Where do I start?

I have been watching the news with increasing concern…

No. Wait, that’s not right, let me try again.

I have been watching the news with increasing alarm over the past few months.

And that’s not right either.

I have been watching the news with increasing certainty that we are truly in the last days.

Maybe it’s because the past 20 years have seen the internet become part and parcel of our lives and the news, wherever it is, or wherever it’s from, or wherever it’s going is instant. No lag time. No news that reads… “three days ago this happened in…” Now it’s instantaneous. We see the news as it’s happening.

All the time.

There are earthquakes, volcanoes erupting, tsunamis, drought, floods, landslides, mudslides, hailstorms with hail the size of grapefruit, tornadoes where we’ve never seen tornadoes, killer diseases whose names we’ve never heard before today and general mayhem in the form of little wars that turn into big wars that seem to be more like bulldozers running flat out over the land, people, creatures, nature without regard for any life at all.

Do these things touch you? They touch me to my core and my heart hurts. I shake my head, look up to the heavens and say “Lord, what do I pray for? It’s all beyond me. There’s so much happening, where do I start?”

And you know what? Those things I mentioned, He knows. He knew about them when the words were written in Scripture long, long ago. Before whole countries were devastated by earthquakes, before volcanoes erupting changed the ecosystem in a flash, before disease and death wiped out major portions of some countries’ populations. Before ISIS began showing just how little they value life in the name of their prophet, before Boko Haran decimated the structure of the land where they live and broke the lives of so many in the name of their god because they could. Before Hitler set his holocaust in motion. Before even the Knights Templar and those who followed them to the Holy Land wreaked havoc in the name of the god they served.

My soul is tired. My body is tired. My heart is weary beyond description.

All these things. So many things.

Lord, Look down upon our poverty.

Lord, reach down and help us in our misery.

We are poor and miserable. We have always been poor and miserable. But there wasn’t always a mirror around to reflect it back to us so instantly. There is now.

There are so many Things happening.

We pray, we send money, clothes, food, water. Some of us even wade into those ravaged areas and do our best to help with the gifts He’s given us to use. But it’s not enough.

It is never enough. It will never be enough.

We are woefully unprepared. Just as we were woefully unprepared for the Holocaust. There were a few, who saw the writing on the wall as it happened.

But not enough.

“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment. Wanting no security, but in faith and obedience, laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of almighty God. Not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This world is broken.

When you hear of war and rumors of ward, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Mark 13:7

Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven. Luke 21:10-11

There is still hope.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we mingle have hope. Romans 15:4

There is still time to tell the world about the Blood of Christ that has provided the way for us to have peace. The end is near, but because these are the early skirmishes in this war against evil there is still time to show them Jesus.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

Five Minute Friday: Exhale

Today’s prompt is: Exhale

Inhale…exhale. Repeat.

From the moment we are born till our last breath we measure life by the number of breaths.

Always, the exhale signals the end of a breath.

We hold our breath in anticipation, in dread, and on exertion.

In labor, we measure the contractions and ride each wave by the way we inhale and exhale until new life enters the world and the process continues…inhale…exhale.

It’s an amazing process, fresh air loaded with oxygen brings life to us and the exhale removes the waste.

A forced exchange.

In goes the good air, out comes the bad. 

The forceful release of our breath can indicate relief, relaxation, concentration, and frustration. 

Imagine that- a normal body function that no one thinks about reveals so much.

It is a barometer of feelings, that exhale.  The telltale of what is going on inside.

That sigh at the end of the exhale reveals the truth of our feelings, belying our words of “I’m fine, really, I’m just fine.” 

We mark time with that release of breath. 

We watch loved ones slowly slip away with those last breaths until the last here on this earth.

But the first exhale gave life from God to Adam.

And the rest…. Is our story.

The measure of our days is really a summation of all the exhales we experience.

It fills books, writes history,tells stories, leaves legacies and blessings and curses; it offers encouragement and signals defeat.

The tale of all that’s occurred from that first gasp to the last.

What does your exhale reveal about you?

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Whatever

 

Ever feel like whatever you do-it’s not right?

Ever feel like whatever you say-it’s not right?

Ever feel like whatever you think-it’s not right?

Every feel like whatever you pray-it’s not right?

Ever feel like …..

Yeah, I know.

Me too.

Stinks.

Whatever you do…

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Colossians 3:23

Whatever you say…

Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.  Mark 13:11

{just insert any situation in the place of ‘arrested and brought to trial’- after all, there are some very intense situations that sometimes can feel like trials}

Whatever you think…

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:8

Whatever you pray…

And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:15

In His Word, there are many other verses that address these and other things in our lives that we just can’t get right on our own.

So if you are going to bed tonight and your brain just can’t get around to whatever is right- stop right there and read what He is telling you.

You really can’t go wrong with following what is right.

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Philippians 1:27a

 

Only Good Memories

Pain, sorrow, grief, sadness to the core; does it affect the things we remember? After my daddy died, my mother began waxing poetic about how she missed him and how good their life together was….nice, but, untrue, really. 

They argued long enough and loudly enough to make a fight between two tomcats look like the social event of the year. For most of my childhood he was a falling down alcoholic, one, who could keep it together for work- most of the time. She, on the other hand, had a tongue that could slice hardened steel like it was warm butter and she would goad him until he couldn’t stand it anymore. Then he would lash back at her-thus starting one more argument that would seem to last forever. She didn’t want the neighbors to “hear” them, so she would make him get in the car and drive so she could yell in the relative isolation of the vehicle. Most of the time I had to endure those trips pretending to be invisible. {and she never understood why my head was always in a book? Well, duh.}

After he died she would just go on and on about him. She loved him. She missed him. She needed him. He was a wonderful man. A wonderful companion. Sometimes I would comment on something that reminded me of one fight or other they had. According to her,  It was an argument, a discussion, a disagreement- never a “fight”. “We never fought.”  

She would vehemently deny the whole point and say it never happened or say that I had it wrong and would then relate the event as she remembered it. I never understood it. I asked her once why she only chose to have good thoughts about him and remember only the good things and she responded that when people die you just remember the good things- the bad part you forget. 

Being a nurse, I remember being in my psych nursing class and learning that the negative events in our lives are those that become the most vivid and enduring memories.  I cannot even attempt to answer my own question as to why she chose her memories. I have no clue. I suppose that was the only way she could cope after a lifetime of conflict.

Sometimes I wish that I could remember the good things about her… but I can’t. It’s the painful memories, the ones where I felt as if I didn’t matter as a child, I was belittled as a teen, and my own parenting was disrupted by her actions. In the end, the memories of the  disintegration into the madness that was our relationship until she died that I remember in living color.

There is a part of me that is so envious of everyone who had a “storybook life” where two parents loved each other well and showed it, where the individual was respected as a child and when a parent is lost, a healthy sorrow ensues. Actually I just wanted a real family, not one where I was an afterthought. 

(point of clarification: my parents were my grandparents who raised me after my biological parents divorced when I was 6 months old. I was dumped on my grandmother- my grandfather was serving in Korea at the time of my birth. They had been married less than a year when he shipped out- he was husband #6 or 7- never knew for sure).

Today she would have been 102 years old were she living; however, she gave up her fight with this world five years ago. I would like to miss her and to miss being with her. But I spent 35 years of my adult life missing a real, loving, trusting relationship with a woman who was irrevocably broken by the choices she made due to her mental illness. I think I grieved enough when she was alive to last the rest of my life.  

Back to the good/bad memories question…living long enough with the negative can extinguish the memory of the good.

 I think that’s one of the reasons Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8- “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

 And this is what I can try to do- fill my heart and mind with the things listed above- truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, goodness, virtue, praise. 

When I am full of these there will be no room for the negative, tainted, ugly, evil, damning thought. I’m not there yet.

Maybe she got that part after all….

Me? I am still waiting for the good memories to surface. 

Maybe they will.

Someday. 

This morning, one of my blogging friends posted this as her status on FB:

“Too often we focus on the negative when there is SO MUCH positive to celebrate! How are you celebrating the positive in your life today? I’d love to hear.”

In light of what I wrote about, Traci, I suppose that I should tell you that the positive I’m focusing on is Life. Birthdays do that for me- We’ve just celebrated the oldest grandchild’s birthday; about to celebrate the next to youngest grandchild’s birthday; and then comes another one’s birthday the first week of September; then we celebrate a new life’s arrival mid-September; and another grandchild’s birthday in October. Whew! So much to celebrate- perhaps those negative memories will fade just a bit.

My Life in a Day

Easter approaches and it comes with the significance of The Substitution made for us and our debt paid for us. 

And today, the words like “we’re all terminal”, “we don’t get what we deserve” and “live each day as if it were your last” float around in my head.

I’ve lived half of my life, two-thirds of my life, three-quarters of my life-most of my life? Only God knows- I trust his timing is perfect.

I found myself thinking of those who’ve left this earth before me. Some much too soon, some lingered long. Some were a joy to be around, some were a joy to be away from. Some I never knew.

Confronting my age makes me more and more aware of the shortness of time we are all given. We are the grass that springs up, lives for a day and then withers back to the dust we came from to fertilize the next generation with what we received during that day. The impact most lives leave to others is fleeting for the most part- our sphere of influence is small and makes the biggest impression on those closest to us.

I feel like my life- the majority of it anyway- has been spent on trying to prove myself worthy, steadfast, faithful, or of some value all the while struggling to understand who on earth I am – on earth.

Out of step, out of place, out of time, uncomfortable in my own skin.

How then do I use this to fertilize and nurture and feed the next generation with what it will need to flourish?

I don’t.

Not with only me in my skin. But when I let the Living God Most High replace me with His Holy Spirit living in me I have all I need to give to the next generation.

And this is what that generation will need to flourish:

Breathe deep the Breath of God. Drink deeply of His Living Water. Bask fully in the Light of His Everlasting Word and sink your roots down into His Will to hold you where He wants you.

Then will my life have meaning for another.

When I show them God- no matter how long or short my day. 

Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants. Deuteronomy 32:2

 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” 1 Peter 1:23-25