Thanksgiving Day dawns
blessings beyond measure, hearts
full of love and praise.
Thanksgiving Day dawns
blessings beyond measure, hearts
full of love and praise.
I love finding old poetry in my files. This piece was written five years ago.
Course, I don’t know if you’d call this a poem or just a bit of prose. Whatever the case, I leave it in your hands today.
Be well my friends and know that He is yours and you are His.
I like birds. God sometimes uses them to slow me down … but that’s a whole other post.
I think you’ll love this Guest Post by Brandon Andress which was originally published on September 14, 2016 on his site www.brandonandress.com. Please pay him a visit, he’s rather gifted with the written word.
I have begun the process of changing my mind about birds.
Sure, you may not find a stranger first sentence than that, but those closest to me know that I have this unreasonable phobia of the feathered friend. It has something to do with a mother bird dive-bombing my head to protect her nest when I was five. And no, to answer your question, I was not bothering her nest. I was simply going next door to a friend’s house. But, there is no reasoning with a mother bird. Anyway, my neurosis aside, I am slowly taking steps to rediscovering the beauty (or some redeeming quality) in birds.
An Indiana winter can be brutal and bone-chilling. And it is not made any more bearable by the local meteorologists who giddily, and a bit too affectionately, begin referring to it as a Polar Vortex. The tragedy is they don’t realize that by calling it a “Polar Vortex,” it psychologically becomes twenty degrees colder in our heads. Let’s just be honest here, we do not need “Polar” anything in Indiana, especially when it is already pitch black at 4pm in the middle of December.
But there was a moment a few years ago in late winter, when darkness still owned the morning and the cold refused to let go of everything in its grip, that I heard the sweetest song.
Through the shroud of night, before the sun’s first rays, amid the polar chill, a melody of hopeful anticipation pierced the dark veil of winter and announced that spring would soon be arriving.
It was glorious and profound.
The processional of spring, a time of life, new beginnings, and spectacular beauty was coming! And it was being ushered in through song by feathered vocalists announcing its arrival.
I, a crusty-eyed morning zombie of multi-layered, nighttime attire (pre-coffee), could not miss this staggering metaphor. When a season of darkness surrounds us and seems as if it will last forever, we may very well begin to believe that this is the way life will always be. But even in the darkness that may surround us, if we are still enough to hear it and patient enough to trust it, there is always the sweet song of the Spirit, leading us in hopeful anticipation, surprising us with beauty in the present, and giving us a glimpse of the life that’s yet to come.
I know it is terribly difficult to discuss how we can learn to see beauty amidst the wreckage when we are in the throes of a painful life situation, whether it be temporary or permanent. But, it is in this place where we must always begin- in the place of our pain, in the place of our suffering. For it is in that place where we can, mostly easily, lose heart, feel lost and defeated, grow wildly cynical, and begin to blame God for our condition or circumstance.
Even more, our pain can become the place from where we begin to live our lives.
The crushing weight of our suffering will always try to convince us that the pain we are experiencing is our only reality and that there is nothing redeemable there, ever. And as a result, the pain we are experiencing can begin to manifest outwardly in our lives into our words and actions, ultimately affecting how we see the world and how we relate to others.
That is what suffering can do. It can cause us to reside in our pain, no matter how great or small that pain is, and then become the lens through which we begin to see people, situations, and the world as a whole. And over time, our pain through suffering can very easily spiral downward and lead to questions and then the destruction of our identity, our worth, and our purpose in life.
Living constantly in the burden and pain of our suffering can either become an end destination or a passageway for each of us.
As an end destination, the pain of our suffering can become a place where we stay in bitterness, sadness, anger, hatred, and unforgiveness.
As a passageway, our pain through suffering can become the pathway to profound life transformation and new ways of seeing the world.
Suffering breaks us down into insufferable little parts where we can either self-destruct or cry out helplessly to God, because we are in a place where we have seemingly lost control. Our pride has been shattered. Our egos have been obliterated. And it is in our place of pain through suffering where we can choose whether we make it our final destination or a transformative passageway.
That is the profound mystery of suffering. Suffering strips away any and all control we believed we had over people and situations. And it is in this place, our place of suffering, the place where we have lost all control, where our hearts and minds can either be closed off or open to the healing and transformative love of God.
And no matter who you are or what you have been through, or are currently going through, you can choose what you want to do with your pain, and how you receive suffering. You can let it dominate and control how you see the world and relate to others, or you can use it as a means to be taught and guided into a new and more beautiful way of living.
About Brandon: Brandon Andress is the author of AND THEN THE END WILL COME! (April 2013) and Unearthed: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World (2010). He lives in Columbus, Indiana and writes for his popular blogs Brandon Andress and A Joyful Procession. Brandon earned his MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University and his BA in Psychology from Hanover College. He loves the outdoors, hiking, camping, and traveling.
Photography Credit: FBDOphotography.com
Our Lord is love and grace … and justice and mercy and wrath … He is All … and thank God He is, because I need Him now and nothing less will do.
I’d texted Paula last night to see how everything was going in Atlanta (where she goes for her cancer treatments). She was going for scans and we’d been praying for no new activity in her lung or leg – the places where cancer has settled it’s nastiness into her body. We prayed … asking for healing, perhaps searching for remission, or any positive news that we could hold on to.
I think about something I’ve read over and over again this past week:
Do you cling to the crisis or do you cling to Christ?
In retrospect, I think, how silly we are. Why don’t we just hold on to Jesus? Oh He is with us, definitely. He always goes where he’s wanted. How nice that no matter how ‘mature’ we are in our Christian walk, He allows us to behave all human-like and attempt to grasp the reins of our situation rather than just slip our hand into His and walk with Him through it. He never shakes His head in disgust or tsk-tsk’s us when we manage to move around Him, like we never saw Him standing there, and look everywhere else before we come back to Him. I guess that’s grace, hmmm?
Paula’s reply text comes the following morning. “We got bad news,” her text read. “The cancer has spread to my brain.”
I sit there in shock and devastation, my phone slipping from my hand. Tears immediately well up and spill down my cheeks. “Why?” I ask God.
It’s such a human thing to ask but I still immediately ask God’s forgiveness for asking it. Do you think that’s weird? I don’t. It’s never weird to talk to God about anything that is on your heart. But I know He’s not going to tell me why. It’s a futile question that won’t be answered because His ways are not my ways. I still feel badly for asking but then I just talk to Him – a river of words gushing out of my soul: Lord, I’m gonna ask why and I’m probably gonna ask why for a long time today, so please just listen. I take a breath and chuckle to myself. Sometimes I envision Jesus sitting in the chair next to me listening to me prattle. I imagine He shakes His head silently – even though I know He would never do that.
“Why?” I ask again wiping my eyes. “Oh Lord, why Paula?
“Why not Paula?” I hear in my mind. “Why not you? Or the guy down the block? Or a lady in California? Or a kid in Germany?”
I sit quietly. Those questions don’t seem very constructive or comforting, but I see God’s point. Asking ‘why’ doesn’t help move the situation forward. Asking ‘why’ allows me to sit transfixed by grief without making any progress.
I do one thing that I can right now – get Paula and her husband on the church’s prayer chain and on every prayer warrior’s lips I can think of – and then I pray. It’s fitting that part one of the post about Ephesians 3:20 had just dropped that morning and so I pray Ephesians 3:20 over Paula. We definitely need more than I can ask for or imagine.
Then I remember reading a post from one of my favorite bible teachers, Margaret Feinberg. In her post “How to Cling to God When Everything Falls Apart” Margaret talks about replacing the ‘Why’ question with a ‘Who’ question:
Who is God in this? This is a daring question to ask. But such a brave question will not just lead to a deeper connection to God, but to answers that transform us—making us look just a little bit more like Jesus along the way. You see, God listens to our stinging words, embraces our frail hearts, and meets us where we are. Nothing is too much for the Holy Who.
As the day wears on I’ve stopped asking why and set my sights firmly on God. God knows how much my heart aches. He knows the pain and sadness and frustration that Paula must be feeling. He knows the heart of her amazing husband, Bob, who has been such a rock throughout this ordeal. He is within us, between us, going before us, and covering us. Jesus in our midst.
I wonder if He is crying.
Dear Lord, our almighty Father in Heaven, how grand are your plans and purposes. You are the Alpha and the Omega, without whom we would not be. Let your healing hand of mercy and grace fall gently on my friend and all of your children who suffer from this dreadful disease. Help us to be constantly touched by Your magnificence, recognize Your wonder, and abide in Your truth. We may ask why, Lord, even though our soul knows that the answer remains with you. Thank you for allowing us the freedom to ask. Propel us to a better future by helping us to not wallow in misery over our present. We love you, Lord. Amen.
Thank you to all who prayed with us this past week.
My heart is full of joy for you.