If I am still alive when the bitter cloud passes, may I not I not be found stubbornly clinging to the storm because I’ve adapted myself to misery. Instead, may I celebrate in sunlight as I embrace the sparkling new day the sun reveals. Let me move forward to clean up the damage left by the storm and not be stuck hanging on for survival long after the storm has passed. A powerful storm forever transforms the landscape and the lives of those who survive but help me, Lord to accept and embrace the transformation. May the storm not live on in me in thoughts that exist in loops and refuse to move forward. Make me mindful of the present and keep me from reliving terrifying moments and even repeating them by my actions. I do not want to be a storm bearer, a manufacturer of the misery I survived. Instead, help me share the hope that enabled me to endure. May I be an image bearer of you, Jesus the one who made my survival possible. It is to you that I cling in the midst of every storm. I cling to you now, even though the sun is breaking through the clouds because I need you in good times as well as in bad. I remain tethered to face new storms that soon will appear on the horizon. Even if one of those storms should take my life, I know my soul is secure in you, Jesus. Though I die, I will live. I should never fear the storm but when I do, Jesus, you are always there to comfort and strengthen me. You are there to lead me forward when danger has passed. In you I have hope even, on those dark days when I can feel no hope, joy, or peace. Even when I let go of you, Jesus, I know you are holding on to me. Thank you, Jesus for this gift of faith by which I endure all things to also, overcome. Amen.
I’m sitting on the smoldering edges of a broken promise;
Watching the institutions of a nation begin to crumble.
Loved by some, hated by others,
Relied upon, taken for granted;
Rome is ignited; but it isn’t buildings that burn…
A dense smoke is rising, singed in desperation!
The slow burn of anger held inside…
Like damaged electric wiring in the walls of a building;
Shorting out for months, for years…
Then suddenly, sending a flame shooting along its entire length!
Setting fire to every wall seemingly, at once;
Reducing everything to ash.
Near the end of a harshly-cold, long, black night, when the explosion comes and personal worlds come crashing down. Everything known shattered and scattered lying on hard-packed ground. These moments are Death but the victims are left breathing to suffer the carnage. Wait for the morning light! Every ray that glints from each broken shard enlivens an old memory with the sorrow of loss. Grief’s overbearing moment, a debt payable only in defeated tears. A specified time to cry out to God in anger, then remorse, and finally repentance; cover the mournful head with dust and ashes, then submit, face into the wind and be made clean! Everything passes and none are able to hold onto the good or the bad, all things arrive and fade according to their pre-set season. The obedient bend to endure all seasons, the disobedient are broken; but neither achieves personal glory by their chosen effort. It’s not about us, it’s all about Him and all people before God are equal in value. Our individual days rise to fade as our dreams are formed to vanish in the same mist; as our lives blend to form the greater whole. This that we are a part of and have no hope to escape is beyond individual or collective understanding. To be human is have instinctual, conscious knowledge that is divine but hampered because we are carnal. Truth is something we know but can’t fully apprehend. Born to imitate the Creator, we seek to control, to bend, to build, to master, but night shortens our day; and the eternity we reach for remains beyond our grasp. Death descends and we suffer loss, again, and again, and again; until the final night falls…
There is but one way out of the futility called the Human Condition. Only, one Door by which all may enter to find life, hope, and freedom, along with the strength to rise up on weakened legs from the ashes to life overflowing into the eternal. It is open to all in every walk of life, to people of every gender, and every color who are willing to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Man. To all who on their sad day of dust and ashes understand that He laid down His life to save them as they then, reach up and grasp the Mighty Hand reaching down to receive faith within that strong clasp. In that broken, dire moment when human wisdom is revealed as lacking, as foolish and all useful knowledge boils down to one Name: Jesus! The power to rise, live again, with a new purpose claimed. Though in this world there will still be Death to face every day ( with losses, suffering, and grief to bear) Jesus is the open Door into eternal life, with lasting purpose set beyond Death’s border. Though everything in this material life is broken, in Christ find seven-fold restoration for all kept by faith. Don’t refuse this gracious offer that costs nothing but the release of human pride. If you are mournful, grieving, and sorry, let it go and enter the Door to joy!
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
When tragedy does a home invasion;
When calamity’s thugs beat down your door!
When the threat out there bursts into your safe haven;
When first fear and then anger rise.
There’s no time to think but only react and defend.
This moment is the force which reveals exactly, who you are.
After this trauma event passes and if you survive,
You’ll know with certainty every strength and weakness you possess.
And understand perfectly, what you can and cannot control.
There is no more harshly lit mirror than that of a very strong test.
Not only of your will to survive but of who you are as a person,
And your ability to overcome.
Are you alive for a reason? Or is it only lucky happenstance?
A second half of chaotic calamity…
Only faith can make sense of it and return reason to your life.
Jesus is reason when nothing humanly reasonable makes any sense.
He is validation when you find yourself hated for no reason.
The world hates Him too.
He knows what you suffer, He possesses no cruelty, and He really does care.
He carried you through it and you survived.
He will mend the damage, heal every wound, and replace everything lost.
Jesus is the power by which you survived to overcome.
In this sober moment everything is made crystal clear.
My joy isn’t dead, no matter how I feel. Even though everything on my plate is seasoned with pain, Jesus lives! Though the boot-heal of oppression bears down in an attempt to grind me into dust, my hope is un-crushable. Even when my happiness shatters and all those I love move beyond my embrace, love isn’t carnal or mortal. When my body is broken, then passed around as bread and my blood becomes a drink, a sacrifice consumed but unrecognized, Jesus is my validation. He walked this path before me. He set the standard. True sacrifice isn’t made in hopes of personal reward. Though I fall and the weight of this cross I bear is too much for me to lift again to carry, God’s ultimate plan remains. When my eyes are blind with the tears of sorrow and agony causes me to no longer care, a new blast of His breath enters me and by His strength I rise to move forward. Though the sting of sin poisons everything I see and touch by the fulfillment of His Will, not mine, I will press beyond Death’s boundary and reach the ultimate prize. In Jesus I possess indestructible joy which He bought by His obedience and blazed the Way predestined for me to follow. This narrow path I must walk despising all worldly gain. I am nearer now to the finish than I was yesterday. Though in this world I endure suffering and can’t always feel my joy, when I finish this race, my agony will melt away. When my body dies to become ashes and dust, I know Death has no power over my soul. Though this present night is deepening, soon the Son will rise with healing in His wings! When morning comes, my feet will rest on the eternal shore. I will forget the effects of sin’s painful sting and cry no more. Jesus is my eternal joy.
Job 42:1-6 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen You. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Write the number of my days on fine rice paper.
Tally them, and tear…
Delicate hand molded sheet into bits and caste it in the wind!
I can no longer understand the sum of those days nor transcend,
The heartbreak of futility or tragedy’s rude temper!
This calamity I fear…
Shattered my existence by the hand of happenstance I can’t bend,
Into a shape I can’t cope with, I can’t make my scattered mind comprehend,
How or why God allows evil’s continued mad caper!
In emptiness so clear…
I tremble in askance in the presence of my horror from which I can’t fend!
I’ve lost all surety of knowledge of just who I am in this ominous moment self-end!
Blanketed by sorrows I feel my faith’s diminishing taper.
Father rescue me here!
Without You, I am only tattered delicate rice paper flying in the wind!
Every day new worlds rise! And old worlds fall apart.
I am told this is only, a matter of perception.
What do you do when your world is taken all apart?
Is good attitude, a positive thought of deflection,
Able to override calamity? Or mend a tattered heart?
Is faith only energy? Form of magic imagination?
I believe that true faith hurts and bleeds very red.
Because when Lazarus died, “Jesus wept”.
Then He called him and raised him from the dead!
I know that in Jesus, my sad soul is kept.
Though my old world crashed down upon my head!
Jesus is here with me; my need is met.
Herein lies my joy! Whether I be happy, sad, even mad,
If I be abandoned, crushed, battered, or stoned,
Should persecution come, the enemy steal all I’ve had!
Jesus paid the ultimate for me; my sin is atoned.
Even though in this world I find little to make me glad,
He understands; in my heart never be dethroned!
There He rests, keeps me warm, when all’s gone so bad.
Happiness is found on the road, moving in sync with time; chasing the horizon and then leaving it behind, in pursuit of the next visible goal. It is the purest expression of life, constant motion and never knowing what will happen next. All preparations for the final destination, in road maps, travel times, weather forecasts, the well-thought out plans, are swept away by the uncertainty of the road. When anything can happen, there is no alternative but to move forward by faith; and enjoy the experience of chasing the future while resting in the now. Although this is the factual truth of everyday life, nothing makes life’s reality as tangible as a road-trip.
Marriage is a road-trip. For many, it’s a short, rough journey, with an abrupt end. Others are blessed by companionship that transcends all road conditions and journey together for a lifetime. I have been blessed with such a husband and there is nothing I enjoy more than a long drive together in contemplation of all we’ve survived, accomplished, and overcome, as we continue to move toward the future. We are a miracle and each of knows that if it were not for that Third Cord, which binds us together, we would have unraveled years ago. Our interests are varied and made most evident as we travel; while he listens to Rush Limblah-blah-blah and I think about colors. I lose myself in the landscape, as I compare the natural revelation to the scripture stored in my heart. I wrestle with ideas as he reviews football stats. I think about redecorating (again) and he thinks about paying the bills. He has not a glimmer as to why poetry is important and can’t tell the difference between Picasso and Monet. A mind set on the practical can’t quite comprehend the deep meaning expressed in art and he’s too busy completing tasks to invest the time to learn. I am the thinker who dreams and he is the doer that accomplishes them. Our faith in God and the love we have for each other joins our opposing personalities in a strengthened twine that makes us a successful team.
Though I am amazed that Rush has been blah-blah-blahing for at least, twenty years now, he can only be heard for three hours each day. When the Hillary expose’ is over, I pop in the Who, then switch over to Johnny Cash and throw in the Beach Boys to keep him happy as we sing along about the cars he loves. ( I sing these Beach Boys tunes of my husband’s youth with joy, knowing that I am the New Mexico girl, the desert fox, who made all his dreams of California girls vanish, without a trace.) The road ahead of us is long; still hours and hours to go but we are lost in celebration of our lives and the remembering of everything we’ve built and done together. We talk about the kids; laugh over sweet memories of when they were little and then fawn over the grandchildren, wondering why we didn’t have them first. We shed a few tears over the failures, disappointments, and calamities that left painful scars. I switch from Johnny to Belinda Gail and singing along, we give praise to the One who blesses us and keeps us through the good times and the bad. We rejoice in the Love sent on the wings of a dove. I am so thankful for my husband, one so the opposite of me, who is able to complete my dreams. I’m thankful I am married to the man God chose for me and not to some of the ones I wanted to choose for myself.
The road stretches on before us, with all of its uncertainty. Neither of us knows what lies ahead, or how the road conditions might change but my prayer is that we continue traveling together and ride into eternity, hand-in-hand.
When loss and sorrow knock on the door, there is no denying grief or the process of mourning. However, it is natural to recoil from the pain and very human to attempt to flee. Grief is as hot and dry as June in the desert, during a long drought. The body, heart, and soul shrivel with thirst when it ravages. When the tongue cleaves to the roof of the mouth and lips crack due to thirst, the high country calls through remembrances of alpine relief, at an altitude high above the suffering of the dry valley below. It seems logical then to dissociate from sad reality and avoid mourning by escaping to the high country. How easy it is to lose one’s self in meadows carpeted by colorful flowers, watered by the still-melting snow. In a mountain June when summer is just beginning, it can seem as if such a heavenly paradise could last forever. The land itself provides food and water enough to sustain the fanciful runaway seeking avoidance of a painful reality…at least, for a short season. Such cooling relief is found here, high above the scorching desert, enveloped in peaceful, majestic beauty! High granite cliffs, where the precious Columbine bloom, produce a special sense of insular safety, as large dark caves promise shelter from summer mountain rains. The grim reality and sorrowful drought of the desert grow more distant with each passing day and it’s so easy to imagine forever, remaining aloof in this comforting solitude.
Summers are brief in the mountains. Days soon pass into weeks and months, as the dry heat travels upward from the desert valley, making its way to the high peaks. The flowers fade and the green grasses mature, in browns and purple hued grays. Grief and mourning won’t be denied their due process and the sorrow of loss stalks its victims. None are wily enough to successfully hide from mourning or forever escape. The void of loss must be faced or it grows to become a starving black hole that no method of coping can assuage. Its ravaging is sure to devour everything valuable, leaving only the fantasy that keeps it growing. Only, truthful reckoning can satisfy it. The reality avoided is sure to reappear. Like a sudden reflection in a mountain stream that reveals the true state of self; of someone on the run, hiding in the mountains, with tangled hair, worn out clothes, and new wrinkles around glassy, delusional eyes. Cold nights with chilly winds, late summer hail-storms, and the leaves changing color, make it clear that the dark season is coming down fast and hard. Truth is present. Mourning can’t be avoided and facing it here, on the mountain in winter would likely, prove fatal. Hungry, sleepy bears and mountain lions (the rightful residents) will soon be claiming all caves. The desert run-away could easily, end up as prey. It’s time to head back down the mountain, to the valleys and the rivers where human beings live and face the reality that can’t be denied.
Acceptance is the beginning. Grief is the accounting. Mourning brings the tears that cleans and heal. An awful truth can bring overwhelming sadness but mourning releases joy, imprisoned in sorrow. Joy even grows stronger in those who embrace divine truth and endure. The joy of Jesus is buoyancy, when grief with sorrow floods our lives and threatens with drowning pain. In Christ we can face all things, do all things, and endure all things. Through faith, we’re given courage to stand and have no need for escape to the safety of some imagined mountain top. Faith is not a dissociative state but strength to endure life in the valleys and the power to overcome.
Tired thoughts; scattered dust drifting in the air;
Denied a refuge from life’s ragged edge;
White knuckled in the now; possibilities nowhere!
Time’s pounding beat battering sledge;
Constant pain; relentless torturer doesn’t care!
Relationship split by prideful wedge;
Everyone’s looking for something! Life isn’t fair!
Confusion leaves truth on sanity’s edge;
Stress and exhaustion coupled; an untenable pair;
Life on the horizontal, without any hedge!
No purpose or hope; I want to pull out my hair!
Past isn’t pretty! Bury sins; Don’t dredge!
Ignore deep damage; but baste the outer tear;
Feigning courage as I totter on the ledge!
Don’t look below! Now, come down from there!
Look up! I Am here! Wisdom, Knowledge!
Faith! The vertical perspective! Delivering prayer!
Jesus is my refuge from the ragged edge;
He is my joy; He lovingly mends my every care;
By Grace He removed sin’s dividing wedge,
At the cross, vertical met horizontal; it was there
I found life, love, hope; My Protector’s hedge!
My worried head cradled; He counts my every hair!