As we age, little creaks and groans and, later, bigger failures of the human flesh remind us that our time on earth is limited.  Many of us try to seek immortality through a wide variety of activities, enterprises, and relationships.  Think of all the grey-haired celebrities in the news that sky dive and participate in extreme sports or world-record breaking adventures.  Consider the real life stories and movies that show one person’s obsession to make a mark on the world by stamping the family name on towering buildings, schools of higher education, hospitals, and more.  Reflect for a minute on the age-old story of men who trade in 15- and 20-year marriages for a trophy wife and a sports car.  Women are playing their part, too.  Several prime-time television shows have depicted the trend of older women, cougars, hooking up with younger men.  The old adage, “You’re only as young as you feel,” was taken to a different place by a one-time friend who used to say, “You’re only as young as the woman you feel.” He’d say this with a lecherous grin and a waggle of bushy brows.  While it may be humorous in the moment, the statement is very representative of our attempts to remain forever young.  How well do all these ways of feeling young really work? Is it even possible to feel young as age advances?

I’m not necessarily one to speak about the end game of life.  I’m not there yet, although I have advanced to an age where I’m getting glimpses into it.  I have seen the affect time has had on my parents and I am beginning to experience a few of the telling signs that bodies really do break down over time.  I am also beginning to see how colleagues and friends begin to fight that battle.  The younger ones, whose muscles don’t quite bounce back from strenuous activity, first ignore and then punish their bodies, trying to believe that it isn’t true.  Half a generation older and they are clearly dying hair, applying anti-aging products, and getting minor surgeries to correct the damage previous punishment wreaked.  Another half a generation later and reading glasses are pulled out, fewer women are wearing high heels, and the jokes begin about … oh, yeah, memory.  I should start worrying – and sometimes do.  Why then am I usually embracing life more fully than ever before while still accepting the limitations of my age?  Why am I growing increasingly more comfortable with my life while others are struggling more?

I’m not sure I can answer my own questions very well.  I do know two things are making a huge difference in my life.  The first is my family.  I am so grateful for my husband, my grown children, my children’s spouses, and the wonderful friends they bring into our family circle.  Each of these people adds something special to my life and each has shown me something of what true immortality is.  I can realistically imagine an end of life scenario that is neither pretty nor easy and honestly look forward to it because I know that my family will be there for me.  Not because it is their duty, but because they love me.  I know how they love me now – regardless of the frequency of phone calls, emails, or visits – and I know that they know how I love them.  I fully enjoy them when I can.  I listen to them recount the joys and sorrows, trials and successes, hopes and fears of life.  I allow them space to be the people they are all the while encouraging them to continue investigating the people they were designed to be.  I just love them, all the time.

The second is my relationship with God.  For a long time, I lived my life without God.  Once He woke me up and I started to live with Him, instead of without, I could see my life through His eyes.  I could see the same struggles I now see in others – striving to make that mark, searching for immortality in conquests, and youth in adrenaline rushes and hormone driven experiences.  And I could clearly see how that was leading to my death – my emotional and spiritual death for certain, and skirting physical death in many ways.  I could see how my efforts were actually separating me from those I loved, distancing me from those who might have loved me well, and creating opportunities for me to put my life at risk.

Since I’ve been connected to God, He has taught me how to love my family even when I didn’t really know how it felt to be loved that way.  His patience, love, and encouragement, showed me how to be that for my family.  Now they, in turn, are loving me in a way I couldn’t have imagined before.  All that I was looking for, striving for, trying to force, are now surrounding me.  I love my life, more and more, even as my physical self becomes less and less.  I think that may be because I see immortality, not in the flesh of living forever, but in the love that keeps me forever young.

Sterling silver can be quite beautiful.  I have many sterling pieces and they are well crafted, sometimes highly polished to a mirror finish, sometimes polished to a satin finish, and often beautifully curved shapes.  Each is unique and beautiful in its own way because the silver has a shining quality and a special feel to it in the hand.  What every sterling silver piece has in common is pure silver.  Well, 92.5% pure.  That’s the current definition of purity in silver jewelry and household goods.

Silver is a metal which, in its raw state, contains many impurities.  It is formed in the earth as rock, ore.  The ore can contain many other minerals, like copper and nickel.  In its raw state, silver is not pretty – it’s just another rock.  It takes the knowledge and skill of a craftsman to take the rock and gradually turn it into the pure metal that can be used for jewelry.  Modern smelting techniques take the ore and process it eight times to achieve 99.9% pure silver.  But pure silver is not useful to a silversmith in making anything.  It is too soft and pliable.  Like play dough, any shape it’s given or engraving made on it will easily be remolded.  Modern processes add in other, harder metals to allow the silver to hold its shape while still maintaining its natural beauty.

In biblical times, they didn’t process silver to the point of absolute purity.  The definition of pure silver was essentially sterling quality.  The bible indicates that the purest silver was refined seven times (Psalm 12:6).  Seven times the ore was processed, usually through melting the metals to separating or burn off the impurities.  The bible also says that He will refine His people like silver:

“You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Psalm 66:10)

“He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:3)

“And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.'” (Zechariah 13:9)

These refinements aren’t intended to be painful, although if you consider the idea of having parts of yourself burned off, it sounds like they have to be.  To be honest, sometimes they are.  I went through a long process of refining in relationships, mostly my marriage.  It was a painful process.  My husband and I had allowed our marriage to grow progressively worse until we were on the brink of divorce.  While divorce seemed the much easier road to take, we were both committed to remaining in the marriage.  It was a hard, painful road from that point, but we chose to work on how to relate better with one another.  It has been very much worth the effort.  Learning to relate well with my husband not only rescued my marriage and turned it into a thing of beauty, it entirely changed the way I relate to people in general.  God’s refinement of my marriage also refined me in a way that allows me to form and maintain healthy relationships with people – something I could never have done before.

Sometimes these refinements are nearly invisible and imperceptible.  During the process of refining my marriage, God also began to refine me emotionally.  He helped me see ways in which I was using relationships to satisfy emotional needs that weren’t appropriate in those relationships.  He also showed me how I was avoiding other relationships because I didn’t want to face the emotional pain or turmoil that existed in them.  That refinement continues, under the surface and often barely noticeable, except for its effects on my heart.

As I look at my life, I see seven distinct areas of refinement: relational, emotional, financial, spiritual, physical, intellectual, and vocational.  God has worked in seven periods of my life to refine these areas of my life.  Some of these refinements have been short bursts of insight and activity in my life while others have been long-term projects we slog through together.  In every case, changes have been made that make me a better me and more reflective of Him.  He hasn’t removed all the impurities, I still have a great many flaws in each of these areas, but he has removed the bulk of the ways in which I was working against His design for me.  While He continues to work on me – I’m not nearly sterling quality yet – I have learned to work with Him.  I know I am being purified to the point where I can be useful to Him.  I am becoming a beautiful and shining example of His handiwork, sculpted and engraved for His good purposes.

This morning as I was driving to work I saw a traffic sign:

High Crash Area
Stay Alert

Several things ran through my mind:

Gee, I didn’t realize that so many accidents had occurred here.

I shouldn’t be surprised because of the way the road is here.

When we’re moving at a snail’s pace it’s hard to believe anyone could…
Hey, watch it, dude!

Then, as I thought more about it, I realized that I hadn’t considered that the sign was speaking to me.  I was the intended audience.  I should stay alert.  “High Crash Area” means that a lot more wrecks happen right here than on most areas of the roadway.  That means that quite a few drivers who think they’re doing well – they’ve successfully navigated many other stretches without a problem – actually fail right here.  I could be one of them, so I should “Stay Alert”.  But what does it mean to stay alert.  Not just on the road, but in other areas of life that are high crash areas.  How can I be more alert? Read the rest of this entry »

Family relationships are always interesting.  Some are harmonious situations where each member lifts up the other.  Some are destructive environments which children can’t wait to escape.  Most are more complex, offering opportunities for positive relations as well as times of stress and confusion.  Whatever their make-up, family relationships become even more complex with the introduction of spiritual differences.

This morning my reading included Luke 12:52-53

From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

My father-in-law once quoted this to me as one of his reasons for not believing in Jesus, or even God.  He recently quoted it again, this time to my husband, saying that he didn’t want to believe in any God that would do this to a family.  How odd is it to quote the very scripture that is fulfilled by your reason to quote it?  My father-in-law’s very lack of faith is what Jesus is telling his followers that they will face.

It makes me sad to consider that this man, who is brilliant and constantly researching Christianity in order to debunk it, will not make the effort to ask God himself to clarify the issue for him.  I tried once to ask him to do just that.  After all, if no one is there, it’s just a silly thing to do.  He has confidence enough in his mental/emotional state that he has no fear of deluding himself.  Why not just ask?  If nothing comes of it, he’s proven his point and can let it go.  He gave several reasons why he didn’t, shouldn’t, and wouldn’t.  Over the years, I’ve come to see that none of them are really true. 

I’ve also come to see that he really can’t let go of God completely, and I think that may be because God hasn’t given up on him completely.  My father-in-law is like a dog with a bone whenever he’s been tweaked about Christianity.  He fights and fights to try to prove his point.  He demands answers from us that only God himself can provide.  Even when you raise your hands and agree to disagree, he doesn’t stop.  Usually these exchanges are through email.  We will often receive a half a dozen emails after our last one of any substance.  The scripture reference above was in one of those.  It was at least the second email following my husband’s pretty clear message to the effect that “I can see you are firm.  I’ll let it go.”  It’s his father that won’t let it go.  And I have to wonder why.

Why does he continue to read, research, and attempt to debunk the faith?  Why spend so much energy on something you are so committed not to believe?  Why spend hours crafting position papers on a subject you have basically said is a waste of time?  Why commit emotional energy toward a topic that you say means nothing to you?

I’m coming from a position of faith.  I believe in the truth of the Bible.  I believe that there really was a person named Jesus who walked the earth and did and said the things the Bible says he did and said.  I also believe that he was both fully man and fully God.  I can’t claim to understand how that’s possible, but I believe it to be true.  In fact, I know it to be true because of the relationship I have with God. 

Speaking from that understanding, I know God loves my father-in-law.  I know that He has been wooing the man for a long time.  I also know that as my father-in-law approaches the fading years of his life, God wants to restore a relationship with him.  I believe that my father-in-law is sensing those efforts and fighting them tooth-and-nail.  As contrary as he can be on this subject, my father-in-law is still loved – by God and by my husband and by me – and we all want to see him have peace on this subject.  I hope and pray that God wins this tug-of-war.  I’d love to see my father-in-law really understand the extent to which God has gone to express His love and ensure their relationship.  I hope I can witness, on some level, that “aha” moment when he gets it and yields.  More than angels will sing praises!

I number of years ago someone asked me why I thought there could be a “good” God when there were so many starving and abused children in the world. These were my thoughts at the time…

Whether it be starving children in Ethiopia or street kids in Guatemala, it is difficult for anyone to understand or make peace with suffering. Aren’t these children innocents? Why do they deserve these lives? Where is God anyway, and why doesn’t he do something about them? Read the rest of this entry »

Relationship Myths

  • Love means never having to say you're sorry.
    The more you say "I'm sorry," the easier it is to admit when you really are wrong.
  • I've been around him long enough, I know what he's thinking.
    After 25 years, my husband still surprises me. We aren't the same people we were back then.
  • If she'd fix her problem we'd be fine.
    If you're waiting for something better to happen because someone else is going to change, then you'll be waiting a very long and painful time.
  • It would be easier on everyone if we just quit now.
    For marriages, especially once there are kids, quitting just doesn't work. There's actually a lot more effort involved with balancing two households and you still have to learn to get along!
  • ...and they lived happily ever after.
    Although it's a nice sentiment, we can't depend on it because life is messy. Too many things can, and will, go wrong to expect everything to be rosy.
  • You shouldn't air your dirty laundry in public.
    Now, I'm not saying stand on a rooftop and shout all your troubles to the world, but you should have some very close friends you can trust with anything and everything in your life. Use them. If you don't have them, make them!!
  • It will always be this way for us.
    Only if you both stop trying to work on it.
July 2021