Monday, February 25, 2008

Don't Complain - Count!

“And the people grumbled and deplored their hardships, which was evil in the ears of the Lord . . . [They] raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, "If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Wouldn't it be better for us to go back to Egypt?”

~ Numbers 11:1a and 14:1-3b (NIV)

I must confess there has been more than one occasion when I have grumbled and complained to God (and Keen and others) about our lot in life. Like the Israelites of old who complained to Moses in the desert after God delivered them from their captivity in Egypt, I have often chosen to focus on what was wrong with my circumstances, rather than counting my blessings and focusing on all that I had to be thankful for.

Have you ever noticed that complaining and moaning is sort of like running in place? It takes a lot of energy, but it doesn’t really get you anywhere. Complaining, like worry, doesn’t change your situation one iota and only brings you down.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

~ Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

Time wasted complaining would be better spent counting your blessings, committing your problems into God’s hands, and moving forward.

“Jesus can turn water into wine, but He can't turn your whining into anything.”

~ Mark Steele

The following inspirational poem was sent to me in an email:

The World is Mine

Today, upon a bus, I saw a very beautiful woman.
And wished I were as beautiful.
When suddenly she rose to leave,
I saw her hobble down the aisle.
She had one leg and wore a crutch.
But as she passed, she passed with a smile.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two legs; the world is mine.

I stopped to buy some candy.
The lad who sold it had such charm.
I talked with him, he seemed so glad.
If I were late, it'd do no harm.
And as I left, he said to me,
"I thank you, you've been so kind.
It's nice to talk with folks like you.
You see," he said, "I am blind."
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes; the world is mine.

Later while walking down the street,
I saw a child I knew.
He stood and watched the others play,
But he did not know what to do.
I stopped a moment and then I said,
"Why don't you join them dear?"
He looked ahead without a word.
I forgot, he could not hear.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two ears; the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I go.
With eyes to see the sunset's glow.
With ears to hear what I want to know.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I've been blessed – indeed, the world is mine!

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

~ I Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

There Will Be Scars

“If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. If I should say, "My foot has slipped," Thy lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up. When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul.”

~ Psalm 94:17-19

Keen surprised me with a dozen roses for Valentine’s Day – six white and six red. I told him they represented how we are very different as individuals, but together we make a beautiful bouquet. Sounds kind of cheesy, I know – but it’s true.

This week I’d like to remember those for whom Valentine’s Day is not a time of celebration, but rather a painful reminder of their broken dreams. This column is dedicated to all the victims of divorce who daily struggle with feelings of abandonment and rejection as they strive to put the shattered pieces of their lives back together.

This first poem was written for my friend whose divorce recently became final.

There Will Be Scars
By Eileen Umbehr

I wish that I could tell you
Your grief will disappear
Or that the ache that’s in your heart
Will lessen through the years

But as much as I would like
To free you from this pain
I know that only God above
Can make you whole again

And even when your life moves on
To the inevitable next chapter
I’m sure that you will always yearn
For that happily-ever-after

Yet you are strong, and you’ve put your faith
In the One who made the stars
But nevertheless, the sad truth is
That there will be scars

But even Jesus Christ Himself
Bears scars from His death on the Cross
He understands more than anyone could
The pain of rejection and loss

So although the scars from this divorce
Will unfortunately always remain
My hope and prayer is that with God’s help
You will laugh and love again.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him."

~ Lamentations 3:21-24


This next segment is from a letter I recently wrote to my friend’s daughter:

Thank you for your nice note. It brought tears to my eyes. The poem was written for your mom, but then I realized it applied to you, too.

I saw an Oprah Show last week about adult children of divorce. Even thirty years later many of them were still hurting. The poem is my way of saying that we can't ignore the painful and unexpected experiences in our lives. We have to first acknowledge the pain – then try to deal with it and process it the best way we know how so that then we can move on to the healing stage of the process. I know your parents divorce has rocked your world, and I am so sorry for that. You are doing great, but just remember that the emotions you feel need to be embraced too. Don’t forget that you're not just a student, an athlete, a daughter, a friend; you’re a person. A person who has real feelings and real pain and real hurts; and there will be times throughout your life when those feelings will let you know that they need some time and attention, too. Embrace them. As much as it hurts, don't run from them. Because they are part of your reality – a part of your wonderful, exciting, adventurous, fun-filled LIFE. A life you have been blessed by God to live and enjoy. The not-so-fun parts such as this divorce may not be a large part of your history or your future, but it is a small part, and as such, you will have to be real with yourself when it hurts. Pretending – about anything – never takes us anywhere except to another pretend place.

So go out there and enjoy your life – and always remember that we are in your corner, cheering you on – loving you and feeling so proud to be a part of your life.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

~ Isaiah 40:28-31

Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Power of Love

Keen & Eileen in Singapore, 1975

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” ~ I Corinthians 13:13

Last week my sister called to tell me about a radio show contest she heard about on K-LOVE Christian radio. Contestants were asked to share their love story in 500 words or less, and the winner would receive a song written just for them by Christian recording artist Matthew West.

The following is a copy of my (non-winning) entry:

I was 14 years old in 1973 when my father announced that our family would be moving half way around the world to Singapore. I was heartbroken. I had just made the cheerleading squad and I had a great group of friends that I didn’t want to leave. Little did I know that my temporary heartbreak would lead to a lifetime of love and blessings.

Singapore American School was where I met my one-in-a-million future husband, Keen. He was a freshman and I was a sophomore when we met in March of 1974. We dated all through the following year and then we found out that my family was moving back to the States. This meant that we would be apart for two full years. My mom told my sister, “If Eileen thinks that Keen is going to wait for her she’s in for a big disappointment.”

But wait he did. In fact, when he had to cast his vote for homecoming queen, he voted for me, even though I no longer attended SAS. We wrote letters back and forth (all of which we saved), until Keen graduated in 1977. He didn’t even attend the graduation ceremonies because he couldn’t wait to get back to the States to join me. We soon became engaged and were married in an outdoor wedding at my parents’ home on June 10, 1978. Eleven months later to the day we had our first son, Jared, followed by three more sons: Josh in 1981, Keen II in 1984 and Kirk Van in 1989.

In 1981, Keen was the successful bidder on the trash collection contract for our county. We owned that business, along with a car wash, until 1999 when we sold out so that Keen could return to college at the age of 40. Keen earned a four-year degree in three years, graduating with honors from Kansas State University. He then went on to law school and graduated from Washburn University School of Law in 2005. He has been in private practice ever since.

Our life has been full of many ups and downs. We were involved in a five-year long free speech lawsuit that ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court. I lost my mother to breast cancer, Keen lost his father to bladder cancer, and one of my sisters died unexpectedly at the age of 54. In 2005, our oldest son and his family lost everything in Katrina. In 2006, we had a granddaughter who was born with Down Syndrome, and I was diagnosed with an early stage of breast cancer, followed by a double mastectomy.

Maybe in some people’s eyes our story sounds more like a bad country song, but to me it is a story about the power of love. We have five grandchildren now, and I’ve just written my first book. By God’s grace and the love He has put in our hearts, we have weathered every storm and survived to embrace the rainbow.

“Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances and it endures everything. Love never fails."

I Corinthians 13:7,8a

Keen & Eileen at Colorado lodge, 2006

Monday, February 04, 2008

When Pain Hits Home

“I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.” ~ Psalm 6:6

I read with deep sadness Joann Kahnt’s editorial last week about the many losses your community has suffered lately. Young lives – children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters – so full of promise, cut short long before their time. Neighboring communities have also experienced the tragic loss of those who were far too young to die. The Gideon and Short families have both lost young sons in the recent past. A family in Atchison lost their son in a traffic accident last month, and their other three children were severely injured. A pastor we know lost his sixteen year old son to suicide. There were no warning signs – no red flags signaling that trouble was stirring in his young heart. My sister recently told me about a family she knows who lost their three daughters in an automobile accident just two weeks before their son’s wedding. Shortly before their deaths, all three girls had posed for individual pictures wearing their mother’s wedding gown. Now their parents have only a memory of what their daughters would have looked like in their own wedding gowns.

How on earth does anyone cope with such grief?

As Joann pointed out, we may never understand why things like this happen. All we can do is pray for the ones left behind to grieve, and purpose to live each day that we have to the fullest in their honor.

Several years ago the Alta Vista community lost a 29-year-old young man in a terrible car accident. At that time, I expressed sympathy to his family in my column. I also shared I poem I had written in honor of the many young people the Alma community had lost over the years. Later, the mother of the 29-year-old man wrote me a note to thank me for my thoughts. Today, I would like to share that poem again in hopes of touching just one more heart. The other poem was written by the mother of a friend of ours, Gina Blake, who kindly granted me permission to share it with all of you.

In closing, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy to the Cunningham, Hopper and Smith families as they grieve the tragic loss of their loved ones.

“. . .I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. . . .”

~ Isaiah 38:5


Too Soon Gone
By Eileen Umbehr

This is a tribute
to those who’ve passed on
Before their time
Too soon gone

No one was ready
To say good-bye
Because they were all
Too young to die

Anthony, Jason and Tracy, too
How will your families live without you?

Javier, Ted, Dickie and Veryl
Why did they have to leave this world?

Jack, Norman, Galen and John
Why are they too soon gone?

There is still a void
Where you used to be
An empty spot
On your family’s tree

But even though
You were too soon gone
In our hearts
Your memory lives on

You are not only missed
By those who loved you
But by those of us
In the community, too.


The Beauty of a Broken Heart

By Gina Blake

There are times in our life
We don’t understand
The what, the where, the why
Those are the times we will find ourselves
Gently wrapped …. in Jesus’ arms …..
As we cry

In his hand He holds a bottle
Catching every tear
Those are the times Our Savior…
Draws in so very near

As each tear falls
He counts them one by one…..
Not one tear can fall…
To the ground

For it is not…
The will of the Son
With each tear that falls in the bottle
The healing has begun.

For as it falls
Our Savior is knitting ever so gently
To mend the tear in our heart
And make it whole again.

“For You have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm, a shade from the heat . . . and the Lord will wipe away tears from off all faces. . . .”

~ Isaiah 25:4,8