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

Sunday, July 15, 2012

 Hope For Widows and the Basics of
Kerrville Daily Times Article
July 2012

    About six months ago, I got a phone call  about 4 pm from a woman whose world was suddenly turned upside down. “Kathleen, this is Susie,” she stated. “I need your help.” she continued. This friend knew I worked and normally called in the evening to visit, when she called. I knew in my heart that something must be wrong. “Susie, is everything okay?” I asked. “No, Bill is dead. I just got the call he collapsed and he is gone,” she calmly said. “No!” I responded with a loud voice. I did not want anyone to experience the pain I had experienced as a widow. Since that day when my friend called for help, I have had several other acquaintances  that have lost their mate.  I hate it for all of  them and my heart is tender towards them.
     None of us have any guarantees in life. Bad things do happen to good people and it is in our broken places, that God’s love, grace and hope peeks in to see us through the pain of life. In the mean time, we all have our place in history. For some of us, it is to push through with all we have in us to live life again. For others, we have a mandate that are the basics of Christianity to help those that are in distress or hurting.
     If you have lost a mate and are a widow or widower, take heart. There are some wonderful promises in scripture for us. If you have not, you have a wonderful opportunity to be a doer of the Word of God. 
     This is dedicated to all my friends that have become widows or widowers. Take heart. You are dear to the heart of God! It is easy to feel alone, lonely, and wonder where you fit in now that you are no longer married. All these feelings are natural as part of you, is now gone. Scripture says that when we marry, we become one; therefore, when a mate leaves this earth, part of you is missing and thus the journey of discovering your your place in society and your identity single.
     i have come across several scriptures that have held me together and helped me press on in my own journey as a widow. Psalms 68:5 proclaims God’s character and says, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing.” (NIV) The basic nature of God is compassion and for those that find themselves in ashes.  His heart is tender for those that are fatherless, for whatever reason, he will defend the widow and he cares for those that are lonely. God even has a heart for those that are in prison and will lead them to a place of singing if they follow him. Wow! Now that is good news! I have personally seen how God has defended me in situations since I no longer have my husband to protect me and look out for my best interest. Knowing I have a special place in the heart of God gives me great comfort.
     How about you? Are you a defender of widows and the fatherless? Are you being an advocate for them or praying for them? Are you compassionate and offer to help or include them? You are made in the image of God, so that heart is in you. You just need to exercise it.
     Another passage that is a favorite of mine is Psalms 146:9, which says, “The Lord watches over the alien, and sustains the fatherless and widow...” (NIV) When I first read this passage, I looked up the word sustain to find out it’s meaning. Sustain means to prolong, keep up, strengthen or support physically or mentally. There were times I didn’t think I could make it with having the responsibility of everything all alone after 30 years of sharing everything with a partner. It wasn’t that I could not do tasks that my husband did, for me it was balancing everything alone from work, single parenting, finances, caring for my elderly parents, the house, the yard and the trash, just to name a few. I still wish the trash fairy would drop by my house and take the trash out! Sometimes a kind neighbor will bring my trash cans  back to my house as I am not the fastest on the block in bringing them back to the garage. There were days I when I didn’t think I could make it that I would remind God that he promised to sustain the widows. I am still alive and here to tell you it is true. He has sustained me, kept me up, kept me going, and strengthened me.
     Isaiah 1:17 is another promise and reflection of the heart of God. It states, “Seek justice, encourage the  oppressed, Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Again we see what God has to say about what is important to him. If it is important to God, it should be important to me. For the widow, you can hang on to how special you are to the heart of God. There have been times I have prayed and asked God to send someone to plead my case and help me. I had a situation recently with my dryer being broken and was having to go thru a lot of red tape to get it fixed as it was under warranty. I asked God for help and  the assistant to the president of the company over saw my case and came to my defense after weeks of waiting. Ask God to raise up those that will defend you.
      With Kerrville being a retirement community, there are plenty that need us to fight for, defend and plead their case. How about you? Do you encourage those that are oppressed by sin, discouraged by circumstances, do what is right in business, help the child whose dad is in prison or parent has abandoned them thru divorce or death? Do you help the widow in your neighborhood or church? Have you even asked what you might do to help in some way? 
     Exodus 22:22 is  another reflection of God’s heart. It proclaims, “Do not take advantage of a widow or orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. My anger will be aroused and I will kill you.” (NIV) It is a good thing we live by grace and not law anymore! This scripture shows us that God hears the cry of the orphan and the widow. His heart is  particularly soft towards them and is a just God. He does not tolerate treating them unjustly. 
      James 1:27 gets right to the point about what is important in our Christian walk. It says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and  faultless is this; to look after the orphans and widows in their distress...” (NIV) It is just that simple. Sometimes in our busy world, we forget to to the basics of life. We can get caught up in all our ministry goals, busy lives, bible studies, committees etc. and forget what God says is pure and what is right. Whom do you need to help in your church or neighborhood? Is there a foster child, a child without a mom or dad, a widow or widower that needs you to include him or her in your lunch or holiday plans? It is something to think about. Looking after these that are right outside our back door is important.
    Jesus said in the new testament, I have come that you may have life and life to the full. If you are a widow or widower, you have a God given right to live life to the full again. Starting over isn’t easy but God is right there with us to help and guide. I haven’t done everything right, have made mistakes and have certainly had to push thru low days, but I can say God’s grace and forgiveness covers me and helps me. Most of all, He has been faithful every step of the way. Know I am praying for you.
     In our retirement community, we are very blessed to have plenty of opportunities to practice the heart of God to the orphans and widows that are down the street, around the corner, in places of business and church.  What about you? Look around and let’s  get busy in the mission field He has placed before us. Will you join me?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What Are You Wearing and Happy July 4th!

Happy July 4th! Celebrate Freedom!

Are You Wearing the Right Thing?
Kathleen Maxwell
June 22nd, 2012
Kerrville Daily Times
    A good friend and I were talking the other day and she asked,  “Kathleen, what are you going to wear? “  We were talking about a function we planned to attend together soon, and were working out the major details when that seemingly common question popped up. “I don’t know,” I replied, “I haven’t planned that far ahead.”  Women always ask other women that question  and I feel it is because we don’t want to wear something that is appropriate.
      Personally, I am not someone that plans far ahead. I might think about what I am going to wear for the day as I am fixing my hair and walking to my closet. 
  The day after I was asked the question, I came across a scripture that made me think about that question again. The scripture was, Colossians 3:12, which states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them together in perfect unity.” (NIV)  I love the fact that God thinks of everything. In his wisdom, he even instructs us about what to wear! 
     Scripture shows us that these virtues will always make us look good. Compassion, which is concern for the suffering or misfortune of others, is vital for each of us. How good are you at showing compassion to others, even those you don’t agree with? I recently had someone contact me that had lost someone they loved. There were choices in this person’s life I couldn’t agree with, but my heart went out to this individual because his heart was broken. I had a perfect opportunity to take time and show him the love of God and express concern for his suffering. I wanted to be a safe place for this young adult to express his grief. I know my own personal suffering has developed a greater compassion within me and I am much quicker to wear compassion these days.
     Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous or considerate. Did you realize when you smile, you are being kind to others? Be sure and wear your smile today and watch how it affects those around you. Smiling can actually make you look younger, so if you are middle aged, it is a must wear garment. Being generous is giving more of something than is expected or necessary. Being kind and considerate is being careful not to cause inconvenience or hurt to another. I am personally going to make sure I wear this more often as I realize I sometimes forget.
     Humility is a modest view of ones own importance. Everyone looks good when they wear this character trait. Pride is a common thief that works hard to steal our humility. There is nothing wrong with a feeling of satisfaction with an accomplishment. That isn’t pride. It is an accomplishment to earn a degree, win a race, or get a promotion. Wearing humility, enables us to honor others making them feel just as valued and important even above our own accomplishment. All that we have and all that we are is because of God’s grace in our lives. Yes, our choices make a difference but for those that call on God, we must remember that it is Him that enables us. Remembering that fact helps keep me in my place. Sometimes I forget that fact and self righteousness or  pride can strip me of the garment of humility. Scripture says to humble ourselves and God will lift us up. It is up to us to put on the garment of humility.
      Gentleness is a definite fashion statement and looks good even on men. A gentle spirit disarms people. Last year, I spoke at an Annual Women’s Meeting on the subject of gentleness. Since then, I am quicker to pick that dress out more. It has saved me when I have really been tempted to give someone a peace of my mind. Gentleness is not weakness but power under control. We are actually more powerful and accomplish much more when we sensitive and kind. Jesus said, “I am gentle,” therefore, we all need to be more like him.
     Wearing patience means we are able to wait without becoming annoyed; slow to loose ones temper with irritating people. I think our patience needs to be like our jeans...pretty durable.  If we don’t get fresh patience, like fresh socks or underwear each day, we will not only smell bad around others but will actually gag ourselves with tension and anxiety. I speak from experience on this issue. I’ve heard people say not to pray for patience but I actually think we need to pray daily for a fresh supply  or we are the ones that suffer most.
     Forgiveness is like shoes. There are just somethings you have to wear to get thru the day and this is one of them. Otherwise, like patience, we are the ones that suffer. A forgiving heart is a tender heart and is the foundation for getting around well and successfully in life. There is much that can be said on this subject but forgiving others is something we do for ourselves. A person dressed in bitterness is easy to spot by the harsh words that come out of their mouth or scowl on their face. Unforgiveness is like wearing a toxic or sour garment...not good for anyone around.
     Last but not least we are admonished to always wear love. When we put love on, it ties everything together. When we do not clothe ourselves in love, it is like wearing clothes that don’t match or clash. When we wear love, we stand out in a crowd. We are dressed for success all day when we sport love. I want to be known for how well I love others. It is not on my bucket list of things to wear, it is on my must have everyday list. I’ve discovered in my own personal life, love is easier to wear when I spend more time tapping into God’s presence and spending time with Him and getting to know his nature.    

     I know there have been times I have tried on something and it just doesn’t look good on me. The color is wrong, the style is just not me, or the way it is designed or cut makes me look heavier or simply isn’t flattering on me. Why on earth would anyone want to wear something that doesn’t look good? ,I am so glad God shows us how to always be in style and looking our best. He is good and thinks of everything and is always there to help us look good when we choose what he says to wear. How are you dressed today? Will you join me make sure you are dressed right? The choice is yours and mine.