Remembering Jim Criswell

On June 27, 2022, Heaven welcomed another earth traveler Home.  After a long assignment of 99 years, Jim Criswell was promoted to Heaven.

I feel sure The Lord welcomed him as a good and faithful servant.

We met Jim through The Trinity Cokesbury Sunday School class at Centenary United Methodist Church.  The class was a group of living saints, who were all well over 80 years old.

Jim was a leader and a true shepherd.  Trying to herd the class members together for a simple potluck was no small task.  Everyone had their own ideas of when to stop talking and begin serious eating!

However, when they heard Jim’s soft voice, praying a blessing, all stopped and turned their eyes on Jesus.  Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus was not just their theme song.  It was their way of life.

Jim was a model of gentleness and kindness.  He made everyone welcome, including adopting us “youngsters”, who barely squeaked in, being in our early 60s.

He talked to everyone, remembering details of their life and asking about them.  He always inquired about our daughter, Jennifer, by name, even though he had never met her.

He was wise, both in the things of the world, and also in the things of The Spirit.  He actively participated in every class, asking questions and adding comments, that opened up whole new worlds of thought.  I wish I had recorded every one, because having a Jim Criswell commentary would have been a treasure.

He loved his family.  Even when he was a bit unsteady, he gave it his all to steady his wife, Barbara.  They held hands and looked at each other with the same sparks as young teenagers.

They talked of their daughter often, with pride and joy.  It was obvious they carried LeeAnn in their hearts, wherever they went.  I am sure that has not changed.

Jim graciously made various transitions in life, as he aged.  One by one, the precious members of The Trinity Cokesbury class have been promoted to Heaven.  Jim was one of the longest serving his tour of duty on earth.

I was the song leader for class.  As much as they valued their long held traditions, they were open to new ideas that more fully expressed their hearts’ desires.

At the end of every potluck, we all held hands and sang the hymn, Bless Be The Tie That Binds.  Somehow the last verse just did not fit them.  The original writer wrote

 “When we asunder part, 
It gives us inward pain; 
But we shall still be joined in heart, 
And hope to meet again.”

I changed it to

 “When we asunder part, 
We surely will feel no pain; 
For we shall still be joined in heart, 
And know we will meet again!”

And Jim said with delight, “Amen!”

One Sunday I took a picture of Jim teaching his “young” student, Jay.  It is one of my favorites.  The sun coming through the windows of the chapel revealed The True Light of The World!

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of Peace will be with you!

Philippians 4:9

https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/kentucky/name/james-criswell-obituary?id=35452789

Receiving God’s Comfort

There are so many who need comforting. Often while we desire to comfort others, we don’t know what to say or do.

Sometimes people say things that really don’t help. Sometimes people try to talk about something else they are comfortable with in an effort to distract those who are suffering. When those approaches don’t work, sadly people walk away and leave the suffering ones to suffer alone.

There is one crucial step to be able to comfort others. We must receive comfort from God for ourselves. We cannot give that which we have never received.

Jeremiah 31:15 speaks of grief that cut so deeply that the mothers “refused to be comforted.” Are there things that have wounded you so deeply that you refuse to let God comfort you?

Why would we refuse comfort? Often it is because we no longer trust God. Satan is quick to remind us God could have at least prevented that which caused us such great pain. The questions linger of why He would allow us to suffer.

Questions cascade into fear. If God allowed this deep wound, what else would He allow in the future?

God spoke to the questioning Job, simply reminding him that He was God.

God spoke, promising when (not if), we go through the deep waters, we will not drown. When we go through the fire, we will not get burned.

God spoke, telling us He will never leave us or forsake us.

God spoke, telling us He loves us with an everlasting Love.

God spoke through David telling us He is our Shepherd and we have everything we need. His Goodness and Mercy will follow us all the days of our life.

God spoke, telling us He knows The Plans He has for us and they are Good Plans.

To be comforted is to believe Him and trust Him, no matter how fiercely the storm rages, no matter how deep the waters, no matter how hot the fire and no matter that we see no good in the plans that seem to be unfolding.

Take a few moments and consider whether there is any place in your life where you have refused to be comforted. Do you trust God? Settle the matter with God now.

Receive His Comfort so you can be at Peace and comfort others with His Peace!

Hoarding God’s Word

As we have gone further into our home clean up project, we have learned much about ourselves.

It has been interesting to see what each of us is willing to give up, and what we aren’t.
We have been forced to consider whether we are hoarders or guardians of precious treasures.

Today God and I had a conversation about whether I was hoarding His Word. Ironically on the same day we were getting ready to contribute to an organization that gives Bibles, I cleaned out the bookcase in our family room.

I cheerfully loaded up a box with books to go to the library. The box did not include the various Bibles I had collected over the years.

I felt God’s nudge.

“What about My Word?” He said.

I smiled, being sure He would be proud of me for taking such good care of The Bibles. I pointed out how I had put them right back on the shelf.

There seemed to be a Holy Silence, followed by a deep Celestial Sigh.

“I thought you wanted to share My Word.”

“I do. We’re contributing to that Bible group today.”

“What about those Bibles on the shelf? Are you going to share them?”

I explained how I had received each of them on special occasions. I reminded Him that most had my comments written in them.

He asked, “So, let Me understand this. You have multiple copies of My Truth, along with Truths I have revealed to you. And you plan to keep them closed up and on display here?”

It was my turn to sigh. Oh … 😳

I added The Bibles to the box. I am making a donation tomorrow. It has given me Joy tonight to contemplate who might be surprised to receive a Bible with “Carolyn’s Commentary” written in the margins!

Perhaps you might also want to send out God’s Words. You may never know where they will go, but you can trust God will see they get delivered to the right person at the right time!

As recorded in Isaiah 55:11, God said, “My Word … shall not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve The Purpose for which I sent it!”

Praying Into The Future

Recently we had a first time guest in our home. I told him the story, as I tell all first time visitors of how I prayed for him long ago.

When we had our house built in 1994, I sat on the floor of the second story before there was even a roof. I looked out across the court. And I prayed for all who would one day come to our home.

I did not know them all, but I knew God did. And He knew the exact moment our lives would intersect.

When people arrive, I let them know they were expected and are welcomed.

Paul tells us God knew the exact places we would live and when we would live there.

God began by making one man, and from him he made all the different people who live everywhere in the world. He decided exactly when and where they would live.
Acts17:26

Today, as I was looking out the window and enjoying the view of our back yard, I thought of all the various people we have welcomed here. And I heard God in my spirit.

He said, “I knew you were coming here long before you came. I prepared this place for you. I intended for you to live here in joy and peace.

And whatever you do here, know that you are working with Me to prepare this place for the ones who will live here one day.

Remember this is One of My Homes. Even now I am preparing your next home for you. When it is ready, I will come and take you there Myself. I already know the exact time you will arrive.”

Jesus said, “In My Father’s House are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also!”
John 14:2

In anticipation of our time here, we had a scripture cut into stone and bricked in by our front door. We now offer it as a blessing upon all who come.

So if you have not been here yet, know when you arrive, you were prayed for long ago and you are welcome!

Walking With God

When I was little, I apparently had very klutzy dolls, because I was always bandaging up their “boo boos.”

When anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, without hesitation, I wanted to be a nurse.

I entered nursing school in the fall of 1966.

I had visions of floating into each injured or sick person’s life and doing something magical (that “something” I expected to learn about in nursing school) that would fix everything.

However, right away I discovered that there were some illnesses far worse than the ones I knew about. There were pains that went beyond agony and did not stop.

There were people who died, some not peacefully.

I almost quit in my first year. I was making good grades, but my heart was being broken over and over again.

I remembered giving an impassioned speech in my senior high school career class. I ended with the statement, “To be a nurse is to walk with God!” I wondered where He was.

I did stay in college for four years and graduated on June 4, 1970 with a BSN. This picture was taken on that day.

I had not learned anything magical about how to fix people, but I had learned a tremendous amount about God’s Presence in the midst of suffering. I had learned how some people were able to suffer and still be witnesses of God’s Love.

And I had seen the nurses who never quit. They never gave up. They stayed in the trenches, so some could get out.

Graduation Day was only the beginning of the nursing journey. Life after that day took me to many places as a nurse. I would have to write a book to share it all (and who knows, maybe I will!).

The one thing that sums it all up is still “to be a nurse is to walk with God.” But remember God goes all kinds of places you might not choose.

I taught nursing after a long career of working in hospitals. A student asked me if I had it to do over again, if I would still want to be a nurse.

I had to do some serious thinking before I answered.

My answer is yes. When God taps you to go on a Mission with Him, it’s an honor. Accept it with humility.

Happy Memories to the 1970 Nursing Class of Medical University of South Carolina!

Love That Never Lets Go …

There is a difference in giving up your life and giving your life.

Jesus made it clear He was not giving up His Life and just leaving us a rich inheritance. He was laying down one life only to take it up again in a different way.

He said, “The reason my Father loves Me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”
John 10:17-18

We often think of those who died pursuing the desire to give someone else a chance to live. However, we all too often overlook those who gave up the life they had planned to take up another life, whereby they give someone else the chance to live.

All around the world right now, there are care givers, who have sacrificed the life they could have had to be there for someone else.

There are parents caring for children who got older, but never reached a place where they could independently care for themselves.

There are adult children, who have given up their retirement dreams of seeing the world to stay home and care for aging parents.

There are faithful spouses, who took seriously their vows to honor each other in sickness and health. They gave up their own dreams and put love into action.

There are those who gave up everything they hoped to have in this world to minister to others and bring healing and comfort to them. They laid down their life so Jesus could work through them to bring eternal life to others.

Tonight I am thinking about a woman named Mary. I have never met her and yet she has greatly influenced my life.

Mary married Bill Sweeney, had children and looked forward to a very different life from the one she was to choose.

As a young man, Bill was diagnosed with ALS. The doctors predicted his life expectancy to be 3-5 years tops. Instead God gave him 24 years with ALS.

As Bill became more and more debilitated, his dependence on The Mercy of God and the love of his ever faithful wife increased.

And from that broken vessel, God poured His Love to the world. Even as Bill had to work very slowly through eye blinks to a computer to communicate, he wrote a blog appropriately called Unshakable Hope.

God directed me to Bill’s writings at a time in my life when I desperately needed hope. His words were a healing balm to my soul.

However, the person responsible for the man with the message was Mary. It was she who kept the hope alive in Bill. It was she who faithfully toiled in the background in ways we never knew.

While I celebrated Bill’s being freed from his earthly body this past year, I felt extremely sad to know the blog postings from Unshakable Hope would stop.

Today I was delighted to find a new post from Unshakable Hope written by Mary. I will include the link to the blog at the end of this post.

Once again The Words of Hope filled me up and now overflow to you. God showed His Faithfulness and Mercy all throughout the unexpected journey of Bill and Mary.

And today, even in the midst of grief, God continued to bring His Words through Mary. May we all receive The Hope God is offering and may it be, as it was for Bill and Mary — sure, firm and unshakable!

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of The Glory of God.

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Now hope does not disappoint, because The Love of God has been poured out in our hearts by The Holy Spirit Who was given to us.
Romans 5:1-5

Here is the link to Mary’s Blog posting.

Here is the link to a song I dedicate to Mary and all those who have laid down their lives in order that others may live.

Preview of Heaven

When I was in high school, I sang in the glee club.

We were divided into groups of high sopranos, sopranos, second sopranos, altos, tenors, baritones and basses.

Our music teacher sent each group to a separate room to learn our part of the music. She never allowed us to hear the other groups. So each group only knew their part.

After we had learned it really well, she began putting groups together, two at a time. We were amazed at how well we fit together and yet had such different melodies.

Then came the grand day when she brought all the groups together. Our amazement turned into pure awe as we heard ourselves sing.

We learned far more than music in that class. We learned how it was possible to be very different, and yet fit together so perfectly under the direction of one who knew how to lead us.

We learned the joy of being a part of the whole. After our first song, we worked in eager anticipation of how we were all going to fit together for the next song.

Life is like that. We each work on our parts. God puts us together as family and friends. We work on doing life together. But we still don’t know the whole story.

And until God brings us all together and we put in the parts we have learned, just as He directs, we will not know the whole story. It is only then we will know the whole Joy of Heaven.

How I look forward to that day. That will be the real Hallelujah Chorus!

I invite you to anticipate that great day as you listen to Gloria Gaither describe it. Here is the link.

The Light Shines In Darkness …

Sometimes God sends us on assignment, even when we don’t know we are going.

Today I was sitting in the hall of an office building waiting to be called for an appointment.  I was looking at emails on my phone.

I suddenly became aware of a lady standing next to me … close … too close for comfort.  I instinctively held my purse and phone a little tighter.

She said, “I sure wish we could go back to those years before we had those things.  But I see you are into technology.”

I agreed I do like some of our modern conveniences, but I also agreed there were times from long ago I missed.

I was ready to return to scrolling on my phone.  I am rather introverted.  I wasn’t wearing a mask nor was she.  And she was close … uncomfortably close.

However, she persisted.  She said, “Life sure has changed.  All these things happening today.  All the killing.  But sometimes people can’t understand.  When you have had enough … and you can’t fix anything … and … well, it has to come out.”

Now she had my attention.  Was she getting ready to let something come out?  I stood up and slowly moved to a position where I could attempt a quick exit if need be.

I agreed with her that things had happened recently that were very sad.  She said yes and sad things had happened to her in life.

She then began telling me about her life, a roller coaster ride of happy and sad events.  I began to see her in a different light.  She needed to be seen, to be heard, to be validated, to be given hope to go on.

She needed a few moments to unpack her bag and leave some things behind and then repack others.

I simply listened, as I realized I had entered a Holy Space where Jesus desired to minister to her.  I waited to see what He would say.

As she began to cry, recounting the things she had lost in life, she said, “Everything’s changed and I can’t get it back.”

Instantly I “heard” in my spirit, “I The Lord do not change.  I am the same yesterday, today and forever.”

I repeated to her the message of God’s Unchanging Grace.  

I “heard” “I am with you always.”

I repeated to her the message of God’s Eternal Presence.

She began to visibly brighten.  She repeated to me God’s Word, as peace came to her.

I was called to the office.  As I left her, I thanked her for sharing her story.  And I told her, “Remember your story is not finished.  There are good chapters yet to be written.”

She smiled.

We all want to defeat violence.  We want to prevent suicide.  Sometimes we ourselves feel depressed by the darkness of life.  Even if we have light ourselves, somehow it does not seem enough.

And yet when we hold out The Light we do have, Jesus multiplies it, as He did the loaves and fishes.

Perhaps if we were all more willing to listen to each other’s stories and just repeat Jesus’ Words as He gives them, the world would be a better place.

Today was a special day because I saw, heard and felt Jesus minister to a lady who was a stranger to me, but not to Him.  She was a precious child of God who He loved.

And so He sent His Word to her through another of His Children who He also loved.  We were both blessed.

But make sure that in your hearts you honor Christ as Lord. Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you about the hope you have. Be ready to give the reason for it. But do it gently and with respect.

1 Peter 3:15

I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.

John 12:49

Growing Up Alive …

Years ago, Jay taught Anita Franklin, a young nursing student.  It was apparent to him even then that she had a bright future ahead of her.

And she did.  She became a wonderful nurse.  Years after Jay taught her, I met Anita as we were all teaching nursing.

I taught days and Anita taught evenings. Our overlaps became a joyful regular meeting.  We talked about many things and we prayed together about the world around us.

In due time we went different directions in life.  Neither of us could have predicted the world to come … and that the soft spoken, nurturing nurse and mother would become a vocal non-violence activist.

Anita’s son took a short cut through a park one night on his way home.  He was killed, not as a designated target, but as a victim of violence around him.

Anita was devastated, but rose from the ashes of grief, determined he would not have died in vain.  She forgave his killer.  Her mission became to prevent anyone else from feeling the pain she felt.

She campaigned tirelessly to stop violence.  In one of her most poignant speeches, she said, “We used to ask kids what they wanted to be when they grew up.”  She then recounted asking that same question of a child today.  His answer was, “Alive.  I want to be alive.”

She said her mission was to get people to live in peace so they would not have to Rest In Peace.

Anita wrote a thank you to Jay not long before her unexpected death of a heart attack.  She thanked him for believing in her so long ago.  She told him, “You are a part of who I am today.”

After Anita’s death, a mural was placed in the park where Anita’s son was killed.  Today, as the world is still reeling from the senseless killings in Texas, I felt the need to go to the park.

And so Jay and I went.  The sun was shining.  There was a gentle breeze.  The playground was waiting … swings, slides, hop scotch patterns … but no children.

It was the same time of day Anita and I used to pray.  And so we did again, joined by The Spirit that says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

John 14:27

Here is the link to a remembrance of Anita.

Do You See What I See?

Sometimes I get so excited about a new revelation. But when I share it with some people, they just don’t get it.

When this happens, Satan is delighted. It gives him an opportunity to make us doubt the truth of what God showed us.

He also tempts us to just give up in sharing with those who don’t see what we see.

Elijah the prophet was praying for rain. He saw it coming in his mind and spirit. He could have looked to the horizon himself. But instead he had his servant look.

It took seven times of looking before his servant saw it. But finally he did see it.

“But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees.

“He said to his servant, ‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ So he went up and looked and said, ‘There is nothing.’ And he said, ‘Go back’ seven times.

“It came about at the seventh time, that he said, ‘Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.’

And he said, ‘Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.'”…
1 Kings 18:42-44

There are many caterpillar people who don’t know yet they are destined to be butterflies. Don’t give up on them.

Keep sharing what The Lord has revealed to you. Have faith they will see it too!