Dark Saturday?

This long Lent is grinding to a close. The only triumphal processions last Sunday, Palm Sunday in the western church, were virtual. Some individuals placed palm fronds on their front doors. I didn’t even make it that far, though I intended to. That about sums up a lot since we’ve been sheltering in place. Way more intentions than actions, it seems, like old dreams, where my feet won’t move.

I hear from some who are bored. Others juggle full-time jobs while helping kids focus on tons of schoolwork passed on by remote meetings with teachers. Many have too much time and perhaps less energy, or no good way to dissipate it. Some are dealing with lost work and pay, others even lost businesses. Many are alone and isolated. A dear friend of mine whose husband is in skilled nursing care is only able to “visit” him on Facetime, whenever the staff has time to schedule her in. He is declining rapidly without her daily visits and her touch.

So much heartache.

No one close to me has lost a life to COVID-19, so far. But that guillotine blade hovers above us all, doesn’t it? Whether you or a loved one is a healthcare worker or first responder (thank you), we all feel the threat.

Even as we grieve the loss of plans, family time together, recreational facilities shut down, difficulty getting food and necessities then going through all the steps to decontaminate everything, we feel the ominous presence of disease and death. While I am glad to see neighbors I don’t know out riding bikes or walking, who are normally off and gone in their cars every day, I can’t help wondering who will still be here when it’s all over.

I’m getting pretty dark, not the way I usually go looking for glimpses of peace. But that is what I see outside the window I’m tired of looking through.

Today as I write this, it is the Saturday after Good Friday, when the Hope of all Hopes bleed and suffocated on the cross. When he died, the day turned as dark as night. He was laid in a cave grave by a few crushed but faithful followers – all their hopes dashed.

Most of his disciples had already scattered, off in complete despair to hide from the Roman soldiers, their only hope to avoid a similar death.

I wonder if his mother and the other women who stood at the foot of the cross and braved his brutal death sheltered together after they took his body down, weeping into each other’s arms as they mourned the loss of everything good in their lives.

Everything they had counted on. Trusted in. Planned on.

Do you feel that, too, as you erase events and plans from your calendar? As birthdays pass without parties? Celebrations for years of work are canceled? Trips put on a very long hold, or given up on altogether?

Does it feel like everything that orients your day has been pulled out from under your feet?

Some days, does the grief get heavier as the day drags on?

Even though Lent is ending, we are stuck in the in-between-time. All creation seems to be holding its breath. (We can’t even get a good rain here in usually very wet Florida!)

Our feet are trapped in a time when normal life is a fading memory and we can’t begin to guess what tomorrow is.

No certainty.

No sunlight on the horizon.

But wait. There’s more. (Did you ever think you’d want to read these words from those annoying commercials?)

There is always more when I stop looking at my feet and worrying about why they won’t move.

I will try one more step, this time looking up.

This time, I will recall the truth I know, and use my imagination to let the light in.

On Easter morning, when the women went at dawn to anoint the dead body of Dashed Hopes, they found what they never expected.

Life beyond anything they’d ever experienced.

So much more than a stable home and income, possessions, even more than family.

They could draw in deeper breaths of life than they’d ever known before. They could sing notes they’d never heard before. They could dance steps they never conceived of. They could love with abandon in a fullness they’d never dared to dream.

And they had the certainty that His plans are good!
https://my.bible.com/verse-of-the-day/JER.29.11/23013?version=116

Ever since He left that grave, He has been bringing life and light to anyone who will look up. Anyone who will respond when he calls their name.

The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it in abundance to the full, till it overflows. John 10:10 AMP 
I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in, adheres to, trusts in, relies on Me as Savior will live even if he dies; and everyone who lives and believes in Me as Savior will never die. Do you believe this?” JOHN 11:25 AMP 
“Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.   Rev 1:18

Dear reader, I am praying for you, that you will be strengthened as you need it.

Would you like to share what is bringing the light for you?

Knocked down

My mother loved to describe my learning to walk, out on the grass behind our house on Oxmead Road, in Burlington, NJ. We had a nanny goat named Minerva. I’d attempt to stand, in typical toddler fashion with my diaper-padded derriere rising first, thus providing an irresistible target for our well-horned goat. Before I could straighten and get my balance, she would come running and butt me flat on my face.

Mom holding Janie w grandfather in background

For some reason, this was hysterical to my parents as they watched from the porch. I never got why it was funny.

But it did explain how I learned to get back up, again.

Janie in backyard
On back porch

And, obviously I did learn to walk (in spite of Minerva, who suddenly disappeared from our lives when she ate the sheets off the line, then went for mom’s roses).

I would have never walked if I’d stayed on my tummy, wailing into the grass.

We all get knocked down. Whether by cruelty, abuse, neglect, maliciousness, sickness, or a broken relationship, the death of a dream or a loved one, accidental injury or targeting by evil intent, we have all been sucker-punched at least once.
For most of us, way more than once.

So it isn’t about asking if we’ve been knocked down.

It’s about our determination to get back up, no matter how long or what it takes to get there.

(A note here about down time: YD gave me a wall plaque that I love. It reads:

Prayer: It’s hard to stumble when you’re on your knees.

A lot of wisdom there.)

I think much of our adult behavior is shaped by how we initially cope with face-plants. We form habits when we are too young to evaluate their effectiveness or cost to us, but we survive, so we figure it works.

We often continue responding the same way well into our adult lives, sabotaging our present circumstances.

It’s as if that take-down when we were one takes us down again at 14, 30, or 70, unless we are aware, and work to change our response.

Work is the operative word.

No habit goes without a fight. And I’m beginning to think emotional habits are the hardest of all to change. A knock-down can easily launch a temporary crippling pity party in me, and unmanageable frustration or rage in others.

My emotional journey would have started better if my mother had come off the porch, picked me up and comforted me, and restrained Minerva so I could learn to walk with nothing more than my own weakness or lack of coordination to trip me up.

She didn’t. (I know, now, she had her own take-downs that impeded her living and mothering, no matter how much she wanted to be a good mother. Forgiveness and healing have been huge here.)

There must have been more events like that, because I grew up thinking my feelings and pain didn’t matter, that speaking up wouldn’t bring assistance, and that I was helpless in the face of strength.

I’ve been knocked down a lot.

Like Minerva, the strong ones know a target when they see it.

But I have gotten back up.

Little Mac in Johnny’s arms
LIttle Mac on blanket, Virginia Beach, VA

When my precious little brother, Mac, drowned in Lake Oswego, through the love of my aunt and uncle in Philly, and the prayers and guidance of my grandmother in Ocean City, NJ, my aching heart came back to life in the hands of Jesus.

After we moved from Oswego, NY, I learned that my first boyfriend there had been killed, hit by a careless driver.

I cried all night.WalterThen I got back up, again.

 

Every time the Navy moved us, every three or four years, just when I’d left my introverted corner and made friends, I was thrust into a new situation. I didn’t think I could survive.

But I did.

My list goes on, as yours probably does, too.

What matters is I discovered I am not, in fact, ever alone. I never have been, even in my mother’s womb.

The Spirit of the One who loves me perfectly gives me strength to rise when I think I cannot go on.

At my age, the struggles are less about other people and relationships and more about my body not putting up a good fight. I have spent much of the last 2 1/2  years working to heal.

I’m doing everything in my power to get back up,

and kick fear behind me, no matter what my body does.

To live fully

To love more

Always looking forward to an eternal life with no knock-downs!

What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole. I Peter 1:3-5 MSG

How have you learned to get back up?

 

Seeking small graces

My health finally stabilized. And after a long recovery from hip repair surgery in November, I was walking further with my dog and playing with my grand-kids. Then something painful “popped” in my hip, and I’ve spent the last months in varying degrees of pain — walking, sitting or standing. For weeks I’ve battled an infection that made me a semi-invalid last year. My body clearly wasn’t up to the fight and I’ve had to start antibiotics. (Not simple, since I’m allergic to way too many, as well as still trying to heal my gut from last year’s antibiotic siege.) I’ve worked hard to get healthy and whole, free to engage with others, join in the lives of my family, return to teaching Bible classes, finish editing my books and complete another, to live a vibrant, meaningful life. As things seemed to be spinning out again, I’ve wondered, even prayed, “What am I doing wrong?”

If God would just tell me, I’d do it!

There must be a key.

Is there something important I’m not doing? Leaving out?

Every time this song, Thy Will by Hillary Scott, comes on the radio, my mind and emotions downshift.

When I’m working so hard to do it right, am I actually exhibiting lack of faith? After all, it’s not all about me, and I’m not God.

It’s hard to find a balance between accepting life as it comes from the hand of God, and fighting the good fight as we are called to do.

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I Timothy 6:12

The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace and remain at rest. Exodus 14:14 AMPC

How do you thread that needle?

All I can do is recall what I know is true.

photo by Jack H Thompson, Jr
https://www.bible.com/bible/97/psa.56

photo by Jack H Thompson, Jrhttps://www.bible.com/bible/97/jas.1

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.                                               Hebrews 4:14-16 MSG

photo by Jack H Thompson Jr

photo by Jack H Thompson Jr https://www.bible.com/bible/97/pro.19

In place of the questions, I begin a new search.

Seeking small graces.

Focusing.

Naming what comes into my life today as a gift.

Trusting the giver.

Trusting the hands that gave them.

And, in the end, remembering this life is brief.

And there’s more to each day than we can ever see or understand.

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever. 2 Cor 4:16-18 MSG

That is enough.

You may be facing far greater challenges now, or will in the future.
Do you struggle with chronic pain or illness or disappointment? How do you handle it, react to it?

Notes to readers:

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