Search This Blog

An Honest Account of Love, Grief and Walking With God
Finding God's Goodness in Life's Disappointments

Monday, April 23, 2012

The other day I was feeling overwhelmed as I found myself in another transition in my life. Realizing that I really did not have the time to entertain overwhelming thoughts, I began to sing a song to myself. As I turned my focus to this simple song and the Lord, peace began to settle over me and calm my heart. I was amazed at how quick peace came. The situation hadn’t changed in anyway; my heart was just in a better place than it was 5 minutes prior to singing.
     As I later reflected on that day and how quickly singing/humming made a difference, I was reminded of how I sang to my children when they were little. For centuries, mothers have sung to their babies to calm them and put them to bed. It is not the quality of the voice that matters. There is just something about a simple melody that can calm and comfort.
     Psalms 63:7 says, “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.” David, in the book of Psalms, knew the power of singing to the Lord. He was a man that knew where to find comfort and strength for his soul. David sat for hours in the field and practice his singing before the crowd of sheep he tended to. Singing was a protection for his heart as well as a safe way to pour out his emotions. It is profound and yet amazing to me how this simple redheaded boy grew to be a mighty man of God with  a song and simply being in God’s presence. It was in deep worship, that David became the man God intended for him to become.
     When my late husband was battling cancer, I would sing as I walked thru the halls of MD Anderson. With his life threatened, I knew I had to give all I had to help him live. The days there were very long and very unpredictable. The news was often times not what I wanted to hear. Singing kept me steady and kept me peaceful while my world shook.  I discovered as I was walking thru the “valley of the shadow of death, “ that singing was a powerful weapon when we use it. With my dreams threatened and my world shaking, I had to hang on to something. I sang songs with words like, “When everything falls apart, your arms hold me together.” I sang songs like, “You make everything glorious” to remind myself that no matter what, God would make it glorious again. I constantly had to remind myself of the truth as I navigated thru the uncharted, dangerous waters in my life.
     I remember one day we arrived at the MD Anderson Emergency Room and all 40+ beds were occupied. Each person that occupied a room was in a pretty critical state. Joe was put in the hallway. He was in a great deal of pain and struggling with the pressure of the tumors. Doctors and nurses quickly moved from room to room trying to help their patients. There was so much commotion that I thought for a minute I was at Grand Central Station. Family members were in distress, patients were in pain, doctors and nurses were over worked and there wasn’t much relief in sight. Joe’s pain increased and although he was tough as a boot, I could see he was struggling a lot. Desperate to help the man I loved, I began to sing.  I don’t sing well, but I knew singing would help bring the presence of God into the situation. I began to sing a song to comfort myself and Joe.
     The words were, “I believe always, always, my Savior never fails. Even when all hope is gone, God still remains,he’s still the same. He will be with you always, always.” I sang this song softly over and over like a broken record  but loud enough that my husband could hear. As I sang, a settling unbelievable calm came over him and he began to rest. There is power in worship and I believe the most beautiful sound to God is hearing his kids sing in the midsts of a storm. When we worship God in our pain it is called lamentation.
     Lamentation is a sweet sound to God. It is praising God anyway. Lamentation is an honest expression of our pain and grief and emotions. It is praising God even in the uncertainty and pain of life. Lamenting says, circumstances don’t matter, I am praising God anyway. It is an expression of our heartache and yet singing irregardless of our circumstances. Habakkuh 3:17 says, “ Though the fig does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Do you worship God in the YET? Do you sing anyway when times are difficult or overwhelming? There is power in singing in the dark times as it brings comfort, clarity of mind and peace for our troubled hearts. The rest of that passage tells the benefits of singing in the YETS of life. Habakkuk 3:19 says, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” Worship helps us go beyond ourselves. It gives us strength. It empowers us. It gives us an upgrade, like moving from economy seating to first class.
     I challenge you to get a song. The quality of your singing doesn’t matter. Scripture says in Psalm 98:4, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise and sing praises to his name.” Therefore, it doesn’t matter what you sound like. That’s good news for someone like me that doesn’t sing well! What matters is that you just do it. Start with something simple like, “Jesus loves me this I know.” That simple song has wrapped my heart in a blanket of peace many a time. I may not know how to solve the problem, but I know that I am loved. I know God is stronger than whatever I face and I know whatever I am facing, I am not facing it alone. There is power in singing. What I find, is singing changes my countenance. It makes me look good! It is refreshing.
     I challenge you to get a song. Sing it. Hum it. It will change your heart, it will change your thinking. Singing magnifies God instead of our situation. Whatever your circumstances, singing is the answer. If things are good, by all means, sing to God and praise him. If things are not good, it is even a better reason to sing to pour out your pain and emotions to the one person that truly understands and can help. Besides, it may not change your circumstances, but it will change you. Will you join me in singing? The hills could come alive with the sound of our music. God is worthy of our worship all the time and as they hymn say, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.” And so can you.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

 Spring has arrived and I love the beautiful wild flowers. I have gotten a little behind in my writing as I have been at a training this week for my work.The organization I work for are first responders when there is a national crisis. All of the management staff are trained in Incident Command Systems and are prepared to respond. I tried to tell them that I was experienced in crisis management but they said I still had to be certified. It is something we do in addition to our regular job. Needless to say, there was lots of studying and a pretty busy week for me. Life is certainly an adventure!
 How Do You See? With Compassion or Judgement?
Kerrville Daily Times Article
Kathleen Maxwell
March 15,2012

How do you see others? Do you see their faults instead of the good in them? Are you quick to see someone and make a judgement about them and their situation verses asking God how he sees them? If so, you might need to take another look, perhaps consider some new spiritual glasses and seeing with the eyes of God.
I have recently been studying the passage in I Samuel 1 as part of a class. It has challenged and encouraged me. I Samuel is about Hannah, her husband, Elkanah, Eli the priest and Pininnah-Elkanah’s other wife. To set the stage, if you haven’t heard the story, Pininnah had many sons and Hannah had none. Yearly, they made a trip to worship and make a sacrifice. I Samuel 1:5 says, “But to Hannah, Elkanah gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb.” (NIV) What stood out to me is that Hannah was dearly loved and her husband had great compassion for her. He didn’t love her for what she could give to him, he simply loved her. This is a good thing for any husband to consider. I had a man that loved me well for 30 years before he passed away and I will certainly not settle for anything less in the future.
Notice from the scripture that God closed Hannah’s womb. God, in his great wisdom, had not allowed Hannah to conceive. For some reason, this was His design for her — He had called her to a special task. He doesn’t state why. “Why?” is not the key question, “what?” is a much better question. The question I have learned to ask is “What can I learn from this situation, God?” instead of “Why me?” I recently felt God say to me personally when I was questioning Him about something in my life, “Kathleen, when I design something, it is beautiful because I designed it.” Case closed. He is God and I am not. My opinion needed to change, not his.
I Samuel 1:6 says, “And because the Lord had closed her womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year.”(NIV) Pininnah was giving Hannah more grief than she already had. Hannah was already struggling with her identity as a woman, the grief of infertility and then the other woman rubs it in her face. Perhaps you have someone in your life like that? I know I have struggled in my own grief at times and had people unknowingly (at least I choose to believe they were not intentional) add more pain to my plate. Pininnah was what I call Hannah’s grace grower. Hannah had a choice in how to react to her rival. Hannah’s name actually means “gracious.” I believe Hannah did not react in her flesh, but allowed her grace grower to make her more gracious. Hannah used her problem to develop her character.
We can all learn from this example.
When I am gone from this earth, I want to be known as a woman that loved others well. I have a personal value statement that is, “I am what I love, not what loves me.” It is a decision that I have made that defines me. I have grace growers, also known as irritating people in my life, and sometimes I have to preach to myself and say, “ Kathleen, you gotta love ‘um.” It is my way of reminding myself that any other behavior is not acceptable for me. 
I have also been known to ask God “just give me five minutes in the flesh and I could handle this.” He never gives me permission which is a good thing as I am sure I would regret it.
I Samuel 1:10 says, “In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.” (NIV) Hannah went to the temple to pour out her grief to the Lord. She made a wise choice to go to church and worship in her grief, however, her grief was misinterpreted. The religious leader didn’t see what God saw. Eli made a quick judgement, thought Hannah wasn’t in her right mind and thought she was drunk. At a time when she needed comfort and encouragement he totally misunderstood the anguish of her soul. In Eli’s defense, how could he understand the pain of a woman’s barrenness? On the other hand, there are people that come to church, searching for help to get through another day.  This is a good reminder to all of us to ask God, “How do you see this person, and how can I encourage them?” Everyone needs understanding and encouragement.
Hannah responds to Eli’s accusation with, “Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of the great anguish and grief.” Not only was she heart sick that she couldn’t have a baby but she was also being tormented by her rival.  Eli had no idea what was really going on in her life and misunderstood her. His judgement made her feel worthless when she was already struggling with her identity as a woman.  This had to feel like an insult to injury as Eli was someone in the church she trusted. We must not make a judgement about what we see on the outside.
I believe God is calling all of us to a higher standard of stepping back in our spirit and asking God how he sees someone instead of making a quick assumption with our natural eye and out of our limited experience. What Hannah really needed was encouragement and compassion. I know that sometimes in my hurried life, I have been guilty of making a judgement from a snapshot of someone and giving a quick statement when I should have asked God what I could say to encourage and comfort someone. Jesus was moved with compassion. When we see someone with the eyes of God we see them with affection, we see the best in them and see them through the eyes of love.
Our community is a retirement community, and we have many widows and widowers. It is imperative that we comfort and encourage  those that have lost someone they love as they attempt to make a new life and redefine themselves as single individuals. As a widow of two years, I have had people comfort me and encourage me to pick up the pieces of my life. I am forever grateful for those friends.  Like Hannah, I have also felt at times my grief has been misunderstood by those that have not experienced the loss of a mate or the depth of my personal anguish. The misunderstanding has added more pain for me to dig through at a time when I really didn’t need anymore pain. 
We must first see ourselves as God sees us before we can see others as God sees them. When we see as He sees, we give people the power to become better people. We see the treasure in them instead of what is worthless in them. Imagine how different our community would be if we saw and treated people like God. The Hill Country would be amazing. 
Will you repent today of making a quick snapshot judgement of others and ask God to reveal truth to you? Will you join me in looking for those you can comfort and encourage instead of misunderstanding them and judging them? I can’t wait to see what  Kerrville will become. It will be amazing!