Friday, February 26, 2016

the last wave...




 "Eternal, Holy God, I come to You burdened with worries, fears, doubts and troubles. Calm and quiet me with peace of mind. Empty me of the anxiety that disturbs me, of the concerns that weary my spirit, and weight heavy on my heart. Loosen my grip on the disappointments and grievances I hold on to so tightly. Release me from the pain of past hurts, of present anger and tension, of future fears. Sometimes it's too much for me Lord, too many demands and problems, too much sadness, suffering, and stress. Renew me spiritually and emotionally. Give me new strength, hope, and confidence. Prepare me to meet the constant struggles of daily life with a deeper faith and trust in You. Let your love set me free, for peace, for joy, for grace, for life, for others, forever. Amen"



I woke up at 3 am today...thinking about my husband, Rob's journey out to California [from our home in Minnesota to bring his parents back from their winter home due to his father's ill health]...which is a journey that ALL of us will have to make at some point in our lives. Either you will BE the parent that an adult child will need to look after...or you ARE the adult child who is the caregiver. Either way, that journey is so symbolic NOW of the journey taken way back when. You know the one I'm talking about--the journey in which a baby is learning to take its first steps. There you are --as either the baby or else the parent coaxing the baby...holding hands....one looking up at a proud parent, the other looking down at a beautiful child. And both feeling that sense of accomplishment at this stage of the trip.

Now we come to the other side of that trip. Once again....we will need to let go. We will wave goodbye....because we know....the one we have been clinging to has got this! they really do! Once again we wave good-bye, just as we did when we went to kindergarten...when we learned to drive solo for the first time...when we got ready for the prom...when we graduated from high school...when we went to college...when we moved out from mom's house...when we walked down the aisle with a new best friend at our side. Life is always about waving good-bye, isn't it? My point is...before that last wave...make sure...make DAMN sure that you have really made as many memories as you can...that you are saying what you feel with all of the love you have within you. Because when we wave good-bye, either because of a life change or just because we needed to go to work...or to the gym..or even for that cup of coffee, that last wave goodbye...may be truly--the last wave.




Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"when you're weary...feeling small..."

 I love the song, "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." It is a song of calling out, of hope, of faith.
This prayer also is a calling out...of being too exhausted to continue, but knowing there is One higher who can guide us. Let us pray it together:

 


 
Our Father:
There are so many who are bone-tired weary that are praying with us. They are weary from lack of physical sleep and weary from the toll of a heavy heart. Many are dealing with battles on every front...family members who are terminally ill... dealing with their own health problems...children who are ill and must be taken care of.... working long hours of overtime.... trying unsuccessfully to find work and wondering how to avoid homelessness and going hungry...dealing with difficult people who drain the life and energy from them...grieving the losses of loved ones...Lord, when we are physically, mentally and emotionally depleted, we wonder how to carry on. We cry out to you and we know you hear our cries. We know you see the pain. We know you have the answers and provision for every need. You tell us to glorify you in all things, but we don't even know how to do that from these places of weariness and fatigue, Lord.

Father in our poverty, may we find contentment, as the apostle Paul learned to be content in all things. May we honor you with our patience in adversity. May we make the most of our waiting time in the dark valleys by redeeming the time and meeting you in prayer and the study of your word. We may not have much to give at times, but like the widow that gave all she had with her 2 mites, you are just looking for people to come to you just as they are, with the little they have, so you can be magnified in their weakness and weariness. You are looking for the weary and downtrodden who persevere and who cling to you with their last breath and their last drops of energy and just like you took a few fish and few loaves of bread...you will take what little we have and turn it into more than enough.

Lord, there is a purpose for all we endure. The enemy has a plan to destroy and to defeat us, but you have a plan to redeem each trial, each heartache, each pain that comes into our life. Lord, we ask for all that are battle weary today...may they find rest in you. May we find that place where we can just drown out the cares of the world and find quiet solitude in your arms our, Abba Father. May we find refreshment for our weariness. May we find physical, emotional and mental replenishment. Whisper in our ears that everything will be okay and reassure us that we are not alone. May we find hope and healing in the name of Jesus. May we feel the Holy Spirit's presence, giving us comfort and may our testimony when we rise from these places of weariness be you truly are enough...You are the one who gives rest to the weary...You are the one who restores our souls and you are the lifter of our heads. Lord, may your grace be sufficient. Blessed be your name Lord. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we pray, Amen.

Hope you all have a relaxing, peaceful weekend!

Monday, February 15, 2016

are you a candle in someone's darkness?


"it is better to light one candle...than to curse the darkness." ~ motto for The Christophers


Does it ever seem as if you are the only one going through life's struggles? You look about you and everyone else is going about their lives. They work, they laugh, they make plans for next week or their next vacation and yet, here you are. Morose. Scared. Afraid to take a step, but take a step you must. You feel mired in cement. "How do they do that?" you ask yourself. "How can they live their life...don't they know how miserable I am? Don't they realize that I am "here"...they need to feel this with me!"

Sound familiar? Just this week, I know of a gal whose beloved father passed away, a nephew who lost his young life after a valiant battle and of a wife of more than forty three years who needs to make some painful decisions for her ailing husband, while her three sons realize that a life they came to depend on may soon be coming to an end. All these cases show that yes, for some, life does indeed keep rolling while for others, that proverbial door is closing on all they held dear. For some, it closes with a bang! and for others, with a silent whimper, but for all of them, the loss is just as palpable.

I can relate. This past week was the 20th anniversary of my younger sister's sudden passing. I remember as if it were yesterday, a day that was cold, but sunny. We had just left a very bitter cold snap behind us, so the 18 degree high felt balmy compared to what had been. I was looking forward to that night when we were to have dinner together as I had cancelled a night earlier in that week, all because of the cold. It was then that I was told of her sudden passing. I remember of how I couldn't breathe. "It couldn't be true," I thought, "it was someone else! After all, we had plans!"

I went through the following days in shock, going through motions of funeral planning, apartment cleaning (hers) and just trying to keep it together in front of my four young children. Then in the days after the funeral, when everyone else seemed to return to their  "normal" routines once more, there I was...still trying to accept what had happened. And yes, I felt the confusion, the feeling of "I am in this all alone and for the long run." It took me three long months to get over the hurt, the anger and bitterness and to deal with the loss and grief.

It is because of that time that I look at others around me in a different way. I know how they feel when they also think they are all alone. I try to say/do/feel for them...but it just doesn't seem enough. And I hear their cries of anguish as well. "Why am I all alone in this while all around me, life goes on?"

 "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1 Peter 5:10

You are not alone. You are never alone. Even when you are going through a dark tunnel, God is there. Hang onto that thought, if nothing else.

And to those who feel helpless to do anything, just be that candle in someone's darkness. A candle loses nothing by being a light for someone, in fact, it gains so much value and worth. When someone you know is all alone, it may just be enough that you sit with them and hold them as they cry. Listen to them while they speak. Comfort them with your presence, which many say is more powerful than words could ever be.

Sometimes, being a hero doesn't involve putting on a cape. You only need to practice compassion.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Saturday, February 13, 2016

who is afraid of the dark?





In my small house, I have tiny night lights in the bathroom as well as the kitchen. In a corner of the living room, the soft glow of the indicator light on my modem gives me just enough light so that I am able to make out certain things, such as one very large couch that I would probably bump into otherwise! Although I live in a small town, there are enough lights here to make it feel inviting, but not so daunting, as when I lived in the city. In fact, I can see so many MORE stars out here than I ever knew was possible when I lived in the cities. Sometimes too much light can be as bad as not enough.

Then there is the Dark. 
Darkness isn't just about electricity. On the Arctic Circle, where darkness is a way of life for almost four months of the year, light is very much appreciated. This is why the ancient Druids, who lived up in the northernmost reaches of the world, had their festivals that celebrated light on the Winter Solstice. They knew that the first day of winter is the shortest day--meaning the least amount of daylight-and that now, the daylight would increase once again. 

Many folks have issues with the amount of--or lack of--daylight in the winter and suffer from SAD....with symptoms of sleepiness, fatigue and general lethargy that resembles some animals when they ready for hibernation. I know from experience that although I don't have this disorder, when those nasty cold fronts come through, all I want to do is stay in my warm jammies all day, read a good book and maybe take in a long nap!

That being said, the darkness that got me started on all of this is an even deeper darkness, what St. Therese referred to as the darkness of the soul; a time when she felt so far away from God, though she loved Him more deeply each day. For her, it was a time of deep sorrow, of fervent prayer, invocation and meditation, yet she couldn't seem to feel the satisfaction that she always did, knowing He was near to her.

You can probably relate to having this at some point in your life also. Those deep valleys that seem to have no end. That dark tunnel in which light cannot penetrate. Episodes in which you feel you will simply go mad for lack of Hope...

When God created the earth and everything in it, He proclaimed on the first day, "Let there be Light!" and it was good. He then separated the light from the darkness. Light was so important, all things cannot survive for very long without light. All living things thrive on it, plants, animals, even you. Remember SAD? How much better we feel when Spring arrives! Look how many flock to places such as Florida and California during the winter to seek more light!

How about you...do you also seek more Light, in this case, God, who is our Light...without Him in our lives, doesn't it always seem dark? Light equals Hope. When we go through those dark tunnels, we seek that light at the end of it. The pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. The sunny day after many rainy ones. I used to drive a semi-truck cross country. Let me tell you, I have seen nothing darker than when I drove through the deserts out West. I could make out nothing, absolutely nothing at night! There were no freeway lights, maybe an occasional vehicle going in the opposite direction was all. No trees or other landmarks...then, off in the distance I would see a dome of soft light that meant a town was coming up. Oh, how eagerly I kept driving! Light! "I'm coming!" I'd tell that light, "almost there!" and then...the town would soon be behind me...and more darkness ahead of me. My shoulders would sag....once more, my truck was swallowed up in the darkness, until maybe fifty miles, maybe 75, I'd see once more that soft glow of a distant town. Once more, I'd feel that hope rise within me....I'd focus on that light, I'd keep my hopes and my eyes on that light, knowing that soon, the dark would be gone, if only for the brief span of the minutes it took for me to drive through yet another small settlement. It didn't matter the population....all I knew...was that in that darkness....I saw a small shred of life.

Did you see the metaphor? God is our Light! We go through darkness A LOT in our lives. Illness, job loss, debt, relocation, sometimes a virtual upheaval of everything we have become familiar with. It becomes dark. We grope about, trying to find our way. "Where is that light?" we grumble. "I can't see...it is so dark here...so cold...so hopeless!" 

Tell yourself..."God is our Hope. God is our Light!" He will always be there to take you by the hand..."yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for Thy Rod and Thy Staff...they comfort me..." Even the psalmist knew this, stranded in those valleys with nothing but sheep and darkness at night for company. He knew that soon, there'd be the  light of a new day, a new mountain, no more shadows. It was only a small amount of time.

The same is true of us...our troubles may seem insurmountable...but it is only a small amount of time in which we will climb up and out of them. Time is always a great healer. Walk in peace with God, the Giver of Light. When you look back on your life and as the poem goes, you see only one set of footprints, it was then that He carried you!
You are never alone.

2 Corinthians 4:6
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God's glory displayed in the face of Christ.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

...and she said "yes!"




I was listening to Handel's Messiah earlier this morning, just me in the early morning darkness with a cup of coffee and my cat nearby. The lifts of the notes stirred my soul and filled me with such peace. As I listened, I thought of how, two thousand years ago, when it was announced that a child was born to us all...the Messiah, the Prince of Peace and of  how the world rejoiced...yet only a mere thirty three years later, He was scorned, scourged and crucified as if He were nothing more than a criminal.

Whatever happened to the joy?

Where was the peace?

As a mother myself, I always go back to the part where Mary was told, "and you shall conceive a Son..." what must have her reaction have been? Although her "soul proclaimed the glory of the Lord..." inside, were her guts squirming in worry, in fear of the unknown? She was young, betrothed to Joseph and now, she was asked to carry a child, "conceived of the Holy Spirit!"

  Mary...a young girl of 13, or 14 or 15was:
-          From an insignificant humble family...
-          betrothed (engaged if you like) to Joseph, but not yet married...
-          who had not been with Joseph in the biblical sense - a virgin...
-          who knew the law stated that she could be stoned to death for having a child out of wedlock...


I am glad that she could not see the future of her decision to agree. Could a mother's heart have withstood the fact that just when she was about to give birth, she needed to travel for the census, then giving birth in a lowly stable? Could her heart have withstood hearing of how Herod wanted her Son killed due to his own insecurity that a King was among their midst? Could her heart have withstood the fact that He had a mission to fulfill, a road to travel and how that road would end?
I know mine couldn't.

How true it is today however, for all of us. When we are given what we feel is the short shrift of life...how do WE react? Is it as Mary did, giving thanks to God...“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.”

Do we feel that the road we must travel, no matter how difficult, is because we have been blessed by God...or do we feel cursed?




Again, looking at how she agreed to the words of the Angel Gabriel, by her commitment and faith, Mary became the Mother of Our Savior! Do you ever think that because you may also be going through a most difficult time in life, that you have been cursed? Your trials, humble though it may seem to you, could be the blessing of a lifetime to someone else. Look at Stephen Hawking, physicist; look at Helen Keller, just to name two...they had their trials...yet if not for those trials, we would not be so inspired today.

Case in point: you are in a hurry, sitting in a traffic jam and just in front of you, a car suddenly breaks down. "Oh, cursed vehicle!" you are thinking, and putting aside your own frustrations, you go to that person. You ask, "how are you today, do you need some help?" and after realizing that in some small way, you are in just the right place at the right time, help is given, traffic begins to move yet again and you do manage to make it to your own destination.What you may have initially seen as an inconvenience was in fact, you just being where you were needed at the time. But say your own frustrations had you thinking, "ha! Help YOU? I am more important, find your own help!" Think of the events and how they would have played out in that instance.

Think...of how instances in our lives would have played out if circumstances had been different...all because of how you agreed or disagreed to handle them.

Is that profound or what?

It just empowers me to want to be able to reach out...to recognize...that I am not the only one on this Earth...that there are others whose needs are also just as important. Mary could have told Gabriel, "well, you see, Angel, is that what you said you were? Well, angel, I am like, planning this really cool wedding and, well, being pregnant just won't fit into my plans! I mean, what would people say...oh! and my dress, just how do you think I'll look in my dress if I am like, so fat with child? and what was that? you say I'll have to live in exile for like, two years in a country I have never been in before-without any support from my family and friends? Ummm...no...sorry and hey, you also mentioned that my child would be crucified in the end all because of people's narrow-minded thinking. What?? Are you kidding me!?? Why do I need to go through all of that? No, sorry, it just isn't happening. Go ask someone else. I'm too busy!"
End of scene.

Admit it though, you also have these same conversations, don't you? When Life has you pushed up against a wall and you see no real solution in sight, you crumble, you cry...you just want the strife to be over and done! But just think about it:

 Mary said "Yes," in fact, Luke records Mary’s response to the vision of the Angel Gabriel as              follows:
        “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”
 And by her commitment and faith, changed the course of history.


Friday, February 5, 2016

...grumble...grumble...grumble...!


  an attitude of gratitude, despite the pain, will bring you miracles you may have only dreamed of!

Oh to get through a day without the grumblers, the complainers who weigh us down with their petty "stuffs!" It seems they can never be happy unless they are miserable and also taking hostages, as it were, of every one else within earshot! We all know them...we see them at work, in the grocery store and maybe (sadly) at home.

Have you ever noticed how your own blood pressure seems to rise....and by the end of the encounter, you too, feel as if you are carrying a burden much larger than it should be?

Life is too short for grumbles! Go back in Bible time...no matter how God intervened for the better, the Israelites grumbled! They had been saved from a forever existence of slavery, yet here they were, in the desert, GRUMBLING! It could have been worse, yet they complained. Nothing could alleviate their thoughts and words of despair. I am thinking that Moses probably wished  the Red Sea had swallowed them up!

Now...look at it from this angle: You go through a struggle. It could be any struggle: illness/divorce/job loss/health complications. God brings you through it, but like childbirth, sometimes it takes longer than others and there IS pain associated with it. Yet all YOU can see is the dark side of it. "It's taking too long, Lord!" you grumble. "Why do I have to go through this all the time, Lord, ALL the time!" you complain. "I don't see ANYONE else here going through what I have to deal with!" you spout off. And on it goes.

What seems to you like mega years, to God...it is the blink of an eye. But I will tell you this, so LISTEN carefully! You GROW in your struggles, but when you complain/grouse/moan and despair, it takes EVEN LONGER to see the fruits of that struggle! Just as with the Israelites who were "condemned" to wander for forty years....when you also "piss and moan" about how God is graciously leading you, do you not think that maybe He is also waylaying you, hoping that, in time, you will see His goodness in the midst of strife? That you will come to APPRECIATE the struggle for what it is? Instead of sitting in a slump, go meet God half way, doing all that YOU can do to make your struggle commendable. I understand that you may be dealing with life happenings that you did not sign up for; maybe someone you married was not that knight in shining armor...he is drinking and it's getting worse day by day. That baby you were in awe over...he has muscular dystrophy and is now in need of a lifetime of care. That job that seemed so awesome is now a drudgery. That house is now a money pit. That friend has just betrayed you. Your own body has turned against you and you are dealing with an illness for the rest of your life. And on it goes.

Do you despair...or do you see the gratitude amongst the pain? "Yes, Lord...I did NOT expect this. I cannot deal with this...not alone, anyway, but with You, I can do this. Maybe not tomorrow, for we don't have tomorrow, but You and I together...today...we've got this!"

Look to other examples of struggles to see what came from them: a caterpillar's struggle from a cocoon to become a butterfly...a chick's struggle from an egg, a lump of coal's burning and pressure to become a diamond!

 So...the more you moan and groan..the longer it may take. To break free a flower's bloom in your haste to see it's beauty instead, causes it to wither and die. To wait for the bloom is to be rewarded with gracious beauty!

In all things...in ALL things, give thanks to God. Give thanks for the struggles...give praise that you have not been forgotten! Yes, though you may be in the valley of the shadow of death...FEAR NO EVIL...I repeat, fear not! for Thy rod and Thy staff will comfort you...but you must find that comfort...rejoice in the fact that you are being comforted! You may not always feel it, you may not always SEE it, not right away, but when the right time appears, you will look back and see how it all came together for your good!