The big choice

It’s been a hard week. The death of a dear young person close by, along with a poorly handled health crisis of a son-in-law, so far away in.Switzerland, who had a second, more aggressive surgery today that shouldn’t have been necessary, the shootings and reactive killings across our country, and terrorism throughout the world have roiled over me. I’ve spent a lot of my nights praying, and a somber cloud has shadowed my days.

It’s not a lack of faith. I know who is in charge, the Alpha and Omega. I know how the story ends. I know evil will not ultimately triumph.

Not even death.

But as I drifted off to sleep last night I realized I don’t want just a glimpse of peace.

I want peace in huge gulps, big armloads, total immersion.

I wondered, have I been so focused on the aches and pains of others–I really do care and often feel led to intercede—that it’s all I see, the dark side of life?

Does this view diminish the colors of everything else?

Maybe it is a daily question, which starts with The Big Choice, then must be chosen afresh every morning.

Maggie Valley

Do I choose life?

Or will I follow the pain? Dwell in the grief? In the gray place? Look no further than this side of the glass darkly?

Some of you are natural optimists (how often I’d like to trade places!). If you are still reading, you may be wondering what the issue is. Make the choice and get on with it, you say.

But I wonder if sometimes you roll right past the hurt and needs of those around you. (There is a reason the world is populated with both types of people. We need visionaries and optimists who will launch projects and lead the way. But we also need those who can’t help feeling trauma, confusion or fear in another person and want to make a difference, either directly, or by lifting that person to the One who Heals.)

I circle back, content with who I am — my place in the world.

And, once again, I choose life.

Even when there is pain I will look for the colors.

I’ll be more intentional about enjoying the flowers, the sunsets, a bird’s wing, laughter, the voice of a little girl with every reason to cry, singing, “Amazing Grace.”

red flowers driftwood on Dry TortugasCelery Fields, Sarasota, FLstar white flowerSarasota Sunset

It’s all right here for the choosing.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” I Cor 13:12,13

Empty tomb and empty nets

So the stone is rolled away. The tomb is vacant. But my nets are empty. I have been struck with these scenes, after the long dark night was supposed to be over, snippets I glimpse at times in my life. The huge stone is not a problem. But the empty tomb is so dark. How many times do I sit in the gloom rather than run to the blinding light?

stone in Maui by Jack H Thompson, Jr

How many times have I heard the voice outside my tomb — outside my pain, my regret, my yearning for what has never come true, dreams crushed or fading – and didn’t recognize the Voice of everything I really need.

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How often have I walked through life, intense and searching, not knowing my Companion has all the answers?

So many times I’ve gone on my way—the boot-strap thing.

Thrown my nets back into the waters of my comfort, only to come up empty.

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Who is that calling to me across the waters?

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Across the waves I sometimes struggle to keep my head above?

A voice so familiar. Yet, I’m never really sure.

Until I am close.
Until I see the hands.
Until I see the provision.

And hear the words of forgiveness.

Then, I can begin, again.

This side of the tomb.

Breathe deep.

Spirit deep into all the cracks, into the open wounds and into the scars, into the soft vulnerable places and into the hard, walled-off places.

Until the Wind dries my cheeks and the nail-scarred Hand lifts my chin.

And I can finally look into the Light.

 

Is our world spinning out?

Vehement criticism has become the national pastime in the United States. The gulf is growing between people of opposing views, values, races, religions, sects . . . (if there is a difference between people, it can go here). From talk shows to political debates, Facebook comments to news ‘discussions’ the degree of acrimony is chilling. No longer about discussing differences, it is all inflicting pain. Wiping out the opponent. Never listening, pausing only long enough to refuel and continue the attack.

As a peace-at-any-price soul, even on a visceral level this grieves me. And as one who believes the words of the Prince of Peace, “Love your enemies, and do good to those who hurt you,” I find it harder and harder to turn on the TV or read the news. I feel like completely disengaging from the current elections, and for the first time, not even voting.

It seems that compassion, without which our society cannot long survive, is in short supply, meted out only for “chosen” babies, endangered species and victims.

But the definition of a victim loops us right back to the top. My compassion for who, or what, I perceive as a victim might be the very action that ignites another to shut me down, reject me, or worse.

Dystopian novels and movies about a world that has been almost destroyed by aggression and warfare don’t seem like sci-fi anymore. They might be predicting our future, as 1984 did when it was written.

Dry bones, Fernandina, Galapagos property of Jack H Thompson, JR
Dry bones, Fernandina, Galapagos

 

How much hope is there when our youngest generations are growing up with an instantaneous connection to a world of terrorism and violent hatred, video games, TV, and movies loaded with violence? With ever-prevalent pornography increasing sexual dysfunction, and condoning objectification of and violence toward women?

Our world is spinning out of civility.

I can’t help being glad I’m in the last era of my life. But I grieve for the younger ones. My children are wonderfully intentional about building strong, loving homes. But can they insulate against this culture of selfishness, “It’s all about me” and hatred?

Furnace near Otavalo, Ecuador property of Jack H Thompson, Jr
Furnace near Otavalo, Ecuador
Wailing seal © Jack H Thompson
Wailing Galapagos seal © Jack H Thompson

I pause and watch the afternoon clouds building up. (Here in Florida, at times missing the mountains I watch the clouds billow up from the Gulf of Mexico and picture them rolling off mountaintops.)

Clouds all rights reserved Jack H Thompson, Jr
Clouds rising over Gulf of Mexico by Jack H Thompson, Jr

Words of the Psalmist come to mind.

I breathe.

I relax.

I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
He won’t let you stumble,
your Guardian God won’t fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel’s
Guardian will never doze or sleep.
God’s your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you—
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.
God guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.

Psalm 121 MSG

Assured, once again, that my strength doesn’t come from my world being orderly, life going as it should, or from peaceful surroundings, I know I can go on.

Taking my life from His hand, one day at a time.

One step at a time. 

So, how do you handle it when you feel overwhelmed?