Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

The other day I applied for a a birding store.

It went across every instinct I had to do it, for it seems that the last bazillion times I tried to get a job or get involved in a ministry, God closed every door in my face...doors that made me feel like God had forgotten about me...had left me to drift on a perceived Sea of Uselessness. Honestly, I was getting used to the rocking of the boat and the endless horizon staring back at me. I was even thinking of making up a plaque and hanging it on the front of my boat that said, 'Why rock the boat?'

Until Sunday. When my pastor said a few things that gave me the idea that perhaps it's time to get out of the boat and start walking on land again...

Things like: "Getting well means change." Hey, I'm okay with that. After working through health issues too numerous to number, I get it that change is necessary.

What he said next came a mite bit closer to home: "Say, 'I have a _______ problem.' And then be willing to bring that problem into the light to find freedom."

Oh, that could be fun! Which one shall I start with? Walking with God through this past year has shown me I have a lot of problems!

As I squirmed in my seat, the final blow fell...the unavoidable question that nailed it all...

"Do you want to get well? If so, what do you need to do?"

Gosh, if I knew that I'd have done it light-years ago!

Pick me! Pick me!

Um, try harder? Be better? Do more? 

Did I get it? Did I get it? Huh? Huh?

Like a cat that is being immobilized in order to shove a pill down its throat, I fought the Spirit with all that was within me.

I'm thinking He wasn't amused.

And the next sentence clenched it: "Healing arrives as we 'step into it'."

It? What is 'It'? If I knew what 'It' was I would have stepped into 'It' years ago!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

I ask...Did you know you would save my life?

Did you know in that moment when you chose for your life to end, that you would ultimately be saving mine?

I doubt it. I'm sure I was the farthest thing on your mind.

But I'm still here and you're gone. And that fact that I'm still alive is what...your gift to me?

The ideal gift is from someone who knows you...what you like...what you need. And they give of themselves to give it to it time or money...or their life.

You gave me a gift of great that cost you that had I been given a choice, I would have rejected and pushed it right back at you before it was too late.

But I can't return it now. All I can do is circle around it...inspect it...push it away in anger and then clutch it in desperate hope...

Hope that you knew what you were doing when you entrusted it to me.

When I am in pain I do one of several is not "eat like you're supposed to eat"...but "eat like food is a drug and God knows I need a drug to dull the pain."

Or, I grief-walk...pushing myself outside the comfort of my home to walk/hike/rant and rave as hard as I can...the more it hurts the better it feels. I can say what I want...scream what I want...stop and sob, bent over in pain...and no one is the wiser.

Or, in my more sane moments, I duke it out with God until I'm so exhausted I let go and let Him in.

And that's what I've been doing this week. All of the above.

I have always struggled with depression. If you've read any of my previous blogs, you should know that. I wish I didn't. The problem is that I just feel pain too deeply. While others can say, "Oh well...whatever" and move on, thoughts and images stay in my mind and I feel...I swear...I feel the pain of whatever that animal or person was going through. Some people say it's empathy. I call it a curse.

My friends and family know it's the reason I can't volunteer at Rescue Shelters or be on the front line of Battles of Suffering or Loss. I wish I could. I have beaten myself up for years with the idea that good Christians should be able to do these things. Which, if taken to the obvious conclusion means that I am not a good Christian. I have come to realize that that is not true. I am a Christian who cares deeply, and who can pray and give, but whose calling is elsewhere.

But there are weeks when I let my guard down...when I hear too much or see too much...and I start to crumble. Weeks when I think I just can't live in this broken, shattered, sick world anymore. That it's all too much. And God knows I'm tired. And Heaven looks so inviting.

And for me, that is a dangerous place to be. Was a dangerous place to be.

Because over the past several months, two friends have entrusted me with that I see now are literally saving my life.

Gift number one...

Recently a forever-friend, for reasons still not disclosed, made the choice to end their pain and leave this world. And it about broke my heart. I still have dreams of sobbing and asking, "Why?!"

It wasn't until this week, when the clouds of darkness were swirling around and life was so heavy I could barely breathe, that I received a belated gift from this friend...

The gift of remembering the horrible pain this death caused...and knowing that no matter how hard life I got, I could never, ever, do that to those I loved.  

I choose life. No matter how hard it gets. Did you know that's what your death would do for me?

Gifts come wrapped in many packages.

Gift number two...

I can name this person, whereas I am not free to name the other...Sandy. Sandy Perry. A man after God's heart...probably the most vested in Christ, "love 'em and love 'em and love 'em again no matter what the cost" type person. A former biker who spent time in prison but emerged with a passion for Jesus that burned 24/7. I am honored to have known him.

We first met through Chuck Colson's Centurion Program over 10 years ago...he was the closest participant to nearby I naturally felt a tie to him. Whenever we went to DC for training, I would hover near him, so enthralled with his passion.

He and I were about as opposite as could be! Me, from proper New England, reserved, quiet, and unpretentious. Him...well, picture a biker gang member! Bigger than life and not afraid to live it...or share it... with any person in need. He's the reason I got involved in prison ministry years ago. I remember walking into the prison that day and thinking, "Sandy Perry, this is all your fault!"

He brought out the best in people. And the worst? He just loved 'em to Christ. He and his precious wife, Vicki, went on to found and run Zaccheaus House...a safe place for those emerging from prison to come to and be loved on and taught and sent out. Everything was super-sized with Sandy. And I loved him for it.

This past week he had an option for a liver transplant, but time and conditions dictated that he would no longer need one. Instead, he would be going Home to Jesus...the One he had loved and served for so long. And last night, his body finally went where his heart has been...Heaven.

And in his death, Sandy gave me the second gift....

The gift of knowing that we only have one life. And it is a gift. And we need to live it...

To do as much damage to Satan's kingdom as we can.

And that gift makes me want to fight...against the lies that blind us and immobilize us...that keep us half alive...that keep us with one foot here and one foot in Heaven.

Two gifts...from two friends...both screaming,

"Choose Life!"

Someday I'll see both my friends again. I have no doubt.

And I will thank them for giving me gifts of pain...pain that caused me to not give in or give up.

I am alive...and more alive...because of them.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Leaving, on a jet plane...don't know when I'll be back again

I wrote this blog on Sunday as our Southwest flight roared down the runway, giving us split-second glimpses of the mountains and deserts we have grown to know and love in Arizona. I'm pretty sure the truth of this blog stands firm, even as I write it out 2 days later in North Carolina...


I think this is what dying is like...leaving something behind that you love...but by faith believing that something wonderful, but different, awaits you.

Life is full of goodbyes...airports are great reminders of  this: lovers enmeshed in one last hug...mothers looking up to the sky and squeezing their children tightly to themselves as they fight back tears, sending their kids off to be with their Dad...waves and smiles and pats on the back...tears and sighs and looks of resignation...and everything in between.

Seated behind me on the plane is a grandmother taking her young granddaughter back to Chicago from a visit with her cousins. As the plane ascended, I heard her ask the little one, "Do you want to go home or stay with your cousins?" With no hesitation whatsoever, "Stay" was the little girl's whispered reply. Turning to her seatmate, the grandmother said, in a tired voice, "Not me. I'm ready to go home! My kids went away for a week while I watched the grandchildren." Ah...

We live in a world of tension. We want to stay. We want to go.

I met yet another grandmother yesterday while we were out shooting Hummingbirds...shooting as with a camera, not a gun! As we sat there together oohing and aahhing over the flashes of orange and red and purple whizzing past our heads, we got to talking. It wasn't long before she opened up and shared that she and her husband had just moved there, leaving behind their beloved home and grandchildren in the Pacific Northwest. Turning to me she confessed, with tears overflowing her eyes, "I didn't know it would be so hard."

I felt her pain and her tender heart, for I knew that I could so easily be in her place. For I, too, have a beloved home and a life full of those I love back east. Like her, I, too, am in love with Arizona and thoughts of packing my life up in North Carolina and moving there flit through my mind endlessly.

But when it comes right down to it I know, with all that is within me, that I love my family and grandchildren more than I could ever love living apart from them in Arizona.

Home is where the heart is. And my heartstrings are tied to the hearts of those I love back east.

Life is full of choices. They come one at a time: to do or not to go or not to go. And each choice leads us to a place from which there is often no return. Every choice we make moves us in a direction we may, or may not be, glad we ended up in. Often, only time will tell.

I speak from experience.

Like you, I have learned many of life's lessons the hard way...made many choices that led to things I later regretted.

At 60, the sand in my hourglass is slowly running out. As time slips away, my vision becomes goals more concise. There is a sense of urgency that comes with the passing of the long-held belief that life extends endlessly ahead of you. Death and loss have shattered this delusion. Life is short...too short...and what is most important to me is what I value most. And where I want to invest the rest of my brief time here.

Choices are not always easy. We fight daily against the world, the flesh, and the devil. It can be hard to know where our desires are leading us. Apart from God's mercy and grace and enlightenment, we are all at the mercy of ourselves.

In that moment of realizing that as much as I love Arizona...the Sky Islands and the open vistas and the breath-taking birds that pop over the Mexican border and the Milky Way that illuminates the velvet black of a night sky so dark you lose your much as I love and enjoy all of this and so much heart lies elsewhere.

I thank God for those moments of sanity when the picture becomes focused and we see...not only with our mind, but our heart...the Holy Spirit gently confirming something that He knows is best for us...even when we're struggling to accept it.

I knew with all that was within me, that it was God speaking through this woman...that He was bending down and whispering into my heart, "This could be you."

And in that moment, I knew He was absolutely right.

So here I am, on a plane at 40,000 feet, saying goodbye. Do I hope to return? Yes! Absolutely Yes! Will I? Only God knows what the future holds. For now, He has given me an armful of memories to hold close to my heart, a heart I know will be heavy in the days ahead.

As the nose of the plane levels out, pointing east, I choose to let go of my dream to move to Arizona.

And while one dream slips away, another dream fills me...hopes of investing in my grandchildren, treasuring each moment I am given with them and the children God has blessed us with...parents, sisters, friends. I  have a treasure trunk full of riches awaiting me back east.  All gifts from God.

I choose to go home. My heart lies 2,800 miles from here.

And home is where the heart is.

Shine on, dear ones!


photo credit: airlines470 <a href="">N565WN  SEA</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The gift of Creation...from God's heart to yours!

There are a million things I could blog about from our time here in Arizona. And this devotional reading would be at the top of the list. Not a day has gone by but that God's handiwork here has screamed out, "There is a Creator who made all this beauty! None of this is an accident! None of this evolved! All this is formed out of His love!"

We have had some amazing guides on our birding with multiple doctorates in Biology and Ethnobiology and other who can leave your head spinning with all there is to know about everything from the minutest of flowers to the grandest of canyons.

And that is mind-blowing! I have no single subject that I could ever talk about like they do their dozens of subjects. To say I am impressed would be to put it mildly!

But as they have rambled on and on about how things have evolved...or how all of this is a product of chance...we have seen first hand the result of worshiping the creation and not the Creator.

I remember one fact more than any other during my time in Chuck Colson's Centurion program. It was the idea that if you took all the letters of the alphabet on Scrabble chips, and threw them out over and over again, you would spend a life time trying for just a single three word sentence. And to think of the intricacy of just the human body alone...and how each part depends on the other in an order of chemical and electrical timing that would destroy it if just that alone cries out for a Master Designer. It could never happen by chance! And then add in all of Creation to the equation? All I can do is worship...

All Creation declares the glory of God!

And here in AZ I have a front row seat to Him...from the looming Sky Island Mountain ranges set against a clear azure blue the blazing colored birds who find their way here every year from Mexico and Central the evening storms that sweep across the plains, exploding the darkness with lightning bolts that are so huge you can't help but exclaim, "Wow!"

It's easy when we are caught up in the monotony of our daily lives to get so busy that we forget to stop and see Him.  I don't want to forget all He has taught me when I go home...that the same God who is here displaying Himself in all His glory will be in Waxhaw, North Carolina too.

And He's right where you are,  also! No matter where we live, His Creation will always be calling us back to Him...declaring His love and delight in us through all He has made for our enjoyment.

Okay, I'm done! Ted and Jacki are is chomping at the bit to head out for another day of God-sightings. And I want to have a front row seat to all He has prepared for us today!

I wish you a day full of His beauty and splendor also!

Shine on, dear ones!