Impending Death … and Hope (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 15, 2015)

I received some devastating news this week about an old mentor and kind friend. As things stand now, it looks like she has advanced pancreatic cancer that has spread to her liver. I am terribly sad, and yet I feel a strong sense of peace for her. She loves the Lord, she adores her family, and she cares about her fellow man. She is passionate about justice, and not just the kind that penalizes criminals for wrongdoings, but the kind that rights the wrongs in the world. She is an advocate, a brilliant thinker, and a confidante.

 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unless Jesus returns to take us home before then, there is a 100% chance that you will die. How does that make you feel? Does the notion of dying fill you with dread or joy? Like it or not, as James 4:14 and Psalm 103:15-16 point out, our lives are like a mist puffed into the air or a dandelion blowing in the wind – only temporary.

 

While imprisoned for the gospel, Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He had a very matter-of-fact view about death: if he lived, then he had more opportunity to serve the Lord. If he died, then he got to be with Jesus. Win-win!

 

For a long while after my brother died, I had peculiar feelings that could only be described as jealousy. I hesitated to share it, because I didn’t want anyone mistakenly thinking that I was suicidal. It’s just that the more I thought about him being in the very presence of God in heaven, it felt like I got the short end of the stick. I/we were left behind to grieve and cope, to continue living in this broken world of sin and despair and problems, while he was free from such entanglements. How I long to be with Christ!

 

Easter is just around the corner, and it is my absolute favorite holiday. Sure, I love the festivities of Christmas, and I enjoy the spirit of Thanksgiving, but wow – Easter! Easter is a reminder that this world is not our home (Philippians 3:20). Easter is about the resurrection, newness, eternal life, victory, and HOPE.

 

It is with this everlasting hope in my heart that I can say to my sweet friend: Go in peace. Go to Jesus, relish in his presence, and enjoy the reward for your labors. I will always cherish having the opportunity to know you and call you my friend.

Deliver Us (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 23, 2014)

A friend confided in me recently that she is angry with God because he has not yet delivered a loved one from the noose of alcoholism, despite her years of prayer. I struggled with how to respond, because even though I may think I understand a few things, God’s reasons and his thoughts are far beyond mine. For the record, I believe whole-heartedly that he is fully capable of delivering us from addictions, healing us of diseases and injuries, and intervening on our behalf in ways that we’ll never understand. And yet, I also believe that he allows us to make choices that are harmful because we are his beloved, not his puppets.

We could run in circles asking “Why God?” questions. Why didn’t you fix my marriage? Why didn’t you take away the cancer? Why didn’t you miraculously keep that accident from happening?

The short, honest answer is I don’t know. The four gospels are chock-full of stories of Jesus healing people, and yet he hints in John 9 that sometimes there are deeper meanings to our sufferings. Some of the stories are vague, like Matthew 4:23 (NIV), where it simply states that he healed “every disease and sickness among the people.”

In many instances, the healing is accompanied by praise and/or renewed purpose, like Matthew 8:14, where Simon Peter’s mother-in-law is healed from a raging fever, and she begins waiting on him. When Jesus healed the paralyzed man in Mark 2, the man took his mat and left; he didn’t sit back down and continue being crippled.

Think about all the times (and there were lots!) in the Old Testament when the Israelites cried out to God: “Deliver us!” … and he did. Then, they went back to their old ways, disobeying the Lord till they got sick of themselves and cried out again: “Deliver us!” … and he did. Round and round they went. How often do we get upset about problems in our lives that were self-inflicted?

God’s deliverance may end up looking like something completely different from what we were asking or expecting. Hold onto hope, even when it is hard to understand.

Of birthdays and memories

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My best friend has a milestone birthday tomorrow. As I was thinking about something funny or meaningful to post on her Facebook wall (I decided on this photo for now, LOL >>), I started reminiscing about so many things that we have been through together in our almost-30-year friendship.

We competed on the neighborhood swim team together for a few summers. We went to middle school and one semester of high school together. We attended each other’s graduations and weddings. We commiserated during pregnancies. I even had the once-in-a-lifetime privilege of attending one of her C-sections because her husband was unable to be in the operating room with her.

She also met me at the hospital the night my brother died. She drove all the way across Houston — literally, from the south side to the north side — to meet me in response to my frantic phone call. She took my youngest son, barely age 4 at the time, home with her for the night (or was it the weekend? the whole timeline is a blur). Good friends will be there for you in a time of need, but her willingness to drop everything and go above and beyond the call of duty on the worst night of my life will forever warm my heart.

We’ve been thinking about planning a girls-only vacation for the past few years — something nicer than just a weekend get-away … perhaps a cruise! We actually started talking about it before our “25th anniversary” (when a waiter overheard our conversation and thought we were a couple-couple). We still laugh about that night!

It’ll be a while before we can seriously plan our fun in the sun, however. I have my dissertation to finish before I can really let my hair down, but that’s relatively minor compared to what she has on her plate these days. Please pray for my sweet friend’s husband, as he undergoes treatment for stage 3 rectal cancer. She’s a strong, independent woman, and I know it’s hard to accept help, much less reach out and let others know of your need. So, I’m sharing this information because I know many of you are prayer warriors, and I ask you – first and foremost – to pray. If you feel so compelled, please also consider giving at the site linked above.

Here’s to old memories and new adventures!