Follower of Jesus- Shining Star in Dark Times

Corrie Ten Boom has been one of my more modern heroes of the faith. I’ve read her book “The Hiding Place” and watched the movie several times. Her courage as a middle aged woman to hide Jews in her home during the occupation of Nazi Germany and her survival of Ravensbrück concentration camp have long struck a chord within me. I’m not sure why. As I’ve watched the news unfold the past few weeks I’ve thought often of how she must have felt as the Germans began to occupy Holland and she was confronted with the reality of going with the flow of society or doing what is right in the eyes of God. I’ve spent this evening relaxing and looking at quotes from Corrie. There have been so many that have shaped me through the years. In my searching, I found one that has resonated greatly in my heart tonight. It is from a letter Corrie wrote in 1974. I was 3 years old when this was written, yet it holds so very true today. “The world is deathly ill. It is dying. The Great Physician has already signed the death certificate. Yet there is still a great work for Christians to do. They are to be streams of living water, channels of mercy to those who are still in the world. It is possible for them to do this because they are overcomers. Christians are ambassadors for Christ. They are representatives from Heaven to this dying world. And because of our presence here, things will change.”

Corrie Ten Boom and The Hiding Place in her home that saved Jews during World War 2

I too have been horrified at the murder of George Floyd, and I am greatly disturbed by the chaos that seems to spin more and more out of control, add all this to a global Pandemic. We are in the middle of “the Perfect Storm”. I have often referred to 9/11 as being one of the saddest times in my life as my heart ached for my nation. But I am sensing that the times we are in are starting to compare if not surpass that horrific event. The division, lawlessness, hatred, etc. It is heart breaking. It is as Corrie wrote 46 years ago, a world that is “deathly ill.” and “dying”. I’ve often told those around me things similar, but probably not with the urgency I feel for it today, and as Corrie wrote, the followers of Jesus are the ones with the cure for this death sentence because we are the “representatives from Heaven.” We have the antidote!! We have the cure!! The question that plays in my mind is “How do we administer this cure that our dying world desperately needs?” Really it is, “What am I to do?”

I live in the country. The other night, after a trip to the closest city and it’s Menards, we arrived in my circle drive and I stepped out of my car into the darkness that our few lights around our house provides. I looked up at the sky and breathed in the fresh air and was amazed by the stars. I can never get enough of them. They are so bright and they feel so close in the darkness that surrounds my rural home. I immediately thought of a couple of verses in Philippians that I had read recently “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky” Philippians 2:14-15. My generation is “warped and crooked”. No right or wrong, good is bad, bad is good. Our hearts are far from God and this is a dark time. But those of us who know Jesus, are the children of God and we shine like the stars in the sky. When the darkness is great, His light shining through us is greater. When we shine the light of God’s hope, we are just as the stars I gazed upon that night, fascinatingly beautiful to a world that needs peace and answers. It also occurred to me as I gazed at the millions of stars on that clear night, It’s not just one star that makes me pause and breathe in a moment of peace. It is a sky full of them, doing what stars do best, shining. My dark world needs my star shining kindness to the cashier, shining generosity to my waitress, shining compassion to the lonely and hurting, shining assurance and peace to those around me rocked with uncertainty, shining love- God’s pure love to those pillaged and left to die in hatred’s wake. That is the light that when boldly joined by all the other Followers of Jesus, stars shining, breaks the power of darkness that cannot overcome God’s pure light even when the night seems to be as dark as our world has been lately.

Memorial Day- Forever Changed in My Life

Originally written 5/23/2014. It’s been almost nine years now. Matt is Never Forgotten

When I was a kid, I was a “June Bug” in the Girl Scouts. I remember on a Memorial Day we put flags on the grave stones of the veterans. I had no idea what the fuss was all about, all the flags everywhere, and a day off that, for me, marked the beginning of summer. Really the holiday, throughout the years, sadly, hasn’t meant that much to me. Not until almost 3 years ago when I got the call that my nephew Matt, who was serving in the Navy as a linguistic interpreter, had been lost at sea. There was a search for him for a few days and then all hope for his return to us was lost and we were left with just our memories of a boy who turned into a man and followed hard his passion to serve our country.

Miss you Matt. You’ll always have a special place in my heart.

I didn’t get to see Matt a whole lot throughout the years. He lived in another state. On an average, I saw him once or twice a year, but that kid was always the sweetest to me. He always greeted me with a hug and excitement to see me, and when our time together passed, he would always give me a warm hug and say, “I love you, Aunt Janet.”

I have many fond memories of him. He was the cutest ring bearer in our wedding. One time during a winter storm, my brother brought him and his sister to our duplex and sledded in front of my house, just because in the the south, where he lived, there wasn’t enough snow to sled like we always got to do as kids. We went camping together in family camp outs, and there was Christmas time eating goodies and playing games with Great Grandpa.

Matt at my wedding. Such a cutie.

    The last time I saw Matt was at the celebration of my parents 50th anniversary.  He was excited about his first time out to sea, in the Navy.  When we had to leave to go home, he made a point to get to me and give me a big hug, and as always he said, ” I love you , Aunt Janet.”  

     It was surreal going to his military funeral.  It was the first military funeral I had ever attended.  We arrived and the Freedom Riders were there, because of a threat of the possibility of Westboro Baptist showing up.  When the family walked in they representatives of the Navy saluted us, and then the 21 gun salute and the sounding of taps all that in the memory of a someone I think the most of as a kid with a big smile, blue eyes, and a warm hug. 

Matt’s Gravestone

This will mark the second Memorial Day since we have lost Matt. The meaning of the day has changed a lot for me. Now one of the white memorial stones represents someone I love, and the day of remembering has went from an excuse to barbeque to another day, like his birthday and the day he died, that sticks out as a reminder that he is gone. Now the statement, “Freedom is not Free” means a lot to me, and when I see a young man or woman in their uniform I appreciate the sacrifice they are making in putting their life on the line for my freedom.

“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” was the verse that was emphasized at his funeral. It is so true. Matt loved his family. He loved his friends. He loved his country, and most important, he loved his God. Knowing this gives me hope that He is waiting for me to finish my race here on earth, and when I finally make it home to heaven, he will be waiting there with that same big hug and greeting, and once again I will hear him say, “I love you , Aunt Janet.” In the meantime, know I will never forget you Matt. You are in my heart forever, and I love you too.

The Unchanging God in Uncertain Times

I’m not a fan of change big or small. I’m the kind of person that would happily leave my furniture in the same arrangement for 12 years. I’m a big fan of stability and consistency, and for the past couple of years, especially the recent week, my life has been anything but that. My plans, my schedule, my daily routine: all up in smoke… I’ve been left sitting here this morning talking to God about it all.

I would probably say the biggest upheaval in my life, until the past 2 weeks, had been 9/11. It all occurred at a time when I had three kids ages 1, 3, and 6. The uncertainty of war, terrorist attacks, the presence of evil in my world, etc. Left a young mother of three afraid, but trying to hold it together and not let it show. I knew I had a job at hand, raising my kids, and I would need to carry on no matter what was my adversity that had arisen.

The upheaval since the corona virus has rivaled, if not surpassed that. Except now I am a mother of three young adults and a sixteen year old. We are all old enough to hear the news, talk to our peers, and observe our world. It’s easy to see and feel the uncertainty of this hour. Three of those kids are at home riding out the initial storm for the next 3 weeks or more. It’s an adjustment. We’ve probably not seen this kind of together time since the head lice outbreak when they were young. Ha ha. So this leads me back to my current situation of uncertainty, instability, and change. Pressure…

Last night as I scrolled through Facebook, I noticed a post of a young mother about the age I was when 9/11 happened. She said, “I was surprisingly doing a really great job of holding it together. Now, however, I am panicking. What are we to do?” It brought me back to that Tuesday night almost 19 years ago. How I felt the weight of taking care of my family, protecting my kids, and trying to survive. If I am truthful, I feel the same weight again today. I spent a lot of time crying and praying back then, it would probably do me some good to spend time doing the same now.

When everything is good, and I am enjoying the wealth and prosperity of the country I love, It’s easy to get up and show up. When everything is uncertain, not so much. That’s where God comes in. It is good to remember that He is the God who sees me. He sees me where I am, and no storm whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual can cloud His ability to see me, His child. He has not “left the building” so to speak. He is very present. He is very near.

My social life may be limited, my schedule turned upside down, my future uncertain, and my current living situation totally rearranged: God, however, has never changed. He has never left me. He has not abandoned His plans for me. These plans include a “future and a hope”. So I can trust all this to Him, and get to the business at hand: Finding His joy in my new set of circumstances, and shining His light in the clouds of uncertainty.

Which is why I wrote this Blog today. It’s probably very natural to feel fear in the face of the turbulence we are in. But our God is supernatural. He is above the storm. I want to let you know I’ve found peace in our current troubles. It is in knowing an Unchanging God, who sent Jesus to give us life beyond the temporary life here. The Holy Spirit in us provides the friendship that no quarantine can challenge. It is this God that gives the certainty of His love in uncertain times, and I am sure that 19 years from now, just as it is almost 19 years ago when 9/11 happened. We will look back at these times and be able to speak of His faithfulness to the younger generations that did not walk through the Covid-19 pandemic just as I can speak of God’s faithfulness during the uncertainty of the days after 9/11. Because God’s friendship is truly closer than a brother, and He will see us through it all. Trust in Him.

Never Forget- A Time Such as This (repost from 9/11/2013)

Never Forget… 12 years ago I turned on the TV to see what the Allergy Counts for the day would be and realized The Most Horrible Event of my lifetime had happened. I can remember going about my day stunned by how things were unfolding and wondering what kind of world I was raising my children in (ages 6,3, and 1) with such evil and heartache unimaginable. That night Rich and I stood on our back deck talking about such things. I remember finding comfort in the words of Esther 4:14 ” And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” My kids and my family were placed here in this time in history for “such a time as this”. Those words ring true today. I have to admit that it has been very difficult for me to read the news lately. The condition I see our nation in and the decisions being made in the leadership of it are at times frightening, but my hope is not in who is president and in congress or in what events may be happening around me. My hope is in God. When 9/11 happened for a short time there was a heightened spiritual awareness that occurred and people were turning to God in prayer more than ever. Our leaders held public prayer asking God for help. My prayer today as I reflect on 9/11 is that God would once again have mercy on our Nation and bring revival to His Church so that the Light of His Hope would spread into a world in such darkness and without hope… Never Forget what happened and Never Forget Who we turned to that day.