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My First Blog Post

Hi!

I am Susan Simon, a lover of Jesus, Harold, David, Cullen, Russell, Jesse, Philip, friends, animals, reading, and writing! This represents my first attempt at blogging and I am excited about sharing some of my insights on Scripture, personal devotional time, everyday life situations, stories, grief, and child loss. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates. d I would welcome your comments and suggestions!

Are There Similarities Between the Flood and The Global Pandemic?

Today, as I read the account in the book of Genesis of Noah and the flood, I could not help but think about similarities between the flood in Noah’s day and the Covid-19 pandemic we are currently enduring. And yes, I do believe there was an actual flood in which “God blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark ” (Genesis 7:23).

We are told that Noah was 600 years old when the flood came, to be exact, “in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (Genesis 7:11). We know the flood was extensive. Verses 19-20 of Genesis 7 read, “And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep.”

In Genesis 8, verses 13-14, we read, “In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried off from the earth. In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out.” It seems to me that the flood and its devastation lasted just a few days more than one year.

At the beginning of Genesis 8, we read these words, “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and livestock that were with him in the ark…” What? Mercy, did God forget Noah, his family, and all the animals? Did He all of a sudden remember that He had flooded the earth?

No, He never forgot. Rather, “but God remembered” means that He acted decisively. He caused “a wind to blow over the earth, and the waters subsided” (Genesis 8:1).

One of the accounts that I read described the flood as a “worldwide cataclysm of unprecedented dimension.” So many times have I begun emails and notes this year with, “I hope you and those you love are well in these unprecedented times in which we find ourselves.”

I have to admit, I am an animal lover; and yet I know there are many friends of mine who do not share that sentiment. I probably would have thought it was really kind of nice to have been cooped up with all of the animals, birds, and such for a few weeks, but I can only imagine that as time went on, the ark got not only a bit crowded, but also rather smelly! Let’s just say I would not have fared well for an entire year!

And so it is with this pandemic. Just as Noah and his family were undoubtedly tired of being in such close quarters with all the animals, I am equally tired of all the precautions I feel it is necessary that I take during this time. I am tired of wearing masks, tired of “washing/sanitizing” groceries, using hand sanitizer until my hands are uncomfortably dry and irritated, having to make reservations to attend worship services, meeting on Zoom, and being unable to be with family and friends in the same ways we had been able to gather previously. And I have only been inconvenienced; I have not lost a loved one, but I personally know several people who have.

But just as the flood waters eventually abated, in God’s timing, so will Covid-19. As we read in Genesis 8:1, “God will remember”; He will act. Hopefully the advent of the vaccine will be a start.

When Noah and his family finally went out from the ark, do you remember what he did? He worshiped. He built and altar to the Lord and offered burnt offerings on that altar. May our response be like Noah’s; let us worship Him who does all things well.

It’s A New Year; How Will I Live Differently?

A new year aways brings me to a time of reflection. As of today, I officially enter the seventh decade of my life… and that, in and of itself, is pretty awesome!

I confess, though I have been a Christ follower for many years, I had never read the Bible through from cover to cover until last year. And if I’m honest, there were times I just wanted to give up; Ezekiel was particularly rough; but by the grace of God I persevered!

While I have never been one to make New Year’s resolutions, I do try to evaluate and develop lifestyle changes and habits that will be beneficial to my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Reading the Bible through every year that I have left is one of those disciplines I need.

But as I read through large passages of Scripture, there are certain portions that speak to me in new and different ways. The larger passages give me an overview, but I have to “digest” smaller portions within the passage as I go throughout the day.

Today, as I read the first chapter in the gospel of Mark, I reflected upon these words, “And a leper came to Him, imploring Him, and kneeling said to Him, ‘If You will, You can make me clean.’ (Jesus) Moved with pity, He stretched out His hand and touched him and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” (Mark 1:40-42)

A leper, he was an outcast in the society of that day. He obviously knew something about Jesus. He knew enough to realize that Jesus had the power to do something about his leprosy. He knew he was subservient to Jesus; and as a result, he kneeled before Him. He must have known that Jesus would not look at him with disdain, because he begged Jesus to make him clean. But the words that really riveted my attention were, “If You will, You can make me clean.” While these words are not in Scripture, this statement also implies, “If You will, You can make me clean, but You may not.”

I don’t know this man’s heart, but in the narrative, one does not get the idea that had Jesus not chosen to heal the leper, that he would have been angry at Jesus. He made no demands on Jesus. Oh, I am sure he wanted to be healed, but somehow it seems to me that he was leaving that decision in Jesus’ very capable hands.

There have been times in my life when I have not responded as the leper. I knew of Jesus’ power, and was both incredulous and angry that He did not respond to my request in the way I thought best.

I don’t know why God chose to heal the leper and not heal our sons; but this I do know. God is good, He is loving, He is compassionate, and He sees the whole picture; I cannot. Whatever He does or does not do is for His glory and my ultimate good. The words of Amy Baik Lee express my thoughts so well. She writes, “The greatest good I can imagine in a given situation may not be the greatest good possible.” Whatever God does or does not do will always be for the greatest good.

As 2020 closes with all of the chaos brought about by the global pandemic, accompanied by the tragic loss of life, the loss of livlihoods, racial discord, and political turmoil, God is still on the His throne; His kingdom will prevail. And He will always act or not act in a way that is consistent with both His and our greatest good.

Cullen’s Fortieth Birthday

Tomorrow, October 24th, marks Cullen’s fortieth birthday. Our second-born son, was a trained chef, having graduated from Johnson and Wales in 2002 with a culinary arts degree. Each year on his birthday, we honor his memory in some way. In years past, I have prepared recipes that were either too time consuming or that seemed far removed from my “usual” culinary comfort zone. This year, I asked my Bible study to pray with us about what we could do to remember Cullen.

God is SO CREATIVE! We plan to go to dinner this evening and give our chef and our server a generous “tip”/gift enclosed in a card. I am almost giddy with excitement to see how God is going to use this in their lives because He promises that His word will not return to Him void, but will accomplish the purpose for which it was sent. I know Cullen would be so proud.

Here is the message in the card…I tried to take a picture and post it, but it was just too difficult to read, so here is our message.

The outside of the card is a quote by Oscar Wilde, “The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” Inside the card reads, “What a difference you make.” Our message follows.

Tomorrow, October 24th, would have been our second-born son’s fortieth birthday. His name was Cullen and he was a 2002 graduate of Johnson and Wales in culinary arts. Cooking was his passion and he served as head chef both at La Fourchette in Charleston, SC and at The Stone Terrace, St. John, USVI. His addiction took his life seven and a half years ago.

We chose to honor his memory this year with a token of our appreciation to the chef and our server this evening. The breaking of bread, the partaking of food, and the interaction of people seated around a dinner table are such integral parts of our lives. Memories are made there. When memories are all you have left of the one you love, they become especially dear to our hearts.

We prayed that the Lord would place the very people He wanted to receive these gifts in their respective roles (chef and server) this evening. Thank you for allowing us to remember our son in this way; I know he would have been proud.

Keep making a difference!

John 6:35 “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.‘”

How Do You Handle Life-Shattering Moments?

What is a life-shattering moment? I am not referring to disappointments here, but rather to what author Bruce Feiler in his book, Life is in the Transitions, calls “lifequakes”. These are the devastating, destabilizing, disorienting events of life. Like earthquakes, lifequakes are often accompanied by aftershocks. How do you go on?

Where do you turn when the biopsy reveals a stage four malignancy, when your spouse of many years walks away, when your child dies, when you lose a job you’ve loved and successfully held for years and can no longer provide for your family?

To be sure, I am no expert. But I have experienced one lifequake, twice; the deaths of two sons, thirty-one years apart. Honestly, the death of our infant son almost derailed my faith. When our thirty-two year old son died, I had learned something from my suffering.

What had I learned?

  • We have to have a reason to live, to keep on keeping on. Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher once wrote, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
  • ALL things work together FOR GOOD for those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. (Romans: 8:28) Not some things, not most things, but ALL things. How could the deaths of my sons be “good”? Death is not good; as a matter of fact it is the ultimate enemy. But the enemy has been defeated in the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ crucifixion and death were not, in and of themselves, “good” things, but this was God’s plan, not plan B. It was His plan before the foundation of the world. Upon His death, Jesus’ disciples and those who loved Him were devastated. They expected that He would be a political Messiah who would free them from the tyranny of Roman rule, but that was not the Father’s purpose for the life of His Son. Jesus came to earth as the God-man, to live a perfect life, and to die for the sins of His people. Why? He died and was raised from the dead, defeating death, in order to give eternal life – a reason to live both in this life and in the life to come. Certainly, as a mother, I would never say the deaths of either of my sons were good, but I can say unequivocally their deaths were used for good both in my life and in the lives of others. And if God could have accomplished His purposes in any other way, He would have done so. Some things can be learned only through suffering.
  • Satan is up to his old tricks; he works by establishing doubt in one’s mind; it is my responsibility to resist him by knowing God’s word, so that I might discern the truth. Just as he (Satan) said to the woman in the garden, ” ‘Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?’ ” (Genesis 3:1) From early on after the death of our infant son, I read many books desperately trying to make sense of our situation. One of the books suggested was, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People” by Harold Cushner, a Jewish rabbi. The title was a little off-putting to me as a Christ follower, because none of us are “good people”, rather we are sinners who are made righteous only through the blood of Jesus. However, I forged ahead and found Cushner’s basic premise to be that God is not sovereign; He can control some things but not others. To this day, I can remember thanking God for the discernment given to me by the Holy Spirit to see this untruth, even in my overwhelmed state of mind.
  • Rejoice always. (1 Thessalonians 5:16) Not if I feel up to it, not if circumstances warrant it, ALWAYS, period. There are many reasons to rejoice, even in life’s bleakest, darkest moments. We take so very much for granted – physical heath, the ability to see, hear, taste, touch, and smell, the beauty of creation, the love of family and friends, the ability to think, a relationship with the Creator of the universe and that His thoughts toward me outnumber the grains of sand on the deserts and shores of the world. I am to rejoice even if, God does not do things my way, because His way is always best.
  • Pray without ceasing. ( 1 Thessalonians 5:17) No, I don’t have to be on my knees, 24/7, although posture in prayer is important, but rather I am to always have God in the forefront of my mind. He sees me, is aware of the desires, thoughts, and motivations of my heart, and knows every word on my tongue before I speak it. He knows me better than I know myself. I am to be in constant communication with Him regarding the happenings in my life and in the lives of those with whom I come in contact. And when I don’t know what to pray or how to pray, Jesus is interceding to His Father for me.
  • Give thanks in ALL circumstances, because THIS is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (I Thessalonians 5:18) Again, not in some circumstances, or in many circumstances, but in ALL circumstances, I am to be thankful. I can be thankful IN the deaths of our sons, but that is very different from being thankful FOR the deaths of our sons. I am thankful for what the Lord has taught me about Himself, about myself and my priorities, about what is truly important in life. I can be thankful that our baby was a covenant child, that our older son was a believer, and that I will see them again. God is in control of everything that touches my life, and yes, that includes the deaths of our sons. Their deaths were not accidents, God was not taken by surprise. Indeed, this was in God’s sovereign plan for my sons and for me before the foundation of the world.

Before their deaths, I believed that God was sovereign, but was He good? We are told that Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, but when they summoned Him to tell him Lazarus was sick, Jesus stayed where He was for two more days; this was the exact opposite of what they wanted Him to do! By the time Jesus arrived in Bethany where Lazarus lived, he had died, four days prior. And not surprisingly, Jesus was well aware of his death.

Both Martha and Mary said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21, 32) Even the people who had come to console the sisters said, ” ‘Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying’?” Surely He could have, but He didn’t.

His reason?

Jesus said to Martha, ” ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God’?” (John 11:40) The stone from the tomb of Lazarus was removed and Jesus said, ” ‘Father I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me…. Lazarus, come out’.” (John 11: 41-43) And Lazarus came forth from the grave.

Jesus knew exactly what He was doing; He was not uncaring, unloving, not good, in allowing Lazarus to die. He had a greater purpose in waiting to return to Bethany…that if Martha believed she would see the glory of God and that the people standing around might believe that Jesus was sent from God.

Likewise, Jesus knew exactly what He was doing in allowing the deaths of our sons. Their deaths have changed my heart, my priorities, my way of thinking, my relationships, in short, my life. I too, one day will see the glory of God, and maybe, just maybe, some of the people who are “standing around” in my life will also believe in Him.

Yes, I have learned through suffering how to handle those life-shattering moments. I know to stay in the Scriptures so that I can discern truth, I know to Whom I can turn, even if His good and what I would have called good are two entirely different scenarios, I can find reasons to rejoice, even at my lowest, I can pray unceasingly, and I have so very much for which I am thankful, certainly more than I deserve.

What about you? Can you deal with the lifequakes of life?

Her Husband is Known in the Gates

Since Harold and I are currently recovering from COVID-19, we are experiencing a lot of “togetherness.” Come to think of it, our “togetherness” was probably the culprit in our present dilemma! Since we have been quarantined, he has done telemedicine from home, and I have had a rare glimpse into his “other” life. It has been an enlightening experience!

He addresses his patients like they are old friends, and he is genuine. He listens more then he speaks, but is able to draw out conversation when that needs to happen.

Since most of his patients are elderly, yes, more elderly than we are…it is not necessary for me to eavesdrop, because they are also hard of hearing! On both sides, it is rather like a shouting match, but while the volume of their respective voices is loud, their tone is compassionate, respectful.

He apologies for having to “visit them this way”, assures them that he is getting better, but that “right now, the powers that be won’t let him come into the building.” He always asks, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Too, he gives them some responsibility, some input in their health care decisions. “How do you feel about our stopping the medication you are currently taking for high blood pressure? Let’s try that for a few days; we’ll be keeping a close watch on you, and meanwhile I will get in touch with your heart doctor. Do you remember his name? Yes, yes, thank you for reminding me; I will get in touch with him and keep him informed as to what we have decided. What do you think of that idea?”

He can see the patient from his computer screen and vice versa (like face time), and at the end of the visit he always waves to them as he tells them bye.

Yesterday, as he ended a visit, I heard him say, “Well, Mr. (patient’s name), I apologize again for having to have a visit like this, but it is good to see you.”

This gentleman’s response brought tears to my eyes. “And Dr. Simon, it is ALWAYS, and I want to underline ALWAYS, good to see you.”

Immediately Proverbs 31:23 came to mind, “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.

Freedom vs. Responsibility

In today’s climate, there is much discussion centering around the perception that our freedoms, which many undoubtedly take for granted, are slowly but surely being taken away. Is that really the case, or is there a disconnect between my right to enjoy my freedoms and my obligation to my neighbor (as a Christ follower) to exercise responsibility?

Without law, there would be no order; everyone would do what was right in their own eyes. This has been the case since the beginning of time. In the Biblical account of Cain and Abel, Cain killed his brother. Verse 9 of Genesis 4 reads in the ESV, “Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ And he (Cain) said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?'”

Yes, Cain. I am afraid you are. And so are we.

We have a son who struggles with alcohol abuse. He is aware that on occasion at dinner, or when were are at an event where drinks are served, his Dad and I will enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail. He also knows that if he is present, we will give up our “freedom” to drink because we are all too aware of his temptation to do so.

Am I being hypocritical? No; I am not condemning drinking on the one hand and imbibing when given the opportunity to do so. As a Christian, I have the freedom to use alcohol in moderation. Rather, I am saying no to the opportunity, in order to help promote a greater good, the sobriety of our son.

There are all sorts of opinions being offered as to whether or not masks should or should not be worn in view of the current pandemic. There is no Biblical passage which addresses mask wearing. However, we are told that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

It is true that over 50% of people who contract Covid will not even know they have it. That would be the case for me and my husband who is a health care professional, and who tested positve for Covid 12 days after being exposed and while quarantined. On day 10 of his quarantine, we experienced many of the symptoms, but because we did not feel terrible, we thought little about it. Upon his testing positive, we both agreed that there have been times in our lives when we reported to work much sicker than we have been with Covid.

BUT, that is not the case with 20% of the population who will contract this disease from people, who like me, had no clue they were infected. These people will, at best, be adversely affected, and at worst, will die.

Because of my husband’s work, I have a very high probability of exposure, but we took every precaution we could have taken. We wore masks in public, sanitized/washed our hands, washed our groceries down in a solution of detergent and sanitizer, and my husband showered immediately upon arriving home from work. So do we conclude that since we contracted the virus, none of these measures were effective? And furthermore, since they appeared to be ineffective in preventing us from contracting the virus at this time, that all of these measures were indeed ineffective previously? How do we know that prior to our contracting the virus, these measures did not help to prevent an earlier infection?

Sure, I agree that masks are hot, inconvenient, not really comfortable, and I would prefer not to wear one, but they do have some rather fashionable ones available! I don’t imagine surgeons love spending hours gowned and masked, but obviously it seems to prevent or deter the possibility of infection in open wounds.

Christians should not have to be mandated to wear a mask in public; it is the Christlike thing to do as a means by which we can show love to our neighbor. In doing so, we concern ourselves less with our own creature comforts and look more to the needs of those with whom we come in contact. While we may never have the opportunity to say a word to them about Jesus, as we choose to relinquish our freedom not to wear a mask, and accept our responsibility to love our neighbor by wearing one, this may be the very witness of the love of Jesus they need to see. And who knows, it may save a life.

“Miss” Joyce

Not all adoptions are created equal, and our son Philip’s story is an exceptional one. Suffice it to say here, that we would have never had the privilege of knowing Miss Joyce had Philip not come into our family.

Miss Joyce departed her earthly home early this morning, July 1st, for her heavenly one. Philip had the privilege of participating in a face-time call to his biological great-grandmother last night with other members of his birth family. How precious is that?

During his college years he learned that Miss Joyce was his great-grandmother. Ever sensitive to our feelings, he always asked, “Are you sure you will not feel threatened if I try to find my birth family?” We continued to assure him that we would not, even encouraging him in his search and offering to help in any way we could.

He was so excited to learn of his “Gammy!” By that time in his life, both his adoptive maternal and paternal grandparents were deceased. Gammy invited him to come and visit her at her home, and he asked us to accompany him. Her kind invitation meant the world to Philip, and to us.

We had a lovely visit! Miss Joyce was warm, gracious, full of questions, and obviously delighted to meet her great-grandson. She was also relieved to learn about Philip’s upbringing in our home, about his adoptive siblings, and she very much appreciated meeting us as well. She indicated that she had always wondered about his adoptive family, how he was raised, what kind of young man he had become. After seeing him, getting to speak with him previously and in person that day, and meeting us, she expressed that she had experienced great peace of heart and mind.

Not so very long after our visit, Philip became engaged and invited his great-grandmother, his great uncle Les and his wife, Helen, and his great aunt, Douglas, to the wedding. I asked Miss Joyce to sit next to me as the great-grandmother of the groom, and Philip walked her down the aisle to be seated. Prior to the wedding, Miss Joyce and I had a few telephone conversations regarding her wedding attire. She wanted to do everything just right! I chuckled when she told me that sometimes she could be a pretty wild dresser! At the reception, she and Philip shared a dance! How often does a great-grandmother get to attend the wedding of her great- grandson?

The rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception were wonderful! Philip met other members of his biological family for the first time and we all had the opportunity to get to know one another. We learned that one of Les’ and Helen’s daughters is married to one of Jenny and Ron Steele’s sons! Ron was an assistant pastor at Briarwood and their sons were little boys when we attended church there years prior to attending Third Presbyterian. The Lord often chooses to bring people together in the most unconventional ways!

I communicated with Miss Joyce on Facebook (she was pretty tech savvy!) and Philip and I went to have lunch with her on one of his days off from work. She was fiercely independent, lived by herself for many years, was never at a loss for words, and seemed to have a real zest for life.

The world needs more people like Miss Joyce; “Gammy” will be missed by her great-grandson Philip and his family, and by all who knew and loved her.