Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Every ending is a beginning

Sometime last fall I read an article that made a reference to the  idea the “every ending is a beginning”.

I thought it was  some type of  Christian   article -  perhaps in one of the daily items I receive or in one of the  blogs I follow   -- but I’m not sure.

The phrase stuck with me even though I didn’t remember where I saw it. After some searching around  I found  an article  “Beginnings in Endings: Mary Did You Know?” by Phil Ware published, December 23, 2012  ,  in Heartlight  (an on-line magazine) .

 However, it seemed to me that it had been earlier in the year and there was some reference to the source of the phrase so I  "GOOGLEd" it and found these references (none of which seemed to fit my original recollection)… SIGH.
However, most of them are relevant to where I (think) I'm heading in this (hopefully not de-railed) train of thought.

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”   Maria Robinson (see

“What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make and end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from”. T. S. Eliot  ( Four Quartets - #4 Little Gidding)

“Every beginning has an end and every end has a new beginning, don't worry, broken soul, life will one day come to an end. ”   Santosh Kalwar 

 A number of books on   that come up if you search  "Beginning ending"

  “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning,..” Ecclesiastes 7:8 (ESV)

I mention this because it was this phrase that “inspired” the title of “Beginnings and endings” which I have used in 3 of 4 of  my  2013 posts and  (as you’ve no doubt noticed is the title of this post).

When I (re)started – made a new beginning on my blog on January 23, I planned (without “promising”) to publish every (week) day. Well I did OK up until yesterday when the number of errands on our list  kept me busy for most of the day and then I needed to rest from all that activity.

To-day was more errands and tomorrow we travel to Sudbury for a consult with Dr. Barg so I’ll probably not have a post then. So I decided I would publish something today – even if it is incomplete.

I mentioned in Part 1 of “Beginnings and endings”, my 2013 “theme song”

I will live today in the moment. I will live today as if it were my last day here on this earth and I will dream and plan today for tomorrow because “Today is the first day of the rest of my life; I will rejoice and be glad in it”   (cf. Psalm 118:24-KJV)

I have  talked about a lot of endings – including the BIG ending of my streak of “no major health problems” – For the next few posts I will talk about the beginning of this new journey of  living with a (hopefully) fully repaired “broken”  heart and how it fits with my "theme song".
Even though I'm confident that I will come through this -- this news has renewed the thought that we need to be prepared and to live each day asking  ourselves "What if this were my last day. Tim McGraw captured that thought in his  song "Live like you were dying".

As  I begin this journey I want to share the  preparations  being made "for the rest of the journey" which I hope is a long one,  about living in the moment  and savoring the good things ("stopping to smell the roses")  and  "living as if I were  dying"  and take you through
I want to share  my thoughts  “go under the knife”, get a new valve and begin a new journey of living.
One thought I’ll leave you with for today is that Linda & I were talking and I said  I thought this was  harder for her than for me.  She  didn’t agree but I still think its'true.
Why? She  is very concerned about the amount of pain that I will experience – and that’s a HUGE concern for her – she knows about pain – childbirth and her nursing experience has seen to that. She wants to be "strong for me" and that she's good at and what's making it difficult is that I'm not able  to be her "rock" and help her be strong. 

However,that's not the reason I say it's more difficult for her. Although she tries to cover it up her biggest fear and burden right now is the thought that I might not make it. And, if I put myself in her position that’s  “GI-NORMOUSLY”  HUGE. 

The way I look at it if I’m feeling PAIN that’s good – I’m still around and on my way to recovery.  If I’m not feeling pain I’m not here to be dealing with anything – and she is left to deal with a lot – so it’s seems she has the larger burden .
That's what  makes me the saddest and troubles me the most – even though it’s out of my control.
I pray for her the message of Psalm 27 (see January 25th post) if our plans for the best turn out to be a need to face the worst.

God Bless

Monday, January 28, 2013

Beginnings & Endings – Part 3

Saturday I attended two funeral in one day – a record for me.  One of those was a man a year younger than I that I grew up with. The other a lady 3 years younger who was the oldest daughter of an older couple who have been and continue to be  “pillars  of  faith” in our church family. 

When I first became an elder at the church her father was one of the other elders (he is now  90+ and  retired  as an elder over 10 years ago). Her mother  served as a Bible  teacher for many years and had one of the most amazing abilities to recognize a Bible quote and give Chapter & verse of anyone I’ve ever known – her health has deteriorated and  she has lost some of   her “edge” but still can outdo many in that regard.

The first funeral was in Thessalon  (an hour drive one-way) at 10 a.m. and the second was here at 3:00. For the second I had a role (prayer & scripture reading) which was a little more demanding and stressful .

By Saturday night I was ready to crash and we spent the evening watching a couple of movies via Netflix. 

This morning I found out that my consult with the cardiac surgeon is this Thursday .

This leads me back to my ”beginnings and endings” theme .  In the first  two parts I set some context that had already lead me to thinking more and more about my own mortality and the need to be prepared “for the worst” while always (with an acknowledgement of ‘if the Lord is willing’) planning for the best.

Finding out about my heart problems, and sitting in these funerals ,  listening to the tributes  certainly has increased  my  thinking  about  ‘endings’  and, in a way, has made my thinking about these things over that past year seem  “good”. (perhaps an example of  the good that can be found in ‘bad’ things as described in Romans 8:28)

So far I’ve talked mostly about endings - the endings of lives – and the ending of my (almost 70 year) run of “perfect health.

Today I want talk about the response to those endings – those losses that “hit us like a ton of bricks”.

I have often reflected before on the fact that it seemed these things so often happened to others  and I was thankful (and oddly at times felt guilty) that they didn’t happen to me.

It seems that over the past several years  “endings” have been a more frequent  and closer to home. Being reminded of the fleeting nature of life me led  to  a  my renewed commitment for 2013 to  “Live in the now as if it’s the last day while at the same time making plans for  the future” .

In part 2,  I described some of the events  that led to  an echocardiogram last Tuesday and finding out that I have  I have a “very tight” (diseased) aortic valve.

I remember hearing the Doctor say those words

“ “It needs to be replaced – I’m referring you to a surgeon”

 “You are have a 10 times increase in the risk of “sudden cardiac death”

 (that seemed very blunt – couldn’t he have  softened it by saying  cardiac failure – but I understand he needs to speak the truth and the truth is that the risk is 10 times higher for me than for someone with no heart disease (and other risk factors) )

Now this is certainly less of a loss than a wife learning that her husband has died or a parent learning that their child has died. I know that – and I can’t really imagine how much of a shock that must be.  But it still ranks up there as a serious loss – after all I was the one that never had a hint of serious illness – I thought that would last forever (or at least for another 20 or 30 years.  

But that was before  – now I was “vincible” (actually I started to say “I was no longer invincible” and wondered if vincible was a word – it is!!)

Conventional wisdom in my circles would be that I would be go through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief .  You know the stages known by the acronym DABDA; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. 

(As an aside – and I think I may do a post on this  sometime soon – when looking up the Kubler-Ross model I discovered that there are some competing models  for how people deal with loss which may better represent what I’ve been experiencing over the past week)

I can honestly say that it wasn’t shocking – I didn’t feel any terror or panic or denial (saying  it can’t be I want a second opinion – etc.) in fact  I don’t think I’m experiencing anger, that I’ve  thought of bargaining, that I’ve been  or will be depressed   (a least not in a major way) –,.

 I wanted to know about this disease and the surgical options – I wanted to  be prepared  and  do my part  so I can “hope for” (Biblical usage – meaning confidently expect)  the best possible outcome and I want to be prepared for the worst and this means  I want to get my affairs in order “just in case”. So I have researched these things and made a renewed effort to “get my affairs in order” -- you know “plan for the worst and hope for the best”

So I think  I’ve moved  immediately to acceptance – and action – and  I have my faith in God to thank for that.  It seemed coincidental but Linda and I had just  listened to a video from her ladie’s class that  talked about  “Job’s phrase “The Lord gives & the Lord takes away – Blessed be the name of the Lord” . I also thought of  Paul’ s statement in Phillipians  “whatever state I’m in I’ve learned to be content”   – and  when occasionally I sense a bit of  depression or anxiety I am reminded  of the man who after Jesus healed his child said “ Lord I believe – help me in my unbelief”.

In any case my emotional response is mostly

a)      sadness – the loss of my ability to say I’m in perfect health” – the loss of my ability to “pick up and go” – the loss of my ability to step up if someone needs a hand to move something, to help a neighbor dig out of the snow,  to take a day and go skiing with my daughter when she comes home  next weekend

b)      disappointment (a bit irrational because it’s not my fault –   and it’s out of my control) but none the less disappointment – I have failed Linda, my family and others  around me because I can no longer say  “I’m  available and able to  do whatever needs to be done” (well of course I’m not superman and that “whatever” had limitations of strength and skills – but it  is (for now) severely restricted. It is really tough to not be able to snowblow the driveway or go for a brisk walk in the snow lined trails on a  crisp  sunny day.

c)       Impatience – let’s get on with this – and that too is a bit irrational since things are  falling together and moving along very quickly so far

 Well as I’ve said – I’m not completely sure where I’m going with this but I’m thinking  that this is the end of talking about endings and losses and I will now move to   some topics related to beginnings – in this case beginning to learn how to live after major surgery. 


God Bless


Friday, January 25, 2013

Wait for the Lord

In  my   last (first?) 2 posts  on  “Beginnings & Endings” I’ve said “I am not completely sure where this is going”. 

 I do have a general picture in my mind  and, by that  “hazy” map today was to be  Part 3  on the topic of  loss and our reaction to it.

But sometimes the Spirit  sets an idea before you and so  I’m  taking (as my friend Roger  calls it)  a “curbside stop” triggered by a posting in Facebook made by my cousin Wilma.

Wilma wrote the following 

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18. What is our part in all of this.  Just get rid of the facade (emphasis mine) as near as I can see. Is that David's secret? Before us and before God he railed and he praised, he cried and he sang - often, it seems, in the same breath. He threw off 'the veil'. To us he is known as 'the man after God's own heart'.

Recently , I read or heard  a statement caught my attention  because  it spoke to situations that I had been faced with during the  events I’ve mentioned in the “beginnings and endings” posts.
It went something like this (with my apologies because I can't remember the source)
So often Christians (think they) know the right words to say when faced with difficult times and the words  come out our mouths but in our hearts we are feeling something very different.

My response to Wilma’s post    affirms that it is more important to “speak from our heart” than it is to say   the “right” words (and to be clear I’m talking about expressing our own honest emotional response to our own pain or loss – NOT giving license to say the judgemental or selfish things that sometimes spring from our hearts when we are faced with someone else’s pain – cf. James 3:1-12).
I wrote

“Wednesday night we were sharing scripture, songs and prayer as we remembered two families who had lost loved ones on Tuesday and I made that same point using Psalm 27. God wants honesty from broken hearts not the right words from "righteous" people.

As I read Psalm 27,  I hear David proclaiming his trust in God while at the same time expressing fear that God will  abandon  him in his time of greatest need . 
 In the following  “adaption”  of Psalm 27,  I have substituted  some  more modern  “trials and battles” for the  “physical” enemies and “real” battles  that David wrote about. I pray that this substitution makes it more real to us today without hampering the honest genuine poetic expression of the wavering between fear and faith that I hear throughout the original Psalm and especially  in verses  4, 9 and 14. 

         Psalm 27 (ESV-Adapted)
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evildoers assail me
to eat up my flesh,
my adversaries and foes,
it is they who stumble and fall.
3 Though problems overwhelm  me,
my heart shall not fear;
though turmoil surrounds  me,
yet I will be confident.
4 One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
5 For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock.
6 And now my head shall be lifted up
above my  turmoil  and pain all around me,
and I will offer in his tent
sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
9 Hide not your face from me.
Turn not your servant away in anger,
O you who have been my help.
Cast me not off; forsake me not,
O God of my salvation!
10 For those closest to me have forsaken me,
but the Lord will take me in.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my problems.
12 Give me not up to the agony of my hurts and pains;
even if  lies are told about me
and they cut into my heart.
13 I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
When we  are deeply wounded by the  realities of this life, when we are  hurt beyond imagination, when we  are heart broken,   we can (and need to)  be honest with God  about our fear and our pain and maybe even doubt that we will ever feel God’s love and grace again. We can do that   and still be confident -  as David was  that he would  (once again)“ look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”
Our call is to “Wait for the Lord to bring healing not to  pretend or try to “force”  it  by saying the right words.
If you are hurting or heart-broken today,  may God’s richest blessings touch you and shorten the wait  until your soul is restored (or has been reconciled)  and you are abiding in the joy, peace and comfort that only He can give
God Bless

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Beginnings & Endings – Part 2

I will live today in the moment.
I will live today as if it were my last day here on this earth and I will dream and plan today for tomorrow because “Today is the first day of the rest of my life; I will rejoice and be glad in it”   (cf. Psalm 118:24-KJV)

Yesterday I started this series on “beginnings and endings”. I am not completely sure where this is going – however it is an entry point into sharing some aspects of my journey with God following my “theme song” as shown above.  
Yesterday,  I  listed  some of the events that have led me to  “a renewed and clearer understanding of  the  temporary and fleeting nature of our life here on this earth.”

As these thing occurred over the past 2 years, there was always a sense of loss and a deep sorrow  - a desire to be a source of strength and comfort to others who were more directly affected than I and (except perhaps in the case of my Dad) a clear recognition that any  loss I might feel was  very small in relation to that felt by those (wives, children, parents, …) more  directly affected. 
More significantly (at least to me) was a persistent reaction – that  I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit– of gratitude that it hadn’t happened to me or a member of my immediate family and an  (especially in the sudden deaths of those close to me in age) an arrogant   “thumping of my chest” and saying “Well this wouldn’t happen to me because I’m in perfect health”.    (This was often ‘disguised’ as a prayer of thankfulness – but nonetheless in my heart there was pride and arrogance).  I might have done well to remember the proverb.

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

In December 2012, I had a persistent severe cough for several weeks and, finally at my wife’s urging just before Christmas, I went to emergency to see about it. Well the cough was no problem but while there I mentioned that I’d had a few minor incidents of very mild chest pain after walking briskly. No need to bother you with the details but the outcome of  was that I was scheduled for a stress test  on January 4 at 8:00 a.m. 

I was so confident that there wasn’t anything wrong that I drove myself in  so Linda wouldn’t have to roust herself out that early in the morning.  Well an hour later I had “failed” the stress test and was being scheduled for an immediate angiogram. And Linda was left scrambling to find a ride to the hospital so she could be there for the procedure.

By 1 p.m. it was “good news and bad news” – good news arteries are completely clear, bad news  - doctor thinks I have aortic valve stenosis” ( a “sticky valve – more like something I’d expect in my car than myself J).  

So I was scheduled for an echocardiogram to verify  this – and Tuesday (22nd) after that test the Doc comes in and says “The valve is very tight and I think it needs to be replaced” – didn’t seem to be any “wiggle room” – he was pretty clear “It needs to be replaced – it’s only going to get worse and your risk of sudden cardiac failure is 10 times higher than someone who has a healthy heart” so he has referred me to a cardiac surgeon  in Sudbury (about 200 miles (300 km) away) and we are waiting for the call.
An end to the illusion that I was in perfect health and that would go on for “ever”

Another ending and a beginning of living with a new reality.

When your own mortality hits you in the face it really stops you in your track. For me, the way I process these things is to talk about them (which can be a bit tedious for wife,   friends and acquaintances) and to write about them which I’ve  doing  in my journal.

I had also late last year been thinking of resuming my blog and then early this week  I saw a note from a ”blogging buddy” that said she had published a blog   for the first time in quite a while. This inspired me to start (so your have Dee Andrews (see  Finding Direction: The Wind Vane Chronicles) to thank or curse depending on whether you think this is worthwhile reading)  for having me “jump back into the pool”. Thanks Dee you have inspired me many times and I am sorry to hear of your current health problems)

So where am I going with this? Still not 100% sure but I need to wait until tomorrow because there are “today” things I have to get to.

I’ll close some verses from Job that seems appropriate (not that I think what’s happened to me and around me compares at all to what happened to Job but it does deal with  how we respond to “bad things”).

The first one  was brought  back onto my radar screen  on  Sunday when my Linda and I were watching a video that her Ladies’ class was using.

 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.    Job 21-22, (ESV)

The second one has been for a long time  a core part of my “theology” of suffering  and accepting whatever outcomes occur when we’ve  prayed fervently for healing or some other  good thing.

Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”  In all this Job did not sin with his lips.   Job 2:10b-11 (ESV)

I’ll pick up from here tomorrow in Part 3

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Beginnings & Endings – Part 1

I last posted in my blog in June 2010.
I have wanted to restart for some time and for various reasons it never seemed to happen. I’m starting today – a new beginning with a dialog about endings. I don’t know if I will do this every day .  
 I do have a dream that I might find a “theme”,   “re-brand” my blog,  write regularly with some  methods  that could lead to a small amount of revenue – but that remains to be seen.
For now we’ll just stumble along on meandering “Whitfield’s journey”   with more personal topics based on the events of the day.
I pray that these rambling walks may have some value to someone..
My personal them that I’ve  (re)set for 2013 is captured in the following statement
I will live today in the moment. I will live today as if it were my last day here on this earth  and I will dream and plan today for tomorrow because  “Today is the first day of the rest of my life; I will rejoice and be glad in it”   (cf.Psalm 118:24-KJV)
I’ve labelled this post beginnings and endings because
---  as my “theme song” for this year says  I want always to remember  “that each day, each moment is a beginning, an opportunity, a new breath, a new step, a new relationship is be formed, in this moment, in this beginning.
----- It seems my life has increasingly  been filled with endings and that is really the  focus of this "Beginnings and Endings" post
June:  one of my  oldest friends (not in years but in length of time we had been friends) died suddenly of a heart attack.  We had become friends in high school, we double dated.  I was his best man in June 1966 and he was my best man in September that same year.  An ending and a loss
August: My younger brother died waiting for a heart transplant. My best friend.  My “go to” person.     An ending and a loss --  a “broken circle” – the first of eight in my family to die.
Throughout the year several other  friends and acquaintances died. – it seemed funerals where an every week event. So many endings.
August:  My Dad died. It was  a blessing. He  was done with this world   and got to go home and I miss him (the man that he was before  age  took his mind before it took his body). The end of an era – the last of the eight offspring raised by my grandparents.
August: A fellow elder, close friend and another of my “go to” people died suddenly – he was only a couple of years older than me.
December: Another “pioneer” –  the man who owned the farm next to the one where I was born –  a leader in the church where I grew  up – died after a lengthy illness. The last of a generation of men (that included my father) who had  built up the church their parents and grandparents had  started  at North Livingston and they were  instrumental in making to move to a new building in Thessalon.  The end of another era.
And as in 2011 many other friends and acquaintances, former neighbors died.  The “regular”  attendance  funerals and visitations continued and even seemed to increase.  
I have already attended the funeral of a long time member and very dear  sister (and cousin) at the Pinehill church and yesterday  another of  my “peers” died  - I wrote this on his daughter’s facebook page Your dad was part of the "gang" (a year or so younger) that I grew up with at the old North Livingston church”.  And yesterday we learned of the death of  the daughter (who was our age) of another dear couple  -who are  a long time members at  the Pinehill church. More endings.
So what’s the point?  Well for me, these endings along with some other things that have been happening in my life have given me a renewed and clearer understanding of  the  temporary and fleeting nature of our life here on this earth.
As James says (1:9-11 ESV)  Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass[c] he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
There’s more to be said so I’ll need to do at least one more post – tomorrow!!