A Mountain, Two Dogs and a Field of Reefer…


 

 

A fork, a crossroads…a choice upon our path is always disconcerting if we are seeking the Lord’s will in earnest. Some folks perceive every choice in their life as monumental and claim an inability to make any decisions as their default setting. This, of course, is a cop-out to avoid the responsibility or consequences of making choices.  They look toward others to make the decision either voluntarily or by default then subsequently have a scapegoat. That person can stroll through life never accepting any responsibility for their choices be they good or bad. Others will deflect self-blame by crying good or bad luck as the culprit for their life path. These are people with lost purposes and will look in any direction to see if another appears to know where they are going. These are people I liken to salmon swimming upstream. Everyone else is moving in that direction, in mass, so they feel as if the group must know where they are going. Hence, they scramble to follow the crowd only to be snatched up by the hungry bears waiting with open jaws to devour them.

Thank you, but no, I will not fling my future toward the dictation of fortune tellers, astrologers or anyone else’s opinion of what choice I should make. The only exception of this is that of the Lord’s will and purpose for my life. Christ’s divine purpose for my life is the only thing that steadies my steps.  Once you discover your purpose then very little that Satan can throw at you will knock you off your path. Sure, it won’t stop him from trying and there are times you will be barely able to crawl upon it but if you understand why you are here then nothing can ever keep you from moving forward. That is not to say that there may not occur long pauses where the pain is just too great to move forward…too intense…too soul wrenching to even breathe but you will eventually move forward IF you choose to take that next step.

I have written on different aspects of this topic before as previous life events unfolded and I was faced yet again with the opportunity to obey or disobey, to move forward or stay stuck, to be courageous or succumb to weakness. There always seems to be a critical choice of obedience occurring within my life pertaining to my health journey. My blog readers are familiar with the ups and downs of my chronic illness journey and this year does not disappoint. As in the past, insurance snafus, medical providers and overall human fallibility has given me opportunity to ponder if it is indeed time to raise that white flag of surrender.

Not speaking about heroes who sacrifice their lives to save another but about the human populace in general, it takes much more courage to live than it does to die. Death, especially if you are a Christian should not scare you in any manner. Your confidence should rest firmly in the Christ given salvation that has opened paradise for you.  All fear should be eradicated from your heart and mind, if you are saved. However, if you are not saved then I recommend you try to live forever. Seriously…don’t die if you are not saved.

Saved or not saved, living takes courage because life is hard and often painful. There is beauty, happiness, joy and some even find their soulmates allowing them to taste the best version of love we humans can experience. If you suffer chronic illness that promises to degrade your body without taking your life immediately then it becomes a battle not to embrace the sweet thought of release that death will bring. Some of you will see this as a suicidal statement because you are ignorant of true suffering or the promise of paradise. Or, you could be ignorant of both. Truthfully, I pray there are many more of you who do not understand what I am speaking of rather than the scales tipped in the opposite direction. There is only one way to truly understand the blissful thought of what I am speaking and that is to suffer…unendingly and in exponentially explosive increments throughout your entire life.

Every time one of these pitfalls appear upon my life path, my humanity clutches to the idea of rejecting all modern medicine and the hoops through which our corrupt medical system requires the ill to navigate.  I have my core peeps who patiently listen and encourage me as I “go off” on another idle threat of retreating to a remote mountain cave with my two dogs, my Lord and a healthy crop of reefer to live the rest of my life out. Now, to be utterly frank, I have never, nor will I ever indulge in drugs so they know when I threaten ‘to chuck it all and live my final days as a hermit’ that I am just letting off steam. Faith is not for wimps, just ask Daniel or his friends. Joseph, Job, Peter, Paul, Mary or Martha would all be good folks to sit down with for a while and complain about how hard it is to live the faith.

Trust and obey. Two tiny words in type but are Everest in meaning and in effort to fulfill. Love the hymn of the same name but until you have attempted to live out these two words through the path of suffering then they remain just words. Have you ever had to fight with every ounce of courage, intelligence, fortitude, attitude and perseverance for something you fervently did not want? The very idea of obtaining that for which you were striving was actually nauseating? It is sort of like needing six root canals performed and you had to fight your insurance to get them accomplished. You fight to get it while dreading the “win” because you know you need it but do not want to take the journey to get there. More accurately, you do not want to do the suffering promised as the prize for your win. Yet, doing nothing or not fighting will cause greater, progressive pain that will ruin your entire mouth full of teeth. This is the closest I can come to in explaining my sentiments about my predicament concerning my intermittent health coverage. I must fight everyone to get adequate palliative care in order to keep the diseases at bay that would quickly ravage my body if the needed medications are absent for any period of time. Well, this was my crossroads this month. Choose to find another doctor in my insurance’s network in time to provide those medications or go find that mountain. Since it is a specialist, it usually takes at least three months to get in to see one. The Lord did it in one; therefore, I will only be without the needed medications for one month instead of three to four. An undeniable blessing to be sure but the struggle to get the proper health care had me throwing up my arms in mock defeat as this is just the latest in a long series of events outlining our shoddy healthcare system. You see, it is not that I fear death in any way but I know death will not come quickly. Instead the diseases will quickly take advantage in this lapse of care and cause suffering. Suffering and I are old friends so I am not even really fearful of that but where my concern bubbles up is whether my actions, words or thoughts will strengthen my testimony or weaken it. Will I be able to walk the talk? Will I use the suffering for God’s glory? Or will I fall into my base humanity and throw in the proverbial white flag opting for my mountain side view of my reefer field?

I know with all my heart and soul this fork in the road is really a straight path, for I know what the Lord expects of me and I will forge ahead trying hard not to complain. I know many opportunities lay before me to share my testimony, experience, and knowledge with others who may just be starting their own journey of suffering with these diseases. God has shown me again and again that every single thing I have ever endured in my lifetime has proven fruitful for another’s walk on this Earth because I allowed him to use it. Brothers and Sisters in the faith…do not waste your suffering, allow your Heavenly Father to use it to bring about good where Satan meant it to be for evil. Your choice.

As has become my default setting, I look toward scripture to find a solution to my dilemmas. Now you may think that there cannot possibly be a story in the scriptures that describes my circumstance and offers any kind of solution other than condemnation for thinking about death in a positive vein. You would be wrong.

“20. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or death. 21. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24. but is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25. Convinced of this, I know I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26. so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”

Philippians 1: 20-25

 

To be quite clear, I am in no way equating myself with Paul, the writer of the above passage. However, his struggle of wanting to glorify God through remaining alive on Earth and his deep longing to be with Christ in heaven mirror mine completely. Another good lesson, if you are struggling with anything in this life then turn toward God’s word to find the answers. Its all right there and his saints have lived and struggled with the same or similar problems in their lifetimes. Scripture is always applicable regardless of the era but you have to read it, study it and write in on your heart so that when trouble comes (and trouble will always come) your soul can quickly point to the solution or toward solace. If you are enduring a rough patch at the moment then try to take comfort in knowing the answer is just sitting there waiting for you to discover. Not a guaranteed solution or a way out of the problem but the manner in which you are called, as a child of God, to deal with it.

 

Be well all,

Your perfectly imperfect friend

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SUFFERING…WHO CARES?


Perceptive Perspective was the title I originally thought of but thought people
would not find it catchy enough to check out. Everyone suffers as part of the human
condition the only real difference is the amount of resources you have access too. To what extent do those resources allow one to lessen or halt the depth, length and/or extent of that suffering legally or otherwise?

Anyone who has served any significant period suffering understands that it is multifaceted, multilevel and multidimensional eradicating all boundaries of time. Physical pain leads to emotional pain leading to spiritual pain in a never-ending cycle of misery. These three components are fully interchangeable and intrinsically intertwined. They have the power to destroy everything or nothing and the person suffering is the one who holds the power of determination.

I had a friend remind me recently of how blinded the general populace is when it comes to suffering and the incredibly narrow margin of perception that exists in the status quo. After a recent accident, my friend hurt himself to the point that his daily routine and pain level increased significantly beyond that which he was generally accustomed. However, it was not the physical pain that bothered him most. It was the apparent lack of concern from his loved ones about his suffering that landed the deepest wound. My friend complained that his loved ones spent the entire 30 minute conversation complaining of their woes without ever inquiring about his injury.

I, myself, spent years being resentful and angry at the world because “no one understood or cared” what I was enduring. Everyone went on about their happy, cookie cutter lives without a thought to their fellow human but I have learned a deeper understanding after four decades of suffering. It is difficult for others, who are not in the same pain as you, to truly understand or empathize. Most often, people cannot see beyond their own misery. If you think your fellow human to be hard-hearted then pause a moment to ask yourself when was the last time you felt the pain of burying a child. Have you had a limb blown from your body? Perhaps you are confined to a wheelchair or suffer from a mental or physical malady? Do you care for a loved one who you are losing a piece at a time to Alzheimer’s? Have you lost a business lately or caught your spouse cheating on you? Maybe you have been the object of bullying your entire life? If you have ever criticized someone who is suffering in any way, shape or form then you can count yourself among the cold-hearted populace that you only notice when you become the one who is doing the suffering.

It can be hurtful and feel as if they don’t care but the truth really is they care as much as humanly possible. Humans naturally recoil from painful situations with the exceptions of those who thrive on causing such pain or those who have strong desire to help salve that pain in some manner. The only way for a person to care more is for them to feel what you are feeling. If it is the general populace or those who have been ignorant enough to make stupid comments then we may cheer such a prospect on wholeheartedly. However, if it is a loved one then we should shudder at the slightest possibility that they will ever understand on that level because the only way for them to do that is to suffer on that same level. I don’t want anyone, whom I love, to really understand my suffering…ever. So, I accept what caring others are capable of then I try to do the rest of the understanding for them. It’s not their fault. Admittedly, there are callous jerks in existence that will not get it until they are visited by the cruel hand of suffering themselves but they should be pitied more than anything.

Of course, this cannot be done without Christ. He is the only one who can provide you with the peace, understanding and wisdom only  borne through years/decades of suffering. Without Him you get bitterness, anger, spitefulness and so much resentment that you become useless to yourself and to all around you. Without His purpose and will then your suffering is wasted. Some only think about God when suffering visits their door and then it is usually to curse Him or ask Why. Whether you believe in Christ or not, my question is, “Why not you?” “Why not Me?” Why should any of us be immune to the curse upon creation? Have any one of us lived such a good and godly life that we should somehow be shielded from the curse of original sin that broke ALL of creation? If you have lived such a pure and perfect life then by all means take your case to God and prove it. We tend to scream and cry at the injustice of our sufferings pulling random scriptural promises from the text without the slightest idea of what the rest of the Bible of which we are condemning instructs us believers or even non-believers. You who reject Christ may think you are immune to the Biblical teachings but it does not depend upon your belief to be true or false. Without you…it remains.

It can be terribly lonely when gripped in the midst of suffering but that is lie told by Satan to make you fall into his pit of depression. “Laugh and the world laughs with you, Cry and you cry alone…” It sure seems like this adage is true when you are the one suffering but it is only the case if you choose to push people away and block your heart from the love so as not to feel the pain too. It is a lie.
Some hold unto suffering like an old familiar friend because it is the “devil they know” and are afraid of what might be beyond. That is not how it works in chronic suffering that has gone on for decades and promises to follow you to the grave. Nope, after four decades you either achieve wisdom, faith, understanding and boundless compassion or you have allowed yourself to be eaten up from the inside out. You become a shell of a human being that loves misery so much that moments of happiness actually bring agony. There are only two outcomes for the chronic sufferer and it all hinges on a choice. One, surrender to Christ and allow him to use your suffering to do good. Or, allow Satan to take over and use your suffering to destroy you, destroy all you love and to spread his vile poison further into God’s children and creation. There is no middle ground. There is no other choice so if you are suffering today, regardless of how long that suffering has been going on then you need to make a choice.

If you are not suffering then Praise God and thank him for his mercy upon you but do not remain ignorant, for your teacher will be experience. If you are not saved then your Earthly suffering doesn’t matter at all as your life is only a pawn in Satan’s grand scheme. Whoever you are, make a choice and stop walking the fence because you are enjoying an illusion of security that quickly fades as you expel your last breath.

You can reject these words or take heed. I made my choice and I have been richly blessed with peace, joy, compassion, understanding, wisdom and a deepening faith. I am grateful and I have need for nothing but God’s continued grace and love.

Crushing a Songbird but expecting a Melody


by
Tina Blackledge
3-8-2015

Are you happy?
I wonder.
Does it bring you hope
to make me cry?

Are you happy?
I wonder.
When you cause pain,
confusion and fear?

Are you happy,
you who were
beloved?
You, who were
favored by God?

Can you feel…anything?
Do you feel any sense of hope
when you torture the
children of God?

Are you happy?
I wonder.
You, were bathed in
God’s pure love?
Why wasn’t that enough
for you?

You cannot be God.
You are not God.
So you take, meddle,
confuse and
destroy.

Does it make you happy?
I wonder.
Do you find delight
when you play with people’s
lives?

You use the tears and blood
of millions, who call
God, Father, to keep
yourself alive.

Does it make your existence
any less pathetic
any less loathsome
to taint the existence
of mankind?

Thousands of years
have come and gone.
You have created madness,
atrocities, sicknesses and disasters.
You have sent your demons
to lure God’s children away
with your filthy lies.

You have crushed millions
of lives. Worse, you have
crushed souls
twisting them to your
will.

Thousands of years…
We are still here.
We still have hope.
We still have faith.
You have failed.

You, who’s name meant
beautiful, have failed
again.
You may be relentless
but so are we.

Are you really happy?
Enjoy it.
If it makes you smile
to
hurt me by causing
those I love to betray me,
Smile.

Were you happy
when my innocence
was stolen?
Smile.

If it brings you happiness
to destroy my career,
smile.

If it brings you joy
to
keep me in poverty,
Smile.

If you gain delight
in stealing my mobility,
Smile.

If you feel happy
causing my flesh to
decay turning me into
a monster.
Smile.

If you experience happiness
torturing my body
with chronic pain and exhaustion.
Smile.

If you felt happy as
you broke my heart
taking the only man I
ever loved,
Smile.

If you find joy in
taking my
life,
Smile.

I know your game.
I know your tactics.
I know your name.
I know your end.
You lose.
You LOSE.

All of your efforts are
futile.
We are at war and when
you attack me, it
gives me opportunity
to poison your hope
because I refuse to
let go of mine. I
pray it is a bitter taste
upon your palette.

I am happy knowing
that I irritate you. I know
you hate me and I am grateful.

You have been trying to destroy
my body, mind, heart, and faith
since I was a very small child.

I must scare you, my God given
purpose must scare you, because you
have been trying so hard to destroy me.

You are desperate and for you
to pick on a human child of God shows
the depth of that desperation. I may not
always be strong. I may not always
feel hopeful, joyful, or even thankful
to my Father but I will never
give up the fight against you.

I have survived hardship, heartbreak,
suffering, persecution, and I
know the future holds much more
but you are denied victory.

When you finally cause this body
to fail, I will go where you are not
allowed to tread. I will enter the gates of
heaven and you will be one
step closer to your
permanent demise.

I know, according to
society’s measurement, I am nothing.
Yet, I am a child of God, under persecution,
and I hold firm to my hope and faith.

That makes me a warrior against you and
that makes me dangerous to your
evil plots. I will reveal your hand.
I will show those struggling that it is
you and not God that is causing them
pain. I will name you and place
the shame upon your shoulders
where it belongs.

I will help the hopeless
find the light. I will fight to reveal your
evil plan in their lives. I will use my last breath
to expose your charade so all can see
and know their pain is due
to a once beloved angel
who is embittered, jealous, and
vengeful.

You pick on the weak
and helpless, creatures you
consider to be useless. You think
we are beneath you and undeserving
of the Father’s love. We are undeserving
but He chose to love us anyway.

Are you happy?
I wonder.
No matter how hard you have
tried throughout the millennia,
you have not managed to destroy
the hope and faith that we continue
to hold in our hearts.
We continue to teach our children
We continue to die in the name of
our Lord. In the name of our Creator, in
our Loving Father.

Why wasn’t His love
enough?
You had everything and threw it
away.

Now you spend your existence
making yourself happy by
hurting God’s children.
Worse, you do this with the full
knowledge that you will
never win, never, ever.

Go ahead, keep trying
You will not win.
You will not win.

I am weary, I am tired
and it is not my destiny to
destroy you. But, I will
thwart your plans in anyway
I can and I will serve the one
who will bring your eternal
doom.

Go ahead, smile.

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

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.

Why Am I?


Opening my eyes
greeted by my pups
yapping good morning.

I have to move,
I must get out of bed
and I think, ‘Why again,
did I want dogs?’ but then
their exuberant kisses,
happy eyes and wagging tails
quickly remind me.

I muster my strength
and pull myself to the edge
of the bed, simultaneously
praying for the ability
and offering praise for
each and every inch.

My pups cheer me on
until I am upright
wobbling my way
to the bathroom.

Putting on my robe
releases another round
of barking, but now in urgency.
I move as quickly as
my body will permit.

By the time I hobble my
way to the living room,
start the routine and
hook them to their
leashes they are
dancing in circles.

I grasp the leashes tightly,
grimace at the pain,
then open the door.
They bound outside
to find their favorite
spots then scout out
the yard for nightly
critter activity.

I descend the five steps
that lead to my home
stiff-legged holding
firmly to the leashes.
Walking to my favorite
spot, a lawn chair
providing a picturesque view
between several large,
beautiful trees. Wispy
white clouds are
streaked across the
blue expanse.

I praise God for this gift
and begin thinking. First,
I think of the tasks
that need accomplished,
the tasks that I would
like to accomplish,
and then the ones that will
actually get accomplished.

I dismiss the aches and pains,
and the spasms in my back,
while inspecting the ulcerations
upon my skin.

Now I have time to ponder,
“Why am I?”

Choosing Death…Mercy or Madness?


          Most of you reading this will automatically assume that I am suicidal and in need of an immediate intervention. Rest assured, that is not the case; instead, I throw a topic out there that is spoken of only in whispers and largely condemned throughout the races, cultures, lands and history. As you know, if you have been following my blog from the start, I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis since the tender age of five. I will not try to recap everything that this disease entails because it would be terribly redundant. It can be summed up with pain, loss of mobility, and many secondary ailments. There is no cure, all treatments are toxic, and the endgame is the same, dying in terrible twisted agony. And… Alone. Friends and loved ones will hang on as long as they can in their support, care, and love of you. But in the end, death will tarry causing enormous suffering on every level imaginable. Yet, this end is much easier to bear than it is to witness. Hence, friends and loved ones cannot bear to look upon your twisted frame or endure your cries. There is no condemnation in this statement, it is only a reality.

           Lifers, people who have had a debilitating disease from birth to death, know well the end they face and spend their lives coping for that eventuality. Yet, those who are “short-termers” (people who develop a debilitating disease at 40 or above) cannot possibly fathom the end facing them. Truth be told, the short-termers are utilizing all their resources just to make it through the day so they are not capable of handling the idea of a horrific end. Likewise, the family and friends of ‘short-termers’ also have extreme difficulty dealing with their loved one’s ailment. Many will scatter and flee from this unknown terror leaving the ‘short-termer’ utterly alone. Chronic illnesses are not immediate death sentences; rather they are decrees of lifetime torture. I write this to honor the struggles of a couple of friends, who have been having a particularly active period with their respective ailments. I understand the pervasive ache in the hearts and minds of these friends for humanity is so limited in its understanding that it is easier to discard or abandon that which frightens us.

             As a lifer, I have learned to live with my ailments and the attitudes of others toward me. At first, you try to hide it, be normal, do not let on that anything is different, for when they know, when then see, they run or worse, stay and persecute you. It has taken me a lifetime of watching my own mother deteriorate, worsen, then die a horrifically painful death as my own ailments progressed to see the utter lunacy of it all. I used to be driven mad by the whys of it all and human wisdom falls so far short that it was more a slap in the face than a comfort. Upon my journey, I clung to the knowledge that Christ loves me and that I was not being punished for some unknown sin. My suffering and the suffering of all has purpose even if we cannot see it in the moment. No one, no, not a single person can understand these words unless you have trudged through the bowels of hell, itself.

            The turmoil within a person who must live with this daily torture can become so severe that he or she will begin entertaining the idea of ending their pain permanently. Pain, as a descriptor is a hopelessly inadequate term for the multilevel, pervasive emotional, mental, physiological, and spiritual pain a person with chronic disease suffers. We spend too much time getting people to just see us, just to validate that we are worthy of drawing breath and that there is just as much purpose, if not more, for our lives as there is for theirs.

            When I express my desire for paradise then I am quickly labeled “suicidal”. Make no mistake; I hunger to be in paradise to feel one moment in my existence in which pain does not occupy. Anyone who is in chronic pain for a lifetime and says they do not look forward to the moment of release is either a masochist or a liar. Nevertheless, that does not make us suicidal, crazy, depressed, or faithless. Do I get depressed? Profoundly depressed on the spiritual level! Do I struggle with my faith, yes, but it is the struggle that brings understanding. I would love for the pain to be gone forever, but I feel extremely blessed because I am not attached to this world. I do not hold value in the things most people do because I know they are meaningless. Possessions mean nothing, fame means nothing, and fortune means the least because none of these things will release you. None of these things will bring happiness or understanding. They can only mask the pain and suffering of any who are in such pursuits. No Earthly thing will ever be able to fill the void left when a person turns from his or her Creator. Make no mistake, whether or not you believe in a divine creator matters little in the end because by that point, you have already wasted your existence by self-serving pursuits. If you have not attempted to decrease the suffering of others by any measure while you drew breath on this planet then your life meant nothing. You took up space and resources that could have been better utilized. Suffering exists only because of a broken creation. If you have done nothing to try to fix your little corner of creation then you are the problem. We all suffer, regardless of status, wealth, or power but the difference between Short-timers, lifers, and everyone else? We see it, we understand it we know the end game because our walk upon this earth is finite, our suffering is limited to no more than 120 years. It is a mere blip on the screen of humanity. We know it can be endured, survived, and even thrive in spite of it.

          It is ‘everyone else’ with their mottos of, “don’t ever give up! Keep fighting the good fight! Or “these disabled people are all a draw on our resources, let them all die and rid ourselves of the burden.” that must be endured. The first motto may not seem so bad unless it is you doing the suffering. Our friends and loved ones don’t want to lose us so they demand we fight but they cannot provide any reason to continue the battle except for telling us that God controls life and death and not we ourselves. This is certainly accurate, but they do not provide any strategies of how to endure the suffering only that it must be endured. These statements are at least borne of love so we may resent hearing them but we can understand why they are uttered. The second set, ‘let them all die’, makes rational sense if you place value on a human being for only what you can get out of them and if you abide by strict parameters of what is of value that can obtained. The point is neither group has any business telling the one doing the suffering how they should or should not live. Humanity cannot fathom the creator’s plan; therefore, how can anyone individual hold the absolute truth? Just because someone prints it and packages it and you buy it doesn’t mean its the best or accurate way to live life. The only purpose for a human being is to make another human being better at being human. If we all did this, blind to all differences, then our creation would heal and suffering would stop. Yet, that seems impossible, and it truly is for mankind, because we cannot agree on anything small let alone the big questions.

             If you are looking for answers, start the search within yourself, for that is where the problem begins. All of us are created for a very specific reason but none of us are forced to fulfill it. We are given the choice and the longer we take the more broken creation becomes, it can only end one way, in great suffering. We lifers already know this, we see it, and we feel it. We know the beauty, awe, and wonder of this glorious creation but we see the scars humanity continues to inflict upon one another, upon the land, upon the air, and even in space.

If you are healthy or if you are suffering, if you were given another day on this planet, then use it for the betterment of all instead of the advancement of yourself, for there is only one end for all in this corporal form. Make the journey worth it, make each of your steps count because even us “lifers” understand that only when our purpose has been fulfilled will God call us home; therefore, that must mean we have a job to do until we are released from these broken bodies. So…let us do it with great vigor towards a different ending, one of healing and not ultimate suffering.

Choosing death, mercy or madness? Of course, it would be merciful but that does not mean it is the way it is meant to be unless your purpose has been fulfilled and who are we to decide when the job is accomplished? There haven’t been many notable cases where God kicked in an ‘early retirement clause’ for humanity. Stay the course, keep fighting not because I cannot bear to lose you but for the sole reason that all of humanity needs you to fulfill your role, whether they ever recognize it or not.

“Everything will be okay…”


“Everything will be okay…”

 

                How many times have you heard this phrase uttered by someone who is trying to offer hope or support? Regardless of whether your pain emanates from a broken heart, mind, spirit, or body makes little difference. We tell others, “It is going to be okay. I know it is hard now but you are going to be okay.”  This may offer solace in the moment but the harm it can do when circumstances never become, “okay”, can be severe. Worse yet is when these misguided comforters bring God in to reinforce their statements. A person enduring severe suffering hasn’t the strength or the ability to see a distant light at the end of a proverbial tunnel; therefore, our words must be chosen with care. At times, silence is better than anything we can offer except a soft and strong shoulder to cry upon.  Words have immense power to create great good or great evil so we must be wise when we use them.

             This seemingly innocuous statement holds hidden harm because many situations in life can never be made, Okay. Things do not turn out alright every time and the good guy doesn’t always win. Sadly, when God is attached to the ‘Okay’ thinking it sends the message that God promises to make everything turn out positively, the way we want them to turn out. This false reality is one in which those who have enough faith are healed, the poor are blessed richly, and disease and pestilence are eradicated. As I have stated in previous posts, the strength of one’s faith does not equate to God giving us whatever we want. He is not a genie in a bottle and our faith should not depend upon whether or not we are happy in life.   Pain, of any kind, is a game changer and is the reason we question our faith.

              Acknowledging that God will heal His creation does not mean that every crisis in our lives will turn out ‘Okay‘. The truth is much more difficult to accept; therefore, believers alter it so that they can cope with pain and crisis compounding their own and other’s suffering. God promises us many things in scripture and some of those things are wonderful and easy to accept while others are not so easy. God tells us that if we follow Him then our lives will be difficult (Luke 21:17; Mt 24:9; Gal 3:4; Rom 8:18, etc.). He is not the cause of our suffering, for His perfect plan for our lives and creation is for our good, to build us up and not to tear us down (Jeremiah 29:11). He wants us to prosper but above all, He wants us to love one another as purely as He loves us.

             Just imagine what the world would be like if we would just try to treat others as if everyone we met mattered…because they do matter… an awful lot. We meet so many people while trying to live our lives and this has never been truer than in modernity. In this age, we have the possibility of interacting or affecting millions of people. Time and distance are no longer the barriers they once were. We have the power, through our choices, to impact the walk of another.

            The people we meet are as varied as the fish in the sea or the flowers in the field.  There are people who know pain and are either surviving it or have survived it. These are the folks who keep getting knocked off the path, by Satan, but choose to claw their way back up time and again. Then there are those who were on the path the Lord wanted them to be on but when they got knocked off they could not find the strength to climb back. Next are those who never got on the path because no one told them it was there and they ignored the evidence of God all around them. Finally, there will be those we meet that actively and viciously fight the truth and cling onto worldly things in order not to be swayed. These people know the path exists but make choices that actively take them further and further away from it. They are concerned about their own pleasure and prosperity.

            Each and every person we come into contact with will impact us and we them. Regardless of the degree of impact, we need to remember that what we do, say, read, write, or create has an outcome, good or bad.  No matter how infinitesimal you believe it to be, your choices have a ripple effect throughout all of creation.  God uses everything that He has created, including you, to bring about the fulfillment of His plans. You needn’t acknowledge Him or cooperate with Him but he will use your choices to bring about the good of all of creation. That does not mean that He approves of the choices that his children make. It only means that He will use anything and everything to bring about his plan to destroy all pain and suffering (2 Thess. 1:5).

            If God is all powerful and all knowing then why is there so much suffering and heartache? Indeed, He has the power to stop your suffering and bring justice to those who caused it whether it is another human or the result of a broken creation. Why then doesn’t he just stop it all right now? Why doesn’t He make things ‘okay’ for His hurting children? Is He deaf to our pain? Of course not, He hears us and feels our struggle as His own, His heart aches for his children, all of his children. None of us were ever meant to suffer. This was never part of His plan but we were given choice and that changed everything. We may not like or accept the answers we seek because they may be difficult for us to hear; however, if you want to get beyond the pre-packaged one-liners then you must investigate and delve deeper. In doing so, you will likely find more questions than answers because our finite minds and limited perspective can only take us so far into understanding.  

            The reason He does not stop the pain and suffering this instant is because He is merciful and patient. You may feel this to be a ludicrous statement but He tells generation after generation who have been persecuted and had injustices thrust upon them that He not only hears our suffering but he mourns for it too.  Yes, He could come back while you sit here reading this post, eradicating all evil and pain from the lives of all his children. He does promise that He will destroy all evil in His creation, He will rescue the children that have chosen Him but it will be in His time.  He will create a new heaven and a new earth and all who have chosen him will live in a world so pure that our minds cannot fathom it. No pain, of any kind ever again! He will reward his faithful children by living among them and eliminating all brokenness. This is not only a promise made to us but it is a warning to all who have rejected Him. There will come a day when His patience and mercy will end and He will judge all. It will be a fierce day of many losses and God’s anger against those who have rejected him and persecuted all of us who have held unto him will be unmatched in all of human history. No one knows when this day will come but it will be a day when God says, enough. The cost to all those who do not know him or actively oppose him will be so great that it will be incomprehensible. If he would act now many of his children would be lost for all eternity. He holds back his hand of judgment in order to allow non-believers, his lost children, every opportunity to come home before they are weeded out (Mt 3:12 NLT).  

            Knowing this, we must be patient as well and I am saying this from a position of chronic pain and disability; therefore, my words are not uttered lightly. We are not the first to suffer greatly throughout our lives, although it may feel like it at times. We are not the first to feel heartache so deep that it threatens to cease our breath altogether.

             When you become a flickering light within the vast empty darkness, Satan will do whatever it takes to snuff you out. This does not mean that he will kill you. Nope, all he has to do is kill your faith. You get to keep suffering and he has stopped you from reaching out to the creator for help. He wins this battle then will move onto the next person.  He actively attempts to destroy God’s followers every moment of every day regardless of how you pray or the strength of your faith. In fact, if you have strong faith then Satan will try that much harder to destroy you because he knows if he is able to make you to give up then he has won a victory over his creator. Imagine the ripple effect it would have upon all humans if a person, who has been a champion for Christ, begins to succumb to Satan’s tricks. Of course, you do not have to use too much of your imagination because one viewing of the nightly news will provide several examples of “godly” people who have committed horrible atrocities and in doing so soiled the name of God.

              As illustration, if your pastor/priest were suddenly accused of adultery, molestation, murder, or some other crime/sin, how would you react? How many would fall with him or her? How many unbelievers would use the failures of these “pillars of the community” as reason to flee Christ or blame God for their troubles? When things do not turn out ‘okay‘ then both the misguided comforter and the person in crisis will have their faith shook to its core. Their pain may turn to poison and serve to kindle anger against God and everyone else. In our limited understanding, we believe what others have told us (instead of investigating it ourselves) and then blame God for our disease, heartache, poverty, persecution, etcetera but all of these things are a direct result of evil’s reign upon the Earth. Collectively, human sins have not only opened the door wide to evil but we have taken the door off its hinges allowing an acrid sea of evil to invade our lives. Nothing has been untouched, nothing.  No, I am not saying that we cause our own suffering, although that is true in specific incidences. No, the problem runs much deeper than the suffering specific to our life at this moment in time.

            Suffering is caused by a shockwave from each sin committed by every human being that has ever breathed life on this planet. This wave of evil permeates every molecule in creation; therefore, all of creation is broken. We are living within the shockwave of sin the generations that came before committed. Plus, the sins we commit ourselves will strengthen that shockwave laying waste to future generations. None of us are sinless; therefore, none of us are blameless. We invite evil into our world and its only purpose is to destroy us and all we love for only through our pain can it thrive. Obviously, you have the choice to dismiss all of this as spiritual mumbo jumbo and that is your God-given right but its truth is not dependent upon your belief.

             Here are some examples that illustrate the ripple effect of sin throughout creation.  If a land developer decides to decimate thousands of acres of untouched land for the purpose of building a shopping mall and in doing so inadvertently destroys an insect or plant that held the cure to cancer? Has not his sin of greed affected us all? If one child takes the life of another because he/she wanted something the other had, are we not all the cause and the victims of this deadly transaction?  “I do not want my kids to grow up the way I did so….I will give him or her everything I never had.”  Advertisers use psychologists to feed the idea that to be a good parent is to give everything to your children. They deliberately try to make us think we need what they are selling! Our entire “free-market” society is based on the premise of greed and over consumption.  Hence, should we not hold ourselves, as part of the human race, culpable?

            A few more examples: You are the best friend of a woman who has just found out that her husband has been sexually abusing her daughter and son who are now 8 and 4 respectively. Her husband purports to be a Christian and has twisted God’s truths to reconcile hurting his children, his wife, his community, his church, and all Christians everywhere. What do you say to your friend, “Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright…”? This is never going to be okay, this has caused a wound in creation that will swallow both the faithful and faithless alike because it is evil. No matter how much time passes, this will never be okay for any of them. Will God make good from the evil that was clearly intended and perpetrated by Satan? Absolutely He will! However, there is a catch of sorts. God gave each of us free will or choice because he loved us. It is the choices made by the abusive father that brought another wound upon God’s creation. It will be the choices of the mother and other relatives that will affect how the children heal. And it is the choices of the children themselves that have the potential to bring about God’s will or to perpetrate further evil. God allows us to choose to follow Him and do good to bring His plan to fruition or to become embittered and then toxic to others. Will God’s plan come to fruition if you choose not to follow Him? Yes, He will work through another, who has chosen to work through the pain that is certain, to bring about healing in His Creation.

             Consider this one; you are sitting with a husband and wife who have just been told by the doctors that their child can look forward to a life filled with unimaginable pain and mobility problems. There is no cure but there are medications that can be taken to manage the disease but they will cause all sorts of nasty secondary health issues the longer the child takes them. What do you say to them? Their hopes and dreams for their child have just shattered into a million pieces. However, God will use this child to fulfill His will for good if the child chooses to follow Him. Regardless of whether you were born with a debilitating disease or have one diagnosed later in life, it will never be okay. Yet, good can come from it.

             The disease itself will bring no good to anyone BUT our reactions to knowing someone who has chronic sickness or our reactions while enduring it ourselves has the greatest potential for good or evil. Does that mean we are supposed to be smiling all the time and be a joyful sufferer?  No. That is not humanly possible and anyone who appears to be “joyful” in their suffering is faking it, which will later lead to resentment and anger toward God and others. However, chronic suffering does not give you license to be angry and bitter toward everyone. You can be joy-filled because joy comes from God but no one can sustain happiness all the time. If you truly want to see someone’s character or whether they live what they believe, watch them during times of suffering because anyone can be a good Christian or just a good person, in general, in times that are happy. Remember, only under great pressure can a lump of coal shine like a diamond; therefore, your thoughts and words will shine brightly when they are born in hardship if tempered with love and faith.

            As you read this post you have probably thought of at least ten sins/crimes committed by those you know or know of  and can see how much damage their sin has done, but have you dared look inward and identify the sins you have perpetrated? Evil is very real and our sin allows it to corrode us from the inside out.  So much harm is caused in our world by those who ardently call and fight for justice but refuse to stop and look at what they, themselves are doing to perpetuate the crime, violence, and brokenness of this world. None of us are innocent. Our ideas and words have power regardless of whether we think anyone is listening. The ideas we purport to the next generation either deepen or help heal the brokenness.           

             The idea that “everything will be okay, if you just hold onto your faith”, is a lie and telling it to someone who is suffering may set them on the road to faithlessness or self-destruction. In the end of time, yes, God promises to eradicate evil but many lifetimes have come and gone in which people wasted their entire lives waiting for God to reward their faith by taking whatever hardship they were enduring and making it, Okay. Some things can NEVER be made okay and instead of accepting that and working hard to make our little corner of creation better; some of us fall into angry, destructive bitterness. If we provide false hope to a suffering person/family it would be as if we added gasoline to a smoldering fire.

            Understand this, Satan’s days are numbered and he knows it! His reign over the earth is coming to an end and he wants to cause as much pain to God as possible in the time he has left.  How then can a parent’s heart be shattered? Yes, by attacking his children (John 10:10).  How does this equate in real life? Pain, lots and lots of pain for all humankind but those who have Christ in their hearts will have hope; whereas, unbelievers face the same evils devoid of all hope. (Luke 21:17; Mt 24:9). God promises to give us strength through His grace to survive these attacks. He will use our weaknesses because in them there is strength (2 cor.12:7-10). It will not be easy but with God all things are possible, if your will and God’s will are aligned (Philippians 4:13). Yet, you must be careful in how you interpret this statement as well. Just because we have this “great idea or notion” does not mean that God promises that it will be fulfilled. It may be a fantastic idea and glorifying to God but you may not be the one he needs to do it or it may not be the right timing. Recall the story of David, Solomon and the building of the Lord’s temple as an Old Testament example. Our thinking is finite, constricted to the problems we see or experience in the now but we need to widen our scope if we hope to understand what God wants of us and how our particular suffering plays into His plan. No, he hasn’t caused our suffering but it is through the most broken that he brings healing to his creation. If we choose to follow him then our suffering will have purpose and positive things can be born of it instead of it leading to destruction.

            I know that I am headed for excruciating levels of pain that no medication will touch along with being bed-ridden some day but knowing the end does not exclude or excuse me from the good I can and will do. There is purpose in my suffering but it will be the choices I make that determine whether that purpose is going to heal creation or tear it further apart. Do I give in to my desire for self-pity and woefulness? Yep, I have been known to throw week-long pity-parties but then I get back up and step back on the path and keep climbing.           

            What should we do to offer help and hope to others? Should we even try to offer hope to someone suffering? Absolutely, just remember that God never created us to suffer. That was not in the original plans; therefore, any suffering we or others undergo is from Satan not God.  We must offer hope but do not make it false hope because that is a faith-killer. In an attempt to soothe the wounds of another, you may drive them away from God all together by misinterpreting scriptures or simply delivering trite statements to those in pain. Scripture must be felt within one’s soul in order to be useful; otherwise, they are only empty words. Scriptures like, “What Satan meant for Evil will be used by God, for Good (2 Thessalonians 1:5),”  “All things are used for the Glory of God so that his will may be served”. These phrases are rarely understood in full by the user but are commonly offered for counsel or support during a crisis.            Understand, both of these statements are true; however, when and how they are used is crucial. The bearer of the pain hears, “God wants me to suffer this horrible _________ to give Himself glory”!? “I have lost my child because it was God’s will?!” or “God gave me this debilitating disease in order to glorify himself? Why does my suffering bring him pleasure?” These thoughts are knee-jerk reactions to the pain and our minds need to hold someone accountable for our suffering. When no human can be blamed or justice is denied then we blame God for the agony that threatens to swallow us. When consumed by the apex of pain, nothing else can be seen or heard. You are raw and every fiber of your being throbs with an inhumane intensity regardless of the type of pain (Physical, psychological, spiritual, emotional, etc.).  It is better to say, “God will provide you the strength to bear this and he weeps with you as you mourn.”, rather than ‘everything will be okay’. This is a true statement that can offer hope after the person/people have come down from the crisis period. Your words must have fertile soil to grow and nothing will get past the intense pain of the apex. 

            We live within the New Testament era where Christ has paid for all of our sins; therefore, the pain we live in now is a direct result of the sins committed before us, the sins committed now, and our own life mistakes. Again, here is another chance to misunderstand what is being stated here. I do not mean that the sins you committed this day have caused your direct suffering; although, that can and does happen frequently. Sometimes A + B = C, meaning if we choose to rob a bank, are caught, tried, convicted, and then we experience abuse in prison making our existence a living hell, who is to blame? Is God to blame for this consequence or are we ourselves responsible for that suffering? If you abuse alcohol and are later diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver who then holds the blame? If you smoke like a chimney and are diagnosed with lung cancer, again, who is to blame? I understand all of these examples have exceptions and there exist many details that make each one unique, which is why I stated that Sometimes A +B=C.

            However, suffering does not only hit those who have made poor life choices. This is where it gets sticky.  If we concentrate on the immediate ramifications then we will miss the big picture. The first sin committed started a ripple effect throughout every molecule of all of creation. In the instant evil entered creation, everything changed. Nothing was untouched, nothing. The brokenness spread like a voracious poison. Pain, shame, anger, envy, jealousy, and bitterness made their entry into creation. God never intended for any of us to suffer. He never wanted us to suffer sickness, bitterness, depression, desperation, hopelessness, or fear but these are natural consequences of human choice. We were given choice and we blew it and we keep blowing it making that ripple effect of pain spread throughout all the future generations.

            I struggled a long time with the scripture stating, ‘children will suffer due to the sins of their fathers’ because I thought it was saying that God would punish and afflict the children of a sinful parent but I have come to understand that this is not the meaning at all. I believe this is what it is really saying; if the father/mother commits sins then the consequences will be felt by the successive generations not as a punishment from God but as a natural consequence of sin. Again, the ripple effect of sin is fearfully awesome in its devastation. Consequently, sin has both immediate and long-term negative ramifications. And lest we become self-righteous and blame those who came before we must stop and think of how many sins we have committed this single day. All sin allows evil into the creation bringing with it pain and suffering; therefore, we must guard against it so that we are not inadvertently hurting our loved ones or those who must bear the weight of our sin in generations to come.  Things may never be okay but you will be given the strength and endurance to create something good from the ashes of suffering, IF you choose that path. 

2 Cor.12:7-10: 7.though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. 8. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. 9. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  10. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NLT)

F.L.A.R.E (Finding Life lessons Amidst Repugnant Experiences)


If you endure or love someone who suffers from one of the chronic and largely invisible diseases which attack the body, then you will be familiar with the concept of a flare. Working on the premise that some may be unaware of this term and the details assigned to it I will attempt to shed some light on the topic. With many chronic destructive diseases there exists a pattern of destruction, which the disease is likely to follow. Many exceptions and variations could apply to the specifics of the disease and to the individual living with the ailment. However, I am offering a general explanation that could be applied across the board noting that there will be exceptions to some of the conclusions offered here.

A chronic disease can be compared to a long expansive road devoid of a recognizable termination point. The person in possession of the disease walks upon this road throughout his life not looking to the right or left but intently concentrating on the vague horizon hoping to define the end point. Each step moves him ever forward upon his journey hoping and praying that his efforts will bring him to the fulfillment of his purpose and a day where pain is not recognized. Each carries with him a pack representing the level of pain, dysfunction, loneliness, happiness, contentment, and joy that he has accepted as his normal level of functioning. When he had first received the news of his disease he had great difficulty finding, adjusting, and then accepting his new norm. Interestingly, those born with a disease develop stronger coping mechanisms because they quickly learn that their norm is in a constant state of flux and that if they want to be functional then they must overcome and adapt to the progression of the disease.  These folks also understand that there is purpose to their suffering and are more likely to find hope and acceptance. He who has been diagnosed later in life struggles mightily against acceptance and adjustment because he has tasted what the world considers a “normal” functioning life. These folks go through an intense mourning period while their lives are systematically dismantled requiring them to initiate reconstruction within the new parameters. This takes enormous effort and fortitude, which cannot be achieved in a brief time frame. Essentially, the “later-in- life” folks are starting their lives over again with much uncertainty and that fills them with great fear.  Those who have never inhaled the air of a normal life adjust and adapt more readily when challenges, such as flares, rear their ugly heads.   Yet, that is not to say that either group suffers more than the other, they just suffer differently.

One of the most disconcerting characteristics of a chronic disease is its persistent progressive element. The very nature of a disease being progressive indicates two sure things, 1. The disease is going to change and, 2. The change will not be for the better. This point of change is usually kicked off by a FLARE, which encompasses an overactive stimulation of the disease. A flare pushes the individual beyond the norm to a point of distress. The elements of the disease are in overdrive and there is little to be done except for the individual to hold on and wait for the frantic ride to end. The type of ailment, the individual, and the trigger of the flare will give designation to its length and destructive force. During this time of flare, the individual is at the mercy of the disease with little or no recourse. A flare pushes the person so far beyond the norm with which they had reconciled themselves to endure that the battle plan holding the disease at bay, fails. All previous treatments, coping mechanisms, and resolve are useless in the face of a flare. A flare can last hours, days, weeks, or even months lacking both rhyme and reason.  Flares put the person in crisis because their entire perspective must be altered in order to survive. When the flare comes to an end, the disease has taken residence upon a higher plateau requiring the individual to accept or reject the new norm of functionality, pain, and overall dysfunction. The road to which they had become familiar and had accepted as the norm no longer exists. The path is now shrouded by a thick fog of uncertainty and includes more inclines, pitfalls, crumbled sections, and toll booths making the journey ever more arduous and seemingly impossible. Additionally, there are several more critics and “well-meaning friends or family” crowding the shoulders of the road eager to offer advice, criticism, or farewells. Yes, because it is difficult to bear witness to the suffering of those we love, some former supporters will choose to walk away reinforcing the solitude and loneliness that accompanies such a journey.

As with all events upon one’s life journey, there exists both positive and negative elements. The negative characteristics and outcomes of a flare are obvious; however, positives do exist and can be identified if the individual is ready to see them. It is these positives that will enable the person to continue their journey. Through a  readjustment of their parameters and assumptions they can form a new norm. Just as some friends and family choose to flee, others will dig in deeper and help you prepare for the coming storms. Some will not only stay by your side but also lend you their strength. In the face crisis, some will leave while others will become your champion. Just knowing they are there offering support and prayers can be the difference between success and ruin. Crisis reveals the very worst and the very best of you and all others who share your journey. It is during these times where wisdom or ignorance can be earned and spread. Of course, during the flare the only thing on your mind is survival but it is in the aftermath where growth can happen, if you are open to it.

Finding Life lessons Amidst Repugnant Experiences becomes critically necessary if you are to move forward. A person with a chronic progressive disease walks a razors edge using their precious energy to cope with the day to day aspects of the disease. The onset, duration, and level of ferocity of the flare have the potential to jettison him or her from their precarious perch of functionality. The available choices are few, yet offer us the foundation of who we really are and the person we want to be. You can give up or become ever more resolved. You can become the embodiment of rage and bitterness or gird yourself in faith and perseverance. You can wallow in self-pity or find the purpose in your pain.  You can listen to the critics or find the truths within yourself.  Or, you can accept the world’s view of you and become disabled. Otherwise, you can work hard to define yourself on your own terms.

After arriving on the other side of a massive flare, you are likely to be floundering for purchase and the best way to gain it is to begin identifying the positives that followed you through the black hole of suffering. There are a multitude of positives but identifying them can prove to be a herculean task. Everything we see, hear, or feel is filtered through the lens of pain and suffering. Additionally, our psyches will be vulnerable to the concept of injustice within our own lives and throughout creation giving opportunity for resentment and discontent to take root. If allowed, these concepts will fester to the point of rot injecting us with acrid bitterness.  If you allow this to occur then your loneliness and self-loathing will become unbearable creating a toxic environment in which happiness and joy cannot exist. This is a very dark environment in which you do not want to dwell lest it consume you. What should you do then? How can this experience be survived with more positive outcomes than negative?

First, identify any new problems resultant from the flare then concentrate on creating a strategy that can be used to combat the new quirks and demands of the disease. Next, formulate a mental tally of everything that you can still do and make any necessary adjustments that will aid you in the pursuit of that which you have set as your life goal. Thank God that the flare was not as bad as it could have been because a flare can ALWAYS be worse. Unfortunately, something is always stolen from you after a flare. The disease can steal a portion of your energy necessitating a recalibration of the things you can accomplish during a given day.    It is also wise to perform a self-inventory of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual changes that possess the potential to complicate or aid your journey. A plausible game plan must be formulated and implemented. A deeper appreciation of the costly expense of time and the limits lying therein must be considered and reconciled. Most importantly, appreciate those in your life who cherish you and let go of the ones who need to leave without allowing resentment or dependence to claim a foothold. These examples of give and take, loss and gain, pain and perseverance barely scratch the surface of the complex amalgamation that is chronic suffering.

In the throes of a full-blown flare there is nothing you can do but hold on with every fiber in your being until it subsides. Yet, it is your choices and actions in the aftermath that will define who you are and who you will become. Anyone can be angry, hateful, and bitter but it takes a hero to choose to become more.

Tina Blackledge, MS

4-30-2013

Family Friends and Dumbasses: Part II


Family Friends and Dumbasses: Part II

Family and friends usually try not to hurt you and there are things that they will do or say now that will cut deeply but did not phase you before your life changed. There is a clear societal expectation that we all will become lesser versions of ourselves as we grow into the twilight years. It is almost expected and accepted; however, when a disease “suddenly” hits you in the prime of your life ( including any age thought to be “too young”) then society looks at the afflicted as if they deliberately changed the rules of play. People are dismayed and shocked showing ample degrees of pity and compassion at first until the realization of what ‘chronic’ really means. Most individuals will hang with you during the short-term but as time and the disease progress their resolve becomes shaky. Finally, you will find yourself with  one, maybe two people who “get” what you are going through and be willing to join you on your arduous journey; however, most will flee. They will flee either physically, emotionally, or spiritually from you as they feel they are being “dragged” down by your ailment.

Now, to be fair, some who develop a chronic aliment become impossible, hateful, and spiteful human beings. They choose to be miserable and make everyone around them miserable. If you know someone like that then I say run…run as fast as you can from them because more than their body is broken and if they are not seeking help to heal then they are condemning themselves and all those who love them to misery and heartache. However, I will discuss the monster disease-ridden personality in a subsequent post, for it is lengthy.

We humans must find an answer, a reason, a solution for the problem we are facing. We have great difficulty accepting that there is nothing we can do or accepting the limitation of what can be done. We want more, we want healing, we want an explanation! The scientific/medical community can give us a plethora of data detailing every facet of the disease that is trying to destroy us. But no one can answer the question that burns deeply within our core, “Why me?”.  If you have a belief in a creator then you begin lamenting toward God, blaming, questioning, accusing, even hating. Your faith will be shaken daily and may break in the wake of a nasty flare or when you are sitting alone trying to figure out how you are going to make it. As if you were not struggling enough with your faith and self-worth, others in your faith community begin to question the cause of your circumstances.

If you are a Christian, as I am, you are familiar with the story of Job. Job was a man afflicted by Satan, robbed of everything God had given him including his health. Job was desperately miserable and struggled greatly with his relationship with God. Three of Job’s “friends” came regularly to see him. First they tried to encourage him but as Job’s problems worsened and continued their own faith became threatened. Because of their own fear, they began to berate Job accusing him of not having enough faith or of possessing some un-repented sin in his life. You see, what was happening to Job made them fear that such turmoil could happen to anyone, unless, Job was to blame for his own misery. In the end, God ended up punishing Job’s “friends” and restoring Job ten times better than was his lot the first time.  The story of Job offers great solace to me because it has helped me to understand why people attack me because my illness or my life, for that matter, fails to get better. FEAR…it is a cruel master and uses it’s minions to spread misery, disdain, and mistrust. This group of people can do more damage to your emotional, psychological, and spiritual health than most others. If you encounter a stranger who is ignorant, it stings, but you move on. However, if someone who calls him or herself a Christian and then allows the fear to make them use scripture to make you feel poorly about yourself or your ailment then the wound left behind remains a gaping hole, raw and seeping. You are struggling already and now others are suppressing your spirit with the error-filled idea that sin or lack of faith is keeping you ill. It is too difficult to comprehend that sometimes the answer to our prayers is , “No”.

My mother was terribly and chronically ill for most of her adult life and I was her caretaker. I, with my ailments, and she with hers made quite a pair. She was a very strong woman of faith but that fact did not deter the  “well-meaning” believers to take it upon themselves to show her the error of her ways so that she may be healed. I prayed diligently for healing for both my mother and myself for over 35 years until I woke up one morning realizing that I had succumbed to the majority mentality. If God had wanted to heal my mother or myself then he would have done so; instead, the diseases progressed. I finally understood that I should have been praying for strength, endurance, and wisdom through the pain and disability because my suffering had/has a purpose. Would I get off this fast moving train if given the option? Hell yeah! However, I have learned that after a lifetime of struggling with my faith and relationships, some will never be able to “get it”, others will rationalize it away, some will blame me for my ailments and poverty, and still others will be vicious and openly cruel. The motivator to each reaction: Fear. After all, if something like this can happen to me or you for no apparent reason, then it could happen to anyone. Faith is not a guarantee of safety; instead, it is a call to arms. God will call upon you to play your part. Disabled people of faith know or learn this fact far sooner than the average Joe. We know we are not ill due to a lack of faith. We are called to challenge the ignorance of  humanity because we know that God did not afflict us but he will utilize our affliction for greater good IF we allow it. I say none of this lightly as it took me a very long time to come to these conclusions and the journey nearly claimed me time and again. There are so many hurdles within our own beings with which to contend but we must also navigate the negativity of family, friends, and dumbasses.

Regardless of whether you use your ailment to help others or wallow in self-pity it  will not change the fact that there will ALWAYS be someone, somewhere wanting to tear you down. You will be able to handle more pain and misery in one day than some do in a lifetime, you will be the unsung hero because you will conquer the effects of your ailment and the impact they have upon your life, your mission, your purpose. You will not win every battle, and many will stand against you.  There will be casualties along the way but you are not alone on your journey. There are many of us standing against the darkness and moving forward…together. The war has already been won, we only need catch up to  the victory party.

So, do not let people tear you down. Do not heed their criticisms. Do not take their hatred and ignorance into yourself. It is theirs, let them keep it because it will do you no good. If friends or family give up, then it is on them. You cannot accept their defeat as your own. You cannot accept their lack of faith and decision to be ruled by fear as your own. You know better…your life, your suffering, your heartache has a PURPOSE and they will NEVER get that. How could they? Pity is all we should offer to them, for the road to understanding is hell on Earth.