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.

Healing or Strength…for which should we Diligently Pray?


 

 

I listen to the scriptures everyday as I do other daily tasks. I read the scriptures as well but I have found that I can listen to scripture for eight hours a day plus when I do other activities so the time is well used. I also make certain to use various translations so as not miss something. Today as I was listening to the people clamoring to touch Jesus so they could be healed of their infirmity a new pattern of thought began weaving itself through my consciousness. The desperation and hopelessness these folks experienced, especially in that era, is well appreciated.              I, myself, spent much of my life begging God to take away my ailments and hardships so I definitely get the desperation to be healed. However, I had a thought today as I listened to these stories for the 1000th time that struck me deeply. The afflicted flocked to Jesus and in his love; he healed them at their requests. No one wants suffering and pain unless they are a masochist or flagellant. Yet, I know suffering has purpose beyond that which can be seen or experienced by the one who is doing the suffering.

Okay, so this is the thought, what if the people who begged to be healed and were then healed inadvertently diminished their earthly impact because their ailment was removed? To be sure, if the healed remained in Christ/God after being healed then they would still have an Earthly impact because God will bless their efforts. However, if like the nine lepers who never looked back after being healed, could we diminish our earthly impact by taking our own path?

I know in all certainty that if God had chosen to heal me decades ago then I would learn to lean upon my own strength and cleverness.  If I had been permitted to pursue my own life plans in a body without blemish then would I have grown in faith and wisdom? Would I have had the tools to help others as they struggled through their journey? If I had gone on to live a healthy, “normal” life with the ability to achieve praiseworthy human accomplishments then what impact would I have been able to have? I do not know the answers to these questions but I am thinking my impact would have been far less because I would not have learned how to depend upon the Lord. My relationship with my creator would have been shallow and empty because I would have depended upon my own strength and cleverness. My plans for my life were thwarted. My ailments could have been a permanent roadblock, and they nearly were, but once I understood each had the potential to reach large groups of lost and hurting people then I began to understand it wasn’t about me at all. My ailments were not curses or punishments; instead, they were keys to open the hearts and minds of the lost children who were flailing in agonizing fear. I am able to reach through the brick wall of fear, anger, and agony many surround themselves with because I have been on that side of empty desperation. I can reach them because of the hardships, heartaches, and pain I endured.

Each hardship and ailment that constructs the person I am only has purpose when I give them to God to use for good. Regardless of the depth of agony of any hardship, each has a boundless wealth of possible good. I sit here and reflect because I know that I would never have met half the people I have, nor would I have been useful for the Kingdom if I had depended upon myself all these years. Sure, pain, agony and frustration are not enjoyable but the diamond he is creating us to be takes a bit of pressure.

So, does that mean we shouldn’t pray to be healed or work toward healing? Absolutely not! We must always petition our Lord for healing and if he sees that it will benefit it us AND those around us for his Kingdom then he may grant our request for healing. However, he tells us time and again that he works best through the broken. If you look throughout history, the figures that strike us as the most impactful were the ones who overcame great anguish in some manner. Sure, there have been some pretty infamous individuals who impacted the world and that will always occur but looking at just one scenario, the holocaust…How many iron clad stories of faith and survival came from that horrific event? No, I do not believe God sent that upon the people but when they chose to allow God to use their pain for good then we reap the benefits within our own souls decades later. Our faith in enriched because of the thousands of who stood steadfast and true in the face of pure evil.

In our own lives, in our heartache, pain and fear we become angry and confused feeling abandoned by our creator. I feel this in earnest when the pain becomes mind numbing and soul crushing but that is only Satan trying to tear us away from our Father, which is why the pain is so great. I believe there comes a point in one’s life where you must decide that the answer to your plea may be no or not until you reach glory. We obsess in our Christian culture to bring healing to all if we can only have enough faith then it will be so. I think that borders more on the line of the ill advised friends of  Job’s, who had the nerve to believe they knew what God was doing in that situation. They did far more harm to Job than any of the ailments or tragedies that struck him.

Regardless of whether we pray for healing or not we should always pray for strength and wisdom. We should always ask God to squeeze all the possible good from the suffering we must endure or else it is wasted. Who wants to hurt for nothing? I have learned much through the years and I can see clearly where I have wasted my suffering and where I allowed others to remain lost because I was too caught up in my own suffering and anger. I did not care if they were lost, I did not care if they were hurting, I was angry and hateful to everyone especially God. I was so caught up in the fact that my mother was not healed and I was not healed that I could not and would not see beyond the pain. I wanted it gone regardless of the cost. Now, I see how tragic that would have been. My faith and wisdom would not be strong but worse yet; many who I have been able to reach may have been lost or become a bitter tool for Satan. Suffering can only be understood by suffering, which is why our Christ suffered so much for us. An alcoholic is not going to listen to anyone who has never even taken a drink! Just the same, someone in physical agony is not going to be comforted by someone who can only boast surviving a head cold. Suffering is a universal language but it can only be understood through suffering.

Back to the original thought, was the glory of God lessened because these thousands of people were healed upon their requests? Now, understand that this is not a blanket assumption because Christ himself told his disciples that the blind man was born blind so that his healing from Christ would bring glory to God’s holy kingdom. We, in our human understanding, cannot know the purpose of every ailment of every person out there. We cannot explain the heartache that suddenly takes a child from its mother and father. We do not know the reasons for all suffering but we should at least accept that the impact of suffering could be positive or negative depending upon whether we give it to God or hold onto it like a precious treasure.

Be certain to understand, I am not speaking of suffering caused by our own hands. God will certainly use it for good if we allow it but we must take ownership of that suffering because it came through our own conscious choice. For example, I was once over 500 pounds and I was miserable, in pain, sick, and angry. I blamed God for all of it but it was not God shoving food down my throat. It wasn’t God preventing me from making healthy decisions. It wasn’t God increasing the rate of deterioration of my arthritic joints. It was me, my poor choices, my decisions, and my plan for my life. I reap the harvest of those bad choices but the key to my suffering now is to allow him to use it all and work hard to do my part to bring my plans into perfect sync with my Creators. Yeah, if you have read my blog then you know and understand that my suffering and challenges have come in many venues and most of them not through my own hand; however, suffering needs healing. Sometimes the only healing our suffering has upon this earth is through the spirit. We accept the cross we have been asked to carry, get rid of the crosses we were never meant to pick up and continue to follow the savior giving him our all in every way. If we have ailments that were woven into our being in the womb then we need to not only overcome them but also squeeze every bit of good that can be pressed from them. If we are suffering through our own hands then we need to stop and rid ourselves of a burden that was not meant for us and help others avoid the pit into which we ourselves fell. If we cannot help them avoid it then we should help them find their own way out, for they will not take a proffered hand out of the pit.  Supply the instructions, the support, the encouragement and the ever-watchful eye towards Christ and they may chose to find their way back to the path the Lord plowed for them.

Now I pray the prayers of Christ in the garden and of Paul who both asked three times of the Lord that the cup of suffering be taken from them but also acknowledging that their prayer only be fulfilled if it served the will of God. Otherwise, we accept that the grace God provides is sufficient and pray in earnest for strength.

 

 

 

 

In Christ and in never ending pursuit of understanding,

 

Tina

 

“Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sebachthani?”


“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken Me?”, Jesus cried in his final moments on the cross. Although beyond our mind’s comprehension, it was not the physical suffering our Christ was lamenting. To be certain, he suffered greatly but that was nothing in comparison to the moment his Father had to turn away from him. It was the moment that Christ bore all past, present, and future sins of humanity…alone. The absolute agony of being separated from God is unbearable, soul-devouring, spirit crushing, horror.

He begged his Father three times (Mark 14:36) to take this burden from him telling his friends to keep watch as he prayed saying, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, “ (Mark 14:34). He wasn’t distressed about the physical trial to come even though he knew it would be brutal beyond compare. No, it was his spiritual separation from the Father that filled him with revulsion and terror. He chose to obey, he chose to suffer, he chose to become separated from his Father. Why would he do this? He did this for you.

You may argue that he was fully God  and could endure much more suffering than a human ever could. You may argue that he only suffered for three hours on the cross and you have suffered all your life with this or that. You may argue that he could have stopped it all and destroyed evil then and there. Your arguments are permissible, but not valid, because as you just read, Christ asked his Father the soul wrenching-question that can be so destructive, WHY. Doubt is not a sin, it is an expectation just as is the drive to find the answers. God tells us to seek him, pursue him, love him with all our heart, mind and soul. Why would we have to pursue a God we believe in? Isn’t that an endeavor for the unbeliever? Oh no, not at all. Once you believe you have a Father who created you for a purpose and  who sent his son to pay for your sins then that is when the pursuit of our Creator truly begins.

As unbelievers, we are in stark rebellion just floundering like a fish out of water but once we chose to follow Christ then that is when the journey becomes difficult. Hence, it is not a sin to ask our Father why something has happened or is happening. Understand, you may never get an answer to your specific question until you breathe your last but if you pursue the answer then you will learn much along the way depending upon who you allow to steer your rudder. If you allow Satan to embitter you then your search will end in depression, self-loathing, self-pity,  rage and a flaccid faith. You will get stuck at that moment of suffering neither going forward nor backward. If you allow Christ to lead you then you will likely still experience all these things but you will not get stuck in that place because he gives us the strength to move beyond the pain and suffering of the current life crisis. Just an added thought I cannot let hang open, Christ was also fully human too so he experienced everything throughout his life just as we would have.

Strength and Suffering

Do you consider yourself a person of great strength? What do you consider to be strength? Are you physically fit and strong? Are you financially strong and secure? Do you have a strong moral code or belief system? Do you have a strong intellect? How about a strong faith?  We humans measure and define strength using variable measuring sticks according to what we value in life; therefore, your answer may be far different than another’s. Nevertheless, how you define strength becomes very important when you are faced with losing it. I argue that you cannot lose your strength entirely if you allow it to transform into another and likely more durable manifestation of our surrendered weakness.  If you consider yourself a to be a weak, helpless person then that is another issue, or set of issues, entirely that must be saved for another day. This writing is about the burden of strength and the blessing that can be experienced within it.

Burden of strength? How could strength be a burden? Most consider being strong a great asset but there are different aspects and perceptions of strength that can become a stumbling block or an unsung badge of survival. When you meet a person of great emotional and more so, spiritual strength then you are also meeting a person who has endured great and overwhelming suffering. Those people are the closest to understanding how Christ felt when he uttered his words of agony, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” It is that moment of Christ’s agony, which none can offer comparison is where the remainder of this writing will focus.

Physical, financial, social and intellectual strengths are all illusions of strength because they are insecure. All of them can be lost suddenly or through a lifelong deterioration and each of them can serve as a major stumbling block to our relationship with others and with God.  Christ warned against relying upon our own strength when he said that it was “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mark 10:25). Many point this verse in scripture to condemn the wealthy but Christ was talking about anyone who depends upon their own strength to traverse life because they think it is their own skills, talents or attributes that have gained all they have in life. These types of folks never acknowledge that it was and is God who has supplied them with those gifts that they have used to exploit their time on this planet. Some give lip service to God but when a crisis hits or when their strength begins to ebb then that is where their convictions are truly revealed. Now, everyone is going to endure a grieving period when their strength is lessening because it challenges their core beliefs, who they thought they were, where they thought their life was heading, what they thought God’s plan for their life was going to be. The common denominator here, our thoughts, our perceptions, our ability to reason things out and that is where we stumble.

Encountering people of faith and those who reject God as they struggle in this life reveals many things. Admitting weakness is almost insufferable to both populations. We do not like to appear weak or concede that we cannot handle or deal with anything that is thrown at us. The largest obstacle to anyone walking this planet is not their upbringing, their poverty/wealth level, their intellectual capability, their lack of opportunity, or their health status. What then?

You are your biggest obstacle. ‘But…but…but I have played by all the rules, I have done everything I was supposed to, I am a good person so how could I be my own biggest obstacle?’, you might query. You trust in yourself, which is akin to trusting the strength of a water balloon constructed of tissue paper. There is a big difference between being confident in the gifts and talents God has woven into your being and relying upon them as if they were your gods. Nothing you have and nothing you can do is sustainable by your own efforts including your very next breath. This is highly evidenced in multiple instances of situational irony played out in the real world like the health fanatic who believes he/she is doing great then suddenly drops over of a heart attack while a man who has drank and smoked heavily is still living strong at 92.  Neither person in this example is being put forth as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, only examples in real life judged by human criteria of “living good” and “living hard”. You are not in control of tomorrow regardless of your physical, financial, intellectual, or spiritual ability.

So does that mean we just throw our hands up and say,” chaos rules,” and we are not able to control anything? Of course not, God is a God of order and purpose but he is also the person who gave us Free Will. Our choices are often the road that brings suffering to our lives but not always. However, our own sin nature is not the only force we have against us but it is the one that invites the destructive forces in. Satan is very real and very active in creation. His rage and jealousy against humanity is documented in scripture as is his desire to destroy God’s beloved children. Therefore, when Christ told his apostles to expect hardship, pain and suffering  he was trying to support the men who he called friend and brother as he knew what they would face on account of him. Be assured, anyone who chooses to follow Christ is going to suffer because we are fighting our own sinful nature atop the world that revels in sin and Satan.  The odds are not in our favor and it is an impossible task unless we admit our weakness, our lack of strength, our inability to be victorious if we depend on our own skills, talents, gifts (strength) alone. It is not achievable unless you give it all to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to work through you. Allow Him to use your pain, tears, heartache, confusion, righteous anger and weakness to lead you and others toward a closer relationship with Him.

Our human mind rebels against this idea and we fight it, actively fight it because we believe if we surrender whatever is causing us misery then we will be weak. However, the longer we hold onto something we were not meant to carry alone in the first place then the more suffering we will endure. Not that God is causing it or “turning up the fire”  but because we are trying to solve our problem with a small percentage of the full picture. When we try to stand alone, we are at our weakest and we will fail. Yet, what few recognize or understand is that our choices directly or indirectly affect all whom we love. Some of the connections are blatantly obvious but others are masked by the perception of strength. Here are a couple of examples to illustrate this concept.

Sofia, a single mom of two, is holding everything together. She has a job, is going to school, raising her children in the Lord and doing her best to provide for all their needs. She is perceived by the world as being a strong woman, a functional citizen and a good mom. However, Sofia is barely holding on emotionally, spiritually, financially, and even physically. She refuses to let anyone help, she would never ask for help and she is very private about her feelings. She will not shed tears in front of her kids or anyone else for that matter because she does not want anyone to think she is weak or cannot take care of her kids. She feels to do so would invite criticism of her ability to parent. Yet, she feels as if she is being eaten from the inside out. She has a luke warm relationship with Christ. She is devoted to teaching her children about Christ and makes certain they all attend church every Sunday but she feels dead inside. Her fears of criticism are valid but her healing will not begin until she surrenders her pain to Christ. He knows exactly what she is going through and He never intended for her to traverse her journey alone. Satan continues to whisper her worthlessness in her ear and the feeling that the world and, more specifically, her children would be better off if she were dead.

But it is not that easy, you say. People cannot be trusted . People are going to hurt you. You are going to be betrayed, used, rejected. Yes…yes, these things will happen to you and each time you are hurt you will need to make a choice, several choices actually. Some will bring you closer to understanding, healing and  to God; others will pull you toward the Prince of deceit and you will become his tool. Understand this firmly, God is NOT the one doing the moving in this equation. God does not vacillate, for He is our rock and anchor.

Ted is entering his 40’s and has enjoyed great health, physical and intellectual strength throughout his career and personal life. His spiritual life centers upon what he was brought up with in the Christian faith; therefore, he considers himself a ‘good’ Christian. He feels he is a strong Christian and tends to criticize those who “whine” about their lives. One day  Ted wakes up a little more achy than is usual after a prior day of hard work. As we humans often do, he brushes it off and continues on his way. Then a pattern begins to emerge causing him to begin to think something might be wrong so he over rules his own objections and goes to the doctor.  As you can guess, the doctors inform him that he has developed a chronic ailment that is going to cause pain and deterioration for the remainder of his life. Ahhh, but this is only the beginning of Ted’s nightmare because other related health issues begin to rear their ugly heads spiraling Ted into deep depression, anger, frustration, and serious faith wavering. He has always been the provider, he has always been the one others look toward for help, he has always counted on his own strength and wits to solve any problem he encountered. The disease is stealing his strength, destroying his strong body, robbing him of his independent lifestyle and clouding his thoughts. Worst of all, his fragile faith must now bear a full onslaught of fear, doubt, confusion and anger. Earlier in his life, as he was building his career and family he had no motivation to pursue God, wholeheartedly, because he had everything well in hand. His relationship with his Creator and others was guarded at best as he could never relinquish the control of his life by realizing he was not strong enough to endure the suffering alone. Yet, this is truly the first time suffering on the deep core level had ever been experienced. It’s not the physical pain, as that was just the match, it is the soul-wrenching pain of loss.

Here is a another kicker for you, his mindset, weak faith and self-perception is not entirely his fault. In American society, we put unrealistic goals upon our men and women. Somehow we have come to believe that every man must be a hero and every woman must be ‘mother of the year’ with the added feminist demands of being “more”. We cannot attain that status and God knows this; however, he is always there waiting to catch us when we finally understand that we can do nothing without him. Does understanding this truth make the suffering easier? Eh, not right away but eventually it brings even deeper understanding and focus to the purpose your life experiences have prepared you to fulfill.

What about the kid with cancer, the one who gets raped and killed by a psychopath or parent? What about all the disease, famine, warfare, and natural disasters? Are you going to look into a father’s eyes as he holds his dying child and try to explain that sin has caused the poisoning of creation so everything, even our cells have been tainted by its affects giving reason for his child’s cancer? Of course not, you are going to be silent but present. Allow God to do the talking as only he can, for words mean nothing in moments like that because the suffering is so profound, unjust, unthinkable, and soul crushing.

That holds true when anyone is suffering because to the one who is doing the suffering your platitudes of “everything is going to be alright.”, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, God never gives us more than we can handle,” etcetera are like hot daggers being thrust into their hearts and souls.  Let God work, admit your weakness, confess that you have no idea why their suffering is occurring ( if there is no apparent reason such as lung cancer following years of smoking). Even if the reason for their suffering is blatantly obvious, YOU ARE NOT THEIR JUDGE. They are likely well on their way to meeting their judge and then explaining to their creator why they chose to destroy the body He created for them so they do not need you to start harping on them ahead of time.

We all make life choices that will bring betterment or hardship to our existence so we have no room to judge another. On that same token, those who make life choices that create health, financial, social, emotional, psychological problems bringing pain, suffering, and loss have to refrain from blaming God and start taking responsibility for their own actions. God is a god of second chances, unending second chances so there is a future beyond the one you planned IF you allow it to be brought to fruition.

Do NOT depend upon humanity’s interpretation of who God is and what God’s plans are for your life. Pursue Him with every fiber of your being and I promise that what you find will bring change to your life. Change can be painful but it is very necessary for anything to become what it was borne to become. If you are a strong person then you know that the journey is painful, suffering is your bedfellow, for without these faith is hollow. Having a strong faith in Christ is the most difficult thing to earn because it is earned through tears and sorrow. Trusting God when all is well is easy and empty but trusting him as you are sending your child through the operating doors or sitting him in the car of an abusive parent due to a court order is faith and acute and unimaginable suffering.  Standing over a loved one’s grave with a pain that is tearing you apart but trusting that God will bring you through it is faith. Picking one of two devils to be President of the United States and believing God’s plans will come to fruition is faith.

Faith is not a noun but a verb. Faith is a breathing entity that must be fed, must be worked, must be tested because it is a powerful tool to the one who is strong enough to wield it. Christ is our teacher, he is the only one who can show us how we are to approach suffering and not only survive it but how to become something better on the other side. We can fight only what we can see but there is a battle of epic proportions going on all around us and we contribute to the evil or to the good every moment of everyday. Hence, you must examine your own life and decide if your suffering can support the claim that God has forsaken you (He will never leave you nor forsake you [Deut. 31;8]) or that you could equate your suffering to Job (which none of us know enough about to even offer an inkling into what was going on there, for there are too many missing pieces to the story) or justify anger towards God (even though he can take whatever we can dish out).

If you have been following my blog from its inception then you know these words of mine are not empty. I am not boasting when I say I am a woman of great faith in Christ, because I do not consider it a badge of honor but rather a sign of great suffering. I do possess a strong faith and for that I am grateful and humbled knowing he grasped me ever more tightly each time I let go. Without Christ, without understanding the epitome of suffering that is to be separated from God for the merest of moments is to only be brushed by the backside of suffering’s fury and  left with the deluge of pain. In my arrogant youth, I used to use “Eloi, Eloi Lema Sabachthani?” as my mantra feeding my rage and hopelessness but I did not truly understand the depth of their meaning until I came to the point in my life where I thought God had turned his back on me. That is the moment of zero hope and utter, desperate agony when I decided I did not want to live any longer. I only thought God had abandoned me and the pain was more than I could bear; therefore, imagine our Savior’s agony when he bore this reality for you and me. My previous posts expound upon these topics further so I will not reiterate them here.

You cannot look through the lens of human understanding to form your idea of God’s thoughts, ways, and love. How could a finite being such as you and I possibly presume we could understand the infinite. You are so important to your Creator, he loves you beyond any type of human love that can be experienced. However, love is not always kisses and cuddles and your Father in heaven knows what he has created you to be and he will push you toward completion of that goal. He does this not for his sake but for your sake. His plans are to prosper you as he clearly says in Jeremiah 29:11, yet he still provides you the choice. Are you forsaken? Can you boast about your strength in weakness? Can you wear Christ’s crown? Can you carry Christ’s cross?

My love and prayers go out to all my readers. May you each feel the depth of love Christ brought to us in that tiny manger so very long ago.

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?”

A Question…Pt 2


A Question…pt2
By
Tina Blackledge
6-14-2014

Hand in hand they wait.
Hand in hand they pray.
Both work hard to keep
the worry from being revealed.
They are trying to lend each other
strength but this has been a treacherous path
and both are weary.

By now, they were accustomed to every
nuance each presented when their
emotions were at a peak. She nervously glanced
at everything in the office but not really seeing anything. When
fear griped her, she felt the gentle squeeze of his hand.
“Breathe, beloved…just breathe”, he would remind her as she had
the habit of holding her breath when afraid. It always
brought her out of her thoughts and back to him. She gave
him a weak smile.

Throughout, the last two years they had loved, lived, and
actively sought to honor God in all ways. The everyday
trivialities of married life were just that, trivial and held
no lasting importance to them. Astonishing them both,
every day brought them closer causing their love to grow
that much stronger. Their joy overflowed upon all who knew them.

They jumped when the heavy oak door swung open behind them.
This man in a white coat was going change their lives. The cordial greetings
mandated by civility annoyed her greatly in this moment. The man
opened a folder in front of him and then looked up at the couple.

A long pause before he spoke nearly caused her patience to expire but then
he said.
“The results of the tests have revealed a problem…” he said with authority.
Our lovers griped each other’s hands all the tighter.
“I am very sorry to tell you that it will impossible for you to bear a child…”
he stated with finality.
Tears streamed freely and her entire body was trembling fiercely. She
wanted to give her beloved a child. She could not look at him, it
would crush her soul to see disappointment in his eyes.
She knew it wouldn’t be there,
she knew he loved her no matter the obstacle they faced. He
squeezed her hand more firmly then softly called her name until her
eyes met his. As she expected, love and compassion washed her
anew in great torrents.

The doctor had been babbling on and on but she hadn’t heard a word
after hearing that she could not bear children. Yet, her lover was calling
her name saying there was more that the doctor had to tell them. She grabbed several
tissues from the box the doctor offered
.
“Due to the chronic illness you have been treated for all your life, your
immune system was not able to effectively fight off malignant cells.” he paused
allowing the words to sink in. The couple sat shell-shocked in their chairs.
“I am dreadfully sorry to inform you that the tests reveal you have
stage 4 ovarian cancer that has spread to the adjoining tissues.” he finished.

She sat there saying nothing while listening to her beloved
pose question after question to the doctor, who tried to explain. She knew
the doctor could not give him the answer he or she wanted. It
was the silence in the room that brought her back to them when she felt their
eyes studying her intently.

She cleared her throat, “How long?”
Her husband was looking from her to the doctor and back again.
He had been asking about treatments and cures not being able to cope
with the reality of the situation.

“My best guess, six months to a year
unless it becomes more aggressive”, he stated
flatly using an over practiced empathy. “I am very sorry
for both of you and please, call my office if you need anything. “

She could feel her husband trembling
through the hand she held.
He fell to his knees, embracing her fiercely
as if he would lose her if he dared to let go.
He laid his head upon her breasts and
she enveloped him in her embrace allowing
the sobs to claim their sorrow.

 

So…I’m not dying?


You have been feeling like crap for a long time and have run out of excuses to explain it so you give in to the pressure of your family and friends and make an appointment with the doctor. He/She then takes you down a path of diagnostic testing to find out what ails you. After weeks or months, all the test results are in and you are to have a meeting with the doc.  While awaiting this “disclosure” meeting your mind races with all the worst case scenarios that you can conjure. Don’t worry, if you lack a good working knowledge of possible medical ailments there are always helpful friends, family, and the occasional stranger that will be more than thrilled to detail their experiences with the medical community.

The big day arrives and you walk into the doc’s office carrying all your own worst nightmares and those of everyone else you know. You hear an almost audible creek from the chair as you sit straining against the burdens you bear. The doc is not in the room yet and you and whoever accompanied you make nonsensical chit chat waiting for the boom.  Your mind races to fixate on anything that doesn’t concern the reason you are there. In fact, by the time the doctor arrives you know how many stick pins are in the round container sitting on the desk.  You begin praising yourself for accomplishing the simple task especially since you were able to count each color individually.  Voices  beyond the door behind you snap you back to reality and you become irritated because those voices are happily discussing their upcoming vacations. You begin a mental rant of the insensitivity of those disembodied voices when the doctor swings the door wide and quickly wipes the broad toothy grin from his face.

He greets you and your companion then sits to look over your chart and subsequent test results. You stare incredulously at him thinking how much time you have spent over the past month waiting for these blasted test results and he just decides to look at them now??? After a cursory glance at the notes, he looks up and provides you with a sedate smile then begins to barrage you with medical techno mumbo jumbo that you do not understand.  You catch a few recognizable terms here and there…arthritis… discomfort… treatments… prescriptions… non-lethal…wait, he said non-lethal, right?  “So, I’m not dying…?” Your question, which broke his steady stream of medical babble, reflected as surprise in his expression. Whether it was surprise that you dared interrupt him or that you thought your condition terminal, you could not tell. A slight chuckle and a flood of reassuring words convinced you that you were not going to die from this ailment and that there were many treatments for the condition.   Yet, it was his next statement that would later consume many hours of your thoughts. “It’s just arthritis…and it will not kill you.” After the relief swept the dread away,  your mind struggled to get around the idea that a 40 year old could have arthritis. Arthritis is an old person’s disease so how on earth can I have it? The doc was explaining the different treatment options he was going to try and assured you that you needn’t see a specialist because he could prescribe you the medicine you will need. “Do you have any questions?”, the doc finally asked. Of course your mind that had just been overflowing with every imaginable question goes completely blank.  You mutter something that indicates that you do not have any questions and are then ushered out the door with a fist full of prescriptions and a pat on the back. The front desk nurse looks down at the paper and says, Looks like the doc wants to see you again in 3 months?  Wow, 3 months what the heck are you supposed to do for 3 months? You have been in a lot of pain, are this prescriptions going to work? What happens if they don’t? Your mind now fills with all the racing questions it had forgotten just a few moments before.  She hands you the appointment card and you shuffle from the office. The person that came with you is all smiles, patting you on the back congratulating you that is was “just” arthritis and nothing serious. There is that word again and it is already starting to annoy you but you are not quite certain why…  Instead of saying anything, you smile back and agree. Over the next three months it becomes painfully clear why the word annoyed you and why it makes you angry now. Angry at the doc for saying it in the first place and then at everyone else who has said it since.   You begin a crusade of fact finding all information about arthritis trying to determine what you are really facing. After all, you reason this pain cannot be simple arthritis…could it?