Kathy book Grammarly Final final

 

The Cross

of Jesus Christ

in the Life of

Kathy Steele

by Chuck Bean

 

 

Preface

Section 1  Getting to Know Kathy

The Elephant in the Room

Section 2  Others Who Walked this Journey

Section 3  Stopping to Ponder the Burning Bush

A Word for Caregivers

Afterword

 

Preface

This preface has required the most revision. Not just “Oh that needs a little tweaking, it is not good enough.” No, it has been scrapped and completely redone numerous times.

Tears, far better than words, convey the message of this book. Tears cried on the shoulder of one who offers no advice, who is not seeking to be anything or to do anything. Tears that flow freely from a place in the heart that has been broken.

I have never, not for one second, felt capable of writing this. As the time to put a final copy on paper inched close, that feeling overwhelmed me, and my heart cry has become, “You write this and I will get out of the way as much as humanly possible.”

The initial burden to write this book came to me simply as the title. I did not feel that it could be true that God wanted me to write it. So I put it aside. Many times it was out of my thoughts completely, and it just kept getting confirmed by God, until I knew I needed to write it. I started off gathering stories from people who knew and loved Kathy. Some chapters came out of those conversations and then there was a period where the project lay dormant. Connections with people came into my life that re-sparked my burden but now there was a slightly different perspective.

Having never attempted anything like this before how does one know when all the learning that the author needs is done, and thoughts can then be put to paper? My solution is to forego putting a “The End” on this book. I hope this work is looked upon with eyes of mercy. Ask God to “fill up what is lacking” in my abilities and pray that you will get out of it what you need, in spite of the author’s failings. A completed book is just one tiny part of the whole, and the whole is made up of those who read it and incorporate it or reject it or most likely a little of both. I would love to get feedback and continue this conversation so I will set up a blogspot.com page just for feedback on this book. http://feedbackforchuck.blogspot.com/

Your comments will be deeply appreciated, and the book will continue to live and grow and change through your input.

Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Section 1 Getting to Know Kathy

When one heart can be open and vulnerable with another heart, admitting, owning, sharing freely, its own brokenness that is the soil on which true intimacy is planted and from which healing grows. (Ann Voskamp, paraphrase)

I see my role in this book as a compiler of people’s stories. My job is relating those stories to Jesus Christ, so that His name, His love, His forgiveness is glorified.

Bringing People from the Outside, In

Luke 15:1,2 “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Matthew 11:19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. Jesus loved those that the religious system said he should have disdained. After all, they disdained them. They loaded them into their grading machine and found that they failed all the tests to be loved by God.

It turns out; their thoughts were not the thoughts of God.

Turns out the section of Isaiah that speaks of God’s thoughts not being our thoughts, is a section dedicated to the incomprehensible compassion of God.

Turns out, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” was not a song title back in His day, it was an accusation from the religious system.

It turns out Jesus knew that eventually, ultimately, the wisdom of how He was living would be vindicated.

Vindicated is a delightful word that means to be cleared from an accusation, justified. If Jesus would be a friend to you, would that draw you to the Father? Oh my yes! These sinners were going to come to God, which means they would be saved. Jesus would then be friends of the saved and wisdom would be vindicated. I think God smiles quite often at our silliness, our low opinion of Him and His mercy.

Why did the people come “near to Him to listen to Him”? He was a message of salvation to all who would call upon the Name of the Lord. (Joel 2:32)

His life and death on the cross were about to remove the curse of the law, and the ‘sinners’ recognized that it was also removing the curse of the self-righteous judges who acted as if God was just like them.

Kathy Steele was a fisher of men. One man exemplifies how Kathy lived the truth of being a person who invited those on the outside, into the group.  One of the first people I talked with outside of Kathy’s immediate family was a young man who had a public struggle with addiction. He said that the first time he met Kathy he felt close to her, even though “they had very little in common”. He said, “I knew when she told me she was praying for me, that she was.” He spoke of the fact that Kathy was “always looking for me, to talk to me.” Even when she was sick, He noted how “there was no cloud over her, only the sun.”  He spoke of how Kathy always made him feel welcome in church. It is one thing for people to put up with your presence in the building, it is quite another for them to make an effort to seek you out and say with their eyes, their words and their heart that they are glad that you are there. One time when prayer was being offered at the front of the sanctuary, and she sensed that this young man would not or could not come forward.  She went to the back row and prayed with him at his seat. “To seek and save that which is lost.” Luke 19:10  Her heart was inclusive, filled with love and that love had to flow outward.  He shared knowing that Kathy was praying for you made you “accountable” and kept you from doing bad things. Love has that kind of power. When you know that you are loved, your heart is drawn to want to please the one who loves you. By the same token, if you know your actions will hurt the heart of the one who loves you, you are drawn to refrain from that action. Some of his other thoughts were: “I didn’t know her for a long time, but she was a friend of mine.” “She helped me through addiction.” “I always felt comfortable going to her, no matter what.”

Kathy’s penchant for inviting those who were on the outside in showed in the way she treated her now daughters-in-law during the process of dating her sons.  Both of them expressed how there was no “waiting period” or gauntlet to win her acceptance. As soon as they were dating her sons, Kathy made them a part of the family. They were accepted in the beloved. They were shown this by being her helpers in decorating the Christmas tree, being her companion when her sons went out for a ‘golf day,’ and bringing both of them along on vacation.  When she had the family sit down to talk to them about cancer, she included them. Other comments that her daughters-in-law had: She “always had an open door,” “even though we were young she respected and valued what we thought.” They were not held at arm’s length or made to feel second class; they were in the family 100%. The blessing of a loving family was shared without reservation.  When your heart is aware of the abundance of God, you do not circle the wagons and try to preserve a tiny amount of goodness, protecting it and clutching it close to you.  God has an abundant supply. He encourages us to invite all into the group. He is not afraid of running low on baked beans.  Invite them to the table, and He will see to it that there is an abundant supply.

Almost 2000 years after Jesus fulfilled the laws of Moses, new walls have been erected. Many feel they are not going to be loved or accepted at ‘church.’  The message they are hearing is, ‘You are not good enough.’

Where is the first place you should go if you are struggling with an addiction?

Where is the first place you should go if a deadly disease is overtaking you?

Where should you go if guilt and shame for your past are keeping you from God?

The local body of Christ should be the answer to these questions, but we have fallen short of our call to lay down our lives in love. It is costly to put aside time to pray, to reach out, to keep hoping and trusting in the face of disappointments. It is a hard, narrow way.

Unconditional love, the ultimate drawing card, Jesus lived it. Jesus, in Kathy, lived it too. The message came through loud and clear: You are not outside of or beyond His love. Come in; your pardon has been purchased, your guilt has been absolved. Your salvation has come, rejoice! Jesus is the only explanation for that kind of love. People know when your motives are false, their antennae are up for those who are out to use them or who are only giving them lip service. Those who are hurting the most will resist the hardest as a test of your love.

The reality of God’s love had so captured Kathy’s heart that she reflected His heart. She went out to find the lost sheep, laying down her life in countless ways to proclaim, ‘You are not beyond the reach of His nail scarred hand.’ Those who were very aware of being outside looking in found a place in her heart that was warm and welcoming. Acceptance and love had touched their lives, and they were changed as a result. They walked away from such a touch becoming softer and more open to the possibility that God was not finished and still had hope for them. Despair and darkness have an enemy. Hope and light infiltrate their kingdoms and do untold damage to their plans and strategies. Kathy’s life was used by God to spearhead the charge in many lives and situations. She carried hope with her. The light was shining through her, and that light was magnified even more to the people who knew she was battling cancer.

Preparing the Heart

Matthew 16:21  “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

Mark 8:31 “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.”

Jesus was merciful to the disciples in giving them plenty of warnings about the cross that was to come.  This wisdom had to stay veiled to their minds and hidden from the ‘rulers of this age’ to fulfill the plan of God, but the Holy Spirit allowed these words to return to the disciples and comfort them.  It is a precious gift of love to do your best to prepare those you love for challenging situations.  Jesus took time out from the moments of great popularity, healings with crowds following to pull the disciples in close and have the hard conversation about His future death and subsequent resurrection.

Both of Kathy’s sons spoke of the time when she chose to gather the family around and have the hard conversation.  She loved them enough to go to this area that would have been forbidding in its depth of emotion and pain.  She loved them enough to speak of particular scenario’s that might happen after she died.  She talked about finances and accounts and of relationships and events that could happen after her passing.  Both sons spoke of how her words helped them after her death to deal with events and actions that followed her death.  They were honest to say that without those talks they would have been ‘rocked’ by things that transpired.  However, since Kathy had sat them down and addressed different ways people would cope with her death, when events started to play out they were able to respond with, “Mom said this might happen.  It will be okay.”

This is a part of the hard, narrow way, choosing to have conversations that make everyone in the room uncomfortable.  Knowing that others will benefit in the future if you ‘force the issue’ now is an act of love.  Sacrificial, joyful giving of oneself that allows people to work through some of their emotions and reactions before the event even happens.  Kathy did not ‘duck’ these types of discussions even though it would have been easier to do so.  She rose above the protests of “Let’s not talk about this” to make the transition to life without her easier on those she loved.  She had absolutely nothing to gain in doing this.  It was an act of selfless love. These are the acts that are the foundation stones in building the kingdom of God. These actions flow out of a heart so taken up and taken over by His love that they can pour out expecting nothing in return. It is a “going before,” a “preparing the way” that tears the veil of time and plants seeds of helpfulness in a moment that goes out into eternity. Oh for a gathering of believers who push aside the uncomfortable feelings and can express the love that gives grace to the hearer. To be a vessel of grace, is there any higher call?

“Whether I Live or Whether I Die I Want to Do God’s Will”

 

Job 13:15 “Though He slay me,

I will hope in Him.

Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him.”

Luke 22:42  “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Daniel 3:17,18 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Kathy’s mom, related this short exchange with Kathy.  Kathy’s mom:  “Kathy I am praying for your healing.”   Kathy:  “Whether I live or whether I die I want to do God’s will.”

Kathy never gave up hope of her healing, but she resigned herself to whatever the will of God would be.  She would tell her oldest son, “We need to know that people are watching how we deal with this.  It matters how we respond.”  She kept a great attitude, and her family tried to mirror that and fed off of that attitude.  She chose not to be defined by cancer.  She was honest about her pain but stayed positive.

Her sister-in-law shared how Kathy lived above cancer.  She would push her needs and wants aside when others needed her.  Her niece saw that Kathy did not just face cancer willing for whatever God had, she faced her life that way.  This was not some “new” way of doing things that she had to force herself into when ovarian cancer came along.  This heart attitude defined her life.  Living with this confidence in an eternal, imperishable kingdom is mocked in these times.  This brings to mind a conversation related by Art Katz, when one person derisively said, “What is this all about, ‘pie in the sky when you die?’” To which Art replied, “What are you going to have when you die?”  People who loved Kathy stumbled over her having cancer.  Many were made to wonder and question the God she so lovingly served.  Kathy displayed a trust in God that defied logic.  Faith is like that; it begins where the atheist would say it should end.

When John the Baptist first proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” a pattern was stamped on to the life of Christ that is now taken up by His faithful disciples.  What the true believer has to face in this life is at times for the benefit of others.  Paul was very aware of this principle.

2 Cor. 4:7-12  “7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.”

2 Cor. 1:8-10  “8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.”

Just because our painfully limited understanding does not compute “good” coming out of a situation does not give us the right to put God as the defendant in the witness stand while we question His goodness.  Paul goes on in Second Corinthians to push home the point.

2 Cor. 4:16-18  “16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Resurrection is not at the central place that it should be in most people’s understanding.  This one thing alone helps to make sense out of senseless situations.  Paul admonishes us again, 1 Cor. 15:19 “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”  If there is no resurrection, no kingdom of glory, no eternal presence of God most high, then we who believe there is should be pitied above all other men.  Cancer did not define Kathy Steele’s life, resurrection did!  She lived her life as one who knew the One who has the power to raise a person to newness of life.  This life is not all there is.  It is but a vapor and not in any way to be compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits those who trust in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Snapshots from Kathy’s Life

The purpose of this section is to 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.

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: “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.”

A Promise is a Promise

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 her the bonus of a plowed driveway.  Even in retelling the story Chris 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, which is not surprising among unbelievers but very surprising 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 mentioned walking in on his mom on the phone discussing whether or not a test or procedure had been done incorrectly. Kathy would not tolerate 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 came through during his physical therapy also.  His therapist stated most guys would be asking for a note not to go to work; you are pushing hard for a note to be allowed to go back to work.  The standard had been placed, and her sons 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.

Intercession – Kathy’s Heart

On at least two occasions involving car accidents, Kathy was led to prayer by the Holy Spirit before any knowledge of the accidents.  One involving her brother and once involving her youngest niece and her husband   She just had an urge from the Holy Spirit to pray.  Dennis even speaks of an angel who helped him get out of the wrecked car.  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 her 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 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 had a part in the Christmas play.  I think it was called “cardboard testimonies” where a simple phrase is written on a piece of cardboard 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 to me 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.

Holy Ground Paragraph

In talking with Kathy’s niece, she said that in some way she felt Kathy was somehow given a choice and chose this path. My friend whose wife had ALS brought up almost the same sentiment. He believes God revealed to her what life would look like if she did not go down this path and what it would look like if she did. Even though the cost was high, she chose the path that would bring the greatest love to those about whom she cared. (I am not going to add any words to that simple paragraph, to me it is holy ground and I feel only the Holy Spirit could reveal the depth of truth that is behind those words.)

The Elephant in the Room Question

The elephant in the room question concerning Kathy is, “God if this is how You treat Your friends…?” Without the perspective of eternity, we can quickly call the goodness of God into question. Paul states it very plainly, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Cor. 15:19 We are staking our hope on a future coming King and a coming kingdom. A better place. A home where mourning is turned into joy. The cross of Jesus Christ was endurable because of the joy set before Him, and so it is with Kathy and others mentioned in this book. Without that hope what hope is there? Without that as your truth, how can one face the ravages of sickness and disease? The resurrection proclaims victory over death; it points beyond this life. Death is the last enemy to be defeated, but the defeat is already guaranteed. The last breath in this world is a lie. For the Christian, nothing has ended. The pain and frustration of separation can propel us to the place where we are beating on the chest of God demanding answers. In His mercy, He will allow us to do that for as long as necessary, and then when we are exhausted, we will collapse into the arms of the One who loves us beyond measure.

Section 2 – People Who Helped Me In This Journey

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 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.

This couple was part of a clinical trial of an experimental drug. It was 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 I noticed on entering the room was the love that filled the room. 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 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 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 just to be quiet 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 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 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 for 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 moments 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 sentence 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 the 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 six 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 two hearts united in the battle. This is the place of God’s blessing on 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, for 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.” She communicated these thoughts to her husband using sign language and her heart connection to him.

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.” (by nodding her head) 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 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 period 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 to be 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.

My 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 enduring. 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 three small girls and a 6-month-old boy is just as scary, humbling, and overwhelming as it sounds.

His story starts with a challenge entirely unrelated to his wife’s health. Just, days before his wife had a 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 the 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. Since he had no plan other than to do the 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 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, I will work it out.” Psalm 46:10 (paraphrased)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, 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 13 years had passed, and it was obvious that God had planted a seed of trust in what looked like barren soil. 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.

In November of 2015, my friend delivered a baby boy.  He 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 to share.

“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 my dear son 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 for. 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 a 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’ has 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 my son’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 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 excellent advice six years after losing her and shortly after losing his “surrogate” mom who showed him, deep love. ”My mother used to text me every day just to say she loved me! When she passed, my other Mom 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.”

Section 3 – Turning Aside to Look at the Burning Bush

Her body is a “tent” for her spirit.

Here are some interesting questions. What is your body? Is it you? No, it is not you. It is a part of you, but it is not the eternal part. It is the part of you that is perishing and decaying. This perishable flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Is our cultural emphasis on this “tent” that will be cast aside at the very first moment of the kingdom of God completely out of proportion? Yes, a thousand times yes. “Gifts of healings” (1 Corin. 12;28)is a beautiful, merciful provision of God, to extend a life to fulfill His eternal purpose. But there comes a time when that gift ends. God has placed an expiration date on each person and that, too, is His mercy. Death is an enemy, but in the wisdom of God, it is the last enemy to be defeated. For now, this enemy has the last word, however, he, too, has no power except it had been given him from above. How we have fallen in our understanding of what is important. The emphasis is not on the eternal, it is foolishness to put 100% of our effort into the perishable and ignore the imperishable. Focus on the real you, the eternal you. Sickness and disease serve to pull back the veil and reveal that nothing in this life can be an ultimate goal, nothing in this life can bring ultimate happiness. It is so important to keep the mercy of God front and center in all our thinking. Anything that attacks that truth is shaky ground that is impossible to stand on, and impossible to build on.

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. Kathy endured suffering, but she did not lose her hope and her trust in God. This is a high call, 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 Messiah in you, your hope begins and ends there.

Something is being demonstrated to angels in the life of a believer who loves Jesus in spite of His seeming “tarrying for 2 or 3 days” after He was told that you are dying.(1 Peter 1:12) 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, and it bids us look to the cross, 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 this: 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 and a willingness to reconsider the call on his life. He knew the call was to be the deliverer, but he went about it all wrong, messing it up so totally that exile and a life of feeling forgotten by God are all that he had. Moses 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 the culture around him. The principle is if you stop to look and are willing to have your boxes with all of your preconceived 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 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.” (Deut. 32:36, Dan. 12:7) 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’s 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. At 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 the 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 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 it indeed 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. 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.

Isaiah 65:5 “They say, ‘Keep to yourself

don’t come near me, for I am too holy for you!’

These practices are smoke in My nostrils,

a fire that burns all day long.”

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 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 inhabit. 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.” (Hebrews 12:2) The reality of the perfect love that casts out the fear of eternal judgment talked about is the one thing that John sets before us as capable of defeating fear. (1 John 4:18)

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,  Still they 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 the crisis of both inward and outward circumstances, to bring us to the end of 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.” (1 John 4:19)To the degree that we do not love, is the extent 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 always be working a death to our pride. Pride is the thing that kills the witness of the individual believer and the corporate body (wrongly 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 blessing, and a call comes to share or let go of those blessings. The call originates 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 the 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 enemies, 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, microscopically 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 cannot do anything to activate this statement as a truth in your life.  This is a work of the Holy Spirit from start to finish.  (This section was inspired by writings by Reggie Kelly available at the.mysteryofisrael.org)

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 one would take a moment and pause and consider Kathy and her attitude toward this time, they would be confronted with the truth.  Cancer meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to preserve life, to call you to see beyond this temporary existence, to cause you to be willing to release the blessings you have been given to be a blessing to others and to give you the strength and courage to lay down in sacrificial love for the least of these My brothers. I can even sense Kathy smiling that her book, became a launching pad for many stories of the faithfulness of God in the lives of others. She is not the center, and I am 100% sure, that is perfectly fine with her.

A Word for Caregivers

Jesus calls His followers to the impossible so that, they will cry out to Him at the end of their strength.  Being a caregiver is a calling that will place you firmly at the end of your strength, patience, and love in a short amount of time.  Illness, pain and the discouragement of not seeing anything get better rob a person of their ability to be kind and understanding. The person needing care is at a low point, with no reserves and can begin to feel like a burden. Unknowingly, manipulation can come into the situation, and the caregivers can feel used. Only the love of God can defeat the Enemy at times like these. Caregivers need to have time quietly in the presence of God, receiving steadfast love and lots of care from Him, before they can enter the situation. The Enemy is out to break the love and peace in the room. He is out to separate, to put us at enmity with each other. The focus needs to be on proclaiming God as faithful through it all. How can we recognize the true Enemy and not turn the frustrations of the situation into anger and impatience with one another? Sometimes all the person going through an illness needs is five more minutes of attention and care, but the caregivers do not have even one more minute of strength. This is the place of brokenness and weakness and death that God is bringing us to.  This is the place where He can truly work. If the caregivers can be honest and cry out to Him that they have nothing left, He will come in and take over. Love will defeat the enemy.  Resurrection life out of a place of death is the ultimate pattern for the defeat of Satan as he schemes to divide and conquer. At all costs, maintain your unity with God and with the one you are loving.  The truth is we cannot love, but if we get out of the way, we can let His unfailing love flow through us.

Afterword

Some people wrote testimonials about how Kathy’s life affected their lives. I wanted to include them but had felt very strongly to only use Kathy’s name throughout this book. My solution was to make these available online at kathystestimonials.wordpress.com I hope it will make the overall picture of her life more clear to read them. I deeply appreciate everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.

This entire book is available for free online at

chuckabean.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/kathy-book-final/s

 

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Kathy Book 1st Grammarly check

The Cross
of Jesus Christ
in the Life of
Kathy Steele
by Chuck Bean

Preface
Section 1  Getting to Know Kathy
The Elephant in the Room
Section 2  Others Who Walked this Journey
Section 3  Stopping to Ponder the Burning Bush
A Word for Caregivers
Afterword

Preface

This preface has required the most revision. Not just “Oh that needs a little tweaking, it is not good enough.” No, it has been totally scrapped and completely redone numerous times.
Tears, far better than words, convey the message of this book. Tears cried on the shoulder of one who offers no advice, who is not seeking to be anything or to do anything. Tears that flow freely from a place in the heart that has been broken.
I have never, not for one second, felt capable to write this. As the time to put a final copy on paper inched close, that feeling overwhelmed me, and my heart cry has become, “You write this and I will get out of the way as much as humanly possible.”
The original burden to write this book came to me simply as the title. I did not feel that it could possibly be true that God wanted me to write it. So I put it aside. Many times it was out of my thoughts completely and it just kept getting confirmed by God, until I knew I needed to write it. I started off gathering stories from people who knew and loved Kathy. Some chapters came out of those conversations and then there was a period of time where the project lay dormant. Connections with people came into my life that re-sparked my burden but now there was a slightly different perspective.
Having never attempted anything like this before how does one know when all the learning that the author needs is done, and thoughts can then be put to paper? My solution is to not put a “The End” on this book. I hope this work is looked upon with eyes of mercy. Ask God to “fill up what is lacking” in my abilities and pray that you will get out of it what you need, in spite of the author’s failings. In a very real sense, a completed book is just one tiny part of the whole, and the whole is made up of those who read it and incorporate it or reject it or most likely a little of both. I would love to get feedback and continue this conversation so I will set up a blogspot.com page just for feedback on this book. http://feedbackforchuck.blogspot.com/
Your comments will be deeply appreciated and the book will continue to live and grow and change through your input.
Scripture references will be taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

 

 

Section 1 Getting to Know Kathy

When one heart can be open and vulnerable with another heart, admitting, owning, sharing freely, its own brokenness that is the soil on which true intimacy is planted and from which healing grows. (Ann Voskamp, paraphrase)
I see my role in this book as a compiler of people’s stories. My job is relating those stories to Jesus Christ, so that His name, His love, His forgiveness is glorified.
Bringing People from the Outside, In
Luke 15:1,2 “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Matthew 11:19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. Jesus loved those that the religious system said he should have disdained. After all, they disdained them. They loaded them into their grading machine and found that they failed all the tests to be loved by God.
Turns out, their thoughts were not the thoughts of God.
Turns out the section of Isaiah that speaks of God’s thoughts not being our thoughts, is a section dedicated to the incomprehensible compassion of God.
Turns out, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” was not a song title back in His day, it was an accusation from the religious system.
Turns out Jesus knew that eventually, ultimately, the wisdom of how He was living would be vindicated.
Vindicated is a delightful word that means to be cleared from an accusation, justified. If Jesus would be a friend to you, would that draw you to the Father? Oh my yes! These sinners were going to come to God, which means they would be saved. Jesus would then be friends of the saved and wisdom would be vindicated. I think God smiles quite often at our silliness, our low opinion of Him and His mercy.
Why did the people come “near to Him to listen to Him”? He was a message of salvation to all who would call upon the Name of the Lord. (Joel 2:32)
His life and death on the cross were about to remove the curse of the law, and the ‘sinners’ recognized that it was also removing the curse of the self-righteous judges who acted as if God was just like them.
Kathy Steele was a fisher of men. One man exemplifies how Kathy lived the truth of being a person who invited those on the outside, in.  One of the first people I talked with outside of Kathy’s immediate family was a young man who had a public struggle with addiction. He said that the first time he met Kathy he felt close to her, even though “they had very little in common”. He said, “I knew when she said she was praying for me, that she was.” He spoke of the fact that Kathy was “always looking for me, to talk to me.” Even when she was sick He noted how “there was no cloud over her, only the sun.”  He spoke of how Kathy always made him feel welcome in church. It is one thing for people to put up with your presence in the building, it is quite another for them to make the effort to seek you out and say with their eyes, their words and their heart that they are glad that you are there. One time when prayer was being offered at the front of the sanctuary, and she sensed that this young man would not or could not come forward.  She went to the back row and prayed with him at his seat. “To seek and save that which is lost.” Luke 19:10  Her heart was inclusive, filled with love and that love had to flow outward.  He shared knowing that Kathy was praying for you made you “accountable” and kept you from doing bad things. Love has that kind of power. When you know that you are loved, your heart is drawn to want to please the one who loves you. By the same token, if you know your actions will hurt the heart of the one who loves you, you are drawn to refrain from that action. Some of his other thoughts were: “I didn’t know her for a long time, but she was a friend of mine.” “She helped me through addiction.” “I always felt comfortable going to her, no matter what.”
Kathy’s penchant for inviting those who were on the outside in showed in the way she treated her now daughters-in-law during the process of dating her sons.  Both of them expressed how there was no “waiting period” or gauntlet to win her acceptance. As soon as they were dating her sons Kathy made them a part of the family. They were accepted in the beloved. They were shown this by being her helpers in decorating the Christmas tree, being her companion when her sons went out for a ‘golf day’, and bringing both of them along on vacation.  When she had the family sit down to talk to them about cancer, she included them. Other comments that her daughters-in-law had: She “always had an open door”, “even though we were young she respected and valued what we thought.” They were not held at arm’s length or made to feel second class, they were in the family 100%. The blessing of a loving family was shared without reservation.  When your heart is aware of the abundance of God, you do not circle the wagons and try to preserve a tiny amount of goodness, protecting it and clutching it close to you.  God has an abundant supply. He encourages us to invite all in. He is not afraid of running low on baked beans.  Invite them to the table and He will see to it that there is an abundant supply.
Almost 2000 years after Jesus fulfilled the laws of Moses, new walls have been erected. Many feel they are not going to be loved or accepted at ‘church’.  The message they are hearing is, ‘You are not good enough’.
Where is the first place you should go if you are struggling with an addiction?
Where is the first place you should go if a deadly disease is overtaking you?
Where should you go if guilt and shame for your past are keeping you from God?
The local body of Christ should be the answer to these questions, but we have fallen short of our call to lay down our lives in love. It is costly to put aside time to pray, to reach out, to keep hoping and trusting in the face of disappointments. It is a hard narrow way.
Unconditional love, the ultimate drawing card, Jesus lived it. Jesus, in Kathy, lived it too. The message came through loud and clear: You are not outside of or beyond His love. Come in, your pardon has been purchased, your guilt has been absolved. Your salvation has come, rejoice! Jesus is the only explanation for that kind of love. People know when your motives are false, their antennae are up for those who are out to use them or who are only giving them lip service. Those who are hurting the most will resist the hardest as a test of your love.
The reality of God’s love had so captured Kathy’s heart that she reflected His heart. She went out to find the lost sheep, laying down her life in countless ways to proclaim, ‘You are not beyond the reach of His nail scarred hand.’ Those who were very aware of being outside looking in found a place in her heart that was warm and welcoming. Acceptance and love had touched their lives and they were changed as a result. They walked away from such a touch becoming softer and more open to the possibility that God was not finished and still had hope for them. Despair and darkness have an enemy. Hope and light infiltrate their kingdoms and do untold damage to their plans and strategies. Kathy’s life was used by God to spearhead the charge in many lives and situations. She carried hope with her. The light was shining through her and that light was magnified even more to the people who knew what she was walking into.

Love Prepares the Heart
Matthew 16:21  “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”
Mark 8:31 “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Jesus was merciful to the disciples in giving them plenty of warnings about the cross that was to come.  This wisdom had to stay veiled to their minds and hidden from the ‘rulers of this age’ to fulfill the plan of God, but the Holy Spirit allowed these words to return to the disciples and comfort them.  It is a precious gift of love to do your best to prepare those you love for difficult situations.  Jesus took time out from the moments of great popularity, healings with crowds following to pull the disciples in close and have the hard conversation about His future death and subsequent resurrection.
Both of Kathy’s sons spoke of the time when she chose to gather the family around and have the hard conversation.  She loved them enough to go to this area that would have been forbidding in its depth of emotion and pain.  She loved them enough to speak of specific scenario’s that might happen after she died.  She spoke of finances and accounts and of relationships and events that could happen after her passing.  Both sons spoke of how her words helped them after her death to deal with events and actions that followed her death.  They were honest to say that without those talks they would have been ‘rocked’ by things that transpired.  However, since Kathy had sat them down and addressed different ways people would cope with her death, when events started to play out they were able to calmly respond with, “Mom said this might happen.  It will be okay.”
This is a part of the hard, narrow way, choosing to have conversations that make everyone in the room uncomfortable.  Knowing that others will benefit in the future if you ‘force the issue’ now is an act of love.  Sacrificial, joyful giving of oneself that allows people to work through some of their emotions and reactions before the event even happens.  Kathy did not ‘duck’ these types of discussions even though it would have been easier to do so.  She rose above the protests of “Let’s not talk about this” to make the transition to life without her easier on those she loved.  She had absolutely nothing to gain in doing this.  It was an act of selfless love. These are the acts that the kingdom of God is built upon. These acts flow out of a heart so taken up and taken over by His love that they can pour out expecting nothing in return. It is a “going before”, a “preparing the way” that tears the veil of time and plants seeds of helpfulness in a moment that goes out into eternity. Oh for a gathering of believers who push aside the uncomfortable feelings and can express the love that gives grace to the hearer. To be a vessel of grace, is there any higher call?

“Whether I Live or Whether I Die I Want to Do God’s Will”

Job 13:15 “Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him.”
Luke 22:42  “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
Daniel 3:17,18 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Kathy’s mom, related this short exchange with Kathy.  Kathy’s mom:  “Kathy I am praying for your healing.”   Kathy:  “Whether I live or whether I die I want to do God’s will.”
Kathy never gave up hope of her healing, but she resigned herself to whatever the will of God would be.  She would tell her oldest son, “We need to know that people are watching how we deal with this.  It matters how we respond.”  She kept a great attitude, and her family tried to mirror that and fed off of that attitude.  She chose not to be defined by cancer.  She was honest about her pain but stayed positive.
Her sister-in-law shared how Kathy lived above cancer.  She would push her needs and wants aside when others needed her.  Her niece saw that she did not just face cancer willing for whatever God had, she faced her life that way.  This was not some “new” way of doing things that she had to force herself into when ovarian cancer came along.  This heart attitude defined her life.  Living with this confidence in an eternal, imperishable kingdom is mocked in these times.  This brings to mind a conversation related by Art Katz, when one person derisively said, “What is this all about, ‘pie in the sky when you die?’” To which Art replied, “What are you going to have when you die?”  People who loved Kathy stumbled over her having cancer.  Many were made to wonder and question the God she so lovingly served.  Kathy displayed a trust in God that defied logic.  Faith is like that, it begins where the atheist would say it should end.
When John the Baptist first proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” a pattern was stamped on to the life of Christ that is now taken up by His true disciples.  What the true believer has to face in this life is at times for the benefit of others.  Paul was very aware of this principle.
2 Cor. 4:7-12  “7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.”
2 Cor. 1:8-10  “8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us”
Just because our painfully limited understanding does not compute “good” coming out of a situation does not give us the right to put God as the defendant in the witness stand while we question His goodness.  Paul goes on in Second Corinthians to push home the point.
2 Cor. 4:16-18  “16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Resurrection is not at the central place that it should be in most people’s understanding.  This one thing alone helps to make sense out of senseless situations.  Paul admonishes us again, 1 Cor. 15:19 “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”  If there is no resurrection, no kingdom of glory, no eternal presence of God most high, then we who believe there is should be pitied above all other men.  Cancer did not define Kathy Steele’s life, resurrection did!  She lived her life as one who knew the One who has the power to raise a person to newness of life.  This life is not all there is.  It is but a vapor and not in any way to be compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits those who trust in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Snapshots from Kathy’s Life

The purpose of this section is to 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.
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: “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.”

A Promise is a Promise
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 her the bonus of a plowed driveway.  Even in retelling the story Chris 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, which is not surprising among unbelievers but very surprising 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 mentioned walking in on his mom on the phone discussing whether or not a test or a procedure had been done incorrectly. Kathy would not tolerate 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 came through during his physical therapy also.  His therapist stated most guys would be asking for a note not to go to work, you are pushing hard for a note to be allowed to go back to work.  The standard had been placed and her sons 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.
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.  One involving her brother and once involving her youngest niece and her husband   She just had an urge from the Holy Spirit to pray.  Dennis even speaks of an angel who helped him get out of the wrecked car.  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 her 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 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 had a part in the Christmas play.  I think it was called “cardboard testimonies” where a simple phrase is written on a piece of cardboard 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 to me 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.

Holy Ground Paragraph

In talking with Kathy’s niece she said that in some way she felt Kathy was somehow given a choice and chose this path. My friend whose wife had ALS brought up almost the exact same sentiment. He feels God revealed to her what life would look like if she did not go down this path and what it would look like if she did. Even though the cost was great she chose the path that would bring the greatest love to those she cared about. (I am not going to add any words to that simple paragraph, to me it is holy ground and I feel only the Holy Spirit could reveal the depth of truth that is behind those words.)

 

The Elephant in the Room Question

The elephant in the room question concerning Kathy is, “God if this is how You treat Your friends…?” Without the perspective of eternity, we can easily call the goodness of God into question. Paul states it very plainly, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Cor. 15:19 We are staking our hope on a future coming King and a coming kingdom. A better place. Where mourning is turned into joy. The cross of Jesus Christ was endurable because of the joy set before Him, and so it is with Kathy and others mentioned in this book. Without that hope what hope is there? Without that as your truth, how can one face the ravages of sickness and disease? The resurrection proclaims victory over death, it points beyond this life. Death is the last enemy to be defeated, but the defeat is already guaranteed. The last breath in this world is a lie. For the Christian, nothing has ended. The pain and frustration of separation can propel us to the place where we are beating on the chest of God demanding answers. In His mercy, He will allow us to do that for as long as necessary and then when we are exhausted, we will collapse into the arms of the One who loves us beyond measure.

 

Section 2 – People Who Helped Me In This Journey

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.
This couple was 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 I 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 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 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 sentence 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 the 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, for 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.” She communicated these thoughts to her husband using sign language and her heart connection to him.
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.” (by nodding her head) 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 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 to be 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.

My 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 is 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 a 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 the 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. Since 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, I will work it out.” Psalm 46:10 (paraphrased)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, 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 13 years had passed and it was obvious that God had planted a seed of trust in what looked like barren soil. 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.

In November of 2015, my friend delivered a baby boy.  He 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 to share.
“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 my dear son 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 a 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’ has 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 my son’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 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 every day just to say she loved me! When she passed my other Mom 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.”

 

Section 3 – Turning Aside to Look at the Burning Bush

Her body is a “tent” for her spirit.
Here are some interesting questions. What is your body? Is it you? No, it is not you. It is a part of you, but it is not the eternal part. It is the part of you that is perishing and decaying. This perishable flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Is our cultural emphasis on this “tent” that will be cast aside at the very first moment of the kingdom of God completely out of proportion? Yes, a thousand times yes. “Gifts of healings” (1 Corin. 12;28)is a beautiful, merciful provision of God, to extend a life to fulfill His eternal purpose. But there comes a time when that gift ends. God has placed an expiration date on each person and that, too, is His mercy. Death is an enemy, but in the wisdom of God, it is the last enemy to be defeated. For now, this enemy has the last word, however, he, too, has no power except it had been given him from above. How we have fallen in our understanding of what is important. The emphasis is not on the eternal, it is foolishness to put 100% of our effort into the perishable and ignore the imperishable. Focus on the real you, the eternal you. Sickness and disease serve to pull back the veil and reveal that nothing in this life can be an ultimate goal, nothing in this life can bring ultimate happiness. It is so important to keep the mercy of God front and center in all our thinking. Anything that attacks that truth is shaky ground that is impossible to stand on, and impossible to build on.

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. Kathy endured suffering, but she did not lose her hope and her trust in God. This is a high call, 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 Messiah in you, your hope begins and ends there.
Something is being demonstrated to angels in the life of a believer who loves Jesus in spite of His seeming “tarrying for 2 or 3 days” after He was told that you are dying.(1 Peter 1:12) 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 and it bids us look to the cross, 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 this: 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 and a willingness to reconsider the call on his life. He knew the call was to be the deliverer, but he went about it all wrong, messing it up so totally that exile and a life of feeling forgotten by God are 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 preconceived 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 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.” (Deut. 32:36, Dan. 12:7) 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’s 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 the 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. 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.

Isaiah 65:5 They say, “Keep to yourself
don’t come near me, for I am too holy for you!”
These practices are smoke in My nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long.

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 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.” (Hebrews 12:2) 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,  Still they 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 the crisis of both inward and outward circumstances, to bring us to the end of 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.” (1 John 4:19)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 (wrongly 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 Gentile 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 paraphrased, 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 the 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 enemies, 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, microscopically 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 cannot do anything to activate this statement as a truth in your life.  This is a work of the Holy Spirit from start to finish.  (This section was inspired by writings by Reggie Kelly available at the.mysteryofisrael.org)

 

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 the truth.  Cancer meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to preserve life, to call you to see beyond this temporary existence, to cause you to be willing to release the blessings you have been given to be a blessing to others and to give you the strength and courage to lay down in sacrificial love for the least of these My brothers. I can even sense Kathy smiling that her book, became a launching pad for many stories of the faithfulness of God in the lives of others. She is not the center and I am 100% sure, that is perfectly fine with her.

A Word for Caregivers
Jesus calls His followers to the impossible so that, they will cry out to Him at the end of their strength.  Being a caregiver is a calling that will place you firmly at the end of your strength, patience, and love in a short amount of time.  Illness, pain and the discouragement of not seeing anything get better rob a person of their ability to be kind and understanding. The person needing care is at a low point, with no reserves and can begin to feel like a burden. Unknowingly, manipulation can come into the situation and the caregivers can feel like they are being taken advantage of. Only the love of God can defeat the Enemy at times like these. Caregivers need to have time quietly in the presence of God, receiving steadfast love and lots of care from Him, before they can enter the situation. The Enemy is out to break the love and peace in the room. He is out to separate, to put us at enmity with each other. The focus needs to be on proclaiming God faithfully through it all. How can we recognize the true Enemy and not turn the frustrations of the situation into anger and impatience with one another? Sometimes all the person going through an illness needs is 5 more minutes of attention and care, but the caregivers do not have even 1 more minute of strength. This is the place of brokenness and weakness and death that God is bringing us to.  This is the place where He can truly work. If the caregivers can be honest and cry out to Him that they have nothing left, He will come in and take over. Love will defeat the enemy.  Resurrection life out of a place of death is the ultimate pattern for the defeat of Satan as he schemes to divide and conquer. At all costs, maintain your unity with God and with the one you are taking care of.  The truth is we cannot love, but if we get out of the way, we can let His unfailing love flow through us.

 

Afterword

A number of people wrote testimonials about how Kathy’s life affected their lives. I wanted to include them but had felt very strongly to only use Kathy’s name throughout this book. My solution was to make these available online at kathystestimonials.wordpress.com I hope it will make the overall picture of her life more clear to read them. I deeply appreciate everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.

This entire book is available for free online at

chuckabean.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/kathy-book-final/s

Kathy book final

The Cross
of Jesus Christ
in the Life of
Kathy Steele
by Chuck Bean

Preface
Section 1  Getting to Know Kathy
The Elephant in the Room
Section 2  Others Who Walked this Journey
Section 3  Stopping to Ponder the Burning Bush
A Word for Caregivers
Afterword
 

Preface

This preface has required the most revision. Not just “Oh that needs a little tweaking, it is not good enough.” No, it has been scrapped and completely redone numerous times.
Tears, far better than words, convey the message of this book. Tears cried on the shoulder of one who offers no advice, who is not seeking to be anything or to do anything. Tears that flow freely from a place in the heart that has been broken.
I have never, not for one second, felt capable of writing this. As the time to put a final copy on paper inched close, that feeling overwhelmed me, and my heart cry has become, “You write this and I will get out of the way as much as humanly possible.”
The initial burden to write this book came to me simply as the title. I did not feel that it could be true that God wanted me to write it. So I put it aside. Many times it was out of my thoughts completely, and it just kept getting confirmed by God, until I knew I needed to write it. I started off gathering stories from people who knew and loved Kathy. Some chapters came out of those conversations and then there was a period where the project lay dormant. Connections with people came into my life that re-sparked my burden but now there was a slightly different perspective.
Having never attempted anything like this before how does one know when all the learning that the author needs is done, and thoughts can then be put to paper? My solution is to forego putting a “The End” on this book. I hope this work is looked upon with eyes of mercy. Ask God to “fill up what is lacking” in my abilities and pray that you will get out of it what you need, in spite of the author’s failings. A completed book is just one tiny part of the whole, and the whole is made up of those who read it and incorporate it or reject it or most likely a little of both. I would love to get feedback and continue this conversation so I will set up a blogspot.com page just for feedback on this book. http://feedbackforchuck.blogspot.com/
Your comments will be deeply appreciated, and the book will continue to live and grow and change through your input.
Scripture references are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

 

 

Section 1 Getting to Know Kathy

When one heart can be open and vulnerable with another heart, admitting, owning, sharing freely, its own brokenness that is the soil on which true intimacy is planted and from which healing grows. (Ann Voskamp, paraphrase)
I see my role in this book as a compiler of people’s stories. My job is relating those stories to Jesus Christ, so that His name, His love, His forgiveness is glorified.
Bringing People from the Outside, In
Luke 15:1,2 “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Matthew 11:19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. Jesus loved those that the religious system said he should have disdained. After all, they disdained them. They loaded them into their grading machine and found that they failed all the tests to be loved by God.
It turns out; their thoughts were not the thoughts of God.
Turns out the section of Isaiah that speaks of God’s thoughts not being our thoughts, is a section dedicated to the incomprehensible compassion of God.
Turns out, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” was not a song title back in His day, it was an accusation from the religious system.
It turns out Jesus knew that eventually, ultimately, the wisdom of how He was living would be vindicated.
Vindicated is a delightful word that means to be cleared from an accusation, justified. If Jesus would be a friend to you, would that draw you to the Father? Oh my yes! These sinners were going to come to God, which means they would be saved. Jesus would then be friends of the saved and wisdom would be vindicated. I think God smiles quite often at our silliness, our low opinion of Him and His mercy.
Why did the people come “near to Him to listen to Him”? He was a message of salvation to all who would call upon the Name of the Lord. (Joel 2:32)
His life and death on the cross were about to remove the curse of the law, and the ‘sinners’ recognized that it was also removing the curse of the self-righteous judges who acted as if God was just like them.
Kathy Steele was a fisher of men. One man exemplifies how Kathy lived the truth of being a person who invited those on the outside, into the group.  One of the first people I talked with outside of Kathy’s immediate family was a young man who had a public struggle with addiction. He said that the first time he met Kathy he felt close to her, even though “they had very little in common”. He said, “I knew when she told me she was praying for me, that she was.” He spoke of the fact that Kathy was “always looking for me, to talk to me.” Even when she was sick, He noted how “there was no cloud over her, only the sun.”  He spoke of how Kathy always made him feel welcome in church. It is one thing for people to put up with your presence in the building, it is quite another for them to make an effort to seek you out and say with their eyes, their words and their heart that they are glad that you are there. One time when prayer was being offered at the front of the sanctuary, and she sensed that this young man would not or could not come forward.  She went to the back row and prayed with him at his seat. “To seek and save that which is lost.” Luke 19:10  Her heart was inclusive, filled with love and that love had to flow outward.  He shared knowing that Kathy was praying for you made you “accountable” and kept you from doing bad things. Love has that kind of power. When you know that you are loved, your heart is drawn to want to please the one who loves you. By the same token, if you know your actions will hurt the heart of the one who loves you, you are drawn to refrain from that action. Some of his other thoughts were: “I didn’t know her for a long time, but she was a friend of mine.” “She helped me through addiction.” “I always felt comfortable going to her, no matter what.”
Kathy’s penchant for inviting those who were on the outside in showed in the way she treated her now daughters-in-law during the process of dating her sons.  Both of them expressed how there was no “waiting period” or gauntlet to win her acceptance. As soon as they were dating her sons, Kathy made them a part of the family. They were accepted in the beloved. They were shown this by being her helpers in decorating the Christmas tree, being her companion when her sons went out for a ‘golf day,’ and bringing both of them along on vacation.  When she had the family sit down to talk to them about cancer, she included them. Other comments that her daughters-in-law had: She “always had an open door,” “even though we were young she respected and valued what we thought.” They were not held at arm’s length or made to feel second class; they were in the family 100%. The blessing of a loving family was shared without reservation.  When your heart is aware of the abundance of God, you do not circle the wagons and try to preserve a tiny amount of goodness, protecting it and clutching it close to you.  God has an abundant supply. He encourages us to invite all into the group. He is not afraid of running low on baked beans.  Invite them to the table, and He will see to it that there is an abundant supply.
Almost 2000 years after Jesus fulfilled the laws of Moses, new walls have been erected. Many feel they are not going to be loved or accepted at ‘church.’  The message they are hearing is, ‘You are not good enough.’
Where is the first place you should go if you are struggling with an addiction?
Where is the first place you should go if a deadly disease is overtaking you?
Where should you go if guilt and shame for your past are keeping you from God?
The local body of Christ should be the answer to these questions, but we have fallen short of our call to lay down our lives in love. It is costly to put aside time to pray, to reach out, to keep hoping and trusting in the face of disappointments. It is a hard, narrow way.
Unconditional love, the ultimate drawing card, Jesus lived it. Jesus, in Kathy, lived it too. The message came through loud and clear: You are not outside of or beyond His love. Come in; your pardon has been purchased, your guilt has been absolved. Your salvation has come, rejoice! Jesus is the only explanation for that kind of love. People know when your motives are false, their antennae are up for those who are out to use them or who are only giving them lip service. Those who are hurting the most will resist the hardest as a test of your love.
The reality of God’s love had so captured Kathy’s heart that she reflected His heart. She went out to find the lost sheep, laying down her life in countless ways to proclaim, ‘You are not beyond the reach of His nail scarred hand.’ Those who were very aware of being outside looking in found a place in her heart that was warm and welcoming. Acceptance and love had touched their lives, and they were changed as a result. They walked away from such a touch becoming softer and more open to the possibility that God was not finished and still had hope for them. Despair and darkness have an enemy. Hope and light infiltrate their kingdoms and do untold damage to their plans and strategies. Kathy’s life was used by God to spearhead the charge in many lives and situations. She carried hope with her. The light was shining through her, and that light was magnified even more to the people who knew she was battling cancer.

Preparing the Heart

Matthew 16:21  “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”
Mark 8:31 “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Jesus was merciful to the disciples in giving them plenty of warnings about the cross that was to come.  This wisdom had to stay veiled to their minds and hidden from the ‘rulers of this age’ to fulfill the plan of God, but the Holy Spirit allowed these words to return to the disciples and comfort them.  It is a precious gift of love to do your best to prepare those you love for challenging situations.  Jesus took time out from the moments of great popularity, healings with crowds following to pull the disciples in close and have the hard conversation about His future death and subsequent resurrection.
Both of Kathy’s sons spoke of the time when she chose to gather the family around and have the hard conversation.  She loved them enough to go to this area that would have been forbidding in its depth of emotion and pain.  She loved them enough to speak of particular scenario’s that might happen after she died.  She talked about finances and accounts and of relationships and events that could happen after her passing.  Both sons spoke of how her words helped them after her death to deal with events and actions that followed her death.  They were honest to say that without those talks they would have been ‘rocked’ by things that transpired.  However, since Kathy had sat them down and addressed different ways people would cope with her death, when events started to play out they were able to respond with, “Mom said this might happen.  It will be okay.”
This is a part of the hard, narrow way, choosing to have conversations that make everyone in the room uncomfortable.  Knowing that others will benefit in the future if you ‘force the issue’ now is an act of love.  Sacrificial, joyful giving of oneself that allows people to work through some of their emotions and reactions before the event even happens.  Kathy did not ‘duck’ these types of discussions even though it would have been easier to do so.  She rose above the protests of “Let’s not talk about this” to make the transition to life without her easier on those she loved.  She had absolutely nothing to gain in doing this.  It was an act of selfless love. These are the acts that are the foundation stones in building the kingdom of God. These actions flow out of a heart so taken up and taken over by His love that they can pour out expecting nothing in return. It is a “going before,” a “preparing the way” that tears the veil of time and plants seeds of helpfulness in a moment that goes out into eternity. Oh for a gathering of believers who push aside the uncomfortable feelings and can express the love that gives grace to the hearer. To be a vessel of grace, is there any higher call?

“Whether I Live or Whether I Die I Want to Do God’s Will”

Job 13:15 “Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him.”
Luke 22:42  “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
Romans 14:8 “For if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”
Daniel 3:17,18 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Kathy’s mom, related this short exchange with Kathy.  Kathy’s mom:  “Kathy I am praying for your healing.”   Kathy:  “Whether I live or whether I die I want to do God’s will.”
Kathy never gave up hope of her healing, but she resigned herself to whatever the will of God would be.  She would tell her oldest son, “We need to know that people are watching how we deal with this.  It matters how we respond.”  She kept a great attitude, and her family tried to mirror that and fed off of that attitude.  She chose not to be defined by cancer.  She was honest about her pain but stayed positive.
Her sister-in-law shared how Kathy lived above cancer.  She would push her needs and wants aside when others needed her.  Her niece saw that Kathy did not just face cancer willing for whatever God had, she faced her life that way.  This was not some “new” way of doing things that she had to force herself into when ovarian cancer came along.  This heart attitude defined her life.  Living with this confidence in an eternal, imperishable kingdom is mocked in these times.  This brings to mind a conversation related by Art Katz, when one person derisively said, “What is this all about, ‘pie in the sky when you die?’” To which Art replied, “What are you going to have when you die?”  People who loved Kathy stumbled over her having cancer.  Many were made to wonder and question the God she so lovingly served.  Kathy displayed a trust in God that defied logic.  Faith is like that; it begins where the atheist would say it should end.
When John the Baptist first proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” a pattern was stamped on to the life of Christ that is now taken up by His faithful disciples.  What the true believer has to face in this life is at times for the benefit of others.  Paul was very aware of this principle.
2 Cor. 4:7-12  “7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.”
2 Cor. 1:8-10  “8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.”
Just because our painfully limited understanding does not compute “good” coming out of a situation does not give us the right to put God as the defendant in the witness stand while we question His goodness.  Paul goes on in Second Corinthians to push home the point.
2 Cor. 4:16-18  “16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Resurrection is not at the central place that it should be in most people’s understanding.  This one thing alone helps to make sense out of senseless situations.  Paul admonishes us again, 1 Cor. 15:19 “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”  If there is no resurrection, no kingdom of glory, no eternal presence of God most high, then we who believe there is should be pitied above all other men.  Cancer did not define Kathy Steele’s life, resurrection did!  She lived her life as one who knew the One who has the power to raise a person to newness of life.  This life is not all there is.  It is but a vapor and not in any way to be compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits those who trust in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Snapshots from Kathy’s Life

The purpose of this section is to 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.
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: “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.”

A Promise is a Promise
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 her the bonus of a plowed driveway.  Even in retelling the story Chris 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, which is not surprising among unbelievers but very surprising 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 mentioned walking in on his mom on the phone discussing whether or not a test or procedure had been done incorrectly. Kathy would not tolerate 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 came through during his physical therapy also.  His therapist stated most guys would be asking for a note not to go to work; you are pushing hard for a note to be allowed to go back to work.  The standard had been placed, and her sons 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.
Intercession – Kathy’s Heart
On at least two occasions involving car accidents, Kathy was led to prayer by the Holy Spirit before any knowledge of the accidents.  One involving her brother and once involving her youngest niece and her husband   She just had an urge from the Holy Spirit to pray.  Dennis even speaks of an angel who helped him get out of the wrecked car.  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 her 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 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 had a part in the Christmas play.  I think it was called “cardboard testimonies” where a simple phrase is written on a piece of cardboard 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 to me 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.

Holy Ground Paragraph

In talking with Kathy’s niece, she said that in some way she felt Kathy was somehow given a choice and chose this path. My friend whose wife had ALS brought up almost the same sentiment. He believes God revealed to her what life would look like if she did not go down this path and what it would look like if she did. Even though the cost was high, she chose the path that would bring the greatest love to those about whom she cared. (I am not going to add any words to that simple paragraph, to me it is holy ground and I feel only the Holy Spirit could reveal the depth of truth that is behind those words.)

 

The Elephant in the Room Question

The elephant in the room question concerning Kathy is, “God if this is how You treat Your friends…?” Without the perspective of eternity, we can quickly call the goodness of God into question. Paul states it very plainly, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Cor. 15:19 We are staking our hope on a future coming King and a coming kingdom. A better place. A home where mourning is turned into joy. The cross of Jesus Christ was endurable because of the joy set before Him, and so it is with Kathy and others mentioned in this book. Without that hope what hope is there? Without that as your truth, how can one face the ravages of sickness and disease? The resurrection proclaims victory over death; it points beyond this life. Death is the last enemy to be defeated, but the defeat is already guaranteed. The last breath in this world is a lie. For the Christian, nothing has ended. The pain and frustration of separation can propel us to the place where we are beating on the chest of God demanding answers. In His mercy, He will allow us to do that for as long as necessary, and then when we are exhausted, we will collapse into the arms of the One who loves us beyond measure.

 

Section 2 – People Who Helped Me In This Journey

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 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.
This couple was part of a clinical trial of an experimental drug. It was 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 I noticed on entering the room was the love that filled the room. 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 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 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 just to be quiet 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 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 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 for 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 moments 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 sentence 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 the 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 six 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 two hearts united in the battle. This is the place of God’s blessing on 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, for 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.” She communicated these thoughts to her husband using sign language and her heart connection to him.
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.” (by nodding her head) 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 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 period 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 to be 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.

My 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 enduring. 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 three small girls and a 6-month-old boy is just as scary, humbling, and overwhelming as it sounds.
His story starts with a challenge entirely unrelated to his wife’s health. Just, days before his wife had a 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 the 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. Since he had no plan other than to do the 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 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, I will work it out.” Psalm 46:10 (paraphrased)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, 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 13 years had passed, and it was obvious that God had planted a seed of trust in what looked like barren soil. 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.

In November of 2015, my friend delivered a baby boy.  He 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 to share.
“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 my dear son 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 for. 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 a 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’ has 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 my son’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 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 excellent advice six years after losing her and shortly after losing his “surrogate” mom who showed him, deep love. ”My mother used to text me every day just to say she loved me! When she passed, my other Mom 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.”

 

Section 3 – Turning Aside to Look at the Burning Bush

Her body is a “tent” for her spirit.
Here are some interesting questions. What is your body? Is it you? No, it is not you. It is a part of you, but it is not the eternal part. It is the part of you that is perishing and decaying. This perishable flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Is our cultural emphasis on this “tent” that will be cast aside at the very first moment of the kingdom of God completely out of proportion? Yes, a thousand times yes. “Gifts of healings” (1 Corin. 12;28)is a beautiful, merciful provision of God, to extend a life to fulfill His eternal purpose. But there comes a time when that gift ends. God has placed an expiration date on each person and that, too, is His mercy. Death is an enemy, but in the wisdom of God, it is the last enemy to be defeated. For now, this enemy has the last word, however, he, too, has no power except it had been given him from above. How we have fallen in our understanding of what is important. The emphasis is not on the eternal, it is foolishness to put 100% of our effort into the perishable and ignore the imperishable. Focus on the real you, the eternal you. Sickness and disease serve to pull back the veil and reveal that nothing in this life can be an ultimate goal, nothing in this life can bring ultimate happiness. It is so important to keep the mercy of God front and center in all our thinking. Anything that attacks that truth is shaky ground that is impossible to stand on, and impossible to build on.

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. Kathy endured suffering, but she did not lose her hope and her trust in God. This is a high call, 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 Messiah in you, your hope begins and ends there.
Something is being demonstrated to angels in the life of a believer who loves Jesus in spite of His seeming “tarrying for 2 or 3 days” after He was told that you are dying.(1 Peter 1:12) 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, and it bids us look to the cross, 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 this: 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 and a willingness to reconsider the call on his life. He knew the call was to be the deliverer, but he went about it all wrong, messing it up so totally that exile and a life of feeling forgotten by God are all that he had. Moses 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 the culture around him. The principle is if you stop to look and are willing to have your boxes with all of your preconceived 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 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.” (Deut. 32:36, Dan. 12:7) 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’s 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. At 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 the 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 evident 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 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 indeed 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. 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.

Isaiah 65:5 They say, “Keep to yourself
don’t come near me, for I am too holy for you!”
These practices are smoke in My nostrils,
a fire that burns all day long.

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 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 inhabit. 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.” (Hebrews 12:2) The reality of the perfect love that casts out the fear of eternal judgment talked about 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,  Still they 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 the crisis of both inward and outward circumstances, to bring us to the end of 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.” (1 John 4:19)To the degree that we do not love, is the extent 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 always be working a death to our pride. Pride is the thing that kills the witness of the individual believer and the corporate body (wrongly called the church).  There is a sad pattern that is repeated through the ages. A change initiated and accomplished by choice of God brings about a blessing in this temporary existence. The person or people begin to enjoy the Gentile, and a call comes to share or let go of those blessings. The call originates 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 paraphrased, 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 the 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 enemies, 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, microscopically 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 cannot do anything to activate this statement as a truth in your life.  This is a work of the Holy Spirit from start to finish.  (This section was inspired by writings by Reggie Kelly available at the.mysteryofisrael.org)

 

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 one would take a moment and pause and consider Kathy and her attitude toward this time, they would be confronted with the truth.  Cancer meant it for evil, but God meant it for good to preserve life, to call you to see beyond this temporary existence, to cause you to be willing to release the blessings you have been given to be a blessing to others and to give you the strength and courage to lay down in sacrificial love for the least of these My brothers. I can even sense Kathy smiling that her book, became a launching pad for many stories of the faithfulness of God in the lives of others. She is not the center, and I am 100% sure, that is perfectly fine with her.

A Word for Caregivers
Jesus calls His followers to the impossible so that, they will cry out to Him at the end of their strength.  Being a caregiver is a calling that will place you firmly at the end of your strength, patience, and love in a short amount of time.  Illness, pain and the discouragement of not seeing anything get better rob a person of their ability to be kind and understanding. The person needing care is at a low point, with no reserves and can begin to feel like a burden. Unknowingly, manipulation can come into the situation, and the caregivers can feel used. Only the love of God can defeat the Enemy at times like these. Caregivers need to have time quietly in the presence of God, receiving steadfast love and lots of care from Him, before they can enter the situation. The Enemy is out to break the love and peace in the room. He is out to separate, to put us at enmity with each other. The focus needs to be on proclaiming God faithfully through it all. How can we recognize the true Enemy and not turn the frustrations of the situation into anger and impatience with one another? Sometimes all the person going through an illness needs is five more minutes of attention and care, but the caregivers do not have even one more minute of strength. This is the place of brokenness and weakness and death that God is bringing us to.  This is the place where He can truly work. If the caregivers can be honest and cry out to Him that they have nothing left, He will come in and take over. Love will defeat the enemy.  Resurrection life out of a place of death is the ultimate pattern for the defeat of Satan as he schemes to divide and conquer. At all costs, maintain your unity with God and with the one you are loving.  The truth is we cannot love, but if we get out of the way, we can let His unfailing love flow through us.

 

Afterword

Some people wrote testimonials about how Kathy’s life affected their lives. I wanted to include them but had felt very strongly to only use Kathy’s name throughout this book. My solution was to make these available online at kathystestimonials.wordpress.com I hope it will make the overall picture of her life more clear to read them. I deeply appreciate everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.

This entire book is available for free online at

chuckabean.wordpress.com/2017/09/03/kathy-book-final/s

 

full kathy 2

The Cross

of Jesus Christ

in the Life of

Kathy Steele

by Chuck Bean

 

 

Preface

Section 1  Getting to Know Kathy

The Elephant in the Room

Section 2  Others Who Walked this Journey

Section 3  Stopping to Ponder the Burning Bush

A Word for Caregivers

Afterword

 

Preface

This preface has required the most revision. Not just “Oh that needs a little tweaking, it is not good enough.” No, it has been totally scrapped and completely re-done numerous times.

Tears, far better than words, convey the message of this book. Tears cried on the shoulder of one who offers no advice, who is not seeking to be anything or to do anything. Tears that flow freely from a place in the heart that has been broken.

I have never, not for one second, felt capable to write this. As the time to put a final copy on paper inched close, that feeling overwhelmed me, and my heart cry has become, “You write this and I will get out of the way as much as humanly possible.”

The original burden to write this book came to me simply as the title. I did not feel that it could possibly be true that God wanted me to write it. So I put it aside. Many times it was out of my thoughts completely and it just kept getting confirmed by God, until I knew I needed to write it. I started off gathering stories from people who knew and loved Kathy. Some chapters came out of those conversations and then there was a period of time where the project lay dormant. Connections with people came into my life that re-sparked my burden but now there was a slightly different perspective.

Having never attempted anything like this before how does one know when all the learning that the author needs is done, and thoughts can then be put to paper? My solution is to not put a “The End” on this book. I hope this work is looked upon with eyes of mercy. Ask God to “fill up what is lacking” in my abilities and pray that you will get out of it what you need, in spite of the author’s failings. In a very real sense, a completed book is just one tiny part of the whole, and the whole is made up of those who read it and incorporate it or reject it or most likely a little of both. I would love to get feedback and continue this conversation so I will set up a blogspot.com page just for feedback on this book. http://feedbackforchuck.blogspot.com/

Your comments will be deeply appreciated and the book will continue to live and grow and change through your input.

Scripture references will be taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Section 1 Getting to Know Kathy

When one heart can be open and vulnerable with another heart, admitting, owning, sharing freely, its own brokenness that is the soil on which true intimacy is planted and from which healing grows. (Ann Voskamp, paraphrase)

     I see my role in this book as a compiler of people’s stories. My job is relating those stories to Jesus Christ, so that His name, His love, His forgiveness is glorified. 

Bringing People from the Outside, In

Luke 15:1,2 “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Matthew 11:19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

      Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. Jesus loved those that the religious system said he should have disdained. After all, they disdained them. They loaded them into their grading machine and found that they failed all the tests to be loved by God.

     Turns out, their thoughts were not the thoughts of God.

     Turns out the section of Isaiah that speaks of God’s thoughts not being our thoughts, is a section dedicated to the incomprehensible compassion of God.

     Turns out, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” was not a song title back in His day, it was an accusation from the religious system.

     Turns out Jesus knew that eventually, ultimately, the wisdom of how He was living would be vindicated.

     Vindicated is a delightful word that means to be cleared from an accusation, justified. Would Jesus being a friend to you, draw you to the Father? Oh my yes! These sinners were going to come to God, which means they would be saved. Jesus would then be friends of the saved and wisdom would be vindicated. I think God smiles quite often at our silliness, our low opinion of Him and His mercy.

     Why did the people come “near to Him to listen to Him”? His was a message of salvation to all who would call upon the Name of the Lord. (Joel 2:32)

     His life and death on the cross were about to remove the curse of the law, and the ‘sinners’ recognized that it was also removing the curse of the self righteous judges who acted as if God was just like them.

     Kathy Steele was a fisher of men. One man exemplifies how Kathy lived the truth of being a person who invited those on the outside, in.  One of the first people I talked with outside of Kathy’s immediate family was a young man who had a public struggle with addiction. He said that the first time he met Kathy he felt close to her, even though “they had very little in common”. He said, “I knew when she said she was praying for me, that she was.” He spoke of the fact that Kathy was “always looking for me, to talk to me.” Even when she was sick He noted how “there was no cloud over her, only the sun.”  He spoke of how Kathy always made him feel welcome in church. It is one thing for people to put up with your presence in the building, it is quite another for them to make the effort to seek you out and say with their eyes, their words and their heart that they are glad that you are there. One time when prayer was being offered at the front of the sanctuary, and she sensed that this young man would not or could not come forward.  She went to the back row and prayed with him at his seat. “To seek and save that which is lost.” Luke 19:10  Her heart was inclusive, filled with love and that love had to flow outward.  He shared knowing that Kathy was praying for you made you “accountable” and kept you from doing bad things. Love has that kind of power. When you know that you are loved, your heart is drawn to want to please the one who loves you. By the same token, if you know your actions will hurt the heart of the one who loves you, you are drawn to refrain from that action. Some of his other thoughts were: “I didn’t know her for a long time, but she was a friend of mine.” “She helped me through addiction.” “I always felt comfortable going to her, no matter what.”

     Kathy’s penchant for inviting those who were on the outside in, showed in the way she treated her now daughters-in-law during the process of dating her sons.  Both of them expressed how there was no “waiting period” or gauntlet to win her acceptance. As soon as they were dating her sons Kathy made them a part of the family. They were accepted in the beloved. They were shown this by being her assistants in decorating the Christmas tree, being her companion when her sons went out for a ‘golf day’, and bringing both of them along on vacation.  When she had the family sit down to talk to them about the cancer, she included them. Other comments that her daughters-in-law had: She “always had an open door”, “even though we were young she respected and valued what we thought.” They were not held at arms length or made to feel second class, they were in the family 100%. The blessing of a loving family was shared without reservation.  When your heart is aware of the abundance of God, you do not circle the wagons and try to preserve a tiny amount of goodness, protecting it and clutching it close to you.  God has an abundant supply. He encourages us to invite all in. He is not afraid of running low on baked beans.  Invite them to the table and He will see to it that there is an abundant supply.

     Almost 2000 years after Jesus fulfilled the law of Moses, new walls have been erected. Many feel they are not going to be loved or accepted at ‘church’.  The message they are hearing is, ‘You are not good enough’.

     Where is the first place you should go if you are struggling with an addiction?

     Where is the first place you should go if a deadly disease is overtaking you?

     Where should you go if guilt and shame for your past are keeping you from God?

     The local body of Christ should be the answer to these questions, but we have fallen short of our call to lay down our lives in love. It is costly to put aside time to pray, to reach out, to keep hoping and trusting in the face of disappointments. It is a hard narrow way.

     Unconditional love, the ultimate drawing card, Jesus lived it. Jesus, in Kathy, lived it too. The message came through loud and clear: You are not outside of or beyond His love. Come in, your pardon has been purchased, your guilt has been absolved. Your salvation has come, rejoice! Jesus is the only explanation for that kind of love. People know when your motives are false, their antennae are up for those who are out to use them or who are only giving them lip service. Those who are hurting the most will resist the hardest as a test of your love.

     The reality of God’s love had so captured Kathy’s heart that she reflected His heart. She went out to find the lost sheep, laying down her life in countless ways to proclaim, ‘You are not beyond the reach of His nail scarred hand.’ Those who were very aware of being outside looking in found a place in her heart that was warm and welcoming. Acceptance and love had touched their lives and they were changed as a result. They walked away from such a touch becoming softer and more open to the possibility that God was not finished and still had hope for them. Despair and darkness have an enemy. Hope and light infiltrate their kingdoms and do untold damage to their plans and strategies. Kathy’s life was used by God to spearhead the charge in many lives and situations. She carried hope with her. Light was shining through her and that light was magnified even more to the people who knew what she was walking through.

Love Prepares the Heart

Matthew 16:21  “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

Mark 8:31 “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

     Jesus was merciful to the disciples in giving them plenty of warnings about the cross that was to come.  This wisdom had to stay veiled to their minds and hidden from the ‘rulers of this age’ to fulfill the plan of God, but the Holy Spirit allowed these words to return to the disciples and comfort them.  It is a precious gift of love to do your best to prepare those you love for difficult situations.  Jesus took time out from the moments of great popularity, healings with crowds following to pull the disciples in close and have the hard conversation about His future death and subsequent resurrection.

      Both of Kathy’s sons spoke of the time when she chose to gather the family around and have the hard conversation.  She loved them enough to go to this area that would have been forbidding in its depth of emotion and pain.  She loved them enough to speak of specific scenario’s that might happen after she died.  She spoke of finances and accounts and of relationships and events that could happen after her passing.  Both sons spoke of how her words helped them after her death to deal with events and actions that followed her death.  They were honest to say that without those talks they would have been ‘rocked’ by things that transpired.  However since Kathy had sat them down and addressed different ways people would cope with her death, when events started to play out they were able to calmly respond with, “Mom said this might happen.  It will be okay.”

     This is a part of the hard, narrow way, choosing to have conversations that make everyone in the room uncomfortable.  Knowing that others will benefit in the future if you ‘force the issue’ now is an act of love.  Sacrificial, joyful giving of oneself that allows people to work through some of their emotions and reactions before the event even happens.  Kathy did not ‘duck’ these types of discussions even though it would have been easier to do so.  She rose above the protests of “Let’s not talk about this” to make the transition of life without her easier on those she loved.  She had absolutely nothing to gain in doing this.  It was an act of selfless love. These are the acts that the kingdom of God is built upon. These acts flow out of a heart so taken up and taken over by His love that they can pour out expecting nothing in return. It is a “going before”, a “preparing the way” that tears the veil of time and plants seeds of helpfulness in a moment that goes out into eternity. Oh for a gathering of believers who push aside the uncomfortable feelings and can express love that gives grace to the hearer. To be a vessel of grace, is there any higher call?

 

Whether I Live or Whether I Die I Want to Do God’s Will”

 

Job 13:15 “Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.”

Luke 22:42  “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

Romans 14:8 “for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Daniel 3:17,18 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

     Kathy’s mom, related this short exchange with Kathy.  Kathy’s mom:  “Kathy I am praying for your healing.”   Kathy:  “Whether I live or whether I die I want to do God’s will.”

     Kathy never gave up hope of her healing, but she resigned herself to whatever the will of God would be.  She would tell her oldest son, “We need to know that people are watching how we deal with this.  It matters how we respond.”  She kept a great attitude, and her family tried to mirror that and fed off of that attitude.  She chose not to be defined by cancer.  She was honest about her pain, but stayed positive.

     Her sister-in-law shared how Kathy lived above cancer.  She would push her needs and wants aside when others needed her.  Her niece saw that she did not just face cancer willing for whatever God had, she faced life that way.  This was not some “new” way of doing things that she had to force herself into when ovarian cancer came along.  This heart attitude defined her life.  Living with this confidence in an eternal, imperishable kingdom is mocked in these times.  This brings to mind a conversation related by Art Katz, when one person derisively said, “What is this all about, ‘pie in the sky when you die?’” To which Art replied, “What are you going to have when you die?”  People who loved Kathy stumbled over her having cancer.  Many were made to wonder and question the God she so lovingly served.  Kathy displayed a trust in God that defied logic.  Faith is like that, it begins where the atheist would say it should end.

     When John the Baptist first proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” a pattern was stamped on to the life of Christ that is now taken up by His true disciples.  What the true believer has to face in this life is at times for the benefit of others.  Paul was very aware of this principle.

2 Cor. 4:7-12  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.”

2 Cor. 1:8-10  “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, [f]He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us”

     Just because our painfully limited understanding does not compute “good” coming out of a situation does not give us the right to put God as the defendant in the witness stand while we question His goodness.  Paul goes on in Second Corinthians to push home the point.

2 Cor. 4:16-18  “16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

     Resurrection is not given the central place that it should be in most people’s understanding.  This one thing alone, helps to make sense out of senseless situations.  Paul admonishes us again, 1 Cor. 15:19 “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”  If there is no resurrection, no kingdom of glory, no eternal presence of God most high, then we who believe there is should be pitied above all other men.  Cancer did not define Kathy Steele’s life, resurrection did!  She lived her life as one who knew the One who has the power to raise a person to newness of life.  This life is not all there is.  It is but a vapor and not in any way to be compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits those who trust in the cross of Jesus Christ.

 

Snapshots from Kathy’s Life

The purpose of this section is to 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.

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: “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.”

A Promise is a Promise

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 her the bonus of a plowed driveway.  Even in retelling the story Chris 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, which is not surprising among unbelievers but very surprising 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. [a]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 mentioned walking in on his mom on the phone discussing whether or not a test or a procedure had been done incorrectly. Kathy would not tolerate 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 stated most guys would be asking for a note not to go to work, you are pushing hard for a note to be allowed to go back to work.  The standard had been placed and her sons 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.

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.  One involving her brother and once involving her youngest niece and her husband   She just had an urge from the Holy Spirit to pray.  Dennis even speaks of an angel who helped him get out of the wrecked car.  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 her 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 neice 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 had a part in the Christmas play.  I hink it was called “cardboard testimonies” where a simple phrase is written on a piece of cardboard 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.

Holy Ground Paragraph

In talking with Kathy’s niece she said that in some way she felt Kathy was somehow given a choice and chose this path. My friend whose wife had ALS brought up almost the exact same sentiment. He feels God revealed to her what life would look like if she did not go down this path and what it would look like if she did. Even though the cost was great she chose the path that wold bring the greatest love to those she cared about. (I am not going to add any words to that simple paragraph, to me it is holy ground and I feel only the Holy Spirit could reveal the depth of truth that is behind those words.)

The Elephant in the Room Question

The elephant in the room question concerning Kathy is, “God, if this is how You treat Your friends…?” Without the perspective of eternity we can easily call the goodness of God into question. Paul states it very plainly, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Cor. 15:19 We are staking our hope on a future coming King and a coming kingdom. A better place. Where mourning is turned into joy. The cross of Jesus Christ was endurable because of the joy set before Him, and so it is with Kathy and others mentioned in this book. Without that hope what hope is there? Without that as your truth how can one face the ravages of sickness and disease? The resurrection proclaims victory over death, it points beyond this life. Death is the last enemy to be defeated, but the defeat is already guaranteed. The “last breath” in this world is a lie. For the Christian nothing has ended. The pain and frustration of separation can propel us to the place where we are beating on the chest of God demanding answers. In His mercy, He will allow us to do that for as long as necessary and then when we are exhausted, we will collapse into the arms of the One who loves us beyond measure.

Section 2 – People Who Helped Me In This Journey

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 I 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 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 sentence 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, for 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.” She communicated these thoughts to her husband using sign language and her heart connection to him.

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.” (by nodding her head) 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.

My 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 is 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. Since 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, I will work it out.” Psalm 46:10 (paraphrase)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, 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 13 years had passed and it was obvious that God had planted  a seed of trust in what looked like barren soil. 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.

 

In November of 2015 my friend,  delivered a baby boy.  He 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.

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 my dear son 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 my son’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 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.”

 

Section 3 – Turning Aside to Look at the Burning Bush

Her body is a “tent” for her spirit.

Here are some interesting questions. What is your body? Is it you? No it is not you. It is a part of you, but it is not the eternal part. It is the part of you that is perishing and decaying. This perishable flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Is our cultural emphasis on this “tent” that will be cast aside at the very first moment of the kingdom of God completely out of proportion? Yes, a thousand times yes. “Gifts of healings” (1 Corin. 12;28)is a beautiful, merciful provision of God, to extend a life to fulfill His eternal purpose. But there comes a time when that gift ends. God has placed an expiration date on each person and that, too, is His mercy. Death is an enemy, but in the wisdom of God it is the last enemy to be defeated. For now, this enemy has the last word, however he, too, has no power except it had been given him from above. How we have fallen in our understanding of what is important. The emphasis is not on the eternal, it is foolishness to put 100% of our effort into the perishable and ignore the imperishable. Focus on the real you, the eternal you. Sickness and disease serve to pull back the veil and reveal that nothing in this life can be an ultimate goal, nothing in this life can bring ultimate happiness. It is so important to keep the mercy of God front and center in all our thinking. Anything that attacks that truth is shaky ground that is impossible to stand on, and impossible to build on.

 

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. Kathy endured suffering, but she did not lose her hope and her trust in God. This is a high call, 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 Jesus in spite of His seeming “tarrying for 2 or 3 days” after He was told that you are dying.(1 peter 1:12) 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 and it bids us to look to the cross, 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 this: 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 and a willingness to reconsider the call on his life. He knew the call was to be the deliverer, but he went about it all wrong, messing 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 preconceived 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 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.

 

Afterword

A number of people wrote testimonials about how Kathy’s life effected their lives. I wanted to include them, but had felt very strongly to only use Kathy’s name throughout this book. My solution was to make these available online at kathystestimonials.wordpress.com I hope it will make the overall picture of her life more clear to read them. I deeply appreciate everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.

Kathy book 1st half

Introduction

This introduction has required the most revision. Not just “Oh that needs a little tweaking, it is not good enough.” No, it has been totally scrapped and completely re-done numerous times.

Tears, far better than words, convey the message of this book. Tears cried on the shoulder of one who offers no advice, who is not seeking to be anything or to do anything. Tears that flow freely from a place in the heart that has been broken.

I have never, not for one second, felt capable to write this. As the time to put a final copy on paper inched close, that feeling overwhelmed me, and my heart cry has become, “You write this and I will get out of the way as much as humanly possible.”

The original burden to write this book came to me simply as the title. I did not feel that it could possibly be true that God wanted me to write it. So I put it aside. Many times it was out of my thoughts completely and it just kept getting confirmed by God, until I knew I needed to write it. I started off gathering stories from people who knew and loved Kathy. Some chapters came out of those conversations and then there was a period of time where the project lay dormant. Connections with people came into my life that re-sparked my burden but now there was a slightly different perspective.

Having never attempted anything like this before how does one know when all the learning that the author needs is done, and thoughts can then be put to paper? My solution is to not put a “The End” on this book. I hope this work is looked upon with eyes of mercy. Ask God to “fill up what is lacking” in my abilities and pray that you will get out of it what you need, in spite of the author’s failings. In a very real sense, a completed book is just one tiny part of the whole, and the whole is made up of those who read it and incorporate it or reject it or most likely a little of both. I would love to get feedback and continue this conversation so I will set up a blogspot.com page just for feedback on this book. http://feedbackforchuck.blogspot.com/

Your comments will be deeply appreciated and the book will continue to live and grow and change through your input.

Scripture references will be taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Section 1 Getting to Know Kathy

When one heart can be open and vulnerable with another heart, admitting, owning, sharing freely, its own brokenness that is the soil on which true intimacy is planted and from which healing grows. (Ann Voskamp, paraphrase)

     I see my role in this book as a compiler of people’s stories. My job is relating those stories to Jesus Christ, so that His name, His love, His forgiveness is glorified. 

Bringing People from the Outside, In

Luke 15:1,2 “Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Matthew 11:19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”

      Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. Jesus loved those that the religious system said he should have disdained. After all, they disdained them. They loaded them into their grading machine and found that they failed all the tests to be loved by God.

     Turns out, their thoughts were not the thoughts of God.

     Turns out the section of Isaiah that speaks of God’s thoughts not being our thoughts, is a section dedicated to the incomprehensible compassion of God.

     Turns out, “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” was not a song title back in His day, it was an accusation from the religious system.

     Turns out Jesus knew that eventually, ultimately, the wisdom of how He was living would be vindicated.

     Vindicated is a delightful word that means to be cleared from an accusation, justified. Would Jesus being a friend to you, draw you to the Father? Oh my yes! These sinners were going to come to God, which means they would be saved. Jesus would then be friends of the saved and wisdom would be vindicated. I think God smiles quite often at our silliness, our low opinion of Him and His mercy.

     Why did the people come “near to Him to listen to Him”? His was a message of salvation to all who would call upon the Name of the Lord. (Joel 2:32)

     His life and death on the cross were about to remove the curse of the law, and the ‘sinners’ recognized that it was also removing the curse of the self righteous judges who acted as if God was just like them.

     Kathy Steele was a fisher of men. One man exemplifies how Kathy lived the truth of being a person who invited those on the outside, in.  One of the first people I talked with outside of Kathy’s immediate family was a young man who had a public struggle with addiction. He said that the first time he met Kathy he felt close to her, even though “they had very little in common”. He said, “I knew when she said she was praying for me, that she was.” He spoke of the fact that Kathy was “always looking for me, to talk to me.” Even when she was sick He noted how “there was no cloud over her, only the sun.”  He spoke of how Kathy always made him feel welcome in church. It is one thing for people to put up with your presence in the building, it is quite another for them to make the effort to seek you out and say with their eyes, their words and their heart that they are glad that you are there. One time when prayer was being offered at the front of the sanctuary, and she sensed that this young man would not or could not come forward.  She went to the back row and prayed with him at his seat. “To seek and save that which is lost.” Luke 19:10  Her heart was inclusive, filled with love and that love had to flow outward.  He shared knowing that Kathy was praying for you made you “accountable” and kept you from doing bad things. Love has that kind of power. When you know that you are loved, your heart is drawn to want to please the one who loves you. By the same token, if you know your actions will hurt the heart of the one who loves you, you are drawn to refrain from that action. Some of his other thoughts were: “I didn’t know her for a long time, but she was a friend of mine.” “She helped me through addiction.” “I always felt comfortable going to her, no matter what.”

     Kathy’s penchant for inviting those who were on the outside in, showed in the way she treated her now daughters-in-law during the process of dating her sons.  Both of them expressed how there was no “waiting period” or gauntlet to win her acceptance. As soon as they were dating her sons Kathy made them a part of the family. They were accepted in the beloved. They were shown this by being her assistants in decorating the Christmas tree, being her companion when her sons went out for a ‘golf day’, and bringing both of them along on vacation.  When she had the family sit down to talk to them about the cancer, she included them. Other comments that her daughters-in-law had: She “always had an open door”, “even though we were young she respected and valued what we thought.” They were not held at arms length or made to feel second class, they were in the family 100%. The blessing of a loving family was shared without reservation.  When your heart is aware of the abundance of God, you do not circle the wagons and try to preserve a tiny amount of goodness, protecting it and clutching it close to you.  God has an abundant supply. He encourages us to invite all in. He is not afraid of running low on baked beans.  Invite them to the table and He will see to it that there is an abundant supply.

     Almost 2000 years after Jesus fulfilled the laws of Moses, new walls have been erected. Many feel they are not going to be loved or accepted at ‘church’.  The message they are hearing is, ‘You are not good enough’.

     Where is the first place you should go if you are struggling with an addiction?

     Where is the first place you should go if a deadly disease is overtaking you?

     Where should you go if guilt and shame for your past are keeping you from God?

     The local body of Christ should be the answer to these questions, but we have fallen short of our call to lay down our lives in love. It is costly to put aside time to pray, to reach out, to keep hoping and trusting in the face of disappointments. It is a hard narrow way.

     Unconditional love, the ultimate drawing card, Jesus lived it. Jesus, in Kathy, lived it too. The message came through loud and clear: You are not outside of or beyond His love. Come in, your pardon has been purchased, your guilt has been absolved. Your salvation has come, rejoice! Jesus is the only explanation for that kind of love. People know when your motives are false, their antennae are up for those who are out to use them or who are only giving them lip service. Those who are hurting the most will resist the hardest as a test of your love.

     The reality of God’s love had so captured Kathy’s heart that she reflected His heart. She went out to find the lost sheep, laying down her life in countless ways to proclaim, ‘You are not beyond the reach of His nail scarred hand.’ Those who were very aware of being outside looking in found a place in her heart that was warm and welcoming. Acceptance and love had touched their lives and they were changed as a result. They walked away from such a touch becoming softer and more open to the possibility that God was not finished and still had hope for them. Despair and darkness have an enemy. Hope and light infiltrate their kingdoms and do untold damage to their plans and strategies. Kathy’s life was used by God to spearhead the charge in many lives and situations. She carried hope with her. Light was shining through her and that light was magnified even more to the people who knew what she was walking through.

Love Prepares the Heart

Matthew 16:21  “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

Mark 8:31 “And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

     Jesus was merciful to the disciples in giving them plenty of warnings about the cross that was to come.  This wisdom had to stay veiled to their minds and hidden from the ‘rulers of this age’ to fulfill the plan of God, but the Holy Spirit allowed these words to return to the disciples and comfort them.  It is a precious gift of love to do your best to prepare those you love for difficult situations.  Jesus took time out from the moments of great popularity, healings with crowds following to pull the disciples in close and have the hard conversation about His future death and subsequent resurrection.

      Both of Kathy’s sons spoke of the time when she chose to gather the family around and have the hard conversation.  She loved them enough to go to this area that would have been forbidding in its depth of emotion and pain.  She loved them enough to speak of specific scenario’s that might happen after she died.  She spoke of finances and accounts and of relationships and events that could happen after her passing.  Both sons spoke of how her words helped them after her death to deal with events and actions that followed her death.  They were honest to say that without those talks they would have been ‘rocked’ by things that transpired.  However since Kathy had sat them down and addressed different ways people would cope with her death, when events started to play out they were able to calmly respond with, “Mom said this might happen.  It will be okay.”

     This is a part of the hard, narrow way, choosing to have conversations that make everyone in the room uncomfortable.  Knowing that others will benefit in the future if you ‘force the issue’ now is an act of love.  Sacrificial, joyful giving of oneself that allows people to work through some of their emotions and reactions before the event even happens.  Kathy did not ‘duck’ these types of discussions even though it would have been easier to do so.  She rose above the protests of “Let’s not talk about this” to make the transition of life without her easier on those she loved.  She had absolutely nothing to gain in doing this.  It was an act of selfless love. These are the acts that the kingdom of God is built upon. These acts flow out of a heart so taken up and taken over by His love that they can pour out expecting nothing in return. It is a “going before”, a “preparing the way” that tears the veil of time and plants seeds of helpfulness in a moment that goes out into eternity. Oh for a gathering of believers who push aside the uncomfortable feelings and can express love that gives grace to the hearer. To be a vessel of grace, is there any higher call?

 

Whether I Live or Whether I Die I Want to Do God’s Will”

 

Job 13:15 “Though He slay me,
I will hope in Him.
Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.”

Luke 22:42  “Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”

Romans 14:8 “for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

Daniel 3:17,18 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

     Kathy’s mom, related this short exchange with Kathy.  Kathy’s mom:  “Kathy I am praying for your healing.”   Kathy:  “Whether I live or whether I die I want to do God’s will.”

     Kathy never gave up hope of her healing, but she resigned herself to whatever the will of God would be.  She would tell her oldest son, “We need to know that people are watching how we deal with this.  It matters how we respond.”  She kept a great attitude, and her family tried to mirror that and fed off of that attitude.  She chose not to be defined by cancer.  She was honest about her pain, but stayed positive.

     Her sister-in-law shared how Kathy lived above cancer.  She would push her needs and wants aside when others needed her.  Her niece saw that she did not just face cancer willing for whatever God had, she faced life that way.  This was not some “new” way of doing things that she had to force herself into when ovarian cancer came along.  This heart attitude defined her life.  Living with this confidence in an eternal, imperishable kingdom is mocked in these times.  This brings to mind a conversation related by Art Katz, when one person derisively said, “What is this all about, ‘pie in the sky when you die?’” To which Art replied, “What are you going to have when you die?”  People who loved Kathy stumbled over her having cancer.  Many were made to wonder and question the God she so lovingly served.  Kathy displayed a trust in God that defied logic.  Faith is like that, it begins where the atheist would say it should end.

     When John the Baptist first proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” a pattern was stamped on to the life of Christ that is now taken up by His true disciples.  What the true believer has to face in this life is at times for the benefit of others.  Paul was very aware of this principle.

2 Cor. 4:7-12  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you.”

2 Cor. 1:8-10  “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, [f]He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us”

     Just because our painfully limited understanding does not compute “good” coming out of a situation does not give us the right to put God as the defendant in the witness stand while we question His goodness.  Paul goes on in Second Corinthians to push home the point.

2 Cor. 4:16-18  “16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison,18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

     Resurrection is not given the central place that it should be in most people’s understanding.  This one thing alone, helps to make sense out of senseless situations.  Paul admonishes us again, 1 Cor. 15:19 “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.”  If there is no resurrection, no kingdom of glory, no eternal presence of God most high, then we who believe there is should be pitied above all other men.  Cancer did not define Kathy Steele’s life, resurrection did!  She lived her life as one who knew the One who has the power to raise a person to newness of life.  This life is not all there is.  It is but a vapor and not in any way to be compared to the eternal weight of glory that awaits those who trust in the cross of Jesus Christ.

 

Snapshots from Kathy’s Life

The purpose of this section is to 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.

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: “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.”

A Promise is a Promise

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 her the bonus of a plowed driveway.  Even in retelling the story Chris 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, which is not surprising among unbelievers but very surprising 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. [a]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 mentioned walking in on his mom on the phone discussing whether or not a test or a procedure had been done incorrectly. Kathy would not tolerate 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 stated most guys would be asking for a note not to go to work, you are pushing hard for a note to be allowed to go back to work.  The standard had been placed and her sons 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.

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.  One involving her brother and once involving her youngest niece and her husband   She just had an urge from the Holy Spirit to pray.  Dennis even speaks of an angel who helped him get out of the wrecked car.  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 her 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 neice 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 had a part in the Christmas play.  I hink it was called “cardboard testimonies” where a simple phrase is written on a piece of cardboard 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.

Holy Ground Paragraph

In talking with Kathy’s niece she said that in some way she felt Kathy was somehow given a choice and chose this path. My friend whose wife had ALS brought up almost the exact same sentiment. He feels God revealed to her what life would look like if she did not go down this path and what it would look like if she did. Even though the cost was great she chose the path that wold bring the greatest love to those she cared about. (I am not going to add any words to that simple paragraph, to me it is holy ground and I feel only the Holy Spirit could reveal the depth of truth that is behind those words.)

The Elephant in the Room Question

The elephant in the room question concerning Kathy is, “God, if this is how You treat Your friends…?” Without the perspective of eternity we can easily call the goodness of God into question. Paul states it very plainly, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” 1 Cor. 15:19 We are staking our hope on a future coming King and a coming kingdom. A better place. Where mourning is turned into joy. The cross of Jesus Christ was endurable because of the joy set before Him, and so it is with Kathy and others mentioned in this book. Without that hope what hope is there? Without that as your truth how can one face the ravages of sickness and disease? The resurrection proclaims victory over death, it points beyond this life. Death is the last enemy to be defeated, but the defeat is already guaranteed. The “last breath” in this world is a lie. For the Christian nothing has ended. The pain and frustration of separation can propel us to the place where we are beating on the chest of God demanding answers. In His mercy, He will allow us to do that for as long as necessary and then when we are exhausted, we will collapse into the arms of the One who loves us beyond measure.

Section 2 – People Who Helped Me In This Journey

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 I 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 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 sentence 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, for 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.” She communicated these thoughts to her husband using sign language and her heart connection to him.

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.” (by nodding her head) 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.

My 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 is 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. Since 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, I will work it out.” Psalm 46:10 (paraphrase)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, 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 13 years had passed and it was obvious that God had planted  a seed of trust in what looked like barren soil. 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.

 

In November of 2015 my friend,  delivered a baby boy.  He 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.

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 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.”

 

Section 3 – Turning Aside to Look at the Burning Bush

Her body is a “tent” for her spirit.

Here are some interesting questions. What is your body? Is it you? No it is not you. It is a part of you, but it is not the eternal part. It is the part of you that is perishing and decaying. This perishable flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. Is our cultural emphasis on this “tent” that will be cast aside at the very first moment of the kingdom of God completely out of proportion? Yes, a thousand times yes. “Gifts of healings” (1 Corin. 12;28)is a beautiful, merciful provision of God, to extend a life to fulfill His eternal purpose. But there comes a time when that gift ends. God has placed an expiration date on each person and that, too, is His mercy. Death is an enemy, but in the wisdom of God it is the last enemy to be defeated. For now, this enemy has the last word, however he, too, has no power except it had been given him from above. How we have fallen in our understanding of what is important. The emphasis is not on the eternal, it is foolishness to put 100% of our effort into the perishable and ignore the imperishable. Focus on the real you, the eternal you. Sickness and disease serve to pull back the veil and reveal that nothing in this life can be an ultimate goal, nothing in this life can bring ultimate happiness. It is so important to keep the mercy of God front and center in all our thinking. Anything that attacks that truth is shaky ground that is impossible to stand on, and impossible to build on.

Afterword

A number of people wrote testimonials about how Kathy’s life effected their lives. I wanted to include them, but had felt very strongly to only use Kathy’s name throughout this book. My solution was to make these available online at kathystestimonials.wordpress.com I hope it will make the overall picture of her life more clear to read them. I deeply appreciate everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.

Kathy afterword testimonials

Afterword

A number of people wrote testimonials about how Kathy’s life effected their lives. I wanted to include them, but had felt very strongly to only use Kathy’s name throughout this book. My solution was to make these available online at kathystestimonials.wordpress.com I feel very few people shared their thoughts compared to how many people’s lives she had an impact on, but it will make the overall picture of her life more clear to read them. I deeply appreciate everyone who took the time to share their thoughts.

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.