MY JOURNEY TO THE WAY- PART 4 – more hope

Father Timothy said he will interested in my thoughts about Lent.  The saturation and poetry of the scripture readings went straight to my soul where they steeped in the deep waters of my being.  I had never experienced Easter in that way before.  It was a journey with Christ from Lazarus  to the Resurrection in Holy Week.  I loved it!

An act of love I will also never forget was that of Nadine sharing her umbrella with me, holding it more over my head than hers so that she got rained on and I did not.  I felt so bad, but she insisted.  I was unworthy of such an act and so receiving that gift was extremely difficult.

The fast itself was difficult at times as well.  Part of it was that I still have yet to grasp the significance of it.  I am willing to learn.

My favorite part of Holy Week was the Friday service where the Lamentations were read.  You know that author who actually puts into words the thoughts in your mind?  This is Lamentations for me.  It is full of the echos of my soul.  I absolutely loved it!  It included Lamentations in the Bible but also had the journey of Christ to the Cross, to Hades to the Resurrection in beautiful language.

There was something special about the Lazarus story that struck my soul. Jesus called to Lazarus  after he was in the grave for 4 days.  Lazarus was indeed dead. No doubt about it.  When they removed the stone, the smell of rotting flesh must have escaped the tomb. There were people standing outside the tomb, as the icon depicts, with their hands over their nose, not in wonder, but because of the smell.  That is reality.

But what strikes me is that Lazarus had nothing to do with Jesus calling His name.  He did not ask for that to happen.  He was helpless to respond. He was dead. He did not want to respond, but neither could he refuse to respond.  He was dead.

The same principle is shown in the story about the 4 friends who let down their sick friend through the roof to the room where Jesus  was.  The story says nothing about the sick man’s desires, condition or status.  It says nothing about his morals or his righteousness.  What it does talk about is the concern and action of his 4 friends.

There is hope, therefore, for the one who has strayed from following Jesus, and cannot even see that they are dead in their sins.  They may be blind in the darkness in which they are walking and may not even have a desire to change.  Worse, they may have deceived themselves and really believe that God would have them happy in the lifestyle they have chosen.

The hope is that the prayers and faith of the ones who love them may be effectual and may avail much.  God may have mercy, give sight to the blind and cause their spiritual awakening and salvation.  This is the hope for every parent who grieves over a lost child. The hope for every lost or wayward soul who is loved by one who knows God.

Touching the Real

5/16/14
It has been at least 2 years, maybe more, since I have been to my daughter’s grave. Today, I felt the need to get in touch with something real, something true. Death is real; death is true. Thirty-four years ago, I said good-bye to a precious 2 year old little girl named Susie. And I cried today as if it was today. As I stooped down and brushed away the few strands of grass that had grown over the flat engraved stone, I wept. I wept because life is bigger than me. Accumulated pain is drowning me. It never gets any better.

Now at 57 years of age, I have more questions than I do answers. Where is the wisdom that is supposed to come with age?

Another cruel stone thrown with a vengeance on my life’s pile of painful stones has made them all come crashing down upon me again. It is a cascade of evil leading to destruction if it has its way, leaving nothing but questions in its path.
I thought if I prayed and lived a clean life, God would honor that. I thought if I was faithful to tithe and serve Him in the church, He would reciprocate. I thought if I put all my heart and soul into being a good parent, learning as much as I could about it, and putting it into practice with prayer, it would reap good things. I depended on His protection for my children. And yet, there was something I did not see that was happening to my children.

There is plenty of blame to be placed, but I blame myself for my blindness. Why did I not see what was happening? Why did I think that staying with their dad was better than leaving him? Why did I think the virtue of having a dad outweighed the detrimental influence of his emotional sickness and the evil in him? Why did the church teach that divorce was wrong across the board? How long will my children continue to pay for my stupidity, for the behavior of their father, and the negligence of the church?

More and more I find that I do not know what is real and what is unreal, what is true and what is not, what is right and what is wrong. The lines between the sacred and the secular have become more and more blurred as time goes on. We live in such an imperfect world that it seems ludicrous to suggest that there can be any values built upon it. If the foundation is wrong, there is no logic to anything rising from it. Anyone can justify and rationalize any behavior or way of thinking by only slightly tweaking the schematic. And who is to say they are wrong? Maybe they are right in their logic. Maybe I am the one who has hang ups.

But you know what? I have to get up out of bed every morning and make myself go to work and survive. Every breath I let out cries to be brought back in, and so I breathe again, wondering when that final breath might be, and how painful it will happen.
Life goes on and life finds a way. I don’t know how. I don’t know what to do with the irreconcilable differences between the holy and the unholy (if I can even tell the difference). Thank God this world is not my home. It is a veritable hell at times. I look for a better country and I seek the fellowship of a God Who loved me so much that He gave His Son to die for me. His Son has been born in me, and that is what keeps me going. Because He lives in me, I can face tomorrow.

In this confusing painful life, I know I have one steady thing on which I can always count and on which can always cling. That one Rock that is faithful, steady, and true. I had to feel something real today, so I knelt beside death. What is more real than death? Death means there is something real and true. Death is something to be reckoned with because it is real. It is going to happen to every one of us. And since death is real, it stands to reason there are other things that might be real. Life is real. Life and death. And Who has the words of eternal life?
And so once again, He is my strong habitation whereunto I continually resort. More than that, He is my Redeemer. No one else can take a bad situation and bring beauty from it. No one else can make beauty from ashes.

I need Him now more than I ever have. I feel the darkness of evil rising up to devour me and my children and grandchildren. I fall in desperation at the foot of His Cross. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. In the cesspool of my sin, blindness, and mistakes, because I am helpless, I have only one recourse: to cry out from my slough of despond for Help.

We are fighting a spiritual battle with the demons of hell and the father of lies and the distorter of truth. I do not know how to fight, but I know I can pray to the One who promised He would hear me when I call.

My Morning Mantra

Thank you, Lord, that You are in control, that You work all things after the counsel of Your own will.

Thank you, Lord, that you do everything right on time, that my times are in Your hands.

Thank you, Lord, that You are faithful, the same yesterday, today, and forever, that You are the Rock that I stand on, the Song that I sing, my strong Habitation whereunto I continually resort.

Thank you, Lord, that You are my helper, that my help comes from the Lord which made heaven and earth, that You will not suffer my foot to be moved. You who keeps me will not slumber, You that keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is my Keeper, the Lord is my Shade upon my right hand.  The sun shall not smite me by day, nor the moon by night.  The Lord shall preserve me from all evil.  He shall preserve my soul.  The Lord shall preserve my going out and my coming in from this time forth and even forevermore.

Thank you, Lord, that You are good, that Your mercy is everlasting, that your truth endures to all generations.

Thank you, Lord, that You love me with an everlasting love, that You command your lovingkindness in the daytime and in the night Your song will be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.

Thank you, Lord, that You are my life.  You said that if I believe in you, out of my belly shall flow rivers of living water.

For in You I live, in You I move, and in You I have my being!

…taken  from the Holy Bible

Reciting this every morning for years on my way to work has helped me start the day with the right perspective and has enabled me to leave the day in His hands no matter what happens.

Through You I Was Loved

How did you know I was hurting, that I’d come to the end of my strength?

You know we’d not even spoken, yet you prayed for me at length.

I thought I had covered it well, though my tears I could hardly hold back.

How strange that you felt my need and sensed I was under attack.

I thought the whole world had forgotten me, my friends and loved ones too.

Then I felt the strength returning when God showed me He loved me through you.

My despair made Him seem far away; I had needed someone  to care.

But tonight again God loved me, when you mentioned my name in prayer.

Carol Vaughn