Archives

What Hand Washing Will and Will Not Do


[Jesus said] “If anyone believes in me, rivers of living water will flow out from that person’s heart, as the Scripture says.” (John 7:38 NCV)

Careful hand washing is something I’ve practiced for years. I hate getting dirt under my fingernails. I don’t like sticky or greasy hands. This well-established habit has made it easy for me to remember to wash my hands during the pandemic.

Hand washing takes care of one kind of hygiene. It helps us protect our physical health. There’s another kind of hygiene which I don’t hear much about in the news media. I call it “heart washing”. Heart washing helps us protect our spiritual health. To Jesus, heart washing took priority over hand washing.

Does this mean we should neglect our hand washing? Hardly! However, in an interesting story told by his follower Matthew, Jesus did not bother with the usual “wash your hands before you eat” rule. (See the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 15.) His hungry followers went ahead and ate without washing their hands. The religious leaders of the day attacked him for not obeying the rules.

Jesus said to them. “Don’t you know that the food you put into your mouth goes into your stomach and then out of your body? But the words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. It is not what people put into their mouths that makes them unclean. It is what comes out of their mouths that makes them unclean”.

Jesus explained this more clearly by saying, “The words that come out of your mouth come from your heart. And they are what make you unfit to worship God. Out of your heart come evil thoughts, murder, unfaithfulness in marriage, vulgar deeds, stealing, telling lies, and insulting others. These are what make you unclean”.

Jesus is not talking about our physical heart here. He’s talking about our spiritual heart. In order to worship God (be close to him) we need to change our behavior and clean up our speech. God cares not only about our physical health. He notices and cares about how we treat others. He hears what we speak and how we speak to others.

I don’t want to eat unwashed food with dirty hands and become physically sick. I don’t want to spread the virus in what comes out of my mouth, should I would unknowingly carry COVID-19. Neither do I want to spread “death” through the words I speak. How do I and how do all of us receive the heart washing we need so that we can spread healing instead of “disease” through the words we speak?

Jesus invites all of us to come to him and receive a heart cleansing. “Have faith in me [he says] and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you”. Faith in him means that we recognize there’s no way we can on our own clean up our hearts. We just plain miss things. Jesus sees us as we really are. When we come to him for help, he does not condemn us. He set us free. He gives us a new heart. A heart that looks like his. It’s full of love. When we live out of that new heart the words we speak bring healing.


Alone with Jesus
 
Alone with Jesus
Oh, what joy!
I hear him whisper words of love
 
Alone with Jesus
Oh, what peace!
I feel his presence by my side
 
Alone with Jesus
Comfort deep!
He sees my pain and deep fatigue
 
I sit in silence
In patience, wait
Do not speak a single word.
 
Alone with Jesus
I remain
‘Til, finally, my heart is healed
 
And, then, together,
He and I,
Compose new melodies of love.
 
Jane Ault
July 7, 2020

Celebrating the 5th of July


I heard a loud voice coming from heaven. It said, “See! God’s home is with men. He will live with them. They will be His people. God Himself will be with them.
He will be their God. God will take away all their tears.
There will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. (Revelation 21:3-4 NLV)

My grandparents wanted to get married on the 4th of July. They planned to meet early in the morning, take the train to International Falls (MN), and find a justice of the peace who would marry them. They slept late, missed the train, and ended up getting married on July 5.

That was the story I was told when I was a kid. Is it true? I don’t know. It’s an interesting story. What is true is that for quite a few people in the USA the usual 4th of July celebrations won’t happen. No parade. No large gathering. No fireworks show. No concert.

How am I reacting to this? I am thinking about what I will feel like on the 5th of July. Because I am still taking the coronavirus threat seriously, I’m respecting the limitations placed on me as a citizen of NYState. I want to be alive and well on July 5 and the following days of summer. I am willing to postpone a big celebration today so I can celebrate later on with even more joy. Aren’t you?

During the last years of her life on this earth, my sister endured many limitations. Her eyesight faded. Her hearing diminished. Her muscles weakened. Her steps faltered. Her speech became muffled. Her internal organs did not work properly. NOT a pretty picture! Still, as long as she was able, almost to the end of her life, she celebrated her faith in Jesus and love for me by attempting to sing with me when she heard my voice. She always wanted to hear me when her daughter said, “Your sister’s calling.” She did not become bitter. As long as she was able to, she said, “Thank you.”

My sister is not here. I cannot call her on this 4th of July. She has been reunited with her soldier sweetheart in heaven. The celebration there is far beyond my imagination. Someday, I will join her there. Knowing that a fantastic celebration is ahead of me, I can put up with quite a few limitations and restrictions here. Can’t you?

As my sister would say, and as she and I sang together, “It will be worth it all when we see Jesus.”

I wrote the following poem a few days after my sister’s funeral.


With Jesus for Eternity
 
This world is filled with pain and tears
It all will change when Christ appears
Yet those who live ‘neath Jesus reign
Are filled with joy, despite their pain
His gentle Spirit calms their fear
And they advance his kingdom here
 
How blessed are those who live this truth
And have embraced it from their youth
Though they may have no earthly fame
God hears their prayer “in Jesus’ name”
And blesses them in countless ways
For which they always give him praise
 
When their work on earth is complete
He calls them home; at last they meet
The ONE they were created for
That’s all they want. There’s nothing more
There’s nothing greater than to be
With Jesus for eternity
 
6/14/2020
Jane Ault

Processing Grief in An Antique Garden

This hay rake stands in the middle of a garden containing other antique farm equipment. Its polished surface contains no rust or dirt. For farmers in the area, it carries fond memories. For me, it stirs up a special memory of joy mixed with a tinge of sorrow.

While we were together for a week, celebrating our 70th birthday, my sister and I visited this place. Having grown up on a farm, the machinery interested us. We skipped along the path, looking at the displays, sharing memories, and bringing one another up-to-date. My brother, who was with us, put his head through one of the old cow stanchions. We all giggled and I took a picture.

Near the end of our walk, something else caught my attention. I noticed my sister was not keeping up with me. This was unusual, as she had always walked faster than me. It seemed hard for her to stand up straight. And her hand had a slight tremble. A little alarm went off in my head. What did these things mean?

I tried to push these changes out of my mind, but I felt some anxiety. Later, I found out these were signs of Parkinson’s disease. For my sister and me, this began a long journey of loss and grief. For her, it ended two weeks ago.

It has not ended for me. Last week, I shared part of this story and my poem of releasing her into the arms of Jesus. I felt the pain of separation. I cried. Her suffering was over. I felt relief and joy. I said to myself, “How well you are doing!”

That was the first week. This second week has been much harder. I’m sharing my story because, for many years, I lacked knowledge about how to grieve in a way that brings deep healing. I’m learning new things. Maybe some of you can relate to this. If so, I hope you will walk along with me in my journey of learning to process grief in a healthy way.

In my growing up years, I learned some helpful lessons about grief and some unhelpful ones. Some emotions were acceptable. Some were not. What did I do with them?

My first poem describes where I was in past journeys of grief. My second poem reflects where I am in this journey.


After the funeral the people go home
Does that mean their grieving is done?
 
For some it seems so, I don’t hear them say
Anything more than “she went away”!
 
They talk of memories that brought them gladness?
What do they do with all of their sadness?
 
They might bury their anger and bottle their tears
Does that mean those feelings disappear?
 
They go back to their jobs and act like it’s over
Don’t lose their temper, have perfect composure
 
Their friends tell them how well they are doing.
Is this really true? Who are they fooling?
 
Are they trying to be “holy”? Trying to look good?
By acting in the ways they were told they should
 
June 23, 2020
Jane Ault

Embrace grief. Do it wisely
Do it gently. Do it kindly
 
When feeling sad, put on red
Celebrate what you had
 
Cling to memories that made you glad
Let go of those that made you sad
 
This may take some time and work
Don’t cover up what occurred
 
Trust the friends you know can help you
Invite them to join you in your venue—
 
Your site of comfort and of safety
Take your time. Don’t be hasty
 
Don’t dump on them your pain or anger
Let Jesus always be your anchor
 
June 25, 2020
Jane Ault

This entry was posted on June 26, 2020. 8 Comments

Finding Comfort in the Midst of Loss


Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT)

It’s been seven weeks since I’ve written anything on this site. (This is only partly due to the fact I broke my glasses, as previously stated on May 1.) My mind and heart have been occupied with the physical deterioration of my closest kin. On June 11, my twin sister transitioned from this earth to heaven.

She had struggled with Parkinson’s disease for about 12 years. Then, more recently, cancer. I am comforted that her suffering is over. At the same time, I feel lonely and sad. My child-heart wants to believe she is just hiding, playing a game of “hide and seek” like we did when we were children. After a while, my heart will accept the truth. For now, I am not even trying to convince it. I am looking at photos I have of my sister’s smiling face.

I believe she is smiling, and her vision, which had also deteriorated, is perfect. Her weak legs are strong. No more need for a walker. No more difficulty in speaking. She’s singing with a clear and beautiful voice. No more pain. No more suffering.

When my sister was a teenager she heard the story of how Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, and yet died as a thief by crucifixion. Why did he endure such injustice? The reason, she heard, was because he loved her. He loved all humanity. His death was (and is) the admission ticket to heaven, the place of perfect love and purity. Being aware of her imperfections and lack of purity, she accepted Jesus’s gift to her. She trusted herself to him and became his joyful follower. She shared this good news with me and I, too, became his follower.

My sister did not fear death. Because Jesus rose from the grave, she knew she would too. Someday that will happen. Meanwhile, I believe her spirit is with him, as he was in her earthly life. She loved to tell others about him.

It was (and I’m sure still is) her desire for everyone to know his wonderful love. If you are not acquainted with him, you can find out what he’s like by reading the stories written about him when he was on earth. These are recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, found in the Bible.

For decades of life, my sister and I shared a common bond of faith in Jesus. It was as I wrote the lines of the following poem, that he gave me the grace to release her into His loving arms.

Sister, you are going home
Your earthly race is almost over
I can hear the angels singing
I can see one at your shoulder
 
We were together in the womb
I was the one who came out first
Now it seems, my closest kin,
Our birth order’s been reversed
 
Though my eyes are filled with tears
In my heart there is a smile
Because of Jesus’ precious promise
I will be with you after awhile.
 
Together, we will bow and worship
Together, praise our risen King
I rejoice in that knowledge
Death has truly lost its sting.
 
I will focus on the joy before you—
No more suffering, no more pain
Reunion with your precious husband—
How could I beg you to remain?
 
Go my sister with my blessing
Do not linger here too long
Know when Jesus calls your name
That your work on earth is done
 
Sister, you are going home
Your earthly race is almost over
I can hear the angels singing
I can see one at your shoulder
 
6/11/2020
Jane Ault

Broken Glasses and Better Vision

“He [Jesus] turned to the disciples and said,
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you have seen.”
Luke 10:23 NLT

A friend whom I hadn’t seen for quite a few months joined our home group Wednesday night. We met face-to-face. Online. She talked about the blessings technology, which makes it possible to meet together, and about the benefits of slowing down. She had a smile on her face and a heart full of gratitude. As she talked, I felt refreshed, encouraged, and inspired. I hungered for what she had.

The next morning I knocked my spare pair of reading glasses off my computer desk. They landed on the hardwood floor and the frame split in half. Earlier in the week, the frame of my prescription reading glasses snapped in two. What was my reaction when the second pair of glasses broke? I laughed. Yes, I laughed. In. Relief.

I finally understood that I need to slow down. My eyesight is good enough so I can write without my glasses, but it’s more difficult, takes more time, and causes eye strain. So it forces me to slow down. Maybe that’s not so bad.

Maybe by slowing down, I will become more like my friend. Instead of complaining about technology, I will express gratitude for it. Instead of grumbling about the loss of face-to-face social connection in the form I prefer, I will be thankful for the connection that’s possible. In doing so, my contentment will likely increase. Maybe by slowing down, I will hear more clearly what Jesus’ words are to me about my use of energy and time during this coronavirus pandemic.

  • Am I seeing what Jesus is seeing?
  • How do my values align with his?
  • Am I resisting change?
  • Wanting to hang on to old ways of doing things?

In observance of social distancing, I could put on my face mask, visit the optical center, and try to find a glasses frame that fits my intact prescription lenses. Would that be a necessary trip? Something that requires immediate attention?

I decided against it. In a month I have an appointment with my eye doctor, who can check out my vision and find out if it has changed. Why would I spend the extra money and time to find and purchase a glasses frame that I might use for only a month. No. I will put up with a bit of discomfort, focus less on reading and writing, and more on listening, moving, and thinking.


Yesterday’s beliefs
 
Like my old pair of eyeglasses,
With out-of-date frames and untrue magnifications,
They limit and distort my vision.
 
When I “look” through them my focus is blurred,
My judgment is nearsighted,
And conclusions are clearly false.
 
Even so, I keep that old directive—
Just in case my new “lenses” prove defective.
I can’t too quickly accommodate change.
 
Jane Ault
4/30/2020

Hope in this Time of Distress



    He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 25:8 NIV)

“Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve listened enough to reports about the coronavirus!”
“Okay. I’ll turn the TV off,” my husband said.
He did, and we spent some time praying and singing. Energized and encouraged, I began to work on my projects for the day.

In my protective mask and stay-at-home secure position, it would be possible for me to forget about the world beyond my doorstep. My heart will not let me do that. So I listen to news reports but not too many of them. I don’t want to be overwhelmed with grief.

My heart wants to connect with others. It cries when I see their pain and struggles. I want to share comfort and hope. (Sometimes, I’m the one who needs comfort and hope.) How do I balance staying informed with retaining sanity and peace-of-mind, so that I can make a positive difference in the midst of this social isolation?

The only way I can do it is to listen more attentively to Jesus. The burden that he asks us to accept is easy; the load he gives us to carry is light. (Matthew 11:30 NCV) He also told us that on earth we would have many trials and sorrows. (John 16:33 NLT) Wait a minute! Doesn’t that sound like a contradiction? How can our burden be easy and our load light when we’re experiencing many trials and sorrows?

For me, the answer is that Jesus carries most of the load. He sees our pain and suffering but is not overwhelmed by it. He empathizes with us because when he lived on earth he experienced deep pain. (Isaiah 53:3 NLT)

  • He gives us no promises of success, no guarantees of ease, no freedom from pain and loss in this world.
  • He does promise he will not leave us and that by staying connected to him we will not only survive but also rise above the difficulties, pain, and losses.

How do we know we can count on his presence? How do we know he will give us the strength to rise above our suffering? How do we know his promises are true? He rose from the grave. In doing so, he overcame the power of evil and the power of death. We celebrated his resurrection less than two weeks ago.

His Spirit is with us now and someday Jesus will return, lift us from the distress of this world, lift us from the grave, and give us bodies like his, free of pain and dysfunction.

This gives me strength for today and great hope for tomorrow.


Oh what comfort! Oh what hope!
No longer will I have to cope
With a virus that can kill;
Nothing, there, will make me ill.
 
Oh what peace! Oh what rest!
No more conflicts with the flesh;
No more failure; no defeat.
God’s work in me will be complete.
 
Oh what mercy!  Oh what grace!
No more injury will take place;
No more guilt; no more shame;
Face to face, I will remain.
 
Oh what joy! Oh what bliss!
I can’t comprehend all this.
Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior,
For you, I’ll work; for you I’ll labor
 
A few more hours, a few more days,
A few more weeks  to bring you praise.
A few more years upon this earth,
Let me show your matchless worth.
 
Jane Ault
4/22/20

This entry was posted on April 24, 2020. 8 Comments

Who has ultimate immunity?


For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that
we could be made right with God through Christ.
(2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT)

Every night as the broadcast ends, ABC nightly news picks a hero for the day. Earlier this week, their hero for the day was a physician working in the ICU to save the lives of coronavirus patients. This man displayed an attitude of humility and took compassionate actions beyond the call of duty.

He noticed that one of the cleaning women wearing only a mask and no other protective gear was about to enter the room. He said to her, “Let me do it. Then, dressed in his protective gear, he took her mop and mopped down the floor. His final comment to the news reporter was, “All of us are in this together.”

This took great courage because, despite his protective clothing, the doctor had no assurance of ultimate immunity. Many of his fellow doctors and nurses have contacted the virus and some have died.

To me, this doctor illustrated the character of Jesus. He, who participated in the creation of the world, descended into a human body. While in that body, he became a servant to those he created. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, put his arm around the rejects of society, and confronted the arrogant and self-righteous religious leaders. In an ultimate act of compassion, he died on behalf of all of us.

Why did he die? Because all of us have been infected by the virus called “Sin.” That virus kills everyone. It causes us to hate God, self, and others, rather than love God, self, and others. it’s responsible for the spiritual disease we’ve all inherited.

Jesus, alone, had complete immunity to the sin virus. He, alone, displayed the character of God in everything: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control. He, alone, walked humbly, acted justly, and showed mercy in ways that portrayed Father-God. He, alone, fulfilled the call we all have to live in love.

How did he gain immunity? What protected him from the sin virus? He did nothing out of arrogance and self-centered ambition but always listened to the Spirit of God and followed his directions.

So, if Jesus never contracted the sin virus, what killed him? He received the sin virus we all were infected with and died on our behalf so that he might transfer to us the complete immunity he achieved. What amazing love!

And now, Jesus says to us, “We are in this together.” He’s given us his Spirit to aid us so that we can effectively resist the sin virus.

Questions for reflection:
1. What makes you vulnerable to the sin virus?
2. What actions do you need to take in order to resist it and live in the immunity Jesus achieved for you?

This entry was posted on April 17, 2020. 4 Comments

Joining in Jesus’ Prayer


Jesus said,  “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep“.
(John 10:14-15 NLT)

As I listen to the many reports of the coronavirus pandemic, my heart grieves. I believe Jesus, also, sees, and he calls us to pray with him. Let us be faithful in intercession. It is an act of love.

The following song flowed from my heart as I spent time with Jesus this week.


Jesus took three friends to the Garden with him
He wanted them to support him in prayer
What did they do?
They closed their eyes
Closed their eyes and fell asleep
Closed their eyes and fell asleep
Closed their eyes and fell asleep
 
Jesus took three friends to the Garden with him.
He wanted them to support him in prayer.
What did they do?
They left him alone.
Left him alone to pray and weep
Left him alone to pray and weep
Left him alone to pray and weep
 
Jesus knelt alone in a separate place
He wept so hard his sweat was blood
Why did he weep?
Because of love
Love for his Father and love for his sheep
Love for his Father and love for his sheep
Love for his Father and love for his sheep
 
Jesus looks, today, for some friends who will pray
They feel the pain of the struggling sheep
What will they do?
They will stay awake.
Stay awake to pray and weep
Stay awake to pray and weep
Stay awake to pray and weep
 
Jesus looks, today, for some friends who will pray
They feel the pain of the struggling sheep
Why will they weep?
Because of love
Love for their Father and love for his sheep
Love for their Father and love for his sheep
Love for their Father and love for his sheep
 
4/7/20
Jane Ault

Is Faith a feeling, a thought, or an action?


I have placed my rainbow in the clouds.
It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. (Genesis 9:13 NLT)

[Jesus said] “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. (John 14: 1-3 NIV)

John and I have a covenant with one another. It’s a promise we made to each other and have kept for over fifty-four years. I felt so excited when he slipped a ring on my finger and said, “I love you!”

We waited for about six months to enjoy the pleasure of living together and being united in with our bodies, as well as our spirits.

In that time between our engagement and marriage, we lived over 150 miles from one another. We saw each other every two weeks. We had no mobile phones, no email communication, and no computers. We wrote letters and mailed them at the post office. They arrived a day or two later. We called each other once or twice a week, using the dial-up phone system. Thankfully, we were not on the old-fashioned party line, which was shared by family and neighbors!

What did we do in the moments, the days, the nights, and the weekends when we did not see one another’s face or touch one another’s hand? Even though we felt lonely, we felt joyful.

Our faith in one another’s promised words gave us the confidence to think through what we needed to do in order to prepare for our upcoming wedding. We made plans and acted on them.

In the same way, what we think and what we do in response to God’s covenant, his promise to love and not forsake us, is evidence of our faith. How nice it would be in these difficult days if we could just depend on our feelings! As it is in easier times, feelings may or may not be evidence of faith.


I never liked logic
I thought it was toxic
 
A hindrance to faith
That was a mistake
 
God is a thinker
God is a planner
 
His love and compassion
Include knowledge and wisdom
 
What looks like spontaneity
Is surprising just to me
 
God knows the end from the beginning
Yet allows for human choosing
 
This is beyond my comprehension
Yet it provides me with a lesson
 
Faith excludes the use of magic
To retain, in me, God’s holy image
 
I must think and I must plan
When I fall down, go back again
 
Learn by listening to God’s voice
How to make a better choice
 
This, I think, is faith in action
It’s not a feeling or abstraction
 
When I embrace this kind of faith
God rewards me by the action he takes.
  
3/28/2020
Jane Ault

This entry was posted on April 3, 2020. 8 Comments

An Isolation Melody


 “I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5 NET)

One of their favorite games, when my children were small, was hide-and-seek. They loved to hide in places where they thought I could not find them. One such place was behind the living room drapery. When I saw the wiggling bulge in the drapery, I knew exactly where they were. I often pretended not to see it and looked elsewhere for a while.

My youngest daughter could not wait. She jumped out from behind the drapery and shouted, “Here I am, Mama!” Like my daughter, I sometimes, think Jesus can’t see me. I feel isolated and afraid.

How thankful I am for the songs his Spirit stirs in my heart, reminding me of his presence and his promises.

  An Isolation Melody

 Jesus, your word is my assurance
 I will trust you when I cannot see
 Where you are and what you’re doing—
 I feel like I’m in isolation
 It is very frightening to me
  
 I want to see your face
 I want to see your face
 I want to see your face 
 And feel your embrace
  
 Jesus, your word is my assurance
 I will trust you when I cannot see
 Where you are and what you’re doing—
 I feel the wind; a storm is brewing
 It is very frightening to me
  
 I want to see your face
 I want to see your face
 I want to see your face 
 And feel your embrace
  
 Jesus, your word is my assurance
 I will trust you for I know you can see
 Where I am and what I’m doing—
 I am not in isolation
 You are in this space with me
  
 If in this time and in this place,
 I do not see your face
 Or feel your embrace
 I’ll compose a song of praise
  
 Jesus, your word is my assurance
 I will trust you when I cannot see
 Where you are and what you’re doing—
 One day you will appear and say
 It’s time to leave; child, come with me
  
 Forever, I will see your face
 Forever, I will see your face
 Forever, I will see your face
 Forever, feel your embrace
  
 Jane Ault
 3/27/ 2020 

This entry was posted on March 27, 2020. 6 Comments