Venus and Jupiter are very close together tonight. Conjunction will happen tomorrow evening, so look into the Western sky soon after sundown for a rare treat. We should always open ourselves up to rare treats that happen on occasion. Open hearts, open eyes, open souls can bring us to once-in-a-lifetime events.
God has those rare events waiting for us. We need only to be open to seeing what we may have never seen before. My life is longing for a “rare treat” that can awaken me to new possibilities. So I plan to scan the Western sky tomorrow evening. Who knows what God might want to show me! I’ll have eyes wide open to see.
This is a quiet time of life for me. I am spending these days and nights making peace with myself, getting to know myself again without all the work trappings or titles. I am no longer an executive director of anything. I am nobody’s pastor. I am not a victim advocate. I am not clergy.
Yet, I have always understood my call to ministry to be a permanent, unending call. So finding present peace for this moment of my journey means learning to live out my ministry without all the “employment” that filled my time for so many years.
This quest is a process that takes time and introspection. Where does worship happen for me? Where do I create those holy moments with God that were so much a part of my life? What is my ministry now that I have no particular place for ministry?
I cannot yet answer all those questions. But I am deeply grateful for the time of contemplation and for God’s presence in this time. Perhaps God was waiting all along for the day when I would enter my quiet time.
It it was one of those “caterpillar” days when one feels imprisoned by certain life circumstances. On this day I felt the darkness of being in a cocoon, not knowing when I would break out, or even if getting out was possible for me. I had experienced a number of losses … the ability to walk by myself, the ability to bathe myself, the ability to write. And now, on this day, I discovered that I was losing my hair.
It was very hard for me to remember that a caterpillar and a butterfly are one in the same. I wondered when I could get out of the cocoon stage and fly again.
In her book, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” Annie Dillard tells about the monarch butterfly that flies all the way across Lake Superior, and makes it all the way without a rest. That is a distance of about 500 miles! We don’t understand how those delicate butterflies do that. But thousands make their way across that mighty lake every single year during their migration.
Still, Annie Dillard says that none of them arrive without being wing-battered, snatched at from behind, hind legs torn off by the birds that pecked at them along the way. It really is rough out there!
We know that, too, about our life journeys … It really is rough out there at times. We are sometimes wing-battered, but the Book of Jude tells us that there is One who keeps us from falling.
“There is one who is able to keep you from falling. He is able to present you without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing.”
In spite of my life losses, I can rejoice about that.
When you pass through the stormy seas, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Storms threaten us in life, but they always give way to calm. Stormy seas definitely threaten smooth sailing for us, but our boats most always survive and we sail again with calmer winds in our sails. For so many people, illness has brought life storms. Often the storm rages for a long time and causes great fear. But sometimes we are able to make it through the storm and find ourselves back in gentle winds.
I can honestly say that the stormy seas of serious illness came upon me with a vengeance in 2014. But the storm calmed and I knew beyond any doubt that God was with me on that journey. Will the calm wind always blow gently through the sails of my life? Probably not. Will God be with me when the storms come? Absolutely. I will hang on to that.
In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present. – Francis Bacon
The days passed slowly, the nights seemed to last forever. Those nights in the hospital were definitely dark times for me, hours of fear filled with worry. The dark time frightened me and made me wonder how I would get beyond that fear. Eventually I learned to embrace the darkness as a quiet time of reflection. I learned that God provides enough light for those who are patient. I experienced God as healing light, a light that was working within me.
I learned that I would survive this darkness and be whole again. Most of all, I learned that in order for the light to shine so brightly, there must be darkness.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomea it. – John1:1-5
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Beginning in February of 2014, I began to waste away. The Scripture passage describes me well when it says the “outer self is wasting away.” My kidneys had failed and I had infections upon infections leaving me weak and, at times, completely unresponsive. During that time I was unaware of the fear my husband was experiencing. When I came to myself and began to recognize the world and the people around me, I learned of the seriousness of my illness. I was completely unaware that I almost lost my life.
It was in those days of very slow recovery that I recognized my outer self wasting away. There were so many things I simply could not do, and I had to re-learn basic life activities. I can honestly say that, because of the prayers of so many friends, I experienced the miracle described in this Bible passage . . . my “inner self is being renewed day by day.”
I am so grateful that I did not lose heart, for after all, given the immensity of eternity, it was only a light momentary affliction.
The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. – Deuteronomy 31:8
The road ahead suddenly seemed treacherous. There were jagged stones that made the path uninviting. I was afraid to travel that road that day over a year ago, and I questioned whether or not going forward was even possible.
I did have a friend present that day, and for that I was most grateful. As everyone knows, hospital meals are not always palatable. On this day, though, they brought a nice chicken pie and I was hungry. But there was no way I could feed myself. My hands were simply not functional.
My friend fed me that day. I was discouraged, despondent, wondering if I would ever function normally again. I was very afraid of the road ahead. I could not see a smooth path ahead, only a road covered with boulders. How would I move ahead?
The only comfort that minimized the stones in the road was the promise in Deuteronomy: The Lord goes before you and will be with you. He will never leave you or forsake you, so do not be discouraged and afraid.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. – Psalm 46:1
My own journey, like yours, takes me through days of bright sunshine, days of hope and anticipation, and days of peace when all seems right with the world. But we also encounter shadows along the journey and sometimes we experience nights that are darker than a thousand midnights. Nights of indecision, despair and fear.
My time of illness included many of those dark days, with the fear of not knowing what would happen next. I learned during those frightening days that I don’t have to have perfect faith, dauntless courage or unfaltering hope. Because the journey through our lives is both struggle and hope, not just one or the other.
I am convinced that we must see a new image of God as one who is a help in the midst of trouble, not a rescuer from the trouble. I hope that my life journeys will take me through the shadows safely and move me into the bright sunlight.
May we experience God, always, as a very present help in times of trouble.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distresssed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9
i looked around me and saw all the signs of being troubled, perplexed, even persecuted and cast down. The signs: a walker, a wheel char, a lift chair, a bath chair with heavy duty handrails – all signs that I could no longer care for myself. The house, transformed for my comfort, was daunting to me, depressing. And I wondered if ever again I would be able to walk on my own and get up out of my chair.
This passage of scripture, though, rang holy and true. I was not destroyed even after all the destruction to my body. I had failed kidneys, but I still had life, and the hope that my dedicated physical therapist would help me find my way back. During those days, she came twice a week, as did the woman who was my bath aide. Slowly, but surely, they taught me balance, helped me rebuild my strength, and taught me to walk, to get up from my char, and to bathe myself.
I spent many hours sleeping during that time, and I spent my time in relative solitude while inspiration and new hope came back to me slowly and quietly.
I was definitely cast down in these quiet days, but never destroyed.
If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. – Psalm 139:9-10
One of my favorite passages from the Bible took on more significant meaning during the worse days of my illness. Like most people would, I felt completely trapped by my sudden limitations. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move around on my own. I could not even feed myself.
I was afraid that I would be forever trapped in a place of having lost my abilities. I was afraid I had lost myself completely. I longed to “take the wings of the morning” as the Psalmist said, and transport myself to a better place. Yet even in that frightening place, I felt the strong sense that God’s right hand was holding me securely. For that I am truly grateful.