Kathy book burning bush

HOW?

If Kathy’s legacy is to go far beyond 2012 we must place it outside of time. The story of Joseph in Genesis still speaks to us today. Why? Because we can relate to it. In the permissive will of God, Kathy endured suffering, but she did not lose her hope and her trust in God. This is a high call, this is meat, this is a foundation that a life can be built upon. Christ in you, the hope of glory. Not your circumstances, not even God delivering you and answering your prayer with a physical miracle. Just Christ in you, your hope begins and ends there.

Something is being demonstrated to angels in the life of a believer who loves God in spite of His seeming “tarrying for 2 or 3 days” after He was told that you are dying. Lazarus had no idea that Jesus was going to resurrect him. What were his thoughts on his death bed? Are Martha and Mary giving voice to Lazarus’ thoughts? Lord, if You had been here? Why weren’t You here, Lord, Why?

 

Only in the light of eternity does suffering make sense. Only in the light of a revelation of a sovereign, God who can redeem all things, who remains connected to us in an unbreakable way, with an unbreakable love no matter the tribulation, or even death can suffering be endured.

 

1 Peter offers us so much revelation regarding suffering. It is focused on this issue and it offers no answers, but it points to Jesus, it lifts up Jesus, it bids us to look to the cross and bow and learn of Him who is meek and humble of heart.

A FEW BURNING BUSHES WORTH

STOPPING TO LOOK AT

The principle of the burning bush is, Moses had to stop and look because this was an event outside of all natural categories. If a bush is burning, the fire consumes it, period, end of story. Moses stopping to look, beyond curiosity demonstrates a willingness to have his categories knocked down, a willingness to reconsider the call on his life. He knew the call, to be the deliverer, but he went about it all wrong, messed it up so totally that exile and a life of feeling forgotten by God is all that he had. He did not even bother to circumcise his boys because he didn’t think God cared about him or his new family anymore. Maybe his wife said, “No we don’t do that here.” and he had no “fight” left in him, so he gave in to her and to the culture around him. The principle is if you stop to look and are willing to have your boxes with all of your ideas about God and His ways blown apart then you can walk away from the burning bush forever changed.

ULTIMATE HUMILITY

The first “burning bush” is the way to ultimate humility. Jesus is the way and in His life we see that Satan’s kingdom is defeated by the willingness to submit to the God’s plan to the very end. Watching the grace with which Jesus died, caused a gentile centurion to speak truth probably for the first time in his life. It caused a man in the agony of being crucified to look upon the man on the cross next to him and see God. People watch very closely how professing believers handle the storms of life and as death approaches these become ultimate storms that speak ultimate messages. “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Trust that has given up all attempts to make something happen on their own, trust that comes to a place of leaning its entire weight on to the heart of the God who proclaims His love for us.

What brings down Satan’s kingdom? Is it not this, “when they came to the end of their strength.” When they dropped the mask of pretense that made it seem they had it all together. When they tossed aside all hope for good works or righteousness apart from Christ. When they dropped any hope of help from any other source. When they had the veil removed and their eyes opened to the only true God, the One who suffers and dies because of self-sacrificing love too great to even attempt to put into words. The sun is darkened, the earth quakes, hardened killers confess there is something “greater” taking place here. This is the burning bush of ultimate humility that ceases to strive and enters a place of rest and trust, “no matter what.”

THE ETERNAL MOMENT

Stephen the first martyr in the book of Acts is a burning bush worth looking into. Stephen with his servant heart, Stephen with his knowledge and his ability to bring the eternal plan of God down to everyday speech. Stephen used by God to bring so much healing. Stephen is dead, way too young and way too soon. In the moment it makes no sense. Where is the last minute rescue? Where is the hero who comes and makes everything right? What we cannot see in this moment of death, is the heart of a man standing nearby and approving of this stoning. The heart of a man who was not at the cross of Christ to see Him say, “Father, forgive them”. He is not one of the original apostles. He hates this new sect that has sprung up in his religion with a righteous hatred born out of years of training, years of getting to know about God. This man is about to be confronted with a man who has a vision of God, whose face shines, who repeats the words of His Savior while being murdered, “Father, forgive them”. The servant, Stephen, demonstrated the same supernatural love as his Master, Jesus, when confronted with murderous hatred. This demonstration became a goad that Paul would be kicking against in his inner man until the day when mercy collapsed his worldview with a blinding light and a voice with a simple question.

When cancer came to Kathy throwing it murderous stones, grace came to Kathy too. She was held by her Savior and many who saw her trust have been given grace to face their stones, to trust Him in the dark, and to sing at midnight. Like Stephen as an isolated event, a moment in time, it makes no sense, but this is a story being written by an eternal God who is ever working to burst into a fallen planet with redemption and love.

You could have no power at all against Me

unless it had been given you from above” (Jn 19:11).

A Final Burning Bush, The Cup That the Father has for Me

Jesus is standing before the earthly authority that will decide His case. The Jews who at this time are under Roman rule, have to go to the Romans for permission to see the death penalty inflicted. Jesus stands before this man at peace because He knows that the Roman ruler is not the end of the chain of command.

Is this the most painful burning bush to stop and consider?

Or is it the most comforting?

In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them, And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. Isaiah 63:9

This ruler has no power, and cancer has no power unless it had been given from above. This may not be your time to look into this burning bush, but for those who dare I hope you will find great comfort in knowing that a truly loving Father has seen this event and has determined a way to cause it to work together for the good. The God who is outside of time and sees the end from the beginning has seen fit to allow this to happen. If that is true, can you still fall into His arms and trust Him? Doesn’t trust imply risk? Doesn’t faith imply reason to doubt? The Roman ruler loses his power when this true statement is proclaimed, and if we look at this burning bush long enough to see the heart of the Father, cancer loses its power also.

We are not the All Knowing One, only God is. God is love, He is Sovereign and He is good. If all of these truths are not preserved as we look into this burning bush, we can rest assured we finite beings are missing something. Ultimately we trust Him, and find our rest in Him.

kathy book snapshots

Snapshots of Kathy’s Life

This chapter will combine a few short memories of Kathy that have had a lasting impact on the people who witnessed them or were a part of them.

A Promise is a Promise

Jeremiah 31:35,36 Thus says the Lord,
Who gives the sun for light by day
And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar;
The Lord of hosts is His name:
36 “If this fixed order departs
From before Me,” declares the Lord,
“Then the offspring of Israel also will cease
From being a nation before Me forever.”

2 Timothy 2:13 “if we are faithless, he remains faithful—

for he cannot deny himself.”

Kathy’s youngest son tells a story that demonstrates one aspect of how Kathy chose to live her life. He tells the story of his mom having a hair appointment with a local woman who worked out of her house.  This area (western Pennsylvania) had one of its famous snow storms that shut down everything.  The woman called to say, it is okay if you can’t make the appointment the driveway is drifted over.  Kathy said, “My son has a plow on his truck, we will be there in an hour.”  No other person who had an appointment with her that day made it.  Kathy Steele not only made it but gave the hair dresser the bonus of a plowed driveway.  Even in retelling the story he was just shaking his head in disbelief that they made that trip and kept that appointment.

The faithfulness of God to keep His promises is under attack today, not surprisingly among unbelievers, but very surprisingly also among those who call themselves Christians. Kathy kept her appointments and her promises.

No Retaliation

Romans 12:17,18  Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Kathy’s youngest son also mentioned walking in on his mom on the phone discussing whether or not a test or a procedure had been done incorrectly and Kathy would not hear any talk of calling a lawyer to try to sue someone.

This example of how she walked and lived had a profound impact on him.  After her death he was involved in an accident that resulted in a lot of pain and the need for months of rehab, but the thought of getting lawyers involved was out of the question because of Kathy’s powerful example.  Kathy’s example shined through during his physical therapy also.  His therapist, said most guys would be asking for a note not to go to work and you are pushing hard for a note to be allowed to go back to work.  The standard had been placed and her boys feel it over their lives.

Another time this young man’s skills in golf took him to a national tournament.  Kathy had a doctor’s appointment that day, but still bundled up and braved the horrible cold rainy weather to watch and support her boy.

Her oldest son spoke of one of the family meetings where Kathy specifically spoke of “if I am not healed.”  Her encouragement to “don’t be mad at God” and “don’t ask why” were words that echoed in her sons ears.  It did not eliminate such thoughts but it did temper them and help to prevent them from being overwhelming.

Intercession- Kathy’s Heart

On at least two occasions involving car accidents Kathy was led to prayer by the Holy Spirit prior to any knowledge of the accidents.  Once involving her brother and once involving her youngest niece and her husband. She just had an urge from the Holy Spirit to pray.  Her brother even speaks of an angel who helped him get out of the wrecked vehicle.  Her connection to God, her intercession was an essential part of who she was.  Weeping, groaning and crying out to God for those lost or hurting souls was a ministry that she carried, so much so that the church in Markleysburg, Pennsylvania has a prayer room dedicated to her memory.

Her intercession was also bound up in her life, because as her youngest niece wisely pointed out, “I think she would rather have borne the cancer than some one else.”  She looked for opportunities to be a witness to medical staff and other people getting similar treatments.  She wanted to encourage others along the way.

At one point of her struggle with the disease, she was a part in the Christmas play.  I think they are called “card board testimonies”, where a simple phrase is written on a piece of card board large enough for the audience to read.  When Kathy held up “Battling Cancer” tears flowed all across the auditorium.

_____________________

The Index Finger of Great Authority

One thing that came as a surprise as people intimately acquainted with Kathy would sit down and share with me, their memories and thoughts was how often the “index finger” came up.  Apparently when Kathy wanted to let you know that she was very serious and she was putting the full weight of her authority behind a statement, she would break out the index finger and you knew that the argument, the ‘fun’, the excuses, the “whatever” was over.  Across the board the family members that shared with me recalled this motion as the indicator that she had had enough and was drawing the line.  No one ever said they crossed that line, and no one ever saw what was on the other side of that line, but everyone knew that was the firm line and it was time to back off.

kathy book Jaime and Wray on grief

In November of 2015 my friend, Jaime Curtis delivered a baby, Wesley David, who only lived for 32 hours. Her grief journey, which she is allowing us an intimate glance into is continuing, but here are some of her thoughts which she has given me permission to share.

Jaime Curtis “For some reason, I’m thinking deeply today. I’m thinking about the fact that deep grief means that you have also had the chance to love deeply. I still grieve my mom often….I still grieve Wesley every day. And yet, I think of those who never had a loving mother, or who grew up in abusive homes where the name ‘mom’ never brought any comfort. I’m thinking of the women who have never had the blessing of carrying a baby to full term, or maybe never carrying a baby at all. But I had a mother who loved me beautifully—-I had the beautiful chance to carry a baby for nine months and love that baby fiercely. My fierce grief now means I was loved and I loved fiercely. In a way, how blessed I am to be able to mourn the people I DID have, rather than mourning that I never had them to begin with. To grieve deeply means that you have loved deeply. My heart is with those of you today who mourn because you never had that relationship…that mother….that baby. Your grief is different than mine, but painful just the same! Aren’t we blessed to know that God the Father understands ALL our griefs, every single one of them, and He can fill those empty holes and turn our mourning into dancing?

Isaiah 63:9 In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the angel of His presence saved them;
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them,
And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.

At a slightly later time she wrote this and you can see the process of grace and grief continuing.

I had a thought this morning during my devotions that I wanted to share. For a year now, I’ve been trying to ‘recover’ from the pain of everything that happened. I’ve been trying to have deeper faith, more trust, more strength, more ability to ‘move on’. I’ve been feeling like my weaknesses, my pain, my inability to ‘move on’ have been frowned upon by God, that they simply showed how weak I am. But through different readings this morning, it dawned on me—Through my weakness, HIS strength is shown. Jesus is not ‘upset’ at me for the pain that Wesley’s death has brought. He doesn’t want me to be ‘stronger’. He doesn’t frown when another tear is shed. Instead, He ‘gently leads those with young’……or those who suffer the loss of their young. The expectations I have felt are those of my own—not His. I don’t need to find more strength on my own—because He’s there, offering to carry me instead.

Another month passed and she wrote this…”I had the sudden realization tonight that I like the person I am now more than the person I was a year ago. I do not like the journey or the process that brought me here, and certainly not the reason that I am here in the first place—- but the me of today has a deeper, more concrete understanding of the faithfulness of God and the unfailing, ever present love of Jesus; the me of today aches with the pains of others more than ever before; the me of today views each day with each of my children as a literal blessing from God. I wouldn’t ever want to repeat this process or this painful journey, but now that I’m here, the me of today is thankful for what God worked and is still working in me in the midst of everything.”

…The brother of this young woman shares a sense of loss with her, because they both lost their mother suddenly on an August day, he writes this very good advice six years after losing her and shortly after losing his “surrogate” mom who showed him deep love. ”My mother used to text me everyday just to say she loved me! When she passed my other Mom or as my little buddy has been calling her “Mommy Dawn” started texting me that she loved me all the time! If I’ve learned one thing over the years it’s how to hold on to the good memories and never let go.” When he posted this thought on facebook I was in the finishing stages of this book and I replied, “That little lesson that you have learned is the difference between life and death.”

Kathy book PHil dane “final”

Ephesians 5:28-30 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church,30 since we are members of His body.

I am privileged to know some people who have taught me a lot. First is a couple who were walking through terminal illness and second is a husband who had been one of his wife’s primary care takers through terminal illness. I benefited greatly from the time that these people gave me and this chapter will reflect their input.

The couple were part of a clinical trial of an experimental drug near the end of the husbands’ illness when they agreed to let me visit them in the hospital where the treatment was being administered. As I approached the door to enter the room there were all kinds of warning signs that would have intimidated anyone without a medical background, but from inside the room I heard laughter and “life”. Some other relatives were in the room visiting and the first thing you noticed on entering the room was the love that the room was filled with. Machines were hooked up to to the husband and IV lines were here and there but all of that stuff took a back seat to the love. I immediately felt comfortable and let them know what a deep blessing it was to me to be allowed in the room at that time.

The husband looking tired but wanting to share, spoke first, “My main concern is for her.” In the midst of a long battle with a life threatening illness his main burden was that his wife would be okay. He had made his peace with the situation and had deep confidence and trust in God. From that place of peace he was free to be aware of and interceding for his wife, (That is in bold print, because I have seen that over and over.) The wife’s battle was going to actually be harder and last longer. She was going to have to continue on this earthly plane with the questions, loneliness and longing for a better place.

The wife of this couple spoke next, with great honesty, “I’m trusting, but I’m scared.” She spoke of times of anger and times of trust and learning to live in the moment, truly appreciating the moment. Even her anger is something that a person would not have if they did not believe that the Person they were angry with had the power to change the situation – so that too is faith. We must be gentle with family members who are “with” the person that they love who is terminally sick. Their faith is being tried by fire and they do not need platitudes about “having faith” and “staying strong” sometimes it is much better to just, shut up, and hug them or make it very clear that you do not blame them for wavering and struggling to understand what is taking place in front of their eyes.

I did not feel to impose for very long and it was obvious that this treatment was making him tired, so I thanked them for their time, prayed and left the room. The love and the trust that is only available to a people who have stopped believing that this world is all there is was the most powerful thing I gained from this time. In the midst of a fight for his life this man’s Christ-like sacrificial love which no longer saw himself, but truly could only see what was best for “the other” was something that would be a theme that would carry over to the next person God brought into my life.

My enthusiasm to take on the task of this book had begun to wane. God saw that and brought into my life a man who had walked with his wife through many years as they battled with ALS. For the last three years of her life she could not talk.

(I want to be careful not to be dishonoring in any way by putting a sentence like, “For the last three years of her life she could not talk.” I am grateful for being “allowed in” to the lives of people mentioned here, but there is a fine line between telling their story and not truly getting across the weight that they had to carry, the dark that they had to go through, the struggle that was inherent in every moment. So God help me to write and you to read in a way that honors the costliness of these words.) He wanted me to emphasize that his daughter especially and many others had given of themselves to help he and his wife through this time. No one person was ever meant to carry such a load. The body of Christ is not a theory at times like this, it is a reality that is a matter of life and death, either we help each other or we perish. The disease stole her ability to use her muscles to move, but heightened the nerve sensations telling her that something about her positioning was not comfortable or right. God allowed them to work out a way to communicate without words. God made it clear that this sickness was way, way bigger than just them. It was about the love of the Father and understanding who He is. The oneness that is present in a marriage that has come to the ultimate place that God has for marriage was something God was using the illness to bring them to. The husband came to a place where he saw that while caring for his wife’s needs, he was being cared for. That little sentences is life changing for every married couple who will take the time to “Selah” over those words. That was a very costly sentence and came near then end of the struggle. (This is one time where I truly pray God takes the words on a page and breathes His life into them.) The wife trusted her husband to know her needs and to help her through the scariest of times when even being able to breathe was not something they could take for granted. About 6 months before she passed, without using words this became her typical response to everything that came their way. (Don’t run too quickly past the words “their way” every trial was now being faced by 2 hearts united in the battle, this is the place of God’s blessing on a marriage, and this is the place that Satan wars against the hardest. If all problems begin to be seen as “our problem” and if no problem is set off in isolation as “your problem” great healing can begin.) Sorry I got off track there, and this is very important. Her response became this simple reply that any of us can commit to memory. It is a revelation of the heart of God toward His children.

I know, it’s okay, I love you.”

Later one more part was added, “Tell them all.”

Looking back the husband can see now that this was a message straight from the heart of God for those who are struggling through this life. Every failure, every weakness, every step of the way we can trust Him fully. He does not come to condemn, but to express His understanding of the fight that we are going through and of His infinite resources to help us make it through.

In the course of the illness God would bring them to a place in her condition where they would need to be equipped by Him to handle it. He would stop there, equip them, let them rest there for awhile and then bring them to a new level of challenge. My friend who watched his wife slowly become weaker and weaker and lose more and more strength also saw an ever increasing proportional increase in the very presence of Jesus flowing through his wife. Friends who visited spoke of the amazing peace that was in the home.

In what would be the last night before his wife passed away, a very special moment took place. My friend asked his wife if she was as comfortable as he could make her, she said, “Yes.” He asked her if there was any other person she wanted there, she said, “No.” Then he lifted up his hands and said, “Then can we agree that the precious blood of Jesus paid this debt too?” She said, “Yes.” They agreed they were both at the end of their strength and had done all that they could do. At that moment, God restored all her vital signs to normal including the lung that had collapsed. (My friend took this as a sign that all our healing has indeed been paid for by the blood of Jesus. A lack of power to heal was/is never the issue.) The husband needed to have confirmation that this miracle was taking place, so he called a local Paramedic who is a good friend. The Paramedic confirmed that all her vital signs were normal. Shortly after this, her heart rate rate started to slow and her husband knew that it was time to call family and let them visit one last time.

In walking with his wife through this dark time three good and deep lessons were learned. 1) A community that sees a couple openly going through a difficult time, will unite in support and love in ways that are beyond any previously held barriers. 2) Much of what he used to see as challenges he now sees as opportunities. 3) We can carry way too much that we were not meant to carry.

God could have brought healing, but that is only one aspect of Him being greater than sickness. Sometimes we just want delivered of the illness, but that takes the focus off of Jesus. C.S. Lewis called such dealing of God in our lives a severe mercy.

Laura Story sings a song for times like these “We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things “ How could healing be a “lesser thing”? In the same way Job’s faith was more amazing when he stated, “Though He slay me yet I will trust Him.” There is a deeper faith, a deeper trust, that is displayed by a person who has not seen physical healing. There is a place of “letting go” that puts the whole situation in the hands of the One who has infinite power and wisdom and an eternal perspective, combine that with a knowledge that love is going to be at the root of all of His actions and peace can enter and envelope any situation.

Kathy book reggie in plain words and the cross of Jesus Christ in the life of Kathy Steele

In order to see God face to face and to recognize that He is the source and perfecter of our faith, we must “come to the end of our strength” and see that we are NOT the source or perfecter of our faith. It is “all to Jesus”, so the place of seeing God face to face is the place of death, death to self, death to thinking that in any way, “I got this.” is a a true statement. It is a false pride-filled statement and leads to death.

There is a reality, greater and far longer lasting than the reality we currently live in. Paul lived in it and wrote about it and encouraged his readers to discover it. The author of Hebrews states that Jesus endured the unimaginable agony of the cross because of the reality of the “joy that was set before Him.” The reality of the perfect love that casts out the fear of eternal judgment, is the one thing that John sets before us as capable of defeating fear.

Standing in opposition to this truth is “humanistic presumption.” It states we can gather our resources and educate ourselves to a place where we learn to work together in peace and harmony. Never mind that no one who believes this can point to a time or a community where this “shining example of human love” has ever actually taken place, they still cling to it as truth.

Sadly, examples of this among the followers of Jesus are few and far between also. We have been given everything we need to be able to display a “foretaste” of heaven, and yet we fall painfully short and give others good reason to mock our self-serving, self-centered efforts.

Jesus is the answer, but who will take the time to listen. Who will listen with ears that are willing to go down into the dust and allow the man-made structure to crash and burn. Someone said, we don’t break the commands of God, we are broken on them. If the words of truth that we have available to read do not break the power of our confidence in the flesh, our plans, our goals, then God must use crisis of both inward and outward circumstances, to bring us to the end or our strength. This is ultimate love. The Doctor has made the correct diagnosis and the patient must submit to the prescription and the changes that He states.

Our statement of faith in the midst of a trial, is, “God I trust you.”

The diagnosis has not changed, from Adam, to Israel, to the modern believer. Sin has consigned all of humanity to death, God has given a substitute in Jesus, who died in our place. Possibly the saddest thing in all the world is when a person stops at that place, smugly proclaims that his sin has been paid for, takes just a little tiny bit of credit for making the “decision” to trust in Jesus and never considers the call, the purpose that is inherent in the salvation. “We love because He first loved us.” To the degree that we do not love, is the degree that we have not truly taken into our being the cost and the mercy that was necessary for Him to love us. His life in us will be constantly working a death to our pride. Pride is the thing that kills the witness of the individual believer and the corporate body (sometimes called the church).

There is a sad pattern that is repeated through the ages. A change initiated and accomplished by the choice of God brings about a blessing in this temporary existence. The person or people begin to enjoy the blessings and a call comes to share or let go of those blessings. The call comes from the One who provided the blessings in the first place. A subtle evil change has taken place in the heart of the receiver and the call to relinquish the blessing reveals it. The receiver, who did nothing to earn or create the blessing, has taken possession of it. They have decided that it is part of them and they have the right to decide what happens to it. God reacts to this by bringing His word, clearly and rightly penetrating through the pride with truth. If that is rejected, then His love demands that He bring a crisis inward and outward circumstances that are designed to break the pride that grip the blessing in an eternally destructive way. This is ultimate love.

Pride and human power are the enemy, they open the door for separation, fear, abuse, hopelessness, despair, and malice. If I allow in one microscopic size thought that I did even one, microscopic sized thing to bring about this blessing, pride will take that teeny tiny area and turn it into 40 acres before you know it. Nothing that has its root in that 40 acres is from God, every bit of it actively works against the work that God is doing in the earth. (I want to give clear examples here of where the “church” has failed, and the solution from the heart of God… can you help me?)

The title I was given, “The Cross of Jesus Christ in the Life of Kathy Steele” seemed to get lost as the book progressed, but now here at the end, I see that it too has gone through a process of death and resurrection.  Kathy Steele was a friend of God.  He shares secrets with His friends and at a point in time, on a level that no other human being could be shown, one on one, with her God, Kathy had a conversation with her Friend.  She was asked to give up the blessing that God had given her for the good of others and she did.  We live in a fallen world where death still appears to reign as king, but the faithfulness of God does not stop at death.  Kathy knew this.  In doing it this way, God is very aware that most people will blame Him and cover up their hurt by lashing out in anger at the One who loves them the most.  If each individual would take a moment and pause and consider Kathy and her attitude toward this time, they would be confronted with truth.  “Cancer meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to preserve life, to call you to see beyond this temporary plain, to cause you to be willing to release the blessings you have been given to be a blessing to others, to give you the strength and courage to lay down in sacrificial love ‘for the least of these My brothers.'”

Kathy book phil sharon updated

Ephesians 5:28-30

I am privileged to know some people who have taught me a lot. One is a couple who were walking through terminal illness and another is a husband who had been one of his wife’s primary care takers through terminal illness. I benefited greatly from the time that both of them gave me and this chapter will reflect their input.

The first people who helped me were a couple who were part of a clinical trial of an experimental drug near the end of the husbands’ illness when they agreed to let me visit them in the hospital where the treatment was being administered. As I approached the door to enter the room there were all kinds of warning signs that would have intimidated anyone without a medical background, but from inside the room I heard laughter and “life”. Some other relatives were in the room visiting and the first thing you noticed on entering the room was the love that the room was filled with. Machines were hooked up to to the husband and IV lines were here and there but all of that stuff took a back seat to the love. I immediately felt comfortable and let them know what a deep blessing it was to me to be allowed in the room at that time.

The husband looking tired but wanting to share, spoke first, “My main concern is for her.” In the midst of a long battle with a life threatening illness his main burden was that his wife would be okay. He had made his peace with the situation and had deep confidence and trust in God. From that place of peace he was free to be aware of and interceding for his wife, (That is in bold print, because I have seen that over and over.) The wife’s battle was going to actually be harder and last longer. She was going to have to continue on this earthly plane with the questions, loneliness and longing for a better place.

The wife of this couple spoke next, with great honesty, “I’m trusting, but I’m scared.” She spoke of anger and trust and learning to live in the moment, truly appreciating the moment. Even her anger is something that a person would not have if they did not believe that the Person they were angry with had the power to change the situation – so that too is faith. We must be gentle with family members who are “with” the person that they love who is terminally sick. Their faith is being tried by fire and they do not need platitudes about “having faith” and “staying strong” sometimes it is much better to just, shut up, and hug them or make it very clear that you do not blame them for wavering and struggling to understand what is taking place in front of their eyes.

I did not feel to impose for very long and it was obvious that this treatment was making him tired, so I thanked them for their time, prayed and left the room. The love and the trust that is only available to a people who have stopped believing that this world is all there is was the most powerful thing I gained from this time. In the midst of a fight for his life this man’s Christ-like sacrificial love which no longer saw himself, but truly could only see what was best for “the other” was something that would be a theme that would carry over to the next person God brought into my life.

My enthusiasm to take on the task of this book began to wane. God saw that and brought into my life a man who had walked with his wife through many years as they battled with ALS. For the last three years of her life she could not talk.

(I want to be careful not to be dishonoring in any way by putting a sentence like, “For the last three years of her life she could not talk.” I am grateful for being “allowed in” to the lives of people mentioned here, but there is a fine line between telling their story and not truly getting across the weight that they had to carry, the dark that they had to go through, the struggle that was inherent in every moment. So God help me to write and you to read in a way that honors the costliness of these words.) He wanted me to emphasize that his daughter especially and many others had given of themselves to help he and his wife through this time. No one person was ever meant to carry such a load. The body of Christ is not a theory at times like this, it is a reality that is a matter of life and death, either we help each other or we perish. The disease stole her ability to use her muscles to move, but heightened the nerve sensations telling her that something about her positioning was not comfortable or right. God allowed them to work out a way to communicate without words. God made it clear that this sickness was way, way bigger than just them. It was about the love of the Father and understanding who He is. The oneness that is present in a marriage that has come to the ultimate place that God has for marriage was something God was using the illness to bring them to. The husband came to a place where he saw that while caring for his wife’s needs, he was being cared for. That little sentences is life changing for every married couple who will take the time to “Selah” over those words. That was a very costly sentence and came near then end of the struggle. This is one time where I truly pray God takes the words on a page and breathes His life into them. The wife trusted her husband to know her needs and to help her through the scariest of times when even being able to breathe was not something they could take for granted. About 6 months before she passed, without using words this became her typical response to everything that came their way. (Don’t run too quickly past the words “their way” every trial was now being faced by 2 hearts united in the battle, this is the place of God’s blessing on a marriage, and this is the place that Satan wars against the hardest. If all problems begin to be seen as “our problem” and if no problem is set off in isolation as “your problem” great healing can begin.) That is what played out.

I know, it’s okay, I love you.” Later one more part was added, “Tell them all.”

Looking back the husband can see now that this was a message straight from the heart of God for those who are struggling through this life. Every failure, every weakness, every step of the way we can trust Him fully. He does not come to condemn, but to express His understanding of the fight that we are going through and of His infinite resources to help us make it through.

In the course of the illness God would bring them to a place in her condition where they would need to be equipped by Him to handle it. He would stop there, equip them, let them rest there for awhile and then bring them to a new level of challenge. My friend who watched his wife slowly become weaker and weaker and lose more and more strength also saw an ever increasing proportional increase in the very presence of Jesus flowing through his wife. Friends who visited spoke of the amazing peace that was in the home.

In what would be the last night before his wife passed away, a very special moment took place. My friend asked his wife if she was as comfortable as he could make her, she said, “Yes.” He asked her if there was any other person she wanted there, she said, “No.” Then he lifted up his hands and said, “Then can we agree that the precious blood of Jesus paid this debt too?” She said, “Yes.” They agreed they were both at the end of their strength and had done all that they can do. At that moment, God restored all her vital signs to normal including the lung that had collapsed. (My friend took this as a sign that all our healing has indeed been paid for by the blood of Jesus. A lack of power to heal was/is never the issue.) Shortly after the restoration of all her vital signs was confirmed by a local paramedic, her heart rate rate started to slow and her husband knew that it was time to call family and let them visit one last time.

In walking with his wife through this dark time some good and deep lessons were learned. 1) Unity came in places that had never seen unity, the community united in support and love for them. 2) Much of what he used to see as challenges he now sees as opportunities. 3) We can carry way too much that we were not meant to carry.

God could have brought healing, but that is only one aspect of Him being greater than sickness. Sometimes we just want delivered of the illness, but that takes the focus off of Jesus. C.S. Lewis called such dealing of God in our lives a severe mercy.

Laura Story sings a song for times like these “We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering And all the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things “ How could healing be a “lesser thing”? In the same way Job’s faith was more amazing when he stated, “Though He slay me yet I will trust Him.” There is a deeper faith, a deeper trust, that is displayed by a person who has not seen physical healing

Kathy book last interview

My final time of sitting down and listening involved two people. I invited my friend who cared for his wife who had ALS to come along with me so that together we could listen to another friend whose wife died very young just 28 days after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.  

As I have listened to people tell their story it has become more clear that one person cannot hear all that is being said. It is such a precious thing when a person agrees to go back to a painful place and share a part of what their heart was going through, I appreciated my friend coming along, bringing his ears, thoughts, questions and perspective.

The circumstances that led to the death of this man’s wife, left him in a place of saying,  “Someday I do want to sit down and ask God why that happened.”  Being left with 3 small girls and a 6 month old boy just as scary,humbling, and overwhelming as it sounds.

His story starts with a challenge totally unrelated to his wife’s health. Just 3 days before his wife had the severe headache that would lead to the diagnosis of brain tumor, he was “let go” at his job as a trucker, due to 6 speeding tickets.  Being a trucker was all he knew. On the road sometimes 7 days a week, away from family up to two months at a time, this was the only life he knew. This was the way his dad had provided for his family and most local people associated his family’s last name with truck driving. He had no plan other than to do the exact same thing his dad had done, now what? His wife’s illness came along and took over his life before he had any time to process this drastic change. The initial surgery on her brain tumor was termed a “success” but she was left blind in the left eye, unable to talk and with limited use of her left side. There was no telling when or if any of this would change. A choking episode allowed stomach acid to enter her lungs and she never recovered from this. Her death left him a single parent with no job.

During this time he came to rely on the support of a Pastor who became like a surrogate brother, to him. This relationship did not end after the funeral, for years the Pastor and his wife were a resource for practical help with the kids or remodeling the house or whatever was needed.

God’s mercy was on the situation as family and friends helped with the children. His former employer said he would not contest the unemployment benefits and urged him to take as much time as he needed off work and with his family. When he was ready to enter the job market again he was given an opportunity to come in, at an entry level, to a local tractor dealership that sold and serviced tractors and sold hardware. He was hired to haul equipment and to work the parts counter. Through a series of events that no one human being could have foreseen or orchestrated, 13 years later we were holding this interview in that exact same business, only my friend is now the majority owner of it. No longer in trucking, providing for his family in a way he could have never, ever have pictured, he just pauses with the most contented, peaceful look on his face, and states, “Nothing that we do is us.”

He acknowledged that none of this would have happened without his wife’s illness.  There was a dark period for him of “5 or 6 years filled with drinking and rebellion and I just didn’t care.” Finally he came to the place where the hand of God reached down to him when he cried out, “God, I’m done, Your will not mine!”

Now newly married, he is grateful for how his life has worked out.  He has a deep trust now that he almost feels guilty about, sometimes thinking, “I should be more concerned about that, but I’m not.”  He has seen the faithfulness of God through the darkest of times and knows, “Give it up, it will work out.” is a true statement from a faithful and true God.

 

This last person I interviewed was also the person furthest removed from the event that had forever changed their life based on time. Thirteen years had passed, many moments that displayed the on-going faithfulness of God had occurred. Things had happened that could not ever have been foreseen within a year or even a few years of the devastating loss. Time had been used in the service of God to bring, healing, perspective, and an all out display of God’s mercy. We have no right to determine the length of time a person needs to see the mercy of God. We have no right to demand that they live up to a verse of scripture, so that, we will no longer be uncomfortable around their brokenness.

Gentleness” is a gift of the Spirit and therefore a characteristic of God. Gentleness is acted out by giving a person your love and support for the duration of their time in the valley of the shadow of death. It was a joy to sit down with this man and see the power and sovereignty of God so clearly displayed in his life and the spirit with which he approaches the roller coaster of owning a business in a poor rural area and raising teenagers and finding love again. Through it all he has an “ease” about him that says, “Someone much stronger and much wiser than me is watching over my life, I trust Him implicitly.”

Sometimes you have to dig pretty deep, and it takes years to see any light in situations like this, but now 12 years had passed and it was obvious that God had planted  a seed of trust in what looked like barren soil, but that seed had grown and flourished. My friend could see the provision of family and friends who helped come along side and raise this vulnerable little family.  He could see that the timing of having the kids so young, and so far from puberty, gave him plenty of time to just play with them.  Time hadn’t changed the depth of the sorrow but it had allowed for perspective and hope to enter in where only darkness and despair had previously lived.