We need to remember

I still cannot watch videos or look at pictures of that horrible day on the eleventh of September, 2001, without churning emotion. Many chose not to look, say it’s too depressing. But I believe, no matter how painful, we need to remember.

One World Trade Center

With granddaughter at WTC memorial reflection pond
With granddaughter at WTC memorial reflection pond
Steel girders on display at memorial
Steel girders on display at memorial

Remember what?

Remember how real evil is.

When we see and feel the evil on 9/11 we know that evil is not just a matter of someone getting up on the wrong side of the bed, or having suffered a bad childhood. Evil is real, and active, deceiving many into believing they are securing eternal happiness by killing as many others as possible.

Sadly, evil is not the solely the province of terrorists.

In the last fifteen years I’ve seen a huge shift in our collective awareness of evil, of right and wrong. From video games, TV shows, movies and social media it seems that many in our culture have a growing fascination with darkness, violence and death. Some seek it as power, others as escape.

It is neither.

Evil is ultimately only about destruction. Others first, then our own.

Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep stealers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for — will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. John 10:6-10 MSG

We also need to remember the good. The first responders who rushed in and gave their lives. The private citizens who ferried thousands who were trapped off Manhattan Island that day. The passengers and crew on Flight 93 who sacrificed their lives to protect the Washington target. Volunteers who arrived in NYC and the Pentagon, day after day to help in any way they could, and people across the country who donated food and supplies.

Whenever evil strikes, it lights a fire it cannot snuff out, a fire of courage and determination, of light and love.

In the end, we are faced with daily choices, light or darkness, though very rarely so clearly defined.

Will we pause and reflect, then go on with life as usual?

Or will we decide to make a difference, be the bearers of light? Truth? Love?

Can we do our part?

Only if we remember the stakes.

What do you recall from that day? Has it changed your life?

I’m not very familiar with country music, but this song expresses it.

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

Hold me tight!

I’m happy to leave 2015 behind. After almost paralyzing grief at my mother’s death in 2014, I expected 2015 to be a great year, time to downsize and simplify, organize my home, finish editing my books and get them published, and spend more time with family and friends. Instead, I spent the first half of the year semi-invalid, one infection after another leading to a week on IV antibiotics. In February I was advised to begin a strict, no sugars/grains, anti-mold diet. When I thought I’d whipped it all, ready to charge into a wonderful Advent and Christmas, I broke my hip. Life came to a roaring stop.

From appearances, God had deserted me, or didn’t care, and chose not to be involved in my life.

Nevertheless, throughout the year I’d felt God’s nearness at my bedside. My trust had deepened, to simply let Him be God, accept my life from His hand, no matter the circumstances.

As I lay on the floor waiting for the ambulance, I cried to Jesus. Not many words. Too much pain. Simply gasps and, “Jesus. Help. Jesus.”

When the EMTs prepared to scoop me up, anticipating a painful journey to the hospital, I closed my eyes and whispered, “Jesus, hold me.”

Oh, love me—and right now!—hold me tight!
just the way you promised.
Now comfort me so I can live, really live;
your revelation is the tune I dance to. Psalm 119: 73-75 MSG

He did.

Jesus held me as I was lifted off the floor onto the gurney, bumped out the door and across our lumpy lawn. In the sways of twists and turns on the road, and thumps of railroad tracks, I felt cocooned in love.

My oldest daughter rode with us, and in chatting with Ken, the EMT, found he’d done mission work in Honduras, where we’d served as missionaries for eight years. It was a sweet connection.

In the most painful ordeal of my life, tiny details began to spell out the difference between absolute horror and God’s providence.

The EMT gave me personal care all the way into the room in the ER, and didn’t leave until he was certain I was being attended to.

My orthopedist took charge of my care to be sure I got into surgery that day, no matter how full the hospital said the OR was. (He slept in the doctor’s lounge until the OR opened at 10:00 pm)

My daughter and her family had just moved close by from the northeast and was able to support me on a daily basis.

Throughout my two weeks there, individuals appeared at precisely the moment I needed help, or encouragement, or care.

And biggest of all, my family supported and loved me in amazing ways.

My list is long.

I am very grateful.

That is not to say it was a grand time. It was the worst, body jarring, deep and ongoing pain I have every experienced.

And the most humiliating and completely dependent time.

In spite of excellent individuals, especially in PT and OT, the facilities and atmosphere with staff in the hospital rehab generally left a huge amount to be desired. I haven’t lived a cloistered life, but I was often jarred by the lack of hope, light or love around me.

Given my own physical helplessness and emotional vulnerability, I could have been completely over-whelmed. Engulfed. Depressed.

However, when I’d cried out to Jesus on my floor, waiting for the EMTs, I knew I had a choice. I could cry and rage, alone. Or, I could trust Jesus.

It remained a constant decision, day and night.

I looked for Jesus in the persons he sent at crucial times.

And I chose to reflect his face in the dark places with so many desperate people around me.

It amazes me now how that simple choice changed everything. In spite of the pain and nausea, I was able to bless roommates, attendants, nurses, even the sweet lady who cleaned our room and was desperate for hope. It became my daily challenge to brighten the lives of those around me.

Laax mountain by Jack H Thompson, Jr w Psalm 16_11

The pain has diminished, but is a constant, and never gives me more than a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. Therapy goes on. I’ve graduated from a walker to a cane. I look forward to being able to drive a car again, to go to the grocery store all by myself.

I still struggle to find words, largely thanks to the effects of anesthesia. (I’m a slow metabolizer anyway, and the older we get, the longer the effects last. And, of course, aerobic exercise is a little hard to come by to clear the brain.)

Sitting remains painful. I will only be at my desk a short while, a large reason for not writing sooner.

Throughout this ordeal, I have found great comfort in the words of Jesus.

Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Matt 6:33 MSG

During those prior months at home, I’d had time to be still. To really trust when there was little I could do. That had prepared me to relax into the love of Jesus when nothing else stood between me and incomprehensible agony of body and spirit.

During many long nights, snatches of Bible verses floated on my mind, along with hymns and songs based on scripture, easing my pain and settling my soul.

All that I could do was affirm my love and trust in God. He cared for everything else.

Not easy.

Certainly, not fun.

But there is joy in the morning. Always joy.

And there is abundant joy to share.

Matt 6:30-34
Matt 6:30-34

Has God made a difference in your challenges?