Musings on Christianity 16

Musings on Christianity 16

How Do I Know I’m Bearing Fruit?

In previous chapters, I talked about how discouraging it can be to notice the sin in your life. But if we are still in sinful flesh, how can we know we’re saved?

“So every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased true bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:17).

If we are bearing good fruit, this is a great indicator of our salvation. The Bible has several references to the work our redeemed lives produce. The parable of the sower goes into pretty great detail (Matthew 13:1-23). 

Galatians 6:7-10 also discusses this. But this brings the question, “What is good fruit?” “What should I see in my life?”

In searching for the things you should see, the first list that comes to mind is a pretty simple cross-reference. If Paul says to bear good fruit, what is the good fruit? In that same book of the Bible (Galatians 5:22-23), he’s kind enough to give us a list:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law.”

Now, there is actually another list, a far more convicting list. There is the list of things a redeemed life should not have. That is the list of things that defile a person, which can be found in Matthew 15:19. Straight from the mouth of Jesus, he tell us what we should purge from our lives:

“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.”

I’m not in the mood to argue what some of those terms mean. That’s the list from the mouth of Christ. I didn’t make it up, nor am I going to try to justify my savior’s own words. If a word on this list gives you pause, it’s not because the word is on the list; it’s because that word being on the list convicts you. If you feel defensive over any one of those terms, don’t defend yourself to me. I’m not going to condemn you. Instead, look in your own heart and ask yourself why the presence of that word on the list makes you feel defensive. 

When I train my students at DINFOS for informational videos (some might call them spots or commercials), I tell them that one thing that frustrates me is someone who shows a commercial of what not to do. What I mean is they show a Sailor in a bad uniform or pretending to do bad things. I don’t want to see bad examples, I want to see good examples. It’s not the same as saying, “don’t do this.” In the above reference to things that defile a person, Jesus simply states the things that defile a person. Again, he doesn’t portray the things they do, he just states them as wrong.

So what I want to do is focus my life and my efforts on the fruit of the Spirit? Why? Because if I bear good fruit, I have to be a good tree. A bad tree can not bear good fruit (Matthew 17:18-20).

Therefore, my hope is that if I focus on bearing good fruit, the rest will take care of itself. The Spirit’s work will be made manifest in me.

While thinking on this, I decided to actually delve deeper. Lists are fine and good, but  I don’t want to have love the way I think love works. I want to have love the way Paul (the author) meant it. Once more, Paul was very kind to offer us a description of what love is or, even more accurately, what love does.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Now I have something to work with. For me, that’s a very convicting list. I’m known for all the wrong things (irritable, resentful) and I am not known for very many of the right things.

To combine thoughts in previous chapters, does this mean I am not saved? No. Why? Because my spirit mourns these faults. I can repent and be loving. I want to work at this. I want the love of Christ to work through me to bear this fruit.

And that is the crux of sanctification. An unrepentant, unredeemed person looks at his life and does one of two things: He says, “I’m not worried that I’m not very loving, I donate to the church every week, and so I’m good.” He says that or something to that effect, justifying his sin by pointing out his works. The thing is, our works aren’t what save us. Instead, we should seek out the work God does in us. The other thing an unrepentant, unredeemed person may do is give in because it seems like too much. You can’t be perfect, but what you should do is strive to that effect.

Christ’s righteousness, his perfection, is credited to us if we are in him. This isn’t a direct quote of 1 Corinthians 1:30, but it is what I base this faith on.

However, that only applies to those who seek Christ’s sanctifying work in their lives. All people sin, but the believers in Christ have forgiveness through Christ. His Spirit works in our lives to sanctify us. But the unrepentant live in their sin, showing their love of sin is greater than any lip service or token demonstrations of faith in Christ.

So though I may be convicted by that verse, I am encouraged that I have been shown the way, and I can now focus my thoughts on things that are excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).   

This is my current commitment, and I encourage all who seek Christ and to be more Christ like to do something similar. Don’t hide from the verses that make you feel guilt. Seek out the Lord’s discipline, for he disciplines those he loves (Hebrews 12:6-11). 

If we accept it and grow, we’re bearing the very fruit our lives should bear. There are more ways to bear fruit, but this is an area I felt I could improve in tremendously. As I grow, I hope to embody more and more attributes of Christ. I want to grow in Him and reflect Him more each day. This is just the latest manner I’ve chosen to do it. 

For our panel: What are some other fruits we could pursue? What should one do, or how should one react if they realize they’re not bearing good fruit? How do people go about changing? What are some things people like myself can do to help themselves be more loving?

It’s My Wedding Anniversary! 1 Year and Counting!

It’s My Wedding Anniversary! 1 Year and Counting!

WeddingAs I type this (Nov. 15), it’s my anniversary. A year ago today I married a woman who makes me so happy.

She’s given me three sons. We’ve begun building a home together.

This year has easily been the best of my life. That’s not to say there weren’t sad times or frustrating times. That’s not to say there weren’t trials. However, through every trial, I had her to support me and talk to me. I had her to hold me and laugh with me. This is the wonder of marriage.

Please allow me this time to thank God for this wonderful wife he has given me. She is kind. She is loving. She is patient. She is beautiful. She is wonderful. So, I’m off to spend a weekend with her.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Sonnets For My Savior 39

Sonnets For My Savior 39

The Only Way

It is Him.

There is no other way.

He has no alter ego or pseudonym.

Turning from Him only leads to dismay.

He is the only light.

There are no dimmer flames; His is the only one that exists.

Following Him is the only way that is right.

He is the only way in which salvation consists.

Only He paid the price.

Only He advocates for us.

We are only saved by His sacrifice.

To follow any other is treasonous.

There is only one who frees us,

and He is our Christ, Jesus.

 


 

The Mark of a Christian

A kind smile.

A generous gift.

One who walks the extra mile.

One whose values will never shift.

Providing for others

When they are in need.

Caring for one’s brothers

Rather than clinging to greed. 

Standing in truth.

Living in light.

Letting go the things of one’s youth.

Turning from wrong and doing what is right.

But the greatest trait of children from the Father above,

Is living a life with a heart full of love.

 


 

Holy Father

Holy Father,

There is no one above you.

Holy Father,

There is no one mightier than you.

You are merciful.

You are righteous.

You are wonderful.

You are glorious.

Holy Father,

You are life and light.

Holy Father,

In you are only goodness and right.

All glory be to Your name,

Our perfect, Father, whose grace washes away our shame.

 


 

His Glory

It would mean death to see His face,

for his glory is so great.

Oh! being wrapped in His grace

is such sweet, sweet state.

Moses stood in His presence,

and the mere reflection required a veil.

Oh! to have that pleasance!

Our God shall always prevail.

Gracious and merciful.

Slow to anger. Abounding in love and faithfulness.

Every action of His is purposeful.

He forgives the repentant when they transgress.

Let Him be worshiped in every territory,

for to God alone belongs the glory.

 


 

More

Too often I do what I do not want to do.

Too often I do what I hate.

But the Lord’s love for me is true.

His grace is more, and His mercy is grate.

My iniquities form a mountain I can’t climb.

My sins form chains I can’t break.

But the Lord lifts me time after time.

Any prison created, he can unmake.

My sins are countless.

His kindness is boundless.

My failings are limitless.

His love is endless.

My crimes are too great for any to ignore,

but my Lord’s forgiveness is so much more.

 


 

Endure

Endure, though you may lose everything.

Endure, though you may lose those you love.

Endure, though pain may bring its sting.

Endure, for God is watching from above.

Endure, though your heart may be filled with sadness.

Endure the trial with every breath.

Endure, when circumstances threaten to bring you to madness.

Endure, though you may be near death.

The sufferings of this present time

are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.

His presence is so sublime,

as to make all the earthly things we’ve lost rubbish to us.

Endure, even if it’s hard to understand what your suffering is for.

Endure, for what we have in Heaven will be worth even more.

 


 

Joy

Beware the difference between joy and feeling good.

A feeling passes and doesn’t endure.

Joy remains when no one thinks it should.

Joy isn’t cheaply earned; it’s real and pure.

Understand where joy comes from.

It doesn’t come from the things of the Earth.

All the things of world will fall away when time is done.

But joy can be ours if we believe in Christ’s birth.

He provides freedom.

He offers peace.

Service in His kingdom

ensures one a joy that will never cease.

The most pure joy doesn’t come from within.

The most pure form of joy comes only from Him.

Sonnets For My Savior 33

Sonnets For My Savior 33

She Is At Peace

Thank you, Lord, for wiping away her tears.

She will never again thirst or hunger.

You have taken away all of her fears.

She now knows a peace that is greater.

She has passed from life, but does not know death.

She no longer feels mourning or pain.

She’s been filled by Your Holy breath,

and she will never know struggle again.

She has left this world,

but she lives, for God is the God of the living.

All of God’s grace has been unfurled;

now she sits at the foot of the throne, singing.

You have called her home and granted her release,

so thank you, Lord, for giving her Your peace.


 

The Power of Prayer

He always hears us.

He always listens.

In times of pain, He comforts us.

In times of doubt, He enlightens.

Blessed are those who pray in the Spirit.

Blessed are those who live in a mindset of continuous prayer.

Sing your song of praise, and he will hear it.

Cry to him, when you feel in despair.

The prayers of the righteous please Him.

Call on Him, and He will answer.

He is merciful, and gives generously to all who ask of Him.

For a genuine heart in prayer, there is no wrong method or manner.

While it is true that His sovereign answer may be no,

keep praying in hope, for He grants his children more than they even know.


 

My Favorite Way to Show Love

When someone needs care,

let me provide it for them.

If this world grows unfair,

let me offer a sympathetic hand to them.

Let me stand for them if they are week.

Let me cry with them when the suffer.

Let me encourage them when they are meek.

If their muscles fail, let me provide for them all the strength I can muster.

Christ gave all he had.

Can I not give just some of my time?

  Let me comfort others and make them glad.

For Christ loved this way, and I seek his love to me mine.

There are other ways to show love; this is a fact,

but I find the most joy showing love through an act.


 

He’d Run To You

He’d sprint to you.

He’d throw his arms around you.

He’d present a ring to you.

He’d kill his fattest calf for you.

He’d rejoice at your return.

He’d celebrate your resurrection.

Even though you didn’t earn

such a wonderful reception.

He’d welcome you back.

He’d restore you to your place.

No matter how far you wandered off track,

He’d rush to you and kiss your face.

There aren’t words to describe just what He would do for you,

and coming home to Him is all you’d have to do.


 

He Wouldn’t

Why would God forget you,

when He’s numbered the hairs on your head?

Why would the God who made you,

refuse to hear a word you’ve said?

Why would he forget you,

when He sent his Son to die for you?

Why would he forget you,

when He sent His Son to pay the price for you?

He is faithful,

and He has promised He will not leave or forsake you.

He is watchful,

observing all you say and do.

Trust and be patient, as he is patient.

He will strengthen and help you. His grace, he will give to you, and it is sufficient.


 

My Strength

When I am weary; He opens my eyes.

When I am weak; His strength carries me.

He is the one in whom my hope lies.

In a time of need, I offer him my plea.

I am not enough on my own,

so I submit to His sovereignty.

He never leaves me alone.

His grace covers my iniquity.

Help me set aside myself.

I must take up my cross and follow You.

He has given me life itself.

There is nothing he can not do.

He is mighty, loving, and just;

it is in His power, not my own, that I place all of my trust.


 

He Overcame

No temptation could overcome Him.

No suffering could dissuade Him.

No hunger could weaken Him.

No threat could frighten Him.

No argument could confuse Him.

No insult could break Him.

No lie could fool Him.

No amount of reason could change Him.

Men couldn’t capture Him.

Men couldn’t judge Him.

Death could not hold Him.

The tomb could not keep Him.

Do not worry over what trouble or trials the world has hurled.

Take heart; Jesus has overcome the World.

I’m Married!

I’m Married!

VowsGreetings all,

Here’s a quick post to share in our joy! Just a few days ago (actually less than 48 hours), Julie and I were united in marriage!

We’re overjoyed, and spending time together. We just wanted to share a few of the photos from the ceremony.

We did a smaller ceremony now so that we could start our lives together legally and in a holy way.   We’re going to do a much larger celebration in the summer!

I want to offer  a special thank you to Maddelin Hamm, who took these photos. I’ve known her for more than a decade, and she’s an amazing influence in my life. So was so happy to capture the images, and just look at how wonderful these photos are!

Since I was 8, I’ve wanted a few things (I’m a very determined dude). I wanted to tell stories (which would evolve quickly into my desire to be a writer), and I wanted to be a husband and a father.

TheKissJulie is simply an answer to a prayer I’ve prayed for thirty years. She’s not just a woman I’ve asked for. She’s more than I deserve. She’s the one. I knew the night I met her (one of my sisters has the text to prove it). We’ve had a great journey thus far, and we’re excited to start our journey in our life together.

I can’t thank God enough. There aren’t words. My joy is boundless.

With that said, we’re going to get back to this life. We just wanted to share this with all of you.

 

HoldingEachOther

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 30 (The final part)

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 30 (The final part)

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

See Part 6 here.

See Part 7 here.

See Part 8 here.

See Part 9 here.

See Part 10 here.

See Part 11 here.

See Part 12 here.

See Part 13 here.

See Part 14 here.

See Part 15 here.

See Part 16 here.

See Part 17 here.

See Part 18 here.

See Part 19 here.

See Part 20 here.

See Part 21 here.

See Part 22 here.

See Part 23 here.

See Part 24 here.

See Part 25 here.

See part 26 here.

See part 27 here.

See Part 28 here.

See Part 29 here.

A Changing Life

As I type this, it’s been nearly two months since my mother died.

I think the first week back at work was the hardest. I ran into a number of people who only wanted me to know they were there for me, but the hard part was the number of reminders. “How are you doing?” (You know, ’cause your mom died).  “How are you holding up?” (You know, ’cause you’re mom died).  I was stuck in this weird place where I was trying to show my appreciation for their concern while balancing the desire to explain to them that the questions were just more constant reminders. I mention it now only because I’m trying to explain my mindset at that time. I have so many people who love me so much. They want to be sure I’m OK and know they are there for me.  I’ll always love them for that, but it was a struggle at that point.

It’s been nine Fridays since my mother died. I use to call her just to talk and see how things were. My first Friday back at work, I caught myself picking up the phone. It was Friday. I’ve always talked about what a creature of habit I am. If something becomes a part of my routine, it’s trained into me like an athlete.

Whenever we lose someone we truly love, the simple fact is we’re never going to be the same. This is because love is sacrifice. We train our bodies to behave a certain way around our loved ones. We deny our instincts to the point to where we change our habits. Maybe you stopped smoking because your husband or wife didn’t like it. Maybe you started working out to shape your body for that girlfriend or boyfriend. Maybe you stopped biting your nails because it annoyed a friend. Those changes are sacrifices we make. Sacrifice is the greatest show of love anyone can offer. God sacrificed his only son for us, and Jesus willingly obeyed, sacrificing himself for us. This was so that the price for our sins could be paid, which would grant us a way to be with them.

For us mere mortals, that sacrifice becomes most apparent when the one for whom we’ve sacrificed is no longer there. So we have this choice to make. The temptation is to let go of those sacrifices. Some see it even as freedom after a time. But if we let go of those sacrifices, I’m of the opinion that we also then let go of the person we were, thus changing from that person who loved us.

Anyone can sacrifice for someone for a short time. Even I can clean my condo if I know I’m having a visitor. Any guy courting any woman can put the toilet seat down the first time he visits his girlfriend’s house. But it’s only sacrifice if we truly give it up. And it’s only sacrifice if we let it go even after we lose the reason for which we’ve sacrificed it. Otherwise the sacrifice was only tolerance. Tolerance isn’t the wonderful mindset I think people make it out to be. The word tolerate means to allow the existence or practice of something one doesn’t necessarily agree with, without interference. Merriam Webster adds this short alternative, “to put up with.” But if we only tolerate, the more we’re forced to tolerate, the more we want to resent. Resentment then leads to frustration, which leads to anger. I’ve even seen that anger build into genuine hatred.

No, readers, I feel that tolerance is only a delay tactic that ultimately leads to even more hostility. Sacrifice yourself for those you love, or don’t. You have that right to choose. But if you only tolerate, you’re setting up that relationship for utter failure.

So now I’m looking at my life, and I find it odd sometimes.  I can’t say my life is completely different. At this point, things are running just about how they used to run. The differences are in the little things, and those little things (when they come), hit hard.

Now for the part some might not like to hear.

Did the death matter?

That sound’s like a cold question doesn’t it? But we always talk about how “we’ll never be the same” or “this death had such an impact on my life.”

But if you go right back to the life you had after a nice “show” of remorse at a funeral, did it really matter? If two weeks after that death you’re right back to who you were, did the death matter?  Looking at my life, I would say no. It doesn’t remove the emotions. My point is that if I go right back to the man I was before my mom got sick, her life, her suffering, and her death become meaningless, and I refuse to disgrace her in that way.

I choose to show my endless love, a love not bound by existence, by changing because of that love. I want to be better because in doing those things, I prove to myself that the lessons my mother taught me matter.

Wasn’t it the same for the Apostles after Christ died? Shouldn’t it be the same for all who are saved? The Apostles mourned. They had the honor of seeing Christ risen, but he didn’t stay with them in the flesh. I have to think they missed him after he ascended. I can’t think that Peter was perfect after the ascension. I wonder if he was ever tempted. I think he was to a degree. In Galatians 2, Peter pulled away from a meal with gentiles because they wouldn’t be circumcised.  Paul rebuked him.

But there were other displays where Peter showed he’d changed for having known Christ. Peter, for those who are unfamiliar with scripture, is (in my opinion) the greatest example of change. Greater even than Paul.

I suppose this tangent is coming.

You see, Peter’s given name is Simon. Jesus called him Peter as a sort of nickname. That nickname was a form of positive encouragement for Peter to act like the man Jesus wanted him to be.  Yes, Paul did terrible things, and then stopped, but the terrible things he did, he did out of misguided zeal. He thought Jesus wasn’t resurrected. He thought the Apostles were wrong. When Jesus revealed himself and called Paul to be an Apostle, yes he changed his actions, but that zealous heart and manic drive to do what he believed was God’s will was still the core of his personality (Acts).  Paul changed his actions. Peter changed his ways.

Both were great men, and Paul is more of a favorite of mine (personally) than Peter. (Andrew, who I’m the least like, is my favorite because I’d like to be more like him so that I could then be more like Christ.)

We therefore change who we are for the people we love, and I am changed for having known my mother and, through this trial, better known Jesus. Before my mom got sick, I watched sermons on my lap top and read the Bible. But I was stagnate. The more I studied and the more I fed my spirit, the more I came to understand Jesus. It also helped me understand my mom and the example she provided.

Love is sacrifice.

I can’t imagine the number of things Mom wanted to do in life from selling her house and taking trips to I don’t know what else. But she constantly denied herself things I know she wanted simply to provide for those she loved.

Christ humbled himself, then allowed himself to be punished for our sins just so that we could be saved by his blood.

So who are we then if we continue to be who we were? (Romans 7)

This is the question that drives me every day.

I loved my mom. No, that’s wrong. Her death does not mean the end of my love. That’s stupid. If that love is gone my remorse and desire to change should be. I could consider myself free from the willing sacrifices I made for her because she’s not on Earth any more. I don’t have to get along with my sisters because she’s not here to be saddened by it. Her mortal death would make me free from her rules. But I still love her. Her presence on this Earth doesn’t remove that love, so I’ll honor her memory because I still love her now.

This is how we should act for Christ, if indeed we love him too.

Christ wasn’t there to rebuke Peter, playfully calling him Simon as a gentle reminder of the man he used to be. But Peter still remained the man Christ had helped him become.

I believe (because my mother had proclaimed Jesus her savior when I was a child and had been baptized) Mom is in Heaven with Jesus.

Jesus certainly knows what I’m up to. I’m not sure what scripture says about those who’ve left this world or not, but I still like the idea of mom watching from above.

So let me be changed. Let the death of my mom and, more importantly, the death of Jesus Christ change me. Let me be the man that honors my love for them. Let me let go of the man I was. Let that show my love, and let that be what gives meaning to my mother’s death.

Can I claim to be changed? No.  Foolish, selfish, and (if I may quote Paul) wretched man that I am, I still act far more like the man I was than the man I want to be (Romans 7). But I will claim to be changing. This evolution of my body to align with my spirt isn’t going as quickly as I’d like. I constantly ask myself if I’m any better, especially days when I find myself resentful at work or even with one of my siblings. That’s the old me. I shouldn’t be that man anymore. Am I really any different?

Yes. At the very least I now instantly realize I’m not acting the right way and re-focus my thoughts to be in line with how I’m supposed to act.

There are changes in my life I do recognize. I fear to lay claim to them because I have this odd habit. Every time I proclaim, “I’ve changed!” I amazingly do the very thing I so proudly claimed to have stopped. It’s silly how it goes. “I don’t cause anymore!” “What the #### are you doing!?” “I’m not so prideful anymore!” he said proudly.

So please simply accept this claim that I’ve greatly reduced the number of sins in my life from “too many to count per day” to “I’m sometimes discouraged by how many I count.” But this is a blessing. When God reveals our sins to us, we have the chance to feel remorse, repent and change. I think I need a bit of humbling realization here and there. To me it shows that I’m changing. I’d rather not keep seeing the exact same sin.  I’m struggling most with my pride and selfishness at the moment.

The point is, I’m working toward being better every day, and I wasn’t doing that before Mom died. I was content. I was satisfied with my state as it is.

The greatest change I’ve seen, the one I feel is the best tribute to the memory of my mother, is that I’m trying again. I’m trying to be better.

I’m sure there will be those who say, “See, doesn’t work.  This guy prayed and testified and trusted God, and his mom still died.”

News flash.  My mom was always going to die. She could have been hit by a bus or struck by lightning.

That person might argue, “But she died of cancer, and you had faith God would heal her.”

He did. He healed her so well she’s in Heaven with him. And when his son returns to earth, all those who were saved will return also, in perfect, sinless, cancer-free bodies. I just have to keep my faith and be patient. Sure, I have to be far more patient than I wanted to be, but how much patience has God needed just to see me reach this still wholly unacceptable state I’m in now?

If I were to have stopped this testimony the moment my mother died, did I ever believe in the first place?

But by this loss, I’m granted the wonderful opportunity to proclaim my faith (which He has given me) remains because my faith in him is not based on what he does for me any more than my love for my mother was based on her presence on this Earth.

And there, again, is another example of God’s unknowable judgements and inscrutable ways (Romans 11:33). If God had granted my supplication, sure I would have been happy. I’d have testified. I’d have sung in joy and praise of his name. But then what lesson do I have to teach the world?

Pray to God and he’ll give you want you want?

That’s not the lesson. And how many people would have been lost for the misconception that faith and trust in God will get you what you want rather than what you need.

Instead, the lesson I am blessed to teach is that faith and trust in God remain. Even if we don’t receive those things for which we ask, we always get what we need. The things we receive are always for our good. My love and praise of him is no more based on what he does for me (in giving what I want when I want) than my salvation is based on what I do for him (Romans 1-3).

Faith is the lesson. Faith in God. Faith in love. Faith that my mother and I will indeed be reunited. Faith that no matter what, my salvation is assured because of God’s love and grace and for no other reason.

I didn’t want my mom to die any more than Job wanted to lose all he had (Job 1). But the Lord gives, and he takes (Job 1:21). It is his sovereign right.

I used to think it was like a kid playing with a cat and a string. Yanking away the string just as the cat snatches it.  Horrible isn’t it?

But the thing is, I’ve come to understand that he gave them to us to begin with. They were never really ours. Instead, we receive (by His grace) these wonderful gifts, but any mortal gift is temporary. Nothing we gain here on Earth can come with us after we die. Even atheists will admit this.

So rather than lament what God’s taken, I praise Him because I had them to begin with, because I’m going to lose them sooner or later. My own mortality testifies to this. I wasn’t ready. I miss her, and it’s not sinful at all to morn her death.

But, I have now an even greater gift in that I’m changing. My relationship with God is closer. I have a better understanding of salvation. I have a greater awareness of my sin so I can turn from it (even if it’s with great struggle and effort).

This lesson is far more valuable than the selfish one I originally started working from.

Yes, my life is missing something for the lack of my mom’s presence in it, but I have so much more because she was in it to begin with.

Yes, my heart is sad because someone I love is gone, but it’s so much more filled because God’s love has been poured into me through the Holy Spirit who has been given to me (Romans 5:5).

I pray for you reader. I pray you’ve been inspired by this testimony. I pray your faith is encouraged or that God has worked through this memoir to call you to him. I pray this gives you comfort if you face a similar challenge in your life. I pray you don’t make the mistakes I made when I was facing this trial.

Mostly, I pray you be filled with love. I pray you remember that love is sacrifice. I pray you sacrifice the person you were for God first, and those you love. Husbands, I pray you love your wives as Jesus loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). Let love be the way in which you live your life. May you have love in abundance from those around you, but may you first receive the love of God Almighty whose love for you was demonstrated by the most difficult sacrifice one could ever make. Amen!

Thanks for reading

Matt

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 29

Testimony: My Trial of Faith as My Mom Struggled With Cancer Part 29

See Part 1 here.

See Part 2 here.

See Part 3 here.

See Part 4 here.

See Part 5 here.

See Part 6 here.

See Part 7 here.

See Part 8 here.

See Part 9 here.

See Part 10 here.

See Part 11 here.

See Part 12 here.

See Part 13 here.

See Part 14 here.

See Part 15 here.

See Part 16 here.

See Part 17 here.

See Part 18 here.

See Part 19 here.

See Part 20 here.

See Part 21 here.

See Part 22 here.

See Part 23 here.

See Part 24 here.

See Part 25 here.

See part 26 here.

See part 27 here.

See Part 28 here.

The Ceremony

Mom was never one for big deals. I got that trait from her. This mean her gathering was a small open house. The flaw in Mom’s plan was that she didn’t take into account just how many people loved her. The fact that my dad is well loved in the area as well meant that a few hours of an open house turned into a house packed with people, all sharing stories and talking.

I saw old coworkers of my mother. I saw family I hadn’t seen in years. I saw childhood friends of my sisters. Everywhere I looked, there were groups of people talking and eating. I think at that point I was more overwhelmed than anything else.

I spoke with an old coworker. We got caught up in talking about the Bible and faith. I talked to family when I saw someone was alone. Eventually, I had a chance to talk with my dad.

The constant opinions that, “her pain is, at least, over” weren’t as much of a comfort as some might have thought. We all wanted Mom to get better.  After a week, I still don’t think he was in their bedroom for more than a few minutes. He certainly wouldn’t sleep in there.  When he talked to me about his frustration with the “end of pain” theory, I offered a different perspective.

“Of course we all wanted her to get better,” I said. “But if I had to choose between letting her suffering end and letting her existence to continue in pain, I’m glad her pain ended.” The fact is, we’re all mad about Mom’s death.

I think Dad had it pretty tough that day. I heard him explain the circumstances no fewer than four times.

“It wasn’t even the cancer that killed her,” he’d explain. “Her body just gave out.”

That’s true. The cancer hadn’t been what ultimately killed her.  Her body was fighting on too many fronts.

He maintained his strength and kept talking to people. I’ve always believed he was a very strong man. I think that day was the strongest I’ve ever seen him.

In reflection, the saddest thing was that it took something like this for this many people to come together.  When I was very young, the house looked pretty much like that around the holidays. Family would come from all over to hang out and share stories. Neither my dad nor I are fans of large gatherings, but I’d like to see our family come together more often without the tragic loss that caused this particular reunion.

The best thing was that love was everywhere I looked. People who needed comfort received it. People who needed fellowship received it. People who needed quite solace received it.

The hours went by, and the family cleaned up. Most of us had to head back to our lives after that, but they wouldn’t be normal. When we lose someone central to our life, normal doesn’t seem possible. My little sister still stops when she realizes she was about to say goodbye to my mom before work.  I caught myself picking up the phone the next Friday because I call her every Friday. She was such a central figure, our muscle memory was activating, and we had to remind ourselves that she was gone.

Several members of the family talked to me during the event. There’s a real fear that things will simply unravel now that Mom’s not here to hold it all together. I’m still not actually sure how to prevent that. On my end, I have to do a better job of reaching out.

There weren’t waves of tears and lamentations (which would have frustrated my mother).  Sure, some of us shed tears of sadness, but for the most part, we all just talked and caught up. This is exactly what my mom would have wanted.

Looking back, I’m happy at the number of Christ-like attributes my mother demonstrated.

First, she was forgiving and always willing to welcome us back. (Luke 15:11-32, the parable of the Prodigal son). No matter what I or any of my siblings did, we knew where home was. We knew if we were willing to make it right, she’d welcome us back.

My mom was loving, and she respected her own mother (Leviticus 19:3). When our grandma got sick, mom cared for her for so long I can’t remember.  I imagine grandma moved in somewhere around 2008. Mom denied herself trips, vacations, and even simple dates with my dad so that she could care for her mother. She did this all the way until Grandma’s death.

She was driven to make her home a home (Titus 2:3-5). She always worked around the house. She always had a project in mind. She cleaned almost nonstop.  Before her retirement, she did all of this after working to provide for us financially.

She was a selfless servant (John 13:1-17). If I’m shamed by anything, it’s how I never learned from her example. She never flaunted or abused her rightful power over us. She simply did what needed to be done. She never let something go undone because it was beneath her. Heck, she never let something go undone because she felt it was her duty to do so.

Reading The Bible as I do now, and looking back on how she acted, I can’t believe how blind I was. My lack of scriptural training made that impossible, and my hardened heart convinced me that being served was my right. As I grew older, I resented others for not doing more, but even my acts of service weren’t done out of love, but to elevate myself above my siblings.

Now, as I prepare to become a father, I can be glad that I had her example to learn from. She wasn’t perfect. I’m not trying to portray her as such, but she was the perfect mother for me. Now that I have a scriptural context with which to reflect on her behavior, I’m more equipped to be a better father.

The only thing left to do, was start my life without her.

 


 

Questions and Revelations

How can I apply what I saw my mom do to my life?

For starters, I can show the same sort of investment and love for my boys as my mother showed me. She took an interest in my life. She read the books I read (and my siblings) just because I read them. She watched whatever I wanted to watch.  I think the first year we truly started becoming close was 1997. Mom watched an entire football season with me. She even participated in a fantasy football league (and won I might add. Look, she picked mostly Broncos, her favorite team, and they won the Super Bowl that year.)

I have thoughts and scripture to guide me on a lot, but my mother’s example mostly helped me realize how to love and support my children. I want to make sure my boys feel that same level of support from me.

If you have other questions regarding my faith or thoughts or actions at this point, feel free to ask, and I’ll add them to the blog.  I try to ensure these passages are self reflective. My chaplain told me to take this opportunity to look at myself, but at the moment, those were the only real thoughts going through my mind. Questions might help me remember other thoughts or parts of The Bible I’d overlooked while typing this post.

Thanks for reading

Matt