now seem so difficult. Every day becomes another mountain to climb. All the while, you feel so alone. People sympathize, but they don’t really understand – can’t really understand. The funeral is over; sympathy cards are reduced to a trickle. Phone calls become less frequent. Friends and family return to their lives, as they must. But how do those left behind return to their lives.

There is life after death, but it will take time. Don’t rush it, and don’t let anyone tell you how you “should” feel. It is your process, not theirs. There are no rules.

The following poem was sent to me in an email. It was reportedly written by a woman who was killed in an automobile accident. Her co-workers discovered it in an email when they returned to the office after the funeral.

If Tomorrow Starts Without Me
Author Unknown

If tomorrow starts without me,
And I'm not there to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn't cry
The way you did today,
While thinking of the many things,
We didn't get to say.
I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you,
And each time that you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too
But when tomorrow starts without me,
Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name,
And took me by the hand
And said my place was ready,
In heaven far above,
And that I'd have to leave behind
All those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away,
A tear fell from my eye,
For all my life, I'd always thought,
I didn't want to die.
I had so much to live for,
So much left yet to do,
It seemed almost impossible,
That I was leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays,
The good ones and the bad,
I thought of all that we shared,
And all the fun we had.
If I could relive yesterday,
Just even for a while,
I'd say good-bye and kiss you
And maybe see you smile.
But then I fully realized,
That this could never be,
For emptiness and memories,
Would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things,
I might miss some tomorrow,
I thought of you, and when I did,
My heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven's gates,
I felt so much at home.
When God looked down and smiled at me,
From His great golden throne
He said, "This is eternity,
And all I've promised you.
Today your life on earth is past,
But here life starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow,
But today will always last,
And since each day is the same way,
There's no longing for the past.
So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don't think we're far apart,
For every time you think of me,
I'm right here, in your heart.

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

~ Isaiah 41:10

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

There But for the Grace of God

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.”

~ Acts 20:24

In a recent edition of The Prairie Post, there was a letter to the editor written by a woman whose son had gotten into some trouble. She expressed the deep hurt her family felt upon learning that some people in her community seemed to take pleasure in spreading the news of their unfortunate dilemma.

In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 18, Jesus used a parable to talk about people who engaged in hypocrisy of the highest form – those who took pride in their own righteousness and looked down upon everyone else. Jesus said, “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee [religious person] and the other a tax collector [so-called sinner]. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:9-14 – NIV)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.”

~ Ephesians 2:8-9

Years ago, Keen and I learned some valuable lessons from an experience we went through as a family. Through that experience, we traded in our idea of having a “picture perfect family” with the more important goal of having a family that exemplifies a “picture-perfect picture” of God’s amazing grace. Now we humbly share our testimony of God’s faithfulness, grace, mercy and guidance. And the smiling faces looking back at you in our family picture are the faces of people who know they are not perfect, just forgiven.

“Forget your perfect offering and ring the bells that can still ring. There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.”

~Leonard Cohen

No Such Thing

By Eileen Umbehr

I always used to think we had,
The perfect family,
But now I've come to realize
That there's really no such thing.

We did our best to raise our boys,
With values, morals and such,
We always tried to let them know
We loved them oh so much.

Then when our oldest came of age,
We thought he was doing okay,
But now he has a young wife
With a baby on the way.

But even though they seemed to get,
The cart before the horse,
I can think of many things
That could be much worse.

For we still have our son to love,
And now a daughter and baby brand new,
So there's no sense dwelling on the past,
With so much to look forward to!

Plus, we have learned so very much,
From this whole ordeal,
And we've been touched by the compassion of,
Those who know how we feel.

We've learned about the power,
Of forgiveness, faith and love,
And how we can make it through anything,
With help from God above.

So even though we may not have,
The perfect family,
It really doesn't matter,
Because there's really no such thing.

March 19, 1999

“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law . . . For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law. I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.”

~ Galatians 2:16, 21 (NLT)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Every Life A Story: Alice Elizabeth Lucas

Alice Lucas was born, the oldest of four
On a farm west of Silver Lake
Her brothers were Richard, Wayne and Paul
Her parents, Harry and LaVerna May

One interesting note, ‘tis true, and I quote
Alice’s ancestors on her daddy’s side
Came to America from England
On the Mayflower they did arrive

Mama ran a hotel, where Alice and Richard would dwell
But the two never ventured upstairs
‘Twas not ‘til years later, their Mama found out
Someone told them the Boogie man lived up there!

Back in those days, Nehi pop was the craze
For them this treat was quite rare
So Richard would get strawberry and Alice would get grape
Then back and forth a taste they would share

When Nelson Wayne came along, he was healthy and strong
A bundle of joy to have and to hold
But that wasn’t the case with Mama’s helper, Miss Johnson
Whose hands and heart were both cold!

Everything was fine, until that moment in time
In ’33 when things all went downhill
What with the depression, the drought, heat and floods,
If it wasn’t the hogs it was the windmill.

In ’36 Paul arrived, through the flood he survived
And became a happy-go-lucky lad
Even though Richard teased, prodded and poked him
He just couldn’t make young Paul mad!

Sunday mornings were fun, the kids would all run
To jump in bed with Papa and Mama
They read Dick Tracy, Slim Jim and Orphan Annie
Enjoying the funny papers in their pajamas

Mama canned and dried, from the land they survived
When making ends meet was hard
Mama made sauerkraut and traded mending for squash
In the big open kettle Papa rendered lard.

But they also had treats, gingerbread they would eat
And devil’s food cake made from scratch
They raised watermelon, cantaloupe and Concord grapes
And picked strawberries from the garden patch

Now and then they’d get hurt, at play or at work
Like the time Alice fell down the stairs
Or when Wayne fell off his pony while riding
And the pony promptly stepped on Wayne’s ear!

But sometimes a disease, was much more than a sneeze
There was malaria, measles and pox
Then an epidemic of scarlet fever
And Richard and Alice both had whooping cough

Another problem they had, which sounded so bad
Were dust storms that made day look like night
And grasshoppers the kids had to chase away
To keep them from eating everything in sight

Most her life Alice worked, as a retail clerk
And she made the choice never to marry
She enjoys writing and painting ceramic dishes
In the garden she likes to tarry.

In fact, most of these tales, a lie I can’t tell,
Came from Alice’s handwritten life story
With the help of Richard’s daughter Nancy
She is preserving her family’s history

But her favorite pastime of all, is really a ball
Alice likes to plan virtual trips
With a map and some info from Triple A
She records journeys to places of interest.

So if you ever want to wander – over hill, dale or yonder
Just tell Alice where you want to go
Then she’ll create the vacation of a lifetime
And you’ll never have to leave your front porch!

Alice holding a copy of the story of her life

Note: Alice was born in 1926 on a farm west of Silver Lake, Kansas, located about 3/4 of a mile from the river. When she was 11 days old, they moved into a new house her father had built for the family. When she was four years old, their old home, which was used for storage, caught fire. Alice said that all the neighbors and "half of Silver Lake" showed up with buckets to help put the fire out.

Alice's mother helped her Aunt Martha run the hotel in Silver Lake. Martha's husband was named Will Sickles.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Cost of Complaining

“And the people spoke against God and against Moses, Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and we loathe this light (contemptible, unsubstantial) manna.”

~ Numbers 21:5 (AMP)

Since I’ve been trying to keep my columns shorter, I didn’t have room to run all the quotes, verses, poems, and stories that I had saved on the topic of complaining. So I’ve decided to continue with that same theme this week.

"The attitude of unhappiness is not only painful, it is mean and ugly. What can be more base and unworthy than the pining, pulling, mumping mood, no matter by what outward ills it may have been engendered? What is more injurious to others? What less helpful as a way out of difficulty? It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation. At all costs, then, we ought to reduce the sway of that mood, we ought to scout it in ourselves and others, and never show it tolerance.”

~ William James, 19th century American psychiatrist and philosopher

“God is too good to me for me to ever utter a word of complaint to Him about anything.” ~Joyce Meyer

Choose Your Ruts
(sent to me via email)

A century ago, as the numerous wagon trains left Saint Joseph, Missouri, for the trek across the plains already rutted by the tracks of earlier wagons, the eager pioneers read this sobering message on a banner across the western end of the main street: "Choose your rut carefully. You may be in it all the way to California!"

“The Lord said to Moses, Why do you cry to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward!”

~ Exodus 14:15 (AMP)

Recently, my friend and fellow poet, Pat Barrett, sent me a copy of her latest poem, titled “Complain or Shine.” With Pat’s permission I would like to share it with you, along with a picture of Pat holding her new little great-grandson, Ian.

Complain or Shine?

By Patricia Kohls Barrett, 2/15/08

Do “everything without complaining”?
My flesh doesn’t like this command
What a challenge this is from my Lord
But what blessings when I obey this demand!

Don’t complain when the weather is nasty?
When someone is thoughtless and rude?
When the driver ahead acts brainless?
When I have to pay a “high” price for food?

My God asks me to be grateful and thankful
For the many blessings He provides
To look for the good instead of grumble
To praise Him as my life He guides

It is hard to complain while praising
They are opposites that conflict
Praise brings happiness and service
Complaints worry, distress, and afflict

The Spirit gives power to be positive
He reminds of grace and love undeserved
Gives insight and awareness of benefits
Reminds of a mansion for me that’s reserved

With focus on mercy without merit
On how Christ makes me blameless and pure
I can “shine like stars in the universe”
In a world that is dark and unsure

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.”

~ Philippians 2:14-15