A Life Well-Lived

Up until last week, I thought of Covid-19 more as a nuisance, an inconvenience, just something to be endured. I complained about wearing a mask, and about restrictions that have been imposed by the government, restrictions that seem to change dependent upon where we might live in the province or the world. I heard the distressing statistics about rising numbers of Covid-19 and the numbers of people world-wide who are sick from it. They were mere numbers to me. I was saddened by the loss of life, but again it really did not affect me personally.

Until last week.

Until we lost a friend to Covid.

We had known Dan and Melanie for ten years when they lived here in Cochrane. Dan was a seminary professor and an active member in our church. He had a passion for the Gospel and was a church planter and missionary. He and Melanie led many Bible Studies, and we enjoyed gathering with them in and out of church. My husband worked with Dan on the last Pastor-Search committee. We celebrated birthdays together; had games nights with them, and rejoiced over grandchildren being born into both our families. We prayed often together, especially last year when I was battling cancer. They were numbered among the many prayer warriors I had in my corner. When Dan retired from the seminary in January, we sent them off to the States with a happy farewell knowing they were looking forward to spending time with their children and grand-children after years of being away from them because of their ministry here in Canada. I kept up with them online as they settled in Tulsa, Oklahoma and liked to hear updates from them.

Dan commented on Facebook on June 28th: “Reviewed the research on Covid-19 last night. There is a growing consensus among virologists that, unlike many viruses, the early symptoms of Covid-19 for many people are so mild they rationalize them away. It doesn’t change the fact that they are contagious. They are contagious before they know they are sick! They are breathing out micro-droplets that have the virus in them. The other conclusion was that a few people “shed” virus in their breath, etc. in far larger quantities than others. These “super spreaders” are very dangerous when they aren’t showing symptoms. You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they are in the early stages of infection or not, so it is prudent to take precautions any time you come in contact with others, whether they look healthy or not. Yet, the reality is that almost no one can entirely isolate themselves. the two guidelines of health departments make sense in light of the research: wear a mask, N95 rated if you can, and stay a “safe” distance from others. Having said that, when Mel and I have gone out in the past two weeks, almost no one we encounter is wearing a mask. It is no wonder that the infection rates are climbing rapidly in many parts of the US. This is my appeal to all my facebook friends; wear a mask out of kindness to others in case you are in the early stages of infection and don’t know it, and out of prudence lest you run into a “super-spreader” who is not taking any precautions.”

My husband and I, although not fans of masks, made a point of wearing them “out of kindness to others”. Oftentimes, we were met with piercing looks by those who, for their own reasons, refused to wear a mask in public. We didn’t judge, we just chose to mask up and keep our distance from those not wearing masks.

On August 1, Dan and Melanie welcomed their eighth grandchild, Ender into the world. We had welcomed Everett into our family on July 17th, and on July 18th our daughter, Carmen got married. Dan had been Carmen’s professor of World Religions when she attended seminary, so they once again sent congratulations.

On the prayer chain, in mid-October, we received word that we should pray earnestly for Dan. On October 9th, Dan tested positive for Covid, developed pneumonia, and was put on a ventilator. Dan had always been so healthy, so robust, so we felt confident he would be okay. But on November 4th, Melanie and the family had to make the heart-wrenching decision to remove him from life-support and he passed peacefully from this world and into his eternal reward. He died a few weeks shy of his seventieth birthday.

For a few days, we were just numb.

My husband has especially taken the passing of his friend very hard. Dan and Charles both have educational backgrounds in physics. Charles enjoyed speaking with him on all topics. Dan, an American, and Charles, a Canadian, often talked politics, sports, cars, and even as we had been praying for Dan while he battled Covid, we were praying about the U.S. election and how that political battleground would affect our lives here in Canada and in the States.

That’s the thing. Life goes on.

Over these days of heaviness and grief, I have thought a lot about this fragile life that God has given to each of us. Our days are numbered by God and who am I to challenge Him in determining why He would heal me last year of cancer, but not heal Dan of Covid? We are both statistics in the government’s eyes…me a survivor and Dan one of over 200,000 in the States who have died due to Covid. I will never look at the Covid numbers again with the same distracted indifference I did a week ago. Every time I put on my mask, I will not complain, but will think of Dan.

This morning, it is cold, but sunny here in Southern Alberta. Dan and Melanie often talked about their home in San Diego, where they lived before moving to Canada. My husband and I loved visiting San Diego, mostly because of the moderate weather there. I can’t help but think of them and San Diego this morning as the blustery, bitter winds here in the foothills are playing a factor in dropping the temperatures to – 15 degrees Celsius. I shiver and begin my quiet time praying for Melanie, their adult children, and eight precious grandchildren. We may be distant in miles, but close in heart. I long to be able to hug on Melanie, but we will watch the memorial service online this week, and celebrate Dan’s life. We take comfort that Dan is in the presence of our Saviour. He spent his life pointing others to Jesus and his life of faithfulness to that mission is now being rewarded.

That’s the thing. Eternal life goes on forever!

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I’m a Holy Ghost Writer

Books have the ability to change lives, change history, change the world. It is no wonder that when we Christian writers put pen to paper, or in this day and age, PDF’s to ebooks, we must be constantly aware that we will be held accountable one day for what we write.

I had a debate with someone after I published my first book, “Shoot the Wounded”, that I shouldn’t “limit” myself to writing about God. I know he was being well-meaning at the time because he knew how difficult it was then, and still is, to market and promote my contemporary Christian young adult novels in a predominantly secular market. He said, “You’re a great writer. You could write in any genre and it would be amazing!”

Well, my friend makes a good point. The Christian marketplace for books is relatively small when compared to the secular market that focuses on the occult, explicit sexual content, and profane language. Certainly I could spout out the same vulgarities and write content that would make my friends blush. I might even make money at it… but would it be right?

My writer’s life has been for the most part a solitary one. It’s basically me parked in front of a computer screen, tapping out a plotline that is only imagined in my mind and then brought to “life” on paper. It’s a weird process really. It’s even weirder when I consider all the other bizarre imagery and thoughts also rattling around in my head at the same time that I could just as easily regurgitate to life and then instantly regret. Silly, stupid, and basically messed up things that really should NEVER be put to paper. Fire yes,… paper… no!

James 3:1 says that “not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” I dare say that a writer in many ways is a teacher, especially those of us who are called by God to write. Our words may teach, empower, embolden, condemn, accuse, uplift, benefit and reprimand. Look at history. Mein Kampf caused an entire nation to embrace the ideology of a madman. The book, 1984 by George Orwell coined the phrase “Big Brother is watching you.” – a phrase that takes on new meaning today in this world of interconnectedness on the internet. The word “Twilight” will no longer be just a time in the day to sit and watch the sun go down, but now will be forever associated with vampires and werewolves. Even a simple journal, found after a young girl’s death, has become a symbol of racial persecution, something the young Anne Frank likely never would have imagined as she wrote her private thoughts into her diary.

Now I would be incredibly egotistical to think that my little books will someday “change the world”… Whoa! Still, whenever one person picks up and reads one of my books, whatever I have written will likely elicit a response… good, bad or indifferent in that person. No doubt when I look at my reviews later I will be able to determine what the ultimate response has been…

The thing is, I write to a “higher calling”. I am not writing to glorify myself but to glorify God. Writing what the world might like may get me noticed and possibly sell more books, but as a Christian writer that should not be my focus. My pen (computer keyboard) is in God’s service. So I hope you will allow me the artistic license this one time to change the wording in James slightly to keep me ever mindful as a writer Whose I am:

“Not many of you should presume to be (writers),… because you know that we who (write) will be judged more strictly.”

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25 Encouraging Bible Verses for Times of Uncertainty

This has been a year unprecedented in my lifetime. I have never experienced a global pandemic, and the continuing crisis permeates every aspect of life right now. One cannot escape the news updates daily. More lives lost, more people infected, more lockdowns, businesses closed, job losses, long line-ups, social distancing, and the wearing of masks is our reality now. I’ve never known a time where we are mandated to remain at home, not group together, not have physical contact with people other than those in our “cohort” groups. People are angry, fearful, depressed, and uncertain about what the future holds. You may be asking: will what we are experiencing now be permanent? Will Covid-19 be cured? Will life get back to “normal”? This is indeed a time of great uncertainty, and if you are prone to anxiety, as I am, you may be wondering where God is in all of this. Take heart! God is Sovereign. Read these scriptures to help you navigate through these and other uncertain times.

1 Chronicles 29: 10-13 “David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.”

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”

1 Peter 5: 6-10 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—
in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

1 Corinthians 14:33 “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.”

Philippians 1:3-11 “I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Romans 8: 38-39 “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

2 Timothy 1:7-10 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.  So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.  He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,  but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

James 1:1-6 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Romans 8: 26-28 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Colossians 3:1-2 “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Philippians 3:13-14 “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Romans 8:5-6 “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.”

1 John 4:13-18 “This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Psalms 91:14-15 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Matthew 6:25-36 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Matthew 28: 18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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