January 14, 2019
Tomorrow I will be playing the piano, as I do every Tuesday, for the seniors at the nursing home and assisted living home in our community. But tomorrow is special because the music will consist of favorites of my mother, Myrtle Jackson Elliott, who taught me to play the piano and gave me a lifelong gift. January 15 was her birthday.
Our society currently dwells heavily on the troubles of children with abusive parents, with neglectful parents, with no parents at all. Of course, we need to be concerned with these issues and to attempt to correct what can be corrected and to prosecute those who seriously damage children.
However, as in so many areas where we accentuate the negative and hear almost constantly of the ills of our society, we would do well to take a stronger look at what is good and what keeps it good. There are many good parents like mine, parents who make mistakes and have some regrets but who overall are able to do well at managing their lives and raising their children.
What makes the difference? I think we can start with faith. People of faith look at marriage and parenthood as something related to God’s will, something involving commitment beyond a simple promise but instead at the level of a holy promise. When that kind of promise is made and adhered to, it helps people to keep their lives on track far beyond daily decisions.
Priorities like raising children well, serving family and others, attending church regularly and putting decency above pettiness follow directly from faith and adherence to God’s commandments and Jesus’ teachings. They become a way of life – and a benefit not only to the children involved but to the whole society.
Back to Mom and her music, here’s one of her favorites brought to mind by my comment about “accentuate the negative”: “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mister In between. You’ve got to spread joy up to the maximum, bring gloom down to the minimum, have faith or pandemonium liable to walk upon the scene.”
January 7, 2019
A week of our new year has already scurried by! Did you make resolutions which you are already breaking or “bargaining” about? And was that what you expected to do because it always goes that way? Or perhaps are you doing pretty well but aware that one of these days the breaking or bargaining will kick in?
Resolutions are not a bad idea, and often they represent sincere thought about our lives and about what could be improved. The problem is the way that we approach change and the priorities we base that change on.
At the risk of sounding a little “preachy,” I want to share some thoughts I have had as I have dealt with years of broken resolutions and then a change in direction which made a lot of difference. I can tell you that the one resolution I keep for sure is to make sure that my relationship with Jesus is solid and my prayer life focused.
Jesus makes it very clear throughout the Gospels that better lives require more than just the changes we think should be made – like the blind man who received his sight or Mary Magdalene who needed to be saved from stoning. Jesus would provide what they needed, but then he would ask that they “go and sin no more.”
The key, then, is within ourselves and our relationship to God, something which must be changed or improved before any of the other behaviors can change. If we want weight loss, for example, the goal must be to see ourselves as God would have us be – healthier and more energetic, more able to live our best lives in company with His expectations.
If we ask forgiveness for past bad habits and get ourselves square with our God, then we can accomplish the life improvements we honestly want. If we place our intentions in front of our Savior in prayer, then He becomes a partner in the process and our walk with Him becomes richer because it includes viewing ourselves through His eyes as well as our own.
May your 2019 find you walking with Him and viewing yourself through His eyes.
December 31, 2018
New Year’s Eve – the last day of an old year and traditionally a day to celebrate in some way the coming of a new year. The reason that the month coming up is named January is that the Roman god Janus was the god of beginnings, gates and doorways.
What does that information have to do with Christians struggling with grief and other problems at this time of year? Janus had two faces, one looking backward and one looking forward, and perhaps we Christians can learn something from him.
All of us struggling with darkness know that we need to look forward to the light, to the promise of tomorrow, and most of all to God’s promises. Walking with Jesus means moving forward, necessitating looking forward so that we don’t trip over the dark things of the past.
However, we also need to look backward -- not to dwell on hard things that happened or to mire in sorrows, but to summon precious memories, to honor those things which made us who we are and made our loved ones a strong part of our lives. With our family, our son who died had a January birthday, so we are guaranteed to look back at birthday memories of him.
What captured my thoughts today, though, is that Janus was the god of doorways. My grandmother’s favorite picture of our Savior is the one where he stands at the door entwined with vines and knocks. The scripture comes from Revelation 3:20, which says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hear my voice and open the door, I will come in unto him and sup with him, and he with me.”
So while we are eating, drinking and making merry this New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we listened for His voice, opened the door, and treasured the rest of His promise! Can the Lord Jesus be at our New Year’s table? He said that if we gather in His name, He will be in the midst of us.
I wish for you these two days of remembering, looking forward, and answering Jesus’ knock so that He can be truly present in your New Year’s celebrations and all your lives.
December 24, 2018
Holy Christmas Eve! I decided that if we say Merry Christmas, we should have a greeting for Christmas Eve which honors what it is really about. This is a holy day, not just a holiday, the night that Jesus was born and began a life which would end with turning all of our sorrows into joys.
This blog is about dealing with grief, finding ways to cope and to find joy in life again. The root of our joy is Jesus, baby in the manger to man of miracles to Savior on a cross and arisen from a tomb. What we learn from Him is that His way is the way to joy.
I hope that today and tomorrow are good times for you. With family and/or friends in any way that you celebrate. I pray that Christmas Eve and Christmas have powerful meaning in your life.
Please celebrate today with a Christmas Eve service, one where they share Luke’s story of Bethlehem and Jesus’ birth, one where they share the traditional carols that bring both tears and joy. My favorite is “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” because of the beautiful poetry. Here is the verse I would like to share on this holy day:
And ye, beneath life's crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
Those of us who suffer from grief and depression know about “life’s crushing load,” know about “bending low” and “painful steps.” What a blessing to “rest beside the weary road and hear the angels sing!”
If you take that time to rest and really listen for the angels’ song, what you will hear is filled with joy – “Glory to God in the Highest” and “Alleluia.” What the angels are doing is not just heavenly music for a special night but actually announcing the birth of God’s Son.
May your Christmas Eve be holy, your Christmas be merry, and your lives be blessed by Christ the Lord. Alleluia!
December 17, 2018
The challenges of dealing with grief during this season are daunting. However, coping is possible, and as I wrote last week, it often is enabled by a change of focus, first by focusing on Jesus and the Light he offers those of us who walk in darkness. Another change of focus can be accomplished by turning our thoughts to some Biblical people.
Jesus’ mother Mary provides one excellent example. Through the angel, she was asked by God to accept a role which would be very difficult for a young woman to accept in that society. But we know that she never hesitated – just agreed to be the “handmaiden of the Lord” with no strings attached.
As a result, Mary experienced carrying and giving birth to God’s Son. She was there for His first word, His first steps, His growing years and years of learning and forming His ministry. She made the request for the wine at the wedding, His first miracle. What an amazing life she and Joseph had!
However, think about the things which Mary “pondered in her heart” after Jesus’ early days, knowing that within the glorious hallelujahs of the birth of the Messiah was the prediction of His death. We know that what she pondered in her heart encompassed not just joy but also the forecast of sorrow, just like the myrrh which was among Jesus’ gifts from the Magi.
All of us experience joys and sorrows, and like the wonderful song “Blessings,” we need to see that blessings come through all experiences, the bad as well as the good. If we can do that, and see Mary as an example of accepting God’s will in all things, we can focus on wonderful memories and the promise of Heaven even though we suffer grief during the holidays.
Through all of these times, honor your memories of your missing loved ones. View the pictures, tell the stories, observe the traditions which meant a lot to them. If our focus is on walking with Jesus, He will remind us that each of these people celebrated holidays and now are celebrating eternal life with Him.
Oh, come, Emanuel, and ransom souls captive in darkness. You are our blessed Light of the holidays and always.