Come Out of the Shadows ~ the shadow of death

Woman Free, Field

He’s gone, or she’s gone. Sometimes the difficult memories with some guilt attached come easier than memories of the happy times. That’s because the loss of a spouse is so great, sometimes the remembrance of the happy times is too painful. Sounds strange, but it’s true. Widow and widowers know what I’m talking about.

He or she will never laugh again. Or, I fell in love with him or her the first time she or he smiled just that certain way and I’ll never see that again. Strange as it is, the self-condemning memories almost feel better, less painful. ~~ It might not be self-condemnation. It might be that the loss is so deep, the pain actually feels good. These feelings are normal, but should only last for a season. The time must come when you allow gentle joy to come at the memory of your spouse…that your memories are couched in sweetness.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. ~ Romans 8:1 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

But what if the marriage had problems? What if it wasn’t ideal? Yet you still miss him or her, still love your spouse? That’s also normal, natural, not unusual, not stupid. What if because the marriage had problems, now that he or she is gone, you, the surviving spouse have guilt. You tell yourself, “I could’ve been nicer to him or her. Could have been more present in the marriage, more understanding.” Maybe so, but it still stands this is only a season during the mourning process. The Lord wants his children free of condemnation. Confess what you have to confess. Forgive your spouse. Forgive yourself, and come out into the light. Forgiveness is intentional. You may have to forgive your spouse and/or yourself over and over as you walk through this journey back into the light. And that’s okay.

In the light of Christ, work on relationships with people who are in your daily life now. What can you do to make the relationships you are in become more joyful, healthier? Can you let the little things go? At home, at church, at work…what are the small things that annoy you? Make a short, easily manageable list if you have to. Don’t make a list so long it will overwhelm you and make you further heap coals on yourself.

What’s really inconsequential in the long run? Pray over the list and intentionally let those things go. Let yourself see your own freedom in letting the angst go you’ve felt due to the little things on that list.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:4 [King James Version, KJV]

Pre-Easter Cleaning ~ an Olde World tradition

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I’m a traditional kinda gal. Not that I follow a lot of proscribed traditions laid down by others. Although I do have some of those. Mostly, I’ve made up my own traditions. However, deep cleaning a house before Easter is an ancient, Olde World Christian tradition, going back to the 1st century Church. In fact, it goes back before that to the Old Testament and Passover cleaning rites and traditions.

Maybe it’s simply because as the days get longer and brighter, I notice the dust and cat hair in the corners. Oh, yeah…I have five cats. Used to be an animal rescuer in Brooklyn, but that’s a story for another time. Needless to say, the light of spring revealed dreaded CAT HAIR.

15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; ~ Exodus 12:15 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

When Jewish women remove the leaven from their kitchens they also scrub and clean the kitchen thoroughly that not a single drop remains. Biblically, leaven symbolizes sin. For many Christians, this type of deep cleaning symbolizes the cleansing of the heart, mind, and soul.

In medieval Christian homes made of wood or stone, pre-Easter cleaning meant the doors were thrown open, the rushes that covered the floors were swept out and the walls and floors were scrubbed with lye-soap. Very little cleaning had been done all winter due to cold weather. This winter no-deep-cleaning rule was especially true in northern climates.

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I’ve never adhered to that olden-time winter no-deep-cleaning rule, not even when I lived up north. Then again, every house I knew of had heat and access to all manner of cleaning materials. So, each year, I’d do a thorough cleaning right before Thanksgiving to get ready for that day of thanks and also as preparation for Christmas. I put my Christmas decorations up the day after Thanksgiving. There’s no Black Friday for me (I really dislike that term, anyway). So, in my mind, the house must be really clean with Christmas decorations going up.  There is no scripture for that. But, since I’m a contemporary traditionalist I do make up my own traditions. There certainly is no scripture against that.

Proverbs 31: 27 ~ She carefully watches everything in her household
    and suffers nothing from laziness. [New Living Translation, NLT]

Spring cleaning is also a good time to get rid of some useless clutter. The Lord has been after me for a while to rid my house of objects with negative soul ties…that hostess gift I’ve kept out of respect given by a relative who didn’t care for my husband, that Christmas present given by an “old friend” who didn’t understand and frowned on my Christian faith and friends…OUT with those things! I’ve been saved for twenty-four years. So that tells you how long I’ve kept some of these things (pray for me). But “soul ties” is a subject for another blog article I hope I will one day get to write.

I’m not one of those who follows the steps proscribed in a cleaning blog or podcast, and certainly not if it comes from a strange religion or tradition. I use the word “strange” biblically. I don’t make a list of things I have to clean or de-clutter. I know what I have to do, I’ve been cleaning for many years. Got it down to a science by now.

Quoting from Second Fantasions: “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go.”

Outdoor Work ~ a small slice of intentional living

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Workers removed the old damaged siding.

Workers have taken the water damaged siding off of a portion of the outside of my condo unit. This is Florida, you get water damage. I’m pleased with the attention my Home Owners Association (HOA) pays to detail.

I feel the Holy Spirit guided me to chose this particular condo. My move here was very intentional. I took my time looking before purchasing.

Prepare your work outside
And make it ready for yourself in the field;
Afterwards, then, build your house. ~ Proverbs 24: 27 New American Standard Bible [NASB]

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flowering bushes in front of and on the sides of my unit

 

The Lord doesn’t “speak” to me in earth shattering ways. I don’t have visitations and visions. I find the Lord’s voice in the peace I have inside with a particular situation. Of course I do have to pray about it and ask the Lord what His will is. Then after that, I seek inner peace about it.

 

The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands. ~ Proverbs 14: 1; New American Standard Bible [NASB]

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a bloom of the type behind my unit

To me, yes, this Scripture is talking about the physical house, housekeeping. A wise woman knows how to keep her house. So many young women don’t know a thing about housekeeping today and that’s a shame. Housekeeping isn’t only about dusting the furniture and floors, though it starts with that. It’s about keeping the house, holding onto it…not being foreclosed. It’s an intentional way of living.

At one time, I lived a much more haphazard lifestyle. And let me tell you, there are many more ‘hazards’ in a haphazard life than in an intentional one. At some point, metaphorical skinned knees lost a lot of their appeal to me.

Yes, bad things can happen to good people, to planners, to intentional livers. What I wanted to do was cut down on the self-inflicted wounds.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. ~ James 1:5; New American Standard Bible [NASB]

I would say, this next verse is most closely the way I hear from God…that is as long as I’m also hearing the Word of God (Bible) and praying. For me, it only works in that order.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. ~ Isaiah 30:21; English Standard Version [ESV]

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Elephant Ear behind my unit

 

 

 

The Benefit of Marriage ~ sustainable prosperity

wedding ringsStatistics tell us divorce is financial devastating for the wife and children. So, the solution must be: let’s just live together. Just live together. Just. Doesn’t that imply something lesser?

Well, just living together , most times, is even worse for the woman and the children when there’s a permanent breakup. So, many single mothers, without benefit of marriage, are on public assistance and food stamps.

Without benefit of marriage. That’s an old sentiment. We don’t think of marriage that way any more. Maybe we should. The benefits of marriage. How about looking at marriage as the beginning of a family legacy, the beginning of joy and lasting prosperity (something two people intentionally build together). It’s not robbing or cheating your spouse of your time, your energy, but most importantly not reneging on your shared dream(s).

Intentional, sustainable prosperity in marriage is so much more than money in a bank account or a portfolio of stocks and bonds. It’s building a dream together. It’s financial security, emotionally healthy relationships within the family, the family home as a safe place to be…all this over a lifetime. It’s getting to the end and looking back with satisfaction, with happiness, with wonderful memories.

That would be a whole knew way of visualizing marriage for so many today. If couples went into marriage that way, that would be revolutionary in a very good way. It would also mean picking your spouse wisely. The wrong somebody is not a good choice.

13-15 And here’s a second offense: You fill the place of worship with your whining and sniveling because you don’t get what you want from God. Do you know why? Simple. Because God was there as a witness when you spoke your marriage vows to your young bride, and now you’ve broken those vows, broken the faith-bond with your vowed companion, your covenant wife. God, not you, made marriage. His Spirit inhabits even the smallest details of marriage. And what does he want from marriage? Children of God, that’s what. So guard the spirit of marriage within you. Don’t cheat on your spouse. ~ Malachi 2:13-15 The Message Bible (MSG)

The Epistle to the Hebrews ~ it’s deep, heavy man

fountain

I’ve had HOLIEST OF ALL by Andrew Murray on my shelf for a number of years, and I’ve been meaning to read it. Really. But it’s 600 pages and Murray is no light weight, and I’ve been a wimp.

So, the Lord did me one better. He brought to my remembrance that I’ve been wanting to do a Bible study at home. What better book than Murray’s HOLIEST OF ALL. That’ll learn me to put off a little…ahem…light reading.

I thought, well the chapters are short, I can get through one or more per day. So, I opened the book today. Murray simply prints out the entire book of Hebrews to start. So, I read what was on the printed page, though I’d read it many times before. Murray uses the King James translation.

Here we go…

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, ~ Hebrews 1:1 King James Version (KJV)

And God stopped me right there. I pondered in my heart that if this had been spoken by some guru in an arcane, esoteric, or New Age seminar with crystals all around, wind chimes, a water fountain bubbling in the background, and incense…and if God had been replaced in the text by some nebulous force or source, all the devotees drinking in every word would go “That’s deep, heavy man, awesome.”

And yet, this is the actual, living Word of the Living God, and I’ve glossed over this first line many times to get to the meat of the chapter. So, as I ponder, I’m duly chastened as I realize the “meat” of this chapter starts with line one. It’s deep, awesome, and heavy that our Father God spoke in times past to the fathers (ancient leaders, elders) via the prophets.

Really. How awesome is that? Very awesome. And Christians today have that same, living God within us speaking to us.

And so today, in my Bible study, I just sat with that first line for a while, pondering it in my heart. And also pondering how God can take a line, often read — even often glossed over, and give it new revelatory, living meaning. This can happen with any line in the Bible. And when it does, it’s super deep, exciting, personally meaningful.

Someone may say, “Yeah, but I’ve thought that before.” But when God places the thought or idea as a revelation in a person’s heart, something new and unique happens on a very intimate level. It just happened to be Hebrews 1:1 for me this morning.

Humility ~ is not self-deprecation

Shame

True humility isn’t devaluing or condemning ourselves. It’s not self-debasing humor. It has nothing to do with belittling, cheapening ourselves, or excessive modesty.  This is especially true for Christians.

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 8:1 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

We all seem to have a sharp-tongued little voice that harps out a refrain saying we are not worthy, we are less than. This voice taunts us without our permission and against our will.

It’s the presence of this relentless, antagonistic, often lying or distorting voice that makes me believe there’s something beyond the natural. There’s a spiritual element.

As I wrote that, I realized I’m writing this for myself, as well as for others. — I’m a patient in a local medical practice that was just purchased by a larger medical group. There was confusion in the office when they gave me a follow-up appointment for test results…on a Saturday. I arrived on time for my appointment and the door was locked. The old practice had been open on Saturday, but the hours on the newly painted door said they were closed Saturday. On the drive home, that inner voice berated me. It said, I’d gotten the date wrong. It said they probably said the 18th (a Friday) but I had heard the 19th (a Saturday). What really made me anxious was the voice saying, “You’re getting older, you might be slipping.” Scary.

When I got home, I checked the appointment card they’d given me, held by a magnet to my refrigerator door. The card read: 1/19/19. Yes, a Saturday. They made the mistake. I was NOT slipping because I’m getting older. Yet the voice had tormented me.

This negative voice that seems to run on a “replay loop” is hard to shut off. Even when we later discover we were right and the voice was wrong, it’s left us exhausted. It’s the default, so it seems. That’s why I say, there’s a spiritual element to it.

The truth is, we can quiet and even shut down that harping, negative, self-deprecating voice. We retrain our minds to replace that voice with the Word of God.

 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ~ Romans 12: 2 [New American Standard Bible, NASB]

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. ~ [NASB]

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 [NASB].

This last one, 2 Corinthians 10:5 is a key. If we destroy all negative speculations that nasty little voice raises against us and replace them with what God says, we can get the upper hand over that voice.

  • we are sons and daughters of God the Father
  • we are made in His image and likeness
  • we are highly favored by God

We have to do it. We have to do and live what the Word says.

  • be transformed by the renewing of our minds
  • think on what is good, pure, lovely, honorable
  • destroy negative speculations…they are only speculations.

Christmas Eve 2018 ~ a merry time after loss

Vicky is doing a “sleeping beauty” this Christmas morning and I’ve been watching the Nashville Christmas Parade, followed by Kathy Lee and Hoda. It’s been a gentle and quiet Christmas morning which will end when Vic wakes up…the quiet part.IMG_2851

We had a sweet and fun Christmas Eve dinner last night at Miller’s Ale House on San Jose Boulevard, JAX. I was surprised at the number of families having their Christmas Eve meal in the restaurant. Many parents came from work, so it makes sense.  They were short staffed and the hostess was rushed but she insisted on taking this photo of us. A transplant from NYC, I’ve come to love and appreciate southern hospitality and warmth. It makes life so much easier.

Last night, the atmosphere hit the right note for us. We laughed and recalled Christmases past, but this time without pain and loss. We lost Joseph Dennis Chillemi, my husband and Vicky’s dad, in December three years ago. The last two Christmases have been bitter sweet for us.

This year, we’re having a merry little Christmas. I think this is the first Christmas since Joseph passed that Vic and I have felt real happiness and delight at Christmas. I’ve had joy in the Lord and peace at Christmas since my husband passed on December 8th three years ago. This year is the first one that I’ve experienced merriment. Yes, it’s turning out to be a truly merry Christmas for me.

For those who have lost a loved one, I know it will be a different Christmas, but I pray that even in that loss, those who mourn can allow the peace of Christmas to comfort.  There is a “spirit of Christmas.” For Christians, this is a deep and profound thing. NonChristians also feel what Christmas cards and media personalities often call ‘the Christmas spirit’. We don’t understand it, but this spirit seems to bring light and cut through the gloom, depression, and darkness globally.

So, even in your loss, I pray you let the true gentle spirit of Christmas wrap you in warmth.  God is with us, even in the deepest darkest valleys. “Ye, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death , Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.” [Psalm 23:4]

In our loss, especially at Christmas, the ‘shadow of death’ seems to envelop those who mourn. I had to tell myself for nearly three years, “It’s a shadow.” It’s not as powerful as it seems. It’s not forever. And this is a valley. It’s also not forever.” When I look at that Bible verse in times of sorrow, I think of God’s rod as His power…His power over death. Jesus conquered death. And His staff is like the staff of a shepherd. The Shepherd leads us onward in our sorrow on a journey out of the valley. It is a valley and it is a journey.

I often think, to honor the importance of the life of the loved one we lost, it should take time. It should be a journey. But God wants us to see that the valley has an end. We do come out and away from the shadow of death. And that also honors the life of the one/s we mourn. It also honors God, who wants us to reenter life fully.

And so, I wish you all a very merry Christmas filled with joy and blessings and a healthy and happy new year.

Nativity