Love Pledged


This work is dedicated to my Nephew and Niece’s fourth wedding anniversary. Happy Anniversary Bobby and Mary! Love Always.

Was it only yesterday
that I explored the depth of your
gaze? Or have a thousand
years passed since I gave
my heart away?

Loved ones seated,
quiet sniffles,
as a soft breeze cools
the nervousness upon our brows.

Gently, you brush a wayward
tendril that worked its way from
my hair ornament. I feel the heat rise
in my cheeks as your light touch
sets me aflame. My nervous smile is
reflected by one of your own.

Can it be? Can this all
be more than a dream? Are you
standing so strong and handsome
right here in front of me?

The love held firmly in your eyes tells
me that this is going to be. The words
you have pledged a thousand times before, you
will vow once more in front of
God and all the world.

Please let my legs hold me, he pleads as
he holds firmly onto his bride.
His heart is pounding so hard that he is sure it is audible
to all.

She loves me, she loves me and
I love her more than life itself. I
cannot believe she said yes, but
she did and now she is standing here
just there in front of me.
The brilliance of her beauty is
nearly blinding. I feel my
soul melting into hers as we
vow our eternal love.

Can I be…everything she needs me to be?
Can we be everything He needs us to be?
Will I be enough?
Will we be enough to stand the
tests that are sure to come?
Yes, our love will grow and
strengthen no matter
what lies in the future.

“I do”, she says confidently.
A smile broad and wide tells of her joy
as she quiets his fears with her pledge.

“I do”, he promises with his own joy-filled
countenance.

She and He are now We,
two have become one
flesh.
The very next step they take
upon their journey
will be
…as husband and wife.

An unstoppable team
regardless of strife, for
this love is pure and
comes but once in a Life.

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.

Seedling


 

A single Seed I cradle protectively in my palm.

I know the perfect place to plant it.

A rich dark patch of soil lays in anticipation

directly beside the path.

I cup my hands around it

as I gingerly transport it down the steps,

past the concrete driveway,

beyond the gravel watershed to

arrive at the rich patch of soil.

 

A mid-spring rain has saturated the

Patch allowing a familiar aroma to reach my nose.

The life of last season’s flowers, leaves, insects and grass

have created a soil overflowing with essential nutrients for

this tiny seed.

 

A year’s time has kneaded, turned, mulched and beat

this patch of ground into a luxurious bed of life-giving

Energy.

 

All I need do is take my precious cargo

 and give it back to its Creator.

 

Freeing one hand, I gently dig a small valley

In the mound of soil.

Looking at the odd little

seed I ponder it’s circumstance.

 

I know it’s full potential but

It looks like an ugly shriveled

speck of waste.

 

How many others, I wonder,

would have tossed it out

because they were

 blind to its potential?

 

If I kept it as a treasure, then I would

be just as bad as those who

would throw it out.

I would deny it the glory it

is destined to become.

If I do not trust our Creator to take over

after I give it to him then it will always be

only a seed.

 

Yet, if I let it go.

 If I give it to him

then he will transform it.

 

I tilt my palm

allowing the seed to fall,

as if a pebble, into the dark bed

I had prepared for it.

 

I move the mound of

soil atop the seed,

pat it firmly,

say a little prayer then

I walk away knowing

God will be faithful to

His promises.

The journey it must now

endure is not an easy one.

 

Transformations are never

gentle, never easy but

 they always reveal more

than we ever thought

possible.

 

Daily, I look for evidence

 that my tiny seed

has started it’s journey

 knowing full well that

time

 is the most critical element

In growth.

 

Tiny, tender, green leaves

push the surface soil away reaching

earnestly reaching toward the Sun.

 

Fragile and young,

It has taken root.

Shadows shield its future but

it is not alone on this journey.

 

I will shield it from the hail, the wind,

and the terrible storms.

 It will be protected

from the harsh sun and the invaders

who wish to take it’s life for their own.

I will protect it from all harm,

for God

has entrusted it’s care to me.

It is my job to treasure it,

to aid it on its journey

so that it can fulfill the purpose

for which God created it.

 

God put us on each other’s path

to aid one another,

to grow one another,

to shield one another,

to love one another,

to endure hardships together,

to enjoy victory together and

to reach full Glory

together.

 

I have a Seed

that

Must be

Planted.   

 

 

 

Faith…A Vain Pursuit or A Naïve Placebo?


You slowly traverse the last two steps leading to your door, insert the key into the lock and then pause for a pregnant moment. You stare intently at the handle thinking of the hardships the past year has presented feeling that familiar tightness in your throat. Distant sounds beyond the weathered door do little to spur you to action. Instead, your arm refuses the brain’s instructions to raise and grasp the doorknob. Rather, your mind leads you to the tenth of April when Cassey was diagnosed with an unknown ailment, whose treatment is not covered by any insurance. William and Elizabeth continue to struggle with crippling migraines as doctors proffer genetics as the causation while your spouse refuses to work or otherwise join you in supporting the family.
The burden has been overwhelming for too many years and the weight of it has crushed you beyond your ability to recognize even yourself. Today…today was the last straw in an ever-increasing load that has persisted for over four decades.

Tears gain momentum as they start a familiar journey down your cheek. Hard work, diligence, playing by the rules, honesty, dedication and perseverance afforded to a mega mart company for nearly a decade meant nothing. Sitting there across from colleagues as they uttered those reprehensible words… ”I am sorry, but we just cannot use your style of management in our reorganization endeavor” sickened you to the core. The rest of the rhetoric was mumbles and chirps of which all nonsense is made. Loyalty meant nothing in an age where money means everything. The journey home was a blur but now, standing here, staring at this handle knowing there are no solutions beyond it, no help mates, no comfort, no relief, no offer to reduce the burdens made an insurmountable task of turning the key in the lock. A guarded glance back toward the ever-present beater car in the driveway allowed the briefest entertainment of flight.

Furiously, you squeeze the last searing tears from your eyes allowing your spirit to throw your anguish and helplessness at your Creator’s feet. Scripture bites, which you have heard a million times before, bombard your soul and each tasting more acidic than the one before.

“God will not give you more than you can handle without his help.” “If God is for me then who could stand against me?” “Through Christ, who strengthens me, all things are possible.”

But the one that is bouncing off the inside of your skull like a wrecking ball and one that you know you will hear a million times over in the next week and beyond is the one that is the hardest and most ambiguous to hold onto,

“Have Faith.”

Your soul is screaming in protest that you have had faith through it all and yet weariness is the natural result of engagement in a constant state of spiritual war. Now, you love your God and Savior and have followed him through the darkest of times in your life and strolled contently beside him during those rare episodes of peace; therefore, the concept of having faith is not foreign or obscure to you. However, you also understand that most speak from a store house of empty notions basted in a heavy sauce of conflicted misunderstandings. Most well-meaning folks have no idea what they are talking about when giving advice in general but are especially daft in the realm of faith, God, and the notion of core beliefs. Ignorant haplessness is usually the motivator demanding the ‘comforter’ just, “say something.” The comforter is not trying to be mean, vague, or trite but their words can fall like water bouncing off Teflon or burn like acid to your core. The best comforter, by far, is the one who remains silent while offering a soft shoulder and gentle hug.
Some pain transcends speech to the degree that each utterance is a glowing hot spike driven into the soul of the listener. Whether you are a Christian or non-Christian matters little when you are trying to offer reason to the madness destroying friends and family. If the life and times of Job taught us nothing else, it clearly magnified the foolhardy practice of offering an interpretation of God’s will or meaning in the life of fellow believers. Our finite brains cannot hope to perceive the complex web of happenings, choices, and events that had to transpire to bring your friend or family member to this very point in time. Millions of micro moments and thousands of macro events occurred since Adam and Eve procreated that had to happen in order for the person sitting beside you to be there. There was no mistake, that person is sitting there with their heart breaking because all of these elements came together to make it so. Nevertheless, that fact does not mean that the pain was supposed to accompany him or her on that journey. No, pain is of sin and that was borne of the fall where everything in creation was simultaneously broken even down do the atoms that make everything move.

As I have said countless times before, most human pain is born directly of poor choices we ourselves make and then we have trouble dealing with the natural consequences thereof. However, there is a realm of pain that is borne through no direct fault of the person currently experiencing it and that type of pain emanates from two sources alone, 1. You are victim of another’s sinful choices or you are 2. Victim of a broken creation (caused by original sin). Yes, we now live under the redemption of Jesus Christ but he will not redeem all of creation until he returns and that is a day we Christian’s look forward too while knowing it is to be a horror-filled apocalypse for the unsaved. This single tidbit of knowledge, alone, should be enough to spur us to action. We should be heartbroken for every soul lost especially if we are not even trying to lead others to the salvation we languish within.

So where does faith fit in and how are we supposed to pull it off when the world/Satan is doing its best to crush us? From the moment of conception, we are using faith in the flawed form of humanity. Humans, without exception, will always fail us and we ourselves, without exception, will fail others. Hence, having faith is hard mostly because our first tentative faith steps have nothing to do with our creator but with the adults in our lives. Those adults, even the best intentioned and most devoted to our well-being, are going to teach us that having faith in another means disappointment and pain. The phrase, “have faith” is bantered about as if its originator is receiving royalties at its mere whispered utterance. Worse, in modernity it has no common core or goal. What exactly are we all supposed to have faith in these days? Certainly, we learn quickly that putting absolute faith in a friend and/or family member will lead to disastrous consequences. If our parents join in on societal norms and foster the myths of Santa Clause, Easter bunny, tooth fairy, and other fairy tales then our children learn we are liars, whose words are not always trustworthy regardless of the well-intentioned motives. I am not offering judgement on this issue as I grew up with all these fictitious beings as well and they serve as some of the best warm fuzzy memories of my childhood; however, there is a cost and that is trust. Some adults rip faith and trust straight out of the core of another with cruelty and selfishness caring little for the remnant they leave behind.

Society offers a whole new quagmire of experiences that will teach you that trusting in another and having faith in anyone besides yourself is akin to dancing among flames whilst doused in gasoline. Having faith in someone or something is a concept we learn to be very dangerous to our survival. So, how on earth can we look at this group of individuals who claim to trust in Christ and who wear their faith in their God like battle armor seriously? Are they not just delusional people consumed by their own naivete? Are they not just crackpots using this ambiguous idea of faith as an excuse to cop-out of life’s real issues? Isn’t it just their way to give excuse for all the darkness around them without a responsibility to act or be accountable?
A mere glimpse of this world and the people who occupy it would give vision to the blind that it is a wicked, cruel, self-serving creation that is headed towards destroying itself. Care to strongly reinforce this ideology? Become a historian who actively pursues God’s will for her life and you will quickly discover a deadly pattern of human behavior cannot be missed. Regardless of the efforts of modern “scholars” to spin it anew or the deliberate manipulation of events by armchair historians or politicians, the written history is a complex entity that should never be mistaken for pure truth or honesty. History does not repeat itself but humanity never, ever learns from its mistakes. If you are an American, then you may find comfort in knowing that nothing that our nation is experiencing today is different than that which has been experienced by human civilizations prior to our existence. On the other hand, it has only taken a little over 200 years for our nation to fall into complete and devastating debauchery. It’s kind of a record of distinction. Granted, it is a distinction of what should be shame but a great percentage of people in this country do not know what that means any longer. As scripture tells us, “they have forgotten how to blush.” Worse news, the current status we find ourselves occupying leads to one thing, collapse. Not ‘maybe’, not ‘only if we don’t do this or do that’ but it ALWAYS leads to utter and complete ruin of the nation. Look it up for yourself…I strongly encourage you to do this.

Having faith in one another is a game of Russian Roulette in which any adult has learned to distrust and be cynical even if the game was brief. Surely, there are individuals that can be trusted and are worthy of placing some degree of faith upon? Absolutely, but blind faith in any human is going to set you up for failure because none of us are capable of doing, saying, thinking, or feeling the right (motivated by pure intentions) one hundred percent of the time. We will fail, others will fail, all will fail because it is impossible for us to be perfect. Nevertheless, trust and faith can be had among our fellow humans. Just keep it in the realm of possibility and perspective. Breathing and living the sound realization that all humans are trying at different levels to be a positive or negative force in this world will aid you in making better choices with whom you will throw your support. Be certain you understand who you are following because you will be held into account for where you place your allegiance in this world. Whether you believe in a judgment day or not matters little once you get there but your steps are guided by your choice today.

Where does that leave us, the believer or the searcher, should we chalk up this faith and trust thing as something only practiced by naïve ninnies or is it more? Having faith is the hardest thing to live in this life because those who truly understand what it means and to whom they are placing all of their faith walk a path fraught with danger, cruelty, cynicism, condemnation and ridicule.

“If the world hates you, remember it hated me first. If the world mistreats you, remember they mistreated me first.” In Christ’s own foreshadowing words.

Why then do we expect our walk in faith to be anything but turbulent? The stronger in our walk/faith/beliefs we grow the more vicious Satan will attack. Having faith in God, is not weakness. On the contrary, it is the hardest thing you will ever do in this lifetime because it takes everything you have and more. Additionally, we are not suddenly bestowed great faith and trust in our savior upon receiving Christ as our savior. Nope, that is borne of hardship and suffering. When is the last time you met a wealthy, healthy, self-important person to be one possessing strong faith in anyone but him or herself? If you have it all here, then why on earth would you ever need to trust a Savior? What good will believing in God do for you in this lifetime? Ah, but there is the rub, isn’t it? God is not needed in your life now but you are only a whisper, a being like a summer shadow who is here upon this earth for a very brief moment and then…what? What is next? Do you just cease to exist? Well that is a great copout, isn’t it? If you are not going to be held accountable for anything you do here on this earth or toward your fellow humans, then what restrains you from blowing your neighbor away because he or she plays the music too loud after midnight? What basis of right and wrong, if any, are you working under? Is there anything, any choice you make or do not make in life that matters at all?

Lifetime achievement awards are meaningless in this worldview because all you have achieved is useless. Anybody you have helped was a waste of your time because his or her life does not matter. Your life doesn’t matter, their lives do not matter and the need for law and order is baseless. Go ahead and kill millions of babies to cover up your irresponsibility because their souls do not matter. Who cares if you live a life of pain and misery or one of luxury and indulgence? What does it matter if you are abused and betrayed? My right is right in my eyes so if I think torturing and killing you is humorous then why cannot I do it? If you have something I want, then what is wrong with me taking it from you? If I do not think you are worthy of your breath, then why can’t I take it from you? If we all go out like lights upon death, then why try at all? There is no purpose to anything, good or bad. Absolutely no meaning to what we pathetic humans endeavor to do each and every day except to play the overdone part of our ancestors over and again like a really bad B movie. That is what is happening today. Even among complacent Christians who use the copout, “It is what it is so why fight it?” Um, that is totally secular thinking people! As long as we have breath in our bodies, then each and every moment we spend on Earth should be used to fight Satan. We are never called to lay down our arms of faith to allow Satan to take over another vast area God has created you to protect. However, God does not expect any of us, who call upon him, to fight alone. Many are sent to join us upon our path so that they can gird us and we them in the strength and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Some will stay and become our strongest allies but others will bail when the battles become too costly. Basically, we will encounter each type of “believer” in Christ out there who Jesus clearly describes to his disciples. We must seek out those who have been planted in the rich soil because their faith is strong and deeply rooted. It has been well weathered through perseverance and hardships. We too, must self-check to make absolutely certain the soil in which we are lingering is still rich and fertile otherwise our use in the kingdom is greatly diminished. We can still claim the salvation of Christ and have dead faith. If we do not fulfill the purpose for which we are specifically created, then we will have to stand before the father one day and explain why we decided not to.

In summation, faith in Christ our Savior is neither a vain pursuit nor a naïve placebo. On the sharp contrary, it is an active, living, breathing demand to action, perseverance, endurance, and fruition. Faith is a strong verb or it is a dead noun. What exactly is faith in your life and what, if anything, should you be doing about it? Whether Christ returns tomorrow or whether he waits for a million years from now, your task remains the same because we are all called to have active, vibrant faith that is nothing less than the very reflection of Christ. Anything short of that goal means you still need to work on it, just as I must constantly work and strive to mirror Christ’s attributes. Knowing I will fail…repeatedly, does little to dissuade me from the task. Faith is for the brave. Faith is for the strong. Faith is a life calling that carries us into eternity. What do you have faith in and where is that faith taking you? I am certain where I am going and I know exactly who is taking me there!

“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.

The Unwelcome Guest


 First rays of the summer sun

 race to illuminate the small

grove. Its inhabitants awake

without complaint.

The grove was abundant in food

peace and safety. The only

other occupant was

an old country church patiently

awaiting its fold.

Blue birds filled the air

with

songs of praise.

A sound so pure and clear,

a melody worthy of the Creator’s ear.

The sun climbed ever higher

casting a shadow upon

 the man turning the key

opening the large doors of

the chapel.

He always arrived an hour

or two before any other filled

a pew.

Time to reflect, time

 to pray, time to ask

for wisdom, patience, and

feet of clay.

“Lord Jesus, lend me

your eyes that I might

see this flock as you do.

Give me your heart to

love all whom you send

my way and a discerning

mind that wisdom would flow, Amen.”

Standing and grasping his Bible

he started toward the sanctuary

as muffled voices and distant

car doors announced the

arrival of the congregation.

The Pastor knew he would

be here and there was nothing

he could do because the

unwelcomed guest

always received an

invitation from me

and from you.

He would sit in the

very front row knowing

every word of scripture

but not letting it show.

He wasn’t there to learn,

fellowship, or become

more like the Savior. No,

none of those things is

what he did savor.

The Pastor sighed deeply

upon stepping to the pulpit

as he recognized their guest

was already working the room.

The people were settled into their

familiar clicks. The poor sat in the far rear

while the affluent took the lead.

 But none sat next to the family

 who lived without running water,

Their respectable senses

were aghast.

Tongue clicks and whispers veiled under breath

spread disdain and disgust in the

presence of such an obvious

disgrace.

Over there perched the family of judges,

who would snicker and point with their eyes

to alert one another that there was laughter to be had

or condemnation to be made of those just entering

the sanctuary.

The Bennet family, fragile as can be,

sat holding one another in their

fear and in their grief. They had lost a son

in Iraq last summer and now their little one

is fighting cancer. Their faith is stretched thin but

they have not given up hope. Our Guest is

trying his best to destroy them but he is failing.

Then you have those who feel it

their duty to reveal your sin, criticize

your worship or prayer life, and condemn

those who are struggling.

 In their reason,

 one is sick, barren, in

financial woe or experiencing

heart ache due to some unconfessed

sin.

 “Get right with God and your

hardship will be delivered.” is the chant

they cry in disapproving condemnation.

Driving divisions among God’s people

is his favorite activity and we are

so willing to play.

Yes, he is here and they invited him

as they do regardless of the warnings.

He knows the Bible better than most

Christians but he does not see its truth.

His hardened heart does not feel

the forgiving love of Christ.

Instead, it angers him and

he takes his fury out upon

the flock.

“They have more than us. She is far prettier or talented

than I. I heard…cheated on his wife. God cannot

love or forgive you since you did that horrible

thing in your past. You are not good enough to succeed. Your

beliefs are childish superstitions. You will fail.”

Lies, his favorite lies, he uses against

the flock.

He has enjoyed great success in

invading the church and scattering the flock.

His minions carry out his orders sewing

discord, jealousy, bigotry, hatred, and

cynicism where ever they go.

Church after church has fallen to his

attacks.

He is becoming angrier

and fiercer as he

sees his time ebbing away.

He tortures any who work

to follow the Savior’s path.

Yes, Satan is the first one in church

and the last one to leave because turning

one Christian to sin bringing him to ruin

will convince 1000 more souls to reject

Jesus because of his sinful people.

Satan loves to use fallen Christians because

it hurts the Father deeply when his children stray.

He will never give up, never stop, and never

show mercy.

Children of God, take warning and

be on guard so you do not

become one of Satan’s favorite tools.

In a world of pain and destruction,

be determined not to add to the

brokenness of Creation.

Instead, build…repair…create

and healing will be had in your church,

home, work place, social group, neighborhood

and maybe, just maybe, it will keep going and

heal our lands.

 

 

“If my people, who are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray then I shall hear from heaven and heal their lands.” God

DADDY


This is dedicated to all the wonderful loving fathers out there, who have given everything that was in themselves to make certain their children thrived. Thank you from a daughter and a member of the human race for standing up to the plate and doing the hard work necessary to shape a child into a productive adult. God Bless you all richly. I understand Father’s day is not until the 21st of June, after asking my sister, but I had already prayed for inspiration and this is what the Lord gave to me.

“Please, please, please…Daddy,
Just once more?” His
daughter begged. This
was always the case when
something fun or enjoyable
was afoot. He looked
into his daughter’s sleepy
eyes and relented.

“Just once more then you
must go to sleep!” He put all
the firmness and authority
he could into the statement
but his heart became mush
when she awarded him
a broad smile.

By the second page of
dramatic voices and
thrilling side-effects,
courtesy of his imagination,
his daughter’s eyes were
closed up tight. He softened his
tone in gradients until not a sound
did he utter then backed out of the room
with the utmost care so as not to set off a noisy
toy or trip over the dog.

Years pass by more quickly than he
could have ever imagined. Descending
the staircase, each step saw another year expire.
A familiar sound reached his ears
as he walked into the kitchen.
“…but that’s not fair Mom!”
“Daddy, you tell her that I am
old enough and responsible enough
to go out on my first date this weekend,
please, please, please, Daddy?”
He stood there shell-shocked,
‘Did my little girl just say, date?’ he thought
in horror. Glancing up at his wife, he saw
his own resolve reflected in her eyes. He
could also tell by the flushed cheeks of both
his wife and daughter that this conversation
had been going on for too long.

“First…” he began as he realigned
his gaze with his now 13 1/2 year old
daughter. “…you do not refer to your
mother as ‘her’ or ‘she’, for she
is your mother. Second, you are
not old enough to date and you
will not be going out this weekend.”

His daughter was about to retort with
her argument when she glanced between
her Mom and Dad and saw the battle
was over. They were in agreement.
He watched as her eyes filled with tears,
“I hate you! I hate you both!” she
screamed as she ran from the room.

Each word struck their hearts like
a jagged dagger. He took his
wife in his arms as they heard
the door of her bedroom slam.
They would deal with that
behavior later when everyone
was calm.

He glanced at his watch for
the hundredth time,
straightened his tie and
stuck himself with
the boutonniere pin, again.
Why was he all thumbs today?
He thought as he approached his
daughter’s door calling for his wife.
“Daddy, don’t come in! I do not
want you to see me yet!” yelled
his daughter. His wife appeared from
beyond the door looking beautiful, yet
sporting red eyes. “I can’t get this damn
flower on!” hissing his irritation after he
had kissed her and told her how lovely she looked.
She knowingly smiled and took to the task with
deft hands. She told him to go downstairs
because their daughter wanted to “make an
entrance” for him. He flashed a half-crooked smile,
which always meant his emotions were at the brim.
Twenty more anxious minutes passed as
he checked his watch every 30 seconds.
He hollered up the steps announcing
that they were going to be late.
Great relief washed over him as
he heard the door knob turn. His
wife emerged first and hurriedly
descended the steps as her husband
informed her of traffic patterns
and time schedules but he lost
all words and thoughts as his
daughter stood at the crest of the
staircase in her white flowing gown.
Suddenly, he had a million thoughts where
there had been none just a half second before.
Not a single one made it to his lips until his wife
gave him a firm nudge.
“You look beautiful, honey”, he
managed with a voice full of emotion.
Transfixed, he watched as
she floated down the steps and out the
door. How did this happen? How
did my little girl become a woman?
“Daddy, come on! We are going to
be late.” they gave each
other that half-crooked smile
signaling no more words were possible.

He enjoyed his years as grandpa, of
seeing his little girl grow into the
woman he always knew was possible
but could never have imagined
her becoming all those years ago. Of
course, she would always be ‘his little girl’
but the innocent laughter of children filled
the home with joy again, on occasion. His
place in her life had changed but it was no
less important, for he was her hero, he was
her rock. Today was different, somehow.

“Daddy…please, please, please Daddy…
don’t go yet”, she begged in an emotionally
worn voice. He opened his eyes
to see her sitting on the edge of the bed
holding his hand gently in her own. He
gave her that half-crooked smile then said,
“This time Pumpkin…it’s not my call. Our
Father is calling me home. To tell you the
truth, I miss your mom and I am
so tired.” He said barely above a whisper
but each word was filled with love. He brushed the
fresh cascade of tears from her cheek.
“Daddy, what am I going to do without you? I
love you so much” she cried.
“I love you with all my heart and I am
grateful our Lord saw fit to give you
to my care, even if it was only
for a small time. He blessed me greatly
and I did not deserve it but he gave
me you and when I get up there,
I am going to thank him with
overwhelming joy,” he professed.
“Oh Daddy, I love you so much.”

He smiled weakly but his heart
was grinning from ear to ear. Looking
up at his son-in-law he said,
“Its your job to take care of my
little girl now. You love her through
everything, you protect her from all
harm and you stand up for her
when the world is against her. You are
her only hero now, her only Earthly guardian.
You pray for strength as it is a tough
job but it is the only job I ever loved.” Tears
streamed down his Son-in-laws face
with renewed vigor as he replied with the
same promise he had made the father on
his wedding day, “I will love, protect,
and honor your daughter for every moment
in time the Lord blesses me. I will be her
hero, I will be her champion, I will protect her from all
Earthly harm as long as I draw breath into this body.”

With that promise reaffirmed, the father
gave the younger man a half-crooked
smile for the very first time.
The daughter felt the strength leave her
father’s hand.

“Daddy…Daddy… I love you always.”

Strength within Loss


Predawn air saturated
with tiny water droplets
hang about my frame.

Cool moisture dances upon
my skin sending a chill
throughout my body.

The moon sets as the
sun awakens providing
an ethereal pale silver and
yellow glow all about me.

Inhaling deeply, I taste the
moisture upon my tongue and
I know this is part of you.

I close my eyes allowing the
sounds of the new day to awaken
my soul. Song birds signal to
all of creation; begin the
intricate dance.

I smile, hearing your words
whisper to my soul.
“Ohh, my dear how beautiful
this is, how magnificent!”

Your strong, loving arms encircle
my waist as you deliver tender
kisses to my neck and shoulder.
Our fingers interlace and I
feel your lifeblood coursing
through the steady thrum
of your pulse.

The serenade of birds
is joined by
the life sounds of
the woodland creatures.

The sun commands
the withdrawal of
the moisture laden
atmosphere
charging it with
warmth. A shiver
makes my body tremble
as the transition
from night to day begins.

My beloved moves his hands
to gently cup my breasts.
He speaks soft words of love
as the wind delivers
each to my ear. I grasp
his embrace with intensity
as if my strength could
command him to stay.

Leaning into him, I borrow
his strength and he gently nuzzles
my neck. It is fruitless
but I must ask…as I do
every morning…

“Beloved, please stay…
hold me tightly,
never let me go
or let me come
with you.”

Our fingers interlace
with greater intensity.
A tear escapes
traveling a well worn path.

“My darling, my beloved, I dwell in
your beautiful heart and linger in your
sweet memories.” His words
are carried on the breeze.
Kissing my tear away he whispers,
“I hunger to taste your lips,
to feel my body against yours.
Please do not cry, beloved.
You must be strong until
we can be together
once more. “

The heat of the sun
chases away the wispy
clouds encircling my body.
As its rays traveled up my body
his embrace weakened until
his last whisper settled upon
my heart.
“I love you my darling,
forevermore.”

Opening eyes brimming with tears
I will them not to fall. I must be strong
, for the love of my sweet prince
fills my heart. I will do my best
to honor your memory through my
love and compassion toward others.

I will keep fighting against the night
and your love will be my everlasting
shield and sword. I will not fall to
he who would delight at my
destruction.

Nay, I will
win this day and the next
and then the one after that
until there is no more suffering
and pain in this broken creation.

To my last breath,
until we hold one another
I will be strong.

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.