They Pour into the Streets Wearing Black

When I started my devotions, I thought, “I wish it were after Pentecost Sunday. We would be reading Acts, not Isaiah.” Then I picked up a newsletter Mom dropped off yesterday and read this:

“Bible scholars have said that even if we didn’t have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we would still have the Gospel in Isaiah, written five centuries before Christ: ‘He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. …He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and by His stripes we are healed. …The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. …For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken.’ (Isaiah 53:3-8).” Gordon Robertson, “Frontlines” – April 2018

* * * * * * * *

Tonight is Bill’s visitation. I expect a line of people around 2 blocks waiting to get in. Isaiah 15 showed me God understands grief. He knows what we are feeling.

Isaiah 15:3-5, 8, “They pour into the streets wearing black. …everyone in tears, everyone in grief. (4) …sobs, shaking in grief. …trembles…” (5) …they weep…they cry their loss. (8) …Gut-wrenching sobs…heart-rending sobs…” The Message

After reading my chapters, I decided to bake the cookies for the funeral dinner. I measured the sugar and noticed it was lumpy. I sifted it to break up the lumps and saw bugs in the sugar!

I checked the canister – no bugs. They had to have come from the double sifter. I put the sifter in a pan with water and boiled it for 15 minutes.

I tossed that sugar and started over. You don’t have to sift flour for chocolate chip cookies. I decided to make them. But the chocolate chips were frozen! I put them in a bowl of warm water to thaw.

I washed dishes while I waited for all the ingredients to come to room temperature. Starting over with fresh sugar, I mixed up the cookies. Some of the chocolate chips had melted! They will be chocolate chip, streaked cookies.

I got out my new, cookie dough scoop to drop the cookies on the cookie sheet. 3 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release.

I washed the cookie scoop, dried it and slathered it with butter. 3 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release.

I washed it again, dried it and poured a tablespoon of oil in it. I rolled the oil around to coat all the surfaces of the scoop and dumped the extra.

6 scoops later, the dough wouldn’t release! I just kept scooping and flicked my wrist to release the dough. (Can you get carpal tunnel from making cookies?)

I put the first sheet in the preheated oven and said, “I hope you’re watching, Bill, because this is freaking hilarious! I love you, man.” (See Hebrews 12:1.)

The first batch was darker than I wanted. I set the timer back 3 minutes. When I checked the second sheet, it was doughy. I added 2 minutes to the timer. The third sheet was fine.

I was putting in the fourth sheet when I heard someone at the door. I hit “stop” instead of “start” on the timer accidentally. The numbers were moving so I answered the door.

When I got back, there were 3 minutes on the timer. I started washing the baking dishes. The next time I checked, there were 6 minutes, 37 seconds on the timer. It took me about 30 seconds to realize my timer must have a “stopwatch” feature because it was gaining time!

I rescued the cookies. As I put in the last batch, I thought, “Bill, I am finished baking the cookies. The show’s over.”

I swear I heard him laughing.

Then I started laughing – the deep, belly laugh that works like medicine. Yes, there will be tears at Bill’s visitation tonight, but there will be more laughter. Deep, belly, laugh-until-you-cry laughter. Healing laughter. (See Proverbs 17:22.)

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God Has a Plan

When my dad died, my friend, Jill gave me the best advice. “Plan on missing him for the rest of your life – because you will.” I planned on grieving and I’m not surprised when I suddenly miss Dad. Grief is a tunnel.

“The comfort we have from Christ’s revealed truth is not that it teaches us freedom from sorrow but that it teaches us freedom through sorrow….I am merely traveling through a tunnel….someday it will be all right.” George Matheson, “Streams in the Desert” May 8

Even when the worst happens, God still has a plan.

2 Kings 19:25, “Did it ever occur to you that I’m behind all this? Long, long ago I drew up the plans, and now I’ve gone into action….” The Message

* * * * * * *

“The prophet Isaiah had declared that Assyria was (unwittingly) serving God’s purposes in punishing Israel. When that punishment was complete, however, Isaiah had a new message: a message of judgment for Assyria and of possible hope for the remnant of Israel and to Judah….” Chronological Study Bible Notes

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Discover Cool Springs

Yesterday, before reading my Bible, I turned on a worship station. The first song was, “Oceans” by Hillsong United.

Grief is like an ocean. It’s vast and overwhelming at times. It comes in waves. Some waves knock you over. Some take your breath away. But, eventually, each wave recedes. If we keep looking up, we won’t drown.

God reminded me of my life’s work, (playing for worship services), yesterday. I smiled when I looked at today’s assigned chapters. Psalms 84 is my “life chapter.”

When I was fourteen, I asked God to show me what was in my future. I opened my Bible to Psalms 84. My first job was the janitor at my church. After I married, I worked in the church office for a few decades. That chapter has been an accurate guide.

But in the middle are the verses about passing through the Valley of Baca.

“Baca…the ‘valley of weeping’…the last stage of the pilgrimage from northern Palestine to Jerusalem.” biblegateway.com

* * * * * * *

“Traversing joyfully the road to the great assembly, the happy pilgrims found refreshment even in the dreariest part of the road….God gives to his people the supplies they need while traversing the roads which he points out for them.” biblestudytools.com

* * * * * * *

Psalms 84:5-6, “And how blessed all those in whom you live, whose lives become roads you travel; (6) they wind through lonesome valleys, come upon brooks, discover cool springs and pools brimming with rain!” The Message

Today “Spirit Fall” by Chris Tomlin was the first song I heard. Grief has left me listless and tired. I just want to sleep. But after reading those chapters, I was ready to practice for Wednesday night’s service. God’s Spirit lit the fire again.

“…Like a mighty wind; light the fire again; come and breathe your breath on me….” “Spirit Fall” by Chris Tomlin

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My Father, My Father!

My “permalink” is showing the date. When that happens, Google search engines ignore the post because it is “dated” or “old news.” The option to change that is missing!

I sent an email to WordPress.com support but it may take a day or two before I get an answer. Discouraged, I considered giving up. Then I read these:

“…Christians like Samuel inspire us to pursue every opportunity the Lord gives us to advance His Word.” Voice of the Martyrs Magazine

* * * * * * *

“…Right now I feel a little lost. But He will fulfill His purpose for me….I’m going through this little thing with depression right now. But He will fulfill His purpose for me. I’m kind of confused. But He will fulfill His purpose for me….I’m in a position where I don’t seem to get much validation. But He will fulfill His purpose for me…..I got a promise!”

1-Minute Motivation – Steven Furtick – April 17, 2018

I’m not depressed, I’m grieving. My dad died on April 17th. Facebook kept showing me memories from that year.

  • April 13th – “Dad is spending the day with me tomorrow. I baked him a pie. The man loves his pie.”
  • April 14th – “Laura came to eat lunch with Dad and me. She told him he couldn’t have pie unless he ate the “healthy” sandwich Mom sent. He didn’t like the “healthy” biscuit Mom used. I gave him 2 pieces of pie and we hid the rest from Laura!”
  • April 15th – “Dad collapsed.”
  • April 16th – “Dad is in Iowa City.”
  • April 17th – “Daddy’s gone.”

2 Kings 2:11, 12, “And so it happened. They were walking along and talking….(12) Elisha…shouted, ‘My father, my father!…’ ” The Message

My father taught me many things but 2 came to mind today: 1) Respect men of God, and 2) Respect life.

Respect Men of God

2 Kings 2:24, “Elisha turned, took one look at them, and cursed them in the name of God. Two bears charged out of the underbrush and knocked them about, ripping them limb from limb – forty-two children in all.” The Message

* * * * * * *

“…Frequently, the age at which young men became warriors in ancient society was younger than in modern Western armies. The ‘boys’ of 2 Kings 2:23, like the ‘young men’ of Genesis 4:23, could have been armed and dangerous.” Chronological Study Bible Notes

Elisha was not taunted by school children but by a gang of armed young adults. Their lack of respect for a man of God cost them their lives.

Respect Life

2 Kings 3:27, “Then he took his son, his firstborn who would succeed him as king, and sacrificed him on the city wall. That set off furious anger against Israel. Israel pulled back and returned home.” The Message

* * * * * * *

“…the absolute condemnation of human sacrifice in the divine law of Judah and Israel (Exodus 34:20; Deuteronomy 18:10). Child sacrifice was so appalling and detestable that they fled what was to them a place of absolute apostasy.” Chronological Study Bible Notes

The best way to honor my father is to follow his example…

“2 Chronicles 26:4, ‘He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father…had done.’ (New International Version)…Your example will have more impact than all your exhortations….so set the right example.”  The Word for You Today, 4-17-18

…and to remember – God will fulfill His purpose for me.

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Deserted

Grief has many faces. Sometimes a grieving person stuffs their grief, but it comes out anyway in depression.

The five stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. No one goes through the stages exactly the same way. Some start with anger, others with depression. But we all experience each stage until we reach the final one – acceptance.

Jesus grieved just like we do. John the Baptist was his second cousin because Elizabeth was Mary’s cousin, see Luke 1:36. When Jesus heard John was dead, he looked for a deserted place to grieve.

Matthew 14:13, “When Jesus heard this, He departed from there by boat for a deserted place. . .” Modern English Version

Jesus promised to be there when we grieve. He promised to not leave us fatherless or comfortless, see John 14:18. The best thing we can do is find a deserted place. Jesus will meet us there.

Dear Father God,

Thank You for holding us extra close while we grieve. Life goes on and we still have responsibilities, but we are only able to keep going through Your strength. Thank You for Your comfort.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Cardinals

Sunday, January 1, 2017

I tore off the December picture and threw the rest of the 2016 calendar away. I started to fold the picture for my scrapbook when I remembered I posted a photo of it on frugalfish.org. Why was it hard? Why did I want to keep it? The picture was a Cardinal.

“A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who has passed.”

When my dad died, in the spring of 2010, a two cardinals built a nest in the bush next to my mother’s bow-window. Protected from predators, they didn’t realize they gave Mom a front row seat. It comforted her to see the little family every day. She waited for the eggs to hatch and watched the baby birds grow.

You don’t understand and appreciate comfort until you mourn.

Matthew 5:7, “Blessed are those who mourn,  for they shall be comforted.” Modern English Version

My father-in-law loved the St. Louis Cardinals. He passed that love on to his children and grandchildren. It comforts us every time we see a Cardinal. We are seeking them out: Christmas ornaments, gift bags, the calendar, cards, and mugs.

Cardinals are not the only symbols that bring comfort. When I see a daisy, I think of Peyton because it was her favorite flower. Whitney and her sisters look for hearts because it reminds them of their mom, Kerry. Acoustic guitars make me think of my dad.

Pat looks for pennies. She says, “Every time I find a penny, it means God loves me.” As she got out of the vehicle for her first radiation treatment, she saw two pennies on the ground. God knew she needed extra encouragement that day.

Dear Father God,

You are the God of all comfort. Thank You for comforting us as we grieve for John. Thank You for the signs that tell us of Your great love. Thank You for the assurance that we will see John again.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Prove

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

When I read today’s verse, I thought God was directing me to get that box of clothes to Goodwill. God was directing David to do that. (Insert laughs here.)

Luke 3:8, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. . . .” New Living Translation

How do you prove it?

  1. Give to the poor, 3:11.
  2. Share food with the hungry, 3:11.
  3. Don’t extort money, 3:14.
  4. Don’t make false accusations, 3:14.
  5. Be content with your pay, 3:14.

God wanted me to deal with our stuffed refrigerator. Last week we had a few meals brought in from our church family. We had a two meals with my sister-in-law’s family, but she brought food, too. We also had food brought in by our kids. (Yeah, I know they are all adults now.) 

Being “Frugalfish,” I know how to stretch food. I froze a little, (we don’t have a deep freezer), and alternated the leftovers between lunches and suppers. I cooked on Christmas Eve but that was the only time. I had cooked hamburger and a cake that needed eating today.

My daughter goes to her Aunt Melinda’s every Tuesday. Melinda feeds her and they watch a show they both like. She told me Melinda was making nachos for supper. I gave them the hamburger and started to send the cake – but David objected! I saved 4 pieces of the cake and sent the rest with my daughter.

Dear Father God,

Thank You for my church family, family, and friends. When grief made our appetites disappear, a lasagna appeared and restored them! Give me the words to thank them properly.

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Daughter-in-Law

Ruth was the best example of a daughter-in-law. Back then, she would have lived with her mother-in-law. Ruth took care of Naomi.

I try to be a good daughter-in-law, but the best I can do is to check up on her. (Her “fur-babies” make my allergies go nuts.) She’s probably ready for me to stop “mothering” her.

“Did you sleep last night?”

“When was the last time you ate?”

If the way you treat your mother-in-law is the way your daughter-in-law is going to treat you, then I must be doing something right!

Ruth 2:11, “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. . . .” New Living Translation

When Mahlon died, Ruth’s dream of children died. But God gave her children in spite of her circumstances. When all hope is lost, is when God does his best work.

“But death is just a hook behind the door. Where I’ll leave my dirty clothes.” Perfector by My Epic

 

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Told

I don’t like taking Prednisone. In fact, I vowed I wouldn’t take it unless I absolutely had to. When my dad died, the doctor told me I had to take it because my emotions are reflected in the hives around my mouth. But that was 6 years ago. I’m doing so much better now.

When I opened my Bible, it fell open to this verse:

Judges 21:23, “So the men of Israel did as they were told.” New Living Translation

The men of Israel did not want to let the men of Benjamin marry their daughters. They vowed to never give their daughters to them. The men of Benjamin kidnapped their daughters; they wanted to take them back!

Their daughters moved to another tribe. It’s possible they never saw them again and they didn’t get to watch their grandchildren grow up. They didn’t like the consequences but they did as they were told.

************

The visitation for my father-in-law was a happy time. There was a lot more laughter than tears. It was full of hugs, smiles, family, friends, and good memories. I didn’t have a problem with hives. . .

. . . Until the next morning.

I woke up with red, burning hives from my nose to my chin. The closer we got to the funeral the worse they got! (I thought it was something I drank that had red dye in it, but when I checked the ingredients list later, that wasn’t it.)

I was grateful they left the keyboard in a side room and I was able to play and sing from there. I kept my head down. I was to read the memories written by his granddaughter; David had to do it. Instead of being a comfort, he had to cover for me.

I felt like the world’s worst wife. It was awkward. But awkward moments pass. They don’t kill you. And they don’t change you. I’m still David’s wife and he still loves me. But I wish I had paid attention to what God was trying to tell me and done as the doctor told me to do.

Dear Father God,

Thank You for loving me even when I don’t listen. I am grateful that You did not leave when I didn’t do what you wanted. Thank You for getting me through the awkward moments. 

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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Photographs

There is nothing stronger than the love of a parent. And no parent has too many children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.

We just spent 2 days going through photographs and making picture boards of my father-in-law. The best pictures were of him holding each grandchild after they were born. His face seemed even happier in the pictures with his newborn great-grandchildren. No matter what we did, he never stopped loving us.

Judges 17:2, “One day he said to his mother, ‘I heard you place a curse on the person who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from you. Well, I have the money. I was the one who took it.’ ‘The Lord bless you for admitting it,’ his mother replied.” New Living Translation

This mother showed how quickly we forgive our children after they admit their sin and make restitution. We want them to do the right thing because we know their actions are seeds they are planting. We want them to only harvest good things.

At visitation I witnessed the harvest from John’s life. It was not diamonds, gold or land but friends whom I had never met that hugged me as if their life depended on it. When asked for memorabilia, we had difficulty thinking of something to set out. He didn’t invest in things; he invested in people. He was a good man and he was kind to others. They, in turn, were especially kind to us in our grief.

Dear Father God,

Thank You for laughter during tears. Thank You for a family that holds us close when we feel liked falling. Thank You for friends that bring joy to our hearts even in grief. Thank You for never letting us walk alone. 

In Jesus Name,

Amen

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