Monday, June 22, 2020

How Many Ways Can You Say Lonely?

How Many Ways Can You Say Lonely?

     Most of us think of Jesus as the Son of God and our personal Savior.  Some might assume that God’s Son and Savior of the World would live a life of luxury.  Royalty to the max.  But His life was the antithesis of that.  We are told, “He was in the world, the world was there through him, and yet the world didn’t even notice. He came to his own people, but they didn’t want him.” (John 1:10-11, MSG) 

     How sad is that?  He created everything yet no one paid any heed to him.  He came to help His people but they didn’t want him.  What a solitary and lonely life He had.

     He spent three years training his disciples and helped them over and over again.  But on the last night of His life those disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray with Him.  Shortly after the soldiers came to arrest him, the disciples fled and left Him alone to face certain death.  All of them.  All alone.

     How lonely Jesus must have been.  But that agony was just beginning.  By far the greatest separation for all eternity happened just a few hours later.  When Jesus was crucified he became the sacrificial lamb that bore all of our sins on his body.  And because His Father could not look on sin when His Son hung on that cross God had to do two things: 1) create a horrendous storm which blackened the earth; and 2) turn His eyes away.

     Never before throughout all eternity, nor in his 33 years as Jesus, had Jesus and the Father lost contact.  They were always one until the darkness exploded and the light of God vanished for three hours.  Then we hear Jesus’ greatest loneliness, “And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).  (Mark 15:34, NIV).

     I’ve often thought that backslidden Christians should ponder their own separation from God as critically dangerous and God-hurting when they read Jesus’ loud voice here.  It should cause them to fall on their knees in repentance begging the Father to: “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.  Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.  Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. (Psalms 51:9-12, NIV)
     Loneliness is not only found in Jesus’ life it is being felt throughout the Globe right now.

     How many ways can you say lonely?  Here are a few...

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 (9/11)

“He said I'll call you hon when I get there
Ten minutes later he was in the air
She dropped the kids at school and headed home
Walked in and turned the front room TV on
She could tell that there was something wrong
Every channel had the same thing on
Now seven years have come and gone away
But she's still hurtin' like its yesterday
'Cause she wants to put her arms around his neck
And look in his eyes so blue
And say honey I don't regret
A single day I spent with you
She wants to tell him that she loves him so
And will until the day she dies
It ain't that she can't let him go
She just wants to say goodbye”

(Arrangement from To Say Goodbye)

Married 63 Years

He sits beside her in the nursing home
Through her silver hair he runs a comb
He hangs their wedding picture on the wall
She don't remember who he is at all
He tells her stories bout the life they've lived
From their first kiss to their last grand-kids
For seven months now she just sits and stares
But if she wakes up he'll be right there
'Cause he wants to put his arms around her neck
And look in her eyes so blue
And say honey I won't forget
A single day I spent with you
He wants to tell her that he loves her so
And will until the day he dies
It ain't that he can't let her go
He just wants to say goodbye
No it ain't that we can't let 'em go
We just want to say goodbye

(Arrangement from To Say Goodbye) 

Dying Gospel Singer

“I Know Where I Am Now
Many's the time he had stood by the curtain,
Waiting his turn to walk out on the stage;
Thunderous applause once welcomed the entrance,
Of this old performer now crippled with age.
He leaned on them heavy as slowly they led him,
Through the back entrance and up to the round;
Then by some magic his bent body straightened,
I can make it from here now, I know where I am.
Don't worry 'bout me I know where I am now,
Thanks for the hand but now I can stand I'll walk on alone;
The voices and faces I know them all well now,
I can hear, I can see don't worry 'bout me, I'm finally home.
In life's traveling road show I've been a performer,
When burdens were heavy, when days were too long;
When there was a part for an old gospel singer,
When folks needed hope I'd sing them my song.
One of these days someone will lead me,
Through Heaven's stage door and into the wing;
There'll be a place in that final performance,
I know my part and I'm ready to sing.
Don't worry 'bout me I know where I am now,
Thanks for the hand but now I can stand I'll walk on alone;
The faces of loved ones, the voice of my Father,
I can hear, I can see don't worry 'bout me, I'm finally home.
I can hear, I can see, don't worry 'bout me, I'm finally home.”

4th Anniversary

     Mark left work when the clock clicked 12:00 noon.  He’d bought a bouquet of flowers as an anniversary gift to his wife and headed up the highway to hug her before returning to work by 1:00.  I was two cars behind Mark and was enjoying the sunny Spring day.

     Up ahead something didn’t look right. “Oh No,” I said, as a loaded log truck coming toward us was suddenly twisting in the lane.  The driver had looked to the side and didn’t see the car in front of him stopping to make a left turn.  The logger slammed on his brakes praying he could get his load stopped.  But then it happened.  The trailer loaded with massive firs couldn’t stop and instead jack-knifed around completely blocking our lane.  Worst of all, Mark’s car met that trailer head-on plowing hard into the logs.

     I turned on my flashers and quickly ran up to help Mark.  When I opened the passenger door and reached to pull him out it was too late.  He died in my arms crushed to death with his chest squeezed to waffle thickness.

     Later when his wife was given her bouquet I heard the most heart-wrenching grief I’d ever known.  She was now all alone with only memories to linger in her lonely years afterward.

Dad Left Him Alone

     Shockingly and unexpectedly his Dad walked out on the family.  No one knew when or if his dad would return.  It left a cavernous spot in his heart.  Now he was alone with his mom and two sisters.  He had never felt so completely lonely.  One day he couldn’t take it anymore so he searched for a solution.  He found it by climbing the tree in his front yard and nesting against some branches and watching for his dad’s car to turn into the driveway.  But that car never arrived.

Kim and Anne
This true paragraph was sent by Kim and how she said Goodbye to her mom, Anne.
"Anyway, we had some sadness come to our family. My husband had a mild stroke, and 4 days later, my dear mother passed away. He is doing OK, but dealing with the loss of my mom has been hard. It was so sudden. She wasn't sick hardly ever, and wasn't on any medications. She was 88 yrs.old. She had a bad stomach ache the night before. I told her to drink some ginger tea and it helped a little, so I told her if it got too bad to call an ambulance. This was about 1:30 in the morning. Around 10 am, I got a call from the ER saying she was there. I spoke to her on the phone and she said she still had some pain. Well, they found a small bowel obstruction. I've had that and it's not fun, but I always fixed it naturally. Needless to say, as the day and evening progressed, and doing lots of blood work, her white blood cell count went up and her blood pressure was dropping.  The doctors didn't know why. They put her in ICU and I got there as fast as I could. They were trying to revive her as I got there and did, but I was told she may only have one hour. I was shocked. So, I immediately prayed as I was stroking her hair. She was unresponsive to me but I knew she could hear me. I started singing all her favorite hymns. I could see her eye twitch as I was doing so. Then, the nurse said, she just passed. Well, that was that. My mom is exactly where she wanted to be. Her faith in Jesus was immense."

The current Pandemic 

     COVID-19 has exalted loneliness to a life-threatening condition.  “Loneliness has hit epidemic proportions,” said Doug Nemecek, chief medical officer at Cigna.  “More troubling: A growing body of research suggesting that being lonely for a sustained period of time could be bad for people's physical and mental well-being.”

     That same study from Cigna placed associated health risks on par with smoking and obesity.

     Only time will tell whether loneliness will cause far greater mortality risks than even the COVID-19 virus itself.  When loved ones can’t accompany or visit their infected loved ones in their struggles or dying efforts in the hospital ~ loneliness has hit its worst.

The Apostle Paul

     The Apostle Paul’s ministry was unmistakably the greatest of any of the disciples of Jesus.  But had it not been for a most warm and caring friend Paul might not have been the dynamo he became.

     Paul was first mentioned at the stoning assassination of Stephen in Acts 7:58.  At that time his name was Saul of Tarsus and he was renowned for spearheading assaults on Jews who converted to Christianity.  His ferocity focused in Jerusalem at first and spread even to the foreign city of Damascus.
     On a trip to Damascus recorded in Acts chapter 9 Saul’s life was miraculously changed.  As he approached Damascus he was blinded by a heavenly light and spoken to by the Lord.

     Ananias, a gifted disciple in town, was told by the Lord to go and touch Saul restoring his eyesight and baptizing him into Christ.

     But Ananias was afraid of Saul as he had imprisoned many Jews who were new converts to Christianity and even assented to the martyrdom of Stephen.  But the Lord told Ananias to do as he was told as He had crucial plans for Saul.  Ananias, with knees knocking and shivers down his spine obeyed the Lord and restored Saul’s sight and baptized him.

     Saul was no longer the fierce Jewish foe of the new Jewish Christians who were burgeoning like the measles.  Now the Lord had unique plans for him.  From that moment on Saul did a 180 degree turn.   “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 9:22, NASB)

     Saul was so electric that the Damascus Jewish leaders schemed to kill him.  Being forewarned Saul was able to escape and flee to Jerusalem.  At the holy city he immediately sought the apostles and disciples.  But they were terrified of him and, though they had heard about his conversion in Damascus, they doubted it was legitimate and instead sensed it was a deceitful trap allowing him to capture them.

     It was at that moment that Heaven intervened and sent exactly the perfect person for this unbelievable rejection.  That one-of-a-kind person was Barnabas.  “Barnabas” wasn't his birth name (Joseph was), it was his nickname meaning “Son of Encouragement” and may have been given to him by the early Jerusalem church leaders for his generosity with money but maybe even more so for his non-stop shot-in-the-arm motivation.  The meaning of “Barnabas” in the Greek is very close to the meaning of the “Comforter” that Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be.

     “Then Barnabas took him under his wing.  He introduced him to the apostles and stood up for him, told them how Saul had seen and spoken to the Master on the Damascus Road and how in Damascus itself he had laid his life on the line with his bold preaching in Jesus’ name.” (Acts 9:27, MSG)

     After Barnabas did his magic, Saul began“moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord.  And he was talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews; but they were attempting to put him to death.” (Acts 9:28b-29, NASB)

     So, Saul was in danger again and the brethren rushed him to the seaport of Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus.”  (Acts 9:30, NASB)  Tarsus was Saul’s hometown and was in modern-day Turkey...far from Jerusalem.  Though a life-saving and necessary trip for Saul, it led to another problem.  Saul was all alone.  And he would one day be named Paul and testify to kings, rulers, Gentiles and more.  So being in Tarsus could be thought of as being stuck in Tarsus.  The main Gospel action was elsewhere. The Holy Spirit needed the awesome exhorter ~ Barnabas to do one more critically important task.  He needed to fetch Saul and accompany him back to the holy land and then they became a ministry team to God’s glory.

     Are there any Barnabas people today?  Wouldn’t you appreciate it if a Son of Encouragement came to your house or emailed or phoned you today?  Amazingly the Lord has a team full of Barnabas Encouragers.  Romans 12 introduces 7 functions or gifts that the Holy Spirit has implanted in differing believers in each congregation.  And "the encourager", like Barnabas, is one of those 7 gifts.  “If you have the grace-gift of encouragement, then use it often to encourage others.” (Romans 12:8, TPT)

Barnabas People ~ ~ Please Come To Work Today

     I propose that during these horridly-frightening days where millions are nervous wrecks and anarchy reigns worldwide that churches everywhere assist those with the Barnabas gift to actively begin reaching out to their members who are so lonely, grieving and feeling hopeless.  And if you’re a Barnabas there is no time to back off or delay starting. Each and every soul on this planet is loved by our Heavenly Father. So the Holy Spirit urges action right now:  “Wake up from your sleep, Climb out of your coffins; Christ will show you the light! So watch your step.  Use your head.  Make the most of every chance you get.  These are desperate times!” (Ephesians 5:15-16, MSG)

“Praise the Lord, my soul; 
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases, 
who redeems your life from the pit and crowns 
you with love and compassion, 
who satisfies your desires with good things 
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
(Psalms 103:1-5, NIV)

Suicide Derailed

     Mary’s phone rang and Carole sounded so depressed. “I just can’t take it anymore. I hurt too much.”  Then silence... continued silence.  Mary called me and said her best friend and nursing partner was threatening suicide.  I drove as quickly as possible.  We met at Carole’s driveway.  Her condo was dark.  It was then we realized the car was in the garage with the engine running.

     We forced the garage door up and called 911.  When the EMTs arrived they said we’d gotten her out soon enough that she didn’t need to be hospitalized.  The three of us went inside her Condo.  The Holy Spirit provided heart-nourishing stories and Scripture verses which slowly lifted her up out of the murky blackness.  We spent a few hours talking about the Lord’s interventions in the lives of other wounded hearts.  Then she agreed to meet with the charismatic local Barnabas minister ~ Dave Adams.

     Dave’s faithfulness and diligence was exactly what the doctor ordered.  Carole became a Christian and her faith slowly but steadily increased.

     If you are suicidal or have someone close to you that has ideations God doesn’t want you to take your life.  Reach out.  Find a Barnabas.  Read the Gospel of John.  John was the disciple whom Jesus dearly loved.  “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31, NASB)

Charles and Leah

     I cried when I heard about Charles and Leah.  They were in their seventies and had been inseparable all of their 50+ married years.  You almost never heard just one of their names.  They had been a true couplet.

     Neither of them was in very good health, but they stayed glued together through thick and thin.  But still they were not expecting what was just around the bend.  Charles began to struggle with mental issues that led to some unwise choices and behaviors.  Leah’s health struggles began to require some assistance in her daily living.  It wasn’t long before they sold their home and moved into an assisted living home.

     That worked for a while but Charles began to decline farther and sooner than expected.  Finally his needs were greater than the Assisted Living Home could provide.  This led to a huge dilemma which forced a miserable choice. Separation.  The caregiver management told Leah that Charles needed to be moved to a care center better equipped to handle his unpredictable behavior and mental confusion.  It was the hardest decision Leah ever had to make.

     In just a few days they moved Charles across the street to the better-equipped care center.  So the couplet was now split in two. Had it not been for cell phones they never would have been able to see and talk. Neither one’s health allowed for personal visiting.  To top it off the COVID-19 hit in full fury and the doors on each of their separate homes were permanently locked.

     A lifetime of over a half-century of wedded companionship now had an impediment that seems to be so permanent and final.  Oh so very, very sad. But then the rest of the story made my eyes gush with tears and tugged at my heart strings.

     Charles and Leah speak to each other every day... several times on their smartphone cameras.  But Charles was slipping cognitively and told his dear wife, “Leah please send one of our kids to see me.”  Leah said, “Why honey.”  Charles, “So I can give them something so you can have a baby.”  Leah knowing that her baby-making days were long gone, said, “Why Charles?” “Why do you want me to have a baby?”  Leah will never forget her husband’s heart-wrenching response.  “Because you’re so lonely.  I want you to have our baby so you won’t be so sad and alone anymore.”

“a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,” (Ecclesiastes 3:4, NIV)

One Solitary Life

Jesus Jesus Jesus sweetest name I know
He was born in an obscure village
The son of a simple peasant woman
He grew up in another small town
And worked with his father in a carpenter shop until He was thirty
And then for three years he was what we might call a traveling preacher
He never wrote a book He never held political office
The places He did go He usually walked
He never did any of the things that one normally associates with greatness
He had no credentials but himself
When He was only thirty-three years old
The tide of public opinion turned against Him
Some of His friends deserted Him one denied Him
One even betrayed Him and turned Him over to His enemies
He went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While He was dying His executioners gambled 
for His only possession
His robe His purple robe
When He was dead he was taken from the cross
And laid in a borrowed grave
Provided for the compassion of friends
Almost twenty wide centuries have since come and gone
And today this man is the centerpiece of the human race
The leader in the column of mankind problems
I think I am well with in the mark
That all the armies that ever marched
All the navies that ever sailed the seven seas
All the legislative bodies that ever met
All the kings and rulers that have ever reigned
And all put together 
have not affected the life of man here on this earth
As much as that one solitary life
Jesus Jesus Jesus Sweetest name I know
Sweetest name I know I know

..............Bill Anderson

What a Beautiful Name
Hillsong Worship

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Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Cure

The Cure

     I would have loved to have seen it.  There was more gold on display than I have seen in my life time.  It took 20 years of hard labor to build and it was beyond stunning!  As it sat there resplendent in its beauty a large crowd gathered for this Temple’s dedication to God.  King Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived, had been its designer.  It was the fulfillment of His deceased father David’s dream. 

     And what a splendid fulfillment it was.  The people were celebrating. The trumpets were playing. Happy Jewish dances were taking place in the street.  But when King Solomon in his impeccably beautiful purple, royal robes, stepped to the podium of the elaborate bronze platform, the celebratory crowd grew quiet.  Especially so as they saw the King drop to his knees, stretch out his hands toward heaven, and begin his nearly 1000 word prayer to the Almighty. (I hope you will read it - 2 Chronicles 6.)

     Following Solomon’s magnificent prayer I love what happened next:

“Fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple.  Priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it.  When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘He is good; and his love endures forever.’”  2 Chronicles 7:1-3
     But what happens next brings us to 2020. It brings us to Covid-19 and the ensuing video of a white police officer kneeling on a black man’s throat as the man pleads to breathe and the policeman ignores his whisper and the man dies! It’s a horrible scene, sparking outrage across the country, then onward to much of the world. I too watched it happen and it sickened me.  Following came the response: riots, lootings, deaths of innocent people, and destruction of property.  Not only do we need healing from Covid-19, we need healing in the hearts of Americans of all racial backgrounds.

     Clearly, the Covid-19 is a plague. I believe the resulting riots, mob control, lootings and death are plagues also. It’s a plague upon our nation and its people!

     What are we to do 30 centuries after Solomon and the Israelites dedicated the temple?  If we check a little further in 2 Chronicles 7 we find God’s answer.  It’s just as valid today as it was 30 centuries ago.  Here’s what God says in 2 Chronicles 7:13—14

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
     There we have it!  This is The Cure.  God calls ALL of His people, no matter their skin color, All of his people, all of us we are followers of Jesus Christ, to humble ourselves, turn from our sins and seek His healing for our land.  The song I learned in Sunday School years ago comes to mind and I believe it with all my heart: “Red, Brown, Yellow, Black and White, we are precious in His sight.”

     Begone Covid!  Begone Riots and Racial Divide!  There’s a mighty movement of God’s people and we are repenting, seeking and praying. God is the keeper of His promises.  Healing is at hand!

Myron Wells*
If My People
Jimmy Owens

*Pastor Myron Wells has ministered for nearly 60 years.  He has been my mentor and friend through thick and thin.  I love you Myron.  ~ Larry Smith