Tag Archives: writing

Tis the Season of Hope

Here’s the transcript of my thoughts I shared at “The Service of Hope” held on December 16th, 2018.

img_0851I’m here this afternoon because like many of you I have experienced the loss of someone significant in my life. My father passed away in 2005 and my mother in 2016. The pain of loss is real and no one is immune to its effects—even those who profess faith in Jesus Christ. Followers of Jesus don’t need to apologize to anyone for their pain and sorrow in that regard. One of my favorite passages of scripture is the 11th chapter of John, which gives the account of the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus. In that story Jesus is moved by the sorrow of Mary and Martha as they mourned the loss of their brother. The words, “Jesus wept,” serve to remind me Jesus knows and understands the pain and sadness we feel when we lose someone we love.

Dad was 69 when he died of prostate cancer. Growing up I idolized my father. By the time I graduated from college he didn’t seem that important to me. I had a life of my own. Yes, we gathered together at family functions but I wasn’t that connected to him anymore. When I reached my 40s, having established my family and a career, an unexplained desire emerged to get to know dad better. Looking back I see it was God who gave me that desire and I’m glad I acted on it. I recall praying God would show me something we could do together to connect with him.

Family genealogy turned out to be the vehicle that joined us together. Dad and I quickly became hooked on it. My wife Patty and I made a number of trips together with my parents to Pennsylvania as we researched our family tree. Not long after we connected dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It turned out to be the aggressive sort and 9 months later he died. I believe God wanted dad and me to be together as he struggled to find hope in a seemingly hopeless situation. When he could no longer pray, I prayed for him.

God prompted me to do something else when I learned dad wouldn’t be with us much longer. He inspired me to write down my thoughts as dad and I walked through this ordeal together. Perhaps some of you have read these thoughts in the book, Junior’s Hope. It was a book that almost wasn’t published. I figured it was my therapy, you know, something to help me cope with losing a father, my namesake and friend. I wanted to chronicle my life with him and create something to remember him by. But as time passed after his death I believed my writing had served its purpose and it didn’t need to be printed. Then one night, which happened to be exactly one year to the day after his death, I saw my father in a dream. In that dream I saw dad as a healthy man in the prime of life. We exchanged a few words and then he was gone. The dream was so real it filled me with hope and inspired me to get the book published. I remember thinking, okay Lord you made your point.

My life changed after dad passed away. I now had one more person to care for, mom. While I deferred to Patty to take care of mom’s physical needs, I focused on helping mom with whatever else she needed. As it turns out the book I almost never published became a source of hope for her. She was so proud of me that she had to tell everyone she knew about it. We can never fully understand the purposes of God. He accomplishes them on so many different levels.

Mom lived 11 more years without dad. Family, friends and Christmas were the joys of her life.  During her life, mom dabbled in writing poetry. I usually don’t dabble in poetry but the time I spent with her inspired me to write a handful of poems on her behalf. When I showed them to her she’d say, “Bill that’s exactly how I feel.” One of the shorter ones is printed on the back page of your bulletin.

Storms

During the closing months of her life we liked to exchange a couple of phrases. I wanted to reassure her she was truly loved so I would say to her, “I love you, I love you, I love you!” To this she’d reply, “I love you, I love you, I love you more!” The second exchange came about out of her concern as to how tired I looked attending to her various personal effects and financial affairs. She’d say, “Bill you don’t have to come see me tomorrow if you’re tired. Stay home and rest.” To this I would say, “I’ll rest when you rest.” We both knew what I meant by her resting. Mom passed away in the summer of 2016.

The pain I felt when dad and mom passed away was so overwhelming it’s hard to put into words. I miss them very much, especially at Christmastime. I have so many Christmas memories.

The reason we gather for a service such as this one is to hear how others have found hope in dark places. I’d like to spend the rest of my time with you talking about how I found hope in a dark place.

I have learned a few things as I struggled to cope with the loss of dad and mom. The first thing that became apparent to me is there is a strong relationship between hope and faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I hope you don’t mind me repeating that verse. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” I wear a pendant I found in mom’s jewelry chest to remind me true hope can only be found in Jesus. Inscribed on it are the words, “In Christ alone my hope is found…he is my light, my strength, my song.”

Following the death of my father, I vowed not to be mad at God; I did not want to blame him for my loss. If there was one person who could help me, it was God. I found a scripture verse to remind me that God is always working on my behalf. Romans 8:28 declares, “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” Instead of being mad at God I chose to embrace him.

I think it was my widowed neighbor that first shared with me the significance of frog. Do you know what F. R. O. G. stands for? I didn’t. It means Fully Rely On God. Someone who fully relies on God is better able to stand on the promises of God with both feet firmly planted. So when a wave of despair wakes me up in the middle of the night, my soul can sing with all its might, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”

The last thing I’ll share with you is something I found in the book of Joshua as I was preparing to lead a study on the book Sunday mornings this past fall. Joshua was in the same boat I was in. The beloved leader of the Israelites, Moses, had just died. It was up to Joshua to pick up the pieces and journey on without him. God tells Joshua in chapter 1:8, “Be strong and very courageous!”

Brushing aside my first thoughts that this had something to do with physical strength and metal toughness, I believe God was telling Joshua that hope could be found in strong and courageous faith. God goes on to tell Joshua, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” and later, “Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” With my whole being I believe these words to be true. God will not leave me and he will not forsake me in my hour of need. He will be with me wherever I go. He will do the same for you. Faith in God is a true source of hope.

In closing, I would add these words penned by the Apostle Peter:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.  In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  1 Peter 1:3-6

“Tis the season of hope!

Fish, part 4 (revised)

The fourth decade of my life could easily summarize in one word, successIMG_0361 My career at the plastics factory sprouted wings soared.  From my humble beginnings as a plastic materials handler, I graduated to operating injection-molding machines, and  changing the heavy steel molds that shaped melted plastic pellets into parts.  This was just the beginning. Within a few years I found myself supervising workers on a packaging line.

Within a couple of years, our company was awarded a contract to assemble disposable, one-time use cameras.  When the economics of reusing these cameras became favorable, our company was asked to start recycling them also.  Our involvement in this business grew to tens of millions of cameras each year. Our company’s success meant more supervisors were needed and managers to oversee the supervisors. Up the corporate ladder I rose.

Too busy to have anything to do with fish now, all my energy was being poured into my career, and finding ways to take it to new heights. Success fueled my competitive fire and I found new avenues of my life to express it.  Competitive sports such as softball, golf, volleyball, and bowling offered just that.  Academics also proved to fuel the fire. I pursued of a Master of Science in Leadership from my alma mater RWC.  The resulting crowning achievement was an appearance in Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities.  God was with me then but His voice was becoming increasingly harder to hear.  Success trumpeted loudly in my ears, blasting a beautiful melody.  I began to believe that what I had accomplished had less to do with God’s blessings on my life and more to do with my own abilities.

What free time I did have I spent trying to stay abreast of our sons’ ever-changing interests. As teenagers, they were more interested in how fast a boat could travel than experiencing the patience of fishing. Their interests included manning a space shuttle and traveling to other worlds on the starship, Enterprise.  So when we went for a cottage retreat on a lake, fishing was the lowest priority.  Instead, they experienced the thrill of being pulled in a tube behind a speeding boat and chasing after the model rockets launched into the sky’s great expanse. Computers and video gaming were becoming the rage and they fell in love with this sort of technology hook, line and sinker. 

My father never gave up on fishing, however, he continued to fish. His patience and steadfastness were richly rewarded whenever he reeled in a trophy-sized fish.

“Perhaps the most unusual object added to the room was a 40-pound stuffed and mounted Salmon caught by Dad while fishing on Lake Ontario years earlier. It was hung on the wall…and was the first thing he saw when he woke up every morning. It was a trophy that represented the patience, persistence and faithfulness that epitomized my father.” Bill Roushey from the book Junior’s Hope


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I distinctly remember two things of spiritual significance happening during this decade of my life. First, a sick feeling that rose up within me when I realized that unbridled success apart from a close relationship with God rang hollow. In the midst of all my success I can remember at one point wondering, “Is this all life has to offer?” (Ecclesiastes 3:9-14).  As a result, I began a period of connecting deeper with God, exploring a call to ministry and listening quietly for periods of time while I prayed. These periods of listening to hear from God led to the second event.

Abraham Lincoln

The sick feeling that I carried around in my being was replaced by an unexplained hunger, a.k.a. the second event.  For some reason I felt I needed to reconnect with my father and deepen my relationship with him.  The feeling grew in intensity and became so strong it compelled me to act on it.  Weeks went by and the feeling never left me.

Dad’s upbringing was grounded in genuine faith in God but due to the rules placed on its members by his (our) denomination of faith it was expressed outwardly as a list of do’s and dont’s, or legalism.  In grade school I was looked at like a child from another planet when I handed my physical education teacher a note from my parents explaining that dancing was against our religious convictions.  I , too, loved God but I rejected that religious legalism as a college student, punctuating my rejection with a fun rebellion.  Somehow rejecting legalism had led to rejecting my father.   I never felt close to him after that.  When the hunger inside me didn’t subside, I prayed for God to show me some vehicle I could use to reconnect with my father.  That vehicle turned out to be researching our family genealogy (see my post Beginning’s).

I rarely fished with my father or father-in-law during this time.  I was too busy wandering in the wasteland of my presumption.  The great fish caught in this decade of my life were not mine. These fish belonged to the faithful who fished with patience and steadfastness, and they were richly rewarded.  In my mind these fish stood as a reminder of how God honored the faithfulness of those who drew near to Him and did not take their faith for granted. (Proverbs 3:1-7)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Dad’s 40-pound trophy salmon stands as a tribute to his efforts.  For the rest of my days, whenever I gaze upon at that fish I will associate it with my father, a faithful man of God. The end of this decade brought me closer to my father than I ever had  been.

But a huge dark cloud appeared on the tranquil horizon.  One that struck fear in my heart…

Fish, part 3 (revised)

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The third decade of my life was the most unpredictable, wondrous and insanely gratifying period of my life. It began my senior year at Roberts Wesleyan College.  The cast of characters in my life remained essentially the same except for the appearance of her.

I was determined to play out my senior year like the grand finale punctuating a fireworks display. Out of the starting gate, I competed on the cross-country team.  We were an unusually close-knit team and often participated in social activities as a group.  Wouldn’t you know it, she happened to be at some of these socials.

I continued to immerse myself in campus life, voted by my peers to escort the homecoming queen and serving as a lead character in the all college play, Cheaper By The Dozen.  My academic pursuits kept me unusually busy,  but somehow I kept running into her.

As the fall semester began winding down, I caught myself taking an interest in her.  She seemed to take her sweet time acknowledging my interest.  Worried that the semester would end before I had my chance to ask her out, I decided to get creative by distinguishing myself.  She committed to going on a date with me if I could run a personal best time in what amounted to our last home cross-country meet. (This meant running a sub 30-minute race over a distance of 5 miles, and faster than any previous attempt).  What had I gotten myself into?

The race itself was a journey to hell and back, as the course punished my body.  The effort helped our team win the meet and secure a winning record for our cross-country team.  The time, 29:46, qualified me for a date with her.

IMG_0409…Maybe it was the anticipation of having to wait a month to go out with her but after that first date magic was in the air. There was no question I was like a deer caught in the headlights, enchanted by the inner and outer beauty of this woman.            

Patty and I corresponded over the weeks separating first and second semester. Our letters deepened our mutual affection, and each of us hinted of a future together. A flame was now lit within my heart and it danced wildly like a flame on the bare wick of a candle fighting to stay ablaze as it burns itself down to the renewing and sustaining body of the candle wax below.

Bill Roushey, from the book Junior’s Hope

I became engaged to Patty in the spring, during my final semester of college life.  Immediately, she was welcomed into my family but I had yet to meet hers. When Patty called home to notify her parents of the news, I can only imagine what thoughts were going through their minds.

“Mom, I’m getting married!”

“To who?” Her mother asked, not expecting any news of this sort.

“Bill Roushey asked me to marry him and I said yes!”

“When are we going to meet this boy?” Her dad inquired, quickly picking up the phone extension.

“We’re coming home on spring break.”

I hadn’t thought about inheriting another set of parents until that moment.  I was in the process of separating myself from my own parents and now I was inheriting another set. Never in my life had I been this nervous about anything, but then again I had never been more in love either.

Sweat pooled under my armpits as I sat in an empty living room waiting for her father to meet me. The sound of  the shower running indicated it wouldn’t be anytime soon. Patty and her mom were off in another room having a mother/daughter reunion.  When her father came out and laid eyes on me for the first time, our conversation went something like this.

“Hello, sir.” I said warmly trying to hide my nervousness.

“You must be Bill,” he responded trying to assess the character of the man about to steal away his daughter.

“I’d like to marry your daughter.”

“Do you have a job? How do you plan on supporting her?”

“Yes. I have one lined up after graduation.”

“We want our daughter to graduate from college. Are you planning to let her continue on with her schooling?”

“Yes sir, that’s important to both of us.”

IMG_0377“Well then, okay,” he said as I felt the tension in the room evaporate.  Then, he added, “… and we’d like to pay for her tuition.”

I realized at that moment what kind and generous parents she had.

Several years later Patty and I had the means to build our own home.  It was during that time we entered into what I call the “Noah’s ark” phase of our lives, acquiring fresh and saltwater aquariums, birds, cats and a dog.

The Lord soon blessed us with two boys, which we taught to fish among other things. They experienced first hand the thrill of having unseen objects tug on their fishing line as they dangled a worm into the watery abyss.  Eyes went wide when they reeled in their prize.

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My freshwater aquarium experience of the previous decade paled in comparison to the unfathomable splendor of gazing into a salt-water aquarium.  The personal cost to acquire and retain such beauty is far greater, the care more delicate and tedious, the hardships more severe, but the final result is breathtaking.  Such is my comparison to my love and my life with her.

My spiritual journey this decade was one of continuance, generation to generation, father to son.IMG_0364  The closer I walk with God the greater my appreciation for His continuance, an eternal God whose love has no limit or end. (Psalm 36:5-7)

For all practical purposes this is a storybook ending, but as it turns out this is not the end.

To be continued…

Your Life, Your Book

book-863418_960_720The life we live is our story, ours alone.  Many, including yours truly,  have chosen to capture part or all of their story in a book.  If you were attempting to put your story on the printed page, how would you characterize it: love story, adventure, drama, comedy, inspirational, or something else?

If you set out to write this book, what words would appear on its pages?  Where would the material or words come from?  What activities, relationships or experiences have you immersed yourself in that have a direct bearing on your story?

As the pages of your book begin to accumulate it becomes evident that the words need to be organized into chapters.  How does one determine when one chapter ends and a new one begins?  In my story, new chapters corresponded with changes of scenery and vocation, or new relationships and responsibilities.  At other times a new chapter began  when my life headed in a new direction.  Directional life changes can be physical, emotional, or spiritual.

The further along I get in my story, the more I find myself putting emphasis on the spiritual chapters of my life.  I worry less and less about searching for some new thing to experience and instead find myself turning to a blank page and engaging the Savior of my life to help me determine my direction.

My you find peace and contentment on the road you travel in life.  May the words of your book be pages of substance and eternal value.  May you find the meaning of life and experience abundant living.

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These are the words of Jesus found in John 10:10, “My purpose is to give them [us] a rich and satisfying life.” NLT

A One-of-a-kind Relationship

 

I have been putting off the completion of a book project for a number of years now. Life’s demands and complications necessitated that I make a few detours.  A project I viewed of paramount importance dropped off my radar. Where did the years go?

Recently, God has reminded me on a number of occasions that I need to finish this project.  The subject matter of the book is near and dear to my heart: Defining a relationship with God.  I hope to illustrate what this relationship could look like using a one-of-a-kind relationship familiar to all of us: one that involves “man’s best friend.”

So, in an effort to raise some interest on upcoming book and hold my own feet to the fire I will attempt to do a weekly post featuring an interesting dog quote.  Here is the first of many.

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