Sunny Pathway

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Unwanted Moisture and Unresolved Conflicts

God doesn’t lose interest in us as we grow older. He keeps working and working to draw us to Him and then to draw us closer to Him.

He was dealing with me recently when I had revelation concerning Sin in my life—and a revelation concerning a serious problem area.

Let me use an illustration to explain. Ken and I live in an agricultural area. Some years the crops are harder to harvest than others. This year farmers haven’t been hampered by rain or flooding, but the moisture content is still high. A neighbor told Ken that many farmers are mowing (swathing) their grain first and letting it dry in rows before they combine. I took a picture of this small field of swathed barley because I thought it especially beautiful.

Through circumstances and His Word God showed me I was similar to this year's grain. I had unwanted moisture—i.e., unresolved conflicts—concerning my mother.

Mom had polio as a young wife before I was born, and I can’t remember her having either physical strength or stamina. I resented her fragility—and I resented feeling responsible for her.

She died in an automobile accident during my first year of college. That’s when I learned how much I loved her.

Rather than mourn my loss—and rather than dealing with the guilt I felt because of my resentments—I rationalized. I told myself my attitude had been normal. I was, after all, just a teenage kid. And to comfort myself when missing her, I rationalized her death as a blessing because her life was tough at the end. In other words, I excused my guilt, and I accepted death as a solution. This seemed helpful at the time, but it interfered with God’s harvest in my life.

God dealt with guilt when I fell apart after seeing an iron lung at the State Fair. Mind you, this was 50 years after the fact, but after I wrote and posted about it, I recognized my sin. When I confessed, He changed both my conscious mind and my inner being. I was somehow set free from unresolved conflicts that day. Truly, God hasn't stopped dealing with me because I'm growing older.

Two weeks later Ken and I attended a conference. On Saturday morning I awoke knowing a terrible truth. I knew there had been emotional ripples throughout my life because I had rationalized a false comfort. For example, because I accepted death as a solution, if my children were sick when they were young I was often overcome by fear that they would die.

And because I accepted death as a solution, I often thought of death as a possibility when faced with difficult circumstances—or when someone did something particularly troublesome. Of course, I knew this was wrong. Jesus said, If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment. But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! (Mt. 5:21,22 NLT)

Nevertheless, I couldn’t stop the thoughts. I’d confess, I’d ask God to help me, and sometimes I did the unthinkable—I’d give in to them. All the while, I knew God loved me and that I loved Him. I knew the power of His Blood was bigger than my sin. And I knew I couldn’t win this battle myself.

On the Saturday morning of the conference, with new insight, I understood that Satan had established a stronghold in my mind when I accepted death as a solution. I felt impressed to tell Ken about the revelation. And one day, feeling God was calling me, I secluded myself and read the book of Isaiah. Moments after finishing God reminded me of a familiar New Testament verse: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (Jn. 10:10 RSV)

Strange when the familiar comes alive in a different context. Death cannot be God’s solution because Jesus is Life. He came to give Himself and His Life. How had I missed this?

When God illuminates His Word, things happen. I knew that although all will die because we live in a fallen world, and although Christians experience ultimate victory in their death, Mom’s death was a tragic accident—not a solution.

When I confessed that I’d received a lie and relied upon it for false comfort, and when I accepted a new revelation of Jesus as Life, I was altered. I can’t explain how it happened. I only know God did it. The stronghold is gone.

I took another picture of the field today.

The unwanted moisture—along with my unresolved conflict—has dried up and the farmer has harvested his grain. The field looks bare. I admit I feel bare, too. Kinda naked.

I also feel wonderfully clean.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Change in Direction

I’ve realized over the past couple of weeks why many bloggers write daily. There's much to say. I may lead a quiet life, but I have many subjects.

I could write—would love to write—about our latest grandchild. And about my feelings of not being able to hold a little girl born half-way around the world. She, her brother, and her parents live in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates and we’re not sure when we’ll meet her. Oh, to see her little legs pump or her little arms flail—to hear her cry—to smell her smells. We’re so thrilled she’s in our life—well, that isn’t quite accurate, is it? She's part of our family, but not part of our experience. Sometimes it doesn't seem real. Life can be bittersweet.

I told one of my children, however, that I wouldn’t write about the grandkids—and I’ll abide by that promise most of the time. In the interest of safety and privacy, I don’t plan to post identifiable pictures of them. But let me tell you that our new granddaughter and her brother were a surprise. They’re the progeny of our oldest son. Ken and I didn’t think he would bless us so wonderfully. She makes our seventh grandchild and, I think, our last. That’s a sad thought, but seven is a good number, don’t you think?

I could write about our oldest daughter’s child, our oldest granddaughter—she’ll be a high school senior this year and she’s involved in many things. Through all her activities, however, she’s had a small garden. It started with carrots, peas, etc. One year she planted three tree seeds. They all took off and were eventually transplanted into the yard. Over time the garden evolved so it’s now primarily perennials—including rhubarb, strawberries, and raspberries. Raspberries were producing when we visited them recently, and I’ve wanted to share this picture of her as she harvested her produce—a golden variety. Very sweet.

I could write about our friends from the lake who are coming in to attend a baseball game with us tonight. He has a medical appointment early in the morning and this works out for them and for us. Here’s a picture I took of Ken (on the right) and Ron when we attended The Gathering. It was the best picture of the night, worthy of sharing.

Have you noticed the personal nature of these subjects? When I started blogging, I envisioned this blog, Sunny Pathway, would be about health issues—specifically health issues related to growing older. I planned to interview nurses, social workers, perhaps even one of my doctors—and to research topics of interest for others who, like me, are dealing with unfamiliar issues. I'm especially interested in spiritual resources—and their impact on aging.

It isn’t going to happen. During my days of reporting, interviews were exciting because I never knew exactly where they’d go, but I didn’t face the challenges then that I face now. I simply don’t have the energy to pursue interviews—or to pursue research in a huge field.

What to do. I had an inkling when I began blogging that I didn’t have a handle on what I was doing or where this trip would take me. I’ve wondered about it, prayed about it, and feel I have a direction, at least for now. In Sunny Pathway I’ll continue to write about aging, but I’ll focus on my personal experience. This actually makes good journalism, too. I learned when I was active in the field that generalities don’t communicate well. Statistics aren’t interesting. Methods and techniques are boring unless set within a framework.

My other blog, Red, Red, Berries, was supposed to be personal. It’s turned into something cerebral. I think it will become more focused. I need an outlet, a place to work out my thoughts on specific spiritual topics. If anyone is interested, you’re welcome to join.

And I’m thinking—planning—to start a third blog. It will be short, short daily devotionals.

In the middle of all this excitement, I’ve faced a significant medical challenge this week—for a short period of time I’m on steroids again. It’s depressing, scary, and I plan to write about that next week or the week following—after the dosage has been reduced. My relationship with steroids probably makes better copy—that means it’s more interesting, more insightful, and more helpful—than a medical report. So I think I’m on the right track.

Stay posted.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

New Shoes and a Conference

After a summer of staying more-or-less at home, we’ve made some significant jaunts on three successive weekends.This weekend we went to the Twin Cities for a two-fold purpose: to attend portions of the Holy Spirit Conference in Arden Hills and to purchase shoes for my problematic feet.

Feet were the priority.That doesn’t sound spiritual, but it’s where I live and Ken is accommodating. He’s seen the difference when I have the correct shoe.

Several years ago I started working with a pedorthist in St. Cloud. MN, who recommended a specific shoe for my particular foot—along with inserts and foot braces. Before that time I hobbled around. His devices plus the meds for rheumatoid arthritis made it possible for my feet to heel. I now walk normally most days, and I’m grateful beyond words.

Unfortunately, styles change and the shoe he recommended is no longer manufactured. I’ve been okay because I purchased satisfactory sandals in a Fargo store--but the store has gone out of business and sandals aren’t suitable for North Dakota winters.

We accomplished our goal—I purchased a pair of shoes for everyday and at-home wear on Thursday afternoon.

And I purchased a pair for casual dress on Friday morning. You’d be amazed at how happy I can get over finding a pair of shoes.

Shopping over, we decided to visit Como Park and Zoo in St. Paul on Friday afternoon because we have a history, not an on-going history but an ancient history, with the place. It was a quiet spot we visited when our children were small. Ken could leave me alone—truly alone—in the conservatory while he took the children to look at the animals. I don’t know if we thought it would remain unchanged or not, but we weren’t ready for people bumping into people. Just the same, after our picnic we wanted to look around.

I took pictures of flowers, but Ken took pictures of animals. The orangutans in the tree didn't even open their eyes, let alone move a limb. The best scenario for me was two grade-school girls jumping up and down, scratching under their arms, trying to make monkey noises in an attempt to get a response.

Meanwhile, we attended meetings Thursday eve, Friday eve, and Saturday morning. Because my mind was occupied elsewhere, Thursday evening’s meeting is a blur.

Mahesh Chavda spoke at the other two meetings. He's ethnically an East Indian who grew up in Kenya, and he provided much to ponder. He didn't bring a teaching as much as a call to respond to God. A phrase he repeated several times, always with a twinkle in his eye because it embodies a truth we learned by rote in confirmation, said in effect, “The Holy Spirit thinks He’s God.” But recognizing the Holy Spirit as God and subsequently yielding to Him are a different matter. I felt God revealed something specific that I would be compelled to confess to Ken later—not a sin of commission but a mindset that needs altering. When God the Holy Spirit arrives and does His thing, He delves deep. Even in the life of a woman intent on finding adequate shoes.

We’d planned to stay for a healing service on Saturday afternoon; I am, after all, someone in need of healing. But we didn’t feel like it.

Later, I wondered if we'd missed something by leaving. Then I remembered Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths. (KJV) Hanging around would have been doing what seemed right, but not necessarily responding to God. We were tired. God had helped me find shoes and He fed our spirits. He also revealed a deep recess of my heart that only He could understand and change. We were satisfied, it was more than enough.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Worshipping With Old But Young Friends

Last Saturday was delightful. My husband Ken and I visited a youth group. Furthermore, we were part of them only five years ago. Really.

Firestarters Music, based in Ottertail, Minnesota, started before we met them when a group of high schoolers felt God calling them—and when their parents supported them by becoming their leaders. They include a Christian band that became the center of activities. Band members were all still in high school when Ken and I joined them—young enough to be our grandchildren. Most of the leaders were young enough to be our children. Yet they welcomed us because they thought we had kindred spirits.

Our impetus for visiting on Saturday was to take part in their special meetings called The Gathering, even if only briefly. The event is timed to coincide with Ottertail Days, and they’ve done something similar for several years. But they keep expanding it. In addition to special speakers—we heard Michael Terrell who also played with the band—they invite other local bands.

I was so disappointed in my picture of The Firestarters, but it's the best this beginning photographer has to offer.

The group has changed in several ways during the five years since we moved—a different base player, an additional rhythm person, additional vocalists, and additional instruments (including a keyboard). New members include siblings and wives. Most graduated from high school about the time we left.

Their music isn’t my style—some soft rock with edgy stuff thrown into the mix—but I’m musical enough to know they’ve matured as artists. They are, in fact, good. I heard a man identify them as a hidden treasure. Their focus is worship.

They now have dancers who wear masks!

In one sense I appreciated the masks because individual identities weren’t a distraction. Nevertheless, because they’ve changed since we last saw them, I wanted to identify them. Shame on me. Again, I’m not a good enough photographer to capture spectacular moments—and there were some. But aren't they lovely? They truly conveyed a sense of worship.

Several are involved in the visual arts. These gals were in their early college years five years ago.

Some activities don't lend themselves to pictures. One gal is a journalist and several write poetry. All believe they’re called to live for Jesus and to minister to Him and His people through their art.

Joining young people and entering into their enthusiasm is exciting. They help keep the mind supple, active.