A Tribute to Kimberly

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

Funerals are never easy to attend, but when we know beyond a doubt that the person we are there to remember is now sitting at the feet of our Savior, we can find comfort and inspiration to live a more godly life.  My friend Kimberly was just such a person whose life inspired others, even now after the end of her five-year battle with cancer.

At her funeral this past Saturday, the pastor read a testimony Kimberly had written just a few months ago. In this piece, she talked about her battle with pancreatic cancer and how it changed her life. In her testimony, she did not complain or shake her fist at God. Instead she said:

“By allowing our family to go through this trial, God has removed our prideful sense of control and refocused our trust in Him. There is a quiet, gentle spirit of peacefulness in knowing God is in control of our lives. We found beauty in the ashes and blessings in our tears.”

Kimberly understood what it meant to humbly rely only on God. She was a woman who loved reading and meditating on God’s word, which gave her understanding from her “knowledge of the Holy One” as Proverbs 9:10 tells us. She gained wisdom, however, by going through the trial of cancer, because she applied her knowledge of God’s word by trusting that He was in control, which is part of living out Proverbs 9:10.

Fearing the Lord is trusting Him, knowing He knows what is best for us. And to do this, we have to be humble. We cannot rely on our own understanding, which is finite compared to God’s infinite understanding. Psalm 147:5 tells us, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” God sees and knows all; we do not. When we hand the reigns of control back to God, we find peace.

Kimberly’s fight with cancer has always been close to my heart because she was my friend, but also because I believe she was a miracle survivor these past five years.  To see her victory at the beginning of her illness meant a lot to me, because my mom, almost 12 years ago, was a victim of pancreatic cancer and she lived for only eight months. It meant so much to me to see Kimberly beat her illness, even if for only five years. I’m thankful God gave Kimberly those five years because she shared the wisdom she learned from the Lord and she gave us all an example of how to live for Him.

Guest Post: Back to the Future

“The prospect of the righteous is joy.”

Proverbs 10:28 (NIV)

As we entered church several years ago, on the first Sunday in January, our friend and deacon, Richard, asked me and Cheryl, “If this could be the first Sunday of any year you’ve lived so far, which year would that be?”

Needless to say, I was taken off guard by his unusual inquiry and so I tossed out a suitably off-the-cuff reply along the lines of, “Well, Richard, I haven’t quite put the finishing touches on my time machine yet, but when it’s up and running I’ll let you know what I decide.” Without seeming to hear, he walked slowly over to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, softly but insistently, “I’ll tell you this, if it were up to me, today would be the first Sunday of 1956.” I could see the longing in his eyes.

As he and I began to converse more frequently, I came to learn that his answer was spurred by the fond, deep-seated childhood memories of the music and culture of the era he liked to call “a simpler, better time.” I could certainly relate to his answer. As a child growing up in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, I have likewise warm memories of the friends I knew, the fun I had and the music I listened to during my own “glory days.”

That said, as tempting as it is for some of us to want to live in the past, Richard was quick to point to the words of Solomon, who tells us in Proverbs 10:28 that the ultimate source of joy for the righteous – that is, those who have trusted that their sins are forgiven and washed away by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross – lies not in their past, but in their future. This should be a source of comfort for all Christians, even those whose hearts are weighed down by heartbreak, illness or loss. Indeed, no matter how hard our lives become, as believers we can look forward to that glorious day when God will wipe every tear away and forever end our pain.

In the meantime, we can also find great comfort and encouragement here in the present, where our Lord promises to take every hurt, weakness and disappointment we experience and work all of them together for our ultimate good. So, let each of us who belong to Christ look back fondly at our past, but let us also keep our hearts and minds firmly fixed on those things which lie ahead of us. And may we be faithful in the here and now to share with others this joy that comes from knowing the One in whose hands our past, present and future so securely rest.

-Bert Gangl

 

 

Hidden Vitamins

“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.”

Proverbs 28:13 (NLT)

Do you remember the I Love Lucy show? One of my favorite episodes is the one in which Lucy is a spokeswoman for a Vitameatavegamin commercial. I’ve always loved saying that word, and I often used it to encourage our daughter to take her vitamins when she was younger. Despite my use of that funny word at vitamin-taking time, she would still complain about chewing them. One objection that I continue to hear from our daughter, who is 12 now, is that she doesn’t like taking vitamins because they don’t taste good and they’re too hard to chew – even the gummy ones! Although she complains, she reluctantly takes them now, but that has not always been the case.

A few years ago, I was looking for something in our guest room closet and discovered four vitamins neatly lying on the floor in the corner of the closet. They belonged to Caroline, and there was no telling how long they had been there since it had been several months since we had used that particular brand. When I asked her about it, she got really nervous because she knew she had been “found out.” She confessed there were vitamins scattered all around the house except for those that she had thrown into the trash! We began finding vitamins under the cushion of her kitchen chair, under the recliner in the living room, under her bed, and in her closet. She had been hiding vitamins for weeks, and telling me she had taken them.

In Proverbs 28:13, Solomon tells us that the one who hides their sins will not prosper, but those who confess and renounce them will find mercy. Just as Caroline eventually told us that she had hidden all those vitamins, we, too, need to confess our sins to God; otherwise, we will not prosper. By not taking her vitamins, Caroline wasn’t helping her body and by lying about it she was breaking trust with her parents. It’s the same in our relationship with God. When we do what we know we shouldn’t and try to hide it, that sin puts a barrier between us and our heavenly Father. And trying to hide something from him is futile to begin with because he sees everything anyway. But, if we confess our sin, we will receive mercy (1 John 1:9). Just as consequences are inevitable when we sin, God’s mercy is inevitable when we repent.

What are your “hidden vitamins”? If there’s something in your life today that you need to confess, talk to God about it. Let David’s words in Psalm 32 encourage you: “Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” (v.5, NLT).  When we do this, we can join David in saying, “Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!” (v.2, NLT)

Here Comes the Sun!

“The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.”

Proverbs 4:18 (NLT)

The Bible isn’t just a nonfiction instruction manual. It is a living book filled with beautiful poetry that touches our emotions and enriches our lives. Even though we usually think of Psalms as the poetic book in the Bible, the book of Proverbs contains poetry as well. Tucked among all those couplets that compare how we should live versus how we shouldn’t live are magnificent lyrical verses such as Proverbs 4:18.

This verse is a simile (a comparison that uses like or as) equating the righteous path with the journey of the rising sun into the sky. The Hebrew word, orach, for way denotes the idea of a well-trodden path. This means we can trust the path taken by those wiser than us. They have proven the truth and goodness of this path, which Solomon tells us is like “the first gleam of dawn.”

This is one of my favorite paintings that my Granny made for me many years ago: Sunrise at the Beach. It hangs in my guest room.

Have you ever seen a sunrise? Admittedly, I don’t witness that early event often. In fact, I think the last time I saw the sun rise could have been twenty years ago when I went with my dear friend Janice to a sunrise Easter service in Decatur! What I do remember, though, is the brilliance of the sunrise as it slowly broke through the quiet darkness of early morning and then quickly rose into the sky brightening us into the new day.

While dawn often symbolizes a beginning and a new start, which can also imply a second chance, I think Solomon’s comparison in Proverbs 4:18 actually deals with the idea of light and it’s gradual increase from a glimmer to its full brightness. The idea of light versus darkness is a theme that runs throughout the Bible, and in Proverbs light is associated with righteousness while darkness is equated with wickedness (Proverbs 4:19). Light and darkness also represent truth and lies.

When we walk the path of righteousness (follow God’s ways), He sheds light to guide our way throughout the day, as we need it. If we look at this verse as the course of our lives, rather than as just one day, the gleam of dawn could represent the moment of our salvation up to the day we see Christ (“full light of day”). What an exciting thought! Visions of God in heaven are always described as bright (Ezekiel 1:27-28, Revelation 1:14-16). What an amazing sight that will be!

Light is also a symbol of guidance. Psalm 119:105 tells us that God’s word is like a light on our path. And Jesus tells us he is “the light of the world” (John 8:12). Jesus is the “way, the truth and the life” and He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), and His way, a way guided by light (truth and righteousness), is best.

Not only does the path of righteousness shine like the dawn, but also our righteous acts will shine as well. Solomon’s father, David, tells us in Psalm 37:6, “He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.”  In his last words, David, gives a similar sentiment, “…When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness of rain that brings grass from the earth” (2 Samuel 23:3-4).

In Henry V, Shakespeare penned,  “God shall be my hope, my stay, my guide and lantern to my feet.” So, follow God’s lantern – his word – and travel the well-trodden path of the righteous. Enjoy the light every day and be happy to say, “Here comes the sun!”