My eyes scanned the Scripture card that is set neatly into a miniature lighthouse figurine located on a ledge under the medicine cabinet in my bathroom between a small bottle of Tide and a generic version of VapoRub.
I read the card again.
“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NIV).
A relative was expected to receive a diagnosis that day. The kind of news that can change everything.
I nodded, knowing Jesus was indeed with us, no matter what.
The diagnosis didn’t turn out to be great news, but it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.
That was months ago. I haven’t flipped the Scripture card since. Instead, I’ve chosen to keep Matthew 28:20 prominent so I can see it every morning as I’m getting ready.
I believe Jesus. He is with his church. He is with me.
A year ago, I experienced several losses. I can’t write about them yet, but the time is coming.
Last week, my family lost another relative.
I’m reminded of what John Eldredge says in his book All Things New. He says life is one long series of goodbyes. I can’t remember all the examples he cited, but the sentiment is self-explanatory. Everything is temporary — except Christ.
Yesterday morning, I was reading from 3-Minute Devotions with Charles Spurgeon. He made this comment: “Fellowship with Christ is so honorable a thing that is worthwhile to suffer, that we may thereby enjoy it [the fellowship].”
There’s the reminder again. Jesus is present. And fellowship with him is so honorable that it is worthwhile to suffer. It’s not that we can’t fellowship with Jesus without suffering but suffering takes us deeper — transforms us somehow.
Over the last year, I’ve been contemplating loss and suffering, especially in light of my relationship with Christ. I have no expectation that he’ll rescue me from heartache or hardship. In fact, if he rescued me, I might very well miss a closeness to him that can only come from being sustained while in the fire.
Spurgeon says it better: “I should never have know the Savior’s love half as much if I had not been in the storms of affliction.”
I don’t know what sort of storms you are enduring right now, but if you are a Christian, take heart. Jesus is with you. If you are not a Christian but would like to know how to become one, send me an email. I’d love to talk to you.
He ran the fan duster along every nook and cranny of the treadmill, then reattached the emergency pull cord clip to its rightful place in front of the machine. Once he was satisfied, he moved on to the next machine and started all over again.
After cleaning five machines, he caught up with someone else who was cleaning, so he skipped that machine and continued with his routine. You could look down the row of treadmills and see a line of red clips attached to the front of the machines he’d cleaned. Then you’d see a machine without the clip, followed by several more with the clip.
He’s part of a handful of adults with various physical challenges who are dropped off at the gym I belong to every morning. They come in at 9:00 a.m., smiling ear to ear, and chat with the staff behind the desk for a couple of minutes. Then they get to work.
One of the men never stops smiling. I’m not exaggerating. He smiles when he’s working. He smiles when he’s talking to people. And he smiles when he’s alone.
I love the energy they bring to a place where everyone else is trudging through workout routines, lost in their music and trying to avoid eye contact.
The morning I’m writing this, my family received a call, letting us know that my aunt, who lives 700 miles away, had passed away overnight. As I got to the gym, my mind was reminiscing about the last trip we took to see her in 2016. I was also thinking about everyone I’d need to contact to let them know about her passing. And I was concerned about my mom losing her last remaining sibling.
Then the bus pulled up and these magical people spilled out. Their happiness was good medicine. By the time I’d finished my 40 minutes on the treadmill, I was thankful on several levels—thankful for the gym who hired them, thankful for the power of a smile and thankful for the life that continues, even when you’ve lost someone you love.
I had a non-milestone birthday a couple of weeks ago. I tend to not be reflective on birthdays unless the number ends in five or zero. But my dentist’s office didn’t get the memo.
They sent me one of those form emails that said, in part: “Birthdays are special occasions. As children, we look forward to a birthday with anticipation and excitement. As adults, a birthday often is a time for reflection and renewal. We would like you to know that we are thinking of you on your special day. We hope that the coming year will be filled with health, happiness and success for you and your family.”
Part of me thinks my dentist is trying a little too hard. But I get it. Business is relational these days. I guess it’s always been, but it feels more so now, doesn’t it? And I think I like it that way, even if I'm skeptical sometimes.
My doctor and I sometimes talk minor league baseball during my visits. Back when I covered minor league baseball, I’d bump into her and her husband at the ballpark every once in a while. They have partial season tickets. So it makes sense for us to talk about baseball, in addition to my various ailments, during my appointments.
The woman who cuts my hair has been doing so for thirty years or so, and she’s become a friend. But we didn’t start that way. As we got to know one another, a friendship formed — mostly centered around Husker football and our common faith.
I used to talk to the pharmacist (I had to change pharmacies for insurance purposes) about my sports writing and the road trip he and his wife used to take periodically to see her family in Canada. He knew my name and always greeted me warmly when I walked in — a rarity in this day and age.
I bumped into a waiter named Brandon the other day in a restaurant that I’m not accustomed to seeing him in. He changed jobs recently but we picked up where we left off. Last I’d heard, his grandmother was in the hospital and was about to pass away. I promised to pray for her at the time. To my surprise, Brandon said she’d made a full recovery. He seemed surprised that I remembered her, which I thought was kind of sad.
Yes, businesses that send cheesy emails on our birthdays can feel a bit forced. And the overattentive store clerk, real estate agent or waitress makes me roll my eyes internally sometimes. But it shouldn’t because sometimes, I make genuine connections with people, even though it starts as a friendly business transaction.
How about you? Have you made any such connections that have made an impression on you? Maybe one that has turned into a genuine friendship? I’d love to hear your story.
“My mother used to say, a long time ago, whenever there would be any catastrophe that was in the movies or on the air, she would say, ‘Always look for the helpers.’” —Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers)
In a short video clip in which Rogers utters these words, he implores the media to make sure to include the helpers — medical teams, rescue teams, etc. — as a part of any story like the ones we’ve been seeing coming out El Paso and Dayton this past week.
“Because if you’ll look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope,” Rogers says in the video.
Evil tears our guts out, making everything seem random and senseless — at least momentarily. But evil never gets the final say.
In El Paso, helpers arrived in droves. First responders arrived within six minutes. Glendon Oakley, a soldier in the Army, rounded up children and got them out of harm’s way after he realized what was happening. At least one hundred people stood in line to donate blood. Texas Baptist Men worked alongside the Salvation Army to collect donations and feed first responders. Local restaurants offered free meals to first responders and blood donors. On and on it goes.
Look for the helpers.
In Dayton, police killed the gunman within a minute of the first shots being fired. Kayla Miller, a critical care nurse, stopped running when she saw a row of bodies (some alive, some not) and began performing CPR (sadly, all four or five victims died). Robert Woodruff, a citizen of Dayton, thought he was going to die until a police officer stood over him and fired shots at the gunman. A bouncer at a nearby bar reportedly stopped the gunman from entering the bar and ended up with a shrapnel-related injury.
Look for the helpers.
Yes, mourn with those who mourn. In fact, please do so. They need our support right now. But find hope in the heroes who showed up and in many cases, risked their own lives.
This world can be a dark place, but when you think and read about all of the people who choose to light a match to shed a little light, it can also be inspiring.
“I like old bookstores, the smell of coffee brewing, rainy day naps, farmhouse porches, and sunsets. I like the sweet, simple things that remind me that life doesn’t have to be complicated to be beautiful.” —Brooke Hampton
I saw this quote in a meme on social media this week and nodded in agreement. My list of simple things is a little different than hers.
I like the anticipation of dropping a bobber into a smooth pond, the gurgle of my Keurig, snow, fire pits, the second the lights go down at a concert, thunderstorms, opening a new notebook to the first page, getting so lost in a song that you don’t care if anybody notices, the purr of my cat as she rests in my lap, and my nephew’s laugh.
You know what would be fun? The next time you get together with a group of friends, hand everybody an index card and ask them to jot down the simple things that remind them that life is beautiful. You might have to read Brooke’s quote to give them an idea about what you’re talking about, but they’ll catch on quickly.
Once everybody is done with his or her list, gather all of the index cards, then shuffle them. You could have a designated reader or take turns. After a list is read, have your friends (or family) jot down who they believe each list belongs to. Then total the right answers at the end to see who got the most right.
Regardless of who wins, I think it would lead to some fascinating conversation afterward, don’t you?
Give it a try.