The Struggle Is Real

All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today. ~Pope Paul VI


The Grand Canyon is growing 0.4 mm/year if you imagine it growing at a constant rate. But, of course, it isn’t. The Grand Canyon suffers from earthquakes and volcanic activity. It has seen major flooding in its long life. Some floods may have changed it in as little as ten hours. During other seasons it wore away at a minuscule rate.

Do you ever feel like the Grand Canyon?

All of the relatives are getting along, then Aunt Cathy dies and everyone wants a piece of her stuff.  The fighting and bickering that ensue damage the family and Christmas is never the same.

Your child received perfect scores all through Elementary school, but now in Middle school the grades are falling, the attitude is changing, the language sets your teeth on edge, and no one wants to be in the house with her.

You loved your job. The boss was perfect, so understanding and congenial. But she was promoted and her replacement is the meanest snake in the pit. You hate your new boss. You hate work. You’re even beginning to hate your co-workers.

Jesus gets it. He’s been a solid rock beaten by the winds and scorned by the rains of Satan.

His ministry began with healing and teaching and praising. God was on his side. He was baptized and told so.

. . . the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:22 NIV

But that “life is good” moment was met with fasting, thirst, fatigue, and temptation.

Satan went after Jesus with everything he had.

And when Jesus didn’t succumb?

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Luke 4:13 NIV

Things got better for a while.

The relatives came back for Christmas. The daughter kissed her parents and hugged her sister. The coworkers held a meeting and worked out all the problems.

But sometime later . . .

The flood came crashing over the lava walls and in ten hours chaos reigned. That’s the way of Satan. He doesn’t give up, just waits for a more opportune time.

But that’s OK, because Jesus said,

. . . I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 ESV

JESUS doesn’t leave for an opportune time.

He stays forever fighting beside you.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

Community For the Individual

“I believe that the community- in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures- is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.” ~Wendell Berry

Our children were born in the Philadelphia area. I was pregnant with the first when we moved there, so finding a pediatrician/family doctor was high on the priority list. I was blessed to find Dr. Warren.

Dr. Warren “examined” the whole family, regardless if it was a sick or well-visit. At every appointment he asked about all of the other family members. If the baby wasn’t eating right, he wanted to know what Mom was eating and doing. If Matt had strep, he wanted to know everyone’s temperature. When a horrible stomach bug visited, he doctored the whole family, even the ones not yet affected.

I’m part of a group of women that is meeting to read the Bible together. We read it, confess it, dig into it, and look for it in each others’ lives. When something isn’t working for one of us, we question what the rest of life looks like. Is there a virus somewhere else that’s slowing healthy growth?

This past spring I paid to be part of an online writers’ community where I could learn from the masters and make some contacts. It was helpful, and I think I have seen some positive results, but it wasn’t the same as being part of a live group who knows me intimately. It was not sustainably formative, correcting, or encouraging.

Are you spending most of your social time on Facebook? Do you find Instagram looks better than the faces in front of you? Do you text your family more than you sit down to eat with them? Does breakfast together take less time than a Snap Chat quip?

Maybe it’s time you developed a new community, an in-person, live, face-to-face community. Christ formed communities and even sent disciples in pairs. He understood that this life needs encouragement and support. He understood the importance of a touch, a tear, a nod, and a hug.

Community is important to the entire individual, body and soul. What are you doing to improve your health?

Again I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless—a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered,two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 NIV

Running Away

I started running away when I was five years old. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized what I really wanted was somebody to come after me when I was running away. ~Willie Aames

Last night I asked Matt if we could go to England. He looked at me dumbfounded.

“I just want to run away,” I explained.

We’ve had a chaotic month and I’m feeling done. The kitchen is torn apart for some remodeling. Our younger son was bitten by a rattlesnake. My mother-in-law had emergency surgery and her 102 year old mother had a stroke. I went away for a little over a week to attend a conference and then a little vacation, but that meant that the yard has needed constant attention ever since. My shoulders ache, it’s hot and humid, and some people aren’t nice.

Running away sounds like a good idea.

Running away is a common solution. Adam and Eve were the first to bolt. Then there was Jacob; his brother was making homicidal plans. I would have run, too. The most famous runner must be Jonah. His plan was kind of fishy though.

Maybe you want to run away, too.

You’re in the sandwich generation with aging parents and young children.  . . . You’ve been called into the boss’s office but aren’t sure why. Rumors abound. . . . The doctor’s report wasn’t what you wanted to hear.  . . . Or like me- everything is happening at once and chaos reigns.

There is a story of a man who tried running, but God told him where to run.

Ahab was out to kill Elijah, and Elijah knew it. So he took off running. He was exhausted and terrified; fear and defeat were all he saw.

God told him to go to Horeb. Elijah obeyed, hiding in a cave near the summit. It was scary as a fierce storm blew across the mountain. But Elijah stayed put this time.

And he actually got to meet God. He was encouraged and instructed by God.

Are you waiting on God in the scary times or are you running away and hiding?

Stand firm in the storm, so that you can be encouraged and instructed by the only one who knows the safe places to run.

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13 NIV

Truthful Church

fountain-1346870__180Correction does much, but encouragement does more. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

We were practicing some songs for church services. I stood in the sound booth forwarding the slides while everyone else sat in the front of the church learning their parts. Rain started falling hard, so we finished with one last song appropriately titled Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

It’s a familiar old hymn. I knew my part and sang with abandon alone in the booth.

Come, Thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace,
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.

Voices in the front of the church drifted back to me while a torrent pounded on the roof above. I stood, still advancing slides, and lifted my face toward God. Then came the verse . . .

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.

Tears sprang to my eyes as I thought of a dear, dear friend who is wandering right now. Then the tears spilled over as I realized I am just as easily prone to wander. The showers outside were nothing compared to the dam that spilled over in the sound booth.

Robert Robinson penned those words back in 1757 not knowing that one day he would leave his Lord and Savior. Or maybe he did know. Why else would he write “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it”? Though he did wander from God, late in life he returned. He had known his true self.

For weeks I kept singing that song, always meditating on that phrase “prone to wander.” Finally, during my morning quiet time I got out a church hymnal determined to sing through the whole song. I held the last note and then in surprise realized I hadn’t sung the line that was haunting me.

I looked back through the verses . . . No prone to wander.

The song had been “cleaned up.” Instead, “Never let me wander from Thee, never leave the God I love.” Good words, good thoughts, but not the stark truth of a heart that knows itself. The strength of the truth doesn’t ring out . . . It’s the difference of being soiled or being filthy, of an unkempt house verses a pig sty.

That song has haunted me for well over a month now. Last week started out rough, and went on to include the kitchen ceiling falling. Yep. Just falling. Like dust and insulation and heavy rock plaster knocking dents in my walls, floor, refrigerator, and furniture.

Then, Matt’s face swelled and his temperature rose as an abscessed tooth attacked him. Monday morning I called the home insurance again, only to be told again that the house damage is not covered. We headed to the dentist in the afternoon not knowing what would happen.

We spent hours in the office to be given a prescription for antibiotic that the pharmacist couldn’t fill. By then the dentist’s office was closed, so no antibiotic. We headed to dinner, seeing as it was Matt’s birthday. Matt and Jonathan, both sick, picked at their meals and we left. I pulled into the driveway and parked. One of my roosters had been attacked and now lay dead in the field.

I went to the mailbox, looked at an envelope, and opened it. A letter from Amos’s school explaining that he can’t register for classes for next semester until I get some more paperwork to them . . . Paperwork they already have received at least twice.

I walked to the porch and unleashed the dog to go in the house. Instead of running to his dog dish, he turned and ran off the porch into the wide, wide world. I threw my purse and the mail on the porch while a piece of nastiness flew out of my mouth.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.

Church, that verse is in there for a reason. We must be transparent with each other. You can spend a week in meditation, reflection, and prayer. You can come out of it strong and encouraged, and you can be hit long and hard, shocked and awed in quick succession with Satan’s flaming arrows . . . and off you wander like a dog going after the neighbor in heat.

I do plead with God: Never let me wander from Thee, Never leave the God I love. But God knows the truth. He knows the times I turn tail and run. He knows my tendencies, my inward thoughts, my weaknesses.

So, Lord, I ask you to move me past my proclivity to wander. Let me finish like Robert Robinson’s verse:

Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

And may the church be there in my transparency to encourage me and make me strong again.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up . . .”         1 Thessalonians 5:11a NIV