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Tomorrow (in one minute from when this will post) I turn 59!  The last year in my 50’s.  I figured turning the same age as the year you were born was some kind of thing and so I looked it up!  It is called a Platinum year or a Bedian year (named after some NY fireman). When I think about this number, the first thing that comes to mind is the song by Simon and Garfunkel, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) and Interstate 59 that runs through Gadsden, AL Both are happy thoughts for me! (Additionally – I am a 5 or a 9 on the enneagram)

There are 2 other ideas running around in my head as I turn 59: Bucket Lists and Procrastinating  (aka. the last second!)

I realize that many of the things I had planned to do with my life are never going to happen!  I have actually known that for some time but birthdays are the time to reflect, dream and set new goals. I am torn by the idea of bucket lists. On the one hand there are things I would love to do, but the older I get, the shorter my list gets, partly because I am no longer interested and partly because I don’t think I will ever be able to accomplish them due to age, ability and finances! But, I am now finally getting to the age where a bucket list can really be a thing! Bucket lists don’t count when a person is a teenager or young parent and yet the list also seem a bit like a consolation prize for a boring life.  If I still have a long list of things I want to do at this age, then it raises the question of what I have been doing all this time! Ha!

Ultimately, I don’t want my bucket list to have things on it that are less impressive than the life I have already lived, which has been pretty fantastic!* So as I look forward do I really want a list of things to accomplish? I think that there are many of places I would love to go, foods I would like to eat, pounds I would like to lose, books I want to write; but mostly, I would like to make the most of every opportunity each day to look a little more like Jesus. I want to laugh more, pray better, memorize verses, worship with abandon, listen and love fervently.  I want to share my faith, give generously, forgive always.

My life goal for this year is to get out of debt, get the piano in the house, and shrink my stuff and my pant size! I can do it but hopefully I won’t wait until the last minute! Putting things off is a normal phenomenon but procrastination is not a spiritual gift! So as I set my “to do list” (instead of a bucket list) I am looking at my most productive seasons and times, starting with baby steps, giving myself grace and space and learn to strategize better.

*my Accomplished list (incomplete):

married my best friend~gave birth to 2 amazing people~learned a foreign language~went to college, seminary and started a PhD~taught college~ordained~shared the gospel~traveled to 49 states~met Shirley Temple~married and buried~parasailed~owned a home~surfed~learned to read music~learned to sew, cook, ski on water and snow, ride a bike, snorkel and scuba, shovel snow~owned a pet~ate haggis and flying fish~went on mission trips~made friends~finished projects~collected stuff~write calligraphy~started a business~acted in a play~marched in a band~learned to say things backward~read the whole bible~wrote curriculum~worked at a camp~learned to whistle~watched the sunrise over Haleakala~watched the sun set in a field of sunflowers in Spain~gained a son-in-law~watched countless hours of soccer….

Emily at 26

26 years old is an age that seems different than 25.  I am not sure why.  You have been married for 3 1/2 years and you are making your way in the world.  I guess for me, when I turned 26, even though I had been an adult for 7 years, 25 feels young, but turning 26 means that somehow the expectations magically change.  People expect you to start having babies or have some shift financially, socially or emotionally.  Maybe it is the fact that there are now only 4 years left in your 20s and instead of having a long time until you turn 30, there is a mental shift in the time left to be “immature and carefree”.  Maybe it is because you are supposed to be setting off on a career path. Perhaps it is because 26 is the “new” number for being an adult in our country: You are no longer on your parent’s medical insurance.  You are not charged an exorbitant fee to rent a car.  Your auto insurance drops in price and gains in coverage. I don’t know  – but I do know that somehow it feels different!

I know that most people feel old every year when their birthday comes. I also know that most people feel they should have it all together and they don’t, but everyone else does (or at least seems to).  I think it feels sort of like new year’s day with new commitments and beginnings. The fact is that most people have some trouble adjusting to the new normal and the new number that defines the time they have lived on earth.  Em, you have never been 26 before and you do not get a do-over! EVER! So you can’t expect to have it all figured out! I remember being your age…It was not easy.  That was the year we moved to Arizona.

As a person gets older, there seems to be increasing pressure to “figure it out”.  The further away you get from college age and move further in to adult married life, the harder it will be to finish goals because of time and shifting priorities; Some goals will change and old plans will feel awkward because you are in a different life stage. When you watch sports, and movies it is weird to realize how much younger some people are that seem way more successful at finishing their goals (and figuring it out) than you are, as well as how unlikely it is that you will realize some of those kinds of dreams! Some opportunities disappear and others may take their place. I personally have found that even though I have had regrets for the many dumb things I have done, they have not lasted long. However, I tend to regret the things I didn’t do for a longer period of time. It is like asking the question, “If you could do anything differently what would you do?” I usually think of the things I wish I had done and regret not acting when I had the chance. I think it is because the choices I have made, even the poor ones, have taught me something and I have worked the results into my life story. Decisions help create meaning in our lives. What I am trying to say is that I want you to pay attention to your goals in life and go for it! If there is something you don’t want to miss, figure out how to make it happen. Ignoring the opportunity or putting it off may very well be your biggest regret!

One thing I remember as you were growing up is talking about the future and what you wanted to be when you grew up.  Your answer changed over time, as it is supposed to.  Of course, the idea of being a breakfast short order cook who wears pajamas as she cooks is more serious when you are ten than when you get older because dreams change and morph and grow. I know you have been asked the question, “What do you want to be?” many times and every time it seems to add additional pressure; but, of course, your goals and dreams and plans will continue to change those answers (I think that is why people change their major so many times in college!).  If it helps, I am still not sure what I want to be when I grow up! My point is that this is your life!… and you are allowed to explore your options. You are allowed to pursue a path, to fail, to reverse course, to change your mind.  You are NOT allowed to sit around and do nothing. You areNOT free to make decisions that are selfish because your marriage and the Lord  are commitments you have already made. I want you to know that there is NOT pressure to have it all figured out, except from society and people who really don’t matter anyway! And added to that pressure is the fact that you are a woman and so you will be judged for many decisions you will make about your career path, whether or not you have children and then how you raise those children! (this is not even bringing up the facts about gender inequality).

So I want to tell you how proud of you I am, more than I could ever say. I am in awe of how stunning you are – both your appearance and your heart. You are the most extraordinary girl and you are so loved. Every time I am with you I am brought to my knees in awe of the woman you have become from the verbal toddler to the artistic and musical child to the big hearted teenager to a creatively talented woman. You are a blessing.  Happy Birthday to my sweet girl and always remember that whatever you become in this life,  that the most important thing to be is godly. kind. generous. grateful. courageous.

I love you Emily Ruth!

your mom<+><

PS (I think you have enough tattoos and cats and striped shirts…)

38th Anniversary

Thank You God for Immeasurable Happy memories and Ripples from Thirty Years of ministry & marriage. Everyday Imagining and Gratefully Hoping for Heaven I am Tuned to Sing your Praise Aug. 23, 1980 I married Jim Mohler at Downey First Baptist Church at 4 in the afternoon. I can remember many details clearly! It was hot and I was recovering from strep throat. I accidentally burned my sister with a hot iron and Wil Triggs drove us to Huntington Beach for a second party before we headed off on our honeymoon. We wrote our own vows. Harold Adams and Jerry Martin married us and there was a sea of people who loved us almost as much as we loved all of them. That was 38 years ago. Again I am reminded of the difference one decision can make. If a stone is dropped into water along a quiet lake, a ripple forms that becomes larger and larger. The ripples are so much greater than the original impact of that single stone. The water ripples are like the impact of a single decision. When we made the decision to marry each other, we did it out of hopeful love. We had no clue what impact that decision would make on either of our lives; how could we?! But that decision created 2 human beings who are creating their own ripple effects. It impacted the trajectory of our lives and ministry.  It created waves of blessing and friendship. My takeaway on this 38th anniversary of that single decision is that everything matters and has an impact on someone, somewhere, even those I don’t know. What the world needs is those who will make some mighty waves. The students we have loved, the colleagues we have ministered with, the friends we have played with, the children we have raised all have been part of the ripple effect initiated by that first decision as we were part of other ripples before and beside us! It is not a question or whether or not any single decision will make a difference, rather it is what kind of difference will that one decision makes? It is my prayer that the ripples of our marriage will continue to send out immeasurable waves of grace, loving-kindness, joy, hope and Christlike forgiveness. Lord, I thank you for the privilege of making a splash with Jim for the Kingdom. What a joyful and refreshing ride it has been. Amen.

Lacey’s Benediction

Dear Lacey.

So every year I have someone to say goodbye to here on staff. I hate that! But it is what it is and I have learned how to say “goodbye” while looking forward to the day when there are no more goodbyes!

I remember when I first met you. I actually heard you first! Your contagious laugh and your enthusiasm rang out from Joel’s office and I was excited to meet the person that came with the voice! Our friendship was soon to be a blessing for me as we shared ideas, meals, prayers and our hearts. It was not long until we realized we have many common interests: we both are Biola grads, we love lettering, we root for the Dodgers, and we don’t like the idea of driving a bus (among other things)! Then we had the privilege of watching the sunrise over the lowest place on earth and walking the streets of Jerusalem together. What an amazing memory to be traveling partners and “roomies” in the Holy Land!

Even though it is not the pattern at EvFree, for many years the churches I have been part of have included a tradition at the end of each worship service called a benediction. Sometimes it was a prayer, sometimes it was a blessing with eyes open and the pastor’s hand raised over the congregation similar to what the Old Testament priests were instructed to do (Lev. 9:22).

Anyway, the value and importance of benedictions for me is huge! Pronouncing a blessing over a gathering as a means of dismissal is more that just specially crafted words that boost one’s spirit. A benediction is a way to show that God really is the blesser. In Numbers 6:27 it says, “Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in My name, I myself will bless them.” When sending God’s people forth, a benediction tells believers that God has not only made His presence known to them while they are gathered for worship, but that He will care for them and sustain them as they go – no matter what the task is to come. Even more, it seals the time the people have spent together in worship and service.

So, at the end of this amazing 2 and a half years of worship and service side by side, I send you forth with this benediction, knowing that God will continue to make His presence known to you and Jordan – until we meet again!

May the Lord bless you and keep you

May the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you

May the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.

 

May your past be a pleasant memory

May your future be filled with delight and mystery

May your today be filled with amazing moments

That fill your cup to overflowing contentment and joy.

Never forget that “Whenever there is an ending, there is also a beginning. And there is always hope!”

 I love you “roomie” – With overwhelming gratitude,

Miriam

This is part of the devotional I shared at Lacey’s Bridal shower on Aug. 19

There seem to be 2 kinds of people in the world – people who love fairy tales and who love happy endings and people who can’t stand them! The people in the latter group feel that fairy tales are fake and set people up for disappointment

So should we side with the sentimentalists or the cynics? Cynics are right of course – the world is hard. Love is complicated and it will break your heart and your back. It is harder than anyone realizes. But that should not imply that love isn’t worth it! While it is important to be realistic such a negative outlook leads to despair. It really is self-protection: Lower your expectations and no one gets hurt.

The best fairy tales are not naïve. They are not cheap escapes and are not just sappy. Tolkien wrote one of the most powerful tales ever when he wrote The Lord of the Rings. When asked about his view on fairy stories he said that the fairy tale story does not deny the existence of sorrow and failure, rather it is necessary to the joy of deliverance. Fairy tales don’t deny the realities of life. If anything they lean into those realities and acknowledge the genuine fight against defeat and death in the midst of life. Fairy tales breathe the oxygen of hope and bank on the idea that victory can always be snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Lacey, I pray that your marriage will be a fairy tale and that your friendship and romance with Mr. Galbraith will continue to be the amazing and romantic tale it has been up to this point! In fact, finding and catching a mate is usually the whole story in a Disney tale. It ends with “happily ever after”. But the point is missed that this is when the real story begins; the real drama and the more interesting part is the adventure of a life together! This is why I love UP where we see the happily-ever-after of Ellie and Carl’s story at the beginning!

Proverbs 12:4 states that the excellent wife is the crown of her husband. See crowns are for royalty and Jordan will enjoy you as his arm candy when you enter the room together for some years to come, because you are beautiful inside and out, but it is when you leave the room that people will be reminded of his crown: his excellent wife who works hard at the relationship and in her home.

Another thought is that many people get married believing a myth that marriage is a beautiful treasure chest full of all the things they have longed for (Companionship, intimacy, friendship and the like). But the truth is that marriage is at the start of the empty chest; you must put something into it before you can take anything out. The pages of your story are blank! Remember that there is no love in marriage until you put it in; love is in people and people put love into marriage. There is no romance in marriage, you have to infuse it into your story as you learn the art and form the habit of giving, loving, serving, praising and of letting God write your love story, of keeping your treasure chest full. Remember, if you take out more than you put in the chest will be empty; the story will be a sad tale indeed.

You are about to make the biggest promises you will ever make. They are bold. It is like writing a blank check: better/worse richer/poorer sickness/health…. stating your commitment to each other no matter whatever comes. Whatever will come and it will surprise you. This is one of the mercies of an unwritten story, one of the blessings of marriage is that you will not know of the difficulties or the joys to come. What I mean is that young love is fun but it knows nothing of the quiet warmth of old love. It does not know the love on the other side of forgiveness and failure.

Marriage is the best example of the relationship of Trinity. And the promises made in a marriage are meant to reflect the greatest promise maker and keeper of All – God himself!

So your fairy tale begins. May you joyfully take up the call to journey together even on the difficult days, the dark days and the days when you would rather walk alone! On those days and every day may God grant you fleeting glimpses of joy. May you be reminded of the One who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despised the shame and is now seated at the right hand of God. Jesus is the story teller in the grandest fairy tale of all! It is a real life adventure story in which our hero fights the fiercest foes (sin, death, Satan) to save the one he loves!

If the story of Jesus is a fairy tale—and it sure seems to fit the pattern—then we can safely say that fairy tales aren’t for sentimental saps after all. Here’s what it took for this greatest of tales to end in happily ever after: The God who made the world, and who made it good, had to become part of that world. Not only did he become a part of the world he created, he endured the worst it had to offer. Though he was blameless, merciful, truthful, wise, courageous, he was mocked, misunderstood, and maligned, bullied, beaten, and betrayed—and, finally, hung from a tree and killed. This was the end. Only it wasn’t. In the greatest reversal ever known, the God who made the world and then was killed by that same world rose from the dead. Death could not contain the Living One, nor will it be able to contain those who find life in the resurrected Christ, for he promises to give life to all who come to him.

The Bible describes Jesus’ people as his “bride.” And so you see, the greatest fairy tale is itself the story of a marriage. Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him—the joy of meeting his bride on their wedding day and living happily ever after. My Lacey, may the joy of belonging to Jesus fortify you in the years to come to love Jordan all the way to the end, all the way to that final wedding day when you gather together at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Ready or Not!

My dad has always been interested in prophecy and the study of last things, which means I grew up in a state of urgency.

My dad is convinced that God is painting a picture through the heavens with a blood red moon over Jerusalem on July 27th, aka the 15th of Av, the day that Israel left the wilderness for the promised land.  It is exactly 7 years after the last blood moon over Jerusalem, which was on the celebration of Pentecost.

Anyway, I was thinking about it all last night.  I am grateful that I do not know the date and time of the Lord’s return just as I am glad I did not know the day and time that Jim would go to heaven. Something happens inside my head to play mind games with me. It is almost like I am equating the return of Jesus with the natural disaster category of events.  Readiness is about being prepared for a future event and different events require different types of readiness. To  prepare for  earthquakes and storms, etc. it is important to purchase insurance, prepare a kit, secure bookshelves and create an evacuation plan. The point is that there are things that can be done to be ready and you don’t become unready!  Once the checklist is completed life goes on and you just live knowing that whenever disaster strikes you will be ready to go! Maybe because I am a list kind of girl that I would rather think about the end of this life as we know it in the natural disaster category. This kind of preparation does not apply to every kind of event, however, especially Jesus’ return. That is where the rub is!

Another category of events, which does include things like Jesus’ return, cannot be prepared for in the same way.  What does it take to be ready?  To be ready to compete in the Olympics or the World Cup means continued training and ongoing rehearsals. Practice daily. There is no check list to complete; rather, the best way to be ready is to keep busy. These kinds of events involve tasks that must continually be performed until the event occurs!  The job is never completed.  You cannot rest.  There is no point where you can say, “I have done all I can do. I’m finished.” Even more, if you stop working and preparing, then you stop being ready! This kind of event requires vigilance like being ready for a terrorist attack. While certain tasks can be implemented and completed, ultimately security requires round-the-clock watchmen to be responsible and alert. Jesus said that his return would be this kind of event, not a natural disaster type.  (Mark 13) It would require constant watchfulness and diligence. We are to keep working, keep praying and always be watching, staying constantly on guard. To be ready means to persevere to the end. And that does not mean that we need to squeeze in as much playtime beforehand, or have a nice list of past experiences to refer back to, or complete a personal bucket list.  We are supposed to grow in righteousness until the day we die or until he returns. We are to live holy lives until the very end. (2 Peter 3). I need to train my mind to this state of readiness. May this be my reminder to keep on keeping on and not give up or grow weary. Amen!

 

Kaylee Mykal Benzing

Cousins words to describe Kaylee: awesome, thoughtful, fantastical, kind, extreme, uplifting, laugh-a-getic, life of the party.
Angel story

My name is Miriam Mohler and Many years ago I was the junior high pastor at FBCS along with my husband who was also on staff. One of the families I ministered with and to was the Benzings. Ministry occurs in the context of relationships and I am more like Jesus because of the relationships formed during those years with the Benzing family extended and many others. I am honored to be here today and it is my job today to comfort the brokenhearted, instill
We gather today and our hearts are broken wide open. I am so sad. We are so sad. None of us wants to be here because we are so grieved over Kaylee’s death; but at the same time we are so glad to be here to honor and celebrate the amazing young life of Kaylee Mykal Benzing.
it is so important that you took off of work or you drove the miles or found the time to be here. Death is never convenient and it matters that you are here. There is something powerful about getting together in the same room and breathing in and out our sadness; breathing in and out words of faith; breathing in and out our love for Kaylee together. This time of public mourning is important for you and for Kaylee’s family. Thank you for being here to walk together, to say goodbye, to remember, to celebrate, to laugh and to cry.
Our personal journeys of grief have begun now, and grief plays by its own rules. It doesn’t follow a linear path but ebbs and flows as we figure out how to live without Kaylee. Wherever it is you are in your grief, I hope you will find encouragement and promise in today’s service.
Kelly – you’ll never get over losing your sweet girl, your Kaylee. There isn’t closure that will come where you are done remembering and missing her. Instead of getting over her, you will learn to live without her and you’ll learn how important memory and story together will be. Don’t forget the goal of mourning is to keep memory alive and you will always want to remember your sweet girl. People will expect you to be fine sooner than you are – simply because you look fine – but it’s ok to not be fine, it is ok to not be ok. It will take a long time, a lifetime actually, to grieve and to learn to live in this new way. Some days it will feel like you’re taking steps backwards. Just take the time; It’s yours to take. Sorrow is actually a gift that connects us to the heart of God and His presence. Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted it says in Mt. 5. God is near to the brokenhearted. I know I am not saying anything new as we have all grieved Michael for the last 20 years. God is brilliant at using all of our life, good and bad, to make a perfect work.
Life is a journey and we have had the privilege of walking on this road with Kaylee long before cancer was part of her story. Kelly, you were on the road with Kaylee as her mom. She was your rock, and you were hers. Together you traveled and you helped each other find your best and confident voices, your own ideas. You raised such an incredible godly young woman who lived well, loved well and laughed fully.
Scott, Karrie, Mandy, Joseph: you have, with your families, walked through life giving guidance, loving and playing with Kaylee, telling stories of faith and Jesus.
Elizabeth, Jon, Clara, Jay, Hannah, Rylan, Jaden, and Jayce: you walked on the road with your cousin – you had fun making videos, playing games, camping and playing soccer together. What a gift she’s given you to remember how much she loved you.
Dennis and Ginger, Grandpa and Granny, You got to see how generous and thoughtful she was and was always willing to step up to help get something done. And she delighted in telling stories and hearing yours.
She had incredible wit, off the wall humor and would stun you with her laugh and creativity. She was precious and precocious, wasn’t she? Inside and out.
Some of you walked with Kaylee at school, at church, on a field or in the halls of the hospital. And now, we’ve all been together on the road with Kaylee being sick, wearing our warrior t-shirts, logging in and donating to help her kick cancer’s butt, doing whatever we can trying to help, knowing that in the face of terminal illness, it is hard to know what to do.
We know what it is to join this mom, Kelly, on this road of disbelief and sadness, recounting the whirlwind of the last 15 months and the impact of stupid rare cancer, osteosarcoma, she got and now reeling in a life without Kaylee. Today we get rejoice that Kaylee has finished her journey home. Our walk on life’s road from here on out will be lonely without her and a lot less silly. We will miss her good heart, the way she quietly loved and lived. We’ll miss her stories. We will miss loving Kaylee and being loved by her. But today, Thanks be to God. For the honor and joy of knowing Kaylee as long as we did.
I would like to share 3 truths that Kaylee would want you to know:

#1 Death does not Win.
Cancer is awful. It is devastating. We prayed for healing and God answered our prayer. He chose not to cure her cancer but he did heal her. And so we can grieve with hope. Remember the goal of mourning is to not forget! May we never forget that even though cancer and suffering does impact our time, our finances, and our strength, it cannot destroy our faith, Our love…. Nor our eternity! The only way to beat death is through a relationship with Jesus. Kaylee knew that. You see, We have it all turned around. We are in the land of the dying and we are going to the land of the living. Kaylee is more alive than any of us! She would not want to come back to earth but she would want all of us to join her there!
Romans 8:38 tells us that nothing separates her from the love of God through Jesus Christ – not death, not cancer. God did not give Kayley cancer and God did not take Kayley from us. God did not need another angel or a pretty flower or to hear a new joke. God is not that needy, greedy or co-dependent to do something like that. Instead I want you to know that God is with us as we grieve, broken in our brokenness. There is a broken and dying savior who meets us there and comforts us and says that not even death gets the last word! God does. Cancer did not win today! Kayley was clear about that from the beginning. She’s always known she’s not been alone on this road. She recognized Jesus as her Savior and has never let him out of her sight. The attitude she brought to the sports she loved, her her mom, her friends, her family– she wasn’t going to give up without a fight. She showed cancer no mercy. Yet all the time she knew that in death she would not be abandoned but would be raised to new life. New life even our wildest dreams can’t imagine. She knew she would win because of Jesus. She would want you to know that death doesn’t win! This life is short but the next one is not! It is forever!

In those moments when the memories return and the sadness resurfaces, I find comfort and even joy for those we love as I reflect on the promise of today’s key verse. For in heaven, there is no mourning, crying, pain or death. All things are made new. Kaylee’s at peace now. She’s not suffering. She’s with Jesus, in the arms of the God who loves her and will wipe every tear from her eyes. She’s home, where we all belong. In the meantime we ache, because we miss her. We’re the losers here. We’re the ones who have to say goodbye. And it’s going to be hard. There will be dark days ahead, but the same God is with us, ready with his heavenly hankie, offering to wipe away our tears, to hold us in his arms and allow us to cry on him. He’s whispering to us, I’m with you. I’ll always be with you. You’ll never be alone. So let’s allow Jesus to comfort us, and let’s be Jesus to each other. And let’s not lose hope. Jesus is alive. He’s defeated death, and he will come back again. Jesus gives us hope. The tomb is empty. Love and life have won.

#2 Death is not the end of the Story
Kaylee would want to remind you to live in light of eternity. When I was praying about what to share today, a verse kept coming up in my mind. Karrie texted me and told me that the verse highlighted in Kaylee’s bible was 2 Cor. 5:17. The same verse!
It says if anyone is in Christ they are a NEW creature. The old has gone and the new has come. The minute we become a Christ follower we become a new creation. We are given a new song. A New inheritance. We are under a New covenant because of JC. He even gives a new command love one another.
While we don’t have to wait until heaven for the Newness of life to begin, we do wait to have a New home, a New body and New life that will never end. Today Kaylee has many new things: a body free from pain, fashioned in the image of Jesus and whole. She is enjoying all the splendors of her new home. A New fellowship.
Kaylee is home. Imagine as Jesus carried her through the gates into heaven to a welcoming crowd of the great cloud of witnesses.
I find comfort and even joy for those we love as I reflect on the promise of today’s key verse. For in heaven, there is no mourning, crying, pain or death. All things are made new.

She is at peace now. She’s not suffering. She’s with Jesus, in the arms of the God who loves her and will wipe every tear from her eyes. She’s home, where we all belong. In the meantime we ache, because we miss her. We’re the losers here. We’re the ones who have to say goodbye. And it’s going to be hard. There will be dark days ahead, but the same God is with us, ready with his heavenly hankie, offering to wipe away our tears, to hold us in his arms and allow us to cry on him. He’s whispering to us, I’m with you. I’ll always be with you. You’ll never be alone.
Kaylee knew she was made for something more!
Hope is faith that looks forward to that place called heaven where there is:
No more death. No more good-byes. No more grief. No more sorrow. No more sin. And no more pain.
In Heaven, we will walk on streets of gold. In Heaven, there will be a family reunion. We will be reunited with those who have gone on before us. In Heaven, we will experience peace that is beyond comprehension. And most importantly, we will be with Jesus. And we will finally see the great love of God in all of its glory.
In the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia, one of the Characters says when they land on the shore:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”
“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle
The old has gone and the New has come!
#3 Death from the Other side. Last, Kaylee sees it all differently than we do!
There are some things that look different from the other side. It’s called perspective
When hiking we start at the Bottom of mountain and wonder how we will ever get to the top! At the end of the trek we wonder how we ever made it or perhaps wonder how we will ever get back down!
When a child starts school, we parents think there is plenty of time, but it goes faster than we think. My perspective is so different now that my son just finished college.
When a child gets braces on their teeth, they wonder what their smile will look like at the end, but no amount of imagination compares to seeing the real thing at the end.
One night when we lived here we were outside looking at the stars and my Emily, who was 3 or 4 at the time looked at the night sky and quietly said that the bottom side of heaven was super pretty and she wondered how beautiful the right side must look. Ps. 116:15 gives us God’s perspective on death too. Precious in the sight of the lord is the death of his saints.
For us the way forward looks daunting. It is a time of loss and defeat and separation. But from the side Kaylee is on it is a time of release, reunion, rest and reward!
We think of it as losing and it really is gain.
We think of it as parting. But it is arrival
We think of it as the end. It is the beginning.
We think of it as a closing door but it is an opening gate
We are going from the land of the dying to the land of the living.
Yes, at first glance death looks like the end; it seems so final. The end of relationships, end of all we have worked for, etc But it really is the beginning of a bright new, abundant and eternal life.
We used to watch the sunset and blow the sun out as it dipped beyond the horizon. Poof it was gone. “There it goes”, we would say. But it really is not gone; it is just out of sight! Someone else on the other side of the world was waking up and was saying, “Here comes the sun!”
Similarly on July 8, we could hear the family say, “There she goes! She is gone! But, imagine what was happening on the other side as Jesus carried her through the gates and that great cloud of witnesses said, “Here she comes!” She’s home!

Bill Method

Bill has been my friend for nearly 40 years. He was on the Puppet Express Co. with Ann, his wife, Jimbo Mohler and Pat Zweber. Others came and went but these 4 formed the original team. Over the years as we all moved apart the sense of family created by this team of puppeteers stayed intact. This tightknit group included the family members and the puppets who had been given life and voice by each of the members.
There is no other ministry quite like a puppet ministry. In the hands of a talented puppeteer puppets can make us laugh, cry and share God’s word in creative ways. If Skip, Bill’s alter ego, or any of the other puppets he brought to life, could talk, they would say something about how he made them live; perhaps their words would include, ”It was the look I felt in your eyes as you looked at me that helped me perform exactly as expected of me. It was you and your heart for Jesus that made me so convinced and convincing of the message you told through my plush and foam body. I became more than a caricature of humanity. I lived through your arm, laughed through your voice and ministered in unexpected and surprising ways to share the gospel.”
But you have got to “hand it to” Bill! His own quick wit and great sense of humor and timing became an inseparable part of the Puppet Express Co.

It is difficult to sum up my friendship with Bill Method in only a few sentences, but I will try.
He loved Jesus.
He loved his wife.
He loved his kids and grandkids.
He was intentional. He was fun and creative. He was generous. He was a hard worker. When I think of Bill, I think of cars, Disneyland and his family.

I hate that we live in a world of brokenness and disease. Huntington’s is a long goodbye. Bill was robbed of so much as the disease progressed and wore away his memory, his personality and body. The good news is that Bill is in heaven now, completely healthy and whole. He is fully alive and reunited with Ann and living in the presence of the Lord.
In 2 Tim. 4:6-8, Paul says, “The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – “

These words apply to Bill! In claiming his crown Bill has gone from this life to the next he has left an indelible mark on our world, impacting and helping shape the lives of others, including his wife of, his children, grandchildren, and many other lives, which are too numerous to count.
Today I say goodbye, at least for now, and today, as I stop to remember Bill and all those things that made him unique, who made him who he was, and so special to me and my family. I will miss his warm smile, his quick wit, and endless sense of humor!  Most of all I will miss his positive attitude and encouraging words. What made the difference in Bill’s life that sets him apart from so many others? It’s simple. He had enough vision to make his life want to count. He heard the call of Jesus Christ and made the decision to give his life to follow after Him. I thank God for Bill and Ann Method!

So I was asked to teach on the topic of evil in student ministries yesterday.  Here is my basic outline:

Hi, … I am Miriam and I am the one who sends you all the emails that you don’t read!  I work here at church and I teach at Trinity as well.  I was a youth pastor in ministry as a team with my husband in 3 states.  I have 2 kids and one is here this morning; Clayton is a core group leader. So we are looking at answering some of the tough questions of the faith this summer. I got “stuck” answering the question of why a good God could allow suffering and why there is evil in the world. There are so many corollary questions included like “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and “Where is God when it hurts?” and Why me? Where is God when tragedy strikes? Why is there evil if God is Good…Why me? Where’s God? Etc. (On a side note, I actually think it is a bigger mystery to consider how there is any human goodness at all)

Let me just touch on a few things before we get started:

Anyone here have something bad happen in your life? Is anyone here a victim of divorce, bullying, cancer? Anyone here ever go hungry or been homeless? How about molestation, gang violence, car accident? I could go on and while I don’t expect anyone to answer I know we all have been impacted by sin and evil. Let me start with a bit of a “pre” discussion question. Why would God create evil in the first place… or allow the possibility?

Imagine that you are given a magic potion and you can give it to any person you want and they will be yours forever. You find the perfect person and you give it to them and they fall in love with you. You get married and live happily ever after. But a few years later you begin to ask yourself if they really love you or if it is just the potion you gave them that makes them respond to you. You will never know, will you?– Having a choice which is called “Free will”is key in relationships. That is like God and humanity. He does not want robots or puppets. He loves us too much which is why he allows the possibility.

God wants us to know who he is and what he is like. God is so great that he can even use sin and evil to show how great he is. If there was no such thing as sin/evil then there would be many things we would not know about God. Could God show us how forgiving he is if there was no one to forgive? Would we know how much God hates sin if there was no sin to hate? Can God show his great love for sinners if there are no sinners to die for? Would we understand grace or justice or ? Also, there is theology that teaches that God is unknowable, incomprehensible

Another comment before we get to the real question is a reminder that Man is not what he once was as God designed us to be. We have changed. God did not change us but we changed ourselves because of sin. This still does not let God off the hook. Even though humans are to blame for evil because of sin, God who is sovereign and powerful allowed evil to happen. He permitted it to infect and infest creation. Everyone suffers because we live in a fallen broken world. Even though that includes everyone, I would tell you that everyone’s s pain is unique.

Now I want to give you a few other definitions as we get into it.

Evil – the active intent to do harm.

Suffering – the passive result of evil. It is what happens to you.

Modern times have changed evil.

1. Evil is different because we live in a culture where we fix everything. We have aspirin, antiseptic, anesthetics so we can live a life without pain.  We are shocked any time we experience it.

2. We have made it much more efficient. We drop a bomb from thousands of feet in the air and don’t even see the humanity we are destroying, one another.

3. We have made evil good and cool. And with technology we have even made it a game! Everything is impersonal and we are numb to its devastating reality.

Now let’s get into answering the question of the day:

I have an answer to the question at hand but you wont like it: I don’t know

Ultimately we cannot understand God’s purposes. The Bible says that no one can fathom God. Does good stuff come out of bad stuff ? Absolutely! And that is because God is good. (Job – the book to read for all the wrong answers to the question of evil and suffering!)

Here is what I do know // 3 things:

1. Evil is evil. It is not a watered down game.  It is not a fairytale stepmother who is mean. It is really bad. God is not to blame for it. People are.

What is wrong with the world? I AM … (GK Chesterton)

God hates evil. Jesus was outraged and indignant at the intent to cause harm and despair by the Jewish leaders. In Mark 3:5 it reads “And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand.” Instead of the discussion being around the power of God’s miracle for healing, the onlookers accused Jesus of doing ‘good works’ on the Sabbath. Their loyalty to legalism prevented them from having a right heart before the powerful presence of God. When the Pharisees refused to answer Jesus’ questions, “He looked around at them in anger, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts

Not only does God get mad about the evil, it makes him sad!

John 11 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind manhave kept this man from dying?” Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

He grieves with us over it. Shortest verse in the Bible. God’s face is wet with tears.

2. God is Good – ALL THE TIME! He cares. He came. He acts. He hears the cries of His people. He took care of our needs every day as a family and he still does!.Just as the Israelites had to rely on God in the wilderness for food, he takes care of us in a harsh and broken world.  The jews had what they needed each day and could not store the manna longer because then they would not have to trust God to provide tomorrow. When they got to the promised land, they did not enter a utopian paradise but had a really harsh land without water so they would need to rely on God to take care of them every day.  We too learned to  lean in every day – dependence is not a highly valued trait in America, yet it is in God’s economy!

We all have bad stuff.  Everyone here has dealt with death, bullying, hunger, sickness and other evils and suffering.  For our family, the worst was when Jim, my husband and the kids dad got brain cancer.  He lived for 22 months before he went home to heaven.  It was hard and we still miss him everyday.  But in the process we learned in a very personal way that God is good all the time!

This year for Father’s day Clayton wrote: college was the first season of life that my dad wasn’t able to be a part of. i can’t help but imagine what it would’ve been like to have him around at Biola. Seven and a half years later, many of my friends now have never met him, seen his magic tricks or heard his jokes, but I wish they could! I wonder sometimes what it would’ve been like to take one of his classes or sit in his office on campus, or for him to be able to come to my soccer games. I also wish I knew more about the lives that he impacted while he was around on campus and even before we moved here, at Trinity and in his youth groups; and I wish I could’ve known him as an adult. Biola was a time of joy and growth for sure, but it also came with difficulty and a continued process of grief. yet I can see and acknowledge the ways that I have come to know God more intimately and trust him more deeply through this season and in this loss; and I can be grateful for how God has pursued me and worked in my life throughout college. God is still good! I’m grateful for the impact that my dad has made and continues to make on my life and many others, even in his absence, and I hope to someday make an impact like him too

We ask the questions: I asked the tough questions when Jim got sick. Why me? Why not me? We like control but we live in a world that is not fair. Unjust. Irrational. We ask this so we won’t despair. Where is God? We feel we must blame someone and that someone is responsible. Jesus even asked this on the cross. In the thick of suffering we cry out in faith and pain! But we know that God works all things together for our good and his greatest glory. God loves us enough to fix the brokenness and to be present with us in the middle of it! That is amazing!

3. GOD is all powerful. Can He be trusted even if I don’t know what he is doing? I’m in the dark about he is doing but I am not in the dark about God because of Jesus!! He acts to stop it. He Gives an escape. He Uses it. He Acknowledges it. He Frames it. He Defeats it. God will abolish evil one day soon. He has the power to finally obliterate evil and he has perfect timing. We just think he has no power because we want it fixed NOW! Just because God doesn’t change the evil now does not mean that he can’t!  Underline this verse in your Bible:

2 Peter 3:9 New International Version (NIV) 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind – this man had to live his whole life blind for this moment! Sometimes we have to wait what seems like an eternity and not understand any of it. But we can trust the Lord and put our hope in him because he does have the power and the desire to make it all right again! John 9 ::As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Silver Linings These are not answers or explanations but are things that give me hope

  • Evil actually deepens faith.
  • The darkest night allows the light of Jesus to shine through. Jim saw a vision of Jesus in dark praying for our family!
  • God is there with me in the dark.  We are never alone.  I have felt his presence.
  • Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face Job 13:15
  • One day the last tear will fall. Rev. 21:4
  • God is turning it upside down and uses it for his glory, What was meant for evil he used for good. (story of Joseph.)
  • Daniel 3:17ff– If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
  • One day secrets will be explained and God’s goodness and justice will be seen
  • God’s presence is enough

Responses – God expects a response from us when bad things happen.

  • We forgive. Forgiveness cuts off the past and liberates the future.
  • We have Courage to do something for others – evil triumphs when good men do nothing
  • We pray for his kingdom to come
  • We trust. We depend on Him for all of our needs every day.
  • We have received comfort so we can comfort others. (2 Cor. 1)
  • Do Not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:21)

Review & Blessing

Nearly 40 years ago, when I was a student at Biola and met my future life partner I anticipated many things, but no matter what one anticipates the future is never certain. Who would ever have anticipated where God would lead us? Or how many kids we would minister to or raise? Who could anticipate raising our kids in IL or the amazing community we were to encounter there? Who could have foreseen that our move back to California was going to be critical as we would face cancer once we got there.

When Jim was diagnosed with GBM brain cancer, I began the fearful journey of anticipation as I wondered what life would be like as a widow and when it would become my reality. I had no idea. And yet Jim was loved to the end fearlessly… and my kids needed strength for the day. My future all became a glance at the past as I avoided anticipating “tomorrow”.

I was afforded the great privilege of ministry as a team with my husband. Jim and I went to college and seminary together, pursued doctoral work and ordination and worked side by side at churches and in teaching at TIU. In 2009 Jim, a Bible prof at Biola, was diagnosed with GBM and we began a 22 month journey with the “C” word. We were married 30 years with 2 high school kids when God took him by the hand and led him home.

We all have “stuff”. My experience of becoming a widow is both similar and unique. There are other widows here who could tell a different story But for me….

Jenni suggested that I answer the question of how God showed up and my first response is to say that he didn’t!

I would say instead that He was always there. In fact, I think God’s presence was more real to me than ever before, during that season of my life and I found the truth and comfort of passages including “though I walk through the valley of the shadow He was there with me” , and “God is close to the brokenhearted,” etc., I think that when life stopped with the cancer diagnosis it was easier to find God than when life goes well. Everything in life is designed to push us to dependence on our heavenly Father. Tragedy and suffering left me with no other option! My confidence in His presence grew. He had NEVER ever let me down before and I was sure he was not going to start now.

Life is difficult, but it is more than that. It is dangerous, magnificent, exciting, short, adventurous, fragile, humorous, magical and forever!

We don’t get to choose our path (Jesus never promised an easy life, just pain and suffering and his presence, among other other things).

Having said that, I would share that the Lord gave Jim a vision every night for several months after his diagnosis. Jim would wake up and see Jesus praying for our family in a corner of the room. I never saw the Lord even though Jim would often wake me up to experience what he was seeing.

I would like to read to you what I wrote in 2009 in response to these visions:
Journal entry by Miriam Mohler — Mar 27, 2009

I was thinking of the vision Jim has had the last few nights of Jesus, and one of my favorite quotes came to mind. Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote in Aurora Leigh:

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes — The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

Often God is present in our lives but we fail to recognize it. Jacob echoed this in Gen. 28:16 after an encounter with the Holy One

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” (Gen 28:16)

It seems a natural part of human nature that we are more predisposed to sit around and pluck blackberries (or the modern equivalent) than to perceive the presence of God, take off our shoes, and worship. It is so easy to focus on our (Jim’s health) situation because it is the primary thought and conversation of the day. This is really just another chance for God to remind us of His care and his presence.

Perhaps Jim’s vision is a reminder of God’s presence, which we are to proclaim, rather than overlook. God took a rock and a hard place for Jacob and made it a holy meeting place. He is, perhaps, doing that for us too.

All the things I believe about God, all my theology, has become biography in the last month. The constant challenge for each person is the translation of all we say we believe to be real and true into daily living. Even though it is always a struggle, suffering forces the choice.

So God, once again, is breaking into our world saving, shining, healing, restoring and we are part of the shimmers of His presence. Wow! I hope you will take off your shoes and worship with us. (and then we can eat berries!)

2) how the Body of Christ loved and supported you through that and walked with you through your experience.

Let me say that the main way we experienced God was through the Body of Christ. And the body of Christ included our family, and multiple church families and 2 college campus staffs in 3 states. We experienced God’s love and presence in the valley through the many friends who hugged us, brought us food, took care of errands and chaperoned our kids. He heard his voice when we picked up the phone, or been given a word of encouragement and been reminded of His promises. He wrote us countless love notes, emails and get well cards. He creatively and generously met our needs and loved our kids and prayed without ceasing. The church was a joyful way of experiencing God – I would also add that we experienced the body of Christ as God’s hands and feet until Jim died. Then the comfort of community dwindled to a few who walked with us in the months and years that followed.

2 Cor. 1:3,4 says we are comforted so we can comfort others. I did not realize that the lack of that community would inspire me to provide God’s grace and love in a way that I did or didn’t receive it.

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