This morning I heard two gentlemen on a park bench. It was hard not to hear them. They were conversing with the volume of the newly hard of hearing.
“You know, I have never paid much attention to American politics, but now it’s my whole damn life!” said one.
I’m not one to stick my head in the sand. I watch and listen and keep up with current events outside my own country. I try to treat people with different opinions with honour, even when I am becoming increasingly aware that some people hate me simply for my beliefs.
I do understand the man on the bench though. It reminds me of the old westerns where everyone in the saloon is keenly aware of tension rising at the poker table. Stakes are high and bystanders are quietly checking the exits and looking for cover.
Sometimes it feels overwhelming and sometimes it’s hard not to be dragged into the prevailing atmosphere of fear, anger, confusion, disappointment, and division. Then I remember my focus needs to be on my good, good heavenly Father who knows the whole truth. In him I am secure.
For no matter where I am, even when I’m far from home, I will cry out to you for a father’s help. When I’m feeble and overwhelmed by life, guide me into your glory, where I am safe and sheltered.
Lord, you are a paradise of protection to me. You lift me high above the fray. None of my foes can touch me when I’m held firmly in your wrap-around presence!
Sometimes I hate the nastiness and dismal forebodings on social media and think about leaving. Then, on a day like this, it gives me a beautiful gift. I check the memories feature often. It’s like my own snapshot journal.
When I feel like I haven’t made any progress on this journey, it reminds me that in many ways I have grown. It also reminds me of many things for which I am thankful. When I see photos of my children and grandchildren and read funny things they said, I think about the insight and maturity they have gained. When I see old conversations with friends, I remember how valuable they are to me.
This week I saw reminders of the marvellous goodness of God.
Nine years ago, my husband drove himself to the emergency ward of our local hospital (because he would) and was admitted with a life-threatening illness. Tests revealed a blockage and extremely high pancreatic enzyme levels. That useful, actually essential, organ was sort of digesting itself, painfully.
I was in another city helping my father prepare for a move into a senior’s lodge when all of this happened. Dad never threw anything out and I was hip-high in the sorting process when I received a call that my husband was in a crisis situation. The decision had not yet been made whether to do emergency surgery in the hospital in our town or to fly him to a major hospital in the city where I was helping my father.
After a tense time of waiting for news, I left Dad in the middle of chaos and jumped in the car and drove through the night to my husband’s side. I prayed the whole way, of course. Surgery kept being delayed for one frustrating reason or another, but by the time a spot was available in the O.R., his tests came back showing unexpected improvement. After a few days of observation, they sent him home. He didn’t have surgery. The problem never returned. He’s out jogging as I write this.
Seven years ago, a friend’s husband was in critical condition in the ICU. His body, overwhelmed with infection, became septic. Doctors didn’t expect him to make it through the night and called the family in to say goodbye. Many friends prayed for him. God gave him his miracle. He walked out of the hospital a few days later.
He had more underlying health problems that challenged the family for a time, but he received the gift of a transplant and has his life back. His wife posted a photo of him a few days ago. He was up on scaffolding putting new siding on a house. There is no doubt that although medical care was wonderful, when the professionals could do no more his life was in God’s hands.
Another picture from a year ago showed my friends’ precious little boy in the hospital. He was on life support. His heart stopped during surgery. Surgeons managed to start it again, but his little body was overwhelmed by infection. The doctors could do no more. His broken-hearted parents said goodbye — but God responded with a miracle.
This week, his mom posted a video of him riding his balance bike on a mountain bike trail. He is bright, adventurous, and full of energy.
I never noticed before that these events happened on the same date.
Can I admit how easily I forget, in times when answers don’t come quickly and I’m feeling worn down, how, in the past, God gave us a miracle or strengthened us to do what we didn’t think we could do? How easy it is to look at the waves in the storm and forget how the Lord took us by the hand and lifted us up last time.
The crowd of ex-slaves that Moses was to lead to the promised land had trouble remembering the goodness of God’s dazzling miracles that set them free, but had no trouble stepping back into the attitudes of previous victimhood. Minds remain in slavery much longer than bodies. It seems the way out of the expectation of disappointment requires deliberate focus on God’s goodness to get out of the hole, an expression of gratitude to stay out, and obedient trust to move on.
Thanks for the reminders, Lord. You give us the freedom to choose to remain as victims or to step into freedom. You are truly the God who extends your hand to save and deliver. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
And I said, “This is my fate; the Most High has turned his hand against me.” But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.
O God, your ways are holy. Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations.
“Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deepest darkness, fearwill never conquer me, for you already have!
You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way.
Your authority is my strengthand my peace.
The comfort of your love takes away my fear.”
(Psalm 23:4 The Passion Translation)
One of the greatest pains in life is to be rejected, shunned, ignored — cancelled. The desire to belong can be so great that sometimes people will defy their own conscience to maintain connection.
When my mother decided to follow the path that led to a closer relationship to Christ, the consequences were harsh. Her family accused her of dishonouring them. They treated her as though she were dead. It took tremendous courage to risk offending people she loved, but Jesus was calling her and she chose to listen to his voice. Years later, one at a time, most family members reached out to her again, but at first she walked the deep sorrowful path of rejection choosing to believe God’s promises led to greater hope.
When Mom was old and close to dying, she told me that knowing that Jesus would never leave was the greatest comfort in her life. She had found his promises to be true. His love was accepting and unwavering. While the people she loved most turned their backs, He never did. The comfort of his love took away all fear of walking through dark places. She was not alone.
I lost the tag that told me the name of this little rose bush. It blooms just as happily without it. I’m fascinated by flowers of different colours springing from the same root. It brings me joy.
Unity is not uniformity, but neither is unity a random occurrence, without anything in common. I have known groups formed around the concept of unity that were so accepting of almost any idea they no longer have anything in common. That’s not true unity any more than response to a man-made rule that forces everyone to dress the same and act the same is true unity.
Unity in the spirit is about receiving from and responding to the same source, the way these lovely roses receive nutrients from the same root and yet each bloom expresses itself in a different way.
Unity is more than having faith in whatever. Unity is having faith that is connected to the One who is faithful. True unity is about being and rooted and grounded in the Creator’s love.
“Now may God, the source of great endurance and comfort, grace you with unity among yourselves, which flows from your relationship with Jesus, the Anointed One.Then, with a unanimous rush of passion, you will with one voice glorify God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”