Monday, November 18, 2013


He would have been 104 years old this week, had he lived.  But my dad didn’t; he  passed away 35 years ago.  Every year, sometime around the beginning of November, even this long ago, I begin thinking about him.  How about you, as Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, are there any empty places around your table….even  if they have been empty for a long while?
We tend to give people a couple of weeks to get over it, when they lose a loved one, at least to get over it enough that their grief doesn’t spill over onto anyone else.  But somehow, that seems rather cruel and unloving.  As I think about this holiday season, I cannot help but think about all of those people who will be grieving, probably trying to keep their grief from being a bother, but nonetheless hurting.  And I wonder if there isn’t something we ought to do about it.

Now I admit that what I’m going to suggest may not be within your comfort zone, or mine for that matter, but maybe it is what love would do. Maybe in these weeks, we should send another kind of card before we send the Christmas card. Or maybe we could include the note with the card, a note that says something like,
“I know this has to be a time of mixed emotions for you, a time of missing your…..and a time when everyone else wants to celebrate.  Be assured that I am praying for you right now, that you will be able to enjoy happy holiday memories you shared with your…..  I know that grief surprises you, and sometimes tears come from out of the blue.  That’s OK.  When you love someone a lot and you lose them, you hurt, and you grieve the loss.  So sometimes tears are natural and healing. Nonetheless,  I am praying that you are able to enjoy this time with your family, making new and good memories because that is what …..would have wanted for you.”

Now words like that don’t work for everyone, but you can find your own words that say I know you are hurting and I love you.  Grief out loud heals more quickly that grief stuffed.

Just something I have been thinking about….


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What my students teach me!

Right now I am teaching two classes online: Ministry in Marriage and Motherhood and Writing to Inspire – a nonfiction writing class.  In the Ministry class, though both are really about ministry, we have been talking about single moms, their needs and how the church could and should minister to them.  In the Nonfiction class, we have been talking about writing profiles or interview pieces, and some of my students have chosen to interview people who have had to overcome painful issues, like abuse, divorce or other kinds of loss.

My students, good Christian men and women, have experienced some horrific trials, and they know whereof they are speaking, and the question I asked them, I am asking you: what did and what should the church do to minister to these population groups? According to America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2010: 69.4% of American children live with both parents.  That means over 30 percent do not.  Where are all those single parents and their children in our churches and what are we doing to minister to them? 

James 1:27 says this: Religion that is pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 3: 10 -11says this, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” So what does that look like in the Church?

I know that most of my readers are women.  I know also that women are to help men.  I know that men don’t think a lot about these things because we women were created to be nurturers, and we see the needs of hurting people, many times, before men do.  I know also that our church leadership is male, so??? It is our responsibility to encourage them to do something about these empty places in our church, the ones that should be filled with single parents, children from single parent homes, parents and children dealing with disability issues, and just generally hurting people.

 So we need to come up with some solutions to give to the men, some ideas of ways to minister to these populations, to do more than guilt trip them.  What about creating a team to address the needs of the disabled in our church?  The American Disabilities Act requires this giving of equal opportunities, but I haven’t seen much evidence of effort in our churches, other than to build a ramp or install an elevator.  What about doing some training in the care of disabled children, for regular nursery workers, Sunday School teachers  or youth workers? What about having a few people really trained to go alongside the needy child, like the public school does? I think they are called “wraps,” an aid who accompanies the child.  Can you imagine what this would do for the parent(s) of disabled children, showing them love and giving them a few moments of freedom to worship, learn and fellowship?

 What about creating a group of people, perhaps to include teenagers, who would minister to single moms and widows, raking leaves, cleaning out the gutters, shoveling snow, winterizing the house or car?  Perhaps a church could offer a weekend class on how to minister to this population.  It’s not that I think the church chose to ignore these people, they just haven’t thought about it or haven’t had leaders who thought about it.  SO maybe we could be part of the solutions.




Monday, November 11, 2013

Anna, and Kristi, and Christie, and Vonnie and Connie and ?

Today is Veterans’ Day, and I have been thinking of all the men in my family who have served during times of war: my father and father-in-law, my brother and brothers-in-law, my husband, my son and now my grandson.  Some of those wars were bigger than others, some longer, but all of those men  risked their lives for their military service.
As I was thinking about that, it occurred to me that we are also in a war, we who stay home, a war for the eternal lives of those around us, and our own life.  Scripture is pretty clear about this.  Consider John 3:17 and 18, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.  Whoever believes in Him is not condemned but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Those who do not believe that God loved them enough to send Jesus who also  loved them enough to die for them, taking on Himself the punishment for all their sins are condemned. 
Our soldiers, my family members, left all that was home and security, risking their lives that we might have a safe life humanly speaking. But what about us, what about me, our battle has much more long lasting results…eternity. What are we doing about that battle?

This morning as I was writing in my journal, I started listing the women, in particular, who are serving God in missions or vocational ministry, soldiers for Christ: Anna in France and going to Africa, Christie in England,  Kristi in Germany, Laura in Ireland, Connie – in the Far East, Becky in Togo, Vonnie in Kazachstan and my niece Heather, working in England but active in seeking opportunities to show Christ. 
I have been reading about and studying intercessory prayer these last couple of weeks, and feel the weight of it today.  We do have an enemy out there, who walks about seeking whom he may devour.  But I wonder if we really believe it, especially in regard to those who are on the front lines of this war for the eternal life,  Paul asked his readers over and over to pray for him, to pray without ceasing.  The writer of Hebrews speaks of how Jesus “offered prayers with a loud cry and tears to the one who could deliver him out of death.  And God heard his prayers.” (5:7)

As I read and thought about it, I wondered if we pray anemic prayers, “God be with the missionaries,”  like sending soldiers out with BB guns or water pistols. Paul, in Ephesians 3: 16 prayed that “from his glorious unlimited resources he(God) will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.”   In Ephesians 6:14, Paul writes this, “Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.”
As I read those words, it was like reading a soldier’s orders: Be on guard. Stay alert all the time.  And use your weapons, pray!  In the power of the Holy Spirit, God Himself!  The big guns!!  We, you and I can pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.  We can load our weapons in the Word. 

We can get fit
  • by exercising prayer,
  • by earnestly seeking God’s leading for what we do with what He has given us,
  • and grace to love and forgive(as need be)  and serve those around us,  
  • and strength to believe when the battle rages  ( the evil one speaking lies and doubts into our ears), 
  •  and wisdom to speak the truth in love, first for us, and then for those out front – our pastors and church leaders and missionaries. 
And not just today, but daily, because this is one war that will not get over for us until the return of Christ.

photo from


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Waking up in Heaven?

I’m writing a memoir, so when I was at the library a couple of weeks ago, I browsed the newer book section for memoirs.  I found two intriguing ones: the first To Heaven and Back was written by Dr. Mary C. Neal, an orthopedic surgeon, who was kayaking the rapids in Chile and drowned, having been caught in her kayak wedged under the water.  Though her body was pulled from the water, it was only after she had been dead for many minutes.  Her book recounts what happened after she died and how it changed her from a nominal Christian to a believer.
The second, Waking up in Heaven by Crystal Mc Vea had a greater impact on me.  She also died, in the hospital, was clinically dead for nine minutes – we are into brain damage time, but was remarkably returned to life.  Her book recounts her life before and after this event.  I want to share one and a half paragraphs from this book – these are her words about part of what she experienced after her death.

Many people who describe dying talk about finding themselves in a pool of light, but that description doesn’t cut it for me.  For one thing, a pool suggests it was somehow confined, but in fact it was vast and endless, with no beginning and no end.  For another, it wasn’t just light - or at least not light as we know it.  It was the closest to the color we call white, but a trillion times whiter that the whitest white you’ve ever seen or could imagine.  It was brilliant and beaming and beautifully illuminating, and that’s why I call it a brightness.  In the words of the apostle John in Revelation 21:23, “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.
                But there was another dimension to it.  There was also the sensation of absolute cleanliness.  It was a feeling of absolute purity and perfection, of something completely unblemished and unbroken, and being immersed in it filled me with the kind of peace and assurance I’d never known on earth.”(p13)

This morning as I was reading II Corinthians 5: 8-9  “We are confident I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.  So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it,” those words from Mc Vea’s book came to me.  I wondered how many of us read those words, and say we believe them, that they are true of us, but maybe not really.
How many of us fear or dread death?  How many of us don’t even want to think about it?  Mc Vea’s description of what she experienced, for the first time, seemed to capture what it might be like.  Certainly it is like nothing we have experienced, to be with God where there is no sin. 

If the book(s) do nothing else, they cause us to think about what we really believe about life after this one, and more than ever before, I am looking forward to it.