8 Questions to Ask When Making End-of-Life Decisions

Are the core Christian convictions—that God is the Creator and Redeemer and Sustainer of life and the One Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of life, irrelevant today? Are they out of place in the life and death dilemmas taking place daily in the micro-societies of our technologically advanced hospitals and clinical settings and in the context of medical decisions based on, or controlled by, judicial systems? What, if any, are some situations in which central Christian convictions allow us, by God’s grace and through God’s mercy, to end life? 

I recently enjoyed addressing a group of pastors, chaplains, social workers, health care workers and general public regarding biblical ethics and end-of-life decisions. Throughout the seminar I used my family's experience to frame the bioethics of these choices. The participants and I probed eight frequently asked questions surrounding this highly volatile and emotionally infused dilemma.

I was honored to hear participants share poignant stories of their personal experience with life-and-death dilemmas. Praise God for the healing that the Holy Spirit makes possible as we expose our wounds to other brothers and sisters in the faith.  I learned much from these blessed saints. The grace and mercy of God was evident in them and extended through them. We explored end-of-life dilemmas in three perspectives: biblically, ethically and in the light of public policy issues. 

Although I felt less prepared to speak on this subject than any I have addressed in the past due to the overwhelming amount of literature on the subject and not having any background in law or medicine, it proved to be one of the most informative and effective presentations I have had the honor to share. I love to learn. I love to teach others. I love to share about the Lord. This seminar is the best of all worlds--I have a stronger apologetic regarding my faith and my beliefs surrounding these highly volatile and emotionally charged issued. I believe all who attended were encouraged to search out the reasons we believe what we believe. Then to act out our faith based on those convictions. 

 Does it make your head spin when simultaneously some are fighting for the "right to life" while others are choosing to die?

Does it make your head spin when simultaneously some are fighting for the "right to life" while others are choosing to die?

Here are the 8 questions we discussed:

I Who decides whether we live or die?

II Who's life is it anyway?

III How do I know God's will in matters not revealed in Scripture?

IV How might the dying process play out in light of medical and technological advances?

V Who's in control?

VI How do I respond to those who oppose my decision?

VII How then do we live?

VIII How can we prepare for the future?

I welcome your feedback. Your comments will help me better prepare for future presentations on this subject.

 

 

5 Signs It's Time To Seek Therapy

 Courtesy of Wordpress.com

Courtesy of Wordpress.com

This past Saturday, March 24th, I spoke at a donor banquet to generate support for a wonderful counseling agency. Shepherds Fold is a Biblical-based counseling ministry whose goal is to assist clients in getting the help they need. Their services are funded through the donations of churches, businesses, and private individuals who recognize the need to provide Biblical based counseling to those who do not necessarily have the means to pay for such help. They work with marriages, parenting, depression, anxiety, and emotional issues. My message focused on the many lessons God taught me through the pastors, professional counselors and godly lay counselors He provided at the time of my greatest need. God used the Bible and the wisdom of the Great Counselor, the Holy Spirit, to impart to me the tools I needed to make a positive change.

Do you ever wonder what difference, if any, professional counseling can make? After all, isn’t God our counselor? Isn’t God enough? Why do we need to talk to anyone else about our problems? Writing for Psychology Today, psychiatrist, Dr. David Sack argues,  

The opportunity to talk uncensored to a non-biased professional without fear or judgement or repercussions can be life-changing.
— Dr. David Sack

We may have great insight into our own thought and behavioral patterns and problems. We may possess many of the skills to manage them on our own. We may even effectively use those skills to counsel others. Still, there may be times when we need help – and the sooner we get it, the faster we can get back to enjoying life.

Five signs help identify when and if it’s time to seek therapy:

  •     The loss of someone or something important

  •      Feelings of uncontrollable sadness, anger or hopelessness?

  •      The use of abused drugs, alcohol, food or sex to cope?

  •      A recent or past traumatic event

  •     No longer finding joy or satisfaction in the things that once brought joy?

All of this bolded information is credited to: 

(https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201303/5-signs-its-time-seek-therapy, David Sack, M.D., accessed 3/16/18). 

There are many times when only someone who is removed from the situation can objectively see the root of the problem. Having some emotional and relational distance from the specific circumstance, godly counselors possess the clarity to discern the Spirit’s wisdom and guide those who are struggling to healthier lifestyles and patterns of thought. These are the critical times when counselors, pastors, friends, and others can offer hands that minister, words that comfort, or simply a warm embrace.

As Christians, God calls us to emulate Christ in our attitude, our actions, and our motives. God created us in His likeness. At the core of God’s nature is His love. He cared for us so much that He sent His one and only Son to die for us so that we might be able to live in fellowship with Him. He cares. We too must care; we must take care of those who are sick, dying, hungry, lost, orphaned, and widowed. When we take care of those in need, He goes so far as to say that we have cared for Him.

Caring for others then becomes an honor, our sacred service to God. When we have surrendered our will and personal desires to him, sought the Spirit’s will through Scripture and godly counsel, taken into account providential circumstances, prayed and meditated, we must then act in faith believing God will guide and direct us even though the path may not be crystal clear. As we counsel others, we must be very cautious not to try to persuade or manipulate through guilt or coercion. We must allow the Holy Spirit to convict, convince and convert. God is the righteous Judge who knows the heart of each of us frail and flawed human beings. It is our great privilege to be His hands, His feet and His arms. James encouraged new believers to put their faith into action. True faith will produce loving action toward others. We can serve in many ways, but ultimately life and death is in the hands of the One who knit us together and counted out our days before even one of them had taken place.

I cannot stress enough, the integral part that counselors played in my recovery.Through prayer, meditation on Scripture, the support of innumerable friends and family and biblical counseling, I learned to approach God in humility. As I was counseled, I learned to counsel others with fear and trembling, always aware of my human tendency to judge rather than extend grace. The counsel I received led me to test my own preconceived ideas and inadequate wisdom in the light of God’s perfect knowledge and unsurpassable wisdom.

Shepherds Fold is one of the many counseling centers you can go to for help. http://shepherdsfold.net/

 Courtesy of Craigtowens.com

Courtesy of Craigtowens.com

If you are hurting, reach out. 

 

 

 

 

The Lord Answered Me And Set Me Free

  An image I found on Pinterest of one of my favorite verses in Psalm 118.

An image I found on Pinterest of one of my favorite verses in Psalm 118.

How can a brokenhearted woman, imprisoned in the dark cell of her despair and guilt, covered with the pain of her ashes, grieved beyond hope, become an "oak of righteousness," become "a display of His splendor"?

I cannot explain to you the way God performs this miracle. But I know it is possible because it happened to me. I was "poor in spirit." Completely used up after the death of my daughter. I felt God had left me, that his presence and blessing had departed as she drew her last breath. But Christ came to bind up my broken-heart. He proclaimed freedom for my heart, release from my self-codemning thoughts that imprisoned me in guilt. He loosed me from the cross I tried to hang myself upon. I tried to take His rightful place, a place only Christ himself can occupy. And then He came and illuminated the darkness of my long night with the light of His counsel, the truth of His provision, not just for Stacey, but for me as well. He caused me to gaze into His eyes and be warmed by His loving compassion. He spoke to my broken heart as kisses touching my soul healing my wounded places with the balm of Gilead. He came and proclaimed His favor and called me out of my dungeon. He comforted me so that I could mourn the loss of my daughter. He exchanged my ashes for a crown of beauty, joy for my morning, praise for my despair. He restored my hope- He had not left me, but was ever present. And called me from the cleft of the rock into the light of His Presence so that He could transform me into a "planting of the Lord for the display of His Splendor."

You... delight to show mercy. Micah 7:8 Ask God for mercy in regard to your sack of ashes, your brokeness, your pain, your sorrows, anything thats stands between you and the intimate relationship he desires with you. He will break through the barriers. Just ask him; Beseech Him for a new revelation of His love for you. Do not believe Satan's lies. 

  

Conscious or Unconscious: God is present

I met Matthew James in 2000 when I worked at Watsontown Christian Academy as Promotion and Development Director. Matthew is the News Director for WPGM/WBGM radio station in Danville. We collaborated on several occasions to promote the school and build awareness of the scholarship organization which I directed and which served more than nine Christian schools and hundreds of students. This morning, Matthew and I recorded an interview for his program Community Forum which will air Saturday March 10th at 12:05 p.m. and Sunday March 11th at 5:05 p.m.

  Matthew James Interview February 28, 2018

Matthew James Interview February 28, 2018

 

I am thankful for the opportunity extended through this radio station to share my story with their listening audience. The subject of loss, grief, recovery and renewed joy is a common theme for many of us. I recently read an article in The New Yorker, which tells the story of a young child who had been declared brain dead. She has survived for 4 years in this state. Amazing! The medical world has searched to better delineate the term brain dead and establish clearer parameters for those who linger in vegetative, comatose, etc. states.

 https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/02/05/what-does-it-mean-to-die

The Lord promises to be with us--whatever we face and in whatever condition we are.  In His words: "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Joshua 1:5. That's pretty simple. God will not abandon us no matter what! Even if we can't hear Him, see Him or feel His presence, He is always there. He doesn't require a brain to communicate with us--only a humble and contrite heart. Call out to Him.

God loves you and wants to be closer to you than any friend, spouse, counselor, or pastor could ever be.  

Isaiah verse.png

A New Day, A New Plan

Along this wonderful journey, I have learned many things that have only strengthened my relationship with God. I have very exciting news to share as I am networking my way around the surrounding areas to promote this story and the love of God that we are surrounded with, but do not always recognize. 

  Nancy addressing the Happy Homemakers, Exchange, PA.

Nancy addressing the Happy Homemakers, Exchange, PA.

In the following days, I am anticipating meeting with various Christian Radio Stations, social service organizations, counseling consortiums and so on to connect with more along the way. As each week goes by, I feel joyful that I have the opportunity to speak with these outlets in order to tell my story, What a blessing to share my experiences not only with the wonderful professionals that work in these various outreaches, but to their many viewers/ listeners/clients as well! 

It fills my heart to know that people can listen to my experiences and then reach out to share their own stories with me. While A Time to Die, A Time to Live focus's on end-of-life experiences, I do encourage anyone and everyone who has any connection to grief or loss, not to hesitate to reach out to me, as well. Loss is something common to all of us. Growing through loss is not necessarily quite so common. Let's learn from each other, encourage one another and see what marvelous ways the Lord can redeem our losses and enlarge our lives.

 

 

Exciting News!! You can help by voting!

I’m really excited to share with all of you that A Time to Die, A Time to Live has been nominated for Christian Small Publisher Book of the Year award.

This award honors books produced by small publishers and independently published authors for outstanding contribution to Christian life. If God has used A Time to Die, A Time to Live to enrich your relationship with Him, then please help spread the message of God’s redeeming love with others by casting your vote now. Enlist others to vote for this story. This incredible true story entails the struggle of loss of a loved one and keeping faith in God in the process. The narrative chronicles a raw and timely depiction of a life and death dilemma and the ensuing aftermath, while illustrating the power of God’s love to heal our deepest wounds and restore our joy. Your vote will help share this message with others.

The winners of the CSP Book of the Year Award will be the books that receive the most votes in each category. The award will increase the exposure and credibility of A Time to Die, A Time to Live—and you can be part of that exciting work. We only have February and March to cast our votes, so please take action now.

Voting is important and just one click away on www.christianpublishers.net/18votes/
Next enter your information and look for us in the NONFICTION-CHRISTIAN LIVING CATEGORY.

The awards are sponsored by Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA). Thank you for your participation.

God's Glory- It's Not About the Package

As mere humans, we fail to represent the Son of God perfectly. Sometimes, with rare exception, we wear His glory like a sacred mantle draped over us. I once witnessed such an exception when God spoke to me through a living parable.

Jessamyn entered the church sanctuary smiling from ear to ear. Hymns of praise swelled as her father Jeff pushed her wheelchair down the aisle until she finally rested directly in front of me where I stood on the platform with the other worship leaders.

Like an aura encircling her, Jessamyn’s countenance effused the radiance of God. The love of God reflected – was it from her angelic visage? Was it from her pure heart? Was the source her innocent, unspoiled love for God; or was it His undefiled, perfect love for us shining through her, streaming like moonlight to illuminate and awe? Joy radiated from her. What inspired such elation on the face of one who could not raise her spindly arms in praise or clap her lily-white hands in rhythm? Her lungs, labored to fill with air. Her tongue couldn’t give voice to the adoration written upon her sweet face.

 Gazing down from the raised platform, my eyes riveted upon her crumpled form rocking back and forth, leaning to the side in her wheelchair. In those precious and few moments, God revealed His love through her smile, unveiling a little more of Himself—a revelation of the glory of God, personified in frail human form. In that instant, Jessamyn taught me more about the joy and the glory of the Lord than I had ever known.

Jess entered this world with an array of developmental delays and physical challenges that left her unable to speak, walk, or function independently. Three surgeries as an infant and eyeglasses in elementary school pretty much corrected her sight. Enumerating for me a list of Jess’s disorders, her mother Judy observed, “We take our whole chromosomes for granted. All her issues were rooted in a one-of-a-kind chromosomal anomaly: a deletion within the 21st chromosome.”

 What a joyful smile!

What a joyful smile!

Although something within Jess’s genetic makeup was “missing,” she possessed an abundance of godly joy. On that Sunday morning, seventeen years after the death of my eighteen-year-old daughter Stacey, I saw the Lord reflected in Jess’s iridescent blue eyes and sparkling smile. She carried a message, a message that quickened my heart and settled my mind.

Long ago, when faced with end-of-life decisions on behalf of Stacey, I had pleaded:

“Father, You must receive glory.      

Whether Stacey lives or dies, You must be glorified.

Unless I know You’ll receive glory, I cannot endure something this horrible.”

One of my greatest fears was that if I made a decision contrary to God’s will regarding end-of-life decisions, I would interfere with God’s glory. Although we sometimes honestly struggle to discern His will, one day we will see clearly what today we see through a clouded lens. “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”[i] In the meantime, God receives glory when we answer his call to pray for the fallen, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, mend the broken.

God spoke through Jess straight to my heart: “Either way, it was ok. It is ok.”  I finally understood that although we could not have provided curative treatment for our daughter, it would have been fine with God for us to provide palliative care for as long as she continued breathing. Had we allowed life-support to continue, God would have continued to teach me love lessons through my child. In His omniscience, God alone knows of the epiphanies that may have

taken place when He might have caused His love to shine out from Stacey, just as it had beamed forth from Jessamyn’s countenance that Sabbath Day morning.

Jess shared Stacey’s love for music and often smiled in response to hearing songs of praise. Nevertheless, unlike Jess, Stacey could no longer have heard those voices flowing with praise. She could not have seen our arms raised toward heaven. Her massive brain injury gradually stole everything from her. Still, the psalmist declares that all of heaven and earth cry out in praise of Him. Stacey’s praise, if God would have graciously revealed it to us through her physical body, would have been a miraculous manifestation.

Within Stacey’s soul, the part of her that is God-breathed and eternal, a melody might have arisen in perfect harmony with that of the angels. At that focal point, our natural sight would fail to see that which only God sees. Our ears fail to hear heavenly melodies, while limited to staccatos of earthly notes. We rarely, if ever, see the outward manifestation of what takes place within the eternal soul, especially of one so severely, physically limited. We are not privy to such sacred intimate knowledge of one another.

Charles Spurgeon describes the difference between how God sees His redeemed creatures and how we see one another:

You see his outward attire, not his inner self—you see the earthly tabernacle, but the spirit newborn, immortal and divine—you see not that. Howbeit, God does. Or, if you have spiritual discernment to perceive the spiritual creature, you only see it as it is veiled by reason of the flesh, and beclouded by the atmosphere of this world. But He sees it as it will appear, when it shall be radiant like unto Christ, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. God sees the poorest, the least proficient disciple as a man in Christ, a perfect man 

come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, such indeed as he will be in that day when he shall see Christ, for then he shall be like Him as He is.[i]

Jesus promised, “When you do it unto one of the least of these my brethren you have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40). When I fixed upon God’s countenance—as reflected through Jessamyn’s earthy vessel—the Father returned my gaze through her eyes. I realized He would have honored either decision—to continue palliative care or to remove life support. In the end, He drew my daughter to Himself.

My soul quaked. My heart broke open. Fault lines formed as we slowly split apart and pulled away from each other; Stacey’s soul buckled upward, mine thrusted downward. Yet, day by day, God drew me ever closer to Himself. Our intimacy runs deeper now and fills every void, cementing my heart to His. He indwells me. He engraves His image on my poor heart and it swells with a soul-filled heavenly melody.

One need not travel great distances or stretch uncomfortably to find God. His all-surpassing power is evident in all that can be seen or heard or felt—His creation speaks of His love and testifies to His presence and power. God has chosen to swell within the hearts of those who approach Him in the name of His son, Jesus Christ. In so doing, God has made the souls of His children His heaven of heavens.

When—without pretense or selfish motive—we look to God, our beauty enthralls the King because He sees Christ in us; and because of His love for us, we love Him even more. Oneing my soul to Him, I one myself to all who call Him Father, not only to my dear Stacey, but to all who now behold Him in His Holy City, “the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”[ii] And I can hardly wait for the final consummation of my soul to His for “Dear friends, we are already God's children, but He has not

yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.”[i]

          He has proven His faithfulness and I have come to trust in His mercy and believe His love—the love which flows from His heavenly throne and spills forth from the Bible I hold in my hands.

Jeff and Judy, Jessamyn’s parents illustrated God’s love and glorified Him as they cared for their daughter. God knew I sought only to honor my daughter’s life and His will. God replaced my fears with the understanding that when we keep Him first in our lives, He leads us by His grace through the dark shadows of this world. I discovered His glory shines through my love for our daughter, whether she is here with me, or in heaven with Him. Jessamyn taught me that lesson. By the grace of God alone, Stacey and Jessamyn both now sit in His presence. By His grace, we share His fellowship. Joy swells. His glory overflows.

I know this earthly tent—this temporary tabernacle for my eternal soul—shall soon dissolve. Sin glares, failures blind. Yet, God sees Christ crowned with glory and honor. He sees me perfect in Christ. On that day when I see Jesus face to face, God will give me a crown of glory. I will cast it at the feet of Christ, the only one worthy of worship and glory.

 

 

[i] I John 3:2, 3. ESV

[i] A Sermon, (No. 1030). Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington "THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL." Edited by C. H. SPURGEON.
Contents for January, 1872. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiV9Pb93JzUAhWIeSYKHQ7XD_IQFgg0MAI&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.blueletterbible.org%2FComm%2Fspurgeon_charles%2Fsermons%2F1030.cfm&usg=AFQjCNHBeGBeaj3JBpEnNWocMbGFOnMpLQ&sig2=24NG92DOyAkpJhVD_eB-pg. Accessed 6/1/2017.

 

[ii] Revelation 21:2 KJV.

[i] I Corinthians 13:

The Ripple Effect

 Dr. John Carlson--a friend and caring neurological physician who was part of Stacey's story . 

Dr. John Carlson--a friend and caring neurological physician who was part of Stacey's story . 

I recently experienced how the ripple effect continues to impact others who were involved in Stacey’s life and death. I visited Dr. John Carlson, aka Dr. Clayton in the story, who after twenty-four years easily recounted several poignant moments that took place during the trauma. His vivid memory of the last MRI and other neurological exams was touching. He shared with me that many of the staff who took care of Stacey would appreciate reading this memoir.

The medical team’s genuine care and involvement moves me. They were truly invested in their young patient. I’m thankful that my daughter and our family had those who displayed the love of God and became his instruments while caring for her needs.

Regeneration: Scientific Marvel or Spiritual Phenomenon

Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature:

old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

(II Corinthian 5:17 AKJV)

I am what I am. I cannot change. I'm hopeless.

Does God offer any hope?

The Bible often uses the term “in Christ.” 

To be “in Christ” or “alive in Christ”—what does that mean to you? What did it mean to Paul when he used this strange terminology in writing to the early Christians?

Free at Last

Christ died so that He could clothe us with His own perfect righteousness and then present us to His Father, “holy, blameless and above reproach.” When God looks at me through the eyes of Christ, He sees the righteousness of Christ (Colossians 1:22). This is grace. Grace does not force upon me a life of legalism. Grace awakens within me a burning desire to please Him because of what He has done for me. Grace alone saved me from the devastation of my loss.

The Water of Life

I wondered if Peter, who denied Christ three times on the eve of His crucifixion, might have shared some of my same fears: Will I never again enjoy intimacy with Jesus, that sweet fellowship which we once shared? Might this fear have been, at least in part, the reason Peter ran from the boat, ahead of the others, to the lakeside fire where the resurrected Jesus waited to ask him, “Do you love me?” The One who knew Peter’s heart—as He knows mine—listened patiently when Peter answered, “Lord, You know that I love You” (John 21 NKJV). Three times the same heart-wrenching question. Three times the same heart-rending answer. Would the Savior accept Peter’s penitent heart? Could they be close again? Could we be close again? Jesus and me?

Walking in the Clouds

When my daughter died, I thought I lost connection with God–or He with me.

WALKING AMONG THE CLOUDS

Snow’s falling erected a cathedral. God met me there.

An early showing of the crystalline water flakes fell as softly as mourning doves, lighting upon telephone wires to form a skyline of folded feathers aloft. I had written for the better part of this snowy day. Meanwhile, the Lord composed a woodland sanctuary, a meeting place where He would sing my soul alive. Dusk fast approached. I relinquished the warmth of my study and the heaviness of writing out my life to come face to face with the Beauty of this frosty wonderland.

Love's Slender Thread

My eyes stretched to see the story of a single icy crystal, each a curious artistic creation. I tried to witness its escape from a vaporous cloud. To trace its descent and mysterious morphology into a plump feathery-light puff. To see it rest upon the rigid ground or the soft coyote fur of my hood, or better yet, to feel its frost upon my upturned cheek.

Discovering Life After End-of-Life Decisions

Welcome to my blog.

When life hits you with tsunami force and tears away a precious loved one, how do you climb out of the wreckage? My book, A Time To Die, A Time To Live, Making and Moving Beyond End-of-Life Decisions, is my struggle to know the will of God regarding the care of my daughter who was left with the shell that held her eternal spirit after being fatally injured in an automobile accident. Her death left me empty inside and wondering if God could ever love me after making the decision to withdraw life support. I trust this blog will help you and others move through the grief process and beyond the guilt associated with loss to a place of intimacy with the Lord.