IF I SHOULD DIE...
Yes, it is a rather sinister or maudlin or morbid beginning for a rainy afternoon, but I've been pondering. What if I knew for certain that I would die in the next 24-48 hours? What would I say on this blog? What messages would I have for strangers? friends? family?
Let's imagine that it's true. Here are my farewell messages (and by the way, as far as I know - as well as any of us CAN know - I'm healthy and expected to live for a good while).
To my Blogspot readers and folks I have never met:
You DO have a purpose, and the beginning of finding and living that purpose is to meet God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ and in what He has done for us by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. Start there, and He will lead you the rest of the journey, step by step, day by day, as long as you are willing to follow.
To all I have met along the way:
Thank you for brushing my life with your presence. You have affected and changed me in some way, great or small, so that because of having contact with you, I am the person I am today. I pray that I have affected your life in some positive and eternal way. The above message applies to you as well.
To my friends and relatives:
You are so dear to me. As most people feel, I suppose, I regret that I have never told you enough (can anyone do this TOO MUCH?!) that I love you, I like you, I'm glad our lives intertwined, whether through the choices of friendship or through choosing to be close on the family tree. If you don't know Jesus, see the first message. If you do, keep trusting, obeying, loving Him. He is faithful.
To my brothers and sisters in Christ, all over the world as well as in the Valley:
You hugged me when we lost the baby. You cried tears of joy when we brought our son, and later, our daughter, home. You prayed for us all along the way. You spoke encouraging words and gave good advice about parenting, money, life choices. You prayed for our children and encouraged them to follow Jesus. You lifted me up with your beautiful lessons, prayers, songs, Bible verses, cards, emails, even meals and flowers, especially when we lost loved ones. You were always there to listen and you always took time to care. I can't wait for all of us to be together in Heaven!
To my wonderful parents: You taught me all the right lessons; not only that, you lived them before me. You gave me the gifts of God's Word, prayer, time, beauty, art, joy, joie de vivre, nature, books and the written word, but most of all, love. You ALWAYS had time for me.
To my beautiful children: You were our special answers to prayer. We knew from the beginning that you were a trust, not a possession. So from the first moment that we held you, we began letting go. You have lots to learn, simply because you are still young. But we are proud of how mature you are already, and we know that you will make good choices, the kind that will have eternal value and honor the Lord. I am not afraid to leave the world in the hands of people like you, because you know what is important. You will be my legacy in this world. Share the things I have taught you with others, especially your own children, and that way, what I have been and done on earth will never die.
To my adorable and wise husband: God could not have brought me a man who was more suitable, and thus, more perfect, than you. So, see? You have fulfilled your own joke - you ARE the perfect husband. You have always honored the Lord, your parents, your children, and me - I could not have asked for more, but there was always more. You made life fun! You made me laugh. You explored life's adventures with me. You took care of me. You encouraged me to develop and use my gifts, and you were my uplifter every day. Thank you for more blessed love than I could have dreamed of in one lifetime.
This was an eye-opening exercise. Perhaps we all should write an imaginary farewell such as this ever so often, so that we don't forget to say the things that should be said, do the things that should be done, before we are no longer here to say or do them.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
IF I SHOULD DIE...
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
THE DA VINCI CODE: HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
Once again, I come to that juncture of love and truth as the place to handle something that imitates the truth. We Christians are not always good at dialogue, often acting as if we're thinking that the more we get to talk and the louder we shout, the more likely that only the truth will be heard. Another problem is, a lot of us who are regular churchgoers or claim to be students of the Bible don't really know what we claim to know. If we aren't clear on what the truth is, how can we share it with anyone else?
In order to speak intelligently to demonstrate the truth of what we believe (this is known as Christian apologetics), we have to understand:
- where the other person, the non-believer, is coming from
- the truths of Scripture
- what we actually believe of Scripture
- WHY we believe the tenets of our faith are true.
This should be our approach to confronting (with love and tact, of course) any opposing views to Christianity, whether it be from the Da Vinci Code book or movie, or from the gay marriage movement.
"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:6, New International Version
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.' Where is the wise man? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know Him, God was pleased throught the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe ... For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength." I Corinthians 1:18-21, 25, New International Version
Mission America Coalition - Christian Response to the Da Vinci Code
Posted by Karen at Wednesday, April 19, 2006
Monday, April 17, 2006
THE DAY AFTER EASTER
What is different about me today, after hearing the story of the Resurrection again? Did I really listen? Does it truly transform us, to know and to believe that Jesus is alive? If we are to be growing in our faith, in our walk, in our life with Him, following Him as we obey what the Bible says and what His Spirit whispers to us in Scripture-affirming inaudible words inside our heads - well, then how are we accomplishing that each day? So that a little more of Him and a little less of me becomes visible to those around me?
I usually want to hide my flaws and foibles, thinking that makes a better presentation to unbelievers or seekers. But I know from my own seeking experiences in my late teens that it's just not true. People aren't looking for Christians to be perfect; they're looking for us to admit we have problems, doubts, and flaws, but that, somehow, we keep on going and making progress in our attempt to emulate Christ, while we're stumbling in the climb. They need to see that the power to ascend, the drive to keep going, comes from Him. As I'm composing, I'm picturing a climber of a steep slope, sometimes slipping and dislodging rubble which falls behind her, but continuing to grab hold of the rocks that serve as handles for her ascent. It would be logical in the analogy that the Lord is the belay that keeps us secure, while the hand and footholds are Scriptures that we cling to, as well as the encouragement of other believers, both the ones in this life and those who have passed on their legacy and are our "cloud of witnesses" waiting for us in the Final Resurrection.
The hope of the Easter story is that because of Friday we're forgiven and because of the Resurrection we're raised with Him to live forever, while on this earth having the power of the resurrection to live life as He intended, Christ within us, the very power that created the Universe and rolled away the stone from His tomb, causing Death to Die. People don't need to see us living perfectly (we needn't worry about that, right?); they just need to see us as ACTING forgiven and resurrected, to see the dynamic of Christ's Spirit changing our lives day by day.
"I have been crucified with Christ; and I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the real life I now have within this body is a result of my trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20, The Living Bible
Posted by Karen at Monday, April 17, 2006
Saturday, April 15, 2006
What can be said about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus that hasn't already been said? It's simple, really, yet also so complicated. Simple, because He was born for the purpose of dying, as atonement for our sins. Complicated, because how could God be a man? Simple, because His resurrection from that horrible death, so seemingly final after three days, brought us the promise and hope of living forever. Complicated, because how can a person suddenly come back to life after being fully dead for three days? But the true significance of His death and resurrection is just that: we were significant to Him, Who is the most significant Being in any universe, beyond time and space. We mattered enough to the Lord of Lords that He would give up everything that was rightfully His own for thirty-three years and limit Himself by choice in a human body, still with the essence of God in mind and spirit.
"...John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29
"I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me -- just as the Father knows me and I know the Father -- and I lay down my life for the sheep." John 10:14,15
"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha). Here they crucified him, and with him two others -- one on each side and Jesus in the middle." John 19:16b-18
"...the other disciple [John], who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)"
"If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin -- because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him." Romans 6:5-8
Because of what He did, I can (and you can) live forever and ever, with Him.
Posted by Karen at Saturday, April 15, 2006
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
THANK GOODNESS IT'S TUESDAY!
Well, I've had lots worse days than yesterday; but let's face it, I've had better! Annoying nagging little problems, in the scope of things, VERY LITTLE. It wasn't something like a tornado, which will take a long recovery for the families affected by the many recent ones that have touched down in several parts of the country. Nothing like the horror of Katrina or a serious illness. Just little things gone awry that will take time to untangle.
But that was Monday. Today is Tuesday. That means I get a do-over. The day is fresh and new, and hopefully, my attitude is fresh and new, too. After all, His mercies ARE new every morning, whether my storm has been a minute upset in a day in the life, or whether it has been a major physical, mental, or emotional disaster with permanent consequences. His faithfulness IS indeed great. And He, as the original language so beautifully repeats, will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER leave me or forsake me.
Time to stop talking and actually do some of that untangling. But I begin, knowing that He is here, He loves me, and He even cares about the hair-splitting, bill-paying, losing-little-things details of my life. Isn't that the miracle, no matter the size of the crisis? As He tells us in
I Peter 5:7, "Casting all my cares upon Him, because He cares for me." ALL MY CARES. Because HE - the Lord of the Universe - cares for ME. That is enough to get me through any kind of day, ever.
Posted by Karen at Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Monday, April 10, 2006
Lately I've spent a lot of time reflecting on my purpose and calling in life. For example, can you have different callings at different times of your life? Do we all have the same general purposes, for which we were created by God, with each of us having some specific purposes to fulfill as our unique way of carrying out His plan?
The funny thing I noticed several years ago about the Forty Days of Purpose, during which our church studied The Purpose Driven Life* (Zondervan, 2002) by Rick Warren, was that the truths he wrote were so simple and basic, yet woven together with the foundational Scriptures in this fresh new way to show the five main purposes of man on earth:
- to worship and please God
- to live in harmony with God's adoptive family (believers in Christ)
- to follow Christ and the teachings of God's Word, allowing Him to remake us in God's image
- to serve God as our gift of love, just as He showed us love in sacrificing His Son
- to fulfill our mission of making disciples of others, from our families and neighborhoods clear to the other side of the world.
This little book and the small group where we discussed it had a definite impact on my thinking, laying the foundation for the journey I would begin in the fall of 2005.
My life changed drastically with children no longer at home. This was not a time of mourning, because I had pretty much finished that by landmarking every senior activity of our children as "the last time"! (Of course we miss our kids, but we have always known that they would leave and have looked at that as a normal step in the sequence of life.) All of us were as well prepared as we could be to move on to a new phase of life. Aside from spending much more time with my husband, also better in quality because we could be more attentive to each other (which aspects we discovered to be a great boon of the "empty nest") and completing some ongoing household projects (which it was certainly a relief to be able to work on uninterrupted), I no longer had one of the primary purposes in which I had invested most of my time for the past 21 years: parenting!
For the last several months, then, it is not really surprising that I have begun a quest: Karen in search of her midlife Calling! Jesus told us what we could do to get answers from Him:
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." (Luke 11:9&10)
It's become a matter of prayer, a subject of journaling, a topic of research and reading, and the title playing on the marquee of my mind. The surprise has come in the myriad ways He has answered: books and websites I've run across; people, opportunities, and circumstances He has placed in my path, not coincidentally, but because I asked and was seeking His answers, and because He promises always to reward our requests and quests regarding Him and what He asks of us. I agree with Helen Keller that life must be a daring adventure; and whether the rest of my adventure here on earth is long or short, I'm glad it leads to Him. It's a beautiful mountain well worth the climb!
*Used with specific permission granted by RKW Legacy Partners on 4/7/2006
Posted by Karen at Monday, April 10, 2006
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
"GOODBYE DOESN'T MEAN FOREVER"
When events that are similar begin to repeat, or I just notice a pattern, to me that's often a sign that God's trying to get my attention. One thing I've noticed recently: the death of a parent experienced by people in my age group. It's now a regular occurrence (guess that means I am no longer considered "young", whatever THAT means!) with people we know. Two people I am associated with in a Christian group in the last few weeks have each lost a parent, and the shockwaves this sent into their lives, even with the comfort and peace of Christ, were dramatic. In both cases, the loss was completely unexpected; this is not to say that it is easier when it IS even somewhat expected, as in the case with both of my husband's parents.
David was a former WWII prisoner of war. He never spoke about it, except in his avoidance of sauerkraut, which apparently was part of the meager diet available to his group as they labored on a local German farm. Many of his health problems which eventually led to his death began with frozen feet and malnutrition during his incarceration. He was a loving and faithful husband and dad, a diligent worker, extremely personable with a great sense of humor, welcomed me as his "daughter", and adored our children. That he had died was the hardest news we ever had to break to our children, who were old enough to understand fully that he was no longer with us here, nor would he be coming back. His wife could only say to our pastor, "My best friend is gone."
Elizabeth kept about the closest thing to a perfect house I've ever seen, yet (with certain stipulations) she let our kids eat in her den while they watched TV. She absolutely doted on them, yet wouldn't let them get away with anything they really shouldn't. (As my son said, she was feisty.) She was always available to her friends and family whenever they needed or wanted her. I remember, when her lung disease began to affect her to the point of not being able to walk or climb steps, she was so worried that she wouldn't be able to attend our children's activities. We had to make sure that she could get to an entrance with easier access, because if her grandkids were playing in the basketball game or marching in the band, she was NOT going to miss it. I have NEVER claimed to be anything resembling the housekeeper she was, yet she never criticized me; instead, she totally accepted and loved me. She told everyone I was the daughter she'd never had. Our children were in high school when Hospice was called in. The day she slipped into a coma, they left their classes for a little while to come and hold her hand and say good-bye. We each had our time with her, and my husband stayed the night till she at last let go and left this world.
No, I don't yet know what it's like to lose my own parents, but after losing these two, I have a pretty good idea. It's sad, it's empty, it's a longing to have back with you the two people who shared your infancy and youth and watched all your football games and worked their fingers to the bone to get you through college and cried at your wedding and laughed at the funny things your children said. It's remembering all the times you shared as a family and knowing they will not be having you over to celebrate every time there is a birthday in the family. The place you used to go on Sundays after church or to have an Easter dinner and egg hunt or to share that special meal at Christmas with antsy kids who can't wait to open gifts and get bored listening to the parents and grandparents relive all the Christmases preceding, not to mention all the other funny family stories, that special family place, is no more.
Just a few days ago I overheard someone say, "I don't know how people go through this who don't know the Lord." Her father-in-law, after a brief but serious illness, had passed away. How many times have I thought just that? He truly is the God of all comfort. He does bind up the wounds of the broken-hearted. He promises He will never leave us or forsake us, and though we are hurting and feeling somewhat lost without the person on earth who most cared whether we lived or died, we know that, as in the case of my dear in-laws, they are with Jesus. Someday we will be with Him also, and what a family reunion we'll enjoy! It will be better than even the greatest times we celebrated with them in this world.
Posted by Karen at Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Monday, April 03, 2006
We make so many each day that we are barely conscious of them. We almost have too many when it comes to food or technology, clothing or cars, in the culture I live in, anyway. Yes, I'm talking about choices. We don't give it much thought when we lay out the clothing we're going to wear to work or anywhere else - ha, ladies, you were about to question me on this! Sure we fuss and fret over what we're going to wear, but we don't actually say to ourselves, "I really have a choice about this." (Probably in most cases, far too many alternatives!)
Some of the subconscious, habitual choices, such as what clothing to wear for which occasion are not particularly earth-shattering. But what about some of the subtle habit-forming decisions we make which DO change the course of our lives, bit by bit, step by step? The "little white lies". The excuses for not doing something we should do. The procrastinating of working on our gifts and dreams that surely have been bequested by God. I can't remember the entire quote nor where to attribute it, but someone spoke of beginning by sowing a thought, leading to an act, then a habit, and eventually it becomes our destiny. Small beginnings, but life-changing results.
Consider these choices:
"Choose you whom you will serve this day . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." - Joshua 24:15
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly,
nor stand in the way of sinners,
nor sit in the seat of scoffers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
- Psalm 1:1&2
By faith he [Moses] chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
- Hebrews 11:25&26
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
who , being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself
and became obedient to death,
even death on a cross!
- Philippians 2:5-8
Maybe I need to be aware of the choices I am making all day long: to practice His presence, and to consciously choose Whom I am serving; whether I am living as a servant, THE SERVANT of all time, would live; where I am walking, sitting and standing and what I am delighting in; which reward I am choosing - the pleasures of sin for a season, or the glory and reward of obeying and honoring God.
Posted by Karen at Monday, April 03, 2006