"Grace for the Widow" Book Review

Grace for the Widow

A Journey Through the Fog of Loss

By Joyce Rogers

Fog.  It doesn’t happen too often here in Socal, but I’ve been in thick fog before and I remember how it felt.  There’s a mystery in its quietness.  Sounds are muffled, and it’s hard to make out what’s ahead, OR behind. The view ranges from completely opaque to blurred vaguely familiar objects.  It slows you down, the fog creates an awareness of being alone, and unsure.  A year and a half in to my widowhood, I’ve heard “Fog” used as a metaphor for how things feel when grieving, and it’s an apt description. 

A friend recently shared this little book with me.  Joyce Rogers, (widow of Adrian Rogers), passed through the “fog of loss” and gifts us with simple truths, and practical steps.  Joyce understands the unsettled feelings. 

 

“If I only had someone to tell me what to do next!”

...shopping for one at the grocery store…

“What do I buy now?”

...after many years together...

        "Who am I now that Adrian is gone?"         

The book is only 110 pages and it’s divided into two parts, the Profound and the Practical. 

Nothing is more PROFOUND than God’s love and care for widows.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:33-34  

“Until the ‘fog’ lifts, don’t try to think about what your future holds.  Get out of bed, take a bath, get dressed, spend time alone with God, eat breakfast, clean up the house, walk the dog, pay the bills that are due – just do the next thing.” p.2

Joyce emphasizes that God is the “husband” of widows. 

“Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.”  Isaiah 54:5 

From the book:  “His name means ‘the Lord of hosts.’  He is the leader of all the hosts of heaven.  He fights my battles for me.” p.8In one chapter she explains some of the names of God, and how the character trait of God applies to widows.  i.e. our Refuge, Strong Redeemer, Provider, etc.  In the Appendix there is a larger list. 

Sprinkled throughout the book are encouraging thoughts about Heaven, scriptures categorized for specific needs, and comforting poetry.

The PRACTICAL section includes helpful To-Do lists, healthy lifestyle tips, importance of friendships and how to get back to ministry and regular activities.  For example:

“SLEEP – Get at least eight hours of sleep.  Kneel before the Lord before you go to bed.  Turn your cares, heartaches, and fears over to Him.  Ask Him to give His ‘beloved’ sleep.  Remember: You are His beloved, and He neither slumbers nor sleeps.”p.61

“MAKE A BUDGET – Begin to make a budget that is now just for one person….”p.50

“MAINTAIN A BALANCED LIFE – Do the tasks that are ‘have tos’ but don’t feel like you have to do all these things on the to-do list right away.  Ask your Chief Counselor to show you what needs to be done today.  Of course, He is the Holy Spirit.  He has promised to guide you and He will.”p.50

My personal "fog" is lifting, and I understand that it's a process finding my footing alone, after being Gary's wife for 40 years.  Some days the path is clearer than others.  I think the best part of the foggy weather in my life is that it forces me to slow down, walk carefully when unsure, and cling to the everlasting arms that are constantly holding and guiding me.  Thank you, Mrs. Rogers, for helping me along with the process.

"Nevertheless I am continually with You;
You have taken hold of my right hand.

 With Your counsel You will guide me,
 And afterward receive me to glory.

 Whom have I in heaven but You?
 And besides You, I desire nothing on earth."

Psalm 73:22-25

 

A Little Gem in Stepney

On Sunday, June 19, my daughter, son-in-law, and I were in London, mid-way through a trip of a life-time.  We were traveling with a group from their church through 5 countries looking specifically at the Reformation period of Church History.  I have SO much to say about this trip, and am getting ready to share photos and thoughts with you, but you know how it is when there’s something that just won’t keep?  I have been chomping at the bit to share one particular memory with you.  It was not a part of the scheduled tour, but it was a thrill for me personally and I was inspired to paint as soon as I got home.

St. Dunstan's Church, Stepney

Sunday, June 19, 2016

 One of many descents into the Tube.

One of many descents into the Tube.

My eyes filled with grateful tears, when descending the escalator to the London “Tube.”  With our very busy tour schedule, and the remoteness of this little church, I was so happy that things were working out.  It would take about an hour of underground (the London “subway” or Tube) , bus and walking.  I’m not sure I could have found it on my own, but thankfully, Jon and April joined me for free-time that day.  I will always be grateful to Jon for making it possible. 

A little church, in Stepney Green, at the East part of London, and just a few blocks from the Thames, was our destination.  From 1640 – 1646, Jeremiah Burroughs was preaching here, for the last 6 years of his life.  He was called “The Morningstar of Stepney” back then, and 350 years later, his most well-known work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, became one of my husband’s favorite books.  Burroughs was a faithful Puritan pastor and member of the Westminster Assembly, for more info, click HERE. or for more detail... HERE

But, back to my story…

It had been a very full day; church in the morning, a 2 hour walking tour in the St. Paul’s Cathedral area, the Tower of London, and a quick look into the British Library “Treasures” room before it closed.  Interspersed were meals, eaten on the run, and multiple Tube and taxi rides.  (Thankfully, all museums in London are free, so you can duck in and out, and not feel ripped off.)  Walked a few blocks to grab some dinner, which we ate on the run, now aware that the evening would soon be upon us, and we still had a ways to go to find St. Dunstan’s Church. 

With dinner in hand we discovered that the Underground route we needed was closed. We had to go a round-a-bout way, (still with dinner in hand), sharing the most crowded underground ride yet.  We were literally inches away from everyone, including a drunk guy who was nearly falling over on us as we stood holding on to the poles.  (no such thing as "personal space")  He was intent on telling us how we Americans should vote this fall.  So funny!  I felt relief when the doors opened at our stop.  Next, a bus ride, and then a walk of 5 blocks through a quiet, residential neighborhood.  I was so thankful to have Jon with us, as it was a bit lonely feeling. 

 St. Dunstan's and All Saints Church, Stepney, London, England

St. Dunstan's and All Saints Church, Stepney, London, England

And then, rounding a corner, there it was.  St. Dunstan’s Church in the midst of a beautiful, churchyard of green grass, big trees, and old tombstones.   It was not crowded-in by high-rise office buildings, like so many of the churches we’d seen.  The gate was open, though the church door was locked.  There were some people walking their dogs and a few men sitting on a grave, talking with their friends.  It was a very quiet scene.  This church dates back to the 7th century, but most of the current building was built in the 15th century.  (some parts go back to 1200)  Amazingly, the building had survived the Blitz of WWII and with minimal changes over the last 500 years,  it is almost entirely the same building that Burroughs preached in, rag stone rubble, limestone trim, gargoyles, and all. (*more info at end of post) 

How Gary would have loved this place.  He would have enjoyed seeing where one of his heroes preached, and walking around looking at the gravestones.  But, of course, he's actually WITH Jeremiah, in the presence of the Savior they both love so I won't feel sorry for him.

 I love looking over the notes Gary wrote to himself, to see what was important to him.  

I love looking over the notes Gary wrote to himself, to see what was important to him.  

I am grateful for Jeremiah Burroughs.  Gary, sat under his training, every time he returned to "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment." I believe Gary's peaceful acceptance of life's ups and downs was largely due to this book.  Gary did not particularly love reading, as it was not easy for him, and there were few books he read, but let me share a couple of things he underlined in the book.  Maybe you'll be blessed by them too.

"Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition."  J.B.

"Contentment is a sweet, inward heart-thing.  It is a work of the Spirit indoors." J.B.

"When you are in a ship at sea which has all it's sails spread with a full gale of wind, and is swiftly sailing, can you make it stand still by running up and down in the ship?  No more can you make the providence of God alter and change its course with your vexing and fretting; it will go on with power, do what you can.  Do but understand the power and efficacy of providence and it will be a mighty means helping you to learn the lesson of contentment." J.B.

 "So this is the art of contentment: not to seek to add to our circumstances, but to subtract from our desires." Jeremiah Burroughs

"So this is the art of contentment: not to seek to add to our circumstances, but to subtract from our desires." Jeremiah Burroughs

I'm glad contentment was important to Gary.  He would be the first to say it did not come easy to him but he really wanted to trust the Lord in every area of life, especially the rough patches.  He prayed to have a trusting heart often and God answered that prayer by making the big trials in our life so much easier, and enriching.  The girls and I have read it too, and I'm going through it again, because I'm struggling with a greedy heart lately, and contentment in God's plan for me is the answer to greed!  

A few hours earlier on this day, I had stood in a very, very long line to see the extremely valuable, and highly guarded Crown Jewels, in the Tower of London. They were amazing.  The royal crowns and scepters, are decorated with HUGE and beautiful diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and more. British royalty are honored with the biggest and best gems in the world.  But Jeremiah Burroughs calls "Christian Contentment" the rare jewel.  Contentment, is so elusive yet we are called to it.  One day, in Glory, it will be mine.  Until then, I entrust myself to the Lord's training and like the apostle Paul,  am "learning" the secret of how to be content.  On this day I was able for a little while to walk in the steps of a faithful man who, though dead, still speaks.  Thank you Rev. Burroughs. 

 This rose, if I'm not mistaken is a Newport Fairy Rose.  Gary grew these rambling pink roses at our Sunland home.  It was frosting on the cake to see these growing on the church grounds. 

This rose, if I'm not mistaken is a Newport Fairy Rose.  Gary grew these rambling pink roses at our Sunland home.  It was frosting on the cake to see these growing on the church grounds. 

 
 "My brethren, the reason why you have not got contentment in the things of the world is not because you have not got enough of them - that is not the reason - but the reason is, because they are not things proportionable to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God himself."  Jeremiah Burroughs

"My brethren, the reason why you have not got contentment in the things of the world is not because you have not got enough of them - that is not the reason - but the reason is, because they are not things proportionable to that immortal soul of yours that is capable of God himself."  Jeremiah Burroughs

"...I have learned, to be content, in whatever circumstances I am. 

I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." 

Philippians 4:11-13

(FOR MORE STUDY, Pastor Mike Riccardi preaches about Biblical contentment; what it is, and how to learn it.  To listen, click HERE!)


*INTERESTING TRIVIA:  St. Dunstan's was known as the "Church of the High Seas" and many sailors are buried here.  The naval ensign continues to fly from the bell tower.  There is a stained glass window dedicated to those sailors who lost their lives in the war.  It is built of Kent limestone.    Shortly after Burroughs died in 1648, the churchyard had been expanded to 7 acres to accommodate the massive number of deaths due to the Great Plague of London.  Today it is a park, open to all. 

 St. Dunstan's Church, Stepney

St. Dunstan's Church, Stepney

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Book Review of "Second Forgetting"

 May 2010

May 2010

When we realized that my husband, Gary, was having short-term memory problems, and began the process of diagnosing his condition, we hoped it was something curable, like a thyroid imbalance, or B-12 deficiency.  As the many tests eliminated the more “hopeful” possibilities, there was a recurring and frightful thought.  “I hope it’s not Alzheimer’s.”  I think more people are afraid of getting dementia, than cancer. 

Why is that?

Our memories define us.   Think how many songs refer to our memories.  We take selfies in front of the Grand Canyon.  Love letters are tucked away in a box.  The idea of forgetting what we have done and who we are is terrifying.  For a Christian, the possibility of forgetting God, and our relationship with Him is unthinkable.

Dr. Benjamin Mast has presented a comforting answer to these fears in his book, Second Forgetting.  As a licensed clinical psychologist and committed Christian, he gives hope for those who are forgetting and those who care for them.  After 8 ½ years of caring for Gary, who is now in advanced stage Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, I found this book EXTREMELY helpful. 

 "Second Forgetting" by Dr. Benjamin Mast

"Second Forgetting" by Dr. Benjamin Mast

Dr. Mast explains The Second Forgetting as follows:   “We are all imperfect and broken.  We forget the Lord, even in the best of health.  This is what I call the “the second forgetting.” p 18.  Everyone forgets God.  Even believers do.  That is why we need reminders.  Dr. Mast sites the Israelites who forgot God repeatedly yet God never forgot them and kept His promises to them.  This is comforting.

Two chapters are devoted to understanding Alzheimer’s disease and how the brain remembers.  Knowing the various ways to access memories stored away in a person’s brain is really useful in helping those we care for.  The distant past, actions, emotional events are memory systems that are accessible longer than the short-term memories which is one of the first “memory systems” to fail. 

The most helpful part for me personally was the section on the Gospel, who a person is in Christ, and how God interacts with believers, whether their minds are healthy or not.  As Gary is mostly non-communicative now, I have been wondering how his inner man can be renewed, though his body is decaying day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)  I believe it is true, but wondering HOW.  By working his way through Psalm 139 and Romans 8, Dr. Mast draws out how God intimately cares for His own.  He fully KNOWS us.  He extends GRACE to us.  Nothing can separate us from God.  Not even dementia. 

There are some great practical ideas in this book for all of us.

Help for the “forgetful”

The body of Christ has an important role in serving dementia affected families. Practical tips are given for how to serve.  For instance, “Visit, but be flexible.  Caregiving for someone with advancing dementia can be quite unpredictable.  Something could come up that is out of their control and they may need to cancel.” p 119

Help for caregivers

Biblical encouragement to “press on,” follow Christ’s example of service, and rely heavily on His grace in the exhausting days.  In reality we are serving the Lord Jesus, as we serve our loved one.  “As a caregiver, you can take comfort in the knowledge that you too have a caregiver, one who can surpassingly meet all of your needs.  Christ is our caregiver.” P 90

Helping the loved one…

Remember their faith

“… multisensory stimuli can be used to help them remember.  Smells, sounds, sights can prompt recollection of different parts of a person’s story.  Pictures and music can be particularly helpful…”  p 125

 December 2008

December 2008

Remember the Lord

All through scripture God sets up “memorials” so His followers would remember the important things.  Who He is, His promises, His kind and gracious deeds to His own.  We can do the same thing with those we care for.  Old photo albums, talking about the Lord, regularly reading the Bible, listening to hymns, and prayer* are good ways to keep God in the forefront of our minds, and help our loved ones do the same.  New long term memories will not be formed, but moment to moment comfort and sanctification can take place. 

Even now, we can be building into our lives habits that would support our relationship with the Lord if we should forget one day.  Dr. Mast has excellent suggestions on this. He closes with the following thought: 

“It is far more significant that God remembers us than that we remember him.  This speaks to the reality that our salvation, from beginning to end, is by grace.  In Grace God reaches out to rescue us – not the other way around.  Our salvation, ultimately is not up to us.  We cannot save ourselves, and there is comfort in this as a person experiences physical and mental decay.” p 163 

Now that Gary is in advanced stage Alzheimer's, I don't know what he is remembering much less what he thinks, but I do know He is safe in God's hands.  We are past the usefulness of most of the practical suggestions from this book, but they are really good and we have done many of them.  If you are caring for someone like Gary, please get this book.  Find out how you can help your loved one remember the Lord, and be comforted that God remembers them.  

*Note: As with any good resource I’d encourage discernment as you read.  There’s a second-hand example given about a Catholic woman finding peace through praying the rosary.  No doubt a true story, but I wish the author hadn’t used it in a book about how to help Christians remember the Lord. 


As always, your comments are always welcome.  Just click on "comments" below.