Heart of the Matter: Christmas Message

Heart of the Matter: Christmas Message


I sat up in bed. It was Saturday, the first day of
our Christmas vacation. Dim light streamed into my room, but as a preteen, I preferred
to sleep much later.  Besides, the
heaviness in my muscles begged for more rest. But I considered the noise. A tinkling
sound accompanied the bang.  A lover of
mysteries, my investigative skills turned on. 
One item in the house could produce that sound—the Christmas tree with
fancy ornaments.

So, despite my fatigue, I forced myself out of bed.
Shivering as I pulled my house coat about my body, I stumbled into the living
room, one room away from where I slept.  I
collapsed into the nearest wing chair as I noted the fully-decorated cedar now
lay on its side. The scene before me should upset someone, but I had no
energy.  Extreme lethargy made it
difficult even to sit.  I considered my
options, but I had only one. Call mother.

 Her bedroom
sat at the back of the house. Since she didn’t respond, doubtless she didn’t
hear.  “Hey Mom, the Christmas tree fell.”

that loud enough?

I yelled for my mother often in those days, but she
stayed calm.  That morning proved
different.  A thump sounded on the floor
the next moment. Mom appeared in the doorway, eyes widened, as if horrified.  

She reacted with the proper amount of dismay at the
sight. (You must have pizzaz for such a response.) Grateful, I drug myself back
to bed.

Mother took me to the doctor the following Monday.
The swine flu swept through Chattanooga that year in epidemic proportions, and
I had a bad case. I spend my entire vacation in bed, except for the few minutes
I appeared to open presents.  

That’s not my best Christmas memory, but I don’t
recall being upset about it.  Fun
decorations, wonderful music, pretty lights and delightful surprises characterized
our traditions. Mom loved Christmas, and she used the holiday to lavish us with
her love.  We had a foundation in Christ
that held up, even when things went wrong.

Today our world experiences
serious changes. Our nation no longer holds to the truths of the founding
fathers and our freedoms shrink every day. But, as Christians, we have a
foundation. Despite what happens to us or around us, we have hope. Christ came
to this earth to fix the problem of sin and reconcile us to himself.  Like that nasty Christmas long ago, we can
consider this to be a blip on the screen. “The sufferings of this present time
are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom
8:18). We can rejoice in Christ.

As we approach this New Year, I
challenge you to face 2014 with courage and determination. God placed us here
on earth in this troubled time for a reason. “For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we
should walk in them.” He has a job for each of us next year. Let’s get busy
doing the Lord’s business while rejoicing in his love.

Blessings to you and your family
in 2014.


 Merry Christmas

Heart of the Matter: Prophecies Behind Christmas

Heart of the Matter: Prophecies Behind Christmas

Cynthia: This is Cynthia with Heart of the Matter Radio for women seeking the elegance of God’s wisdom. The holidays are here and people are celebrating. Sometimes when I’m around unbelievers I think they are partying just to have a good time.  You’ll hear ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’ and ‘Glory to God in the Highest’ in the mall. But I often wonder if Americans know what all that means. In fact the Bible contains a lot of prophecies about the birth and the death of Jesus. The first one was mentioned just after Adam and Eve sinned in Genesis 3. “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between her offspring and your offspring. He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel. 
Today we have an expert on these prophecies, Dianne Butts. She has written several books on both the prophecies of the birth and death of Christ. I’m glad to welcome you, Dianne.
Dianne: Hi Cynthia. I’m so glad to be here. I’m very excited about this.
Cynthia: Dianne, since I mentioned that prophecy there in Genesis, can you explain that one?
Dianne: I know that one as the first prophecy of the coming of Messiah. This is the first time right after Adam and Eve sinned that God says he going to send somebody, and he tells us a little bit about that person. So way back there in Genesis 3:15, God was saying, “I’m going to send you a special person, a messiah. Messiah is the Hebrew word. The same word in the Greek is Christ. So those are synonymous, just different languages.
Cynthia: In your prophecies fulfilled, you actually say there are thirty-five prophecies that foretold the birth of Jesus. Tell me some of those prophecies you see in the Old Testament.
Dianne: Oh, it was just fascinating to go through this. When I studied the Old Testament and then started reading the New Testament, I was like, I was reading the Christmas story and going, ‘Well, that’s prophecy. Well, that’s prophecy. Well, that’s prophecy.’ Well, I found thirty-five and other people may divide them up differently or see ones that I missed. But thirty-five prophecies of Jesus coming. Some of them are like the virgin birth—that was prophesied.  
The star that led the magi to the Christ child—that was a prophecy.  That he would be born in Bethlehem—that’s getting pretty specific. Even the very night Jesus was born there were prophecies spoken.  The angels that came and visited the shepherds spoke prophecy. They said, “If you go into town you will find a baby lying in a manger. Well, that’s prophecy. Those shepherds didn’t know if that was true, and they went and found out it was. 
There were prophecies even within the gifts of that the magi brought, the gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Those all had special meanings. There were prophecies from way back in Genesis when God continued to talk about this person he would send. He gave us hints. He gave us things that would happen that would tell us who this person was so we could identify him. For instance, he would be a descendant of Abraham. There was a prophecy that he would come from the stump of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David who became King David. God said through Isaiah that he would send a child and a son .It just goes on and on. He would be called the Son of God. There were the prophecies to Zachariah and Elizabeth that in their old age they would have a son who would be a forerunner of Christ.
Cynthia: I’m really interested in the one in the Old Testament that prophesied that a maiden would give birth. There was actually a short term one for that one and then the long term one. Can you tell us a little bit about that? 
Dianne: Well, the prophecy is found in Isaiah seven fourteen. And it reads, out of the NIV, it says, ‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.’ 
Now when I wrote the book, this was probably the hardest chapter for me to write because I had to figure out how that could be prophesied and only come true once. And when you read it in context, Isaiah is talking to King Ahaz. And so my mind went to well if Isaiah is telling Ahaz that a virgin is going to be with child, then did it happen before? Way back then? No, that can’t be because we know that the virgin birth with Mary giving birth to Jesus was absolutely unique. Never happened before in history or since, so to go back and figure all this out was a challenge for me. And what I found was that the word virgin back in the time of Isaiah and Ahaz could refer to a maiden. It could be that Isaiah was talking about possibly his second wife, assuming that his first wife had died. And I found in my NIV study Bible that a virgin can refer to a young woman, and this young woman was possibly was betrothed to Isaiah. And this young woman was betrothed to Isaiah, presuming his first wife he died. And the same Hebrew word refers to a woman about to be married. So in Matthew 1:23, when we get to the New Testament, Matthew apparently understood that the woman mentioned here was a type, which means a foreshadowing of the Virgin Mary. 
Now I also find it interesting that in our key verse for this prophecy, Isaiah 7:14, it said, ‘Therefore, the Lord will give you a sign..’ And whenever the word ‘therefore’ is in Scripture, it’s really interesting if you take time to see what it’s there for.  So I went looking and the context of this story is that Ahaz is really frightened because Aram and the divided kingdom of Israel were threatening to attack him. And he was talking to the prophet Isaiah, asking for help, and asking what God would have them to do. Isaiah told Ahaz to ask for a sign. And the reason Isaiah did was that he wanted Ahaz to be reassured that God could and would protect him from his enemies. The thing is, Ahaz refused to do what Isaiah said. He would not ask God for a sign. Maybe he thought it was presumptuous. We are told never to ask God for a sign. I don’t know. But King Ahaz refused to follow Isaiah’s instructions. And so Isaiah told him ‘therefore’, God was going to give him a sign anyway. The virgin will be with child. So I thought that was very interesting, all that background.
Cynthia: When you get in the New Testament and you get in Matthew and Luke, is really very clear in not only the context but also when the actual word virgin is used, it’s very clear that that’s actually what it means. So you’re right, it probably was just a foreshadowing because God had a way of doing that in the Old Testament. He would do a near fulfillment and then a far fulfillment. And sometimes you weren’t even sure when he used the language that it was intended to be a prophecy like in Psalm 22. I’m sure David wrote that and wasn’t sure what that was about because it was referring to things they didn’t understand—pierce my hands and my feet. Later on we understand it represented crucifixion, but he didn’t know at the time. 
Dianne: that’s true. I think so often many of these prophecies meant something that was less than the full fulfillment. A lot of prophecies are fulfilled in a certain way to a certain point, and then later, sometimes centuries later, have a much greater fulfillment. 
Cynthia: Exactly.
Dianne: By the language in the New Testament, we know that a virgin was intended because Matthew 1: 24 and 25. The angel had come to Joseph and said, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, and in the NIV Matthew 1:23 says, “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.” So here it clearly means an actu
al virgin would give birth to the son, Jesus.
Cynthia: Exactly, which goes in with the whole idea in Genesis where it says ‘your seed’ and ‘her seed’ because it was only the woman involved in this child and not the man. So it all ties in, but I’m sure that it’s looking back that you see that.And I think about Jesus on the road to Emmaus, he explained to them using prophets and the things said to them before. He could tie it in together and they could see it. So sometimes you had to get past it to see it.
Dianne: That’s right I love that story. I use that story in the prophecies fulfilled in the death and resurrection book. It was after Jesus was crucified, and he was making his appearances to all kinds of people. And there were two men walking on the road to Emmaus and a stranger came up and began walking with them. And they made a comment about all the things that had been going on in Jerusalem. They thought Jesus was Messiah, but they crucified him, now he’s dead. It said Jesus beginning with Moses and all the prophets he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
Cynthia: Because they couldn’t see it until they got passed it.
Dianne: That’s right. That’s right. Wouldn’t you have loved to eavesdrop on that conversation?
Cynthia: Or to see their faces when they suddenly realized who he was, cause you know, people that are dead don’t wake up, and come back to talk to you.
Dianne: Right. Right. And he actually went all the way to their home with them and they invited him in for dinner and he said, “No, I’m going to go on.” And they convinced him to come in and have dinner with them.  When he went in and sat down, he broke the bread. And they looked up and instantly he was gone. I think then it was, “Oh my gosh! Do you know who that was?” it had to be nighttime because it was dinnertime and they’d walked all day.  
And I can just imagine their wives. “Who is this guy and where’d he go? What happened to him? Then the two from Emmaus got up and said, “We’re going back to Jerusalem. I can just imagine those wives going, “No you’re not. Wait for me. Let me get my coat. I’m going with you. I think they went at night and ran all the way back to tell his disciples they’d just seen Jesus.
Cynthia: See this whole thing of redemption is so central to Christianity. That’s why the first prophecy is in Genesis, because that sin did break everything. They died spiritually that day in Genesis and immediately he gives that hope because it changes everything. When the angels sang Glory to God in the Highest what they really meant was, “Look the probelm is going to be solved in Jesus Christ.”
Dianne: We’ve been waiting for this for centuries and it is. Here it comes.
Cynthia: Exactly. Exactly. He’s come to die for us. I love that passage in Matthew where Jesus tangles up the teachers who are trying to tangle him up. He said, ”What did David mean when he said, ”TheLord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand till I make your enemies footstools for your feet. If David was his father, how come David call him Lord?” They couldn’t answer that. Jesus knew that he was Messiah and a son of David. David would call him Lord because he was God.
Dianne: Oh, you know, Cyndi,  that is why I wanted to write these books. There’s a couple of reasons. One of them is I feel my head is so full of this stuff I can’t keep it all in. I can’t remember all the Scriptures and all of this. There’s so much. And so I wanted to write it all down. I thought, well shoot if I’m going to write it down, I might as well write it down for everyone. What was the prophecy found and where is it fulfilled? What did it originally say and was it fulfilled in every detail? That’s how these books were born—just me wanting to find it for myself, and put it in a format that I could share with everybody else. 
Cynthia: You’re doing exactly what the guys on the road to Emmaus did. They probably couldn’t wait to tell the disciples what they learned. 
Dianne: That’s right. I hadn’t thought of it like that. The thing about all this starting back in Genesis is the Old and New Testament is all one story. I think of it as a two act play. The Old Testament is the set up. The New Testament is the finish. The Old Testament tells us what’s going to happen, and the New Testament shows it actually happening. You can’t separate the two. You can’t have one without the other. The Jewish people who have just the Old Testament can’t understand the fulfillment without the New Testament. And I know so many Christians who don’t study the Old Testament because we don’t live there anymore. It’s irrelevant. But you can’t understand the New Testament if you don’t have the Old Testament. It’s the foundation of everything we believe. Everything.
Cynthia: It is. That’s why every year our family does Passover on Easter because Jesus Christ was the Passover lamb. And as we go through the history, there are so many symbols of Christ in the Passover. It’s just so glorious. There’s so much hope in Christ. 
Dianne: There is and that is beautiful. If our listeners have not done that, you need to find some Messianic Jews who can explain. They see both sides if they are Christians now. They can explain the deep roots in the Hebrew and show how Christ fulfills that. It is so beautiful. 
Cynthia: It is. We were studying yesterday in Hebrews about Melchizedek and how all that fits into not only Genesis but into the Psalms and into our lives. God didn’t make that tabernacle in the Old Testament to give them something to do. Everything in there represents Christ.
Dianne: Absolutely. I’m so glad you brought up the tabernacle. I’m very excited because I’m currently writing the third and final book in this series, which is Prophecies Fulfilled in the Life of Jesus.  I’m getting close to finishing the manuscript. Seven of my chapters are on the tabernacle, which is the same design and floor plan as the temple. I call it the tabernacle/temple cause it’s all the same thing. We are going to look at how the tabernacle is a photograph of Messiah. It’s a dress rehearsal of everything Christ would do when he came. The Jewish people from the time of Moses walked through this dress rehearsal year after year after year for centuries until Christ came and fulfilled it all right there before their eyes. We can see it. It’s fascinating. I love that.
Cynthia: It ties all together so beautifully. Christmas is not just a time to go out and buy gifts. We’ve lost it so much in our society. It’s a beautiful time of year in the sense that everyone decorates, but I think those things can stand in the way, and all the things that we have to do stand in the way of us getting a grasp of what God did for us and what we have in Christ. It’s beautiful and it’s huge. It’s bigger than life itself. 
Dianne: Absolutely. It is. I was doing a book signing at a Christian book store with my book Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus. And Cyndi, I was really, really surprised because when I was writing this book I was thinking, “Oh gosh, this is probably things that most Christians know. They may not know where to find the prophecy in the Old Testament and link it to the New Testament, but is anybody really going to need this book. When I was doing that book signing after the book came out, I was amazed at how many people coming into a Christian book store, so I’m assuming they are Christians. They’d stop and talk to me and say, “Really?.There were prophecies fulfilled in the birth of Jes
us?” I was like, “Oh, my. Don’t you know this? Let me tell you. I’ve got to tell you. It’s so fascinating.” I really think that so many Christians, they come to Christ, they get their salvation, and they don’t really read or learn or grow. It is so important to know this. Because if we don’t know what God has done in the past how can we trust him for the future? But when we start to learn and see how God predicted and seven hundred years later it came true in every detail. When we see our country and our world it appears that everything is spinning out of control. But when you study prophecy, and prophecy fulfilled, you can see that God is absolutely in control right down to the minute to the day things happen sometimes to the hour. We’ve seen it over and over in prophecy and that strengthens our faith to know we don’t need to worry just like Jesus told us,  ‘When you see these things, don’t worry. It’s okay. I got it covered. I told you these things would happen.I got it under control.’ 
Cynthia: When his disciples heard him talking about dying on the cross, they didn’t want him to do that. They had in mind that he was going to come and deliver them from their enemies and set up his kingdom. Well, he wasn’t ready for that. And they were saying, ‘No, no, no. Don’t do that.’ But he had work to do yet, and that work was to come and give salvation to us and graft us into that olive tree, and make us part of his kingdom. I’m so thankful that. Because of that, we can have confidence that we are safe in the ultimate sense. Who knows what we’ll have to walk through in the future. We are safe in the ultimate sense because in eternity what we go through here is going to seem like a second.
Dianne: Absolutely. We are seeing so much on the horizon. For years we’ve been saying it’s on the horizon, it’s coming at us. Well it’s not on the horizon anymore. We are starting to walk into it. There are things going on in our county, and everybody knows this. Everybody senses this. They might not be able to say what is happening, but everybody senses something is happening. It can be absolutely frightening if you don’t know Christ. It can be frightening if you do know Christ. But the more I look at what he said and what he’s going to do, I have less fear, because I trust him. 
You mentioned the disciples didn’t understand. Jesus said repeatedly, “I’m going to Jerusalem. They are going to beat me. They are going to hit me. They are going to spit on me. They are going to crucify me. I’m going to be given into the hands of sinful men. I don’t blame the disciples for not understanding. That was so far out of anything they could comprehend beforehand. Its no wonder they didn’t know what he was talking about, but he told them in advance for certain reasons. So that when there were in the middle of it they could remember and say, ‘well, he knew this was going to happen. He knew this was coming. It’s not out of control. It’s part of the plan. Like you mentioned the disciples thought he came to deliver them from their enemies. At that time that was Rome. Israel was an occupied country, occupied by Rome. 
 Now look at it. That was such a small, limited view that the disciples had. God had in mind something much more huge that would last for centuries right down to our generation. We wouldn’t have been born if that’s all Jesus was going to do back then was save them from Rome. He was talking about eternal salvation, not just physical salvation. He was talking eternal life not just physical life. The whole picture he had in mind ws so much bigger than anyone could comprehend. But now we can see it in retrospect. 
Cynthia: Exactly. If you go back in the Psalms and back in Genesis God told Abraham he would bless the use him to bless the whole world. God never intended it to be just for Israel. He had in mind the whole world, and he was reaching out. That’s his purpose, and he’s bringing is purpose to happen now. We need to trust him to do what he needed to do.
Dianne: That’s true. In Hebrews I see this beautiful circular mercy he has. He used the Jews to bring salvation to the world. The Jews rejected him and so salvation came to the Gentiles. And in the end times, Scripture tells us that he will use Gentiles to make the Jews jealous and he will bring them to faith. I do believe we are seeing that going on right before our very eyes today. Since Israel became a nation in 1948, more and more Jews are returning to Israel and more and more Jews are becoming Christians.  There’s no good way to say it. Some people are offended by that. They are Messianic Jews, the believe Jesus is messiah.  One rejected him and he used that rejection to draw others, the Gentiles in. Now he’s using the Gentiles, and it is beautiful. That is God’s mercy.
Cynthia: Exactly. And that’s why when I meet a Jewish person, I talk about how we do some of their traditions in our home because I want to make them curious so they’ll start searching to figure out what in the world we’re doing that for, because they go together.
Dianne:  Yes. Oh, that’s beautiful.
Cynthia: So what are you working on next?  I know you have these two books on prophecies of Christ’s coming and of his death. What are you doing next?
Dianne: Now I’m doing the in-between of those two books.  I’m doing prophecies fulfilled in the life of Jesus, and this book is in two parts. The first part is eighteen chapters, and it looks at those scriptures where one of the Gospel writers says this happened to fulfill. So an example is, at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry he was the guest speaker in a synoguge, and the attendant that takes care of the scroll, which is the Old Testament, the Torah, brought out the scroll for Jesus to read from.  Jesus unrolled it and he read the words from Isaiah that said this was the year of the Lord’s favor. He read a few more words from Isaiah then he said to the congregation and said, “Today these words are fulfilled in your hearing.”
Cynthia: Wow.
Dianne: Yeah! Okay so that’s one of those prophecies that were fulfilled during the life of Jesus. Those are the ones I’m looking at in the first part of the book. In the second part of the book, I have three sections of seven chapters each. I am so excited because I’ve wanted to write on these topics for such a long time. Seven chapters are on the tabernacle/temple and how that portrays Jesus and his work as Messiah. For example inside the tabernacle/temple there were three pieces of furniture, the lamp stand, the incense alter, and the table of bread.  If you look at the table of bread, you can remember Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.” If you look at the lamp stand we can remember Jesus. He was standing very near the temple when he proclaimed, “I am the light of the world.” The whole temple is a portrait/ picture that God painted of the Messiah and Jesus came to fulfill.  The next set of seven chapters is going to be about the sacrifices, the burnt offering, the grain offering. There was the sin offering.  I made seven chapters to discuss the offerings and sacrifices and how they portray Jesus and his blood covering our sins. Then the last seven chapters in the book are going to be about the seven feasts of the Lord. I’ve been studying the feasts of the Lord, and it is so fascinating. The feasts are both prophetic in that they point ahead to what Jesus would do and historic in that they point back to what God has done. So for example the Passover, we know that Passover is when God brought the Israelites of out Egypt under Moses and the exodus. From then on they celebrated Passover. Well, Jesus was the Passover lamb.
Cynthia: He was.

Dianne: So there are three spring feasts and fifty days to Pentecost and three feasts in the fall. Jesus fulfilled the first three feasts the meaning, the symbolism of his first coming. Then there was Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came, which was after he ascended to heaven. Then there’s a space of time that the world has been living in up until now. There are three fall feasts and I believe those will be fulfilled in Jesus’s second coming. 
Cynthia: Let me ask you at this Christmas time, how a parent or a family could use your work to focus their thoughts on Scripture. Do you have any ideas there?
Dianne:  I do. Thanks for asking. Prophecies Fulfilled in the Birth of Jesus is the Christmas book, and it has thirty-five prophecies in it. I think it would be a wonderful family devotion type book to use during the advent season, between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The chapters are fairly short. They have a key verse, which is the prophecy that’s highlighted. We go back in time to the OT when the prophecy was first spoken and who spoke it and what the context was. Then we come forward in time to see it fulfilled in the event surrounding the birth of Jesus. So it’s a wonderful Christmas Bible study. It could be a small group study, family devotions, and individual reading. It could be for a nonfiction book club if you wanted to do that.
Cynthia: Very interesting stuff.
Dianne: Thank you. At the end of every chapter, I put at least three application questions. So families can discuss that or Bible studies can talk about things. There’s extra readings on related topics at the end. There’s a suggested prayer. There’s just all kinds of goodies tucked inside the book. 
Cynthia: Where can we find your books?
Dianne: It’s available at all the usual online outlets. You can order if at your brick and mortar stores like Barnes and Noble. They can order for you if you go in and ask for it or call them. You can find links to it. Probably the easiest site that I have to tell people is my blog that’s for writers. It’s called www.buttsaboutwriting.blogspot.com  There are links on my blog to all the places you can buy my book.  I’m especially excited that I got my books into something that is new to me. It’s called www.deepershopping.com. If you go there and put my name in the search box, it’s Dianne Butts, there’s four books that will come up. These are two of them or you could put prophecy fulfilled in the search box and they will come up. Deeper shopping is a Christian book store that’s similar to Amazon. They have discounts on them. All your Christian books, you can find them there. So, I’m very excited to have my books at deeper shopping dot com.
Cynthia: That’s great. I’ll have to check that out myself. If anyone would like to give us feedback our program, you can contact me at Cynthia@clsimmons.com. 
I want to thank you, Dianne because not only have I enjoyed reading these books, but this conversation has been wonderful. Thank you for taking your time to write all this out so other people can read and understand the wonderful, wonderful hope we have in Christ. 
Dianne: Oh thank you for having me, Cyndi. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to tell people about my books. I believe we need to know what God has done in the past in order to strengthen our faith for the future. And that’s what we need right now.
Cynthia: I agree with you. Thank you.
  Dianne Butts

Heart of the Matter: Dealing with Holiday Grief

Cynthia: This is Cynthia, with Heart of the Matter radio, for women who long for the elegance of God’s wisdom. 
Christmas is supposed to be a wonderful time. I think of the angels, when Jesus was born they came to the shepherds and they sang “Glory to God in the highest, and peace and good will to men.” Because the Savior was born and there was hope for the world. 
But sometimes it’s not quite so pleasant if you just lost a relative, or maybe even the memories of that relative you lost at Christmastime, can make Christmas and the holidays to be very difficult. Today I have with me Janet Perez Eckles, and she’s going to share with you a little bit about how to handle that over the holidays. Welcome, Janet.
Janet: Thank you. I’m so happy to be with you.
Cynthia: Janet, this can be a real problem. Let’s talk about how we can handle this. Any ideas?
Janet: You know, the toughest thing is, as you just said, Cynthia, that the Bible tells us that peace and goodwill to men and you think of a peaceful, wonderful time of the year to celebrate. And because that’s what it’s supposed to be, and because it cannot, because of a heart being so broken because of the loss of someone, and as you said the memories of that loved one that was a year ago or ten years ago, it’s all of a sudden revived. It’s raw all over again, only because there’s something in you that says oh, I can’t celebrate. I can’t rejoice like everybody else is doing and put all this decorations and party and be in the spirit of joy when my heart is remembering the loss, the pain, the heartache. 
How do you deal with that? Especially if you have family who needs you to still be in the spirit of upbeat and enthusiastic and rejoicing. And I found a few ways, myself. My son was murdered and now it’s going to be eleven years and those Christmas and Thanksgivings, days of his birthday, which his birthday is coming up, those are really tough. 
But I found that, first of all, we have to recognize that we’re not the only ones. Sometimes when we’re going through those dark times we think oh, nobody else could ever know what I feel like. There are other people who are going through that, and other people who overcame it. And I want to be in that group. And I want to know how. 
So you make an effort to seek God to help you. And so often you find verses that say he will never abandon you, he’s with you. That’s comforting to me that the Lord is with me in my pain. That I can make it through the next moment and the next day, and put up the decorations. We’re not alone, truly helped me.
Cynthia: You know, if you look back in history, years ago they used to actually mourn for an entire year. And they wore black, they were not expected to go to events where there was laughter and happiness, or where they were supposed to mingle. And as they came out of mourning they kind of changed the color of their clothes, I think they started putting on purple with maybe black borders or something, and that kind of helped people to realize that they needed to treat them differently, or that they might not be in a good mood. And sometimes I look back on that and I think that might be a good idea for us. But Americans don’t really want to grieve.
Janet: That’s a good point. I’m so glad you brought that up. That’s really really interesting.
Tradition, I could say, or the habit that we have, wearing black, that is very much alive in Bolivia where I’m from. If I were to visit Bolivia that’s what they would expect, for me to be wearing black for a full year after my son died. And you’re right. Heaven forbid have a party, celebrate a birthday, do any type of gathering where there’s laughing or dancing. That’s out of the question.
And you’re right. The American culture is not that way, and I’m glad that we’re not. And I don’t know so much that the American culture doesn’t want to grieve, only because in my ministry I deal with so many people who cannot get beyond. A woman shared with me there’s not a day that I don’t cry for my son. I will always be angry at God for taking him the way he did.
So there’s still very much of a mentality that no, I’m going to grieve as long as I need to and I don’t care if it’s until the day I take my last breath. I’m from Bolivia, my family, my Bolivian friends, expected me to be wearing black. Expected me to be just at home, full of gloom and tears and never to laugh again. But I chose not to follow that particular culture trait because that’s not what the Lord says. 
He says mourn for seven days, yes cry, yes go through the stages of denial, of anger, of gloom, of bitterness and acceptance and triumph. So I just sought God’s reassurance, his promises, his instructions, and his examples of how he dealt with people whom he found had lost someone. Like Lazarus, he brought back from the dead. Of course he didn’t do that for anyone in our time, but yet he was still with them.
And what was beautiful about Jesus, he wept with them. So that means he’s empathizing with us, with me. So that tells me that it’s okay to hang onto him and continue to go forth.
But one other really really important element is this. I heard one time a friend say, when I lost my dad the day my dad died I also lost my mother. She was never the same. She just crawled into a hole and she just stayed there. So I really lost both parents. And I decided Lord, that’s not what you want me to do. I could not do that to my other two surviving sons, to Joe’s brothers. Be the kind of mom that I was never the same again, I didn’t laugh anymore, I didn’t show joy. I wanted them to know that we know where our Joe is, he’s in heaven rejoicing. He’s in the glory, where we all want to be.
But, we need to see it differently. Not that we lost him, we’re separated from him for a period of time and I needed to have that added to that perception be reflected in me for my sons, for my husband, for my parents and the rest of the family. 
That has helped me so much to think beyond me. Oh you poor mom, you’re blind and now you lost your son, and in such a tragic way. Well, you have every right to sit there and just be filled with your heartache. And I could do that. That would not be God-honoring.
Cynthia: Right. I think the reason that I am so attracted to that tendency, and not that I want someone to be gloomy for X period of time, but that I felt like that when my father passed away that I was not allowed to grieve at all. Within a few weeks, obviously, it was Christmastime, and it was a difficult Christmas because he wasn’t there. And I found people saying oh, you’ll forget about it when X, or whatever, and they were trying to talk me out of the normal feeling of grief you would have within four weeks of your father’s death.
Janet: Wow.
Cynthia: I think it’s okay to feel pain. Christians are allowed to say out, and I know Dad’s in heaven and I’m okay with that. I just saw a tendency to say oh, you’ll be okay, and they tried to put a Band-Aid on it and make me stop feeling. And I think probably that close to a major loss it’s normal to be sad.
Janet: Well, here’s the thing. And this is when I coach people during this process. I tell them don’t ever let anyone tell you well, you know, it’s been months now, don’t you think you should be getting over it now? Or you shouldn’t be angry about that. Everyone grieves differently. Everyone goes through those stages for a different amount of time. I would never ever, like you s
ay, you’re absolutely right, never hurry somebody and say oh, it’ll be okay.
It won’t be okay. Your life has turned upside down. It will never be the same. And the length of time you give yourself to grieve, to feel all those emotions, it’s okay. 
The worst thing, though, is to think that there’s something wrong with you because you’re grieving longer than somebody else. Or you’re grieving longer than you should. I think in every stage we cling to the Word and seek God’s help for strength to go through each of these stages.
The key to know is that I will be, one day, feeling better. I will give myself the permission to laugh again. Maybe not today, maybe it’s not this week or this month, but I know I will again. Because that is the fear. You feel like how could I ever be the same, how could I ever live again after such a traumatic heartache. But the Lord says you will.
Cynthia: Yes. That Christmas, my father died and we buried him the day before Thanksgiving. That was the Christmas that the doctor told me well, you’ve got some issues with your teeth, you need to have gum surgery. So right after my dad died I had gum surgery, and then I got sick, and then we had Christmas. So physically I was worn out, worn down, and then I had still grieving the death of my father by Christmastime, and I recall that as being a pretty miserable Christmas. 
People didn’t want to hear me say that. But that’s the truth. And so the Sunday after Christmas I just stayed home, because I thought I think I need to rest. I think that that’d be better for me than going to church and telling them how bad I feel right now. 
Janet: Right. And you were using wisdom to do what you needed to do. That is so, so important too. Not that you want to be so stoic and say I don’t feel anything, I’m fine now. Because doing that, it’s just going to hold all the feelings inside and eventually it’s going to explode. 
Yes. Recognizing them and knowing what you need to do for you for that period of time is so so important. 
Let me give you another example. Shortly after my son was killed I talked to another mom who had called me, and her son was killed shortly after mine was. He was run over by a car, he was walking on the road. And when she called me she told me how bitter she was. And she said that she was going to spend every breath, the rest of her life, to make sure the ambulance and the police paid for not responding when they should’ve.
Which I could never discount that. I could never argue with that. Those are her feelings. But here’s the sad part. Rather than look to trying to heal or trying to move beyond it or trying to just grieve, she was turning it all to anger and she was going to seek revenge. That is going to mask the pain, and she shared with me she can’t find joy in her family and her grandkids, she wants nothing to do with anybody.
That is sometimes a choice that we make. Are we going to spend all our time and energy to seek vengeance? Of course, when your father died maybe it wasn’t because of someone else who took his life, but in my case it was. Someone stabbed my Joe to death. And so I had to come to the decision of what is the rest of my life going to be like. Am I going to live in bitterness and sorrow and heartache, trying to see how that man can be punished? Or am I going to move beyond it?
That didn’t mean I had to do it that week or that month, but make that decision. We all do.
Cynthia: Right. And I could have been angry at myself, because my father had been in a home for about seven or eight months when he got sick, and I had just been so busy emptying his house so that he could afford to pay for that, that I had missed some of the subtle clues saying that his health was going downhill.
So I could have blamed myself. But after he died I went and talked to his doctor and we talked over some symptoms that I saw going on. And I realized that his heart failure had been progressing, but that he was coping well until all of a sudden he fell and he stopped coping. And it was probably inevitable. So I was able to let go of that and say I’m not guilty, no one’s guilty, it was God’s time for him and I can walk away from it knowing that he’s with the Lord. And if there’s issues in our relationship that I failed we’ll get to talk about that again in eternity and I can ask his forgiveness and he can forgive me, and we can go on.
So you do have to do that regardless of what happens. Leave it in the Lord’s hands.
Janet: I agree. Goodness, that’s really a tough one isn’t it? Guilt. No matter what happens you’ll think I should have spent more time with my son, or I should have done this, I should have done that. But if you think about it, the Bible says God has the number of our days already predestined. He already knows them, he knows when that will take place. And sometimes we give ourselves either more credit or more blame for what we do or don’t do, when we lost someone.
When we go through those periods of time of grieving, and going back to what we’re discussing today, it’s more emphasized in the holidays. Only because we’re all of a sudden put in that different group of people. And the group who lost somebody. We’re not like everybody else whose family’s intact, and of course they’re celebrating. Of course they have reason to cheer and to open presents and to decorate. They don’t know the heartache that I’m going through. And it’s that longing that oh, I want to be normal again, I want to be like that family.
I think wanting to have something you don’t emphasizes the pain. I wish my son were still here, I wish my dad was here again, it would be so different. But wishing for something that is not, sometimes can even be more painful. Instead of saying I do belong to that group of parents who have lost a child, whose child was gone tragically, I also belong to the group of triumphant people. Triumphant because Christ lives in me. Triumphant because of his power, of his grace, of his love that’s surrounding me right now. And he knows the heartache and the heart.
Choosing the group that you want to belong is also important. Either you’re going to grieve, or you’re going to move to greater places with it.
Cynthia: Well that Christmas I remember there were some parties that I ended up at, but I didn’t stay very long. Because the noise and the cheerfulness kind of bothered me. And I thought I just lost somebody, and so I would just tell them that I didn’t feel very well and I would just slip out. Because I knew I was going to be okay, I knew where Daddy was, and I knew I was going to be okay. So I just left, and people understood when I told them. That I would tear up and say Dad has not been gone long and it’s our first Christmas and it’s just a little hard.
And I still think of him, when Thanksgiving comes around, when Christmas comes around. Of course now it’s not as intense, but I do remember those things about the time. The heaviness is gone because I’ve let it go. But that first Christmas was very difficult to grieve.
Janet: I’m glad you mentioned that, because what reminded me also is that first Christmas after I lost my sight. I know we’re talking about losing a dear one, but there are other type of losses. I think a lot of people lose their independence. They lose their home, some place where they live a long time because of the economy or whatnot. There’s all kinds of losses that we sometimes will deal with.
And I remember that Christmas where the Christmas prior to that I could still see
a little bit. I could still see my little boys’ faces. I could see their smiles, even though faintly, but I could still see them. And the Christmas where I had no sight at all, I couldn’t see anything, all I could do is just hear what was going on. That was really hard too. 
Because you think of the time what it was like before. Like you, what it was like with your dad there, the warmth of his presence. And when I could see again and when I had my son. So yes, you reminisce and you wish you had the faith. And people, it’s hard for them to understand if you’ve not lost anyone. You think oh, come on, you’re with family now, we all love you, you should be feeling better, this is a time to rejoice and be joyful. But your heart is not quite there.
And it’s okay. I think it’s important that we understand it’s okay. We don’t have to be embarrassed, we don’t have to feel bad, we don’t have to justify it or give reasons. It’s okay if you want to just, like you did, step aside for a few more minutes and recognize okay, this is just time a little bit to myself. And deal with it the best way I can.
Cynthia: You know, I think there’s room in a person’s heart for more than one emotion. You can be rejoicing in the sense that Jesus came, that he died for us, and still have a little bit of grief in there too where you miss someone that was very dear to you. I think there’s plenty of room for both in our hearts.
Janet: I agree. 
Yes, there’s always that spot in your heart that will feel empty because of whom you lost. But that doesn’t mean that it has to rule your life. So you’re right. I think there’s still a time, for me, to think about him and to miss him and to think about his laughter and his kisses and his jokes and his wit. And it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with me just because I continue to think about it and to kind of wish I still had him.
But there’s also nothing wrong with me if I laugh again. If I enjoy Christmas again, and if I reach out to others. And that was the other thing I wanted to mention to you, Cynthia, is that what has helped me so so much is God has opened doors for me to reach out to others.
Because often, with the pain that we have, what is it that we do with it? We just focus on trying to heal and spend a lifetime trying to cope with it. Or there’s a time where you think I can reach out and use this pain and use the warmth of the love of the Lord and the comfort he has given me, to help somebody else. His Word says to use the comfort from him to comfort others. 
When we lost Joe I was about to finish my first book. But when it happened, it happened so suddenly and so tragically I thought oh my goodness I could never write a thing again. This is just too hard. Who wants to think about writing anything? But on the day of his funeral, as we were sharing, I shared the importance of accepting Christ as your Savior to guarantee entrance to heaven, and Joe had done that two years prior. So I was sort of ministering to Joe’s friends. The church was packed. And many of them did come to the Lord as a result.
And that’s what sparked a desire in me to my son’s death will have meaning if I choose to help others, to inspire others, to show them the comfort God has given me. So that’s when I decided to finish writing the book, writing the episode of him dying and how God helped me through the toughest moments. 
And that was very very healing, because for me then, the death of my son had a different purpose. Not just him being a gift to us for nineteen years, but it was being used by God in a different way to reach out to those who think they have a lifetime to make a decision for the Lord. 
So that is another way of healing, reaching out to others.
Cynthia: I was going to turn the tables on you, so you did it already for me. Let me take the position of someone who is on the outside and you just lost your son. What kinds of things would have helped you at that moment?
Janet: I tell you what didn’t make me feel better, and that is when people would say to me I am so sorry. That’s really strange, because that’s what you say, right?
Cynthia: Right.
Janet: I am so sorry. Well, when I heard people would say that to me, I took it like oh pity you. What they were saying is they were feeling bad, is what they were saying. I understand that. But it just emphasizes so much that that’s right, I need to be pitied because my gosh I just suffered an unthinkable tragedy. It was like another reminder, I am so sorry.
And you know what else reminded me? And I don’t think I’ve ever shared this in any interview. It reminded me of that’s right, you feel sorry for me, but you don’t have the pain. I wish I were like you. Your life is still normal. Your life is intact. You don’t know the sorrow, you don’t know the heartache. But I do. It was almost like a reminder. See, there’s another person whose life goes on normal and mine does  not.
Obviously I would never say anything to anyone, say don’t say that to me. I received them, said thank you. I think what helped me the most was the physical things that people did for me. That is they took care of the food at the funeral, they helped me with thank you notes. The fact that I’m blind, that was a huge help. Helping me clean Joe’s room. I think all those little things that were very tangible, very service-oriented, were very very helpful. 
And of course just the fact that they were there for me at the funeral and the graveside was really a sweet, sweet moment for me. 
What truly truly just was like a little warm blanket over me, was the fact that we were getting cards from people whose lives were touched by my son. I had no idea, and it was almost like oh goodness, thank you, Lord. His life did make a difference. They were very heartfelt notes, very specific details of how Joe was there to cheer them on when they were having a hard time in football practice. Everyone else would go and Joe would stay there and just work with them and work with them. He didn’t have to do that, and he was always there for them. He was always being a role model.
I had no clue. Of course Joe would never come home and say hey Mom, guess what I did today. And that just touched me so much. It filled me with so much joy to hear that and to have my husband read those cards.
Cynthia: So you’re saying the physical things they did, and the good memories that they had of your son, were both every helpful.
Janet: Yes, absolutely.
Cynthia: And the things that helped me were people would come to me and just simply hug me. I just felt embraced. I was embraced. Where people would come to me and say I’m praying for you, and that just really lifted a huge burden for me.
So if during this holiday season you know of someone who has lost someone, this gives you some clues. You don’t have to talk to them and tell them how to do it or tell them what to feel or tell them what not to feel, but just love on them. And let them know you care.
Janet: Absolutely. And again, and I’ve heard some comments made by other people too, are just the little things. Because the routine things that you think are so common that you’d be able to handle, sometimes you can’t. Like cleaning your house, clean your bathrooms, or fix meals. Because you’re pretty much numb. You know things have to be done, but there’s no urge, there’s no desire. But when someone takes on that task for you, at least for a little while, it is so so sw
And yes those hearts do mean a lot, definitely.
Cynthia: Right. And sometimes you’ll feel like you’re numb and then you’ll hear a Christmas carol that’s associated with that person and you’ll find yourself crying in the middle of the grocery store or something. So expect that to happen. And it’s okay, because that’s just part of grieving.
Janet: Absolutely. I would say those are healing tears. The tears you hold back are the ones who are going to, I think, deepen the pain, but it’s okay to let them go. And I think people understand.
Cynthia: Janet, where can we find you?
Janet: Oh, you can find me anywhere. Just Google my name, Janet Perez Eckles, or you can visit my website, www.inspirationforyou.com, or on Facebook, Janet Eckles. And I would love love to connect with you and send you a copy of my book if you like, if you’re going through a tough time. All three of my books do deal with different aspects of grieving and rejoicing and finding and fighting that fear that sometimes we often fear that we will not overcome our deep heartache. 
Or you can just send me an email through my website, also.
Cynthia: And if listeners want to give feedback on our program you can email me at cynthia@clsimmons.com We’d love to hear from you and what you might like to cover in the future. Blessings to you, Janet. I enjoyed this.
Janet: Thank you so much. Blessings to all your listeners.
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