Why, Lord?

Recently, some difficult things have come into my life, as they do in all of our lives. The most recent event was the sudden death yesterday of my cousin’s 13 year old granddaughter in a mountain bike accident. The whole family is devastated as she was dearly beloved and had such a promising life ahead of her. Those closest to her immediate family are completely distraught.

With this tragic news and with so much difficult news all around the globe these days, I find myself feeling the questions of so many. “Why, God?” Why is this happening to us? Some may be angry at God for allowing hardship, but others may sincerely and deeply want to know why. When I ask God why He has allowed things in my own life, He often gives me an answer if I am sincere in my question. When we consider the difficulties of others, we cannot know the reason for each specific situation. It’s not ours to know, but overall there are some basic answers for all of us.

Since the days of Adam, we have all been placed in situations where we have to choose – good or evil? Adam and Eve chose and so it has gone on down through the generations. It is part of our free will. We often find ourselves in the middle, in a valley of decision. Sometimes we literally choose a good or evil object or situation, but other times the choice is in our attitude towards the situations we find ourselves in or towards the events that happen to us. Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and they seed may live:” God always wants us to choose the good and high road. Even in our grief, we can choose to love God, to continue on in faith and to know that somehow the things that He allows will draw us closer to Him.

Jeremiah 30:3 says, “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” To me, those are some of the most beautiful words in the Bible. Everything God is allowing to happen in our lives, as difficult as it is, is drawing us closer to Him in some way. We may never be able to see those ways, but thankfully God has a higher perspective than we do.

I cannot begin to fathom the grief of my cousin’s son and his wife at the loss of their daughter. However, my faith says that somehow their daughter is okay. She is in God’s hands. Their grief will lead them on a long road and they will always miss her, but hopefully, in their grief, they will find God and when they do, they will also find His comfort and love. I don’t know why we as humans so often need tragedy to drive us into God’s arms. We often just live life and enjoy the pleasures of this earth and forget who gave them to us. Difficult circumstances and tragedy jolt us out of our everyday living and open our eyes to the greater purpose of life.

It sounds selfish of God to want us to love Him above all else, but that’s just our earthly point of view. I believe that His love is entirely selfless. He knows that when we love Him, He can lead us and draw us ever closer to Him and then one day, when we have continued to overcome up to our last breath here on earth, we can join Him in His heavens and be eternally useful to Him.

Today, I’m praying for my cousin’s family and for others who face unimaginable circumstances. Lord, let them find you through their tears and lead them to a higher place, Lord. Send them comfort and love and most of all, let them eventually find a greater love for you. And God, take care of Lily and keep her until someday (not too soon please) her family can join her.

How can this guy be best friends with everybody?!

No one alive today needs someone to tell them that these are really difficult days to be alive on planet Earth. For most of the world it has been about eight or nine months (ten if you’re in China) since we last felt normal. We don’t know when or if normalcy will return. Many of us have lost loved ones, jobs, and/or the companionship of friends and family. We’re collectively lonely. Everywhere.

Personally, I miss my children and wonder when they will be able to come for a visit again. It’s not easy for them to come since they live quite a few hours away by airplane. Of course, we have the facetime chats, which are greatly appreciated, but it’s just not the same. Normally, when they visit, we would be heading to the local coffee shop for a cup of tea and a chat, or perhaps heading out for a drive in the northwest hills of our state (with more tea and more chatting).

With so many ideas of COVID-19 and loneliness and election craziness running through my head this morning, I thought, “Lord, we need you to be close more than ever.” Right away, I realized the error of my ways. The Lord is always close to us. It’s us that need to be close to him. It sounds a little trite to say it, but yes, we need him. Obviously.

We need more than a distant, two dimensional “facetime” chat with him. He’s real. We need to sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat with him. There are so many issues we need help with. He can give us the patience to wait out the vote counting process, the faith to accept whatever the election result, the love to fill our loneliness, and the strength to bear up through these difficult days.

He’s not a boring God. He’s very personal. If we like gardening, so does he. If we enjoy reading or writing, he loves it too. If we love a long bike ride on a Sunday afternoon, he’s always up for it. Sewing? Knitting? Yup! He’s great at it. He would love to come along, no matter what we’re doing, and fill our hearts and minds with inspiration and ideas about living a complete and whole human life.

Take him to work and he’ll give us ideas on how to do things better and be more efficient. He can show us answers to problems that we have not been able to resolve. If we’re going out for a walk or to work out at the gym, he’s already dressed and raring to go. He can’t wait to help. Getting ready to cook dinner? He has the perfect choice and is always careful not to let food spoil or go to waste. It’s going to be tasty and healthy with a bit of a treat now and then. He really is our best and most loyal friend.

Try it! He never disappoints! How can this guy be best friends with everybody? Well, he’s God! ūüôā

Fighting the good fight

In the battle of life, we should never, ever give up.  Life has seemed like a battle lately for many, perhaps even for the whole world.  During a physical battle in World War I, an important French general, General Ferdinand Foch, is famous for having possibly said:

“My center is giving way, my right is in retreat; situation excellent. I shall attack.”

I love that attitude.  Whether he said these actual words or not is not important, but in his life he made it a priority to maintain a constant positive attitude.  He did not let the confusion of the battle or the situation overcome him.  He stayed focused and in control.  He did actually say the following:

‚ÄúA lost battle,‚ÄĚ he proclaimed, ‚Äúis a battle which one believes lost. A battle won is a battle we will not acknowledge to be lost.”

Hang in there.  We should not be attacking one another.  We are not the enemy.  The enemy is the hateful thoughts, selfish attitudes and angry feelings that we harbor.  We should attack whatever demons are hiding in our closets that are holding us hostage.  When we feel as if our center is giving way, our right is in retreat, we should remember General Foch.  The situation is excellent.  Time to attack.  Attack the negativity with positivity.  It will soon disappear.  With the help of God, we can overcome.  With such confidence, we are well able to gain the victory.

DO NOT GIVE UP!

Youth Activism for a New Generation

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

SAVE OUR EARTH!

On the Ides of March this year, young people around the world held climate strikes to protest what is happening to our environment on our beautiful planet.¬† It’s wonderful that today’s young people want to step up and do something to improve our beloved earth.¬† Certainly, our weary earth could use a little support together with some positive changes.¬† Along with the protests, I heard a few short clips of young people talking about why they were protesting.¬† Some of them said that climate change is the biggest current threat to human life.¬† One young lady was lamenting the condition of the world and her future.¬† She laid the blame on older generations and she said something to the tune of “We just want a world like you had.”

Her words struck me as (at best) uninformed.  Really?  You want the world that we had?  We had the Cuyahoga River filled with so much debris and pollution that it caught on fire.  We had so much air pollution that the skies over Detroit and many other major cities were red.  What we did not have was recycling programs or trash to energy plants.  We had Three Mile Island and superfund sites.  In our youth, we had rampant discrimination against blacks and lynchings.  We had Emmett Till, the Mississippi Burning civil rights murders, and the Birmingham Baptist Church murders.  Then we had the civil rights demonstrations where people were tear gassed and water cannoned.  We had the assassinations of Medgar Evers, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcom X.

We should never desire to go back in time or wish that we could have something other than our current situation.¬† Our generation made it possible for the new generation to worry about single use plastic bags, bottles, cups and boxes.¬† Our generation created recycling programs and trash to energy plants and closed down many nuclear power plants.¬† We demonstrated for civil rights and against the Vietnam War.¬† Although some of us embraced chemical fertilizers and GMO crops, others of us began organic gardening, seed saving and the Environmental Protection agency.¬† So, quit blaming the preceding generations.¬† Now it’s time for you to step up to the plate.

Your generation has awesome ideas.¬† Put all of your boundless energy to a positive use.¬† Many of your generation are creating ways to clean up the oceans, end the use of plastic bags in grocery stores.¬† Do some research.¬† Find out what the problems really are and create solutions that will not only work, but also add something positive to our earth.¬† Remember that you too will leave a legacy.¬† Leave one that you will feel proud of one day, and when your children reach their age of maturity, don’t let them tell you that they wish that they could have what you had.¬† Remind them that you had issues too and that you dealt with those issues and that they should not look back, but look forward and use their energy to solve the problems of their day.

Check out Regeneration International, a group that is not just going organic but is trying to leave the earth BETTER than it was before.¬† (https://regenerationinternational.org/)¬† We don’t have to continue to hack down our forests and destroy the earth with mountains of chemical fertilizers.¬† We can improve.¬† We can go one step further than previous generations.¬† You can.¬† You can do it, but don’t waste your precious energy blaming generations before you. They did their best.¬† They didn’t know what you now know about plastics.¬† Create something better.¬† It’s all inside you.¬† Let it grow.

Time Passages

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I love the title of Al Stewart’s song, Time Passages.¬† It describes so well the amazing gift of time that we have on this earth.

My dear mother passed away in early January.¬† A parent’s passing is always a defining moment in a person’s life.¬† My mother was blessed with time.¬† She was 96 when her time came to pass on.¬† Although she had been afflicted with some type of dementia for several years, she was still cute, sweet and at times downright funny.

However, it wasn’t always so.¬† Helping to write her obituary, I realized a lot of things about my mom and ever since her passing, there have been conversations with siblings about her life and reflections on what she accomplished in life.¬† One single life on this earth is so complex and so precious.¬† Each life has a myriad of experiences to go through and so much to learn from those experiences, taking each lesson learned on into the next experiences.

Mom had a lot of challenges in her life.¬† She had a fairly controlling mother, eight children and not much money.¬† She lived through the depression years, World War II and the shocking 60’s when all societal rules seemed to fly out the window.¬† She spent hours dealing with her own mother when she herself had small children to take care of as well and later, when her father and her mother-in-law were old and needy, she spent all of her days caring for them and taking care of those needs.

My mother was an overcomer.¬† She met all of those challenges with grace and dignity.¬† Sometimes she had reactions as anyone would, but she did what she needed to do without complaint.¬† As we were writing our mother’s obituary, we realized that we couldn’t make it so flowery that she would seem to be a saint from the moment of her birth.¬† It wasn’t that way.¬† It never is, right?¬† Isn’t it more real, more adventurous, and more challenging to have a life long parade of situations that, through the passage of time, shape our nature?

Mom always had her own personality, but her character developed as she aged.  She became more patient, a better listener, more concerned with others.  As those qualities increased, others decreased: less anger and less worry.

Enhancing the positive qualities and diminishing the negative ones is what this life’s journey is all about.¬† We are all born with issues and we all encounter troubles along the adventurous road of life, but what an exquisite testimony there is when one of God’s children is at the end of their journey here, giving those who knew them the opportunity to look back at all the hardships along their route and to witness firsthand the growth of God’s life in that person.¬† What a solid evidence, sure and positive, that we can do the same in our lives.¬† Our situations may be different, but we have the same potential that they did.

When we witness a wonderful life, we don’t have to stand far off and feel dismal about our own existence.¬† This person was an ordinary person, just as we are, and he or she began his/her life with the similar challenges and similar skepticism about the possibilities of ever changing them.¬† Because we, like them, are born into the human condition, we too can allow our circumstances to mold our character and improve those things that require either a bit of touch up or a major overhaul.¬† We too can experience time passages and watch God’s handiwork in our lives.¬† Day by day, step by step, we come up a little higher and when time has finished its passages in our lives, hopefully others will say of us that we were overcomers and will, in their time, find inspiration to do the same in their lives.

Verses and a verse: Courage

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**Sandinista Avioncitos

The little airplanes of the heart

with their brave little propellers

What can they do

against the winds of darkness

even as butterflies are beaten back

by hurricanes

yet do not die

They lie in wait wherever

they can hide and hang

their fine wings folded

and when the killer-wind dies

they flutter forth again

into the new-blown light

live as leaves

–Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

These are difficult days that we are experiencing.  Sometimes, it feels as if we are buffeted by the winds of the hurricanes that have recently traversed our world or by the flames that scorch our west coast.  We need to take heart in the Scriptures that uphold the righteousness that God has planted in us.  We need to surely know that righteous lives soften the paths that others must follow in the future.

Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

** Although this title seems negative to me because of the reference to Sandinistas, I have chosen to leave it in so that the poem can be properly identified.  The poem itself is very sweet.

Memorial Day Freedom

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Memorial Day. In memory of those soldiers who died in the service of their country.  There is a boulevard in my small town called Memorial Boulevard.  Along this boulevard are several memorial statues dedicated to city soldiers who lost their lives in various American wars.  There are also oak trees planted along this boulevard and next to each oak there is a marker with the name of a city soldier lost in World War I.  There are about thirty such markers, a huge toll for such a small town at the time.  It has been nearly a hundred years since they died on foreign soil fighting for freedom.

So, what freedom did they fight for? ¬†One hundred years ago, the average citizen had less freedom than modern young people in regards to his or her family. ¬†It seems as if young people had certain obligations towards their families that young people today don’t have. ¬†To a large degree, today’s youth can choose the career of their dreams, move to the location they desire and marry whom they choose. ¬†They can make a life for themselves, but is that freedom? ¬†At the same time, we have lost other kinds of freedom that people one hundred years ago took for granted. ¬†Today, we owe much to our government. ¬†More and more, our government decides what is appropriate. ¬†We have lost the right to pray in our schools, to put the Ten Commandments in public places and even to display a creche at Christmas time on the town green. ¬†The people of one hundred years ago would be surprised at what we can no longer do. ¬†Are we now “free?”

What makes a person free?  We would all agree that a  person who is addicted to alcohol, smoking or to internet porn is not free.  He/she is a prisoner to that habit.  Just as an addict is not free from his addiction, I am not free if I freeze in fear each time I face a large crowd in a public speaking situation.  I am a prisoner of that fear.  Or perhaps each time I open a package of cookies, I eat the entire thing.  I am a prisoner to that craving.  Both situations create a negative result for me.

So, on this Memorial Day, as we honor those who died to preserve our freedom, what makes us free?  Freedom in regards to our family or our government increases or decreases and yet still we find ourselves not one hundred percent free.  The only real freedom we can enjoy is freedom inside of ourselves, in our souls.  Only the truth can make us truly free.  If we live that truth and free ourselves from those things that hold us prisoner, then we are free indeed with a freedom that no one can take away.

We are truly grateful for those soldiers who nobly fought and died to preserve our natural freedom.  It gave us the opportunity to find and live our spiritual freedom.  Thank you to those thirty young men who died one hundred years ago.  Thank you to the men and women who have died before then and since that time.  The most deeply felt thank you must be reserved for Jesus who most nobly fought and most lovingly died that we each might find our true freedom.  Thank you Jesus.  We remember you this Memorial Day weekend.

Listening!

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At the botanical gardens – quietness enters my soul. ¬†Without the external hustle of this world, God’s Word comes more easily. ¬†Listening.

This morning I was reading a passage from the Psalms.  I like to read a different translation from time to time.  Sometimes it gives me a new perspective on a topic.  The passage was Psalms 81:8 Р16 in the Smith and Goodspeed translation.

“Listen, O my people, while I warn you; if you would but listen to me, O Israel! ¬†There would be no strange god among you; nor would you bow down to a foreign god. ¬†I, the LORD, am your God; he who brought you up from the land of Egypt. ¬†Open wide your mouth that I may fill it. ¬†But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would have none of me. ¬†So I gave them over to their own self-will, that they might follow their own devices. ¬†If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would only walk in my ways, I would quickly humble their foes, and turn my hand against their enemies. ¬†Those who hate the LORD would fawn upon him, and terror would be upon them forever; but he would be fed with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock would I satisfy you.”

Self will or God’s will? ¬†It’s either one or the other. ¬†They both cannot exist in the same space. ¬†These two wills are constantly at odds.

It has to be a deliberate choice to stop the self plans and let God lay out his plans. ¬†To get God’s view for this moment or this day or this life, I have to lay aside my self-will. ¬†Forget about it. ¬†Let it go. ¬†See what God has in mind. ¬†Let’s make a deal. ¬†Self will is only going to get us in trouble anyway. ¬†Let’s really listen.

Listening naturally to the world around us, we surrender our own thoughts to hear the sound of birds chirping, little bees buzzing and light breezes passing through.  Such wonderful music for our ears!  Listening spiritually to our Father, we surrender our own will to hear what he has to say.  A reverential symphony for our soul!

Love is contagious

Yesterday, on the way to work, the finale of Les Miserable came on the radio.  This song always puts me in a mood of contemplation and profound reverie.  It touches us all on a deep level of the simple love that we have for our Father.  That love resides somewhere in all of us, though it may be covered up and rusty in quite a few.  We all desire in our hearts for a world where we can live in peace, where all men will put away the sword.  We long for such a place for our children and for their children as well.

Our present world bears no resemblance to that apparently far off desire. ¬†Today’s world is more a world of the barricade than a world beyond the barricade. ¬†We struggle with news reports of far off wars, local crimes and sad stories of corrupted officials that make us lose hope that such a world of peace could ever exist.

It does¬†exist. ¬†We can achieve it. ¬†I, as an individual, cannot force anyone else to want or create such a world. ¬†I can only look inside of myself and eliminate the hate inside of me. ¬†I may proclaim, “but I am not a hateful person. ¬†I’m a nice person!” ¬†Wait a minute! ¬†What about that annoying person in the next cubicle? ¬†Do I hate him? ¬†What about the person that always rubs me the wrong way? ¬†How about the guy that cut me off on the highway this morning? ¬†Do I hate him? ¬†Or did I pray for him as he was speeding off?

There is a solution to hatred. ¬†Instead of avoiding that person, hoping that he or she will go away, think about his/her life for a while. ¬†What would be something that he/she would really like? ¬†Not a big flashy gift, but something small and simple, that shows you’re thinking of him or her. ¬†Maybe a cup of coffee or just a kind gesture. ¬†Something that would touch his/her heart. ¬†He might end up hating you for doing that, but you will have taken one further step toward eliminating the hate from your heart.

People don’t respond well these days to words and doctrines, but love, they can’t resist that. ¬†The song ends with the words, “to love another person is to see the face of God.” ¬† Love grows. ¬†Love is contagious.

A Crystal Stair in Disguise

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This is¬†one of my favorite poems by Langston Hughes, Mother to Son. ¬†When one of my daughters was young, she changed it to Daughter to Mother and recited it to me at a time when my life seemed really as if it had been no crystal stair. ¬†Quite a few years and experiences have passed under the bridge since then. ¬†The poem is perfect as is, but as life’s struggles¬†add layers of richness to one’s wisdom,¬†I think that I would add onto this poem some kind of little postscript to thank God for every one of those difficulties: the bare places, the splinters and the places where the boards had been torn up. ¬†Each one of them was leading me on to the next landing, the next summit where there would be a new panorama view on life and truth. ¬†Thank you, Lord. ¬†Life did not seem like a crystal stair to me at times, but although it was in disguise, it truly was a crystal stair leading to you. ¬†That’s what life is all about! ¬†Something to remember when you’re going through tough times.

Mother to Son

BY LANGSTON HUGHES

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor‚ÄĒ
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don‚Äôt you fall now‚ÄĒ
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Langston Hughes, ‚ÄúMother to Son‚ÄĚ from Collected Poems. Copyright ¬© 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes.