Loneliness and Fear

Lonely Bench

Today’s quote is from Holy Scripture in the words of King David: “Turn to me and be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am lonely and afflicted.” Psalm 25:16

There are many reasons people become lonely, three of which are on my mind today. The first is loneliness that develops at the time of death of a loved one. The second is loneliness that occurs when one has been diagnosed with a serious, even fatal disease. The third is loneliness simply from living alone, whether at home or in an extended care facility.

In each circumstance the loneliness is often accompanied by feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, hunger, boredom, despair, or even depression. The initial loneliness is often exacerbated by the absence of family or friends with whom the lonely person can share the feelings listed above.

To make matters worse, more often than not such friends and even family members are reluctant to call or visit the person whose affliction has produced the loneliness. One reason for such reluctance is uncertainty about what to say or do that will make the afflicted person feel better.

My encouragement is for you to pick up the phone and call that person in your life described by this article. Perhaps begin with something like: “I heard of your loss/illness/move (or it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other) and just wanted to call to let you know that you are in my heart and in my prayers. Is there anything I might be able to do for you at this time?”

Then simply let the person talk. Avoid trying to make him or her feel better by referring to your own experiences with loneliness. Instead, try to think of things to say that will convey your sincere concern and that might stimulate further conversation, no matter how brief.

If you feel confident doing so, conclude the conversation with a prayer for God’s comfort, love, and guidance. If you’re not confident in actually praying aloud, simply assure the person with whom you’re speaking of your prayers and love. Then follow through on that assurance with a note or another call or a personal visit to provide further encouragement and support.

David cried out in his loneliness to the Lord, who responded with comfort and blessing. That caused David to exclaim a couple chapters later: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

Troubles and Worries

Worry

Today’s quote is from Edward Everett Hale: “Never bear more than one kind of trouble at a time. Some people bear three kinds—all they have had in the past, all they have now, and all they expect to have in the future.”

This quote reminds me of the game of golf. It’s so hard to forget the terrible shot you just made and tempting to worry about the one you’ll be facing after the one you’re fixin’ to make.

But here’s the reality. You can’t undo the shot you just made. It is what it is. If it’s in the cactus, it’s in the cactus. Deal with it! And you don’t know what shot you’ll be required to make after you get out of the cactus. So all you can do now is just be sure you get out of the cactus!

Life is very much the same. What happened yesterday or last year or 50 years ago, happened. It cannot be undone. Deal with it! If it was the result of sin, ask God for forgiveness. And trust his promise written by the apostle Paul: “Through the blood of his Son, we are set free from our sins. God forgives our failures through the riches of his grace (overflowing kindness).” (Eph. 1:7)

And there’s no way to know what’s gonna’ happen in the future, so there’s absolutely no positive result to be gained by worrying about what might happen tomorrow. Just take care of today.

Jesus gave that advice a long time ago in his Sermon on the Mount. He was talking about the futility of worrying about life, food, drink, or clothing. He told his listeners about God’s provision for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air.

And then he said: “So do not worry … your heavenly Father knows you need these things. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:31-34)

God’s peace be with you!

Aging

Elderly

Today’s quotes:

“It is not by the gray of the hair that one knows the age of the heart.”
– Edward R. Bulwer-Lytton

“To be 70 years young is sometime far more cheerful and hopeful than to be 40 years old.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

This week Terry and I are attending a conference on aging. We’re spending three days with a number of pastors and their spouses, all within a few years of my age. Some are a bit younger but all of us are at or near the three score plus ten number.

Most people who reach that age have experienced their share of joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, difficulties and blessings. That’s the stuff of which life is made.

Sorrows, defeats, and difficulties tend to accelerate the aging process, sometimes leading to pessimism, depression, or despair. Joys, victories, and blessings often delay the obvious signs of age and produce a greater sense of optimism, appreciation, and generosity.

Physical health, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual maturity are very significant factors in the onset, delay, and effect of the aging process. Those qualities matter at all times, especially in the last quarter of life, particularly for those who may already have heard the two minute warning.

Regardless of your age or attitude toward life, consider God’s message to the people of Israel through the prophet Isaiah: “Even when you’re old, I’ll take care of you. Even when your hair turns gray, I’ll support you.” Is. 46:4

Here’s to happy and graceful aging!

Last Words

Screen Shot 2017-04-12 at 8.42.55 AM

This week’s quotes are the seven last words of Jesus from the cross:

  1. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34
  2. To a thief on the cross: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43
  3. To Mary: “Woman, behold your son.” To John: “Behold your mother.” John 19:26-27
  4. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34
  5. “I thirst.” John 19:28
  6. “It is finished.” John 19:30
  7. “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Luke 23:46

As you contemplate these words and their meaning in your life, Terry and I express to each of you our prayers for a blessed Holy Week and a joyful Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord!

Special Women

1795-William-Blake-Naomi-entreating-Ruth-Orpah

“Ruth and Naomi” by William Blake (1795)

Today’s quote is from an Old Testament woman named Ruth: “Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth 1:16

Ruth was speaking to Naomi, her mother-in-law. During a time of famine in Israel, Naomi had moved to the country of Moab with her husband and two sons. After Naomi’s husband died, her two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Ten years later Naomi’s sons also died.

After Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, she heard that the famine in Israel was over and decided to return to her home country of Israel. Initially her two daughters-in-law began the journey with her. But soon Naomi advised them to turn back and stay in their homeland.

At this crossroads in all their lives, Naomi strongly urged Ruth and Orpah to go back to Moab and find new husbands.  Orpah decided to follow Naomi’s advice. But Ruth chose to go to Israel with her mother-in-law. In the midst of this decision, Ruth spoke the words quoted above.

Ruth went back to Israel with Naomi and married a man named Boaz. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David. All were ancestors of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. See Matthew 1:1-16.

Ruth’s faithfulness to her mother-in-law was used by God to make her a very important woman in the history of the world and of Christianity. She is one on a long list of such special women.

Today’s topic of special women is not an accident. Beginning today, three of the special women in my life have birthdays in April. In descending order of chronological maturity, here they are:

  • Elda Maria Sophia Hellman Kieschnick is my mother. God willing, on April 10 she will be one hundred and one (101) years of age! My dear mother is known and loved by many!
  • Terry Lee Kieschnick is my wife. God willing, also on April 10 she will be … well let’s just say exactly a few decades younger than her dear mother-in-law. The two of them share a special bond of love that goes beyond being born on the same day in different years!
  • Angela Lynn Keith is our dear daughter. On April 6, which is today, she turns … well let’s just say several decades younger than her dear grandmother. Angie is also the mother of our sweet granddaughter Kayla Rae Keith, whose birthday we celebrate in August.

In addition, my sisters Carol Ann Wheaton, Karen Lynn Newman, and Debra Kay Zachary have birthdays in March, February, and November. No way I’m saying anything about their ages!

Happy birthday to each of these special women, all of whom have brought indescribable joy to my life and to the lives of many! I love all of you so very much and thank God for each of you!

Death and Life

Cross Autumn

Today’s quote is from Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970): “Who knows what death is? Maybe life is nothing more than a beam of light passing slowly over our changing faces. Maybe we had a face before we were born that will live on after all our perishable faces have passed away?”

Although I had never heard of this man, I discovered from a brief Google search that he was “a German novelist who created many works about the terror of war.” One of those works was All Quiet on the Western Front, translated into 12 languages and made into a 1930 Hollywood film.

His questions reflect the mystery of death, which I always address in funeral sermons. One moment a person is warm, animated, conversant, mobile, and alive. The very next moment the body of that same person is cold, still, silent, vacant, and dead. How can it be that the body of a beautiful woman or a handsome man can over time deteriorate into a pile of dust and a box of bones?

To me, the most easily understandable explanation of life and death is that everyone has a body in which that person’s soul or spirit, that person’s real being, resides as long as he or she is living on this earth. When death occurs, that person’s soul or spirit leaves the body behind and moves on to a different existence.

Simply stated, a person who dies takes off his or her body. A long time ago that metaphor was shared with me by our daughter who at that time was only three years old. To this day, over 40 years later, I still turn to that insightful understanding when death occurs. Thank you, dear Angie!

Christians believe that the different existence a person experiences after earthly life is eternal life in heaven, by God’s saving grace in the person of Jesus, Savior of the world. Because of the sacrifice of Jesus on a cross, the real being that resides in a person’s body for the duration of his or her lifetime on earth goes through physical death to eternal life. Eternal means everlasting, undying, perpetual, endless, ceaseless, timeless, infinite, immortal, and never ending.

“Maybe life is nothing more than a beam of light passing slowly over our changing faces?” I believe it’s more than that. I believe what David wrote: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:1, 13)

And I believe what Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)

That’s my hope! That’s my belief! That’s my comfort! That’s God’s promise!

 

A Time for Everything

Clock

Today’s quote comes from Holy Scripture in Ecclesiastes 3:

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

These words were written by King Solomon, son of King David and builder of the temple in Jerusalem. Solomon goes on in this chapter to talk about other times, seasons, and activities in addition to the ones quoted above.

His list includes a time for killing, healing, tearing down, building up, crying, laughing, grieving, dancing, scattering stones, gathering stones, embracing, turning away, keeping, throwing away, tearing, mending, being quiet, speaking, loving, hating, war, and peace. Quite a list!

The impetus for selecting the quote above is this past Monday’s arrival of the season of spring. For everything there is a season…a time to plant and a time to harvest. Although spring has just arrived, much planting has already occurred. Harvest will come.

Spring is my favorite season, partly because it brings vast fields of wildflowers. Even before the official arrival of spring we’ve been blessed by the beauty of Bluebonnets and other strikingly gorgeous blankets of blooms across the fields and along the highways of the great state of Texas.

Other parts of the country have similar but different floral beauty. Even a simple list of official state flowers in the U.S. includes an impressive variety of natural beauty, from the Camellia in Alabama to the Indian paintbrush in Wyoming and everything in between. Check out the list at: http://www.50states.com/flower.htm

Martin Luther has an interesting quote of his own in this regard: “God writes the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.” He also said: “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring time.”

Indeed, this is a season for planting, harvesting, and thanking God for his grace, displayed this season in the flowers that add beauty to his earth and to our life!