Here I am Lord…Send Me


by
Tina Blackledge
2-28-15

Isaiah 6:8
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.”

Song with Lyrics

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LoMboxzm0U

As I was growing up, this became one of my favorite hymns to sing in church. Experience, understanding, hardship and struggle brought a deeper meaning to the lyrics and emotions attached. Even though I have sung this song many times during worship over the years it still manages to bring a tear to my eye. Of course, as I matured the meaning of the words held increasing gravity. Accepting that the Lord creates each of us with a very specific role in this creation and that he, himself, took the time to “knit me together in my mother’s womb” began a search for that role.
As a child, I could not wait to grow up and become an adult. I hated being a child and I would never go back to those days even if it were possible. Consequently, I was greatly relieved when I finally reached adulthood even though it came with its own challenges it was a different level of hell and I had a marginal say and choice in the path I should take. My faith walk has not always been steadfast and I confess to struggling deeply with my relationship with God throughout my early adulthood. I always believed God was there but there were times I did not feel that he was there for me or that he even cared. There are so many erroneous messages with cultural and societal norms attached to them that faith has become mechanical and regimented. This has been the case since the early church was formed. There have always been those attached to ceremony, routine, and legalistic interpretation of the Scriptures ignoring that a personal relationship with Christ was and is necessary. Each of us must search for our savior and discover what we were put on this Earth to accomplish.
This sounds as if it would be an easy task if we identify our skill set, passion, and talents then the result should be fairly simple, right? Well, it would be nice if it worked that way but once again, human kind, get in the way. Whether it be that the person gets in their own way by making selfishly poor life choices or the society one grows up in refuses to allow that person a level of human respect and equality of opportunity. The social norms and mores of each society are different as is the value system. Of course, each society puts it’s “brand” out there (it’s ideal of how life should be lived) but has institutionalized division within society. Some societies publicly advertise that there exist “natural” and strict divisions within their society enforced by legal/religious codes. In the United States, we did this with most obvious disgrace when we subjugated African-Americans but that is far from the only example. The longest running lie in America is that of the attainability of the “American Dream”. Now there are many faults in this ideology with the most obvious being its materialistic foundation. However, I do not want this post to turn into a political debate because my intent is to discuss something far more important. Something every single human being hungers for throughout their life. Each of us needs to have a purpose. We all need our individual lives to have meaning in some way.
As we grow, mature, learn, and experience life our assessment of success and fulfillment changes over time. If it doesn’t then we surely have missed our purpose because we were far too busy chasing after self-fulfillment, self-pleasure, buying into what the world was screaming and celebrating as success. One thing is certain; if you are pleasing the world then you are doing something wrong. Regardless of whether you “buy into religion” or not, you make choices every day that either help or harm the world or at least your little corner of it. In the U.S. we have a large societal problem, okay many large societal problems, but one that has become cancerous is the belief of entitlement just because one is born. This problem has become wide-spread being fed by massive inequities, corrupt authority figures, and evil growing deep roots within ALL religions.
The hymn, “Here I am Lord, send me” is the forerunner to what we Christians call the ‘Great Commission’ given by Christ himself to go out and share his love with everyone. The song was based from the Book of Isaiah chapter 6 beginning with verse 8. The summation, although I strongly encourage you to investigate it yourself and not take my word for it, reveals a discussion between God and a man named Isaiah. God is asking Isaiah who he should send to teach others about him and his love. Now, understand this is a parent asking his child a question to which he already knows the answer. This is a famous technique used by many parents to try to help their child discern where the truth or value of the truth really lies. God knew that he would send Isaiah and that Isaiah would eagerly accept this task but he still posed it to Isaiah as a question, for Isaiah still had a choice here. This interaction has created a limitation in some people’s minds as to the fulfillment or importance of the task/calling/career/job/vocation for which God has created them. Most folks read this story and believe that serving God or fulfilling your life’s purpose means that a geographic relocation is necessary. Some fail to realize that his or her purpose may have nothing to do with ‘going out into the world’; instead, it may mean that God will ask you to take a detour on your own life path and it may be a one that is not very desirable. It may be downright terrifying. In fact, most of the time it is interpreted as a punishment from God or a direct result of a specific sin committed. We do not see it as calling. We do not interpret it as a request from God to our hearts to travel a path that is filled with danger, pain, and/or suffering. The situation is exacerbated by those around us who reinforce those negative interpretations. Now, understand, I am not saying that humans do not create their own problems at times and then suffer the consequences because that would be ludicrous. Anytime we make a decision based solely on selfish indulgence then there will consequences for which we and maybe others must pay. There is a natural system of consequences to our decisions whether they are good or bad. Every single choice you make has a fallout to it and again it could be positive or negative. It will have a ripple effect throughout humanity and all of creation. This idea is represented in all cultures in one form or another. In China, Confucius presented this concept as ‘Chain reasoning’ and it is just as applicable today as it was so long ago.
When you, as a Christian, ask the Lord to show you what he needs you to do, what purpose your life is to fulfill because you are eager to get started and make a difference then you must open your heart to any and all possibilities. God may ask us to step off the path we thought we were supposed to take, and in fact, that may have been our primary path but now he is asking us to take a bit of detour that may change our direction while maintaining the destination.
Consider for a moment the possibility that the things we consider to be bad/terrible/life altering events in our lives may indeed lead us to a road that we do not want to traverse. A few examples to consider, a period of financial ruin, serious illness, homelessness, hunger, persecution, a career bombing out, entering a drug/alcohol rehab program clearly illustrate there are paths where we, ourselves, began the journey through our own selfish desires. Other examples may be the direct or indirect result of a selfish decisions made by another that has had a trickle down effect causing you suffering. It is not that God has caused this suffering but he will use what mankind meant to hurt you to bring you where he needs you to be. There may be someone else along that path that may not make it if you do not travel down that path because you might be the only person to offer him/her a glimpse of the hope and love God has to offer them.
You may not have a choice to suffer or not but there are thousands of choices you make along that journey that will define it. Truthfully, it may be the last leg of your journey before you are called home but that fact does not absolve you from your duty. Understand, I am not saying that you have to have a stupid, silly smile on your face as if you have just suddenly lost your wits while enduring hellish suffering or torment but the manner in which you travel the path, the way you communicate your faith, the attitude you present throughout the hardship and suffering are all examples of how you live your faith or fail to live your faith. All of us were created for a purpose and the path we are asked to traverse is not a single road that leads from point A to point B; instead, it is a path filled with detours, off ramps, and on ramps, massive periods of construction and points of massive disaster. If it were to be drawn out it would look like a multilevel super highway structure with thousands of possible entry and exit points but all roads would lead to the same destination. The choices we make along the way will define the journey. Our actions and inactions will have consequences. Our words will either draw people toward the love of Christ or they will push them away. So when you are looking for purpose and meaning to your life, when you ask God to “send you” understand the fact that it may not mean packing a bag and jumping on an airplane. Sometimes it is jumping on a hospital bed to shine for a person who is lost in the dark. To help a person hold on when the last thread to which they are clinging is fraying. Sometimes struggles, hardships, or suffering has nothing to do with you directly (only that it is your body, mind, soul, or heart doing the suffering) only that you had to traverse this path in order to be there for someone who is lost. You will be truly amazed what God can do through us when we get out of his way and accept the journey one step at a time. An added bonus that is a direct result of hardships, suffering, struggles and pain is the massive opportunity to gain a wealth of wisdom, compassion, love, faith and understanding.

“Whom shall I send?” asks the Lord. “Send me Lord.” I answer

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Living like Jonah


by

Tina Blackledge
2-25-15

If you are a Christian then you know well the story of Jonah but I will sum it up here for those who may not. He was a godly man who worshiped the Lord our God. The Lord came to Jonah and told him to go to Nineveh (a great city of 120,000 people plus livestock) and tell them that they would be destroyed in 40 days because they had become wicked and turned away from God. Well, Jonah didn’t want to do this because he knew the Lord would forgive Nineveh if they repented and he thought Nineveh deserved to be punished, and they did deserve it for their wickedness was evil. So Jonah hopped on a boat and went in the opposite direction as if he could escape the Lord. God put a stop to that nonsense by bringing a raging storm upon the vessel which Jonah bought passage. The other sailors were not believers in God but prayed to their multiple gods to save them. Yet, when their prayers went unanswered they went to Jonah and figured out he was at fault for their current circumstance.

The sailors asked Jonah what they should do with him so that his God would spare the rest of them. Jonah told them to throw him overboard and the sea would calm but they did not want to do such a thing so they rowed their hearts out until they had no choice but to submit to the Lord. They threw Jonah into the sea and it calmed at once, they repented and served the Lord for the rest of their days. Jonah’s story was not yet over. The Lord sent a great fish to swallow him up for three days until Jonah repented then the fish spat him out upon the shore. Jonah reluctantly but obediently went to Nineveh and delivered the message. Immediately, everyone repented including the king who commanded all in the city to fast and be in mourning. He commanded that all must stop their evils ways so that they may yet convince the Lord that they were sincere in their repentance. Jonah left the city in anger charging the Lord with being loving, compassionate and full of mercy. Jonah wanted the wicked Nineveh to be punished but the Lord forgave them and did not destroy the city. Jonah sat outside the city and pouted like a ill tempered child but Lord loved him so he gave him an object lesson using a plant, a worm, and searing breeze to teach him that his anger was unjustified. You can read the story in its entirety in the Bible in the book of Jonah chapters 1-4. It is a short little book but it is overflowing with many lessons.

So how am I living like Jonah as the title alludes too? Well, first I think we all must be honest with ourselves and recognize places in our life where we have followed our own wants/desires instead of what the Lord wants of us. You may protest by saying that it is hard to know what the Lord’s will for your life is but that is just a lie we tell ourselves when we want to do what we want to do. The Holy Spirit speaks softly so you need to be listening if you want to hear it and that nagging feeling that you should be going in a different direction is deliberate.

Throughout my life, I have lived as Jonah trying to avoid what the Lord wanted me to do. I knew what I wanted and I worked very, very hard to attain it. I wanted financial stability, a specific career, and power over my future. I had followed all of society’s steps to succeed. I ignored those who said I couldn’t achieve such lofty goals. I ignored the pain of my childhood maladies. I ignored the heartache of familial betrayal and abuse. I used my anger at the world to fuel me and give me that extra push when I wanted to give up. I was running away from the path the Lord wanted me on, the path where I could do the most good in this broken world. Yet, the Lord uses all of our choices for our eventual good even if there is great pain in the interim. If we truly want to follow him then he will bring us back to where we should have started.

If you have read my beginning posts on this blog then you are aware of the challenges that filled my past, arrested my present, and are in the process of shortening my future. There is no need to rehash that information in this post.

I thought I had learned the lessons within Jonah and could avoid making the same mistakes but in a recent letter to my cousin, I realized I was once again running from a path I did not wish to go down. As you know, I am in poor health. My recent doctor’s appointment had me determined to stick to my previous decision concerning my treatment. As you know, the rheumatoid arthritis (RA) that revealed itself when I was five has had 41 years work on destroying my body. I have developed subsequent ailments due to the longevity of the RA and the toxic medications used for its treatment. Hence, my last several doctor’s appointments put the doctor and I between the proverbial rock and hard place. A secondary ailment, termed vasculitis, has not responded to treatment and has brought my body to a crisis point where the repeated inflammation of my vasculatory system could cause organ failure, internal hemorrhage, stroke, heart attack, or embolism. My doctor suggested I try adding another toxic drug used in organ recipient patients to annihilate my immune system, which has been attacking my own body since the RA first reared its despicable head 4 decades ago. Of course, immune suppressant therapy is the norm for any autoimmune disorder when your immune system goes into hyper drive for no reason at all. But the addition of this drug would most certainly cause the development of different cancers and/or fatal infections. The doctor had not mentioned it before because we had been trying to get a more expensive and more effective medication approved by my health insurance to no avail. However, after nearly a year of out of control symptoms my body is in crisis so there is no other option except to allow the diseases to finish me off, which I am not opposed too. When you have suffered day in and day out for forty years, you tend to want to be paroled for good behavior. Yet, this is not the road I was trying to avoid.

No, the road I was actively avoiding appeared when I found a large mass in my abdomen. I did tell my rheumatologist about it and even showed her. She strongly recommended that I see a specialist straight away given that I have been on immune suppressant therapies most of my life but I declined that option as I had zero intention of doing anything about the mass. Although I had resolved to stay around until the Lord chose to take me home instead of forcing his hand by taking my own life, I was not about to do anything stupid like prolong it intentionally. I had discovered the mass several months ago when it was about the size of an orange. Now it is the size of a small cantaloupe but I do not associate any pain or discomfort from it due to all my other health issues making it is easy to ignore. Finding another regular doctor, then being referred to a specialist, then going through all the tests, biopsies, and subsequent surgery and recovery was and IS the path I did/do not want to traverse. This is the path I have been actively avoiding because I did not want to go down another road that led to suffering even if it only promised to increase the suffering by a micron. I did not see this action as running away from the Lord’s will until writing that letter today to my cousin.
Several years ago I prayed that the Lord would reveal to me the purpose to all I had suffered and to all the suffering I was promised in the future. I needed to know or I feared I might not have the strength to endure it. He answered that prayer and I have been greatly blessed to see all the connections where my suffering has led to a path that enabled me to help someone escape the darkness in which they were lost or still struggling to walk through. My experiences have helped many folks along the way that might have given up had I not been able to say that I, too, had gone through that or was going through that specific circumstance. When you look into the eyes and heart of the wounded there is pain, suffering, and so many questions. The only way to help those suffering is to be able to reflect true understanding back toward that person. It is as if they are at the bottom of a very deep and dangerous pit and either losing hope or having lost hope of ever getting out when you become the pin point of light that they can barely see. You are the one throwing down the rope and encouraging them to hold on tight because you are not going to let them go. Of course, you are not the one they are truly looking toward but toward Christ. They need to see the love of the Lord for them through you. Sometimes, you are the only Bible someone will ever read or the only Christ someone will ever be able to see. Each and every one of your actions and words are monumentally important when viewed through this filter.
As I was writing to my cousin explaining my rationalization not to take this path, I realized that I had my marathon sneakers on and I was running like a mad woman from the crazy house (metaphorically speaking). I think I must have run millions of miles away from where the Lord needed me throughout my lifetime. I guess I could spin that fact to say that at least I got some exercise when my body refused to obey me. Sarcasm aside, I realized that I might need to take this path of addressing this large mass in order shine my faith so someone who might be lost can see it. It is a large responsibility and truthfully, I do not want it but I have decided that I am going to stop running and obey the Lord. He is sending me upon this path for a reason and it is about time that I start listening to him instead of doing what I want to do and speed my exit from this life. I want to be in paradise, the Lord needs me here for something. I want to be in paradise, but the Lord is asking me to tread upon this path for someone, I think. If my history is any indication of my future then this is going to be a very difficult path to tread and there will be great suffering involved BUT someone needs me to shine Christ for them. Whether it is a nurse, doctor, patient, janitor or someone else matters not, for if someone is alone and lost in the dark ready to give up all hope then I am willing walk this path to find them. A little extra suffering is but a small price to pay if you can help someone find their way or rekindle their hope. Without direction or hope then we are truly destitute in our souls and in our lives.

So, if you are running away from something perhaps it is time you take a break and evaluate where you have landed upon your journey. I pray many blessings upon you and thank you for reading my mutterings. If you could spare a prayer for strength, I would greatly appreciate it.

Soaring upon Broken Wings; Becoming Whole


A slight tingling began atop her toes traveling through her limbs, sinews, until each cell was humming with life. The faint sound of clear water dancing happily over and under rocks, limbs, and around bends tickled her ears tempting her to open her eyes. Automatically, her body took a long deep breath filling her lungs with a lightly sweet, clear breath embracing her taste buds with a delectable blend of honey and roses. A sigh releases the air she had claimed as her own.

Willing her eyelids to lift seemed to be a herculean effort causing confusion and a host of inner questions. Her first attempt was met with brilliance so overwhelming she closed her eyes tighter than before. She decided to allow her other senses to communicate to her instead. Beneath her she felt a sun-warmed, soft bed of what her nose identified as tender new grass shoots. Outstretching her arms upon the surface, she concluded she must be lying in a field and not just a bed made from fresh grass. As she slowly caressed the immediate landscape she observed the absence of pebbles, roots, insects or other debris that might have marred her rest area.

A warm honeysuckle breeze danced over her frame causing a slight shiver. It was not cold but the wind skipped atop her skin as if it were trying to encourage her to proceed ever further in her exploration. Softly, slowly the sunbeams kissed her skin bringing color to her cheeks. The rapid beat of hummingbird wings combined with song birds, chirping chipmunks, and the splash of jumping fish soothed her ears. She wanted this moment to last forever as she had never felt such sensations in all her lived long life.

Raising her hand to her eyes she made a second attempt to view the world around her. Gradually her vision began to adjust to the brilliance. It was not a moment too soon as her curiosity had worked itself into a frenzy. At first, the light was so bright that she considered for a moment that the space she occupied was devoid of all color and definition. The adjustment was agonizingly slow but shapes and colors eventually began to come into focus. She was indeed in a field of new grass hemmed in by large evergreens creating an alcove of sorts. Flowers, animals, song birds, and large colorful butterflies among other creatures shared the pristine patch of creation with her. They seemed to be absent of all fear of her and of each other.

Although she considered herself well-versed, the awe inspiring beauty in which she found herself defied description. Still in a reclined position, she found herself looking up into the large brown eyes of a new fawn. A broad smile graced her countenance while the joy she felt bubbled out in the form of a giggle. The fawn cocked his head in wonder at the strange creature that had suddenly arrived in this blessed habitat. Long graceful lashes batted toward her as if the small creature were encouraging her to move. She slowly pushed herself up into a sitting position then froze as if struck by lightning. Two bright blue butterflies with yellow spots were performing a clumsy but intricate ballet within her field of vision but her mind was racing with another thought so overwhelming that she was not able to fully appreciate the pair.

What just happened? Her mind demanded. She returned to a laying position and searched the sky for familiar markers but all she could see was light. No sun, no clouds, no horizon only light. Her breathing became rapid now as she repeated the action of sitting up and lying down in quick succession. Each time she accomplished the task her smile became ever broader until she was squealing with delight. With her last sit-up she followed through to a standing position. It happened with such ease that she was certain this all must be a glorious dream and began thanking her Father for this precious gift.

Looking down for the first time, she noticed she was adorned with a light flowing shift made of the softest gossamer that just tickled the top of her feet. When her inspection reached her hands she took a sharp breath. They were not swollen, red, or disfigured. She flexed them with ease and tears began to accumulate as her bodily survey continued. Nothing was swollen, no sores, and her skin was perfect! None of her digits were bent askew making them unusable; no pain raced throughout her body…no pain. Her hands flew to her head where she found a full head of hair flowing down her back. Her hands lingered in her locks as the welled tears flowed freely from their pools. Without hesitation she ran to the creek, knelt down, and peered into the crystal water. Her thick wavy hair tumbled forward framing her face. The reflection revealed a beautiful woman without blemish. So foreign was this reflection that she turned around quickly to see who was standing over her but the space was occupied by family of rabbits happily munching on clover.

Almost afraid to look upon the reflection again for fear it would be different, she hesitated to return her gaze back toward the glassy pool of water. She chided herself for wasting time in this wonderful dream and returned her attention to a reflection she had to admit to be her own. None of the scars the disease had created were there, no, her skin was so smooth and soft that it felt as if it were a newborn’s skin. Her tongue raced back and forth across her teeth making her smile ever greater. They were all there, perfect, white and shining back through her tear glazed eyes. While growing up she only allowed herself to believe that she had three features that she could consider beautiful, her hair, her eyes, and her teeth. When the ailments and medications attacked them, distorted them and caused their eventual loss, she felt truly hideous in the eyes of mankind. Of course, the skin ulcerations completed the package of ‘monster’ in her eyes. Not only did she not think of herself as a real woman any longer but she barely felt human.

But this…this was not possible…this was amazing, for she was beautiful, she was whole, without blemish. Could this be how she would have existed if creation had not been broken by sin? Could this vision before her be who God sees when he looks upon her?

While these realizations filled her with the utmost joy and thanksgiving her second conclusion blew her away.

“There is no pain…, no…pain but how can this be?”

she marveled as she recounted all the movements she had just performed without giving any of them a second thought. She just thought about them and did it without hesitation or a “game plan” to complete them as per her usual routine.

“No pain? No Pain? No Pain! No Pain!” She cried aloud while jumping up and down in sheer and utter delight.

Born with a chronic pain-filled progressive disease, the woman had never known a single moment where pain had not accompanied her upon her journey. Is this really how other people wake up every day? This is amazing, stupendous, miraculous…yes…it …is….miraculous! Yet, it went far beyond the absence of physical pain. Her heart that had been bruised, crushed, destroyed and reconstructed on multiple occasions did not hurt. There was an absence of sadness. In fact, the very concept of pain was beginning to fade from her recollection as her being absorbed the reality of the world around her.

“Please, Lord, let this be more than a dream. I am sorry to be greedy and ask this of you after you have gifted me such a glorious dream but this is too wonderful from which to awake!” She cried in earnest to her Heavenly Father.

The breeze stilled and the creatures silenced their musings as she felt a presence there with her. It was not menacing but it was quite powerful. Trembling a bit, she slowly turned instantly recognizing the lamb standing before her. She fell to her knees and worshiped him and thanking him for this glorious gift. His hand encompassed hers bringing her to a standing position.

“My child, you are home. Your work is complete and now you are finally home. Your body is perfect, without illness, without pain, without a single symptom of a creation broken. This is not a dream child. This, my dear daughter, is eternity and it is with a glad heart that I welcome you to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
_____________________________________________________________________________________

To all my friends and family who are broken in some manner,

Remember, this is not your home. You were put here to do a job and when that job is complete, the Father will bring you home so do not despair in the pain and sorrow of today. Do not overly grieve for loved ones who have gone home, for they have earned their reward and are enjoying eternity. After all, it is not good-bye, not really because we will be reunited. Pain is the weapon of Satan because he knows if he weakens us then buries us with troubles our spirits will weaken and our faith may die. Nothing would please him more.
However, have fair warning, if you choose not to follow God’s plan for your life and never start or complete the job he created you for that will not preclude you from death. It will only mean that you wasted your life delaying the healing of creation, for the Father will create another to do the job you were supposed to do.