Lake Superior

As I stand at the shore of this huge lake, I see no end.  Where is the shore on the other side?  Where is the end?  Or maybe this is the end.  Maybe I am standing at the end and the beginning is somewhere… over there.

The shore is rough and bumpy and hurts my toes.  The waves are choppy and keep me from enjoying what could be a fun day.  And, too, the depth of the lake is unknown.  How deep is it?  And what kind of undercurrents are there?

No.  I am not standing on the shores of Lake Superior.  But I do stand at the shore of Lake Superiority.

The arrogance of man will be brought low and human pride humbled…   Isaiah 2:17

superior 1The other day I had this thought… about someone… that made me instantly feel like a jerk.  And God placed on my heart all these thoughts of the way people sometimes feel superior to others.  So that started me thinking along those lines.

Our thoughts of superiority are like that big, cold lake up north of me.  They ruin how I can relate to someone because I have already decided I’m better in some form or fashion.  They have ruined what could have been a fun relationship, an enjoyable friendship.  superiority 2

The problem with standing on the shores of Lake Superiority is anybody could come along that makes us think some superior thought: family, friends, co-workers, older-than-us people, younger-than-us people, those-who-look-different…  the list is as long and wide as the view from shore.  Then, when anybody comes along, anything can happen:  Some kind of remark; some sort of utterance or look.

And what were my thoughts that caused all this thinking?  They were about someone older than myself.  I can remember back when I was in my 30s thinking thoughts about an older lady… and now that older lady is me: the exact same replica of the one I had felt superior to so many years previous.

And sooner than I like to think, I will be sitting in the shoes of the person I felt a smidge superior to just the other day.

Luke 1:51  New International Version (NIV)

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

The shore has a beginning and an ending.  Right here.  In me.

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Restoration or Resolution (Part 4)

When I asked her, “Is it Nate?” through her sobs she choked out, “No, it’s Joe.”  My sweet, sweet grandfather-in-law who had taken a bad fall down his basement stairs not more than two weeks before I had taken my own fall into a mental and physical breakdown.  We had shared our sorrow over the deaths of his sister, his daughter, and then his grandson.  We had had plans that winter to go through pictures of family, writing on them who everyone was.  We ate meals together.  Together we had buried Kody, the dog he loved and took with him every day.

I was the one who came to his aid first, opening his door with the key he had given me, to find him lying on the cold basement floor, his head covered in blood.  The emergency number was called, the EMTs arrived, and my little grandfather-in-law was packed off to the hospital as I followed.  Memories bombarded me; the “whys” rolled off my tongue.  “Where were you, God, when I was pleading with you?”  It was soon after that that I, too, fell down the steps of despair.

Joe was dead.  I was devastated.  I had to go home.

When I told my sis that I had to come home, she cried even harder and said, “No, his funeral was two weeks ago.”  “WHAT?”  My mind wasn’t able to wrap around the idea that I had missed it.  Even though he was not recovering from the head injury he had received in the fall, his death from that injury came as a great surprise.  I hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye.  Dar could hear the shock in my voice and feel my confusion.  She cried and explained how they had prayed about whether or not to call the Haglins to come tell me, as they anguished over their decision with other believers, other friends who had walked my journey of despair by my side.  She told me of the difficult, heart-wrenching phone call to the Haglins to get their opinion.  And in the end, as they were led by the Spirit to do, the decision was made to let me heal, to spare me another death, another loss, until I was strong enough to embrace it.

The Lord’s presence was with the two of us that day even though we were miles and miles apart.  His presence enfolded me as I grasped the whole picture, for surely He had orchestrated my stay at the Eagle’s Nest before He called Joe home.  His love for me in the midst of my anger toward Him was a balm on my aching heart, a soothing touch.  Something I didn’t deserve after all the things I had yelled and said to the Ruler and Creator of the universe.  My sister was a puddle of tears and pain as I reached out to her over the phone, telling her I understood and it was the right thing to have done, no matter how difficult it had been.  I explained that I was all right, and I was also ready to come home.  It was time.

(continued)

Restoration or Resolution? (Part 2)

After having been gone for such a length of time, I might need to update you, my dear reader, as to what this post is all about because you may be lost if you are just now dropping by.  Just step back a day, and get caught up on my trip to ancient Thessalonica.

For those that follow faithfully:  I so love you!!!!!  Thank you! Thank you!  You give me affirmation and bring my life such joy to know that someone cares enough to hang in there with me.

a wild hair?

a wild hair?

Also, you may never know what wild hair will grab hold of me, and what I will then put on this little blog.

But in the meantime…

Have you been to Thessalonica yet?   Or in other words, did you read the books of Thessalonians?  Does it mean restoration or resolution to you?

“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”  1 Thessalonians 4:13

My hope was and is in Christ Jesus, God the Son.  The fact that I had lost someone I dearly loved in death and, quite literally, lost my children to trauma or illness or addiction, was overwhelming.  I have intimate knowledge of the word despair.  Even though we as Christians always have hope in Christ, our physical and mental well-being does not always recognize that.  The brain is such an awesome organ, and when it gets sick, the devastation is tremendous.  The fact that we are Christians has nothing to do with the physiology of brain chemistry.  And I am appalled at those Christians who seem to think a person has control over that physiology;  then, through their own ignorance, will condemn the actions of the very people who need help the most.  In my embarrassment, however, I have to admit that I have been one of those Christians, making judgments, condemning, seeing the sin or act instead of the person.  Restoration or ResolutionGod and I have had many, many talks about that; He has heard my cries of repentance and sorrow and self-loathing over those things; He has in His graciousness made me whole again.

“So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens.  We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials.  For you know quite well that we are destined for them.”  1 Thessalonians 3:1-3

the pureness of fresh snow

the pureness of fresh snow

So back in 2002, in the dead of winter, in a place called the Eagle’s Nest, on a farm heavily covered in fresh snow, I clung to the hope God promised me: to strengthen and encourage me.  Paul and Gretel Haglin owned that farm; two beautiful people full of mercy and grace and service.  Their ministry with this farm, this place of refuge and renewal, was only one of the many ways they have served God throughout their lives.  They allowed me to stay here, alone with God, occasionally with them in order that they might  strengthen and encourage me, letting me walk the trails they had made and sit at the benches they had placed throughout the 200-acre farm.

“And give relief to you who are troubled.”  1 Thessalonians 5:24

“May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”  2 Thessalonians 2: 16-17

And God my Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, himself, gave me promises and told me how to live and breathe again, how to put one foot in front of the other to continue the life that was still before me.  He  showed me how it was He who first had cried in a loud voice of sorrow “WHY?”  He showed me how the world had changed from the beauty of His making to the ugliness of sin.  He filled me with the knowledge of His great sorrow when the children He loved turned from Him to choose their own way, the opposite of His instruction.  As I sat on the bench crying to God, “Why?” for I had prayed, my friends had prayed, churches had prayed for the healing for my son, a healing that did not come, God opened my eyes to the very beginning of time.

tracks of God's tears

tracks of God’s tears

He let me hear his cry of anguish and pain over the deception of His children, a cry so loud and sorrowful that all earth mourned with Him.   The earth trembled and pushed outward in its effort to bellow; it sagged inward with its great sadness.  God’s tears fell, filling those low spots, rushing across the earth, imparting His sorrow.

Those two whom God loved, the two who walked daily with Him and enjoyed His fellowship, his friendship, had opened Pandora’s Box and let sin in.  And in it came.  Rushing with its white hot wind, scorching the earth, burning the two as well.  I could see the plants turn from their beauty as sin rushed by, now reaching out with thorned fingers to catch hold and entangle the unsuspecting, just as sin had taught it to do. Sin hurried on, creating suspicion in the once docile animals, causing them to turn on the two, putting fear between them and the two they once called friend.   Death began.  The change was too great, the sin ever-present.  Beauty destroyed by decay.

God’s sorrow was more than I could bear for it overshadowed the grief that had overcome me.  No, I was not the first to ask the question Why.  God, Himself, was.

But as is His way, He comforted me, filled me with His presence, His greater-than-sorrow love.  The kind of love that makes the eagle soar, that causes it to rise above the storm.  The kind of love that sustains and carries and says, “You can do this.”

He then sent me back down the hill to make the call I had been dreading to make.

(to be continued)

Restoration or Resolution? (Part 1)

phototake-rm-hives_urticaria_skin_rash

Hives (Urticaria)
© Scott Camazine / Phototake

Many years ago, when my world came crashing down, so did my body.  It very simply gave way to complete and utter exhaustion brought on by the previous trauma and stress and my unsuccessful coping mechanisms.  My whole body broke out in hives from the tip of my head to the bottoms of my feet.  If you have never had hives, I cannot begin to tell you how horrible they are!

The itching was relentless; the wheals raised and nasty; the stress level even higher than it was.  So after a trip to the doctor and a shot, I was hoping for some relief.  None followed since the shot made me so agitated I could do nothing but walk the floors all night long.  A lion caged comes to mind.

The next morning I went back to the doctor, and this time got a shot once again to calm me down.  It did.  Blissfully put me right to sleep.

But I was on the edge of something.  Something that was taking me down fast: grief, heartache, sleep deprivation, working my body to the point of exhaustion in order not to think.  And it was kicking my butt.

That’s when the sister (once again) stepped in and made decisions for me.  She and Terah found the perfect spot for restoration: the Eagle’s Nest.  My favorite scripture is Isaiah 40:31, so when my sister leaned into my face and said, “It’s called the Eagle’s Nest,” I knew I had to go.

On a cold and blustery, snowing day, the two of them took me to this sanctuary and left me.  All alone.  Just me and God.  There were many, many God moments that were supernatural in nature during my stay at the Eagle’s Nest.  After all, God is supernatural.  But one moment in particular that I have pondered on for a decade is the dream in which my future was being discussed.  The general concensus in the dream by whomever was deciding my fate was “Send her to Thessalonica.”

Wikipedia

Wikipedia Panoramic view of Thessalonica with Mount Olympus in the background.

Having been raised in church, I knew that Thessalonica was one of the cities of the New Testament, and I woke up realizing that I should read Thessalonians.  But I was mad at God.  A lot had happened in my life that year and over the previous several years that made me feel as though God had thrown me into the desert alone, to be devoured by elements and circumstances beyond my control.  And apparently His control as well.  There was no way I was going to Thessalonica or anywhere else I felt He was guiding me.

But as is the way with supernatural activity, the God way, I was so drawn to read the books of Thessalonians that there was nothing I could do but sit down and get out my Bible and read.

At that first reading I was overwhelmed with the message that God would restore my family, for my family was in chaos.  And that gave me the hope, I suppose, to continue fighting, continue coming up for air and trying desperately to pull those I loved up with me. But after years filled with disappointments of that restoration, I began to question my interpretation of Thessalonians.

“Had it truly been a message of restoration?”

(to be continued)

Beginning my month of Thanksgiving one day at a time

This week I was an observer of a rather disturbing conversation.  At least I was disturbed.  The group was discussing Halloween and how much fun the children have trick or treating.  Then it went on to Christmas.

Santa with presents

One Mom was saying her child of about eight had said he had been thinking that maybe Santa wasn’t real.  All children come to that conclusion at some point in their little lives.  This particular mom didn’t want him to quit “believing” in Santa because, she said, “If you don’t believe, then what’s left?  Just presents.”

Now, I totally get where she is coming from.  She’s talking about the secular side of Christmas.  The next statement was “Oh, we have traditions we keep.”  Which is the point I got excited as I thought she was about to talk about a Christmas Eve candlelight service or reading the story of the birth of Christ from the Bible or setting out the nativity scene or some other true meaning of Christmas activity.  “We always make a gingerbread house together.”

Nativity

Pffffft.  Deflated.  Where has Christmas gone?  Where is the Christ that belongs in Christmas?  Christmas is Christ, plain and simple.  It always has been even though pagan traditions have crept in over the years.  Click on the highlights for some interesting reading.

It was fun when the children were small to have Santa, for someone to ring bells outside the house and watch the kids rush to the window to look for the sleigh, the excitement of Christmas presents that Santa brought.  But inevitably the time came when each would ask “Is there really a Santa?”  And that was always the appropriate time to explain that there wasn’t; that it was a fun game that everyone played, and now that the child was old enough to be let in on the secret, he/she could help to be Santa as well.

How are children going to learn to give if they are always on the receiving “believing” end?  The whole point of Santa is about giving although it has turned into all about receiving.  Our focus at Christmas should always be the birth of Christ with the fun of Santa topping it off, teaching us to give.  Christmas comes with the greatest gift of giving: Christ giving His life for ours.  Complicated?  No.  Go back and read the post by Faith, Family, and the Farm titled You Love Me Anyway.

thanksgiving

For now, this month, the month of Thanksgiving, I am going to spend time in thankfulness for those gifts I have received.  Each day plan to take a few minutes to be thankful.

Today I am thankful for my job.  It allows me to keep my home and provide food on my table, help my family, give money to church and other good causes, plus have dessert in the form of trips or Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Yogurt.

What’s in your thankfulness gift box?

The Misinformation of Email

An often-sent email goes like this:

“A wonderful poem Audrey Hepburn wrote when asked to share her ‘beauty tips.’

It was read at her funeral years later.


For attractive lips, speak words of kindness.  For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people. For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.  For beautiful hair, let a child run his/her fingers through it once a day. For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone. People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of each of your arms.  As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, and the other for helping others.”

However, that poem was written by humorist Sam Levenson.  It was a poem often quoted by Ms. Hepburn, and she always gave Mr. Levenson the credit for penning it.

After her death, Gregory Peck read “Unending Love” by Rabindranath Tagore.

Rabindranath Tagore

Unending Love

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times...
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, it's age old pain,
It's ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star, piercing the darkness of time.
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers,
Shared in the same shy sweetness of meeting,
the distressful tears of farewell,
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man's days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours -
And the songs of every poet past and forever.

~Rabindranath Tagore

From Selected Poems, Translated by William Radice

(Just a tidbit of information from a reader with a voracious appetite for reading.)   🙂