Saturday, January 28, 2012

Angels Among Us

A friend sent me a beautiful image of an angel with the caption: An Angel to Watch Over You. It reminded me of another time I was given an angel.

 I had not expected the removal of my late husband's name from our joint checking account to be as monumental as planning the memorial or arranging for the burial, but it was. This last task was the final erasure of our life together, only a few mementos and memories would remain.  I barely managed to maintain my composure as I signed the last document.

The bank representative asked me, "Did you come alone?

"Yes."

"I can see how difficult this was, and I am concerned for you."

"I'm okay."

"Well, I don't think you should be alone. You need a companion, someone to watch over you, and be with you."

Turning, she pulled a small pin from her jacket  and handed it to me. "Here, take this angel with you. It was given to me during a difficult moment in my life, and I would like to pass it on to you."

"Oh, no I can't accept that. I don't want to take your angel."

"Take it. It was meant to be passed onto others.  Take it, you need it more at this moment than I do. When and if I need another angel, one will be provided, just as this  one was."

I accepted her gift, and left the bank with my small treasure securely pinned to my coat lapel. Through the woman's kindness my entire day turned from one of unimaginable sorrow to one filled with hope. Every time I looked at the small pin, I thought of her and her kindness to a stranger, a reminder of God's promise to be with us, always.

Several years later my sister-in-law, my late husband's sister, was diagnosed with late stage breast cancer. I recounted the story of the angel, and gave Shari the pin. Shari passed away two years later, and I don't know where that pin is now. Hopefully it was passed on to someone who needed that little extra touch of kindness, the reminder we do not go through these sorrows alone.

After hearing my story about my treasured pin, my sweet daughter gave me another made from Black Hills gold. This little angel reminds me there are angels among us, disguised as co-workers, family members, daughters, friends, and bank representatives, ready to reach out and touch our lives with unexpected kindness, offering us hope and comfort when we need it the most. May God bless them as much as they have blessed us.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

David and Goliath

It has been a rough week. The last of the moving chores left me physically exhausted, and software training at work drained me mentally. Between the two I felt I was dangling above a precipice, clinging to the ledge with finger nails. Then, several hours of testing with the new software loosened my grip to just one small finger. I looked down. There was no bottom to the abyss.

In desperation, I spent the entire evening studying, taking notes and devising a Quick Guide to the new software, and fell into bed drained, too tired to pray or think. Before sleep finally claimed me, I made a vow I would not be defeated. Someway, somehow I would master that program, and all of the other new tasks, and I would be proficient with all of them.
In the early, pre-dawn hours, I lay for a moment, going through a litany of things yet to do, yet to learn, and my resolve and determination wavered. I prayed, begging God to once more rescue me.

I rose, made coffee, and contemplated whether to start studying first, or read my devotions. After a moment's thought, I realized studying, as important as it was, could not be put before God. It was the wise choice. The first Scriptural reading listed in my devotional,  Living Faith, was from 1 Samuel: 17:32 - 51.  Drum Roll. It is the story of David and Goliath. Yep. You read that right. David and Goliath.

I laughed, re-read the story, and accepted the answer to my prayer. David recounted past triumphs where God had aided him, and then armed with confidence and faith in his Almighty God, he stepped forward to meet his enemy. We all know the rest of that story. 

Like David, I too can recount other times God assisted me in slaying my lions and  bears, and He will help me with my Goliaths too.

My last reading from, Streams in the Desert, speaks about faith versus defeat, and quotes Daniel 2:27, 29 - the three young Hebrew men saved from King Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. If there is a great trial in your life today, do not acknowledge defeat. Instead, continue by faith to claim the victory through Him who is able to make you "more than conquerors" (Rom. 8:37), and a glorious victory will soon be apparent. May we learn that in all the difficult places God takes us, He is giving us opportunities to exercise our faith in Him that will bring about blessed results and greatly glorify His name."

I step out this day, armed with faith and courage to face my lions, bears, and Goliaths. I can taste victory.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why Is It Sometimes So Dark?

There have been times when I have been plunged into a soul piercing darkness. Every miss-deed, every wrongly spoken word, every good deed left undone, every bad choice, crushed me beneath a heavy weight of conviction.  This darkness of the soul isn't rare, as many of you may attest to, and in fact, I have read of numerous holy men and women who have endured this agony, most recently Mother Teresa. However, knowing it isn't unusual doesn't lessen the pain.

I wonder if this is what Jesus felt on the cross? Except His experience was to the tenth power of my pitiful emotions. This isolation from the world, weighed down with the conviction of so much wrong doing is almost unbearable, and yet, this brief glimpse of despair gives me some insight to those who take extreme measures to stop the pain by taking their own life. Their pain must indeed be horrific. Knowing this much pain without the saving grace of faith is indeed dark despair from which there would be no rescue. If only they knew to reach out, to ask for help with the faith to believe it would be given. 

I am blessed with faith, and faith tells me to hang on because after the night comes the dawn. This heavy burden will lift and I will once again dance in the sunlight, a joyful daughter of a compassionate God, and reason tells me this darkness has been prepped and stoked by fatigue from the rigors of moving, new training at the job, uncertainty regarding my financial future, and unsettling world events. These factors pounced the moment I was vulnerable, when I was too weak to offer a suitable defense. I cannot expel them on my own. I do not need to. I do not need to rely on my strength. I have a heavenly Father with more than enough strength and power to dispel the darkness.

Yet, this darkness does have a purpose, as my reading in Streams in the Desert points out. In order to be a Comforter, you must first endure great sorrow. "You will be wounded so that in the binding up of your wounds by the Great Physician, you may learn how to render first aid to the wounded everywhere." Without experiencing this darkness, I would never know how to offer the Light to others. After all, Jesus suffered first, and through His suffering He fully understands our suffering, as both man and God, and so, I accept my lesson, and I will wait patiently for my healing, which will come.

This morning, Good Morning, Lord, by Joseph T. Sullivan has this:

Good Morning, Lord.
Help me not to look back at my sins-
  you know how many they are!
I know that once I recognize the error,
  correct it and make amends,
  I'm supposed to move on,
  toward better and greater things.
Brooding, feeling sorry for myself, scolding myself
  are unproductive and silly.
They fail to recognize your merciful forgiveness,
  your unmistakable love for me.
Hey! What mistakes? This is a brand new day.
I'm on your side, Lord,
  and you're on mine. Amen.

 
The blackness has lifted. The dawn exploding just beyond the window in our new home is as brilliant as a sunset. Hundreds of ducks and geese are flying overhead, silhouettes against a blue and gold sky. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24.  Amen!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

I sometimes wonder if I am looking at the sunrise or sunset of a life event. Is it just the beginning of the circumstance, or am I looking at the end? 
As with the above photo, only the one taking the picture knows the exact time of day. However as observers, we can look for clues. The lighter blue sky would denote a sunrise, although I have seen some sunsets with similar colors as well. I have also realized that my mood will often dictate my perception. When I am joyful, I would be inclined to declare it a sunrise full of  hope and new expectations. If I am sorrowful, or stressed, I would choose sunset in hopes of being at the end of the event and looking forward to a time of rest.  So  much of life is in this in between stage, not quite sure if our circumstances are really beginning or ending. 

As I have grown in my faith, I have chosen to just sit back and enjoy the scenery without trying to decipher it too much. The above photo is beautiful, regardless of the actual time of day. I can enjoy it for what it is, or over analyze it to death and miss the Giver's intention, a brief moment of unparalleled beauty, peace and tranquility.

The words sunrise/sunset also remind me of the song from the musical Fiddler on the Roof. As the lyrics imply, time moves quickly. One moment we are at the sunrise of our life, youth, and before we know it, we are in the midst of our sunset years. If I dare to reflect back, I see four separate lives evolving from major events.

I do not fully understand the reason behind these circumstances, but I have come to accept them, especially since these experiences drew me closer to God. Over and over He brought me through the flames, holding my hand, protecting me from the heat.

This year, I face only minor changes, a relatively new job (hopefully a long lasting one), and a new home. Interestingly, the new house is situated at an angle where I will be able to observe both the sunrise and the sunset, neither of which I could view from the previous home. Over all our lifestyle will be greatly improved with both the house and the job, so why this introspection tinged with melancholy?

Change. Change, even for betterment is stressful. It is hard to let go of the known for the unknown. And, in some regards, I am weary. Change requires great effort and I am tired, not just from the physical work of moving, but the emotional changes as well. After seeing so many dramatic changes in my life, now even the smaller ones are draining.

Yet, I know I do not need to rely on my own strength. God in his mercy has given me a companion to help shoulder life's responsibilities, and my husband has shouldered the large responsibilities in order to allow me to concentrate on my job, and I am so very thankful. Then, I also have God's promise:

But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah: 40:31

Amen. Alleluia.