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Archive for November, 2012

 

If you’ve lost a loved one in the past three years, chances are on November 15th you’d like to have taken a sleeping bill that would last until January 5th of 2013.

Truth is, all of us live life from one holiday ‘til the next. February brings Valentines, then Easter is next in line, followed by Mother’s Day/Father’s Day, then the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Of course, birthdays and anniversaries are sandwiched in between these festivities—and they are all difficult days.

Then we begin again. Next year.

But if you’re agonizing over the death of a loved one, holiday celebrations are brutal reminders of who’s not there to celebrate with you. You’re sad and lonely. Very lonely.

This year was the fifteenth Thanksgiving without Mama, the thirteenth without Daddy, and the twelfth without our daughter, Michelle. And Monday, the one before Thanksgiving, I had a complete meltdown.

You’d think after all this time I’d be able to get through a holiday event with only a twinge of an emotional setback. But when I opened Mama’s silver chest to polish those family treasures that would grace our dinner table, memories of Thanksgivings past rushed down the corridors of my mind, ripped through my heart, and tumbled out in a river of debilitating tears.

I collapsed in the middle of the floor and gave myself permission to shed tears of love and loss that honor the lives of those who’ve gone home before me.

Tears of grief are liquid healing. Tears that, scripture tells us, God saves in a bottle. Tears necessary to move us through the grief process and into our new normal.

But what happens to those who refuse the opportunity to cry and grieve? Are they stronger? Are those of us who weep and grieve weak?

Absolutely not.

Family members grieve in different manners—each person’s grief is unique. And most every family who has lost a loved one has at least one member who refuses to do their grief work. They choose instead to bury their grief alive because they believe their sorrow is much worse than anyone else and much too difficult for them to bear. Problem is when grief is buried alive there will be a resurrection one day. Or perhaps on many days, year, after year, after year—most often during holidays.

Graves of buried grief incubate anger. Anger blossoms into bitterness. Bitterness transforms itself into rage. And that rage dresses and terrorizes, in many colors and forms—sullenness, rudeness, unexplained irritability, unreasonableness, inability to demonstrate love within the family unit, stubborn refusal to participate in and accept the joy and thankfulness of the season. These reactions can damage or ultimately bring death to living relationships with family members who are dealing with their grief.

These desperate souls have stumbled unknowingly into the quagmire of grief and will not or cannot escape the devastating consequences of their wrong choices.

They are stuck in grief.

Can we do anything to help these scalded, scarred folks?

 Love and prayer. Prayer, prayer and then more love and prayer. As long as there is breath, there is hope.

But we  can’t heal them, only God can—if they seek Him. However, we must not allow ourselves to become entangled or sucked into their web of chaos. And that’s where the line in the sand must be drawn and the remedy may result in the need to create distance or space between ourselves and the one stuck in grief.

Like any other behavior, becoming stuck in grief is habitual. And habits are hard to break. However, catering to bad behavior ensnares all involved in co-dependent relationships.

There are no time limitations on grief or healing. People have come to GriefShare after forty years of being stuck in grief. And when they do the grief work, God promised to heal them and to restore the years the locust have eaten.

As we enter the Christmas Season where does Christmas 2012 find you? Like me, pausing to remember and shed those treasured tears of grief? Or are you the one stuck in grief? Or perhaps you find yourself dreading the family gathering around the tree or table this Christmas, fearing the eruption that is sure to come.

Surviving the Holidays is a wonderful place to begin the necessary healing. Go to the GriefShare website www.GriefShare.org and click on the link to find a Surviving the Holidays event near you. Ask family members to attend with you. Work to keep lines of communication open within the family. Ask God to break down strongholds of anger that have caused family discord.

Every holiday becomes bitter-sweet a few years after loss. And it’s okay to cry,  to feel sad, and to remember.

But hold onto the truth that the day is coming when there will be no more tears, no more separation, and no more death. ‘Til then, I’ve wondered what sized bottle God used for my tears these fifteen years? My guess is a giant washtub. What size bottle will He need to hold your tears?

“Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book?” (Psalm 56:8 NKJ)

Ancient “tear bottles” were actually excavated by archaeologist in Israel. The vessels were used to catch and preserve the owner’s tears during their grief or difficult times.

If you need help dealing with your grief this Christmas Season, please feel free to respond to this blog. I have been  a GriefShare facilitator for the past nine years. There is help and hope available to you today.

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Trust each one of you had a blessed and thankful Thanksgiving and that family and loved ones filled your heart with abundant joy. Maintaining the tone of this wonderful celebration, thought I share a moment from three years ago when I became serious about writing and found things had changed since my school days. One afternoon in absolute despair I pounded off this dirge to my gypsy-lifestyle (as my mother called my art career) to embrace the title of author. Hope you enjoy my attempt at humor.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Gates family

It’s absolutely thrilling, a feast for my eyes, to see a page filled with dialogue, dressed for the dance in a plethora of punctuation.

I love punctuation! The curls, dots, and squiggles bring symmetry and texture to an otherwise boring page of  border to border black and white.

Perhaps, had I been a writer first and then an artist, life would be easier for me. Artists are rarely minimalists, you see.  We tend to have an outrageous view of all elements of life. Some may consider us extreme; but, I prefer to be identified as a butterfly—flitting here and there, from color to more color, fragrance to more fragrance, and texture to more texture!

When I contemplate the current trend in writing toward minimalism in punctuation, I must confess—I struggle! A little comma here, an exclamation point there, would break the monotony. Throw in a dash or a semi-colon and I would be in heaven.

Alas, the rules have changed from the ancient decades of my schooling; but, there springs up a word that jolts spasms of fear and dread into my artist heart—CONFORMITY. Yes, if an artist wishes to write in this market, it is imperative, I’m told, to conform to the current rules of (sigh) punctuation.

I believe my swan song will have to be a painting of punctuation of every nature and description—stamped, embossed, and engraved on canvas. A montage, with two spaces after each period. Ahhh, the joy it would bring to the depths of my soul—commas, exclamation points, dashes, question marks, italics, parenthesis, et cetera, et cetera—dancing and twirling across an oil painted canvas for all posterity to remember.

Think I’ll take orders for the signed and numbered prints. Anyone interested? Then, I will go peacefully into the marketplace of the writer, still struggling a mite; but, albeit—conforming!

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I’m on record, here and now—I despise painting baseboards, doors, and frames—especially with oil base paint. Whoever invented the open concept home is a genius. Problem is, my home is not.

After fifteen years, the time arrived that I had to paint the woodwork in my home. The wooden moldings looked okay; but, if you gave careful attention, they displayed a variety of wall-paint-splatters that speckled and chronicled the history of the family’s color palette.

I thought I’d take it slow. One room at a time, stretched over the winter and spring. I could do that.

The newly painted woodwork in the grand-girls’ room looked fabulous when I finished the task. The doors looked fresh and the window sills looked new.

I painted the frame of the bedroom door around and into the hallway and patted myself on the back for a job well done.  I cleaned the brush and would have put the paint in storage; but, a quick glance from the entry hall into the bedroom horrified me.

The blisters, bumps and bruises on the unpainted trim and doors screamed, “Look at me. I’m grimy and grungy.” One small job of remodeling a bedroom exploded into a major project that needed to be done—before our Christmas party.

I groaned at the thought of painting all the woodwork in the house—before  the middle of December. But there would be no escape. The wood trim and moldings I had grown accustomed to, now that I had eyes to see were disgustingly filthy. Alongside the freshly painted ones they cried for new party attire also.

So I pulled the ladder into the entry hall, gathered the brushes and paint to begin the arduous task of scrubbing, sanding, and steps necessary to prep the doors, frames, and baseboards for a new coat of paint.

The Spirit used that moment to convict my heart,  “You’re just like those baseboards.”

“What?” I attempted to pushed the still, small voice aside.

“You hang out with friends who are just like you. They share your beliefs, like what you like, dress like you dress, and talk like you talk. Next to them you look pretty good too. But when placed next to the only true plumb line—Jesus righteousness and His glory, how do you look? On the inside where it matters for eternity? Your life is grimy and grungy with blisters of sin, bumps of anger, and bruises that need to be healed before they fester and contract the sin of unforgiveness—just like those old baseboards.”

I put the painting aside and bowed before God. Overwhelmed by my neglect of looking to the desperate need my heart and soul required. I confessed my sin of being more concerned with external appearances rather than guarding my heart. I thanked my Father for His persistence to maintain this temple with the redeeming blood of His Perfect Lamb. Thankful for His diligence to watch over me. Thankful for the patience He extended to teach me the principles and precepts I must learn to complete the journey through this foreign land. A land where sin’s particles stick and cling like dirt and grime on baseboards.

Are there areas of your life in great need of scrubbing, sanding, and refinishing? The Father stands ready to remodel and transform your heart and soul into the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. And He will maintain that construction site ‘til Jesus comes.

“He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility” (Proverbs 15:31-33 NAS).

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It felt like I’d run a marathon—and lost. About ten o’clock election night my heart threatened to slip into the dark chasm of fear where all is lost.

And the night ended with my crying out to God for His direction, His wisdom and His understanding.

But that was election night.

Next morning I grabbed my notebook and Bible and headed out the door to Precept Bible Study.

Are you always amazed when God answers your cries to Him? I am.

God’s Words given to Ezekiel over 2,500 years ago, and Kay Arthur’s DVD recorded two years ago, answered my election night cries for help and understanding of the election outcomes.

Pundits will analyze and reanalyze, like a cow chewing cud, for countless days. But the question for believers—So what’s next?

Do we fall back into the same routine? A glance at the Word of God, an ear glued to the tube, listening to the drum beat, while America disintegrates. Or do we recognize and acknowledge the fact that our allegiance belongs to God alone?

Wednesday’s study focused on Ezekiel 25-28. Throughout the Book, God had instructed Ezekiel to tell and show the people what was going to happen in Jerusalem. He explained who would be judged—from Judah to all the nations surrounding her—and  why would they be judged.

Israel had become more abominable, more rebellious, and more profane than the nations around them. God was angry. They were to have been witnesses to the countries surrounding them of the might and power of God. Now He must judge them, “So that Israel and the nations will know that I am God.”

Nothing has changed in 2,500 years. America was founded on the principle of one nation under God. For almost two hundred years the majority clung to “In God We Trust.” But Tuesday night election returns reveal that fifty percent of our nation thumbs their nose at The Lord God Almighty and His inerrant Word, and many of that fifty percent claim to be Christians.

In the past fifty years we have spurned God’s authority. We have allowed abominations to fill this land. We have profaned and despised His Word. And God’s message to us is the same—He will judge His people “so that Israel and the nations will know that I am God.”.

So what’s the message for those whose allegiance is to God?

We must know: “The Lord is our God, the Lord is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4 NAS). The party’s over, folks. God shares His Throne with no one. The abyss that splits America is real. A wide and deep cavern that will probably expand. It took this administration less than twenty-four hours to revive the small arms treaty with the UN. I expect the momentum to accelerate in the days to come.

The people of God must continue to humble themselves. Again and again and again. Perhaps God will see fit to show us mercy. But the Word tells us that a nation divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24-25 NAS).

If God had answered the cries of His people election night, next morning we’d have said “We prayed and God answered.” The problem is with the “We”. We would have taken credit for what God did. Remember Moses and the rock? Remember 9/11? And we would have resumed business as usual, putting God on the back-burner and plugging right back into old deceptive routines.

God knows our fickle hearts and His desire is that we know that He is the Lord God—we are not—He will do whatever it takes to bring us to that knowledge. The proof? Israel’s history. And they haven’t learned yet. Tuesday seventy percent of American Jews supported the current administration. The Word tells us that the moment America turns its back on Israel, this nation will  join the list of those who are cursed by God.

We must know: There is an ongoing battle between God and Satan and we live in the middle of this battle. The first chapter of the Book of Daniel gives insight into the choice Daniel made—beforehand. “Daniel made up his mind. . .” And we must make up our minds too, before we become engaged in the battle. Because the Word of God tells us the war is going to ramp up ‘til Jesus comes. The people hated Jesus. They will hate us too.

We must know: Who the enemy is and what his tactics are.  Satan is identified as a murderer, a liar, a deceiver. John 8:44 describes him as “the father of lies”.

Polls tell us that at least fifty percent of Americans think they can disagree and rebel against the Word of the God and there will be no consequences. They are deceived. The 13th Chapter of Mark lists the time sequence of the last days of this age and gives us a heads-up on what we can expect.

God always tells His people what’s coming. We’ve been warned. If we choose to ignore the warnings, our ignorance does not negate His ability to act. All indications seem to say we are living in those days the Book of Jude warns will come.

We must know: How to guard our hearts from pride, lust and the fear of man. This is a time for humility not judgmental pride. We have all sinned and deserve to receive the penalty of sin—death. That’s why Jesus died. He took my sin, your sin, the world’s sin and paid the price God’s righteousness requires, the blood of His Perfect Lamb. His only way to redemption. The narrow way. The only way to the Father, through His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Will we fear God or man? Will we ask God to reveal any areas of pride in our life? Will we confess and forsake them?

We must know: Jesus Christ is our wisdom. His power lifts us beyond the chaos of world events. Those who believe and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, through the power of the Spirit, have already been delivered from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. We are part of Christ’s body.

Things around us are going to crumble, but we can trust God to take care of His own people. The question is: Do we trust Him? With everything? Even when the landscape around us gets ugly? Could God be stretching our spiritual muscles to build in us the strength that we will need in days to come? I believe He is. Does that mean a believer will never experience difficult, even tragic times, here on earth? No. But it does mean that Jesus is with us, each and every step of the way, just like He walked in the fire with those Hebrew lads in Babylon.

We must know: Wickedness will be judged and righteousness will prevail. Throughout the Book of Ezekiel God warned Judah “judgment is coming.” Yet their leaders, even the false priests exclaimed “peace, peace, not judgment”. God said He “would bring their ways on their heads, so that Israel and the nations would know that He is God” (Ezekiel NAS).

We can hold fast to the knowledge that one day “every knee shall bow to Me and every tongue shall give praise to God” (Romans 14:11 NAS).

Is the party over for America? I believe it is. Are tough times ahead? I believe they are. Those who listen can hear the roll of thunder on the horizon. Is God still in control? I know He is in control and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him. “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5b-7 NAS).

So what do we do next? Humble ourselves and pray. About everything. Continually diligent. I must confess during the last months I’ve spent more time caught up in the events than on my face before God.

We must be about the Father’s business. Business that the members of the body have neglected far too long—living our lives, every day, in such a way, that will paint a true and balanced picture of the righteous love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Righteous love and mercy that is available to all who choose to believe and obey Him.

We are to stand firm, ready to uphold the principles and precepts of the Word of God to all who will hear. But we can know, this battle belongs to the Lord.

And He will be the victor. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Every knee will bow before Him—some to acknowledge Him as Lord, others as they are sentenced for their rebellion.

Credit to Kay Arthur and Precept Ministries for the six bold “We must know” statements.       

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The seawall contorted and ripped apart. Twisted rebarb gaped out of caverns in the cement like arthritic fingers grasping for a place to latch onto. A boiling sea swirled around and over the piers and floor joists of The Old Copper Kettle. A sharp crack. A groan. And the building shuddered, then succumbed to the pounding waves.

I stood on an unbroken portion of the wall and watched in silent horror while memories of family dinners full of laughter and love broke apart, swallowed by an angry ocean. The old landmark restaurant swept away forever.

A breach in the seawall allowed raging waters to rush beyond the protective barrier. Rogue currents attacked everything in their path and brought ultimate destruction to The Old Kettle and to a nearby hotel as well.

We call the culprits hurricanes, but God is sovereign over all things. In the Book of Ezekiel He tells us over and over what He did because of Israel’s rebellion, so that they may know He is God and beside Him, there is no other.” Yet, like Israel, we have refused to hear and heed His warnings to us. We refer to Mother Nature’s caprice and have refused to believe these events are in fact warnings from the God of all creation, so that we will know He is God, and repent.

On that late September afternoon, standing at the edge of this turbulent scene, God chiseled a life lesson in my mind and on my heart. When the walls of His protection are torn down, the consequence for those inside is death.

God built a wall of laws to shelter His people—His principles and statutes that give life and blessing. However, He warned, when they violated His Word, they would surely die.

There are abysmal breaches in America’s walls of protection. Enemies of the cross of Jesus Christ have invaded our land with the relentless power of pounding waves. Destructive waves that suck up and swallow down this throat of eternal death, all who believe the lie and deception that disobedience to God is okay.

God said, “the shedding of innocent blood pollutes the land; and for that reason the land will spew you out” (Leviticus 18:22-30 NAS).

He also said, “when a man lies with another man the way he would lie with a woman, it is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22 NAS, Romans 1:26-27 NAS).

Will the piers and pilings of God’s principles stand firm in our land? Will the floor joists of His precepts support our nation on the solid footing of His Word, or will we accept the world’s thinking, which will propel us toward a catastrophic end?

The Lord God Jehovah will not hear our cries for rescue when His own people defy, deny, and despise the truth of His Word.

A non-vote or a vote against the Laws of God will unleash the power of a raging sea of destruction, sweeping America from its moral foundations into the abyss of lies and deceptions, just like The Old Copper Kettle washed away in the waves. God warned, “He that is not for Me, is against Me” (Matthew 12:30 NAS).

Will you vote for or against His Word?

Please join me in repairing the breaches or will you choose to lay them waste?

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