Here I am Lord…Send Me


by
Tina Blackledge
2-28-15

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

Song with Lyrics

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

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

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

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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?”

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.