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
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

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

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
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.
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

God’s Faithfulness for Seven-plus Decades

“Five sparrows are sold for only two pennies, and God does not forget any of them.  
But God even knows how many hairs you have on your head.

Don’t be afraid. You are worth much more than many sparrows.”
(Luke 12: 6-7 NCV)

In this time of distress, when the coronavirus is spreading uncontrollably over the earth, I admit I’ve been struggling with fear. I’ve not wanted to get out of bed in the morning, read more disturbing news reports and hear more predictions of disaster. This morning I felt encouraged.

As I was waking up, I remembered the words to a worship song. I started humming it. Other songs kept surfacing from my subconscious brain. Songs I learned decades, ago. “Yes!” I said. I have over seventy years of songs stored in my memory. With each of these songs, there’s a story. A story of God’s faithfulness to me in difficult times. Can I not trust him in the uncertainty of today?

What will I do? Will I close my computer and stop communicating? No! I will not. As long as I have breath, I will keep talking about God’s goodness. I will share the insights from Scripture, songs, and poems that he gives me. I will share the stories and songs other followers of Jesus have written.

My grandmother loved Jesus. She was not a rich person, according to the standards of this world. Yet, she gave me something of tremendous value. A love of music and an example of faithfulness.

She played the piano and whistled like a bird. She taught me that even if I am no more significant than a sparrow God sees me and watches over me.

The following hymn is one I sang as a college student. In the succeeding years, I’ve experienced joy, sadness, success, failure, pain, loneliness, healing, and distress . . . all of this and more. In everything, God has remained with me. His ways are flawless. His love is indescribable. In this time of uncertainty, I am still praying “Teach me your ways.”

Teach me Thy way, O Lord, teach me Thy way!
Thy guiding grace afford, teach me Thy way!
Help me to walk aright, more by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light, teach me Thy way!

When I am sad at heart, teach me Thy way!
When earthly joys depart, teach me Thy way!
In hours of loneliness, in times of dire distress,
In failure or success, teach me Thy way!

When doubts and fears arise, teach me Thy way!
When storms o’erspread the skies, teach me Thy way!
Shine through the cloud and rain, through sorrow, toil, and pain;
Make Thou my pathway plain, teach me Thy way!

Long as my life shall last, teach me Thy way!
Where’er my lot be cast, teach me Thy way!
Until the race is run, until the journey’s done,
Until the crown is won, teach me Thy way! 

The Moment Called “Today.”

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life?
For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
James 4:14 ESV

In the last few weeks, uncertainty about the coronavirus has caused me to consider the brevity of life. I’ve not been panicking but thinking a bit more seriously about what choices I am making to stay healthy and embrace life. How do I, as a senior citizen, respond to this threat? How does my faith in God affect this scenario?

Do I travel or not? What kind of precautions do I need to take? What does wisdom look like in this situation? What does it mean, in this situation, to live as Jesus said, loving God, loving myself, and loving others?

How do I live in the moment called “today”?

 Yesterday has vanished
 Tomorrow’s not appeared
 The only thing I’m sure about
 Is the moment I call “today".
 It’s early in the morning
 The sun has not yet risen
 As I slowly waken
 I give thanks to God in heaven
 For the fact that I can breathe
 My mind is still alert
 I can stretch my arms and legs
 All my joints still work
 I think about my family
 I think about my friends
 I pray that God will bless them
 With health and success
 I think about my neighbors
 My nation and the world
 I pray that leaders everywhere
 Will seek wisdom from above
 The wisdom that is peaceable
 The wisdom that is just
 It is God’s will, I believe,
 That hostility would cease
 As I wash my eyes and face
 I give thanks for warm water
 And think about the project
 I’m making for my daughter
 How blessed I feel as I recall
 Memories of past years
 I pray my daughter will find joy
 By what she sees and hears
 I know I have a tendency 
 To do things in a hurry
 That’s when I get caught up
 In frustration and worry
 So I will take my time, today,
 Not give in to my desire
 To speedily compose a “song”
 In fear that I’ll expire!
 Age is not determined just
 By chronological years
 It’s related to the relationship
 We have with our Creator
 We are more than chemicals
 Influenced by genetics
 There is a spirit part of us
 Which can’t be detected or measured
 By CAT scans or standardized tests
 It’s invisible but strongly affects
 The way we think, the way we act,
 The way we feel, whether we heal
 Or whether we cave in
 To the opponents of life
 Whether they’re viruses
 Or vices; we all make choices
 To love or to fear,
 To embrace or retreat,
 To save others or just ourselves;
 By these choices we live or we die.
 Yesterday has vanished
 Tomorrow’s not appeared
 What choices will I make 
 In the moment that is HERE?
 Jane Ault

How faith in God gives us power to embrace self-respect and extend forgiveness

Joseph’s statement of faith: “ God turned into good what you meant for evil.”
Genesis 50:20 TLB

At New Hope Community Church where I worship, we’ve been looking at the Old Testament story of Joseph. Although treated with immense injustices in his teenager and early adult life, he did not become a victim of his circumstances. Instead, he made these amazing choices.

  • When his envious brothers sold him into slavery, he did not despair but recognized God was with him.
  • Instead of cowering before a rich and powerful sexual predator, he fled.
  • When falsely accused and thrown in prison, he did not linger in self-pity but held onto his confidence that God was for him.
  • Instead of embracing a victim identity, he focused on God’s accepting love and chose self-respect.
  • Instead of building resentment toward the prison guards who were over him, he used his administrative skills for their benefit.
  • Instead of reacting with a vengeful spirit, he forgave his brothers and at the same time confronted them with their wickedness in a way that caused them to repent.

How sad it is, today, when women, men, or children are told that the proper thing to do is put up with abuse, deny its effects and move on. Instead of giving victims of abuse the support and power they need to flee, churches often tell them they must stay. No woman, man, or child can do this and thrive in their faith. If we are Christians in this culture, we must have the kind of faith, attitude, and action that Joseph displayed and Jesus practiced.

Unfortunately, I have sometimes ignored messages and actions from others that are hurtful. In my poem, today, I talk about a more mature choice. I’m so thankful for supportive friends and a husband who values and supports me. Most of all, I am thankful to Jesus. It’s through my relationship with him that I find healing, wisdom, strength, courage, and love. Through him, I’ve discovered my true identity and I embrace it with joy.

 When I’m stuck in a rut of anger, suspicion, and resentment,
 How do I get back to self-control, trust, and contentment?
 I have a little talk with myself
 I ask Our Father for help
 I call some friends and ask them to pray
 I take positive action, without delay
 In this way, I show respect for myself
 And enjoy mental and emotional health
 I may be a victim but I have a choice
 I can accept my lot or make use of my voice
 I can call for support and refuse to remain
 A captive to any human’s chain
 I can prove who I am by doing good
 I don’t need to be hostile and start a feud
 Our Father in heaven sees the unjust
 He fights for victims of prejudice.
 Jane Ault

This entry was posted on February 28, 2020. 4 Comments