Prayer For Our Nation

More than 50,000 believers from across our nation gathered this past Saturday, September 26, in Washington, D.C. for two significant prayer events: The Return and The Prayer Walk. One media outlet reported that an additional 1+ million people participated in the events through the Internet coverage. The day was marked by prayers of repentance and a call to return to God for spiritual and moral healing in the nation. While hundreds of Scriptures were read or quoted, the underlining biblical emphasis was from Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple:

            If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seekmy face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Solomon realized that judgment wound come to Israel if they turned their backs on God. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he told the people there would be a threefold requirement for healing. God would then provide a threefold remedy. Believing that our nation is suffering because we have greatly sinned, we are following Solomon’s admonition and expecting God to hear, forgive, and heal.

September 26’s concentrated prayer fell during the 10 Days of Awe (the Jewish days of repentance and reflection), which began with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and was just before Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, in the Jewish lunar calendar. This holiest day has been commemorated throughout the centuries with fasting, asking forgiveness, and even making right those wrongs that were committed. I believe God ordained the call to prayer for our nation to be during these holy days of the Jewish calendar.

God has answered prayer many times for the United States. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Continental Congress called for prayer and fasting on July 20, 1775. Our war for independence from England had many ups and downs, but, although the fighting continued for two years, the British surrendered in 1781. As the War of 1812 raged, James Madison called for a Day of Prayer and Fasting for Aug. 3, 1812. When the British burned the Capitol and the White House in 1814, it seemed that Britain would win, but God gave decisive victories and a treaty was signed that December. These days of war occurred during The Second Great Awakening (1800 – 1840), so God was working despite the turmoil in the land.

Lincoln’s call for a day of prayer and fasting on March 30, 1863, was the turning point of the Civil War. During WWI when it looked as if the Allied Forces were losing, Woodrow Wilson called for a day of prayer. The next day the U.S. Marines won a significant battle that turned the tide. After King George VI called for a day of repentance, God answered prayer and Hitler’s forces began losing.People prayed and repented on the Washington Mall in April 1980, shortly before Reagan’s election. During the next eight years, The Cold War ended, and patriotism and faith were encouraged. In praying this weekend, we also prayed that once again we would see a return to God and that revival would sweep across our land.

These have been dark days with COVID-19, rioting in the streets, open sin against God’s commands, gross corruption, foul language, and lies. It’s almost as if we wonder if God has forgotten us. Is God hearing our earnest cries? Daniel said that in the last days that the enemy, Satan, would “wear down the saints of the Highest One” (NASB) or “shall persecute the saints of the Most High,” (Daniel 7:25, NKJV). One woman recently told me, “I believe Satan has released all his evil minions on earth.” Though circumstances look grim and Satan is trying to wear us down, to discourage us, and push us to give up, we are not defeated. But we desperately need another Great Awakening.

In Lynn Austin’s book While We Are Far Apart, Jacob Mendle, the elderly Jewish landlord says, “It must have been that Hashem (God) must not be listening.” Later he says, “Sometimes it’s wrong to judge the effectiveness of prayer by looking at the immediate results.”

So, we continue to look beyond the present circumstances and believe that God is answering prayer for our nation, just as He has in the past. We continue to humble ourselves, pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways and trust God’s plan for redemption and restoration.

A Slice of America

Nearly 80 years ago, the block in which I live was part of more than a 400-acre tract of land with two large silos that held wheat and corn, dozens of black walnut trees, at least two caves, and a creek where the farmer’s children played. The family raised chickens, cows, and pigs, and a variety of vegetables. Over the years the land was sold to several developers, and little by little the corn and wheat fields were replaced with hundreds of houses. The black walnut tree in my back yard remains as a testament to this once productive farm. Today the land that was owned by one family is home to a diverse group of landowners.

Within this one short block, we have transplants from California, New Mexico, Florida, and New England. A family from Asia lives on the west end while the east end houses a family from West Africa. Both families came to the States seeking to be a part of the American dream. We also have a family of new American citizens from Central Europe and a second-generation European family that also has family ties to the Caribbean islands. A Russian family occupied the house next to me for a short time. Our block is a snapshot of America today.

Twenty years ago, Joan, whose parents owned this land, bought a small plot here to build a house. She was a recent widow, and her home was the first built on our block. While walking through the wooded area adjacent to her lot, she found the concrete steps of her childhood home, the old farmhouse. Today those steps in the corner of her lot provide the backdrop for lovely flowers and a remembrance of when she wandered through this acreage as a small child.

My neighborhood is very different from the one in which I grew up, but it’s very similar to what we can expect heaven to look like. When the apostle John got a glimpse heaven, he said, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb (Jesus)” (Revelation 7:9).  They were loudly praising Christ who had shed His blood so they could be with Him in heaven forever. We will be together in heaven shouting the same praises to God, but we will not lose our distinctiveness.

My features look similar to the family from Central Europe, but they are very different from the African household or the people from Asia. But Luke, the writer of Acts and a doctor said, From one man (Adam) He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live” (Acts 17:26). This means that if the Asian woman or the African man has a medical emergency and if she/he has 0-Positive blood as I do, I could give my blood to help save her/his life. So, we are similar in many ways, yet we are different. I also believe that God has sovereignly brought all of us together on this one small block of land.

Now you may be wondering how this applies to us as widows. All widows do not look alike. We come in all colors, shapes, ages, and sizes, and we may not grieve alike. Because of the differences in our cultures, some may show their emotions more readily than others. Some widows grieve quietly behind closed doors, while others weep openly.

Kristin Meekhof, who wrote A Widow’s Guide to Healing, says, “There is no ordinary grief. Each situation … is unique.” She, however, goes on to say that each widow experiences loss, fear, and hopelessness. And, each widow has scars. So, we are different, but we are similar.

May each of us who has been on this journey for several years, embrace the grieving widow and be an advocate for healing, regardless of our race, culture or ethnicity.

Promises, Promises

As this 2020 political campaign heats up, I thought you would enjoy this look into history.

In 1936, Democrats Franklin D. Roosevelt and his vice president, John Garner, were vying for their second term in office. Alf Landon and his running mate, Frank Knox, were theScreen Shot 2020-08-15 at 9.36.11 PM Republican candidates. The Great Depression that had begun in 1929 was beginning to ease and the nation was recovering in small ways, but most Americans were struggling, and 14% of the population was still unemployed. People needed encouragement and hope for a better future, but they also wanted relief from government overreach.

In a rousing speech in Pittsburgh toward the end of the campaign, Roosevelt promised to balance the budget, which he also had promised four years before, and cut federal spending by 25%. The people liked what they heard, and Roosevelt won the election with the largest electoral vote in history. Over the next four years, he failed to even try to keep his promise.

In 1940, Roosevelt was again campaigning in western Pennsylvania. This would be his third term in office. His speechwriter was concerned that people would remember the president’s broken promise and asked the president what should be said. Roosevelt responded, “Deny we were ever in Pittsburgh.” His choice is recorded for all of us to see a character flaw.

I suspect everyone has broken more than a few promises—some intentionally, others by neglect, and others because of life’s changing circumstances. I’ve said many times, “I’ll call you later.” But I failed to call. I simply did not remember my promise. How many times have we—and this includes me—told a friend that we would be praying, but the moment passed, and we simply forgot? Some broken promises are inconsequential, but others lead to disappointments, relational challenges, distrust, and even people questioning our integrity and credibility. We can make excuses for our blunders, but, as usual, the best way to handle our mistake is to confess and ask forgiveness.

Breaking a promise not only hurts others, it’s also painful for the promise breaker and can have long-term consequences. We lose confidence and self-esteem in ourselves, and our reputation is marred. So Solomon gives us a clear directive in Ecclesiastes 5:2: “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God,” (NASB). Jesus said, “Let what you say be a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’’ (Matthew 5:37, ESV).

Screen Shot 2020-08-15 at 9.30.09 PMOnly ONE has never broken a promise—our precious heavenly Father. He always keeps His promises. As we deal with news of the increase of COVID-19, riots in our streets, a growing crime problem, and economic difficulties, we may have a tendency to worry about the future and become overwhelmed with fear. Instead of being anxious and afraid, we can rest on God’s promise to

  • Provide for our needs (Matthew 6:31-33, Philippians 4:19)
  • Be with us every day (Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5, Isaiah 43:2)
  • Equip us with strength (Psalm 46:1-3, Isaiah 40:29, 31)
  • Give us wisdom (Proverbs 2:6, James 1:5)
  • Give us peace in the midst of problems (Isaiah 26:3, Matthew 11:28-30, John 14:27)

These are just a few of God’s promises to us. In these days when we are uncertain about whose word to trust, we can have complete assurance in God’s unchanging Word.

Another Great Awakening

The outbreak of COVID-19 brought great fear to our nation, and people have been praying for God’s deliverance. Now with the unrest, violence, destruction, and lawlessness in the last couple months, many people, including me, are crying out to God for another Great Awakening. We realize that only God is going to solve our problems. We have seen moves of God in the last 150 years but nothing to match the magnitude of the Second Great Awakening (1795-1835).

Many things have changed since that time in our nation. The population of the United States in the late 1700s through the early 1800s was only about 5.3 million as opposed to today’s population of about 328.2 million people. In 1800, the West was Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio. This expanded greatly in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase, but today’s west is California, Oregon and Washington.

In many ways, the spiritual tenor of our nation is similar to those times. The eastern states, especially New England, was plagued with spiritual apathy and the rise of groups that denied the basic tenets of the Bible. History records that many people living in wilds of Kentucky and Tennessee were lawless and had committed petty crimes or were fleeing prosecution for robbery, murder, and counterfeiting. One writer said, “It was a desperate state of society.” Pastors and church leaders in New England and the South lamented the nation’s spiritual ignorance. But God was moving to change the spiritual, cultural, and moral atmosphere of our nation.

Small revivals began to break out in the eastern seaboard and spread westward. Pastor James McGready saw a move of God in north-central North Carolina before he took the pastorate of three fledging congregations in southwestern Kentucky. His fiery preaching brought the worst of sinners to their knees in repentance before God. In June 1800, about 500 people from the three congregations gathered outside for a three-day “camp meeting.” (It would Screen Shot 2020-07-26 at 5.53.57 PMnot be called a camp meeting for about three years.) People earnestly sought God and cried out for mercy. When McGready held another camp meeting a month later, the crowd swelled to about 8,000. “McGready recalled: The power of God seemed to shake the whole assembly…Here awakening and converting work was to be found in every part of the multitude.”[1]

As desire for revival spread, other pastors planned camp meetings. Under the direction of Pastor Barton Stone, the camp meeting in August 1801 attracted as many as 25,000 people. The crowd was divided into smaller congregations with separate ministers preaching strong messages of repentance. People cried out in agony for their sins, asking God for mercy. “The rough, violent, irreligious frontier, which many felt threatened to undo the morals of the new nation, was being tamed by the Lamb of God.[2]

Throughout the early 1800s thousands of camp meetings were established in the United States to encourage the faithful and bring the lost to Christ. Thousands of people gathered in open fields and wooded areas to hear the gospel. One of the large Methodist campgrounds was in Martha’s Vineyard.

About 12 years ago, my daughter and I biked around Martha’s Vineyard. By the middle of the afternoon, we needed a break. After eating, she said, “Mom, I want to take you to some beautiful little houses about a block away.” We were chatting as we walked, but as soon as we entered the shady area, I said, “Where are we? I feel the Screen Shot 2020-07-27 at 4.47.14 PMPresence of the Lord.” (My eyes are filled with tears as I write this.) To my left were the beautiful Gingerbread Houses, as they came to be known, and in front of me was a large pavilion. I knew I was on hallowed ground. Something spiritually wonderful had taken place here. I learned this was the 34-acre Wesleyan Grove, established in 1835, where as many as 20,000 people gathered each summer for spiritual renewal. I was sensing the remnants of the Second Great Awakening.

We are praying for another great awakening. It won’t be like the previous one. Times are different. But wouldn’t it be thrilling to see 20,000 people gather in an open field, in a stadium, or in a park to cry out to God in repentance for His mercy? Once again God can change the spiritual, cultural, and moral atmosphere of our nation.

[1] -2


Seeds of Kindness

About 18 years ago, a friend and I planted several ajuga plants in my front bed as ground cover around the shrubs. I anticipated the lovely purple/blue flowers that were to bloom each spring as a contrast with the greenery. The ajuga spread somewhat, but only a few plants bloomed.  I was disappointed. After waiting about 10 years with little success, I pulled them up and added mulch in the area. There was no evidence that I left even a partial root of the ajuga.

IMG_1638 How surprised I was this spring to see an ajuga plant poking through the mulch. I was even more surprised about a month later to see its stately bloom. What I assumed was absolutely dead had somehow come to life. I thought about the spiritual implications. Seeds of kindness and goodwill may not take root and bloom soon after they are planted. I also thought of the seeds of the gospel of Christ that we plant in people’s lives that may seem totally dormant for many years.

Solomon said, “Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again,” (Ecclesiastes 11:1). My study Bible says that this may refer to an Egyptian farmer scattering grain on his land flooded by the Nile River. The seed would disappear and seemingly be forgotten. As the land dried, some of the seed would begin to sprout and eventually the farmer would harvest grain. We never know if a small seed of kindness and love will be meaningful in someone’s life.

When my husband I were pastoring, we provided a bus that picked up children for Sunday School. Many times I would pat children on their heads as they came in the classroom. It was a simple form of touch that I thought nothing about. One day at a grocery store an elementary-age boy that I recognized from our bus ministry came up to me with his mother. He did not remember my name, but with a smile he said, “Mommy, this is the woman that pats my head each Sunday.” I had no idea that the small gesture meant anything to the child, but it did.

As we face this prolonged pandemic and deal with social discord and anger, sowing seeds of kindness is more important than ever. People are fearful and sometimes desperate. Even a small token of kindness may say volumes. A smile may diffuse anger; a kind word may bring hope. Muffins and soup left on the doorstep of a grieving family could bring great encouragement. A phone call or a card may brighten a person’s entire day. These simple actions let people know you care, that you’re interested in their well-being, and that they are significant.

Luke chapter 8 tells us that Jesus went from town to town “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God,” healing the sick and casting out evil spirits. Not everyone accepted the message. Later he likened this to planting seeds. Some of the seed would fall on good ground and bear fruit, but other seed would fall on rocks or bad soil and would either not germinate or would grow up quickly and then die.

When we share the gospel—the good news—that all of us are sinners and that Christ died on the cross to bring salvation and eternal life to everyone (John 3:16), we are planting seeds. Not everyone will accept the message. For some, it may take years for that seed to grow. Another person may need to explain the message further, or it simply may take time for the message to take root in a person’s life.

Our job as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is to sow seeds of kindness and love as we are sharing the gospel. We do not know if that seed will germinate and grow quickly or, just like my ajuga, be dormant for years before it begins to sprout and become something lovely.

A Joyful Celebration

Several years ago, I had the privilege of spending Palm Sunday in a country that follows the Julian calendar, so it was Easter Sunday here in the US, since we follow the Gregorian calendar. The sounds and images of that day are indelibly fixed in my mind.

More than 1,500 people gathered in and around that church, which in our nation would house about 350 people. In the lower auditorium men filled the pews on the right-hand side. They stood back-to-back and shoulder-to-shoulder on the right and center aisles. The women satScreen Shot 2020-04-11 at 5.30.44 PM on the left and crowded in the left aisle and front. The small balcony was packed with men and women sitting and standing together. Even the pianist and pastor on the small platform had very little room. Worshippers crowded outside around the open windows on both sides and in the street in front of the church.

The people celebrated with waving of palms and exuberant music. Although I didn’t understand their language, I had no problem sensing the earnestness and joy of their singing and worship. Awesome! I recognized a couple of the songs by the melodies and joined in singing in English.

This was not in a country that enjoys religious liberty or freedom in worship. Christians there are not esteemed but are at times considered as outcasts and are often refused jobs and positions of status. For many of these believers, accepting Christ as Savior meant rejection from family and friends. It was evident on that Palm Sunday that they did not regret the suffering and shunning. Their dedication reminds me today of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 3:8: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

As we are isolated from each other this weekend Screen Shot 2020-04-11 at 5.15.34 PMand are celebrating the resurrection of Christ in our homes because of COVID-19, may we be grateful for the privileges we have to worship in freedom. May this time of prayer and praise alone remind us that many believers around the world meet in small groups weekly to avoid identity and prosecution. Our Easter celebration may be vastly different this year, but we can still joyfully celebrate our risen Lord.

As believers in the Early Church said, “He is risen. He is risen indeed.”

COVID-19 and Loneliness

My neighborhood seems eerily quiet for a Thursday afternoon. I hear no hum of mowers, none of the usual noise from my neighbor’s workshop, or laughter from the children next door. The normal flow of traffic has trickled to an occasional car. Only my windchimes break the silence. For many of us, life as we once knew it has come to a screeching halt as COVID-19 continues to plague our nation. With limited work, travel, shopping, and even communication with family and friends, this can be an extremely lonely time for us as widows.

Even though we have smart phones and computers and can Facetime, text or call, we may feel isolated and disconnected. Our previously busy lifestyles that included daily interaction with others is no longer possible. Former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, “The impact of social isolation and loneliness on longevity equals that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and exceeds the risks associated with obesity, excessive Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 9.51.59 PMalcohol consumption and lack of exercise.” Alarming!

Dr. Caroline Leaf, a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist says, “For individuals facing difficulties in their lives (i.e. everyone), isolation can be lethal. … Supportive relationships allow us to persevere through hard times.”

As widows, we have personal experience with the effects of loneliness and loss of relationship. We don’t need a COVID-19 psychology specialist or counselor to explain to us the symptoms of loneliness. We know what it’s like to walk into an empty house and hear absolute silence. It’s frightening when we first realize we’re alone. Even the sounds of the ice maker seem strange. One time I awakened by what I thought was frightening noises and soon learned it was my growling stomach. All of us as widows have experienced something similar. We have walked through or are learning to deal with all the changes that widowhood brings.

I don’t want to forget some of you who are young widows with children and are the sole breadwinner. Possibly you are without your bi-weekly paycheck and wondering how you will buy groceries. Maybe you’re trying to work from home while three children clamor for your attention or seek help with their online schoolwork.  While others are lonely, you would like to have just one minute of peace. I hear you. But you too may be feeling lonely. No one is there to help you bear your burdens, have an adult conversation, or encourage you by a gentle touch or kiss. Loneliness may be your companion too.

How can we deal with this new normal? How can we help others or show how much we care while practicing social distancing?  These suggestions may not apply to everyone, but possibly one or two can help.

  • Plan your day’s schedule so you feel you’ve accomplished something. (This article was on my list today.)
  • Include extended times for prayer and Bible study.
  • Participate in your church online services and times of devotion.
  • Study what the Bible says about plagues and global pandemics. Here’s a link from Joel Rosenberg, author and speaker:

  • Stay in touch with family and friends through technology.
  • Make a list of people to check on.
  • Include exercise in your daily routine.
  • Plan fun activities with the children, i.e. cookie or candy making, craft projects.
  • Tackle projects you have been putting off.
  • Take a virtual online trip to a vacation spot, museum, or nation. Even the children would like this.
  • Watch a movie together.
  • Start your spring cleaning. (This sounds like too much work.)
  • Access an online course of something you would like to learn.
  • Screen Shot 2020-04-02 at 9.48.48 PMSet aside time for Sabboth rest.

Life is certainly different now, but we can stay in touch and keep our minds active. Isaiah 26:3 has been a significant verse to me since young adulthood: “You (God) keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Prayer for Times of Crisis

I was greatly encouraged when I saw a February 26 photo of the Coronavirus Task Force opening their daily meeting in prayer. Many people, however, criticized the group for participating in such an “ignorant superstition.”  The media were especially brutal in reporting the negative reactions. One person said, “Vice President Pence thinks the virus will magically go away with prayer.” A prominent TV personality even criticized Pence’s appointment as head of the Coronavirus Task Force. The woman quipped, “He doesn’t believe in science. Why was he appointed?” She surmised that people who believe in prayer dismiss science and are inadequate leaders in a time of crisis.

As imperfect and limited human beings, we must recognize our utter dependence on God, especially when circumstances are against us. He alone is “our refuge and strength, a present help in time of trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Prayer is our daily communication with Him. We have the privilege of sharing our deepest concerns without rScreen Shot 2020-03-06 at 7.51.20 AMidicule or accusations. But we also believe that God gives wisdom to doctors, researchers, and scientists.  When we need a physical miracle, we consult God first and then ask God to lead us to a good physician who can answer our questions and help us explore a solution.

In some instances, we have little or no control over a situation, and only God can resolve the issue. This was true for Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah. In 2 Chronicles 20, we are told that men came to the king to report that a great army of Moabites and Ammonites were coming to destroy Jerusalem. Since he was a righteous man, the king called for the people to pray and fast. In his public prayer, Jehoshaphat acknowledged God’s sovereignty and reminded God of His promises to the nation. Then he confessed their helplessness: “O our God…we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (2 Chronicles 20:12). After a time of praise and worship the people returned to their homes.

So, did God help Jehoshaphat? Absolutely! The next day, the king appointed worship leaders to go before the army. While they were on their way to the battlefield, the Moabites and Ammonites began to fight each other. By the time Judah’s army arrived, they found only dead bodies. God had taken care of their problem.

Whether it’s a national crisis like the Coronavirus or a personal crisis, we have the privilege of crying out to God as Jehoshaphat did: We don’t know what to do, Lord, but we are looking to You for answers. Give us wisdom. Lead us in the right path. Show us what to do.

If you are in the middle of a personal crisis, tell God that you’re helpless and ask for His intervention. He does have answers. Prayer and praise are powerful weapons against anything that confronts us.

Trusting God for 2020

“I tell you, do not worry about your life.”

The hustle of the holidays is over. We’ve made our New Year’s resolutions (and broken one or two already), and winter’s cold days have arrived.  As I watched yesterday’s snow, I couldn’t help but smile. The birds at my feeders were having a wonderful time. Male and female cardinals, tufted titmice, snowbirds, a woodpecker or two, yellow and red finches, and even a dove shared the bounty.DSC_0596

In thinking about this, I was reminded of a Scripture from the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life…” (Matthew 6:25). In the next verse, Jesus talks about the birds and how God provides for them. But he also asked the people a question: “Are you not much more valuable than [the birds].”

I must admit that I’ve done my share of worrying, especially as a widow. How is that bill be paid? Why did that have to break? When is that problem going to be solved? How long will this last? Why did that happen? Jesus tells me that worry is not profitable: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (v. 27). In the same chapter, Jesus talks about the flowers of the field (vs. 28-34). Since they are clothed more beautifully than Solomon, we shouldn’t worry about clothing.

With all the problems that widows face, how can we stop worrying? It’s certainly not easy. Sometimes it seems to me that the more I try to stop worrying, the more I worry.

Jesus gives us answers to help us stop our endless cycle of worry. He tells us that faith is important (v. 30). The writer of Hebrew describes faith as “being sure of what we hope for and certainly of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). When we lay a problem before the Lord in prayer, we must believe that God has heard us and that He is going to take care of it.

Jesus also told the people that day that God knows our needs (v. 32). With about 7.7 billion people in the world, it’s difficult for us to believe that God knows us personally and our needs are important to Him. But Jesus also said that even a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground without the Father knowing (Matthew 10:29).

God’s knowledge is vast—more than we can fathom. He knows our needs and wants to supply them. Our Milky Way has at least 100 billion stars. The Psalmist David tells us that God has numbered and named the stars (Psalm 147:4). If He has done this, certainly He knows my needs and can provide them.

Jesus reminds us that we are to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (v. 33). What does this mean? Jesus was asking the people to focus on a relationship with God through prayer, worship, and reading of His Word. While food, clothing, and shelter are important, these things do not ultimately satisfy. Only our relationship with the Living God has eternal value.

God’s Word tells me that I can trust Him. He feeds the birds and gives beauty to the flowers, He can definitely meet all of my needs this coming year.




The Grief Process

Recently when chatting with a friend about her grief journey, I was reminded again how very differently each of us process grief. Some widows go through the stages quite systematically; others drift in and out of each stage many times. A few widows I’ve known pass through one stage quickly but take months, even years, to process a different stage. I believe, however, that most of us pass through grief spasmodically. We think we have processed our pain, but months later we realize we have not dealt with a certain phase quite as well as we thought.

DSC_0422.jpgThe stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—have been studied and written about for nearly four decades. Now David Kessler, an authority on grief, and famed psychiatrist Elizabeth Kuber-Ross are including a sixth stage—finding meaning—in their new book, which will be released this September. The book will share the benefits of remembering our spouse with more love than pain. I’m sure it will help us to understand the grief process more.

It’s important to continue learning about the ways grief affects us, but it’s also beneficial to share with other widows our grief journeys. This helps to solidify the progress we’ve made, and at the same time encourages other widows to be transparent about their challenges.

While I was taking courses on counseling about 10 years before my husband’s death, the professor told me that I had already been dealing with the grief process. He was right, although I had not realized it. At the time Tony was coping with end-stage renal disease. He lived longer than doctors thought possible, but the diagnosis was terminal.

After his death I was certain I was ready for the acceptance stage. He had been ill for many years; hadn’t I dealt with denial, anger, and bargaining? Now it was time to build a new life and forget the past pain. But I was wrong! A friend was honest enough to tell me that I had not dealt with many phases of Tony’s illness and death. We had been a young married couple with two children under age three when he becamDSC_0436.jpge sick, and his illness radically changed our present and our future. In many ways, I had denied my emotional pain while dealing with his physical challenges. This helped me survive all of those years of struggle, but now the pain had to be faced.

I had to deal with the deep disappointment of what could have been had Tony been healthy. Other widows must confront challenges they perceive only occurred because their husbands died young. One widow shared with me, “I stood at his gravesite years after his death and said, ‘I’m angry. This would not have happened if you had been here to help me.’”

Depression, considered the fourth stage of grief, is overwhelming for some widows. A sense of helplessness, emptiness, loneliness, and loss of control often accompany or define this phase. Life is meaningless; the bed is empty; the house seems too large. Cooking and then eating alone are grueling. A widow said, “I can’t eat by myself at a restaurant. Everyone is looking at me with pity.” This probably was not true, but this was how she felt, and those emotions are valid.

I can’t think of anyone who expresses grief better than the Psalmist David. He cried out, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?” (Psalm 13:1). In Psalm 71, David tells us he had seen many bitter troubles. But David also declared, “He [God] heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm147:3).

This grief process is arduous, but God will see us through each stage regardless of the time it takes us to process every hurt, every disappointment, every angry feeling, every sorrow, or each lonely moment.