You can find out more from Donna on her blog, “From the Shoe,” and her post, “Why I Hate Drugs.”And stay tuned here as I follow the progress of Mark’s painting, “David’s Sunrise.”
“Life is but a preface
To a never ending tome.
A story yet unwritten,
Waiting to unfold.
There will be no epilogue,
“The road goes ever on,”
As someone wisely wrote
Not so long ago.”
Our short stay here on earth is like the preface of a book. Short and sometimes sweet. If we stand back and put our years into perspective of just known history, our lives are very short indeed. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” As my parents have gotten older just like when my grandmother and great aunt had aged, I seem to be walking through the valley of the shadow of death. I am surrounded by their mortality, and reminded of my own. One day, it will be my turn. And for the record, no one knows when it’s their turn. I don’t like to presume I have thirty more years, we’ve all learned, sadly, that some will go sooner than expected.
So somber, so sad…especially for those who left unexpectedly. But…as believers in Jesus Christ, the good news is that life really is just a preface, a short introduction to the complete story, the purpose of the literary creation. A preface to a wonderful story yet to be written by the One Who created the beautiful heavens and the luscious earth, the One Who wonderfully and fearfully created you and me. “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.“
I have come to accept the finish line of this earthly race, whether it’s far ahead or near, I can’t tell. My eyesight has worsened since my 40’s. My hare-like nature has wizened up a bit, and is trying to apply some tortoise-shaped brakes to the break neck speed I’m used to. Always in a hurry. Time to slow down and ponder this short brief “vapor” of a life I’m living.
What is life all about? Is life nothing more than a library of stories of those who came before us, those who share our point in time and those who are to come? Our brief tango with time. Will our accumulation of experiences and memories only disappear after our deaths or, at best, linger in the memories of our family and friends? What’s it all about, Alfie?
When I was a young adult, I struggled with these questions. I struggled to find my place in my family and in this world. I sought for truth. The true understanding of what this life was about. I found the answer in Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Coming from a catholic background, it wasn’t hard to personally embrace the teachings of the New Testament. Being born again was and continues to be the prime reality for me. Yay, Jesus lives! There is eternal life, and there is meaning to our lives here on earth. And there is Someone Who loves us beyond our imagination.
So after I made this decision, my life was perfect, right? Hahaha…ad infinitum. No, it wasn’t. I was still saddled with this human, sinful nature. I’ve made my share of mistakes, poor decisions and sins of omission. I’m at a place where I look around at the landscape of my past and try to understand my present. I am thankful God in Christ has forgiven me, and for all that is in Christ which is now mine. It’s taken me a long time to apprehend the treasures we’ve received as Christians. I hope I can redeem the remaining time for the benefit of my kids, to provide a somewhat sturdy, albeit at times stumbling example to walking in His steps.
Moses is attributed to writing Psalm 90. In this lovely piece of Hebrew poetry, he writes, “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” As I look forward (meaning looking forward (ahead), not looking forward) to the conclusion of my preface, however long that might be, I look to Him to teach me to number my days, that I may present to Him a heart of wisdom. Something I can take from this life, and hopefully, something that will linger in the memories of my family and friends to point them to the Ancient of Days, the only true God and Jesus Christ Whom He had sent.
This morning I drove my son to work early. I got a good night’s sleep…thank you, Lord…and was listening to this new song I discovered from one of those corny Hallmark Christmas movies. It’s a sad Christmas song, and I think if the songwriter added an emotional bridge, it would be a classic.
Anyway, this song reminded me of a very painful Christmas sixteen years ago. There was a fight, and me and the nine kids (I was pregnant with the caboose) left and went to my parents for the holiday. It was the beginning of many low points. It was the beginning of the end.
The song reminded me of the days of many children. The days of many regrets…not regretting the kids, but many of my decisions during those years. Normally this line of thinking would land me in the “depths of despair” to quote Ms. Shirley, but not this morning, I just left it for what it was. Mistakes were made, but there were some good memories.
After I got home, I read today’s devotional in Mrs. Cowman’s Streams in the Desert, Vol. II. She quotes Psalm 92:1, It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. She starts the devotional with these lines:
The remorse of memory is the pain of having failed to enjoy yourself. Have you ever felt that kind of remorse? Have you ever come to a time in which you looked back upon the past, and learned how little you valued it? To find that days were happy when the days are gone, to learn that one is passing through Elysium and not know it, to see the light on the hill only when it is setting – that is one of the saddest of all experiences. It is the climax of pain when I say with the poetess: “Oh, while my brother with me played, Would I had loved him more!”
I had read that quote before and didn’t understand it, until this morning. When we add gratitude to our lives, gratitude for the good and the bad, we create appreciation, value if you will, to those times. As I look back at that painful Christmas, I realize how good my kids were, for enduring what they did with resiliency and grace. They were and continue to be good sports.
Below is the rest of the devotional, which I must add because it is written by George Matheson, one of my favorite brothers in the Lord. I am looking forward to meeting him when I go….
My soul, wouldst thou be free from that pain — that remorse of memory? Thou mayest be so; live in present thanksgiving! Count thy sunbeams now! Treasure today the gems that are strewn upon thy path! The love that is merely retrospective is a very painful thing. I would not have thee wake to the glory of a past only when it is past — desire one of the days of the Son of Man after He ascended. If thy days of sorrow at any time should cloud thy days of joy, I should like thee to be able to say, ‘Well, while they lasted, I did appreciate them.’ There are some who want to feel at death that their life has been a vain show. I would not have it so with thee, O my soul. I should like when death comes, to feel that I had thoroughly enjoyed life — taken the honey from the flower as God meant me to take it. I should like to know that I had not defrauded myself of my birthright, that I made room for others because I had had my share. The cup of gladness which my Father has given me shall I not drink it, even unto the dregs!
I shall thank Him for every bird that sings. I shall praise Him for every flower that blows. I shall bless Him for every stream that warbles. I shall love Him for every heart that loves. I shall see the sparkling of the cup ere it passes to the hand of my brother. There shall be no remorse of memory when I have thanked God for today. — George Matheseon
Hallelujah, and thank you, Lord for this chilly, wonderful Day.
I love books! I mean, I really love books. Many times I would rather read than eat, that’s how bad it is. When I have extra money, I’d hit up the used book section at Florey’s or even splurge on a new book purchase. One day a few years ago, I had some money, like maybe $30 (now that’s a lot for the used book section) and I stopped by Florey’s. I found some nice used books and was very pleased. But I was in for a pleasanter surprise. Coming out the bookstore, I saw the sign – 2 DAY LIBRARY BOOK SALE at the Pacifica Library. Oh my gosh!! I still had an hour to kill before I had to pick up the kids and at least $15 bucks left. And the sun was shining in Pacifica! Don’t you just loved those days when the stars align just for you!
With great anticipation, I scooted up the little hill to the library and even found a parking space. I spent the next 45 minutes hungrily searching the various sections and left with a bagful of goodies that only cost about $13. Of course, I should have used the money for something more practical, like extra boxes of oatmeal or topping off the gas tank, LOL, I mean pulling the indicator out of the red. But I am a hopeless book addict. I have decided that if I marry again it will have to be to a man like the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast”. I fell in love with him when he gave Belle his fantastic library. Now that’s a man after my own heart!
My love for books was born in my grandmother’s Richmond District living room. She had a wall full of books, the built-in bookshelves stretched from her lovely carpeted floor to the high ceiling; and for a young girl, it was larger than life and filled with so much potential. Similarly at Uncle Bill’s Russian River cabin, he had dotted the entire cabin with small bookshelves so everywhere you went you were sure to find a silent companion. I am not comfortable without books around me. They are my constant companions, and they don’t talk back!
No movie, no second-hand account, no Cliff Notes can convey the clear impressions of a great literary creation. Forever etched in my mind is Aeneas’ wrestling over whether or not to plunge the sword into Turnus’ breast in Virgil’s Aeneid.
“I know my death deserv’d, nor hope to live: (said Turnus)
Use what the gods and thy good fortune give.
Yet think, O think, if mercy may be shown-
Thou hadst a father once, and hast a son-
Pity my sire, now sinking to the grave;
And for Anchises’ sake old Daunus save!
Or, if thy vow’d revenge pursue my death,
Give to my friends my body void of breath!
The Latian chiefs have seen me beg my life;
Thine is the conquest, thine the royal wife:
Against a yielded man, ‘t is mean ignoble strife.”
In deep suspense the Trojan seem’d to stand,
And, just prepar’d to strike, repress’d his hand.
He roll’d his eyes, and ev’ry moment felt
His manly soul with more compassion melt;
When, casting down a casual glance, he spied
The golden belt that glitter’d on his side,
The fatal spoils which haughty Turnus tore
From dying Pallas, and in triumph wore.
Then, rous’d anew to wrath, he loudly cries
(Flames, while he spoke, came flashing from his eyes)
“Traitor, dost thou, dost thou to grace pretend,
Clad, as thou art, in trophies of my friend?
To his sad soul a grateful off’ring go!
‘T is Pallas, Pallas gives this deadly blow.”
Or when, in Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons, Thomas More explains to his daughter, Margaret, why he cannot sign the Act of Succession, that by taking an oath he holds his very self in his hands.
When a man takes an oath, Meg, he’s holding his own self in his own hands. Like water. And if he opens his fingers then — he needn’t hope to find himself again.
And he adds later in the play these sublime words.
Listen, Meg, God made the angels to show Him splendor, as He made animals for innocence and plants for their simplicity. But Man He made to serve Him wittily, in the tangle of his mind. If He suffers us to come to such a case that there is no escaping, then we may stand to our tackle as best we can, and, yes, Meg, then we can clamor like champions, if we have the spittle for it. But it’s God’s part, not our own, to bring ourselves to such a pass. Our natural business lies in escaping. If I can take the oath, I will.
Or the divine act of kindness by hungry little Sara Crewe in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, when after she found a coin in the gutter and bought half a dozen hot cross buns only to part with five of them to one hungrier than she.
“Bless us–no,” she answered. “Did you find it?”
“In the gutter,” said Sara.
“Keep it, then,” said the woman. “It may have been there a week, and goodness knows who lost it. You could never find out.”
“I know that,” said Sara, “but I thought I’d ask you.”
“Not many would,” said the woman, looking puzzled and interested and good-natured all at once. “Do you want to buy something?” she added, as she saw Sara glance toward the buns.
“Four buns, if you please,” said Sara; “those at a penny each.”
The woman went to the window and put some in a paper bag. Sara noticed that she put in six.
“I said four, if you please,” she explained. “I have only the fourpence.”
“I’ll throw in two for make-weight,” said the woman, with her good-natured look. “I dare say you can eat them some time. Aren’t you hungry?”
A mist rose before Sara’s eyes.
“Yes,” she answered. “I am very hungry, and I am much obliged to you for your kindness, and,” she was going to add, “there is a child outside who is hungrier than I am.” But just at that moment two or three customers came in at once and each one seemed in a hurry, so she could only thank the woman again and go out.
The child was still huddled up on the corner of the steps. She looked frightful in her wet and dirty rags. She was staring with a stupid look of suffering straight before her, and Sara saw her suddenly draw the back of her roughened, black hand across her eyes to rub away the tears which seemed to have surprised her by forcing their way from under her lids. She was muttering to herself.
Sara opened the paper bag and took out one of the hot buns, which had already warmed her cold hands a little.
“See,” she said, putting the bun on the ragged lap, “that is nice and hot. Eat it, and you will not be so hungry.”
The child started and stared up at her; then she snatched up the bun and began to cram it into her mouth with great wolfish bites.
“Oh, my! Oh, my!” Sara heard her say hoarsely, in wild delight.
Sara took out three more buns and put them down.
“She is hungrier than I am,” she said to herself. “She’s starving.” But her hand trembled when she put down the fourth bun. “I’m not starving,” she said–and she put down the fifth.
The little starving London savage was still snatching and devouring when she turned away. She was too ravenous to give any thanks, even if she had been taught politeness–which she had not. She was only a poor little wild animal.
“Good-bye,” said Sara.
When she reached the other side of the street she looked back. The child had a bun in both hands, and had stopped in the middle of a bite to watch her. Sara gave her a little nod, and the child, after another stare,–a curious, longing stare,–jerked her shaggy head in response, and until Sara was out of sight she did not take another bite or even finish the one she had begun.
I came across the lyrics of this old hymn from Lilias Trotter’s Parables of the Christ Life. Written by Gerhard Tersteegen in the 18th Century, these words seep down into my soul like a sweet rain on thirsting ground:
Gently loosens He thy hold
Of the treasured former things—
Loves and joys that were of old,
Shapes to which the spirit clings—
And alone, alone He stands,
Stretching forth beseeching hands.
And finally, the serene, sublime words – “he restores my soul” – of the shepherd-king from his most famous psalm. Words that have found a resting place in billions of hearts over the centuries. Words that have guided many souls from this life to the next. One of David’s greatest legacies, one of God’s greatest gifts to man.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort meThou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Such treasure, such beauty….however, I am but a poor dilettante traveling the rich borderlands of a vast continent of literary landscape. I have only scratched the surface. There are places I have yet to travel; happily, I have the rest of my life to go and enjoy this beautiful country.
Probably my favorite passage from Mrs. Charles Cowman’s Streams in the Desert – July 26
For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness – Galatians 5:5
There are times when things look very dark to me–so dark that I have to wait even for hope. It is bad enough to wait in hope. A long-deferred fulfillment carries its own pain, but to wait for hope, to see no glimmer of a prospect and yet refuse to despair; to have nothing but night before the casement and yet to keep the casement open for possible stars; to have a vacant place in my heart and yet to allow that place to be filled by no inferior presence–that is the grandest patience in the universe. It is Job in the tempest; it is Abraham on the road to Moriah; it is Moses in the desert of Midian; it is the Son of man in the Garden of Gethsemane. There is no patience so hard as that which endures, “as seeing him who is invisible”; it is the waiting for hope.
Thou hast made waiting beautiful; Thou has made patience divine. Thou hast taught us that the Father’s will may be received just because it is His will. Thou hast revealed to us that a soul may see nothing but sorrow in the cup and yet may refuse to let it go, convinced that the eye of the Father sees further than its own.
Give me this Divine power of Thine, the power of Gethsemane. Give me the power to wait for hope itself, to look out from the casement where there are no stars. Give me the power, when the very joy that was set before me is gone, to stand unconquered amid the night, and say, “To the eye of my Father it is perhaps shining still.” I shall reach the climax of strength when I have learned to wait for hope. –George Matheson
Strive to be one of those–so few–who walk the earth with ever-present consciousness–all mornings, middays, star-times–that the unknown which men call Heaven is “close behind the visible scene of things.”
Last night my niece, Jessica, posted the above sentiment on her Facebook status. Before I fell asleep, I managed to comment encouraging her to find Bible verses to counter those feelings. I’ll try to do that in this blog. Here’s her Bible verse prescription for the above ailments that trouble her, and all of us too.
I encouraged her to find Bible verses because I had, and still do have, those exact feelings. I’m sure most of us do. I especially relate to the “ugly”, “like I don’t matter”, “invisible”, and “not worthy of love” feelings, but I will tackle each of them. I have learned over the almost four decades of knowing the Lord Jesus, that He can transform my mind which in turn will produce different feelings than those above.
Today I feel abandoned…I think every human has felt abandoned, lonely and alone. No one truly understands. And that’s a true experience. There are many synonyms for “abandoned”, left, uncared for, forgotten. When I think of abandoned, I think of an empty house, abandoned, like the old Granville house in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. What changed that abandoned, empty house into a happy home? Life and love changed it. In Christ, we have a new life, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come; the old has gone, the new is here!” John 3:16 says we’re loved, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” and John 10:10 says “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.“ Life and love, and to top it off, Jesus says in Matthew 28:20, “…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Never alone again. Amen.
Today I feel ugly…I don’t think there’s a woman in the world who has never felt ugly. We are bombarded with images of unnaturally beautiful women everyday and then we look in our own mirrors…ughh. That may be one of the reasons I have few mirrors in my home. Antonyms for ugly abound: beautiful, pretty, pleasant, nice, attractive. Most of us can’t change our looks, but we can change our inner lives. From there, we can acquire an inner beauty that never ages. We have to admit we’ve got some ugly going on inside. How do we change that? One verse that helps is Psalm 34:5 “They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed.“ When we look at Jesus, we become radiant, we have a spiritual beauty, and from that we get joy. Nothing gets rid of ugly faster than happy.
Today I feel hurt…Hurt comes to all of us. Physical, emotional, mental pain abound in every country, city, and family. Pain: Our great unifier. The opposite of hurt would be healing. Psalm 34:18 assures us, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” and Psalm 147:3 promises, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds.” As we draw near to Him, our hurts will be healed.
Today I feel like I don’t matter…The opposite of this feeling would be we feel like we do matter, that we’re important, that we’re special. The Bible says you matter to God. In the Old Testament, God says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” In the New Testament, Paul tells us how God showed us we matter, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Greater love has no one than to lay down his life for his friends, Jesus loves you that much. Believe me, you do matter to God.
Today I feel useless…This word “useless” reminds me of the debilitating slur some parents would hurl at their children, “good for nothing”. Praise God He’s not that kind of Father. Paul, after he declares we are saved by grace through our faith, says “…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” You’re not useless, God will use you just where you are.
Today I feel invisible…What’s the opposite of invisible? Visible, of course, noticed, seen, but more importantly, recognized, not just seen, but known. Someone who knows you. David says in Psalm 139,
13For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.
He knows all about you because He created you. You are NEVER invisible to Him. Hallelujah!
Today I feel like I don’t belong…Dr. Brené Brown in her book The Gifts of Imperfection writes: “A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need in all women, men and children.” We all want to belong to someone or something. Psalm 100:3 says, “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Jesus adds to this, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.” As Christian believers, we belong to Christ.
Today I feel not worthy of love…I know this one too well. I never felt like I was worthy of anyone’s love, let alone a man’s. Some where deep down I felt flawed, “irregular” like the marked down clothes at Target. I wrote a whole blog about how God transformed my feelings of worthlessness into beloved-ness. All I can say is we need to let God love us, and then we not only feel beloved, but we are capable of truly loving others. Here is a link to that blog: https://fromtheshoe.com/2015/12/05/and-my-soul-felt-its-worth/. Just like the Christmas song says, when Christ was born, “the soul felt its worth”. Thank you, Lord.
So, dear Jessica, here is your prescription to alleviate those “sick” feelings and come back to health. I pray for you that you will come to know the living Christ and be filled up with all the spiritual blessings He is ready to offer you. God bless you, little sister.
Rarely does Mark get a commission to do a landscape from a photograph, but my old friend Donna had taken a photo that had a profound meaning to her, and she wanted Mark to paint it. When she explained the story behind it, I understood why.
On Feb 19th of this year, Donna’s daughter found out that David, the young man she was seeing, had OD’ed. They were all devastated.
A few days later, on Feb 21, Donna went to work early and decided to take a route she rarely takes. The sunrise was brilliant, so she pulled over on a residential street in South San Francisco, to take this picture.
Later, when her photo was posted on the Everything South City site, someone commented on it, saying that it was very meaningful to her. Not the bird flying above, but where it was taken. It was David’s mother who told her that the photo was the exact location where David had died.
Donna had no idea where David had died when she was inspired to take that sunrise shot, but now this image has become more of a significant landmark to everyone involved.
And for you, the reader, this image becomes one more example of how art can imitate life, and how an unseen God can intervene in the world, making Himself known through an art form, captured at an intersection of time and space, inserting His presence where He is needed most, to help in the process of grief, honoring a young man taken too soon.
Because of Donna’s keen eye for finding beauty in her surroundings, stopping from her everyday routine to appreciate it, she now can bless David’s mom with the gift of this painting.
Mark also gets to be a part of this story. By Donna commissioning him to paint this photo, Mark can now extend his brush to communicate more of God’s beauty and love, to give a little more comfort to a family still hurting from this loss. What a privilege.
You can find out more from Donna on her blog, “From the Shoe,” and her post, “Why I Hate Drugs.”And stay tuned here as I follow the progress of Mark’s painting, “David’s Sunrise.”
I’ve had the great pleasure these past few days of enjoying the splendid music by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. How I overlooked these guys is beyond me. Come most Januarys, when the hills in Pacifica are at their greenest, I begin listening to my favorite Irish songs. Leading up to March 17, most days are sprinkled with various renditions of “Only Our Rivers are Free”, “The Town I Loved So Well”, “Danny Boy”, of course, and many other musical nuggets I’ve extracted and cherished over the years.
This year, I’ve been listening to songs of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. What led me here was a cover of “Red is the Rose” by Anthony Kearns (one of the Irish Tenors) that serendipitously appeared on my Pandora autoplay. I youtubed it and found a stirring cover by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem which, of course, led me to other songs. My new favorite song is “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?” sung sweetly by Tommy and the brothers.
The tune and the tempo remind me of that lovely, traditional Scottish melody “Loch Lomond”, a song me and my river mates would sing while making our way back to my cabin which sits on the bonnie braes of the Russian River in Guerneville, CA; we could take the high road off Leasowe Lane (up to Drake Road) or stay on the low gravelled road to the cabin. Maybe it’s that tune that stirs this deep feeling in me.
However, it’s the song’s sweet, innocent lyrics that capture this old, romantic’s soul especially as it’s sung to the hauntingly, beautiful tempo of the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.
Now, granted, I’m a tad old to be pining for a laddie to lure me to the mountains; yet, the lyrics remind me of another old, older love song, one that can be translated into a spiritual hope, a future journey. In Song of Solomon, the Shulamite woman tells us:
“My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along. For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs, and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come away!” – Song of Solomon 2:10-13
Will this lassie go? I will go, someday. Someday, He will call me home…where maybe there’ll be blooming heather growing near the wild mountain thyme. Who knows what eternity will be like? Solomon said, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts…”. We are made for eternity, and I believe eternity will be beautiful too. Music like this song is eternal.
That is our hope in Jesus Christ. He said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” He is the Resurrection and the Life. This Lenten season, this St. Patrick’s Day, let us remember who calls us beloved, who calls us to come and follow Him, and who went to prepare a bower (place) for us.
In this life, we only skip along the outskirts of eternity. I hope we don’t get distracted by all the things of this world, the things that will pass away. Songs like “Will Ye Go, Lassie, Go?” remind us how powerful music is and how some songs transcend time. They skirt the mountains of eternity and call us to come. Will ye go, Lassie, Laddie, will ye go?
“Come away, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the mountain of spices.”
Song of Solomon 8:14
I’m writing this blog in a lot of pain and anguish. Last week my daughter got word that a close friend of hers OD’ed. A good friend of mine lost her son last year to the same thing. Three bodies were found last week in San Francisco, their deaths attributed to suspected drug overdoses. At anytime in the past few years, I could have gotten – and can still get – that dreaded phone call about one of my kids. But I am not writhing in pain today, but this fella’s mother and father are as well as his siblings, cousins and the numerous friends who are shell-shocked by this catastrophic phenomenon known as death. A “really sweet” life gone much too soon.
Death is one of the reasons why I hate drugs, and that includes the abuse of alcohol. All my children, my siblings, and, I am sure, most adults I know are intimately acquainted with the pain associated with drugs and alcohol abuse. How many of us know people who died from alcohol related accidents or drug overdoses? Yeah, most of us. And death is a permanent robber. There is no re-do, no restart. It is GAME OVER for good. Not forever, because as a Christian, I know the good-bye is not eternal, just GAME OVER for here. But still the pain left in the wake of a loved one’s death is unimaginable, heartbreaking. No one is the same, no one recovers.
Another reason I hate drugs is drug use is living a lie. The high we get is a lie. I know many folks use all kinds of drugs to help cope with issues and other difficulties in life, but let me tell you, it’s a lie. Life is freaking hard, and drug use does not make it easier, it makes it harder. God has given us resources to help us in difficulty that can help us grow and not be dependent on drugs or alcohol or anything except Himself. Drugs rob us of those opportunities to grow, even though it’s hard. Sorry, I am really mad and really sad.
Another reason why I hate drugs is if they don’t KILL you, you STILL rob the world, your family, your friends of your life. All your gifts lie dormant, your talents subdued and your great potential squandered. All your parents see in you gets lost to this demon. Your laughter becomes hollow and your eyes dim, your dreams diminish and eventually disappear. All what a parent hopes for their child is lost. A different kind of death. And what is there….a never ending war because while there is life, a parent is gonna fight.
And finally, the last reason why I hate drugs is the pain. Everybody hurts….like the REM song. Granted, I know many who use are in pain, many who drink excessively have pain, I understand and sympathize, but medicating the pain through drug use and alcohol only perpetuates it; it doesn’t resolve it. So the drug user is in pain, I get it, but does the drug user know that their habit causes pain. We’re all in pain. A pain we who watch cannot stop because we love the user.
There’s got to be another way. I hate drugs, I hate what they’ve done to my kids, I hate what alcohol has done to my brother and ex-husband. Their dad’s choices have caused pain that my kids had to deal with at a very young age. I hope that pain can be converted to some good for themselves and their eventual families.
And now, I think about this young man’s mom and dad, and the devastating pain they are in now, today, tomorrow and for the rest of their lives. Someday I might have to walk in those shoes. My daughter has said flippantly, “You won’t care if I die.” I told her I don’t want to find out. I don’t want to know that pain. I am in pain for these people I don’t know just like I am in pain for my friend who buried her 37-year-old son last year. I hope these deaths will steer many away from these drugs. There are tons of resources out there to assist.
Life is hard just the way it is, no need to add to that hardship. Our children are our greatest blessings and most of us parents only want our kids to grow up and embrace life, life with its hardships, yes, but life also with its wonders and goodness. Faith in Jesus Christ gives meaning to this life, its joys and its sorrows. With Him by our side, we can face life. Although life is filled with death and its associated pain; hallelujah, we have a distant hope, one that can somehow – eventually – assuage the desperate, despairing depth of pain a loved one feels. Thank God for that.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. – Revelation 21:4
Like a lot of San Francisco families, my parents have a cabin up at the Russian River. We’d spend all summer there when we were kids until the summer of ’72 when we all got busted raiding the parents’ bottles. Before that though, after our chores, we kids would find our friends and hang out. We’d walk into town and get candy at Lark’s: the berry lollipop, the apple rope gum and even the candy cigarettes. We would hike up the hillsides and build forts. But most of all we would spend our summer days swimming in the river.
I took my kids up there a lot too. We could never go swimming until the sun hit the pier. So while we waited, we would go to the park or to Armstrong Woods or even hit up Lark’s like I did as a kid.
Sometimes though, we would just hang out in the backyard, and the kids would start digging holes. My kids love to dig holes. What is it with kids – a shovel, a pail and a ton of dirt? I don’t know, but they can be happy for hours playing in the dirt. Sooner or later though, my father would holler from the deck some 25 feet high and tell them to quit digging holes and to fill ’em up. We sadly filled the holes and just waited for the sun to hit the pier.
Another time, my kids were in their own backyard in the East Bay, and they started to dig a giant hole. They spent hours and hours digging it real big and played in it like it was a fort. I couldn’t care less, I always enjoyed when they were wholesomely occupied. But their dad showed up and told them to fill the hole and not to dig anymore of them. What a bummer!
One day, years ago, my sister, her kids, my kids and I went to Pacifica State Beach in Linda Mar. We grabbed all of the play toys and marched to the shore. What do you think was the first thing the kids did? Yep, they started digging holes. But, unlike the other times, no one told them to stop. Rather, it seemed like God joined them in their play. His laughter roared in the sound of the waves as they played. The waves would playfully fill up their holes. And as the surf retreated, the kids were challenged to dig more holes. And they did!
The waves roared back, laughing, playing with the kids. They played all day digging and running away, only to dig and run away again. It was delightful to watch. No one told them not to dig holes; instead it seemed as if God was playing with them. He didn’t mind them digging holes in his backyard.
I had one of those tempest-tossed nights awhile back. Some issues weighed heavily on my mind as well as an intermittent struggle with various fears and doubts. And there was a loud party three cabins down the road. I thought that I would sleep like a baby this night because I had little sleep the night before; but, alas, no. I dread these nights.
The minutes ticked by as if they were hours. I longed for the chirping birds, not the chirping crickets or robust revelers. Also, various noises in the night heightened my stress. I prayed for Jesus’ countenance that enabled him to sleep in the storm driven ship. But, I could not apprehend it. As soon as my mind settled down, a new squall would arise. I could not find peace nor slumber.
In a desperate measure for relief, I renounced all the ideas that brought me to this place. I decided that I would stay where I was, and I would run to my refuge: the ocean, and mingle my tears with this great body of salt water. As I envisioned myself so doing, I likened my salted tears with the brine, and the idea that the ocean is a teardrop of God’s came to my mind. I imagined this great body of salty water was His teardrop. Not the culmination of all His tears, nor the cistern of sorrow from the sufferings of centuries, although that’s an interesting thought, too. But the ocean as a single divine teardrop.
His teardrop. One single teardrop put the perspective of God’s greatness in new light. I know the heavens are unfathomable, even contemplating the immensity of the sea overwhelms me, but just trying to understand the ocean as a single divine teardrop is almost a tangible thought even though I know He is greater than that. As I thought that in the midst of my stormy night, I wanted to write the idea down, but there was no pen or paper nearby, so I fumbled with my phone and emailed the thought to myself.
Eventually I fell asleep and faced the next day. However the issues work out, I know I know a great God, one who has my tear drops bottled up, and when I look at this vast body of water I live next to I will remember that night, that night of struggle, that night of illumination when I caught a glimpse of His greatness.
Reflections on the Journey in Christ by Christopher Page
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