Waiting with Silent Hope

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How often we fill our minds with things that do not make for peace! My mind, for instance, can quickly fill with health worries or the reality of missing my grandchildren. It is not uncommon for me to dwell on the notion that I abandoned them by moving away. It’s not uncommon for me to focus on one aspect of my health and blow it out of proportion, leaving me with a heart full of fears about the future.

But when I allow myself to fill my mind with worries, I am definitely not at peace. I become restless and fearful. A heavy feeling of dread descends upon me. I feel alone, and inadequate to face the future.

But there is a remedy for such harmful feelings. It is placing myself in the presence of God. It is waiting in silent hope for God’s voice of comfort. It’s not always easy to do, but it is a calming and peaceful state of being. Howard Thurman describes it beautifully.

“We wait now in Thy Presence with the silent hope that something may transpire within us that will relax the hold we have on the things that do not make for peace.”

I cannot say it any better than that. I can only wait in God’s presence with silent hope.

Abundance!

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I certainly have days of feeling down, but the truth is that I am blessed with abundance. I am covered with an abundance of love. In early September, my husband and I will celebrate forty-seven years of marriage, a marriage overflowing with love and completely free of discord. My love for my grandchildren is unmatched. And I have the love of a close family who cares for me every day. Friends from all over the world are praying for me. So it’s no exaggeration to say that I am clothed in the love of a wonderful family and a host of friends.

I am also covered with an abundance of peace. My husband and I often marvel at the sheer peacefulness of our home, the quiet neighborhood, the good neighbors we have, the comfortable house we live in.

And I am covered with an abundance of grace, cared for by a faithful God who has continuously poured grace on my life. Day in and day out, in good days and in not so good days, God has blessed me with more grace than I deserve.

Abundance of love, abundance of peace, abundance of grace. Who could want anything more!

“God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” — 2 Corinthians 9:8

Ordinariness

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Life can be as ordinary as a field of common clover, all three-leaf. I sometimes get tired of ordinary. I grow weary of passing days with 24 ordinary hours, day after ordinary day. Nothing exceptional marks the days and nights. They just pass, making me wonder if I’m wasting them.

In my younger years, I had the ability to make extraordinary things happen. Not in these days. These days, it seems that my most noteworthy accomplishment is to thrive in the midst of ordinary days.

I would be lying if I said I did not miss the extraordinary days of my life. And I would be lying if I said I am not still trying to reach the extraordinary realm in some way. The truth is I am trying. I am struggling to find meaning in my present days and to cherish every day as a gift. By the way, now and then in that very ordinary field of three-leaf clover one spots a sprig with four leaves, and suddenly it is not so ordinary. It has been estimated that there are approximately 10,000 three-leaf clovers for every four-leaf clover. Even so, people still look for them and known records for finding that rare four-leaf clover have reached as high as 160,000.

Still, I make peace with ordinariness. And as I do, I pay close attention to the words written by Lindsey O’Connor.

“Sometimes mystery defies what our head knows and we feel God reach down into the ordinariness of nightly ritual and speak to our heart with a whisper.”

― Lindsey O’Connor, The Long Awakening, a Memoir

Even in the ordinariness of ritual, I can say that God reaches down and speaks to my heart with a whisper. It is those holy moments that sustain me. An an occasional four-leaf clover.

We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

A photo by Gian-Reto Tarnutzer. unsplash.com/photos/rZsqmXfM3qQ

At times, it’s difficult to see clearly. It’s as if a mist is hovering over your path and you’re not sure which way to go. You certainly cannot see what’s up ahead. You’re left with taking one step at a time toward a shrouded destination.

We humans like more clarity than that. We like to see where we’re going and we like to plan ahead and plan well. But the reality is that life’s journey is about valleys of shadow and mist-covered paths. If we move ahead at all, we move with faith in someone bigger than we are, someone who knows what’s ahead and will not leave us comfortless.

So when the path is long and steep, when obstacles are in the pathway, when the mist blocks our way ahead, we can follow the God of grace who has always been with us on the journey. The more difficult the journey, the more grace God gives us.

I have loved the hymn by Annie Johnson Flynt (1866-1932), “He Givith More Grace” for so many years. β€œHe Giveth More Grace” is based on 2 Corinthians 12:9, β€œAnd he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upom me.”

Annie Johnson Flint lost both of her parents by the time she turned six years old. She was later adopted by a couple who had no children of their own. As a young teenager, it was discovered that Annie had severe Rheumatoid arthritis. She quickly began to live with a great deal of pain, and was soon crippled by the disease. She loved composing music and playing the piano, but her arthritis soon prevented her from doing so, and she began writing poetry, much of which was later set to music. As she grew older and her hands became more crippled, she typed with her knuckles on an old typewriter, penning some of the most beautiful poetry ever written.

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

When we face difficulties, we are not alone. God’s grace covers us, we walk ahead by faith and we are given the presence of the Holy Spirit.

He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord – for we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:5-7

 

 

 

All Things Bright and Beautiful

A photo by Anders JildΓ©n. unsplash.com/photos/O85h02qZ24w

What a clear, bright day this is! Hot, yes, but still bright and beautiful. As I sit here with my morning coffee, I am struck at how grateful I am for my life. It does present its challenges, but for the most part, I am well, safe and loved beyond measure.

It is true that when I don’t feel well, I see the dimmer side of life. I worry and fret over my health. I wonder what the future holds. I entertain dark thoughts of fear and uncertainty. But those days come and go, leaving me in relative contentment and in gratitude for all the things I enjoy.

What a delightful sight to watch dozens of hummingbirds from my kitchen window! What a joy to hear from my grandchildren with a new photo! What fun it is to watch my flowers grow (or maybe wilt) in the sunlight! What a wonderful thing it is to be close to a loving family! What wonderment there is in enjoying all things bright and beautiful!

I love the hymn text written by Cecil F. Alexander and published in 1848:

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,

The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

Grateful today for all things bright and beautiful!

Listen to this hymn at this link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yZq8ZUE6GTU

Dark Night of the Soul

A photo by Tobias van Schneider. unsplash.com/photos/44t1AZNIMIE

When I walk through the darkness, I do not walk alone. Even though I feel utterly alone, the presence of God is real. Dark times of life are sometimes called “Dark nights of the soul.” A dark period of life is felt as a deep-seated spiritual crisis.

One person who experienced this is Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Ten years after her death, a collection of her private letters was published. The letters revealed that, for the entirety of her public ministry, she endured unceasing feelings of desolation and abandonment by God, her dark night of the soul. It persisted from 1948 almost up until her death in 1997, with only brief interludes of relief in between.

Saint ThΓ©rΓ¨se of Lisieux, a 19th-century French Carmelite, wrote of her own experience. Centering on doubts about the afterlife, she said, “If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into.”

So when we experience such darkness, we can at least know we are not alone in the experience. Still, dark nights of the soul are frightening and very real. They challenge our faith and make us question our relationship with God. Sometimes they happen suddenly. But more often, they are the result of a great loss or disappointment, triggered by some external event or some disaster.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes this from her book, Learning to Walk in the Dark.

When we can no longer see the path we are on, when we can no longer read the maps we have brought with us or sense anything in the dark that might tell us where we are, then and only then are we vulnerable to God’s protection. This remains true even when we cannot discern God’s presence. The only thing the dark night requires of us is to remain conscious. If we can stay with the moment in which God seems most absent, the night will do the rest.

An Unconquerable Soul

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We face dark obstacles at times. We are as assailed on every hand, tried by difficult life circumstances. We sometimes find that our very soul is heavy with grief and loss. Yet our soul is unconquerable. We face life unafraid because of our faith in a protective and faithful God. When tribulation covers us, we know that we are also covered by God’s grace.

“Be gracious to me, O God, be gracious to me, For my soul takes refuge in You; And in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by.” – Psalm 57:1

And there we abide, under God’s wings. We strengthen one another with our stories, taking solace as we hear that others have survived their storms. We share both our joys and our sorrows, our hope and our descent into hopelessness. The stories give us courage and raise in us the will to move past whatever pain we suffer. One such story is that of William Ernest Henley.

At age twelve, Henley was diagnosed with tubercular arthritis that necessitated the amputation of one of his legs just below the knee. His other foot was saved only through a radical surgery. As he healed in the infirmary, Henley began to write poems, including β€œInvictus,” which concludes with the oft-referenced lines β€œI am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.”

Invictus

William Ernest Henley
1849-1903

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

I have been brought low in this life, too many times to count. I have fallen into the dust, barely able to pick myself up off the ground. But on this day as I stand tall, safe from the throes of pain and loss, I give thanks to God for my unconquerable soul. There may yet come a day of darkness for me. But what remains is a soul unconquerable.

Small Miracles

 

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Two years. Every day on dialysis. Confined to one room for over seven hours every night, tubes holding me hostage. Tubing and tape under my clothing twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Don’t get me wrong. I am deeply grateful for the lifesaving treatments. I am grateful for the medical team that cares for me and examines me carefully twice a month. I am grateful for my husband, the greatest caregiver, who hooks me up every night, keeps our equipment sterile, orders dialysis supplies and medication, and does so much more.

But I still get tired of the confinement of dialysis. I often wonder how long I will be on dialysis and if I’ll ever have a kidney transplant. I wonder how long the dialysis will be effective for me. I wonder about how to stay as healthy as possible. I think about the burden I am on my husband and try to find ways to pull my own weight.

I have many questions and few answers. Sometimes that reality brings me down. It is a constant effort to stay emotionally healthy.

Yet through it all, I trust the protection of God who brought me this far after a year of serious illness. Through a lot of prayer and a series of small miracles, I found my life again. It is true that I experience fear, especially when I wonder what my future holds. But God has been present for me, making sure that my fear does not consume me. I rest often on this scripture passage:

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

Our Flag Was Still There

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“And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

The words of “The Star Spangled Banner” were written by Francis Scott Key in 1814. In 1930, the Veterans of Foreign Wars started a petition for the United States to officially recognize “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem. Five-million people signed the petition, and it was presented to the United States House Committee on the Judiciary on January 31, 1930. The Committee voted in favor of sending the bill to the House floor for a vote. The House of Representatives passed the bill later that year. The Senate passed the bill on March 3, 1931, and President Herbert Hoover signed the bill on March 4, 1931, officially adopting “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem of the United States of America.

The message of the anthem still stirs the heart. Out of the 2016 Olympics came many stories of American pride. One such story is about U.S. Army Reserve 2nd LT Sam Kendricks. As he was running towards an attempt at the pole vault, he hears the national anthem. He immediately stops the pole vault attempt to stand at attention.

A beautiful part of “The Star Spangled a Banner” is found in a little known third stanza.

O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.
Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: ‘In God is our trust.’
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Axis Moments of the Heart

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People from every state have been sending prayers and support to the people of Louisiana after the devastating flood there. The natural disaster visited upon Louisiana brings out the best of who we are as neighbors — the kindness, the compassion, the generosity.

As we send our prayers and positive thoughts, we know that the people of Louisiana are grateful because the scale of this disaster is historic. Whatever we can offer — donations, volunteer labor, prayers — has been gratefully received.

Bishop Steven Charleston describes the outpouring of care with these words.

As so often happens when natural disasters strike, the best in human courage, kindness and endurance shines through the loss and the grief. These are the great axis moments of the heart, when we swing from our lowest point of despair to our highest expression of faith. Our differences are forgotten, our conflicts set aside. What matters is life and the love that sustains it.

Even when great loss comes to pass, we experience together those “axis moments of the heart” when hope rises above despair and we express our faith in acts of love. Thanks be to God for placing within us hearts of compassion and caring.